Race Tendencies in Literature

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I know what you’re thinking: Not another biased viewpoint on race within the boundaries of pop culture! It seems that the topic is race is being bent and scrutinized in every possible way even to the point of being used to further one agenda or another. Don’t worry. While this is certainly “yet another article” on the subject, I will definitely never tell you what you should or should not include in your writings. As an American Studies major, I simply find myself in curiosities that must be answered.

For the last week I have randomly polled people I work with, live with, and meet while out and about. I got weird looks and awkward laughs and some really insightful information into how culture and race are naturally viewed by everyday people. I talked to Whites, Asians, Blacks, Mixed, Indians, whoever I came across whom I felt I could approach. I had one simple question for each of them:

“If you wrote a story, what race would you instinctively assign your characters?”

Not a hard question, right? Actually, it’s a deeper question than it would seem. Everyone talks on social media about the “whitewashing” of literature and movies, and yet they lack the substantive study to support the theory. Are you as curious as I was to see the answers I received to the above question?

All of them reacted the same. All of them admitted their characters would be predominantly whatever race (or combination thereof) they happened to be, themselves. 

My asian friends said theirs would be asian. My black friends said theirs would be black. Not a single non-white race even considered the thought that they might create predominantly white characters. Of course, I tend to hang out with fairly open-minded people, and so they knew they’d have other races in the story, but the predominant theme tended towards focusing on their own ethnicity.

This tells me there is far more to the underlying race issue than simply “whitewashing.” It’s “racewashing.”

Again, I will never tell a writer what kind of characters they must write, or what races are required for movies to be “ethnically correct.” In some ways this viewpoint seems to be quite misleading. However, this issue is something to take into consideration, and really begs a far more detailed study than the simple verbal poll I conducted over a week’s time. Is it racism? Ignorance? Nature?

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Sunday Post #1

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It’s been a few days since the official launch of The Gathering, but I’m no less excited! If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you should go do that now. Right now. It’s only $2.99 on Kindle, and if you haven’t read the first book, The Vu, it’s here for only 99¢. I guarantee you will love the story, as I loved crafting it.

On to other news, now that I’m not trying to finish revisions and do release stuff, I’m back at the writing board. This time, I’m finishing my first thriller short story. It’s untitled just yet, but it’s nearly done and ready for my exclusive readers. What’s an exclusive reader, you ask? Oh, just those who signed up for my newsletter. Want in? Well, go get on the list!  I don’t send constant emails to clog up your inbox, and you’ll be privy to special freebies no one else on the PLANET will get. I can’t wait to share more with you.

On the personal side, this last week I was on vacation from work. Although I didn’t go anywhere, I spent a lot of time with my children going to the park, on walks, and playing outside in the water hose. Returning to my day job was bittersweet. I loved cooking each meal for them and even cleaning up the house on a more spread-out schedule rather than hurriedly in the evenings.

This week brings the conclusion of my short story, as well as the rough outlining of the second book in the Shades of Orthea series and work on my stand-alone WIP. I need to be ready to take on Camp NaNo in just 11 days. Anyone else joining in?

Midnight Thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey

 

One of the things I am most grateful to have received during my education at Oklahoma State University is the honed skill of analyzing media–from music to books–in a deeper social context than I ever anticipated. What seems to be on the surface is often an entirely different thing on another layer. A perfect example? Fifty Shades of Grey.

When I first read the trilogy, I was like any other house wife. I gobbled up the pages, reveling in Ana’s ability to turn Christian around, fascinated with the story and hoping, above all, to see the two of them together for eternity. They were perfect for each other…right? It took me a long time and a very objective take on the books to realize that I didn’t want them together because they were actually perfect for each other. Rather, I wanted Ana to stay with him because it’s what I might have done.

If I am being honest with myself, it’s the doormat in me saying “These books are fine. Ana’s a strong woman who puts her input into the relationship and Christian, while flawed, overcomes and heals from it because Ana stays by his side.”

Bullshit.

How many times did I tell myself he would change? He’d do better next time? I was over-dramatic to feel the humiliation I did? He loved me and I loved him and that’s what mattered? Too many abusive relationships (all, that I’m aware of) end opposite the Fifty Shades of Grey finishing line. He doesn’t change. The problem worsens. She continues to blind herself.

Ultimately, I would have much preferred Ana be strong enough that when she said no in the first book, she’d have never looked back or given him another second thought except to keep herself moving forward. Domestic abuse, whether physical or emotion (or both) is no laughing matter and certainly shouldn’t be the source of multi-million dollar entertainment for the masses to swallow. Christian Grey manages to do both, and fans love him for it.

This subject has been slapping me in the face since a discussion in one of my Facebook groups a week ago, and I’m finally getting it out there because, well, someone has to say it. Fifty Shades isn’t necessarily an example of terrible writing, although there are certainly those who say so. Rather, it’s a terrible example of what a real love story should be and how a relationship should be.

Don’t ever accept being abused. Do not tell yourself he loves you deep down, even if he doesn’t show it. You are better than that. You are worth more. Don’t waste years, like I did. Don’t feed into the lies your partner (and you) tell yourself. You will find your real love, like I did. If you need help getting out, there are resources.

And to everyone who reads this, shares this, or listens: thank you. I love you all.

~*~ H ~*~

 

Further reading: http://www.businessinsider.com/amy-bonomi-on-abuse-in-fifty-shades-of-grey-2015-2

The Self-Publishing Checklist

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If there was a hard and fast rule to self-publishing, it would be that there is no hard and fast rule. Everyone has a different end goal–a different means to their finishing line. One person’s mud and mire is another one’s fast track. Keep in mind that this list is not in order of importance, because the priority of one aspect over the other is entirely subjective. The two big exceptions to this are the first and last. They’re pretty much set in stone, as you will see. Ready? Here goes.

  1. Write a book. See? This is non-negotiable. To publish a book you must first write one. How long or short it is depends upon the writer’s preference. However, there are some loose guidelines to categorization. More on that later.
  2. Edit and revise the book. This is a no-brainer. Unless you are a genius (and that’s not always a guarantee) you will not come out with master prose right off the bat. At least, your beloved manuscript will need to be honed and manipulated to fit where the message is conveyed in a succinct and readable manner. We all have our faults. Mine happen to rest mainly with generic description words and “it.” I strongly suggest an automated editor. My personal poison is AutoCrit, but you can view a comparison of services HERE. When that’s done, move on to #3 or #4.
  3. Get constructive criticism. CONSTRUCTIVE is the key, here. Find those alpha/beta readers with a quick eye for those “it” repetitions, that lost skeleton key you forgot to find later, and other grammar and continuity problems. If more than one person points something out, it is worth revising again. Remember, this is your body of work and your reputation on the line. Keep it yours while allowing others to help you improve your manuscript.
  4. Hire an editor. There are expensive ones and cheaper ones. New ones and old pros. Gather references and ask people for recommendations. Vet your potential editors until you are 1000% comfortable requesting their services. Fiverr is a good place to start. I wouldn’t be very good at this freelance thing if I didn’t at least mention that I have recently opened up to editing and proofreading services. Email hannahgraygordon@gmail.com for information.
  5. Format. Format. Format. There’s nothing more ear-burning than to read through the novel you published months ago only to find all the errors you didn’t bother finding before you hit the Publish button. Run Spell-Check a few times while you’re at it. Spelling errors are one of the most common turnoffs for readers, so set your book apart from the “Don’t Read” stack by following this simple step.
  6. Cover design. You can design your own, buy a premade, or contract with a freelance artist, but however you go about this step, make sure your cover can compete. I always recommend writers go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and browse the listings for their specific genre. What stands out? What is attractive? What looks childish or cheesy? Obtain a good grasp of the covers that sell and keep those in mind when creating or selecting your own cover. Despite the quote “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” readers most certainly do. This is not an area in which to skimp.
  7. Marketing. This is the most time consuming part. Build your audience before, during, and after the book is finished. Start up an author page, a Twitter, a Facebook, whatever. Put your name in front of the eyes of many before your book even hits the shelf. Prepare. Don’t oversell yourself, but instead spend time networking and communicating with others and they will, in turn, reciprocate. This is a good way to gain exposure with cross-promotion. Writing a book about dragons? Have a contest to see who can find the coolest dragon picture on the World Wide Web. Is your book about romance in Seattle? Start a discussion of the best hangouts in the area, or sight-seeing must-do’s. Interact using the substance of your book more than just “BUY MY BOOK!” posts. Be proactive.
  8. Publish. Ultimately, you have the moment in which you upload the file and press the OK button. Do a digital proof, or order a paperback copy. I have learned through experience that the digital proof will work only if you are patient enough to scan every individual page. If you are like me, a paperback copy is a much better idea. Read through and mark the pages up, make any necessary changes, then re-upload. Take your time because the moment you start rushing you will miss something important.

Grab your word count information here!

If there are aspects I missed, feel free to comment below! Need help with your manuscript? Email hannahgraygordon@gmail.com to grab your assistance. Good luck, and get that book written!

Deadpool: A Review

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I wouldn’t be a very good nerd if I didn’t say a word (or ten) about Deadpool, the movie released just today (officially). I had the good fortune of seeing it last night with my husband after waiting months. I even wore my Deadpool t-shirt (see image). Bam.

I tend to be a little hard on movies for the simple fact that as an American Studies major, I learned critical thinking and cultural analysis in relation to all forms of media. Without giving any spoilers, here is my honest review.

Out of a 5 star rating, I give it…..*drum roll, please*………

10 STARS

Okay, so there IS no 10 out of 5 but the truth is that this is by far the best movie I have seen in quite awhile. No joke.

The beginning credits are, in true Deadpool style, sarcastic and hilarious. The audience was rolling with laughter before we even got past the first ten seconds. The presentation of the cast was innovative and eye-catching. The story, while surrounding the traditional “damsel in distress” premise, is told in an engaging and predominantly non-sexist way. While Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa, is in peril, we see strong, take-no-shit female characters like Angel Dust and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

Ryan Reynolds was the perfect fit for the role, with his quick delivery of sarcastic wit. You wonder, deep down, how much is improv because it seems so off the cuff. In the world of comedy, this is essential to audience. To cast anyone else would have been a severe injustice to the character and to Deadpool fans.

My only major regret with this motion picture is the level of sexual references, actions, and nudity is fairly severe. If it was rated “R” for violence and language, there’s a chance my teenagers could see it but this is not the case. I warn parents to be cautious about letting anyone under the age of 17 see it. This was a disappointment for my younger kids, who will have to wait years to watch.

In a nutshell, the jokes are funny, the story is easy to follow, the characters are memorable, and you will laugh your way from beginning to end. At one point, I couldn’t see the screen for all the tears in my eyes. I haven’t laughed that hard at a movie in a long time. After the credits, in true Marvel style, there is a hint at the sequel. I won’t spoil it for you.

In the end, there is no review that will do Deadpool justice. Get a babysitter and GO SEE IT.

~*~ H ~*~

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Steps to Publishing

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I hope you all have enjoyed my cover reveal of “The Vu: Gathering.” I cannot wait to share this story with you and, indeed, I have been working day in and out to finish revisions and polish it. Speaking of, I have recently been asked about my technique for publishing the best book I can. How do I craft the story from beginning to release? When do I know it’s time to hit that nerve-wracking PUBLISH button?

My technique has greatly evolved over the last three years. In 2013, I thought all I had to do was hit Spellcheck and I was good to go. After all, the story was raw and beautiful, right? Then, I went back and read it. OH. MY. GOD. Can we all say REPULSIVE together?

That’s right! Odds are your first draft “masterpiece” is really just a crock of shit piled together, especially if you wrote it reallysuperfast.

(Five minute break to soak this in, scream into your pillow, etc.)

Okay, to be fair, it’s probably not all shit. However, you have to realize there are undoubtedly errors, continuity problems, and creative issues. It is guaranteed to happen. My first draft of “The Vu” was terrible. Terrible. I wanted to delete it immediately and swear off writing ever again. Then, I went back and changed what jumped out at me. I hired an editor. I subscribed to an editing program called AutoCrit. I gathered thoughts from reviews and readers who agreed to share. I made the story better, the characters more in-depth, and the book much shinier (Get it? Polished? Heh…heh…).

So what is my book-writing process? Allow me to lay it out for you in nifty bullet points (as my American Studies professor liked to say).

  • Write the first draft (no-brainer…without this there is no book)
  • Let it set for a couple weeks, then read (preferably on printed paper) and mark up with potential changes. Revise.
  • If you have a list of alpha and beta readers, this is the time to hit up the alphas for feedback on the story. Not the technical stuff….THE STORY.
  • Revise again, this time with AutoCrit (amazing program!). My favorite sections are: Strong Writing and Word Choice, which help with things like adverbs (which you want to use sparingly and with great purpose), passive voice (also use as little as possible), and showing instead of telling. There are other programs out there, this is just the one I personally love.
  • Send to living, breathing editor for a line-by-line. Revise again.
  • Send ARC copies to beta readers, revise accordingly (if more than one points something out, seriously consider the validity of their statements).
  • Shelf it for another 2-4 weeks, or order your paperback proof from Createspace (without publishing) and then read when it arrives. Mark it up. Revise. I guarantee you will still catch things.
  • Publish. Try to stay away from the urge to overdo the changes. If you are seeking the traditional route of publishing, this would be the moment to send off queries. Make sure those are polished to a shine, as well.

 

When do I stop changing and editing? When I have followed all the steps and I order my OCD to shut up and move on. It’s not always easy, but it is mandatory. At some point, you have to consider your work finished, publish, and move on to the next WIP (Work in Progress).

What are your steps to a good manuscript?

Cover Reveal of The Vu: Gathering!

I know you all have been waiting on pins and needles for this moment! Publication is still a couple of months away, but I simply cannot wait any longer to show you the amazing cover and introduce you to the premise of the sequel to my debut novel! The cover design was done by the amazing A.R. Crebs. Enjoy and share!

To purchase “The Vu” and have it read before the sequel is released, GO HERE.

Sequel Progress

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Hello to all my readers! I hope this finds you starting an enjoyable weekend with friends, family, or yourself. This post will not be a how-to or any kind of deep, philosophical thought. Instead, it is a simple update in the world of Hannah Gray Gordon.

I am prepping for an event in January where I will join forces with 39 other authors to showcase my books and raise money for the Tulsa City-County Library. If you are in the area, I urge you to attend! You never know who you will meet or what amazing reads you will discover! For your reference, here is the media flyer:

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In other news, “The Gathering,” the long-awaited sequel to “The Vu” is progressively advancing through the alpha reader stage and into the second editing phase. The cover design has been finished and I can hardly wait to show it to you! It’s designed by the ever amazing A.R. Crebs, who I highly recommend to anyone needing design/illustration services. Stay tuned for one hell of a cover reveal!

I have so much more to tell you but it will simply have to wait. I am heading out to watch “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy your  holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may you be blessed!

~*~ H ~*~

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