Tuesday, July 24, 2007

passion, sex, love, shame


this waiting around for Wind Follower to be published has been spent fitfully.

A couple of days ago, I did nothing but re-read the pdf version of it in my computer. Okay, I had to see for myself how marvellous it all was. Hey, sometimes we forget.

It is lovely, and wonderful...if I do say so myself. In it's folklore questing passionate spiritual way.

But then I happened upon a sex scene. There are six in the book -- of all kinds (pre-marital engaged couple, rape, concubine, plus a couple flirtations.

And what happens when I happen upon this sweet little sex scene which is kinda spicy and sensual (those are the words the romance genre uses) I found myself avoiding the scene. Yep, I SKIPPED over my own sex scene. What's that about?

Well, obviously it's either false shame or true shame. If it's false shame -- a shame that one shouldn't really feel but which one is gonna feel anyway because one has been brainwashed-- then I can only think that I've gotten so many tongue-lashings from my Christian friends who "NEVER" put semi-graphic sex scenes in their book...that they have made me very nervous about my book. And honestly, it's not so terribly, terribly graphic. Just kinda graphic. Or it's my own prudish upbringing.

If it's true shame, then it's God telling me I shouldn't have written the scene. At this point I don't think it's a true kinda shame. But who knows?

Wind Follower is an interracial love story. Okay, I don't really know if Loic the main character is Native American or Asian. I think he's South Asian. From the way I describe him.

There was a time I used to feel shame when I wrote interracial love stories. And I no longer feel it. So obviously that was brainwashing....

will see. -C

Monday, July 23, 2007

KultureFirst survey on African American Literature.

KultureFirst posted a short survey on Af Am literature .

Here's the survey for anyone interested in participating: African American Literature Survey

Creative Procrastination

Well, I'm working on my second book, Daughters of Men. I'm in the middle of trying to figure out the mechanics of a floating city. How, I ask myself, should it work?

Should it be on an asteroid? Should it be anchored on the earth by some kind of space elevator or extremely strong columns rising up to the sky? Should the asteroid be stable -- by which I mean, should a city on the asteroid be always above a particular city on the earth? Should they be like sister-cities, sharing the same name...except that one is on the earth and one above? Should the asteroid be man-made or natural? Should it be one single asteroid or a ring of asteroid around the earth? Or should it be one long (terra-formed) bit of land encircling and floating around the earth? Should the place have its own weather and how? How much machinery should this sky city have? Or should it all work by the powers of the minds of its inhabitants?

I've got to tell you that when I last worked on this book I made matters very difficult for myself. Lord knows why! I actually had a two-tier floating city. I have to re-read this thing to see why the heck I decided to do that. Now it just seems kinda silly.

Anyway, being all confused about this city and not wanting to change it too much until I figured out why I made it that way, I've been procrastinating. I made a

multicultural speculative fiction listmania list,

a christian speculative fiction list,

and a multicultural christian fiction list.

I'm kinda hoping tons of people will go clicking on these lists...to kinda let them float up to the top of the listmania list. (Hint, hint!)

That multicultural christian fiction list was hard and still isn't finished. I need to add some more minority Christian writers...and I don't want them to be only modern contemporary writers but ...well, a few of the old-timers. I really have to figure out if multicultural excludes or includes folks who are white. One would think that white people belong to cultures, although there is no such thing really as a "white culture" because "white" involves so many different countries. I have to think about that.

In the meantime, the first review of Wind Follower will be posted soon (I think it'll be posted soon) at a romance site called
The Long and short of it .

Wind Follower is an odd little book which crosses many genres. I figure a romance site will look at the romance aspect. A multiculti site will look at the multiculti aspect of it. A Christian site will look at the christian aspect of it.

It'll be interesting to see where it will be most honored.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Eroticism in Wind Follower and Daughters of Men

Well, I'm just waiting for the reviews to start coming in on Wind Follower. In the meantime, I'm trying to finish Daughters of Men.

For some reason, DOM is perched very precariously. A part of it wants to be an erotic novel. Now, what to do?

On the one hand, I want to write a Christian novel...and it definitely is. And I don't want to alienate Christians by having a scene in the book which will upset them. (Although Wind Follower has a couple of sex scenes.)

But I want to write what I want to write. Of course, the question to ask myself is: does this erotic part of my story comes from a part of me that needs sexual healing? (and therefore should be explored) Or does it come from a part of me that is just plain worldly and which has watched way too many movies on Lifetime televion?

But I also don't want to force myself to write in a particular way if that's not who I really am. (Not that we Christians should go around worshiping "who we really are.) I don't want to get all rigid and too brainwashed by the rigid guidelines of the Christian market.

I tend not to get too graphic in my love scenes. But the eroticism is definitely there. I know a few Christian folks might have a problem with the sex scenes in WF. A graphic rape scene where she loses a baby, sex with her slave- owner, and the Loic-Satha pre-marriage dalliance. But the book needed it. So in it went. I felt right having those scenes.

In DOM, there is a real element of sexual need. I might even go so far as to say that sexual need is a main character in the book. So even if there isn't any sex scene (can't imagine this, but even if) there is gonna be an erotic quality about the book.

I don't know if you've ever seen DIVA (French movie) or Rebel without a cause. In Diva the guy woos the woman by taking her for a walk in the Paris rain. Nothing happens and yet there's all this eroticism. Just by them walking. Then there's the ferris wheel ride in Rebel without a cause. Again, nothing happens. But it is absolutely incredibly erotic. That's what I feel is happening with DOM. There might be a sex scene or two -- if the plot calls for it-- but whether there are or not, there's gonna be a heck of erotic tension.

I don't really think that eros and religion are in conflict. God invented sex. And eroticism.

The proverbs say that a true witness delivers souls. Many Christian fiction books just simply aren't true. If we are to be witnesses to a truth, we have to start out with the truth-- about our own issues. Christian books are often more legalistic than gospel. The main characters are good people who often are in conflict with some bad aspect of themselves...but the bad aspects are often not bad enough to make the characters real people. They often are temptations rather than incredibly deep character traits. By making the "evil" a character faces something which is a mere temptation, the Christian writer can simply separate the main character from the "evil" and have a nice legalistic happy ending. Person is good now, so person can go to church and be a good part of society. It just doesn't speak to me of grace, of God loving us even when we are evil. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In a lot of my stories, characters do bad right and left. But they are loved by God because they love Jesus. That is the gospel. When we get caught up in good and evil and believe that making a character good is telling the story of the gospel, we are making a bad mistake. We're teaching the importance of keeping the law. We're writing about and spreading teaching about the knowledge of good and evil. What does it matter if we know what good is, and what evil is? It's grace -- God's love for us in spite of our behavior, and while we are still sinning-- that is the gospel. And when we start saying that sex is bad or that writing about sex is a stumbling block then we are in a hazy world of saying that God has made something that is evil. We also are in the old Augustinian mind-set that says sex is evil.

In this story, I've made Ellie a Creed believer who is loyal to God above else. But she has done a crime. (I don't know what the crime is.) She's real. In that way she'll speak to real people, unlike the Christian characters in much modern Christian fiction who don't speak to the really really unsaved person. For instance, I think more incredibly bad people could probably be touched by Angels with Dirty Faces or Prayer for the Dying or Festen or The Bad Lieutenant than they would be by Christy or a Jeanette Oke book.

God called me to write to the really really really bad unsaved people, and as such I have to be a true witness. I have to witness to what I see in life, to the goodness I see in bad people, and to the lostness I see in saved people. For instance, in WF I had the two young characters make love on the day before they were married. Satha (although she is virginal) did it because she feared not giving in to him would be disastrous and might make him not go ahead with the planned marriage. And her folks needed the dowry money. He did it because he was a spoiled kid who always got his way and he was using her fear for her mother to get into bed (the grass) with her. That was truth, as far as I saw it. It would've been good for me to write a story where Satha held out for one more day, and where Loic didn't have that selfish ability to manipulate a woman, but although it would have been "good" it wouldn't have been true. In the long run, that little bit of dalliance caused some trouble for them but they are human...not Christian cardboard cookie-cutter tereotyped "good"
main characters.

For me to write something that doesn't feel right to me is to go against the idea that "a true witness delivers souls."

In DOM, Ellie is facing death. She is also badly-scarred. A human male loves her dearly. But so does a demon prince. She doesn't want to marry the prince but at the same time the prince has power to kill
her and to force her. And there is a lot in the mix about her conflict. Women like strength. Ugly scarred women like attention, especially if they haven't been getting any. Women like powerful men (at least in romances.) A powerful man with telepathic powers is going to use it to seduce a woman who thinks he's demonic. And the human male is going to have much sorrow and conflict about what to do with a woman he loves who has seemingly given up her faith to save her life.

It's been said that a novel is a conversation about the conflict between the soul and the spirit. In Wind Follower, the conversation was: "would you give up your religion for the religion of your oppressors?" That echoed conflict in my life. Sometimes one's religion puts one in the company of people one doesn't really like. And giving up one's religion means giving up certain things you are attached to. So there is always conflict in novels.

In Christian novels the conflicts are pretty narrowly-defined within home, faith, marriage. Very narrowly-defined. So I don't write for Christians because they don't want to read about Christian racist character working against his racism. They can't handle that kind conflicted characters or plots that don't have easy answers. They really can't. But God has called me to write Christian novels for a secular audience who can deal with such conflicting stuff.

I mean...what a different world it would be if Christian writers dealt with the racism of Sarah (Abraham's wife) or even with the fact that Abraham probably slept with Hagar quite a bit. Or even the fact that according to the ancient Jewish rabbis, Keturah Abraham's third wife was really in fact Hagar. I love that kind of stuff. The man wasn't perfect. He was a conflicted human. And Christian writing has no edge and has lost its ability to be very complicated. I have no doubt that if the books of the Bible was being gathered together today, Christian people would leave out a lot of David's misdemeanors, all of Song of Solomon, most of Judges.

The Christians who have read portions of Wind Follower didn't stumble. So far as I know. But the book isn't for them. And considering how rigid the christian guidelines are...the CBA's attitude is that most everything can make their readers stumble. I mean...they don't want to talk about race because they say Christian
readers need something safe to read. By avoiding certain supposed stumbling blocks, they have enabled close-minded folks to stay close-minded.

That's just my opinion. Christian writers write about sex in non-fiction books. Why not write about the weird inner conflicts of sex in fiction books? What's the difference?

Yes, the truth is about letting our light shine: healing the sick, raising the dead, binding up the broken-hearted. We shine the word in dark places. But then we have to show the dark places also so people can recognize the darkness of it. Sex is also a wonderful thing. Why not spotlight it in a story? Christians won't be reading it, probably. But I suspect the non-christian who reads it will see much of the spiritual glory of sexuality. Just me. -C


Friday, July 06, 2007

Interracial love stories and normalcy

I once had a white friend in my writer’s critique group ask me, “Why do you always write about mixed couples? That’s a very bad habit of yours. Can’t you write about normal couples in regular same-race relationships?”

I suppose I could, but I don’t want to. I want to write love stories that heal my soul. I am married to a white man and I want to tell love stories about black women and white men. The typical black woman has seen enough from the media to know that many folks consider black women the bottom rung of beauty and attractiveness and the white woman as the pinnacle. This can be very wounding to the soul. I'm pretty sure this lack of appreciation of our beauty certainly contributes to our habit of medicating ourselves with food. Racism is a cruel thing.

The white writer either did not want to see the importance of my life experiences, felt uncomfortable with interracial relationships, or perhaps (I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt) didn’t realize that by asking me to write in a “normal” way that she was trying to nudge me and my writing toward a little space she considered proper and appropriate.

Actually, let me backtrack a bit. I'm gonna be honest. She was plain racist and uncomfortable with my stories and she was trying to shame me. She belonged to that group of liberals who think they're non-racist and enlightened and deep ("spiritual") but who was really overflowing with all sorts of issues. There, I said it.

She was speaking from her privileged status as a “normal” person, someone who—like the “majority” of people in the world—are in same-race relationships. I suppose I should have challenged her, but the emotional fact is that when among the normal, the non-normal person often forgets how different he or she is. Because of the illness our son endured and other issues, hubby and I have slowly slipped into non-normality. The slippery slide was imperceptible but that's how these things happen. (Heck, I got used to seeing a naked teenager walking through the house!) Anyway, an accusation or call to normality does the trick of getting the non-normal person in line.

The non-normal will always interpret lives (real and fictional) differently than the herd; and the herd, because of majority privilege and because they hang around normal people and generally see normal things, will always consider the non-normal a bit paranoid, touchy, or contrary. But there are enough folks out there who have had life push them toward the abnormal. They will understand writers and mommies like me. And that alone enables me to speak, breathe, write, and interpret freely.

Unfortunately, in that small world (the writing group) that writer friend had a large say. She was quite a mocker and I quickly retreated and therefore did not challenge her interpretation of my “habit.” I kept quiet and seethed at her call to normalcy, knowing that—whatever her wishes—I would write what I wanted to. Being quiet was easy because in a world larger than that writing group I had allies. And I was writing for them.

Wind Follower is an interracial novel, among other things. The characters in the story aren't particularly upset by it. I'm working on Daughters of Men now. In this story, race and interracial marriage also play a part. There are so many different kinds of humans in the novel and yet...in some ways race does matter. After that there's Inheritance, a May-July Relationship between a bi-racial white/Asian young man and an African-American older woman. I'll see how that comes out.

But whatever happens, I won't be ashamed of my stories.

Monday, July 02, 2007

thoughts on windfollower

Hi all:

In one of our emails together, Paula (the editor at Juno) said something to the effect of, "Well, don't get too worried about it. After all, this is not great literature we're writing. It's entertainment."

The funny thing is, I DO think Wind Follower is great literature. It's not a literary book, of course. But my heart is in it. It's an epic. It's got heart and depth and soul. All my issues...from Monua's lament about poverty to Satha having a messy house because one is too depressed and overwhelmed with life to fix it to Loic's miniature weepy fetal position breakdown when all the religious people are telling him what he should do (telling him who he is in fact) instead of listening to him to religious issues. All my soul is in this book.

As I work on DOM -- and don't get me wrong about DOM, I like DOM-- I feel lots of fun. But I don't have the sense of the beautiful permanent literary worthiness of the book. Of course all books feel differently to their authors. DOM will probably be a good book --even if it's not written from my soul's pain-- but I am so hoping the reception the book gets will challenge Paula's words (I wish I had challenged them, since lately I've been going through the decisions in life to Speak my mind because silence means assent.)

I see a lot of the synops for Juno books and I want to read many of them, but not because I think they speak to my spiritual or emotional condition. They just look like good stories. But the stories they tell are stories that aren't epics, stories that don't deal with large racial, religions, and emotional existential questions.

Anyway, I had to get that off my chest. I suppose there are many writers out there who want to write a permanently-loved classic. And being a lit major that's all I think about: great works.

Ah well, we will see. I'm hoping it speaks to a lot of people. It goes to printer around 7/23, I think. Maybe later. Due for release in October.

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