Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Writer's Responsibility..... Part 2

In my last post I urged everyone to set aside their personal views and call ceasefires on arguments on interpersonal issues in order to address the larger scale concerns facing our country. Further I suggested that people ask "why" and read between the lines rather than taking news stories at face value. To take it even further, I wish to address some issues I am seeing in the young adult and new adult genres. I fear that there is a culture of irresponsibility when it comes to YA/NA works - the content, particularly social situations, are not reflective of the current times.

Allow me to illustrate this point. I recently sat on a panel regarding young adult and new adult romance novels. A question was posed about representing same sex relationships in YA/NA literature and it was put forth that schools would not allow such books in their libraries. My response was surprisingly well received. I simply chimed in and firmly noted that by neglecting to address same sex relationships we do a disservice to our children. The room fell surprisingly silent and I was allowed to continue, something along these lines. It does not matter how we feel personally it matters how the children feel and the absence of literature representing a faction of our society tells the children it is wrong, shameful, etc. When a child, tween or teenager is having feelings they cannot possibly understand and then they read books that show life a certain way over and over and over again, it becomes apparent to them that what they are feeling is wrong and that they are somehow wrong. To make matters worse, other kids are reading the same things and also getting the message that anything outside "the norm" is wrong. So we wonder where bullying comes from? I won't address bullying at this time, you get the gist..



Now, to be fair, I also pointed out that I am sure that same sex relationships are already present in schools and referenced a particular series by Cassandra Clare that makes no bones about same sex relationships even if only at secondary and tertiary character levels. But my argument extends to far more than same sex relationships. What about divorce? Drugs? Teen pregnancy? Abuse? Children need to understand all aspects of our society in order to grow and appropriately respond to the world they live in. I posit that we see a lot of inappropriate responses to things because kids don't have any clue on how to cope and the adults in their lives just cannot seem to deal with them. I am seeing a trend for parents to seal their kids off and believe it will work. Do you think that staves off their curiosity? Of course not. Where would you have them go? In this digital age what do you see happening? How do you propose to shelter these children from everything? Burn the internet?

I am certain that some parents are quite indignant now but I will not apologize. I am only noting a trend I am seeing. You can overhear a lot of conversations at school functions and I have been part of many conversations that left me shocked and disappointed. It is devastating to hear these parents say "I don't allow my children to watch x, y and z" to keep them from finding out undesirable information. SUCKERS! Kids are innovative and kids talk and I guarantee that where there is a will there is a way. Isn't it better to have very informative, honest discussions with our children to present them with all of the facts (in an age appropriate manner, of course)??

I digress, I am not writing this post to lecture on how to raise a child. Not at all. I am simply using this as a way to illustrate my point, a way to address the larger issue. It isn't just children who suffer from a void of information or, even worse, an excessive amount of incorrect information. However, children learn their behaviors from somewhere and what I am seeing on the athletic fields, in the classrooms and sadly, out in public, concerns me. We are not teaching our kids, we are indoctrinating them with the same ignorance we seem to be embracing. Nothing good can come of this. Have you seen the movie Idiocracy?

I have been told not once, not twice, but thrice that my daughter should not be asking 'why' as much as she does. My response? Why?? Kids SHOULD be asking why. Kids should be free to ask as many questions as they want/need in order to understand what they don't. I am so proud that my daughter does not take things at their face value. My concern is that she is meeting so much resistance. And she is not the only child asking questions. Where will she find her answers?  Where will the other kids like her? Why would we want to stomp out that inquisitiveness?


Ignorance begets ignorance...how about we break the cycle??

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Writer's Responsibility.... Part 1

I know people will disagree with me this week.

Hell, I expect to get hate messages in some shape or form but the time for silence has come and gone.



I have come to realize that the written word is a very powerful thing and to that end every person who writes has a responsibility to think about what they are putting out in the world. A message perceived as positive by one person could be quite negative to another as much as the absence of a message can be read as disapproval of the subject.

It seems to me that mass media has become little more than a smokescreen these days, a tool to create discord amongst people to the point of squabbling over superficial issues while the real political concerns slide through unnoticed. Debt, disease, greed, war - aren't these more important than same sex marriage or what celebrity was arrested for a DUI?

At some point we are going to have to set aside our egos, rein in our personal belief systems and address what is happening around us. Not to go all Chicken Little on you all, but the world is pretty much a mess and we are spending more time arguing about who can marry and reproduce. When people are starving and dying of preventable diseases it seems silly to fight about who can say "I do."

I'm not posting my personal beliefs on these issues at this time because it would cheapen my argument and render me a hypocrite. My point is that we are falling victims to our own moral crusades over the wrong issues. And why is that? Because we have stopped thinking for ourselves and rely solely on the reports from whichever news medium we choose to follow. Guess what? They are all skewed. Stop and think. Think about what is happening. Read between the lines, what isn't being said? Ask "why" whenever you can and then do your damnedest to find the answers. Believe me they are there if you are willing to set aside your own egos and find them. You may HATE the very idea of a same sex relationship and that is your prerogative but is yelling at an Ally or Advocate going to really change their minds? You may find abortions and birth control to be morally reprehensible but how does either impact the big picture?

Instead of beating your head on a wall over issues that are interpersonal and rather private, why not backpedal and look for another outlet, another cause that is just as deplorable in your mind, a cause that you CAN affect?? While we are arguing over these issues, bankers, pharmaceutical companies and politicians are swindling us. What would happen if both sides of the same sex marriage argument just put aside the battle and turned on something worse? What if we pushed through the smoke and mirror debates to the heart of what is destroying our country? Ah, now that is something I would love to see.



I challenge everyone to step outside themselves, outside their own personal belief systems and look at where the real evil lies. Blindly supporting a politician because s/he claims to believe the same things you do is not productive for anybody. What's that saying about politicians and lying? I guess the better question is "which one works best?" Put aside your rigid beliefs and look at the bigger picture. Dealing in absolutes, especially uninformed absolutes, is irresponsible and ultimately what landed us in the state we are in.

Remember that mass media is in it to make money these days, gone are the days of getting the truth. It's all about the story and sensationalism.  How much truth do you think you are getting with your morning paper? How much is left out by the editors? How much is trimmed away to hype a scandal? And what is left on the cutting room floor that we really SHOULD know?

Please, put away your self-righteousness and embrace the reality before we all get swindled.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#groove

Not much of a title, I know, but sometimes one word is all it takes. There are too many things to say, too many thank yous, too many what ifs, too many words. #groove sums it up nicely.

I've spent days trying to figure out what I would say about Imaginarium. Tack on some party-crashing at Context and I KNOW that I haven't recovered from it yet. But that's the beauty of it, I think. I don't want to. Perhaps it has been a long time coming, perhaps I just needed some time to be an adult, no worries beyond the world of writers. It doesn't really matter, does it?

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me explain...... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

I got my groove back. I remembered how it felt to be confident, the comfort of being surrounded by people who love and support me as unconditionally as my own blood. There are too many people to thank and I think you all know who you are, plus I want to keep this short and sweet so I can get back to work.

In the mean time, grab Immortal Machinations: Arc of Transformation for just 99 cents here as long as it takes me to get the book out in paperback!



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And now for the role reversal!!

Say hello to Jackie Gamber as she takes on interview questions from H. David Blalock!



HDB: You aren't only a writer. You also work in other media. Tell me a little about that.
JG: Since I'm an avid storyteller, I also have an abiding interest in filmmaking, and the visual aspect of those stories. I've written a number of feature-length screenplays, as well written and directed short films.

HDB:  You and your husband Dan once ran a publishing house called Meadowhawk Press. How was it, being on both sides of the publishing business at once?
JG: Being an editor and publisher really gave me a perspective into the industry I don't think I could have gotten any other way. As a money-making venture, publishing is completely subjective, and I understand how publishers can be constantly on the edge of guessing which books will be the "big one", and being repeatedly baffled by readers. As an editor, I had to decline works that weren't right for the press, often my friends, even, and to wade those treacherous waters. I discovered I have a knack for recognizing good stories and storytelling, but in the end, my own writing time suffered, and I had to reevaluate my personal and professional goals.

HDB: You also started a writers' group in Memphis. How do you think writers' groups help? How do they inhibit?
JG: A good writers' group can make all the difference. Writers spend so much time in their own heads; crafting, dreaming, creating. It can be an isolating experience. Sharing time with other people who want the same things, have the same perspective and understanding, can be a terrific support system. On the other hand, the general writing skill of the group as a whole is crucial to a writer's growth. Improvement takes practice, and if the group is the kind to talk about writing, rather than actual writing, or to feel threatened by individual successes, then it's no better than a middle school gossip group.

HDB:  Tell us about your fight for dragon's rights.

JG: Dragons are people too! I've been a founder of the group HADS (Humans Against Dragon Stereotypes), working to spread awareness and to encourage healthy communication between humans and dragons. Some of my articles have included dragon history, dragon safety (such as what to do if you come across one in the wild), and dragon appreciation as a species.


HDB: Conventions are a big part of promotion for writers. You have been instrumental in convention planning. What should writers know about that?
JG: Conventions can be a great way to network; with other writers, with potential agents or publishers (depending on the focus). I've learned to navigate conventions by understanding my limits. I can't be everywhere at the same time, and no matter how hard I try, I can't meet everyone and make everything an opportunity. Decide what you want out of a convention, and call it a success with reachable goals.

HDB:  Awards and recognition by readers and peers is gratifying. Tell us about yours and how they came about.
JG: My most gratifying award was winning the "Mary Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction". I'm such a Mary Shelley fan, which is what led me to send my work to the contest, to begin with. I was given the news that I'd won right about the week of Christmas, and couldn't think of a better gift.


HDB: Some years ago you edited an anthology called “Touched by Wonder”. Tell us about it and what you wanted to do with it.
JG: "Touched by Wonder" was an early project with Meadowhawk Press. It was an exercise in seeing how far we could reach for talented writers, among other things. It worked well; we discovered authors we went on to make book deals with (including the author of the book which won the Philip K. Dick award).

HDB:  Finally, fill us in on the Redheart series. What, who, where, and how.
JG: "Redheart", "Sela", and "Reclamation" are the books of my Leland Dragon series; a story of a dying land, and a population. Dragons and humans once worked together as allies, but have since become competitors for resources--and enemies. To be saved, Leland must be bathed with magic, and forgiveness.


Author Links
Twitter: @jackiegamber

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Alright Emerald Seer Fans, you are in for a treat....

Today and tomorrow I am fortunate enough to feature H. David Blalock and Jackie Gamber who have taken the time to interview each other for my blog! This should prove to be a wonderful treat for everyone as it is the first time I am able to host two phenomenal authors trading off interviews! Today we will start with Jackie interviewing Mr. Blalock.



JG: What was your first publication to make it in front of readers, and what impact did it have on you to know others could/would actually read it?
HDB: My first publication was an unpaid piece, a poem in the Isthmian Inklings magazine of the Panama Canal Zone in 1971. I was delighted to have the poem published and didn't really think too much of its impact on myself or others until years later when I realized how uncommon it was to be published at all. I always wanted to be a writer and it seemed only right that I should publish what I wrote. Young as I was, I didn't appreciate the privilege I had been awarded until long afterward.

JG: Do you feel the publishing industry of today is a different world than it was some years ago?
HDB: The publishing industry itself is the same. Writers write, editors edit, publishers publish. Only the media have changed, making it easier for writers to be published. Unfortunately, this means that the process of editing has suffered significantly because many writers are either unfamiliar or uncaring about their presentation. Punctuation, grammar, and syntax are important. As writers, words are the tools of our trade. Cutting corners in writing is just as bad as cutting corners in any other art form or work. It shows a lack of professionalism and disregard for the customer, who in our case is the reader. In my work I try to never take the reader for granted and definitely never insult them with anything but my best.

JG: In that vein, what were your early goals as a writer, and have they changed or evolved into different goals today?
HDB: Early on I just wanted to share stories. I guess every writer wants to do that. As I went along, though, I wanted to do more than just share the words. I wanted to share the emotions, evoke a reaction, good or bad, from the reader. This has led to some very interesting feedback on my work. I look forward to and welcome any and all reviews, even the bad ones. It tells me whether I have succeeded in my effort.



JG:  You're not the only writer in your family. What's your approach to mentoring your daughter's writing?

HDB: Herika R. Raymer is my daughter. She has a great talent of her own which I try not to suppress in any way. She will sometimes ask me for my opinion on a piece and I do my best to give her an honest answer because I know the only way to improve as a writer is to learn how to handle critique. When I read her work, I'm not her father. I'm a reviewer. It's hard sometimes to do but I hope it helps her.

JG:  Do you think writers ever "arrive"?
HDB: No. If a writer ever thought they had “arrived”, they would stop trying to improve. I don't think any writer ever really “arrives”. They may think they have, and their work reflects that. I can think of several well-known names who qualify for that. I would encourage any writer never to consider themselves “arrived” but always traveling towards the goal of perfection.

JG:  Social media has really become a force in helping writers connect with readers, but it has also changed the relationships between writers and readers, as well. What do you see as the best, or most challenging, part of this?
HDB: At my age it's difficult to understand social media. That anyone would want to expose their personal lives to the public in general mystifies me. As a writer, I like connecting with the readers because they can give me the best feedback. Their input helps me become a better writer so I can provide better stories for their entertainment. In spite of that, I keep my personal and professional life separate.

JG:  You had a short film made based on your novel "Ascendant". What was it like to see your characters represented by flesh-and-bone actors?
HDB: It was amazing. The casting for the main protagonists couldn't have been better done. To see the characters and events come to life left me speechless. I was very pleased that it went so well and that so many people rose to the challenge of bringing “Swordbearer” to the screen. The best part about it was that seeing the characters interact in real life was no different than how I saw them in my mind's eye when writing “Ascendant”. It was a vindication of my work for me.

JG: Do you have plans to adapt any more of your work into screenplays? What other projects do you having coming next?

HDB: I am toying with the idea of working out a full-length screenplay for “Angelkiller”, the first book in my urban fantasy series published my Seventh Star Press. I think it would be more easily produced than “Swordbearer” and be more timely in light of current events. In my writing projects, I have a pulp series starting soon called “The Velvet Wasp Cases” from Pro Se Press and several short stories with other publishers in several magazines and anthologies. I like to write in various genres, keep my hand in as it were. My goal, as I have often stated, is to produce two novels and 12 stories a year until I die then one novel a year thereafter. I figure the short stories wouldn't make it through the mediums correctly.

Author Links
Website:  http://thrankeep.com
Twitter:  @Hdavidblalock