Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How a Blog Becomes a Book... Er... Two Books!

   I mean, there's the usual way for a blog to become a book: Write a wildly popular and entertaining blog, get a book deal. Sure, it's lucrative, but a bit boring, don't you think? Usually this is just content from said blog in book format. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the Oatmeal or Hyperbole and a Half for getting ALL THE MONEYS. I'm just saying this isn't how I roll. My blog actually inspired me to write fiction.
   No, my blog to book experience has been an interesting adventure. As you may be aware, I just published a satirical zombie apocalypse novella called Going Green. You might also remember that back in October, I published a couple of zombie stories right here on this blog as part of a writing exercise. Yes, that exercise spun off and became 85 pages of zombie silliness and I can't say that I'm unhappy with the results.
   But now, it's happened again and this time, the path from blog to book has been an even odder one. Wait, even odder? Did I really just unintentionally pun? I did. But anyway, getting back to the point...
   It all started when I made this post about how I didn't want to become robot food. The last line inspired me to change my job title on Facebook from author to Princess Robot Commander. My cousin and part time spiritual guide, Jacqui, commented that Princess Robot Commander sounded like a great name for a children's book. Indeed,it does, but alas, I am not a children's book writer. If I wrote a book for children, it would end badly. Not parents standing in my front lawn with pitchforks bad, but definitely kids looking at their parents in disgust for buying such a horrible book bad.
   Funny thing is, I was standing in the shower* one day and I had a brilliant idea for a new YA SciFi novel about a girl who commands a robot army. From there it spiraled and next thing I knew, I had a five page synopsis for a book titled Princess Robot Commander. As of today, the first chapter has been written. I can't help but wonder if this was truly a serendipitous happening or if the robots have a plan for me. As long as it isn't The Plan, I'm cool with it.

*This is why girls take so long in the shower. We are watering our brains and having brilliant ideas. Shampoo is like brain fertilizer.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Small Victories

   I am a writer. As posh as that sounds, let me be the first to say that I am not a literary genius. Yes, I have a basic grasp of vocabulary and grammar, but I don't go out of my way to pepper my everyday conversations with five dollar words. I can't afford them.
   Every so often, I come across a concept that I can't articulate to save my life. Five dollar word users would say I suffer from a mild form of anomic aphasia. I say I suffer a lack of language data in my Jeopardy! cortex: the part of the brain that houses random and seemingly usless trivia. This happened to me today.
   I needed a descriptive for a person who goes by a single name, for example: Madonna, Prince, Cher, etc. I was about to Google it, when all of the Latin that I never took suddenly came back to me and my brain said, "Hey, how about mononym?" It sounded good, so I typed it into Word and immediately, a little red squiggle appeared. So I went back to plan A and Googled, "what is the term for a person who is known by one name?"
  "It is mononymous, meaning, a person who is known by a mononym," Google answered in the form of a Wikipedia page. I wanted to fist pump right then and there, but Wikipedia... Let's get a second opinion, shall we?
   Several respected sources later, it turns out that mononym is the word I was looking for. I had it right! I'm smarter than Office 2010! Commence with the "Yeah baby!"s and fist pumping like I'm the queen of etymology.
   Like I said, small victories.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jane, Get Me Off This Crazy Thing

   You already know that I love looking back at what people in the past thought the future would look like. Of course. It's fun to see the mylar space suits we are supposed to be wearing while we fly our cars and talk to our televisions. But inevitably, there are some 1950s sensibilities that rather jarringly remind me that progress wasn't exactly progressive. The family of the future was always, without fail, portrayed as white and middle class. Women of the future are always featured using the latest in high tech gadgetry. Well... Kitchen gadgetry. Silly women didn't care about computers. Heck, Jane Jetson was a homemaker with a robot housekeeper, yet what was her role? Oh, that's right, homemaker and paycheck spender.
   As much as I talk about my love for the golden age sci-fi novels, it's tough to look past the blatant sexism that persisted throughout the era. Even my beloved Martian Chronicles has a "funny" story about a lonely man who finally hears a woman's voice, only to meet her and find her physically undesirable. If I were to explore all of the issues I have with the way women were portrayed in the early days, we'd be here all night.
   But that's all in the past...

Um...
   Yeah, that was a search I just did, a few minutes ago, in 2014. And an image search for "futuristic kitchen" wasn't much better. Sure, there were plenty of empty kitchens, but when there was someone in them, it was always a woman.
   Yes, the not so progressive future remains with us, and unfortunately, it persists in science fiction as well. While there are more women writing sci-fi, how many of them are using their own names? Maybe it isn't as bad as when Alice Norton had to write under the name Andre Norton just to be taken seriously, but a quick glance through Amazon reveals a lot of first initial last name or first and middle initial last name authors out there. 
   There's also the way female authors are portrayed in the media. A male author without a day job is an author, plain and simple. A woman is often portrayed as "stay at home mom turned author" or "housewife turned author." Even JK Rowling (note the initials, they were a suggestion from her agent to appeal to a male audience) has been described as a "Unemployed single mother turned author." 
   When I made the decision to quit my job and write full time, a lot of people made comments that amounted to jealousy. Not jealousy of the fact that I was finally doing what I love for a living, but jealousy that I could sit at home and "not have to go to work." I go to work. I write. This is my job. I get up, I turn on the computer, and I write until my 'shift' is over. Then, I share the housekeeping responsibilities with my husband. To be fair, he does more of the "women's work" than I do.
   It's tough. There are still book covers in the genre that feature scantily clad women with gravity defying breasts. There are still female characters that seem strong, but realize they need a man to save them in the end (the taming of the cast iron bitch, as I like to call that trope). And let's not forget everyone's favorite: Stockholm Syndrome.
   It can be frustrating, especially as a woman writing science fiction that does have a romantic element. It's tough to give the audience what they want while maintaining the integrity of the strong female lead. This is one of the biggest reasons why I chose to self publish and why I almost exclusively read independently published books. There are no agents or publishers telling us what we can and can't write. Here, in my ever increasing community, women are finally finding their place, and it sure as hell isn't in the kitchen.