Happy Banned Books Week 2016! September 25 – October 1


Happy Banned Books Week!  The American Library Association celebrates knowledge and access once again by encouraging everyone to read a book that has been banned, challenged, or has otherwise sustained an attempt at censorship.

I’ve already gone into my reasons why censorship sucks and the reasons books get banned in previous posts (see links).  Today, I shall choose a few of my favorite books from the list and discuss them.

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

Image:  British first edition cover / Wikipedia.org

What better way to start this list than with a book in which thought control is a major plot point?  1984 shows a dystopian, totalitarian society of the future in which the government has total authority over everything the population does, from what they eat to how they think.  Individualism is criminalized and persecuted.

Our hero, Winston Smith, does the unthinkable–he begins to question this existence and even falls in love with a Julia, a fellow worker in the let’s-revise-all-the-history-of-the-world department of the Ministry of Truth (a rather ironic name at that).  The proles, working-class members of this society, have at least the appearance of freedom–they’re allowed to hook up, fight, sing, worship, etc.  But their lives are deeply controlled by restricted access to jobs, education, and forms of entertainment not fed to them by the Ministry.  Moles report and eliminate any attempts by proles to rise above their station.

1984 has delivered several choice words and phrases to the lexicon from the book’s Newspeak language.  Among these:

Big Brother – the titular figurehead of the government in the book.  The phrase “Big Brother is watching you” means you are being observed and your insubordination noted.

Thought Police (Thinkpol) – secret law enforcement of Oceania’s government, who seek out subversives by using surveillance through the telescreens in every party member’s house and psychological manipulation.  Refers to suppression of contrasting ideology in repressive societies such as Iran, Russia, etc.  Many also believe this is happening in the U.S. as religion-backed legislators enact faith-based laws in direct defiance of its Constitution’s establishment clause.

The novel contains themes of nationalism, censorship, and the growing awareness of surveillance.  Reasons ranging from sexual content to pro-communism make 1984 an oft-challenged book.

The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) by J.R.R. Tolkien

Image:  Cover art first single volume edition, HarperCollins / Wikipedia.org

Fantasy as a genre often stirs people up–some folks associate magic, etc. with Satanism and sacrilege.  They forget that 1) magic isn’t really real, and 2) though Tolkien was quite religious himself (he was a devout Catholic), there is no mention anywhere in any of the books about Satan, God, Jesus, etc., certainly in no disparaging way.  Also, the hobbits, Strider, and Gandalf all smoke.  Well, they are adults, and I somehow don’t expect a bit of Old Toby from the Shire is going to hurt any of them.

Much has been made of Frodo as a Christ allegory, but Tolkien insisted LOTR has no such subtext, and we have to take his word on that.  However, through the use of literary doubling, Tolkien does present a dichotomy between light and dark (a much older concept that pre-dates any form of Christianity).  One might argue a somewhat Modernist take on industrialization vs. nature, after Tolkien experienced the horrors of World War I in comparison with a pastoral childhood.

Whether you agree or not, this epic fantasy set a standard for the genre and remains one of the most beloved classics of its kind.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey

Image:  First edition cover / Wikipedia.org

The main figure of the 1960s pro-psychedelic group The Merry Pranksters, Kesey used to work in a mental institution.  It was during this period he had opportunity to make close observations of the institutional system, which was being challenged at the time.

The novel presents themes of authority and control, both through individual coercion–Nurse Ratched’s subtle psychological manipulations–and the cultural and internal shame of anyone who is “different,” as a closeted Dale Harding describes himself.  It also touches on a larger, mechanistic view of society (Chief Bromden’s references to the Combine) in general.

It’s a fish-out-of-water story, in the person of loud and boisterous con man McMurphy, but one where the fish disrupts the status quo in long-lasting and profound ways.  Kesey also used the trope of an unreliable narrator to great effect here.  Chief Bromden’s feigned deafness allows him to suss out what’s really going on in the ward, but his observations are interspersed with obvious hallucinations due to his illness.

The 1975 film adaptation directed by Milos Forman, which was pretty damn good, won all five major Academy Awards (Best Director, Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, and Actress).   The novel has been challenged for being pornographic, violent, and corrupting.

Read it anyway!

The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson

Image:  Cover art / Wikipedia.org

This was one of my favorite books as a child.  I still read it occasionally, having purchased a used copy at a library sale (I kept all my childhood books and added to them over the years).  The funny, poignant tale of a defiant foster child, this book earned a place on the ALA list due to mild profanity, Gilly’s racism toward her teacher, and her resistance to her foster parent’s deep faith.

It’s well worth a read for lively characters, good handling of a sensitive topic (foster care and how children in it close themselves off), and just all-around great writing.  Paterson also wrote Bridge to Terabithia, another frequently challenged book.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) by Mildred D Taylor

Image:  Jerry Pinkney / Wikipedia.org

See that medal on the front of the book cover?  That’s a Newbery award, given to distinguished contributions to literature for young American readers.

This novel is about racism in a small Southern community during the Great Depression.  It was followed by multiple sequels —Let the Circle Be Unbroken (1981), The Road to Memphis (1990), The Well: David’s Story (1995), and The Land (2001).  I haven’t read the last two but they’re on my list.

Taylor gives us the Logans, a black family in the unique position of owning their land, which is constantly under challenge by a wealthy white man who wants to take it away from them.  They deal with systemic and overt prejudice in myriad ways.

The Logan family has become one of my literary favorites.  They’re tough, they work hard and love even harder, and they withstand everything life throws at them.  They stick together no matter what and stand up for friends and neighbors, even though it’s difficult and heartbreaking at times.  And I find the character of Cassie Logan quite relatable–she feels the injustice keenly as she grows up and is extremely frustrated by her inability to speak out against it (because it’s dangerous to do so).  We’re angry right along with her.

Reading this series is painful, because we still haven’t resolved our ridiculous and deep-seated bias in this country.  For this reason alone, it should be required reading everywhere.  Reasons for challenging it have included racial slurs, violence, and inappropriateness.

The Harry Potter series (1997-2007) by J.K. Rowling

Image:  Cover UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Wikipedia.org

Oh, my my my.  You surely know all about this one.  The U.S. has no moratorium on Potterhate; this article in the U.K. paper The Telegraph will show you that.

For non-link clickers, some reasons this book series has been challenged include:

  • Promotion of witchcraft (and subsequently Satanism and the occult)
  • Dark themes (too scary)
  • Bad behavior (kids at Hogwarts routinely break rules and defy authority)

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) provides a toolkit for schools facing such challenges, as well as individuals and authors.  Quite a few schools have tried to remain sensitive to the issue by offering alternative assignments to kids who aren’t allowed to read Potter or other fantasy works.  As long as the basic requirements of an assignment are fulfilled, I see no problem with this solution.  But as the NCAC points out on the linked page:

In many cases, parents’ concerns can be addressed by requesting an alternative assignment. While this is an attractive option, alternative assignment policies can be abused to the point of wreaking havoc upon the curriculum, which cannot be tailored to every student. (Source: http://ncac.org/resource/book-censorship-toolkit)

Whatever your stance on Harry Potter, Anne Frank’s diary, or other frequently challenged reading material, it falls to all of us to ensure that everyone has access to materials that discuss difficult subjects.  Without it, we will go backward in our development; the future will not belong to us.

Urge your Congress critter to support the free exchange of ideas and information.  Use your vote to support lawmakers who do.  Spread the word on social media.  And let people see you reading a banned book!

If you like, please share in comments what banned book you’ve enjoyed and why.

Secret Book Update and a Bit of Light Reading

You might have noticed the number creeping up on the Secret Book progress meter.  I don’t know why the status bar won’t move, but whatever.  I’ve been tapping away at it–I’m determined to finish.  On a much-needed six-day staycation, I decided I would do just that.  Only seven more parts I need to write and then I’m done.  It’s been going in dribs and drabs; two consecutive nights, I wrote over 4.000 words and then nothing, then 400, then 114.  Ugh.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Then I wrote over 2200 words of bullshit that had nothing to do with anything (just a stupid bunch of headjunk).  But hey, at least I was writing.  Judging by how I am at work, if I had a deadline–a REAL one–I wouldn’t have this problem.  Making up my own seldom has any effect because obviously, I don’t pay any attention to them.

Instead of writing, I went shopping at Barnes & Noble (and Amazon) and bought all this–


I’m not allowed to read ANY of this until I finish Secret Book!

Image:  Elizabeth West

The title of that photo is Torture, fittingly enough.  No one can stop raving about Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.  I would love for that to happen to me someday.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree there (Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son).

I’m a bad fan–I didn’t know the Clive Barker book had come out.  Forgive me, Mr. Barker!  I met him once, at a Fangoria magazine horror convention in L.A. in the early 1990s.  He’s a very nice man.

Now that I look at it, every bit of that reading material is horror/fantasy.  Wow.  I went through the bookstore and bought without really thinking about it–I knew I wanted the Joe Hill novel, and I was behind on my Stephen King (I also got The Colorado Kid on Kindle, though it’s not in the picture).

The one on the tablet is Foreign Devils, by John Hornor Jacobs, a sequel to his excellent fantasy novel The Incorruptibles.  He’s a really cool writer I met at VisionCon, the same day I met Brian Keene (whose Last of the Albatwitches also should be in that pile, though I didn’t get it at B&N).  You need to check him out.  He’s going places.

With all these lovely gems to plunder, I hope I can force my brain to get its ass in gear (brain ass? ass brain?) and just finish the damn thing.  Then I can move on to something else before I go back and finish all the research.  And I can hunker down and blast through all these beauties.  I need something to take my mind off real-life horrors.

When nightmares happen during the day, you make this face.  

When nightmares happen during the day, you make this face.

In the meantime, back to work!

Read something you’re not supposed to: Banned Books Week 2015

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!


Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

As I’ve pointed out before, the American Library Association has designated the last week in September as Banned Books Week.  During this week, they celebrate freedom of speech by raising awareness of censorship and challenges to free expression and the right to access information, no matter how controversial it may be.

Find a list of 2014’s most challenged books here.  And here is a list of banned and challenged classics.  You can participate in this expression of our fundamental right by reading banned books and by encouraging others to do so.

Read to me this banned book, I beg of you oh Mummy, that my tiny brain may not shrivel and twist like that of a conservative Republican. 

Read to me this banned book, I beg of you, oh Mummy, that my tiny brain may not shrivel and twist like that of a conservative Republican.

Image:  Jomphong / freedigitalphotos.net

The American Civil Liberties Union’s website defines censorship as follows:

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.


Why is it so crucial that we speak out against this?  Let’s cite a historical example.  On 10 May 1933, university student sympathizers of the Nazi Party burned thousands of books they felt held “anti-German” sentiments.  You can read more about that event here.


Image:  {{PD-US}} / Wikimedia Commons

Such an image would horrify not only book lovers but those who believe that everyone should have free access to ideas and information.  The Nazis did not want people to read certain books or materials; they wanted to provide those people with their own ideology.  They did not want any dissenters.  We know what happened to the latter–they ended up in concentration camps alongside Jewish, Romany, Catholic, homosexual, disabled, and other folks who either did not fit Hitler’s Aryan ideal or who spoke out against the racism and totalitarianism of the Deutsches Reich.

Censorship like the Nazis perpetrated makes it easier to control people.  Without all information, people cannot make informed decisions or choices.  The person or persons controlling the information find it easier to convince them of their own rhetoric, or even brainwash them.

We can see a similar rhetoric in today’s media bias, when journalists (and I use the term loosely here) publish stories designed to capture clicks or ratings.  “If it bleeds, it leads” is an old news term, meaning the more sensationalistic the headline or teaser, the more likely readers and viewers are to jump on it.

The “viewer discretion advised” notice tells me I’m about to see something crazy!

The “viewer discretion advised” notice tells me I’m about to see something crazy!

Image:  Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net

When people restrict information, we don’t get the full picture.  We can’t make good decisions or spot potential problems because we remain unaware of issues.

Lack of sex education is a good example.  Some folks believe that kids should not receive sex education in schools, because it might tempt them to have sex.  Well I’ve got news for those people–a good number of those kids are going to have sex anyway, regardless of whether they’ve been told not to.  Even adults have trouble controlling those drives; they’re that powerful.

So if people are going to do it anyway, they should have some education about how to do it safely.  Many kids don’t get sex education at home.  Their parents don’t take the time to do it, they don’t want to discuss it for religious or other reasons, or they lack knowledge themselves.  Schools may choose not to teach it, but if kids don’t learn it, they aren’t prepared to make good decisions about their bodies, their health, and their futures.

Hi; I’m your son.  Jumping up and down afterward didn’t work, did it?  Nice to meet you!

Hi; I’m your son.  Jumping up and down afterward didn’t work, did it?  Nice to meet you!

Image:  Serge Berstasius Photography / freedigitalphotos.net

Dutch schools start teaching sexuality education in kindergarten.  Because they are exposed to this information as a natural part of life, Dutch kids start out with better sexual health habits than Americans do.  They know about:

  • How their own bodies work
  • Sexual identity and gender issues
  • Love and relationships
  • Responsibility
  • Safe sex
  • Ways to protect themselves from abuse

Besides informative material, fiction often finds itself the target of censorship.  Art is subjective; what pleases one person may shock another.  But does that mean no one should see a particular work?  Many of the books that end up on the ALA’s challenged lists get there because they contain fictionalized accounts of sexual behavior, abuse, drug use, or something else complainants find objectionable.

People read for entertainment, but they also like to read about characters with whom they can identify.  A bullied, lonely, or discouraged kid may find courage in a story about another kid in the same situation.  A person who knows nothing about a subject can become fascinated with it when it pops up in a novel.  Learning is almost never a bad thing.

So much scientific data; so little time. 

So much scientific data; so little time.

Image:  Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Restricted material cannot inform.  It cannot lift people out of poverty.  It cannot help them better their health, or learn how to care for themselves and their loved ones.  It cannot entertain them or make them think, or help them understand the viewpoints of people who are different from them.  It cannot mitigate prejudice, and it cannot perpetuate tolerance and understanding.

So read a banned book this week.  Better yet, recommend one to a friend or family member.  Spread the word!

Book Review! The Watchers, Book Two: Hidden Fire

I’m late with this, but here is my review of the The Watchers, Book Two:  Hidden Fire, the sequel to The Watchers:  Knight of Light, a thrilling YA fantasy by Deirdra Eden!

Continuing the mythology of the Books of Enoch and combining it with the history of the Wars of Scottish Independence, Eden crafts an exciting new adventure for her character.

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Image: knightess.com / Amazon.com

It is a few years after the events of Knight of Light.  Lady Auriella (Aura) struggles with her duty as England’s Watcher and protector against the court’s perception of her as an eligible, powerless woman.  But Auriella still misses her fiancé Lucas, reported killed in the Crusades, and she cannot fathom taking a suitor.

The threat of Erebus and the Shadow Legion hangs over the kingdom, dismissed by King Henry’s successor Edward and the rest of the nobility.  Auriella knows its power, and the monstrous Shadow Lords keep trying to destroy her at every opportunity, even in her bath.

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Image: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

Even as the Legion draws nearer, the ignorant Edward gives Auriella an impossible assignment in Scotland.  She must obey, even though it means abandoning her responsibility to the kingdom and her reunion with the newly returned Lucas, whom Edward has made his captain of the guard.

Lucas proposes to Auriella and she finally feels comfortable sharing her secret Neviahan identity with him, though he seems averse to it.  Blinding herself to doubt, Auriella sets out on her quest.

Eden’s storytelling continues to thrill.  An attack in Scotland by the dreaded Shadow Wolves chills the blood.  Auriella meets Azrael, Scotland’s mysteriously masked Watcher, when his tiger Baby saves her from the intended assassination.   Azrael and Korban and Orion, his fellow Neviahans with their own powers, puzzle Auriella.  She hasn’t spent much time with her own kind, and she has much to learn.

Azrael’s bullish and forward way disconcerts Auriella, but she finds that without the gift of Starfire–his fire combined with her blood–they cannot hope to defeat Erebus.  Not only that, but her link to him seems deeper than just their shared heritage and powers.  Despite the sensations her fellow warrior ignites in her, Ariella clings to her vision of the future–to return to London, reunite with her beloved Lucas, and save the kingdom from the enemy’s deceit.

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming? 

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming?

Image:  popsugar.com

Will the Neviahans succeed?  What will happen to the unprotected kingdom?  Could King Edward be any more of a jerk?  Find out yourself!

I enjoyed revisiting this world and the characters.  Ruburt the Dwarf, friend to Auriella, returns with wisdom and guidance for her.  No Cassi the pixie, darn it.  Perhaps she will return in a later installment.

Hidden Fire is a bit rougher than the first book (lots of swallowing hard and a few editing mistakes), but the story moves just as quickly.  Eden hints at a more mature romantic relationship for Auriella.  Young adult readers may see themselves in her longings and her struggle to master the huge responsibilities she’s been given–she’s got a lot going on, just like they do.  Growing up is hard, folks.

You can buy Hidden Fire on Amazon.  It’s available in paperback or on Kindle.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app that will allow you to read books in that format on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.


Quotes from the book I liked:

“Open your heart and the man you are destined to be with will naturally fill that void.” –Pearl, Hidden Fire

Let’s hope so, Pearl.

“We have to go through hell to get to heaven.” –Azrael, Hidden Fire

Secret Book and Self-Publishing

I am slowly crawling out from the cocoon of heartbreak and back toward my Secret Book manuscript.  However, I’ve reached an impasse that has held up the story somewhat.  The road has two forks, and I need to go down both of them.

My attempt to brave the first fork has shown that my research into the period and especially the English setting is sorely lacking, to the point that it’s holding me up.  I’ll be in London again in two months, and I want to spend much of my time there doing research.  So I’m making plans to organize where and when and who and how.

If I finish the book and it sells, I can write off the whole trip! 

If I finish the book and it sells, I can write off the whole trip!

Image:  Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second fork led right back to Heartbreak Hotel (I should just buy real estate on Lonely Street, seriously).  I couldn’t write the lovey-dovey part of the book because it’s been so long since I’ve been happy in a new relationship that those scenes are coming off wooden and stilted.  I can’t tap into those emotions right now, even in my imagination.  That realization made writing them and listening to the book’s Einaudi playlist exquisitely painful.

Shit like this all over Facebook right now does not help.

Starring everyone I’ve ever known and a bunch of stupid celebrities I don’t.

Starring everyone I’ve ever known and a bunch of stupid celebrities I don’t.

Image:  mashable.com

So I’ll take First Fork Road for now.  (And I’m listening to Einaudi again, which is a good sign, I suppose.)  Meanwhile, stuffs be happening:

  •  This research and preparation will take time.
  • I’m embroiled in trying to retrieve my Rose’s Hostage critique.  Things are not going well at the moment.  Hint:  if you pay someone to do a critique or editing, get a turnaround time in writing.  In the meantime, a chapter rewrite I thought of on my own looms.
  • I’m still querying agents about Tunerville (more on that shortly).
  • I’ve entered a story in literary magazine Glimmer Train’s New Writers competition.

This past weekend, I attended VisionCon with my Whovian friends.  I went dressed as Donna Noble in an outfit very similar to this one:

I’m not linking to who Donna Noble is.  Go watch Doctor Who on Netflix, you godless heathen!

I’m not linking to who Donna Noble is. Go watch Doctor Who on Netflix, you godless heathen!

 Image:  bbcamerica.com

I clipped a small adipose plush to my jacket just in case no one realized who I was supposed to be, but everyone got it and a couple of people even wanted to snap a pic.  So my first cosplay ever was a success.

While I was there, I attended a panel on traditional vs. self-publishing hosted by horror/fantasy authors Ben S. Reeder, JM Guillen, and EM Ervin.  All three of them are self-pubbed; only Ben Reeder has gone through traditional publishing.  EM Ervin’s book had only been out for two weeks when they had the panel–I could totally relate to her excitement.

Overall, the three writers were in favor of self-publishing.  Guillen said he had never gone for the regular method.  Reeder told the audience that you certainly do not get much money from traditional publishing–advances have shrunk to ridiculous amounts, especially for first novels.  I knew this already, so no surprise there.

Don’t quit your day job just yet. 

Don’t quit your day job just yet.

Image:  graur razvan ionut/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reeder and Guillen both said that while the slush pile and queries are still a thing, agents have a new tool to find writers–they go online and see what is selling.  And according to Reeder, whom I spoke with the next morning on my last pass through the dealer’s room before heading home, you can make a living this way, if your sales are decent.

I have my doubts about that last, but they definitely gave me something to think about.  I’ve been avoiding self-pubbing for several reasons:

  • It still has a shitty reputation, because anyone can do it. And anyone does.
  • It costs money.  Even if you avoid vanity publishers and publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing for free, if you want even a hope of having a decent project, you still have to shell out for a competent editor and hire a book cover artist.  All three of the panel hosts agreed these two things are absolutely vital.
  • It requires you to do ALL the work.  While traditional publishers these days put authors to work flogging their books, with self-published books the onus is on you.  All of it.
  • It lacks the one thing traditional publishing gives you that nothing else can, according to Reeder: legitimacy.

This last is why I do not want to self-publish Rose’s Hostage or Tunerville.  I’m still querying the latter.  I got a rejection this week that said the query sounded interesting, but that the agent in question was inundated with work and not taking on new clients.  Maybe it was a form email, and maybe not.  It’s difficult to tell sometimes.

You will not see any self-published books at Barnes and Noble, unless they’ve been picked up by one of the Big Five, and that is very, very rare.  Still, it does happen.

You too can write a masturbatory fantasy and have it become a media darling.

You too can write a masturbatory fantasy and have it become a media darling.

Image:  Wikipedia.com

I want that legitimacy.  It’s like getting instant street cred.  If I get it, I will have passed the initiation; industry professionals will have declared my book worthy, and I’ll become one of the club.  For me, right now, self-pubbing is not going to happen with those two works.

I thought–and I keep thinking–that it might be a good way to offer something shorter than a book to you, my readers.  Because I feel bad that you haven’t got anything besides this twit of a blog to read.

What do you think?  If you would like me to put some stories up, let me know in the comments.

Book Updates – [Insert catchy subtitle here!]

You might have noticed that the Secret Book meter hasn’t been moving much lately.  In fact, at all.

Yes, I’m stuck.  No, there is nobody to pull me out.  I have to do it myself.

Oh, bother….

Oh, bother….

 Image:  video.disney.com

 Not indefinitely; I just hit a character snag and I’m trying to work it out.  I don’t think that meter is the greatest anyway; it doesn’t show progress as well as I’d hoped.

The stuck isn’t all book-related, unfortunately.  I’ve been rather distracted by several stupid things lately.  A writer friend posted this Salon article by Ann Bauer and now I’m even more bummed.

Read it; I’ll wait.

Done?  That article hurt.  I know if I work hard, I have a shot, but sometimes it seems like a longer shot than I ever anticipated.  And to be totally honest, at this exact point in my life, getting a book published has not been my main goal.

That’s a family, in case you thought I just wanted to learn papercraft.

That’s a family, in case you thought I just wanted to learn papercraft.

Image:  jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve tried everything to find someone like this, to no avail (yet).  In my medical writing class, we were given an assignment to make up our own medical term.  This was mine:

Cardiorrhexisopathy:  A process where the patient persistently falls in love with the wrong damn man, causing the heart to break repeatedly.

rrhexis/o—rupture or burst
pathy—disease (negative term)

Yes, I do suffer from this condition.  Apparently, the only cure is marrying the right person, but so far, the subject of this research has proved elusive.  It’s almost too late for the kid thing (but not yet), so the universe better get cracking.

Somehow, I’m sure I’ll end up with this one.

Tunerville news:

Three queries out, and one rejection from a publisher.  Bummer.

Rose’s Hostage news:

Serious kid

Image:  David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Secret Book news (yeah, I know I talked about it earlier):

I’m not that far from the end of the first draft.  Some scenes need a great deal of research, however, and they will end up lightly sketched until I can finish that.  The tough part has been writing about the development of a relationship.  I’ve almost forgotten what that feels like.  I keep telling myself, it’s a first draft, dummy; just write down what happens, and you can rewrite it later when your heart doesn’t resemble a pigeon smashed into the pavement by a passing car.

No illustration for that, so here is a picture of a smiling puppy instead. 

No illustration for that, so here is a picture of a smiling puppy instead.

Image:  ilovebabyanimals.com

Some of the research has been tedious, and other things fun.  I signed up for the Doctor Who class at Syracuse University, where my homework is watching numerous episodes of Doctor Who online and then discussing them.  I don’t get any credit, so I don’t realy have to do anything.  It’s perfect!

Since the show was created during the exact period my book is set, it has helped me get into the mindset of that era.  I also follow a page on Facebook called Old Photos of London and the East End.  Other followers post reminisces in the comments, which often yield tiny tidbits that may be useful.

I still need to make a plan for further exploration when I return to London in April.  I’d like to make the most of the time, because I’m only going for a week.  You may not get a post then unless something very cool happens.


Hmm, if I sneak into St Paul’s Cathedral and claim sanctuary, would they let me stay forever?

Image:  Nickopol/Wikipedia.com

I’ll be back soon with another vocabulary post.  We’re nearing the end of that series.  If you have any ideas for another you’d like me to do, let me know in the comments.


It’s Called a Crush for a Reason

I’m doing a little research for a character in Secret Book.  Did you ever have feelings for someone you couldn’t have, or thought you couldn’t have?

I don’t mean a fangirl / fanboy admiration for someone, where you love their body of work and celebrate all their milestones and spend actual money for the chance to stand next to them for three seconds and take a selfie.

Only once.  But look who it is!

Only once. But look who it is!


Photo:  Elizabeth West / VisionCon 2014

I mean an honest-to-God, full on, madly in love crush, where you desperately want someone whether they know you’re alive or not.  It could be Gary in Accounting or Jared Leto, Zoe in your history class or Emma Stone.  Doesn’t matter.

I’ve been exploring this, as it’s come up in the book and it’s something we’ve all been through.  It’s happened to me, and I want to get some insight into what other people have experienced, if possible.

First off, what I know.  If you’re dealing with a crush, your feelings are what they are, and you may have some permutations of these:

  • Excitement at seeing the person every day (or whenever)
  • Hope, if there is even an infinitesimal chance you could ever be together
  • Desperation when you think about how you can’t, so you try not to think about that
  • Happiness, when you daydream about the chance
  • Fear, that the person will meet someone else before you have a shot
  • Euphoria, when / if the person talks to you / becomes aware of your existence (though not if you just spilled a hot latte on them)

Now, let’s add this unpleasantness.  Have you ever had to watch that person walk away with someone else?

That brings a whole new set of feelings:

  • The “oh God no” shock you feel when something terrible happens

Startled cat

Image:  reactionface.info

  • Anguish at losing your chance, even if it was only in your mind
  • Despair, because you will never have what you wanted
  • Depression, especially if you have no other prospects and the fantasy was keeping you going until you do

If you’ve ever had a crush and lived through it, what was it like for you?  Did friends or family know about it?  If so, did they tease you or patronize you?

Note:  If you’re ever tempted to dismiss the feelings of someone who just got hammered by this, try to remember that feelings are what they are.  They are real, and the heartbreak caused by losing a crush can be as bad as that experienced when a real-life relationship ends.

Not that I would know about that, or anything. 

Not that I would know about that, or anything.

Image:  Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now the flip side:  have you ever been the object of a crush?  If so, how did you handle the situation?  This has literally never happened to me (that I know of), so I’m really curious about it.

Note:  If you’re the object of the crush and you’ve just destroyed someone’s dream with your shiny new relationship, please refrain from being flippant about it—i.e. saying the equivalent of, “Oh, don’t be silly.  You’ll be fine!”  It’s easy to forget how shitty this whole experience is when you’re over the moon, so mind your words.

It could all come crashing down, because karma is a stone cold bitch.

It could all come crashing down, because karma is a stone cold bitch.

Image:  think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A better statement might be, “I’m really sorry that you’re feeling bad over this; I hope you can be happy for me.”  It acknowledges the person’s feelings and is much less patronizing.  And he / she may not be happy for you, so be prepared for that.

Was the person crushing on you someone you knew, or not?  What did you think when you found out?

If you have a story you want to share that you think would be relevant, please feel free to comment.  You can do so without registering.  If you want to share a story but don’t want to post it, you can email me at aelizabethwest at gmail.com.

I will not use any quotes or scenarios without your permission, so make sure you enter a legitimate email address when you post a comment so I can contact you.

UPDATED TO ADD:  It doesn’t matter what orientation you are or if the crush took place in high school.  Anything before that, however, is probably not relevant because I’m writing about adults, and while a crush can be crushing for a child, it typically doesn’t involve sexual jealousy.  Puberty or post-puberty is fine.

The Saga of Secret Book Begins!

It’s been a week since I returned from invading the U.K.  I finally took the British money out of my purse, but I left my Oyster card and tube map in it.  I’m not removing them.  Nope, not gonna do it.  You see, I’m planning to go back in April for a London meetup of my online community, so I will need these things.  Plus, I like to take them out and look at them from time to time; makes me feel less angsty about leaving.

I miss it.  :(

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I still hear the tube announcements in my head.  “The next station is…Turnham Green.  Change here for the District line train to Richmond.”  “The next station is…Earl’s Court.  Change for the Piccadilly line train to Cockfosters.”  (That will always and forever be funny.)

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.    

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.

Image:  Lillo Montalto Monella / thefirstpint.co.uk

Now that I’m back, I have three things to do:

  1. Continue working out to maintain weight loss caused by traipsing around Cardiff and London. In fact, ramp it up; I can’t walk outside much longer before it turns nasty.
  2. Work.  (The bills didn’t go on holiday, more’s the pity.)
  3. Finish Secret Book.

In fact, to finish it, I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo concept again, just as I did with Tunerville.  I won’t formally join in, since I’ve already started it (and that is against the rules), but doing it got me through the book last time.  I’ve completely outlined Secret Book and I think what I have is workable, so there won’t be any plot deconstruction.

Just building…building…and more building. 

Just building…building…and more building.

Image:  Worakit Sirijinda/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As for the research, I can finish it later.  The main thing I want to do now is get the story down.  There will doubtless be tons of rewriting anyway, so it can wait.  I’d like to build in a few days for more scouting around in London anyway.

If I don’t post much, don’t be surprised–I might blog intermittently during this book, because it will take more concentration than Tunerville.  I had that one in my head so long that it just kind of fell out.  This one is different.

  • It’s more literary than the others.
  • It tackles some settings and time periods I know little about.
  • The timeline is longer.

I can’t talk about it yet, but bear with me.  You know I will, when the time is right.

The Saga of Secret Book and the Upcoming Holiday Continues

I wrote a chapter on Secret Book at lunch last week that was so good I made myself giddy.

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION. 

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION.

Image:  philadams.co

I posted about it on Google+, and a friend said, “It is the most elegant drug.”  She’s right; I really did almost feel high.

Now if only I can get the rest of the book to that caliber.  I’m challenging myself with this one–not only is the scope and research more wide-ranging than anything else I’ve attempted, but it’s far more character-driven, and despite a rather difficult and speculative quirk, more literary.

Plus, I have two worlds colliding with these characters.  However, by a stroke of good timing, I’ll be able to cram some research into my holiday, both geographical and cultural.

On the bad side, by several horrible folds and stains in the fabric of time, I will miss the following:

  • The Doctor Who Experience will be shut for regeneration when I’m in Cardiff.
  • There will be a new Dark Arts exhibit at the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio the weekend after I leave.
  • My skating club decided on our Halloween show date, for which my coach and I have already choreographed something because I’ll miss three weeks of practice. I have literally been begging for a Halloween show for years.  It is now a fall exhibition and will happen at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 3.

I will be asleep on a train coming back from Scotland.  



This would have been my program:

If you haven’t seen the original 1985 Fright Night, I highly recommend it.  It’s great fun.

I’ll keep working on it.  Perhaps I’ll get another shot.  Or maybe the Universe is trying to tell me it doesn’t want me to skate any more—this is the second time it’s skunked me on a club exhibition.  A trip to Loch Ness trumps an amateur ice show, of course, but it still sucks.  You’ll have to give me a better reason than that, Universe, if you want me to quit.

Pittbull fight universe and me

Original image:  thememebinge.tumblr.com

Just to drive you crazy (heh heh), listed below are some of the things I’m trying to research for Secret Book.

  • The film industry in the 1970s, primarily in America but possibly the UK as well
  • Theater from about 1960 through 1978 or so (both London and New York)
  • Boys’ boarding school in England in the mid to late 1950s
  • London in the 1970s (this should be easy–my auntie can tell me)
  • Two things I can’t tell you about or they’ll ruin the story, one of which I’ve already mapped out (mu wa ha ha)

If anyone has any specialized knowledge of these things, or knows someone who does, I would appreciate any input you think might enhance the story.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve put the Rose’s Hostage sequel on the back burner for now, until Brian sends my manuscript back.  I can’t write anything until I know what he thinks I should change in the first book.  Well, I could, but I don’t want to.

Besides, if you knew what was going on inside my head right now, you’d be all over me until I finish Secret Book.  Only ONE person knows what happens, and that is someone with whom I had to discuss the psychology issues.

So until I’m finished and start querying, it will have to stay a secret.  I was hoping to get a large portion of it written before I go on holiday, but that probably won’t happen.  Looks like it will be a working holiday.

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Image:  adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That’s all for now on the book.  I’m counting down the days now until I can get the hell out of here.  If I can post between now and then, I will, but there’s a lot to do, so don’t count on it.  I still have to try on clothes, mock pack, get my hair done, work, clean the shit out of my house, and of course, write.

Look for pictures and commentary on all I’ll be seeing and experiencing.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!