glitter_n_gore: (emma)
Dear Self,

I hereby give you permission to stop reading non-fiction books. No, really. It is okay. Your TBR pile needs pruning anyhow. Because let's be honest - you will not finish any non-fiction book you start. No matter how pure and noble your intentions. Loved that movie based on a true story first immortalized in a 500-page science-y memoir thing? Just watch the movie again. Let people know the memoir thing exists and where to find it. (Libraries are magical places!) But darling. Don't bother reading it. You will get twenty pages in and get bored. Every time. It doesn't matter how interesting / important the subject matter is to you, or how well-written the words, or solidly structured the pacing. You will not finish it. Just put it back on the shelf and move on to something you'll actually read.

Here's the thing: there's an art to expanding your reading horizons. It does not mean you *must* force yourself to read things that just don't hold your attention. You're allowed to sigh, close it, and say, "Well, there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not for me," and then MOVE. ON. You can love reading without loving every single thing you attempt to read. You already know this. You just need to apply it to things that are "good books" as deemed by all the people who you normally turn to for recommendations and reviews, rather than crap books you don't think are worthy of your time anyway. Books don't have to be "bad" to be returned unread.

It is really all right to walk away. Stop guilt-reading. Stop pulling things off the shelf you feel like you *should* read even though you know on some level you'll just renew it four times and never open past the introduction. Stop acting like you're being graded - you're not. The books aren't going anywhere. You can always have another try later if you want. In the meantime, just go for that new paperback ghost story by one of your favorite authors you know you'll devour in three days.

Life is short, kiddo. Don't waste it reading decent books you just can't make yourself finish. Read everything else instead.

Love,

Me.
glitter_n_gore: (jean gray)
I'm saying "queer" because it's easier to type than "LGBTQ + a bunch of other letters I can never remember." (Love the people, not the acronym. It's not kind to dyslexics.) Apparently this is the only thing I'm doing for Pride Month this year. Which is still better than previous years, in which I've done absolutely nothing because I'm horrible at keeping track of when things are.

I ran into a lot of unforeseen qualifiers once I started putting this list together. For instance, I wanted to only use artists who are actually out and on the record as not-straight. As opposed to people who've been the subject of speculation but have neither confirmed nor denied anything, or people who use fanservice as a gimmick (particulary the girl-on-girl kind--yeah, don't get me started), or people who appeal to a queer audience for whatever reason but aren't queer themselves (Madonna, Cher, Celine Dion, etc.). And from there I had to narrow it down to music I actually like.

Wasn't easy, let me tell you. I've also, sadly but somehow not surprisingly, wound up with a completely male-dominated list here. It's not that I don't like Tegan & Sarah--I saw them live once, opening for Ben Folds, and they put on a good show. But it's still not really my thing. And much as I've tried to like Lady Gaga, I still feel only "meh" about her music.

That in mind. . .

My Top Five Queer Artists! )

So who have I left out? Anyone have recommendations? Questions? Hit me--I'm all ears. :)
glitter_n_gore: (chiaki)
Let's talk about this madness for a moment.

To summarize: Someone on Goodreads posted an apparently less than favorable review of a particular book. Now, this happens all the time. Reviews come in all shades, from scathing to glowing, and with all levels of eloquence and professionalism. Now lately, there's been a cold war brewing between authors and reviewers based on less than favorable reviews.

Up to this point, said cold war has been confined to various levels of cyber-bullying, from classic CAPS LOCK RAGE posts to petty nonsense like getting all of a certain reviewer's posts pulled from Amazon. I don't know all the details.

What I do know is, with the story linked above, this whole thing has progressed beyond good-old-fashioned 'net warring and into a real-world threat being made against a real-life person, who was made to feel unsafe in her own home. All for the audacity of having an opinion and expressing it in a public forum.

Urban fantasy author Stacia Kane weighs in here, although that blog post was made before the harrassing phone calls started.

YA author Claudia Gray weighs in here, which is how I became aware of the current situation.

I'm not going to go into detail about the obvious here, because there's a lot of wrongness going down on both sides, and I think it's blindingly clear where it all is. It is unethical and way petty to name-call and nitpick whether you're writing a review or responding to one. It is unwise at best as an author to respond to any review, anywhere, ever, for a variety of reasons. It is nasty and vindictive to try to tear down amateur reviewers for not liking your book and saying so, no matter how they say it. And it is fucking CRAZY to go organize a vigilante website for the express purpose of threatening amateur reviewers, no matter what they said or how they said it.

GUYS.

I do not want to live in a world where authors and readers treat each other this way. When did we become enemies? I thought we were all on the same team--people who love books. We don't all like the same books, and we don't even like the same things in the books we do share an opinion on. But here's the thing--I thought that was okay. As a person who reads, writes amateur reviews on occasion, and hopes to one day be published, I do not want to choose sides. I don't want there to be sides.

This isn't so widespread that it's taken over the entire Internet. I doubt any of the authors I read actually check this blog, but I like the fact that I can contact Mira Grant to tell her how awesome her zombie trilogy is (which I've done); or Kelly Meding, to tell her how much I love what she's done with gremlins (which I've also done, repeatedly). If I have something negative to say, I'm less likely to seek out an author and tell them what I thought they did wrong. But that's because it's rude and unlikely to be of any use to them. It should NEVER be because I'm in fear of what might happen to me for not liking a book and saying so.

And social etiquette still doesn't prevent me from writing a review, if I'm moved to do so.

I don't know how to stop this, but it needs to stop. Now. I don't want a war. I just want to read, write, and blog.
glitter_n_gore: (emma)
This was brought to my attention via [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire.

Rachel Stark has made a disturbing observation about a recent trend with book covers for YA fiction: Cover Trends in YA Fiction: Why the Obsession With Elegant Death?

Go on, read that first.

Now, when I first heard about this, I had a "What's the big deal?" approach. I'm into horror as well as YA, so my interests tend towards the macabre anyway--which probably comes as no surprise, considering the name I chose for this blog. Images of (fake) dead things don't particularly bother me as long as they're artfully done, as most of these seem to be. In my head I likened it to that opening montage from the movie Ginger Snaps, in which the two girls pose themselves in various gruesome photographs for a school project--drawing both applause from their classmates and a loud, disgusted diatribe from their teacher in the process.

Furthermore, since dark YA is mostly what I write, I imagined that maybe the subgenre is opening up a bit, which for me would be a good thing. Because why would the folks who decide things like what to put on book covers be using images of dead girls if not to draw an audience that likes dark stories?

So I took a look at some of the other book covers in my collection. You know what I notice? All my adult horror doesn't seem to favor images of dead girls to draw that audience. It's all shadowy silhouettes, dark forests, and eerie still lifes of things like empty chairs or abandoned buildings.

Then I took a look at some YA horror covers--proper horror, not just paranormal with a hefty dose of romance.

Here's what I found. )
glitter_n_gore: (samara)
First, I know I need to update this blog more often--and thank you to those of you who commented on the posts I've let fall by the wayside. I'll try to be better about that in the future!

Second, there are a couple of misconceptions I'd like to clear up about horror writers in general, based on the uninformed comments of a couple coworkers of mine.

1) Horror writers are into blood and gore.

No. Despite the title of this blog, I myself actually dislike blood and gore. It doesn't revolt me as much as it once did, but I don't seek out that kind of thing, in movies or fiction or anything else. One thing I see over and over with people who aren't fans of the genre is this tendency to confuse revulsion with real fear. The goal of the horror writer is not to gross you out. Some of them might do that as well, but the overall goal of the horror story is to scare you. Blood and gore just pokes at your upchuck reflex, which let's be honest, isn't that hard to do.

2) Horror writers don't get scared.

Again, no. This is a slightly different problem, and one that I haven't seen addressed nearly as often as the first. Everyone is afraid of something. Those of us who actively seek out things that scare us don't do it because we aren't bothered by them, but because we're looking for an emotional reaction that we can't get anywhere else. I try to stress this whenever possible: horror is an emotional genre, not a visceral one, regardless of any prejudices to the contrary. The plot, characters, and setting are all important to a horror story, but even more important than those things is the way it makes you feel. So it's not that we don't get scared--our fear thresholds vary just as much as those of other people. It's that we get scared, and scare others, on purpose.

I think I may have more to say on this, but I need to organize my thoughts a little first.
glitter_n_gore: (underworld)
Remember Wicked Pretty Things? Well, buckle your seatbelts, because someone's thrown more fuel on this fire.

The basic story is this: Authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith wrote this article for Publishers Weekly, detailing their decision to walk after a certain agency asked them to A) marginalize, B) de-gay, or C) entirely remove a pivotal character from their YA novel.

Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (although not the agent in question, at least not as far as sources can tell so far) caught wind of this and put out a response to the internet, saying that the conversation about the character, and what should be done about him, was taken out of context, misconstrued, and these authors are taking things the wrong way and making the agency look bad. Her full rebuttal is here.

It got complicated as more authors, editors, and agency reps hopped onto the comment train, and added their tweets to the conversation.

As usual, the magnificent Cleo has all the details.

The real issue is not truly who said what to whom and for what reasons in this particular incident. Oh, no. The issue is what place queer characters currently occupy in the YA market, and how that needs to change.

Particularly telling is this anonymous comment on Brown and Smith's original article:

"I'm so tired of the reactionary nature of the internet. This is a case in point of that.

As a reader, I don't want to be force-fed something I'm not comfortable with reading or dealing with. This goes for anything, not just homosexual content.

Do homosexuals exist? Do rapists exist? Do drug addicts and drug dealers exist? Do dark and scary things exist?

Yes. But that doesn't mean I want to read about it. I read to escape and if a book leaves me feeling enraged or depressed or anything that isn't a feeling I want to have hanging over my day or week, it's not a book for me.

It has nothing to do with homophobia or bigotry of any kind."
(Source)

Take a moment and let that sink in. I want you to note how this person equates rape and drug-dealing with homosexuality. This right here is why we call it homophobia--it all comes down to fear. And it's a fear that, unlike that of rapists and drug-dealers, is completely baseless. I really wonder where these people get their information, and how they draw their conclusions about what makes non-straight people so "dark and scary."

So what do we do about it?

If you're a reader, you can follow the suggestion to vote with your dollars--prove to the marketplace that the readership for queer characters and their stories is out there, especially in YA where all the really important changes seem to be happening these days. That is the best and most impactful way to make something happen.

But what about me? What should I, as a writer, do about this?

Read on. )
glitter_n_gore: (jean gray)
It's been ten years. Most of us have stories. This is mine.

I was in biology class. )
glitter_n_gore: (samara)
Let's hear it for fellow horror hound, Diane Dooley, who has not just one, but two stories out as of this past month: "A Womb of One's Own", her first print publication which is out in this summer's issue of Golden Visions Magazine--read more about it here; and "Served", a short, nasty piece about waiting tables (kind of) which you can read here. (Scroll down to the end, but be warned--it is NOT for the faint of heart. Mature audiences ONLY.)

Also there's a great conversation/interview up on her blog with Fiona Dodwell, on the perceptions and difficulties of being not just a horror writer, but a female horror writer: "Most people who find I enjoy horror are shocked – they usually respond by saying, “But you’re such a girly, feminine woman!”, as if being into horror means I have to grow horns and wear black all day! Really, I’m a happy, contented woman, but I like to explore darkness from a safe place – and for me that is through the medium of writing." Read the rest of the interview here.


As for myself, progress is slow but steady on my various projects. I am four pages and one last edit away from finished with "Doppelganger," the horror short I've been working on with the writer's group here, and have signed up to do a reading with them in September. It's a first-come, first-served sign up list, so hopefully I'll be able to get in there. Even if it's full, there's usually at least one person who can't show up due to some emergency or other, so I'm hopeful. Stay tuned--I will tell you when and where for anyone who wants to come.

The rest of my projects are, as usual, getting eaten by plot bunnies. I got one more rejection back for "Hoppers," which I hate to admit probably needs another rewrite--or at least a fresh beta reader to tell me what needs fixing. I'm torn between the voice that says "Put it away and deal with it later, when you stop hating it," which is probably the best; and the one that says, "But it's YA dystopia--if we don't find a buyer now, people are going to be sick of them! It'll be vampires all over again!" although I know, I know, that's my impatience talking. The market is unpredictable--dystopias will come back around, or not, and there's nothing I can do about it, so there's no use worrying about that.

"Dusty" has a mind of its own and won't do what I tell it, although I think the first chapter is pretty good. A first chapter does not a good novel make, but it's a start, and it's better than what I had before. I think I might just be taking this project too seriously, because--apart from the vampires--it's about a topic that's very close to home for me, and that's making it exceedingly difficult to write.

I have several more on the backburner, but right now my focus is mostly on "Doppelganger." Having a critique group to report to makes things go so much more smoothly.

As for the plot bunnies, I'm just going to throw a dart and see where it lands.

Last book read: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley.

Yearly total: 38
glitter_n_gore: (underworld)
Banned Book Week is always the last week of September. Ish. This year, it began on the 25th and will be over on October 2nd. It always cracks me up the things people decide to "challenge" every year. Although I believe censorship in any form is horribly, incontestably wrong, sometimes the reasoning behind this particular form of censorship is just silly.

I also make it a point to browse the new Banned/Challenged list every year for new books to read, because the ones that upset people tend to be the most interesting.

Let's have a look at this year's contestants, shall we?

Banned books week 2010: the top 10 most challenged titles

You'll notice first off that well over half of these entries are YA novels. And the other ones--The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple--are time-honored classics. Probably because that's what's hot in the marketplace right now. This is what kids are reading, and it's making their parents all upset. Just a theory. The thing that really gets me about these lists is that, when you sit down and look at the reasoning behind the censorship, it becomes clear that the naysayers haven't actually read the books themselves. Twilight, "sexually explicit?" I don't know whether to laugh or bash my head into the wall. And this ttyl business, right at the top? I'd understand someone wanting to ban it based on it being written entirely in text-speak, but come on! All the ones listing "homosexuality" as the reasoning just make me rage, plain and simple. I suppose portraying non-heteronormative people in a non-negative light is what's going on there, which just proves my point: anyone who tries to get a book banned, for any reason, is a narrow-minded bigot. Period.

Some people claim that books are just words on paper, and there's no reason to stir up this fuss over them. I'm not one of those people. The written word has tremendous power. If it didn't, no one would bother trying to ban books in the first place. Ideas are powerful, scary, dangerous things, and many of them come straight from the pages of powerful, scary, dangerous books. But the thing about banning something is it just makes people all the more anxious to get their hands on it. That's the reason I first read Cather in the Rye, as a matter of fact--because my dad told me not to.

So here's what I'm adding to my To Read list this year: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, My Sister's Keeper, and The Chocolate Wars. What are you doing to celebrate Banned Book Week?

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