What Kind of Book is it?

The kind that you shut the heck up and read.

Yep. That’s whabookst I wish I could reply. You’d think after the number of times I’ve been asked this question I would have a recited response, but I don’t. In the writer/publishing word, we call this genre. But, frankly, I call it human beings’ asinine tendency to classify every last iota of their life into nice neat little boxes.

I’m sorry. My soul does not fit in a singular box.

Okay, I know that’s pretentious of me, but I’m just tellin’ ya how I feel, keepin’ it real. Ya know? And I understand why people like books to be classified. (That doesn’t mean I have to like it.) After all, you read a fiction book to be entertained–usually. And apparently people gravitate toward certain genres. I, for instance, have never liked detective stories or heavy romance. The problem is I didn’t WRITE the book to entertain you. I didn’t look through Bowker’s publishing statistics to discover which genre niche wasn’t full enough. I just had an idea so I wrote about it because I wanted to explore it. So there is a conflict of interest that goes on between writer and reader when it comes to classifications–at least for me.

I don’t know if there is a way to overcome this problem except to become a really really famous writer, and then when my publicist asks me what my next novel’s genre is, I can tell them to kiss off. Everyone will read my stuff so nobody cares what genre it is.

Okay. Let me step off my indignant writer soapbox and answer the bloody question as accurately as I can.

The biggest problem I face for classifying the Colorworld series is that it does not consistently fall within a genre. Some installments will fall more on the romance side (maybe paranormal romance considering the characters’ abilities), others more on the fantasy side. Maybe some would call it more sci-fi. The first book has been called a thriller of sorts by certain readers and a romance by others. Some books are/will be faster paced than others. Later books in the series will fall into an entirely different popular genre (which I won’t reveal here).

You see my problem/frustration? I’d like to think this series is different than any others for this reason. It covers a person’s life, Wendy, and events that shape her. The series is deeply character-driven even though lots of things happen around and to Wendy that I’ve loved developing/describing/exploring. She is not merely the tool I use to talk about an interesting fantastical aspect I dreamt up. Wendy came first; the plot came second. It has and it always will.

Wendy encounters romance (which in my opinion cannot maintain interest in a series this long if it is merely subtext), fantastical events, philosophical questions, action, mysteries, and tragedy.

So what kind of book is it?

It’s a story about a girl and the many different things that happen to her that help her realize who she is.

It’s a story about a person.

It’s a story about a human.

I heard this song recently. It’s the reason I wrote this post as I’ve been pondering the “what kind of book is it?” question so much. A lightning bolt hit me when I heard it because it was like it answered the question not just for me, but to me. I’m driven a lot by music when I’m writing, but I thought, in my whimsical writerly way, that it’s got Wendy written all over it. It’s absolutely beautiful and vulnerable and just perfect. If I could classify this series through one song, this would be it. It answers the question better in a 4 minute song, and in far fewer words than I could possibly say.

Teleworld is LIVE!

Book2_ebook_finalTeleworld, book #2 of the Colorworld series,  is now available, and I am THRILLED for you to read it. To purchase, for your kindle or kindle app, click HERE. If you are the traditional type, and paper gives you a thrill, you can also

GET IT IN PRINT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book_coverAND, if you are behind the times, and you need to catch up before reading the latest, click HERE to get your copy of Colorworld, the first book in the series.

Book 2! It’s almost here!

Book2_ebook_final

 

Eeek! Book 2 is juuuuust about here. Here is the cover… It’s a bit darker, no? That’s fitting. Book 2 is definitely a bit of that.

Want to know what’s inside? You’ll have to wait for the release on April 18th to have all your questions answered, (ie, buy the book), but I CAN give you the book description if you’ll click here. And in a few days I will post an excerpt from book 2. Yay! I can’t wait for you to read it!

Colorworld Backstage: The Making of the Villian

She’s kind of a dissatisfying villian, isn’t she?

After writing her for a few books, I still battle with a slight sense of aggravation as to how she turned out. She is a woman whose story never got fully told. She has a life that has never been fully lived. She has a personality that she never fully expresses. She has relationships that are never fully explored.

Sometimes I think I did her wrong, as a writer. But when I think about what inspired my villianness to become who she is, I know I did her just right.

Lady Villianness, not to be named so as not to spoil anything for anyone who has not yet read Colorworld, came into her own after I read My Favorite Teacher by Robert Kurson for one of my creative writing classes. It’s a literary journalism piece, and should you venture to read it, beware that it is incredibly graphic and deeply disturbing.

I’ll break it down for you in a few words. It’s told by the former student of a teacher who ended up raping and killing two teenaged boys (classmates of the writer)  for simple curiosity of what it was like. The interesting twist to the story, well, one of them anyway, was that this teacher was loved by all. He was a pleasant man but with no solid or apparent deep relationships with anyone, with a sparse and only slightly unsettling childhood, a mild manner, zero temper, and no history of antisocial behavior prior to his heinous act.

The author weaves in a meticulous cataloguing of the teacher’s acts on that fateful night along with telling his own personal story of how this particular teacher influenced his life. It’s a compelling interwoven contrast of hard-boiled journalistic description and emotional turmoil and confusion.

At the end, you wipe your brow, take a deep breath, and wonder what the bleep you just read.

It’s like that. Unsatisfying. You think to yourself, “There must be more!” You WANT there to be more so you can properly hate this man. You NEED more so you can properly sleep at night without worrying that your perfectly sane-looking neighbors with 2.5 kids and a dog will murder you in your sleep. Because all of a sudden, you have no idea what makes evil.

Does 1+ 4 = evil?

34/18= evil?

1/4+3/7+78^6 = evil?

You need to know so as not to become it. So your kids don’t become it. So you can spot it before it reaches you.

And so you can decide that teacher’s fate with the full knowledge of what made him choose what he did. It would be so much easier to feel right about him if he’d just have been a little more evil outside of that singular time period of utter wickedness. It’d be nice, wouldn’t it, if all evil looked at least a little like this so as to be recognizable:

ursula

But this doesn’t exist with Kurson’s favorite teacher. You don’t know anything anymore and you’re exhausted with trying to wrap your head around what to believe about him.

Lady Villianness has a story, an “explanation” for her evil–if such things can really be explained satisfactorially. Everyone has a story. But I’ve come to believe the pictures we’re given about evil via TV and other media are usually too compartmentalized than what actually exists in reality, that “evil” in reality is far more complex, far more unsatisfying. Usually people we deem “evil” have personalities not fully realized, stories not fully told, relationships that never quite connect. They never quite fit into the world we’ve created to live out our merry black and white little lives in.

I did Lady Villianness right. And because of it, her story, her life, is far sadder because it is an existence never fully realized. She could have but didn’t. She would have been, but wasn’t. She might have been someone we could love. But engaging herself in her own existence–in the existence of others–has eluded her for far too long.

As for evil, it’s an elusive thing. An unarticulated thing. An abstract nothing that gets affixed to acts and people as if it can be separated out like oil and water. But such ideas are manufactured, a farcical security that an oversimplified world creates.

As the Colorworld Series progresses, Wendy learns this, too. And she’ll wish for the days when evil was as simple as Lady Villianness.

18 Books and how they “moved” my writing

I recently concluded reading 18 books. I completed them in about 2 months. I’m that kind of reader, which is why I don’t do it often. Prior to this stint, it had been years since I’d read anything other than nonfiction. That’s one of the things “they” say you should do though as a writer. Read. And while I don’t stick to regular reading as a hard and fast rule, I do understand the benefits. I just simply can’t afford to do it often because fiction is like speed for me. I have a hard time stopping/moderating it. Hence, how I have 4 kids and still managed to fit in 18 books in a 60 day period.

Once I’d finished my 18 books, I got back to editing and writing my own stuff. After a few days I began to be cognizant of how those 18 books had affected my writing.

My scenes started to move more.

That’s what I had learned without acknowledging it. See, I’m a dialogue kind of gal. At least I thought I was. I just want to have my characters converse, and I feel like when you’re having a conversation, you don’t really notice the things around you, so why should I acknowledge them as a writer? But while reading I noticed and appreciated subtle movements in a scene. Like wiping your hands off on your jeans while explaining why you went out to that dark alley by yourself. Like adjusting your shoe before taking off after a bad guy. Like licking your finger while you make a peanut butter sandwich and chat about your new job. Like adjusting the necklace you always wear so the pendant hangs just right because it always ends up off-kilter. Like flexing your calves on the edge of coffee table while you  sit and admit something uncomfortable. Like dropping your cell phone while trying to get it out of your purse and frantically searching for damage WHILE talking to someone.

Funny how we do things like this and rarely notice. Funny how they make such a big difference in bringing the reader into a scene. Sometimes the most insignificant things a character DOES speaks more about who they are and how they feel than saying/describing such things outright.

When a character is DOING something, even the thing no one would ever consciously notice, the scene moves. Moving scenes are alive scenes. The characters involved become… more human. More real.

Teleworld Release

A lot of you waited a LONG time for Colorworld to come out. And here is why:

I didn’t want you to have to wait so long between books!

So guess what? Teleworld is set to be released on Good Friday, April 18th, 2014!

Other than that fantastic piece of news, I’m going to give you a few tidbits about Teleworld. Some things that I get asked regularly that I don’t mind sharing:

1) Kaylen WILL be featured in Teleworld. Heavily.

2) Romantic tragedy. Yep. If you thought Gabe and Wen were done being at odds, you were wrong. You can overlook not being able to touch the love of your life for only so long. The unresolved parts of a relationship are going to surface and crap will hit the fan. Relationships aren’t perfected in a single book, and Colorworld was merely the beginning.

3) Wendy’s past: some things she finally tells Gabe–boy is he surprised; some things Wendy learns about her own past that she never knew. They are about to come to the surface and I daresay all of it will surprise you.

4) More revelatory discoveries about the Colorworld.

5) The cover of Teleworld is just as awesome as Colorworld. It is. Really. And I promise you’ll get a peek at it before the release. News on that will be forthcoming.

Mark your calendar!

Colorworld Backstage: Energy Medicine

What was the idea that originally began Colorworld?

The death-touch, actually. I was intrigued by the idea of someone unable to physically connect with others. My mom, in describing her experiences with nursing/comforting my dad through cancer, made the observation: “Don’t take for granted the impact you can have with a simple touch of the hand.” It stuck with me because I’ve never been much of a hands-on person. I was one of those people that took it for granted. Nevertheless, touching is what I wanted to write about, if only to understand it more to figure out how exactly it plays into human experience.

When/how did energy medicine come into it?

I needed a backstory for how Wendy ended up being unable to touch people. And I like plausibility. As an avid believer in the potential of the human soul, I explored what methods might allow someone to tap into that power. When I came across energy medicine, I knew it was what I was looking for. I became so enthralled with it and its possible implications that I really got into it. It took over the entire story then, but I was happy to let it because it really is an undervalued, under-explored realm that gets a lot of flack for not being scientifically measurable/observable.

What about the colorworld?

Honestly, I wrote the chapter in which Wen first saw the lights of the colorworld while doing energy medicine before I’d ever conceived of the colorworld and before I’d ever read the Zohar. I remember writing that she opened her eyes and was blinded by the light of Gabe’s life force and pausing right after. I sat back and thought, “Whaaaat?” I was confused because it had come out of the blue. And it just seemed so far-fetched and I felt like I was getting carried away. I was trying to write about a girl with a death-touch for goodness sake, not a girl that sees souls.

I kept at it, just to see where it would go. I then wrote the chapter where she gets a really good look at life forces and describes that what she sees is a world of color.  I stopped right there because then I really thought I was letting my comic book-junkie imagination get carried away. So I started color wheelresearching it, trying to figure out what a person might see if they actually did see souls/life forces. I turned to Jewish mysticism, because those rabbis are just so good at asking and attempting to answer impossible questions like that. I came across that passage of the Zohar.

I was literally stunned that I’d already written exactly what I had just found in the Zohar. It was a powerful moment and it was that moment that I knew this story was not really about a death-touch (that was a side-story). This story was about seeing life forces and what that could mean in the grand scheme of things.

The colorworld took over everything after that. And it became the motivating concept behind what I learned would become an entire series.

An offer you CANNOT refuse

Excerpt from Colorworld:

***

“Hmm. The Wiktionary. Is that something on the computer?” Gabriel asks.

“Yeees,” I say tentatively, wondering if he’s joking. “Actually, you use the computer to access it on the Internet. You do know what that is, right?”

He rolls his eyes. “Yes, I know what the Internet is. I just don’t use it much. I don’t like those thinking boxes. What ever happened to paper and ink? The soul of humanity went right out of society as soon as those thinking boxes came onto the scene.”

I laugh. “Thinking box? You are hilarious. How did you manage to get through college without using a computer?”

“By using it as little as possible,” he replies simply. “I like libraries where real people work and you can hold real books. I have quite a collection, actually. None of my possessions are quite as beloved as my books. Nothing beats holding the weight of knowledge tangibly in hand.”

“But a computer puts information at your fingertips instantly. I’d think you’d love that,” I reply, baffled that someone as smart as Gabriel has made it this far in his life by avoiding the Internet. I consider it nearly as essential as breathing.

“What use is all that information if you don’t have to do anything but click a button to get it? How is that satisfying?”

***

print edition frontPrint edition back

Yes, yes. Some of you are committed to your books. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?

Well guess what? Now you can GET COLORWORLD IN PRINT!!

A lot of people have been asking me for autographed copies, and I am so very flattered. Truly. If you are one of these people,  please shoot me an e-mail at:

colorworldbooks (at) gmail (dot) com

I will email you back with instructions on how to get a signed copy in your hands. Just bear in mind that it will be a bit slower since it has to come to me first and then I have to ship it out to you. If you’re just all impatient to read it but still want it signed in due time, you can also just buy your print copy and then mail it to me to sign after you’ve devoured its contents. I can roll either way!

I gotta admit, I’m kind of with Gabe on this one. I got the print edition in my hands and it felt like… real all of a sudden. There is really no comparison to an actual book in your hands.

Now for the offer. And no, you cannot refuse it. If you do, I think I might be a little offended.

My book is FREE for January 14th and 15th! (Pacific time) The DIGITAL version, not the print version.  So go get your copy!

Right now.

Why are you still reading?

GO!

Tale of a Black Ballerina Barbie

“This one,” I say, running my hand over the dark magenta floral print fabric.

I look up at Mom. Two lines of skepticism form between her eyebrows.

My excitement deflates. She doesn’t like it. I look back at the fabric to be sure I really want it. Calico, it says to me. That’s what Laura Ingalls Wilder wore on the prairie. I pictured her in floral print every time I read one of her books. I don’t actually know where I got that idea, but Laura never actually said her dresses weren’t floral print.

“I’m not sure this is right for a prairie dress,” Mom says finally.

“Why not?” My eyes are drawn back to the colorful fabric. I can see myself in it now, standing up on stage and singing all the words to my duet for the Davy Crockett play. Nobody will deny I’m the best-dressed. The rest of the kids are probably just going to throw something together that resembles clothing from the 1800’s. But my mom can sew. We picked out a pattern already. Mom was skeptical about that, too because I’d picked out the most complex prairie dress costume there was. It’s going to have a bonnet and a girdle and a long ruffled skirt.

“I think we need something more muted,” she replies. “How about this one?” She pulls out a length of striped material in brown hues from among a line of cotton prints.

I wrinkle my nose. “Eew. That’s ugly.”

“I thought you wanted to look like a real prairie girl,” Mom remarks as she thumbs through bolts of fabric, pulling out a few and assessing my reaction to them.

“I do.”

“Well they didn’t wear such bright colors.”

I consider it. She’s probably right about that. I look at a few more samples but I’m continually drawn back to the fuchsia material. I have to have it. How else will I stand out on stage? This fabric is me.

“I don’t care,” I tell Mom finally. “You already said I have to wear it as my Halloween costume, too, since it’s going to take so much time to make. So I want to get something I’m going to like.”

“You’re sure?” she says, watching my expression for some sign of backing down.

I nod eagerly, cracking a grin that won’t stay hidden. I don’t like to get too excited. Adults never take kids seriously if they act like whimsical flakes. And I always want to be taken seriously. It’s pretty much all I ever care about. Except for magenta floral print calico. And my duet delivered in the school play while adorned in a prairie dress.

I don’t like to admit I’m still a kid inside sometimes.

I asked for a Ballerina Barbie for Christmas last year. It was embarrassing. At eight years old I decided I was too old for Barbies. But I still loved them and I really wanted Ballerina Barbie. I wanted a Ken doll, too, but I would never, in a million years, admit that. Only little kids liked Barbies. And Ken dolls? If you have one, everyone knows you’re slated to act out romance and pretend weddings. I was too mature for all that nonsense. At least I wished I was. But I still desperately wanted Ballerina Barbie, so I summoned the courage to bring it up to Mom.

When I was done mentioning off-hand how I thought I might like to have a Barbie that was a ballerina for Christmas, my heart was beating wildly and I worried my cheeks had flushed. No way I can pull off asking for a Barbie without looking childish. If I get one though, I think it will be worth it.

In fact, I owned several already, but they were used ones Mom got from somewhere. I’d never had a new Barbie. I played with the ones I had on the top bunk of my bed. By myself. I was too embarrassed to be seen pretending. That’s what little kids did.

Except for my friend, Sarah. She owned a huge collection of Barbies and her imagination was better than mine. When I would spend the night at her house, we pretended. She also owned several Kens. And lots of clothes. And Sarah was never embarrassed to play pretend in front of her brother or her mom or anyone else. And she liked to pretend her Barbies were superheroes. When we were done pretending to be superheroes, we’d watch X-Men cartoons and Sarah would talk about how she wanted to be Rogue. Sarah loved Rogue because she could fly and she could absorb anyone’s powers.

“But you wouldn’t really be able to touch people,” I pointed out. “You’d hurt them.”

“Who cares about that if you can fly and pretty much have any superpower?” she replied.

I wished, like Sarah, I knew exactly what I wanted to be—and what I didn’t want to be.

When Christmas rolled around, I was quietly giddy to see the tell-tale Barbie box shape under the tree. As soon as I pulled the wrapping paper away from one pink corner, my dream was confirmed. I grinned excitedly (But not too excited. I wasn’t a kid after all.).

I yanked the paper off all the way and there is was:

A black Ballerina Barbie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think I must have stared at it for a conspicuous amount of time. But my mom didn’t explain why she’d gotten me a black Barbie doll, and as a twenty-five year-old stuck in an eight year-old body, I wasn’t going to ask. If Mom wasn’t going to offer an explanation, that meant she assumed I would know. But I didn’t know.

I thanked her and tried to adjust my expectations. I was disappointed. That much I knew. Only I knew I shouldn’t be even though I couldn’t articulate why.

She’s a girl, just like you, I told myself. She has pretty, dark hair. A new outfit, just like you wanted. The only difference between this Barbie and the one I’d snuck a peek at in the store months ago was that this one had brown skin.

I opened Black Barbie later when no one was around. I turned her over in my hands, trying to figure out how to fit my imagination into her skin. I had daydreamed all the ways I would play pretend with my new Ballerina Barbie prior to that day, but in my head she was always white. My Barbies always behaved like the real me—the one I didn’t want to admit being. They were me. But I was not black. What was the black version of me?

On opening day of Davy Crockett, I don my fuchsia dress and matching bonnet proudly. When I show up at the school, my teacher oohs and ahhs over me.

“Where did you find such a pretty dress?” she asks.

“My mom made it,” I say self-importantly.

“Oh my. She’s very talented. Such a pretty color. Did you pick it out?”

A twinge of anxiety derails my excitement. She thinks it’s too bright. She must think I look stupid. Now I’m going to  look dumb in front of all these people. I should have listened to my mom…

And then I’m aggravated with myself. Standing out is exactly what I wanted.

“Yes,” I reply in my small, nine year-old voice. “It took my mom a long time to make and so I wanted to pick something I really liked so I could wear it again.” I rush through the explanation because it’s barely true. When Mom was making the dress, she did bring up that she’d appreciate if I’d wear the dress more than a couple times. I agreed heartily just because I wanted her to know I appreciated her hard work. I’m grateful for that now because at least I have a good explanation for why I’m going to stand out like a sore thumb at the school play.

At least now my teacher won’t think I picked the fabric because I wanted to stand out.

I can pretend like none of this was my fault.

Other kids in my class begin to trickle into the classroom where we’re waiting to go to the gym for the play. My best friend Brooke is among them. I can tell she’s jealous as soon as she sees me. She loves the color. What is that thing laced at my waist? I look exactly like a girl from the wild west. Can she try my bonnet on?

It looks like Brooke’s mom bought her a cheap pilgrim Halloween costume. Brooke is obviously not as thrilled about it as she was before she saw mine though. She’s the other half of my duet and her costume looks cheap and drab next to the colourful stitches my mother skilfully sewed me. But Brooke lets it go and smiles at me anyway. The two of us hold hands and giggle all the way to the gym to release the last of our nerves.

When our duet comes up, I stride to the microphone confidently, eager to show off my singing and my dress. I am fuchsia in a sea of blacks and whites and browns.

I am a Black Ballerina Barbie Doll.

2013: The Year I Grew a New Set of Breasts

In the winter of 1995 I sprouted breasts practically overnight. I went from flat to bikini-worthy by the following summer. I was not ready for breasts that fast, but they came anyway and I had to navigate the world as a newly endowed woman–no small feat at not-quite 13 years-old, let me tell you. It was out of necessity that I learned how easily my breasts attracted the male persuasion. I learned a hard and fast lesson when the boy I’d had a crush on during my pre-breast days, who never acknowledged me before, now ogled me.

Ready or not, I now stood out for different reasons. I was now perceived differently than I was before.

Polka Dot Bra Bikini on Hanger

In 2013, I grew new  set of proverbial breasts:

About a year ago, January of 2013, the hubs asked, “So when are you going to publish book 1?”

“When I’m done editing,” I replied, hiding behind my laptop.

“When will that be?”

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Riiight,” he said, eyeing me skeptically. “You know you’re going to edit that thing into oblivion. You need to set a deadline. Give me a date.”

“I don’t know…” I said, avoiding his face, tapping a few keys in order to look busy. “I’ll just know when it’s done.”

“How close are you to being done?”

I got really uncomfortable by then. I hated committing to things unless I was positive I could accomplish them. “Close,” I replied when he refused to go away. “A few months maybe.”

“Okay then,” he said, relieved to be getting some kind of timeline out of me. “A year?”

“Oh I’m sure it will be done within a year,” I replied dismissively. A year was plenty of time to get comfortable with the idea of letting people read my work. A year was like… a lifetime away.

“Do you promise to publish your first book before the end of the year?” he asked, obviously wanting to nail me down.

“Yes. Before the end of the year.” Did I just say that? A year? I’m going to let people read my precious work in a year? I think I’d prefer streaking the neighborhood… That seems a lot less… terrifying. And I’m going indie. That’s almost as bad as coming out of the closet to your conservative family...

And that’s how this began. I mean really began. I realize, looking back, that “I’ll know it when I see it” really was never going to happen without a deadline. I was never going to be ready for a deadline. Just like I was never going to be ready for breasts no matter what age they came. I just had to dive in and hope I friggin survived the shock of “being a woman.” I was going to have to survive the shock of “being an indie-published author.” When you confess to being an indie, people either think you’re brave as hell, or delusional as hell.

FYI, it’s the former. And if you say any different, you better show me your new boobs. Because I earned mine.

Thank-you 2013. You grew me more than my first set of boobs did in 1995. And it was way more fun this time around.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.