Thursday, November 8, 2012

Relationship Parable

This column ran last spring in a few places, but I kind of lost track of it since it ran during my transition from part time columnist to full time novelist. The timeline stuff was accurate in spring when I wrote the column and this was supposed to be the first part of a several part series on relationship parables, which I might still end up writing to post here.


Not the moving service we used, but close enough.

In case you’ve noticed the absence of a column from me in awhile (or a blog post for that matter), let me tell you a little story about relationships…

I’ve been living with my girlfriend for a couple years now. About eight months ago, I relocated with her from Orange County California to Orange County Florida. Anyone who has tried to move somewhere with someone, you know that aside from the primary function of relocating all your things, moving also seems designed to causes stress, fights, and costs a ton of money. Since my girlfriend and I are both very thrifty women, the costs only added to the stress and fights.

We survived the cross country move but then, at the beginning of March, we moved across town from an apartment to a house, which caused one of the rarest and most intense kind of fights a couple can have, the dreaded:  we’re moving out, so we don’t have to worry about our neighbors hearing our argument. In an empty apartment, we had a proper screaming at each other match. That’s not entirely accurate, technically, she was screaming at me, and I was intentionally getting under her skin in a much quieter way. From the outside, it probably sounded like she was screaming me silly without response, but let me say, I am a master of messing with people without seeming like I’m messing with people. If I ever had an argument with myself, I would probably end up slapping the hell out of me. To my girlfriend’s credit, she only yelled.

Ah, traditional marriage.

We’ve been together for several years, known each other even longer, and we’ve never had a fight like this. More specifically, she’s never had the out of control reaction she had, and it scared the hell out of her that she was able to get so angry. The combination of stress from moving, the huge amount of money we were spending, and her need to take on absolutely every responsibility she can get a hold of, finally caught up with her, and then I started needling her with bitchy comments because I’d felt like she hadn’t listened to me enough that day. I totally earned the screaming at, and I told her so, but that didn’t make her feel better since she was a little freaked out about the rage reaction.

As women, we’re socialized to internalize our anger. We’d rather take stuff out on ourselves than externalize it onto the people who probably caused the anger. In the rare occasion when we do externalize our feelings, it is usually accompanied by a lot of guilt and shame. I have no doubt in my mind that if I was straight, and I managed to get my boyfriend that angry, he would have punched a hole in the wall of the apartment we were leaving and we would have lost our deposit; yay for being a lesbian! We all have those emotions at those intensities in us. It’s a human thing, not a gender thing. So, while it freaked her out because she was still thinking in the socialized terms that women aren’t supposed to have that kind of anger and we certainly aren’t supposed to show it, I wasn’t surprised, shocked, or appalled to learn my girlfriend was an emotionally vivid human being. Having anger is normal, expressing anger is healthy, internalizing anger because that’s what you’ve been socialized to do is damaging.

The intemperate sex indeed.

The relationship moral to this story is two fold:

-           Firstly, and most obviously, understand that moving with your girlfriend/wife/partner/whatever-nomenclature-you-prefer is mind bogglingly stressful. Give each other a break, learn to take breaks from each other, and accept that arguments are almost certainly going to arise no matter how much you love each other.

-           Secondly, and perhaps not so obviously, outward expressions of “unsavory” feelings like anger, jealousy, contempt, etc. shouldn’t be looked down upon. I put unsavory in quotes because there aren’t “bad” and “good” emotions, only “preferred” and “not preferred” emotions; calling these emotions bad is where the guilt and shame over feeling them comes from. Anger isn’t a bad emotion and so expressing it doesn’t make you a bad person. Trying to destroy or suppress a perfectlyhuman emotion like anger is what’s actually bad for you. Within a relationship you don’t just have to understand your connection to these supposedly negative feelings. You have to understand your partner’s relationship to the feelings both in how they experience them and how you express them to your partner. Knowing Nikki had that kind of anger in her didn’t scare me, didn’t make me rethink the relationship, or think less of her; it let me know she was human with a very human need to express her anger sometimes. The really scary thing would be if she never showed me anything but a happy face.

Happy endings involve sunsets and rainbow flags.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Divine Touched

Divine Touched

What would you do if your god stood before you, spoke directly to you, and told you to kill the woman you love?

I LOVE swords and sorcery stuff. Dragons, wizards, elves, orcs, and all that fantasy land fun. I played World of Warcraft in high school. I watched all the Lords of the Rings movies (and then read the books--don't judge me, I was 11 when the movies came out). I love everything Game of Thrones, again, I'll admit to the show starting me on the books. So what is a girl to do if she is known for steampunk and paranormal, but she really wants to write about knights and ogres? The answer is apparently take a stab at the new genre and hope my readers are into it.

Harper, Sword Maiden for the illustrious Goddess of the Open Ocean, has returned to the fabled city of Griffon’s Rock at the end of the Last Road to rest for the winter months after a disappointing year treasure hunting. Her rest is cut short by a mysterious storm of divine origin, an attempted horse theft of her beloved mount, and the sudden appearance of a beautiful southerner who seems determined to capture Harper’s heart.

As the snows begin to fall, the intrigue and romance heats up. The object of Harper’s desire, the mysterious rogue Calista, appears destined to get everyone into fresh trouble with a mystical stew-brewing ogre, a greedy guild of Dwarven thieves, and finally an exalted march out of the snowy north bent on divine retribution.

Harper must decide if her growing love for Calista is real or a product of the lies she’s been told. Before the spring thaw, Harper will choose between the woman she loves and the Goddess that is the source of her magic.

So here it is, the first chapter of my fantasy adventure epic where a pure-hearted knight struggles with her faith as she falls in love with a cold-blooded assassin. Divine Touched is available: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Paperback

Chapter 1:
The Last Season for an Old Friend
  The first storm of autumn darkened the sea to the northwest, rolling in like gray mountains across the sky, carrying with it the scent of the winter to come. The Last Road wound its way up through the granite, heading north along the coast, with the rocky shore to the west and the groves of stone berry trees to the east. Ahead, tall like a tooth of the Gods, stood the Screeching Peak, snow already dusting its jagged cap, stark white against the foreboding gray sky.
 Harper walked slowly, careful to keep to the right of her warhorse, Aerial. The great gray mare, sixteen hands tall and stout like a brawny north man, was finally to be retired. Her coat was lined with scars equal to Harper’s, although the final wound to end her career left only the tiniest mark, no bigger than an arrowhead. Aerial was only seventeen seasons with plenty of career left before her until she lost her left eye to a stone dart of all things at the end of summer. The armored head-crest she wore in combat would have blocked most projectiles much larger, but the stone dart found its lucky way through, given more force by attacking opposite a charge. Harper tried her best to heal the wound, dropping her attack when Aerial reared, yet even her magic couldn’t spare her beloved horse’s eye. Enough remained to stitch together a milky globe that Aerial could barely make out shapes with should Harper pass her hand in front of it. The rest of her company had already ridden ahead, giving Harper private time with Aerial for the last return to Griffon’s Rock.
 Tears rolled freely down her cheeks, pausing momentarily on the shelf of her high, refined cheekbones before tumbling free. Harper was part Sylvan-born on her mother’s side, giving her slightly tapered tips to her ears, delicately triangular facial features, and an innate sense for magic. As she wore her honey colored hair long and typically free flowing, she passed easily for an exotically lovely human woman with the exception of her eyes. They were an otherworldly combination of green and blue such as a northern ocean after a violent storm when the world below the waves is churned to the surface and lit upon by rarified light breaking through the gray dome of storm clouds. Some said they shone with an inner light, although Harper was seldom near a reflective surface to verify.
 Though Aerial had long since lost the need for a lead rope, Harper rested her hand on her equine friend’s flank as they walked together. The ocean crashed against the granite shore down the boulder-strewn slope to their left and the autumnal winds blew through the golden leaves of the stone berry orchards to their right allowing them both to walk blind, guided north only by the sounds surrounding them.
 Aerial sniffed at the air, flaring her nostrils to take in the scent of the approaching storm and rain striking saltwater to the north. Harper followed suit, breathing in deeply the blessing of the Sea Queen. Maraline, Goddess of the Open Sea, spoke to her followers like Harper through the ocean’s song. Harper tried her best to see the approaching storm as a sign of a good resting season to come, a fine farewell to a friend’s long service, before Aerial and Harper would finally part ways.
 Griffon’s Rock rose out of the base of the Screeching Peak like a shining jewel among worthless gravel. The city itself, the wintering home of Harper’s company, was built from the ruins of the Dwarven City State that had inhabited the mountain a century before. The Dwarves had come to rely on the griffons that lived among the peak as their staple herd. Their end came when the dragons, who also fed upon the griffons, took umbrage with the Dwarves pillaging their food supply. The Dwarves were exterminated under the flame of the dragons and the dragons starved slowly after, consuming the last of the griffons without leaving generations enough to replenish the reduced numbers. The city of Griffon’s Rock and the humans who inhabited it learned the lessons of foolish dragons and greedy Dwarves, focusing instead on the easily fostered crop of stone berries: the hearty, tree-grown nuts the griffons had once eaten. The shells of the stone berry were so hard only the griffon’s beaks could crack them, or, as the people of Griffon’s Rock learned, metal nut crackers in the precise shape of a griffon’s beak. The nut within was often crushed, mixed with water, and turned into a gruel for marching troops or high quality mash for warhorses. The armies of the nation of Vaelandria marched on their stomachs as the old proverb went. And the stomachs of Vaelandrian horses and men alike were filled with stone berries grown by the people of Griffon’s Rock. The secondary industry of Griffon’s Rock was to offer winter housing for mercenary companies.
 The treasure seeking season was coming to a close, although earlier than Harper might have liked. Harper’s crew, the Dagger Falls Company had been beset by misfortune the entire season from spring’s first thaw until they’d finally given up their endeavors a week ago. More fortunate companies would continue their work until the first snow, which wouldn’t be for another two weeks, collecting coin and treasure for their benefactors before retiring to Griffon’s Rock. The haul the Dagger Falls Company managed that season was embarrassingly paltry, and Harper didn’t look forward to making their report.
 They’d lost their Jack early in the season. Felix, a street urchin who had risen through the ranks of thieves guilds to turn adventurer and mercenary at the first opportunity, had served ably as the company’s Jack for four seasons. Early in spring, when they were working as caravan guards to make their way into the east, a brigand ambush had struck the wagon train, felling Felix beneath a hale of arrows.
 The company tried their best to replace the talented Jack with little success. Mettler, a grandiose figure with a flourishing rapier as his favored weapon and a bright orange sash tied around his head at all times, had hired on once they’d finished the caravan escort duty. The next job, and Mettler’s only work with the company, was a reclaiming of a captive nobleman’s daughter. Mettler was to scale the stone manor’s wall, enter through an open window, and sneak through the mansion to open the gate for the rest of the company. The loud crash that followed from within, the shouting of guards, and then the frantic pounding on the interior of the keep’s massive oak door told the company Mettler had failed miserably in his task. They’d gained entrance to the keep when the guards burst out the front door in great numbers to see if the foppish Jack was acting alone. The Dagger Falls Company battled well, slaying the guards through force of arms and dumb luck, and ultimately freed the nobleman’s daughter in a distinctly ham-fisted fashion.
 The second replacement Jack they’d hired on, and the one who managed to follow them the rest of the summer, was a Havvish woman—Havvish being the diminutive people having arisen from the union between a Gnome and a Brownie that supposedly took place two millennia ago—less kind origin stories for the relatively new race said they sprang from a swamp of particularly irritating water. Short to the tune of around four feet tall and delicately built, their work as Jacks was legendary and so the company felt themselves fortunate to find one available for employment. Unfortunately, so too are the Havvish people known for drinking, gambling, stealing anything not nailed down, and talking all waking hours and many slumbering hours as well. Brandinne was talented at her work, there was no doubt about that, fighting well with her crossbow and daggers, setting brilliant traps, and flicking locks from their mountings with little more than a look, but she drove them all to the edge of madness with her prattle and stink-weed pipe smoking. Sven and Athol, the two brothers whose family was the company’s benefactor, seriously considered stuffing Brandinne into a sack and drowning her on so many occasions that Harper actually started to fear for the Jack’s life. Toward the end of the season, when they were camped at the edge of the Rusted Plains, Athol had stepped into a leg-turn trap, having somehow found his way toward Brandinne’s side of the camp in the dark. The trap that cleverly combined sticks and ropes in such a way that would turn an ankle if stepped into, had served as a non-lethal warning. Athol claimed he was sleep walking. Brandinne superficially accepted this excuse, but the damage to the group’s cohesion was done. Brandinne took her earnings and left them in the next town.
 On the next job, Harper’s trusted mount and warhorse of great import to the company’s success, took the stone dart to the eye when they were to clear out a colony of goblins that had taken up residence in a town’s only functional mill. The Dagger Falls Company took a vote, declared the season hexed beyond repair, and retired to Griffon’s Rock to spend the winter months searching for a new Jack and better fortune for the spring thaw to come.
 Harper finally strolled through the gates of the city’s massive walls, once built by talented Dwarven masons. The cobblestone streets, brick buildings with thatched roofs, and hearty agrarian people all felt familiar and safe to Harper. The citizenry of Griffon’s Rock were abuzz with preparations for the return of the mercenary companies. At least two dozen or more companies took their winter rest in Griffon’s Rock, bringing with them wealth spent liberally on drink, entertainment, finery, and, if any was left over, supplies for the next season. The town greeted the companies with great hospitality, plied them with food, drink, and wanted wares, and then sent them on their way the following spring, picked clean of nearly every coin. Harper was different. As a Sword Maiden of the Sea Queen, she spent her winter months at the temple to Maraline, healing the sick, performing miracles in the name of her Goddess, and growing the flock of the faithful. Her wealth remained her own, saved in the temple’s coffers, spared by her duty to her faith.
 She walked the familiar narrow alleys along the outer wall to the livery where she would finally dip into her mountain of savings to provide comfort for an old friend who had served well. The livery master came out to greet her, dressed in the stained brown clothes of his work, his equally filthy hair pulled back into a long braid. He smelled strongly of the stables, of sweet hay, pungent horse manure, and leather tack.
 “Greetings to you, Lady Harper,” the stable master said, raising his hand in a three fingered salute meant to show fealty to an agent of the divine.
 “Greetings, stable master,” Harper replied. “I have need of new service.”
 “New or returned service, my lady?”
 “Aerial has lost use of her left eye in the course of duty,” Harper explained, gently turning her horse’s head to show the stable master the truth of her words. “I wish her to rest in a retirement well-earned, paid for by the coin she helped acquire.”
 “Begging your apologies, lady, but we do not provide horse ‘retirement’ services here.” The livery master fidgeted a bit, not wishing to look upon Harper when delivering the news. “Perhaps you should see to the butcher or one of the slaughterhouses for such a thing.”
 The implication struck Harper like a cold knife to the stomach, which she had experienced and hadn’t enjoyed. “No, not in the sense of retire from this world,” she said.
 “Begging apology again, but what other retirement might a horse be offered?”
 “To rest well, eat in peace, the occasional freedom to run across an open pasture, and then sleep in a dry stable.” Harper held Aerial’s head close to her own, breathing deeply of the warm, familiar smell of her beloved friend. “She has earned all of these things and more. Will you see to her comfort as a loyal servant of the Sea Queen?”
 The livery master, still appearing baffled beyond understanding, nodded his agreement. “I do not understand your purpose in this, but if this horse is a servant of the Sea Queen, I will care for her as I would my own daughter.” The livery master took the offered bridle, gave the horse a perplexed look, and led her into the stable.
 Harper considered correcting the livery master before he departed, to tell him she meant he was a loyal servant of the Sea Queen as she had seen him come within the crystal-lined walls of the temple, but she thought better of it. Aerial could certainly be called a favored child of the Sea Queen and if that helped the livery master understand the request better, then Harper was glad to see it done.
 The first rains of the coming storm struck her before she could even turn to take her leave. She tilted her head back to take in the blessed storm, bathing in the baptismal of her faith as she walked the streets toward the Thundering Dawn Inn. People gathered beneath awnings, at windows, and even dared to stand at the edge of the road to watch her pass, Sword Maiden of the Sea, drenched and happy. Harper knew this was as close to the divine as many would come. Few witnessed Gods and fewer still received the personal boon that was magic of the holy—Harper had done both.
 She was but a child of single digit years, the daughter of a fisherman in Anilthine, when she beheld Maraline in all her glory. A blockade had shut the city’s bay to the world over a trade dispute, keeping Harper’s father on shore to fish from the docks with a pole like a common angler. She had joined him at the edge of the jetty, the manmade barrier of piled rocks to partially close off the bay to the wild waters of the ocean. On that fateful day, she went to see the hulking ships of a rival city bobbing along the lazy blue waves as she’d heard they were fantastically different. She was nearly out of her father’s line of sight, although not entirely as this would raise his voice and she didn’t want that, but she had wanted a closer look at the great warships. At the furthest edge of the jetty, where the sea spray washed over her whenever a wave crashed against the rocks, she finally saw the whole of the armada blocking in their fair city. A storm unlike anything she’d seen before or since, rose like a spear in the sky, slicing across the open ocean as no weather could. The men upon the blockade ships shouted, attempted to raise anchor and set sail, but it was all in vain. The storm slashed through their ranks with determined vengeance, shattering ships with lightning, colossal waves, and sail-tattering winds. Standing amidst the storm, gigantic like the statue of the Goddess within the city’s square, was the Goddess Maraline incarnate. She walked along the ocean, smoothing the water as she went, creating a causeway in escort of a lone ship. She passed by the jetty, a few dozen yards only separating Harper from the Goddess of the Open Sea. She was magnificent, beautiful, glowing like the noonday sun set to bounce off the water. Harper felt her power in a way she’d never felt anything before. The touch of the moment lingered, found a resting place in her, and dwelled there like a flame. Her father ran to her, attempted to collect her from the end of the jetty, but he too was struck by the power of the Goddess and, like his daughter, could only hold his ground in awe of witnessing the divine. The ship the Goddess had personally escorted through the blockade held a high priestess with the power to raise the dead, or so the stories went. All Harper knew was that she must devote her life to this great and powerful lady of the ocean.
 The ember of the divine planted in her from proximity to the Goddess had remained, growing slowly, the source of Harper’s magic and anchoring her connection to the deity she served. The rain soaked her hair, made heavy her linen tunic, and seeped into her leather riding boots, but she didn’t care. The rain also grew the ember of the divine within her and she felt closer to the Goddess because of it.
 Alarm rose out of the west. Someone was ringing the great iron bell above the western walls, calling aid to the docks and the lighthouse. Harper snapped out of her reverie. People were rushing toward the sound of the clanging bell. Harper joined them in the charge, sprinting through the puddles collecting in the street. The lateness of the hour and the darkness of the storm clouds left little light to follow by. The storm prevented any torch from gaining purchase, leaving the help called by the bell to flow through the streets almost blindly.
 When she broke free of the city, Harper got her first look at what raised the alarm. The great stone lighthouse on the edge of the jetty lay dark, likely losing its light under the ferocity of the storm. White-capped waves smashed upon the rocks, rolling out of the angry North Sea in gray mountains of water. Amid this turbulent hell of livid water, the remains of a ship was being battered against the rocks beneath the lighthouse. Cargo crates, barrels, debris, and people bobbed as black dots amid the choppy water of the bay, washed over from time to time when a colossal breaker roared clean over the jetty.
 Great pyres of pitch laden logs began lighting around the bay, finally granting light enough to effect a rescue. Men with ropes and floats rushed to the docks and onto the jetty. They struggled hard to pull the sailors from the angry gray waters even as the spray and wind threatened to pluck the rescuers from the wooden planks of the docks and granite boulders of the jetty.
 Harper rushed to their aid, making her way down the path toward the lighthouse. She slid her slender, two-handed sword from the scabbard across her back. The beautiful, holy weapon imbued with the power of the Goddess sprang to life when the rain struck it. This was no accidental squall of the coming season. The blade recognized the hand of the divine in the waters. What could the Goddess wish to destroy on that ship, Harper wondered. She braved the crashing waves at the end of the stone precipice the lighthouse was perched upon, raised the beautiful blade of the Goddess high above her, and bathed the entire bay in the soft blue glow of the guiding light of the Sea Queen.
 Rescuers did their best to work by the light, hauling man after soggy man from the waves by the light until the storm finally battered the last of the ship into little more than kindling, and the entire hulk disappeared beneath the darkened waves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Random Questions from Everywhere

Random Questions from Everywhere
Yep, it's another fuck it blog post!

I’ve kind of slacked horribly on the relationship advice land questions. Ever since I quit doing the freelance columns, I’ve had a hard time giving out advice. A lot of the questions I get are kind of depressing or lack all the information so it turns into something of an email back and forth, which isn’t conducive to blog posts. In the name of keeping the blog fun, I’m going to answer a couple random, silly questions instead, even if (especially if) the question wasn’t asked in seriousness.

Have you ever “gotten” someone in your books?

Yep! Firstly, let me say this is a long standing tradition in the author world and it is entirely immature, ridiculous, and ineffective. Geoffrey Chaucer did it with Simon the Pardoner way back in the 1300s. It isn’t known precisely who the Pardoner was, or if he was entirely allegorical, which I kind of doubt, but Mr. Chaucer really let the guy have it. Nerd Girl Info: there’s a reference to this in A Knight’s Tale.

I’m certainly not alone in “getting” someone through literary satire. I’m probably not even alone in figuring out how silly the behavior is. Trying to “get” someone with a novel is a little like getting into a gun fight with a musket that takes a year or more to load while firing at someone who probably doesn’t have a gun at all and is so far away, they’re not even aware you’re shooting at them. Let me clarify that bizarre metaphor. It takes about six months to a year to publish a book. So even if a person writes very quickly, which I do, the book will still take six months to be seen by a reader. Odds are, the person being “gotten” won’t even read the work. On the off chance they do, they probably won’t recognize themselves since people are terrible judges of their own character. And even if they do read it and recognize themselves, they probably won’t care enough to even send an email to the author saying, “Hey, I read your book about that incident at a party over a year ago and it truly hurt my feelings to know you thought my pants fit so poorly!”

I'm clearly not the first person to lampoon a cop they didn't like.
To my specific incident of literary “getting” someone…I got a ticket a couple of years ago, a speeding ticket to be precise, and in my 20-year-old brain, I thought the California Highway Patrolman giving me a ticket for going 80 in a 70 zone on an entirely empty section of I-5 was an asshole thing to do. Actually, I still do, but whatever. If you’ve read TheGunfighter and The Gear-Head you’ll probably have noticed there’s a former CHP officer named Rawlins. Zeke orders him around, Gieo blackmails him, Fiona mocks him, and he eventually ends up dead. The GF&GH is a popular book, routinely in Amazon’s top 100 for lesbian fiction. The thing is, I doubt Officer Rawlins reads lesbian fiction. I actually kind of doubt Officer Rawlins even reads recreationally. So, yep, I really “got” him and he has no idea it even happened, nor would he probably care if he did know.

In hindsight (actually a little bit while I was doing it) the whole thing felt silly and a little pointless, which is why I haven’t done it since. Of course, if you get pulled over in the north Central Valley of California by a chubby, arrogant CHP officer named Rawlins, feel free to tell him he’s in a book.

Have you ever tried to start a trending topic?
Why does creating a hand gesture for something immediately make it lame?
This is a question from one of my new twitter followers who is increasingly becoming one of my favorite tweeple. Yes, and several. My history of creating hashtags:

#ShitMyGirlfriendSays: I still do this one from time to time when my girlfriend says something truly fantastic. I probably didn’t create it, but for awhile there all the activity on that hashtag floated around things I was saying and my follower list. So, while I may not have hatched that specific twitter egg, it was mine for a bit.

#TweetingThroughABadMovieOnFX: I used to live chat/tweet during movies on FX. I only picked 2 star or lower movies, only movies I’d never seen, and movies it was entirely likely FX did some truly hilarious things to while editing for television. Last fall, FX showed “Twilight” and I made the mistakes of #TweetingThroughABadMovieOnFX during it. Oh my fucking goddess, did people lose their shit over me making fun of Twilight for a solid two hours. Seriously, I had people pestering me about how wonderful and transcendent of a story Twilight is for weeks! After that, I kind of lost my taste for the whole thing, and FX has started showing better movies.
I pointed to this exact scene as creepy. Twilight fans response: "Ermahgerd isa lurve storah!"
#SexPositiveSaturday: I still think this one is a good idea that just didn’t work out. I wanted to get a bunch of relationship advice/sex advice columnists, bloggers, podcasters, etc. to start posting sex positive information and news on Saturdays with this hashtag. A few of us did for a couple weeks and then it just kinda died, probably due to my lack of focus.

 Have you ever padded out a blog post with pictures to make it look like you wrote more?

Ever get killed in a book?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Bloggers

I posted a comment awhile back on a column for the San Francisco Book Review that was written by a colleague who is from the same area as me and someone I’ve grown to like quite a bit through talking with her via social networking sites over the past year or so. Let me start by saying that I’m super happy for and super proud of Rachel for having her article published by the San Francisco Book Review--it’s kind of a big deal place to have an article, especially for California writers. The article was largely written with a writer audience in mind, and so my comment that has been getting so much attention lately was directed at other writers.

I have since been able to clarify my statements, which were posted in haste, with many book bloggers and reviewers on an individual level, and I’ve enjoyed this since it was a good chance to catch up as well, but I thought it’d be a good idea to clarify things on a larger scale.
From the LA Times
Firstly, let me say, I wish I had put quotes around “blogger” in my original post, because that’s really how I meant it. The type of blogger I was talking about isn’t in the majority and I’m very sorry that from the way I phrased my post that many bloggers felt I was talking about them. That was not my intention and I do believe the specific type of “blogger” I was talking about makes up probably less than 10% of the whole. You know what, I’m not even going to use the same word for them when writing this anymore. After talking with an accomplished book blogger on twitter last night, I came to the conclusion that I don’t even see the two as being of the same group. There are book bloggers, paid and unpaid, who behave in a professional manner whether or not they’re getting paid for their time, and many of them aren’t but are deserving of compensation for their work. But then there is another, smaller group that I’ll just refer to as hack-jobbers who go out of their way to find books they’re going to hate so they can attack them. These two groups are not the same in my mind and I feel terrible that my post appeared to lump them together, which was not my intention.

From Bill Wasterston who wrote stellar dialogue for a stuffed tiger.
My post’s primary goal was to give comfort to other writers who have been hit by these hack-jobbers. The original article was written to other writers--it seemed like a good place to talk to them. I may have just come from one of the burn pages or I might just have been thinking about my last trip to one--either way, I was mad and posted in haste to say the writers who were being “reviewed” by these hack-jobbers, who don’t actually seem to finish very many of the books they “review”, should take heart in knowing they’ve succeeded at something wonderful:  selling a book. And they shouldn’t let a hack-jobber make them feel like it wasn’t an accomplishment.

The thing about book bloggers, the real ones, not the hack-jobbers, is that they’re doing something nobody thought they would. I am writing specifically to the book bloggers here; I’d love to sit down with each and every one of you, have tea, and tell you this face to face, but we’ll have to settle for this. The Big Six publishers didn’t think you would do what you’re doing--they bet a lot of money in a roundabout way that you wouldn’t. You’re sorting the huge flood of indies in a way they never could and you’re doing it without anyone telling you when or how. You all just started doing it. You loved books so much that you gave up your free time to help others love books too. As an indie author from an indie publisher, I need you and appreciate you for working on this enormous labor of love, without pay, that will hopefully never be completed. We’re in this symbiotic relationship where indie authors and unpaid book bloggers are creating a literary world that has never existed before. If unpaid book bloggers didn’t review indies, the Big Six would be right about this new system not working and indies would have an enormously difficult time succeeding; likewise, if indie authors/publishers didn’t put out their work, book reviewing would still be dominated by paid reviewers in the New York Times and other publications, and they’d all review the same several books from the Big Six. What is being created by unpaid book bloggers and indie authors/publishers is a system where readers have more choices than ever and opportunities to read books that suit their every taste and/or desire; the Big Six and traditional paid book reviewers simply can’t do this because there just aren’t enough of them. Most indie authors, myself included, would have an extremely hard time standing out from the crowd if it weren’t for book bloggers pointing to us and saying, “Hey, that person’s got a book you might like!”

I’m going to run through a list of book bloggers and show you exactly what I mean about good people doing good work. Some of them have reviewed my books and some of them haven’t, but I’m only going to post one of my own book reviews, and I’ll save that for the end--trust me, it won’t be self-promotion.

The first review I want to look at is from Loving Venus / Loving Mars. It’s an LGBT oriented book review site with expertise in bisexual literature (try to get THAT from the New York Times Book Review). They go with the A+ through F- review format. In this review, Leah is giving a C to the book. I think C/3-star/whatever-is-your-middle-rating reviews are always interesting. You get to watch a blogger really talk about the book in a balanced way. Loved it! and Hated it! reviews are useful, but when you get to see a book blogger with talent working on a 3-star or C grade book, you really get to see their critical processes in action, which also holds entertainment value:
-                     There were many times when this story was going to be a DNF for me. But I’m stubborn that way sometimes and I kept reading. I’m glad I did even if I have some critical things to say.” -- I love her for saying this. She didn’t quit on a book, despite wanting to, and she found something she would have missed if she had. That is superb book blogging and exactly what I’ve come to expect from Leah.
-                     “So I did have some expectations of a well crafted story, which didn’t happen.” -- This happens. A reviewer will like one book from the author, but not another, and Leah explains precisely why, while keeping perfect focus on the specific book she was reviewing.
I’m not going to go through the entire review because it is very in depth, but the spoiler alert/highlight section is done in a very clever way, so you should at least check that out even if you don’t read the whole thing. Ultimately, her review breaks down to the fact that the author did some POV things Leah felt didn’t work, but that the story being told was a good one, even if the way it was being told wasn’t. And she gave it an accurate C for that. This is the type of review that helps readers AND writers make better choices. Leah has reviewed a couple of my books, and she seemed to like them. She had notes on them that were helpful to me in future projects and she articulated those criticisms in a way that benefited everyone.

Another example of book bloggers/reviewers are the ladies, Rob, Amy, and Susie at Insatiable Booksluts. Rob is a woman, by the way, so that wasn’t an accident or typo. This is a fine example of a generally positive review from Amy. It’s a 4 out of 5 star book, but Amy explains very clearly why it lost that extra star.

-                     It starts off with the first line of the book, which I like because it gives the reader a sample to really get the flavor of the book being reviewed. It’s followed by cleverness in her rating of it and background on why she chose to review it. She selected the book because she wanted to review it, presumably because she thought she would enjoy it. That’s precisely why a person should read a book to review it.
-                     Amy provides a clear synopsis so her review will have context and a reader of her review could decide if the story sounded interesting to them as well. Who couldn’t like a book blogger who took that kind of care of their own readers?
-                     She concludes her review with an explanation of why it lost the star it lost, which was thought out and a reasonable flaw for the penalty incurred. She also posted a funny tweet about a typo in the book, but she did explain very clearly that the typo was minor and understandable. I thought this one, well-placed tweet was far funnier than pages and pages of viscous snark.

The website’s banner says, “Voracious readers tell you if that book is going to suck” and they do, but they also tell you if the book isn’t going to suck. They have a balance of positive, negative, and in between reviews, which means they’re taking the task of sorting books seriously, and making an honest, good faith effort to assess each book on its merits regardless of whether it ends up being one of the ones that sucks. They won the 2012 Independent Book Blogger Award for Adult Fiction category and I think they more than earned it.

The last book blogger (because I already know this blog will be +4k words) and the only review of my own work I will be posting today. It comes from Guerilla Bookworm. I don’t know if they’re male or female, and I couldn’t find on the site where it said, so I’ll just call the reviewer “they.” They clobbered my book in an example of a perfectly written 1-star critique. This specific review was entirely validating for me--someone really taking the time to dissect my book and find it wanting meant to me that I’d finally joined the ranks of other professional authors who took a lump or two at the hands of a talented reviewer:

-                     “How much did I want to adore this book?” -- isn’t that an ominous start? Immediately I knew I was in for it, but I also knew that this book blogger had come to my book with happy expectations and hopes, eager to read and review with an open mind, which meant they were doing their job.
-                     Next, they go into the sex scenes in the book, which they didn’t care for at all. The reviewer prefaced it that they even expected the sex scenes so it wasn’t a surprise to them. The attention to detail in recalling specifics on the scenes they didn’t like shows the reader of the review that the reviewer thought quite a bit about this criticism and took the time to be specific without posting spoilers. They gave reasons and supported those reasons with examples--perfect book blogger form.
-                     “That might have worked if this were a video game instead of a novel.” -- I liked this line a lot. I wanted to be a game designer for a long time. It’s in the middle of a paragraph explaining why the reviewer didn’t care for the protagonists, but again, the writing used to clobber my book is clever, well-reasoned, and an equitable expression of the reviewer’s opinion.
-                     “And, yet, I hung in there.” -- this reviewer was NOT having fun reading my book, it wasn’t even on his list, and they didn’t “owe” me a review because I didn’t submit or ask for one (not that anyone ever owes anyone a review). YET they persisted through the whole thing because they wanted to be fair and reasonable in their criticism.
-                     “I never pick up a book without wanting to enjoy it.” -- statement of what makes them a quality book blogger and not a hack-jobber: making a good faith effort.
-                     “It did give me one good chuckle in a scene involving a robot and a puppy.  So for that, Ms. Duffy, I sincerely thank you.” -- at least I got one chuckle J
-                     At the end, they discuss what they thought I could have done better, encouraged me to continue writing, which kind of surprised me, and then offered alternative reads based on the genre of my book if people wanted to see what the reviewer thought was a quality book of this type. All of which was lovely and provided valuable information for both readers of the review and the author.

The reviewer mentions at one point that they think they’re being vitriolic. I didn’t see it that way at all, but I might have a different point of comparison for that word. This review came out during a very hectic month for me, so I don’t recall if I sent them an email thanking them for their consideration, which I usually do, regardless of the outcome of the review. So, if I forgot to, and I think I might have:  Thank you for your consideration, Guerilla Bookworm, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the book, but I appreciated your time and effort regardless.

There are hack-jobbers out there though. Hack-jobbers are NOT book bloggers in my opinion. The people above represent the majority of book review blogs, while hack-jobbers represent a small, but fairly vocal minority. These people, I don’t want to call them reviewers really since that seems like a secondary goal, go out of their way to find books they aren’t going to like so they can say mean things about them. Why a person would waste their time, energy, and money doing this is completely beyond me. Some of them don't even spend their money as they'll brag about exploiting Amazon's return policy to rip off authors, publishers, and distributors  by buying a book, reading it, and then returning it for a refund before writing a scathing review of the same book they just stole. And that’s really the point of part of my post on the San Francisco Book Review--nobody is making hack-jobbers do this. If they were professional book reviewers and their boss was making them review books they hated and they couldn’t leave their job because we’ve all got student loan payments, I would probably have a different opinion of them because I’ve had to work a few jobs where the boss breathing down my neck was the only reason I did something, plus they would have been given a review copy instead of resorting to stealing one. But all the hatred and bashing from a hack-jobber is done voluntarily and without compensation, so they really are just being mean to be mean. Thankfully, I’ve never been reviewed by one. Some bash the authors themselves and some just do a shit job of reviewing a book they clearly set out to hate. One of their goals seems to try to discourage indie authors and publishers from…well…existing.

I thought quite a bit about posting one of their sites as an example, but I decided against it since I really don’t want to provide even more hits and attention for bad behavior. Some people I’m sure will still figure it out.

-                     “I aim my Darts of Mockery at the small-press publisher, who later removed the book from their online store, Amazon, B&N and ARe” -- good for her? Either she’s taking credit for the removal of a book that had nothing to do with her, or she’s taking credit for insulting someone’s work out of the public sphere. Book bloggers provide information for readers to make informed decisions, while hack-jobbers want to decide what books are even available for readers by insulting writers and publishers until they leave.
-                     “so I figured I should out myself a Mean Girl” -- that’s in the header of a section where she’s bragging about all the people she’s mocked recently. It makes the website look a lot like a burn page to me.
-                     “Made it about 20%...” -- that’s a good sign she shouldn’t have even posted anything about the book. What about the other 80%? Should we all go find an actual book blogger who can finish a book rather than a hack-jobber who revels in telling us how much of the book she didn’t even read before posting her review?

Some people are only borderline hack-jobbers, but I believe anyone who reads 20% of a book and thinks they’re qualified to say anything about it needs to get their mean girl head checked.
Or put it in a cute pink book and keep it under your bed.

As for the content of my original post on the San Francisco Book Review…

I used a turn of phrase that people gravitated toward in my post. I talk in colloquialisms. Anyone who has read my twitter feed or blog or has had a five minute conversation with me knows I talk a little like a mix between a Diablo Cody and Aaron Sorkin character. I also kinda write like that too. I’ve only recently realized that turns of phrase, like the one I used, are NOT universal. And I don’t just mean to the world, I mean to the U.S. Did you know “swing a dead cat” is something of a regional saying? I used it when I moved to Florida from California, and probably 60% of the people around me had no idea what I was talking about. “Why would you swing a dead cat?” they justifiably asked. I wouldn’t--it just means there are a lot of the thing in question in the area; so much so that if you had a small dead animal you couldn’t theoretically swing it above your head because you’d keep hitting those plentiful things…explaining the “swing a dead cat” phrase did not help it make sense, by the way. I used the term “above my pay grade” in the post. This is a phrase typical to military people or people with military families of a certain time frame and, as I learned, is NOT universal. I come from an extended family with a lot of military service. “Above my pay grade” has nothing to do with how much money a person makes anymore than “swing a dead cat” has to do with swinging dead cats. It’s used in the military sense when a soldier doesn’t want to answer a question, but doesn’t want to say, “I don’t want to answer that question.” The way I used it in my bastard child of Diablo Cody and Aaron Sorkin way was to mean, “outside of what I normally like.” I should have just posted that instead.
This is a picture of the space ship called Nostromo from the Alien movie--it has nothing to do with the book Nostromo, which bummed me out some.
The reading “outside of what I normally like” section of the post also included Nostromo. That is a hyper specific example, and many people caught on that. I used it because that’s MY hyper specific example of a book that was “outside of what I normally like.” A friend recommended it, said if I liked Dostoyevsky it would be right up my alley. That friend and I don’t talk anymore…I’m just kidding, I killed him to avoid future awkwardness. For those of you who haven’t read Joseph Conrad’s opus, it is as dense as marble and more intricate than a Swiss watch. The layers have layers upon layers and if you aren’t super focused the entire time, you’ll probably miss something you’ll need later. I don’t like reading stuff like that because I have a wandering mind that tends to daydream occasionally while reading. I did not end up finishing Nostromo. It was well written, the story was as massive as the sun, the imagery was compelling, but it was way outside of what I normally like. I wouldn’t review Nostromo because I didn’t finish it. The book might have had an “ah ha!” moment two pages from where I stopped reading that would have magically knocked everything else into place--Joseph Conrad was that good of a writer. But I didn’t finish, so I will never know if that would have happened. People have preferences that not every book, even the greats, will fit into, which is what that part of the post was meant to say.

I don’t believe any author could ever write something that is universally understood and meaningful to all readers. That is a preposterous goal like a person trying to fly by flapping their arms. Can people fly? Sure, or the movie Top Gun would have just been a really long beach volleyball scene. But we can’t do it at will, we can’t do it all the time, and we can only do it a few people at a time--that’s the same with writing. An author can only reach some readers some of the time with some of their message, which leads to some readers not understanding every single message or reference in a book. It’s not the reader’s fault, nor is it the author’s fault. The pieces for something to make perfect sense simply weren’t there. Book bloggers are very aware of the limitations of the written word to convey ideas perfectly and make allowances for it, because they know how it is because they’re writing a blog trying to convey ideas. Hack-jobbers assume if something doesn’t make sense to them, the fault is with the work or the writer, and maybe it is, but maybe it’s just the passage required a reader to possess a certain reference that particular reader didn’t have.

Example:  I took an Avant-garde fiction class in college. It sounded like fun and authors came to visit all the time so we could talk to them about their books and get some first hand answers about what we read. I’d never read any Avant-garde work to that point and I haven’t really since. That particular field of fiction is very self-referential, so the fact that I hadn’t read any became a real problem for my comprehension. An author of one of the books wrote extensively about another Avant-garde writer and one of her works. There was a specific passage in a particular book of this other writer that he suspected involved a very lewd act being performed while she wrote it. An email exchange later between the writers confirmed this was true! And everyone but me in the auditorium laughed. I wasn’t a stupid or inept reader--I simply hadn’t read the other book being referenced. The author could have explained that other book and the other scene in several paragraphs, but that would have completely halted the flow of writing and spoiled the remarkable musicality his work had. I was there, the author was there, and so I just asked him what the other scene was about. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but it was funny, the author explained it well, it involved a dildo, and when the premise for the reference was explained, it made perfect sense.

I write lesbian books. Moreover, I write silly lesbian books. I do it because I like writing silly stuff and I’m a lesbian. That’s about as nefarious as my process gets. I don’t want to trick readers, I don’t want my work to talk down to them, and I don’t write for a universal audience since I know not everyone likes silly or lesbians. My books contain references to lesbian culture that I seldom explain, but could easily be understood with a quick google search. Some readers run the search and some don’t. Either way, a scene not being understood is almost never due to a reader not being smart enough or a writer being too smart. Especially not in my books which are about robots, and vampires, and puppies, and first loves, and oral sex, and post-apocalyptic blimp piloting, and gangs of department store Santas running extortion rings, and…you get the point. I’m not writing highbrow stuff so I assume if a reader doesn’t understand a section in my book, it’s probably just because they haven’t had any experience with the terms gold star lesbian or uhauling or “the chart” or someone being a total Shane. Readers aren’t dumb, but no reader can reasonably be expected to have heard of everything a writer puts in their book and no writer can reasonably be expected to explain absolutely everything they mention. And that was my point that kind of got lost in the original post on San Francisco Book Review.

Someone brought up Mark Twain being snarky toward JaneAusten and James Fennimore Cooper--he was, but the authors he attacked were long dead (Literary Offenses came out in 1895. Cooper died in 1851 and Austen died in 1817) and Twain had his own body of work for people to criticize in response if they so chose and he encouraged anyone who felt up to it to do precisely that; to my knowledge, nobody wanted to get into a literary fist fight with Twain, but he did invite anyone who felt like it to try. I’m sorry, but that analogy doesn’t fit hack-jobbers. If Stephen King suddenly decided to put his Mark Twain suit on and write a tell-off piece about Faulkner, that would be a valid analogy to what Twain did. Anonymous or semi-anonymous people posting insulting comments about a book on the internet are not analogous to Mark Twain.

As for the snark stuff, censorship, and first amendment rights to voice opinions…with very few exceptions, people can say what they want. Does what they say hurt other people? Does it reduce the level of dialogue? Are they being mean in an attempt to be funny to other mean people? If the answer to any of that is ‘yes’ then it would follow that a reasonable, kind person wouldn’t say it know matter how protected their speech is. A good example of this: my own original post on SFBR. I was a writer talking to other writers about hack-jobbers and yet I ended up hurting book bloggers with my words. Simply having the right to say something doesn’t mean you should.

As for the comment section, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that yet. I will warn people about this though: any comments pertaining to the SGRB/Goodreads feud will be deleted. I’m not happy about so many people trying to drag me into drama that I’ve made clear I want no part of, and I’m not interested in hearing why someone thinks this post relates to something I have nothing to do with and want nothing to do with. If fanning the flames on that mess is your idea of fun, you’re welcome to it, but not on my blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Love in India and Not-Really-Roommates

I'm very quickly going to catch up on a couple of questions I received via email, one of which I've been putting off forever, and I'm truly sorry about that. I have excuses though! Possibly even good excuses! Sadly, most of what I could come up with by way of excuses could also just be called living life as a writer/girlfriend/cat owner/human being, which is to say, they're not particularly vindicating.

"Hi Cass,
 I came across ur question answer round in d lesbian dating site. I found ur answer and suggestions to the point and very practical. Cass if u cud do me a favour. M actually in a dilemma and I don't see thngs moving ahead.
M a 26 year old woman from India. I was in a relationship with a guy for few years and honestly I always felt sumthng missing. The relationship wasn't going healthy therefore we broke up for good.. It took me a long tym to get over him. In a years tym, I met this amazing woman. She is a butch lesbian and is open about it. We used to communicate over the phone and met few tyms. Now the thing is I wasnt ready for anythn more than frenship at that tym, however I did have feelings for her. The two months that we were together were the most amazing thing that happened to me. One day we met and thngs went beyond just friends.
Now the problem is soon after that she wanted to get into a relationship but I ws not ready to confront the society. She had issues and she left me. Its been a year now and m stil waitn for her. I have had lots of proposals from guys but I just can't thnk bout anyone else but her. Please help me out. How do I win her back."

This last letter was typed out on a Blackberry--being an owner of that kind of phone, I'm completely sympathetic in how difficult it is to type out a whole email on one of them. Let's all be understanding of the writer of the email for the errors and let's also be understanding of me that I didn't go through and smooth it over since I've recently been blinded by proof copies (not literally, but you get the idea).

Dear India Reader:

What you describe in the first part of your email is fairly typical of non-gold star lesbians. For those of you not familiar with the nomenclature, a gold star is a lesbian who has never been with a man (I'm one but my girlfriend isn't). For women who come to the realization they might be a lesbian after a few awkward relationships with men, it can be kind of disorienting, especially if you live in highly traditional area like India or Alabama.

What happened between you and this lovely woman you fell for is also fairly common. This is good news for you, but I'll explain that in a second. It's incredibly common for a first relationship (or even one a bit down the road) to fail because one person is out to society about being a lesbian and the other isn't. We call it being "in the closet" but I'm not sure if that saying is universal enough to be true in India. You were in the closet, she wasn't, you weren't ready to come out yet, and things fell apart. This is a story as old as Sappho.

This is where the good news comes in. Since it is an old story, and it's happened to people all over, it might be something this woman has experienced before. Breaking up with someone because you're ready to live life as an affirmed lesbian and they aren't is tough, but sometimes, like in this case, a second chance comes along with someone who wasn't ready before, but they're ready now.

You may not be able to get her back. She may have moved on to someone else by now. If that's the case, you need to let her go. But there's good news in this too. Lesbians date, break up, and then become fantastic friends that may end up back together someday or just remain lifelong friends. That's pretty much the glue holding together the lesbian community. So if she's moved on to someone else, make it clear that you'd really like to be her friend and she'll probably accept. At that point, you'll be off and running to meeting other lesbians within the community, since she'll probably be able to introduce you around. You need and want to be part of this group as a new lesbian.

If she's single still, your best bet is to simply tell her you weren't ready then, but you're ready now and she is who you want to be with. Explain you were afraid before, you weren't sure, but you've had time to think and become sure, and you know now that you want her and you are ready to come out to the world. She might have some stipulations about how "out" you need to be to be with her. Consider them carefully, but I would suggest keeping an open mind about accepting them. They might sound tough or scary, but ultimately you'll be a happier person after coming out and you'll strengthen the trust of the relationship by proving to her that you are ready.The next letter is super short and super sweet, but has a HUGE issue behind it. I love those tiny questions that have huge answers.

"How do I come out and tell my family that my roommate of 43 yrs is really my partner?"

See what I mean about it being a small question but requiring a lot of answering?

Dear Not-Really-Roommates

Odds are, if you've been living together with this woman for 43 years, your family will have their suspicions unless you've been a master at hiding it, and even then... When I came out to my family, they kind of had a "finally, she figured it out" response. You may find that this is the case with your family as well. They might be simply being polite enough to wait for you to say. If this is the case, then you're generally not doing anything but clearing the air.

If this isn't the case, and it might not be, then you've got some more work to do. First and foremost, let me congratulate you on having a 43 year monogamous relationship. Well-fucking-done! For those of you who aren't aware, I've quit the last of my dating website/magazine jobs and I'm doing all my advice through my blog/twitter now, which means I can swear in my responses again. That's a huge relief to me since I'm no damn good at watching my mouth.

Your tactic in this should be divide and conquer and here's how:
Step 1:  Make a list of all the people you want/need to come out to in your family.
Step 2:  Pick the people on this list who are most likely to respond well to the news. Odds are, these will also be the people you're closest to.
Step 3: Come out to the likely allies first, doing it individually of course, and bringing your partner along for the ride. Tell them you love them, that you've been living like this for a long time, and it doesn't have to change anything about your relationship with them, but that you wanted them to know since families who love each other shouldn't keep secrets.
Step 4:  Find the people on your list that you don't think will react well at all and decide whether or not you even need to come out to those people. My grandmother on my father's side is extremely traditional Korean, living in Korea. I'm not out to her and I never plan to be. She lives on the other side of the world from me, she'd never accept it, and so I'm planning on running out the clock and letting her go to the grave without ever having to freak out about her favorite granddaughter being a lesbian (my sister thinks she's the favorite because she gave grandma a great-grandchild, but that's just silliness). Odds are, there are some family members on your list that you can just say, "To hell with telling that person."
Step 5: Use the allies you've come out to already who reacted well to it so far to help and support you in coming out to the other, trickier members of your family. If Cousin Joe sees that you have three or four other family members with you that already know and are fine with it when you tell him, he's far less likely to make a scene about it. Do this part one at a time. A person can be reasonable and open-minded on their own, but when it becomes PEOPLE things start getting iffy as to how tolerant they're going to be.
Step 6: Be ready for it to not work out 100%. There might well be people in your family who aren't going to be cool with it no matter how well you approach this. With them, all you can really do is say that you're sorry they aren't willing to accept your relationship of 43 years (holy freaking crap that's incredible!) and that you hope they'll reconsider some day. And then you have to let them go until they get over their bigotry. Sadly, they might never, but that's not on you--it's on them. You don't have to live your life as an apology to bigots, even if those bigots are blood relatives.

I'm hopeful that this will go well and that your family is already probably in the know about what's been going on and simply waited for you to admit it to them. Regardless, I'd love a follow up email or comment to let me know how it went. Regardless of their reaction, you've got me on your side.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

And the winners are...

All during May, I ran a contest where my readers could win one of four autographed copies of The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head, and now we know who the winners are!

When I first brought the idea to my publisher, they didn't see the point. All the readers who would be entering the contest would have already purchased the book, so what was my angle? To be honest, I didn't really have a nefarious money-making motive for doing it. It sounded like a fun thing to do, and it was. So I just did it on my own out of my own pocket. I'm still not super sure what the total cost is going to end up being. I get copies of my books for the gross price since I already gave away all my freebies to friends and family, so that wasn't too expensive. What I hadn't counted on was the international readership I apparently have. It turns out, half the winners are not from the U.S.--there's a Canadian and an Australian in the mix and so I'm going to get to see what it costs to ship books internationally. To be honest, I'm more curious than anything else.

As for a reiteration of the rules and all that. There were two winners for the trivia part of the contest and two winners for the fan-art part of the contest. The trivia winners were picked simply by which two people got the highest scores, no partial credit. I was a little worried about this part when I gave both sets of trivia questions to my girlfriend before I launched the contest and she didn't do so well. Of course, this fear was immediately allayed when the first trivia entry came in the day the contest opened, and she got 100%, incidentally one of the winners. The fan-art part wasn't judged by me. I took the names off the submissions, not that my girlfriend would know who they were anyway, and let her pick her two favorites.

Now, I will post the answers to the trivia questions since they don't have any real spoilers to them anyway (If you want to try your hand at the contest, follow the link to the contest above and then check your answers to see how you would have done):

Congratulations to:
Courtney for getting a 100% on the day the contest opened
Mike who only missed one
Raven Ladies Trivia:
 What color is Slark blood? -- Green
 Where was Fiona Bishop born? -- Tombstone, Arizona (Remember, it's BORN, not where did she live most of her life, which would have been Los Angeles)
 What is Veronica’s real first name? -- Tanner
 What did Fiona name her horse? -- Tyra (There's a not-too-subtle joke running through the book about why)
 How many Slark heads need to be collected for a week’s worth of fuel? -- Six
 How many dirigibles did the Ravens build to attack the refineries? -- 3
 What does Fiona call her crazy moments? -- Chaos tics
 Who promises to kill Yahweh Hawkins in Fiona’s name? -- Claudia (who is the protagonist in the second book in the series The Steam-Powered Sniper in the City of Broken Bridges)
 What catalogue did Fiona model for before the Slark invasion? -- Victoria's Secret
 Why did Gieo program Ramen to lie sometimes? -- To see if she could

The other set of questions, which very few people even took a crack at, was spread across almost all my other books:
General Cassandra Duffy Literature Trivia:
Demons of Paradise:
 In “An Archeologist’s Dream” name one thing Nitocris asked Holly to bring her. -- perfume/pomegranate/panties (also gave it to someone who answered Ford Mustang, because technically that was true too)
 In “An Eternal Night of Overtime” what did Brooke want to be before she turned to the fashion industry? -- Professional surfer
 In “Answered Prayers” what scent follows Jada’s guardian angel? -- Peppermint
Astral Liaisons:
 In “The Flesh Menagerie” what do the Ice-Niners want Sonali and Claire to do? -- Procreate
 In “Of Pirates and Politicians” what letter do the Saladins resemble? -- F
 In “Escaping the Colony of Hot and Cold” the colonists of Martini are divided into two classifications, olives and…? -- Onions
The Vampires of Vigil’s Sorrow:
 Which college does Debbie want to go to? -- Barnard
 Grace’s father, Henry, served in World War II in which branch of the military? -- Navy
The Grift Girls Series:
 In “The Last Best Tip” what business do Lucy and Sasha want to start with their grifted money? -- Lesbian sports bar
 In “An Undead Grift for Christmas” Lucy, Sasha, and Lara are attacked by a gang of…? -- Department store Santa Clauses

Now for the fan-art part of the contest:
Congratulations to Felicia!
The picture can also be found on her website along with her other work.
And Bunny!
I have a theory that my girlfriend picked this picture because it very closely resembles how she sees Ramen
The whole contest thing was supposed to coincide with the release of the second book in the series, but it ended up coming out a few days early on some platforms and the contest was in my procrastinating hands, so the announcing of the winners and the release of "The Steam-Powered Sniper in the City of Broken Bridges" kinda missed each other by a little more than a week--partially my bad, partially my publisher's.

For shits and giggles, here is the cover of the 2nd book in the series (The Steam-Powered Sniper...), available now, and the third book in the series, which should be out in December (The Gunfighter's Gambit):