Archive for December, 2015

New Year’s Eve of 2015 – saying yes to hope

Beautiful post on Saturn moving into Sagittarius. I wanted to quote, but I ended up wanting to clip the entire thing, so  I suppose y’all will just have to head over and read it.

And yes, it’s for everyone, even if you don’t believe in the quackery:

Fortunately, miracles aren’t granted only to the holy, the pious or the righteous. Miracles aren’t saved for the popular kids that are so #blessed. That’s privilege and it’s a human construct that has nothing to do with actual blessings. Miracles are something much more interesting. Miracles are taking place all the time. In big ways. In teeny-tiny ways. Inside every life. Miracles simply exist. Without our force. Without our coercion. Without our manipulation.

Every time you love out loud you are opening a space for a miracle to enter. Every time you seek to create a safe and just world for all you are helping miracles to occur. Every time you remember that your liberation is bound up in the liberation of every other being on the planet, you have been granted a miracle. Every time we remember and act on the fact that we are all here to serve one another, we have been part of a miracle.

Say yes to the miracle. Say yes to hope.

Even though we may carry past traumas and abuse. Even so.

And on this New Year’s Eve, I’d like to take a step towards not carrying all that anymore. It happened. It sucked. Let’s talk it to death and figure out what lessons were to be learned from all that tragedy, and for fuck’s sake – let’s move on.

If:

Saturn in Sagittarius might also be asking us to harness our faith, show up for what we believe in and offer our lives as sites for the miraculous to occur.

Then, yes.

2015 has been difficult and illuminating.

Even so, I have much to be grateful for. There have been beautiful moments, all the more so because of the contrast of loss and anger.

What I want from 2016: Health. Love. Story. Joy.

Thus my goals:

I’m committing to showing up. Every day. No excuses. No whining. No nothing. I get the day off if I would have called in sick to work, but otherwise, no. But if it is one of those days, leading into #2….

I’m committing to self-forgiveness. It’s okay to fuck up. It’s okay if I tried my best and it didn’t net me what I was looking for. If it’s a bedridden day, it’s a bedridden day. Suck it up buttercup, snag another book off the TBR pile, and just settle into your blankets.

I’m committing to loving myself first. Put on your oxygen mask before you worry about others and all that jazz. Questions: Are you fed? Are you watered? Have you had enough sleep? Are you warm? Are you calm and centered? If not, drop everything and fix it. The car ain’t gonna go nowhere if the engine’s shot. I am the thrust behind my life’s trajectory; it is only sensible to make sure the rockets are functioning at all times.

I’m committing to boundaries. Say no to users and abusers. Say no to other people’s emotional labor. Say no to non-reciprocity. Say no to everything that drags you down. Say no to stupid fights that won’t get anywhere. Just. Say. No.

It’s New Year’s Eve. I have a map, a full belly, a comfortable ship, and the horizon extends beyond infinity. Let’s go, shall we?

New Year’s Eve of 2015 – saying yes to hope

Beautiful post on Saturn moving into Sagittarius. I wanted to quote, but I ended up wanting to clip the entire thing, so  I suppose y’all will just have to head over and read it.

And yes, it’s for everyone, even if you don’t believe in the quackery:

Fortunately, miracles aren’t granted only to the holy, the pious or the righteous. Miracles aren’t saved for the popular kids that are so #blessed. That’s privilege and it’s a human construct that has nothing to do with actual blessings. Miracles are something much more interesting. Miracles are taking place all the time. In big ways. In teeny-tiny ways. Inside every life. Miracles simply exist. Without our force. Without our coercion. Without our manipulation.

Every time you love out loud you are opening a space for a miracle to enter. Every time you seek to create a safe and just world for all you are helping miracles to occur. Every time you remember that your liberation is bound up in the liberation of every other being on the planet, you have been granted a miracle. Every time we remember and act on the fact that we are all here to serve one another, we have been part of a miracle.

Say yes to the miracle. Say yes to hope.

Even though we may carry past traumas and abuse. Even so.

And on this New Year’s Eve, I’d like to take a step towards not carrying all that anymore. It happened. It sucked. Let’s talk it to death and figure out what lessons were to be learned from all that tragedy, and for fuck’s sake – let’s move on.

If:

Saturn in Sagittarius might also be asking us to harness our faith, show up for what we believe in and offer our lives as sites for the miraculous to occur.

Then, yes.

2015 has been difficult and illuminating.

As I said to Thene, purity can indeed only be found in torture, re: Katherine as a name. In order to refine or distill anything, one pulverizes, shreds, steams, boils down, all to break something down into small enough pieces so the essence may be captured.

And perhaps I should not forget that in order for any light to be created, there must be a death of some sort.

Even so, I have much to be grateful for. There have been beautiful moments, all the more so because of the contrast of loss and anger.

What I want from 2016: Health. Love. Story. Joy.

Thus my goals:

I’m committing to showing up. Every day. No excuses. No whining. No nothing. I get the day off if I would have called in sick to work, but otherwise, no. But if it is one of those days, leading into #2….

I’m committing to self-forgiveness. It’s okay to fuck up. It’s okay if I tried my best and it didn’t net me what I was looking for. If it’s a bedridden day, it’s a bedridden day. Suck it up buttercup, snag another book off the TBR pile, and just settle into your blankets.

I’m committing to loving myself first. Put on your oxygen mask before you worry about others and all that jazz. Questions: Are you fed? Are you watered? Have you had enough sleep? Are you warm? Are you calm and centered? If not, drop everything and fix it. The car ain’t gonna go nowhere if the engine’s shot. I am the thrust behind my life’s trajectory; it is only sensible to make sure the rockets are functioning at all times.

I’m committing to boundaries. Say no to users and abusers. Say no to other people’s emotional labor. Say no to non-reciprocity. Say no to everything that drags you down. Say no to stupid fights that won’t get anywhere. Just. Say. No.

It’s New Year’s Eve. I have a map, a full belly, a comfortable ship, and the horizon extends beyond infinity. Let’s go, shall we?

On babying. Or not. The cruel illogic of the biological clock.

Eight of Swords

I mentioned that I’d drawn this card today in chat and someone mentioned that the keywords sounded a lot like motherhood. So we started talking about mothering and the choices there.

Motherhood is a choice like so many others, but for some reason, I cannot be logical about this one. It doesn’t feel like a choice. Or if it does, it feels like one of those stupid “if your mother and your wife both fell into the sea and were drowning, which one would you save” decisions.

Tangent: choice, to me is like picking a dessert. Hard, but doable. Decision, for me, is more like “okay, this is the piece of soul I will sacrifice”. More weight. More oomph. More spirit-killing.

I was devastated when my boyfriend of ten years told me that he thought having a baby would ruin our lives.

There were numerous reasons to believe this to be the case:

We had a nice living situation with two other friends in a pretty nice place in a pretty nice location. Having a baby would nix that right quick.

My health situation wasn’t too shiny at that point, even thought it had yet to get really bad.

Boyfriend was still juggling the attempt to get a college degree along with his 50+hr/week job.

My job situation was strange and fucked up and we weren’t really making a ton of money between the two of us.

So yes, it was logical, it was practical, it was sensible — and it hurt like a motherfucker. (tangent: why exactly does a motherfucker hurt?)

All the illogical feels came out. All of them. (probably not helped by the fact that boyfriend kept saying he wanted to marry me and then throwing fits about actually doing it)

Logical brain goes:

It’s a baby. You can get babies other ways. Like adoption (hella hard though, nowadays from what I hear). Or fostering.

It’s not a special bundle of special symbolism of your love or your significant’s love for you.

Him not wanting a baby with you has absolutely no bearing on you as a person or your relationship or anything except he doesn’t want a baby. With you.

You don’t really want a baby right now either. You’re not the healthiest person on the planet and there’s a lot of health risks associated with pregnancy and you want to write and that’s hella hard with a baby in the house as you can tell from your enbabied writer friends.

Illogical feels scream:

Him not wanting a baby with you is absolutely a judgment on you as a person, as a girlfriend, as a housemate.

I want my baby, my child where I can map their features and wonder over how much of me and my beloved is there and how much is just their own special amazingness.

A baby absolutely is a special bundle of special snowflake symbolism of our love and my beloved’s love for me.

But if I don’t get in the baby-making line now, it will never happen and that would kill me. Kill me. Kill me dead.

I had a dream the other day where I dreamt that I missed the boat. That I was past the age where I could bear children and I was surrounded by my ex-friend R and her children and her friends with their children. I remember standing there, with this terrible ache, the gut-deep certainty that I’d fucked up somehow and I was paying for it.

I woke up, terrified, shocked down to my toes at the visceral grief coiling in my stomach.

Because it’s true. The idea of motherhood scares the shit out of me and yet.

I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. I’m not known for having the most patience and I don’t suffer fools. I’m afraid that I’ll snap at the wrong time, do the wrong thing, and the next thing I know I’m paying $500/hr for therapy for my kids.

I’m afraid that will mean the end of my attempt at building a writer career for the next ten or so years. At least. I want to write. I want to take a stab at actually making this work. I find it hard to work with distractions at the best of times. Having a baby… oh man.

I don’t have a huge amount of energy, (yes, logical reason #100000 why babies now is a terrible idea, thanks), and I can’t imagine being a newborn’s caretaker without also imagining the absolute hell it must be.

Boundaries. I am shit at boundaries. I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge. I try to anticipate needs. I’m the hostess who is always refilling glasses, popping up to throw just one more thing into the oven, making sure everyone’s full and are they sure they don’t want more dessert. I’m supposed to be building boundaries and walls and stuff to keep myself sane and safe and having a baby is by definition tearing all of that down.

I’m a shut-in introvert. I am all too happy to hang out with people online and just do my own thing. I cannot begin to anticipate what it would be like to be on-call 24/7 to someone who you can’t even really logic with for the first four years. …oh yeah, wait, I kinda did that at my old job and it sucked balls and even then I had some buffer space.

But oh god I want the option.

Disturbing trend lately: I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of breeding romantica and I’ve been disgruntled when heroes and heroines in a romance aren’t down to have babies.

*facedesk*

Everything is complicated by the writing and wanting to write.

I need quiet and I need space and I need to be able to think within myself.

If I don’t choose writing, I cannot know right now if I would regret the lack of a child more at the end of my life or the lack of my stories and that’s where the real struggle is.

There was the thought of waiting for the children to be grown up enough. Just maybe eight years. But I know a lot can happen in eight or ten years. There might not be that expanse of time I’m expecting. And if there isn’t. If there is only today and maybe tomorrow, then what do I want?

For now, I want the writing.

The clock is ticking, ever louder, ever closer, and it’s driving me slightly mad.

In the end, I’ve made the decision not to make the choice.

I don’t even have a boyfriend right now.

If I do find someone, who knows if it will work out?

If it does work out, who knows if they’ll want children?

If they do, with PCOS and assorted issues, who knows if I’ll even be able to to have children?

…so.

I need to work on my health first.

Then my boundaries and my self.

Then my work.

And if I meet someone, I do. If it works out, I do. If he’s down to fuck for babies, I do. If I manage to get pregnant, I do.

Otherwise, I suppose I don’t.

I say that, but it’s still so nebulous as a decision that it might as well not be one. Iddt said once that it seemed ridiculously fatalistic over something so big.

But it’s the best I can do and the best I can offer myself, such as it is. I can’t live life ever hoping that all the stars will align and a chimera will bound out of the forest and all will be well. I’d rather save myself. Or as much of myself as I can with what tools I have. And right now the writing is more important than babying.

And in the end, I suppose that’s all I can really ask of myself.

 

Writing the Other – be wary but do not fear

Yesterday, I rage tweeted. Yet another author I liked wrote Asian characters in such a way as to make me want to spork myself.

Today, someone mentioned feeling twitchy about writing POC characters and I decided to get out my soap box.

First, the reason behind the rage tweeting:

It wasn’t anything particularly egregious.

It was just …literally …evil Chinese dragon shifter lady who tries to invade hero’s territory and killed indiscriminately and her kinsman who didn’t understand the concept of “asking” permission to settle somewhere before burning everything to the ground. Asking, was apparently something completely foreign to these dragon shifters.

*sigh*

What’s the big deal, Katje? I mean, the villains must be played by someone, right? It’s nothing personal.

No, it’s nothing personal — and that’s perhaps the problem.

I’ve read more than 1400 books in 2015. I know this because I’ve bought 1350 books in 2015 and that’s not counting the KU books I’ve read.

I’ve sighted Asian characters maybe ten, eleven times in more than 1400 books and I can tell you precisely the roles these characters had.

  1. fragile, demure, meek types who are seemingly just there to show off how much more capable the heroine is
  2. the nerdy goody two shoes girl-next-door-except-not-really-because-she-never-gets-a-guy sidekick
  3. the evil dragon lady who is either a murderous villain or a femme-fatale who aids the main mastermind
  4. the tiny twig-like bitch-whore other woman who just can’t get the message that the hero is taken
  5. the crazy mastermind who clearly didn’t get enough maternal love as a kid and who is just balls to the walls insane

Yeah.

No, it’s not personal, but maybe it ought to be.

I read paranormal and fantasy, guys. When entire worlds are populated with white shifters and white vampires and all things melanin-challenged, I think we have a slight problem.

The question I ask is: are you guys really going to tell me, with a straight face, that it’s easier for you to write about mythological creatures than brown people?

If so, the implication is that authors who can’t or won’t write non-white characters do so because they factually find it harder to identify with brown people than demons/shifters/angels.

Awesome. It really is personal, or should be. Any one who makes a living off their imagination who claim that should probably go out and try to experience something different. Find a friend. Ask Google for help. Ask Twitter for help. Find a crit partner who has first-hand experience/knowledge. This isn’t that hard. It really isn’t. Some of you come up with entire worlds/cultures/languages – please don’t tell me that trying to write a brown person is more involved than that.

Yes, there’s a bit more to “lose” and I’ll get back to that later, for but for now, in short:

Honestly, at this point, for me the bar for writing Asian women is set very, very low: don’t write an Asian character that fits those 5 roles and you’re mostly good.

Try thinking of us as actual people with actual feelings and a legit backstory and history and I think you’re mostly there.

About things to lose. Like respect and so forth. Someone mentioned appropriation. I’ve thought about appropriation. It’s a tricksy thing, yes, but the thing is, no one can really truly hit the nail on the head. I’ve explored how someone who identifies as Asian can write a story that makes me cringe (but wasn’t wrong) and how someone who doesn’t identify as Asian can write an Asian-descent character that is so spot on it hurt my heart, and how someone else did something and it flopped for me (but it wasn’t wrong).

You’re not going to write anything that will make everyone happy. This is fact. If you write a brown character, someone will tell you that you did it wrong. Someone might complain they’re brown in the first place. But the thing to remember is – I’ve written a Chinese person who is me and I’ve had people tell me that such a person doesn’t exist.

Well, I do.

The thing is:

A lot of it doesn’t actually matter. Much like a lie, the construct of a character only really becomes unbelievable when you start throwing in extraneous, stupid details that make the reader sit up and pay attention.

Contrary to what people might think, the world of Phoenix Chosen isn’t particularly historically accurate and nor is it supposed to be. I’ve mixed elements of wish and fact and history and extrapolation and a lot of my own feels about ancient China into Estyria’s experience. Once I leave the capital and go to the grasslands, I’ll be relying on more feels, wiki, what I’ve seen and read in textbooks, and be mixing accordingly.

So I’m not doing it “right” either, for a given definition of right and wrong.

I’m a fantasy writer – not a historical fiction writer. If I really wanted to be historically accurate, I wouldn’t be writing magic into everything in the first place.

What matters is the attitude brought to the table – are you genuinely interested in this culture, this area of the world, and are you interested in how that land and the history and everything about it shapes the characters and how they interact with the world?

Are you doing research, making your own feels, creating a world, rather than simply taking a white world and throwing in some Asian for flavor? (Yes, Firefly, I’m looking straaaaight at you.)

Are your characters actually products of the rich and varied and conflicted culture/history, or are they just Americans who use funny language? (the number of historicals/regencies I’ve read where the heroine is clearly a product of my time is boggling)

The thing is, it’s not supposed to be intimidating. I’m not saying go forth and do ten million hours of research before you sit down and create your character.

If you’re sufficiently interested in the world, that research will happen organically, without pain. If you live and breathe your character as a part of you, then their development should also occur painlessly.

It boils down to true interest or no. So long as you’re sincere, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Authors who actually enjoy the vagaries of polite Society in Regency England will get the details right. Others who dabble won’t. Fill in the blank other culture is much the same.

And no, you won’t get everything right, but it doesn’t matter. This isn’t rocket science. (and the next book/time will come easier, I promise)

Also, as I’ve said before, some times it’s not about getting it right or perfect (both things being mostly impossible), but it’s about throwing more fish in the barren sea. Right now there isn’t enough fish, so it’s more likely that any one interpretation of something will rub someone the wrong way. When I see six mentions of Asian women in any given year through normal reading and not cherry-picking for POC heroines, the problematic bits stand out more. Whereas, if there were a thousand different portrayals of Asian women, I’m not going to notice/whine about the irritating stereotypical ones as much.

TL;DR: don’t worry. be happy. write the brown characters you want to write if you want to write ‘em. and if you don’t want to write ‘em, I really want to know why not.

 

 

 

 

Goddess in Waiting and an update on KU, etc

Oh yeah, baby, I’m done.

*flops*

End word count is 39,600. Very neat. Nice. I do like my round numbers.

I ended up deleting two chapters that turned out to be redundant, adding a chapter, doing some more edits, and boom. Off to my readers/editor. Only took about four months or so. (there’s a note from me to my reader asking about her thoughts on the alpha draft around Aug. 19th)

So what now?

I’m not sure yet. There’s still the Winter Solstice snippets I was thinking about doing, which might be fun for some down-time writing while I figure out the next long project. I also figured out the re-telling of the Three Little Pigs that I was going to do, so that might be fun too.

Spoilers: it’s going to be in three difference perspectives, sequential shorts linked together rather than having the third sister as an MC throughout like I originally planned and it’s not going to be romance-y. So there’s that. It’ll be interesting to see if I keep to the no-romance thought because I haven’t yet written anything that doesn’t have a romance, so we’ll see.

Girding my loins and sucking up the idea that I’m just going to have to rewrite Phoenix book two from scratch for the…um, third or fourth time. Woo. Fourth, I’m pretty sure. Or is it fifth because the one I’m scrapping is the fourth? Ah well. Guess it really doesn’t matter at this point…

Ah. And KU.

My books are going to be temporarily off KU while I sort things out as to what would be better going forward.

It’s complicated because there were some months where I wouldn’t have made any money except for KU borrows. And I don’t have a large backlist or an extended series at the moment, so getting what I get while the getting’s good is a valid way to play the game. Drew tarot cards asking and it was Ten of Pentacles for keeping them on KU and The Tower for taking them off. Can’t really decide if The Tower is going to end in happy happy fun fun or not, so…

On the other hand, I was recently informed that someone wanted to buy my book but couldn’t because it was only available on Amazon. I keep being stupidly US-centric and forgetting that the mighty Amazon isn’t accessible for everyone. Bad me.

And on one foot, if I kept at KU, I’d have to rethink my Patreon account because currently I have both Ariagne and Phoenix Chosen up for my patrons (of any amount of patronage) and that would violate the exclusivity TOS that Amazon insists on. For that matter, even giving out review copies is apparently a violation.

Lastly, on the other foot, I’ve been told that Amazon buyers are apparently gaining a reputation for not giving out reviews whereas buyers on other platforms do. So there’s that.

…much pondering to be done.

 

 

Danger zone friend zone: when you think you’re a nice guy

I keep hearing people say “nice guys finish last” as if it were some sort of tragedy, some inexplicable idiosyncrasy of human (female?) nature, and it baffles me.

Well, for one thing it’s not actually true. Nice guys do just fine in the marital stakes. But let’s talk about perceived niceness versus genuine goodness and what that actually means.

Whenever someone says: “Oh, X is such a nice person”, I sit up and take notice. Not in a good way, mind. If further probing “how so?” yields a more concrete answer like “he’s very considerate” or “her integrity is impeccable”, then never mind. Otherwise, the alarms go off.

The problem with “nice” as a descriptor is that it’s 99.99% used when the person speaking can’t come up with a better adjective.

It’s a passing grade, a low D- rather than an A, but so many people brandish their niceness about with the entitled expectation of joy and happiness as a result of being called “nice”. It’s more of “I can’t think of anything objectionable about this person” rather than “this person is simply amazing”.

Then there are those who treat “nice” as a benchmark for behavior when it’s really the lowest common denominator, made worse by the fact that there are those who tick things off on their list of “nice person behaviour” without really pausing to think about the required empathy behind the gestures rather than the actions.

I’ve met a lot of self-termed nice guys and I just have to point out: any man who uses the term friend zone is automatically not truly a nice guy in the sense of genuine goodness.

When I say that on Quora, that gets a lot of indignant yelps.

Friend zone complaints:

I keep seeing “how do I get out of the friend zone” and the question often implies (malicious?) deliberation on a woman’s part to keep a man on a leash for favors while withholding sex, but all that could change if you just entered the right cheat code (sufficient application of …something?) and the guy is asking for hints as to said cheat code.

  • if you’re my friend, I do not actually owe you sex for nice things you do for me. Look up general reciprocity in friendships. If you don’t understand that friends do nice things for each other and you treat a “might have sex with me” friend differently from a “normal friend”, then you’re not actually a nice guy.
  • if there’s no chemistry, no amount of nice things you do for me is going to change that. Assuming that there’s a cheat code somewhere that will change your experience into god-mode is insulting on multiple levels: I’m not a whore. I do know my own mind and my preferences. If you can’t manage to respect a woman’s agency and the right to her decisions about who to have sex with, you’re not a nice guy.
  • complaining about how I’m lacking as a friend because I haven’t put out when you’ve been so nice to me is terribly objectifying and insulting and hurtful. If you don’t value me as a friend for my conversation and brain and spirit and other things I do for my friends and you’re just hanging around lying to me in case I might have sex with you – you’re in fact not a good person.

She only sees me as a “nice guy” and put me in the friend zone; how do I make her see me as someone she could date?

  • have you asked?
  • no, sorry, being nice is the lowest standard there is. You don’t get whatever you want just for being nice. Entitlement isn’t nice.
  • if you’ve asked and she said no, then respect the woman’s choice.
  • she didn’t “put” you in the friend zone. You did that yourself by offering yourself up as a friend. If you were upfront and said “it’s dating or nothing, baby”, then stick to it and get the hell out of her life. Take some responsibility for your life.
  • if you genuinely think she’s a user – then get some self-respect and GTFO. Otherwise, don’t whine about it.

Let’s talk about nice guys versus bad boys. Nice guys finish last; girls always go for the bad boys – that trope gets a shit ton of play all over and it’s beyond passe. All right. Maybe girls go for bad boys, but most women don’t.

I like a man who knows what he wants and is unapologetic about it.

I like a man who is direct, who doesn’t wiffle-waffle over something as ridiculously banal as what’s for dinner.

I like a man who is competent and who is confident in his capabilities.

I like a man who knows his goals and how to achieve them.

I like a man who has leadership capabilities and the ability to fix things if they go wrong.

I like a man who is self-aware and who is straightforward about his desires and his needs.

I like a man who is man enough to do emotional labor and take pride in it.

I like a man who has a life and hobbies of his own and doesn’t need anyone to complete him as a person.

None of that translates to “I want an alpha-hole man-whore player who will run roughshod over all of my sensibilities”. (what some of these dating sites seem to imply)

For that matter, substitute “woman” for “man” and “he” for “she” and you have a list of attributes I like in my friends.

This isn’t that difficult, people.

If the best thing anyone can say about you is “nice” rather than any of the descriptors I’ve used above… do you see the problem now?

 

The allure of billionaires, in terms of spoonwork

As a reader and writer of romance, it’s interesting to watch the millionaire romance novel trend. Oops, billionaires now, sorry, because inflation.

(never mind that Thene has assured me that inflation hasn’t really been an issue in  recent ever)

One iteration of the rich-man-swoops-in story that’s been very interesting lately is the prevalence of the “I can’t do it on my own and you’re the only person who can save me” narrative.

There’s the waif who just graduated with some (often stereotypically useless) degree, who has student loans out the wazoo, and who has problem keeping herself alive and making rent. Suddenly, the rich man deus ex machinas into her life and he falls in complete and utter devotion to her despite the reader’s bemusement.

The mind-boggling aspects:

This woman has no friends. Like, none. She shares her apartment with no one (no wonder she can’t make rent) and there’s no one who could possibly bail her out, float her some rent, or heavens forbid, allow her to crash on their couch for a while. Of course, my take on it is: don’t trust a person who has no friends. There’s usually a reason for it and you should run away. Fast.

This woman often doesn’t have the slightest clue as to how to survive. I’ll forgive the ridiculous degree (women’s studies, anyone?) and massive student loans because that’s just how the two thousands have gone. However, why isn’t this woman temping? Why isn’t she working as a barista? Why is she clinging onto this idea that she’s going to be able to use her degree in a job that will pay the bills long past the time when she should have woken up and smelled the shit sandwich she made for herself? For that matter, why do all these heroines live alone? I lived in a house with six other people to keep expenses down at one point and I have never lived along in an apartment in my life for financial purposes. And the ten million dollar question is why is this billionaire who is supposedly really intelligent and competent attracted to this woman who is apparently failing at life?

Seriously. Suspension of disbelief just doesn’t work. And I’m not saying this from an elitist snob standpoint. Look at who Mark Zuckerberg married. Look at who Steve Jobs married. Look at Melinda Gates.

Honestly, guys. I know this is escapist fun, but really? This sort of Cinderella narrative is actually damaging because even the Disney princess had friends. Sheesh. Stop furthering the notion that women don’t have or need friends and can be perfectly happy and fulfilled with only her beloved rich hubby as a companion for life.

But let’s not talk about the women anymore. Let’s talk about the m/billionaires and the damaging narratives there.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the men simply outsource almost all of their spoonwork. Other than amazing sex with a zillion orgasms per night with their hugely awesome cocks, that is.

Need a gift? Throw diamonds and shiny shit at the love object. No need to think too hard when diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right?

There’s always a maid and/or chauffeur, so no worries ever about who leaves the dirty dishes in the sink or fights over why you don’t care enough to take me to the doctor’s office.

There’s room service or a housekeeper who makes the most amazing food.

The little woman needs to get dressed? Personal shoppers to the rescue! You never have to go along on a shopping trip (unless it’s for lingerie) because you hired someone to do the gruntwork of finding the nice things and then sitting through the trying-on torture.

Anything broken? Money will fix it! Even if/especially if you broke it in a fit of a rage. Appliances never dare to break down around you, but if they do, then there will always be some 24/7 person you can call to make the issue go away. In fact, why even bother with appliances? Just buy new clothing for every day or send it out to be washed professionally. You can afford it, after all.

Need to travel? Private jet with showers all the way, baby. No need to worry about travel stress or setting up a comfortable itinerary or being a considerate travel companion when you can just spend all your time in the air having sex.

….

Right.

If you read carefully between the lines of what’s going on, there’s almost no thought to the m/billionaire’s supposed devotion. He snaps and things that the heroine needs just happen.

This is especially interesting when one considers the studies that say men still don’t do equal amounts of housework in the home (but they think they do!) and that women are still expected to take on more childcare responsibilities (to the point where house-daddies are kinda sneered at and more than one father was accused of being a weirdo perv when sitting at the playground watching their kids).

The questions I’m left with:

  • why are we (many of us female) romance authors perpetuating the myth that women do not have or need friends? For that matter, what the flying fuck is up with the “I have no female friends, but I have a gay bestie who serves as my maid”? That’s just not right, guys.
  • are we indirectly perpetuating harmful social expectations and cultural mores by these narratives where the solution to men not doing enough emotional labor is to simply marry someone who can afford to outsource all of it?
  • now that we’ve bravely moved into the frontiers of romance where m-preg is a thing, can the daddies who do primary child-care please stand up and step out? If not, why the fuck not?
  • is the allure of poly relationships partially a female response to lack of male emotional labor? In that “welp, if I’m fucking three guys, surely ONE of them will do the dishes and cook dinner” sense? And if so, guys, maybe the solution is to write heroes who do the fucking spoonwork and heroines who refuse to deal with a guy who doesn’t put out.
  • when so many conflicts center around “there’s this bitch who’s after my man and refuses to take no for an answer”, coupled with the heroines have no friends narrative — what are we actually perpetuating here? The myth of scarcity and “all women are in competition with each other” is simple bullshit. Again, isn’t the solution to change things so that more men are good catches rather than trying to kill each other for the few men who somehow grew up being taught about spoonwork?

So okay, I hear y’all who are screaming “it’s just escapist fun! why so serious?!”, but I can’t agree. Not anymore.

And in fact, you can’t scream “I’m just writing/reading what I like and it doesn’t matter” and complain about romance novels being derided as bodice rippers and soul-rotting brain candy at the same time.

More than one scholar has posited that if you track romance novels tropes and themes, you will also track shifts in cultural expectations and social mores. We have come a long way from pro-pseudo-rape masquerading as love and there’s no reason to stop now. Writers and readers have always been at the forefront of change; now is not the time to drop the ball.

Write the world you want, sure, but how mindful (and effective?) a writer will you be if you don’t question the impetus behind the drive and tease things to its logical conclusion?

 

 

 

News, projections and so forth

Goddess is four chapters away from first-pass edits. I expect that I will be done before the end of December 2015. Depending on various schedules, I’m hoping for a release sometime around my birthday in February. It’s later than I would like as I’d been dreaming of being able to push Goddess out the door before the end of 2015. Oh well!

Of course, hopes will be hopes. Goddess started out at 28,677 words at the beginning of edits and it’s now sitting at 39,430. I’ve been saying “only four more chapters to go” for the last week and adding on words as fast as I can type ‘em all the while. As it is, at least two more chapters will be inserted into the next four and my readers might come back with requests for more clarification.

It’s the holiday season, so everyone’s short on time, but we’ll see.

There’s a deluge of X’mas themed stories around and I’m toying with the idea of writing something short and sweet for the season. Of course, it’d probably be winter solstice rather than X’mas as I really don’t think Estyria and Seth and Aedrian would be celebrating X’mas per se. Yule for Aedrian, perhaps, but mostly Winter Solstice and Lunar New Year for Estyria and Seth.

If I went with Ariagne and Aidoneus, it should also be Winter Solstice, but different. It’s interesting to think of how our traditions might change when we encounter alien civilizations and the brute force of Time. How would a dryad celebrate a winter holiday? Would they even, or is it hibernation time? Certainly no chopping down and decorating of trees, much less the burning of the Yule log. As for Aidoneus, what does he believe in? I’m not sure, actually, so teasing it out might be a fun exercise. And they are on an ice planet now, one with a sentience all its own and bound to it — so how does that affect things?

I’m uncertain about what’s next after Goddess. Common sense and that niggling little voice of “you started a series; finish it!” tell me it should be Phoenix book two, but we’ll see.

Depending on edits and interest, I might do an anthology for low-hanging fruit purposes before/during Phoenix 2.

Ariagne used to be an experiment where I interspersed the sci-fi re-telling of Persephone with a more traditional mythological-esque re-telling. I would write one chapter in myth form and then continue the story in the sci-fi setting and so forth. It was an interesting experiment, but it didn’t work as well as I wanted to, so there’s about four or five chapters of the myth re-telling sobbing in a corner somewhere. I’m thinking about collecting what I do have, sorting it out, and including it in the anthology along with some other shorts I have.

The only reservation I have is that some of the shorts, being older work, might not be able to be cleaned up to my current level of joy without essentially taking the premise and writing a whole new story. And if I’m going to write a whole new story out of an established idea at this point, it’s going to be Awoken. We’ll see.

Yeah, I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I? Unfortunately, what 2015 taught me is essentially that. We’ll see.

Another thing on the docket is to publish the short sexy pieces I wrote for writing calls. However, I won’t be publishing them under Ekaterine Xia. They’ll be under another pen name since I really don’t want to explain to my family anything involving the sexy I write. Bad enough Chosen involves two men… not that any of my family members who asked for copies have actually read it through and talked to me about what the fuck Katje! or anything, so hey. Reason #2 of why I’m in no hurry to translate my work into Chinese…

In short, tentative plans for 2016:

Goddess

Winter Solstice/Lunar New Year snippets

Two ~ three sexy shorts: Cavalier’s Queen, More than Human (cyborg), Hunted

Possible anthology: Mnemosyne and the corresponding male POV, Silenced, the gargoyle stories, Daughter of the Alpha and Beta, Ariagne myth version

Awoken

~*~*~

Stretch goals:

Iridescent

Seven Swans re-telling

Three Little Pigs re-telling

So that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll probably do up another post in the new year where I look at how much actual work is going to have to go into the stories and see if I still think this is doable.

 

 

 

 

Happy mandatory-family-friend-hanging-out time!

Be it Hanukkah or X’mas or Bodhi Day or The Day of the Return of the Wandering Goddess (awesome sounding, btw), or Kwanza or Omisoka or Saturnalia or the Winter Solstice — I wish everyone the best one.

That said. Good lords and ladies, I’m happy to be in Taiwan: the holiday mania hasn’t really gotten in full swing here yet and I’m grateful. Having spent the last decade or so in America, the difference is startling.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the holiday whirl as much as the next introvert does. Which is to say, with great joy and great trepidation and much reservation. I enjoyed going the whole hog in the past: hosting T-day dinner for fourteen, the staying up for X’mas eve, the drunken revelry, the gift-giving on X’mas morning, and X’mas morning brunch and so forth.

This year, however, I’m just grateful that it wasn’t expected or required or even necessarily appropriate. I’m sure there’s plenty of Taiwanese people and American ex-pats here who do celebrate the gamut of jollification starting from slightly before Halloween to as long as Valentine’s day or even Easter, but it’s not a thing. Thank the gods.

This year has been one of much change, forced self-reflection, and navel-gazing. It’s been a privilege to be able to retreat these past few months and watch the emotions precipitate out.

I’ve come to realize how much the endless social whirl can obscure the heart’s desire and I’ve badly needed the time to try and regain equilibrium and erect the necessary boundaries that I’ve apparently neglected for nearly three decades.

So I celebrated Winter Solstice this year by staying at home, listening to my body and its needs, reading, writing, and reveling in the freedom to do so. I missed having easy access to candles, incense, and the other tools of the trade, but in the end, it was just fine the way it settled out.

If I could give a gift, it would be that of the courage to choose whatever is best for you in the holiday season. It takes bravery to say no, especially at this time, and so I offer the whisper of “courage! take heart!” to all those who need it. Be it choosing to go to a party despite a grouchy partner or refusing to be shamed into passing up that second slice of pie or saying no, thank you to an all-nighter or declining that fourth flute of champagne.

It’ll be a new year in less than a week and may we all move forward into it with grace and joy.

What’s in a name?

In which we talk about identifiers, race, magic, will shaping energy shaping matter shaping will (you mean, like magic?), goalposts that don’t stay put, and all that good stuff.

Or, in short, boundaries.

It’s interesting how almost everything in my life lately can boil down to that one thing: boundaries.

I’ve changed my English name a couple of times in my life.

I went by Jennifer at one point. Jenny for short for slightly longer than that. Then Tina during my middle-school-high-school phase, then Ting in college.

Jennifer, if I remember correctly, was because I identified so deeply with a character in a book I read that I insisted on being called that. I don’t remember which Jennifer from which book, which is a complete tragedy, but I seem to recall her being smart, kind, and very brave.

I was never terribly fond of the name itself though, oddly. Now, Jennifer feels a bit too stiff, a bit too proper, a bit too ruled for my taste. When I think of a Jennifer, I think of a blonde, blue eyed girl with good grades and long hair in a prep school uniform.

I went by Tina when I moved to China because it was similar to my Chinese given name, but it never really clicked either. It was always a sort of placeholder, something for people to call me while I had no idea who I really was and who I was growing into. It was a name chosen hastily, without thought, because I’d been going by my Chinese name for three years prior. Tina feels outspoken, maybe a bit brash, and not in the least bit shy. She also feels a bit truncated, perhaps hiding parts of her personality, perhaps hiding from the world.

When I applied to college, I tried to go by Leria. I’m not sure where I found this name and why. Maybe from Laria, which can apparently mean “the stars are mine”, except I’ve always been more fond of e than a.

Who knows at this point? (reasons to keep a diary #1999992)

Leria failed miserably.

Tamutenda, one of my first friends in college, flatly refused to call me by Leria: “Your mother didn’t name you that.”

I tried to point out that my mother certainly never named me whatever their pronunciation of Ting-Jung was either, but that didn’t fly.

I continued to try to insist and continued to fail. Probably because I kept answering to Ting. (here’s a note for why boundaries are important)

Things came to a head when E, my best female friend at the time, said that she couldn’t possibly call me Leria because it was too close to Laria, which was the name of her brother’s girlfriend and I gave up. Or did I give up because my boyfriend was also supremely not-on-board with the idea?

Who knows for sure at this point?

Slight tangent: I wonder why it’s completely “acceptable” to make fun of Asian names into adulthood when it’s not quite the done thing for “normal” names? (the answer probably has everything to do with racism)

Now, many years from college-freshman-me, I wonder how much of their objection was rooted in racially charged anxieties?

The distaste for what could be perceived as self-erasure by taking on a “Western” name, perhaps? Disdain for someone “taking the easy way out” or “succumbing to Westernization” or “bowing to the man”? (we’ll talk appropriation/assimilation/borrowing later)

The sense of encroachment? These names are okay for you immigrants to use; those are not? These names are okay for white people, but not for you?

Thene was surprised at one point at my desire to take on an English name and my preference for Chinese people who maneuver globally to take an English name. She mentioned a friend of hers talking about how his family member was forcibly re-named by the authorities when he immigrated.

E expressed her “surprise” and “found it funny” when she heard that her cousin had met a Taiwanese girl who called herself Giselle. When prompted as to why that was worthy of surprise and discomfort, she said that it didn’t feel like an appropriate choice for an Asian girl.

I didn’t argue with my friends because what I didn’t truly realize back then was that names are important.

More than one school of thought and magic has posited that when you name a thing, you have control over it, that you can either bring it into being, bind it, or banish it.

When a Chinese child is born, oftentimes the natal chart is drawn and consulted (Asian natal chart, btw, which measures out the weight of your bones to tally your fortune in life), and a name is chosen based on the elements of the words (gold, fire, water, earth, wood) to complement or balance out the elements of the child. Number of brush strokes to form the words are also important, because magic. The meaning of the words matter, as well as whether a word is seen as feminine or masculine. Dragon, for example, although acceptable for my name according to number of brush strokes, is considered way too masculine for a girl’s name. Way way way way way too masculine.

All of this is weighed and considered because we believe that to name a child is to shape a child, that a name will influence the child’s fortune and destiny.

Superstition and folklore and cultural belief aside, names are important because what a person names you defines their perception of your worth.

Names are important because it is your choice what you wish to be, your choice what reverberations you wish to send out into the world to herald your presence, your choice what messages are sent when a person calls for you.

When I returned to Taiwan, I decided to change my Chinese name after being called by it for a while. The name I was given didn’t suit me or my goals anymore and I didn’t like how it was written and it just bothered me.

My parents were supportive while I ran through word options and consulted a natal chart reader and wavered back and forth on which elements I truly needed versus wanted and the whole show. It helps, I’m sure, that about half of my family changed their names when I was in high school and almost all of my cousins have done it at some point.

Their willingness to allow me that choice, that expression of self and need and desire woke me to another facet of love and boundaries.

That isn’t me. That isn’t who I want to be. This is what I want to be called now. This is what you will call me because it is my choice.

It is my choice, not yours.

So no. I reject your perception that x and y and z aren’t names for Asian girls. I reject your unwillingness to respect my choice about what I’m called. I reject your thoughts on what is desirable for me and what paradigm of immigrant culture purity you think I should adhere to. I reject the baggage of those who came before me even if I acknowledge their back-breaking tragedy. I reject the boxing up of myself into politically correct, culturally desirable, easy to chew, digestible candy bits.

I like the name Aikaterine, although I’ll probably choose something more like Katheryn or Kathryn if I ever get around to legally changing my name in the US. (difficult to do all that when not in the US)

There’s a whole slew of variations that I’m happy to be called by and I figure anyone who has an opinion (or an asshole) can pick a variation and run with it.

That’s the extent of freedom I’m willing to allow others in what to call me.

Aikia. Katsiaryna. Katerina. Kata. Katka. Katje. Katri. Kaja. Kaitrin. Kathe. Kait. Katre. Katia. Kasia. Kaisa. Katika.

Pick one. Deal with it.

I’m not answering to Ting anymore.

Because that’s not me. It’s never been me.

Call me torture (like Thene) if you must have something that begins with a T.