Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quick Update to Let Folks Know I'm Still Around...

Well folks, just a quick note here to let you all know that I have not actually fallen off the face of the planet.

Things have gotten quite busy. I need to finish my revisions for Traitor's Hope in the next week because I need to start a new translation project on August 1st.

Also, Speck is set to arrive in less than 8 weeks.

Furthermore, I am about to disappear on a two week road trip starting on Saturday.

In other words, you may not hear from me for a while, but I'm still around and working furiously to bring you the Blade's Edge sequel by the end of October at the latest (I hope).

So, here are some ways you can keep up with what's happening with me.

1. The pregnancy blog is likely to receive some form of update even during the road trip because it falls apart if I don't keep up with some semblance of weekly updates. So, if you want to make sure I'm still doing well you can go check that out.

2. My Patreon patrons will still be getting new chapters of the Victoria Marmot webserial. So if you miss my writing that's a great place to check it out. (For as little as a dollar a month you can have exclusive access to the Victoria Marmot webserial. Chapter 7 goes up today and there will be at least two more chapters going up in August.)

3. My facebook author page... if you haven't liked it already, you'll find that it's where I always post updates from this blog, as well as reminders for in person events for writing etc. While on this road trip it may well get the occasional photo update etc. so if you're worried you haven't seen me in a while you can check there.

4. My twitter feed. I have been known to post random things there as well, even while traveling.

Ok. I think that sums up the ways you can track me down while on holiday, so if you need your fix please check out any of those options. Meanwhile, I will try to post a full report of the trip when I return if I'm not too buried in translation work.

Off to revise Traitor's Hope!

Here's a shot of Artemis enjoying summer, just to tide you over.





Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Privilege

I have been struggling for a long time about whether or not to write this post, how to write it, and whether or not it is ok for me to write this post. I've struggled for a few reasons. 1. Lots of people far more qualified than I am are writing about this topic in more intelligent and poignant ways that I am capable of. 2. It's difficult to know, when one wishes to be an ally, what is truly helpful to a cause and what is simply an attempt to make myself feel better about how little I can truly to do to be of service. 3. I haven't wanted to deal with the possible repercussions of vocally supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and have thought that since my voice wouldn't add much to the discussion it was acceptable to remain silent.

But the past few weeks have made it clear that remaining silent will help no one, and that one of the useful things I can do with my own privilege is to talk about it and help people understand and put things into context and perspective as best I understand it.

So here I go. I may take a while to reach my end game, but I hope the journey will be instructional.

I was about 20 years old and a junior in college the first time someone tried to confront me with my own privilege. Unfortunately, as it was the first time I had ever heard of privilege outside of strict socioeconomic terms and as the young woman who brought it up also tied it in with some patently false assumptions about my background, I missed the point entirely. I think the concept might have been fairly new to her as well, as by the end of a 45 minute discussion we reached a stalemate and she didn't take her point any further.

The problem, you see, was that she lumped my socioeconomic privilege in with my racial privliege and assumed I was in the same situation as most Georgetown students: she assumed that my parents were paying for my education, and that to be able to afford that education for me my parents likely came from established wealth themselves. She was wrong on both counts, and I sidetracked the whole conversation to disprove those two points rather than accepting that I might be privileged in other ways.

My parents were not paying for my education. They had once been wealthy enough to do so (they paid for my ludicrously high priced private school education leading up to that point) but were no longer, and I was paying for my education through giant private college loans (I didn't qualify for federal loans or financial aid) with my eldest brother as cosigner, and working two part time jobs on the side. At the time, comparing myself to the majority of students at Georgetown, I did not consider myself privileged. I was wrong, of course, but with my limited understanding of the word and concept at that time, I didn't understand that. Don't get me wrong, I considered myself very fortunate. I had enough perspective to realize that I had experienced many things in life that lots of people would not be able to... but that didn't mean I understood privilege. Far from it.

Not only were my parents not paying for my education, but the assertion that they had both inherited their own wealth and good fortune irked me. My mom grew up on a tiny farm in podunk Tennessee where she spent her summers as a farm hand, wore flour sack dresses because they couldn't afford to buy fabric, and worked her butt off to get straight As in school, earn a scholarship to go to college, and be the first in her family to earn a college diploma. Meanwhile, my dad, who grew up in a reasonably well off family, was cut off from any financial help from his family when he decided not to become an engineer like his own father. He had to take multiple years off to save up tuition money and take enough prereqs to be able to get into and then pay for a Stanford undergrad and then Harvard Business school. He too had worked his butt off to get where he was.

So between those facts and the fact that, unlike the majority of my classmates, I was paying my own way through school, I was completely offended at the idea that I was somehow privileged.

Sadly, it has taken me years to fully understand what was at the root of that conversation, because I glossed over it so quickly in my rebuttal and perhaps because my conversational companion didn't make her point very well. Regardless, I wish I had really heard what she was saying.

What she was saying was that there was a certain amount of privilege I held just because of the parents I was born to, as they held privilege because of their parents and so on.

Privilege is precisely that. It is an advantage granted to you through no achievement of your own, but merely by the circumstances of your birth. It can apply to wealth, education, and yes, what people call "race."

Unfortunately, the fact that, scientifically speaking, race isn't actually a thing, does nothing to diminish the way that people of different ethnic backgrounds are treated in our society. So, there are obstacles that people who have visibly different traits are automatically confronted with that many of us are not. This is true for people with disabilities both physical and mental, true for people with weight issues, true for people who aren't male and, most importantly to today's discussion, true for people whose skin color doesn't fit the box marked "white."

All other things being equal, a black woman my age, with my same educational background, afforded the same chances to travel around the world, live, study, and teach abroad, work in private schools, and coming from the same economic privilege that I have come from, will have to face, probably DAILY, obstacles that will never be presented to me. Simply because she is black. Be it in the form of being treated less politely by someone at a coffee shop, being turned down from a job because of her race, or worrying that her loved ones might be shot for a routine traffic infraction, she is confronted with obstacles that I am not. The fact that I don't have to face those same obstacles is called white privilege.

You can be far less privileged than I am, and still have white privilege.

Let me just be clear about one thing: that doesn't make you a bad person. The very definition of privilege is that it is something that you neither worked for nor asked for, but something granted to you without any doing on your part at all. So it is not your fault that you have it. We do not choose our parents, we do not choose the circumstances into which we are born. You should feel no more responsible for your own privilege than anyone without privilege should feel for not having it.

That seems to be the part that makes people uncomfortable. Because recognizing that you yourself have privilege through no fault of your own can make you aware of the fact that people who lack privilege do so... through no fault of their own.

In a society that is all about pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. We are convinced, told many times over throughout our lives, that in AMERICA a person can build themselves up from nothing. And we see many examples of that to reinforce the idea. Surely if one person can grow up on the mean streets and still become a successful entrepreneur, anyone can do it. Surely nothing holds anyone back in the good ol' US of A except being lazy and not trying hard enough.

That was honestly how I felt about it when I had that conversation with a fellow Georgetown student who tried to explain my privilege to me, when I wouldn't let her. My brain said, "But my mom grew up poor, went to public school, and earned her scholarship and then moved out of the south and slowly worked her way up the ranks of TWA to become one of the first female executives in the company. If she could do that, what's to stop anyone else?"

My mom is white, her home was stable enough for her to actually attend school, and her parents cared about her education. All of that is a form of privilege.

Should she feel guilty about that? No. Should that detract from her sense of accomplishment for all the hard work she put in and what she's gotten out of it? No.

But for me (or her) to pretend that it was just as hard for her as it would have been for someone of a different background is to deny the evidence that we see repeatedly in study after study. Discrimination exists, and it makes it exponentially more difficult for minority groups to achieve the same ends as non-minority groups.

And simply not being one of the people who discriminates against minorities in general, and black people specifically, is not enough anymore.

We have reached a crisis point. Perhaps we've always been there and I've simply never noticed before. Either way, people are dying for no other reason than the color of their skin and that has to stop. There is no easy fix for this, but there is a fix, and we have to start down that road. In my little bubble here I have trouble seeing what I can do, but the one thing that occurred to me was that I could write about it and hope that it sparked something in others, or at least sparks a conversation.

A couple of points about Black Lives Matter as a movement and as a statement (with a couple of caveats: 1. I do not claim to speak for the movement; it is a movement I support, but if you want the full story on Black Lives Matter please go directly to the source 2. what I say here is based on my understanding of the movement and if it is flawed that is my fault and not that of the movement's 3. as with ANY movement in history there are bound to be disagreements amongst members and supporters and context is vital to understanding, so please keep that in mind):

  • when someone says "Black Lives Matter" that does not mean they are saying that other lives don't matter or that other lives matter less
  • the #blacklivesmatter movement exists because there has been a consistent, repetitive rejection of that notion by multiple systems in our government
  • while some people's kneejerk reaction of "alllivesmatter" is somewhat understandable when taken out of context, this response does not take into account that currently not all lives are at risk from police brutality, or systemic discrimination
  • retorting "all lives matter," or "blue lives matter," to a #blacklivesmatter hashtag is only reinforcing the notion that black lives don't matter. Black people aren't asking for special treatment, they are asking for equal treatment. They are asserting that they have a right to exist in the world that is as a strong as anyone's. Do not belittle that. 
  • for a very clear explanation of the development of the movement and why it's important not to change the message to "all lives matter" please read this from the movement's founders
Because I still feel weird talking about this as an ally rather than a black person, here's one of my favorite youtubers addressing what Black Lives Matter is as a movement and after that, how white people can help: 





And, finally, because sometimes humor is the best way to convey these types of messages, here's a video that is simultaneously funny and infuriating as it tries to explain Black Lives Matter:


In conclusion, I want to say that I know this issue is complicated, and I know that many people struggle to accept their own privilege and what that means, but it's important to think about, and it's important to recognize that the state of human rights in the US right now is unacceptable. As someone who is currently gestating a new human life, it is especially clear to me that I don't want Speck (the nickname for my currently unnamed proto-human) to grow up in a world where it's ok for people to be killed in the streets just because an authority figure whose job includes carrying a gun was some combination of racist and frightened. Sadly, that is the world that Speck will enter in September whether I like it or not, but I am trying to figure out all I can do to help change that as quickly as possible. So far that has included signing petitions, supporting a social media movement, and writing this blog post for my fellow privileged folks. I hope to figure out more things I can do to help soon. I encourage everyone I know to think about what they can do in their own circles.  Thank you for reading this far and for accepting that this is how I'm channeling my confusion and sense of loss in the wake of not just these most recent tragedies, but also all the injustice that we've seen over the past few years. And that's just the picture that's made it into my line of sight, which is undoubtedly an incomplete one. So please, please, please, take a few hours to educate yourself about this important issue and form your own opinions based on actual facts and not what any one news source throws at you. Take the time to read about the lives of the victims in all of these killings, take the time to ask yourself why they were killed and see if you come up with an answer that satisfies you. 

If, at the end of all that, you find yourself wondering why this is still happening, consider figuring out how you can help change things. Thank you.

#BlackLivesMatter

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An International Book Promotion of Epic Proportions!

Well, folks, I continue to work away on the revisions to Traitor's Hope, but I won't lie, I've been a bit sidetracked recently getting ready for a big book promotion that I feel everyone should know about.

I participated in the same promotion last year, but now it's back with even more authors and even more great deals!



The promotion itself starts on FRIDAY JULY 1st and goes through MONDAY JULY 4th. Following this link will take you there. Right now that page has a link to author bios on it and a mailing list you can sign up for if you want to be sure that you never miss these kinds of promotions (including a reminder at the start of this sale). Starting on Friday that same link will take you to the promotion itself. Where you will find 50 FREE ebooks, another 30 for 99 cents, and some box sets of full series for as little as 2.99 (all prices in USD).

Blade's Edge will be priced at $0.99 for the duration of the promo and Rain on a Summer's Afternoon will be FREE for the duration of the promo. So, if you've been waiting for a sale to come along to pick either of those up, this weekend is an excellent time to do that.

I will be posting the promotion all over social media over the weekend as well a reminder here and there from now until Friday, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're trying to get your beach reading in order and you own an e-reader.


And before you say, but Virginia, they're all INDIE books! How do we know they'll be any good? The same way that you know any book will be good. You use your best judgement with the info you've got (cover, blurb, reviews etc.). 



So don't forget this awesomeness over the weekend! You'll be able to keep yourself entertained throughout the long weekend no matter how many family barbecues, fireworks displays, or lectures on the signing of the declaration of independence you are forced to attend! 



Friday, June 17, 2016

Fiverr... you get what you pay for...

So, I added myself to the ranks of low priced services on Fiverr recently, and it's been... an educational experience.

I joined largely because you can now create gigs there that don't cost solely $5. To be perfectly honest there's not much worthwhile, service wise, that I can provide for just $5. When I saw that fiverr had branched out enough to allow services that cost more than $5 even as a base price, I became intrigued.

But, I have learned in the month that I've been listed there, that the people who shop fiverr still don't expect to pay more than $5 despite this expansion.

And fair enough, when the website is still called fiverr.

However, one would think that expectations would be realistic about one can get for the aforementioned five dollars.

One would be quite incorrect about that.

I signed up to fiverr to hawk my services as a formatter and graphic designer. Once one has signed up to sell services one can then check out requests from buyers in their service category. The number of people searching for someone to fix errors that other fiverr sellers have made is... impressive but not in a good way. And the number of people looking for custom designed covers, or full book formatting for just $5 also makes a negative impression.

Apparently, the folks who use fiverr as buyers are unaware of what these services are really worth. They then appear surprised when they receive subpar work for their $5 fee and then are even more surprised to learn that it will cost more than $5 for someone to fix things.

I get it, I think. I mean the whole site is designed to provide super cheap services but... well, it irks me a bit that people don't understand the value of the work that they're asking for. Overall, I don't think fiverr is necessarily good for people selling services or the people that buy them, although their move to allow for more expensive "gigs" is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I'll probably continue to list with them, but I doubt I'll get much business from them until there's a shift in the buyers recognizing that you may not actually want what $5 will buy you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You're Feministing Wrong...



There are two big things on my mind today, and I think they go hand in hand, but my brain is having trouble explaining how, so let's see if putting them down on 'paper' helps.

First of all, I can't get away from the horror of the Stanford rape case that's gone viral. To be honest I don't really want to get away from that horror, I want to expose that horror, share it with the world and let everyone experience the full meaning of what's happening here.

If you haven't read the letter from the victim to her rapist yet, READ IT NOW. I'm serious, unless you are a survivor of sexual assault and that letter will trigger you, you have no reason not to read it and everyone needs to read that letter. It's long, it's graphic, and it's brutally honest. You NEED to read it.

But why, Virginia? Why would you suggest I put myself through that? 

Because this is not an isolated incident. This is not something that just happens to someone else. And the only way to keep this from happening is to talk about it. To talk about it, and talk about why it's happening, and talk about what we can do to stop it. I'm sorry if that letter makes you uncomfortable, or if having a conversation about rape makes you uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable, it's not a comfortable topic, but it's an incredibly important one.

So now that you've read the letter, let's talk about what happened in that sentencing hearing. The judge gave the convicted rapist (convicted by a jury of his peers on three felony counts of sexual assault) six months of jail time with promise of parole for good behavior.

And now, I have to ask: WHAT THE F@$& IS WRONG WITH THE U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM?

Let's take a close look at that, shall we: THREE FELONY counts of SEXUAL ASSAULT. There are currently people in prison (yes, prison, not jail) for much longer terms, for growing or possessing marijuana, for petty theft, for many things that are not rape, and for many things that are rape. That's the even crazier part. Many people who are convicted of RAPE and/or SEXUAL ASSAULT go to prison, and go there for a good long time.

Why is that not the case for the Stanford victim's rapist?

Because he is rich and white and male? Quite possibly. And that's severely fucked up. Because he has proven conclusively that he is a danger to women, but the judge in charge of his sentencing is ignoring that fact. In fact, he stated that he thinks the defendant is "not a danger to others" so clearly, by others, he means other men. Which is debatable to begin with, but forgetting that, let's just focus on how this judge just discounted over 50% of the population as simply not being worth the protection of the legal system.

Any time that a woman is sexually assaulted and chooses to speak up about it, she is then required to prove her case repeatedly in order to even be believed, let alone served justice. In many cases this is impossible, so speaking up brings the victim nothing but humiliation and public scandal. The Stanford victim's case should have been an exception to this. It should have been a clear cut case for the justice system. It should have been a shining moment where we all got to sit back and think, "Take that, RAPISTS! You don't always get to slip away cleanly into the night." After all, she was completely unconscious while being assaulted, a very obvious sign she was not consenting, and the two young men that witnessed her being assaulted even managed to catch her attacker. So the mystery rapist she'd never met was identified, arrested, and everyone knew what he had done.

Pretty clear case, no?

No. Of course not, because this rapist is a rich white kid from the suburbs. He's an athlete. People like him. So... clearly this unconscious woman being assaulted behind a dumpster MUST HAVE WANTED TO BE VIOLATED WHILE UNCONSCIOUS. That's what the rapist's lawyers tried to prove, as insane as that sounds, and the victim had to go through the despicable process of disproving that. Luckily, the jury didn't buy that argument. They were not fooled. They said, nice try, slimeball attorneys, but we're still convinced that this was felony sexual assault. Thank you, jurors!

Now, surely, we can all rest easy that thanks to these convictions justice will be served.

But no... because rich, white, male rapist from the suburbs is a young athlete who was drunk and... and... the rich, white, male judge feels sorry for him? I still can't quite fathom how those three counts of felony sexual assault lead to a six month jail sentence with possible time off for good behavior. I can't. But that's what's happening, and it is so very very wrong.

Because the victim shouldn't have to live knowing that the court system thinks so little of her as a person that her experience, her own personal hell that she so clearly and eloquently described for us in a 13 page letter, is not worth making HER RAPIST SUFFER.

Let's do a brief experiment, shall we?

Raise your hand if you've ever been drunk at a party with members of the sex you're attracted to.

*raises hand*

Now raise your hand if you have ever forced any part of your body into another person's body while you or they (or both) were drunk.

Nope. Not me. Probably not most of you reading this.

If you raised your hand, you should take a long moment to think about why you did that. Unless you were shoving your fingers down their throat to clear their airway so you could start rescue breathing, you probably sexually assaulted them and you should think about what that means and why it's wrong. Consider turning yourself over to the police or, at the very least, making a sincerely heartfelt apology to your victim.

Now, if so many of us have managed to get through life without sexually assaulting people while intoxicated at parties, why on earth would we not hold those who fail in this to a higher standard?

This was not "alcohol and promiscuity" leading people astray (as the defendant tried to assert in his own letter). This was not "a young athlete with his blood up." This was not EXCUSABLE in any way, and it wasn't just a minor behavioral hiccough. It is clear enough from the rapist's own letter to the judge, as well as his father's letter, that he doesn't understand what he did wrong. He really doesn't. Which means he is very likely to do it again. Which means his stupidly short sentence is an affront to all of his potential future victims, which, in case I'm not being clear here is ALL WOMEN.

If that doesn't make you angry, I don't know what to say to you.

Maybe you don't think of women as humans either. Maybe you consider us places to rest your penis. Maybe you think we're just decorative. Maybe you think we shouldn't be allowed to say no to you. If you think any of those things, you need to get yourself to a therapist quickly. You are not currently a good human being and you need help.

If anything, this story brings to harsh light why we still need feminism: We need to have conversations about equality, about consent, about our rights, about justice and what it really means, and about how we've come to live in a society where a young man can sexually assault an unconscious woman, be caught in the act, and get away with a slap on the wrist.

We need feminism and feminists and we need as many as we can get. We need people to start these conversations, and to get angry about the lack of justice, and to plaster it all over social media and to use their platforms of fame and fortune to make people hear the story. We need ALL the feminists.

Which is why reading articles like this one, in which we see feminists telling other feminists that they're doing it wrong, annoys me a bit. Don't get me wrong, there is a sort of entry level feminism that some people never get past that isn't as useful to the movement as the deeper more thoughtful levels, but people have to start somewhere. And if a Dove commercial that addresses how women see themselves vs. how others see them gets some people thinking about body image and self confidence then that's great. If it gets more people talking about how the media portrays women and how that affects body image, even better, and when it comes full circle and folks start asking themselves why we're listening to a large company like Dove market themselves via commercial feminism, then we're really finally getting somewhere.

The points is, all of those levels of thought and questioning serve a purpose and move us towards progress. Some of those questions are more palatable to entry level feminists, but the more one begins to question things, the more one continues to question things. So, if fledgling feminists want to explore the issue of whether or not waxing makes them a 'bad feminist' or if wearing heels and pink makes them a bad feminist, or whatever other somewhat shallower feminist issue is a problem, then they should go right ahead. Because talking about how feminism is about choice, or about how judging the superficial choices of others is not feminism, will only serve to bring more people into the conversation and that's precisely what we need.

If all the feminists who, over the past few years, have explored these issues on their blogs are all in a better place to recognize and talk about the injustice in the Stanford rape case this week, if they are all in a place where they can hold up a megaphone and a spotlight and say "LOOK AT THIS AND SEE THAT IT IS WRONG," then we are winning. Slowly but surely, we are making progress. And I don't care how many times I have to read a blog post about a woman realizing that whether or not she decides to depilate has no effect her standing as a feminist, as long as, at the end of the day, we have a larger audience looking at the real injustices of the world and recognizing them for what they are.

Commercial feminism, cupcake feminism, or whatever else you want to call it, serves a purpose.

Perhaps when there are enough Dove commercials promoting positive body image, Beyonce songs about not needing a man, hot male feminists like Joseph Gordon Levitt, frivolous blog posts about clothing choices, and major motion pictures featuring female leads who kick more ass than their male counterparts, there will also be judges that won't assign six month sentences to convicted rapists.

So, I welcome all the feminists. The ones that aren't too sure what it's all about yet, the ones who are worried they're doing it wrong, the ones who don't understand how to look deeper yet, the ones who question their life choices from a feminist perspective and then recognize that they aren't actually 'doing it wrong' and decide to write about it, and yes, I welcome the feminists who are annoyed by the newbs, tell people they're doing it wrong, and long for the old days when feminists knew what a movement "really was."

We need each other, all of us, to keep having these discussions and having them publicly, to bring more people in. To make more people recognize that they too are *gasp* a feminist at heart. Because when everyone is a feminist of some kind then perhaps we will finally be in a place where the conversation doesn't have to be about rapists going unpunished.

Welcome, feminists. Let's talk.





Friday, June 3, 2016

A New Tale Begins...

Sometimes there are so many stories in my head that I feel trapped, knowing that it's a bad idea to start on a new story until I've finished the ones I've already started, but desperate to play with the new ideas that are rattling around in here.

Sometimes, the story I'm writing is dark enough that I need an alternate place to go to keep my sanity.

Sometimes, my attention can only be held if I have a couple of projects to bounce between to keep things feeling fresh and interesting.

Today is brought to you by all of those 'sometimes' conspiring together at once.

The whole time I've been working on Traitor's Hope, I've also been working on my YA Urban Fantasy Parody Victoria Marmot *Average Teenage Girl.  If you've been following the blog since September of last year you'll probably recognize it as "my other 'fun' project" from many references over the past few months. It's the 'easy' writing compared to Traitor's Hope for a number of reasons. For one, it's not the follow up to a book that's already published and well enough liked by its readers for me to feel some serious pressure to NOT MESS THINGS UP. For another, it's a parody, it's supposed to be silly and often is and it's a great relief compared to some of the darker places that Traitor's Hope can wander.

And the more I write it, the more I enjoy it, and the more I think it works as a web serial. So... I'm finally releasing it as a web serial, starting today.

But there's a bit of a catch... I'm using the story as 'bait,' if you will...

Another thing I've been contemplating for a long time is starting a Patreon account. What is Patreon you ask? Well, it's a very new school method for a very old school idea. It's a patron subscription service that allows people to support artists and their work for as little as a dollar a month in return for various rewards and insider insight into the creative process. It's like an 1800s drawing room had sex with Kickstarter and subscription publishing and this was their glorious love-child.

Here's my Patreon video for a bit more information:



So, for my particular brand of Patreon account, signing up to support my writing endeavors (for as little as $1 a month) gets you exclusive access to the Victoria Marmot web serial. That story won't be published anywhere else until each book (oh yes, it's going to be a series if all goes well, with at least three books) is finished on the Patreon site. So, when book one is finished on Patreon it will get spruced up for ebook and print publication and go out to the public. Meanwhile, book two will still be exclusive to Patreon until it finishes... rinse and repeat.

There are other perks to being a patron as well, including advance notice and insider access to my other writing projects. I will notify my Patreon patrons about things before I notify anyone else, even my mailing list.

So, if you like being the first to know things it's a good place to be.

But a warning, Victoria Marmot likes to curse, like, a lot... so... while she's 17 at the moment (though she's likely to be 18 before the end of the series) and thus the series is technically YA, don't be fooled into thinking that it's going to be all kittens and rainbows. Those who are easily offended by harsh language might wish to avoid the series entirely.

Why this particular story? I enjoy writing it. It cracks me up. I may be the only person who finds it funny, but every time I work on it it brightens my day. If you read a lot of YA fantasy, or Urban Fantasy of any age category, you are more likely to find it funny, I think. It pokes fun at a few major series as well as some lesser known ones and some of that comes from a place of love (Harry Potter and Discworld jests all come from a place of deep love) some of it also comes from... let us say, critique (can we say Twilight?).

The characters are all original, but a few of them are heavily inspired by the characters of the aforementioned series, all for the purpose of exploring and satirizing the ideas that go into a lot of YA fiction.

I truly don't know if anyone else will enjoy it as much as I do, but it tickles me to write it, so I'm making a go of sharing it with the world and it's a great balance to the more serious Gensokai books (Blades Edge and Traitor's Hope) in terms of my mental state.

Why as a web serial rather than a book? Well, it lends itself well to the web serial genre by being a bit gritty and rough around the edges anyway (did I mention that Victoria is a big fan of cursing?). It's the kind of writing that shines through a lack of polish to begin with. That doesn't mean I won't want to polish it up eventually, but it means that I think people will appreciate the rawness of it along with the humor and weird twists that are popping up here and there. (Meanwhile, if literary fiction is more your thing, there's a good bet you won't enjoy this series.)

When I ran Blade's Edge as a web serial I always thought that it didn't quite fit that method of publication as well as it could. It was originally written to be a novel in its first draft, then the second draft was the web serial and it's third draft it was back to novel again. I feel strongly that it shines best in novel form.

That's not true of Victoria Marmot. Her story is pulpy and episodic by nature, the twists and turns happen in ways that make nice bite sized chunks, and the world she exists in will do well with brief vignettes and encounters rather than in depth explorations.

Or so I believe anyway.



So here we go: Chapters 1 - 3 are open to public consumption, but everything that follows (and Chapter 4 is already posted) is for patrons only. If you're interested in checking it out please click here.

And remember you can support the Patreon without reading the web serial if you like. You'll be notified whenever a chapter posts just like everyone else, but you are by no means obligated to read them. In the meantime, you'll still be supporting my writing in a very real and important way.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope to see you over on the Patreon site!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Successful KeyCon and Some New Contract Work

Well, for anyone who was wondering, KeyCon turned out to be a reasonable success. It was a bit slower than I had expected, but I still managed to net triple my table money, so all in all it made for a good weekend. Plus, it was really great to meet so many interesting people!

(If you were at KeyCon and signed up for my mailing list and are wondering why you haven't heard anything from me yet, fear not! It's only because this has been a busy week and I haven't gotten around to updating my subscriptions yet. However, your welcome e-mail complete with free short story should come out in the next few days.)

If you are reading this and haven't signed up for my mailing list but would like to get updates about new books when they're released and/or go on sale, as well as receive the occasional free short story you can always sign up by clicking the link above that says Virginia's Mailing List.

Anyway, here's a shot of me running my half of the table at KeyCon:


And here's a slightly blurry shot of Katya and I and the whole table spread:



If you haven't had a chance to check out Katya's webserial and art yet, you really should. I was tempted to buy most of her prints over the weekend and only managed to restrain myself because that would have eaten up my profits for the whole event. Probably worth it in the long run, but hard to justify all at once. ;-)

And speaking of artwork, ever since I started working as a full time independent author one of my favorite things has been learning graphic design and using it to sell my own work. Recently, I've been selling my graphic design skills to others. I started selling my formatting services a while back, when I noticed that I was producing results as good as what the big five were churning out. And now I've decided that I've finally gotten my graphic design skills up to par for selling some book covers. So, without further ado, I present to you my fiverr gigs: 

Hmm... there's supposed to be a super nifty badge thingy, but it doesn't appear to be working. So here's a simple link instead: 




My hobby of playing with covers has now turned into a possible income stream, which is exciting and gratifying. So, if you know of anyone in need of cover or formatting services feel free to send them my way!

For those who are curious as to what my covers look like, here are some of my custom mockups:







*all covers are copyrighted and not for public use or distribution

Monday, May 16, 2016

Achievement Unlocked!

Last night at just after 11pm a wonderful thing happened...

Traitor's Hope

I FINALLY finished the first draft of Traitor's Hope. The draft I've been working on since September of last year. The draft I had originally hoped to have published by this weekend. The draft I didn't touch for the entire first trimester of pregnancy because it was just too overwhelming to write fiction for some reason. That draft.

It's done.

Of course, that's just means I'm about half way (or less) to having a finished book, but it's still huge progress. From here, I will start on the major revision, which will take about four to six weeks. Then I will send the revised draft off to beta readers. Then I'll address beta reader concerns in the next draft, then I'll send it to my editor. Then, I'll format it. And THEN it will be ready for readers. Yay! My goal is to have it out before Speck joins us on the outside, because I have a feeling I'll be a bit distracted with the arrival of the wee-un. So fingers crossed that that works. 

In the meantime, I'm off to work outside with the dog in the beautiful weather. I have lots to do, but everything seems easier and better when one is sitting in a field under a tree with the sun on one's face, don't you think?

So I'm off to do that. In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of Artemis being adorable, as usual.




Thursday, May 12, 2016

Of Spring and Walking

Despite the cold weather that has taken hold in the past two days, Spring is taking hold in Manitoba, and I have photographic evidence! 




See! Spring. It's really happening. Accept no substitutions!

Now then...

I think I've mentioned on this blog before that going for long walks helps me resolve almost all of my writing problems. Generally speaking, if I get stuck on a plot point and writing notes to prod myself doesn't fix it, I take the dog for a walk in the park and all the answers reveal themselves to me. It's a lovely tactic because on top of working like a charm for writer's block, it also keeps the dog and I in decent condition even through the winter.

Imagine my frustration then, when over the last ten days, as I got so close to the end of the first draft of Traitor's Hope, I found myself stuck and... WALKING DIDN'T WORK.

It was most vexing. Especially with the end so close I could taste it.

So I had to break out the big guns. I had to talk through my problem with a willing audience. On Friday I spent most of the day with a close friend who is also a writer and I started on this tactic, but unfortunately, she didn't have much of the backstory and I took so long catching her up on necessary plot points (and some unnecessary ones - I have a hard time restraining myself at times) that by the time our schedules forced us to part ways I had failed to parse the problem.

Then a few nights ago, my husband kindly volunteered to be my wall to bounce ideas off of. He was wonderful, and since he's already quite familiar with the first book, I was able to catch him up on pertinent points quite quickly and get to the meat of the problem. This worked. Once I was able to get down to the crux of the issue I was able to think through what was missing. It's not the most glamorous solution (I've had a few in this first draft that have been surprisingly elegant) but it will let me finish the damn book. Then I can fix the rest of what's wrong in my major revision.

So, after a more than week long stall out, I'm back in business, and hopeful that I'll have the rough draft done by the end of the weekend. Muhuahahhahahahahah...

Ahem. Yep. So... in other news KeyCon is almost upon us! It starts next Friday evening, and Katya Kolmakov and I will be rocking a table selling books and artwork, talking to people and signing things, and generally looking forward to seeing people there. So if you're in Winnipeg over the weekend and like fantasy books, fantasy art, fantasy games, or fantasy paraphernalia, we hope to see you there!

I think that's all for the moment. Happy spring!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Slow Progress and Flash Marketing...

Well, I won't lie. I'm stuck just before the end of the Blade's Edge sequel. I'm at 90,000 words and I need to resolve a major plot point before I can move forward... into what is essential the climactic final scene. Then there's the epilogue. Then I'm done with the first draft.

So, that's frustrating. I'm hoping that going for a walk later today will help me sort that plot point out. It often does... fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I'm trying to get my poor neglected sales moving again. I haven't done any marketing or promotion on Blade's Edge for months and I've watched it's sales rankings dive as a result. The whole making another human thing proved pretty distracting, especially when it came to having the energy to... well actually do my job. Then this past month has been much better, but I've spent pretty much all of my available energy on writing the sequel. Which, honestly, is a. my priority and b. way more fun than marketing.

But now, it's May and really I need to get back on the marketing and promotions wagon because books do not sell themselves... (well ok they do half the selling, but the cover, copy, and title can't do their work if you don't put them in front of people to see). Especially with the sequel (hopefully) coming out in late August.

So... if you haven't yet picked up a copy of Blade's Edge, you should know that you can snag a kindle ebook copy for just $0.99 if you head to amazon before 6pm PST. If you miss that deadline, no worries, you'll still be able to get the book for just $1.99 for the next 17 hours. Then $2.99 then $3.99 and finally back up to full price at $4.99 on Sunday. In other words, it's a countdown sale and the countdown is on. The price won't likely drop this low again until the promotions that I'll do before releasing the sequel, so if you were hoping to add Blade's Edge to your summer reading list, now's a perfect time.

And for anyone who is local I will be running a dealer's table with the talented Katya Kolmakov on May 22nd for KeyCon here in Winnipeg. We'll be running table #4. Katya will be selling her artwork and promoting her fantasy web serial Rhodina and I will be selling and signing copies of Blade's Edge.


Whew! That's a lot of marketing and promotion in one post. Sorry about that.

Here's a picture of the giant pile of hush puppies I made to go with some chili last week, apropos of absolutely nothing, just to make up for all that promotional stuff:


I hope everyone is enjoying spring! It's 89 degrees here, so things are greening up nicely.