Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I Got to Talk to Toni Ramientos Author of Tablo Breakout, The Ways We Fall Behind

I'd become familiar with Tablo.io when I wrote my 30 stories in 30 days.  It is a great site for authors but also for readers.  It is full of free quality reads, among the bunch is Toni Ramientos' The Ways We Fall Behind.  After I started it I was immediately intrigued and had to tell the author.  After a couple fan-girly tweets (sent by me) she agreed to an interview.  What follows is the result.  
V:I'm really enjoying your work on Tablo.io, your book, The Ways We Fall Behind, has such a unique premise, how would you begin to describe it? 
T:The way I describe The Ways We Fall Behind to people who ask is that it’s a cross-genre novel about a pair of time travelers who go on a road trip with two children who are being hunted by vampires. That was the original idea for the book and it was meant to be an adventure novel following the wacky adventures of these five kids, something akin to a Percy Jackson adventure arc). I wanted something “fun and easy” to write. Obviously, The Ways We Fall Behind ended up being something very different and was much more difficult for me to sort out than I thought. 

V: So you had to rework the story or rather it reworked you.  How do you see it now?

T: The way I think of my book now is that it’s a story about two characters, who were the main characters in one story stuck in a supporting role in a completely different story. The main characters, Dot and Malcolm, are stuck in a completely different setting with all of their old baggage that was never resolved in the own story and now, they’re forced to deal with it. And it is so uncomfortable. This made them very different to write because though they were hardly ever the focus of the action, I still had to see the story through them. My goal for my characters—all of them—was believable complexity, diversity, and growth.

V: I love that, those are great pillars to carry into a novel.  Is this story different from other things you have written?

T:  I had all three of those things in mind constantly as I wrote. Despite it being set up as a plot-heavy, adventure story, The Ways We Fall Behind is  a character story through and through. There wasn’t too much that felt different about writing this book aside from the changing of perspectives. In the past, I’ve chosen one character and I’ll see the whole story through their eyes, but here, I forced myself to be more multi-faceted with Dot and Malcolm. They’re so different from each other and see the world in completely different ways, so that was a different thing for me to tackle with this story. For example, I had the overall plot of the story in my head going into the novel but getting to know Dot and Malcolm more made the story completely different from what it was intended to be. Like I said, The Ways We Fall Behind was meant to be an adventure story, but the more I wrote, the more I realized that neither of my characters played a very active role in this story. That was when I realized that it really wasn’t their story. It’s a story they just happened to fall into.

V: That's something Shannon and I have discussed a lot in the past, how characters drive your stories.  I think that was why I was so drawn to your novel.  The characters truly are unique and very distinct.  I could picture them as real people immediately.  Clearly your stories are about your characters but do you have any particulars when it comes to your writing?  Do you need to be in a complete silence?  Does it have to be on your laptop, or a certain time of day?

T: Ever since starting NaNoWriMo, I’ve found it easier and easier to write anywhere at any time. It used to be so difficult for me to find time to write, but, especially this last November, I’ve finally learned that it’s never easy to find time for writing, because there will always be a reason to say no. My writing process has evolved in that way, for sure. Making time, instead of finding time, is one of the biggest things that’s made it more of a process. I’ve learned to write in a lot of odd places just to catch up on my word sprints. From the public bus to airports to the bathroom at a Thai restaurant I went to with my family, I’m able to write. Once I find a place to just sit and write, I’ll usually kickstart my process with a conversation between my characters. I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to get back into the headspace of my characters once I’ve stepped into their shoes again, testing the water for a little bit before I jump in all the way. Whether it’s a conversation that will play a part in the story or just one to get me back into the feel of how they think, it helps me immerse myself back. Especially because my characters are the most important part of any story that I write, I really want them to seem as natural as possible. After I warm up for a bit—which only takes about ten minutes of casual writing—I’ll just take off from there. When I write, and especially with The Ways We Fall Behind, I imagine the scenes as I’d see them in a film, so the descriptions and actions are very clear in my head for when I flesh them out on paper. Unlike in a movie though, I try to keep a “360” view of my scenes, so I’ll try and pivot the “camera” in my head for certain scenes so the reader “sees” as much as possible when they’re caught up in the story. I’ll usually try to write for at least thirty minutes at a time, just listening to music or half-watching a show I like, until I either have to go somewhere or my shoulder start to hurt from sitting hunched over my laptop for so long. I’m definitely a tense writer.

V: Yes all artists can relate to the body aches and pains we give ourselves for our craft.  I like how you have your characters begin with a conversation.  So often we as writers get caught up in the idea of word counts and if we're writing than it all has to be used, when the reality is writing for writings sake can be just as rewarding; especially if it eventually turns into something.  What's your favorite book?

T:  My favorite book is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and it has been since I read it for the first time in seventh grade. There hasn’t been a book that’s impacted my life as heavily as The Outsiders. I remember being assigned to read it by my teacher and starting it in class only to steal the book and take it home because I just couldn’t put it down. I think it was also one of the first books that just made me feel for it’s characters. The Outsiders is a book about a group of boys who are looked down upon for being “hoods” and “troublemakers.” Or at least that’s what it sets out to be, but the whole narrative is told through the eyes of Ponyboy Curtis, a boy whose grown up as a greaser, and how his view of his friends and situation completely contradicts what society thinks of them. When she wrote this book, the author, S.E. Hinton, she was sixteen and in an age where women authors were struggling to gain recognition. As a young female writer, I’ve always looked up to her as a role model and I’ve look to The Outsiders as an example of authentic and impactful writing from the first time I picked it up.

V: I like the idea of you stealing a book because you were so engrossed in the story.  Do you belong to any fandoms?

T:  Yeah, definitely, I’ve always loved watching cartoons and this is definitely the time for good animation on television. Gravity Falls and Steven Universe are two examples of this and I absolutely love both shows and what they try to accomplish. I don’t actively participate in the theorizing and sleuthing part of the fandoms, but I do have a good time reading through the theories and enjoying the shows themselves as new episodes come out. I’m not sure if this fandom is very well known but my favorite animation studio is Studio Laika and I’m an avid follower of their work. ParaNorman is my favorite movie of all time as well. And of course, I’m a Potterhead through and through and love everything to do with the wizarding world.

V:  YES Harry Potter through and through.  Actually we both nerded out a bit about Fantastic Beasts...anyway back to the interview, if you could have any super power what would it be?

T:  I’d love to have the power to turn invisible, but with the technicality that I could also turn anything that I touch invisible as well. The thought of having to be completely naked to use my power is just too uncomfortable, I think, and just too inconvenient. I would love to turn invisible when I try and go places but don’t want to be stopped by people that I know on the way. Or maybe just to get some nice alone time, like just sitting on a bench and listening to music and just invisible. Hopefully no one would try and sit on my though.

V:  Hahahaha, I love the introvert tendencies coming out.  Do you have anything new in the works?

T:  Yes, I’m actually working on writing and recording an EP! I’m a musician as well as a writer so now that I’ve finished the first draft of this novel, I’m using this break between revisions to release some music. I study music at university since that’s what I’m majoring in, so it’s always been one of my biggest dreams to be able to share my music with other people. I write personal, folk-indie music with a lot of complex chord progressions and instrumental layers along with my voice, so I’m excited to get that project off the ground in the new year. I go by the name “All I Reap and Sow.”

V:  Wow!  I'm excited to hear it!  I'd love to keep chatting with you but I feel I've bothered you long enough.  Where can readers find your work, literary or musical?

T:  My writing is published on a website called Tablo. I’ve found it as a really nice, easy to use platform for my writing and I get a lot of feedback. There you can read my NaNoWriMo novels from both 2015 and 2016, “As We Know It” and “The Ways We Fall Behind.” I also have a personal poetry blog at allireapandsow.tumblr.com.


Thank you Thank you Thank you Toni for a delightful interview. Honestly guys if you're looking for something FREE and INVENTIVE to read, check out Toni's work.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thank you but no thank you for your safety pin.

To all my "white" friends and colleagues who feel distraught over the results of the election. For all who are now scared for their friends who may fall victim to the prejudice of this new administration. Put your guilt and fear, your realization that this means that our country is not as post racial as you thought it was on November 7th, to use. Thank you for your support but the goal is not for you to admit wrongdoing or to recognize the reality that is being "other" in 2016 America. While it is a human step, it is the first step.

The goal is to look at me and see me as equal not less than. When you look at me and see "black woman" and suddenly feel sorry for me because of who is in the White House, that is problematic because you have to admit that my fate is not my own - that my place in this nation is determined by the Commander and Chief because I don't look like you. The goal rather is to see me as a person; not a statistic, not a fixed identify that you have created stereotypes for, but as a person who deserves to be able to vote, receive an education, apply for any job, and live in any part of the country without fear. Without having to anticipate how I may be treated because of nothing more than how I look. So keep working. Recognizing there is a problem is the first step.

People keep asking me, how do I feel safe now that Trump was elected? How can I send my son to school with the hate crimes that are igniting around America in the past week? To them I say, welcome to being a [insert anything other than "white male" here] in America but less pessimistically and upon reflection I answer with much more grace.

I come from Cherokee, Mohawk, German, Irish and whatever-nations- of- Africa-my-ancestors-were-taken-from-before-being-sold-in-the-United-States ancestry. As diverse as my family tree is, they all have one horrible similarity. Each group has experienced persecution, genocide, discrimination and annihilation on this same soil. It is their blood that pumps through my veins and that of my son's. They push me through doors that were previously shut in their face. I draw on their strength and perseverance. I take their dreams of acceptance and equality and ask for more. That's what gives me unwavering patience. That is what gives me hope. That is what propels me forward, never back. #keepfighting #wearenotgoinganywhere #standtogether #weareequal #wedeservetobeequal

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016

Teaching at the college level this is the first semester in 6 years, where I have heard such racial and divisive comments about fellow Americans while at work. The racists, sexists and xenophobic comments that my students have stated in class are beyond anything I have heard spoken in public before. It's no doubt a reflection of what was occurring on the very public stage. If you have any question about what last night's results mean, I can say confidently that the past few months are a cler indication of where we are headed now that Trump is in office.


Racists don't call themselves racists.  They're afraid to do so because they know the negative connotations however Trump is a man that gives the ok to be all of the isims in plain site. That's what America needs. In order to move past racisim, sexisim, victim shaming, and xenophobia we have to as a nation admit that they exist. When you elect a leader who sexual assaults women and has no remorse, or who uses the n word aren't we in essence saying, I did that, I do that, I know someone that does that? Aren't we putting the people, who have hidden in plain site, while pretending we were in a post racial country once we elected a black president a voice?  I don't know about you but I like to lok my adversaries in the eye.  I fyou are afreid of peopel that look like me, or you think we are the root of every problme tht our nation faces, now you are able to say so.  

Trump received the most votes in counties where less than 10% of the adult population had a college education. Clinton won most of the votes in communities where people identify as POC's. Knowing that, what do I do? Run away from those red states or do I sit in this country and wait? Wait for it heal.

America looks more diverse now than ever and yet systemitized discrimination towards people of color, LGPTQ and women still remains. Although on an interpersonal level race relations are better than they've ever been, disparities between education, poverty, and crime are all very much skewed. Having a fear monger for president may bring this to the forefront once and for all.  This may cause us to crash and burn but I it also maymake diminishing statements like, "all lives matter" dissipate.  Once people finally say what they're thinking and we can have a real conversation about what it is to live in a country with a dark past, we can acknowledge it and move on. 

When someone like Trump is in office we can no longer call activists hyperbolic.  We can't refer to rape victims as enibreiated teases who got what they deserved because the rhetoric is out there, we haven't been making it up. Police brutality and racial profiling is no longer a figment of our imaginations when you have a man in office calling blacks criminals. 

When my oldest was born Barack Obama was president, I thought he was being born into a world where people that look like me and him can dream and acheive great things. Now we have this and I still want to be hopeful because the reality is that Trump as president means no more sweeping it under the rug,no more pretending that we are evolved and past everything because clearly all that red on the map means we're not. Until we can criticize or praise Barack Obama without mentioning his race until we can unequivocally say that Hillary Clinton losing had nothing to do with her gender then we still have work to do. Until we can say without a doubt that as a POC you didn't get the job because of your lack of qualifications rather than the color of your skin we have work to do. 

Sometimes we need horror to realize we need change. #terrifiedbutbrave #thisisnothingmyancestorshaventfoughtanddefeatedbefore #yourhateisshowing #thisvotedidntbreakme #elasticheart

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Green Chile Cheese Fries by Val Day-Sanchez New Release

2 Books, 1 Weekend, 2 New Releases

Be sure to check out my latest novella, Green Chile Cheese Fires.  It is FREE on Amazon all weekend long.

Written in the first person, Ally is trying to figure it all out.  Spanning from middle school to grad school this story is told through a series of vignettes while the protagonists, analyzes and dissects her past, present and future relationships. This book was inspired by my love of food, New Mexico and the film, High Fidelity

Book Description: I've written this to figure things out.  I've never planned much of my life, I've just sort of reacted and now I need to know, what have I overlooked?  Is there a simple question that can help me understand what makes relationships work?

Free on Amazon from October 21, 2016 - October 26, 2016.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Peak Release

Val's latest book is novella Peak.  It is the story of what happens after Earth is invaded and a deadly virus is released into the population.  It picks up where Threshold left off, a few months later.  See what Mira and the gang are up to after their message calling for peace was sent out to the masses.  Was their message even heard or is all out war inevitable?  
Description:  Earth has been invaded. The aliens have proven to be more similar to humans than what was thought possible. This is seen as a weakness that a common enemy has taken full advantage of by releasing a biological weapon. Will anyone survive?
Download it for Free:  October 21, 2016-October 25, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

30 Stories in 30 Days! How Did I Survive? Tablo or Wattpad?

For the past few weeks I've been writing one short story every day.  I thought of this challenge shortly before my 30th birthday.  While I gave myself days off form posting, like my birthday, my 4 year's old birthday, we were out of town, etc. I still wrote every day.  I wanted to push myself but mostly I wanted to see if I could do it.  I hadn't written a short story since my undergrad and even then they were all nonfiction.  I didn't know if I would be able to complete a story in under 10,000 words, (which  is the length of my shortest novel).  In the process I learned a lot about myself but also about my abilities.

The first story was written while I Pokemon hunted with my husband and my mind sort of went to this place of, what if...That isn't unusual for me, what was unusual was for me to just write it down without letting it escape.  It's so easy to let stories disappear but this challenge made me explore my thoughts and ideas and bring them into fruition.  Also forcing myself to publish every day meant that I couldn't be overly critical or worry too much about how the story would be received. It made my work raw and honest but also called my attention to how easy it is for me to censor myself.  These stories I really let it all hang out, it was like, this is what I'm thinking right now, this is what is going on in the news, this is all the  stuff I can't say to everyone but it is definitely in my thoughts and I need to have an outlet for it.

A huge part of this challenge was to write about diverse character going through situations that are more common than mainstream media allows us to believe.  I wanted to show people that while we are so diverse we also share so many of the same struggles.


The platform. Tablo or Wattpad?

I published on both Tablo.io and Wattpad.  I like Tablos' aesthetic and their retweets and emails that tell me who is reading and liking my stories and it allows readers to leave comments.  For a fee you can even receive more detailed information.  It was pretty neat to see what people were responding to without having to login, they emailed me all the info. Wattapd didn't have as much readership and their site is much more plain.  I lean toward Tablo but that is my preference.  From the amount of readers alone, I had a lot more people read my stories on Tablo.io than on Wattpad (Over a thousand on Tablo, and about 6 on Wattpad), even though both are free and both require readers to sign in.

Other Random Thoughts about the 30/30 Challenge:

Interestingly if you were to ask me what the titles of all 30 stories are I couldn't tell you off the top of my head.  I really just wrote them and then moved to the next.

Something that I've discussed with other authors is the dreaded synopsis.  How do you summarize your work in a quick blurb that makes others want to read without giving too much away?  When I publish my books this is a process that takes weeks to write, edit, perfect and then I still delete it and start over several more times.  With the challenge of writing and publishing everyday I had to just trust myself and write a synopsis every day.  (You'll notice they get shorter as the challenge goes on.)
I also had to choose a cover every day.  This is also a task that I often agonize over, this time I had to do it every. single. day.  It tortured me but also made me confident that I can do this, that my instincts are correct.

Writing everyday, especially short stories, provided immediate feedback, which was awesome.  It was a quick ego boost and and made me feel like writing is what I love to do and what I should do.

What I learned:

Free short flash fiction is definitely convenient for readers and a great way to push oneself as I writer.

Would I do it again?

Maybe before my 40th birthday.

You can read all the short stories from my 30/30 Challenge for FREE on tablo.io

It was a cool way to get my work out there and to allow people to see if they like my style without having to commit to full novel.  Also I think readers don't have to invest as much with a short story so they are more likely to read it.  I noticed my stories each fall into multiple genres which gave readers more options.

Last random thought, I miss it.  I had gotten used to writing and completing something every single day. While I have more room to breathe and do other things I still find myself wanting to write, hence this post :)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stereotypes and Negeative Perceptions Make Me Want to Stick to Hell No's and Headphones

I've been told I look young. This was highlighted when I was pregnant. I lived in southern New Mexico and women of all ages would glare at me. Old women would sometimes give me looks of encouragement. I wasn't quite sure what all this meant. I thought perhaps it was some look of,"wow she's going to be a mom, that sucks,hang in there."  I didn't give it much thought.  One day at the supermarket an older woman, a stranger mind you, approached me.  "Oh mija," she said, "just promise me that you'll get your GED." At the time I was finishing my Masters degree. What gave her the impression that I was a teen-mom high school drop out?  My young looking face? The color of my skin? The cutoff Jean shorts? Either case what if I was 16 and pregnant? Did that mean that my life wasn't going places?  

Stereotypes are aggravating. They are our minds being lazy while we allow our perceptions to run rampant. They are often two fold because if they are incorrect we find ourselves defending ourselves which also puts down whoever the stereotype does apply to.

I have 2 boys. One of them has my complexion while the other has my husband's. When I am out with my sons. sans husband, people have asked me about their father's.  They assume that they have two different dad's. When I correct their pediatrician, he was pleasantly surprised and offered a condescending, "good for you."  That left me to consider, what are his perceptions of women that have children who come from different partners?  Would my children's medical care have been different?  When I take my children to the park moms give me apologetic looks while whispering to the other moms, "typical." What does typical mean? Are they assuming that because I am young and black that I am unlucky in love or that I am not expected to be in a committed relationship? I've given up on trying to understand the Bigot Mind.

I've even been labeled as the nanny whilst out without my husband. You see when the four of us are together it's easy to see where our kids get their looks and how they are the perfect blend of each parent. However when it's just me, well I am the help. Really? In 2016 diversity still sends your mind into a frenzy? And again what if that was all true? What if I do have two kids from two different men? What if I am a single mom? What if I am the hired caregiver of two beautiful children? Does that give you the right to assume that you are better than me?
Just stop it. No one wants to be put in box especially one that is so small it only contains your perceptions. For the record, when it comes to other people we are usually wrong.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Can You Really Take Back an Ex: Why I'm Apprehensive About the Latest Harry Potter

Harry Potter has been in my life for the past 19 years. It is more than series of books, it is more than a franchise. Currently I'm re-reading it with my own sons.  This is a moment I dreamed about since their births, or more precisely, ever since I first completed the books myself. Like certain things in my life, bacon, my husband, the first house I bought, the state of New Mexico, Hรคagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, I knew from the moment I was introduced to them they would forever be in my life.  Harry Potter is on that list.

When I read the seventh book, I wept for days and not just because of the casualties but because it had come to an end. The Autumn ritual of lining up outside Barnes and Noble for a new release would never happen again. The tradition of driving back home from college to watch the latest film, regardless of what was going on I my life, had come to an end. No more wondering about prophecies and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Spells, Quidditch, transfiguration, that was all over. Even now, nine years later, every fall I still find myself listening to the Harry Potter soundtrack;s, just because. I need that in my life once the weather begins to turn cold.

It's like when I finish writing. I fall in to a gloom, a sudden despair caused by the fact that I have forever parted with the voices in my head. I mourn, I eat ice cream, I wear pajamas,and I watch bad TV. It's like a breakup of a relationship that took place in my imagination. I did this with Harry Potter, a book I didn't dream up but one that lives within in me.

When it came to Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, I was so excited.  Counting down the days to its release, it wasn't until the script was in my grasp that I realized that I would be opening myself to an old wound. Taking back an old partner, trusting them once again after I'd promised myself that what had was done.  Our story already ended and while I could relive it, tell others about it and continue to  admire and respect it, I couldn't start something new.

Here we are more than 24 hours after its release and I am having doubts if my psyche can handle getting back together. I know I will eventually breakdown and I buy it.  Seclude myself for as long as it takes to read it cover to cover, but for now my emotional turmoil persists.

Where does that leave me?  When it comes to Harry Potter, 

Always.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

To My Fellow Women of Color, I Love You

A few days ago I wrote about what it's like growing up black in America.  I wanted to provide perspective into why the words, black lives matter, are being uttered, why they were used to form a social movement, why they mattered.  However today I want to write a post strictly to women of color.  Women of color I love you, you are beautiful.  Just because the media doesn't represent us.  Just because literature doesn't depict us.  Just because many people surrounding you don't look anything like you, doesn't mean you are not gorgeous.

I grew up on the West cost and the Southwest so my experience with prejudice is not as horrible as it could have been had my parent's lived somewhere else.  Where I grew up meant that there weren't many black people in my state.  When I was in school I could count on one hand, maybe two (but never more), how many black girls were enrolled.  In high school I never got asked out, I didn't have a boyfriend.  After graduation I was told, "you were hot but I'd never been with a black girl."  Sound familiar?  It's quite similar to the "you're hot, for a black girl."  Or even the "I just don't like black girls."

What each of these derogatory statements have in common is that, they imply that there is a difference between dating a black girl or a white girl strictly based on the color of their skin.  If you date a woman that has more melanin in their skin based on someone that has less will there be a difference?  Yes, yes there will be.  There will be a difference because they are two different people with different experiences.  Just like there would be a difference if you dated two black women.  The nuance, the intrigue, the subtleties, those come from individuals not skin color.

In the past black women have been labeled as easy, as having no virtue.  This comes out of slavery where white men would rape black woman, some were even encouraged to do so, to practice before they married their pure bride.  This fallacy that black woman are for practice is vile.  We are women as in equal to a man, as in a human being.  We are not a stereotype.  

Not only did I not get asked out but I also never felt comfortable in my own skin.  My hair didn't look like everyone else's.  I didn't frequent tanning beds, I knew this seems small and trivial but it wasn't.  It was this underlined understanding that I wasn't like everyone else.  I remembered my mom braiding my hair and a boy on the school bus sat behind me and yelled, "Ahh a squid," while he pulled at my hair, mimicking tentacles.  I was too embarrassed to tell my parents about it, or worse how my friends just laughed.  None of my friends wore braids, they all had straight obedient hair.  None of the prime time shows had women wearing braids like mine.  They didn't have hair or skin that looked like mine.  I started to straighten my hair in eighth grade.  Finally gone were my kinky curls that I was too embarrassed to wear down.  The curls that were compared to pubic hair at a sleepover.  

Skin care products, makeup, undergarments and braziers come in these "skin tone" shades.  Guess whose skin tone they don't have?  I read Brooklyn by Colm Toibin a few months ago, and there is an entire scene dedicated to when pantyhose arrive at their store for black women.  The book takes place in the 1950's, yet even now I think about last week how I had to go to three different beauty stores to find hair products for my texture of hair.  Hey America, there are women of color that would like to buy beauty products, we aren't going anywhere so make them available around the country.  

Just when I would start to fit in or forget that I didn't look like everyone else, I would get asked a question that would remind me that I didn't belong.  Like, "how come the insides of your hands are white, are all black people's hands like that?" or "Do black people sing at their church?"  "Why are black people so loud?"  "Why don't you talk black?"  "Can I touch your hair, (after they've already touched it)."  "Do black people have an extra bone in their foot that makes them run fast?"  "You're black, are you going to try out for track?"  When you're the only black person around, you get really good at being the speaker for blacks everywhere.  You are treated as a stereotype that is expected to represent these stereotypes.  You learn to tell yourself things like, my friends aren't prejudice they are just sheltered, it's not their fault.  Eventually you grow up and realize this is not your job.

Your job is to love yourself.  Your job is to fill your social media with images of women of color so that you are reminded that just because no one in your office, classroom, group of friends, or maybe even your family look like you, you still matter.  You represent a different kind of beauty, one that is hidden, one that isn't depicted on the big screen or magazines but I see you.  You're flawless.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Allegiant Sequel Ascendant Going Straight to TV

I've got to take a moment to talk about Allegiant. In case you haven't heard this article breaks it down. Basically Lionsgate wants to release Ascendant, the conclusion to Allegiant, straight to television. Therefore serving as a pilot of sorts for the spin-off TV series. Apparently Shailene Woodley had no idea.   


Woodley was under the impression, like most of us, that
Ascendant would be in theaters March 2017.
  
This could be a money thing, apparently Hollywood feels like YA books adapted into films aren't bringing in as much money as they once did.  For instance The Mockingjay Part 2 and Allegiant both made less money in the box office than their predecessors.  However my argument is, Allegiant was by far the weakest link in the trilogy.  The characters didn't act like themselves, the story took a wild turn from all the groundwork that was laid in the previous two novels.  Basically it comes across as written in a hurry.


So I'm not surprised that readers may have avoided going to the theater to see it, not to mention the initial trailer had a lot of us going, what book is this even based upon? 

Not to mention, no one wants a movie to be divided in two when there was only one book.  It makes readers and viewers feel as though this was less  of a creative choice and more of financial one.  After all two movies, mean twice as much money for movie execs, right? With the exception of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, which would have been a six hour film, there is no reason for The Mockingjay or Allegiant to be broken into two parts. This may be another reason why the box office revenue wasn't as high.  

It's not as simple as, YA no longer does well in theaters. The truth is, when YA books are turned into films poorly box office turn-out isn't as alluring to movie producers. 

People want a conclusion.  They want continuity between the books and the film.  When that doesn't happen people just avoid hitting the lines and the stale popcorn.

How will a made-for-TV Ascendant film work? Will we all have to sit in front of a TV one Thursday night in order to see what happens to Tris and Four? Will our DVR's be the only way that we can watch it again? Will it ever be available on Blu-ray or do my dreams of a box set of all the films go unanswered?  Lionsgate why so cold?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Writers Love to Read

Readers all have their favorite books. They each hold a place in our hearts for different reasons. Shannon and I came up with eight categories of books that we love, some we love to hate, and others that just got under our skin. Here's mine, for a list of both me and Shannons, check out our new site SXSW Books.

MY FAVORITE BOOK: THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN





















The Night Circus! Oh my gawd! It is one of  those creative tales that takes place in another era that still connects with you in every way. This book is pure magic.  It's the paramour you never thought you would end up with but all the stars aligned and somehow you found each other. That's how I feel about this book,butterflies.

A BOOK THAT I AM EMBARRASSED I LOVE: WHERE SHE WENT BY GAYLE FORMAN




















I grew up thinking I was tough, a tomboy, the Elaine of my group of guy friends. That's a lot of years pretending to loathe all things "girly." Now as a feminist who believes gender norms are a waste of outdated time, I still have a hard time admitting that sometimes I just wanna read a sappy love story and cry. One weekend, when I found myself alone I succumbed and watched Stay on Hulu. Then I did what every normal person does and looked it up online to see if the book ended the same way. Then I found out there was a sequel. I immediately ordered it and upon its arrival, read it in a few hours. I then wrote my own book over that weekend. This book really inspired me, and it opened up a part of me that I am usually too embarrassed to show. This book earned this spot on the list.

A BOOK THAT PISSED ME OFF: ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES BY JENNIFER NIVEN  




















I love Instagram and when a book keeps popping up in my feed I, like a mindless robot, purchase it from Amazon. That was the case with Jennifer Niven's  All the Bright Places. There was a lot I liked about this book but if you read my previous post you will see what I didn't like, really outweighed the good. Please don't limit character descriptions to race.  It's 2016 for f's sake.



A BOOK I COULD READ A THOUSAND TIMES: THIS IS NOT A TEST BY COURTNEY SUMMERS 




















Courtney Summers' This is Not A Test was like The Breakfast Club meets TWD. But in all the best ways. A group of high-schoolers find refuge in their school's gymnasium as the outside world is being eaten by zombies. But because it's Courtney Summers it's much more evolved. It is a character driven story that showed me, no matter the circumstances readers want to fall in love with the characters. I could read this book a thousand times and still get goosebumps from that last page.

A BOOK THAT I'M SCARED TO START:  BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP




















I bought this book back when I purchased Where She Went and thought the premise sounded intriguing but I'm afraid to open it. I don't know if I think it's going to be scary or if the mood it will evoke will just be too much for a summer off. Either way it sits in my tbr pile.

A BOOK THAT WAS TOTALLY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE BUT SURPRISED ME: THE REVENANT BY MICHAEL PUNKE 




















I  never would have picked up this book. No offense Leo but this just isn't something I would naturally gravitate towards but then everyone around me read it and the first page had my birthday so I dove in. A historical revenge story told by a man that is alone for most of the book and it was still as engaging as Mark Watney on Mars. Not an easy feat and the author killed it.




A BOOK THAT GOT TURNED INTO A MOVIE THAT ACTUALLY MET MY EXPECTATIONS: THE HELP BY KATHRYN STOCKETT





















The Help was a book that knocks it out of the park in so many ways. You have the protagonist that you admire but still relate to. A woman who sees the world like no one else around her and she sees that as the gift it is rather than trying to ignore it and fit in. It calls our attention to injustice, it makes us laugh. So to see all of that depicted in the film was jaw-dropping. Hollywood rarely capture what was in our heads when we were reading but this time they succeeded.  The stellar cast helped of course.

A BOOK THAT MADE ME LAUGH: DAD IS FAT BY JIM GAFFIGAN



















I know it's written by a comedian so it's supposed to be funny but there were no dull points.  I have two small children so I related to a lot of the experiences in this book.    

Keep scrolling for Shannon's Top Eight.
What are some of your favorite reads? Sound off in the comments.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Fear for my Sons, Please Give Me a Reason Not To

For those of you that believe there is no race issue in America I want you to be patient with me and ask yourself a few questions. Have you ever inherited something from your family? Perhaps it was money? A house?  A piece of land?  It could be the name of the city where your great grandmother was born.  Maybe your last name?  Or the knowledge of the country where your ancestors came from. As a person of African descent living in the United States these are things I did not inherit.

It's not that my family isn't proud of who they are, it's that we were brought to this country as livestock. Like many others, my family's name was chosen arbitrarily. It could be the surname of a slave owner that once owned of my kin.  It could have been assigned by a city official or hospital worker.   Like many people who share my skin tone, their family may have multiple birthdates and surnames in county records. Black people weren't allowed to pass things onto future generations.  Any record of who they were was also against the law to record.  Any clue as to where we came from was purposefully erased.  Imagine growing up knowing you weren't supposed to be here but having nowhere else to go.

My parents grew up during the Civil Rights movement.  Seeing people that looked like them being lynched, denied basic human services, killed with no consequence, sprayed with firehoses, their churches bombed.  They raised me to be aware that because of the color of my skin, I should expect to be treated differently. I would have to work harder for people to get to know me rather than the stereotype that they were familiar with. There were times in school, like when I was eight, where my teacher assumed I wasn't very bright.  I woke up with stomach aches every morning before school. The thing is, even today I don't know if she was racist. That's the thing about it, racists rarely come out and say it. She may have not even known. Was it a different reason entirely that she treated me differently than everyone else? When no one in your class looks anything like you and you're singled out, you ask yourself why. A child shouldn't be concerned with the motivations and personal perceptions of an adult.

As an adult my kids get called "mixed race." I usually correct the speaker by saying no they are just one, the human race. I didn't get impregnated by an alien afterall. Yet will I have to revert back to what so many previous generations have had to tell their children?

I didn't want to do that to my kids. Make them afraid to travel to southern states, expect them to be arrested for "driving while black," receive dirty looks from people due to the hue of their skin. But in 2016 with a presidential candidate spewing hate and giving the voice of radical racist leaders a platform, I fear for my son's.
What America will they face? The America that is culturally diverse and aware of its dark past but willing to face it so we all can heal? Or the America that denies there is a problem in the first place?
Race scientifically has been refuted as a legitimate category. But the fact that we still rely on it as a signifier, used to profile others, means it's not going anywhere.

After the horrific events of WWII, Germany built museums, they labeled the sites of death camps. They did this so they would never forget and never repeat. In America black cemeteries, left over from a time when whites and blacks couldn't be buried in the same land, are overgrown. Sites where human beings were once sold are long destroyed. There is no trace of what happened. It's painful but necessary that we remember our shared history. We can't keep erasing and therefore minimizing what an entire country and people experienced.

I understand it's uncomfortable but it could save lives. It could eradicate the voice in so many people of colors minds. The voice that says, you're getting pulled over, is this because of what you did or the way you look? That women glared at you, is it because she has resting B face or because of your complexion?

Racism, like sexism, was literally written into our Constitution - yet there is no reason for black people to feel they need to state that our lives matter?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mom Approved

When I write I try not to put myself in my work.  I let the characters run the show so it never occurred to me to apply my "mom hat" to Threshold.

Threshold is a science fiction alien invasion novel with no sex or cursing but there is violence because it's an invasion.

If your kids like fast paced Sci-Fi novels, with some fight science that end in death, then quit thinking about it and buy them their favorite book for the summer.

Threshold is available in paperback or digital copy on Amazon.
#momapproved

Thursday, June 9, 2016

YA Novel All the Bright Places Squashes 1 Stigma While Perpetuating Another

I recently completed Jennifer Niven's, All the Bright Places. The book addresses mental illness and suicide in the scope of young adults. Sadly both of these are issues that effect everyone and I commend the author for bringing focus to the stigma that surround both mental illness and suicide. It is a book that I'm sure has helped many who have found themselves in a position of loss, however I have an issue with All the Bright Places.

An issue that is too often found in YA fiction. It's as if there is an array of teenagers; sick teenagers, promiscuous teenagers, differently-abled teenagers but not many of those are people of color or more than one label. It is an over simplification that makes YA a genre that too often fights to be taken seriously.

It is a total of 4 sentences, in a book that is 378 pages long, yet those 4 sentences continue to resurface as I fall in love with tortured Theodore Finch and forever-changed Violet Markey. Those four sentences where the author chose to describe a character in a way that none of the other characters were subjected to.

Why would race be thee only characterization for one character while we never gain this racial insight into any of the others? Is that because one is deemed as exotic or is it because if you are anything but "white" then it is necessary that your race be mentioned?

What is to be learned from saying they are black? Better question, why do we assume that everything can be learned from hearing someone's "race" ? This device does not hold true however if that someone is labeled as "white."  We then adopt the opposite approach, meaning nothing can be assumed by learning that they are white. Rather it doesn'the bare mentioning.  It is so ordinary, so boring, so normal. Isn't that what the author is conveying by only mentioning the race of one character throughout the entire novel?

Throughout the story we hear about Finch's pale skin where you can see his veins. It paints a vivid picture of this young man with the bright blue eyes and dark hair. It is worded masterfully and intersects with the development of the character while Charlie Donahue is only a racial category. Yes I learn that he is a playboy, a joker, a realist but that wasn't acquired through the antiquated description of "black-black." It was due to dialogue. It was portrayed through his witty comments, his acceptance of Finch, his easy demeanor. Niven painted the picture of who he was with her polished prose, no offensive comment required.

Describe skin color if you are compelled, tell me their nationality, where are they from, how do they identify? Don't lazily plug in a racial category that has no bases in either hard or soft science and expect me to gain any real understanding of your POV.

I'm not expecting Jennifer Niven to be an expert on everything, or to tackle every social issue in each of her published works. I'm simply saying that if we are going to address these pivotal issues why not be inclusive? Why not allow the reader to see themselves in these poignant characters? Mrs. Niven, your readers are diverse. If all you create are well developed, animated white characters and make our representation a vacant farce you are committing a grave injustice. Presenting an image that fuels the disparities in our society by only enlisting "white" characters to tell these stories. It only further perpetuates the feeling that diverse readers experiencing things like mental illness or suicide, are in fact alone. 


In short, help me see what you see but I suppose I have. Jennifer Niven it is through your eyes that I see that suicide and mental illness are not issues to be taken lightly. I see that moody is not synonymous for bi-polar disorder, that we can overcome grief and that there are two types of black people, CW and black-black. I see that black men belong in athletics and that if you know my race, you then know everything about me.


*Screenshot of the tweet I sent Jennifer Niven to no avail. I strongly regret the smiley face emoji but I really thought that it would help garner a response because I don't want her to feel attacked. I just want her to be aware that thousands of teens are reading her work and they need to know that in 2016 it is no longer tolerable to describe others with one word as if that would suffice.  We are humans. We are complex, multifaceted, adaptable, diverse, and beautiful. We are more than one word.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

10 Weird Things You Do When You're a Writer

Being a writer is an interesting job because you often work from home and have nontraditional hours. Having multiple characters clattering about in your head,  demanding you tell their story while also having to exist within the present is enough to drive anyone crazy. And that's exactly how I feel when I'm writing. Shannon and I realized we shared some of the same eccentric behavior when it came to putting words on the page. (I tackled 10-6 while Shannon addressed 5-1)


10. Isolation: I have this intense desire to be alone so I can finish my novel but that rarely if ever is granted. So I have to find ways to be alone while surrounded my others. Headphones, Pandora, YouTube,  (in case I need a particular song on repeat to get the chapter completed) are gold. My family knows not to talk to mean if I have a pen, paper, and headphones in.


via GIPHY

9. Comfort and ultimately extremely unhealthy food eaten in mass quantity: There's lots of chocolate and popcorn, because there is no way I'm stopping to eat unless it's very simple and provides lots of calories to keep me going. If I can be writing why would I be cooking? I pack snacks and refreshments so that all I need to do is take a quick trip to the kitchen to refuel rather than stop.


via GIPHY

8. PJs: There's no time to get dressed and besides writing for me me means burrowing in my cave and not interacting with the outside world. 


7. Insomnia: Sleep is my reward for when the book is done (I know Arianna Huffington wouldn't approve). Early morning, when no one else is awake yet and very late at night, when the rest of the house is quiet but my mind is screaming pivotal plot points are my favorite times to write. These times of day I don't feel guilty for ignoring my family because they are far away in dreamland.



via GIPHY

6. Obsessive: I become hyper focused in a way that is borderline sickness but I can't help it, it's much more powerful than me. I think about my novel all the time, the characters, where they end it up, how they get there, who they meet along the way, the why of it all is always present until it's published.



5. Daydreaming: Is there any job in the world that includes, and is almost a requirement, to stare off into space as we dream up stories? I love to put on my headphones and think of my story as I turn it into a live action movie in my head. If I can see it play out then I know I’m ready to write it down.






4. Freedom: There is a delicious sense of freedom being a writer. We are not bound to do the same thing every single day for the next thirty years. We can write what we want, when we want too. If we don’t want to write romance, we can write gritty science fiction. We can expand young minds in one children’s book to fouling it up the next time with a erotic thriller.

3. We own the word Crazy: Everyone knows writers are nuts. We isolate ourselves. We talk to ourselves. We create unrealistic realities and bury ourselves in them to the point where we almost can’t find our way out. We’re proud of it and where you see a straight jacket in our future, we see a potential story we can write in the asylum as we mingle amongst our peeps.

via GIPHY

2. The accomplishment of writing a book is like no other feeling: I don’t know if it’s because few people who start actually finish or if it’s because when you do finish writing a book you’re so exhausted, but typing out the words ‘The End’ is almost indescribable. It’s an euphoric feeling of epic magnitude to us writers and we remember each and every time we finish our novels.

1.  Identity: Yes, we isolate ourselves and live in dream worlds. We make up stories and imagine details that you may not read about, but we know are there. ( I actually wrote a whole paragraph one time about a mailbox, but decided to cut it. I still remember it though). We create characters that become our friends and we laugh with them, and cry with them. We know their secrets and we may or may not share them with you, but they will always be with us.
We forgo sleep because we have this aching need to not only get the story out of our heads, but because we desperately want to share them with our readers. Our diet is akin to a 7th grader being left on their own for a weekend.  We daydream. We crash. We burn. We straddle the line of insanity all while trying to maintain normality in front of our kids and families.  We obsess about everything we have ever written and we do this because we are so focused on trying to convey our stories to the best of our ability.  It’s emotionally and physically draining sometimes, but at the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade being a writer for any other job in the world.

Here, Here!  Shannon summed it up wonderfully.  Fellow writers do you think we left anything out?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

10 Most Asked Questions When u Have a New Release

Last week I announced that I have a new book coming out (YAY!), shortly thereafter I started getting lots of questions but some were more frequent than others so I thought, why not answer them all in one place? Also I need a break from editing :) #winwin

10. How long did it take you to write Threshold?
Almost 2 years because I started thinking about it as I was completing the Harlow Whittaker Trilogy.

9. Is Threshold setup to be a trilogy?
No, I set out to write a standalone novel which proved to be a challenge in itself.

8. Is Threshold like Harlow?
No, I think the only similarity is that they both have characters from Albuquerque.

7. Is Threshold a YA fantasy?
It's Sci-Fi, so it was difficult for me to write because that's a whole new genre for me. Not only writing wise but I hadn't read sci-fi before, I was told it was for boys growing up. So when this concept came to me it was like, OK let's do it. But I struggled with being confident I could pull it off, even though it was my idea.

In terms of YA, Threshold has very mature themes so I think older readers will connect with it as well as teens.

6. Who is the main character?
Lucas Saavedra: 16 year old, caramel skinned, green eyed soccer star who finds himself personally effected by the invasion.

5. Invasion? What's it about?
For month's disappearances have been occurring all over the world. Chapter one begins with the main characters finally finding out that alien invaders are the cause. That's the setup, without giving too much away.

4. Is their war?
That's one direction that the characters find themselves in. I love writing battle scenes so they are present.

3. Any love connections?
When your world is blown up that forces you to put things in perspective and re-evaluate what you want. That sometimes comes in the form of a romance. And these characters world's are definitely blown up.

2. What's your favorite part?
Seeing how the characters grow and grapple with their own personal interests vs. the good of their people.

1. When will it be out?
Summer 2016, finally.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Work. Write. Live.

Isn't it funny how your subconscious knows what you want before you catch up? Got bit the Spring Cleaning bug a couple weeks back, thought I was just feeling the need to de-clutter, now that we were ending our winter hibernation, and opening the door to our home for visitors once again, but the truth of the matter is I was building a writing nook. 

I've been teaching the past 9 months and summer vacation is fastly approaching. Clearly my subconscious was foreseeing that I was about to have a lot of time off, a lot of time to contemplate, to completely embrace my introvert tendencies. I needed time to self- reflect, and that's all my writing is. It's a way for me to look back and figure out what  happened.

It's true. With the school year ending, now I can sit and look back at the past few months and interpret them clearly. This is something that some can do in the moment, Oh how I envy that.  No for me it all happens and I get through it but it never goes anywhere until I can link those events to the other assortment of experiences that occurred before and after it, finally fully gaining the lesson. Or the spark of wisdom or insight that makes it make sense.

It wasn't until on a whim of moving a desk into the room with the most light in our house did I fully understand this cycle that I've been performing my entire life.

Work. Write. Live.
I work best in clutter and chaos so my writer's sanctuary is the homework HQ, dinosaur haven, arts and crafts station, complete with rock collection. #happywriting

Thursday, January 28, 2016

At the end I want to remember my life was more than work

We are almost a month into 2016, and I am struggling to stick to my New Year's Resolution.

This year I vowed, or at least vehemently promised myself, that I would simplify my life.

I'm a workaholic-perfectionist, that has one dial; on. The words, chill, veg out, relax, do not resonate with me. In fact they cause me to have a very visceral reaction.
via GIPHY


To make my resolution work I needed to take it in steps, because too much change over night can cause a panic attack.

Step 1: Do things that make you happy.

There were things in my life that I gravitated towards because I had the skills/training to do them. That combined with my stubborn tenacity made me good at them. I interpreted that as, "I should do this." But after some careful consideration I realized I was mostly a giant stress ball pursuing so many things and not very happy. These multiple projects began to be work that morphed into mental lists with a set of never-ending tasks that I had to check off before I could go back to doing what made me happy.  There were certain parts that I loved and others that I hated, flat out hated. If I keep the idea of balance in mind, and asked myself, "If I can hate aspects of what I'm doing than do I truly love the other parts or am just infatuated with the idea if this?

Step 2: Keep your Calendar clear.

Shortly after I started cutting things out of my life, I found myself thinking, "Wow I have so much free time, what can I do?" Old habits, am I right? I was so used to going nonstop I didn't remember how to just sit still and embrace no plans. But that is the point of simplification. A quick check in with my husband reminded me of that pivotal fact.

Step 3: Stop obsessing and let your smartphone be smart.

When you are balancing multiple careers and hobbies and family and life it's easy to maintain a level of wakefulness, where even when you've ended the day and are lying in bed you're still thinking, "What else needs to get done? Who else do I need to call back? What else? What else? What else?" Instead of that, let your calendar - whether on your phone or email, keep track. Let your device worry about the next day, week, or month so you can rest assured that your life is in order.

It's only been 28 days but I'm noticing that I'm on my phone less, I'm working 40 hours a week no longer 18-20 hour days. I'm actually planning a vacation, and I'm getting back to me. I'm removing self-imposed deadlines, and realizing what, 'in the moment' means. These are all part of my core values, I just needed to sort through the chaos to remember.