About Me

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J is an unpublished author, represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. J's first novel is a YA fantasy horror, regarding a siren who must choose between the haunting life and humanity. J draws on occasion, reads quite often, and is a founding member of the critique group 'Thoughtical Verbosity.'

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Color Outside Ze Lines

So hilarious, sasstastic author Jaime Reed recently wrote in her blog about race issues. Her post is here: Color Outside the Lines.

I started writing a reply to her awesome post, then realized my reply was working up to be roughly blog-sized and I didn't want to take up too much of her personal internets. So here we go: my first official unrequested blog post that is strictly a response to something someone else blogged about.

Give me some time and maybe I'll think of a title with a cool acronym. But probably not.

Now: about coloring outside the lines.

I've had a lot of thoughts similar to Jaime's in the process of working on Ze Book.

I'm Caucasian, but spent a good chunk of my childhood in Maryland. My brother and I were the only white kids (and I the only girl) past tooth-sprouting age within hang-out distance. A few kids tried to pick on us for being the odd ones out, but for the most part we had no issue making friends and having regular life-threatening, poorly-supervised childhood adventures.

So that racial barrier is not as much an issue for me as I imagine it would be for those who grew up in a more monochromatic world. During my formative years I ran wild with my brother and a handful of kids who happened to have skin darker than my own. They were my best friends. They were awesome. One of them (super lifetime secret!) was my first kiss. We were five. Five-year-olds do that if you're not watching.

My first thought when I see someone who is African American is of my childhood friends, and not about the differences between us. I'm not colorblind. Nobody is, no matter how sweet and kind and open minded they may be. But I feel that the differences between the many billions of people on this rock called earth are awesome. The differences are what make everyone beautiful in gloriously unique ways.

Still, I'm very aware of the walls that go up around every unique culture.

There aren't many MCs that break the cookie-cutter mold or, as Jaime Reed said, color outside the lines. And that sucks. A lot. What sucks even more is that most--certainly not all, but the ones that get the most attention--of the MCs that ARE from a different culture or physical appearance mostly star in novels that deal solely with how The Man comes down on them for being different.


I remember being a young female reader trying to find awesome books where other young females go out, kick balls, save the day, bring home nondescript booty, and settle back in front of the fire preparing for their next adventure. Instead I found a lot of books about quivery-lipped gals being tragically put in their place by the menfolk. Maybe they'd bust free from the crapsack society. Maybe they'd just sort of waffle along and end the way they began. Lamely.

How this plays into Ze Book:

My MC is a biracial young man. He has a white mother, while the world would identify him as black. It affects his life, obviously, but it is not his key characteristic. Nor is it even remotely what the novel is about. His ethnicity is mentioned, because the novel takes place in the 30's and nobody would believe it if not a single character commented on the fact.

Part of what I want to do with Thomas Kaiser, apprentice sorcerer-detective extraordinaire, is add a drop in the great bucket of minority characters just going out and doing awesome things that don't have anything to do with being minority characters.

And in the end, Thomas is Thomas is Thomas. He would still be Thomas if he was white, Chinese, Eskimo, or a purple-polka-dot-platypus. Anyone, regardless of background or race or gender or taste in music, should, could and hopefully will eventually star in a story that is just about twisting life's fingers until it cries uncle.

That's my opinion, anyhow. It came out rather wordy and I'm afraid a bit preachy, but those are the facts.

Now I need to get off of this blog and log in some more Thomas-time. Ze Book is not going to finish itself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ze J Larkin Vlog

Did I mention that I was starting a vlog? No?

Well, I am/did and it's more or less me talking into a camera about stuff. Mostly author-type-stuff. The recordings are generally done at stupid o'clock in the morning, so there might could be some real gems in there!

Here are the latest three existing episodes:

This one has a hat in it:

This one has more those loopy bang things:

This is the first one to feature a non-black shirt:

And there will be another one up tonight! Featuring discussion of what I like to call a 'genre buster.' Ooooh.

Well, take care everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Thanks

Updating the blog a mere three days after the last post?

But here we are.

I would still like to hear your responses to the last post. I just wanted to share a little story with you, people of the internet, that has been spreading a grin across my face all day.

I warn you now, it is entirely about me. Turn back now if you were hoping for something far-reaching or directly applicable to your own lives. Or, if you feel like charging on, I promise to include a tooth-rottingly cute picture of my favorite animal at the end of the post.


So, as I mentioned on the other 'You Can't Possibly Get Too Much Of Me' social media sites I'm on, the other day I sent out a bunch of queries for a children's story I wrote. The story would be a picture book, but I'm not interested in doing the pictures myself. I just envision the story going with a sort of sparkly, girly, cutesy art style that is...well, miles away from my own.
Yeah, I don't...I don't draw like this.

And the story took me about an hour to write, so I don't have the tooth-and-nail devotion to it that I do for, say, Ze Book.

Anyhow, I sent out the queries. I in no way expect to have seven agents battling for the right to represent Going to be a Unicorn, partially because my ego is not quite that out of control, and partially because I realize that very few people are actually interested in picture book texts right now. The market is just not leaning in that direction; if anything, most agents who represent picture books at all say (on their sites) that they're interested in author-illustrators. Or previously established authors.

But actually, actively querying and bracing myself for rejection seemed like a good idea. Because, hey, the worst thing that could happen is one agent reads the story, is repulsed, and tells his or her compatriots to avoid the name of J Larkin as though it were a disease you would never discuss in polite conversation. Which is not very likely. And once I am ready to start querying for Ze Book, I know there will be a lot of people who respond with 'Not my thing.' And I want to make sure I'm ready for that sting, beyond knowing how silly it would be to expect everyone to love what I've written.

This morning, at approximately stupid o'clock, my phone made that sound. The sound. The sound that is assigned to sound when my authorial email address is breached.
(The sound, for all those who are curious, can be heard in the clip below).

I rolled over, conked my head on the bedside shelf-thing, and maneuvered my way to the new email before I was fully awake.

Once I was awake, I read two words. The title of this blog post.

No thanks.

I shrugged, hit 'delete,' and rolled back over to catch a couple more hours of sleep. It wasn't until my face was pressed back into the pillow that I realized I'd just received my first rejection letter. Then I grinned.

I'm still grinning now, just thinking about it. I got rejected, and I was cool with it. Of course I care, and I think that if I felt absolute apathy then I'd be headed in the wrong direction. But there was no punch in the gut, no need to stiffen my upper lip, and no consoling necessary.

It's a baby step. Heck, it's not even that. It's more like the baby has finally managed to roll over on its own. Whoopdi-flippin'-do! But still, I feel a little ironic nudge coming from somewhere. I can handle rejection just fine, and get right back to the drawing board to work some more. Maybe I'm cut out for this writing thing after all!

Now, as promised...


Friday, September 9, 2011

Writing Ze Book You Want to Read

Hey internet;

I believe I mentioned that I was working on another rant. That was true, and I liked the idea of it before I started. Then I got about three sentences in and got bored.

"I can't stand rules that are--SQUIRREL!"

The idea still lingers in my mind and maybe one day I'll return to it (the rant was about silly rules) but for now there's something else stuck in my craw that I would like to discuss.

I say discuss because I hope others will take the baton and run with it, either on their own blogs or on this one...just let me know, I'd love to hear your opinions :)

So, over at YAtopia (love the name, it's right up there with Libratopia) there is an easy-to-enter contest, open to everyone and with fabulous prizes. Free book? Possibility of a kindle? Squeee pick me pick me! I already have a stack of books without shelves to call home, let's make the pile truly outrageous!!

Well, in order to enter the contest you have to just say what book you are most looking forward to in 2012. Easy enough; that's a whole year of fresh publishing to choose from.

I've been following publishing news a lot, lately, but hadn't gone beyond this year. So I popped around on the mighty interwebz and found a few lists. I spent some time searching. And searching. A perusing. And searching.

And my face got longer. And longer. And frownier. And frownier.

Let me start by saying that I, like thousands of other faceless someones out there, have been putting a considerable amount of blood, sweat and tears into writing my own book. Ze Book. I love it. The characters are my friends, I care about them and want other people to care about them. The plot is exiting to me and the wordplay is my pride and joy. At the same time, all of the above can be excruciating to make happen. I know this.

Now that he's compiled all the drafts of Chapter 01, he can scrap them all and start over with what he's learned!
And I'm not even querying yet. So I give mad props to any and all who have reached that stage, found their agents, got their deals, and are now gleefully awaiting the due date of their hardcover honeys*.

So I'm not trying to be snide or flippant or disparaging. That's the last thing I'd do to someone who I know has worked their brains into mush and achieved THE DREAM.

But pretty much all of the 2012 books sound exactly. The. Same.
This book cookie-cutter illustrates my point AND makes me want little book cookies.

Here's the basic format:

Sad Underage Estrogenbot (we'll call her 'SUE' from here on out) has something tragic in her past. Then BOOM something happens that ushers Some Totally Uninteresting Dude (we'll call him 'STUD' from here on out) into her life. There's some sort of mystery or problem going on, the solution to which is painfully obvious to any reader with basic thinking skills but WILL be dragged on until the last chapter. SUE and STUD make painfully unappealing googly eyes at each other despite hating each other for legitimate reasons and/or already being so TOTALLY in love because the author says so.

SUE will be determined to fix the aforementioned problem/mystery, but will in fact end up doing little more than riding on the coattails of her supporting cast while loudly bemoaning her fate. She will get all the credit in the end because...well, because she's SUE.

There is some variation, of course. But not much. SUE is always super-sad or angry about something. If the world is a dystopian future (it probably is, because that's what's hot right now) SUE will approach everything with the morally justified eyes of someone from our time, even if it makes absolutely no sense for her to do so because she's known nothing but the dystopian world her entire life.

Oh, and the cover will be a picture of SUE in one of those floaty-puffy-dreamy dresses, just sort of...floating. Looking dramatic. Probably against a gray, watery, misty, or ashy background. I thought about making a collage of all the covers I've seen like that, but that would feel too much like I'm going after specific people, which I am definitely not.

But come on...I'd like to see some variety on the 'new arrivals' shelf.

To make matters worse (better? I don't even know) I think I understand what's going on. It's not exactly a secret that books (especially YA books, I believe) have a tendency to play follow-the-leader. One novel will come out, get a lot of people excited, and then for the next few years we see an increasing number of books in that style until there seems to be nothing but watered-down versions of it available.

Harry Potter --------------> thousands of fantasy, magicky adventures.

Twilight -------------------> thousands of vampire/human romances.

The Hunger Games -------> thousands of dystopian worlds with female leads.

Well, I believe/hope we are at the point where the schtick has run out. It's about time for a new genre boost. I'm rooting for something with more humor in it.

But what do you guys think? What's the next big 'thing?' Or, you can say I'm completely off my rocker. That's okay, too. Working on Ze Book may have made me hyper-critical of what others write, especially when I feel like I've read it dozens of time...or if the SUEs and STUDs are just so mind-numbingly boring, annoying, and unlikable that I find myself screaming at the book to "END. END."

My solution is to write Ze Book I want to read, as writers have been encouraged to do since shortly before Methuselah was born. What's yours?