If you are one of those poor souls who has had to listen to me babble on about my novel, Encantada, I apologize. It's been a few years since that story struck me, and a few months since I've started to try and get other people excited about it. Unfortunately or, more likely, fortunately, I started shouting from the rooftops a little late. Call it terrible timing, or the best timing, but my novel is struggling out in the world in the middle of the #ownvoices movement. Encantada is a mythology novel in a contemporary setting, and initially I didn't think this movement applied. But when the lore in question is tied to a particular culture, it definitely does.
I'm not about to say the movement is a bad thing - because it is awesome and long overdue. But I admit it would be easier for me right now if it never existed. I'm a terrible writer who has had to have my hands slapped in regards to cultural appropriation. The phrase "It's not your story to tell" now has special meaning for me, and it's cruel. It's hard to imagine that the story you spent a few months (read: four years) writing and editing isn't your story to tell. The characters feel real. Their story feels important. You've done the research and you feel this plot, despite the background, is truly global in scope and applies to everyone. Heck, no one is a goddess, or Hades, or a siren - how does #ownvoices apply to mythology at all?
When I first queried E, I asked my writing group if they knew of any other novels out there that I could compare it to. An editor had compared parts of it to Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard), but only based on a few scenes. I could hardly say my novel was great for fans of the latest YA bestseller-about-to-turn-film with such a flimsy excuse. One group member, who had beta-ed for me, said one of the things she loved about E was that it felt so unique. Was it possible I had written something no one had written before? Nowadays, when every story feels like a retelling (or actually is a retelling), hearing someone say my book was unique felt like being named queen of the world.
And it is true. Encantada is based on a legend no one really talks about on this side of the world. This myth is new to the market and the available information is sparse, so we have problems. Being nowhere near the source of the legend, how can I possibly understand it or the impact it actually had throughout history? It is true that I could have ditched the specific legends that inspired my story. J. R. R. Tolkien created hobbits - I could create a new species that did what I needed and didn't have a lot of historical baggage to go with it. But my inspiration was so clear, and how could I ignore that? That certainly isn't justice. And yet, if I had done that, I wouldn't be hitting the wall I have smacked into now. By attempting to pay tribute to the source, I feel like I've dug a hole and tossed my manuscript in it.
I'm still trying to figure out if there is any hope for E. Currently, two wonderful ladies who actually do have ties to the country in question have agreed to be sensitivity readers. Is it enough? I guess we'll see. While we wait, I keep thinking of something a school friend said last year in regard to something else entirely, wondering if it applies. She said that we have two major movements in society now: one to be diverse and to encourage individuals to promote their own culture, the other to focus on what makes us all human and the same. We cannot be simultaneously similar and different, she explained. She probably said it all with much better language that I'm currently butchering, but in terms of E I think it boils down to this: the real plot of this novel is about Analyn. Not that Analyn is a goddess or Hades or a siren, but that Analyn thinks and feels like any one of us. Regardless of culture, what happens on the inside is the same for every person on earth. Love lifts us up, loss tears us down, and betrayal rips us apart. I could tell Analyn's story without the myth, locations, foods, or skin color. I couldn't tell it without the loss, the violence, the friendship, and the love.
Encantada is my story to tell, because every smile, quickened heart beat, or sigh was carefully placed by me. The rest is no more important than the outfit I designed for Analyn in the novel; it serves a purpose, but it isn't critical. You can run in pants, but it made more sense to have a skirt so her legs would be free to be slapped with tall grasses. You can run in a Oxford shirt, but if her dress was sleeveless it would be so much easier to feel the blowing wind.
You can stand guard over nature and protect the planet - humans do it every day - but it made the plot so much richer to include the legendary deities a nation believed served such a purpose.
I really can't wait to hear what my new sensitivity readers have to say about E. I hope this doesn't add to the offense even more, but I would love for them to suggest ways for me to actually increase the cultural aspect of the novel, so the dress can be less Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother and more Belle at the ball. Until then, I write long blog posts about my thoughts on the matter, and hope I don't earn scathing comments or tweets. Thanks for reading!
With love and hugs and giraffes,
Pull up a chair for the best science stories on the web!
1. First, it has finally happened. For years they've warned us and for months I've been waiting. Do you remember the frustration and suspense of waiting for April the giraffe to give birth this year? It's been so much worse waiting for this giant iceberg to fall off Antarctica. Now satellite footage has alerted scientists that this terrible event has occurred.
I love the link to the BBC version of the story best, because they compare the 6000 sq km iceberg to the 1500 sq km Greater London, and then to Wales, before including Hawaii and Cyprus in there for good measure (Wales, Hawaii, and Cyprus are all bigger, not surprisingly). I wonder how they chose those points of comparison.
2. This one is for all the doubters who thought we could never teleport anything to space. Researchers have successfully teleported a photon to a satellite called "Micius," so named after a Chinese philosopher. This is a great step toward instant messaging space pirates, all thanks to a convoluted physics thing called quantum entanglement. Below is a quote from the linked article:
"It works by harnessing the strange effects of quantum entanglement, which Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance". The effect describes the behaviour where particles seem to act on each other instantly and in bizarre ways."
"Spooky action at a distance" - I want to use this line in a book one day.
But the best part of the article, and the reason I decided to share this particular link with you, is the excellent comment by the user snanglebreak, who said "Can they teleport that ice berg back?" Bravo, snanglebreak, for linking my first two stories today.
3. For a long time now, we (a royal we: science geeks) have believed insect wings are a bit like fingernails: a bunch of mostly dead stuff that has great uses but is still, alas, dead. Now the gorgeous blue morpho dragonfly is teaching us we were wrong. As a general rule, science geeks should end every paper with "but we're probably wrong."
4. Quantum computing will be a thing someday, and our grandchildren will be amazed at how large and clunky the first versions were. You may notice that this Science Roundup has used the word 'quantum' in two of its four stories. Quantum is a thing now. Rejoice! Someday, we will have super-processors that can solve anything in record time, not because they are smart but because they have enough juice to run through every possible option or scenario and make truly informed "decisions." No one wants to to be in a self-driving car when its processor gets stuck figuring out if it should brake or not - and quantum computers would never do such a thing to you. Here's a link that tells you more about it. No snanglebreak comments on this one, as far as I could see.
Enjoy the articles and come back later for more Science - though I think we've reached the time for a writing update first. Very exciting things happening in that realm, after all. Until then...
Love and hugs and puppies,
This is a quick post to wish you all a happy Independence Day. Since we are geeks, here is some July 4th history to share around the picnic table. You'll look super smart!
In 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2nd. So why the 4th? Just two days after the vote, they adopted the Declaration of Independence. I like to think we not only celebrate our successful shot at freedom, but also laud the incredible writing skills of one Jefferson, who wrote most of that great document in under two days. And, without a word processor! No backspace key!
All the writers in the room go "oooooooh."
The whole "4th" business was not appreciated by John Adams, who apparently felt the 2nd was the proper day to celebrate. According to the always-correct History.com, he refused to attend many July 4th events in protest.
Also according to History, Adams died on July 4th. That must have upset him greatly. Darn you, Fate! Jefferson died the same day. Some statistician should crunch the numbers: what's the probability that two gentlemen present for the vote for independence and the signing of the Declaration would die on the same day (July 4th, 1826), on the 50th anniversary of that signing?
To celebrate the 4th as it was enjoyed in the early years, you should get double rations of alcohol, shoot cannons, and hold mock funerals for British royalty.
Despite the fact that we've commemorated Independence Day since the beginning, it did not become a federal holiday until 1942. It was a state holiday long before that, however, with Massachusetts being the first state to name it so in 1781.
Interestingly enough, the political division in our country now seen between Republicans and Democrats started very early and became apparent during July 4th celebrations. The Federalists (strong national government) and the Democratic Republicans (less strong national government, stronger states) celebrated the holiday separately as far back as the 1790s. The love didn't last long, did it?
Visit History for all these facts, and more, to be the smartest person at the picnic. Additionally, you can recite the entire Declaration before the fireworks and make everyone wish you'd be quiet. But, most of all, have a fun and safe Independence Day. Be respectful of neighbors and veterans. Oh, and look out for the puppies.
Love and hugs and bunnies,
You might think your novel speaks for itself. Agents always ask for the same things, after all: great plot, great writing, great voice. But that isn’t all of it. You are still the one with a mouth, or fingers, and it turns out that you need to use those anatomical features to push your manuscript into unsuspecting victims’ hands. It’s the sad reality, but one of the first things people ask you on the submission journey is whether or not you are active (read: popular) on social media. They hope you have a following already, so they aren’t completely responsible for launching you into the world, and they want to know how well you’ll do at marketing yourself. We also tend to reveal much more of our personalities on social media than we probably realize. No one wants to work with super egotistical, lazy writers who had beta-readers do all the hard work and who can’t play nice with their sisters-in-law on Twitter. I know that isn’t you, but if it is, your Twitter account probably holds clues. Those clues help the world know what it will be like to work with you. It's one big job interview.
So, say you accept the necessity of social media. Now what? Starting out on my journey, I had a few questions about the entire thing. For one, was it a good idea to start a blog or Facebook account when I wasn’t even sure if I’d be using my full name, partial name, or pen name? If you post often but only have a couple hundred followers, is that considered good, or not good enough? If you can’t join “book Twitter” in the hunt for specific political figures’ heads, should you give up on anyone liking you?
I don’t have the easy answers, but I do know some hard ones. Basically, just do it. Get that Twitter account, make friends on writing forums, start a blog (or, better yet, get a full website). You might not have all the pieces of your publishing career puzzle worked out, but taking your few initial followers along for the ride isn’t a bad thing. They’re the ones who can say they “liked” you before you were cool. Be yourself, and you’ll be fine. Look how well I’m doing, and I really only wanted to write this post to share the awesome social media comics I found!
Since lists are always best, I have a quick list of things you should be working on if you are new to book-focused social media. It's quick because there are only two things: a blog and a Twitter account.
I'm a millennial and I can't figure out Snapchat, but hopefully that one won't hurt us in the end. I am slightly addicted to Pinterest but, quite honestly, sometimes we need to separate our personal fun addictions from our audience. If you happen to find me on Pinterest, you'll see very little writing or book-related anything. It's mostly funny t-shirts that I'm reminding myself to buy for hikes and Pilates, and recipes. I may have a wedding board because all girls my age do. It's natural. Don't laugh.
The other stuff on the social media list? Probably not a good idea right now. No one wants to manage a Facebook page with no "likes," but that is another sad reality before your book hits shelves or is at least at a marketing stage. Don't put yourself through the trouble right now. Instead, focus on getting your voice out there, so your future readers get a feel for who *you* are as a person. If you want to share DIY craft ideas or gardening photos along with your literary rambles and book reviews, go for it! If you are obsessed with horses and spend your days cleaning out stalls and nights typing into Scrivener, then let us know. Blogs are good tools for the longer narratives, and tweets are tiny blogs.
One final thought, concerning YouTube. Does a YouTube presence help? Of course! But it depends on the content, like anything else in this post. If you film witty book reviews in your genre, I say bravo! If you are posting baby videos, it might not be something you share in your query letter.
If anyone has additional thoughts on social media for the fledgling submitter, please comment or hit me up via the contact page. I'm not too proud to edit this post with your suggestions!
Love and hugs and polar bears,
PS: There are more comics to inspire guffaws at current social media trends located Here.