Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: I'm Not a Morning Person

My brother really needs to get his driver's license so that I don't have to drive him to college. That requires me to get up at 6:45 AM. I've never functioned well at that time. My morning classes even in elementary school were horrible because I was so tired and had so much trouble focusing my attention. I blame that for why I hate math. Nope, getting up early results in days like today, where I was completely burned out and frustrated by 6 PM. If I hadn't pre-written this post, I wouldn't WUW this week.

I took a nap. I wish I could retake all those naps I wanted to skip as a kid.

Me this evening.
Anyway, writing! I finished my Ready Set Write! side goal for the week: complete a scene from Contracted and start the next one. However, I'm worried that my voice/style will change as I get further into the story. I'm editing another WIP with drastically different characters, voice, and style. This is the first time I've been worried that working on two WIPs at once will affect them.

What I'm reading

I'm still working on Throne of Glass and MILA 2.0. I want to save MILA 2.0 for college so that I can pretend to be studying while I read it on my computer. Throne of Glass I'm taking slowly for a different reason: it's similar to Contracted in a couple ways, and I don't want it to influence the story I'm writing. They both feature assassins, and both are -- oddly -- inspired by fairy tales.


Sarah J. Maas got the idea for Throne of Glass from Disney's Cinderella. She apparently wondered how the "Cinderella flees the castle" scene would be different if Cinderella had done something really, really bad...like be an assassin who'd just tried to kill the prince. (Is that not awesome?) In the interview at the back of my edition, she says, "Throne of Glass has become more of an original epic fantasy than a Cinderella retelling, but you can still find a few nods to the legend here and there."


Meanwhile, Contracted was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. I wondered, "What kind of terrible mother sends their young daughter alone through wolf-infested woods? ...What if she did it on purpose?" and it went from there. I also threw other fairy tale elements into the story, like an evil stepmother and the three brothers -- the youngest of whom is, of course, the most virtuous. The main character's name is also the heroine of a Russian fairy tale. My story seems to have stayed closer to the original tale than Throne of Glass did, and apart from those two elements, they have nothing in common. It just struck me that I would pick up Throne of Glass in the middle of writing a fairy-tale-inspired story about assassins.


What I'm writing


I like editing and rewriting, but I have to work on something new just to give myself a break. Contracted has become my primary project for now. I may have written a truly unlikeable protagonist. She's sympathetic from a certain point of view, but she also has the sociopath thing going on. It probably comes from not feeling like she could trust anyone in her childhood. 

Everyone in this WIP has mommy issues.

What else I've been up to

I mentioned last week that I was writing a review of Orange is the New Black. I posted it over the weekend. It's long, but I'd appreciate the thoughts of anyone who wants to take the time to read it. :) Several people expressed interest in it last week, so head on over there if you like! I'm aware that it was a book first, but as I haven't read the book, the review is strictly of the show. Fair warning, though: if you loved the show, you're not going to like my review. I didn't hate it, but neither did I fall down and worship at its feet like some of my friends have. Here's an excerpt:

Her bisexuality -- excuse me, I mean her "choice" between gay and straight; there are no "bi"  people on this show -- is presented as yet another aspect of her entitlement. Which reinforces the stereotype that bisexuals are entitled sluts who just want it all and can't "choose" like normal people. Or that bisexuals don't exist because "bi" people are really just "undecided."

Yeah...nope.

It's not cringe-worthy, but it's not the ultra-progressive show some people seem to think it is.

What inspires me right now

I can't stop watching Pentatonix videos on YouTube. I think I'm officially a Pentaholic.


Also, I will take full blame for any hours of your life enriched by going to YouTube and looking them up. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Orange is the New Black: An Honest Review

I've heard a lot about this show. I've heard it praised to the roof. I've also heard the SPLAT of virtual tomatoes. And you know me -- always willing to weigh in with an opinion. 

I have a friend who always tries to tell me this or that about Game of Thrones -- how it's fantasy porn or how too many people die or how it's not literary or what the author's evil goals are -- when he hasn't seen the show or read the books. I can tolerate the hipsters who don't want to watch something because it's popular. I don't like the hipsters who refuse to watch something and pass judgment on it anyway.

http://www4.pcmag.com/media/images/388164-netflix-original-orange-is-the-new-black.jpg?thumb=y

So to avoid being that person, I sat down and watched Orange is the New Black. 8 episodes of it. [SPOILERS AHEAD] It's very easy to binge-watch. It's kind of like a train wreck -- I can't look away. My favorite character is Piper's roommate, Miss Claudette. I also like Susanne/Crazy Eyes, because she peed on Piper's floor, and Piper is awful. 

Maybe if the main character, Piper, wasn't SO ANNOYING, I would like the show better. I also can't stand her fiance, best friend, or best friend's husband. Think of every stereotype you know about rich white yogurt-eating yuppies, and then dump a canister of Wite-Out over all of that, and that's how white Piper is. They have some good moments, but most of it is stereotyped obnoxiousness.

I had sympathy for the fiance, Larry, until Piper was put in solitary unjustly over Thanksgiving. Then her counselor called Larry and lied about her cheating on him. Instead of calling Piper to see if she was all right and ask HER if she'd cheated, Larry decided to milk the betrayal for more career and fame points, going on NPR and telling all of America that Piper had cheated on him.

Also, Piper is the kind of bisexual/"hasbien" that lesbians and bisexuals can't stand. Just so I'm clear: if you experiment, that's fine...but ripping up other people and breaking hearts under the excuse of "I'm just exploring my sexuality" is low and mean and selfish. The other person should know you're just experimenting. Piper's portrayal is incredibly negative representation for bisexuals.

Here's Piper: "Nope, sorry if this was real for you, I'm just going to break your heart now. Oh, it's ten years later and I'm going to tell you it was real after all and start an affair with you. BUT WE'RE NOT HAVING AN AFFAIR, we're just being human because I need COMFORT. You see, my fiance is outside the prison, so you're my LESBIAN COMFORT OBJECT that I'm using for sex. But don't tell anyone, because once I get out, I'm going back to my fiance and dumping you in the dirt. Again. No hard feelings, right? I mean, I get everything I want because I'm so fucking entitled, so I can have you and him and fame and fortune and a book deal and a TV show, amirite?" 

She. Is. So. Annoying. The ironic thing is that the whole pitch of the show is "yuppie white girl in prison." But I would rather watch all the other characters and their plots. I like those parts of the show. If I'm supposed to be the audience attracted by a character like Piper, fuck it, I'm fucking insulted.

I would also like the show to decide what exactly it is -- comedy or drama. I know, I know, "dramedy" is a thing (but that doesn't mean I have to like it). I like the show when it's serious, but then it goes all "Look at me, look how funny I am! Hahaha!" and I don't feel comfortable with some of the things we're asked to laugh at. It's basically a prison soap opera, which is fine sometimes. Someone's pregnant now, so it really IS a soap opera. It's the Latina girl. 

Because OF COURSE the Latina girl is pregnant. The other pregnant woman in the prison is also Latina. As much as Orange is the New Black does to reveal and break down stereotypes, it does a lot to reinforce them as well.

Man, I don't know about this show. I want to stop watching. But it's the train wreck effect. Well, it also has great writing, plotting, and acting. Also, it has a lot more boobs than a train wreck, and everyone likes boobs, so that makes it harder.

I should probably mention that when they show the f/f sex, it's ALWAYS between two white women. No interracial sex partners. No same-race non-white sex partners. WHITE BOOBS ARE BETTER THAN OTHER BOOBS. Theoretically, TV shows sex scenes when it's relevant to the plot, but we all know they show the sex that people want to see. AKA, white lesbian sex. 

Also, the only interracial couple on the show has resulted in the aforementioned pregnancy. Yes -- they had sex -- but I'm talking about the sex that is shown. Nothing is shown and they cut to black. It's unclear if they even had sex until she gets pregnant; I had assumed it was a BJ in the closet. The same girl later has sex with another man, in an attempt to frame him for rape and protect the real father of her child (Wow, it really is a soap opera. Now all they need is for someone to recover their lost memory). He pulls out a condom, and it cuts as she leans over, both of them fully clothed. 

You can have an interracial couple, but you can't show them doing anything. You can have a bigger girl, but you can't show her naked -- because that would take screen time away from all the naked, skinny white girls, most of whose relationship subplots aren't nearly as important as your XL-sized, Latina girl's. THE FACT THAT SHE HAS PENETRATIVE INTERCOURSE IS AN ACTUAL PLOT POINT, not just filler, but apparently we can't show that. 

And sure, maybe the actress didn't want to film a sex scene or a nude scene. But let's go back to what I said before: her character arc is dominated by this romance and her pregnancy, but I didn't realize that she'd even had sex with this guy. Showing that she'd had intercourse with him is kind of important, don't you think?

Oh and another thing: Piper is either straight or a lesbian...there is literally no discussion of her being bisexual. The word bisexual is never even said. She describes herself as a "former lesbian" who went back to being straight. Alex says, "I should've known -- never fall in love with a straight girl." Bisexuals don't even fucking exist in the world of this show, at least not in a way that anyone talks about. Piper must "choose" to be lesbian or "choose" to be straight. 

See why I'm bothered by this? Sexuality is not a choice. For bisexuals, sexual partners are a choice, and Piper's choice between her male fiance and her female ex-lover is legitimate. But equating choosing a male or a female sex partner as "choosing to be straight" or "choosing to be a lesbian" is misleading and damaging to people's perceptions of what gay, straight, and bi mean.

ARGH.

I don't hate this show. I've just heard people laud it as the least racist, sexist thing that's ever existed -- which it's not -- and condemn it as the most racist, sexist thing that's ever existed, which it's also not. It does many things right. It does many things wrong. It is a step in a good direction for TV...though it probably only gets away with so much because it's not on TV; it's on Netflix. 

I also realize that some stereotyping is unavoidable...but they could have done a better job. Especially with the "choose your sexuality" arc. If it was presented in a different way, I wouldn't mind. Instead, her bisexuality -- excuse me, I mean her "choice" between gay and straight; there are no bi people on this show -- is presented as yet another aspect of her entitlement.

ARGH AGAIN.

The show fascinated me enough that I watched 8 episodes, so that's a point in its favor. I liked how backstory was gradually revealed in flashbacks. But mostly, the main feeling it elicits from me is annoyance. There are plenty of other great shows I can watch that don't annoy me half so much, so why would I stick with this one?

On the other hand, I'm invested enough that I want to know what happens next. Pensatuckey is in the psych ward and Piper is trying to get her out. I predict she tries to murder Piper (because who wouldn't?). 

Let's put mental illness on the list of things Piper Gets Wrong. It does not matter if Piper was mean to her or if she manipulated her; Pensatuckey clearly needs help. Piper intends to take her away from that help -- OK, a prison psych ward is a shitty approximation of "help" but at least she'll get doctors, attention, and meds. But no, Piper wants to do another misguided good deed. She wants to "save" someone else. (The rich white savior complex has been a pillar of her personality from day one.) 

Here's yet another show/movie that portrays medicating mental illness as the worst thing you can do to a person, and I'm fucking sick of hearing that "message." 

Mental illness is real illness; it deserves and needs medical help. Not a Piper to "save" someone from it. 

Sigh. I would ARGH a third time but I'm done here. It's not a terrible show, but the gap between what it claims to be and what it really is is wide.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Why My WIP Is So Long

http://www.tracyebanghart.com/storage/whatsupwednesday.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1371060102977I'm sort-of-nearly to the end of my critiquing adventure. My Ready. Set. Write! goals have all been oriented on editing this WIP, my first WIP, which I started when I was a 14-year-old high school freshman and finished when I was an upcoming senior in college.

"Finished." Haha. I know, I amuse even myself sometimes. 


What I'm Reading

MILA 2.0 is going swimmingly. Apart from some weird wordage that occasionally throws me, it's great. I also like that it has an introverted protagonist. 

I'm also working on Throne of Glass. The captain of the guard seems like an interesting guy. The prince is a typical spoiled pretty-boy who probably will fall in love with Celaena and then think he's entitled to her love because he gets everything he wants all the time, and an affair with an assassin is something cool and dangerous outside the propriety of princely life. He's not quite Joffrey, but I will be REALLY MAD if Celaena chooses him. There was a similar love triangle in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet. Alanna sleeps with the crown prince for a while, and dumps him when she realizes he's using their relationship as his personal rebellion.

Seriously though, I am sick of princes.


http://www.mediarats.org/pichost/i/f02fbf1c58ac.gif
Hahahaha this never gets old.
What I'm Writing

The other day, I had a revelation about The Book and why it sits at 100k words. I was looking at that figure, thinking about everything my CP had said about tightening up the plot and introducing more conflict, and wondering, "How did I get to this point?" And then I realized...I wrote this when I was fourteen. A couple of us were writing "books" at the time, so we would print out chapters and pass them around to our friends in homeroom. I got a rise off of writing cliffhangers and making people beg me for the next part. 

It was like a serial story that you read in the magazine or newspaper every week. In other words, I got to 100k because I wasn't writing a book.

Crap.


If you read it as a longer work with serial installments, then you don't mind the minor conflicts, the mini-resolutions, or the way the main conflict is spread out. It makes perfect sense that way. Nor do you care about the length because you're only reading a small chunk at a time. (Also, it would probably help if you were fourteen going on fifteen and didn't care about things like the craft of writing.)

If you sit down with a 300-page book, though, you get a sloppily plotted monster that gets wrapped up in pointless subplots and seemingly has no focus on the main conflict. And you have to wade through 100,000 words all at once.

The worst thing about it is that even after I stopped writing for the homeroom audience, I kept those characteristics. Once I realized this, I briefly -- briefly, mind you -- considered editing it as a series of shorter stories. And then I was like


http://i.imgur.com/9GTPnhA.gif
...With pretty much that exact expression, too.
NO WAY am I going through this again. I would rather shelve it than try to force it into yet another shape. I'm not at that point yet. I believe that it can be a book -- a real book -- with time, effort, and help. When I was younger, I used to worry that if I didn't get it done by age 16 -- 17 -- 18 -- the age kept going up as I got older -- I'd be some kind of failure. 

Well, never mind publishing young. It works for some, but in retrospect it was never a practical path for me. I was not homeschooled, I did not have a supportive family or oodles of time or money on my hands, I took AP and honors courses all through high school and served in various cultish clubs, and STILL managed to write 215k. I say 215k instead of 100k because that's how long it was until I chopped it in half and called it two books. So while my WIP might suck at the moment, I'm still proud that I even wrote it at all.

I probably should not have had William Faulkner and Stephen King as my 10th grade writing idols.

What else I'm doing right now

Speaking of Stephen King and long books, I'm enjoying the TV version of Under the Dome. I've also heard so many mixed things about Orange Is The New Black that I started watching it just so I could decide for myself.

I've heard people laud the show as the most progressive thing that's ever happened in television -- which makes me wonder what show they're watching because clearly we aren't seeing the same thing -- and others condemn it as the most racist, sexist thing that's ever happened to television, and it doesn't deserve that either. It's somewhere in the middle, doing things right and wrong...but for me, it's definitely on the side of "uncomfortable." I had too many feelings...it gets its own post.

What inspires me right now

Cats. Cats have a very liberating "don't give a shit" attitude. I'm more than usually stressed right now. I need to have more...cattitude. 


Also, can we all just look at this again?


http://www.mediarats.org/pichost/i/f02fbf1c58ac.gif
Talk about therapeutic.

Friday, August 16, 2013

If YA Book Covers Were Facebook Photos

As per my book cover theme lately, I thought I'd do something...fun.

I've noticed an annoying trend in YA book covers.

Thing is, a lot of YA book covers look like more professional versions of the "selfie" made infamous by Facebook. A girl (it's almost always a girl) looks coyly over her shoulder, staring deeply into the camera...sometimes even with a duckface. It might be more Angelina Jolie than ridiculous, but it's still a duckface. See Exhibit A, slight pouty duckface, perfectly curled hair, flirty look, and all:



 

How does that dagger (if you even notice it under the title text) stay on her arm without cutting her anyway?





This is the kind of photo I might post to Facebook to say, "Look how subtle and intriguing I am! You're attracted by my sexy air of mild danger (but not too dangerous, because that would be unfeminine and scare you away)." Kind of bland. Would you guess that that character is supposed to be an assassin? No? How about this cover, for the same book?


Now THAT'S more like it.
Other selfies take a bolder look, though the model is still angled intriguingly away from the camera.


Look, it's a girl standing under a moon.
This is the kind of picture I would post to Facebook if I had long, flowing hair. I'd stand in a windy place and make sure it fell over one half of my face, to say, "Look how deep and mysterious I am."

Oh, and I should probably mention that Elisa, the main character of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, is described as overweight and dark-skinned. She barely fits into her wedding dress, resorts to comfort-eating when anxious, and is not white by any stretch of the imagination. She lives in jealousy of her lighter-skinned, slimmer, taller sister. But sexy-looking white girls are all the rage on book covers, so oh well, I guess. Here's the UK cover, which is truer to the book:
See how it tells us about the setting and the world of the novel? Deserts and NOT European-based white-girl fantasy?
[EDIT: A commenter pointed out that the girl-under-a-moon cover was concept art, and was rejected for the same reasons I pointed out. The reason I included it was because it came up when I searched the book -- along with the current cover -- and made me think, "Huh?" While it's troubling that the "white girl in flowing dress" was the automatic go-to for this book -- it's troubling that that cover was ever considered at all -- it's encouraging that someone saw it and put their foot down.]

Still other selfies take up the entire cover with their face. I'm sure the character is important and all, but the awkward truth is that I read on the toilet, and I don't want someone's face on my lap.


The orchids are a nice touch, but when it comes down to it, this tells me nothing about the book.
I would comment on this pic to compliment her on her new colored contact lenses.

This version of Delirium wins Most Annoying Cover, as it will stare at me on the toilet while making a duckface. 


 

Here, we see the Selfie in a Seductive Position:

The Fury trilogy is one of my favorite series. I had the UK version of Fury, which is gorgeous, and was absolutely furious (ha, ha) when the US versions came out with yet more boring covers of creepily sexualized teenage girls in selfie poses. My version of Fury looks like this:



...which is absolutely gorgeous, but more importantly, gives you a hint that the girl on the cover is actually a supernatural creature like...gee, I don't know...a Fury. Hence her Greek-esque dress and flowing flame hair. I would call this a selfie done right because it's not just an objectifying photo of a sexy girl. The effect with her hair is intriguing, out of the ordinary, and recalls flames. It's artistic. Coupled with a title like Fury, it gives me a decent impression of what the book is about. I was really looking forward to having this copy of Envy, which shows another Fury who wears her signature red ribbon around her neck:



Instead I have the generic copy pictured before, which also doesn't match my copy of Fury. Le sigh.

When the selfie is done right, it shows us something about the book. It's more than just another tired attempt at sex appeal. Sex appeal which gets creepier the longer you think about it, since the characters portrayed are meant to be underage teens. For example, the cover for Mila 2.0 is a good version of the selfie:


Currently Reading:

Yes, it's a pretty girl looking at you. But she's looking face-on, not coyly and invitingly over one shoulder. The most striking thing is the pixelation of her face and shoulder. If I had to critique the art, I'd say the stream coming off her shoulder is distracting and not as effective as the one on her face. The most important thing, though, is that this cover tells us Mila is an android.

The different Paper Towns selfies were clever as well. One showed the Margo that everyone sees, and the other showed the Margo that Margo hides.
The left one would be my profile picture. If I was having a bad day, I'd post the right one with a sad song lyric and wait for someone to comment.
Oddly enough, Margo isn't the main character. The main character is a boy, Q. But girls on YA covers sell better or something, I guess.

I object to these covers because they aren't designed to show something relevant about the plot, character, or world of the book. They're about making the book look sexy -- which almost always means sexualizing teenage girls. Apparently that's what people are attracted to in a book. "If you read this book, you will be as glamorous as the cover model." "All teens want is to look attractive and sexy, so that's what they must be looking for in books. Cue the sex appeal."

I am not the kind of person whose body or face is typically depicted on these covers. I'm not glamorous. I can't relate to that. I'm white, though. Notice how all these covers have the same phenotype: white, very pale, young, and slim? Even when the character is NOT white, somehow a white model ends up on the cover. Refer to Fragments and Girl of Fire and Thorns.

I will say one thing for the Twilight books: they did their covers right. The images always had the color scheme of black, white, and red, symbolizing night, day, and blood. They looked artistic and were intriguing enough to warrant a second glance. The image of the apple -- the supposed forbidden fruit -- was also relevant to the story. Bella offers her love to Edward; she holds out the forbidden fruit on the cover. It required a lot more thought and effort to create than slapping the photo of a model on the cover and calling it a day because sex appeal wins all the time.

I pick up books because I want to read books. The thing inside the book -- that thing called the story which is made up of smaller things called words -- is what interests me. I expect a cover to entice me by showing a hint about the story. Not only are the selfie covers annoying on principle, they also leave me no room to imagine what the main character looks like. They show me the character, but not their world. When I walk down a row of shelves and see that kind of cover, the effect is the same as passing a random stranger on the street. I don't care. All I see is a face like any other.

To get my attention, a book has to get through several barriers. One: the title barrier. If the title sounds corny, I will roll my eyes and ignore. Two: the cover. If the cover is a generic selfie, there is very little chance that I will pick it up to read the back or the flap, even if I liked the title.

Before I Fall got my attention on the title, but I was dubious about the cover:


 http://www.west-bendlibrary.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/before-i-fall-book-cover.jpg

It's a sentimental, sweet image, and I wasn't looking for a sentimental, sweet book at the time. Pastel green, pink, and white; an image of springtime and nature; the peaceful look on the model's face...I'd post this selfie on Facebook to say, "I'm a shy and sensitive nature girl."

I ended up reading the book anyway...and felt completely misled by the cover. It's a fantastic book. It's also really grim. This girl has to relive the last day of her life over and over again, trying to stop the suicide of the social pariah she bullied since middle school. Sure there's a romance. Sure there are sweet moments. But if I had picked up this book expecting the sentimental summer read this cover implies, I would be shocked out of my mind. Not only does it have nothing whatsoever to do with the book, it even betrays the mood and tone.

I much prefer the alternate, fan-designed cover. I can't find the image, but the cover was created for a contest Lauren Oliver herself started. She said she got an email from a guy friend: "Can you please put less girly covers on your books so I can read them?" That email sparked a cover contest. Books with "girly" covers were made more generic, while books with "masculine" covers were given a feminine touch. Before I Fall reworked had a stark black-on-white theme, with the title in white letters over a black splatter of what might have been blood. More eye-grabbing, less generic, and true to the tone of the book.

OH WAIT! I almost forgot the boob shot:

http://www.novelthoughtsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/city-of-ashes-cassandra-clare.jpg
"Look at my new shirt!!! Isn't it CUTE? ;)))"
and the male version...

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-rcb-wAP9hjw/TbWihBwj2II/AAAAAAAAAMc/w0YxWuthtkU/s400/city_of_bones.jpg
"Check out my sweet new tats...I'm not even flexing."
The point of all this is to say that I wish cover art was more about the art and more about the book. If I want to peruse the art of the selfie or contemplate duckfaces, I'll go on Facebook.

Agree? Disagree? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's up Wednesday



Sorry I skipped last week's What's Up Wednesday! I was busier than usual. Here's what I'm up to:


What I'm reading

I am in nerd flip-out mode over William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. It's like someone took my two biggest nerd-loves and combined them. Also, it works really well. Star Wars starts off with a Prologue and text falling across a screen. This book starts off with "PROLOGUE. Enter Chorus. It is a period of civil war..."


I also finished Needful Things, which was boring and did not live up to expectations. I read Girl Parts as well, and am still figuring out what I think about it before I write a review. On one hand, I like that the second half of the book is all about Rose learning how to take sexual agency for herself (rather than for others). 

On the other hand, it seems like yet another book that says, "You need to have sex to be a whole person." This book was described as "hilarious" on the jacket cover. I thought it was very grim -- cringe-worthy grim. I guess if you find teen suicide and sexual exploitation and harassment hilarious, cool. I won't deny that it definitely has its funny parts, but if you come away from Girl Parts laughing and saying, "That was so hilarious!!!" then you've probably missed the point.

What I'm writing

I'm in the middle of the mother of all re-writes right now. I thought that I'd rewritten a lot during my first round of edits...haha. HAHA. HAHAHAHA.

I've also written reviews of After the Snow, The Reformed Vampire Support Group, and Partials. Examining has been a neat experience, but the truth is that I don't write enough articles and reviews often enough to make a lot of money at it. I don't really mind. I like doing the reviews.

On the blogging side, I also wrote a post Monday following the #solidarityisforwhitewomen twitter-splosion. It doesn't have many comments, so I'd be interested in hearing what others think about the white-washing that happens on book covers.

What else I've been up to

Painting the house. Petting the cat. Playing Oblivion like crazy. Cleaning my room -- I'm finally unpacking everything from college -- and moving my bookshelf. I have this lofted bed with a desk underneath. I moved the bookshelf so that I can actually pull out the chair from the desk and sit down.

What inspires me right now

The awesome cover art for Throne of Glass. Well, for my edition. All previous editions I've seen have a glamorous girl with flowing golden hair and fake brilliant blue contact lenses with a knife strapped to her arm, throwing the camera a coy look over her shoulder and looking flirty. I would never in a million years guess that that book was about an assassin. This cover, on the other hand:



I saw that and was all, "FUCKYEAH!" It reminds me of the anime-inspired art style one of my friends uses. Also, she just looks badass. She stares at the viewer boldly while advancing, rather than throwing coy looks over her shoulder. True to the book, artistic, enticing, and it looks dangerous. I haven't actually read it, but if it turns out not to be as awesome as the cover I will be VERY disappointed.

I've had a bee in my bonnet about book covers lately. Maybe I should do another post. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

White-Washing Book Covers and #solidarityisforwhitewomen

This evening, I was reading along with the Twitter hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. A quick summary: first and second wave feminism were dominated by white women -- in particular, upper middle class straight white women. Third wave feminism (current-ish times) tries to account for the differences of race, economic situation, gender expression, and orientation. 

That's in its ideal form. However, the practice isn't perfect, and the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag is about women of color calling out their feminist "sisters" on their racial hypocrisy. Like how white feminists assume white culture is better, as in this image:



Solidarity is For White Women
Mostly I read and RT-d, because, ya know, I'm white, so I kind of would have been missing the point otherwise. There comes a time when one should just shut up and listen.

After a while, I opened a new tab and finished my review of one of my favorite books, Partials by Dan Wells. I had to look up an image to go with the article, so I spent some time exploring the author's website...and saw something there that made me mad. I've been sitting on this blogpost for a while, waiting for a good time to write it -- and that combined with the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag just clinched it.


Book covers are white-washed. I think we all know this. Especially in YA, it seems, there is an improbable number of glamorous white teens staring back at us from the front of book covers. The industry is dominated by white people, and people tend to write about people like them, so there's a racial imbalance in YA fiction.


I knew all that, and it annoyed me before. But there's something else I didn't realize until recently. When white-washing happens, it's not just about putting a lot of white protagonists on covers. It also happens when the protagonist or major character is a PoC...and the cover makes them look whiter.


While on vacation, I picked up Doll Bones by Holly Black, a MG horror novel. Here's a look at the back cover:


http://wheelerstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/DollBonesBook_back.jpg


See that girl on the right? Alice? Alice is Filipino, described as having "bronze skin" and braided hair. Take another look at her picture.


When I got to the part where she's described in the book, I actually had a "huh?" and a double-take moment. I flipped to the back cover. I guess, if you squint and look closer, you can see that Alice's skin is slightly more tan than Poppy's and Zach's.


Still, that picture and the word "bronze" just don't match up. It would be easy to mistake her for a tan white person, which is what I did when I picked up the book for the first time.


Here's another example. Partials is a YA post-apocalyptic novel by Dan Wells. Kira, the main character, is Indian and possibly biracial, since she never knew her mom. Moreover, Partials actually puts the Indian, dark-haired, dark-skinned Kira on the book cover. Yay, right?


Compare the original to the sequel, Fragments:


        


The book cover for the sequel fecking white-washed her. Her skin is lighter. Also, and more obviously -- her hair isn't black, the way it's described in the book and the way it is on the first damn cover. It's a "whiter" color of brown. She's not as pale as the guy next to her, but she still looks like a white person. Which I'm assuming is what they were going for.


This time my whyyyyy??? is even more frustrated than with Doll Bones. They had no problem with accurately depicting Kira's race on the first book cover! Why change it for the sequel?


Here's a very possible, depressing explanation: Dan Wells got complaints. Maybe from readers, maybe from publishers...but perhaps someone wanted to see a whiter-looking protagonist on the front cover. Or at least, a less-dark one.


Another possible, even more depressing explanation: In the sequel, Kira is pictured with a boy. A white boy. A white love interest, in fact. CLUTCH PEARLS. Perhaps they were OK with portraying an Indian protagonist alone on the cover...but didn't want to pair her with a white boy.


I used to think the solution to the white-washing problem was for people to write more diverse casts of characters. But that was rather naive of me. The white-washing problem goes beyond that. It seems that even if a main character is not white, they will likely be white-washed on the cover anyway.

All these thoughts coalesced in my brain today and came out as this post. What do you think?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The DUH!!! Moment of Editing

I had a "DUH!!!" moment about my WIP last week.

I was plotting which direction the re-writes should take and what needed the most work. And then it hit me with a great big

and I was all like




partly because it seems so obvious in retrospect, but mostly because it means I will have to rewrite to an extent which I have never rewritten before.

I really have no clue how I managed to overlook this. Well, that's a lie -- because I made sure not to make this same mistake in another part of the WIP. I was oh-so-concerned that the friends-to-significant-others relationship should develop naturally. I was also oh-so-concerned that the just-friends relationship did the same thing. And the same for the sibling relationship, and so on and so forth.

Basically, I was so concerned over all this side stuff that I COMPLETELY IGNORED what might just be the MOST IMPORTANT relationship in the WHOLE DAMN THING.

I mean, it's not important in that it's meaningful to both people (though it is). It's important in that the entire plot literally hinges on it. It you don't believe in this relationship or understand why it's important, the plot and the decisions of a major character will make no sense.

And I sidelined it. Ugh. What makes it worse is that it's my MFC's (main female character's) relationship with a mentor. I was plenty concerned about her romantic relationship, because that's also important to the plot...but how could I forget about this pivotal mentor? Does that mean I made my MFC all about the romance? Now I feel like a bad feminist.

Well, I guess I'm not so much a bad feminist as I am a bad -- well, let's say learning -- writer. Leaving the reader free to use their imagination isn't the same thing as expecting the reader to read your mind as well as your book.

Also, critique partners are essential. I really don't think The Book could progress beyond its current draft in any major way without the questions and comments of my critique partner.

I am almost back from vacation (one more day of Road Trip Hell to go). Care to leave a comment for me to read when I get back? Have you had any editing "DUH" or *facepalm* moments? Any similar experiences?

In the meantime, I'll be doing rewrites, rewrites, rewrites.