Where the Happily Ever Afters Are Always In Color

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 Race and Fiction

03.22.2012

Day 632: Today, I’m talking about race. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but that’s just what I do around here.

Here is my disclaimer: I am about to address the INCLUSION of People of Color. NOT, I REPEAT, NOT the exclusion of white people. INCLUSION!

So you might be wondering why I’m talking about race. This isn’t about Trayvon Martin, though I’ll get back to him. I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now, but yesterday I was pushed to it. I was in a chat on twitter and there was talk about writing characters of color/non-white characters. I did not start this discussion. And the general response was “I, as an author, do not write characters of color because I am afraid of presenting a racial stereotypes that people will find offensive.” This is not the first time I have heard this response.

Okay. Valid argument. No one wants to offend people, most of the time. And yes there are portrayal of people of color out there, but I am terrified to think that Tyler Perry speaks for me and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that Kathryn Stockett speaks for my grandmothers. So what are we left with if not the stereotypes? Omission. Here’s the problem with complete omission, when you leave characters of color out (the same can be said of gay and lesbian characters, characters of varying gender identities, etc.), they no longer exist in your world. When they don’t exist in your world, they don’t exist in the reader’s world. This is dangerous, especially for people who are only exposed to diversity through books, film and television. Just as dangerous as the stereotypes and in cases, more harmful.

Now when the reader sees themselves on the page, there is an instant connection to that character. Other people see me. Other people acknowledge that I exist, that I have thoughts and feelings and value. I loved She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb because he wrote about an overweight girl in an honest, real way. BTW Wally Lamb has never been an overweight girl. He took the time to write how difficult it is to be overweight and how one may find themselves overweight in the first place. He nailed it.

The current standard is the brunette, doe eyed, young white female between the ages of 15 and 26 who seems to be the focus of EVERY book, movie and television show. I have nothing against this, but I am against every other girl being left out. I am against the only portrayal of African American youth in the last five years being the drug dealing kids of The Wire, the kind of portrayal that leads to deaths like Trayvon’s. I’m against Amber Riley having to play the teenage version of the fat, sassy black woman.

I was raised in a very warm, two parent home in Southern New Hampshire. Both of my parents are well educated, community minded people. My father, in particular raised me, not to be color blind, but to be kind and respectful of all people. As a kid I watched as he spoke with strangers and neighbors, and you know what, my father treated everyone the same. Teenagers, children, the elderly, his peers, even people who annoyed the hell out of him (I know his “I’m pissed off” face though others don’t) with the same respect. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people love my father. The things I’ve heard said about him would bring most people to movie of the week tears. As a father to four black children in a white town he NEVER made race an issue. He taught us to behave as any parent should. He taught us the importance of studying hard and in a timely fashion, even though this message didn’t really sink in for me until I hit college. He took us to James Taylor concerts.

Here’s the thing, my father could have made race an issue. He grew up during the 50′s and 60′s. He lived through segregation. His parents and his grandmother who had a hand in raising him, lived through worse. But not once did I ever see any sort of angry black man chip on my father’s shoulder. He’s the same way to this day and I think, even better because age has just made him wiser and even more understanding of the world around him and yes, people continue to love him.

This was my spring board. When I hit elementary school, I went out into the world with this mentality: treat people the same. And I did. I bounced between different social groups right up to college and in that time, I dealt with racism from another kid exactly once. He dropped the N bomb and I let him know about himself, but that’s another story. I had a friend ask me some silly things about my hair, but it was innocent ignorance and I love her dearly.

I did, however, face racism from adults. I’ve had adults and, yes they were white, pull my hair as they asked me what it felt like. And yes this is racist. Treating little black girl the way you would treat dog is racist. I have had a girl tell me her mother didn’t think she should use our toilet because she would get AIDS. I’ll let you marinate on that for a moment. There were countless other instances that don’t need to be rehashed, but it was the adults in my life who exhibited the most ignorant, racist behavior. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen that racism is taught. It trickles down. I have seen it with my own eyes. How do we change this? We work from the bottom up. Now I’m not stupid enough to think that racism will ever disappear completely. It’s a global issue. People thrive of superiority and separation. But things can be made better and we start with the images we show our children.

When I was a kid I was most often compared to Missy Elliot. She was big and black. I was big and black. Beyond that, I have no clue if I have anything in common with Missy Elliot. I don’t know her, but at the time she was the only woman of color my friends could identify with and that’s a shame, but the entertainment community wasn’t thinking about me. They didn’t think I needed to see my image reflected in the media. I’m sure Missy Elliot wasn’t thinking about me either. These days the defaults are Oprah and Beyonce, again two woman that I’m not sure I share all that much in common with. I would kill to be compared to Octavia Butler. Oh man. But let me get back to my main point.

I gave up expecting to see myself anywhere after The Cosby Show went off the air and that sucks. It sucks that I’m a little shocked to see an Asian/White couple in a VW commercial. It sucks that I know that commercial is not being played in parts of the country.

The main praise I have received for Better Off Red is that I have included a diverse cast of characters. As it stands, I have women who are Japanese, African-American, Puerto Rican, Bajan, Native American, Russian, British, and Scots-Mexican. I touch on their history, but I’m writing about vampires. I need to focus on them being vampires and what issues that presents. Moving forward, that I see, all of my romances will feature interracial couples. I had another author ask, with some shock (and a little disgust maybe, she seemed to be against this idea, like I was trying too hard) why I would do this. I think she was wondering why I wouldn’t just write black couple or white couples. Why? Because people ask me all the time to recommend romances with people of color or for romances with mixed couples. All the time. Because I don’t live in an all white world. I live in Koreatown. If anything I should be writing about Korean couples. I’m not in an all black relationship. Because my best friends here in LA are Latina and Korean. When we walk into a room, INSTANT DIVERSITY! Why? Because I am afrai
d to leave it up to other authors to do it for me.When people take to screen and page the default is white. Tell me I’m wrong and I will laugh in your face.

see, bestie and i being diverse.

When you say, and by you I mean the fifty or so writers I have heard say this since I’ve entered the game, when you say you are afraid to write stereotypes, you are saying that stereotypes would be your approach. I have stopped reading authors who latch on to the stereotypes. Native Americans being the most recent and horrifying portrayal. Here’s the thing about stereotypes in fiction, no matter how true you feel they are in real life, they actually don’t translate well to the page or the screen at all. If your main characters is a dumb blonde with no personality, your reader will not be interested. That’s a stereotype right? But why the hell would you write it? Exactly. Here’s a tip: don’t write them. If you want to write about an Asian character, give them an interesting journey. If you base the journey around a math competition, well… If you are writing about D

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 Day 589

02.08.2012
featuring my short story, Study Break

I have a short story and a book creeping up on me here and I haven’t been talking about them at all. WHY??? Because I’m behind the eight ball like a motherfucker on Blacker Than Blue: VSS Book 2 and it’s due in three weeks. The day the manuscript is due I have to appear in Palm Springs for a four day event where I will be reading three times. I hate reading out loud in public. I hate reading out loud when it’s just me and my cats, but I’ll have to do it three times in front of friends and other people I respect. Throw in the huge shitshow with the RWI/RWA contest (I’m not going to rehash it, but here are the details.) and the subsequent interview I was asked to give and you’ll get one strained Bekah. My stress levels are at an eleven right now. Any time I spend on the internet I use to take away the pain of being on level eleven. I don’t want to talk shop. But that’s only half of the problem.

See here’s the thing, I’ve had a really traumatic relationship with The Fling, which will be out April 16th. click this preorder it. Now that it’s done and my editor helped me give it the tweeks it needed, I am very happy with the finished product. I LOVE the characters. Love them. I want to marry at least four of them and spend forever in their loving embrace, but getting to this point was trying and that’s putting it lightly.

I started writing this book at a really bad point in my life. I was leaving a job, suffering from a really intense back pain, a good friend of mine died in a car accident and I won’t lie, I was suicidal. I didn’t try anything, but I made plans. And guess what, that shit showed up in my writing. Oksana, who is a character I’m very happy with, got all of my sads. Luckily my mental state improved. I left the horrid job and the horrid boss. I got to spend time with my family. I sulked to my mom. I reconnected with an amazing friend. WE GOT KITTENS! I brought more positive into my life and my moods started to stabilize. Thank god for my boyfriend who held my hand for that time.

But let’s back up. So this is all going on and then I hit that horrid sophomore slump. Better Off Red walked out of my brain with its bags packed and was just waiting for a cab to the airport. I had to drag The Fling out kicking and screaming even though I was trying to send it on a nice vacation. I had the whole story outlined to death, but my stupid, crazy, depressed brain and my busted back were making it so very difficult to get the thing down on paper and then I would get bummed that it was taking me so long and then I had to do final edits on Better Off Red and then I was bummed again. It was a mess.

Oksana looks like Amber Rose in my imagination.

Anyway when I got The Fling back from my editor her notes basically said “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED!” Emotionally, I was trying to kill Oksana and every thing I did to her was in complete contrast with how awesome she is. Seriously bro, she’s a sexy biracial Russian chick who lives with her grandma. Those of you who’ve read Better Off Red know I try to incorporate a nice bit of humor into my writing. It’s there in The Fling. I’ve given myself a few chuckles rereading the final product (not out loud of course), but with as much humor as there was I loaded Oksana down with emo. It wasn’t working. Editor and I talked. We fixed it. Oksana is not crazy anymore and I am very happy with the final story, but see I don’t want to talk about it because every time I look at that book, I think about how depressed I was while I was trying to write it. I think about how painful the process was and I just don’t want to go back there. But I have to suck it up.I have to tell you people all about it.

I’ve learned a lot writing and editing The Fling. I learned what I need to do complete a project with my sanity intact and as a result working on Blacker Than Blue has been a much smoother process. Even though I’m a little behind, I know I’ll finish on time. I’ve even LOST weight while writing it. I know, I’m shocked too.

So my point is, I have another book coming out in April. I’m really happy with it. You should by it. I can’t wait for you to meet Annie and Oksana. :) If you’d like to have a look at them go here. Warning: some of the Annie pics show boobies. If you’ve read Better Off Red you should DEFINITELY pick up Women of the Dark Streets. I’m calling Study Break VSS 1.5. It gives you a look into Benny and Cleo and leads perfectly into Blacker than Blue. It’s also busting with great shorts from some great authors. I’ve sneaked a peek.

P.S. I know talking about depression and suicide makes some people really uncomfortable, but some times talking about it saves lives. 

Also this rocked my world.

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 Day 483

10.26.2011

A spontaneous post because the TV has pissed me off again.

First – I’ll be sharing a guest post AND giving away a signed copy of Better Off Red this Friday, Oct 28th over at Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust. Do check it out.

Now I rant.

I have 29 episodes of Batman the Animated Series on my DVR that my boyfriend has asked me to delete. Instead, I went through the other stuff we had saved and found “So you wanna be… A Writer” which first aired on Current TV back in 2010. I’m sitting here preparing a guest blog post for Friday about why I write, so I figured this show would be acceptable background noise. I remembered quickly that I’d already watched it, but haven’t deleted it and now I remember why. The first story in the program featured Ben Karlin, writer and executive producer of the Daily Show, who summed up his Hollywood career as if you can just show up in LA, be instantly funny and the next thing you know-  BAM – you’re getting the green light to start production on The Colbert Report. Not to mention the two Daily Show and one personal book he has put out. I don’t doubt that this dude had some connections along the way, but I refused to believe this was a painless process.

As I’ve recently tweeted, I FUCKING hate it when authors who’ve experienced major or even minor writing success pretend that their writing journey was some sort of easy task. I have read so many author interviews where the author completely breezes over the difficulties of finishing a book, finding an agent, promoting a book etc. I thought I was all alone in my struggles. I thought I would go crazy before things worked out. This whole blog is about how that entire process has driven me to pony loving insanity and massive weight gain. I’ve passed my all time high by 3 lbs at this point. Go me. But – I also started this blog after Better Off Red was finished. Writing this book was easily (?) the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve hiked a mountain as an extremely overweight pre-teen.

Along the way I’ve cried a lot, been depressed, doubted my very existence and gotten in massive fights with my significant other. All the things that some writers fail to mention, writers who I wont throw under the bus here. After I restrained myself from throwing my shoe through the TV, a segment featuring Robert “Bobby” Moresco, co-writer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby came on. His segment was the reason I’d saved this program for almost a year. Robert acknowledge what being a writer is really about and how fucking hard it is to not succeed, but to simply stay in the business. Sorry I’m swearing so much, but I want to punch Ben Karlin in the face.

http://current.com/e/76384062/en_US

I think of this interview every time I’m crying over the state of my bank account or begging my boyfriend to be patient with me.

For the aspiring writers out there – its hard. It’s really, really hard, to write, to complete and to get your work acknowledged. But if this is something you want, you can’t give up. Read. Write. Read and write some more.

For authors who aren’t telling the whole truth, seriously, suck it.

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 Day 449

09.22.2011

It’s time for another confession. So here it is.

I don’t want to promote my books.

And I know all three of you are saying something along the lines of “Why ever not?” Or something with more four letter words, but here’s the skinny.

I’ve worked in sales three times in my life and I never really sold anything on purpose. My best day at the GAP involved helping a guy pick out a Christmas outfit for his wife. He was a wranglers and tee kind of guy and it was so sweet to see how badly he wanted to buy his wife something nice. We talked for a long time, he walked away happy and I made no commission what so ever ’cause it’s the GAP.

I had a blast working at The Pleasure Chest, which celebrates it’s fortieth anniversary next week. Helping Dave Navarro pick out rope or talking to Judy Geer and Ivana Milicevic about g-spot orgasms always made for a fun work day. The thrill of that job came with working somewhere where I could and had to talk about sex all day with no chance of getting fired or sued for sexual harrassment. I also got asked out a lot. :) But I never “worried” about making sales. People rarely walking into a sex shop to hang out. People need lube and condoms. Some need penis pumps. And I sold a shitload of harnesses and dildos. I knew if I was polite and helpful people would buy stuff and I would get paid.

My other sales job sucked and we need never speak of it again.

Promoting my book is different. It’s about the book, but on the outset it’s about me and I am terrible at selling myself. I’m TERRIBLE at fitting in or conforming to make other people comfortable. I’m awful in job interviews. Ask me where I see myself in 5 years, I almost always say I don’t know. I can’t bullshit like that. I’m loud, I curse a lot, pussy might be my favorite word. I’m never gonna do yoga so people should stop asking. I watch too many cartoons. On an average day I dress like a skater who just started 12th grade. I’m all for being nice, but I suck at lying so I think you suck I’m going to tell you.

On the flip side I can’t stand it when people tweet links to their books non-stop. I’m also not a fan of reading a book just because everyone else is reading it. I will maintain till my dying day that I read Twilight for work. Ask Dave Kurtz.

I believe people follow me on twitter for two reasons – and this is my low self-esteem talking but I can’t get her to shut up –  1) I have web friends from my fanfiction days and 2) I tweet tons of boobs and lesbian porn gifs from my tumblr. The voice in the back of my head is convinced that no one cares about Better Off Red’s release in 53 days. 

And then this happened: 2 websites mentioned the upcoming release of Better Off Red and I had nothing to do with it.

KT at Babbling About Books And More: http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/2011/09/kb-pimpin-future-book-releases.html

Sally at Bibrary Booklust: http://bibrary.blogspot.com/2011/08/waiting-on-wednesday-better-off-red-by.html

If people I have no personal or pornographic ties to are interested in Better Off Red then there is hope.

The truth I have to face is that some people will want to read my book, but if I don’t promote it and myself no one will know about it. I have developed serious love affairs with Beverly Jenkins and LaVyrle Spencer, two authors I would know nothing about if it weren’t for social media. The system does work.

In my dreams there’s some 16 year old girl out there dying to read something like Better Off Red (yeah the material is 18+ but let’s be realistic, kids read up). I want her to be able to find that book and of course I want her to tell her friends because in the end I’d like to make a living off my writing so I must promote. I want that JK Rowling money. He he har. Promote I must.

Here’s what I got so far. On my tumblr, http://rebekahloves.tumblr.com/ , in the side bar, if you search the following terms you will find pictures and art that tie into Better Off Red and The Fling. So far people seem to like the character teasers. please remember it is an 18+ tumblr with nude images.

Ginger
Camila
Natasha
Tokyo
Kina
Amy
Benny
Anna-Jade
Sam
Paige
Cleo

an image I love for Cleo

BetterOffRed (no spaces)
Sororitygirls
Sororityvamps
VSS
VSS2
Andrew
The Boys Of 8OBA

TheFling
Annie
Kat
Oksana

I’m also working on my romance trading cards which should be available soon for readers and I’m designing Alpha Beta Omega sorority t-shirts to sell on cafepress. And yes I will tweet and post facebook links to my books. I want this book to sell no matter what people think of me and my foul mouth so I have to promote it. Marketing and promotion are part of the game just like writing synopsisesses and the occasional block, things I also hate about the writing/selling process.

In random update news, I’ve been in North Carolina since Sunday for a funeral. The service was quite joyful. I’ve eaten my weight in shakes and other southern fats. The Hills didnt ruin “Unwritten” for me, YAY! I also think Floyd Mayweather and 50 Cent are in love, like secretly making love in love. And my my little pony obsession is spiraling out of control.

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 Day 308

05.10.2011

So, I eat my feelings. I feel like by admitting that I’m one step away from the biggest loser or a 1800 Get Thin Commercial, but I’m not. But I will tell you want I am. I am technically obese. It’s a dirty word, but going by scales and charts, that’s what I am. I’m what I like to call a Functioning Fatty, which I think a lot of people are. My weight has only made me more social, but my social skills don’t stop me from breathing heavy as I walk up stairs or sweating whenever I hear the word hot

It’s Tuesday, which is the perfect day to write this. Sunday I go to weight watchers. Monday I work out and eat healthy. Tuesday I fall off the wagon. I blame this on my short term memory loss, but the truth is, I eat my feelings. All the emotions you have to dig up to create a story worth telling make me impossible to live with. I have no idea how most writers don’t suffer from severe depression. I do and that’s coupled with the ADHD I think I’ve mentioned a few times here and there.  And with that comes the need to eat my way through ups and downs. Again I share this because my life affects my writing life. I’ll tell you how.

While waiting to hear back on the submission of Better Off Red, I gained 30 lbs. It was a relatively short period of time. I have been a  varying weight on the curvy to heavy meter since I was 6, but this was first time in my life I noticed the weight gain. My dude noticed too. Don’t worry he was nice about it, but when I screamed “30 fucking pounds” he didn’t do that annoying “What are you talking about?” thing which I appreciated. This big girl hates sugar coating (get it). I have been this heavy before. When I first moved to LA and discovered the magic that is Craft Service, I climbed to my all time max weight. I am 2 pounds away from that now.

I see a lot of girls and women my size, every day and many of them are very beautiful. I do not see this when I see myself at a distance. Up close in that avatar sized box that is my face, I know I’m not unfortunate. I’m not Paula Patton (Paula Patton is fine), but I know I’m not a troll. I hate my body. My dude loves it, but knowing that I hate it he does almost as well as my father does at never mentioning my weight ever. I see bulges and rolls and I hate them.

The vanity is one issue, but here’s the other. I have gained 5 pounds since I started writing The Fling, which is HILARIOUS because the love interest is a trainer. I have to write more books and I have to spend MANY more hours sitting on my ass. If I gain 30lbs per book which is very very possible, I will be in big trouble in short order. For in the first time in my life I have to lose weight so I don’t eat myself into a heart attack. This is sobering, but then there’s that short term memory loss and that hilarious depression…

So it’s Tuesday. I read a book that ripped my heart out last night and had me up to 3 this morning. I have to write today and of course I don’t want to work out. Plus Dude is working from home and Chinese food is like a chaser to burgers for him. Luckily I’m meeting with my bestie’s trainer today ask her some questions for The Fling. Hopefully that will keep me on the wagon for a few more hours. We’ll see.

(Read this last night and another part of me will never be the same. I HIGHLY recommend. )

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 Day 45: Confession #1

08.19.2010

I know I’ve promised to be positive and I know that keeping your mouth shut is the very best thing to do in certain situations, but if I don’t put this out there it will eat at me all weekend. And maybe next week.

I have few synopses to write for different agencies I would like to submit to, but it’s taking forever to get them done. At first I was lying to myself, blaming my ADHD, weddings, my boyfriend’s rugged good looks, my recent discovery of black diamond on my procrastination, but last night I realized the real issue. I’m holding out for a particular agent’s reply. I may be shooting myself in the foot for saying this, but its the truth. I found them and got the warm-fuzzies from their website, their blog, their agents tweets, even the nice way they explain their review process.

In general, I suck at cover letters. Applying for colleges was one of the most miserable experiences of my entire life, but I did it. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost plenty of jobs to my cover letters, but I always kill in the interview. Not to say that my query letters are terrible, but I just hate writing them.

I don’t have too long to wait to hear back from this particular agency, so I’ve decided to just wait on writing those synopses. I know myself and anything I force ends up sucking, hard. So I’ll wait and if I get a rejection from that agency I’ll be able to mourn properly and move on. If they request a partial…

I feel a lot better sharing this information with you and just like that the positivity has returned. 

Also, I’ll confess that I wish my boyfriend still played football. His knees and back are glad that part of his life is over, but he looked really good in his jersey. Something like this –>

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 Day 43

08.17.2010

Just sent out another query. Sometime tomorrow I’ll stop worrying about it. Until then…

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