Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Black teen lives matter

By now, we've all seen or heard about the footage of a school resource officer abusing a Black child.
In the end, abuse is about control and about the abuser's fear that he or she is not, in fact, superior to the victim.  And there is no one authority figures single out for abuse more than Black young people.

“Oh, if their parents taught them to respect authority, this never would have happened,” the internet counters.  So white teenage rebels are iconic and normal and developmentally appropriate, but Black ones are dangerous and need to learn who's boss?  So kids who would get a detention if they were white deserve to get arrested instead?  Forced to put up bail before they can go home and do their homework just because they mouthed off or failed to hand over a phone?

How about maybe if that cop's parents had taught him some respect for other people's human rights, he wouldn't be beating the shit out of a little girl over nothing?  How about maybe if the officer’s training had taught him how to de-escalate conflict and avoid using force, he wouldn’t have attacked a child over an insult to his authority?  How about maybe if people in authority in this school cared more about their students than about saving face, that class would have learned something that day other than don't trust the cops or the school?

I taught inner city high school.  You know what I found to be true?  Kids respect the adults who show them respect.  They know which teachers know their subjects and show up prepared.  They know which administrators care about the students.  They know which teachers love them even after they get into trouble.  They also know which adults are racist or just marking time.  Kids aren't stupid.

I will confess that one time I called the office and asked the resource officer to escort a student out who refused to take my referral and go. I realized as soon as I did it that I had probably handled the situation poorly.  Thankfully, nothing terrible happened, because our school wasn't cool with adults assaulting students, and our officer treated our kids like people.  I didn't like sending students out of my room, because I knew they weren't learning squat sitting in the office.  When they disrupted the learning of the rest of the class, and I couldn't manage to avoid sending them out, I knew it was sometimes as much my failure to better manage the situation as it was a failure on the part of the students.

Should students behave respectfully and cooperatively?  Of course.  Do students sometime need to be removed for endangering others or preventing the class from learning?  Sometimes.  Is it appropriate to criminalize ordinary adolescent mistakes?  No.  Is it appropriate to respond violently when it isn't absolutely necessary?  No.

Why do Black girls get suspended at 6 times the rate of white girls?  It isn't because they're 6 times more disrespectful or 6 times more disruptive.  Teenagers are often a pain in the ass.  They're asserting their independence and make foolish decisions on the regular.  They are not adults.  This is accepted as a fact by almost everyone, as long as the teen in question is white.  Why is being a child and making mistakes of adolescence permitted for white kids and a crime for Black and brown ones?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Paperbacks tips for the indie author

I waited to do the paperback version of She Dies at the End until after I'd released the ebook on Kindle via Kindle Direct Publishing.  I wanted to gauge the level of interest before I put in the time.  I was surprised to find out that a lot of people, even young people, still prefer a physical copy and asked me when one might be available.  Having a two month gap also allowed me to correct some editing issues that came to light after I published the Kindle edition.

I used CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary, to create my paperback.  Here are just a few tips I figured out along the way.

When you upload your text, CreateSpace lets you know the dimensions your cover needs to be based on your pagecount and the size book you choose (6" by 9", for example).  The dimensions include the front and back covers, the spine, and a little extra for bleed.  You can then either use their cover creator or upload a pdf that matches the required dimensions.

I chose to use Canva to design my cover, since that's what I used to do the ebook and I wanted the two to match pretty closely.  Canva lets you do custom dimensions, and I had no problem creating my cover.  Do remember to leave room for the barcode on the back, and make sure the writing on the spine is centered and oriented properly.

I love Canva.  It is free if you use your own images, and the price for their images is quite reasonable.  It is quite versatile, and they have some lovely fonts.  You can hire a cover designer, of course, but if you have to or want to do it yourself, is a good choice.

When you upload your book's docx file to Createspace, it converts your document to the new size and can generate a new docx file for you to download with the proper page dimensions and margins.  You then want to save that file so you can add page numbers, tweak spacing and font, etc.  Remember that you need to choose different odd and even pages under page numbers due to the way books are bound.  (You might need bottom right on odd pages and bottom left on even pages, for example.)  Once you have perfected your work, you upload the new file and submit your cover and interior files for approval.

Once your files are approved and you think the digital proof looks right, get a hard copy proof before you approve your files for publishing.  I cannot stress this enough.  It looks so much different in your hands than on the screen.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why do a paperback?

With e-books becoming so easy to produce, and gaining more and more popularity, many independent authors focus exclusively on that format.  Why, then, did I take the time to produce a paperback version of my novel, She Dies at the End?

Paper still has appeal for the reader

Many people, even young people, still enjoy reading paper books.  There is something about the feel of the paper, the sensation of turning the pages, even the smell of books, that is incredibly appealing.  It's also easier on the eyes than a back-lit screen, though Kindle designers have worked hard on that problem and made considerable progress.

There is also the fact that many people are not comfortable with the constant use of screens, and they will never read a book that isn't printed.  I wanted my work to be available to them, too. 

Producing something tangible is satisfying

There is something very satisfying for a writer in producing a hard copy of her work.  I was so excited to hold my first hard copy proof when it arrived in the mail.  I got to admire it and feel the pride that comes with being able to say, "I created this thing my very own self."  And in my case, I did it all myself, cover design and formatting included.

Seeing your e-book appear on Amazon and seeing it getting downloaded is also satisfying, but being able to touch your creation is pretty special.  And what can be more fun than seeing it on the shelf next to books you've read and loved, books that have influenced your life and your writing?

I would encourage other indie authors to consider publishing paperbacks as well as e-books.  With print on demand, there is no longer a huge financial investment required to self-publish on paper.  If you have the time to handle the conversion yourself, it is very educational.  If you have the money to pay someone else to do it for you, and you don't want the hassle, more power to you.  But I think it's worth trying at least once.  I'll be blogging soon with some tips for the first-timer.  Happy writing, and happy reading!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How I wound up with a "new adult" novel

Okay, true confessions time: I kind of wrote a “new adult” novel by accident and realized it after the fact.  An emerging genre, new adult novels typically feature a protagonist between the ages of 18 and 25.  Often they are going off to college or starting their career.  The main character is dealing with many of the coming of age issues common in young adult literature but in a more adult fashion. The facing of first loves, insecurities, new friends, and new challenges might be similar, but with fewer of the constraints of a high school student's life.  Some people consider new adult to be young adult lit with more sex and language, which is, I think, a bit of an oversimplification.  

So, how did I wind up with a new adult novel?

I was writing a novel with vampires, so I wanted my female protagonist to be at least 18.  Why?  For one thing, a centuries old dude hitting on 16 year old girl is gross; I don't care if he's a virgin (cough, Edward Cullen, cough). The girl being eighteen isn't a whole lot better, but that is where we draw the line of adulthood at the moment.  So, yeah, I'm anti-statutory rape.  I guess that makes me "Team Jacob."

I also think eighteen is an interesting age. You are technically free from parental control but you haven't really learned how to be an adult.  You have the promise of new adventure and independence, with a healthy side of fear and crippling inexperience.  And I think inside of everyone there is a part of us that is always 18.  When we start doing something truly new to us (like, maybe, writing our first novel . . .), we recapture a bit of that feeling of exhilarated uncertainty.  I think that is part of why we all enjoy coming of age stories so much.

A lot of our favorite pieces of pop culture could easily fall into this "new adult" category.  Star Wars is largely about Luke's journey to adulthood and Jedihood.  I guess Degobah isn't exactly college, but close enough.  The Star Trek reboot features officers just out of school.  Agents of Shield focuses on Skye/Daisy, a girl in her early twenties trying to figure out who she is and what she is meant to do with her life and her emerging power.  How to Get away with Murder is peopled by a bunch of law school students. And that is just off the top of my head.

Of course, works of fiction tend to fall into several categories at once. She Dies at the End is also a paranormal fantasy and a vampire story, occasionally even a romance. But, overall, it's about November coming to terms with her gifts and her own agency in her life, which is something we all go through, even without vampires and fairies and werewolves along for the ride.

This time in our lives, the period of early adulthood, obviously retains an emotional pull.  I guess its gravity pulled me in, and a new adult novel is where I wound up.  Now I’ll just pretend I did it on purpose.  Shh!  Don’t tell anybody.