Jealous Bitchery in the YA “Book Community”
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.
As another birthday roles around this August (Virgo,not Leo) and I do my habitual yearly self-assessment, I observe the following: I got healthier (sobriety, meditation, diet & exercise do work), learned to filter out (some) lingering negativity in my life (about time, eh?), grew out my natural hair color for the third time, read 78 books, started a BookTube channel, helped to organize a local arts festival, and wrote like the dickens (not Charles, unfortunately).
My production for the year included: three novels in a YA series, one novella, a good rough draft of one novel and the start of another, a bunch of poems, five short stories, and nearly weekly blog posts. I also quit Facebook, got back on recently then promptly quit again, and spent a lot of time alone in nature. Through all of the ups and downs, self-recriminations, broken sobriety dates, and moments of quiet (at times despairing) contemplation, I wrote. I may have skipped my exercise date, but never my morning writing session.
I owe a lot of my prolificacy to Wattpad. I joined the site just a year ago and the interaction and feedback I encountered there really spurred on my productivity.
The Charming Psychopath
In the 1999 Anthony Mingella film The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge (much frumpier in the book) knows something’s up with her missing boyfriend, Dickie Greenleaf’s weird friend Tom Ripley. But her Cassandra like prophesies are pooh-poohed as (hormonal) women’s intuition, but she knows. She knows!
While the Covert Narcissist must depend on the kindness of codependents (like a vulture circling wounded prey), the Charming Psychopath’s hunting grounds are much higher on the food chain, and therefore he must be in top form. Like an Olympic athlete training for the event, he prepares his body, tastes, voice, and mannerisms to blend in, ingratiate, and win at all costs. His weapons are flattery, acquiescence, sympathy and understanding. He is an expert at infiltrating, blending in, acting the part of the supportive friend, and then suddenly you realize (too late!) that you’ve let a shark in the pool. Continue reading “Great Villains Part Two”
The Covert Narcissist
When your knight in shining armor slowly changes into an Orc (you never saw it coming) you may be dealing with a covert narcissist. We can all see those bombastic braggadocios of the classic narcissist blaring their horns from a mile away, but the subtle ones who appear so shy, so harmless, so needy…Ah! Beware those sneaky bastards.
They inflict abuse by establishing a honeymoon period of love bombing, mirroring back your every wish and desire—at last someone sees the real you and gives you the validation you crave—followed by a slow period of devaluation: withdrawal of affection, radio silence on your accomplishments, poison darts of thinly veiled hostility, silent but deadly farts of disapproval. You become crazy and they become stronger, their narcissistic supply tanks filled while you are left drained and confused. If you have the misfortune of having one of these in your life, the best recourse is to run as far away as possible. The problem is that by the time (sometimes years, even decades) you’ve realized you’ve been slowly cooked over a rotating spit of negativity, they’ve infiltrated your friend group and perhaps your bank accounts and you’ve been drained of all your juice. But as long as you’re able to get away and recharge, there is hope.
There are many examples of the gaslighting psychopath in film and literature. Here’s one of my favorites (whoever made this video is a genius by the way):
Charles Boyer is portrayed as a more overt villain in the classic Gaslight, even if poor Ingrid Bergman is the last one to know.
Hello, my witchy friends. Just a quick update to inform you that the second book in my Young Adult Paranormal Gothic series is slated for release on August 25th. But, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon now! Of course, if you really can’t wait to find out what happens to Hannah and Sebastian, you may always read an early draft of the story on Wattpad for Free!
I have also completed about a third of the new book in the Chronicles of Dark Hollow series, The Lord of Blackshire. The first draft is now uploaded on Wattpad. You can start reading it HERE!
I have to give Wattpad a lot of credit for giving me a platform on which to develop this series. The first book has now surpassed 100K reads. The encouragement I’ve received from the readers and their responses have helped me to shape this story into something that is actively engaging all my creative faculties. Just when I think it will be the last book, I come up with a new idea for the next one. So far, I intend to have four books in the series (enough for a nice box set).
Anyway, I’m busy this summer writing new material and editing the old stuff, so I’d better get back to it.
Do check out this series if you love old-school Gothic chills with a bit of twisted romance thrown in. As always, a big shout-out to Consuelo Parra for the lovely cover designs.
I started my writing process with The Snowflake Method. It was my first time using the software, and I admit its thoroughness got on my nerves a bit, but ultimately it proved to be an excellent writing prep tool. It forced me to think about all aspects of my story before I even started writing, especially character development. Once I sat down to write the first draft, the process was pleasantly smooth, and I didn’t need to go back and fill in as many story holes as I’ve had to in the past.
I’m also doing a FREE physical paperback copy giveaway (first-come basis) in exchange for an honest review. If interested, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ghosts of Dark Hollow is the first in a series, The Dark Hollow Chronicles, but it also functions as a stand-alone story. I started this book as a Wattpad story in August 2017. Readers’ responses helped shaped the story and when I completed it in December I was thrilled to have it featured on the paranormal page. It’s currently trending on the Wattpad Hot List.
Because of the overwhelming positive response from readers, I wrote the first draft of the sequel, which you can start reading now on Wattpad. I’ll be updating/editing it daily.
I hope you enjoy my new story which will probably be a three book series. It’s been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey.
Cover designs by Consuelo Parro
Responding to criticism is something writers are going to have to deal with eventually. How we navigate that response depends on the criticism itself, how we feel about the source of the criticism, and what the emotional tenor of our present mood is when we read that review or tweet. It can hit us in a sore spot and make us react…hmmm…let’s say less than civilly. Continue reading “Responding to Criticism”