I’ve been horribly neglectful of my blog. There’s a reason for that. Since I began my YouTube channel last summer, all of my energy not spent on life and writing (and trying to maintain a crappy herb garden) goes into making two to three BookTube/AuthorTube videos a week. I’m having tons of fun doing it, but my weekly blog post has suffered.
So, while I’ve been not writing my blog (I will hopefully get it going again), I’ve been busy finishing my new novel, FASHION VICTIMS, which is coming out at the end of September. You may pre-order it now if you’d like (click the book cover below).
Fashion Victims is a psychological thriller about a New York fashion designer on the brink of a nervous breakdown who is about to launch the most important collection of his career . While he searches for his lost muse in the dungeons of an uptown sex club, a Seventh Avenue serial killer is terrorizing the fashion industry. Will the killer get too close to Len St. Michel before he can release his greatest creation?
Like many of us this past weekend, I watched the shitstorm go down when new YA author Amélie Wen Zhao decided to pull her debut novel Blood Heir from publication, the first in a three-part series for which she received a six figure deal from Delacorte, after being accused on Twitter for her book’s “problematic” content. The alleged offending material depicted in her novel’s fantasy universe included the concept that oppression can be colorblind, a scene of a slave auction in which a “tawny skinned” character dies in order to advance the plot, a line lifted from Tolkien’s The Two Towers, and getting a few Russian names messed up. To read in detail how it all went down, it’s best to start HERE.
Blood Heir was slated to be released this June, but after advanced reader copies were scrutinized for “problematic” content by a bunch of literary Carrie Nations looking for anything challenging their very narrow scope of what’s appropriate, the tempest in a teapot started brewing. What’s shocking about the allegations (and they were nasty, one tweet referring to Wen Zhao as “a racist-ass writer”) is that these came from other YA writers. That’s right, her own competitors. What started as a “whisper campaign” exploded when the author wrote a classy statement explaining her decision to pull her book from publication due to the outrage.
Once the story reached the mainstream press with the Guardian and the New York Times writing stories, the Twitter boards blew up, and a very toxic “community” was exposed. This isn’t the first time a few loudmouths shouted down an author whose work didn’t measure up to their standards of acceptability, a moving target of mostly minority and LGTBQ fairness issues. Perhaps the author, a Chinese immigrant picked from a publishers’ call seeking “own voices” narratives, tried to get too creative with her retelling of the Russian Anatasia story. By coloring outside the lines, she offended the YA content police, the loudest of whom just happen to be YA authors themselves. Of course they claim they are protecting the children from hurtful narratives. Isn’t that their parents’ jobs? Sounds like the only thing they were protecting were their own self-interests.
Regarding social media, Wen Zhao advised to “Set out with good intentions. Be enthusiastic, be positive, be supportive, cheer people on — all those things you’d want to find in a real-life friend, be those things online and in the writing community, too.”
That was her first mistakes. Writing is a solo act. It’s rare to find a truly supportive community, and one certainly isn’t going to find it on Twitter, especially in this YA cesspool of paranoia and neuroses. One tweeter offered “hugs” to Wen Zhao as a compensation for the loss of her six figure publishing deal. Others assured outraged free-thinkers entering the fray that once Wen Zhao vowed to “do better” and “to learn” she would be back and they would all cheer her on. Sounds like classic deprogramming to me. The think-speak is so convoluted one of the original accusers (formerly accused herself for a previous transgression) called Wen Zhao tone-deaf then apologized in case any hearing impaired people were offended by her tweet. She didn’t want to be seen as “ableist”, another charged leveled at the author for having only one character using a cane. You can’t make this shit up.
For a much needed voice of reason in all of this, check out BookTuber, Francina Simone’s response.
I’m hoping that Wen Zhao has an ace up her sleeve, that this is all some awesome publicity stunt. Since the story went down a few days ago, people have been fighting it out on Twitter while the original accusers’ pages have gone dark so they can presumably do some self-care in the wake of the Twitter storm now being turned toward them.
The stories and characters may change (or not, what’s with all these retellings anyway?), but jealous bitchery is one trope that always rings true.
The other night my heart thrilled at the sight of an enormous harvest moon making wavy gold streaks on the river’s surface. I smelled the crisp scent of burning leaves in the suddenly chilly air and knew my favorite season had returned at last. In Pennsylvania we get the weather extremes, and as much as I love the hot summer nights, fall is my favorite and it’s here at last. To celebrate the season of the witch, I’ve put together a reading list to hit the sweet spots of Halloween haunts, #Victober (a cool BookTube trend of reading Victorian era books during the October month), some true crime thrown in to keep me up at night, Gothic romance because I’ll find any excuse to read those, and a crusty 80’s era horror paperback from a recent thrift shop haul.
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. I have about 200 pages to go. This is a re-read. Halfway through this nearly 1000 page tome while I was reading all about the Mayfair Witches history in the Talamasca file that goes on forever and ever, I kept thinking why? Why did I do this to myself? This book is such a commitment, but yet I couldn’t abandon it. It slowly seduces as much as Lasher and the city of New Orleans does. Yes, I will reread the subsequent books in the series, Lasher and Taltos. And yes, I’ll ask myself why the entire time. Can someone please make a TV series of this already so I don’t have to read it again when I feel the itch?
Small Sacrifices by Anne Rule. Again, why do I do this to myself? I must have read this book three times since it came out in the late 80’s. Some video about Diane Downs came up in my YouTube feed the other day and the next thing I knew I was loading up the book in my kindle and for the past few days I could barely pull myself away. There is something about the way Anne Rule writes that elevates hers from other true crime books. She not only reports the facts, she finds the drama and digs in deep.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This Gothic romantic classic was written in the Victorian era so I suppose it counts for a #Victober read. This is another reread, but it’s been a while. Also, I just got myself a beautiful Easton Press leather-bound copy: perfect for cozy reading by the fire (or space heater) with a cup of tea.
For a less literary Gothic romance choice, I plan to read Volume Two in the Dark Shadows book series. They’re super short and I can knock one out in a day.
For my 80’s horror paperback pick, I’m reading Soul-Eater by Dana Brookins. I have no idea if this is any good, but the cover is fantastic. Let’s hope the story lives up to it.
And finally. I plan to finally finish Mr. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood that have been withering in my kindle for months. I just completed volume five and the stories contained within were my favorite so far. Now onto volume six. I can do this.
So, here are my best laid reading plans that will probably so awry, but what fun are plans if you can’t break them? Happy reading.
As a woman in my mid-fifties, I’ve experienced the horror expressed in this classic moment of cinematic grand dame guignol. I started a YouTube channel recently, and I admit to spending as much time on my make-up, hair, and flattering lighting as I do my “content.” Like many Virgos, I’m vain. I can relate to that famous literary Virgo, Blanche DuBois, who once bemoaned about the “hard knocks my vanity has taken,” and she was only in her thirties at the time.
Vivien Leigh still looks damn good under the bare light bulb. My God, Tennessee Williams was a genius. Check in time at the Tarantula Arms. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Back in the 1970’s, my cousin and his wife lived in a run-down trailer in a rural part of the upper county where I would sometimes babysit their kids. My cousin’s wife, a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer with enviable Farrah hair, loved to read, her taste leaning toward the sleaziest horror and true crime books. I spent many hours poring through her stack of paperbacks that included tales of killer kidnappings, rape scenes involving hapless pregnant hitchhikers in vast Oregon landscapes, a teenage mom whose baby was eaten by the family dog, and a fictional work (I can only hope) involving incest that was too grammatically challenged for even my thirteen-year-old sensibilities.
One memorable babysitting episode involved me reading some trashy “novel” while my cousin’s hound dog gave birth to a litter in the chair next to me, forcing me to put down the book about a family changed into demons inside a grain silo (if anyone remembers the title I’ll be eternally grateful) and play doggie midwife. Those babysitting nights alone in the trailer seeped into my nightmares and gave me a sleazy thrill, like the times I’d stay too late at the drive-in when “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the feature presentation, and the really creepy stuff would play after midnight. There were no trigger warnings in the 1970’s, and thus Trip With The Teacher became unfortunately seared into my teenage memory.
Reading Richard Laymon (this is my second time at the rodeo) gets me back in touch with that sick part of me that enjoys reading trash, but it also reminds me where to draw the line. I read The Cellar a few months ago, and as much as I love paperbacks from hell, the scenes from the rapist’s POV made me swear off Richard Laymon for good. But when my YouTube buddy, Peter Monn, included Laymon’s Endless Night in his popular Peter’s Book Club, I decided to give the prince of sleaze another try.
The book starts out good and scary when nubile (of course) teenager Jody’s sleepover at a friend’s house is interrupted by a crew of killers, known as the Krull, who break into the house wearing previous victims’ skins and start massacring everyone in sight. After Jody and her friend’s kid brother, Andy, manage to escape the Krull crew in a heart-stopping chase scene, the POV switches to one of the killer’s and that’s when Laymon really finds his writer’s “voice.” What follows are graphic descriptions of rapes and murders with a disturbing emphasis on the teenage victims’ suffering and lingerie. The word “panties” appears in the text a bit too often for comfort. Nipples run a close second.
I love a good, sleazy scare as much as the next horror hound, but there is something about Laymon’s work that goes too far, which is probably why he has such a loyal following.
I suppose his work gives a certain cheap thrill; I can’t say I’m a fan. Still, for the remains of this Sunday afternoon I’m reading The Endless Night till the bitter end. Then I’m taking a bath.
Postscript: I finished the book. The climax (hate to use that word) was even sleazier than I anticipated. I think I’ll pass on this author from now on.
I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and started my BookTube/AuthorTube channel. I’m still working out the focus, lighting, audio, and awkwardness, but I started. I already have eighteen subs! Horrah! Watch, subscribe, like, and comment (if you feel like it).
Recently I’ve been dipping my reading time and my pen into the Young Adult genre. It’s through my obsessive viewing of booktube that I’ve been exposed to some very creative stories in the fantasy and science fiction genre.
Along with that, I’ve been abusing my Amazon prime membership by purchasing many of these books that have gorgeous, colorful hardback covers and dust jackets that look beautiful on my shelves. Since finishing book three of A Song of Fire and Ice, I’m taking a reprieve from adult reads and soaking up some YA loveliness.
Except that it’s not all lovely. Last week I read a heavily hyped YA science fiction adventure novel that is an object lesson in how not to write a book. I won’t mention it by title because its authors have already suffered enough abuse, but the mistakes they made can be a note of caution to every fiction writer. Continue reading “How Not to Write a Book”→
I think it was Stephen King in his great book “On Writing” who stated something to the effect that if you show up at the same spot and time everyday, the muse will do the same.
Okay, I found the quote. It’s much more articulate than my paraphrase (go figure):
“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” Continue reading “Good Writing Days”→
Or is that part duh? This has been a tough one compared to last year’s. At least I have a pretty cover.
Note to self: never start a novel and then try to resuscitate it nearly two years later because your mojo will be buried so deep it will take a team of Egyptologists to find the tomb of your original inspiration.
Expanding that rather shitty metaphor (they are not my strong suit), I’ve learned this time around that writing is like digging (or shoveling shit depending on the day), and that you may find something unexpected during the excavation: a hidden underground spring, a dangerous fault line into your own psyche, or a diamond mind (still holding out hope for that one).
It’s become a rather tiresome cliché (was it Stephen King or a Twitter meme that started it?) that fiction writers are either plotters or pantsers, meaning those who plot out their stories versus those who write by the seat of their pants. Although my writing habits lean toward the former (I always outline), I’ve discovered with this project the rewards of pantsering only because I ran out of ideas at the 30,000 word count, meaning I had at least a 15,000 word gap to fill between where (basically nowhere) I was and the dramatic ending I envisioned.
So this morning I awoke before dawn as usual, put on my mood music, set my word count goal, lined up my liquids (coffee and orange juice), and started making it up on the spot.
Lo and behold I discovered a very cool subplot that magically reunited les enfant purdus of ideas I had abandoned in the ether many chapters ago (told you I write shitty metaphors). Long story short (at 43,000 it will be) I got excited about my story again, which is precisely the jet fuel I need to get to the 50,000 word count goal.
By letting go of control I found the joy of discovery, an important lesson to take with me as I move forward on my writing journey.
Stephen King was (partly) correct when he took a swipe at plotters. It great to have a map, but losing the path has its rewards. Sorry, the bad metaphors just keep coming today. I’ve already spent too much time at the keyboard and I’m in desperate need for some outdoor exercise. #nanoass