Sunday, April 29, 2012

April: Poetry Month Post III - Music

So I figured I should end the month on a happier poem, nothing angsty here. If you've been following along with me then you know how much music helps me write, helps me change my mood, just helps me. So this is what that's about.


I am as peaceful as a Hindu cow
until the moment that beat pulses the floor
and the words penetrate my ears,
I am empowered with
a rage and a fury
that only the wind knows the language of.
I am engulfed and filled to burst,
a drowning victim
no longer fighting the current of
the crushing oblivion.
I know nothing
outside of this perfect moment,
created just for me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April: Poetry Month Post II - Waking Sleep

Moving right along with the Official Poetry Month, I give you: Waking Sleep. I wrote this in 2008 in the middle of a serious, serious insomnia stretch. I hadn't slept more than a couple of hours in five or so days and during one of those sleepless nights, staring at the computer, I wrote this.

Waking Sleep

Never really asleep but not quite awake.
Drifting, sifting through the half-minded
hallucinations and real conversations.
I feel lost even though I haven't left the house.

2 hours here and 12 there, a math equation
that d o e s n o t add up and only equals
a hang over without the preceding fun.
I am cheated, suffering through the punishment
of a crime not committed.

The clock ticks away the p.m. threatening the a.m.
and I've stopped counting how many hours
I could get if I fell asleep in the next five minutes
because that was 59 minutes ago
and a decent night flew out the window
with the infomercial madness.

I cannot, cannot be awake
because, because I have yet to fall

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Profanity In Young Adult Fiction

We all know that the idea of profanity, drugs, sex, alcohol in Young Adult Fiction makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I certainly understand that even though I don’t have children. I understand that reading about teens having sex would feel creepy to some people. I understand that thinking about teens drinking and doing other drugs bothers people, it bothers me. And I know that it annoys adults to hear kids using profanity.

I also understand that all of those things exist in teenager lives. Maybe we don’t want it to, but no matter what age you grew up in, or are growing up now, kids do these things. Yeah, not all kids are drinking or doing drugs or having sex, but they all swear once in a while.

Personally, as a teen in high school, I did not drink or do drugs. No, I’m not lying, I did not do either. That is not to say my friends didn’t. I did have some friends who chose not to, like me, or some that tried something one time and decided they didn’t like it, or didn’t see the big deal so they chose not to do it again.

But in the spirit of honesty, I will tell you that I did have sex as a teen. I had a few boyfriends in high school, but the guy I consider my “high school sweetheart" and I dated for two and a half years and we did have sex. But that was a committed relationship and I am not embarrassed to share that with my readers. Now, knowing that, I can tell you that it is a little weird for me, as an adult, to read about teens getting it on. So I understand why this would bother others, but I don’t think writers should censor their stories because I think that’s part of what the Young Adult genre is about: challenging people’s comfort zones and letting teens know they aren’t alone in their experiences.

Obviously, drugs, sex and alcohol are the big three, but you would be amazed how offended people get about profanity. In my Young Adult series my characters start out at 16 and 17 years old in their junior year in high school and when the series ends they’ll all be 18 and older. All of them are romantically involved with other characters, sexually active, and they all swear occasionally. And believe it or not, I have had more comments about their swearing than the fact that they are sexually active.

I swear a lot in real life. And I do mean a lot. I know I do, I know I should make an effort to try to swear less, but there you have it. But I’ll tell you something, I have never heard more profanity in my life than I did while in high school. Teens swear. A LOT. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but my characters in my books swear a lot LESS than my friends and I did in high school.

And our language had nothing to do with our intelligence. I was friends with our Valedictorian. My best friend and I were in Honors and Advance Placement classes (not math and science though, ugh). A lot of my close friends weren’t in Honors and AP classes. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but I had friends whose families did have a lot of money. None of that mattered. We used profanity in every day conversation, angry or not.

I was very, very lucky to go on a trip just before my junior year to France with my French teacher and a group of 19 other students. Now this was in the summer of 1998 so cell phones were still new, people still used pagers and you had to use an actual video camera to shoot videos. One of the girls on the trip brought one of these antiquated things with her and tried to shoot video of the bus tours we went on and didn’t play the footage back to review it before she went home and played it for her family. Remember, I said she videoed our bus tours, so the camera picked up all the conversations around her and she came back to school and told us all how embarrassed she was to play the video for her parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles and small siblings and cousins. Why was she embarrassed? Because everyone, including her, was swearing constantly in their conversations. She had to just mute the video in order to watch it.

So, yeah, teens swear. A lot. So I can’t write an entire novel, let alone a series, full of teens and have them never ever swear. If it bothers you, then I recommend you start reading a different genre, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any book where they don’t swear, even if it’s just slang, because sometimes that’s meant to be swear words in disguise. Maybe middle-grade would be best?

Friday, April 13, 2012

April: Poetry Month Post I - Catharsis

Apparently April is official Poetry Month (I had no idea!). So, in honor of that I'm going to post some of my old poetry. I know, a writer who used to write poetry? You don't say! Anyway, I'm one week behind, but for the remaining weeks in April I'll post a poem each week.

This week: Catharsis - a writing exercise
I wrote this way back in 2003 for my college poetry class. I had been having a very difficult time writing anything creative and was even considering changing my major so my Professor told me to just start writing down reasons why I write/wrote and then this happened.

Why do we write, we bleeders of ink, we scribes of secrets?


I write to dance on paper.
Swing my hips round with paradox,
tap-dance across the keys into fanciful rounds of puns,
and spin out into metaphor.

This is how I move,
sometimes slow, painful and forceful.
Stone by stone I dig my way through the wall
until I come tumbling free.
Others smooth and gliding, fast, sharp and direct.
Crashing through.

I write to remember dragons
streaking across the full mooned sky.
Fairies curl my hair and I cannot forget them,
to be a child catching butterflies,
I want to remember.

I write to inspire my sister.
Out of pride of her first poems,
so sad,
laden with questions
I thought her too young to think.
Force the children to write
and one day they will have something to remember.
always remember.

In my way I am immortal
so long as the edges only yellow and curl
but never burn.

To remember my sisters who have burned.
I write for all the little girls who always wanted to,
but couldn't.
Can't, won't, shouldn't.
I will.

I write to remind myself that all embers
eventually die out
and I must learn from the Phoenix
because he is the only one who has risen.
Rise my children, rise.

I write to remember young conversations over cappuccinos,
smoking smelly French cigarettes,
pretending to be Sartre.

I write to make poets out of the ordinary,
to make them extra-ordinary.

I write out of conviction,
because even I have something important to say,
even if I am the only one who cares to hear it.

I write because I do not drink.
This is my low.
I write because I do not trip.
This is my high.

I want to forget grudges,
to forgive trespasses and move on.
Move on.
Move on.

I write so that I can sleep.
I write because I no longer dream
the fantasies drip from my fingertips into ink.
Chase the characters around just fast enough
to keep up and hear them speak.

I write to say things I cannot alloud for fear
of crucifixion of your judgments and looks.
The look of a raised brow.
Write to raise that brow.
To cause question and argument.

Speak loud.
Always speak.

So that I can sit still.
To find a way.
Every one has a path but they must first find their way.

I write because I do not know how not to.
A narrator lives in my mind and she screams to speak.
I am human,
I must have Freedom.

I write my way up the mountain
until I can climb no more
and I look out over the horizon to I find my way home,
crashing through the barrier lines
and find my way past criticism and offenses
and remember my voice is loud and great.

A beautiful creature
and if I keep writing I will find my way out
of my self-made mazes and come home.
So that I can come home.

I write because when I look into the abyss of a blank page
I realize what God must have felt like on the first day
and want to know what he felt on the seventh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Thoughts on Fan Fiction

I get it, I really do. I understand not wanting your favorite series to end, it’s why we reread the same books a hundred times, it’s why we line up for hours in advance when the movie versions come out, no matter how bad the adaptation. I totally get it. I even get fantasizing about the character’s you crushed on while reading. But I do not get fan fiction.

I guess I could understand writing a piece of fan fiction as a writing excise; you’re stuck on coming up with your own idea so, to shake things loose, you write a quick story line with your favorite characters from someone else’s work. But the key phrase there, boys and girls, is that those characters were someone else’s work. Those characters don’t belong to you. Using them is considered plagiarism. Plagiarism is a copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is illegal. Therefore, plagiarism is a crime.

So what brings me to this topic today? Fifty Shades of Grey. I kind of hate that I’m bringing even more attention to this, but I am just baffled by it! The “author”, E. L. James, openly admits that this “story” is a piece of Twilight fan fiction, and before it was picked up for publication and a freaking movie deal (Wtf?) the publisher asked the “author” to go through the work and take out any and all references to Twilight even though James has given interviews explaining that it totally, without a doubt, is about Edward and Bella just that they are finally getting it on and going so far as to have some BDSM in it. In that same interview I was totally twitching and freaking out as the interviewer and James referred to fan fiction as a genre. Are you kidding me?

Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Horror, Mystery, these are genres. Fan fiction is not a genre, people! Authors are constantly fighting against pirate sites offering their work for free (and sometimes not for free) but we’re just going to sit back and watch James open the floodgates for people to steal art and make a profit off of it? Really?!

Most authors ask their fans to respect their work and not write and “publish” fan fiction, either on fan fiction sites or (what should be obvious) self-publish for profit. Laurell K. Hamilton is actually quite nice to her fans and simply asks them not to tell her about any fan fiction involving her characters, because if she knows about it, she has to tell her lawyers and they have to shut it down. Anne Rice on the other hand simply says “don’t do it” on her site.

So here’s my question: Why hasn’t Stephanie Meyer responded to all this? I mean she’s a gazillionaire now, it’s not like she doesn’t have the legal power to go after James for this copyright infringement, so why does she remain quiet? James is making quite a pretty penny using Meyer’s characters and world; you would think that would bother Meyer.

I don’t understand why Stephanie Meyer hasn’t said anything, but let me tell you, if anyone ever did this with my characters I would’ve served a Cease and Desist Order immediately and if that was ignored the suing would begin.

I just don’t get it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Hate April Fool's Day

It didn’t occur to me until this year that, if I can manage it, I stay in my home away from people all day on April 1st. I hate April fool’s day. Hate it. All my life people have called me over-sensitive, said that I don’t have a sense of humor or that I’m a poor sport, all because I don’t like being made the butt of a joke or being made fun of. Yeah, sure, some April fool’s jokes are cheesy and harmless, but sometimes people don’t understand where the line is.

It took me a long time to realize why I “don’t have a sense of humor” when it comes to jokes at my expense and I realized it was because I grew up being bullied. By the time I was eleven I had lived in eleven different cities and four different states. And let me tell you, whether you’re in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee or sunny Southern California or on a Naval base in Puerto Rico, bullies are everywhere and they all have the same repertoire of tricks and jokes.

Most people get bullied at least once in their life, even bullies; I know this now as an adult, but the young Shauna could give a crap about what everyone else goes through. Young Shauna just knows that, even though her mom tells her each move means new friends, it really means a new chance to be picked on and belittled with a whole new audience. I’m sure some of it had to do with always being the new kid, but again, young Shauna didn’t care about the why, she just knows that’s how life is for her.

Now, I’m not telling you this because I want anyone to feel bad for me, because I don’t; like I said, I know most people get bullied, even as adults. But those people who say, “Have a sense of humor!” when they embarrass you, make me think they’ve never been picked on. After twelve years of schoolyard torment, I think I’ve paid my dues and shouldn’t have to put up with “jokes” that make me look stupid.

So whenever April 1st comes around, I will be a hermit and avoid human contact. I try to remember to be passive, not engage in debates with people who don’t want to actually debate, and it is hard, the voice in my head screams at me to voice my opinion. So, now that I realize why I hate April fool’s day, I’ll try to remember this tactic when faced with angry or mean people and try to hold my tongue when it’s more prudent than engaging with them. Even today, there were a few blog posts I read that got my hackles up and I thought about typing off a reply but I stopped myself. And I’m glad I did because later I saw people voice the same opinion I wanted to and they were slammed by others and were caught in an infinite loop of arguing and repeating their views that no one wanted to acknowledge. I’m glad that wasn’t me.

So yeah. I hate April fool’s day. And I don’t care if that means I don’t have a sense of humor.