ALMONDS AND BEING “WOKE”

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For some crazy reason I belong to a Facebook group called “The Writing Gals” that is for female romance writers.
I say crazy because I hate romance novels. This happened when I went from being a teen to an adult. Suddenly I was done with women being raped but ultimately liking the guy and having his babies. I don’t know why I ever thought it was exciting, but, I guess, the whole teen-aged-girl thing, and, in my defense, the other books I was reading in my teens were Faulkner, Hesse, and Camus, while playing Pink Floyd on my tape-Walkman. Yeah, I was a “dark” teen. And yeah, tape Walkman. Did I just “out” my age there?

I also hate women being referred to as “gals.” “The Writing Gals….” What are we all Dale Evans here?

Okay, so I belong to this FB group, and it endlessly annoys me, I gotta tell the truth. It’s not my thing, and the questions the aspiring writers ask sometimes make me grit my teeth.

And, so, yesterday, someone asked about writing Asian eyes as almond-shaped or was there another “nut” that would be a better description or some such nonsense. Of course, I had a response asking about why the writer felt the need to compare the eye shape to anything. I mean, folks, do you go through your books constantly talking about the shape of all the characters’ eyes? If you do… I’m thinking you might be writing a bit of a snoozer. Or does this woman just feel the need to drive home the “Asian-ess” of her male love-interest? And so I asked my question and another group member told me flat out that she would not be silenced by “aggressive woke culture.”

Ahem.

Well, indeedy.

So, if you didn’t know, I have an Asian daughter, and I teach at an HBCU, and I adore “woke culture,” and do not think it is aggressive. In fact, I am grateful every time someone who is not white is kind enough to educate my dumb ass.

And because I am two annoying things, a mother and a teacher, I felt the need to go back to that group this morning and teach. However, they have us on lockdown, all posts moderated, so my teach-preachy post probably won’t see the light of day there.

Luckily here I am not moderated, and so here is my post, in case you would like some help understanding why your writing should be “woke,” and how to get it there.

The other day, in this group, someone asked how to describe an Asian character’s eyes. Someone else responded to a point I made, and basically said she would not be censored by “woke” culture. I am the mother of an Asian person. My daughter is 100% Han Chinese, according to her DNA test, and yet, if we must make mention of it, she has big round eyes; my own Irish-British eyes are more “almond-shaped” than hers. And so, to describe my daughters’ eyes in terms of nuts would not be accurate or appreciated. It would be considered a micro-aggression. Today, in my adoptive parents’ group, we were discussing all the many micro-aggressions people of color face (POC), and I really felt that, here, where women are writing, this needs to be talked about. Now, I know in the past we have discussed things here like, “Can I use song lyrics in my writing,” and though the clear answer is no, people have vigorously argued that it “will be okay.” To that I say, enjoy the lawsuit. And I know there will be people here who will vigorously argue, as the other member did yesterday, that no one has to be cowed by politically correct jerks like me. True, and, unfortunately, for POC, they cannot sue you if you do a poor job with characters of color in the way a lyricist can if you steal his/her lyrics. However, the world is getting “woke,” whether our fellow member likes it or not, and if you do a poor job in this area you not only risk alienating a huge swath of readers, you also risk getting turned down by a lot of publishers, including me. I am a publisher, and a feminist, and I am actively seeking women writers to publish, but, yeah, they gotta be woke. As a publisher I am going to be looking for writers who not only include characters beyond white people in their books, but also those who do it well, and do their own due-diligence about it, not because they feel like they are being “censored by woke culture,” but because they would like anyone, from any race to be able to read their story and enjoy it, and because, as an author, they want to write the best damn story they can write. It is your duty to know that you will get sued if you use song lyrics that aren’t yours, and even if you get lucky and don’t get caught, it is stealing, so don’t do it. It is your duty, as well, to research issues of race and culture, and do a good job at it, or don’t do it at all. I mean, if I’m going to publish your book (or another publisher is), ask yourself, does my publisher want to sell to one group of readers only, or all groups? Aren’t you trying to make money at this? I know I am. There is probably nothing wrong with having everybody in your story be white if you are white and that is what you are interested in, or that is what you are best able to write and write well. However the world is a diverse place, and if you want to be a cut-above, you should include diversity in your characters, and if this makes you feel “aggressively silenced by woke culture,” then you may be in the wrong business. Of course, you may vigorously argue otherwise, as folks vigorously argued it was okay to steal lyrics, and I am not going to come back to this group and argue with you. I am just offering my perspective as a publisher, and it is my guess that the huge publishers already have this policy (they are more likely to face sales-crushing backlash if they don’t), and small ones like me will follow suit eventually. For a final piece of advice, I share this one small article that I have found valuable in helping me think about how I can do a better job as a writer, and expand my character pool as well, and if you are looking for more resources, they are out there, just use “the Google.

Dear Friends of Devil’s Party Press, I thank you for reading this post, for your interest in my ramblings, in my company, and in our authors.

IS IT HOT ENOUGH YET… FOR MURDER?

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There is literally nothing I like better than a good murder.

How about you?

As part of our DPP hiatus and tune-up we are adding imprints, subdivisions of Devil’s Party Press that will focus on one genre and one genre only.

And so, without further ado, meet

HAWKSHAW PRESS

All mystery, all the time, and my personal favorite genre of writing.

As you (hopefully) know, we have some background in mystery publishing, with Charlotte and Suspicious Activity, and now we’re upping the ante with the new imprint, and exciting titles are already in the works for 2021!

We’ve got the newest Charlotte Smart mystery, ACCIDENT, by Stan Charnofsky, due to release in Spring of 2021, and the first of four Jack Griffin novels, LET’S SAY JACK KENNEDY KILLED THE GIRL, by William F. Crandell, in the hot seat for summer of 2021.

AND, we are actively seeking more. If you have a crime/detective novel, or a short story collection of crime-only stories, send them my way. As with all DPP publications, the author has to have topped 40 by the time the book goes to press, but, believe me buddy, you’ll get there soon enough.

To get the skinny on all things Hawkshaw Press, stop by our website, and remember, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

IN PRAISE OF LATE BLOOMERS

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My brother died two weeks ago, not from Covid 19, but possibly from not seeking medical attention because he feared contracting Covid 19. He was only 63, and I wish he’d had more time.

My father was one of those dynamic people who just keeps hitting the high note, again and again. He was popular; he was a partier; he was handsome and talented; there was nothing he tried that he couldn’t do; nothing that was broken that he couldn’t fix. Why I remember the time my refrigerator door fell off…

But I digress.

Some of us move like rockets through life. Others of us are not so lucky. My brother was one of those. A very talented guitarist, and a very sweet person, very comedic, but I think he just never quite found the niche to fit in to.

I tell you this personal and sad story because, for me, it underscores why I really care about publishing older writers, the late bloomers who didn’t discover they could write or should write until they were older, or who knew they could write, but put their shoulders to the wheel for other more pressing responsibilities first.

When you finally reach the place where you feel like you can give yourself time to write, or the confidence to share that writing you’ve always been doing, there should be someone else there, waiting, with a hand out to invite you aboard the fun bus. I really want to be that person. I wish I could have extended my hand more for my brother; I wish I was holding open the door to the bus that would have been full of his tribe, but he wasn’t a writer, and I’m not a musician. So, if I can do it for others, for you, well, it comes from the heart, in the name of Bill.

So, stay tuned. The lights are back on at DPP. The machines are humming. The Oompa Loompa are singing (And by Oompa Loompa I mean me; I’m very short, and very green… something I ate). Over the remaining months of this turd called 2020 we’ll be gassing up the main bus, and a few extra busses, and we’d love to get you on board.

If publishing is your goal, start your own engine. Blog (this WordPress thing is so easy even a dolt like me can do it), and build some interest in who you are and the worlds you create in your stories. Find out what local publications will carry your press release. What local bookstores might give you a night to read, or carry a book you wrote? Contrary to what a few writers seem to think, there is no magic bag of readers that publishers have, no cadre of capitalists we can force to buy books. So make yourself an appetizing thought, literarily speaking, and polish your stories ’till every T is crossed. So many times when I am interested in a story I will tell the author that we at DPP will do an edit, for free, not that the author is forced to accept our suggestions, but we will do one, and authors will say, “I already edited it.” And I see spelling errors on the first page. Believe me, there is no author out there who needs an editor more than me. My work is rife, RIFE with things I have missed in multiple edits. It’s no crime. It’s our very kind biology that makes our brain fix up our little mistakes for us, so we never see them. So, polish. When you think it’s perfect, get another writer you know and trust to give it a read. And when the publishing opportunity comes, you’ll be ready for it.

Got a blog? Have a FB author page? Post it on the DPP Facebook wall. In the name of my brother Bill, we support you!

And stick around. Follow this blog. We’re just about to open up the factory to the public once again, and we’ve got a lot in store.

May you all be well, and loved, and safe, even if you’re bored and, like me, you wonder why you ever needed shoes in the first place. I’ll tell you why we need them! To kick 2020 in the ass.

Oh, now I went and got vulgar. Well, possibly more vulgar; I should tell the truth.

Late bloomers, we love you, we salute you, and we want to know you. Stick around.

WHO HELPS YOU?

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Once upon a time I used a typewriter. I am nostalgic for that time, but sometimes it’s better to “grow” with the flow and improve. Typewriters have their place, but smart people have discovered easier ways of doing things.

Smart people… do you know any?

We do.

We’ve been working really hard on ourselves @ DPP so that we can grow and be better publishers for our authors. We don’t say typewriters are bad, not at all, but we can be better, more efficient, more author-focused. And to do that, we decided to spend this year “off” asking smart people for help.

You may well be curious about our smart people, and we are glad of that. We don’t want to hide them. We want to share them with you. You can find our smart people here, and here. These are people and organizations who, every day, help us be better publishers.

Thank you, dear friends and advisors. We so appreciate all you do for us.

AN INEXPENSIVE STAY-AT-HOME WRITING CONFERENCE & YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A LOCAL!

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Saturday, July 18 is the 4 th annual Wilmington Writers Conference! The conference will be entirely virtual this year, and we will kick things off Friday, July 17 with an evening keynote and public Q&A from YA author and Delaware local, Erin Entrada Kelly.
You will have the opportunity to learn alongside professional writers, workshop with fellow participants, and network with a writing community! The 2020 theme, Untold Stories, stems from the Museum’s ongoing effort to make space for the stories that are traditionally left out of the art-historical canon—those of women and artists of color. Many of our session presenters, as well as the keynote address, will weave in fibers of this theme throughout their discussions. Come alongside your fellow writers as all look within our lives to find the stories often left untold and make space within ourselves to listen. $15 Members,  $ 20 Non-Members, $10 Students.
Visit the Conference page to see the full day schedule and session abstracts and leader bios.

WHAT TO READ DURING A PANDEMIC?

wsofit-projectspageLife got you down?

I know it’s got us down.

Mind racing, jumping around, wondering how to protect ourselves from a foe we cannot see.

Reading helps, but you need something that feels right. That “gets you” and where you are right now.

Why not pick-up the book that understands?

Choose the “We Get You Sale” to get the book at the sale price. Pick it up for even less at Amazon in Kindle form. Get yourself a cup of decaf or a cold beer, and know we understand.

We’re all in this together.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

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Above you see the front window of our house.

The first thing you need to know is that in this house, Black lives and Brown lives and LGBTQ lives matter.

And so in this house, in this publishing company, there is no hate. And we reject the presidential notion that there are good people on both sides of a race-bashing incident. There are not.

Black lives matter.

It does not mean that any other lives do not matter. That is a spurious argument designed only to stop attention being paid to the inherent racism present in this country. All lives matter, but we need to work on making sure that, in the USA, they matter equally, and are treated equally. Currently, sadly, they are not. The slogan “Black lives matter” is important to help us all realize we need to work on bringing Black lives up to the same standard as White lives.

As a nation, we all, all of us, have to stop killing people, or allowing people to be killed, simply because of the color of their skin. We have to stop giving them extra jail time because of the color of their skin. We Whites have to stop denying we have privilege, and have to stop using our privilege to only lift ourselves. We can’t keep almost half of Americans down, and hope that, at the same time, America itself can rise.

ALL lives, all humans matter equally. All people are beautiful and worthwhile. This is our value.

The United States can do nothing but fail as long as it treats half of its people unfairly. And Dave and Dianne will vote, as we always do, against anyone who does not agree.