#WQOTD: On Racism in Literature

Stardate 96178.85

With racism still present in modern society, there will always be that one person who will use a slur without a second thought. They think that it’s right because it’s what they’ve been brought up using. But when it comes to literature, there is a distinct choice between using something derogatory and using nothing at all.

This is where my current dilemma comes into play. One of my main characters is Irish, another set of characters is German. America saw a huge influx of immigration from both these groups during the 1800s as more workers were needed to bring about the American Industrial Revolution and they were willing to do the jobs that many American citizens were not.

Racism over from the Old World – Europe, the Middle East, etc. That racism didn’t disappear overnight just by being in a new country. In fact, if anything, it got worse as they vied for jobs and land. While they were a freer people than those on plantations in the South they were still discriminated against just as they were in the British Isles. In the late 1800s there was a movement in the States against the Irish Catholic population.

Jobs for the Irish were just as hard to come by, if not harder, in the New World as in their native land. But still in numbers they came. The Great Famine pushed them out of their own country until the American Great Depression in the 1920s. Whenever they tried to get a job in places other than hard labor they were met with the “Irish Need Not Apply” sign at the door, in the ad or were flat out told no by the employer in person. It also would be historically accurate that they would constantly hear racial slurs directed towards them just for their nationality.

Which brings me to this question: How do you use something that’s historically accurate – like a certain word or words – without sacrificing the integrity of your own beliefs or story line? I have Irish blood in me and I have German blood. I’m a mutt; your typical European mix inheriting the identities of multiple nationalities. I think that’s why I wanted to write something from this time period – we all come from somewhere. We all should learn history. But how much history is to much history?

How do you use something that’s historically accurate – like a certain word or words – without sacrificing the integrity of your own beliefs or story line?

Do I conduct a poll? Do I try to figure out which name is “less bad” and only use that? Do I write several versions of the same scene to figure out the best route? Do I not use it at all? As someone who has experienced zero discrimination, all opportunities have been what I created for myself. I’ve never felt uncomfortable because of my gender, my religion or my nationality; I don’t know what the flip side feels like. And this is why I’m questioning rather than moving ahead with the word choice.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable because of my gender, my religion or my nationality; I don’t know what the flip side feels like. And this is why I’m questioning rather than moving ahead with the word choice.

The word is only one small part of the overall story but the themes are still there. The character grows immensely as an individual and that one incident is one of the catalysts for that change. They overcome it and eventually find love. Still, my nerves are coming into play with that one particular scene; while I do use light language throughout the stories I’m not as worried about that as I am with this. I would rather question it now than get my novel black listed before it gets any further and I have to scrap it.

So I’m open to suggestions. If you want to know the scenario a bit more to be able to further advise or give more input, message me. I’m an open book. I’m legitimately both curious and cautious…


The Publishing Dilemma

Stardate 96171.08

To self publish or not to self publish. That is the question. I may be borrowing and mixing up a line from literary history, but that’s how this week’s thought process has been going. Although The Firedamp Chronicles series is still in its infancy stages, I am starting to think on the later steps as well. Do I self-edit, self-design and self-publish? Or do I go the more traditional route by paying others to do those steps for me. Self publishing sounds instantly gratifying, but how can you really do a book tour on a zero dollar budget? And what if there are too many uncaught mistakes in the final product?

Although The Firedamp Chronicles series is still in its infancy stages, I am starting to think on the later steps as well.

For most of my life I’ve been a traditionalist. [I may lose a few readers here but…] I am a libertarian in terms of my political views. I believe in minimal government involvement in our daily lives and letting the American people thrive on their own choices rather than having so many regulations, taxes, HOAs, etc. to tell us what to do. I still believe in the American dream – paving a way for ones self and encouraging others along the way. I still believe in the sanctity of marriage, the logical order of things, of a harmony between science and religion. All that might be a bit much for a post about how to publish, right?

Not really, because it all leads up to the point of this blog post. Throughout my childhood I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author, like my uncle. But I always felt like I had to please everyone else around me and I never thought I was good enough of a writer to begin with. Folks I know still don’t believe that writing is a legitimate job, but it’s still hard work. It’s just slower work. It’s disciplined work. It’s organized work. It’s work that has been around as long as any other profession – maybe not a social media analyst or IT director; those jobs weren’t really around until the late ’90s or early 2000s. You get what I mean.

It’s disciplined work. It’s organized work. It’s work that has been around as long as any other profession – maybe not a social media analyst or IT director; those jobs weren’t really around until the late ’90s or early 2000s. You get what I mean.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to publishing. While I do own a Kindle and I have several books on my app on my phone, I still prefer physical books. Their smell. Their feel. The occasional paper cuts when you turn a page too quickly.  Boy, do I sound like a lunatic. But if you are a book lover like I am, you understand.

I’ve seen some pretty bad self-published works out there. There was a story I bought on-the-cheap last year and I found several spelling errors every few pages, awkward sentences, and abrupt scene changes. You could just tell the individual was a new author working on a minimal budget. They didn’t have the resources – or, if they did, just wanted to scrape by in order to get the work published – and I get that. I don’t have several hundred dollars to spend on an editor or publicist or cover designer.

The fear of falling into the bad side of self-publishing is terrifying to me.

The fear of falling into the bad side of self-publishing is terrifying to me. If I am going to put a story out there that took me several years to research and write, it’s a representation of my abilities. Sure, there are some who are able to do all that and are successful at self-publishing. but that’s where my traditionalism comes into play.

It’s been said that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter received rejection after rejection before it was finally published. With all that rejection through the traditional route she still pressed on. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just had its 20th birthday (I was 12 years old when it came out. Dang…). But now she also has that editor, that publicist, that assistant, that help. That team of people who believe in her abilities and the characters she created.

I’m not sure if being that well known of an author is a route every person who writes aims for; at least some recognition would be nice. But I think that there are many writers out there, like myself, who have to do it on their own. Maybe self publish one small work, like a novella first, to get their foot in the door. So, at the end of this blog post, I’m still undecided on which direction to go. There are pros and cons to both methods, that’s for sure, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you at least try.


On Social Media and Being Yourself

Stardate 96165.61

Writing is a process. No writer can go into a story without knowing that there is a general logical order of things every step of the way. There’s a process with the writing. There’s a process with the editing. There’s a process with the publishing. And there’s a process with marketing. I don’t claim to be an expert, being as new to this as sprouts are on the first official day of spring. But I thought I’d take a break from my own writing to share what I’ve learned so far. I hesitate to use the word journey because I feel as though I’ve beaten that word to death with overuse on this website already. Expedition? No, that’s too scientific. Campaign? No, that’s too political. Ehhhhh, I’ll think of something!

Processes. Decisions. When you choose to write first you have to choose your niche. Are you a fantasy writer? A historian? Is your history going to be straight up history or history with a twist? Are you going fiction or non-fiction? What kind of characters do you hope to develop? Do you choose simple story arcs or more complicated ones? Are fairy tales your passion or do you prefer hard-hitting journalism?

Is your head spinning yet?

Those are the first questions I found myself asking the day after the idea for my work in progress pushed its way into my life. For some, the beginnings come naturally. They’re able to just write, without thinking about outlining or grammar terminologies or Venn diagrams. For others, like myself, they need that structure to help them along. However you choose to write, stick with that method.

I found myself becoming overwhelmed with all the options and I realized, as I went back through my earlier documents, that that uncertainty was most certainly reflected in the early stages of my thought processes. Occasionally I have to regroup and spend several hours whittling down, rewriting, and condensing information back into a format that made sense.

After two years I feel like I’ve finally found my niche – the things that encourage me to keep going and not to just give up with my writing. That’s what this blog post is all about. Maybe it’ll make some kind of sense, maybe not. But maybe you’ll find something in this post you can relate to in your writing life.

For some the beginnings come naturally. They are able to just write, without thinking about outlining or grammar terminologies or Venn diagrams.

onsocialmedia
Social media is an evil necessity. There are days where I think about completely erasing my footprint from the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and so on in exchange for a simpler life. The life, you know, that existed in 1995. In 1995 Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States, Star Trek: Voyager made its debut into the Trekverse (my dork side is showing here), the domestic terrorist attack in Oklahoma City took place, Syria was in peace talks with Israel, a 7.3 earthquake rocked Japan and the Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched. Oh, and everyone was enraptured by Tom Hanks’ Apollo 13 film.

I was ten years old in 1995 and blissfully unaware of how the Internet, used only through a modem and dial-up back then, would become such an entwined part of daily life. Now, for better or for worse, everyone from actors to publicists to news anchors to the Presidents of the United States uses it. If you’re looking to sell your book digitally, you almost have to have a media footprint. Almost.

It’s something I’ve come to accept as a 32 year old. I have Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I don’t have a YouTube channel because I hate being on camera and I don’t have thousands of followers. But I’ve found that I enjoy creating blurbs to spark interest in writing. I used to create graphics for my church’s social media, preferring to avoid any potential copyright issues, and I’ve carried that over to my own website and other platforms. This, however, leads me into my next point.

onbeingyourself
What can I say about social media and staying true to yourself that hasn’t already been said? While social media is, indeed, useful in marketing your work, yourself, your image, it’s easy to lose yourself into the streamlined persona that everyone has come to expect. You know what I mean – those ultra filtered perfect looking photos that makes you either A: want their life or B: makes you wonder what they’re hiding behind that facade. It’s also why mental health has become such an issue.

The problem with social media is that *some* folks who follow you can have not only those unrealistic exceptions I’ve already touched upon, but they want you to always be online and respond instantly. Know yourself first, have your priorities straight second. If you don’t you can easily find yourself getting sucked into the “fast fame” mindset. Find a balance.


Social media is a double edged sword. It can be used to gain fast fame or to defame. It can be an incredibly useful tool to expand your readership or it can be an incredible distraction. However you choose to utilize this tool in the 21st century, think twice before Tweeting, Posting, or Snapping. Ask yourself if you’re lifting someone up or tearing them down with the post. I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t express opinions or have strong views. I’m only advocating being smart with it. There is a difference between social justice and spitefulness. There’s already enough of that in society.

Image result for Kindness memes

Kidding…kidding!

I end this post with a hilarious bit from Britain’s great Mr. Bean. In this skit, he goes to library and, as usual, chaos ensues!


The First Betas Have It

Stardate 96129.44

I knew this day would eventually come – I would have to start getting opinions from readers and using that feedback to better enhance my writing. Awaiting the results of those opinions, in my opinion anyway, is worse than waiting for a prognosis from a doctor about a medical condition.

Why?

Because when people read your work they’re reading a bit of your soul, your time, your effort. A doctor assess what is wrong with your physical body. Readers can maybe, sometimes see what is wrong with your mental…body?

Knowing I was going to have my family (of all people) read just the first page of my novella I’d spent all day at work nervously staring at the clock for the hand to hit 6:00 pm. When it finally did I scooped up the two copies I’d printed out, crossed out the last line because I already knew I hated it and joined the rush hour traffic as we all made our way home.

Family dinner nights have been a tradition since my parents started watching my niece as a baby over five years ago, when my sister went back to work after her maternity leave. And again after my nephew was born. My Dad’s a baby-man. Kids love him and he knows how to handle them. Watching him with my niece and nephew has given me a peek into how he was when my sister and I were that age. But I digress.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. Breezes flew around the Pittsburgh valley, across the waters of the Three Rivers and into our neighborhood. We had a light dinner of sandwiches and salad and decided the conditions outside were fantastic for a quick ramble around the neighborhood. Of course, for that entire three-hour time frame, my eyes kept searching for one of them to pick up a copy of the first page. I wanted them to read it yet not at the same time. Quite the conundrum, right? Finally they did and I realized that I had to learn not to be so defensive about my work.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President

Mom: “You used too many adjectives.”
Sister: “I thought they were brothers. What do you mean they’re not?”
Dad: “Do you want my notes now or later?”
Brother-in-law: “I’ll read it later.” (In his defense he’s on council for a local government and a lot was happening last night. I let him slide!)

Sigh.

While knew that the first page had already undergone several edits – I started out by just taking down the original ideas, recognized that I started too many sentences the same way and changed them, etc – there was no way my family could have known that so I had to expect that they wouldn’t sugar coat their opinions.

I think that’s what many folks of modern American expect – sugar-coated opinions and nothing but praise. If all you receive is praise and approval with everything you do how can you expect to grow or change something about yourself without the critique of others?

It’s not completely back to the drawing board with my novella. I’m rather glad twelve hours later that I decided to ask for someone to read it this early in the writing process than much much further in without seeing my faults.

Write some, edit some.
Write some, edit some.
Study sentence structure.
Make it better.
Repeat.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell


Why I Gave Up On Wattpad

Stardate 95645.98

Community. It’s something I think every writer seeks to be a part of whether they want to admit it or not. We crave reviewers, feedback and opinions from others who may be more experienced in the field even though we may disagree with it at the same time. That’s why a place like Wattpad seems so appealing. It’s a community of other writers and readers who crave new stories, but who also crave being taken seriously as they write. There are downsides, however, to this kind of format and that’s what I’ll be exploring in today’s blog post. So let’s dive right into my thinking here with my Top 3 Reasons for Why I Gave Up on Wattpad.

1: Fan fictions
Now I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions (and some readers of this blog may strongly disagree with me on this). Far from it. Writing fan fiction was partly how I got my inspiration to write an actual novel.  I grew up writing Star Trek stories (before I even knew what the term fan fiction actually was) and it morphed into Supernatural stories in my college years. There’s, most likely, more words in my Supernatural fan fictions than there were in four years’ worth of college papers combined. There is an overwhelming number of fan fictions for every fandom you can think of. Kpop bands? There’s fan fiction for that. Supernatural? Of course. Ninja turtles? Yep. Anime, manga and OST? Definitely.

Let me return to my original premise: I’m not here to “dis” on fan fictions. I had one, based off Supernatural, called Sam in Wonderland, that I thoroughly enjoyed writing. The problem with it, though, was that I could never seem to finish it. And since it was an un-publishable fan fiction, I just kept it going. But here’s a pro for stories such as these: there are some truly amazing ones out there. And Wattpad does give non-traditional writers a place to practice and find others who enjoy what they do as well.

Solution: If you want to get good feedback on a story you eventually want to publish either through traditional means or self-publishing, finding someone to critique your work who has been in the biz may prove incredibly useful. You may argue about scenes you love verses what they may see as not part of the story, but that’s what they’re there for. And fan fictions may even turn into a potential episode script (we’ve seen it happen before! Let’s face it, The Orville is basically one big Star Trek fan fiction within itself!)

2: Noise
Wattpad boasts a “large reading audience” but it can be very overwhelming and difficult to get “noticed.” Unless, of course, you write something that’s trending or popular. There’s a rather uncomfortable level of sexy stories with incredibly mature themes that anyone of any age can read. I love finding new stories, but I have the same problem with my Amazon Kindle that I do Wattpad – there’s a never-ending supply of new books and stories and sometimes ones with potential fall through the cracks. You can tailor your searches but I found myself browsing more than reading and never actually posting stories myself.

3: Potential for Theft
This is something that makes me nervous about posting something on a website – anyone can just copy-paste your story and try to pass it off as their own. Of course plagiarism exists even when a book is actually published and in readers’ hands (flashback to high school English class with the MLA Handbook for research papers and how to not plagiarize), and the website does require you to have an account before you can even browse for something to read. So I don’t think that I would ever want to have a story up on an unsecured site where anyone can just grab it for their own. Call me paranoid but unfortunately you can’t be too careful in today’s world with everything from debit card information to stories.

Final Thoughts
While Wattpad and other sites like it may be overwhelming for some they can be incredibly useful tools for others. Some have had success and Wattpad itself even has a list of books that started out as stories online. But there are those who, like myself, definitely prefer the “old school” way of publishing. Sometimes a place like Wattpad can be too “noisy” and other types of free software can help minimize distractions. Everyone has their own methods and what helps them write. If Wattpad is that for you, then by all means. If finding critique partners is it, go for it. The publishing world can be competitive but that doesn’t mean we have to stomp on anyone’s toes to get there. This blog may have been slightly tongue-and-cheek so I hope it made sense to someone out there!


Writers and their Habitats

Stardate 94837.91

Habit. When I typed that out just now I wanted to keep going and write “habitat” instead. But the two can go hand-in-hand, depending on the way you look at it. Now I can only speak for myself, but I think each individual writer builds their own “habitat” or “nest” for when they write; their own creative space that allows them to get into that special mode for putting ink to paper.

My own habitat is still in-the-works. It’s such an odd space filled with windows and doors on every wall. I want to do something more with it but time and budget are both against me. I almost bought a shelf earlier this year that would have finally taken care of replacing a mishmash collection of storage units I gained from my mother. Half the time a pile of papers ends up on either side of my chair on the floor because my desk isn’t big enough. And the other half of the time is spent cleaning that pile up.

But isn’t that how many of us are? We’re so focused on our projects that we ignore the habitat we’ve created for ourselves. It’s become…habit. There are, however, other aspects of my writer’s habitat I do love. I love my constant stream of kpop, big band or soundtrack music to keep me inspired. I love the various posters on my wall of things that keep me motivated. And I even love the slight mess that is always constant.

One of these days I’ll truly have my habitat sorted out. In the meantime I’ll continue to dream.