“Award-Winning Author” has a certain ring to it!

I’ve received some pretty great emails in my life. If you have ever emailed me to rave about how much you loved my book, your email is on that list. But the day that I got the email from Amy Edelman of IndieReader, I was having a pretty low day. You know the kind of day – the kind where everything seems particularly difficult. The kind of day that makes you feel beaten-down and maybe a little sorry for yourself.

I was going through my emails, deleting the spam (the number of emails authors get offering to ‘market’ or ‘review’ their work for whopping amounts of money is truly depressing) when I read the words “Congratulations!  It is our pleasure to inform you that your book won in the Humor category for the 2017 IRDAs!”

Whoa, wut.

I re-read that email a bajillion times checking to see if I had misread it. Nope. Winner. Not grand prize winner of the whole shebang, but honestly, I don’t expect to take major prizes with a zombie romance full of swear words. Howie isn’t THAT adorable.

But yeah – it isn’t a mistake, it’s for real. Chemistry is officially an award winning book. IndieReader’s Discovery Awards are judged by publishers and Kirkus reviewers. Each book is read by two judges. In order for a book to be a category winner, it must get a minimum of 4 stars from both of the judges. If no book achieves that, they just don’t announce a winner for that category.

So it really means something that Chemistry won. It means two random people with presumably high standards read and liked my body-positive, feminist, angry zombie romance. That’s pretty surprising.

The award was announced at BookCon in New York on Saturday. I couldn’t attend because I’m poor and New York is on the other side of the continent and is NOT cheap to visit. But it still means something that someone in New York said my name in the contect of the word “award”. I like that combination a lot.

So, yeah. Whenever I’m having a bad day I can remind myself that I am now an award-winning author. BOOM, baby. Who’s changing this toddler’s diaper? It’s just C.L. Lynch, the award-winning author. Who washed these dishes? Only an award-winning author. Okay, so my husband does the dish washing in our family. And the laundry. But you get the idea.

To celebrate, I’m giving away the first three chapters of Chemistry in an instafreebie giveaway, so if you know anyone who might like it, send them the link! https://www.instafreebie.com/free/doT2B

My Main Character is Ableist – My Response to a Call-Out That Never Happened

When my book, Chemistry, first came out I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I would get.

Stella Blunt – for those who haven’t read my book – is not always an easy person to like. She swears, she’s permanently in a rage about something or other, and she can’t take a compliment. I knew my heroine was what they call an “unlikeable” heroine. I knew I was taking a risk in letting her go out into the world.

My hope was that people could see past all of that. Stella has her good points, after all. She is passionate, she is intelligent, she solves her own problems, and she desperately wants to be a better person. Though she constantly berates everyone and everything, she doesn’t spare herself, either.

I open the book with a scene that immediately presents and confronts Stella’s flaws, so I hope that it’s clear that Stella will be growing and changing throughout the series. She takes the first steps toward change in Chemistry and there will be more growth and change in History.

To my relief, the vast majority of readers love Stella, either because they admire her spunk and sass, or because they identify with her raging insecurities, or both.

But every now and then, Stella meets a reader who can’t stand her, and that’s fair.

My negative reviews almost all focus on Stella’s faults – her foul language, her tendency to overreact to just about everything, and her inability to handle a difficult situation with any amount of serenity or grace. And that’s okay.

But you know what my negative reviews don’t mention?

The fact that Stella is ableist as fuck.

That’s right – Stella is ableist but that’s not what bothers the people who dislike her. They care more about her bad language than they do about the fact that she repeatedly uses words like “crazy” and “insane” as insults. They care more about her continually-raised voice than about the fact that she spends half the book trying to decide whether she wants to date someone who may or may not have physical and mental health issues.

Now, if you’re a Stella fan and you feel the need to rush to her defense – please don’t. It’s okay to love Stella. I want you to love Stella. I love Stella. But we don’t always have to love the things she says and does. Stella is a work in progress – we know this about her. She has some flaws. She has a lot of flaws. And that’s okay. But we also need to acknowledge those flaws.

If you think Stella isn’t ableist, then please go read up on ableism before you say so.

The worst part is that she doesn’t even really know that she’s ableist. Stella is keenly aware of many of her own faults. She struggles to suppress her intellectual snobbery, and she works hard to control her irascible temper – although she generally fails. But she considers her “should I date him even though he has a disease” mental debate to be completely okay. She doesn’t think twice about slinging around words like “crazy”.

I’ve been bracing myself from the beginning for a reviewer to see this and call out my book for ableism. I’ve thought about how I would respond, and how I would reassure people that Stella has already taken the first steps to overcoming her ableism, but that most of the work will happen in History.

But I’m starting to think that it isn’t going to happen. So I’ve decided to just put it out there now.

Hi. My name is C.L. Lynch and my main character is ableist.

It’s the casual kind of ableism that you’re likely to find in most teenagers who have never been forced to confront their own prejudices and privilege. It’s the kind of ableism-invisibility that most people have unconsciously – the kind that only disabled people notice. But I want you to know that I didn’t do it unconsciously. Her ableism is part of her character journey, and it will be addressed heavily in History.

Please understand that my book itself is meant to be anti-ableism. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, loves someone with a disability and has worked with some amazing and admirable people with disabilities, I revile ableism and deliberately set out to address it.

Chemistry contradicts common paranormal romance tropes by presenting Howie Mullins’s undead-ness as a disability as opposed to a superpower. He doesn’t sparkle. He isn’t super fast and super powerful. He is clumsy and has trouble learning new things. He has a lack of emotional prosody in his voice due to brain damage. He also (as we learn later on) suffers from intrusive thoughts and a certain amount of anxiety. But he is a person worth loving and fighting for.

Sure, I could have made Stella be some sort of wonderful human who naturally overlooked all of these issues and saw the person underneath right away, but that would make her too to much of a Mary Sue. Ableism is one of the most overlooked kinds of privilege/prejudice and the fact is that most teenagers and even adults evince it in one way or another. I wanted to start with a heavily flawed character who goes on a journey, and ableism just seemed to come naturally to Stella.

While Chemistry sets the foundation for Stella’s personal growth, History will go into it in much more depth, as foreshadowed by my bonus novella, With You. Howie will get to tell you his side of things – he isn’t the saint that he appears to be – and he will have his own character journey to go through as he comes to terms with who he is, and Stella will need to do the same.

I promise.

Down with ableism.

Love,

C.L. Lynch

The Black Witch, Or, Damnit, Now I Can’t Read Tamora Pierce!?

A woman named Laurie Forest wrote a book so now I can’t read Tamora Pierce anymore.

Let me back up.

In case you’ve missed the uproar over The Black Witch, here’s some background on it. Since I have not read the book, I strongly encourage you to visit reviews like this one for more details including direct quotes.

The Black Witch is a very long book that takes place in a fantasy world which is filled with every kind of bigotry – racism against the various fantasy races, sexism, homophobia, ableism, you name it. The main character embodies and embraces all of these bigotries and doesn’t even start to rethink things until a good 350 pages in, and apparently, even in the last 100 pages, she’s still not totally convinced that it’s bad to be a raging bigot.

Now, even if the various subjects of these bigotries weren’t already tired of being bit players in a white protagonist’s redemption arc, even if the whole fantasy-racism-as-allegory-for-real-world-racism wasn’t used in basically every fantasy book already, and even if the whole “bigot gets woke” storyline wasn’t already very, very, VERY trite, this book would still be problematic.

Because even if the concept of a bigoted character realizing that they’re an asshole was a BRAND NEW IDEA… who wants to read 350 pages of assholery first? I mean, if you are content to just sit back and discover this amazing fantasy world where people are bigots, wow how original, and it doesn’t bother you to read hundreds of thousands of words containing repeated hatred and vitriol… then I feel like maybe it’s because you still need to read this kind of story line because you still kind of identify with bigots.

I mean, I wrote Stella Blunt so I’m all for unlikeable heroines.

Stella is angry, sweary, has intimacy issues, and let’s face it – she’s a little ableist. But jeez, it’s stated in, like, the second paragraph of my book that her behaviour is seen as inappropriate and in need of adjustment. And considering that there are people who have closed my book in the first chapter just because the MC swears in the presence of her parents, I am impressed that people can read 350 pages of bigotry and not get sick of it and throw that book in the DNF pile.

Aside: it’s also interesting to me that reviews of my book often call out Stella’s foul language, but so far no one has called out her ableism. And by interesting, I mean a little depressing. But maybe that’s because Chemistry doesn’t really address her ableism, which is the casual ableism of the average seventeen-year-old girl who calls everything crazy and insane. That lesson is coming up in History. Anyway, I digress…

What, you’re all wondering, does this have to do with Tamora Pierce? 

Oh, let me tell you.

So.

People are leaving one star reviews on The Black Witch, warning people about the over-done story line featuring hundreds and hundreds of pages filled with bigotry, all of which are somehow excused by the trite “but it turns out that’s bad!” message of the book.

One of the reviews was from someone who hadn’t read the book herself, but wanted to warn her followers off of the book, based off of very detailed reviews (including photos of pages from the book) such as the one I linked to above.

Tamora Pierce, THE Tamora Pierce, commented on this review. She criticized the reviewer for reviewing a book she hadn’t read, and then said “before I say a word about this book, I’m going to read it myself.”

Now, let’s set aside the fact that you shouldn’t have to suffer through an incredibly long book just to be entitled to say whether you like books featuring all kinds of slurs, bigoted protagonists and hackneyed redemption arcs, and that the whole “bigotry is bad” lesson is a lesson that we really shouldn’t need or get excited over any more. Never mind that reviewers are perfectly well allowed to say that based on the content of a book, they plan to give it a miss.

The REALLY big question mark over Pierce’s lecture comes from the cover of The Black Witch. Here’s a photo of it.

Now here’s a closer up picture.

 

Closer…

…So… She’s going to read The Black Witch before she pronounces an opinion, but her opinion is already written right on the cover of the book??

This was swiftly pointed out to her, and she responded with basically, “oh yeah, I did read it, I forgot. My bad.”

More specifically, she said:

When I re-read the book, I will post a complete review (I read it to gift it a quote some time ago and obviously forgot that I had done so, but I thought highly of it to give it a quote).

Uh… you absolutely loved it but you somehow forgot that you read it? And now you need to re-read it before you can decide whether 350 pages of racist/homophobic/ableist slurs before the redemption arc even starts is good or not?

And while we’re on that, what makes it a “whole new, thrilling approach to fantasy”?

I’d ask Tamora Pierce, but obviously she can’t remember.

I mean, if she thinks that using fantasy races to teach allegorical lessons in bigotry is a new idea, then what rock has Tamora Pierce, a celebrated fantasy author, been under?

*cough*Narnia*cough*Middle Earth*cough*Harry Potter*cough*basically every fantasy book ever written*cough**sneeze**vomit*

I mean, The Black Witch sounds like Wicked all over again, except the protagonist is the racist bigot instead of the victim of the institutionalized bigotry of the world.

I don’t see how anyone could possibly respect Tamora Pierce after that little exchange. No matter which way I try to look at it, she comes off as either a liar or a bigot (or at least the kind of person who is sympathetic to bigotry and thinks that we still need long books about it and why it’s bad), or both.

And this sucks, because I really like some of Tamora Pierce’s books. I’m not a raving fan. I’ve read her Song of the Lioness series twice, I can only remember a few key scenes, and while I adore and read and re-read Terrier and Bloodhound, Mastiff made me want to throw things and kind of ruined the first two books for me a bit. But Tamora Pierce writes nice strong fantasy heroines, and especially in her later books, her world building is very enjoyable.

So all of this sucks.

And no, I’m  not going to read The Black Witch. Sorry, Tamora Pierce.

International Women’s Day: 25 Free Books Featuring “Nasty Women”

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and in celebration, I’ve arranged a multi-genre giveaway of twenty-five books featuring bad-ass heroines. Whether they’re magic users discovering their inner power, steampunk inventors disguised as men, or ruthless assassins, these women stand on their own two feet and get things done.

Browse the whole list or jump straight to your favourite genre to meet these kick-ass “nasty” women and collect the books that interest you for FREE!

YA and Romance are included under their sub-genres.

I have tagged LGBT Lit, Own Voices Lit etc.

Thriller/Crime

 

Science Fiction/Dystopian

 

Fantasy/Paranormal

 

Women’s Lit/Urban Fiction

 

*All authors involved in this giveaway have agreed to keep their books free for at least the next week, and some may keep their links active even longer, so if you’re late to the party don’t fret – give the links a try anyway!*

Thriller/Crime

Crime Thriller

A deadly assassin. A perpetual target. A double-cross she never saw coming… Leine eliminates terrorists for a living. After a routine assassination almost gets her killed, she chalks it up to a fluke. Her lover and fellow assassin, Carlos, has another idea altogether. Is their boss is setting them up for a fall?

The Heroine:

Leine Basso is no shrinking violet. Formerly an elite assassin for a shadow government agency, now she’s going after the lowest of the low: human traffickers, ivory poachers, cartel thugs, and pedophiles.

Crime Fiction

Four days before Thanksgiving, the dead body of a paralegal is found dumped on a residential street in Midtown Detroit. A receipt for two cups of coffee in the gutter near her body leads Detectives Zannos and Wong to the New Delhi Donut Shop. Questions arise – who killed her, and why did the murderer break her fingers and move her body?

The Heroine:

Detroit Detective Jill Zannos is a no-nonsense workaholic with no girlfriends, a strange boyfriend, and mystic powers inherited from her Greek grandmother that enhances her crime solving success.

Science Fiction/Apocalyptic

Military Dystopian

In a world devastated by disease and ripped apart by a changing climate, countries struggle for control of resources while fighting to maintain order.

Even if it means fighting their own citizens.

The Heroine:

Arinna Prescot is a top notch military strategist and diplomat. Without her, Europe would fall to an enemy that succeeds in destroying much of the world.

Steampunk

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone never cared much for boys. She’s too fixated on corsets or engines to give them much notice. But proper ladies don’t spend their days reinventing the steam engine, so Lady Ruth needs to create a new persona…
The Owl: Britain’s Greatest Inventor.

The Heroine:

Ruth is autistic and a brilliant inventor. She hates changes to her routine, strange foods, and dealing with people. But that
doesn’t mean that she’s not capable of thinking outside the box to solve her
problems. #OwnVoices

Science Fiction

A gambling debt gone wrong, and a pirate captain on the trail of her father’s killer. India “Indy” Jackson is in trouble with the Jovian Mafia, and desperate to close a black market deal for Helium Three. When her pilot disappears, she must find a way to handle the Mafia on her own.

The Heroine:

Snarky, snarky, unafraid and street smart, Indy is on the trail of her father’s killer, and she isn’t about to let anything stop her. She takes no prisoners in her deals and needs no man to help her.

Get FREE

Science Fiction Thriller

What if you woke up knowing how to do your job, but not your own name? What if you had to rely on other people to tell you who you were?

What if you thought they were wrong?

The Heroine:

Em Fallon is the security chief and second in command of Dragonfire Station.  She’s also a master at knife-throwing and hand-to-hand combat! #LGBTQ

Science Fiction

The alpha empath, Danyael Sabre, languishes in a maximum-security prison. His life sentence should spell emotional freedom for the assassin, Zara Itani, but true to her contrary nature, she travels the solitary and hazardous path from hate to love even though it is far too late for her and Danyael.

The Heroine:

Zara Itani is an assassin: Practical, focused, determined and dangerous. Shes also cynical, borderline paranoid, and tends to shoot before asking questions–and that’s on a good day, after she’s had her coffee and put on her make-up.

Science Fiction

A suburban house in Oklahoma vanishes into a roaring abyss. A supertanker at sea suffers a fiery destruction. A blast in China drills a gigantic cavern into a mountainside. A severed arm plummets from the sky in Missouri. Could these catastrophes possibly be related? 

The Heroine:

Dacey Livingstone is a kick-ass geologist who wears a hat that reads, “Schist Happens”. She risks life and limb to uncover the secrets of the most dangerous objects ever to threaten our universe.

Fantasy/Paranormal

Lucia Ashta

YA Fantasy

Magic is dangerous. It can get you killed.
But magic is coming for Clara. She can choose the safe path, or she can claim her power and face all the dangers it comes with.

The Heroine:

Clara’s parents want to treat her like property and marry her off to a man she’s never met. But she won’t stand for that – Clara has better ideas.

Fantasy

Cianne Wyland leads a double life. No one in House Staerleigh would suspect that the meek woman on whom they heap their disdain is a
gatherer of secrets. But Cianne
 never expected to find evidence implicating her own father in a conspiracy. The only person she can turn to for help is Kila – a man who has no idea who she really is.

The Heroine:

Cianne is underestimated because of her lack of gods-given gifts. She uses this to her advantage, training herself to become a skilled fighter and acrobat, using her skills to collect their secrets and uncover the corruption at her House’s core.

Paranormal Romance

 Sanura Williams, psychology professor, is unprepared when Special Agent Assefa Berber enters her life, hunting a preternatural serial killer. In a world where all is not as it seems, Sanura and Assefa must battle the gods’ first creations – vile predators who threaten the safety of humans. 

The Heroine:

Sanura Williams is smart, sexy, and capable of harnessing the most dangerous element on the planet. She is the Fire Witch of Legend–blazing, raging, untamable. #WoC #OwnVoices

Paranormal Romance

 Being a socially awkward, sarcastic orphan wasn’t easy for Freya Snow, but it had nothing on demon attacks.
When she first discovers her magical heritage, Freya doesn’t realize that there is a far darker side to this new world, and powerful enemies are after her head.

The Heroine:

Freya’s always just a few sarcastic comments from picking herself back up and standing her ground, especially when her friends are in danger.
What’s the harm in a few minor (or major) stab wounds?

Paranormal Action/Adventure

Librarian. Assassin. Vampire. Raised to eat ethically, Amber dines only on delicious, cold-blooded killers. And then, she gets the perfect job offer: Assassin. She’d be paid to eat the world’s worst butchers. How ideal.
Until it isn’t.

The Heroine:

Amber Fang is a quick-witted vampire who uses her librarian research skills to hunt down killers Dexter-style and take them out… for dinner.

YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Seluna doesn’t know why she was admitted to an all-female insane asylum. She doesn’t know how she makes inanimate objects come to life. And she can’t figure out the reason for the sadistic experiments on girls here—many of whom are never heard from again.

The Heroine:

 Seluna isn’t about to accept the rigid stereotypes and punishments for women who “act out” in this Victorian England otherworld. She’ll have to use cunning and powers no one knows she has to discover why she was sent to Silver Hill.

YA Fantasy

In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse: A creature which seeks to destroy 16-year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses.

The Heroines:

A girl with forbidden magic, a Water Priestess who defies her church to protect her, and a girl who helps them both: it’s a triad of strong women!

Fantasy

Hunted and desperate, Ella, former Luminess of the Blue Mountain Realm, must evade her pursuers and fulfill a mission given by the gods. She carries a strange, otherworldly device, the purpose of which she does not know. Her only aid is her sharp intelligence . . . that, and a devoted soldier named Rathan, who has sworn to protect her.

The Heroine:

Ella, the former ruler of her people is on the run from the man who deposed her. Her fierce will and independent spirit are enough to turn impossible odds into a harrowing flight through dangerous snow-covered woods.

C.L. Lynch

Zombie Rom-Com

Snarky, seventeen-year-old Stella Blunt doesn’t make friends easily. The only person in her new school who likes her is the shy geek in her Chemistry class. He loves her brains, but then again, he’s a zombie. Can Stella take on first love, or will she have to take it out with a chain saw?

The Heroine:

Stella is large, loud, and foul-mouthed with a big chip on her shoulder. She finds kung fu and witty banter easy – it’s learning how to trust other people that she finds hard.

Post Apocalyptic Romance

Kidnapping her was the worst mistake he ever made.
Dangerous outlaw, Lucius Wade, lives only for revenge. But when he kidnaps a girl in order to lure an old friend into a trap, he discovers that he may have bitten off more than he can chew…

The Heroine:

Riley Kincaid has learned how to stand on her own two feet in the brutal Wasteland she calls home, and she has no intention of being your standard “kidnapped damsel in distress”. She’s about to turn alpha hero kidnap tropes on their heads.

Children’s Fantasy/Dystopian

In 2067, a mysterious SOS is sent into space. Wise One and Kriaka Adi, leaders of their tribes, are battling against the evil Dragons. Princess Reena, the future Queen of a faraway planet, is dispatched to aid the last humans on Earth.

The Heroines:

This whole story is chock full of powerful women, from magic-using leaders to powerful extraterrestrials.

Paranormal Romance

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins. The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare – a purpose.

The Heroine:

Nava Katz doesn’t take no for an answer. She’s a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess. When she finds herself in an all-male secret society, she has to challenge a lot of preconceived notions about what makes a hero.

 

Women’s Lit

High school outcast Cass uses the secrets her ghostly friends dig up to expose the lies and backstabbing between her fellow students. Then the popular student council V.P. discovers her secret and unexpectedly asks her for help. She’s surprised to find he’s not so bad—and he’s in more trouble than anyone else suspects. Is it time to give the living another chance?

The Heroine:

Cass takes “Mean Girls” to the next level, using her ghostly friends to reveal secrets that need to be told. She is comfortable with herself and doesn’t care what other people think.

 

Nelly has a mission—to make the Internet beautiful. After a failed presentation at the office, she turns to the world of hacking. When her lavish designs begin to appear on high-profile websites, the Internet starts to pay attention. Nelly’s work goes viral as the multitudes read political and social messages into her decorations. Is she headed for trouble?

The Heroine:

Nelly knows she is right, and when her ideas are laughed at, she charges ahead anyway… even if her off-kilter sense of style lands her in cyber trouble.

 

A romantic comedy about a woman who finds there is more to Belly dancing than a  costume and more to life than a partner.

The Heroine:

Sheryl is an overweight woman of thirty five. Her ego has been battered by a bad romance and an over-bearing mother, and for a while Sheryl drowns her sorrows in alcohol. But Sheryl has a talent for DIY, is as comfortable with a drill as she is with a whisky, and she can also belly dancing like a goddess.

With You – Bonus Story For Fans of “Chemistry”

As some of you already know, I’ve been working on making some bonus short stories about the characters in Chemistry. These include one about Howie as a child when he was first adopted by Morton Mullins, and the story of how Tim and Elaine Blunt first met.

Well, the first story is ready to be read, and if you’re impatiently waiting for me to publish History, this can help fill your time.

With You takes place between Chemistry and History. Told from Howie’s POV, With You will give you a unique insight into some of the events in History, and hints at what is to come.

As the new year approaches, Stella and Howie are driven to discuss the future, and Howie must make a choice between lying to Stella and facing the truth.

 

Also, if you have any friends who you think should read Chemistry, tell them that Chemistry is free in the kindle store today and tomorrow (Jan 13th and 14th)!

Underground Certified – I Need You!

Woo hoo! Chemistry has been “Underground Certified” by Underground Book Reviews. This respected magazine checks all submissions to ensure that they really are small/independent press books, and that they meet publication-quality requirements.

I’m happy to have cleared the first hurdle, and now there’s another – if they so choose, their book reviewers can review my book. An editorial review from Underground Book Reviews would mean a lot to me. I have an editorial review coming in January from The Midwest Book Review (my favourite quote is “Chemistry doesn’t just tell a story – it roars it”) but the more editorial reviews I get, the better.

I would be really grateful if any of you did the following things – you can vote for Chemistry to be reviewed, which helps improve visibility. You can also leave reviews/endorsements at the bottom of the page. If any of you are members, then I would be really grateful if you would hop on over. And if you aren’t a member… why not? It’s free and they have good, impartial, highly respected book reviews that exclusively focus on independent and small press books.

Happy holidays, everyone. I’m working on a holiday gift for fans of Chemistry – a holiday short story about Stella and Howie, which connects between the first and second book of the series. In other words, it will give you some interesting insights to the events in the second book which other people won’t have…

More on that in a day or two. Over and out!

When Your Heroine is a “Nasty Woman”

Stella Blunt is not an easy character to like.

While some people admire her instantly for her snark, and identify with her easy anger, many others are put off by her. Who can blame them? Stella starts the story by yelling and swearing in front of her parents. One of my reviewers called her “rude”, “inconsiderate”, “judgmental” and “selfish” – and that was from a positive review!

It isn’t unwarranted criticism, either. It’s just TRUTH. And that means that a certain number of people are going to read the opening pages, and close the book forever.

But it’s not something I would ever change.

The problem of Stella’s personality is the heart and soul of Chemistry. It is the first topic of conversation as the book opens.

“What’s wrong with my F***ING ATTITUDE?”

“Do you want the short list or the unexpurgated version?” snapped Dad.

Her own best friends are quite open about the fact that Stella is a difficult person to like.

“You are going to have to try and change a bit if you want to have the slightest hope of making people like you.”

“Like her?” said Jeremy, “How about just not hate?”

“You two are so good for my self-esteem.”

“We love you, Stella, but you’re about as friendly as a hungry cobra. Do us a favour and try not to beat anyone up on your first day, okay?” Jeremy folded his hands together pleadingly.

Stella swears compulsively. She uses anger as a defense mechanism. She’s so used to being rejected that she’s swift to reject people before they can even get around to rejecting her. Stella carries such a massive chip on her shoulder that it’s probably visible from space.

This is the heroine that I’m handing to my readers. I’m not giving them an easy task, and I know that.

But the world of fiction is already full of shy, caring, likeable heroines. They’re indecisive. They’re easily manipulated. They’re afraid to speak up. They’re riddled with guilt, often unnecessarily. They’re everything that society wants and expects from a woman.

I wanted to give the world a different kind of heroine. Stella swears. She’s assertive. She doesn’t take any crap. She makes demands. She expresses her feelings loudly and clearly. She takes up space, and she doesn’t offer any apologies for it.

Stella, in summary, has a lot of traits that are considered masculine. Assertiveness, swearing, and aggression are considered more acceptable in men and male characters. But assertive, aggressive women will be dubbed “bitches” – they are the kind of woman that Trump would call “nasty”.

But if women want to survive in male-dominated fields, they need to develop some of these features. Analysis of female CEOs has found that they share certain personality traits, like assertiveness and aggression. They have also found that accommodating people who work hard to please others are actually less likely to become business leaders.

I think it’s important for young women to meet female characters who are comfortable being assertive and aggressive. Even supposedly “strong” heroines like Katniss Everdeen tend to go where they are pushed much of the time.

I also think it’s important for us to learn to look past someone’s outward behaviour and get to know what makes them tick – once people learn more about Stella and understand her better, they get to like her. And Stella is only seventeen. She has a lot to learn, a lot of prejudice to overcome, and some insecurities to be defeated. She has a lot of growing to do.

Stella’s journey is at the heart of Chemistry, and it continues on through the series. I think that’s how things should be, when you start a book series. What point is there in reading about a character who doesn’t have flaws to overcome? Who wants a Mary Sue? Aren’t there enough of those?

So if you looked at the first few pages and you didn’t like Stella Blunt, that’s okay. You aren’t alone. But give her a chance, and she may surprise you.

Nasty women often do.

I’m So Excited Right Now

Chemistry has been available for pre-order on the Amazon kindle store for the last month and a half, and I’ve been watching it rise in the rankings as the pre-order sales come in. The pre-order finished tomorrow (Wednesday) and I guess all of the people who have been on the fence about getting the Kindle version have decided to bite the bullet while they can still get it at the pre-order price of $0.99. The book will go up to $3.99 next week.

My rankings have skyrocketed. Chemistry hit number one in its category (Teen Self Esteem fiction) in Canada first, and that was exciting enough. But yesterday I hit number one in the hot new releases section of Amazon.com for the category, too! Pretty good, considering I haven’t even published it yet!

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I think I have those great goodreads reviews to thank. If you left me one of those rave reviews, thank you so much! Once my book is published on Amazon, people can start leaving me Amazon reviews, too. I’m so excited right now.

If you haven’t managed to grab Chemistry at the pre-order price, you might want to do it now. Prices go up soon! And if you’re waiting for the print edition, don’t worry. That’s coming next week.

The Continent: All Kinds of Nope

[Background for those who are unacquainted with the drama surrounding The Continent. If you already know this stuff, feel free to skip to the meat of my post]

The Continent is a young adult fantasy novel slated to be published by Harlequin Teen in January 2017. Some advance reviewers have called out the novel for racism. For a detailed breakdown of all the problems, check out this review and this twitter rant.

I haven’t read the book myself, but basically the novel, among other things, involves a wealthy privileged white race, and a variety of other races – one of which is red/brown and uses bow and arrows, and another which has “almond shaped” eyes and Japanese-sounding names. The Mary Sue, who is white, of course, sails in, learns all about the cultures involved and somehow saves everything.

This is all a summary of what I have read in reviews, again. I am not speaking first hand and for more correct details I refer you to read reviews written by those who have read the book.

Anyway, reviewers pointed out the racism, and they were immediately attacked by fragile whites with death threats and such. Then people turned on the author and sent HER death threats and such. Both reactions are very uncool. Death threats never made a person less racist, or less offended, and therefore don’t solve anything.

The author posted a response basically saying that death threats are uncool (which I agree with) and saying that her book isn’t racist because she didn’t intend it to be. In fact, she intended it to have an anti-racist message.

These are my thoughts.

First of all, I completely believe the author when she says that she didn’t mean to be racist. I know racism is woven into the very fabric of our culture’s unconscious. I know that it’s possible to consciously believe that all people are equal and that racism is bad, while still mindlessly following the racist scripts that we were raised on, from the “magic negro” to Asian fetishism.

HOWEVER.

If you are white, and you have not devoted yourself to ferreting out these subtle, unconscious assumptions, and stomping on them, then you are part of the problem.

It is not the job of POC’s to constantly point racism out to us (although it is certainly helpful when they do). If you are caught being accidentally racist, it’s your job to say, “I see. I’m so sorry. I’m an idiot.” You cannot make excuses, because no matter what you think your reason is for being racist, the real reason is simply that you didn’t ferret out your subtle, unconscious racist assumptions and stomp on them well enough.

Keira Drake failed on the first point. She clearly didn’t make the slightest effort to check her story for racism, otherwise she would have known that the shining-white-saviour-who-saves-the-other-races is a storyline that POCs really, really, REALLY dislike and for good reason. It doesn’t matter that the white saviour usually learns to love and embrace these other cultures. It’s still considered a racist storyline, even in fantasy genres *cough*AVATAR*cough*.

She also failed on the second point – while she is, at least, apologetic about her offense (rather than pulling a Trump and doubling down as so many fragile whites are wont to do), she made excuses. Because the arrow-shooting, savage red/brown people aren’t based on NATIVE AMERICANS! Oh, no, they are based off of Tolkien’s Uruk-Hai. You know, the dark-skinned, flat-nosed race from Lord of the Rings that has sparked accusations of Eurocentrism and racism against Tolkien? That one. So, totally not racist.

And that other race? It isn’t meant to be Japanese or any other Asian race. It’s a FANTASY race that just HAPPENS to have ‘almond shaped’ eyes. And she made their language sound Japanese because she thinks the language is really beautiful. It’s all just an unfortunate coincidence!

“They are a fantasy race: brave, intense, flawed, invented.”

I believe that she didn’t mean to be racist, but I find it a lot harder to believe that she didn’t think that her fictional races didn’t bear a passing resemblance to real life peoples. Does she genuinely believe that the eyes and Japanese-style language were completely unrelated? Does she really think that she created something unique in that combination?

And this is where I really go from just frustrated/annoyed to completely astounded.

Because I know that unconscious Eurocentrism plagues our society, and that many, many otherwise good people have committed similar errors. I know that this isn’t okay, but it happens. And while it frustrates me, I can’t say that it surprises me.

Here’s what really surprises me:

Even if you are a person who suffers from unconscious prejudices (as most of us, including I, surely are), surely, as an author, your goal should be to avoid stereotypes?

I mean, who wants to say, “I’m an author! I wrote this book which uses a tired plot line and includes races blatantly similar to ones already created by other authors and/or cultures which exist in real life. Basically, I have created very little which is truly original!”?

Fantasy isn’t really my genre, but if I were to make a fantasy story about a young saviour who manages to resolve hundreds of years of interracial war, I would want to mix it up a bit. Maybe make the saviour brown, or hell, purple or something. Maybe have white people shooting arrows or something. It’d be different, you know?

That’s what really gets me. Even if you can’t understand why stereotypes upset the people they represent, surely you can at least understand that a stereotype is – at the very least – a story which has been told too many times.

For example, take the controversy around Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.

The disabled community was very upset by this book/movie, because it is chock-full of the kinds of stereotypes and tired storylines that they are trying to overcome. When you point this out to fans of the book, they will protest and point out that many people do become depressed and want to kill themselves after a disabling accident. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it has been DONE. It has been done, quite literally, to death.

What about the other people? What about the people who adjust to their new circumstances and continue to find value in life? Why doesn’t someone tell that story? Surely, even if you can’t understand why stories like Me Before You, Million Dollar Baby, The Sea Inside and their ilk bother people with disabilities, you can at least understand that suicidal quadriplegics are hardly original.

As authors, we should strive to tell the stories that are still untold. Do we really want to dress up old tropes and trot them out again with fresh ribbons? Isn’t it better to create something new?

And yes, I realize that all of this sounds ironic, coming from an author whose upcoming book started out as a parody of another author’s work.

But you see, I wrote Chemistry because I wanted to take a tired story-line and make it fresh again. I wanted to jumble it up, and turn it upside down, and reverse the parts that bothered me most. My particular target this time was sexism and abusive relationship tropes, not race or ableism, but I hope my point still stands.

Authors, make something different. Everyone benefits.

And publishers, for heaven’s sake, even if you’re too blinded by your own privilege to spot an offensive stereotype, at least ask yourselves, “do we really need another book like this?”