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Read an eBook week is here!

2 Mar

As they have for the past three years, Belfire Press is participating in International Read an eBook week with a massive sale at Smashwords. Don’t wanna click through? okay, I feel you, here you go:

All titles – including the anthologies, New Bedlam collections, and Needfire Poetry – are 50% off this week. Visit our Smashwords page, select your titles and use the code REW50 at check-out.

Yeah. Massive.

So that means creepyweird Appalachian Fae…

 

And creepyweird Monsterlove Vampires…

 

Are half off until the 8th. Yay!

And with the second installment of The Family shaping up nicely, now might be a good time to hop on board. Mwah ♥

Scripped on Sale

30 Jun

Back with more vampire fun later in the week after my head stops spinning. (Lots going on. Too much. But not. Because it’s awesome.) Just dropping in right quick to point out that all July, Belfire is participating in a massive half of sale on eBooks at Smashwords. That includes, of course Scripped.

Appalachian fae. Surreal coal mines. Skin for scrip. Creepy ass love. All for $1.50 with code SSW50  at checkout this month only. Still not convinced? Check out: http://youcannevergoho.me/

Random genderthought moment

28 Mar

Okay so! That was a wild ass week, but I survived it, and had a good fucking time while I was at it.

I also slept for like 20 hours when it was over. I regret nothing. And I have a long and rambly thoughtpost for you, now I’m back.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have been keeping up with things in my own magpie way, which mostly involves twitter and tumblr, since I can do them on the fly while I’m actually doing work. (Not so much editing, occasionally writing, but promoing is a definite twitter and tumblr friendly activity, I find.) An interesting but unsurprising pattern began forming last week when I saw Ro Smith’s comments on the Stardust movie via tumblr:

I really like Stardust, I just want to see the film where there’s a really pretty guy who’s enslaved by the lead character and whose one strength lies in emoting reallyhard, who is only valuable to others when in love and happy, and who falls in love with the woman who started their relationship by an act of domination…

Which is something I’ve always thought about Stardust. I actually do like the book and the movie (very, very different animals), but the fact is that it feeds into something that makes me desperately uncomfortable about lit in general at times. As she says: even though it’s otherwise very entertaining, and in a world where it wasn’t echoing a history of vast gender bias along exactly these lines it wouldn’t be problematic at all. Yvane is smart and capable and Tristan is sweet and kind – I want to be swept up in their love story, but at the back of my mind, there is always this.

And that’s my problem exactly. I think that was the day Jodi emailed me to let me know Scripped had been recommended to the Tiptree panel (not a nomination or a shortlist or anything — just, they’ll read it, which is super cool) so it was kind of extra weird, because Scripped is what it is for that exact reason. But I’ll come back to that.

Today I saw an NK Jemisin post, There’s no such thing as a good stereotype, linked via Corinne Duyvis’s twitter, and it brought it back to the forefront. That one is talking about the “strong female character” type–which for the record makes me stabby. I will never forget back in like 2005 when I first queried a much, much longer, terrible version of Liam, and was told, “People want kick-ass heroines, not literary-minded boy-vampires!” I threw up in my mouth a little, thinking of what “kick-ass heroine” usually means, and that post precisely nails my reasons why.

Obviously, I love women who kick ass–both metaphorically and physically. But yeah. When a character is wholly defined by qualities that all fall into the “stereotype” category, a writer has officially stopped trying.

Related side note: for this reason, I was really annoyed with the Starz TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which a bunch of friends convinced me to finally watch two weeks ago and to which I am now addicted. The women who were “strong female characters” were backstabbing and hateful toward each other, while the “strong male characters” often formed bonds between them as friends, brothers, even lovers, that were achingly awesome. There was all kinds of meaningless orgiastic girl-on-girl, zero orgiastic guy-on-guy (hey, I’m all for exhibition sex, especially when it’s so historically relevant, but dude, treat it right). The message, though unintentional, was still encoded: women are back-biting snakes who exist to compete for the affections of men. Men, on the other hand, though oftentimes complete dicks, can also be capable of such depth and bonds of emotion that they will die for another man (or a woman, but yeah, we’re talking same sex here), in the right circumstances.

Goddamn, it’s like reading Sir Thomas Malory’s woman-hating Lancelot all over again. Or, wait, half of the shit from antiquity. Nevermind, that’s another blog post.

So yeah, there were some kick ass–and not in the physical way–women, but… they were stereotypes, for all that. And the men, who so often exhibited stereotypical qualities themselves, at least had moments where they got to break those molds.

Even Lucy Lawless naked couldn’t distract me. Guys, this is bad. And only one of the issues with that show, but whatever, it’s effectively softcore and arterial spray and I love it for all that. Um, as Liam will prove, I am the last to judge badly on the basis of softcore and arterial spray.

Season two, Spartacus: Vengeance, blows that out of the water–it’s been much better about it, with the women characters operating on much more than jealousy, lust, and betrayal and being genuinely strong as opposed to catty and mean more often than not. (I haven’t seen the prequel season they did in between, Gods of the Arena, so I can’t judge there.) Cheers to the excellent writing team for stepping up their game hardcore. My point, however, is that though there are many, many other issues there, that one bugged the shit out of me with the first season because it is everywhere in our culture. Everywhere to the point that there are people of all gender identities who actually take it for granted. Many little girls grow up thinking that boys will make better friends because girls are hateful and backstabby because this is what they are fed from childhood.

Um. No. Nonononono. (Also, this is why My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is the best thing ever. I’m not even joking. It’s brilliant. Thanks again, Corinne <3)

Now, as both Ro’s and NK’s posts suggest, there is nothing wrong with having a hateful backstabby woman character or an emotionally powerful but ultimately submissive girl-hero. Especially when they’re not utterly defined by these things, as Yvaine, just as an example, is not, or when those things are explained as the nuanced and strong characteristics they truly are, as a submissive or supportive (not the same thing!) personality really is. I love many, many novels with these types in the spotlight, because that is not all there is to these characters, and other types are presented alongside them.

I don’t generally have my heart set on a gender identity, be it binary or not, when I first think of a character. But this all made me think, as I say, of Jonah from Scripped. (Me me me–sorry, told you it’d come back to this.) I guess if you’re familiar with him, it won’t shock you to hear that I actually plotted the thing with him as a young woman. The reasons he ended up a man will be kind of obvious after the above rambling, but I’ll lay them out and try to go light on spoilers:

1. I had it in my mind that the female fairy, Sela, must be the kidnapper/captor/torturer. (Yes, I like her best, it’s true.)

2. I had no problem with a woman capturing a woman, and said woman experiencing what amounts to Fairy Stockholm Syndrome–pretty much the whole point of the book–as a result of coming to understand and eventually love her captor.

3. I did have a slight problem with said woman-captive regaining her freedom (that needs air quotes, see also: you can never go home) and self as a result of an independently thinking man’s interference and help.

4. I also had a huge problem with said woman obsessing over… well, with how it ends, which I’d rather not say because that defeats the purpose, but let’s just say there’s a lot of lack of agency going on with Jonah at one point.

I sincerely couldn’t bring myself to write a woman in that situation. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with it, and I’m sure she would’ve been just as interesting and infuriating as characters go. But that’s all I ever saw, growing up, and I didn’t want to do it over again. It didn’t make a single bit of difference to the plot itself, to the story, to the end result, whether that character was a man, woman, or genderqueered.

But it definitely changes the way it affects the person reading it, which is the most important half of the equation. I chose male because it didn’t rub my sensibilities the wrong way–and because the character was amenable, admittedly. (The bisexuality was non-negotiable, but hey, no complaints.) And though that might seem totally arbitrary, it’s the thing I’m happiest about with that book. And, to bring it full circle, what made me happiest about someone recommending it to Tiptree, because I was like, “Holy shit, they totally felt me, there!” Which is what every writer secretly wants more than anything ever, so yay.

So okay, now I finally come to the point: do you all ever catch yourself thinking about this stuff when you write? I love it; I mean, I feel like the whole point of writing is to question these societal constructs, subvert and challenge them by playing with expectations through fiction. I love this kind of shit, and I know I’m not the only one.

But I know some people will be annoyed by the idea, say it shouldn’t matter, or something to that effect, all of which is cool. I’m just interested in the opinions of the people who actually check out this blog because, well, that means I check out theirs, and I know y’all are smart. So hit me.

If you like.

Oh, and just for the record, I know I don’t get this shit right all the time. But I’m having a good time trying.

Belfire Sale!

6 Mar

There’s a sale at Smashwords this week for Read an eBook Week, and Belfire’s catalogue is discounted, weee! Yes, Scripped, too — 25% off an already awesome $2.99 with code  REW25 at checkout. That makes it $2.25 for your very own freaky, kidnapping, skin-stealing, cold-kissing fae. Might I also recommend the fabulous Ante Mortem, if your bent runs to short fiction — I have a mean little story in there called “The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” — it’s 50% off with the code REW50 at checkout. Which means it’s $1.50. I know.

I mean, really. Belfire’s whole catalogue. So much goodness.

(Does it make it sound better or worse if I say I based that Ante Mortem story on The Smiths’ “Cemetry Gates”? Okay, nevermind…)

I’m run a little ragged over here, since I’ve got a little less than a week before the next Katey Hawthorne book drops (the cover! So cute!) and I’m working on getting The Red Penny Papers set up as a proper LLC in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Which I already did, technically, but now I’m extricating its finances from my own while preparing the fast-onrushing Spring Quarterly and working out some more awesome eBook stuff.

So everything is good, but I’m all over the place this week, is all I mean. I’d say it’ll slow down after Nobody’s Hero drops on the 13th, but honestly, that’s when the fun is just beginning. March is going to be absurd. And rad. But absurd.

The Magical Source, Baby

12 Feb

The magic in Scripped is kind of an understated thing. Yeah, it takes place mostly in another world just over the edges of ours — Appalachian Faerie, right? But the magic the fae themselves perform is very small and often accidental. Whether that’s because they don’t know their own capabilities or because they have no real use for it is anyone’s guess. They tend not to ask questions, as is sad but perhaps expected in a population that’s been oppressed for a century.

Jonah — who’s been faerie-napped and is being taken apart piece by piece (both literally and figuratively) — doesn’t remember what normal is/was for  him. Faerie amnesia sucks like that. But he does know that none of  that shit is remotely near to it, and is desperate to understand how and why, unlike his captors. Letting him unravel pieces of it (while they’re unraveling pieces of him…) was part of the fun of writing it. And in a book like that, you take all the fun you can get.

Most of it is typical faerie magic. Magical food, an aversion to running water, fairy hills, but tweaked out on Appalachia big time, so they’re not quite what one might expect. Some of it was just a matter of shit that I saw elsewhere. Like the source — or at least the central part — of the fae company town’s magic, the crystal cave. Yeah, best believe I read Mary Sewart as a kid*, plus I’ve spent years stuffing my head full of new age and various other sorts of magic on the subject — hell, there’s even a theory in the paranormal/ghost hunting world that a high concentration of quartz/gypsum or crystal underground might account for residual hauntings.

So when I saw this article on crystal caves under the Chihuahua Desert in Mexico in National Geographic… how could I not go there? Seriously, check out the photo gallery. It’s amazing.

From Chapter 7: Regression Therapy

He’d thought the main cavern above impressive, and it was in its own way, but this was something else.

It was smaller, not as high or long, but completely natural. Stalactites dripped from a visible ceiling, and large pools of water collected here and there. The sound of dripping water came from everywhere, faint and elusive; the smell was sharp and metallic, like copper. Like blood.

None of that mattered, though. All that mattered were the heart-stopping crystals that grew out of the floor and walls, crisscrossing the cavern like shining white stairwells in a funhouse. Jonah reached for the wall and leaned against it, trying to take it all in over Tal’s shoulder. Their radiant glow struck him again as something impossibly pure, difficult to look at after the dark of the tunnel. Their hugeness dwarfed him, even standing above the ground, looking out and down on the cavern. He thought he should be spinning, but he wasn’t, not really.

His heart was in his throat. He could believe this might be the source of everything, all the magic in the company town, easily. “It’s beautiful.”

Tal looked over his shoulder, his face half-lit in that weird light.

It didn’t suit him; it was too bright, and Tal’s eyes were too dark. They ate the glow up hungrily and barely reflected anything back.

“Might be,” was all he said.

And I’ll stop there, since this is kind of the moment that changes everything. But yes. That’s where it came from. Thank you, National Geographic! :D

You can still invite a guest to the party and get entered to win a copy of Scripped, plus some other cool stuff, before noon on V-Day!

*Also everything Arthurian EVER. Thanks, Dad!

Small Press For The Win

17 Jan

I’m going to India in a week. Waaaaugh gocrazyfreakoutomg!

But before that, the Steelers are in the AFC championship! The Ravens game nearly sent me into cardiac arrest, but in truth, I’m still in a vindictive place where I really enjoy watching Roethlisberger get the shit kicked out of him. And the less said about that, the better.

But I’m not here to talk about creepy quarterbacks. I’m here to ask you to check out Michelle Davidson Argyle‘s series: “Should You Consider a Small Publisher?” I saw the first post linked on twitter last week, and retweeted. I liked what the authors she talked to said, agreed with it, but at the same time I felt like they missed my own sweet spot.

Michelle saw my complaining and charitably invited me to share my thoughts, which just went up, along with several excellent testimonials from others on today’s edition. All of the posts in the series are linked from there, but my favorite was part 4, wherein agent Weronika Janczuk gives her take. I thought she hit a lot of the best stuff–plus, the agent perspective was a totally new angle for me.

I really mean what I said in my little 3 paragraph “small press is godly” bit, though. I had very good advice that if I wanted to sell Scripped, I should cut out the sex and swearing, tone down the torture, and make the ending less of a sucker punch. I also had warring advice that if I changed a word, I’d be hunted down mercilessly.

Okay, that’s paraphrasing, but you know what I mean.

Not that I was under any illusions before, but that was hard evidence that the story wasn’t going to be pleasing to everyone. No story is, but knowing the former advice to be sound in terms of a wider audience, I also knew that the latter indicated that there could be interest in it as is. I considered both carefully, but ultimately decided the changes suggested would leave me with a very different story.

A story that would bore my face off, at the end of the day.

Yes, I, the person who will loudly proclaim her willingness to sell out far and wide, stuck to my guns. I know, crazy, but I guess I have a heart in here somewhere after all.

But that’s why, when Jodi saw me talking about my editing dilemma here and said, “You should send that to Belfire Press”, I had a genuine Eureka Moment. I know Jodi and Louise get the kind of things I was trying to do with it, and that if it belonged anywhere, that’d be it.

Like, how can you not feel like the luckiest person on earth, when that happens? What are the odds? And that’s what a small press is: it’s the freedom to be honest, and know that there is an audience out there who’ll feel it, too. (Assuming you’re willing to beat it into shape, of course–a given, but I thought I’d better say it.) I don’t mean that anything with a wide audience is dishonest, not at all–I have things intended for that very purpose myself, though god knows if they’ll work out half so well. I’m just saying that in this case, it wasn’t so much about control or attention or anything at all except home.

And that’s what I wanted to say about that, but I felt it’d be better to get longwinded on my own blog, if you know what I mean. Thanks a ton to Michelle, who went to a great deal of effort to put together such a wonderful series on small press–and who’s definitely introduced me to a few new authors and presses to watch.

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