Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Music of Writing

I write a lot of poetry. To be more precise, I write a lot of stuff, -- heck, I used to write music -- but poetry tends to be my favorite. I like writing sensually (literally, engaging the senses – not so much sexual), and a short poem provides me the opportunity to dive into a brief scene or thought, puddle about for a while until it soaks me, and then dry off and return to the rhythm of my everyday life. It’s a brief, intense interlude, and I love it.

an e.e. cummings poem
One of the things I like best about poetry and don’t pull off as well in my prose is the use of rhythm. You know what I mean; each story has a plot rhythm, and each scene involves a specific, emotional and temporal pace. We authors do this through dialogue, mixes of interiority and exteriority, and length and depth of descriptions. Most importantly to me, however, is the rhythm one achieves with the choices of words, punctuation, and sentence length. Just like a poem, a story achieves part of its flow from the words, the pauses, the breaks. Just like poetry, stories and novels are as visual as they are verbal and intellectual; the length of words engage our brain differently, and seeing more white at the end of a sentence says something about the message we’re conveying.

Sentences of differing lengths and using words of varying complexities can simultaneously engage our readers’ senses of visuality, musicality, and emotionality. You know?

Or, to use another analogy, think of music: Like a song, a story can use staccato (think of machine gunfire: quick and contained) words to put our readers on edge, while a more legato series of sentences (smooth and connected) can soothe readers, even lull them into a kind of sleepy comfort with the scene’s progression.

I have no magical formula for knowing when to use short, jerky words and clipped sentences versus when to linger over the words and spin them into a long, seductive dance across the page. Poetry seems so much more straightforward. 

I love poetry. I love music. I love novel writing. All three seem to have so much overlap; they all rely on rhythm, cadence, snippets and phrases to convey a sense of immediate engagement and long-term commitment to the entire theme. All of them are combinations of form and function, and that’s a majestic power we creative artists wield.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hate Crimes in the U.S.

Hate crime victims and comparisons with their demographic representation

Since 2000, the number of organized hate groups -- from white nationalists, neo-Nazis and racist skinheads to border vigilantes and black separatist organizations -- has climbed by more than 50 percent, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)” (Florida, 2011).

A summary of hate crime info, according to the FBI’s 2010 report:

  • Hate crimes are broken down thusly: 47.3% by a racial bias, 20% percent by a religious bias, 19.3% by asexual orientation bias, and 12.8% by an ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against a disability accounted for 0.6% of single-bias incidents.

Hate crimes by race:
  • Anti-Black: 69.8%
  • Anti-White: 18.2%
  • Anti-multiracial: 5.7%
  • Anti-Asian or Pacific Islander: 5.1%
  • Anti-Native American/Alaskan Native: 1.2%

      Hate crimes by religion:
  • Anti-Jewish: 65.4%
  • Anti-Islamic: 13.2%
  • Anti-other/multiple religion: 13.3%
  • Anti-Catholic: 4.3%
  • Anti-Protestant: 3.3%
  • Anti-Atheism/Agnosticism: .5%

      Hate crimes by sexuality
  • Anti-gay man: 57.9%
  • Anti-“homosexual”: 27.4%
  • Anti-lesbian: 11.4%
  • Anti-bisexual: 1.9%
  • Anti-heterosexual: 1.4%

Hate crimes by ethnicity/nationality
  • Anti-Latino: 65.5%
  • Anti-other ethnicity and nationality: 34.5%

Hate crimes by disability
  • Anti-mental disability: 52%
  • Anti-physical disability: 48%

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Keir by Pippa Jay

Let’s come right out and say it: I’ve been gone for a while. I apologize, my three readers, but once you know my reason, you’ll be helpless to hold it against me. I figure, since you enjoy paranormal romance, you’re a sucker for a good love story. Well, thank goodness, I became embroiled in my own love story earlier this year. I know, right? It’s just like my novels, minus the paranormal bits. And all the action. And the wittiness. And appealing narrative flow. But otherwise identical!

Go, me!

So, that said, I’m finally going to post something long overdue: a review of Keir by Pippa Jay. Let me summarize my review in a single command: Go out and buy it. It’s one of the sweetest things you’ll ever read. Seriously. Okay, so a little less gushy, below is my official review.

This book has something for just about every speculative fiction reader: world hopping; fantastically creative species, cultures, and architectures; sexy and intensely sweet main characters; lots of explosions; harried flights from corrupt authorities; emotional breakthroughs; and, most of all, one of the sweetest romances you’ll ever read.

A very brief plot synopsis: Keir, the “Blue Demon” and a detested outcast in his world, meets Quin, the “Red Witch,” in a prison cell. Quin breaks them out and saves Keir from his mortal wounds. Together, they explore their various demons – his concerning his heritage, hers regarding her tumultuous, 300-year past – and ultimately end up kidnapped, hunted, and trapped by old friends and finally a mysterious stranger from Quin’s past. Meanwhile, they explore Keir’s burgeoning telekinetic and telepathic powers as well as their own romantic feelings.

Bottom line: The political animal in me celebrates how strong Quin is, how competent, how she continually rescues and instructs Keir, helping him become strong enough to accept himself and become a rescuer in return. I also love Keir, the shy and scarred – emotionally and physically – monster who ultimately finds beauty and meaning in his existence. The gushy romantic in me sighs over the very tender, healing love that these two share. And finally, the sci-fi geek in me loves the fantastic worlds they travel to, the different bodies, landscapes, and cultures that populate these so-creative lands.

My favorite message in this intensely moving book? That the scars both Quin and Keir sport are beautiful, are honored roadmaps of their pasts. Keir’s journey to accept his scarred body is a touching one, and one we can all relate to. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Vision of Covers

In addition to being a super-shero author, I also style myself a dabbler in the digital arts. Translation: I really, really like playing in Microsoft Publisher. Anyway, when I finish writing and revising my books, I print them via Lulu and send them to my well-read and brilliant readers (i.e., my sisters). Since I need a sexy cover to snag my sis' attentions and convince them that art class in college was kinda worth it, I usually spend an hour or so slapping one together. 

All that done, once I toss my baby manuscripts into the laps of publishers, they gather together their team of graphic artists and construct their own cover. Sometimes I like what they come up with, sometimes not. At least they're kind enough to let me contribute a few ideas, which I appreciate. 

Would you like to see my very basic handiwork? Why, I thought you'd never ask! Below are the three covers I've tossed together for, respectively, Hunted, Hunted Past, and Hunted DreamsCaveat: Up until Hunted Dreams, I used or bought the royalty free art; however, I can't claim that the images on the cover of HD are mine.