Showing posts with label Socialization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Socialization. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Bechdel Test and Romance Novels

The Bechdel test is a fascinating subject. It calls forth ideas about understanding the nature of the society we have created and what that means for all of us as a species. It highlights many of our social development faults.


The rules of the Bechdel Test for a piece of media are as follows:

1. It has to have at least two women in it

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something besides a man

The test identifies a few obvious trends in modern art and storytelling. It points to the idea that only male characters carry weight in these worlds. Often in many storytelling instances women have little to no autonomy due to their purpose being only to further the ends and identification of the male character and protagonist. While this is an interesting and expected trend in most media and art in general, the most interesting idea is that women themselves have been conditioned to some degree to expect less female autonomy in all stories, including those that play specifically to the female fantasy of love.

Romance to be very specific is usually a media that features love. The women are usually very good people but for some strange reason alone and out of fashion. Usually the author comments on looks, or on responsibilities that fall into traditional roles that are favorable for female characters.

The challenge of any fantasy is to make unbelievable instances take shape. Yet within the framework of believability. It’s called the suspension of disbelief in professional wrestling, magic shows and visual entertainment in general. This is a parody. Play act that facilitates a story about growth, love and passion.

This is exceedingly difficult to do when the author can’t even seem to identify the female characters in the story as people. It is unsurprising yet astounding in this day and age when that happens. I recall one of the complaints I’ve had about my female characters is that they are not likable. I casually and caustically explained after the critique was given to my female character without thought for the male who carried many of the same traits that she wasn’t supposed to be likable. She’s supposed to be human. She is to be accepted as she is, just as the male of the story is.

Ladies, let’s be honest, our romance heroes are not super romantic.  Most of them are grade A assholes that for some reason cannot get enough of the girl most unlikely to matter to them. We respect them because they are not embarrassed or ashamed of who they are. We call that an Alpha male in this genre and most readers would be hard pressed to enjoy a book that didn’t feature one. I find it daunting that every time I write a woman the same way, editors and agents find her ‘unlikable’. Because of course in the court of love and respectability politics you dare not propose love for a girl who is “gasp’ unlikable.

I think to Shakespeares’ Taming of the Shrew. Which in essence is a stage play from centuries ago completely about respectability politics and how they affect the acceptable level of aggression a female is allowed to have and still be able to have a successful relationship with a man. The play was written by a man and yet he seemed to grasp the idea of well if you want this much woman you need to be this much man and accept a true partner that many female authors abandon for canned preapproved agency drivel.

I could almost buy the argument that this is because I may have unintentionally excluded ‘feminine’ traits from them. I prefer to err on the side that by dent of being a woman whatever she does IS feminine. However this seems to be our impasse. Which is why this test is so important. If there is a definitive aspect of how I write a character that is considered a female thing when sex isn’t being discussed, then I’m writing all of my characters wrong.

Humanity goes beyond discernable genitalia. Humanity involves spirit, heart, essence, a fiber a soul. All of these attributes should be portrayed without a sex, because they are. These things are embodiments of the human condition. I will relent and say yes some characters will express these motivations and desires differently, but let me be clear, they will not or ever be along sexual divides. I consider it to be lazy writing.

Producing characters driven by clothes because they like to look pretty is lazy writing. I seek to create unique stories about unique people which I find to be the reality of the world. My characters are driven by the impression they seek to make in those clothes. The inherent comfort or discomfort of those clothes. The decisions are sometimes frivolous but are met equally by hard thought out and followed through on choices that have little to do with a male or female perspective and more to do with a basic human one.

Brave and Rightly So
The complexity of humanity is a daunting task to write about. It intimidates me every time I plot a major twist because in that moment the people I love can betray me. Every writer understands what I just wrote. It’s the complexity of humanity that makes these characters live beyond us, outside of us, desiring their own peaks and valleys. My characters, male or female, don’t want the easy answers. They don’t want the cop outs and the maybes. They want their tragedies and they want their triumphs. They want to be the lowest speck of humanity while being the brightest. No chromosomal switch turn at the last stages of development determines whether they want or need that more or less. Yes they come across individuals that don’t agree and they are pitied for what they choose to give up.

I see the Bechdel as more than just checking for equality. It’s a call to arms for artists to be the change they should want to see.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Charlotte's Chance

Near the end of Chapter Six:

'It was a very near thing because they had almost made it out of the club.  Sparked by whatever insane notion, she stopped on the dance floor as “World in My Eyes” by Depeche Mode started to play.  All of a sudden she was 19 again, hanging out in one of these places for the last time, as she knew she was heading to design school.  That night she had let everything go.  She had danced her heart out, drank too much, and flirted too hard.  She would remember that night till her dying day as being one of the best nights of her life. 

The day after tomorrow she could be dead.  It wasn’t just a morbid thought any more.  It could be the truth.  Just like that this trip could be over.  She was in the company of one of the most delicious men she had ever had the chance to encounter.  Even if her over wrought moral code wouldn’t let her sleep with him, it would let her dance with him.  It would not only let her dance with him, it would even allow her to dance dirty with him.  She looked back at Thomas, and started to dance. She began moving slowly, seductively.  For a few moments he just watched her not moving, and not saying anything.  Then he pulled her into himself. 

Most people who witnessed what happened on the dance floor would call it what it was, vertical non-penetration sex set to song.  But it was a gothic club; there was a lot of that going on.  Most of the time he let her set the rhythm, and then he would take over by pulling her hips in the direction he wanted. When the song ended she had her arms around his neck, her body pressed intimately to his, and his hands on her ass as she nearly rode his thigh.  His hands slowly slid up, and lifted his hood just enough that she could see his lips. He then he lifted her veil only enough to settle his lips over hers.

She moaned into his mouth when he pushed his tongue between her teeth as the original German version of “99 Luftballons” played overhead. Her arms tightened around his neck as his hands trailed down her back pressing her even closer than when they had danced.  Suddenly he pulled back his eyes closed.

“Slap me,” he ordered in a husky but sharp tone.

Charlotte frowned, but more at the fact that he wasn’t kissing her anymore. She opened her mouth, and he cut her off before she got any words out.

“Just do it, hard.”

So she wasn’t waiting till they got back.  She pulled back, and wailed across his face as hard as she could.
He grabbed her hand, and they finally made it out of the club.  Thomas had needed that slap.  While he had been kissing her he hadn’t been able to find one single solitary good reason why he shouldn’t just pin her against the nearest wall, and have her.  However he had been reasonable enough to understand that not being able to think of a single good reason not to take her against some random nearby wall was very unreasonable.  Charlotte muddled his mind when she was being a good girl.  Naughty Charlotte was sending him into premature meltdown, and he needed to get her secured, and back to her old self quickly or his self-control wouldn’t last the night.

“I’m sorry” Charlotte whispered in the quiet of the long drive back to their base of operations.

Thomas was a little distracted making sure they weren’t being tailed, but he did eventually respond. “For?”

“I was an unmerciful tease tonight.”

“Yes, but you were supposed to be.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Got reminded of who you used to be. It’s unsettling.”

She paused, and nodded knowing that he was right, and that really had been her problem. “I’ve come a long way. I don’t want to start back peddling.  But with you---,” she stopped herself.

“Charlie, I’m not going to judge you, not now, not ever.  There’s a saying about whores, stones, and glass whorehouses that I’m sure you’re familiar with.”

Despite herself, and the twinge of self-hate she was feeling, Charlotte giggled a little.  Then started to laugh in earnest. “I fogged up your glasses pretty good huh?”

They came to a red light, and he looked over at her until she locked her eyes with his. “There aren’t words to describe the type of desire you make me feel. You respond to me without being ashamed of your own reaction, and that’s hot enough.  But when you bait me without feeling guilty or without being apologetic it’s like tossing out the Bunsen burner for a flame-thrower.  I was nearly unmanned.”

The light changed, and the force of his golden eyes was pulled away from her.  Charlotte tried unsuccessfully to suppress the shudder of sheer desire and awareness that flooded through her at his words.

“I can’t be the only woman that’s ever tried to entice you.”

His eyes didn’t leave the road as he answered. “You are the only one that has done this for the most basic reason.  It’s not because you want me to save you, protect you, or back your play.  You already have that from me. You bait me because you want me to want you for the sake of your own desire.”

Charlotte understood now why this was uncharted territory for him.  Honestly she had never had a man just desire her for the sake of desiring her.  There had been guys that had cared for her, but it hadn’t been insane love or even nearly unmanageable desire.  There had been the guys that had just wanted to get laid, and for them any woman would do.  Then as her self-esteem had done a real noise dive there were the guys that had wanted her to support them because of her business.  Charlotte had been in love, and in lust before, but she had never felt the type of emotions that Thomas Glendel made her feel. As they spent more and more time with each other she was starting to understand that he could say the same for her.

“Thomas—” she started.

“I meant what I said tonight. We’ll get to it.”

~ CHARLOTTE'S CHANCE Book 2 of The W.A.R.M. Front Series Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unfortunate Truths: The Black Hair Chronicles

As women we are susceptible to beauty trends and myths because as a part of our core programming we are told we have to be.  You see how pretty mommy is and you want to be pretty like mommy.  The women on TV, who gets paid attention to by the boys. This is the fallout of what was all explained to you when you were very young as it takes your mother twice as long to dress you than it does to dress your brother. You have layers usually.  Underwear, undershirt, dress, maybe petticoats, socks, shoes and any random hair accessories to make sure that anyone who sees you, knows that you're a baby girl.    

Don't get me wrong we were all cute as the dickens mind you, but what about that early in life brainwashing that's actually taking place?  When you are percieved as the standard of beauty when you grow up, you may not mind so much because you're top chicken.  But what about all of us ugly, ugly ducklings?  Especially us ugly ducklings who can never be the idea of beauty because we were born with dark skin.

Google Beautiful Women Search

This comes to mind in light of recent stories regarding Olympian Gabby Douglas. I believe I can be quoted as saying "This girl has made history and literally all anyone can talk about is her damned hair!  Seriously!  What year is this?!?!"  My rage while quickly spent was not really effective in any other way than to get the angst out of me for the ignorance that people can bear.  Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.  

If want to see dark girls you have to be specific and even that isn't full proof.

And then I thought about it and I knew where it all came from. For a majority of black women in America of a certain age group life has been a clusterfuck of being told you're not good enough in a wide variety of humiliating, dogmatic, and dehumanizing ways.  Still to this day people try to use false science, beauty exceptions, and exclusive behaviors to assure the common public that the last woman that should be considered beautiful, is a black one.  The phrase "You're pretty for a dark girl", gets used much to often every day. Because even if the compliment is given, it has been made clear that you are being touted as an unusual case outside of the normal climate.  Still outcast. You're not beautiful, not pretty and frankly not attractive at all.  The irony of it is that to some degree many black women took this as a challenge.  And through it many of us have shed some of our shackles of beauty misgivings and have declared that we define our own beauty and it won't be the crumbs you try to give us.  

Side bar: And please keep in mind that I will not refer to black women born in America who's families have been born in America for decades African-Americans.  You see I know people who were born in Africa and are now Americans.  They are African Americans. . . we are Americans, plain and simple.  I don't care how many times representatives from the Republican party like to imply otherwise. All you have to do is study American history to understand that none of our ancestors were American until after the country was established. My ancestors were born American at nearly the same time as all other Americans that can't trace thier line outside of this country.

Right or Wrong this is the truth
The challenge has become a pact almost amoung black women to maintain and carry their own standard of beauty since the media seeks to constantly denegrate it by applying sole ownership of beauty with images of something none of us will ever be. . . not black. The obsession with hair is a long and dated process that can be traced back to slavery times.  The truth is because of liberal mixing of the races, ironic that it was considered smart then, sometimes produced offspring that could 'pass' for white.  Seeing as that opened a doorway to a whole new life, this was a desired thing.  

Pass for White
In many cases there was only one aspect that could be interpreted as being a 'slave' trait.  That trait was hair. It bore the double-edged sword of being a trait that could be altered when so little else could be.  And the preference went towards assimulation. When you are a captured and enslaved people who's only identifying factor is skin color, you know that were that trait to change you would suddenly be one of them because there was literally no other difference. In fact you watched it happen several times over. Just imagine what a hated and dreaded thing you would consider your skin.  And sense you had no control over your reproduction rights you couldn't decide not to have children to spare them the pain you have to bare. How does that feel, knowing the world your children will come into. With such a powerful regime that went from slavery to incarceration for control of the black population, assimulation must've and in many ways I'm sure, still does seem like the only possible answer to the subjugation of racism to the out of power population.

In the end the desire is to fit in and be considered not just another person, but an actually equal person capable of all the things the population in power is capable of.  Education, housing, employment, and food disadvantages have fundamentally replaced slavery with a new kind of oppression that unfortunately many minorities fight today. Amazingly enough it even includes restrictions on hair style by noted universities and companies who are saying loud and clear "we know you can change this feature about yourself to make us feel more comfortable. . conform or else."  People would be appauled if some company required all of it's staff to be brunette to work there when it is not an entertainment based employment.

For current practical purposes its' much harder for a black woman to wear her hair naturally.  The first reason being very obvious.  The hair was never meant to exist in this climate. As a result the method to adapt that hair to the climate  has to be studied, researched, and developed. The market for products that actually cater to the type of hair that most black people have is a relatively new one.  Only really getting off of the ground in the 80's.  But even then it was to alter the texture of the hair so that it was more manageable.  Not until very recently has there even been a set of prescribed products that can make black hair more manageable without sometimes really damaging effects. 

Hilarious is an Offensive Review
For those of you who don't have 'black' friends or don't understand the hair hocus pocus you think goes on with black women. .  please reference Chris Rock's Good Hair.  He covers it thoroughly.  What I will now give you is the cliffnotes version of why Gabby had to go through that. It is a point of vanity and pride to be able to maintain a head of hair. Because of convenience, perceived beauty expectations, and ignorance, black women have always expected a certain level of commitment from other black women in regards to hair.  Whether for natural hair or against because there are camps that lobby for both. The idea being that if it is not appropriate, you as a woman are not trying hard enough to show the world how people as a race of women we can be.  Beyond that many people within the black community question the integrity, work ethic, and professionalism of a person that has not attempted to adapt their hair to white beauty ideologies when it is simple to do. While others question the need for adapting to white ideologies and denying natural beauty. It is seen as trying to 'not fit in', thus inadvertendly continuing our lack of assimulation. While the other is seen as trying too hard to fit in.  Its a damned if you do damned if you don't situation and is ultimately no win.  

As a black woman who wears her hair naturally I went into this decision understanding the backlash I would get from my community.  And I have accepted the weight of that with all I can bear. My decision was based in the idea that if we were not meant to be different, we wouldn't be.  We are here to learn from each other and trying to hide our differences will not make that possible.  All you really learn from a lie are the strategies for efficient ways to lie. 

But does this really capture ALL women?
At the end of the day, all women, need to understand that we are naturally beautiful as we are. I mean, no make-up, no fancy hairdoes, no woman shaping garments. All the bells and whistles gone. Until we, ourselves, start to see the beauty of all of us as God has made us (or whatever your belief is) we will never be able to show others and ridiculous standards for beauty will always exist and be exclusionary depending on the controlling party of the media.  And the brainwashing will continue. 

What happened with Gabby was a shame not because some people were too concerned by a social standard that bears no real weight or meaning, but because the vanity and shallow behavior has overshadowed accomplishments that should've gained more equality for all American women, not less.  The ultimate slap in the face for all the injustice, discrimination and aggravation that Gabby has suffered to change the world in her own special way, is to have the people who will benefit from it the most use pointless archaic rhetoric to tear her down.  In the face of her accomplishment we shamed her by making it about a centuries old hang-up that we should all have outgrown by now.

Photo Credits:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Socialization in the Time of Social Media

Today my word for the day was serendipitous.  So I thought a play on the title of the book that Kate Beckinsale wrote her phone number in for the movie "Serendipity" was appropriate.  It was called "Love in the Time of Cholera".  I'll let you sort out what I mean.

Relationship Status
Facebook status goes from "in a relationship" to "single".  Like me I know you've seen this byline in your Facebook timeline.  It makes me miss the days when your relationship status wasn't public property.  Not that it is by any means, but some days the way social media works you think you are obligated in some way to tell the world this unfortunate truth.

I must admit that after my marriage ended it was somehow empowering to go into one of my media networks and boldly go from "married" to "single".  It was more than just a declaration to the people who knew and loved me.  It was a declaration to myself.  Somehow making that one move put me on the path to understanding why I was in the situation I was in and how I could avoid returning there in the near future.

Love and Hate
I have a love hate relationship with social media.  I see it's potential in bridging the gaps between people and I also see the possible destruction from making so much of your existence not as private as it used to be.  I'm a Generation X'er.  By nature we are more skeptical while being opportunistic.  It has a lot to do with being raised by Baby Boomers and their changing value systems.  I think the irony of this is that no one has embraced social media like the generations that flank us.  Those being our Baby Boomer parents (well not mine, but some of us) and our Millennial understudies.

For those wondering, the Millennials are the generation of people who are being born with the Internet as a part of their lives.  The constantly 'plugged-in' set while us Gen X'ers are mostly involved yet quite on the fence with our involvement.  We see the opportunity social media creates, but we are somewhat fearful of the loss of self for the cause.  I see it all of the time as my generation picks and chooses what social media outlets will hold their time and attention, and which ones they just can't be bothered with because it's that step too far.

Live Journal
I think back to the days of high school crushes and random childhood gossip, and I see the implications for what could've been if every time someone in my cliché 'broke-up' it became social fodder.  And I find myself grateful that there isn't an archive somewhere of my high school follies.  I know a lot of people a little younger than me that can't say the same thanks to LiveJournal.  But it brings me face to face with the changing tide of how technology has affected how we perceive and feel about human relationships.  With the ability to make your relationship a matter of public media, you risk affecting the intimacy that good relationships can cultivate.  I find myself wondering if you can also increase it.

Words are powerful things.  I should know I'm a writer : ) And I often prefer writing someone and not telling someone because my written word is always going to be more eloquent, direct, and poignant than my spoken words.  I just don't think in speech like I think in written word.  So I can write tantalizing love letters and flowing poetry yet have the damnedest time getting those words out of my face.  It leaves me to wonder which face is my true face.  What is it about captured language that makes it a preferable option to me and apparently to many of the people in our tech world today who prefer text messaging to phone calls.

I have often read things friends have said to me as a comment on Facebook and I wondered at the authenticity of it.  But not in the way you might think.  My friends have written some of the loveliest sweetest things I've ever read about myself to the point that I have been moved to tears. I know these people well and they know me and I wonder if we were face to face would they reveal that much of their true feelings about me or if the specter of the screen and the loose feeling of anonymity have somehow changed the nature of the discourse.  Has being able to channel these feelings through a source that can feel as intimate as a computer can sometimes opened a door to a true core of emotion that maybe unrealized in any other way.

I know that I have stated true feelings through this medium to other people that I would never have the gall to say to their face and I wonder why.  In those moments of typing as I stared at the words as they hit the page I knew that not telling the truth would be like lying to myself.  And at every turn as I read my own words the lie of it would become unbearable and the message would be left unsaid . . . unsent.

Beyond that personal belief, it was the freedom of knowing that I can get my thoughts out without instant rejection because of response time.  When you state things to someone's face you see instantly how well received or not well received they are.  At least with awkward silence there is a sense of accomplishment because you can't be sure about how someone has taken your commentary, but you can be sure that you made your position clear.

We are a society accustomed to speaking over each other.  In ordinary conversations the person who has the most aggression will usually be heard over all while the meeker participants will be overshadowed.  However in the written word, in an online chat sense, everyone has a position of potential equal say.  Like nothing else, written messages demand that the normal call and response procedures of communication be adhered to.

If you're like me then there is nothing you hate more than an unanswered message.  The very nature of sending a message calls upon habits that should be ingrained by any participant in 'polite' society.  If someone has taken the time, energy, and effort to communicate with you, you at least owe them an acknowledgement of the effort. Often in face to face conversations the subject can be rerouted, changed, and ultimately ignored as you substitute surrounding incidents for current 'undesirable' conversation.  However it is hard to deny a message.  It is almost like a receipt.  The sender and the recipient know this took place and how they choose to deal with it usually determines the level of care and regard you give the person because they have stated the level of care and regard they hold for you. These are all factors that would aid in understanding the level of involvement you can or cannot have with another person.

In a relationship my partner will get both.  I'll say the words I'm thinking, and then reinforce them with poetry, cards or other little notes of affection.  But does this create its own from of intimacy without the content of being there in person?  I imagine my lover can look at the words on a screen or page and then remember how I smell, my smile, how I look at them, how I touch them. Written words can touch, but they can't feel.  They can imply, but they can't determine. Beyond that, they bare more weight when they are private, and not made available for prying eyes.

How does one create intimacy through a social media?  Is this something that is even remotely possible?  Studies have shown that people make judgment calls on others based on some of their social media choices yet I'm not always sure if reposting a cute kitten picture is the best identifier for a person.  Memes have been dedicated to the insensitive things people are willing to say from the safety of a computer screen yet there haven't really been any that talk about what people feel are inappropriate matters to be discussed in an online format.  All is open for discussion apparently.

It is very easy to find a blog post or site where people come together to discuss their heartbreak and what they are going through.  Love in the digital age has become more digital than social.  What was once something between 2 people and their closest friends and relatives has become searchable by the masses.  In many ways it does remind us that we are all the same.  But in other ways it stamps out those wonderful fundamental differences.  In the end, this is another face we place on just like any other.  How is this relationship, picture, status a true indication of the person that speaks about it?  How is this reflection to be perceived?  At face value or as a characteristic of something that is more evolved than previously thought.

This face is one that can be constructed to a larger degree than any other face.  I like experimenting with look, style, and perception.  My photos are a clear indication of that.  I like playing with the idea that with a few simple changes I can become or appear to be someone other than who I am.  Well I think online characterization can be taken a full step beyond that.  What is real and what isn't?  Who is real and who isn't becomes more of a concern than in face-to-face encounters.  As we become overwhelmed by our own creations and they start to bleed into the reality of who we really are, who is to say that this is not who we really are now.

The key to understanding online personas is understanding the nature of the beast.  The internet, while it was originally created as a means for academics to communicate with each other, has become a venue of entertainment.  People online have to be taken with a grain of salt because more than anywhere else, you are being sold something.  It doesn't matter where you are, in a chat room, playing Xbox live, on a dating site, or just browsing news stories, someone wants you to 'buy' something.  Either that they care, don't care, that their view is correct, or this angle is the truth.  And in many cases they want your money. 

At our very base level we are a nation of con artists. It's called capitalism and the bottom line is gain. Is it no wonder each generation is able to instantly spot what will garner the best advantage and then take it?  At our most enlightened we are a nation of Buddhists abandoning the suffering of trade for altruism.  Deciding that the only way to stifle the will of capitalism is to disavow it.  But most of us are somewhere in the middle trying to make a worthwhile existence for ourselves and those we love.  So how does online interactions facilitate this is what I'm asking?  How does one go from being a stranger to being a friend through a social media site?

I think in the end it's like with all things.  You regard someone and recognize the traits they have in common with you.  Through this you build up a repoire, and then over time you become accustomed to their ways and methods of communicating.  Who they are has no choice but to present itself.

Beyond not writing things in all caps, online etiquette is this unrelenting, unestablished hierarchy of mismatched rules and sometimes lacking in manners rhetoric.  It is up to the person to decide what constitutes as real human interaction, and what is just a pale reminder that the object before us is only a machine with parts instead of heart.

The real issue is that sometimes people make the mistake of believing that the people on the other end of the line are just as unfeeling as the machine they are using to communicate with when the exact opposite is true.  Usually on the other end is someone who is all too human and for whatever reason needs the parts to help them declare and expose their heart.  It would be a shame if we as other human beings suffering the same fit weren't available to help them understand the difference between cold unemotional parts and moments given from the heart.

(Dedicated to all those who have never left me hanging ; )

Personalities Courtesy of:

Reply? Courtesy of:

Love you Courtesy of:

Caps Lock Courtesy of:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NEW RELEASE: Sandra's Social

I wanted to give this release a special introduction because this is a special release for me.  Sandra’s Social was the first romance novel I ever finished.  Key word here is FINISHED.  This book was the culmination of a 3 year odyssey to find my literary voice and my writing focus.  A lot of the theories that I apply to my romance novel writing were put into place because of this book.

I tried to write the standard romance novel.  Not the ones that have florid and vivid storytelling and engaging characters, but the other ones that I thought publishers wanted.  Each attempt found me done with the book and the characters before I even got to 10,000 words.

I used to marvel at how when I read an Elizabeth Lowell novel she seamlessly gave the reader knowledge about an artistic endeavor, the subtle charm and humor in a Johanna Lindsey romance, and the emotional historically accurate tour de force that Diana Gabaldon could create.  And I openly wondered what could I bring to the table? 

Looking back at my life experiences and my interests it became obvious almost immediately.  I stopped trying to imitate a style that I never really enjoyed and instead embraced one that I could claim as my own. I realized that what I wanted was to write a different kind of romance.  I wanted to pioneer a style that actually took into consideration aspects of social class and gender concerns.  I wanted a thinking romance novel. Thus my first heroine Dr. Sandra Dalianas was born.

Sandra’s Social is book one of a 5 book series called The W.A.R.M. Front.  What started as a kitschy acronym to give a little flavor to a heroine became an investigation into the obstacles that love faces in our society.  It became a call to arms for me as I realized that there are things that we as a society need to deal with and talk about.  More importantly we need to form new opinions on a number of socialized norms. 

So Sandra’s Social is very social as it deals with multicultural, multiracial, gender, and class issues.  The book arc focuses on 5 women whose lives have been brought together by the solidifying idea that being an unconventional women shouldn’t come with the price tag of being alone. Sandra’s Social is the first step to self-empowerment and reclamation.

So I invite you to get social, get unconventional, and get ready for The W.A.R.M. Front.

Always w/love,

Sandra’s Social is available as a NookBook with Barnes&, as Kindle release with and in other digital formats on

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Power of Inheritance

Albert Einstein summed it up best, one sentence, 3 words. Everything is relative.  I think for the most part people in general don't really apply this to all aspects of human existence.  I'm not going to speak for the late father of physics but something tells me that if you had thought to ask, "Do you mean some things or everything?" he would've given you a knowing smile and replied "EVERYTHING".  Because of the nature of perspective and personal understanding, everything is relative to what your mind has assimilated.

This assimilation and understanding comes from the pattern your mind has developed for a certain sequence of events.  The synapses in our brains are like little roads and usually we take the same path to get to a place on that road.  This is the analogy usually given to describe Alzheimer’s.  The road that the patient is accustomed to using gets burned out and is no longer available. On our little brain roads sometimes we stop short and sometimes we move on.  Upon occasion we can't get to where we are trying to get to on our pre-existing road. When this happens we have to branch out and make a new one. When this pattern is broken and a new understanding comes into play, this is the process of learning.

The issue is that sometimes these roads aren't new roads at all.  We just built a short cut to get back to the road that we were already on.  But because of this feeling of being on a different road we have a tendency to believe that it is a different road just because we didn't get there the same way. Even though you may always go to that one stop on the road, somehow you have convinced yourself that it's a new stop and what feels like new information is actually stagnant ideas that you have gotten to in a new way.

We are pattern loving creatures and are hesitant to believe something that deviates from the set patterns. So when we are focused on one road without thought of how to get to this destination from every road, or better yet how to find a new destination, we will allow any circumstance to form the pattern we are so desperately seeking.  A self-fulfilling prophecy of getting exactly what you're after. A process that unwittingly justifies and reinforces those old familiar roads.  And in those situations humanity truly finds itself missing the forest because of the trees.

Gamer Camp
For this thought I will go to video games.  Video games are an interesting media and a distinctive subculture.  Like all things and subcultures video games speak their own language. Game designers and players have their own way of relating to each other.   In this world there are just gamers and none gamers.  There are the people who know where to go, how to play, and where to look when they need help.  They know the common tricks of game designers, and how to get past them to successfully finish these complex worlds and simulations. It is a culture because most outsiders have a hard time breaking into it because of the age of the culture.  Game players and designers have formed a symbiotic relationship.  As the games became easier to beat, the designers sought to make them harder.  As they sought to make them harder, the game players rose to the challenge.  Now new gamers have a wealth of catching up to do because the media has continued to feed itself by only interacting with an elite basis of individuals that have been involved with the process since day one. These gamers have advantages in game culture, language, technology, and experience.  These benefits will be passed on to anyone who is around them as they grow older in this gaming environment.

Game designers have a different experience than the players.  Game designers have constructed these worlds.  They know all of the ins and outs because they put them there by hand.  Either by themselves or by a group development committee, every nuisance of this game has been determined by a person; programmed, drawn, and interfaced to the best of that person's abilities with modern technology.  And if the technology doesn't exist for the plan, then game development teams have been known to create them.  Simple quick fix. If it doesn't exist, then now it shall.

Society and game design have a lot in common. Recently I was reading articles about the 1994 controversial book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by the late Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.  This book speaks on the concept of intelligence. The arguments for and against the claims of this work abound as the controversy of it has caused people to pick sides.  You have the one side that finds the work a crime against race relations and negotiations.  You have the other end that cries that just because the truth is ugly doesn't mean it's not the truth.  Frankly I think both sides are not actually looking at the forest because they are all too wrapped up in the trees.  Because if they did, I think they would see that technically both sides are right.

The game culture analogy was not just witty banter to make this writing more interesting.  It is a subsection of an idea that should be applied to the grand scheme of things to understand the nature of inequality as a much more holistic concern that isn't recent, but has been building since the beginning of formalized education. I don't know how many people understand the evolution of education.  In order to understand this one would need to pick up Plato's Republic and start from there.

Education was founded under a few assumptions; women, slaves and other less socially sophisticated people need not apply.  Education was a construction that was never intended for all.  So with this in mind, years and years were spent with certain sections of the population not being 'formally' educated.  And what is formal education you ask.  It is a construct of principles that the very people who declared that other populations should be exempt from learning created.  It was their game world.  And in this game they were the only ones allowed to know the rules and actually play the game.  So amongst themselves a new culture of 'educates' bred.

Let us fast forward to the United States of America and its founding fathers.  These were well bred, highly educated men.  For almost a century their family lines have benefitted from their exposure to education.  But not just any education, because all cultures have education, but the type of education that will one day be promoted as the only needful education in the world. An education that will take precedence over all other forms in the modern world. This education was revisited with a few exceptions; namely some women could now be educated in certain subjects.  However an entire core of native people and a displaced slave class would be not only denied this education, but relegated to being the ultimate victims of it as all rules and regulations operated on the statures set by this form of education.  Thus it became necessary to make sure that they never truly had an education lest they endeavor to use it to free themselves.

Black Monopoly
You accomplish this in several ways.  First you make their education illegal. Then you make the associations between them and the ones who are educated properly illegal. Finally you endeavor to convince them that even if they attained this education, their minds are not equipped to actually benefit from it.  This last damaging crippling blow is why things like the bell curve resurfaces every so often citing tests and data that tells the story of cultural and racial inequality.  The need to resurrect the ideas of inequality as an intelligence qualifier as opposed to a socialized one.  Or as I see it, oppressors attempting to justify their oppression.

Let's really look at this for a second while considering the gamer analogy I mentioned earlier.  Simple math is a game designer's specialty.  Now if you have spent 4 years playing a game, and not only just one game but every instance of this game. Wouldn't you be better at it than someone who has only played the same game for 2 years and not all versions of it?  While after 2 years your proficiency should be relatable, can they ever be the same?  Yes, if somehow the other player slacks off and you place double the amount of effort into learning this game while they are slacking off and creating a new learning curve. But this would only come from a consolidated effort of the other player slowing down and the new one being determined enough to catch up.  It happens but it's just like running a race.  Successfully balanced races start at equal footing with skill being the determinant and
definer of the winner.  It is nearly impossible to win a race, even if both cars are equal, if the other car is given a hundred meter head start.

Now let's apply this simple cause and effect to decades of education keeping in mind that legislation for equitable schooling had to continue throughout the 70s.  Education is not just book learning; like gaming, it is a community.  A set of guides, cheats, strategies, learned and applied paradigms that enable the gamer to get the most out of their experience. Education is a combination of teachers, schools, parents, students, and the resources available to them.  Frankly just based on the amount of resources alone at low income schools with high minority populations, the difference in the race shouldn't be as minimal as it is. I'm talking about school environments where students share one computer, a few have to group to have access to a textbook, are taught by teachers that did not achieve as highly on tests, and sometimes minimal to no community and parental support. Compare that to students who have well educated parents who influence them daily with their habits, a safe neighborhood to return to, abundant educational resources and the ability to attract high quality teachers. Tell me, what does this race look like?

Social Mobility Graph
How can racial intelligence be the cause of housing discrimination that forces even middle class minority families into low- income housing thus their children into low income schools? How can racial intelligence be the cause of work force discrimination that has only heightened since the implementation of affirmative action as the average man has convinced himself that unqualified minorities will take the good jobs even though hiring based on race is actually illegal and somehow minorities are not being hired in equitable amounts?

I don't believe that the writers of the bell curve acted maliciously.  I believe they acted rather foolishly because it is painfully apparent that in an attempt to discover new truths they merely took shortcuts that lead them back to the very thoughts that they claimed to be distancing themselves from.  I believe that in their heart of hearts they wanted to provide answers and to reaffirm what was once 'known' in a way that was more socially acceptable.  The horror of this is that I believe that they believed they were telling the absolute truth as they saw it and as science found it.  A truth that did not account for the different race starts and how the echoes of that will be felt decades from now.

Every game designer knows that if for some reason your game doesn't work, isn't balanced, or is unplayable the fault isn't with the intelligence of the player.  The fault is in the intelligence of your design.

Black Monopoly courtesy of:

Social Mobility Graph courtesy of:

Gamer Camp courtesy of