Back in 2011 and 2012, I did two reviews on different book series that I’d come to enjoy. I was still in the middle of them, but I was pretty much hooked on them, enough that while I hadn’t finished either series at that point, I wrote reviews on both of them. Sadly though, the reviews didn’t really do either series justice. I was still figuring out the components of a good review at that point in my blogging career, so that probably explains why they weren’t as good as they could be.

In any case, I read the last book of one series earlier this year and last night I finished the last book of the other. In honor of these achievements, and because I haven’t done a proper review since August, I thought I’d do a double review on both of these series.

So, let’s begin!

Kieli by Yukako Kabei

Volume 1 of “Kieli”. I swear, the series blew my mind when I first started reading it.

Everyone loves a unique story, something that has never been seen before on the printed page. We felt that way with Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, and so many other famous stories. Kieli does just that. A light novel series* out of Japan, Kieli mixes just about every genre possible: paranormal, science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, romance, Western, and then some! All while telling a very compelling and heart-wrenching story.

From a young age, Kieli has been able to see ghosts, but she doesn’t tell anyone lest her theocratic society think her a heretic. One day she meets an immortal soldier named Harvey, who is delivering a haunted radio to a battle site so that the ghost haunting the radio can finally be at peace. Thus starts their adventures together, as Kieli joins Harvey on his quest and ends up helping him fight off ghosts, Church soldiers, other immortal soldiers and a plethora of other antagonists. At the same time, Kieli starts learning about her past and about what it means to grow up and be an adult.

While at times it may frustrate readers that Kieli has a hard time separating her own identity from being with Harvey, it’s a compelling story. The characters are troubled and have to learn to sort out their own problems as well as the antagonists facing them, and the mix of genres is done almost seamlessly without looking too weird or contrived, and the relationship between the two main characters feels real. You’ll want to keep reading all the way through the final book, which nearly made me come to tears.

All in all, I give Kieli a 4.5 out of 5. This was a series that made me want to create fantastic worlds like the one depicted int he series, and I wanted to create characters that felt just as vibrant and complicated as Kieli or Harvey. Maybe thanks to Kieli, someday I will.

Book Girl by Mizuki Nomura

The Japanese cover for the first entry in the “Book Girl” series, “Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime”.

Another Japanese light novel series, Book Girl is told from the point of view of Konoha Inoue, a troubled high schooler who actually published a massively popular novel under a pseudonym in junior high. However his success came at the great cost, and he swears never to write again.

That is, until he meets Tohko Amano, a girl who literally eats the stories told in books to survive. After Konoha sees Tohko “eating” a story, she forces him to join the literature club and write stories for her as snacks. That’s only the start of his problems though, because a lot of strange stuff tends to happen around Konoha, including missing students and attempted murders. Against his will, Konoha is often dragged into solving these mysteries by Tohko, who often finds a literary equivalent to the mystery being investigated (such as Wuthering Heights or The Phantom of the Opera, in some cases).

While Kieli made me want to create worlds, Book Girl made me want to tell incredible stories with wonderful language. Nomura is able to weave words together in order to make you feel like you really know the characters, especially Konoha, and become really attached to them, as well as attached to finding out how the mystery is solved, as well as how Konoha confronts his past and learns to stand on his own two feet again. It’s a great series if you happen to love mysteries as well.

For telling a compelling story with wonderful clarity, emotion and language, I give the Book Girl series a 4.8 out of 5. I really will end up missing this series now that I’ve finished it, but hopefully I took enough away from it so as to improve my own stories.

We can hope, right?

 

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got some homework to do before I go over to my mother’s house, so I’m going to get to work on that. Happy Thanksgiving, my Followers of Fear. This year, I’m thankful for you guys.

*A light novel is a form of literature that was born in Japan and grew out of the pulp magazine industry. Light novels are usually around the length of a novella (40,000-50,000 words), have dense publishing schedules, are often serialized in anthology magazines before being published as cheap paperbacks, and usually include illustrations, about one per chapter usually. The format is very popular in Japan and popular series have been adapted into numerous formats several times over. There’s also a growing market in the English-speaking world for light novels, and many companies have begun licensing and translating these series for new audiences. I’m hooked on the genre myself.

I went to a certain event on campus this evening, but I arrived not realizing that while the event is advertised as happening at a certain time, it only really starts much later (a part of me actually knew that, but the part of me that’s a total freak for being on time or missing something won out in the end). The library being nearby, I decided to pop in and check my email before I decided to go home or not. When I logged onto WordPress though, I saw a notification that I had a comment. I checked, and it was from a post I’d commented on a while back.

The post itself had been from a woman who was relating her experiences being sexually assaulted in the work environment, and how several other women she’d worked with had been in the same situation, and the owners of her workplace had tried to sweep it under the rug for the sake of business and for the attackers’ families’ sakes! Naturally, I was upset when I read that post. Sexual assault is a horrific thing that happens to so many people, mainly women but men as well. And what’s just as upsetting to me is not only the act of rape itself, but those who try to cover it up or downplay it or make it seem likes it not a big deal. This sort of conduct not only adds insult to injury to the victims, but it also sends a message, that rape is okay, that the attacker can go on doing whatever because it’s not a big deal, that if we make it into a big deal than it is then innocent people will get hurt and besides, it’s only one measly person who had a bad experience, right?

So I commented on the post. Since so many women had been attacked at this place, I suggested that maybe they band together and bring to the workplace a class-action suit or something, because sexual assault and covering up for it is illegal and a disgusting act to boot. That comment got a few likes during the preceding week or two after I’d read it, but the post got a lot more! Comments, likes, new stories coming out, stories of tragedy and stories of support. One newspaper even did a story on the place, so I’m assuming that got something rolling. At the very least, that place is seeing a lot less business than it had prior to so many women coming out.

Of course, not all of the people commenting have been supportive. The comment I got was from some woman with a generic sounding name. She basically said that while sexual assault was a crime, so was lying about it. That’s it. Lying about sexual assault was a crime.

Now, I’ve seen this sort of behavior before, and I know not to comment lest I end up getting attacked. Heck, I wrote an article on this very subject a while back, so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite by getting confrontational. But I was curious. Maybe because it was supposed to be a woman who commented, maybe it was the subject matter, maybe it was because I was kind of bored and I didn’t want to walk back to my apartment just yet. But I wanted to know who this person was.

So I clicked on the article to familiarize myself with it again. I also viewed my comment in full, as well as the reply comment. And then I started looking through the comment feed, seeing if anyone else had gotten any comments from this person. Sure enough, there were more than a few comments from this person on other people’s comments and they all had a similar message:

  1. Rape doesn’t happen
  2. The women who say they were attacked at this place weren’t attacked. Whatever happened there, they wanted it.
  3. Any woman who says that they were attacked is lying for attention or some other cockamamie reason and they’re the ones being sexist and cruel by calling supposedly innocent men rapists.

Very curious now, I clicked on the person’s username to see their blog. All I got was a bland background. No blog posts at all. Not even a post saying, “Hi, this is my first post. I’m hoping for good things while I write about so-and-so a subject. Please support me and follow me.” I checked the About page as well. Not a single thing.

At this point, any doubt I have has flown out the window. And while I’m not certain if this is someone who’s personally connected to the case and the workplace in question, or just someone who generally feels that they’re being assaulted as a man (yes, I say a man, because based on the language used by this person they’re probably male) by feminists with too much power and really without hacking skills, of which I’m lacking, there’s no real way to find out. But it does tell me something. That whoever this is feels threatened by women who speak out and feminists in general and will go to great lengths to stop it.

As if there weren’t enough obstacles making it seem like a bad idea to victims to speak out. On university campuses, some of which have really bad sexual assault rates, college administrators have mishandled assault cases, expelling or blaming victims and protecting rapists with light or no sentences at all. U Va recently got into trouble for this, and even my dear Ohio State has gotten into a lot of trouble over this. In the justice system, the system that’s supposed to protect us, there are cops, judges, and many more who will say that rape isn’t a big deal or victimhood is a status to be desired or that the victim knew what they were getting into, or that rape has to be “legitimate”. Some of this is even said by politicians at the highest levels of government. And when women speak out, they can face ridicule or disbelief by strangers, acquaintances, or even their friends and family. If their case gets to court, they risk being attacked by lawyers on the stand and disbelieved by juries. There’s a chance the rapist goes free and they have to live with that every day.

In other words, there’s a great fear, and a legitimate fear too, that speaking out will only make things worse.

And it’s the people like my wayward commenter, someone who seems determined to shut up victims and women in general, who are making the situation worse. There seems to be a great terror among certain sections of the population that giving women any sort of equality or power is akin to castrating all men and forcing them to live in a dystopian society where men are slaves to power-hungry lesbian dominatrices. That is simply not true. Feminists (of which I am one) only want women to have the same economic, social, and political rights as men, without taking away men’s rights. But there are those who believe it, and will go to great lengths to make sure women are afraid to speak out or seek equality.

Last month, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian was sent a threatening letter by a man who claimed that feminists had ruined his life and that if she spoke at Utah State University, he would commit a mass shooting at the event. Because of Utah’s ultra-relaxed gun atmosphere, Ms. Sarkeesian had to cancel the event lest she risk her life and the lives of others. What does Ms. Sarkeesian talk about? Her latest videos, articles, and appearances tend to talk about how women are objectified in video games and seen less as actual people and more as sex objects or devices that (often violently) advance the game’s story.

Violence is a common threat from people who don’t want women speaking out. And while the actual incidences of violence are low, these threats, plus the threat of ridicule, of becoming a punchline in a joke, of being called a money-grubbing slut or a power-hungry feminazi man-hater, makes it much more difficult for many women to speak out. No one wants that sort of attention on them, and for victims of assault, it’s even harder to come out when facing all that.

So what is there to do about it? Well, I’m doing it right now: I’m fighting back. I’m writing an article that exposes what is happening and pushes back against it. And I’m letting people who have been attacked and that are afraid to come out that I’ve got their back. Yes, I’m a man, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe women should be equal in society. Far from it. I’m willing to fight alongside the many women out there who demand to be treated equally and with respect in the world towards men.

So know this, folks. If you’re a woman and/or you’ve been assaulted, know that I support you and I’m there for you. And for those who still think that men are under threat by these women, I’m so sorry you feel this way, but it’s not true and some day I hope you come to this realization.

Thank you, and goodnight, Followers of Fear and everyone else.

Well, I finally got an email from my thesis advisor M on what he thought about my new thesis outline. Here’s what he had to say:

Very full chapter outline.  You’ve sure thought it through.  At this point, it looks solid.  It’s going to be about execution, of course.  But I say go ahead with your plan and keep writing.

He also signed it M. That’s kind of funny, considering that I keep forgetting to ask him if I can call him by something other than “M” on my blog.

But back on point, the new outline reduces the story by about six chapters from twenty-seven to twenty-one, making the story much simpler and allowing me to focus on the two main characters. And since I’m now eight chapters in, I’m now officially a little over a third of the way through the story! Woo-hoo! Only thirteen more to go!

As with my previous novels, I’ve counted out how many pages and words I’ve written so far. At the moment, Rose is about sixty pages in (that’s 8.5″ x 11″ pages), with an average of seven and a half pages per chapter. And at this moment, the word count is 17,546 words, with about 2,193 per chapter. So we’re around the length of a novelette at this point. At the rate I’m going though, it’s likely to be novel length (sixty-thousand words or higher) before long.

So next up is to, like M said, execute what I’ve written in the outline on the actual page. My next step is to slowly make the story much stranger than it already is (if you’re new here, Rose is about a woman who is resurrected through magic by her stalker, and that’s just the start of her problems), while also exploring the relationship between Rose and antagonist Akira. Hopefully by the end of this story it’ll be a very scary, very strange story that’ll be both moving and terrifying.

Well, I hope to start on Chapter Nine before long. I’ve got some homework to do, and I’m in the middle of editing something right now, so that might slow me down a little bit, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to catch up before the end of the month. By New Year’s I’d like to have at least gotten started on Chapter Fourteen. We’ll see what I do.

Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy schedule these days, so I need all the luck I can get! I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

It’s been a while since I posted on my books that are in the process of getting written/edited/published/whatever, so I thought I’d write up a quick post to just let you all know about how those projects are going and when we can expect them to be in print. Spoiler: not any time soon.

Video Rage

The long-awaited sequel to Reborn City (especially by my sister and my stepmother). Last I was working on it, I’d made considerable progress on the book and had made it about halfway or so through the manuscript. Of course, senior year started, and I had to switch gears to work on Rose (more on that below). So I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to that, but it’ll probably be when I don’t have classes, a thesis, and a job search to deal with all at once. So hopefully at some point next year. Yes, I know, it’s sad and frustrating. But when you’re working with my busy schedule, what can you do?

Actually, there is plenty you can do: offer me a job that matches my qualifications if you got one. Either that, or come by and do my homework for me. I’ve got an 8-10 page Shakespeare paper due December 9th. Any volunteers? No? Good, that’s cheating and I could get expelled for that.

Laura Horn

I’ve been thinking a lot about this novel lately. For those of you who haven’t seen me post about it before (it’s been a while), Laura Horn is a thriller about a teenage sexual assault victim who comes across information that threatens the United States and finds herself the only one who can stop it. At the same time, she must confront her demons and the man who assaulted her. The thing is, after I finished the first draft, I realized that certain parts of the story required too much suspension of disbelief. There was so much going on, some of it involved a stretch of the imagination to actually imagine happening, and at times I felt like there were glaring errors in the plot that I was missing. And then I found some of them!

All in all, the whole thing is unwieldy. But, I love the characters, especially my protagonist. I love the journey she goes on, and how it makes her go from a scared little girl to…well, she’s stronger. In a better place. And I liked the idea of the story very much.

So I think when the opportunity presents itself, I may try rewriting the story (because apparently a second draft for me is rewriting the whole damn thing, at least lately anyway). I’ve already got an idea for a new storyline that makes a lot more sense, it’ll be a bit shorter than the original version, and I think I’ll still get the story I want without facing those problems of believable storytelling. I just need the time to write it (what else is new?). So don’t expect LH to come out any time soon. I know, I know. It looks like nothing will be coming out soon, and that’s a fair opinion. But you never know. Something may change.

Rose

Last I updated you guys on my novel-that-doubles-as-my-thesis, I had to rewrite the outline again because the direction would’ve made the whole story a little crazy. So I sent the new outline to my advisor, and I was supposed to meet with him Friday. Sadly, the meeting got cancelled, so I’ll be emailing him this coming week to see if he would just send me his thoughts in an email. It might make it a bit easier since carving out a time for three busy people to meet up for even half an hour or more and just talk. If I hear anything, you guys will be among the first to know.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

Hope to get a new article out some time soon. That’s all I’m saying on this.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got a bit of editing to do tonight, so I’m going to get on that. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. These days, I need all the luck I can get my hands on.

 

Y U NO 1

It’s the truth: authors want their families to read their work.

Whether it’s our first book or our thirtieth or higher. Whether we’ve just published a blog post we wrote during our lunch break yesterday or a short story we’ve been working months on appearing in a prestigious magazine. There’s one thing all us authors want when this sort of thing happens: we want our folks to pay attention to it. Hell, we want our folks to buy at least one copy, drop everything else to read it, and then call us up to comment on it, tell us how much they loved it or hated it, and then go on Amazon or whatever site they got it from and write a (hopefully) three star or higher review.

This isn’t just narcissism on our part (though I’m sure that plays a big role in it). Authors like vindication, it’s one of the reasons we write and publish. And praise from our families on something we toil away at for hours and hours at a time is at the same time both something we kind of expect and something we desperately want. It’s a big deal for authors, no matter what the relationships between us and our families, that they take a look at our work and let us know what they think (and hopefully they actually like it and aren’t just saying it’s the most awesome thing ever to make us happy).

Sadly, that’s not always going to happen. My folks love me and I love them. Sure, occasionally we get on each other’s nerves and more than once I’ve fantasized about Daleks chasing them down the street (or was that my TA who keeps assigning extra work for our recitation class?). But yeah, we care pretty deeply about each other. Still, I know there are certain members of my family who won’t read my books, or won’t read them immediately. And I have to accept that.

The latter is pretty easy to explain: my folks are busy. Everyone above the age of 18 in my immediate family has a job of some sort. Plus my sister has schoolwork, my parents all have kids to still take care of, and bills to pay, and pets to take care of, and chores to do…basically, a lot on their plates. Eventually they get around to it, but until then I just have to be patient. Do I like it? No. But I know I can’t do anything to change it, so I wait and I let those members of my family get around to it in their own time. Eventually they get it done.

OAG 1

For the former, it’s another matter entirely. Some of them just aren’t big readers. It isn’t how they relax in the evenings. And I won’t even pick that fight, so why even bother getting them to read it if I know it’s a losing battle? Others like to read, but they don’t enjoy anything with monsters. Or ghosts. Or murder. Or blood. Or missing limbs. Or the occasional hot and heavy sex scene. Or darkness. Or scares. In other words, what I write is the exact opposite of what they look for in a story. Well, you can try with these people, but I can’t guarantee it’ll work. For some, unless you’re writing comedy, romance, or a highfalutin coming-of-age literary novel, they just won’t read it.

Though if you still want a specific family member or friend to read your work, by all means go ahead and try. You can try by emphasizing to them the aspects of the story they would most likely enjoy (this worked with a friend of mine when I highlighted the romantic aspect of Snake). It’s better than cutting a deal with them or guilt-tripping them (though I think the latter worked for me one time).

And if that doesn’t work, don’t be too glum about it. There are always people out there willing to read your work. You just have to work hard and try to connect to them, wherever they may be. That’s part of the reason why I blog and post on Facebook and tweet and all that: because I know that by doing so it has the potential to open all sorts of doors. Maybe even allow me to find some people who would enjoy my work. You never know.

Does your family read your work?

How do you get your folks to read your work when it doesn’t necessarily appeal to them?

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the meme photos and where I got them, I made them. Yeah, I made them. I found this website that allows you to create your very own memes. It’s amazing! Now I can put hilarious memes in my stories whenever I want.

Oh dear. Maybe that’s not such a good thing after all…

It’s expected in the coming weeks that the grand jury will hand down a decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Protesters have threatened to riot if Wilson isn’t indicted, the governor has declared a state of emergency, and police are getting ready for what many see as a second, bigger powder keg after the first one went off back in August. And around the country, in living rooms and coffee shops, in workplaces and on news talk shows, people are asking what caused this and what will happen next.

I’ll keep my own personal views on what should happen to Wilson to myself, lest everything else I try to say in this piece gets forgotten because of one opinion. I will state that I think it’s tragic that a young man who had his whole life ahead of him and was planning to go college and maybe own his own business someday was taken too soon, and that his legacy has to be another awful bullet point in the United States’ long, troubled history with race.

And make no mistake, there is a racial element to this. I know some will say that we shouldn’t be talking about race, that we’re living in a post-racial society, that race is a sociological construct of the mind rather than a biological certainty, and that therefore race should not be brought up. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll keep saying it: social construct or not, many people treat race as a biological reality, and racism is still a pervasive problem in the United States. In fact, I’ve often compared racism to cancer, and the way you deal with cancer isn’t to avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. The way you deal with cancer is to take a multi-pronged approach to cure it, and one of those approaches is to talk about racism.

And for those who continue to insist that race shouldn’t be part of the discussion because we live in a so-called “post-racial” society, here are some facts:

  • In November 2012, students of the University of Mississippi rioted upon learning that Barack Obama was reelected. Several racial slurs were heard shouted out during the riot.
  • In February 2012, a young man in Florida was profiled by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who then followed the young man despite being told by police not to pursue, and engaged the young man in a scuffle that ultimately ended with the young man’s life being taken. The young man, Trayvon Martin, was black.
  • There are over 900 documented hate groups in the United States according to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year. Most of them are primarily focused on race and racial differences.

Still want to argue that racism doesn’t exist? Racism is still very prevalent in the United States, and the fact that so many want to deny its existence or say that discussing race and racism in America makes you racist really disturb me. (The latter claim actually is the most ridiculous, especially since it goes against the very definition of racism, and real racists wouldn’t benefit from discussions on race as a societal problem unless it involved doing horrible things to other races. In fact, when economist Ben Stein went on Fox News the other day and called Obama the “most racist president” ever, I wanted to throw a dictionary and a history book at the guy. If you’re going to call a President racist, it’d be better to refer to possibly Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt for starters.)

I think we owe today’s racism to some of the things that happened during Reconstruction, in part. Slavery itself definitely plays a role, but I want to focus on Reconstruction because during this time, President Andrew Johnson encouraged the return of defeated Confederate states to self-rule and to take part in federal government. The people who ended up seizing control were mostly plantation owners and businessmen, some of whom had been involved in the Confederate government, and had benefited from slavery. They used their power to pass sweeping legislation depriving freed slaves of rights, and used terror in the form of the KKK to prevent push back. There was also some propaganda directed to poorer whites who were told that giving freed slaves power was bad for them. The federal government, including Johnson, didn’t do much to prevent this (Johnson also didn’t support the Civil Rights Bill or the 13th Amendment, which is why I mentioned him above in my examples of racist presidents).

This set a painful pattern in motion that would last for nearly 100 years. The legislatures continued to have people in it who would keep up the status quo, African Americans and whites who sympathized with them were kept in place through lynching, the KKK, and other forms of terror, and efforts on state and federal levels to stop it faced uphill battles. It wasn’t until WWII, when African-Americans were determined to achieve victory at home and abroad after their rough treatment during WWI, that things began to change for the better.

Why do I go into all this, and at the risk of getting a bunch of people shouting at me in the comments about how I know nothing or I’m oversimplifying it or something along those lines? Because there are a lot of painful episodes, going back further than I have covered, that have happened and continue to happen long after MLK and the Civil Rights Acts, and we need to examine the whole picture in order to understand what is happening now. Racism existed then, and although they’re in new forms, racism exists today. So we need to confront the past and examine the present if we’re to better the future.

And now that I’ve led you through this long, somewhat rambling post, I have to ask: how do you think racism can be combated? What approaches should we take to stop racism and make it less prevalent in future generations?

*By the way, I know that some of the arguments here can also be applied to other forms of prejudice and discrimination towards other minorities, women, religions, ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, and sexual orientations. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve only focused on race here, but I do cover other problems in other posts and in some of my fiction as well.

Boy, has this short story been something of a saga for me. For this second draft, not only did I have to go back twice to redo it because I didn’t like where it was going, but I also changed the name of the short story about…six times? I settled with “What Happened Saturday Night” after a while as the new title. So maybe this post should be called “What Happened Saturday Night: Finished”.

Anywho, for those who don’t know, for my creative writing class I have to turn in two original short stories and a revised short story for the class to critique. Having previously done a short story about fallen angels and one about a woman who turns into a wolf, I decided to do a revision of the latter story. And just like the first draft, where I went back several times because the plot was going nowhere fast, I had to go back several times on this one. The first time was because I realized the story’s ending would resemble that of a previous story, and I didn’t want to be repeating myself. The second time I added in a cult element, but then things got really complicated and I decided I didn’t need that.

So for this third round, I decided to simplify things, go in a new direction I hadn’t thought of before, and see what I got. I also turned off the Internet so I wouldn’t get distracted (it worked). And finally, four days before it was due, I finished the new draft of “Frauwolf”, which is now called “What Happened Saturday Night”, and I incorporated a lot of the suggestions I got from my peers. So now it’s done, with a little over five-thousand words. A little wordy should I try to get it published, but I’m sure after my next critique in two weeks I’ll get some great suggestions on how to improve it and maybe trim it down if necessary. It still incorporates the main elements though: a girl who turns into a werewolf, and her relationship with her lover, also a woman. Can’t argue about that.

For now though, I’m tired and I want to go to bed. I’ve got a big week starting tomorrow, including midterms on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’d rather be well-rested for those.

I’ll try and blog later this week, my Followers of Fear. Until then, a terrifying sleep, and a good week to you all.