Guest Post: Gender Portrayals and Genres at Apex Book Company

This month, I talk about Gender Portrayals and Genres over at Apex Book Company.

In early science fiction and even horror, gender roles were often idealized according to the culture and the author’s views and experiences at the time the work was written. A good example of that are the few female characters in H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction and his attitudes toward other races and classes. While it may be extremely difficult to read some of his stories now, because they are rife with depictions that we would not deem to be politically-correct, Lovecraft was also a product of his generation. Could the absence of women in Lovecraft’s work be the reason why there are so few mainstream horror female authors today? Hard to say. I think what we can say is that an author’s lifestyle and background often play a subconscious role on the evolution of their characters, too. Whatever Lovecraft believed played a role in not only what he had written, but how he wrote it.–SOURCE: Gender Portrayals and Genres

Stop by and read the post, or check out a preview of THE CHANGED by BJ Burrow, which was published by Apex Book Company. I have several of their titles on my “to read” list, so if you’re into horror and science fiction, you might want to check them out.

Writing and Conventions

For the past, few months I’ve been taking a serious look at my short-term and long-term goals, and I’ve come to some pretty interesting conclusions.

When I look back at the projects that I have published, I realized that I have just as many that fell through the cracks due to bad business partnerships, horrible contracts, etc. I am very fortunate to have had the experiences that I’ve had, but at the same time it’s very frustrating. Even though there’s enough success out there to be had by everyone, there is a dark side to the industry that kind of gets glossed over sometimes. For example, some people believe that unless you’ve been published through a “big house” your work doesn’t matter; others plagiarize blatantly or take credit for someone else’s work and they still seem to make a name for themselves. The list of misconceptions and/or preconceived notions goes on and on and on. To top it all off, your work almost gets lost in the shuffle sometimes because “Everyone has a book to shill.”

That’s the bad part. The good part is that I have been pretty active figuring out not only what I want to write, but who I want to write for.

My strong background in business allows me to see publishing and the entertainment industry for what it really is. It is, in short, a very complex industry that is focused on selling as many books/games/movies as possible. I have no illusions that publishers need to make money because otherwise, at the end of the day, they can’t stay in business any longer. On top of that, I work in the field of online marketing every day. The signal-to-noise ratio is often staggering, and I’ve found that some of that noise is pretty distracting — especially when there’s not a lot of substance behind the noise.

I know all of these things in my head, but admittedly I can’t always reconcile them with how I feel about the quality of my work. That’s part of the reason why I’ve decided to pull back from a lot of extracurricular activities like conventions. I don’t want to become a total introvert, but I’d rather roll up my sleeves and get back in the trenches to “do something” than whine about what I’m frustrated with or not doing. In my world view, the hand of publishing doesn’t come down and pluck a writer out of thin air. You need to sweat a little, and maybe even bleed a little.

Well, I’m back to sweating. I have a lot of stories in my head and a metric ton of manuscripts to revise and submit. Conventions seem to take a lot out of me right now; as John Kovalic put it last night- “Every con takes away three weeks of creative thought, minimum. One to prepare, one during con week, one to recover…”

He’s exactly right.

On Writing a Historically-Accurate Paranormal Short Story

Currently, I’m working on revisions for a short story entitled THE QUEEN OF CROWS that will be released as part of a digital product through Flames Rising Press. Set in the late 1800s, the plot revolves around a Navajo medicine man who is trying to summon a vengeance goddess called Mahochepi, the Queen of Crows.

This story has evolved several times from its original incarnation, but the process of editing it has taken longer than some of my other stories. Why? Well, part of the reason is because this story was inspired by a historical event called the “Long Walk.” At the time, the U.S. government had planned to develop a center for Native Americans at a place called “Bosque Redondo.” The center would function as a kind of “rehabilitation” center, where Native Americans would be (for lack of a better word) Americanized. Needless to say, there’s a lot of pieces to the story that required research. For example, did you know that the Navajo refer to themselves as the Diné? Or that they lived in houses called hogans?

Although this story is a work of fiction, I wanted to give the work an authentic feel without giving my readers a history lesson. Therein lies the need for multiple revisions. You see, regardless of what my intent for the story is, my readers still have to enjoy what I’ve written. Writing anything based on a historical time period is tricky business for any writer. In my case, I found it hard to swallow my editor’s comments that there were sections that came across as being too preachy. What I wound up realizing, was that I was trying too hard to offer readers a chance to empathize with the main character. To me, the idea of being removed from my house to be re-trained to live in a different society is pretty terrifying. While that concept is part of my story, it’s really only one aspect of it. After all, this story is about what happens in my fictional world, not what happened in a factual timeline.

Because this story will fit together neatly within my Violet War setting, there are a number of paranormal elements to it. Those elements give me a wider berth in terms of what should be (or what shouldn’t be) historically-accurate. Once you introduce magic into any setting, the standard rules may no longer apply. I’m finding that the history portion needed to be there, because it serves as a great foundation. Now, I can go in and “adjust the volume” to better integrate the paranormal elements.

While I didn’t expect to go through another round of revisions, this process reminded me that it’s easy to have a distorted view of your story when you’re really close to it. By the end of the day, however, this will be a much better story once its done. To me, it will never be “good enough,” but like all writers, I’m definitely my own worst critic.

This Is Not Another Amazon Post

If you haven’t heard, there was a bit of an awkward business kerfluffle between Amazon and MacMillan this past weekend. No, I am not talking extensively about it other than to say that I believe we are seeing the result of what happens when people are anxious and start to panic. E-Books are a hot topic, but if history holds true, it will take years before the technology is standardized, affordable, stable, and readily accessible to everyone (including libraries). If you’re curious, Lilith Saint Crow has a lot of information and links on her post entitled, “Good News and Amazonfail Wrap-Up.” I do, however, want to talk about something related to this.

You see, I am concerned. I am concerned about the rampant misinformation and rumors that are circulating around the web whenever anything “happens.” Since Friday, I have heard nothing but questions and confusion when it comes to people’s perceptions about e-books and running a business. People that a) don’t work for an online retailer and b) consume products that they either want for free or at a lower price than what they’re already paying for it.

I am a bit conservative, in that I do not believe in 100 percent transparency with the customer. I feel that readers should not be privy to the inner workings between a retailer (like Amazon) and a publisher (like MacMillan). Why? because the minute you put that deal on the table, the customer is forced to pick a side. That customer isn’t an “informed” customer, because they shouldn’t have to know why things are priced the way that they are. They should, however, have a choice. That choice pretty much comes down to a) yes, I want to buy this product or b) no, I don’t. Their decision should be based on what they want to buy, not who they want to punish (or reward) by buying it.

However, this is the age of “too much” information. Some businesses don’t really have a choice “but” to offer their customers some form of communication because often their customers demand it. When a business doesn’t respond (or doesn’t say the right thing), sometimes customers believe that the entire business is evil. The truth is, most businesses want to paint themselves in a positive light. This is neither “bad” nor “good,” it’s just the nature of how businesses work.

The problem that I have with complete transparency, is that most customers don’t care about the “business” side of this communication, but instead have a pre-formulated opinion based on an “emotional” reaction. That “emotional” reaction often causes a lot of problems, because customers are sharing their reactions with other people as “fact.” We all know how powerful word-of-mouth advertising can be, but sometimes I think we “forget” that it’s easier to distort the truth than it is to spread the facts. Once the misinformation is out in the open, it’s next-to-impossible to try to correct it. And yes, before you say it — I have been guilty of it, too. We all have.

I’m not saying that customers “should care” about the business side of things; what I am saying is that they shouldn’t have to. They should not have to get embroiled in a war between two businesses or be privy to private information, because it takes longer than a single blog post to explain how an entire industry works. Instead, I’d love to see the true victim of these wars — the customer — treated better. Treat them like gold, and they will keep coming back. Treat them like crap, and they will go elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I feel that this will not be the last time we see things like this happen. Sloppy news reporting combined with clicking on whatever appears through search results (regardless of whether it’s factual or not) provides instant access to anything and everything. I know that a lot of writers naturally exercise caution, I just hope that everyone else remembers to do that, too. It’s certainly something that I plan to be even more careful with in the future.




Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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