Sunday, January 29, 2017

Now is not the time for silence

Something you may not know about me; I'm an immigrant. In fact I'm an immigrant times over.

First of all, I'm an American of European descent. A melange of Scottish, Irish, English, German, French and who knows what else. All immigrants to the United States at various stages of history. I am the product of that beautiful mix of cultures that can only come about in an immigration friendly society.

Beyond that, I have lived, studied, worked, and grown up in a number of countries outside of the US. The first was Germany; for 2.5 years when I was a child. My father got a job with PanAm and we all got visas, moved to Germany, and came and went as we pleased until another job took us back to the US. Germans were kind to us, supportive of our attempts to learn the language even when they spoke excellent English, and generally pleasant about our appearance in their country.

Next was Spain. For my second year of University, through a study abroad program, I applied for a student visa and lived and studied in Spain for a year. I arrived mere days after the September 11th attack on the Twin Towers and everyone I met was supportive, kind, and sympathetic. My host family was worried about my family back home, but I assured them that everyone was fine. Security was tight with a newfound apprehensiveness, but nonetheless I never received any hassle about my visa while coming or going.

More recently was Japan. Two years with a work visa to teach English came with full access to Japan's healthcare system, and the majority of the people I encountered were very welcoming, despite Japan's more xenophobic history and proclivities. I have many fellow expat friends who made families and lives for themselves there and are still living there today.

Currently, I reside in Canada with my husband and our new daughter, who was granted Canadian citizenship simply for being born on Canadian soil. I have my permanent resident card, the equivalent of a Green Card in the US, and now I can come and go easily between the two countries.

I am an immigrant. I am making a life outside of the country I was born in, as I have done on multiple occasions, for no better reason than a job offer, an interest in improving my language skills, a curiosity about the rest of the world, or, most recently, because I fell in love with a Canadian.

My husband has been an immigrant a few times in his life and he too comes from immigrant stock. If he hadn't been allowed to live in the US we never would have met. My life would be very different; my daughter would not exist.

Of course, people don't think of people like me when they think of immigrants, not in the US, and not in Canada either. Certainly the kind of people who voted for Trump because they thought he would change the nation back to a place they felt comfortable in don't think of me when they think of immigrants. They probably think of people who have a different skin tone than I do, or who wear different clothing. Maybe they picture head scarves or turbans, maybe they expect a detectable accent or a lack of facility with English. When I tell people here that I'm an immigrant they often chuckle and say, "well you don't count."

Really? I don't count? Why not?

Some of them actually mean that I haven't gone through the upheaval of leaving my own culture for a completely new one just to try to improve the life of my family. In those few cases, they are certainly right. Canada is very similar to the US, and I was prosperous and safe before I moved here. However, what most people mean is that I'm "just like them" so, I'm not what they're talking about when they say immigrant.


They are just like me. They ARE ME. They are people making a life in a different country because of a job, or a chance to improve their language skills, or to study, or because they fell in love with someone, or, perhaps the most important reason, because they cannot safely live their lives in the country in which they were born.

I have never had to immigrate for that reason. I have never HAD to immigrate at all. For me, it has been a choice, every time. I have never been a refugee.

I have also had the unearned privilege of coming from a background that has meant that I have rarely encountered people who judge me based on my appearance, or my accent, or my choice of clothing. Just by dint of my birth and upbringing, people don't look twice at me in the street, but rather do a double take of disbelief if I happen to mention that I am an immigrant. I did nothing to earn this passive approval. It's no special trick that I've learned. It's simply based on the color of my skin, the cultural norms for clothing I was brought up to wear, and the fact that English is my first language, and a generic North American English at that. Canadians never suspect me of being American either.

I mention all of this not because I think I've earned a cookie. I mention this to illustrate a point. The people who are currently being detained as they try to return to their homes in the United States ARE EXACTLY LIKE ME. The fact that they may not look like me, or dress like me means NOTHING. They are people who have gone through the arduous process of acquiring a visa, or a green card. They are people who have spent countless hours waiting in line to file paperwork, who have submitted themselves to background check after background check, who have had their identity checked and rechecked over and over again, and have had to shell out money and more money in order to have people look over all that paperwork and finally say: "yes, you can come to America."

They have ALREADY DONE ALL OF THAT. They have lives in the US. Homes, friends, jobs, classes, lovers, husbands, wives, children, family, LIVES... and they are being kept from returning to those lives not because the best minds in the US have sat down and decided that the process which accepted them into the US was too lax. Not because the process has been assessed and deemed unworthy. Not because a democratic process has decided that they are a threat to the country. No.

They have been barred from returning home because the new president of the United States has thrown the constitution out the window and decided ON HIS OWN that he will bar them from returning.

I don't care which party you affiliate with, you should be horrified at what that means. It's such an egregious affront to the constitution that it only took the ACLU a day to get a federal judge to support an injunction on it. But it seems unlikely that that's the end of the story.

It is important that we all speak out against this. It's important that we all speak out against all of the injustice we see coming from the White House in coming days.

It took me a long time to write about Trump's election because I didn't know where to start, and I couldn't figure out how to put all I wanted to say into a single blog post. I can't. I won't. It will take many many posts for me to get it all out, but I will start trying to as often as I can because SILENCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

Perhaps it's simply that I felt this was the first injustice that I could address with personal experience. I imagine what it would mean if I were to go to the United States to visit family (as I plan to do in coming months) and then if Canada tried to bar me from returning. How would it feel to be separated from my husband? Would they let me keep my daughter or would they send her back to her country of origin without me? These are questions that real people are forced to ask themselves right now, all because of the whim of a little man who is afraid of "other." Yet these people are not "other," they are us. They are you, they are ME.

I am an immigrant. I'll say it again so that you really understand. I'm not an immigrant "but," I am an immigrant. And, unless you are 100% Native American, SO ARE YOU. Your family once came here seeking refuge, seeking a better life, or maybe just to study, or to find a job, or because they fell in love. They came and were accepted. They made a life, and now you are an American. It is the backbone of our society (yes even with all the injustice it has pushed upon the people who were here before us, and the people who were brought here against their will--that too is part of our history). For better or worse it is how the United States has become what it is today.

This is only one of the many injustices that have come from the White House in the past eight days. I haven't written yet because it is difficult to find the time, with an infant to care for, and I have found myself repeatedly at a loss for words. Today I realized that I can't stay silent. We need every voice that can be raised to raise itself now.

I am an immigrant. Immigrants are us.  We are immigrants. It is not a question of US VS. THEM; they are us. THEY ARE US! And we cannot do this to ourselves. We simply can't. Do not sit by and allow your people to be persecuted this way. And make no mistake these are your people. I don't care what day of the week you deem holy, what you do with your hair, or how much melanin is in your skin, DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that the people this affects are somehow different than you. They are not. They are people who have families, who love people, who have friends, who want to study or work, and want to return to their lives. They are you. They are me. It's a question of us. And we should not allow this to be done to us. Not to any of us.

Now is not the time for silence. Speak up. Let everyone know how you feel about this. Let everyone know that we won't allow this to happen to us. We will not allow ourselves to be treated this way. We will shout, we will rally, we will donate to the ACLU, we will make our voices heard and we will demand justice.

If you want immigration reform, fine. That's a thing to work towards, using a democratic process, with research, assessment, oversight, and the protection of people's rights and freedoms at its heart. It is NOT the work of the stroke of a pen on a piece of paper alienating a huge portion of our population. It is not a ban that reminds historians all over the world of the beginning of Nazi Germany.

Speak up, and keep speaking up until the injustice is at an end.

Now is not the time for silence.

I beseech you, friends, speak for yourself, for those whose voices are being stifled, and for us all. This kind of oppression only spreads if it isn't stopped.


An Immigrant

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Hold Up...

You might be wondering what happened to the whole Blade's Edge sequel coming out in December thing... Well, I got part of the way through my final revision when I realized that I could fix a number of problems that had been bothering me about the book with a couple of changes. Yay! I figured out how to make the book better and more cohesive and killed that small voice that was telling me that this book wasn't good enough to be the sequel to Blade's Edge.

However, those couple of changes actually require a complete rewrite of the middle 50% of the book. That's over 50,000 words completely from scratch, and that's not counting the other bits of rewrite that the rest of the book needs. In other words, I have a lot of work to do to get the book to be as high quality as my readers deserve, and though I considered (briefly) pushing through with things the way that they were and simply getting the book out on time, I decided against it.

I hope you'll forgive me.

So the book will be out sometime in 2017. I'm hoping for spring, but I make no promises as I really need to make sure that it's the best it can be. Meanwhile I'm still working on the Victoria Marmot webserial over on Patreon, snuggling my three month old baby and watching her grow, and trying to blog periodically as well, not to mention doing the occasional formatting and design jobs that come my way. Staying busy, in other words.

I will post here occasionally with updates, and I also hope to post about the election and a few other non book related topics in the near future. For now, however, the baby is crying and that's my cue. So, I leave you with this photo of Artemis enjoying our most recent blizzard.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What I've been up to...

Well, to be honest, for the past three weeks I've mostly been snuggling a baby. (Did I mention yet that I produced a new human right at the end of September? For more details on that go here.) I also finished the translation project I was working on, and I have commissioned new artwork for Traitor's Hope. But, mostly it's been baby snuggling.

Ok, fine... to be accurate, it has also been diaper changes, feedings, and crying (both me and the offspring).

Now, I am trying to get my act together for C4 Winnipeg and making sure I have everything in order. In addition to selling and signing copies of Blade's Edge at table A223 along with the talented and delightful Katya Kolmakov, I will also be talking on a panel about world building on Saturday the 29th at 12pm in the Pan Am room. I would love to see people there!

The husband and I are still figuring out how to manage caring for the newborn that weekend but chances are good I will have her with me for at least some of the time, so if you are interested in meeting the newest human in my family, that's a good reason to stop by as well. I hope to have her in costume but am unsure what that will be yet.

Finally, good and bad news about Traitor's Hope. The bad news is, there is zero chance that I will have it ready to sell for ComiCon. I'm bummed about that, because I was really looking forward to having it ready to sell to the folks who bought Blade's Edge last year. The good news is that I think it's quite possible that I'll have the book ready to sell for mid-December and I should have some sweet bookmarks with new cover art teasers made up in time for ComiCon complete with where to find Traitor's Hope when it comes out etc.

So, that's about it from here for now. Here's a photo of my latest walk, which was a serious accomplishment for including both offspring and dog and being reasonably long despite me recovering from a c-section.

Hope to see folks at C4Winnipeg! Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Keeping up appearances...

Well, in truth, I don't have that much to report. Not that I haven't been busy (I have), just that it seems like, busy as I am, I don't have much in the way of news. So here are the newsy bits:

  • I have finished the bulk of the translation project I was working on, and am now just finalizing edits with the author. YAY!
  • I am back to revising Traitor's Hope (the Blade's Edge sequel) on a daily basis and this makes me very happy and gives me hope that I might, just maybe, possibly, still manage to get it out before the end of October (that's going to be an incredibly tight deadline to pull and will only work if I wind up with a super cooperative newborn, but fingers and toes are crossed).
  • Shh... don't tell anyone, but I've been getting sketches from Juan Carlos Barquet and am close to having cover art for Traitor's Hope. This is INCREDIBLY EXCITING.
  • Speck (the nickname for the new human I'm incubating) could arrive at any moment now, which is both exciting and terrifying.

And that's really kind of it. I guess some of those things are pretty exciting, but it seems like I've been in this holding pattern for ages and nothing is really done yet, so I don't feel like it's lots to report. I can't wait to be done with the revision but I have a lot of work to do yet before that happens. In the meantime, I feel like I've been horribly neglecting this blog, so wanted to make sure I posted something this week. 

Furthermore I need to post more for the Victoria Marmot web serial. Which, if you haven't checked out yet, but you don't mind profanity and teenagers with a deep sense of sarcasm, you really should. The first three chapters are accessible for free, and then, for as little as $1 a month you can access as much of the serial as exists currently, which stands at 10 chapters at the moment with two more coming this month alone. 

More artwork like this is headed my way! I can't wait!! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Since I can't sleep anyway...

...I guess I might as well update this blog.

One of the little touted third trimester joys of pregnancy is the inability to sleep well, or with any regularity. So, as I sit here staring at my computer despite wishing to have gone to bed two hours ago, I thought I might as well update the blog.

I don't have a ton of news unfortunately. I think I mentioned in my last update that I was starting a major translation project, and indeed said project is taking up the majority of my time these days as I push to finish it by the deadline.

My two week road trip went well, despite being super pregnant for the duration, and Corey and I had a wonderful time visiting friends and exploring Ontario (more details can be found on my pregnancy blog but, fair warning, there are lots of details about pregnancy in that entry).

I only have one more month of this whole producing a new human thing left, and then the human will join us on the outside and I will no longer be the sole person responsible for its well being. That is both exciting and terrifying.

I did make a fair bit of progress on my revisions for Traitor's Hope before starting this translation project, but haven't worked on it at all since August 1st. I will get right back to it as soon as I'm done with this translation and hope to get it out before the end of October (in time for ComiCon) if I can. But I'm cutting it super close, and the arrival of Speck may throw a serious wrench in the works. I'm trying to remain at peace with that fact.

In super cool news though, I should have some more original artwork by the exceedingly talented Juan Carlos Barquet in a few weeks for Traitor's Hope. It feels a little weird getting cover art before I've finished the major revisions for the book, but I want to have the artwork ready so that as soon as I'm ready to use it's there for me and I can get this book out.

And, if nothing else, having it will inspire me to keep working on Traitor's Hope until it's ready for the world, because Juan Carlos' art is nothing if not inspiring.

I think that about covers things for now. I am going to try to put myself to bed and see what happens. Here are some photos from the road trip for your entertainment.

Sunset as we returned to Manitoba on the last day of our trip.

One of the most delicious tacos I've ever had, if you're ever in Sudbury head to Tuco's Tacos you will not regret it.

Kyle the budgie, visiting my head while I work on my translation project in Toronto at our friend's house.

Corey and I looking out at Ottawa from the top of the Peace Tower.

The library in parliament 

The changing of the guard in Ottawa (humorous because it has only ever existed as a tourist attraction, and has never been an actual guard change)

Kakabeka Falls

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quick Update to Let Folks Know I'm Still Around...

Well folks, just a quick note here to let you all know that I have not actually fallen off the face of the planet.

Things have gotten quite busy. I need to finish my revisions for Traitor's Hope in the next week because I need to start a new translation project on August 1st.

Also, Speck is set to arrive in less than 8 weeks.

Furthermore, I am about to disappear on a two week road trip starting on Saturday.

In other words, you may not hear from me for a while, but I'm still around and working furiously to bring you the Blade's Edge sequel by the end of October at the latest (I hope).

So, here are some ways you can keep up with what's happening with me.

1. The pregnancy blog is likely to receive some form of update even during the road trip because it falls apart if I don't keep up with some semblance of weekly updates. So, if you want to make sure I'm still doing well you can go check that out.

2. My Patreon patrons will still be getting new chapters of the Victoria Marmot webserial. So if you miss my writing that's a great place to check it out. (For as little as a dollar a month you can have exclusive access to the Victoria Marmot webserial. Chapter 7 goes up today and there will be at least two more chapters going up in August.)

3. My facebook author page... if you haven't liked it already, you'll find that it's where I always post updates from this blog, as well as reminders for in person events for writing etc. While on this road trip it may well get the occasional photo update etc. so if you're worried you haven't seen me in a while you can check there.

4. My twitter feed. I have been known to post random things there as well, even while traveling.

Ok. I think that sums up the ways you can track me down while on holiday, so if you need your fix please check out any of those options. Meanwhile, I will try to post a full report of the trip when I return if I'm not too buried in translation work.

Off to revise Traitor's Hope!

Here's a shot of Artemis enjoying summer, just to tide you over.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I have been struggling for a long time about whether or not to write this post, how to write it, and whether or not it is ok for me to write this post. I've struggled for a few reasons. 1. Lots of people far more qualified than I am are writing about this topic in more intelligent and poignant ways that I am capable of. 2. It's difficult to know, when one wishes to be an ally, what is truly helpful to a cause and what is simply an attempt to make myself feel better about how little I can truly to do to be of service. 3. I haven't wanted to deal with the possible repercussions of vocally supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and have thought that since my voice wouldn't add much to the discussion it was acceptable to remain silent.

But the past few weeks have made it clear that remaining silent will help no one, and that one of the useful things I can do with my own privilege is to talk about it and help people understand and put things into context and perspective as best I understand it.

So here I go. I may take a while to reach my end game, but I hope the journey will be instructional.

I was about 20 years old and a junior in college the first time someone tried to confront me with my own privilege. Unfortunately, as it was the first time I had ever heard of privilege outside of strict socioeconomic terms and as the young woman who brought it up also tied it in with some patently false assumptions about my background, I missed the point entirely. I think the concept might have been fairly new to her as well, as by the end of a 45 minute discussion we reached a stalemate and she didn't take her point any further.

The problem, you see, was that she lumped my socioeconomic privilege in with my racial privliege and assumed I was in the same situation as most Georgetown students: she assumed that my parents were paying for my education, and that to be able to afford that education for me my parents likely came from established wealth themselves. She was wrong on both counts, and I sidetracked the whole conversation to disprove those two points rather than accepting that I might be privileged in other ways.

My parents were not paying for my education. They had once been wealthy enough to do so (they paid for my ludicrously high priced private school education leading up to that point) but were no longer, and I was paying for my education through giant private college loans (I didn't qualify for federal loans or financial aid) with my eldest brother as cosigner, and working two part time jobs on the side. At the time, comparing myself to the majority of students at Georgetown, I did not consider myself privileged. I was wrong, of course, but with my limited understanding of the word and concept at that time, I didn't understand that. Don't get me wrong, I considered myself very fortunate. I had enough perspective to realize that I had experienced many things in life that lots of people would not be able to... but that didn't mean I understood privilege. Far from it.

Not only were my parents not paying for my education, but the assertion that they had both inherited their own wealth and good fortune irked me. My mom grew up on a tiny farm in podunk Tennessee where she spent her summers as a farm hand, wore flour sack dresses because they couldn't afford to buy fabric, and worked her butt off to get straight As in school, earn a scholarship to go to college, and be the first in her family to earn a college diploma. Meanwhile, my dad, who grew up in a reasonably well off family, was cut off from any financial help from his family when he decided not to become an engineer like his own father. He had to take multiple years off to save up tuition money and take enough prereqs to be able to get into and then pay for a Stanford undergrad and then Harvard Business school. He too had worked his butt off to get where he was.

So between those facts and the fact that, unlike the majority of my classmates, I was paying my own way through school, I was completely offended at the idea that I was somehow privileged.

Sadly, it has taken me years to fully understand what was at the root of that conversation, because I glossed over it so quickly in my rebuttal and perhaps because my conversational companion didn't make her point very well. Regardless, I wish I had really heard what she was saying.

What she was saying was that there was a certain amount of privilege I held just because of the parents I was born to, as they held privilege because of their parents and so on.

Privilege is precisely that. It is an advantage granted to you through no achievement of your own, but merely by the circumstances of your birth. It can apply to wealth, education, and yes, what people call "race."

Unfortunately, the fact that, scientifically speaking, race isn't actually a thing, does nothing to diminish the way that people of different ethnic backgrounds are treated in our society. So, there are obstacles that people who have visibly different traits are automatically confronted with that many of us are not. This is true for people with disabilities both physical and mental, true for people with weight issues, true for people who aren't male and, most importantly to today's discussion, true for people whose skin color doesn't fit the box marked "white."

All other things being equal, a black woman my age, with my same educational background, afforded the same chances to travel around the world, live, study, and teach abroad, work in private schools, and coming from the same economic privilege that I have come from, will have to face, probably DAILY, obstacles that will never be presented to me. Simply because she is black. Be it in the form of being treated less politely by someone at a coffee shop, being turned down from a job because of her race, or worrying that her loved ones might be shot for a routine traffic infraction, she is confronted with obstacles that I am not. The fact that I don't have to face those same obstacles is called white privilege.

You can be far less privileged than I am, and still have white privilege.

Let me just be clear about one thing: that doesn't make you a bad person. The very definition of privilege is that it is something that you neither worked for nor asked for, but something granted to you without any doing on your part at all. So it is not your fault that you have it. We do not choose our parents, we do not choose the circumstances into which we are born. You should feel no more responsible for your own privilege than anyone without privilege should feel for not having it.

That seems to be the part that makes people uncomfortable. Because recognizing that you yourself have privilege through no fault of your own can make you aware of the fact that people who lack privilege do so... through no fault of their own.

In a society that is all about pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. We are convinced, told many times over throughout our lives, that in AMERICA a person can build themselves up from nothing. And we see many examples of that to reinforce the idea. Surely if one person can grow up on the mean streets and still become a successful entrepreneur, anyone can do it. Surely nothing holds anyone back in the good ol' US of A except being lazy and not trying hard enough.

That was honestly how I felt about it when I had that conversation with a fellow Georgetown student who tried to explain my privilege to me, when I wouldn't let her. My brain said, "But my mom grew up poor, went to public school, and earned her scholarship and then moved out of the south and slowly worked her way up the ranks of TWA to become one of the first female executives in the company. If she could do that, what's to stop anyone else?"

My mom is white, her home was stable enough for her to actually attend school, and her parents cared about her education. All of that is a form of privilege.

Should she feel guilty about that? No. Should that detract from her sense of accomplishment for all the hard work she put in and what she's gotten out of it? No.

But for me (or her) to pretend that it was just as hard for her as it would have been for someone of a different background is to deny the evidence that we see repeatedly in study after study. Discrimination exists, and it makes it exponentially more difficult for minority groups to achieve the same ends as non-minority groups.

And simply not being one of the people who discriminates against minorities in general, and black people specifically, is not enough anymore.

We have reached a crisis point. Perhaps we've always been there and I've simply never noticed before. Either way, people are dying for no other reason than the color of their skin and that has to stop. There is no easy fix for this, but there is a fix, and we have to start down that road. In my little bubble here I have trouble seeing what I can do, but the one thing that occurred to me was that I could write about it and hope that it sparked something in others, or at least sparks a conversation.

A couple of points about Black Lives Matter as a movement and as a statement (with a couple of caveats: 1. I do not claim to speak for the movement; it is a movement I support, but if you want the full story on Black Lives Matter please go directly to the source 2. what I say here is based on my understanding of the movement and if it is flawed that is my fault and not that of the movement's 3. as with ANY movement in history there are bound to be disagreements amongst members and supporters and context is vital to understanding, so please keep that in mind):

  • when someone says "Black Lives Matter" that does not mean they are saying that other lives don't matter or that other lives matter less
  • the #blacklivesmatter movement exists because there has been a consistent, repetitive rejection of that notion by multiple systems in our government
  • while some people's kneejerk reaction of "alllivesmatter" is somewhat understandable when taken out of context, this response does not take into account that currently not all lives are at risk from police brutality, or systemic discrimination
  • retorting "all lives matter," or "blue lives matter," to a #blacklivesmatter hashtag is only reinforcing the notion that black lives don't matter. Black people aren't asking for special treatment, they are asking for equal treatment. They are asserting that they have a right to exist in the world that is as a strong as anyone's. Do not belittle that. 
  • for a very clear explanation of the development of the movement and why it's important not to change the message to "all lives matter" please read this from the movement's founders
Because I still feel weird talking about this as an ally rather than a black person, here's one of my favorite youtubers addressing what Black Lives Matter is as a movement and after that, how white people can help: 

And, finally, because sometimes humor is the best way to convey these types of messages, here's a video that is simultaneously funny and infuriating as it tries to explain Black Lives Matter:

In conclusion, I want to say that I know this issue is complicated, and I know that many people struggle to accept their own privilege and what that means, but it's important to think about, and it's important to recognize that the state of human rights in the US right now is unacceptable. As someone who is currently gestating a new human life, it is especially clear to me that I don't want Speck (the nickname for my currently unnamed proto-human) to grow up in a world where it's ok for people to be killed in the streets just because an authority figure whose job includes carrying a gun was some combination of racist and frightened. Sadly, that is the world that Speck will enter in September whether I like it or not, but I am trying to figure out all I can do to help change that as quickly as possible. So far that has included signing petitions, supporting a social media movement, and writing this blog post for my fellow privileged folks. I hope to figure out more things I can do to help soon. I encourage everyone I know to think about what they can do in their own circles.  Thank you for reading this far and for accepting that this is how I'm channeling my confusion and sense of loss in the wake of not just these most recent tragedies, but also all the injustice that we've seen over the past few years. And that's just the picture that's made it into my line of sight, which is undoubtedly an incomplete one. So please, please, please, take a few hours to educate yourself about this important issue and form your own opinions based on actual facts and not what any one news source throws at you. Take the time to read about the lives of the victims in all of these killings, take the time to ask yourself why they were killed and see if you come up with an answer that satisfies you. 

If, at the end of all that, you find yourself wondering why this is still happening, consider figuring out how you can help change things. Thank you.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An International Book Promotion of Epic Proportions!

Well, folks, I continue to work away on the revisions to Traitor's Hope, but I won't lie, I've been a bit sidetracked recently getting ready for a big book promotion that I feel everyone should know about.

I participated in the same promotion last year, but now it's back with even more authors and even more great deals!

The promotion itself starts on FRIDAY JULY 1st and goes through MONDAY JULY 4th. Following this link will take you there. Right now that page has a link to author bios on it and a mailing list you can sign up for if you want to be sure that you never miss these kinds of promotions (including a reminder at the start of this sale). Starting on Friday that same link will take you to the promotion itself. Where you will find 50 FREE ebooks, another 30 for 99 cents, and some box sets of full series for as little as 2.99 (all prices in USD).

Blade's Edge will be priced at $0.99 for the duration of the promo and Rain on a Summer's Afternoon will be FREE for the duration of the promo. So, if you've been waiting for a sale to come along to pick either of those up, this weekend is an excellent time to do that.

I will be posting the promotion all over social media over the weekend as well a reminder here and there from now until Friday, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're trying to get your beach reading in order and you own an e-reader.

And before you say, but Virginia, they're all INDIE books! How do we know they'll be any good? The same way that you know any book will be good. You use your best judgement with the info you've got (cover, blurb, reviews etc.). 

So don't forget this awesomeness over the weekend! You'll be able to keep yourself entertained throughout the long weekend no matter how many family barbecues, fireworks displays, or lectures on the signing of the declaration of independence you are forced to attend! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fiverr... you get what you pay for...

So, I added myself to the ranks of low priced services on Fiverr recently, and it's been... an educational experience.

I joined largely because you can now create gigs there that don't cost solely $5. To be perfectly honest there's not much worthwhile, service wise, that I can provide for just $5. When I saw that fiverr had branched out enough to allow services that cost more than $5 even as a base price, I became intrigued.

But, I have learned in the month that I've been listed there, that the people who shop fiverr still don't expect to pay more than $5 despite this expansion.

And fair enough, when the website is still called fiverr.

However, one would think that expectations would be realistic about one can get for the aforementioned five dollars.

One would be quite incorrect about that.

I signed up to fiverr to hawk my services as a formatter and graphic designer. Once one has signed up to sell services one can then check out requests from buyers in their service category. The number of people searching for someone to fix errors that other fiverr sellers have made is... impressive but not in a good way. And the number of people looking for custom designed covers, or full book formatting for just $5 also makes a negative impression.

Apparently, the folks who use fiverr as buyers are unaware of what these services are really worth. They then appear surprised when they receive subpar work for their $5 fee and then are even more surprised to learn that it will cost more than $5 for someone to fix things.

I get it, I think. I mean the whole site is designed to provide super cheap services but... well, it irks me a bit that people don't understand the value of the work that they're asking for. Overall, I don't think fiverr is necessarily good for people selling services or the people that buy them, although their move to allow for more expensive "gigs" is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I'll probably continue to list with them, but I doubt I'll get much business from them until there's a shift in the buyers recognizing that you may not actually want what $5 will buy you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You're Feministing Wrong...

There are two big things on my mind today, and I think they go hand in hand, but my brain is having trouble explaining how, so let's see if putting them down on 'paper' helps.

First of all, I can't get away from the horror of the Stanford rape case that's gone viral. To be honest I don't really want to get away from that horror, I want to expose that horror, share it with the world and let everyone experience the full meaning of what's happening here.

If you haven't read the letter from the victim to her rapist yet, READ IT NOW. I'm serious, unless you are a survivor of sexual assault and that letter will trigger you, you have no reason not to read it and everyone needs to read that letter. It's long, it's graphic, and it's brutally honest. You NEED to read it.

But why, Virginia? Why would you suggest I put myself through that? 

Because this is not an isolated incident. This is not something that just happens to someone else. And the only way to keep this from happening is to talk about it. To talk about it, and talk about why it's happening, and talk about what we can do to stop it. I'm sorry if that letter makes you uncomfortable, or if having a conversation about rape makes you uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable, it's not a comfortable topic, but it's an incredibly important one.

So now that you've read the letter, let's talk about what happened in that sentencing hearing. The judge gave the convicted rapist (convicted by a jury of his peers on three felony counts of sexual assault) six months of jail time with promise of parole for good behavior.


Let's take a close look at that, shall we: THREE FELONY counts of SEXUAL ASSAULT. There are currently people in prison (yes, prison, not jail) for much longer terms, for growing or possessing marijuana, for petty theft, for many things that are not rape, and for many things that are rape. That's the even crazier part. Many people who are convicted of RAPE and/or SEXUAL ASSAULT go to prison, and go there for a good long time.

Why is that not the case for the Stanford victim's rapist?

Because he is rich and white and male? Quite possibly. And that's severely fucked up. Because he has proven conclusively that he is a danger to women, but the judge in charge of his sentencing is ignoring that fact. In fact, he stated that he thinks the defendant is "not a danger to others" so clearly, by others, he means other men. Which is debatable to begin with, but forgetting that, let's just focus on how this judge just discounted over 50% of the population as simply not being worth the protection of the legal system.

Any time that a woman is sexually assaulted and chooses to speak up about it, she is then required to prove her case repeatedly in order to even be believed, let alone served justice. In many cases this is impossible, so speaking up brings the victim nothing but humiliation and public scandal. The Stanford victim's case should have been an exception to this. It should have been a clear cut case for the justice system. It should have been a shining moment where we all got to sit back and think, "Take that, RAPISTS! You don't always get to slip away cleanly into the night." After all, she was completely unconscious while being assaulted, a very obvious sign she was not consenting, and the two young men that witnessed her being assaulted even managed to catch her attacker. So the mystery rapist she'd never met was identified, arrested, and everyone knew what he had done.

Pretty clear case, no?

No. Of course not, because this rapist is a rich white kid from the suburbs. He's an athlete. People like him. So... clearly this unconscious woman being assaulted behind a dumpster MUST HAVE WANTED TO BE VIOLATED WHILE UNCONSCIOUS. That's what the rapist's lawyers tried to prove, as insane as that sounds, and the victim had to go through the despicable process of disproving that. Luckily, the jury didn't buy that argument. They were not fooled. They said, nice try, slimeball attorneys, but we're still convinced that this was felony sexual assault. Thank you, jurors!

Now, surely, we can all rest easy that thanks to these convictions justice will be served.

But no... because rich, white, male rapist from the suburbs is a young athlete who was drunk and... and... the rich, white, male judge feels sorry for him? I still can't quite fathom how those three counts of felony sexual assault lead to a six month jail sentence with possible time off for good behavior. I can't. But that's what's happening, and it is so very very wrong.

Because the victim shouldn't have to live knowing that the court system thinks so little of her as a person that her experience, her own personal hell that she so clearly and eloquently described for us in a 13 page letter, is not worth making HER RAPIST SUFFER.

Let's do a brief experiment, shall we?

Raise your hand if you've ever been drunk at a party with members of the sex you're attracted to.

*raises hand*

Now raise your hand if you have ever forced any part of your body into another person's body while you or they (or both) were drunk.

Nope. Not me. Probably not most of you reading this.

If you raised your hand, you should take a long moment to think about why you did that. Unless you were shoving your fingers down their throat to clear their airway so you could start rescue breathing, you probably sexually assaulted them and you should think about what that means and why it's wrong. Consider turning yourself over to the police or, at the very least, making a sincerely heartfelt apology to your victim.

Now, if so many of us have managed to get through life without sexually assaulting people while intoxicated at parties, why on earth would we not hold those who fail in this to a higher standard?

This was not "alcohol and promiscuity" leading people astray (as the defendant tried to assert in his own letter). This was not "a young athlete with his blood up." This was not EXCUSABLE in any way, and it wasn't just a minor behavioral hiccough. It is clear enough from the rapist's own letter to the judge, as well as his father's letter, that he doesn't understand what he did wrong. He really doesn't. Which means he is very likely to do it again. Which means his stupidly short sentence is an affront to all of his potential future victims, which, in case I'm not being clear here is ALL WOMEN.

If that doesn't make you angry, I don't know what to say to you.

Maybe you don't think of women as humans either. Maybe you consider us places to rest your penis. Maybe you think we're just decorative. Maybe you think we shouldn't be allowed to say no to you. If you think any of those things, you need to get yourself to a therapist quickly. You are not currently a good human being and you need help.

If anything, this story brings to harsh light why we still need feminism: We need to have conversations about equality, about consent, about our rights, about justice and what it really means, and about how we've come to live in a society where a young man can sexually assault an unconscious woman, be caught in the act, and get away with a slap on the wrist.

We need feminism and feminists and we need as many as we can get. We need people to start these conversations, and to get angry about the lack of justice, and to plaster it all over social media and to use their platforms of fame and fortune to make people hear the story. We need ALL the feminists.

Which is why reading articles like this one, in which we see feminists telling other feminists that they're doing it wrong, annoys me a bit. Don't get me wrong, there is a sort of entry level feminism that some people never get past that isn't as useful to the movement as the deeper more thoughtful levels, but people have to start somewhere. And if a Dove commercial that addresses how women see themselves vs. how others see them gets some people thinking about body image and self confidence then that's great. If it gets more people talking about how the media portrays women and how that affects body image, even better, and when it comes full circle and folks start asking themselves why we're listening to a large company like Dove market themselves via commercial feminism, then we're really finally getting somewhere.

The points is, all of those levels of thought and questioning serve a purpose and move us towards progress. Some of those questions are more palatable to entry level feminists, but the more one begins to question things, the more one continues to question things. So, if fledgling feminists want to explore the issue of whether or not waxing makes them a 'bad feminist' or if wearing heels and pink makes them a bad feminist, or whatever other somewhat shallower feminist issue is a problem, then they should go right ahead. Because talking about how feminism is about choice, or about how judging the superficial choices of others is not feminism, will only serve to bring more people into the conversation and that's precisely what we need.

If all the feminists who, over the past few years, have explored these issues on their blogs are all in a better place to recognize and talk about the injustice in the Stanford rape case this week, if they are all in a place where they can hold up a megaphone and a spotlight and say "LOOK AT THIS AND SEE THAT IT IS WRONG," then we are winning. Slowly but surely, we are making progress. And I don't care how many times I have to read a blog post about a woman realizing that whether or not she decides to depilate has no effect her standing as a feminist, as long as, at the end of the day, we have a larger audience looking at the real injustices of the world and recognizing them for what they are.

Commercial feminism, cupcake feminism, or whatever else you want to call it, serves a purpose.

Perhaps when there are enough Dove commercials promoting positive body image, Beyonce songs about not needing a man, hot male feminists like Joseph Gordon Levitt, frivolous blog posts about clothing choices, and major motion pictures featuring female leads who kick more ass than their male counterparts, there will also be judges that won't assign six month sentences to convicted rapists.

So, I welcome all the feminists. The ones that aren't too sure what it's all about yet, the ones who are worried they're doing it wrong, the ones who don't understand how to look deeper yet, the ones who question their life choices from a feminist perspective and then recognize that they aren't actually 'doing it wrong' and decide to write about it, and yes, I welcome the feminists who are annoyed by the newbs, tell people they're doing it wrong, and long for the old days when feminists knew what a movement "really was."

We need each other, all of us, to keep having these discussions and having them publicly, to bring more people in. To make more people recognize that they too are *gasp* a feminist at heart. Because when everyone is a feminist of some kind then perhaps we will finally be in a place where the conversation doesn't have to be about rapists going unpunished.

Welcome, feminists. Let's talk.