You don’t know me, but I know you. See your shining face with hope already jaded in your eyes. I know of your struggles and your dreams. You are a fighter, dear child. A rainbow warrior ready to fight to be who you were always created to be. Ready to change the world so that others can find the same pride in themselves that shines out in you like a star. Sometimes it’s hard. This world is not always ready for a trailblazer such as you. I hear the words others would say to you, to your parents, to your sibling. I see the questions brewing in those who do not want to understand. Know this, they are afraid to understand because that means they might be wrong, and if they’re wrong about this they might be wrong about other bigger things. Human grownups are strange that way. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to learn. I see you, dear child, for all that you are. We need you so desperately in this world. Know this, when the road is hard, and people do or say hurtful things they are merely afraid and your fierce love will help them in this new world. Be who you are. Set the world free.
Dear young person,
I only know you a little, but already I love you for this shining handsome, lovely person you are in the process of becoming. You’re on the cusp of adulthood. There and not there at the same time. Learning you are free, but still held back. No person goes through this time unscathed. I’m here to tell you to have courage. You have the power to shape your future. There will be hard times, there will be people who don’t understand, but the same is true for everyone. Be who you were always meant to be. You can do it. Even as just one person, I stand behind you. Call your name out to the universe and let it be heard. You are more powerful than you know, and they fear the day you discover it.
Such love echoes though your soul. You would walk through the fire to give your children a fair and just world. You will not see the ripples you cause by walking this road with your child, letting them lead you on this quest. You cannot know how much it will impact the world when your rainbow warrior stands tall and leads us to our salvation. As a parent I know the fears. Both my children have chosen hard roads and walk them unafraid while I cower in the background swallowing my fear. I see the traps, I see the thorns, the snares. I see the places where the road ends and a leap of faith must be taken. No one can know, save those that love a child unconditionally, what it is like to have to watch them while they grow. Your courage is no small thing and it is not smaller than that of your rainbow warrior. It is your courage and faith and love that feeds them. Your joy in their being is what creates the fierce love they fight for their world with. Have faith. We all watch them galloping down the path on a steed of self actualization. I give you my love and faith. For you are a rainbow warrior too.
You are glorious in battle. Did you know that? Did you know how you shine when speaking out for others? I know you fight to fix this world because you’re fighting for your own right to exist. Don’t let those that fear you take away your joy. I know you’ve seen it all. The unspeakable atrocities our parents hide us from when we are young. The pain of seeing beautiful souls unloved for the petty excuse of changing their shell. Those things are real and speak to a society in distress. Fight. Break the dome of our existence in two. Show others a light they can’t even conceive of. You were gifted by knowing who you were from an early age. You are battle tested making yourself into that person. Now blaze through in justice and love, and carry us in your wake. You may not always see the ripples and tides you cause, but they will come back and lift you higher. Fear not loneliness or hate, for you are surrounded by love.
With gratefulness that you are all in my life, thank you.
Horror has been, almost since its inception as a genre, a boy’s club. While organizations like the Horror Writer’s Association seek out to engender equality by offering memberships based on merit, the fact remains that women horror writers are often relegated to the kid’s table, while occasionally lesser writers that happen to have a man’s name carry the forefront.
This is a societal problem, and a reflection of the lack of gender equality. Other genres are hit hard as well. Science Fiction is notorious for gender inequality. And very few men romance writers are taken seriously and often have to work harder for the same audience. There is an erroneous idea that a person’s gender identity is encapsulated by a name or that that dictates their ability to write different genres.
The NY times recently reported, Women who use a genderless pen name like P.D. James, or J.D. Robb (who happens to be Nora Roberts) have higher sales. Part of the problem is exposure. Reviewers, which can be the life blood of sales often feed into the gender gap.
According to The Guardian, in 2010, 74% of reviews by the London Review of Books were of books by male authors, 65% male dominated reviews by Granta Magazine, and 83% male dominated reviews by the New York Review of Books. Or look at this study by Edward Champion on the gender bias of individual reviewers for the New York Times. Each reviewer has their own graph of how many male vs. female authors they reviewed in 2013.
Here is a simplified one page version.
Here is another graph from Australia.
Gina Denny has another article with tons of graphs to show the discrepancy.
Okay, I’m going to stop filling you up with percents and numbers here and get to the point. Recently J. Ellington Ashton Press did something to quiet all arguments on the ability of different genders in horror. It took the current climate and put it on its ear. We hosted our own Male vs. Female horror short story contest, the results of which will find their way into two amazing anthologies.
We picked two teams. 13 men, and 13 women. Not all the participants were necessarily horror writers. A few on both teams find their voices in other genres from romance to science fiction. Amid the friendly trash talk the writers were paired up into round competitors. Each round had one writer from each team and were given a place, a weapon, and a big bad (thing that caused the trouble). Then they were set free for 30 days to write a 5 to 7k word story.
The judges were kept secret, and the authors kept secret from the judges. They were handed stories with only titles and which round they belonged to. No other information. Everything was based entirely on merit.
The results? Almost entirely equal. The women took it by one story. The honorable mentions were split equally between genders. The overall winners were split equally between genders. When gender was taken out of the equation, authors that would have otherwise been ignored stepped into the light. Primary genre had little to do with it as well. Some of the winners are not horror writers. At least one of the honorable mentions is a fantasy writer. That squashes the argument that women prefer to write certain genres and are therefore not adept at horror. Really this contest proved all previous arguments are unfounded.
But don’t take my word for it. Keep an eye out for the upcoming MvF anthologies and judge the work for yourself.
Update 2/29/16: Both books now live on Amazon!
Click the images below to buy your copy today!
Cover Art by Michael Fisher
From the twisted imaginings of:
Essel Pratt and Dona Fox
Ts. Woolard and Alice J. Black
Michael Noe and Dani Brown
Jim Goforth and Christina Engela
*Andrew Freudenburg and Brenda Evans
**Stuart Keane and Amanda M. Lyons
Brian Barr and Wendy Potocki
Kent Hill and Lisa Dabrowski
Michael Fisher and Sharon Higa*
Roger Cowin and Susan Simone
Mark Woods and Tabitha Baumander
Justin Hunter and Michelle Garza
John Ledger and Catt Dahman**
Bold indicates round winner. * Indicates honorable mention. ** Indicates overall winner.
I think the power of thought and intention is taken for granted. We have so much power to affect our lives but it is largely ignored. Someone I respect has legitimate problems with organized faith in general. She makes good points, but she hit on one that bothered me. Making fun of people asking for prayers for a loved one or a hard time. I looked at that and thought how can she be spiritual (which she is greatly) and not see the power of intention?
The universe is a vast animal that, by all accounts, will provide. You can call it science and say it’s the electrical impulses of our thoughts, something that has been proven, reflecting back to us. You can say it’s the power of the elements around us that answer our needs. You can say it’s God or a Creator answering your prayers. It all amounts to the same thing, but in our human need to understand it we all have different ways of defining it, different ways of understanding the rules. Person of faith to person of same faith, even, will have a different belief in how it works. That is the human condition. Some mysteries will never be fully answered.
However, I can tell you with great certainty from my own life, the universe will reflect whatever you put out. It’s this cosmic caretaker that wants nothing more than to provide what we want, but it doesn’t understand our basic human flaw. This little glitch we were all created with. Fear and worry and a need to obsess over it. See the Universe, however you define it, pays attention to what we think and feel. Its job is not to judge those thoughts, but reflect them. It doesn’t understand that you really don’t want to lose your job it sees only that you are spending a lot of energy thinking about that. So it gives it to you. Likewise for the good things. Ever notice how negative people keep getting negative things happening? Like the klutz that proclaims they’re klutz right before tripping on air. Or the person convinced they are hexed having all things they’re scared of happen. They focus on these thoughts being truth and the Universe reflects.
My point is this: We know the Universe will give us what we focus on. Spells, prayers, good energy, are all attempts and keeping the negative out our minds focusing on what we want to have happen. Simple belief can change worlds. It doesn’t even matter what you believe in. Those calls for prayers, or a focus on happy, healthy, whole, may not cure cancer. They can’t unlight the fire that burned down someone’s home. But they can and will reflect the good intention put out. Never discount, even if it’s not your faith, the power of someone’s call to prayer. Don’t feel you have to answer them in the way they say either, but with your own good intention however you see that happening.
Never discount that they are praying because they care. I’ve been through many hard times, and when things are at their worst, knowing someone cares, even if they can’t do a thing, makes me stronger. Heartfelt caring has more effect on me than actually fixing the problem. To know I’m not alone and this person actively has my back. People call to prayer because they feel helpless and go to what they believe in their hearts to be something bigger and stronger and humble themselves, something that is very hard for any human by our very natures, before it and ask. That is no small amount of caring.
Now this isn’t say that prayer should replace all help. Sometimes people say it and not mean it. Sometimes they feel it will wipe away their moral obligation by saying trite words and moving on. Making 100K a year, and prayer for a cure to cancer rather than donating to research or supportive organizations (Not Susan G Kolmen fund, don’t give them a cent, but that’s another rant. Research and you’ll see what I mean). Or showing yourself topless because you want to save the tatas but don’t encourage others to put in time or money to actual help. Raising awareness is another form of intent, or prayer that’s more pragmatic, but same thought. Get the Universe to reflect your needs.
But prayer, good energy, a spell, a call to awareness, given from pure good intention. That is gold. That is more meaningful than anything else we can do as a global society when action just isn’t feasible or possible. Even if I’m dying, and no doctor, or transplant will save me, to know I am loved, to feel the energy of people around me as I go is a gift you can’t put a price tag on.
Focus on the good. Focus on the outcome. Do what you can. And when you can’t do? Write a spell, announce your intention to the Universe. Pray.
In the end, love really will change the world.
X-Posted to Shadowed Paths
Cover art is probably one of the most important aspects of your book. Think about how you choose a book to read. You go on a library or ebook site and search through literally 10’s of thousands of books. You might put in some author or subject key words, but you’re still left with hundreds. You scan the cover thumbnails. When something pops out at you, *then* you look at title, synopsis, and ratings. Cover art is the first impression your book makes on the world, and unfortunately it is judged by it. Good and bad cover art will affect who reads and who doesn’t.
I always advocate working with an actual cover artist. They can take your ideas, clean them up, and make them pop. They know the difference between legally used images and pirated images. They can make sure your cover is unique and 100% legal. *For more info on legal image uses see my blog ‘The Importance of Cover Art’.* It’s also helpful to have someone to bounce ideas around with.
Most cover artists will give you what you ask for, but design is a two way street, and many people fail to listen to their artist to their own detriment. Yes, you want to see the image that is in your head made real, but it is important to take in the advice of your artist. There are reasons some images won’t work no matter how bad you may want them. If your artist is trying to talk you out of an idea, there’s a reason.
One of the very first things myself and the other artists on staff think about is how the cover will look as a thumbnail. 90% of the books out there are only seen as thumbnails because readers only scan the massive lists before them. What looks great big, or when the book is in your hands, doesn’t always look good small where it is first seen. Look at the difference in these two covers. Both happen to be my work, but The Librarian was before I went to art school. I broke many rules. the title is hard to read in smaller size. The image is too busy, and while the posterization seems like a cool idea at the time, it is an overused device to hiding blending and layering problems. Even the coloring and lighting is different for each subject in the image.
The title needs to be legible as a thumbnail. Script writing is pretty and works well with shorter titles that are a major part of the cover space. Long titles or titles taking up a smaller space will be invisible as a thumbnail. Longer titles work best when you take the most important part of the title and making it large enough to grab attention, then you can use other devices like script writing for the rest of it. Personally, I rarely look at the title listed next to the book, and some sites don’t even list that. Your title has to be seen. You can only rely on interest of the image so much. Big time authors with clout and several books out can design covers that show off their name as more important than the title, but that doesn’t work well with newer authors.
A busy cover will be lost entirely as a thumbnail. Sometimes that’s important to the book, but there are ways to get around that. Using a blocking technique, for instance. That’s where you arrange the elements into specific blocks on your cover. This can be putting a banner or plaque over top of the image to hold your title, Or having a clear top and bottom to draw the eye around. Also changing focus by leaving less important elements purposely blurred or darkened helps your reader to pay attention to the subject. Making the title glow can work in some places but often adds to the muddiness of the image and if done without proper nuance can look like a child’s drawing.
Beware of color choices. We are tempted to go monochromatic because it all matches and may even set the mood for a book, but it turns into a muddy, hard to read mess as a thumbnail, and even as a full sized book it’s hard to see the nuances. This cool design and font get lost. There needs to be enough contrast between the title and background image to be seen. You can use dark on light or light on dark, or look at your color wheel for complementary colors. Usually, when looking at a color wheel, opposite colors work together the best, or even 3 equally spaced apart, this is a tetrad. For instance blue and yellow or orange make an impact without jarring the eyes. Or orange, green and violet.
Image blending is one of the first things I see as an artist. It tells me instantly the level of skill the artist had while making that cover. When making a piece of art from several smaller pieces, you cut them out and layer them into place. The edges need to be softened and feathered, and the image needs to be adjusted for lighting, color, and opacity so they blend with the other images on the page making it look like one whole scene. Untrained viewers can also easily see this was an amateur job; they’re just not always sure how to explain it. Ill-blended edges look chunky and some parts seem too bright or too dark.
Do research on your genre. The rules change for each genre. Certain color choices or symbology attract the readers of that genre. When talking about zombies, biohazard signs bring the most attention. Having a loving couple might be important to your zombie book, but readers will see that and dismiss it instantly. Look at the covers of popular books in your genre. You want to walk the fine line of standing out, but attracting the right audience. This is hard, but is another thing professional artists have been trained to do. Both of these are good covers, but if you want a zombie story, which one are you going to read?
Take a look at some of these covers and think about which ones you want to read and why, and which ones you would just pass over. Trust your artist. Give them a chance to wow you, and ask questions before you reject an idea. The artist's name is going on these covers. Trust me, they don't want their name on bad work. It will forever haunt them.
*No commentary is made on the quality of the writing in any of these books. Some of the stories behind the bad covers will surprise you.*
I have seen too many good authors get scammed lately or worrying themselves out of good contracts only to sign a bad one. The main reason this happens is lack of information. Here are 7 of the most important questions everyone should ask their publisher...even if their work is already out.
1. Do you have an LLC?
Here’s why: LLC stands for Limited Liability Corporation. What this means is this is a licensed business that pays taxes and is accountable for what they pay you in royalties. All that is reported. The owner of a contract that does not have an LLC can be jailed for accepting income. All the authors published under such a shady scam, will likely never get paid for their work and may never be allowed to publish those works elsewhere because of release rights…which brings us to…
2. What is the length of release rights?
Here’s why: Copyrights mean it is your intellectual property and no one can duplicate it without your permission. Release rights means you have given someone (your publisher) permission to show your work to the world. This also means they can choose to never release your work and still not allow you to take the work elsewhere until the term of the contract is up. They can release your work for whatever price they want which can affect your royalties. If you part ways with the publisher you cannot repackage the work with new cover. However the press that owns the release rights can. Copyrights are well and good, but release rights can make or break you. Pay way more attention to that part of your contract than any other. You want a solid term length. Three to Five years is usually standard. You want to make sure the release rights are for the work you are trying to contract and not future works. If the company folds and is unable, due to jail (see LLC) or bankruptcy, to show your work to the world, the courts and the IRS now own your release rights until the end of time.
3. Are the release right exclusive or non-exclusive?
Here’s why: Exclusive rights means regardless of any time limit to the contract the release rights are owned by the contract holder for life. You can never take that work anywhere else again. Those are typically paid for, either in lump sum or higher royalty percentage. This also means your release rights can be sold to another press by the contract holder and you have no control over that. Should a movie company buy your exclusive release rights they can stop production or printing of your book, and again you have no control. Non-exclusive rights are a set term limit as outlined in a contract. Once that time is up you can take the work anywhere you want to go. These are typically paid for by a lower royalty percentage or are non-paid. If your contract says, for example, “two year exclusive rights” that means your book will be printed for two years only and then if they don’t want to print anymore your book is gone for life.
4. Is this an independent business or a co-op?
Here’s why: A co-op is a cooperation of a few different companies or individuals working towards a common goal, i.e. producing your book. The problem with co-ops is one or more of the parties involved may not have an LLC. This is bad news right here, if one part of the co-op folds or is in jail it can cascade to everyone and every piece of work they’ve touched. The other scary part, you are giving release rights to every party involved. If the co-op splits this holds your work and your money up in litigation for potentially years. Another way it could go is now several people are releasing your work, not all of them contracted to pay you for that privilege. Some co-ops are fully licensed with all parties and really do some great work, but get details and track record, and find out about each party so you don’t get stuck giving away your release rights to someone unscrupulous.
5. I am part of anthology, what will happen if my editor leaves the project?
Here’s why: If you have a stand-alone work, most likely other staff members of the press will pick up the work. As an author in an antho you now run into the problem of the editor trying to take the work with them. They don’t really own the release rights, but it turns life for all the authors miserable as the legal battle ensues. A good press stops it cold (i.e. stopping production or unpublishing the work), makes sure it isn't exclusive, and returns rights (get out of jail free card allowing the author to walk with their story) or releases under a reputable editor. Repackage by the original press is one way to make it quick and simple for everyone and allow for ebb and flow. A new press can never accept the original anthology because of muddy waters where release rights are concerned.
6. Do I pay you anything?
Here’s why: True publishing is always 100% free to the author. Publishers make their money off a percentage of your sales. Industry standard is 35% to author. A solid company will list what they offer and what you will have to go elsewhere for. Find out what 65% of your royalties goes to. Good publishers will offer editing, formatting, and cover art. Some smaller presses may not be able to provide cover art, but they should be explicit about this point. You should never pay them for the cover art, but the artist or artist’s company itself. Any press that asks for any money, even five dollars, should be avoided at all cost; they are either a scam or a vanity press, which isn’t much better.
7. How will I be paid?
Here’s why: As stated above, industry standard royalty is 35% of the final sale goes to the author. Each press is a little different. Make sure you know what your percentage is and how it compares to the industry in your country and genre. Non-fiction books have a different percentage, for example. However, the actual number quoted in your contract is at the discretion of the contract holder. Failure to pay you what they quote is a contract breach, but it doesn’t end the contract. They still hold your release rights until the term stated is up, or in worst case and the company is bankrupt…forever. If this should happen to you, contact a lawyer. You want to have explicit information on what your royalty is, when it will be paid out, and what method the press will use to get that money to you (i.e. Paypal, check, direct deposit).
*I am not an attorney and this is not meant as legal advice. Authors should consult an attorney for legal advice.*
I really should just name my blog that. An unpopular voice. That is what I am on a variety of subjects. For the most part I tend to be non partisan enough most people don’t bother to get angry and comment, or they care too much about my personal relationship with them and keep comments private. I supposed that’s fine. Not everyone feels the need to broadcast their political and social opinions to the world or engage in debate. That’s cool too. What does any of this have to do with my post? Probably nothing; just a momentary lament for the quiet unread blog that will probably blow up soon.
The world has changed. There’s no denying it. Even if the Ferguson riots/protests quiet for the foreseeable future, the world has changed. An event happened, lines in the sand were drawn, and a battle forged across the line. The rules are now different for my kids because they’re bi-racial. How the world, their friends, and community see them is forever changed. This is deeper than anyone without someone marginalized in some way a big part of their life can possibly understand. A fundamental shift in how we interact has happened and most of us had no control over it. All because of two scared men.
I wasn’t in Ferguson. I wasn’t there to see Michael Brown’s last minutes. I have only what the media allows me to see. I flip flopped on this so many times because, depending on where you went and their own personal politics, you saw two completely different sides of the issue. My husband and I both researched and both got different information, and we were very critical of the sources we chose. Finally MotherJones.com posted the actual deposition the grand jury heard. Go read it for yourself. Form your own opinion. But read the whole thing, not just the little yellow blocked out snap shots the editor pulled out for easier reading. It might change your whole world, or it might not.
I was really frustrated when I got this. I wanted to share it with the world because this document is as close to the truth as any of us are ever going to see. I shared with a few friends, people I know to be level headed and educated. People who happily look for the truth most of the time. These same people continued arguing their side without even reading it. I found an uncomfortable truth and an unpopular opinion.
Unpopular Opinion #1:
No one wants the truth.
The situation in this country has gotten so bad, that aside from what is now a true minority—white, male, upper class—life has gotten increasingly hard. Working college professors worry if they’ll have enough food on the table. Everyone is tried and angry. Each group has their own whipping boy to blame for their situation. Michael Brown was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. No one wants to be challenged by how this happened or who was guilty of what. They want their feeling justified so they can continue to be angry and not look for ways to change the world in the right way.
Unpopular Opinion #2:
Mike Brown was NOT innocent…but neither was he guilty. Darren Wilson was NOT guilty….but neither was he innocent.
After reading the deposition I have my own theory about events. You have a predominately black town with a primarily white power structure. Even if completely on accident, this breeds racism. When the group with all the power is different from you and your community, all you see is the group in power keeping you down. When you’re in power being challenged by a group that is different from you, all you see are the challengers out to get you.
Both Mike Brown and Darren Wilson are products of this environment. Wilson, I believe, really was scared. He saw a black man bigger than him, though youngish, challenging him. Wilson, by virtue of being in this society, had been taught that a black man challenging him meant he could die. He was angry and scared and reacted on pure instinct. He was not thinking nor was he making good choices or allowing himself to hang back a little and see this critically. Cops are taught when the gun is pulled it is to hit the target. They are taught when someone takes their weapon they’re going to die by that weapon so do what you have to to get it back and end the threat. Had Wilson been the product of a different environment he might not have been as scared of Brown. He might just have seen a punk kid who was frustrated and a little afraid and tried talking instead of feeling the need to push his authority around.
Brown, I believe, was truly scared. He was from an environment were all he saw were white cops hassling and arresting the other black kids his own age from his own neighborhood. I lived for a short time in a very poor run down neighborhood. When you called the cops there, it was knowing, even as the victim, you might get arrested. Brown was 18 with all the messed up thought processes and need to prove himself that come with the age. He saw a cop hassling him. He made some bad choices we can all agree on. You never strike a cop even when they deserve it. He got scared. He knew he was going down for this and didn’t know what to do. He was scared of this older, armed, cop, an authority figure. He was not thinking clearly. He was not making good choices. He could not step away and look at it critically.
Now we get into the heart of it. The real questions. Why did Brown turn around? The cop truly believed he was going to get charged and possibly harmed. Brown *might* have intended that, but I doubt it. He *might* have had a moment of clarity and wanted to salvage it somehow. We will never know.
Fear and Anger. Fear and anger killed Michael Brown. That’s all any of this is. There is enough fear and anger in this country that this one case out of the multitudes (literally thousands) of other examples became the deciding line.
Unpopular Opinion #3:
This case should never have been the deciding line.
This was a case of two scared people letting their fear take over their actions. Either one of them could have chosen different things if they weren’t so scared of each other.
Unpopular Opinion #4:
The case in Cleveland of a 12 yr old boy shot by police SHOULD be the deciding line.
At first I just shook my head. The initial media reports told a boy with an airsoft pellet gun. He had taken off the orange tab (or possibly it was off before he found it or it was given to him) and the gun looked real. I saw pictures. It looked real. The media said he was brandishing it around and pointing it at people. They said he threatened a cop. So sad.
Then the NY Times released a video of it and the 911 call that sent officers on the scene. Watch it. I dare you.
In the 911 call the caller makes it clear he thinks the gun is just a toy, but it’s scaring him so could someone go check this out. He’s asked to describe the “guy”. The caller starts in on clothing, and is interrupted several times by the dispatcher asking if he’s white or black. This question was repeated a few times before the caller finally said, “black.” No one asked if he was Asian or American Indian. The call ends almost abruptly after the caller admits the “guy” is black.
The video is worse. I gasped and literally stopped breathing for a minute. You see the boy, very clearly a boy, waving the gun around in an empty park. Then you see the cop car roll up on the scene inches from the boy and the cop in the passenger seat shoots in 2 seconds. The door isn’t even fully open.
This is the travesty. This is the case people should be protesting over but will likely ignore.
Unpopular Opinion #5:
Freedom of speech no longer exists.
Yes, you read that right. The Cleveland case is a disgusting abuse of power and race, but the media portrays a kid that did something stupid and should have known better. The media shows us the gun and we shake our heads thinking if we were that cop with that pointed at us we might have to shoot too.
During this most recent wave of Ferguson protests and riots I saw what the news showed. And I watched independent live stream from people just walking with the crowds and documenting. I watched things as they happened. They most assuredly didn’t match. There’s a picture circulating of cops helping a man up from a teargased street. That was staged. I watched an independent camera stream from UStream as cops set it up. The mainstream media denies the use of teargas, saying it was only smoke. Yet I watched on several streams as the fallen canisters were picked up clearly labeled. I saw cops use teargas to corral a hundred people into a business and then set off teargas inside the store forcing them all into the basement. When they had to leave to breathe fresh air they were threatened to go back inside or get arrested by the same cops that put the teargas in there.
The original Wilson/Brown case is so skewed we have no hope of knowing anything with 100% clarity. Credible sources on both sides of the fence showed entirely different stories. Each one choosing their own martyr. It was so skewed in fact I fully believe there would have been riots and protests no matter what the grand jury decided. All that decision did was decide which group would riot first.
Why? Fear and anger yet again. No one wants to be challenged. No one wants their side to be proven in error no matter how small. If that happens then everything they were fighting for loses strength. The wind is out of the sails, and the incredibly heady experience of being in the center of activity for an important purpose suddenly sours. So you fight so you can feel justified.
White people: The system is flawed and bred more racism and hate than I’ve known in my life time. Wilson is an ignorant, flawed, person who made some bad choices. It may not have been intentional but it colored his actions.
Black people: The system is flawed and bred more racism and hate than I’ve known in my life time. Michael Brown was an angry scared kid who made some bad choices. It may not have been intentional but the state of his world colored his actions.
Now both groups and many friends can be angry with me. I couldn’t sit on this anymore and watch the fighting go on. It’s nice to be neutral. Sweden is a nice country. No one gets angry with you and you avoid a lot of drama. You don’t feed into the problem…but neither do you feed into the solution. Racism in this country is massive. That’s uncomfortable. It’s unpopular. Pretty much all my white friends are going to take exception to that. And they can because I don’t hang around with bigots of any kind. Ask around, it’s the quickest way to get on my bad side and I don’t care what color or gender or orientation the bigot is.
We NEED to address this. We need to talk about it. We need to understand that ALL colors are capable of being racist. We need to understand that even with a bi-racial president our government is corrupt and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. If you still blame the president for anything you don’t understand the problem yet.
However scary it is, this country needs an overhaul. What is going on now needs to happen.
I must really like the political hotbed. I keep stepping in it. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that Thanksgiving isn’t a happy time for everyone. Nor do I think it’s a surprise that history has been rewritten. We sort of accept this as par for the course in our nation’s history, but too often we shy away from it because it’s ugly and we don’t want to be reminded of that.
Let’s face it, as a nation we suck at dealing with unpleasant truths. It’s a societal problem. No one enjoys having angry memes that tell them harsh truths thrown at them. We go to great lengths to refute articles based on title without giving the information time to trickle in. I’m just as guilty as the rest. I’m feeding into a racist society? No! Not me! I couldn’t be! But I am, just as much as everyone else majority and minority alike. Until we start acknowledging the truth and our own personal parts in it we will never evolve past this point.
For Thanksgiving specifically, the truth has nothing to do with pleasant pilgrims and happy Indians sharing a meal after a good harvest. I really want that to be true. I want my kids to hear this version and think of all the ways we can get along regardless of beliefs.
The first Thanksgiving was a party thrown by the mayor of a small town in 1671 after the slaughter of over 700 American Indian men, women, children, and elderly. A white man had been murdered and the nearby tribe was blamed. The town went crazy as mobs tend to do and slaughtered hundreds of innocent. For a century after that the Thanksgiving feast was celebrated as thanks for that “victory”.
There is a really ugly truth. I don’t like it. I have reason to believe I have Monacan blood, but I also have puritan blood. Like most American’s whose families have been in the country since the 1900’s or before, I have a lot of mixing in me. I doubt I’m pure anything. I don’t think there is such a thing as purebred in America. It’s simply not possible.
I don’t wish to take away a holiday from people. I love any reason to party and spread joy. I don’t think it serves anyone to abolish the holiday. I do believe there are parts of it that have morphed into true giving of thanks, and I have a lot to be thankful for. However I don’t think the holiday means nearly as much if we don’t accept the ugly truth. Having studied Ojibwa and other grassland tribes in my youth I fully believe our ancestors would want us to find a way to honor them and have joy.
I will eat turkey, and green bean casserole, and stuffing (gluten free), and cranberry sauce and make my famous pumpkin fluff and probably steal a few pieces of gluten riddled pie. Why? Because I like it. I don’t care a whole lot what they really would have eaten in the era of the first Thanksgiving. I enjoy the traditions my family and friends have created over the years.
But I will also pray for the slain American Indians from all battles during the “settling” of the United States. I will remember them. I will attempt to continue their memory and live by their teachings which have had a huge influence on my spirituality as long as I can remember. I will not feed into this false truth of gentle pilgrims and generous Indians. I will openly and honestly attempt a dialogue that does not shame those left with this legacy so as to teach them. And at noon on Thanksgiving Day, the time when the National Day Of Mourning observance begins at Cole's Hill Plymouth, I will bow my head in silence and feel the beat of drums in my heart.
All this week I will be filing my twitter with images of American Indians. My purpose is not shame or anger, but remembrance and honor. We serve nothing by blaming the living for an act that happened almost 400 years ago. We have everything to gain by accepting the truth and making something beautiful out of it in their memory.
You can blame Kirk Cameron for this one. I saw an article about the actor’s claims that Pagans stole Halloween from the Christians. The title alone is a good indication of what you will find inside. Trust me, it went downhill from there. So today I offer a history lesson.
The Pagan year is divided into two halves, the light and the dark. Samhain is the official switch over from the light half to the dark half, while Beltane (May Day) is on the opposite end. Many Pagans see this as a sort of New Year. The word Samhain literally means ‘Summer’s End’. In Ireland it’s pronounced Sow-in, Wales Sow-een, and Scottland Sav-en.
Before the Gregorian calendar the date for Samhain was calculated as so many days after the Blood moon, the first full moon in October (Blood moon does not refer to a lunar eclipse). However now, it’s just easier to pick a nearby date, and has been October 31st for so long no one is quite sure when it started that way.
The most significant part of this celebration is inclusion of ancestors and loved ones passed. It is said that on Samhain and Beltane the veils between the living and the dead are thinnest. To a Pagan that means it is more likely to have ghosts wandering around and communicating with you. This is not a scary thing. It’s a blessed thing. Think of it, that grandparent you miss dearly, or an ancestor from far back in your line, coming to you tell you they love you and are proud of you, and to offer advice. Millions of people worldwide currently seek this service out through mediums. In the Pagan world this is the time most likely for that to happen and is a time we honor them. A Samhain ritual focuses on honoring the dead and receiving their messages, as well as all the fun stuff of food, games, and community. In some traditions this is also considered the launch of the Wild Hunt which rides the entire dark half of the year. This is when the male form of deity rides with his 'huntsmen' in search of the most evil among us to provide swift justice. (There is a link between this and Santa Clause, but that's another post.)
Some parts of the world this has evolved into something very similar. In Hispanic countries it is common to celebrate The Day of the Dead on November 1st. This community, multi-faith, celebration involves large block parties and parades. Names of loved ones gone are written and spoken in honor. The loved ones’ favorite foods are prepared. They believe that their ghosts will walk among them on that eve and be able to eat those foods and enjoy them. Skeletons that are already a huge part of that culture become prolific. This particular celebration has melded Samhain with All Saint’s Day, a Christian holy day.
This is where the biggest confusion comes in. Very early in Church’s history there was a holy day established for the remembrance of the dead. The first record of All Saint’s Day being observed in the Western Church is around 608 A.D. on May 13th. It was moved in 741 to Nov. 1st, the official word being to link it with the consecration of a new basilica, which may or may not be true. I choose to take it at face value and believe the public made their own inferences of the date. The historic exploits of the Christian Church to win over ‘Godless Pagans’ is well known. There are several innocuous and malignant examples of this.
The night before All Saint’s Day was known as All Hallows Eve, hallowed meaning sacred. It shortened in every day speech to Hallow’ een, or Halloween. With the Pagan rites involving ghosts, the Church remembering the dead, and the constant pull from both sides in the early church years, one says sacred the other says evil, it is a very short jump to see how it all got jumbled. It is also why modern Pagans make a general rule about using the word Samhain over Halloween.
The advent of costumes and Trick-or-Treating is fairly recent the first actual record being in the 1930’s. There are some loose connections to old Samhain traditions though. In England Soul Cakes were made as offerings for wandering souls. People would ‘A Soulin’ for the cakes, going door to door to collect them. There was also the practice of Mumming. As lore of Halloween being a time of all manner of dark and evil things became prevalent and the true nature of the day relegated to old wise tales, it was still common to put out offerings to appease the dark spirits. Adults would dress up as these creatures and attempt to fool their friends by acting out trickery in exchange for the offering.
Some also link Guy Fawkes day. This would actually be the basis of Anonymous and the V for Vendetta movie. Essentially, on Nov. 5th., a man in the famous Anonymous mask bombed parliament and started a revolution. Guy Fawkes day is a day of mischief and pranks, and of course it’s costumed to keep you from getting caught. I can see the basis for Hell Night, the night when older teens and young adults are knowing for playing sometimes dangerous pranks, in this.
Many modern Pagans don’t like Trick-or-Treating, or costume parties. They feel it takes away from the true spirit of the season and feeds into the myths of evil witches. Personally I don’t have a problem with it. In every celebration there is a place for children. Games, special clothes, general merriment. As long as we are there to teach them the true meanings, I say let them play and enjoy.
Why does she stay?!
This is another loaded blog post. I seem to be good at those. I’ve never been one to write fluff. Don’t get me wrong, fluff has its place and I even enjoy reading, but I can’t take myself seriously and write it myself.
Why does she/he/ze stay?
I hear that so often. It kind of breaks my heart because I know why, but how do I make other people understand? How do I explain to them what it’s like to be in a position they have never been in. That’s what it boils down to. Until you have been put in that place you can’t fathom what it’s really like. Most of us have no clue what darkness really is until we’re in the middle of it. I can attempt with my words to make it clearer, but who is to say if it is enough?
Let me be clear. Men can abuse men. Men can abuse women. Women can abuse men. Women can abuse women. Gender stereotyping has only made the issues of domestic violence worse because it perpetuates the idea that men are savages beasts and women are not. It doubly victimizes the survivors. So let’s leave the preconceived notions at the door.
The things I have to say are the same whether your abuser has broken bones, or never even threatened to raise a hand.
We do a pretty good job of warning girls that abuse happens and it’s more than just physical. We don’t do a good job of warning boys. There is a ton of propaganda out there aimed and girls and women. We’re told to draw a line and don’t let the abuser cross it. We’re told these things are abuse, sometimes the lists are long, and sometimes they’re short. Sometimes they actually give you some insight, but usually they’re warning signs most of us would consider common sense…until it actually happens. Where the warnings fail miserably is explaining just how the line gets crossed. Drawing your line is a point of pride, and letting that line be crossed becomes a societal shaming.
What really happens is you start out with your line, based on warnings, past experiences, friends’ advice and a million other little cues that are factored into making you you. Things are good. You trust this person you’ve brought into your life. Yeah they can be bullheaded, but so are you right? Then they step closer and closer to the line. The whole time you’re thinking, it’s okay, they haven’t crossed the line. Every time something is said or done you compartmentalize. They didn’t cross the line and every other time you’re their whole world so it’s normal right?
Then one day they step boldly up to the line. Inside you’re shaking, thinking is this it? But they didn’t really cross the line, and maybe they had a tough day, maybe you said something mean out of character, maybe, maybe, maybe… In that moment the line gets moved. Probably not too far the first time, but just a little nudge. For a while they back off and you breathe a sigh of relief. It was all okay after all…until they toe the line again.
This is a repetitive behavior, but each time they come up with some logical excuse playing on your insecurities, taking away your confidence to make your own decisions…taking away your confidence that the line belonged where it was. By the time you realize things have really and truly gone too far, you have no idea how you got there. You’re scared because you finally realize that it’s a no win situation and you have no idea what they’re going to do. You’re scared because you believe something must be wrong with you for letting it get this far, maybe they’re right. Maybe you deserve it. You’re scared that everyone is going to judge you because you let it get this far. Maybe they’ll believe you deserved it too. Maybe they’ll believe whatever your abuser is telling people in your life.
You’re lost and very alone. You have this friend or a family member who tells you they love you no matter what and they’ll help you, but you don’t go because what if your abuser hurts them too? What if what the things your abuser told you about your friends and family was true? It got this far, you deserve it right? You give up friends, family, kids, co-workers, even online friends because you have to keep them safe. You can’t let them see that you’re not strong on the inside that you let this horrible situation happen. You choose your abuser over your kids because it keeps your kids safe. You choose your abuser over your parents because then you won’t have to look in your mom or dad’s eye and have to see their pain because this happened. You do a lot of crazy things.
All but the one thing you should do.
Why? This is simple folks. Fear. What are they going to do when you leave? Sometimes they have something to hold over you. Your own guilt. Something you once did. A child or loved one. Your insecurities. Financial security (shelter, ability to feed yourself, medical care). Much of the time it’s not physical safety, though that is a real concern. They’ve done all this haven’t they? Maybe they’ll kill themselves…or you.
Survivors don’t leave because of fear. That makes them stay. Telling them all the things that could happen if they stay or that their kids will learn this stuff is okay, or any of the 100’s of things people who have never been abused will say to convince them, does no good. Fear is a brick wall. There’s no going around it.
Survivors leave because they hit so low they stop caring what happens. So much has been taken from them, death or whatever consequence is waiting for them holds no power. I left my second abuser (yes second) expecting to die. I did not think I would survive, but it was that or let my kids think they could do this to someone else. It was intended as a last gift to my kids. I still see getting through that night as a miracle. I don’t talk much about the details. I was lucky a neighbor showed up when they did, I can still see my reflection in my good chopping knife.
My first abuser was much more insidious. So much so I had survived the second, moved on, and married before I saw it for it was. He held me hostage just as much as the second by my emotions and by undermining my ability to think for myself.
I can remember being backed into a corner, him screaming at me full voice, so close I could feel his lips on my nose. That was normal. If he didn’t like what I had to say this is what would happen. He would bring other women, “friends”, and tell me they needed to stay with us in our one bedroom apartment. They needed help. At least one was underage. I was no fool. I knew what was going on, but when I would assert myself as the woman in his life he would berate me for hours for thinking so low of him and I was crazy, it was all in my head.
He held our son over my head. Physically pulling him out of my arms when we fought and not allowing me near him because I was yelling and crying and clearly crazy. After a fight he would leave with him and not tell me if he was coming back. I was a bad mom for wanting to breastfeed. The silly part of that one is he actually managed to convince me of this for a short time. I did stand up to him eventually, but only because someone stood by me when I did. He tore me down so far I ran straight to my second abuser, ironically looking for safety.
This man did things better left unsaid. Things got to a point I consented to everything just to make it over quick because if I didn’t, it would go on for hours. I had no desire to even be in the same room with him, but it was a little like taking your medicine. Just grin and bear it and it will be over. That is soul destroying. Took me many years to take my soul back.
Even when you consent, if your heart, mind, and soul is not in it, that is soul rape. That destroys you just as much as legal rape but there’s nowhere to turn because society doesn’t recognize it. They don’t recognize you can’t always say no or fight. These scars go deeper than will ever been seen or recognized by the uninitiated. They don’t go away and forever color every choice you make in the future.
For the person out there wondering if someone in their life just crossed a line or toed it so close you moved it back, ask yourself how you truly feel. Shut off the brain. Close your eyes. Turn away society and all its varied mixed and damaging messages. Forget if this is a lover, a family member or a caretaker. How does this act feel? Is it deeply hurtful? Do you know in your gut that it was wrong just don’t have the words? Do you see how close they are to your line? Are they trying to manipulate you into moving it?
That is the first sign of abuse.
Forget the lists, and give yourself permission to follow your gut. You know this is wrong. You can feel it. It’s tangible like a punch to the gut. Teach yourself, teach your children, teach your loved ones to trust in their own gut feelings. The truth is there and covers things no abuse counselor will ever learn. You have the power inside of you. I promise.
Now that you’ve seen this for what it is, it’s time to go. Get out of the situation. When they call, or come by to tell you how sorry they are or that they can’t live without you, or even to threaten your life, close your eyes again and see every time they pushed your line.
Call anyone, a friend, a family member, even a hotline and tell them it’s time to go, then just put one foot in front of the other. If you have to tell your person to act for you and then follow their lead. But trust yourself, trust your gut. Ignore the rest.
If you have a friend or loved one in this position, the best you can do is tell them to trust their gut and remind them what their gut is telling them.
If we teach our children to trust in themselves and their own autonomy we could rid the world of abuse.
If you need help go to http://www.thehotline.org/
This is the last of my Yahoo! stuff. One of my very few forays into poetry.
Dancing in the Moonlight
I dreamed I was dancing in the moonlight
On a forest shrowded hill.
The wind swirled around my naked body
Alighting every nerve with the earth's will.
I looked out over the world
The magic coloring my sight
And I knew in my very heart of hearts
That this was the night.
The earth balanced on the precipice
Of time changing time
The stars and planets swirled into infinity
In a perfect straight line.
And all around me the forest hushed
Pregnant with sorrow, fear, joy
Our little planet insignificant and bold
Hurtling wildly through space
Moved another inch, and then two
And then we were prone.
I stood at the very axis of the change
Feeling the power shoot straight through me
Taking away my body and my soul
But in a tiny little part
No more than a spec I was still me
Watching the world
I saw futures that would never be born
I saw pasts that were wiped from memory
I saw the coliding of realities
The wars and the harmonies
Of all that has been and all that never will be
It was time.
The universe plucked my soul like a musical string.
I could not be sorrowful
For the world that would be lost
I could not be excited
For the world this would bring.
It was time.
My existence sweeped out over infinity
And strangely there was no time left.
The universe called
And only I was left.
The traveler, the shaman
The carrier of the mysteries.
With a giant heave
I was scarcely strong enough to hold
I pulled myself back in
To one single existence,
One single vessel
One single home.
A planet hurtling wildly through space
Insignificant and bold
The cord to infinity snapped
The sound whipcracking through existence
To be heard by all
But those whose hearts it was supposed to change
The universe held it's breath
Then the earth moved
An inch and then two
The connection was broken
The change begun
The world made new.
I walked on wobbly legs
And slipped through the trees
Back to my bed
Followed by a moonlit breeze
The people watched the sky
Finally feeling what they had missed
But the time was past
The future of our world shapped by the will
Of a single solitary witch
I returned to my home and my bed
Covered myself up in the night
And dreamed of dancing
In the full moonlight
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.