Tag Archives: literature

Anti-Feminist Bullshit Day

22 Oct

Oh. My. Goddess. When the bar is only 1/8 of an inch above the floor, you should be able to get right over it. It’s not asking too much.

In a writers’ group this morning, one member, a white cisgender male in his sixties or seventies, shared a piece he’d written that listed off bullshit stereotypical descriptions of feminists. No, feminism is about dismantling patriarchy, rape culture, and systemic oppression such as misogyny and racism and gender binary. It’s not about hating men and wanting to have “test tube” babies. Patriarchal males are so narcissistic that even their made-up version of feminism is about them. (Since the 2016 election, I’ve repeatedly noticed patriarchal/misogynistic males wave narcissist red flags.)

As for bra-burners?! That was a misnomer invented by patriarchal mainstream media. Atlanta had a city ordinance against burning trash. Therefore the feminist protestors in question tossed oppressive, sexist things such as girdles and Ladie’s Home Journal into a trash can without actually burning them. Stop repeating a lie that has been repeatedly disproved… and read feminist books and blogs.

Later, I logged onto Facebook and visited a group that I usually enjoy. It’s for participants in National Novel Writing Month. But a female posted, asking if she must have “strong female characters” in her novel (because of something someone, maybe a friend, said) and if this is some “feminist agenda” or a requirement. She said she has a male protagonist and no “strong female characters.” Really? Not one single character in your entire novel can be described as a “strong female character”? She seems to think that because it’s medieval historical fiction, that she shouldn’t have to include strong female characters. This presumably means that her novel will have no major, three-dimensional female characters.

I was utterly flabbergasted, twice in one day (and I don’t even work in customer service anymore–heck, I’m somewhat reclusive nowadays). And I’m not going to read anything by her. Even Joss Whedon has no trouble creating strong female characters. It’s such a low bar. No doubt if she learned about the Bechtel Test, she’d have a heart attack or piss her pants or post about this “feminist agenda.”

Both situations reminded me of what a friend recently said in a feminist discussion: that people really hate us feminists. She’d dropped out of an atheist organization for this very reason. I’ve repeatedly observed that the only people with whom I enjoy socializing are feminists.

Yeah, and I’ll keep writing unabashedly feminist fiction. The funny thing is, this was a NaNoWriMo group, and my NaNoWriMo novel for this year is Feed Misogynists to Dragons, a novel so feminist that the title indicates it. I mean, it’s in your face. I’m going to soooooo wallow in the feminism of this novel and my “feminist agenda.”

Collecting Books by George Sand

22 Apr

Several of my books by George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) were published in the 1970s, a decade when second wave feminists wished to read George Sand and found it frustrating that they could read about her but couldn’t find her books. (People found her life scandalous, and misogynists insist on pretending that women are nothing but sexual objects–even a woman as brilliant as George Sand). Maybe Joanna Russ, author of How to Suppress Women’s Writing, sought books by George Sand. The main publishers of her work in English in North America were Shameless Hussy Press and Cassandra Press.

To this day, if you wish to find books by George Sand, you can’t find them in bookstores that only sell new books. Unless you shop on Amazon.com, you can only find them in libraries and used bookstores, even though she was a prolific author and wrote books that are still relevant to today’s society.

Circa 2000, I started searching for books by George Sand. I went to the public library and used interlibrary loan. I fell in love with her epic, historic, and romantic novel Consuelo and wanted my own copy. Since then, I’ve been collecting books by George Sand; some are antiques, and I found the majority at Powell’s City of Books. On Amazon.com, I eventually found print-on-demand (POD) copies of Consuelo and its sequel, The Countess of Rudelstadt, but I kept my antique copy of Consuelo.

Dismissiveness toward women’s experiences and perspectives of course are tied to dismissiveness toward women’s writing. This dismissiveness is, of course, a result of systemic misogyny.

Quandary about Querying

22 Feb

I should have gone back over Hauntings of Claverton Castle and The Vanquished and the Surviving and drastically cut down the word count after only about ten literary agent rejections, rather than after about thirty such rejections. Looking at information about literary agents, I find that they’ve already rejected one or both of those manuscripts, or at least that someone from their agency has, which is close enough (because if one agent of a specific agency rejects a manuscript, it’s normal for them to pass it on to other agents in the same office).

I had fooled myself that surely since some books, such as Twilight, were published despite their long word count, surely it was okay for each of these novels to be over 110,000 words. But no, I finally decided (while reading a book by a literary agent that reminded me of word count limits) that I should play it safe and cut down these two books. Each has at least one less chapter and quite a few removed scenes. I suspect that the word count was why some agents rejected them.

Today, after only a few hours of researching agents, I’m considering putting aside those two novels and waiting until an agent accepts another novel before I make another stab at Claverton Castle and Vanquished. After all, if you already have an agent, naturally that agent will be interested in some of your other work. True, if you jump around different genres like I do, you might need more than one agent…but that’s not an immediate issue for me. What’s immediate in my situation is this: do I go ahead and continue searching for agents for these two novels, or one of them, or do I set them aside for now and instead wait to contact an agent after my critique group has gone over the entirety of the WIP that I’m sharing with them? Or do I revise a certain novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month that I think has a lot of publishing potential, and query agents about that novel (although I’d better share it with my critique group before I do that).

I think I’ll do this: continue revising a couple of WIPs, including the one I’m currently sharing with my critique group…and continue researching literary agents and pick out agents whom I haven’t queried yet about Claverton Castle or Vanquished, because surely there are still a few agents out there I haven’t queried but who are into supernatural and gothic historic fantasy. Or queer and supernatural gothic fiction. Surely I haven’t queried every such agent yet.

A Talking Ancestral Portrait

30 Dec

The following is a scene I removed from a dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving, because it’s not necessary for the plot, and because I’m currently cutting down the word count in order to increase my chances of getting accepted by an agent and a publisher. The novel is set in a slightly different Regency England, one with a lot of ghosts and demons.

*

After dinner, Vincent wandered about the house, with the two cats following him. The galleries and hallways seemed to echo with the absence of Nathaniel. Passing down a corridor and admiring ancestral paintings suspended from chains on either wall, Vincent didn’t dare visit Nathaniel’s bedroom or laboratory. He stopped in front of the paneled door and imagined the laboratory unused, looking as it did last time Nathaniel used it, with glass tubes, bottles, and vials, and the mysterious jars of whatever Nathaniel collected for his experiments. Vincent imagined glass beakers full of blue and purple fluid…and the fluid suddenly bubbling, coming to life, as though an invisible Nathaniel were experimenting and inventing.

Vincent inhaled as he backed slowly from the door. He yawned and knew he should retire for the night. One of the cats rubbed its cheek against the door frame, and the other rubbed against Vincent’s trouser leg.

Entering a long gallery lined with portraits of ancestors, Vincent yawned so fiercely that his eyes watered. He picked up his pace and headed toward his bedroom, when the cats both arched their backs and ran down the hallway. Vincent thought he saw someone moving to his right. He turned to look directly at his companion…and found himself peering up at the portrait of his maternal great-grandfather. He blinked and stared at the portrait.

Great-grandfather Augustus wore, Vincent surmised, the latest fashions in the 1780s. His black hair was curled and only lightly powdered. He wore an extraordinary embroidered, green silk suit with knee breeches and gold-buckled shoes. The old fellow was quite a dandy in his time. The portrait blinked.

Vincent stepped a little closer to gaze at his ancestor. “Ah, forgive me for staring. Great-grandfather, I presume?”

The portrait was life-size. Great-grandfather Augustus grasped the bottom edge of the ornate gold frame and leaned forward. The cats hissed and ran away. Augustus lifted his heretofore hidden lower limbs over the frame and stepped out onto the wood floor. He grasped his hands behind his back and bowed. “Yes, I’m your grandfather, on your mother’s side of the family.”

Vincent bowed in return, more deeply. “Oh, yes, that’s right. I suppose I should have known that without your telling me, but you see my other great-grandfather is also in this gallery.” Vincent glanced at other portraits, but when his venerable ancestor began speaking again, he focused his attention on the ghost.

Great-grandfather looked somewhat translucent. “You can’t have known me well. Nathaniel was the elder boy—if he were here, he would remember me.”

Vincent sighed. “Please forgive me. Regrettably, I’ve forgotten.”

“No matter, dear child. You were only two twelvemonths old when we met. I can’t expect you to recall it.”

“If memories fade so easily in the short time I have lived, what must it be like if one lives a hundred years?”

“La, more than a hundred, dear boy! What must it be like if one has been a ghost for quite some time?”

A Scene I Cut out of a Gothic Novel

29 Dec

Editing my queer and supernatural gothic novel, The Hauntings of Claverton Castle, I cut down the word count by 21,000 words. I figured my chances of getting an agent and getting the novel accepted by a publisher would be better if the novel wasn’t, um, about 127,000 words.

Below is a portion I removed from the novel.

*

After assessing the needs of the pantry and creating a shopping list, Charis Dunn, the housekeeper, took off her pinafore and prepared to head to town to purchase supplies. She reached into a canister in the pantry and pulled out money set aside for the household, and she tucked it into the reticule she kept in the same canister. She headed back to the servants’ hall and took her black, beribboned bonnet off a peg. As she tied it under her chin, she headed out the back door, the same door she thought an orphan like Miss Ponsonby should use.

In the village of Midsommer Norton, Charis walked down a muddy road. She passed shops in two-story stone structures on her left and the River Somer on her right. The mud sucked at her boots with a distasteful squishing sound, and often she had to pull her feet up forcefully to remove them from the mud. She would have taken the compact and lightweight Prendregast brougham, but Mr. Reginald was using it to call on friends, and she did not have the authority to take the barouche. Glancing up at a dark gray hovering cloud, she recalled Miss Ponsonby’s intrusive questions and grudgingly recalled her youthful beauty.

Charis had been alive more than long enough to know the contrast between how people—especially males—treated attractive girls of Miss Ponsonby’s age and how they treated women of her own advanced years. Before she had reached the age of forty, Charis had observed that those around her treated her with a strikingly different attitude than they had when she was young and comparatively pretty. At the thought of Miss Ponsonby, Charis smiled ruefully and acknowledged that compared to this striking golden-haired beauty her own prettiness had been nothing.

However, Charis’s youthful prettiness had been sufficient for her to attract the admiring eye of young men—and even older men—in the village, not to mention comments that she did not wish to hear. Some of those men and boys were so forward! They certainly, she thought, believed they were entitled to comment on her appearance as though she cared a fig what they thought of her. Knitting her brow, Charis remembered feeling ashamed of herself because, in a way, she did care what they thought; but she only cared in that she wished to be respected as much as any lady. They would not dare behave that way to a genteel girl like Miss Ponsonby.

Sometimes during her youth, when she went to the village of Midsomer Norton to purchase items for the kitchen as she was doing now, or to enjoy her day off, Charis walked past the shops and the pedestrians with her head bowed and wished she were invisible. If she were invisible, she thought, men would not have made unwelcome comments such as, “Oy, buxom hussy!” or, “Love, meet me at the Primrose Tavern for a drink.”

By her late thirties, content with her unmarried state, Charis walked past the store fronts on her day off and received no comments. Two youths passed her and looked straight through her; directly behind her, she knew, were two slender girls approximately the same age as the boys, who grinned and lifted their hats to the girls. This incident conjured memories of when young men treated her the same way and discomfited her. In her youth, she wished to be invisible, and now she was. As though to confirm her thoughts, a man in a cap and overalls pushed past her with a wheelbarrow full of coal and did not so much as glance her way.

Thoughts of her youth brought Charis back to when she was a lowly scullery maid at Claverton Castle. Charis pressed her lips tightly together. Sixteen-year-old Charis had most certainly not sat in the drawing room and entertained guests at the pianoforte. No, in the kitchen and the servants’ hall, she had fetched and carried and scrubbed pans and swept the ashes in the fireplaces. She wasn’t so much as a housemaid, like that girl, Jane, until she was over the age of twenty. But like Miss Ponsonby, she had been an orphan. Charis narrowed her eyes toward a shop window displaying fashion illustrations; they were a far cry from her sober black frock.

When the youthful Charis was not receiving impertinent remarks from men in the village, she was scrubbing away and working her fingers to the bone. A Sensitive who had the ability to levitate objects could have done the same work with a great deal of ease. As a young scullery maid, Charis had sometimes fantasized about having such a skill. She imagined being able to merely think of scrubbing the pots, and to immediately see a brush scrubbing them, faster than she scrubbed away, roughing up her hands. She had often feared a Sensitive joining Claverton Castle’s staff and ultimately acquiring her position. Then Charis would have been out on the streets.

With this thought, she yanked her right foot out of the mud with a loud squelch. She never lost her position, more than anything because the scullery maid had such a lowly position that it was scarcely heard of for one to be a Sensitive. Charis had always been struck by the irony: one of the most grueling and undesirable jobs that would have been nearly effortless with Sensitive powers was also one of the servant positions rarely held by a Sensitive.

Fortunately, Charis gradually progressed from scullery maid to the highest station she could reach, that of housekeeper. Years ago, she had the distinction of catching the eye of the lady, Mrs. Prendregast, and becoming the lady’s maid. The lady of the house enjoyed having Charis as her personal servant, helping her dress and style her hair. “Dunn, you have quite a talent for this kind of work. Who would have thought—you were wasted in the kitchen.”

“Well, Ma’am, I’m here now, so it’s nothing I care to fuss about,” Charis replied.

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Prendregast said. “You’re so happy with your lot. That strikes me as an unusual trait.”

“Unusual, ma’am? It shouldn’t be, if you ask me.” The lady chuckled; Charis knit her brow, wondering what amused her. Mrs. Prendregast chuckled frequently, a trait she passed on to Master Reginald.

Charis worked as lady’s maid for Mrs. Prendregast for nearly ten twelvemonths, until the housekeeper died of heart failure. Mrs. Prendregast easily convinced Mr. Prendregast that Charis Dunn could do the job, at least in the interim. By then, Charis had witnessed the lady not chuckling as frequently, and staring into space as though lost in thought. She watched the ceiling a great deal and often lapsed into frowning silence and sighs. It was not long after Charis became housekeeper that Mrs. Prendregast died. Angry with grief, Mr. Prendregast demanded that servants refrain from talking about his wife or her sudden death.

Now Charis entered a dry goods shop and approached burlap sacks of flour. She selected a bag and exchanged glances with an apron-clad shopkeeper, who nodded and clomped across the floor toward her. Charis reflected that she could have done worse with her life, never mind that she was not genteel like Miss Ponsonby.

Charis sniffed at the thought of that girl, interrogating her about family secrets. Prying into such things was hardly a way to demonstrate gratitude to her entirely too hospitable host. Pampered and admired as that girl was, she was no real princess.

“Do you see that cab?” Charis nodded toward the large front shop window. The shopkeeper replied in the affirmative. “I need the flour in there. I’m not carrying it all the way back to Claverton Castle.”

“Yes, ma’am.” the shopkeeper handed back her change. Charis slipped it into her reticule and showed her back. Next, she must go to the street market for cheese and milk.

A Chapter I Removed from a Dark Fantasy Novel

21 Dec

I’m currently editing down the word count for a dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving (it’s a working title). It’s set in a slightly different Regency England, in which people called Sensitives have magic/psychic powers. Vincent, the protagonist, is a teenage boy who accidentally killed two powerful people shortly after they murdered his brother, Nathaniel, before his eyes. The novel is based on a dream.

This novel chronologically takes place right before my gothic novel, The Hauntings of Claverton Castle. Literary agents have rejected both novels, and I’ve come to realize that cutting down the word count in each novel will raise my chances of getting the books published.

*

On the eve of Yule, the most important winter holiday, Vincent occupied an armchair by the fireplace on the ground floor of the tower. The shutters were closed, and the only light in the room came from the blazing hearth and a candelabrum centered on the dining table. Though the shutters were sturdy enough wood, they didn’t entirely muffle the howling wind, which made the shutters creak. The open book in his lap wouldn’t have impressed either of his tutors; it was Horace Walpole’s gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.

Vincent strove to focus on the meaning of Yule rather than the prospect of spending the holiday without his family. He closed his eyes and reflected on its prehistoric roots, when people of the British Isles genuinely feared that the sun wouldn’t return.

Yule was the shortest day of the year, when the darkness lingered late into the morning and returned in the afternoon. To this day, many Druids, such as the Montmorency family, remained awake all night, until the sun rose the next morning; it had become celebratory rather than fearful, and it was typically accompanied by wine and dancing around bonfires. Vincent’s family typically stayed up all night telling stories before a fireplace and exchanged presents after the sun rose.

Here in the tower, he was alone. He scanned the room and listened to the wind and the rattling shutters. Customarily he enjoyed solitude, but not on this day, a day meant to be celebrated with family. He closed his eyes and breathed in and out, slipping into a meditative state. He focused on his breath for about an hour.

Vincent heard the customary scratching at the ground floor door, before the servant Oakes entered with a floating tray of food. Strangely, Jenkins followed immediately behind, also waving his hands about and focusing his unblinking gaze upon two trays gliding in the air before him. Vincent recalled Jenkins’s comment about servants dismissed for letting one plate slip and break. Vincent grimaced.

The first tray displayed the customary breakfast food: eggs, mushrooms, a pot of a hot beverage, and toast and rolls with butter. Vincent raised his eyebrows at sight of a pot of marmalade; he’d requested this treat several times to no avail.

The second tray appeared to carry luncheon: cucumber sandwiches, oranges and pineapple, pudding, and tarts. A teapot and cup accompanied all this. To Vincent’s further confusion, the cook entered manually carrying another tray, which he set down before lifting the lid and reveling what appeared to be a veritable feast, considering the monotony of Vincent’s meals since his imprisonment began three months ago: bean and cheese casserole, potatoes and French beans, chocolate tarts, mince pie, and even a bottle of sherry with a wine glass.

Vincent wondered if the Organization was attempting to fatten him up and eat him for their Yule feast. “What is this?”

The cook twitched his hands impatiently. “As tomorrow is a very important holiday, we shall away tonight to spend it with our families. We have every intention of returning and resuming service for you the following day.”

Jenkins waved his hands, and a strip of purple brocade, accompanied by two matching purple candles, floated through the air and landed on the dining table. “We have taken the liberty of bringing your lordship an altar cloth and candles for your altar.”

Vincent visualized these objects on the altar with his goddess statue upstairs. He turned back to Oake. “You’ll spend the holiday with your families, while I spend the holiday alone here.”

Oake cleared his throat and spoke in a voice as chilly as the night air. “Most of the guards will remain tomorrow, milord. With that in mind, you won’t be entirely alone, though I expect you’re unlikely to see the guards.”

Jenkins held a napkin out to Vincent. “Unless your lordship sees some guards from the window or on the tower roof.”

Vincent took the napkin and refrained from sarcastically saying, How reassuring.

One tray settled down on the deep stone windowsill of a shuttered window. Jenkins waved at it. “Given the perishability of some of your food and beverages, we shall keep them chilled by placing them in front of the window.”

Vincent shuddered. “I’ve stood by that window. Yes, that’ll be sufficient.” He was struck, more so than ever before, by the coldness of Oake and the cook, compared to servants with whom he’d grown up. No doubt the Organization hired them because they didn’t sympathize with him. Jenkins didn’t strike him as cold, so that was hardly a consistent theory.

Vincent knew he must seem spoiled, and the servants might consider him a criminal deserving of punishment. Why should they be punished for his crime? No, they deserved to enjoy the holiday with their families. Whether he did was questionable.

As he thought this, Vincent felt a lump form in his throat. The thought of his crime, or alleged crime (a sentiment he increasingly considered wishful thinking or delusion) conjured the memory of the dark city street, Lady Hester and Sir Hubert standing on the walk, and Nathaniel glowing green. He sank into a chair. If the leaders of the Organization hadn’t died, they would have killed me.

The following morning, Vincent found no presents under a Solstice tree. The bedroom fire, he found as he pulled aside the bed curtains, had dwindled to tiny flickering flames, and he recalled that he would have no servants for the entire day. If the fire went out completely, he wasn’t sure how he’d start it anew with logs and tinder.

He slipped out of bed, padded across the ice-cold stone floor, and took hold of the poker and managed to encourage the flames to leap and spread. He knew he must do the same in the sitting room and the study, since it would be a cold December day with nobody else performing household chores. Watching the fire grow, Vincent rose from his crouch before the hearth and realized he’d taken servants for granted all his life.

He opened the large wardrobe and pulled out a pair of black trousers, which he slipped on. He turned to the goddess shrine but decided to finish dressing first. As tempting as he felt to be slovenly in such solitude, Vincent thought it disrespectful to stand in his nightshirt before the shrine, especially on Yule.

After donning a fresh linen shirt, a black wool waistcoat, and a black frockcoat, Vincent wrapped a maroon muffler around his throat rather than a cravat and approached the shrine at last.

A solitary ceremony was a far cry from the family celebrations in which he’d participated all his life. This thought inspired pressure on Vincent’s heart. He emitted a deep sigh and draped the purple altar cloth onto his altar. He placed the Mother Goddess Anu statue, the goblet, the bell, and the wand back on the altar and arranged a small cluster of holly directly before the statue. Lighting the purple candle, he bowed his head and chanted:

Goddess bright and sky dark,

Mother of the universe, hark!

I beseech you: bring back the day

And never let it entirely go away.

 

Vincent reminded himself that he should be grateful. He wouldn’t occupy the tower forever, and his family would be waiting for his return. While the lack of pleasant company on such a celebratory day brought him melancholy, he had the entire day off from his studies and wouldn’t see his abrasive tutor, Caldecott.

Vincent spent most of the day reading and indulged in a nap in the early afternoon, something he rarely did. When he awoke, sunset had already begun. Watching the sunset through an open window, Vincent resolved to meditate through the solstice night until the sun rose.

Bundled up in a quilt and the muffler, he sat in an armchair in front of his shrine. Meditating with his eyes nearly closed, he listened to the crackling of the fire and frequently ruminated before reminding himself to return to mindfulness of his breath. Memories of past Yules rose: happy family memories, including at the sacred grove behind his parents’ estate and similarly behind Goblin Hall, the manor house where Sir Bryant, Margot, and Roland lived.

When Vincent was ten years old, his family spent December as houseguests at Goblin Hall. On Yule, the children helped servants create a bonfire, which the servants lit at dusk. Vincent and his brother danced around the flames and whooped and hollered. Margot joined them; even Roland did after a clandestine gulp of holiday rum.

Vincent recalled Nathaniel leaping before the crackling fire. Now his lips trembled, and his throat constricted. He wondered how he could have joyful memories of Nathaniel. Would grief always feel like this? Would he eventually have thoughts of Nathaniel without tears? He couldn’t turn to his parents, or to Margot or Roland, and ask them these questions.

Second Rowanwick Witches Novel Published!

15 Oct

My new middle grade fantasy novel, Rowanwick Witches, Lesson 2: Gingerbread, is available for purchase on Amazon.com!

BookCoverPreview (2)

Aunt Amaryllis throws a Summer Solstice party with an eccentric assortment of old friends, all good witches. When her niece, Violet, asks if wicked witches exist, Aunt Amaryllis is offended. Meanwhile, Amaryllis’s old friend Wilhelmina invites them to come visit…in the Black Forest of Germany. Recalling the story of Hansel and Gretel, Violet begins to wonder if Aunt Amaryllis’s old friend isn’t as good as she claims….