To my future mother in law on the occasion of my impending wedding,

We chose a theme today. You don’t keep in touch too often, but even if you had you might have missed the significance of that one so no harm done so far. This week, we crossed a significant hurdle in the progress of my divorce. My ex-husband and I had some tax debts that would have been more than complicated to resolve on account of his status as a non-resident alien. This year’s filing resolved that debt with my refund and gave me a little extra money to boot. We are now no longer impeded by the debt or the lack of funds that once stood in the way of serious wedding planning. So, we chose a theme.

We also chose a venue. We wrote a guest list. We’re making a budget. We’re working on a timeline. So if your hesitance to display enthusiasm was at all related to my legal marital status, I hope this clears up any reservations you may have had on Lauren’s behalf. I can assure you that the length of our engagement has had everything to do with raw numbers and nothing to do with any sort of indecision or unwillingness on either of our parts.

If your reaction to Lauren’s phone call today was fully a result of the above, you can disregard the rest of this correspondence and stop reading now, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t believe for a minute that you have – or at least, not honestly. Since forming a relationship with Lauren, my second-hand encounters with you have been littered with painful aggressions wrapped in cowardly excuses, casual blame shifting, and disingenuous denials. You have actively shielded your family and friends from the reality of Lauren’s gender and sexual orientation. You have continually expressed humiliation and unwillingness to prioritize your familial bond with Lauren above the meaningless, shallow social capital you’ve amassed in your little suburb.

If only you could see your words from an outside perspective – from the vantage point of somebody who just watched her partner disintegrate into tears as her mother offered to “skype in” to a wedding. What would you think of yourself, do you suppose? Are you the sort of person who is perfectly content to discard your family’s well-being for the sake of your reputation? Oh, who am I kidding. Of course you are. “Don’t tell grandpa.” That’s your favorite phrase, right? Or is it “I’m glad you live far away.” Well, I’m glad you live far away, too.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Perhaps you simply don’t possess the wherewithal, courage, or natural instincts with which most of us are endowed. Maybe you’re simply not capable of caring for people other than yourself. In which case, I’m sure you’ll understand that your presence is not welcome at our wedding. While your presence would certainly save on electricity bills, we’d much prefer an air conditioner for keeping our venue frosty.

-Heather

Double Book Review: Blood Mother and King of Men

blood mother

Blood Mother

By: Brian G. Wood

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Rating: Excessively Good

Blood Mother, the sequel to Dead Roots, is a continuation of Tom’s terrifying life at the DPSD. Set primarily on an old plantation in Louisiana, Tom is on trial for the murder of two baby vampires, or krasue.  Even though baby vampires are freaking gross and have the most disgusting diet ever (no spoilers), killing a baby vampire is super offensive to adult vampires, who are only really able to produce baby vampires once every half century if they’re lucky.  However, as pissed off as the vampires are, everyone can pretty much agree that humans are in charge here and they’ll be limited as to how much they can punish Tom.  In fact, Judge Berenger, a sympathizer who’s kind of in charge but not completely, thinks that Tom can get out of trouble altogether if he can find out who’s killing the adult vampires.

Sleep continues to evade Tom as Keda’s Aki tortures him with nightmares.  He finds some comfort in meeting the apparent medium Sophie Theroux, who promises to help him solve the crime while he deals with the rawness of his near-death experience and his strained relationship with his best friend. His visit is further complicated by a new coworker who is a total pervert, a succubus who’s taken an interest, and an increasingly frustrating relationship with his commitment-phobe boss, Margaret.

Unlike Dead Roots, the villain is not quite as clear this time.  Between the mysterious Theroux, the terrifying but oddly predictable Judge Berenger, and the morally indeterminate Tippler, it’s difficult for the reader and the main character Tom to know to whom the focus should be pointed.  Tom’s mind, love life, and job are equally muddled. There’s never a dull moment as we follow our suitably tortured protagonist through the mess that is his life.

Compared to his debut novel, Dead Roots, Wood does an even better job at grossing the reader right the fuck out this time around. I had particularly loved the recurring spontaneous vomit in Dead Roots and was kind of wondering whether this time around would be less funny or more of the same vomiting, but it was neither.  The vampires are like no vampires I’ve read of or seen in any kind of movie before. They’re absurdly grotesque with no skin, horrid diets (again, no spoilers), creepy rituals, and even creepier babies.

Blood Mother is not just about grossing you out; it’s also about sex.  At University, I learned how to be some kind of a literary professional and one of the things I learned was that vampires are always sex.  Bram Stoker, an author stifled by Victorian censorship and values, wrote a story where “bite” was connotation for “sex,” an act which turned young, beautiful women seduced out of wedlock into lustful, hungry monsters.  Charlaine Harris’s vampires deal with bigotry and get called “fangers” as the many homosexual characters in her books struggle with the same world. Even Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampires are a Mormon sex ideal – beautiful, dangerous creatures that are perfect if you’re married but could totally kill your ass if you’re not. Of course, just because vampires are a well-worn literary metaphor doesn’t mean that every author who features vampires in their work is using them that way.  I never asked Wood whether these vampires were metaphors for sex, but I got some pretty good grades in those literature classes and I think they are.  I think they’re metaphors for the nasty, underground, illegal scat and torture porn that sends its actors and actresses to the hospital for stitches and antibiotic drips after scenes.  If they’re seductive sexual fantasies, they’re the sort normally relegated to the minds of people who use medieval torture devices as foreplay. I don’t know why I didn’t learn my lesson about reading these books on my lunch breaks after Dead Roots, but I think I would have had an easier time keeping my sandwich down if I’d been watching Two Girls, One Cup.

That being said, even following some awkward encounters with a succubus and some grotesquely uncomfortable scenes with new character and five star creep Oscar Tippler, Blood Mother manages to be about sex and still be woman and queer positive as ever.  In fact, it even tackles a few currently relevant issues related to racial strife that won’t be lost on an audience still reeling from the Zimmerman verdict.  Blood Mother is a unique and masterful experience.  You’ll want to read it.  And then you’ll want to read King of Men.

King of Men

By: Brian G. Wood

Genre: hopefully you’ve figured this out by now

Rating: As amazing as I’ve come to expect

King of Men will be the first book I’ve ever reviewed on this blog pre-release.  I had the honor of getting my hands on a copy of this one

king of men before it becomes available to the public on September 10th.  Normally, I refuse to accept gift copies in exchange for reviews on account of a) the authors I review not being paid big publishing money by big publishers and b) it creates a conflict of interest where I’m afraid to write an honest review that’s less than sparkling about a gift I was given.  I’m the kind of person who honestly gushes over that three-sizes-too-small Justin Bieber hoodie I was given for Christmas because the thought put into it actually truly warms my heart and I don’t even care that it doesn’t fit.  Obviously, this personality trait could pose a threat to my integrity as a reviewer.

I made an exception this time because this was the third of Wood’s books that I’ve had the honor of reading and by this point, I could be pretty sure that it wasn’t going to suck out loud.  Plus, I was super excited to see the trans character he developed with the assistance of my wonderful life partner and how that all turned out.  I was not disappointed.

The third book in The Analyst series, King of Men is the most fast-paced and action packed.  Keda, Tom, and Artie are immediately swept off onto an odyssey of sorts with Keda’s barely controlled passenger, the increasingly powerful Aki.  Aki has some old enemies in Japan and none of them are too happy to see him back.  They must exorcise Aki as quickly as possible before Harold can find them, catch them, and keep Aki (and Aki’s power) for himself.

Though Tom is still the main character to whose inner monologue we are privileged, Keda is the main attraction in this volume. He must confront the demons of his past, the parents he left and never saw again since coming out as gay while containing the demon within.  For his part, Aki grows as the Byronic hero we never much got to enjoy before.  He’s the bad guy we want to win, the tortured villain who doesn’t seem so bad contrasted with the overly pious and under-nuanced Japanese supernatural authorities.  If only his victory wouldn’t mean Keda’s loss.

King of Men is the book that fans of The Analyst series are waiting to read since we meet Keda in Dead Roots struggling against a powerful demon inside of him while reassuring Tom that Japan’s attitude toward the supernatural is to embrace it quite a bit more than Americans.  The Japan in King of Men is the Hogwarts to America’s muggle world.  The supernatural cast of characters is colorful, interesting, and immersive. If it weren’t for the meddling of the loathsome villain Harold Saldana, King of Men would almost be more of a fantasy than a horror novel.  Unfortunately for poor harassed Tom, he’s still a character in one of Brian Wood’s books and as such he still has to deal with acid-spewing hunger demons, a giant spider with half of a human hanging off of its stomach, and a sexy ghost with some anger management issues.  Oh well, at least he’s given up on giving up smoking.

King of Men is simultaneously funnier and darker than the previous books in the series.  Keda and Tom are dealing with some heavy stuff, but the gravity in their lives is matched by levity from the fun-loving tea house full of hard partying demons and a ghost who can’t use her cell phone.

It’s hard to say too much about King of Men without spoiling it. While the villain is obvious this time, the book is no less rich in mystery than its predecessors.  In defiance of the typical progression of fiction series which typically get heavier and more outrageous in plot once the characters are established, King of Men is more character-driven.  One of the characters’ gender is explored with tact and sophistication. Culture, sexuality, and coping with the past take the focus. It’s well done. It’s funny and horrifying. It’s gross and delicious.  It’s the natural result of the quickly evolving world we’ve come to love.  It’s the brain-child of a well-read and talented author. Go read Blood Mother now so you’re ready for it. You have 8 days.

Author Interview: Noah Murphy

NoahNoah Murphy may not have forgiven me for my review of his book Ethereal Girls, but that didn’t stop him from meeting me early Saturday for an interview to discuss writing, publishing, feminism, and why he’s giving up. Or not.

 

Me: Thanks for coming

 

Noah Murphy: no problem

 

Me: So I wanted to talk to you about your book

 

Noah Murphy: You’re actually the first person who wants to. I actually have a book coming out next tuesday and why I’m done with novels

 

Me: yeah I saw that:  This Book Will Fail

Ethereal Girls was your first novel, right?

 

Noah Murphy: no, Ethereal Girls was actually the rewrite of a much worse novella called barbarian girl

you though Barbarian girl was bad

 

Me: I was thinking. Your book actually had a lot of really good qualities and I can’t figure out why you’re ready to abandon fiction.

 

Noah Murphy: It’s editing. Editing is expensive. Good editing costs 1000 or more.

 

Me: When I started writing fiction,the stuff I wrote was super artful and crafty and so on, but boring as all fuck. Ethereal Girls was not boring. I got through it in a few hours because it was interesting. You’re not perfect yet but that’s a talent, you know? Just like – develop it.

 

Noah Murphy: and I’m abandoning fiction just novels. Well, Deltan Skies is considered a good book, except the editing kills it dead

 

Me: how’s that?

 

Noah Murphy: That same guy who edited Ethereal Girls edited Deltan Skies, except he edited the wrong version and edited half of that in an afternoon.

 

Me: Did you have a contract with this guy? You can sue him you know.

 

Noah Murphy: I was forced to edit it myself over two months and it shows.

It’s just not worth it.

 

Me: Well, you spent a thousand bucks and he didn’t do his job. Sounds like it’s worth it to me.

 

Noah Murphy: His was 450. Professional level fiction editing costs 1500+

 

Me: Oh, ok

 

Noah Murphy: For an 88k book

 

Me: So what’s Deltan Skies about? Is it a sequel?

 

Noah Murphy: Completely different universe. It’s a reboot itself of a fantasy thriller novellas series called k23 detectives.

 

Me: Hence your blog’s url, I suppose.

 

Noah Murphy: If fantasy and scifi had come together and had a bastard child.

 

Me: Why a bastard child?

Like as opposed to a wedlock child…

 

Noah Murphy: Semantics.

A young elven mage named Quintanelle Fillion flees from her totalitarian homeland to New Delta, a dense metropolis made up of hundreds of mile-high towers. She finds employment working for New Delta’s top private detective, a human named Alfonso Deegan, and his red dragon associate Mordridakon. Quintanelle’s first case thrusts her in the middle of New Delta’s own problems.

That’s the first paragraph of the book blurb.

Should give you an idea of what I mean.

 

Me: Yeah sounds good. I’ll def. buy it.

 

Noah Murphy: Like I said, editing killed it dead.

 

Me: How so? Like can you give me an idea of what sorts of mistakes the editor made?

 

Noah Murphy: Once the reviews started pouring in that editing was an issue, I demarketed it.

Typos and stuff. Lots and lots of typos.

 

Me: So he removed not typos and replaced them with typos or he just left all the typos in?

 

Noah Murphy: He left all the typos in and since I can’t edit worth shit (i have poor visual acuity) I never got them out.

 

Me: Okay, so basically you wrote two books that are super imaginative and have some editing needs and you got shafted by an editor.

 

Noah Murphy: Indeed. That’s in a nutshell. Ethereal wasn’t my first release it was my sixth.

 

Me: Sixth novel?

 

Noah Murphy: He was actually the fifth editor I have had.

Three k23 novellas, the compilation, a short story collection and Barbarian Girl

 

Me: You have the worst luck of anyone I know.

 

Noah Murphy: So my seventh actually

 

Noah Murphy: The problem is, I’m far from alone in the self published world. Bad editing is the norm.

I’m sure you’ve noticed this. I definitely have.

 

Me: Yeah, every book I’ve read so far has needed at least a little editing.

 

Noah Murphy: That’s why I’m slimming down to smaller sizes. I did announce an Ethereal Girls sequel, I’m thinking it’ll be smaller episodes. They were in k23 detectives but I moved them over to Ethereal Girls cause I need aliens.

 This is short story featuring their k23 interation

 

Me: So tell me about the Brac’Tai (I hope I remembered that right). They were my favorite part. What gave you that idea?

 

Noah Murphy: As for them being intergalactic nerds. I made them that way as a twist on the usual aliens, who are either evil or all powerful in relation to humans.

 

Me: I loved the Brac’Tai. Especially the part about the Event Horizon ship being the ultimate haunted house and the Speak and Says.

 

Noah Murphy: Yeah, well in the sequel they’re going to use the event horizon to get to Hell.

 

Me: And they got a TARDIS too I guess.

 

Noah Murphy: So lets talk about what you didn’t like. Maybe I can illuminate.

 

Me: Okay, well, to give you a little background, I was a queer/feminist blogger for years. My partner is a trans activist and feminist as well. Most of my readers come from either that past or my girlfriend’s present. So when they come to my blog for reviews, one of their primary questions is whether the book is queer/woman positive.

I can see that Ethereal Girls made an effort, but there are some things that were quite problematic beginning with Liza crying in the plus size dressing room.

 

Noah Murphy: Ethereal Girls was an experiment. My intent was a response to the lack of good women in comics, who are all cookie cutter, big breasted bimbos.

Me: Okay, so that’s why Liza gets big and muscly and Jonola is half-snake and Phoenix just looks like a mess.

I’ll admit, that did add character to the story.

 

Noah Murphy: More or less yes.

 

Me: And that’s a good start. I mean like I said it was obvious an effort was made.

But the problem is that some of the people reading the book might be big or overweight or muscly or kind of skinny and waif-like, and seeing people like them described that way might be upsetting. For example “eating lard directly out a bucket” orr the way Macie got huge at the end and suddenly turned into a “he.”

 

Noah Murphy: You’re wrong on that one, I checked. Wendigod is an IT almost all the time except for Colocath’s line

I have the book

 

Me: Do you know any trans people?

 

Noah Murphy: Yes, actually.

 

Me: That’s awesome.  It’s just, that kind of thing can be…

…trying to think of a good word here…

…aggressive or triggering to somebody who’s struggled with body image.

 

Noah Murphy: Misconstrued.

 

Me: So I understand that the intent was to show different bodies and have them be featured and that’s a good start, it really is. I mean I’m not just saying this. That’s a really good place to begin. But at the same time, you have to sort of imagine that you know, they were reading this about themselves like that Liza was watching this on TV and those words were said, cause people like that really exist in your audience. I mean if you write a book about a group of female superheroes and have them on the cover, you’re going to attract feminists. That’s why I read it

 

Noah Murphy: I know

 

Me: So you know, we’re your audience.

 

Noah Murphy: I’m actually a feminist BTW.

 

Me: I sort of gathered that. Like I said, that’s why I read it.

 

Noah Murphy: The problem with Ethereal Girls was I was walking a fine line and in uncharted fiction territory. I had to balance the feminism with plot. Ethereal Girls’ biggest issue is that because its a clockwork plot, I couldn’t stop and spend time diving deep into the issues

 

Me: Well, there are ways to get around that, though. Like I was going to suggest that since you’re going to be writing sequels or novellas or whatever, instead of talking about how unattractive they are it could be like “Liza’s tree-trunk like leg barrelled through 10 enemy heads” or something. You know? Show the bodies themselves being awesome.

 

Noah Murphy: That’s the sequel.

 

Me: Like I could see with some of Meadow’s lectures that some of the right ideas are there.

 

Noah Murphy: Where I deal with the effects of violence and revenge

 

Me: It just might be fun to see it in action. “Phoenix dissolves into the ether and awesomely reconstitutes” or something. Show it being fucking awesome

 

Noah Murphy: I understand

However, to sell the sequel they have to get beyond the first book.

 

Me: Yes and no. I’m guessing you never read Sweet Valley Twins when you were a kid but there were like 100 books and each of them had an introduction of all the characters, more or less so that anyone could start on any one of them.

 

Noah Murphy: The problem is, DC gets destroyed, I just cannot reset

 

Me: Well, no you can’t reset in DC. But, whatever you were going to do with the sequelsjust do like JK Rowling did.

“Things have been weird since DC got destroyed.”

“in an epic battle wherein Liza did some awesome stuff”

“Also there is Wendigod carcass *everywhere*”

…and that way people know what happened even if they didn’t read and they can start there if they like. There are ways of making sequels that work on their own.

 

Noah Murphy: That’s what I was going to kind of do, but honestly I’ve been writing it the K23 and Ethereal Universes enough

I want to do fresh fiction.

 

Me: Well, do it then!

 

Noah Murphy: I will

 

Me: No reason to give up. You have a great imagination.

There is a lot of promise here, you just need some practice.

 

Noah Murphy: Oh, I’m not. Just downsizing to affordable book sizes.

 

Me: Makes sense.

Okay I have to get going, but is there anything you wanted to say about your books or about writing to my audience?

 

Noah Murphy: Considering your audience thinks I’m an idiot(I banned like five of them..)

 

Me: Sorry about them. I heard some of them bought copies, though.

 

Noah Murphy: Two. And now you know why I don’t mind bad reviews.

 

Me: Don’t worry about the ones who don’t like you. I have a ton of people blocked myself. To the ones who want to see what you can do with a bunch of characters and feminist intent at least. What do you want to say to them?

 

Noah Murphy: Read Deltan Skies. Honestly in Deltan Skies I fix a lot of the issues in Ethereal Girls, the pacing, even the sexism problems.

 

Me: Awesome. Thanks for coming

 

Noah Murphy: Thanks for having me

 

Book Review: Ethereal Girls [TW: racism, misogyny, transphobia]

51+XiTsd1uL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Ethereal Girls

By: Noah Murphy

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Action

This book gave me cancer.

The next several paragraphs are completely true to the book and not made up.

Liza is a regular old cheerleader until one day, as she’s driving by the mall after cheer practice, a giant magic axe falls out of the sky and crushes her car. This axe is special and has the power to transform Liza into the Axe Wielder. Her clothes are instantly torn asunder as she grows into a larger, more masculine version of herself. But she is not alone.  Two girls have come to say hi and not to worry, one of them is naked, too!  The girls instantly retreat to the nearest plus-sized clothing store and cry in the dressing room.

The NHC, which stands for something that we learn in the beginning of the book has something to do with enslaving powered people, is on the case! They show up at the mall in droves. After an epic battle where some guy named Silver Arc makes some arcs of electricity and some special force little people chase the half-snake naked girl around the air ducts, it becomes clear that there’s no use. Liza is captured and taken back to the NHC compound, which is exactly like a high school except that everyone there has super powers.

It is a very diverse school.  You get that message right off the bat because everybody is described by race. Here a black girl, there a white girl, there an Asian girl, there a Hispanic girl, and of course a Hispanic cafeteria lady named Maria. Liza tries to starve herself to get her lady figure back but quickly loses the battle and scarfs down a bunch of sausages while she meets some of her new classmates. One of the first people she meets is Sakina, whose superpower is to do all the drugs without dying. All the drugs. Sakina grew up in a bad area, I guess, and wants to save the world by doing all of the drugs in it so nobody else can. I’ll spare the leap of logic this… just…. THEY’RE RENEWABLE RESOURCES, COME ON!  Briefly, we also meet

a morbidly obese girl scooping lard directly out a tub. [sic]

and the triplets, Arianna, Brianna, and Carrie-Anna, three white girls who sport blonde hair and a blue dress, brown hair and a green dress, and red hair and a red dress respectively.

Where have I seen this before?

Where have I seen this before?

They hate each other because they can read each other’s minds and therefore one of them knows that the other totally stole her boyfriend.

Things seem to be going well enough until night time when Liza retreats to her dorm room and is immediately greeted by a team of girl bullies, all wearing skimpy silk lingerie except for the one who’s naked for some reason. “I’m Isabelle” declares the main bully “the Chinese girl is Jade and the other is Viera and we know who you are. You may be important to the NHC, but in this house, you’re an ugly she-male and part of the freaks.” Liza and the RA defeat the main bully in a battle of sorts and then the naked girl and the other lingerie girl are finally free from the tyranny of the main bully, for which many of the girls are grateful. Liza then goes to bed and realizes that she can “spirit walk” which means walking through the ethereal (rather than physical) plane. This affords her powers like traveling through space rapidly.  In the Ethereal realm, she meets Meadow, the naked one from before. No, wait. That was Jade or Viera. The first naked one was Janola though. This is a new naked one. Meadow spreads her legs for some reason and gives Liza a talk about body confidence, then introduces her to Phoenix, a girl whose superpower is that she can kill herself and walk through the ethereal plane and then come back.

Meanwhile, Liza’s former bestie Macie is unfriending Liza on facebook because she looks totes ugly now that she’s muscly and stuff. The next morning, Macie wakes up and a giant sword chunks itself into her room, giving her new powers and bigger, firmer boobs. Macie, as it turns out, is the ultimate villain now that she has the sword of evilness and her sole purpose in life is now to murder people. Murder, murder, murder. This is bad obviously, but it’s even worse because the ethereal plane is now filling with windego, which as far as I can tell is a black cloud that turns people into dead cannibals or something. Zombies, I guess.

Again, the last several paragraphs were completely true to the book. I made nothing up.

Ethereal Girls is a book. That’s its first problem.  It was obvious right off the bat that this book looked really good in Murphy’s head. The scenes are certainly dynamic. Lots of stuff happens. There’s never a dull moment. There are magic powers that are consistent and kind of interesting. Frankly, it read like Michael Bay’s bedside notepad where he writes all of his surprise ideas.

And then it was like BRAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH and then BRAAAGH and the helicopter EXPLODES and it's like BRAAAAAAAAAAAGGHH

And then it was like BRAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH and then BRAAAGH and the helicopter EXPLODES and it’s like BRAAAAAAAAAAAGGHH

 

It reads like an outline, like somebody just wrote a bunch of notes and said “this sounds cool, and that sounds cool,” and then just gathered up all their notes and put it on Kindle. It makes for an interesting enough set of stage directions, but it doesn’t work at all as a novel. The fact that it’s a novel was simply incidental.

One of the other problems is that Murphy clearly set out to be… I don’t know, inclusive or something? Let’s see how that worked out:

“When I first moved here forty years ago, combat heroines were delicate little flowers who were all either violently raped, crippled, or dead by thirty. Times have changed for the better it seems… although I believe it’s because your male teammates can now save you.”

I wish I could say that was the only time this cropped up.  Alas, by the end of the book I had been solidly schooled on how much weaker women are.

Or this part, where Jonola explains how Lamia – snake people – have polyamorous groups composed of 5:1 female:male ratio because male Lamia are more attractive the more mates they have.

“How does he get the first mate then?”

“He clubs you on the head and drags you back to his burrow where he has his way with you.” Her eyes glistened. “It’s so romantic!”

Ahh. It’s not really a male gaze novel without a fucking polygamy/rape fantasy.

“You should think about dressing more modestly,” he said. “It would give you some self-esteem to not [sic] expose your body to lustful gazes.” If covering up wouldn’t be really, really hot, she’d take his advice.

Or slut-shaming!

Oh how about this part where Liza learns that Phoenix is from “the hood.”

“No offense, but you don’t talk like you grew up on the streets.”

She put her hand on her hip and cocked her head. “Yo, I be talking like ‘dis as a lil’ shortie. But I learned to speak English after I moved out of that life. Most of us do.”

Good old fashioned racism.

Without spoiling just about everything, I can’t reveal one of the more horrible things at the end of the book, wherein a certain female character becomes super extra massively muscular and then is suddenly referred to as “he” for the remainder.

To its credit, Ethereal Girls did feature a race of aliens called the Brac’Tai, amoeba-ish little things that wore speak-and-says on their chest to communicate with earthlings and flew spaceships modeled after our television spaceships cause they’re such huge fans or something. Gosh, I’m just getting the strongest sense of deja-vu, though. Oh, well.

It's on the tip of my tongue.

It’s on the tip of my tongue.

I came upon this book when a friend of mine pointed me in its direction. This friend of mine showed me to Murphy’s twitter, where he was letting loose on some people who were telling him that his book was objectifying to women and otherwise disrespectful and creepy. He disagreed. Murphy insisted that everyone’s problem with this book is that it features female characters that aren’t made for them. He thinks he just can’t find an audience that would appreciate an all-female cast.

That’s not what the problem is. The problem is that Ethereal Girls is a shitty game of bait and switch. Murphy put big muscly girls with superpowers on the cover and he got what he was looking for: people that want to read about muscly superpowered women. Then, he made the entire book rife with naked, jiggling boobs that made no sense in the scenes. He wrote line after line after line about how big and ugly Liza was. He wrote about how women are weaker than men, would die without men, and of course fought over men for no reason. He gave us a book where women’s femininity was compromised or altogether erased by musculature, where a black woman speaking AAVE then converted to a more respectable vernacular to which to which he referred simply as “English.” Contrary to what Murphy might believe, we’re not so desperate for books about women that we’ll accept anything some white dude shits into existence and call it empowering.  We can write too.

Oh, and he couldn’t edit his way out of a wet paper bag. He so many words I couldn’t count them if I tried.

Righteous ecofeminist takedown

In my Women’s literature class, all of the books we read had ecofeminist themes. Obviously I got an A. I know. I can’t help it.

Even though the class is over, it got me thinking about ecofeminism.  I read a few articles about it and the widest criticism I can find is that the narrative is typically centered around white women. In case there are a few 101s in the audience, I’ll briefly explain why this is a problem. While obviously white women have legitimate feminist agendas,when white women dominate the narratives, the concerns of people of color are at best ignored and at worst willfully invalidated.  More on this in a minute. So, when I went to the library to get a book about ecofeminism, I intentionally overlooked the eight volumes that appeared to center mostly on white women’s concerns and went straight for the one book that had chapters about colonialism and women of color. Simply titled “Ecofeminism,” I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Chapter two, “Ecofeminism through an Anticolonial Framework” on account of the name of the author, Andy Smith. Generally speaking, when I want to read about anticolonialism, I don’t want to read it from the perspective of somebody who shares a name with some of the most notorious English colonizers.  I prefer to hear from those who have personal experience. Andrea Lee Smith is a Cherokee feminist scholar and not a white man as her name suggests. Silly me. She has written a whole lot of awesome books that I now have to read. That being said, I soon found Andy actually had quite a lot of interesting stuff to teach, and I wanted to share them with you.  Below are some selected quotes:

The Inuit of Canada reported that NATO war exercises had been wreaking environmental havoc where they live. The 8,000 low-level flights that had already taken place over Inuit land had created so much noise from sonic booms that it had disrupted the wildlife and impaired the hearing of the Inuit. Furthermore, oil falling from the jets had poisoned the water supply.

The Shoshone reported that low-level flying also takes place over their land. One man was killed when his horse threw him because it was frightened by the noise of the jets. They reported that the flying had been scheduled to take place over the catle range until the Humane Society interceded, saying this would be inhumane treatment of the cattle. Consequently,the war exercises were redirected to take place over Indian people instead.

Wow, way to go Humane Society.

In the interest of being brief and not just quoting an entire chapter on my blog, I’ll just let you know that what we learn next is that waste dumping on Native land, since it’s not “American land” does not need to meet the same EPA requirements. Because of this, it’s cheaper and therefore preferable for some unscrupulous companies to dump their waste on native land and cause miscarriage, cancer, and birth defects.

Now, here’s where we learn about exactly how racist white-centered feminism is:

The inability to fully embrace an anticolonialist ideology is the major stumbling block in developing alliances between Native people and members of the mainstream environmental movement and the feminist movement.

For instance, in “Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism,” Michael Zimmerman argues in favor of eradicating the dualism between humans and nature. “only by recognizing that humanity is no more, but also no less, important than all other things on earth can we learn to dwell on the planet within limits that would allow other species to flourish” However, deep ecologists and other environmental theorists are often not consistent in applying this theory in practice. For instance, sentiments that have been expressed in Earth First! Journal include that “the AIDS virus may be Gaia’s tailor-made answer to human overpopulation” and that famine should take its course in Africa to stem overpopulation. Such sentiments reinforce, rather than negate the duality between humans and nature, because they imply that humans are not part of nature and that their destruction would not also mean environmental destruction… In addition, it is noteworthy that the people that are targeted as expendable (victims of AIDS and Africans in the foregoing example) are people of color or Third World people who have the least institutional power or access to resources in society… To even make such a comment indicates that one has to be in a fairly privileged position in society where one is not faced with death on a regular basis. It also assumes that all people are equally responsible for massive environmental destruction, rather than facing the fact that it is people in positions of institutional power who are killing the earth and the people who are more marginalized to further their economic interests. It is racist and imperialist to look at the people who are dying now from environmental degradation (generally people of color and poor people) and say that it is a good thing that the earth is cleansing itself.

All emphasis mine. So in other words, all that crap that you hear about overpopulation killing the planet and all this disease being a perfect cure for it?  Sorry to burst your bubble, but allowing the deaths of millions of poor and marginalized or those in developing countries is not going to bring the earth back to balance. It’s not Gaia undoing the damage.  It IS the damage. Removing poor and indigenous people is the least efficient way to save the earth.

It’s a slightly pricey book but your local library may have it. Just follow the link I’m not doing MLA citations outside of school.

Disorganized thoughts on the Zimmerman trial from a white person to whom you should not be listening.

I wish I had been surprised last night when the verdict came through Not Guilty, but I wasn’t. The last time I was surprised was 13 months ago, when I learned that not only had George Zimmerman not been arrested immediately, but he’d managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from his supporters.

In the several days after Trayvon Martin was shot to death, several of my subordinates were late to work. At the office where I was working at the time, most of my subordinates were people of color. At my level, it was about half white, half PoC. All of my superiors were white. Most of my subordinates lived in Sanford. The protests were clogging up the streets and messing with the traffic and bus routes, and so they were having a hard time getting to work on time. The white people in the office were having a grand old time discussing their thoughts and opinions on the protests (everyone is too worked up!) and their various thoughts on possible terrible outcomes (what if this means no more stand your ground law?!). The people of color in the office said nothing.  Their faces generally remained stony and quietly resentful as they worked hard for the pittance my superiors paid them. I stayed silent, embarrassed and afraid for my livelihood.

I lived in Simi Valley, California when the Rodney King verdict came through. Simi Valley is a primarily wasp/latin@ city about a fifty minute drive north of where the riots took place. In spite of the fact that the rioters were generally not chartering buses and driving up to our little town to mess things up, we had a curfew. Police enforced the in-at-dusk emergency rule. Our field trip was cancelled on account of several of the jurors had been from Simi Valley and the school decided that if we drove even a mile south with “SIMI VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT” printed all over the side of our bus, we’d be moving targets.  Nothing happened to Simi Valley. Nonetheless, several months later, there was a KKK protest against… what? I don’t know what. The existence of people who aren’t them, I suppose. They left advertising fliers at my daycare. My mom was disgusted when she saw them. We weren’t there for much longer.

As a child who had experienced a curfew following the Rodney King verdict, and the rage of the California black communities at the O.J. Simpson trial, I took righteous indignation for granted. I assumed that any time some blatant example of racism occurred, I could count on people of color to get pissed off and take to the streets. Of course I also took the existence of racist people for granted, but in my juvenile interpretation of things, I thought the sides seemed evenly matched.

When I was 28 years old, I realized I was gay. It was then that my eyes were opened to complacency – not just my complacency, but the complacency of all marginalized groups.  I was very suddenly aware of the ways that people delude themselves into thinking they’re not bigoted, that they just hold some justifiable opinion or another about this or that marginalized group. It was impossible for me to ignore the incredibly sad fact that sometimes marginalized people believe those opinions, and that sometimes they’ll be so desperate for approval that they’ll assist in justifying them. It took more introspection and bravery than I’d ever before mustered to overcome my tendency to do the exact same thing. I’d been proud of blending in with straight people. I’d been uncomfortable in women’s locker rooms or bathrooms because I thought if they knew about me, they’d rightfully want me out of there. I’d been afraid to tell anyone that their intolerance of me was not the same as my intolerance of their intolerance.

A lot of my black facebook/twitter friends are saying things about how they hate white people, or white people suck, or they need to shut the fuck up. Part of me is uncomfortable when I see this. I think no, please, the hateful cannot hate on my behalf any more than I can refuse to hate on their behalf. I want to tell them how much I wish I had the power to fix this. But I know it isn’t about me. So, I tell my white facebook/twitter friends who are saying stupid bullshit about how the witnesses were inarticulate or about how they’d be afraid if they saw Trayvon in their neighborhood to shut the fuck up. I delete them. And once I dropped my knee-jerk defensiveness in response to my black friends’ rage, I realized that I took comfort in it. I was empowered by their lack of complacency. Somehow, the world seems to make more sense.

The prosecution claimed that this crime wasn’t about race. It was. But even if it wasn’t, even if we could prove conclusively somehow that George Zimmerman really was only afraid of hoodies or there’d been a rash of Skittles-wielding burglars in his town, the outcome of this trial was about race. The defense team was funded by thousands upon thousands of people who could easily imagine themselves in the same position – so afraid of a black teenager that they would do the unthinkable and end his life. It was funded by people who imagine their fear as so justifiable, so logical, so worthy of respect that literally any heinous response to this worry is okay. It was funded by gun nuts who don’t give a shit how scared anyone else is when they wear their guns in plain sight at the grocery store, but truly believe that anyone who scares them deserves to die. George Zimmerman is free because he had their money.

Some people who read this are going to consider their racism more seriously than they had before. They’re going to do so because they’ll see my picture and notice that my skin is fairly pale and that I therefore have nothing to gain by speaking out against racism. They’ll think that I am therefore unbiased. They will dismiss similar words from people of color because they’ll see bias the same way the anti-gay bigots saw bias when Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional by a gay judge. I don’t know what it’s like to experience racism, but I know a little bit about bigots. I know they’re not creative. I know they have self-centered morality. I know they think they’re good people. I know they have warped definitions of what it means to be a good person. And I know that when they do the unthinkable, they will have the support of thousands upon thousands of bigots who will spend any amount of money to prove to themselves that they’re not bigots. I know that they will look at the money they spent and imagine it’s proof that they’re really the victims. And I hate them.

Author Interview: Brian G. Wood

BrianGeoffreyWood

Brian Wood, author of Dead Roots met with me this evening to discuss writing positively, the problems with NaNoWriMo, his success in the world of self-publishing, and his systematic unwarranted torture of poor Sonic the Hedgehog.

me
All right so first of all, is this your actual first book or just the first one you’ve released to the world?

Brian Wood
I’ve been writing basically since I knew how to spell. I used to make picture books when I was in primary school, and I wrote fanfiction and a bunch of really terrible short stories when I was in high school.
I’ve done some tabletop game systems and just-
Basically I was always writing one thing or another, even if I didn’t do anything with it.

me
Tabletop game systems?

Brian Wood
D&D, LARP, that sort of thing.
My specialty was always settings rather than actual mechanics.

me
Ohhh I get it. So role playing sort of live things.
I’ve heard things about the rulebooks, but I honestly don’t know much myself.
So this was your first book?

Brian Wood
Yeah, this is the first time I really sat down and decided to do a book and do it properly.

me
How long did it take?

Brian Wood
About a year off and on.
The last four months or so was when I really knuckled down on it.

me
This isn’t even fair.
I’m going to try not to hold all this against you.

Brian Wood
Ehehe

me
I did the NaNoWriMo once and got myself through something…

Brian Wood
NaNoWriMo has its purpose, but I think it fosters a lot of bad habits. I read one forum where somebody suggested that to buff up your word count, you could give one of the characters a hyphenated name and then bam you’ve increased by 5,000 words! It doesn’t foster quality.

me
What did you try as far as getting mainstream published if you did? Also: I heard your sales are pretty good. Give us your secrets.

Brian Wood
I spent a few months submitting to agents and then I decided to do the self-publishing thing, which is a choice that i’m finding was the right one at least for this series, I think
As far as my sales secrets, I’m not smashing the records or anything but there’s been a steady uptick and basically all of my sales these days are cold sales, i.e. not friends or acquaintances who make up the majority of your early sales.
And I wrote an article about that for my blog but it basically boils down to:
First make a quality product that you’re really proud of, then be patient and do a lot of networking.

me
You talk to your Twitter followers a lot.

Brian Wood
I do, because my philosophy is just to make myself more visible to the audience and then they’ll follow the link to my books if they are interested.
Building a following is a slow business and there aren’t really any shortcuts, but you can help yourself by having a professional attitude and being really interactive.

me
My tactic is to get my famous girlfriend to link to my stuff.

Brian Wood
Yeah absolutely.
Influencers are really important.

me
So, after my review of your book you mentioned on Twitter you were glad to know that it passed muster.
I have written about this kind of thing in the past, and I went into method a lot so I’m wondering what your approach was to writing positively.

Brian Wood
I’m a male and straight and I look at women, obviously, but I’m not going to sit there and write that down because I don’t want to come off as a creep. I don’t want somebody to be reading it and think “this is how Brian Wood views women.” I keep that to myself basically.
When I describe Margaret and how she’s kind of overweight, and Tom likes it, I wanted there to be a body positivity side to that as well. The female characters are not eye candy. Tom is going to leer at them but that’s not their only purpose in the story. Sometimes that’s a conscious decision and I think I’m not giving this character enough to do so I have to go back and edit that. I’m learning as it goes.

Brian Wood contacted me over twitter after reading this interview and wanted to include the following caveat to his answer here:

I’m a little dissatisfied with my own answer regarding the “male gaze” and body positivity. I didn’t articulate it well.  It’s not about him or if he approves or not.  I don’t get into Margaret’s head really but she’s implied to be insecure.  So I suppose that was more a message to my male readers to be more accepting of different body types.

me
I liked that you made an effort toward body positivity, too. What motivates you to write queer positively?

Brian Wood
Through no conscious effort of my own, like 90% of my friends are LGBT
My two best friends in the world who I’ve known since high school eventually came out as gay and MtF trans
So queer rights and positivity are just something I’m constantly immersed in

me
Okay awesome. You did a great job of it.
And you said in a conversation we had earlier that you like to write about racial issues as well.
So, please, if you have any tips for us privileged white types on how to write racially positive
please share.
What should we avoid?

Brian Wood
It depends on what sort of story you’re trying to write and on the character’s personality

me
definitely true. What makes you cringe?

Brian Wood
I feel like media in recent years has actually been pretty good about handling African-American people, but if you give me a second I’m sure I can think of something that made me really aggravated.
I think the worst thing you can do is fetishize it which is something that occurs most often with Asian characters.
It’s easy to say you shouldn’t appeal to stereotypes but that kind of stuff usually gets sniffed out pretty quick.

me
I know a lot of this is common sense; obviously if I wouldn’t like to see every LGBT character fetishized or some sort of two-dimensional stereotypes I shouldn’t do that to anyone else, either.

Brian Wood
The way I handle it personally is to acknowledge that it’s there but it serves as more of an undercurrent than really a focal point.
You can’t pretend that it doesn’t color character interaction.
Even between characters who don’t hold any active prejudice.

me
It sort of depends where they’re from too, doesn’t it?
I grew up in a racially diverse area then moved to one that wasn’t.
So I grew up in a place where my teachers, bosses, and friends were mixed groups (though it would be impossible to deny that the higher up in a company you’d go, the more white and male it got).
Once I got to a less diverse area, people could hardly talk to each other without blurting something stupid.

Brian Wood
The issue with media at the moment is honestly more of a lack of representation with regards to race than actual bad execution
Yeah it does. Since moving back to the US from New Zealand there’s been a bit of a culture shock with regards to racial awareness

me
What’s New Zealand like in that regard?

Brian Wood
New Zealand is really curious in the way that it views race
Simultaneously there’s a similar climate with regards to the Maori people and the government, where there’s a lot of past racial tension that still isn’t 100% worked out and probably never will be
But at the same time they’re extremely, like, almost bafflingly relaxed about it.
There was this animated show called Bro’Town that was produced with government arts funding and written by a Samoan comedy troupe and they just ruthlessly lampoon urban Maori and Pacific Islander culture, particularly in low-income areas. It’s a really strange and vibrant and laid back sort of attitude towards race relations that I don’t think could be emulated in the US.

me
So basically it’s your opinion that in the USA right now, the problem is mainly a lack of representation, right?

Brian Wood
For me it’s more like…
There should be more room for a show to star a person of color and the writers to not shy away from that topic without it being seen as a cry for attention.

me
Right – as though any inclusion is “special consideration” or otherwise intentional.

Brian Wood
Exactly.
And in that vein the most offensive stuff comes from the audiences, not the source material like the backlash over Rue in the Hunger Games movie.
It’s not often that I’ll be bothered by a depiction of a minority character in a movie or book or TV show but the mainstream audience’s commentary about that character can just be the vilest stuff I’ve ever seen.

me
Oh god that was awful.
That’s a really good point. The audiences are disgusting sometimes.

Brian Wood
I’m honestly more concerned with how gay people are being simultaneously idolized and then stripped of all their dignity by mainstream media.
Like, don’t get me started on Glee.

me
Yeah that’s a problem.
It gets kind of exhausting.
Tell us a little about Blood Mother!
What can I expect from the sequel?

Brian Wood
Blood Mother was a bit of a departure in tone and identity from the first one. I’d learned a ton during the experience of writing and selling the first one, and I just took a wholly different approach to writing it with regards to how I mapped out the plot and mechanically, as well.
But it’s reportedly still very much, you know, it’s still the second Tom Bell book, it has that same feel and it carries the story to a natural place.
I was a little worried at first that it might be seen as kind of an unnecessary detour because the main plot thread doesn’t link back significantly to the first book

me
Awesome. And you said when we spoke earlier that you’d be including a trans character? Is that in Blood Mother or in the third? I know anyone who reads my blog wants to know.

Brian Wood
But the characters are still coping with their experiences in Dead Roots and there’s an underlying series of events that ties it all together and leads into the third one
There is a character in the third title who is revealed to be trans and I’m going to attack that topic with all the severity and delicacy that it deserves.
It’s someone that the readers will be attached to and familiar with by the time the character is ‘outed’ to them

me
Tell us more about your third book! When is that coming out? What’s happening in it?

Brian Wood
The third one is probably about halfway through the pipeline at the moment, we’re looking at roughly a mid to late summer release I would say.
The third one is back to Japan and it’s the conclusion of the Aki/Harold story arc and their mental struggle will be fed into the horror grinder for some really nasty imagery and set pieces.
My friend called it “A suicidal road trip full of monsters and mayhem”.

me
That’s awesome.
Okay final question: I guessed that you’d been writing Invader Zim fanfic and you corrected me on Twitter, saying that you’d written Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic.

Brian Wood
ahahaha

me
My son watches Sonic fan videos on YouTube; they get into some creepy shit.
What the holy hell is wrong with Sonic fans?

Brian Wood
I have no clue, but it’s basically always been like that
The people who are in video game and anime fandom nowadays are basically mirrors of the people who were in that scene when I was in high school and it’s baffling to me how it all sort of rhymes that way.
I wrote a lot of psychological horror stuff even back then.

me
reading Dead Roots reminded me a lot of watching Evil Dead..

Brian Wood
That’s a fair comparison particularly with the tree imagery.

me
What did you do to Sonic?

Brian Wood
I took it to some very dark and gross and quite melodramatic places.

Brian Wood takes his readers to some dark and gross and melodramatic places in Dead Roots, then again in Blood Mother and soon to be again in King of Men which can be purchased by following those links on Amazon for your Kindle or in paperback, and here for your nook.

Book Review: Dead Roots

Y2Q6CDead Roots: The Analyst (Volume I)

By: Brian G. Wood

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Action/Horror

Rating: Flawless

Tom’s official job title at the Department of Paranormal Study and Defense (DPSD) is Analyst.  Analyst is the un-fancy way of describing an action-packed, psychologically taxing, high mortality rate position at a super secret government agency. It’s not an easy job, and on top of it, he’s got a sex-crazed boss, an ex wife, an estranged step child, a (literally) haunted past, and a chainsmoking habit to support.  So, he’s got his plate pretty well full enough even before he takes on the job of chaperoning a troublesome demon named Aki trapped inside an eerily docile medium named Keda all around Japan.

The challenge is that Tom is not able to use “chems,” a term which refers mostly to benzodiazepines.  Chems are the double-edged sword of Tom’s profession.  They keep his psyche protected from things like Aki, but at the price of causing things like Aki to become Objective, or visible and also the stuff of bed-wetting, cardiac event inducing nightmares.  Things seem to be going pretty well until Aki manages to get inside of Tom’s unprotected mind and slaps him around a bit with childhood memories of being haunted by a tree in his closet – a tree whose fruit is his mother’s freaking head.  Even a horrible night trawling around Japanese night clubs doesn’t seem to shake the memories loose.  Clearly, Tom needs a vacation, but it has to wait.  Some mysterious disappearances in a town called Orchard require his attention.

The end boss of Dead Roots is a demon named Akebara, the creepy sentient tree from Tom’s childhood made of blood, flesh, and gore.  Akebara has taken over Orchard, a horrid backwoods little place at the foothills of the Appalachians where the populace is so naturally weird already that it’s hard to tell who is being haunted and who is just, well, from Orchard.  Tom’s partner Artie, Tom, Keda, and a local foul-mouthed cop from Detroit named Heather team up to find and defeat the horror that is Akebara before it takes over the whole town and then who knows what else.

I lack the necessary articulation skills to do justice to the unrelenting gore and humor of the many scenes featuring the mutilated, vomiting victims of this tree.  Let’s just say that if you find violent sudden vomiting funny, and you should, then you will enjoy this book.  The gore was delectable.  Akebara is described in all its creeping, cracking, oozing, veiny horror and its victims are even better.  I lost many ounces of weight trying to read this book during my lunch breaks and having to make the painful decision between delicious turkey sandwich and continuing to read Dead Roots.  Dead Roots won.

I was introduced to this book by world famous author of In the End, Alexandra Rowland, who assured me that its author, Brian G. Wood, was relatively speaking ridiculously famous.  He sells multiples of books per week, she assured me, and he will share with us the mysterious secrets of fame.  Naturally, I scooped it right up.  After all, once I’ve finally finished writing a book that I’m willing to show the world, I intend to be, erm, famous.  Well, I have bad news for you, readers, if you were looking for the same insight as I.  There are no tricks here.  It’s all just well-organized, superbly imagined, hilarious, charismatic, quality product.  Wood has refined his craft.  I suspect he may be hiding several hundreds of his earlier works in a locked vault somewhere or perhaps on an Invader Zim fanfic forum.  I refuse to accept that this is one of his first.  It would be too depressing.

It was hard for me to find something to criticize about this book, but in the interest of objectivity, I feel I owe it to my readers to do something other than fawn all over it like a fan at a Justin Bieber concert.  I mean, we’ll leave the discussion of whether criticism is proof of objectivity for another day.  You want to know where Wood messed up, don’t you?  Some of you are authors.  You want to know that there was a really good reason that Wood hasn’t yet been picked up by PenguinHarperCollinsScholasticWhatever because if there isn’t a good reason, the illusion of justice in this world will dissolve before your eyes. You will lose all hope and no longer want to inhabit this planet.  Well, tough.  There is no good reason.  Tom is a bit too archetypal for my tastes, I suppose, given that I’ve read about a hundred male heroes who have smoking habits and strained relationships with hot women and (not hot) kids with whom they wish they could have more time, but it was inoffensive.  His character was simply the one recognizable artifact of pop culture in a sea of one hundred percent pure originality.  Oh, and there was one scene toward the end of the book that I had to read twice to figure out what was going on.  That’s. It.

Because you’re reading my blog, you probably want to know whether this book was woman and queer positive.  It was.  There are some microaggressions in the beginning, so I didn’t have high hopes, but it turned out the book was remarkably self-aware.  The microaggressors learn their lesson.  When was the last time you saw something like that outside of an after school special?  I don’t even know.  It was kind of heart warming actually.  Even better, it was brief and not awkward or overly emotional at all.  It wasn’t so much an episode of Oprah as a brief little “oh,” and then that’s that.  No sitting around and hemming and hawing about what’s gross and who is or isn’t a full human being worthy of equal rights and whose religion is offended right now.  Dead Roots would never put you through that.  It’s much too nice for all that nonsense.

Still, this was not an easy review to write.  It took me several hours longer than expected and I left a very friendly author sweating with anticipation* while I worked out exactly how I could do the job of both telling you how awesome it was and not spoiling a single mystery about the book.  For example: I can’t tell you about my favorite character, Creeping Wind.  Sorry.  You’ll just have to shell out three to twelve bucks.

Go buy Dead Roots.  It can be found on Amazon for $2.99 kindle, $12.99 paperback alongside its sequel, Blood Mother.

*lol just kidding my reviews aren’t that exciting

Author Interview: Ken Floro III

Ken Floro III, author of Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon was kind enough to meet with me today to discuss writing style, his kids’ college fund, and who NOT to listen to while you’re trying to make it as an indie author.  It turns out he is an unbelievably super nice guy, and he even had some really good news about the sequel to Little Green Men (out soon).

Ken Floro
I’m excited. This is my first interview as an author

me
I wish I were more famous for you.

Ken Floro
I’m just grateful for the opportunity. Thanks again!

me
I want to talk about the thing about your book I liked the most: the voice.

Ken Floro
What would you like to know?

me
How did you keep it consistent? Is that just how YOU talk in your head?
Like is Max an extension of you or is he somebody entirely different?

Ken Floro
That’s exactly how I talk in my own head. The oldest writing maxim in the wold is to write what you know. It took me years of practice to make my inner voice anywhere near readable. I’m glad it’s working!

me
It seems to be working quite well, actually.
One thing I absolutely must know because I feel it’s crucial to understanding this book (as you may have gathered from my review of it) is how many books is this series intended to contain?
Did I just read 1/10th or 1/2?

Ken Floro
I’ve already written the second, which is slated for publication this month, and I’m halfway through the third. My gut tells me the series will run through four total, but I absolutely NEVER outline or plan my writing, so the best I can do is catch premonitions about where the stories are headed.

me
okay so at least three then

Ken Floro
Definitely three.
Most likely four.

me
That makes sense. I did feel as though I’d just read around 1/3 to 1/4 of a story

Ken Floro
Oh, good!

me
With self-publishing, sometimes it makes sense to do that. I’ve considered releasing my books in clumps of chapters.

Ken Floro
I had no idea where the whole thing was headed when the story first started bubbling up in 2003. I’ve just been going with it.
I concur with the self-publishing angle. As the author I have so much more control and feel like I can do things entirely as I want to without having to worry about striking marketing targets in given genres

me
I know exactly what you mean!
What sorts of mass-market boundaries did you feel comfortable crossing (in this book and/or in others).

Ken Floro
The first one was written from 03-05. The second from 05-07. The third one has sat dormant in its half-written state for about three years. I was holding out hope for traditional publication. Now my only restriction is saving up for the next batch of ISBN’s
With regard to markets and genres, I didn’t stop to think about it, I just wrote the story that presented itself to me. Stephen King compares writing fiction to archaeology – it’s more like unearthing a fossil than actively creating something. I didn’t set out to cross any boundaries, I just ignored them and wrote what I wanted. Then realized I couldn’t sell it through traditional channels to save my life
So here I am, an indie author

me
That’s a really good way of looking at it.
So, when you were trying to sell through traditional channels, did you receive any feedback? Did you pick up an agent? Tell me a bit about what you encountered.

Ken Floro
I’ll admit I only came to that enlightened stance after years and years of self-doubt and epic frustration
I received enough form rejection letters to make a very uncomfortable blanket, but no one ever connected with my work or gave me any worthwhile feedback beyond “You dialogue seems stilted”
(make that “you’!)
(damit, ‘YOUR”)
((and make that “damnit’!))

me
lol

Ken Floro
(too much coffee this morning)

me
I do that.
So were those letters from agents or did you attempt the publishers themselves?

Ken Floro
I attempted both and never made any headway. To be fair to those who rejected me, I last attempted traditional channels probably five years ago, and I’ve been writing non-stop since then, so I know my work has improved, but I’m in love with being indie now, so there’s no way I’d switch back. The liberty to do what I want and not have to answer to anyone suits my disposition much better

me
Makes complete sense.
You’re the first author I’ve interviewed or reviewed who was not on their debut novel so I’m very interested in knowing what other sorts of things you find rewarding about being an indie author.
For example: do you get to connect with your readers? Have you found a community?
And if it’s not too personal,
Has the complementary income so to speak ever afforded you any grand, significant luxuries?

Ken Floro
I, perhaps unfortunately, fell under the spell of John Locke, and was persuaded to dump a lot of books onto the market all at once. In retrospect, I’m still not sure if that was a bad or good idea, but I’ve been sitting on the material for years, yearning for an audience; at least now I can hunt for one

me
John Locke? Is that a character from one of your other novels? Or do you refer to the philosopher?

Ken Floro
Being an indie author, for me, has been challenging. You get to confront the deafening indifference of the universe head-on, which can be chilly and disheartening. But I remain optimistic and hope that supplemental income can help pay for some higher education for my kids some day (assuming we add to our litter)
John Locke is an indie author who made a big splash a few years back and was only recently discredited for having paid top dollar for spam reviews to pump his Amazon ratings (according to scuttlebutt).

me
Ohhhh I see.

Ken Floro
He published a book about how he made himself such a huge success as the first indie to sell one million ebooks but neglected to mention he bought most of that publicity
Again, so the story goes . . .

me
I see.
But you know… Fifty shades of crap was originally an indie book

Ken Floro
I’ve managed to avoid reading it, but it feels like I’m the only one

me
…and now whats her name and her disjointed, barely coherent vocabulary are drowning in yachts.

Ken Floro
That would certainly be nice!

me
Somebody lent me the book. My girlfriend and I got 20 pages in before we felt actively harmed by the text.

Ken Floro
HA!
For my own work, I’m satisfied that I’ll be proud to let my kids read it someday
Obviously, when they’re old enough

me
So you’re saving up your indie book income for your kids’ schooling. That’s awesome.

Ken Floro
Well, that income amounts to a grand total of $11.43 so far

me
of all the books you’ve released, you’ve only made 11.43?

Ken Floro
Yeah. Deafening indifference of the universe. What can ya do, right?

me
Wow. How many sales is that?
Don’t tell me it’s 1,143 sales, I’ll kill myself

Ken Floro
About a dozen total books, counting print and ebook, but for a long time I had all my ebooks priced at $.99
This is where the “writing whatever I want” part feels sort of like you might have shot yourself in the foot, but I can’t exactly back out now

me
Other than the staggering supplementary income with which you’ll surely one day purchase many summer houses,
and the freedom to write what you want,
can you think of any other benefits?

Ken Floro
It really is FUN! I get to write whatever I want! Staring into the horizon of building an audience is just the next challenge

me
Well, that’s as good a reason as any. How much time do you spend in the average day/week writing?

Ken Floro
It depends entirely what I’m working on. When I’m writing for my website, it can soak up 2-3 hours a day or more. When I’m editing books for publication, that can take up as much as 5 hours a day, but those fits of productivity usually only last for a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the time, I treat writing like a fun hobby. And it’s a lot more constructive than video games

me
Have you tried Sims?
Because maybe you would change your tune a little if you played Sims is all.

Ken Floro
I’ve always been fond of Civilization. A buddy introduced me to it back in high school and warned me I’d be up until 4am playing, and damnit, he was EXACTLY right. The franchise is on its 5th iteration now, but with a toddler, I don’t have the 6-8 I used to scrounge up for marathon gaming sessions any longer. Oh well

me
Toddlers are very detrimental to video game progress.

Ken Floro
You got that right!

me
Two more questions.

Ken Floro
Hit me.

me
As a seasoned indie author, what would you recommend new indie authors pursue/avoid. In other words, what did you waste your time on and what do you wish you’d found earlier?

Ken Floro
I wasted a little money on some digital advertising, and I wasted a lot of time and effort attempting to “exploit” Twitter, per the advice of a certain million-selling indie author. Now, I guess I’d say just write what you enjoy writing and be prepared to let that be good enough, because it might very well be that all you get is the satisfaction of having done it. Not to sound like a pessimist or anything. It it a helluva rush to hold your own book in your hand!
Dance like no one’s watching, right?

me
Definitely.
Okay last question:
Can you please give us a little sneak peek at what’s to come for Max?

Ken Floro
Absolutely!
In the second book, I split the narrative perspective, so half of the book is from Max’s eyes, still in first-person, and the other half is third-person, from Veronica’s eyes. They discover that the little green men are much, much more than wild animals. They also discover just how dangerous the new Director and his goons truly are.

me
It will be exciting to see things from Veronica’s perspective.

Ken Floro
It was a much easier for me to tell a story outside of strictly first-person perspective!
If you’d like, I can send you an advance copy

me
I would love an advance copy, thank you.

Ken Floro
Rock on! I’ll email it today!

me 
And thank you for coming it was all my pleasure doing the interview. You’ve been super fun.

Ken Floro III has the best blog I’ve ever seen from an independent author. It can be found here along with links to purchase his action-packed novels soon to include the perspective of a pretty awesome female character whose voice I can’t wait to hear.

Book Review: Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon

41rzXlojn-L._SL500_AA300_Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon

By: Ken Floro III

Genre: Sci-fi/action

Rating: 

Jury still out pending completion of series.

Little Green Men From Beyond the Amazon (heretofore LGM) is written in the first person narrative of the main character Max, a southside park ranger whose job it is to hunt down boogey men, or little green men, or dog-men depending on who’s talking about them.  Boogey men are some sort of half-dog half-primate hybrids with moderate intelligence and an appetite for human flesh.  The southside is an area of St. Louis, Missouri that is saturated with boogey men.  Max and his cohorts spend every night out patrolling the southside and shooting little green men to death.  When people, or rather, corpses, are involved, the rangers’ job is to hide the evidence of boogey men.  Civilians are not supposed to know about them.

Everything is going pretty hunky-dory, Max supposes, until one day when along comes Dr. Victoria Tersen, a biologist with an attitude that blows hot and cold.  Oh, and apparently a nice body.  Dr. Tersen demands that the rangers capture one of the boogey men alive so that her crew up in Montana can observe their behavior and find out how to kill them.  They find out some useless information and then the Committee cuts their budget.  From here, which is about a quarter of the way into the book according to my Kindle, to the 90% mark, it’s all politics and jockeying for position.  The reader should keep in mind that this is the first book in a series.  I’m not sure how many books there are supposed to be in the Southside Ranger series, but I’m assuming this one did all the necessary discussing and figuring things out.  The book ends with a cliffhanger.

LGM is not the type of book I usually read.  I figured this out pretty much right away.  It’s an adrenaline-fueled hypermasculine creature feature with lots of thumb-jabbing and grabbings by the scruff of the neck.  Aside from Dr. Tersen, there is a woman named Terry who is a nurse that shows up for two sentences.  Everyone else is male.  Everyone.  I won’t lie; this made my inner lesbian sad.  However, and yes it’s tragic, not everyone is a lesbian.  Some people are men.  Some people, I’m even told, really enjoy stuff  like this regardless of their genders and have made Vin Diesel a bajillionaire.  Before Vin Diesel, there was Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and Chuck friggin Norris.  Would the same people who have made Vin Diesel filthy stinking rich like this book, you ask?  I don’t know!  I’m not qualified to determine whether this fulfills all the hypermasculine man-dreams of action junkies.  I can only assume it does due to all of the thumb-jabbing.  So, we’ll go ahead and put a check in that box.

That being said, I do read and write, and I have identified at least FOUR things about the book that I can review with confidence.

Thing one: the narrator.

Max is an incredibly well written narrator.  His voice is consistent, charismatic, and unique.  Even during the times where I groaned a little bit because the plot was starting to remind me of a union meeting (which I attend monthly in real life – I’m not just guessing) my interest was never completely lost because I enjoyed reading it from Max’s perspective.  I liked the way he saw things and how casually he could describe the world and himself and the people around him as though he couldn’t take any of it all that seriously.  I particularly enjoyed one bit toward the end where Max has taken over his former boss’s office and the only thing in the whole room for sitting is an uncomfortable stool.  He fidgets around in the thing and tries to act casual, but he can’t get comfortable.  Later on, when everything overwhelms him, he leans over with his head in his hands and realizes the stool is suddenly comfortable.  That kind of deep introspection from a very not introspective character without ever breaking character was a stroke of genius.  I actually raised my eyebrows.

Thing two: the organization

It’s difficult to tell whether this works in the context of however many books there are going to be.  I checked Floro’s website and couldn’t find anything about how many books there are supposed to be, so I don’t know whether I’m a tenth of the way through the story or halfway through the story.  The book doesn’t stand very well on its own.  It doesn’t have its own complete plot with a traditional arc.  There is no conflict resolution.  That being said, if there are three or four books planned, there’s a lot of potential for this to turn out very well.  The action never comes to a dead stop.  The chain of promises is never broken.  I didn’t feel like I could have put the book down on page fifty and not needed to know any more.  The scenes flowed very well.

Thing three: the “bitch”

Dr. Tersen.  Oh, boy, where do I start with Dr. Tersen?  Well, she’s smart and tough.  She gets her way a lot.  She doesn’t take a lot of shit from Max.  She is also referred to as a “bitch” in literally all of her scenes.  From a harm-reduction standpoint, I suppose it could have been worse.  She could have spent every scene either having sex with Max or being discussed in the context of sex.  She could have walked into a room full of rangers and tried to give a presentation only to be ogled and whistled at.  Oh, wait, that all happened.

This stuff could all have been taken out and replaced with a big fat subtitle on the book cover that read: NO GIRLS ALLOWED.  I don’t even know what to say about it.  Is Floro a misogynist?  It’s hard to tell.  It might just be that Max is a misogynist.  It might even just be that Max is an idiot.  It might be that Floro conceived of Max’s attitudes toward women in an attempt to demonstrate that Max is a flawed character.  I want to believe this, it’s just hard to do when Dr. Tersen is the only female character in the entire book.  I’m hoping the sequels aren’t quite so hostile to female audiences.

Thing four: the cliffhanger

We finally get some fight scenes with the boogey men, things with Dr. Tersen are getting interesting and yes, in spite of myself, I even want to know what the Committee’s deal is.  I will be reading the next book when it comes out.  Or soon, if it already has.  I can’t tell from Floro’s website.

I wasn’t sure how to rate this book, honestly.  I want to see how things pan out and where things go with all the characters.  I want to know if the action is good and whether the Committee is ever developed as a full-fledged character.  I want to know if there will ever be some awesome action woman who shows up and starts doing flips and leveling boogey men territory.

In the meantime, I recommend this to anyone who chooses movies for their explosions.