Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dear son, don’t let Robin Thicke be a lesson to you

The Matt Walsh Blog

***Update, August 1: In response to the thousands of people who, after reading this entire post, decided to harp on one single phrase (“I’m no feminist”), I wrote this. If you want to know how I can say all the things I say here, yet still reject “feminism,” click the link and I’ll explain. Otherwise, carry on. Thanks for stopping by.

Our country dangles on the precipice of starting a third World War. We are on the verge of a completely unnecessary conflict where the United States will fight along side Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This, in another day and age, might earn the crown as the Most Controversial Story of the Week. But we’re in the year 2013, and this is America, so a young pop star’s dance moves on an MTV awards show have predictably overshadowed the prospect of global chaos and bloodshed. I wrote…

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Thoughts on Akumu Love Panic Ch. 13.4 (and the story in general)

Exported from Twitter by Storify.com:
  1. In the new #AkumuLovePanic update (which is finished at 2k words) we finally learn about Carlin’s past.
  2. The attention Carlin has received in this 2nd story arc doesn’t surprise me so much, as it just leaves me humbled #akumulovepanic
  3. I talk about this later, but what I mean is: Carlin’s backstory dominated this update, and I was embarrassed I hadn’t factored that into my outline. Chapter 13 was supposed to be done in 3-4 updates. Now it’s looking to be done in 4-6!
  4. In the 1st story arc for #AkumuLovePanic the story focused mostly on the plot, so the pacing was quicker. This was good and bad.
  5. Good in that the story was very focused and event-driven. Bad in that characters like Carlin are largely left unexplained. #akumulovepanic
  6. And Carlin was such a bewildering character too! I tried to keep her from getting too frustrating in my first round of edits #akumulovepanic
  1. If you thought Carlin was abrasive and confusing in the first story arc, you should’ve seen the rough drafts. In those, less about her was explained, and her actions really came across as someone who was crazy for the sake of being crazy. It’s maybe for this reason that I arranged for Amaya and Carlin to be stuck together in close quarters for an undetermined amount of time.
  2. But I think in my next edits, I’ll have to tone her down even more. Kiyomi and Usagi hardly get much attention too. #AkumuLovePanic
  1. That’s one of my lasting regrets from the first ALP story arc. While we at least get SOME details about Carlin and Haruko, we get virtually nothing about Kiyomi and Usagi. I’d originally intended for Usagi to be a much more prominent character, by way of her being with Amaya all the time for Equestrian Club. Her presence was supposed to be a gateway for Kiyomi, but the story ended up going a different way, resulting in neither of them having much explained in terms of who they really were or where they came from beyond surface details.
  2. Hindsight is 20/20. I would like the 1st arc to find that good balance for character and plot. #AkumuLovePanic
  3. Honestly, I prefer character-driven stories, and so maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the 2nd arc more. #akumulovepanic
  4. I really think the 2nd arc is much more character-driven. It’s true this may feel uneven or even at the expense of plot, but I feel less anxious about this somehow. Everyone is getting more attention: We finally get to see more of who Haruko is and where she lives, we see more of the awkward relationship between Amaya and her father, just recently we’re starting to get more details about Kento, for the first time we had a glimpse as to what Amaya’s mother is like, and of course we’re getting more about Amaya’s past. The only ones who haven’t been benefiting from this as much are Kiyomi, Usagi, and Oyama. We’re even going to be learning more about Hideaki and his mother Kishi in a few updates.
  5. I know the attention has mostly been on Carlin, and when I edit the story, maybe I’ll find a way to spread that out a bit #akumulovepanic
  6. In the next few updates I was actually hoping to shift some focus onto Kiyomi and Usagi (finally), and of course, Haruko #AkumuLovePanic
  7. Carlin’s attention has mostly been a situational accident (her hiding in Amaya’s room) #akumulovepanic
  8. This is what I mentioned earlier–arranging for Amaya and Carlin to be forced to deal with one another on a more intimate level.  I wanted the readers to understand Carlin, and recognize that Amaya’s view of her was skewed and lacking in information. Amaya isn’t a reliable narrator, and she even acknowledges this fact in-story. However, in order for the story’s perception of Carlin to change, I had to change Amaya’s view of her–thus the extreme situation.
  9. Some of you may have noticed her dialect has “lightened up.” This was purposeful. #AkumuLovePanic
  10. I’m talking about Carlin here.
  11. I was reading some older chapters and decided I HATED how her dialogue read. #AkumuLovePanic
  12. It sounded cartoony to me. Then I remembered some advice a teacher gave me a while ago #akumulovepanic
  13. “When giving a character a dialect, you need only suggest its existence for the reader–” #AkumuLovePanic
  14. “Once a form of speech has been established, the reader will recreate it in their head without need for constant prompting” #AkumuLovePanic
  15. One of the best advice I’ve ever received for my writing. I only wish I’d received it before starting to write ALP!
  16. So I started dialing back the contractions and instead focused on using the occasional slang and cadence of an Irishman #AkumuLovePanic
  17. I think it reads better. But this won’t be put in retroactively for a while now. I have other things that take precedent #AkumuLovePanic
  18. Senior year of college, editing Eikasia’s first market e-book, etc…
  19. Yeaaah…this new update took me by surprise. As I said, Carlin’s back story has humbled me. #AkumuLovePanic
  20. I didn’t realize how much attention it really deserved until I started typing it #AkumuLovePanic
  21. It was a nice reminder to respect my characters’ stories, a courtesy I’m eager to extend to Kiyomi and Usagi now! #akumulovepanic
  22. I realize that not all prominent characters need to have a complicated back story detailed to the reader to feel fully rounded. But like Eikasia, Akumu Love Panic has established a theme that time has a rippling effect, and the acts of yesterday affect the realities of today. In ALP this is especially true for Amaya, who struggles with her past of sexual abuse and the subsequent assault it ended in. It has shaped her greatly, and her past experiences are factored into many of her major decisions. With Carlin and Haruko, it is strongly suggested that their pasts have also greatly influenced who they are today. All that said, I feel it would be unfair to my characters to be blithe about their back story.
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Review: Kitty in the Underworld

Kitty in the Underworld
Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for the 12th book in the series, so I’m assuming those reading this are at least somewhat familiar with the setting and characters. Also, when you read this review, don’t stop at the first or second paragraph.

I have been reading the Kitty Norville series since high school. Kitty and her friends have become very dear to me as characters, and my loyalty to their story has allowed me to stick with the series through some of its doldrums. Since the eighth book (Kitty Goes to War) I’ve felt that the Norville series has been meandering, either pitting Kitty against underwhelming antagonists (such as in Kitty Steals the Show, and Kitty Rocks the House), an unfocused plot (such as in Kitty’s Big Trouble), weak conflict/resolution (Steals the Show, Rocks the House, and Big Trouble), and Kitty’s personality maybe slipping a little too much into the Yin (meaning her tendency to talk and question everything turns grating instead of humorous; again, Big Trouble…guess which book is my least favorite of the series?)

A lot of people feel disgruntled with the focus of the overarching plot going global, and in some cases, I’ve even heard that some folks are dissatisfied with the attention being entirely supernatural and less to do with the rest of the human world at large (one of the reasons House of Horrors is so popular in the series.) Honestly? I don’t fault Vaughn for keeping the focus on the supernatural. I like how she focuses on the supernatural in many ways. I would’ve become annoyed if suddenly these ancient beings who are, in some cases, thousands of years old, become suddenly threatened by some angry human mortals. Sure, there’s danger in numbers, but these ancient beings become ancient by creating vast networks and organizations that ensure their survival. They have years of wisdom on their side. In my opinion, someone of that nature who wants to take over the world is much more dangerous than a disorganized swarm of humans. House of Horrors illustrated how one small group could take down some supernaturals, but they were ultimately defeated, and like many upstart cells, they failed to rally more to their particular cause. Thus, it stands to reason given the story’s context that the biggest threat is not human. It’s supernatural. Period. This threat isn’t even purely vampire in origin, as the story eventually begins to suggest…

Never when reading any of these books did I find myself hating the series so much to quit it. As I’ve stated, I love the characters too much, and honestly Vaughn does a wonderful job exploring aspects of the fantasy/supernatural world in such a way that most authors don’t even consider, unless they’re trying to crack a joke. (like–do working vampires over 65 collect social security?) It’s things like that which keep me coming back. It shows a deep love for the genre, and I’m happy to say…

MY FAITH HAS BEEN REWARDED!

Kitty in the Underworld may start off a tad bit slow, but things quickly get intense when Kitty is suddenly kidnapped by a shadowy group of individuals. Later she learns these people are a cult, and they wish to recruit her for their fight against Roman. The problem? They won’t take no for an answer!

Despite the majority of the book taking place in a silver mine, things don’t feel slow or stuck. There is good momentum and escalation of conflict. The book gets almost cerebral as Kitty struggles to keep it together–physically, emotionally, and mentally–as she’s near-starved and dehydrated. The narrative lapses into Kitty talking about mythological stories, because the girl is given a lot of time to think don’cha know, and we come to see the parallels between these stories and Kitty’s plight. These portions are perhaps my favorite. Names take on a whole new meaning in this book, making Kitty ponder the power of identity and what her true role is in the fight against Roman. The stakes feel raised, and there’s a palpable tension as Kitty rails against her captors. The end of the book felt appropriately climactic, and I felt like Kitty finally makes some progress in finding a way to stop Roman.

This book was a delight to read, and I blasted through it in a day. I’m really looking forward to the next book, just as I always will be for this series–because Vaughn is a great writer, and Kitty is a wonderful character.

View all my reviews

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Trigger Warnings for Writing

I’m not sure how I got onto this topic today. I was literally supposed to just sit down and read my assigned pages for class this week, when some link or tweet or whatever caught my eye, and it got me thinking on trigger warnings for books. Namely that I don’t see them! Now while I am not a victim of abuse or trauma, I can say without a doubt that I truly appreciate content warnings from films and shows. If they say: “This presentation contains graphic sexual abuse and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” I will listen! I don’t like getting blindsided with the sight of a man or woman getting raped, abused, or tortured. I like knowing when these things may happen so that I can decide for myself if I can stand watching them. But the courtesy of trigger warnings is less important for me, and more important for those who have actually suffered such experiences, or perhaps knows someone who has.

Even subtle warnings seem to be absent in most books. For instance, my copy of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett fails to mention that one main character gets raped, and another is forced to watch–not to mention all the incest. Was Mr. Brett expecting his readers to just take for granted that a dark fantasy book would feature such things? And there are plenty of books on the market these days that pull the same thing. What gets me is that movies and television shows are expected to warn viewers beforehand due to censorship ratings, but because books aren’t held to that standard they just don’t do it. I’m not saying books should be rated, but I find it a little disappointing that so many fail to think of those readers who re-experience their traumas again because of someone’s writing.

Of course, there are arguments for and against trigger warnings. I really liked the write up by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who provides a reasonable argument as to why she–a PTSD sufferer–disagreed with trigger warnings. It was a dilemma I found myself facing when putting trigger warnings on Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic. What “triggers” should I even mention? Was I going to have to put a trigger tag on every post containing a potential scene, sentence, or phrase that could set someone off? And we’re talking about years worth of writing here, so the task felt overwhelming… But as Coslett states, triggers are everywhere and can come from the least expected things. I realize that not everyone who has suffered a particular trauma or negative experience may be triggered in the obvious ways. For all I know, one of my in-story jokes could set someone off. Another write-up by Ann O’Malley argues that people should at least have the choice to deal with such things, because the old phrase “don’t like it, don’t read it” doesn’t work if someone isn’t aware it’s even there. Cosslett touches on this a little bit too.

So here’s what I decided to do: for Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, I will not be tagging potential triggers in posts or hiding them in spoiler links.* On the front page (aka the “New Readers” page) for both sites, the header for trigger warnings will be highlighted in red (with a red instruction under “ratings” to scroll down to see it) and in that list will be a general breakdown of potential trigger warnings for each story arc for both series. In these lists, I try to cover some of the more common triggers, including one or two less common ones that I think are worth noting (like child death). Given the size of both Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, combing the stories for triggers would be unfeasible. The best I can do is highlight those that are most likely to trigger someone, and let the stories run their natural course.

The point here isn’t to coddle people or to shove an agenda into people’s faces. I agree with Cosslett that the tendency to tag everything (from blog articles to tweets) with potential trigger warnings is a bit much. But everyone deals with trauma differently, and for those who seek solace in stories like mine, I think it is important to at least give the person a heads up about what they may encounter. People immerse themselves into stories, and sometimes that level of empathy can really impact a person strongly. I’d hate to send someone over the edge just because I failed to take the short time to offer a warning!

*For those Eikasia readers wondering why I’m not putting spoiler links on posts with possible triggers when I do that for graphic sex scenes, here’s why: Eikasia began as a story that didn’t feature graphic sex. I had asserted in the past that I wasn’t interested in writing sex scenes, but this later changed. In order to keep from alienating those readers who did not want to read sex scenes and came to expect their exclusion from the series, I put spoiler links. So the difference with trigger warnings and sex scenes is that I had always intended to write about certain controversial issues in Eikasia, whereas I hadn’t with sex scenes. I hinted at things like self-harm, rape, and torture early on, setting them up as a constant in the setting, and therefore something to be encountered at one point or another. Conversely, Akumu Love Panic does not have spoiler links for its sex scenes because it was established that the story would be featuring such things from the get go. I hope that is clear.

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Akumu Love Panic Chapter 13.2 Available

I UPDATED THE THING GUYS.

In this update: Amaya awakes from her strange dream journey, only to find that Kento has gone missing…

I know it’s been weeks since I last updated Akumu Love Panic and I’m sorry about that. As I stated in the comments for ALP 13.1 and also in my YouTube video, my priorities have shifted and so ALP will probably be seeing less frequent updates. I’ll try to update as much as I can, but with full-time school, an uneven work schedule, Eikasia, Kliff’s Edge, and my pregnancy, things may not happen like I want them to. I mean, I managed to update ALP today, but yesterday I missed the third update in a row for Eikasia. Nuts! But this will happen. The one thing that should be remembered, however, is that I will always come back to my work. Just keep letting me know you guys are there. Thank you to those commenters on ALP, and those who contacted me through Facebook. If I got radio silence, the likelihood of my returning to the story drops dramatically. I need to know I have an audience, even if it’s a small one.

Again, thanks for your patience guys, and I hope you like the new update. The Eikasia update WILL BE UP THIS WEEKEND. Even if that means a shorter update than usual!

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The Result

(This is a follow-up to my “Elmiryn’s Wisdom” post a few days ago)

So Kliff’s Edge was accepted to the listing, though the site owner’s reasons still held that gender and sex were inseparable, and their acceptance of the story was hinged on the fact that they believed readers would view May’s gender identity as a woman, despite the character’s personal views.

A listing is a listing, though I don’t agree with the reasons behind it. I can only hope that the readers have a better understanding of May’s identity.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ara_nZ8M6M&w=420&h=315%5D
Continuing from my writing inspiration video, I talk about different tools and tactics you can put to use when brainstorming or organizing your story ideas.

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