Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Category: Books

A bit of a Hiatus

It’s been a busy month. Geez, I seem to be saying that a lot lately.

Let’s see, in the last month I have managed to start playing around with rewriting a story I have kept in my drawer for the past eight months or so, traveled to New York with grandparents on my mother’s side, signed up for a foreign language class at the local community collage, avoided cleaning my room, and panicked about how close Camp NaNoWriMo is (four days away- FOUR). And let’s not forget the procrastinating… a lot of procrastinating.

You caught my mention of Camp NaNoWriMo, yes? I, awkward NaNoWriMo-obsessed aspiring writer-person, am doing it again. This time, I actually want to have a slight outline before the beginning of the month. Although, my version of an outline is essentially a bunch of sentences about general scenes toward the beginning of the book, a few threads of thought to run through the entire book, and a bit of a plot; plus the names of main characters if I am lucky. And boy are the names difficult this time.

All right, enough complaining on my end! (You can probably expect another post about Camp NaNoWriMo in the future…)

Among the rest of the stuff this month, I have been organizing the back end of this blog. *slips behind magic curtain

The reason is that I still don’t feel like I know exactly what this blog is for. I do not expect to know everything, especially the details, but I do think that I need to contemplate how I can make it easier for me to post more consistently. Thankfully, I have come up with a few ideas!

So, hopefully I will be around more often! Not much will change on the public end, but I am going to start planning ahead as much as I can. Of course, I suspect that I will still disappear every once in awhile, but that will hopefully be less common.

And now… BOOKS!

I have a gigantic reading list right now (as I always do), and I ended up bringing a few books home with me. By the way, if you live in NY or are traveling to NY, go to The Strand bookstore, it is astounding! (Think floor to ceiling bookshelves, three floors, and so many books you barely know where to turn.)

So, what did I bring home?

Three awesome books:

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Le Miserables by Victor Hugo (it was on sale for an immense discount so I wouldn’t have been able to resist even if I tried)– I’m barely at the end of the first chapter, but I am already enjoying it.

The Gollum and the Jinni by Helene Wecker– I’ve only read the first few pages and am looking forward to seeing where it will go.

And Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom– and Revenge by Edward Kritzler– I read this book a few years ago and loved it. Hopefully it was be just as good the next few times (and I think I can use it as a writing resource as well)!

All right, that just about covers my absence.

Until next time!

Writing with LGBT+ Characters Pt. 2

Whew, it’s been a busy week!

Today’s topic is about myths; those pesky little stereotypes that are best avoided.

Myths are incredibly prevalent in our society, whether they are classical or contemporary, and they often find their way into books. (Okay, more then often. They’re like a giant weasel burrowing admix everything. Or maybe that is just my plot holes talking…)

As you can see by the title of this post, this is the second half of my whole thing about writing with LGBT+ characters. Let me be entirely honest for a moment; this is a post that I thought would be far easier to write than it actually was. For one, there are thousands of different ways to approach this topic. There are also a lot of questions.

When writing about ‘minority’ groups, it is easy to say that all humans are humans and they should be treated as such. However, there are always certain things to avoid. That is where stereotypes come in.

Yup, those.

Everyone knows that it’s frustrating when someone stereotypes you; no matter who you are. One of the problems with LGBT+ characters in media and books is the number of stereotypes that are repeatedly used again and again. I think at least a few of the more recent queer characters that are starting to show up are finally avoiding many of these stereotypes, but they can still be a problem. Stereotypes have a way of sticking around.

On the heels of that, let’s get into the actual discussion…

Before I get into my over-passionate list of a few stereotypes, let’s go over some basic stuff:

According to the New Oxford English Dictionary (third edition), sexuality is defined as: a “capacity for sexual feelings,” or, “a person’s sexual orientation or preference.”

So… what are the most commonly used sexualities?

Lesbian: A woman who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another woman. (Gay is also an appropriate term in some areas. It mostly seems to be based on personal preference.)

Gay: A man who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another man.

Bisexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to two or more different genders.

Transgender: Someone whose gender is something other than what they were assigned at birth. (While trans is not exactly a sexuality, it is certainly a valid LGBT+ identity.)

Pansexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to multiple different genders. (While this may seem very similar to bisexuality (and it is), pansexuality is an entirely separate identity. Pan and bi can occasionally be used interchangeably, but it is entirely based on personal opinion and there is a debate about whether or not they should be, most people seem to stick with whichever one they feel more comfortable with.)

Asexual: Someone who does not necessarily experience sexual attraction. Most people who identify with asexuality experience romantic attraction,

All right, now that that is out of the way: what are some of the basic stereotypes to avoid?

Note: these are based off of things that I have run into around the net, and they are undoubtedly influenced by my own opinions. There are probably some mistakes as well, please let me know if you find any. I will be happy to read your comments.

The butch and girly-girl lesbian relationship. Surprised? I know, they’re cute. But it’s just one version of a relationship involving two girls. It is true that there are many lesbians who fit the butch stereotypes, but everyone else needs representation too. To be clear, this is not on the list because it is a bad one, it is here simply because it seems easy to fall into.

The sex craving gay/lesbian/bi/pan etc. While physicality can have a major place in many written relationships (just think about a lot of the popular books out there right now), relationships are about the emotional not the physical. To be honest, this is something that can easily be overdone with straight relationships as well, but I think it can be a major problem with LGBT+ relationships, especially since there is some phobia out there about LGBT+ people being attracted to everyone they meet: entirely not true! Simply put: if you are not writing in a genre that asks for a ton of sexual stuff, this is something that I highly recommend avoiding.

The feminine/stylish gay man. This is very similar to the first one I mentioned; not all gay men wear flamboyant clothes, talk in high voices, or giggle. While there are some gay men who may fit this stereotype, there is also a large majority that does not. Let’s mix it up a bit shall we?

The greedy bisexual/pansexual. Bi and pan people have the capacity to be attracted to multiple genders, it is certainly not a mark of greed. It is an ability. Bi and pan people are not attracted to everyone they meet, and being bi or pan does not mean that they wish to be in multiple relationships at once.

The confused bisexual/pansexual. This one mostly seems to stem from a lack of understanding that bi and pan are both valid sexualities. While some people might be confused, the chances are that someone who is identifying with any of the LGBT+ terms probably knows whether or not the term fits them. To be clear: writing a character who is questioning their sexuality is an entirely different (and absolutely appropriate) thing!

The tragic death. Okay, this is probably the worst one of all. It is tempting to kill off one half of a relationship for drama and *ahem* mental torture (I am guilty of falling into this plot trap). However, this is entirely overdone in LGBT+ relationships. There are very few (but more than there used to be!) LGBT+ characters who get a happy ending, and I think that this is stereotype that should be broken. Do you remember what I said about books showing people the world in my last post? Everyone should be able to read about characters in relationships that they identify with who get to have happy endings!

All right, there it is in its mess and confusion. I know that I strayed off of the path of strictly talking about writing characters at a few points, but hopefully that did not occur too much.

Again, if you have any comments or corrections, please let me know!

Until next time!

(And a cute puppy gif, because that was pretty intense):

puppy tennis

What I read: February

Welcome to march!

What do you mean “it’s the fifth already”?

Speaking of which, can we add a few more days?

February was one slow month.

My attention has been diverted by a lot of things I did not expect. I was able to get a few things done that have been hanging around for awhile, but I barely read anything. To be fair, I am partway through four books.

But I only read one full book in February. One. That is not something I am proud of. I do tend to go through periods of reading multiple books in a week, and then barely reading anything at all. But, seriously, how did this happen?

Regardless of what happened with my TBR list in February, March is a new month and I intend on reading much more.

Back to the topic at hand, this is the book I read in February:

1. The Glass Demon by: Helen Grant

The Glass Demon is an interesting book. I picked it up at a library booksale a few weeks ago because it is written in first person and I wanted to check the style. I did not know what to expect, but I was actually pleasantly surprised.

The story is about a family that moves to Germany for a year; the main character’s father is a medieval professor looking for church windows that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The windows are supposedly cursed by a demon who can kill with a single look. The main character, Lin, is in a family with a lot of problems. As the story progresses, more and more people die and attempts on the family’s lives are made. No one escapes unscathed.

I hope to have a book review up soon.

For the sake of a year that is already moving too fast, here is what I am reading right now: A Shot in the Dark by John Ferling (absolutely wonderful), The Odyssey by Homer (beautiful but slow), The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (still getting into it), and The History of Philosophy (a reprinting of the second edition) by Will Durant.

All right, hopefully I will become more organized with my posts. Until next time…

What I read: January

How it is February already?

This year already seems to be moving quickly.

What have I done so far? I finished my first read-through of Subliminal (which means that it is officially time to edit), I wrote a few short stories, and I read a few books.

This post is about books. Mainly, the books that I read in january. If you remember, one of my goals this year is to read 100 books. This last month, I have actually been lucky enough to read quite a few good ones.

Here they are:

1. Hit by: Delilah S. Dawson

Hit is a YA novel about a girl who becomes an assassin for a week in a world where the USA has been taken over by a bank. While I did enjoy this book, it was entirely different than what I expected. The main charter, Patsy, does have a sense of humor and she is clearly human. I think my main complaint would be the amount of romance. Patsy ends of working with the brother of one of her targets, and…. the typical YA romance quickly becomes involved. Despite that, the romance is not overwhelming, and the story would not be the same without it. This is a book that could have gone in a few different directions. While I was surprised with the way it did go, I was not displeased. It was an interesting read.

2. Mort(e) by: Robert Repino

Mort(e) is a book that one of my uncles recommended to me. The main character is a cat in a post-apocolpyse world. The premise of definitively intriguing: an ancient ant colony has released a chemical into the world that turns all non-human animals into human-esque beings. The ant colony’s goal is to take over the world and exterminate all of the humans in it. Mort(e), the main character, starts out as a house cat and quickly becomes a warrior in an elite group sponsored by the any colony. He retires not that long after, and a large amount of the book questions just what ‘humanity’ is. I really enjoyed Mort(e), and I loved how the author blends philosophical ideas with the plot. My own complaint would be the way that the author turns religion into one of the main plot points toward the end. Despite that, it is a book that I plan on reading again.

3. The Forest by: Justin Groot

The Forest started out as a serial story on Reddit. The author has now self-published, and he is working on a sequel. One of the people on NaNoWriMo mentioned his book and I decided to check it out. I was suspicious at first, but I was quickly swept into the story. The story is set in a world where Earth’s oceans have turned into a tropical forest filled with giant versions of venomous animals. The three main characters are rangers who are tasked with exploring the forest and bringing back video footage. The story starts when the main characters are training to become rangers, it then skips a few years to where they are some of the most successful rangers. They quickly become swept into the story when one of the main characters in injured and another starts to hallucinate. The story certainly does not end, but it is a ride from the first chapter to the last.

4. Arabian Nights Translated by: Husain Haddawy

Husain Haddaway’s translation of Arabian Nights tries to follow a few of the earlier known versions on the story of Scheherazade. It took a while for me to get used to the language, but I definitively enjoyed the stories once I did. I have always loved reading about Scheherazade, and reading the actual stories was wonderful. I actually started reading this book in december, but I was only a few pages in.

5. I am the Messenger by: Markus Zusak

I read The Book Thief last year and decided to see what else Markus Zusak has written. I am the Messenger is completely different than The Book Thief, but the language is similar. It took a bit for me to actually understand what this book is about. It begins with a self-proclaimed below-average main character who is a cab driver. The first scene is immediately humorous, Ed Kennedy (the main character) and his friend are arguing while laying on the floor of a bank that is being robbed. Ed ends up stopping the back robbery and is a town hero for a few hours. He finds a playing card with instructions on it the next day and is swept into the plot. The book seems to move slowly at first, but that offers a chance to learn who Ed and all of his friends are. In the end, you find that I am the Messenger is actually about life. It is one of those books that you cannot truly enjoy until you have finished it. All and all, I would like to read it again.

There it is, I have 95 more books to read this year and a constantly expanding to-be-read list.

Until next time….

Book Review: Raining Embers by Jessica Dall

Choas and order are literally living.

A while ago, I was delighted to receive an advance review copy of Raining Embers by Jessica Dall. It has taken me a really long time to post a review, but that does not reflect what the book is. I immensely enjoyed Raining Embers, and I actually had trouble putting it down once I started.

Now…. my review:

The Characters: Raining Embers goes back and forth between the two main characters’ point of view; which offers refreshing transitions in between chapters and makes you wonder just what is going to happen next.

Briar is a stubborn and opinionated. She is the daughter of an aristocratic librarian, but she would rather avoid social engagements of all kinds. In the beginning of the book, she is dealing with a constant headache by drinking and sleeping far too much. (And that headache actually becomes a very important plot point.) She starts out as someone without any plans, but that quickly changes once she is thrown into the plot. She is an interesting character from the start.

Palmer Tash is a orphan who is trying to make his way in the world with as little trouble as possible. In the beginning of the book, he is doing what he needs to do and nothing more. He seems to be waiting without realizing it. As the story progresses, he becomes older and maybe a little bit wiser.

Briar and Palmer’s connection is apparent the moment they are in the some room together. And it only grows and becomes more complex. They are certainly a good team, and they manage to keep each other relatively balanced.

The Scene: The city of Latysia has a distantly Italian resistance feel. As the scenes change, you get a pretty good feel of what their world is like. Raining Embers is most certainly not high-fantasy, nor it is historical fiction. It is a brilliant mix of light fantasy and pseudo-historical fiction.

What I liked: Raining Embers has an underlaying sense of humor that is amazing. I also liked how it is constantly acknowledging that no one is perfect. The book is also filled with strong female characters and men who manage to stand beside them as equals.

One of the great things about Raining Embers is that it turns chaos and order into actual people. Which in turn causes the chaos that you can expect…. with a few wonderful surprises thrown in.

What I disliked: The is a very short list of things I did not like… Because of it’s size, Raining Embers is unable to go in depth, but that fact does not take away from what the book is. It is a book that might make fantasy-purists angry, but that is part of why it is so wonderful.

Would I recommend Raining Embers: Definitively. Especially if you are someone who has not read very much fantasy, or want something different than what you will usually find on a fantasy bookshelf.

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