Please Geek Out

I don’t care what you geek out over. It could be board games and dice. It could be Battlestar Galatica. (Spoiler alert: if it’s either of those two things, you might already be my buddy.)

It could be football. Or classic cars. Or poststructuralism. Or some type of music or a particular band. Or the color cerulean blue. A book or an author. Your new computer. Sushi. Minecraft. Knitting socks for piglets.

But PLEASE, geek out about your thing.

Be unabashedly excited. Be enthusiastic. Share your joy with me. Tell me all about it. Get the sparkle in your eye that shows you’d like to ramble on and on and on and on about Your Thing. Whatever that thing is.

Don’t be sullen and blasé and noncommittal and bored.

Be a geek. About your thing. Please.

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Release Day – What’s It Like?

I’m not sure how other authors feel, but to me release day is a combination of excitement, anxiety, and total anticlimax.

Waxing Moon is out in the world! People can buy it and read it and tell me what they think! How exciting is that? Very exciting. And I love this book–and for people who liked the first one, I’m pretty certain they’ll like this one Even More.

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But some people might hate it. Or might have decided they didn’t like the first one, so why would they even buy this one? So that’s a source of anxiety. Will people take the chance on it? Have any of my promotional efforts born fruit? Have I done all the wrong things to promote this one?

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And at the end of the day…it can be an anticlimax. I won’t get a ton of reviews today, after all. People just got the book! They won’t sit down, read it, and review it THIS BLOODY SECOND. There’s not some ticker tape parade for me. There’s no giant Harry Potter-level midnight party.

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So…I spent release day vacillating between those three states and trying to mostly stay with EXCITEMENT!!!

I think most “big days” in our life are a combination of these three things?

What do YOU all think?

(Also, while thinking about this, please don’t forget to click and buy Waxing Moonhttp://amzn.to/2wAsxBI)

White People: We Gotta Step Up

I don’t purport to be perfect or even close. I make mistakes. I’ve grown up in a culture that teaches us all to be racist, sexist, and all the other -ists. I fight against these oppressive beliefs, but I’m sure as hell not perfect.

My voice doesn’t deserve to be heard over others–especially over the voices of people of color.

That said, however, I’ve been around several people recently who’ve asked:

As a white person, what can I do? How can I be an ally? How can I be anti-racist?

It is not the responsibility of people of color to give us–you and me–a list of Top Ten Things White People Can Do To Have Less Guilt. That’s asking too much emotional labor from a group of people fighting for their survival–emotional, mental, and physical.

So, although my thoughts are not authoritative, I thought I’d share what I can in the hopes that it be somewhat helpful for some people. (And if I mess up here, I am open and appreciative of the time anyone takes to educate me.)

What can we do as white folks? Here’s some of the things.

  • Talk to your kids about racism. Make sure they know what happened in Charlottesville. Make sure they know why white supremacy is wrong. It doesn’t matter how old they are. Talk to them if they’re 3 or 5 or 11 or 17 or, hell, 26 or 42. I’ve heard parents say they don’t want to talk to their young kids, because they don’t want them to be upset/scared/confused. Do you think kids of color have that luxury? Talking about racism doesn’t make you racist and doesn’t give your kids sudden knowledge about racism that might lead them to be racist. Silence on racism perpetuates racism. Silence excuses. Silence says, “This isn’t a big deal. You don’t need to be worried about it.” Teach. Them. Now. And continually. About racism, antisemitism, homophobia, sexism, cissexism, ableism, etc etc etc.
  • Every single white supremacist who went to Charlottesville comes from a community of mostly white friends & family. Do not look the other way if someone in your community is a white supremacist. Don’t think they’re just misunderstood. Don’t think they’re just playing devil’s advocate and they don’t really believe that. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. As Captain Awkward says, Don’t date Nazis. Tell them their views are not okay. Do not support physically, mentally, or emotionally while they espouse hatred. Sure, tell them you’ll be there for them when they renounce those views, like these parents. But do not be part of their community, wring your hands, and say, “I never thought he’d really [fill in the blank]” on the day after. Also? If you think someone might pose a threat? Report them to the police. Like. Now. Even if they are your father, your husband, your brother, your son.*
  • Listen. And read. Seek out people of color and their views on what’s happening. Take their thoughts, fears, and insights seriously. Seek out scholars and undercover researchers and trustworthy reporters. Educate yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge you can share with other white folks–not the ones who are proud to call themselves white supremacists, but the ones who think there are “all sides” or use the term “alt-left.”
  • Read fiction. Read fiction written by people of color. People totally unlike you. This will make you a better, kinder, more understanding person. Really.
  • Speak up. But don’t speak over. I don’t mean this in a white savior way, truly I don’t. But just like men need to be responsible for ending sexism, because sexism is largely perpetuated by men and gives men advantage, white people need to be responsible for ending racism. On a systemic level, white people control many of the institutions that perpetuate racism. We gotta change those systems. We’re in charge, so we have the power to do this. Now, we shouldn’t assume we know best what needs to be fixed or how to do it–this is where  listening comes in.
  • If you belong to any house of worship and the religious leader did not devote the entire service this weekend to denouncing white supremacy, ASK WHY. Call them now. Ask what they stand for. Ask what your place of worship stands for. LEAVE if they don’t have a good answer. Find a place where people want to make this world a better place and aren’t afraid to confront the realities of what’s happening–in the name of nonpartisanship, in the name of preserving relationships, in the name of raising money during the offering. It is NOT POLITICAL to be against white supremacy. It is perfectly appropriate for a place of religion to denounce racism, antisemitism, and hatred.
  • Wake. Up. This is happening and if we can’t find a way to fix it? Then more people will die. Call your elected officials. Call your parents who voted for Trump. Talk to your neighbor. Do something. If you can do nothing else, donate your money to those who can fight these fights.

Okay. That’s my thoughts for today.

I wish you all love, peace, and joy, my friends. Now let’s get working.

 

 

*Yes, I’ve used all male terms there. I WONDER WHY?

ps. I don’t have some cute picture for this post. It’s not that kind of topic.

Self-Promotion. It’s Weird.

I honestly love my books–and I love this second book, Waxing Moon, even more than thepeacock_terms-768x524 first. (Seriously. I think it’s tighter, the pacing is better, the character development is FANTASTIC, there’s a love interest, the book has a ton of tension, there are some big revelations and surprises… I really love this book.)

Yet it is SO WEIRD to promote my writing. I wish all the people in the world who might like this type of fiction would just somehow find out about it without me having to talk about it. Blogging or tweeting about it seems so narcissistic and…presumptuous.

And right now, when there are HUGE and IMPORTANT and DEVASTATING things happening in the world, it seems even worse to be talking about my book. And yet. This is the week my book gets released.

How to balance pride in my work and fear of being pushy/selfish/intrusive? How to celebrate myself and my book without prancing around like a peacock, stamping my feet and squawking for attention?

I hope I’m striking some sort of balance. And I welcome your thoughts on how I can do this better.

“The Art of Discovering What You Believe”

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustave Flaubert

I came across this quote today and made me think. What have I discovered that I believe through writing Dark Moon WolfWaxing Moon, and my WIP?

  • Women’s friendships are the backbone of their lives, whatever the media may say to the contrary with their depictions of female competition.
  • Physical strength isn’t the answer, isn’t the judge of a person, isn’t how power should be allocated.
  • We can all handle more than we think we can. We’d be amazed to discover what we can really do when it’s necessary.
  • Sometimes you have to stand up against the people you thought were on your own team, when you realize they’re wrong about something important.
  • All people have value. All people. All. This, perhaps, is the guiding belief of my life.

I think I have gotten more out of writing than anyone has gotten from reading my writing. Maybe that’s how it always works?

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https://saragray.deviantart.com/art/The-power-of-writing-500539959

400 words a day

Last spring I joined a writing accountability group to make sure I actually get words on the page. (Well, on the screen.)

We’re a disparate group, many of whom focus on academic writing and some of whom 6794d3027c7aec50a81bdb1e1c26ecab-portable-typewriter-antique-typewriterwrite fiction. We have a Facebook home where we post, support each other, celebrate publishing victories, complain about edits, etc.

Here’s how it works. At the beginning of every month, you PAY $20 to be part of the group. You must write 400 words a day, 5 days a week–you actually send these words in to the fantastic woman who runs our group–in order to get your money back at the end of the month. If you miss one writing days, you lose $3. If you miss two writing days, you lose $6. If you miss any more than that, you lose all $20.

If you meet your goal, you actually get back all $20 AND the money “lost” by everyone else is distributed to the folks who “won.” So you might make $9 or $12 or $6 or whatever.

Hey, it’s not much, but it might be the only money my writing makes that month! LOLOL

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Kind of JK.

Anyway, the beauty of the contest is partly in the camaraderie, but mostly in the feeling of accountability and competition.

I hate to lose. (Don’t we all hate to lose?) When it’s 9:00 pm and the kids are finally in bed and the kitchen is finally clean and I’m staring a 5:55 am wake-up in the face (no joke–why do they start school so early? and this year I need to take 2 kids to one school by 7:30 and 1 kid to another school by 7:15 and for various & sundry reasons, there’s not a bus option and it is so far hell that I’m trying to working into a better logistics scenario)–where was I?—oh yeah, when I’m tired and unmotivated and would like to read and sleep, I realize that I better get my 400 words in because I don’t want to lose $20. And so I write!

400 words, 5x/week = 2,000 words a week (minimum) = 8,000 words a month (-ish, minimum) = real progress, even if it’s a bit turtle-y

And, frankly, you can point out 400 words in 30-60 minutes. When I have more time or energy, I write more. But I can ALWAYS find a way to get 400 minutes in.

I was part of the group in March and April, winning back a bit of cash each time. In May, I had some complicated family issues arise and made the conscious decision to give up my $20 to the others in the group. I just couldn’t handle the stress of one more thing, so writing had to take a hiatus. I took off June & July (in terms of the group, I did still write a bit) because of travel plans, and I’m back in the thick of the group for August.

So far in August, I’ve written 5888 words in the challenge. That’s probably several thousand more than I would have written without it.

So. YMMV, but if you’re trying to write and having a hard time, perhaps pay someone to make sure you do it? Can’t hurt!!

 

To Capitalize or Not

You may have noticed I’ve chosen to capitalize Werewolf and Were in my Calling the Moon series.

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My editor and I had long conversations about this. If I didn’t capitalize Werewolf, then I couldn’t capitalize Were. And if I didn’t capitalize Were, then I’d run into sentences like this: “The weres were my friends, though one were was my enemy.”

If you’re in the middle of reading a book about Weres, your brain parses that pretty well…yet it can still make your brain stumble a bit or need to re-read the sentence.

After our discussions, we decided capitalizing smoothed out the sticking points for readers brains and we should treat Werewolf/Were like a proper noun, with the capital. Therefore, Zombies, Vampires, Salamanders/’Manders, Witches, Necromancers…all the paranormal race words would get the same treatment in the series.

What do you think? Do you agree the capitalization is less disruptive to your reading flow? Or is it more disruptive?

Rocking Horse Ranch – My Happy Place

In Highland, NY, there’s an all inclusive dude ranch called Rocking Horse Ranch and I dream of having a second career as a RHR wrangler.

(Stops to admire that sentence.)

When I was in my early teens in the 1980s, my family went to RHR one summer on vacation. Now that I have kids of my own, we’ve gone ~a handful of times with the kids. It’s not a cheap place–you could go on a cruise for the same cost–but my parents have taken us there for the last four+ years. My mom and dad, my sister, her husband, and their two kids, and my family of five spend 3 nights in what I consider a little bit of heaven.

One of my co-workers loves to hear about RHR and she decided it sounds like Dirty Dancing with horses. And without the dancing. She’s kind of right. There’s all-included food of all varieties; an outside pool and an inside pool, both with water slides; a lake with kayaks, waterskiing, and the banana boat; the fun barn; a playground; archery & bb gun range; other stuff; and MOST IMPORTANTLY the horses.

I. Love. Horses. When I was young, I had a t-shirt that said this:

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in those fuzzy, iron-on letters and a picture of a running horse. I had another that said, “Nuzzle My Muzzle” with two horses nosing each other.

I haven’t grown out of it. I’m just sadly unable to ride very often–something that I must remedy–so when we’re at RHR, I make the most of it and go on several trail rides a day. The kids ride some, too, but I’m the one who could hang out at the stable all day long.

Two years ago, one of the RHR wranglers told me I had a really nice seat on a horse. It was just about the nicest compliment anyone has ever given me.

Sometimes if I’m having a bad day, I think about the fact that some parallel universe contains a Sarah who works at RHR as a wrangler. Hard job: they arrive at 6 am and leave at 5:30 pm, care for the horses, clean the barn, and ride 6 hours a day. But there are days when that sounds like sheer heaven. RHR is one of my happy places.

If you ever go, my favorite horse is Calamity. She’s a feisty smallish mare who LOVES to run and will get away with anything you allow her. But she’s also super responsive, listens when you set boundaries, and she’s beautiful. I love a saucy mare; they’ve always tended to be my favorites, even when I was young. I used to love this horse named Skag who I rode at Watching Stables. She was a kind of ugly-cute horse with an attitude.

Anyway. If you happen to be near NY State and you’re looking for a vacation place with your family, think about Rocking Horse Ranch. I think you’d like it! 🙂

Tomorrow, back to a post about writing! (Riding, writing, whatever!)

 

War for the Planet of the Apes – Um. Well.

So….if you’re a die-hard fan of this movie and you want to hear no ill of it, this is your moment to click politely away from my blog.

Gary and I were really excited to see this one, after loving the first in the reboot (and not much liking the second). It’s gotten good reviews! It has 93% on Rotten Tomatoes! People have said it’s the best of the three!

I’m not sure who those people are. Seriously. It was horrible. Like. Ludicrously horrible. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely, because it was so bad that it was really humorous. I would love to see an MST3K of this one.

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The CGI and the motion capture were amazing, mind you. But the plot holes were big enough that the entire Redwood forest could have fallen into them.

Let’s start with something that’s kind of minor, but I couldn’t stop thinking about. The movie had a huge gorilla named Luca galloping around on a horse. Not a draft horse. Not a huge horse. A regular-sized horse. I googled after the movie and gorillas average about 350 lbs, which would be a hell of a burden for a smallish Thoroughbred-type horse. And in one scene, the gorilla grabbed another large ape and pulled him up behind him to ride double on this poor horse…this horse that in real life would have collapsed or struggled to gallop along with like 500+ lbs of ape on its back. I was all OMG, THAT HORSE, WTF, NO WAY.

We also have this idea that the Simian flu virus has mutated in a way that turns humans mute, which is somehow equated to turning bestial and losing all humanity in the movie? Even though the only character we see whose had the virus and been turned c81685d65334d304c9ba898b52b659bc-cotton-throws-emojimute does not seem like she’s become bestial? In fact, she seems to have kept all her intelligence and bravery and caring. (Well. Except for when her father is shot to death and she doesn’t seem to care much or shed a tear or hold his death against his killers. You know. Not that much caring.) Anyway, I kept wondering why the lack of speech = bestial, as if vocal speech is the only thing that separates humans from animals, when we’ve already seen the importance of sign language, writing, etc. Like…I am pretty sure that mute human beings are still human beings. If there was supposed to be some other transformation that took place, we sure didn’t see it in the movie.

This movie had more Moses, Jesus, God, and Caesar archetypal references and cliches shoved into it that if it were a boat, it would sink. At one point, the Colonel literally said, “I had to sacrifice my only son to save humanity.” Like. He literally said that. I know, because that was the moment when I pulled out a bit of paper and started taking notes, so I wouldn’t forget some of this stuff.

Neither the apes nor the humans–both groups involved in WAR, mind you–seem to know how to post a guard. People basically saunter in and out of the apes hideout and a little girl walks right into the human militia compound without any guards ever seeming to notice. Also: the humans apparently haven’t noticed that there’s some random network of tunnels literally under their compound, with apparently like 3 inches of dirt the only barrier to apes popping up and down. So. That’s special.

I also think it is an awesome strategic choice to know your military compound will be attacked by missiles, helicopters, and gunfire, but to have no qualms about building your major defensive site right next to an immense tanker that is literally marked “DANGER FLAMMABLE LIQUID.” Like. What’s the worst that could happen, right? It’ll be fine!!

This movie has all the tropes: the villain bringing the hero in to talk at length and expose their plans; the bad guys deciding not to kill the hero who’s leading a revolt of his people (Why should we kill him? Let’s keep him around!); the angel-like white, blond girl with the largest blue eyes in the world; and much, much more.

For some reason, both apes we know are female also wear jewelry or have long “hair”/fur framing their face. Does that mean literally every other ape we see is male? Like. What is up with that? Is the director just super concerned we might not realize they are female? I’m frankly shocked they didn’t have unnaturally long eyelashes, lipstick, and pink circles on their cheeks like female animals in kids cartoons.

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So…let’s go there. Let’s talk about gender for just a moment. We did have two female apes: the mate of Caesar and the mate of his oldest son. They signed, so they were characters with lines. We had the little angel blue-eyed girl who mostly looked around with her blue eyes, gave an ape a flower, held a doll, and walked right into the military compound to bring Caesar food and water. Maurice the orangoutang said that she was very brave…either that or stupid, right? That’s the entire list of our female cast. OH, I saw one female extra who was in the military. There might have been more, but I only saw one. That makes literally 4 characters who were visibly female and only one–angel child Nova–who had much of a role to play.

The movie is really heavy on Sons, Sons, Sons. Like. And more sons. And fathers and sons. I started wondering if Matt Reeves, the director, has some unresolved father-son issues? Or insecurity about passing his legacy down through his son? Or something? Because Caesar has three kids, all sons. Two of whom die and one of whom, frankly, Caesar pretty much deserts. And the Colonel talks on and on about his son, his only son, who he had to kill. Yes. We get it. Fathers and sons and more sons. Does no one have a daughter? Does everyone have to be male?

Speaking of. Okay. I’m not asking for the movie to go full on Pom Poko (do NOT click that link unless you want to watch a lot of magic tanuki testicles, yes I’m serious). But we have three whole movies with naked apes and there’s really no indication that any of them have any type of genitalia. I get it–ratings. I bet they can’t show any ape genitalia and have it rated PG-13. And I’m probably bizarre for thinking about it–and perhaps I’ve seen Pom Poko too many times–but I thought I’d just throw that in here as an interesting side note.

By the way, you should totally watch Pom Poko. The tanuki (Japanese raccoon-dogs) and their magic testicles are worth it! MUCH better than War for the Planet of the Apes. I’ll take any Studio Ghibli movie over that, any day.

(Below, the absolute mildest image of the tanuki.)

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Yin, Yang, and Werewolves

Anyone who’s read Dark Moon Wolf knows that my Werewolves are pretty different than the traditional Weres in most movies & fiction.

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While conceptualizing my Weres, I found myself thinking deeply about the cultural connotations of the moon. What do we attribute to the moon? If Werewolves draw their powers from the moon, what types of things might they be able to do? What if they are more than just shape-changers? These are all the questions that informed Dark Moon Wolf and my Werewolf culture.

In Waxing Moon, I explore a different question. If Werewolves take their powers from the moon, is there another race of paranormal beings who take powers from the sun? What would these creatures be? How would they exist alongside Weres? How uneasy is their relationship?

I really love my race of paranormal sun-creatures and I hope you do, too. As far as I know, they are my creation–something that hasn’t been written about before in other works.

I’m really excited to hear what you all think of Waxing Moon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: http://dudemansam.deviantart.com/art/Yin-Yang-City-2-365872372