Book reviews that just get it wrong

It’s not often I address book reviews, especially when they give me four stars. Unfortunately, the latest book review for Hope Returns got it all wrong. (Sorry Phyl!)

Phyl Campbell is a writing buddy of mine and has done a few reviews on my books. In fact, before she did this review, she sent me a couple of emails asking about the characters in the story.

In the review, she does mention the story is flash fiction. NO. It is a short story. Flash fiction is a thousand words or less. I think I’ve mentioned this several times, but just in case references are needed, here’s a link: On Wikipedia and at Flashfictiononline.com. Hope Returns is two-thousand words.

From the review: “But then the author writes that the mother didn’t care where the drugs came from. To me, that is an equally tragic, but entirely different kind of death. Drug overdoses could be accidental, or the drugs could have been a constant to try to reduce weight and add to the starving death. But nothing else is said about it.”

This is the short section from the text about the drugs:

 After the funeral, my sister asked, “Where did she get the drugs?”

I shrugged. How could I know? I didn’t care to know. Anger, resentment and guilt were all I could bear and I would carry these until I could make it right.”

Phyl asked me twice (in email) where the drugs came from. I said I didn’t care where the drugs came from. The story was finished and I had no more to do with it. To the characters in the story the where might matter, but why should it matter to the reader? The girl is dead for criminey sake.

Weigh in. Does it matter where the drugs came from? Does the reader really care?

 

In the Huffington Post

An article in the Huffington post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yolo-akili/black-female-super-powered_b_2659118.html

This difficulty to write white female superheroines (or, depending on who you talk to, Kryptonian and Greek superheroines who look white) has fallen down even more so on black female superheroines, who not only become victims to the white male sexist imagination, but, among other things, it’s racist stereotypes. In fact, with the exception of the X-men’s Storm, there are not any other widely recognized black superheroines in American culture.

Let’s see if we can change that.

Something about Taria

Natasha Irons; Comic Vine illustration.

Natasha Irons; Comic Vine illustration.

The writing project, Taria of the Dead is a unique, original story about a Black female superhero, or heroine. Though there have been other Black super heroines, there have not been many (of significance). In fact, the most notable, would be Storm of the X-men series (Marvel comics).

Taria is not a comic book character. I have created her as a fictional human character who has enhanced capabilities granted to her from another realm, she doesn’t quite understand.

This is a work in progress and moving along quite well, though a bit slower than I would like. Writers do have to make a living and this particular author is now spending much of her time looking for “real” work in the real world.

Still, I am excited about this project and expect to have it completed sometime in November or December 2013 with the finished product ranging from 60K – 70K words.

This also means I am pushing the Nexus II: Home project back to being released in February 2014.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with ideas for looks to this character. Though I’ve described her personality and defined her character pretty well in the first part of the work, she defies my physical descriptions. It’s as if She is too big (or her concept is?) for me to put her into physical form–if that makes sense.

Anyway, I’m also working on creating a document or video series on the making of Taria, though I’m hard-pressed to come up with the artwork for the cover of this work…

I know I haven’t posted much lately, but there is more to come soon.

Rape in Fiction

As of late, I haven’t had much time to do the social media
thing. And I haven’t done my regular blog posts, reviews
on Library Thing and Goodreads and just over the past
week, I began feeling more isolated than I usually do.

Partially because I’ve been working on two new projects.
Nexus II and Taria of the Dead. Taria has taken up a greater part of my mental space. The character is insistent I keep writing her world.

Since the 6th of June, I’ve written about five thousand words on Taria’s story. It’s coming along nicely, though I’m not sure about everything I’m putting this character through. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel even a bit guilty. I think this is part of the creative process that makes me grow as a writer, but I’ve noticed more talk in recent weeks about rape culture and about writers writing about rape.

At SFF, Nick Sharps writes, “…so often being a Strong Woman Character™ requires that the character be broken, typically by sexual violence. Either rape was used to transform her into a “strong” character, or else she has to be raped further on in her storyline (presumably to keep her from getting too strong).”

I am writing a brutal experience for Taria, but I believe it’s essential for her to be pushed to her end. Not because as Nick says, “to keep her from getting too strong”, (I can’t imagine that), but to push her to the point when she feels she no longer has anything to lose. The rape doesn’t transform a character into a stronger individual. She’s become strong through everything she has went through prior to that. Those SWCs are pushed to the point that they no longer give a shit and are willing to prove it now.

One last note on the rape business in literature. If the author creates a female as ‘rapeable’ that’s one thing (rape as erotic). If the act is seen as a non-erotic crime of brutality, that’s something else.

For further study, refer to: Rape in Contemporary Literature

Also: Rape and Representation at Wikipedia. Some great reference links here.

Still, I have to wonder if there’s another way to get my character to that point of madness, rather than the brutality I’ve so far considered…

 

Inspiration of Taria

Funny how inspiration strikes. It’s kind of like that sometimes–striking you like a bolt of lightning. Knocking you for a loop for just awhile.

While running the other day, I detoured into the cemetery, lamenting a particular problem and a bit on the moody side. I had woke in a particular mood. Not a good one.

While at the west end of the necropolis, I slowed to a walk, sweating and thinking to myself that if I could just…

That’s when it happened. Inspiration struck. For a moment I was frozen. I had literally come to a stop, the idea washing over me.

I had heard of this happening to others, but to be honest, I’ve usually had to work for my ideas. By the time I got home–twenty minutes later–Taria of the Dead was mentally written.

I saw her clearly. It was just about putting her down on paper–ahem–the screen.

I’m going to document this process, just for posterity’s sake. So the following is the beginning of, and the plot so far of Taria of the Dead.

Some of this won’t make sense, because it’s a work in progress. But if it does make sense to you, all suggestions and comments are welcome.

Enjoy.

Taria of the Dead

Part I

 

Adult Content: Language, sexual situations, violence.

 

“And now…farewell to kindness, humanity and gratitude. I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked.”

― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Prologue

In the not too distant future:

The woman stumbled past graves, down the asphalt path. The cloak of night cast graves in diminutive relief. Nothing appeared as real as it should of. Tombstones etched into the landscape seemed small, insignificant details to the idea behind them. The dead is what mattered.

The gun heavy in her hand she thought of dropping it, letting it go, as she had everything else. A light rain had begun, spilling tiny bits of acid into the landscape, stinging her skin. Eventually, if she stayed out here long enough, the rain would fade her away, as it had the faces of the tombstones. Soon, she thought, she would be nothing.

Drenched and shivering, the grave she sought loomed ahead. Even in the darkness, she could make out it’s outline. The structure rose above most others in the cemetery, towering over her at six feet. A large concrete pedestal with a female angel holding a child topping it.

“Mama, what else can I do?” She asked breathlessly, finally standing before it.

Slowly, silently, like paint running across canvas, she felt herself slipping to the ground. Her body would stand no more. Exhaustion had stepped in, demanding rest. “I’m going to do this,” she whispered. “It’s all I have left.”

This, she thought, would be her last conscious act. It was all hers. Something no one could take from her. As heavy as the gun felt, she drug it upward, toward her face. God, it’s so damn heavy, she thought.

Then she heard it. A sound—something like a whisper—nearby. She froze, not wanting to bring attention to herself. Hoping whoever was out here would pass by without noticing the woman laying on the ground.

Straining to listen, the whispers almost seemed part of the rain, that had now become a downpour. She scooted herself up, placing her back against the pedestal and looked around. Trees sagged under the weight of the deluge, but she saw no one. “What is that Mama?” she asked, straining to hear. Though it sounded like rain, it was different. More like the shuffling of feet against dry leaves or stiff formal dresses rubbing up against one another.

She had become immune to the effects of the rain. The shivering had abated and her skin had become numb to the minuscule chemical contents. Perhaps the acid was already working into her brain, she thought. Maybe she had already breathed enough of the toxins that she just no longer cared.

But then she saw them. Not one or two. Oh no. There were several. Barely distinguishable from the night and the rain, but glowing. People. Or more appropriate, spirits or souls of what was once considered human. She knew these were not ordinary spirits. No. They were here for a reason. They had heard her, felt her pain and like her, wanted justice. She would be their mouthpiece. Their instrument of vengeance.

Taria, they said in unison. Taria, we hear you. We can help…

One year previous

1. Character building of husband, Taria, daughter. As a family and situation. Their life.

Taria glanced over her shoulder, saw Mark set his drink on the coffee table. “Coaster please.” She grinned inwardly, knowing he hated being corrected.

“I’m not a child,” he said, often enough. “You don’t have to correct behavior. I forget at times. Have other things on my mind. I’m a busy guy.”

Glancing up at her, she saw the nearly imperceptible wince. Oh god. “I’m sorry,” she started, then stopped herself and grinned. “You can pay me back tonight. I’m gonna be a bad girl.”

he snatched the cup from the table and she could tell the incident was already forgotten. Leering, Mark swaggered dramatically, stopped in front of her and leaned in kissing her on the mouth. “I know how to tame that bad girl, don’t I?”

“Oh yes you do big guy.” She laughed quietly, putting one arm around his waist, adjusting the strap of her laptop case with the other hand.

“Mom. I need help.” Aria stood on the top stair looking down at them scowling. Her seven-year-old face twisted in a way that illustrated her repulsion. Taria fought not to laugh aloud.

Marcus kissed her again, grinning. “I got it. Take a break bad girl.” He patted her on the bottom and bound up the stairs, before she could respond. “What you need help with girl? You need someone to kick butt?”

Giggling, Aria turned from the stairs and headed in the direction of her bedroom. “Dad! I need someone to fix…”

“I’m going to work,” she called up the stairs. “I’ll see you two tonight!”

“Love you!” came the dual reply.

At lunch Taria sat at a table across from her best friend, Etta Bagsby. Enjoying the fresh air of the outdoor patio, She listened to her friend complain. “Can’t they do something about the flies here?”

For reasons she could not comprehend, if an insect was nearby, it would find its way to Etta. Insects loved woman, though the feelings were not reciprocated.

“I don’t know why you like to sit out here Taria. It’s so nasty.”

“Etta, there was one fly that found its way to you. There is nothing nasty about this place. For Christ’s sake, they charge thirty dollars a plate for rice and beans. They can’t afford to be nasty.”

Etta had been looking away and now glanced at her surreptitiously, grinning. “That’s true. I just wish we would start sitting inside. I’m not an outdoorsy person, you know.”

Taria sighed. Of course she knew. How many times had they went through this? She was trying to get Etta to enjoy the spring weather for once. “Next time we’ll sit inside. I promise.”

“Hmph. I guess I’ll shut up now. I’m starved. What are you having?”

Taria glanced back to the menu sitting in front of her. “I’m not even that hungry. I think I’m going to have a dinner salad.”

“That’s fine for you. I have to eat.” Etta glanced up at her and grinned, “You share a piece of the cheese cake with me afterward?”

She nodded. “Yeah, but that’s it. Nothing else this week. If we’re doing the cheese cake, I can’t. Ugh. I don’t know why I let you talk me into these things.”

Etta laughed. “Because it’s so damn good! You know how good it is. You know you want to.” She slammed the menu down on the table and raised her eyes to scan the patio. “Where is that waiter?”

 

2. Husband dies from freak accident?

3. Insurance doesn’t pay off—has something to do with the way he was killed.

4. Six months later she loses house, has to rent a small apartment in lower middle-class part of town. Friends begin avoiding her.

5. Loses her job because of the time she’s taken off to deal with everything. She tries to find work, but is coming up with nothing. Becomes homeless.

6. Daughter dies because of circumstances they find themselves in. At night they lock themselves into a public park bathroom. During the day the girl goes to school, or they stay at the library as Taria keeps trying to find work. Daughter becomes sick, (flu develops into bronchitis, into pneumonia) takes her to emergency room and is told her daughter needs bedrest…

Sleeping in park one night, after her daughter’s death, she is raped and left for dead.