Thursday, August 23, 2012

Follow the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop: What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me

Welcome to my post for the Follow the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop

I'm excited to be a part of the celebration!  I'll be chatting a bit about some of my inspiration and why I write what I write.  Also, I'm giving away one free ebook!  You have your choice between my two current titles: Art of Death, and The Dragon Tamer.  To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on this blog post along with your email address any time before midnight central time on Sunday 8/26.

On Monday, I'll randomly draw the name of the winner from the comments and contact you by email.  If you have a Dreamspinner account, we'll put the book of your choice on your virtual bookshelf.  Otherwise, the book will be delivered as a PDF by email.

Also, make sure to check out the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog!

What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me

I like to write fun, weird, unusual stories.  Stories with action and drama and humor.  Stories that don't take themselves too seriously.  Heck, my most recent release was about undead painters and the people who worship them—and there's a sequel coming out in October.  When I write stuff like that, how can I take myself seriously?  I like to keep things light, and I like to joke around.  But at times like today, when I take the time to sit down and really think about why I write what I write, I realize just how serious I am.

I've had GLBTQ friends for as long as I can remember.  I'm of an ethnic minority, thus I've always empathized with others who felt like they weren't—or couldn't be—one of the "normal" kids.  I'm even a minority within a minority—a rare Indian with a Christian upbringing when all the other Indians I knew were Hindu.  Not Indian enough for most Indians, not Christian enough for most Christians, not girly enough for most girls, and so on.  My GLBTQ friends were the ones who accepted me for all my weirdness—my utter lack of so-called femininity, my refusal to adhere to, promote, or support restrictive traditional gender roles, and more.  They accepted these things without judgment or questions, the same way I accepted and respected them—and I can't even express how much gratitude I have for that acceptance.

I've wanted to be a storyteller for my entire life, but I've always felt frustration as a consumer because I strongly believe that minorities of all types—ethnic, GLBTQ, gender-based, etc.—should have fair, varied, realistic, and significant representation in fiction.  I'm passionate about this for two reasons:

  • People who are part of these minority groups deserve to see characters like themselves in primary roles in fiction.
  • People who are not part of these minority groups need to be exposed to these characters as a way of cultivating understanding and empathy, especially when they aren't lucky enough to live in a diverse environment.

Mainstream media likes to essentially "neuter" GLBTQ characters and have them be no more than colorful sidekicks for heterosexual heroes (who happen to get far more on-screen action than said sidekicks).  On the flip side, lower budget indie movies and small press GLBTQ books sometimes reduce their characters down to their sexuality and nothing else, with stories that are either focused entirely on sex and romance, or on the Gay Experience (coming out, gay bashing, AIDS, etc.)

The latter is true of most minorities: stories that feature minority leads are almost always about the "minority experience."  While I think those "minority experience" stories absolutely do need to exist, they're not enough.  Minority characters need to be heroes in all kinds of stories, not just minority-themed stories, and at the same time it needs to be done in a way that doesn't ignore their identity, neuter, or whitewash them.

I looked at these mainstream stories with neutered GLBTQ sidekicks, and then at the genre stories of romance, sex, and more sex, and then at the stories of AIDS, gay bashing, self-loathing, and victimhood.  It left me wondering: where is the middle ground?  Where are the stories of GLBTQ characters living not just the gay experience, not just the love-and-sex experience, but the full human experience?

It got to the point where I felt more frustration than joy after consuming a work of fiction.  I was sick of the idea that only straight white men could have high-flying adventures, solve a murder, make a heroic sacrifice, climb the career ladder, conquer paranormal creatures, or tame a dragon.  I was sick of the idea that minorities could only be sidekicks and supporting characters in such stories, but never leads.  I was sick of GLBTQ genre stories that refused to rise past clich├ęs and familiar territory and failed to deliver substance beyond the sex scenes.

Most importantly, I was sick of ranting about these things but not actually doing anything to fix the problem.

So that's where I stand.  That's why I write what I write.  I write in the middle ground, the land of adventure, love, joy, danger, fun, loss, sex, success, missteps, and everything else that's part of the human experience.  I'm by no means the only person who's devoted to this middle ground of GLBTQ literature, and I rejoice every time I find someone else who shares this exciting space with me.  I'm excited by the recent growth of this middle ground, and I hope to see it continue to flourish.

Thanks for reading!  Make sure to leave a comment below to be entered in my giveaway!  And make sure to check out all the other participants of the blog hop!

[EDIT] Congratulations, wulf, for winning the giveaway!  I will be contacting you by email shortly so you can claim your prize!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excerpt Time - Undead Series #3

Sharing a tiny excerpt from my WIP, the third book in the Undead Series. :sigh: I wish Porter were my roommate...


“Dude, it’s pizza time!” Porter called from the kitchen as soon as Riley walked through the door. He was wielding an oven mitt on each hand, as usual. Back when they’d first moved into the apartment on Medina, Riley had gone out and bought kitchen supplies without first checking to see if Porter had already picked any up. As a result, they’d ended up with two oven mitts, and ever since, Porter always made a point of wearing both whenever he cooked. As far as Riley could tell, the extra mitt didn’t seem to keep Porter from finding creative new ways to burn himself. All it did was make him twice as clumsy when handling pots and pans.

But he put on a hell of a good dinosaur-themed puppet show with them.

Riley shrugged off his jacket and slung it over the back of the nearest chair. Behind him, Porter’s focus had already made a rapid shift from pizza preparation to practicing his dinosaur noises. But before Riley could disappear into his bedroom, Porter suddenly stopped mid-rawr and called, “Come back here and eat some pizza!”

“Not hungry,” Riley mumbled. “Besides, I have to pack. Don’t you have to pack too?”

“I finished.”

“You’ve only been home for half an hour.”

Porter shrugged. Riley knew that his roommate kept very few personal items, so he let it go. Again, he turned for his room, but Porter called, “Dude, you have to eat. I made that pizza from scratch, you know. Half meat, half veggie, depending on whether you feel like Mr. Tyrannosaurus—” he held up his left oven mitt, “—or Mr. Brachiosaurus.” He held up his right mitt and waved.

Riley squinted. “Did you sew eyes and teeth on those oven mitts?”

“It was long overdue, and you know it.” He continued to hold up Mr. Brachiosaurus, which looked so pathetic that Riley had to admit it was somehow endearing.

Finally, Riley rolled his eyes and took a seat at the dining table. “I’ll take a couple veggie pieces.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It Feels Like Christmas: The Gift of Good Grammar

After staring idly at my bookshelf, I discovered an old copy of Keys for Writers, which I needed for a class back in college.  While most of the book was geared toward writing research papers and such, there were also grammar and punctuation sections that made the geeky part of me jump for joy.  I sat down with the intention of flipping through the book quickly, only to look up after finishing and find that two hours had passed.

I'm pretty sure I love grammar more than is socially acceptable.  (Really, most "cool" people would never admit to loving grammar, but I've never claimed to be "cool.")  It had been a long time since I'd last reviewed a lot of the trickier rules, and I was thrilled to come across a few rules I'd either forgotten or never known.  Believe it or not, this is the type of thing that I find exciting and inspiring and, well, absolutely delightful.  It's like going to the Home Depot and picking up a new tip for my Dremel, or finding a new brush or paint color at the art supply store, only in this case, my new tools all came free.

Be it English or Spanish or Latin or even XHTML, language has always fascinated me.  Sure, I love storytelling; that goes without saying.  Storytelling has always been and will always be my passion.  But in the world of genre fiction, sometimes it seems like the language itself is treated as an afterthought or simply a means to get to an end.  I haven't met too many other writers in my genre who love not only the storytelling but also the intricacies of the language.

Now, I'm not a fan of flowery, showy, or pretentious prose.  Nothing is worse than a writer who seems to revel in the sound of their own words.  That, to me, is the writing equivalent of people who talk just to hear themselves talk.  But I do love to read the works of authors who achieve an effective flow to their words without tripping readers up with grammatical errors.  I also love challenging myself to avoid errors in my own writing, even if they are the type that most people don't care about.

In the m/m genre, I often hear people recommend novels by saying that if you look past the technical issues, a great story lies beneath.  For me, the two must go together.  Bad use of grammar, punctuation, or spelling pulls me out of a story and prevents me from fully enjoying it.  We live in a time when anyone can get anything published, and a lack of technical skills is a red flag, alerting me that I'm holding a piece that doesn't meet professional standards.  If genre writers want to be taken as seriously as literary fiction writers, and if self-published authors want to be taken as seriously as traditionally published authors, mastery of the basics goes a long way.

The technical stuff, after all, is the easy part.  There are books and style guides and online instruction manuals that spell out exactly how to do it all.  It's right or wrong, black or white.  The hard part is the subjective: crafting a story, deciding which risks to take, deciding which expectations to meet and which to ignore, and then owning those decisions.  I prefer to let readers get mad at me over the controversial things I allow my characters to do, rather than something as silly as poor use of grammar.