Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sensitive Schmucks: or how I learned to stop worrying and just be offensive

I recently saw an article about Sensitivity Readers and what they mean for the publishing ecosystem. According to Writing in the Margins, "A sensitivity reader reads through a manuscript for issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page. The goal of a sensitivity reader isn’t to edit a manuscript clarity and logic, although that may be an additional service offered. A sensitivity reader reviews a manuscript for internalized bias and negatively charged language." Essentially they are word aggression police. They will help your characters be less offensive to a broad readership. They will also help uncover stereotypes and marginalizations that may exist in your narrative. They are here to help us poor writers who just don't know any better. 

Fuck them.

I know we live in an eggshell world comprised of social justice zealots and trigger warnings but isn't writing supposed to be an escape from that world? My characters use harmful slurs, my characters think in stereotypes. They're flawed and ugly. Bitter and broken. My bad guys rape and murder and whisper things that make me extremely uncomfortable to write. Even my YA writing is squick-worthy. 

But wouldn't I reach a larger crowd if I kept the overall voice of the narrative just a little less offensive? 

Do I care? If my book has any merit, it'll reach the people who need to read it. So what if someone's offended. In fact, wouldn't it be worse if no one was offended? I write about theocracies that degrade and humiliate women. Please be offended! This is horrible. I write about people who molest and harm children. I write characters who are assassins who value money above human life. I write people who struggle to be decent and fail, fail, fail. So they're going to think, say, and feel horrible things. So go on. Feel something. Be angry. Be angry at the story, at the writing, at the writer, at the barbed-wire world all around us hidden under everyone's niceties and social gloss. Be angry because somewhere in the world there's a woman who has to wear an anti-rape tube inside her vagina for when, not if, she gets violated. Be angry because the best we could do for presidential candidates was Tweedle-dee or Tweedle-dum. 

I'm not saying don't wince at the N word. I'm not saying go out and be rude. I'm not saying use "faggot" when you want to call something "stupid." I hate that. It's very offensive to me. Which is why I continue to use it in my writing. It's why some of my characters marginalize women. It's why some of my characters think foreigners are evil. It's why some of my foreigners really are. 

If we tame our narrative to the standards of social justice, then we're cheating ourselves. And, worse than that, we're cheating our characters. In the example from the article a character thought to himself that it would be easier for girls to come out as lesbian than for boys to come out as gay because everyone seems to like lesbians. This apparently was very offensive. Sure, in the real world, it is offensive because it's bullshit that one should be more accepted than the other. But in the book, why should the author have to change her fucking character's personal thoughts just to downplay an incorrect social assumption?

Perhaps a character says something offensive that you the writer hadn't intended to be offensive. Well, unless it's a legitimate typo on the author's part, I'd say your character just told you something about himself, and you should listen and expand on that. The straight choir director calls the Altos the "Flaming Lips" as a joke. You as the writer are innocently trying to reference the musical group, but your reader understands some form of latent homophobia. Play. That. Shit. Up. Your straight little choir director just became a lot more flawed, a lot more interesting, and a much better character. Not a better person, mind you, but definitely a better character.  

During my MFA, Sterling Watson shared one of his many mantras, "Make it worse. Make it hot." If you've got a racist character, then let him be racist. Make it as horrible for your character as it is for your reader. Make your reader feel something. The sensitivity reader would have us objectively portraying difficulties between characters without allowing the inner voice to dip into the crude sludge that shapes the human condition. I would use the sensitivity reader for one thing: seek thee out all of my offensive bullshit so that I may pour gasoline on it and watch people lose their fucking minds. 

"I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I'm afraid it will not be controversial." ~ Flannery O'Conner

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Flower Power: A Divine Pair

This past full moon (Wednesday, May, 10th) I led a small ritual with a few friends. We were trying out a new space and just sort of getting a feel for the land spirits as well as trying to tame a bit of the magical chaos we had all been feeling lately. We celebrated the full flower moon with candles, sage, flowers, and a water centered magical activity. I had planned to write out a meditation to lead but as I began writing it felt off somehow. So, instead, I selected a Plant Ally Meditation from Youtube that I believed would encompass what I wanted to achieve with the meditative portion of the celebration. It probably would have. But it was recorded too softly for us to be able to utilize it during the ritual. I was faced with either improvising a meditation or scrapping it. 

Thank the Goddess I chose to wing it. I did a Plant Ally Guided Meditation that took us into a dark and thriving forest to a small plant hidden within a rotting log. We each drew our respective plant-life from the decay and formed a bond with the spirit inhabiting the flower. After the meditation I asked everyone what their flower was and what the spirit looked like. It was really neat to hear everyone's experience. Magically I was able to relax enough, even while speaking, to find my own flower. At first I wasn't sure what it was but it was a red full bloom, thin, tissue-like petals. I realized it was a poppy. This surprised me as my favorite flowers are Bleeding Hearts, Tulips, and Fuchsia. So I tucked this away, planning to look into the symbolism and the 'why' later. Hannah's flower was a blue daisy. Again a bit of a surprise since she's an Orchid and Rose girl all the way. 

Hannah learned later that the Daisy is Freyja's flower. It was sweet, like the goddess was waving to Hannah saying, "I'm still here with you!" 

The fact that flower was blue in Hannah's meditation is also interesting. It's one of the most calming colors in chromotherapy. It is also healing and it is the leading favorite color of the human race. It is above us and below us and universal. When I think Daisy I automatically think white so the blue was very deliberate. To be honest I didn't think blue daisies actually existed outside Hannah's meditation. I was wrong. They are quite real and quite lovely.

Inspired by Hannah's flower Ally and symbolism, I did a little research into the meaning behind the Poppy flower. The Poppy, of course, produces the poppy seed which leads to opium and all sorts of sleep inducing highly addictive substances. But the archetypal correspondence for the flower is actually Morpheus, the Greek god of Dreams. Which is rather appropriate as my last name literally translates into: the dreamer. 

I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and of dream analysis/divination and mythology in general. One of my stories deals with a Baku which is benevolent creature from Japanese folklore that survives by eating dreams, specifically nightmares. 

When I was younger I had vivid reoccurring dreams about an old robed woman who came down every night to make sure my family was asleep and if were caught awake, she would kill us presumably. It was a terrible dream, one which I had every night for months and months. Looking back on it now I wonder if it was my fear of mortality already creeping in at the tender young age of 6. Many of my dreams live on in story form or help me to create characters. So, long story short, the Poppy seems a very apropos Ally. 

Here's where it gets really interesting though:
For about two weeks I've been working as a freelance transcriber through It's not a huge amount of pay but I figure I can bring in an extra $25 or so a week and get a few side bills paid down (or, more than likely, put it all toward wedding expenses). Well, the other night I had a job that gave me some pause. As a transcriber we are supposed to type what we hear and not correct things that are misspoken by the speakers. Well I had a speaker say an author's name but she said it way off. I discovered the correct name and was debating on whether or not to put the correct spelling in or try to phonetically tackle the speakers gross mispronunciation. So I went to the forums on the site to see if anyone else had asked a similar question.

I didn't find my question but I fell down an immediate rabbit hole. There were so many interesting topics and threads. After perusing for a few minutes I stumbled upon a thread of a transcriber asking for help listening to a 3 second sound bit to see if anyone could pick out a certain word. The content dealt the energy and balance and the goddess. So of course I was curious! I clicked on the link to the audio and found that it was actually a video recording. I saw a woman speaking to a camera and thought nothing much of it until I noticed what was behind her: poppies and blue daisies.

Until that moment I would never have thought that red poppies and blue daisies could be a thing. Hell, I didn't even know blue daisies were a thing until researching them after Hannah's meditation. Shocked and inspired by this, I went on a google search to see if I couldn't find a picture of the painting behind the woman (you know, on the off chance that it was a classic or well known painting). I didn't find the painting but what I did find was further evidence of the marriage between red poppies and blue daisies.

Apparently these two flowers pair up nicely on many fabrics and prints. Perhaps a more popular pairing is poppy with cornflower or poppy with white daisy, but there was enough red poppy and blue daisy to convince me that not only is this combination a thing, it must somehow stem from some kind of archetypal knowledge. How random for Hannah to see a blue daisy and how utterly strange for me to pick a poppy. And yet, maybe it wasn't random or strange at all. Maybe it was just what we needed. I'm not entirely certain yet what the synchronicities mean for me or Hannah, but I know there is meaning and I find deep comfort in that.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pendulum of Self Doubt and Malaise and my OTPs

Fanart of Craig and Tweek from South Park.
I'm very much in rollercoaster mode these last few weeks. While I'm doing better with longer days and more sun, I'm still riding a pendulum that moves from "I can do this, I can accomplish all the things," to "who am I kidding?" at a rate that makes my head spin. Worse is that I think my body is reacting to my mental state in a very real way. For instance, I had huge and glorious plans for Beltane yet I ended up sleeping about 17 hours off and on from the time I got home from work on Sunday until Monday evening. I whimpered and fussed and cried a little. I couldn't keep my eyes open. I had a similar experience last night. 

One and Shell from Blood Bank.
I got home and unveiled all these plans to Hannah--plans to finally make the Bowie room into something useful for guests and for us, plans to get some writing done, plans to wage war with the squirrels in the back yard who have decided to attack my plants this year--and in the end all I could do was weep and whine and curl up in bed. I slept my 8+ hours last night and then crawled out into the living room for two more rounds of sleep. It's late in the afternoon now and I fear if I closed my eyes for even a second I would pass out all over again. I can't seem to wake up. I can't seem to make things happen. I did manage to write a small 5 page scene the other day for a friend. That is the first finished piece of writing I've accomplished since graduating from Solstice. It was a triumph and yet it reminds me of how far I've fallen in this respect. 
Craig and Tweek again.
Full time employment makes it very difficult for me. I know that's just a huge excuse. I know that there are lots of creative people who still make time to hone and perfect their craft while holding down a 9-5. I admire those people and wish I could be one of them but the truth is... there isn't enough of me right now. I give so much at work. I try not to over exert myself, I try not to let out all of my good energy while there, but more often than not that's what I seem to be doing. Leaving only my negative side for home. Leaving only my doubts and darkness. 

One and Shell again.
It doesn't always feel like that but lately I can't seem to shake it. I'm going to try to mess with the Bowie room today. But even just now, while writing this, I closed my eyes and ended up nodding off in a trance and typing a hundred or so w's.  I just want to wake up. Even when I'm at work I fight to keep alert. I think if I could open my eyes I could do amazing things. Why am I so tired? 

One of my absolute favorite fanarts of Craig and Tweek. If you know anything about the show,
you'll notice that they've switched idiosyncrasies in this picture. Love it. 
On a different note, I wanted to share and promote the Blood Bank Webcomic by Silb. It is absolutely amazing and it is a constant source of happy place for me. I don't know when or if a printed edition will be coming out but I'll put aside money and buy the shit out of it. Such a great fresh look at vampires and BDSM. 

Shell and One from Blood Bank. I can't stress enough how excellent the art and writing are.
The other source of silly happiness for me has, of course, been Craig and Tweek from South Park. I've recently binged on more South Park than you can shake a stick at (even a large stick!) and I am rather in love with Creek (the fandom name for shipping Craig and Tweek.) It's silly. But I don't care. It makes me happy. Also as fill this blog with pics of my two OTP couples, I notice that I do sort of favor the black-haired-blue-eyed seme with the blond-haired-green-eyed uke. Interesting.
Another great fanart of Tweek and Craig.