Thursday, July 2, 2020

Groundhogging it at the Lake



By Cheryl Oreglia

It is almost Independence Day, I'm up at the lake, preparing the house for our annual 4th of July celebrations, listening to Blake belt out your lips taste like sangria (you must click on the song while reading). Just for the hell of it, I lick my lips. Nothing. Nada. They taste a little like chapstick and peanut butter. I won’t be falling into a wild warm kiss any time soon. Story of my life. And then as if I were able to materialize shit right from my thoughts, a tub of sangria walks through the front door and lands on our overly laden counter. Well, the tub didn’t actually walk into the house, it was carried by one of our more creative children, but I’m fairly certain my lips will soon taste like sangria.

When the cars are stacked up like dominos in the driveway I think “it’s time to get this party started…Tippin’ n’ spilling that home-made wine.” The house is fully stocked, sangria is flowing, and there is no chance we’ll go hungry, thirsty, or lonely for the next three days. #whoareallthesepeople? The Snapchats are posting, tweets are rolling out, and the weekend hashtags are taking form. Our top three: #frontallobing (I didn’t hear a thing you just said), #slushietime (adult beverage for adults that want to act like children), #wheresthekids (self-evident).

The age range this year is sixty to three. It somehow works. We're hosting my daughter's family of five, my Bostonian daughter who has been staying with us for a few months, and my youngest son who will be MIA all weekend, he's here, but I don’t know actually know where he's landed. The extended family owns three houses in this small lakefront community, and the cousins sort of shuffle from place to place. He does return my texts, so unless he’s being held by a hostel texter, I believe he’s fine. I begrudgingly remind myself we are celebrating our independence from the motherland.

All week there are these incredible pyrotechnics displays hosted by towns and casinos all around the lake, like a dress rehearsal for the big event, and we'll make it to most of them cheering, “Here’s to our lady” and "God Bless America." The script is the same, we boat out at dusk, drop anchor with hundreds of other boats dotting the lake, and sip sangria. It's the perfect social distancing event.

Fourth of July is like Groundhog Day, it repeats every year, even though the cast of characters seems to ebb and flow. We don’t have Tony this year who's stuck in Portugal due to COVID travel regulations, or my inlaws who decided to stay home, protected from the virus. Independence Day. Damn. I hate the reminder, as I plot and plan how to entice my son Tony to ditch Portugal and return to the states permanently. He is not having it. Hiking, camping, working for a startup, living in a swanky apartment on the edge of Lisbon is more enticing then boring Campbell. Can't blame me for trying? I’m proud of him. Livin the dream…

This weekend will undoubtedly include five-mile hikes straight up the face of Mt. Konocti, we'll enjoy some long boat rides, firework displays, we'll follow Kelley's Instastories with fascination, there'll be great meals, good wine, campfires, roasted marshmallows, outdoor movies, and lots of leisurely conversations. We'll watch the decorated golf carts parade around Kono Tayee on the morning of the 4th and play endless games of Mexican Train. I don't usually win but you never know? That's why we play and maybe that's why we return every year? Something about the known mixing with the unknown it's enticing.

Seth Godin says, “All of us have a narrative. It’s the story we tell ourselves about how we got here, what we’re building, what our urgencies are. And within that narrative, we act in a way that seems reasonable. To be clear, the narrative isn’t true. It’s merely our version, our self-talk about what’s going on. It’s the excuses, perceptions, and history we’ve woven together to get through the world. It’s our grievances and our perception of privilege, our grudges, and our loves.”

We celebrate our independence or freedom of thought, as we build our lives we get to decide who fits into our narrative, and who doesn’t. I think that might be our only true freedom. I realize it is difficult to understand each other, mostly because #frontallobing has become a national obsession, and we certainly don’t want to make the difficult journey, one if by land, two if by sea, to empathize with each other. Your thoughts are as foreign to me as mine is to you. But here’s the newsflash. We occupy the same territory in glory or defeat. I am so happy to run through the streets yelling, “the regulars are coming.” The people in my life who show up, brandishing the wine, and are thrilled (or at least reconciled) about ending up in my damn narrative. Life is a privilege, family, and friends a rare blessing, and this year I feel all the more grateful.

Eventually, the cars will pull away, the flags will be retired, and with horns honking the troops will return to Campbell. I usually stay back and finish up the housekeeping, they'll be at least eight loads of laundry, three blessed toilets to scrub (for which we are thankful), miles of sticky floors to mop (sangria much), and a pantry to reorder. I'll listen to pandora as I work, until that magical song comes on, “your lips taste like sangria,” and I'll take that as a sign.

Time to wipe the sweat from my face, put down the toilet brush, and go in search of a fruity beverage. I'll find that pitcher of leftover sangria in the back of the fridge! I'll pour myself a glass and dump my weary ass in a lounge chair on the back deck. Eventually, everything will be quiet and calm, the vacationers will pull out, and I'll embrace the silence like a long lost lover. Until next year...

A penny for your thoughts?


When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, join me anytime! 

Monday, June 29, 2020

The First Pride Was a Riot


The First Pride Was a Riot
The first Pride was a riot.

Riah Milton and Dominique“Rem'Mie” Fells were killed amid an increasing outcry –
Advocates are renewing their call to end violence against transgender people after two black trans women were murdered this week –

We mourn those we have lost.

Continuing a disturbing trend of violence against the transgender community, two more Black trans women were killed this week—
Tony McDade was a Black transgender man shot by police in May—

Say His Name.

A video circulating on social media shows a group of 20 to 30 people hitting Iyanna Dior outside a store—

Say Her Name.

Thousands Take to the Streets to Demand Justice for Murdered Trans Women—
Dear Community, It has happened again. As we bury yet another Black trans woman whose valuable voice—

Say it louder.

Muhlaysia Booker was brutally beaten and then found shot dead a few weeks later—
Two Black transgender women were killed this week—

Weeks and weeks the weak and cowardly close their fists in hate.

Marsha P. Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River six days after she was reported missing in 1992.

Say her name.
Throw rocks.

Black trans lives matter.
The first Pride was a riot.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Defining Characteristics in The Good Place

I started watching The Good Place over lockdown - I know, VERY late to this one - and 25 episodes in, I started paying attention to the characterizations and how damn good they are. They're consistent, easily summarized, and at first glance, seemingly one-dimensional.

Except they're not, which is the magic of the whole thing. And where I started taking notes as a writer.

First, you've got Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell. She's self-absorbed, self-centered yet somehow she's ended up in The Good Place. Her focus for ALL of season 1 is not getting found out so she can stay in The Good Place. 

Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper, is Eleanor's so-called soulmate. He's an ethics professor from Australia who lets Eleanor convince him to help her. Helping her means intense ethics lessons and a fair bit of lying, which doesn't really sit well with the ethics professor.

Tahani Al-Jamil, played by Jameela Jamil, is a do-gooder British socialite who believes she belongs in The Good Place. After all, she raised billions of pounds for charity. Why wouldn't she belong there?

Her soulmate is played by Manny Jacinto, posing as a monk who's taken a vow of silence. In reality, he's Jason Mendoza from Jacksonville, Florida and he's taken a vow of silence because the minute he speaks, you can't help figuring out how dumb he is. That sounds harsh, but, really, that's his thing and it's evident in every interaction he has.

The brilliant thing about these characters being so pigeon-holed, though, (for lack of a better word) is that the viewer can't help seeing how they grow and change. It feels like an "a-ha" moment for the viewer as well as the character when Tahani starts to realize that maybe she's not as fabulous as she thinks she is. Or Eleanor isn't as "bad" as she thinks she is. Through backstory/flashbacks, WE see the truth, but when the character sees it, it's kind of magical.

For me, thinking about this related to characterization in writing is useful in that it's forced me to think about my characters' defining characteristic. What is the thing that your readers will instantly associate with your protagonist? Chidi, for example, is paralyzed by decision-making, for fear of making the wrong one. Jason has a thing for hot wings from a particular bar in Jacksonville, and Eleanor's past life included a lot of free drinks. These things become so ingrained with the characters that the minute a scene shifts to a bar, the viewer can almost always expect an Eleanor scene.

I don't know how the level of repetition would play on the page, as opposed to a weekly television series (even if it is being binge watched), but it's a technique that I've started to recognize more and more in some of the books I'm reading. What makes it successful to me, both in print and on the screen, is that for every time it's stated outright, it's shown through actions three times as much. We see Chidi struggling to choose a flavor of frozen yogurt way more than he tells us he can't decide and he hates making decisions.

As a reader, I don't want to be hit over the head with anything, especially h a character telling me who they are or what they love/hate/stand for. But I am willing to be shown. Multiple times.

I'm curious if you, as writers, think consciously about this and how you weave it into your story so it's organic. So far, my draft is littered with thoughts about defining characteristics, but I haven't actually defined them, so I'm super curious what you think and how/if you approach this!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Google Search: Will My Cat...?

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! Mary here with the latest Google Search segment! Like pretty much everyone else in the US, I've spent the past 3 months holed up at home. This has led to me spending a LOT of time with my cat. The little fuzzball is in my face day in and day out, seemingly in defiance of all those memes joking about how much cats hate this whole quarantine thing because it means their people are around all the time.

Cats, of course, are little weirdos. One minute, they're purring and cuddling, and the next they're attacking your pen as you're trying to take notes during a work call. Being at home all day means I've observed way more of my cat's antics, and I have a lot of questions (seriously though, why is he obsessed with chewing plastic bags??).

So for this Google Search segment, I decided to see what everyone else was wondering about their feline friends.



... Interesting. I can't say these are questions that have personally crossed my mind, but apparently plenty of others have been wondering about them.

I'm not even going to pretend to have the answers to these, since that would mean pretending to understand cats, and we all know that's impossible. Instead, I'll just log my reactions to each of the auto-fill questions.

Will my cat eat my eyeballs?

Why is this the first one that comes up? Though now that I've got the mental image in mind, I can't help thinking of a horror/thriller scene where someone comes in to find a twitching, still-alive cat owner with their eyeballs eaten out and a demonic-looking kitty licking itself with satisfaction... Maybe if I were one of our resident horror writers I would've made flash fic out of that, but instead all I can do is go, "Eek!"

Will my cat come back?

Aw this one breaks my heart since it was probably typed by people whose kitties had run off :-(. To all y'all wondering this, I hope the answer is "yes!"

Will my cat eat me if I die?

Heh, probably, if it's out of food and has no way to get out and find more. Frankly, I wouldn't care if my cat decided to eat me after I was dead. I mean, I'd be dead. What would I care.

Will my cat remember me?

Aww... I'd think so. Despite years of dog-people propaganda about how cats don't like their humans, us cat people know how affectionate our kitties are.

Will my cat forget me?

Same thing, I guess.

Will my cat forgive me?

Lol I can only assume this was typed by people after they accidentally stepped on their cats' tails or otherwise freaked them out and were greeted with growls and hisses for the rest of the day. Having wound up in this position (because I thought it'd be funny to lift my cat like Simba in the Lion King... my cat was less than amused), I can say, "Yup, just let him be a brat for a day or two." Funniest part about the day my cat decided he hated me was that he would get all purr-y and cute when food was at stake, but then go right back to growling and hissing afterward. Kind of reminds me of some people...

Will my cat run away?

I hope not! Though I will say I'm glad I live on the 23rd floor of an apartment building, so that's not a worry for me.

Will my cat eat my plants?

Y'know, my cat's been weirdly good about not eating my spider plant (or my betta fish back when I had one). He does like cucumbers though for some weird reason, so who knows, maybe he just doesn't like spider plants.

Anyway, I can't end this post without a picture of the kitty in question, so here's Dorian, attacking a pile of embroidery floss I was attempting to untangle and sort (and then having to wear one of the friendship bracelets I was making out of said floss):




Thursday, June 18, 2020

Having Multiples...Genres That Is: Interview with Jacqueline Garlick

Good morning, readers. I hope this post finds you well.

Today we are uber fortunate to bring you an interview with indie author Jacqueline Garlick.

Jacqueline writes twisty, edgy books in multiple genres, and how-to guides for writers. Plus, she's Canadian, so bonus points right there. Her Illumination Paradox series has the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen. You'll see why in a sec.


Welcome to Across the Board. First, I must ask, how are you holding up during this weird plot twist in our timeline? Is your state open? Are you finding a return to normal? Are you able to write? 


I'm actually Canadian, so my Province has been in lockdown essentially since March 13th. We are just now coming out of that... slowly--very slowly. Our government is opening us back up in phases. We are currently in phase two and the numbers of infections are staying low so far, thank goodness. We all have our fingers crossed. As for me, I've dealt with the pandemic by digging into writing. I needed something to keep my mind off things and writing has always been my great escape. So writing has been my best friend. It's been difficult to write with everyone at home, but I've learned to adjust. I have to say, if there's an upside to all this, I've now discovered I can work just about anywhere, through any kind of interruption--and that my family and friends remain safe and well. 

Do you think your writing, especially your mystery and thriller work, will have to change to reflect the current pandemic? 
I don't think I want it to. I feel like this is a time when people need to escape from reality--especially this one. Cozy mysteries by design, are meant to be an escape. The cozies I write, under a pen name, are light-hearted and funny, and a little bit zany, which I hope helps to transport readers out of the real world and into my make believe one, where; although, there is always murder, readers are assured that everything is going to be okay in the end. 

Have you noticed any changes in indie publishing since the start of the pandemic? 

I don't think so, other than maybe more people have had time to pursue their interest in writing. I've seen a lot of more courses being offered over social media, and heard a lot more people talking about pursuing their dreams of writing. Which is very cool. 

What is your biggest takeaway when it comes to indie publishing and trying to make a dent in a crowded market?

You need to write stories the market will bear. Meaning, not essentially 'write to market' books... but 'write for 'A' market' books. There is nothing worse than writing a good book and having no one read it. But the reality is, if there are not avid readers searching in that genre, it will not be read. 

Your cover art--particularly for your fantasy work--is absolutely exquisite. Who does them? What is your design process like?

I use a few different high-end cover designers. Regina Wamba, is one. I always develop the concepts of the covers myself, and then work with designers who are willing to help bring my vision to life. For my Illumination Paradox Series, I held a private shoot to capture the feeling of the covers I wanted. I then provided the cover designer with the photographs and a plan for the treatment, and she did an amazing job. I love those covers to this day!

Who are your favorite authors? Who are you reading right now?

I read loads of thrillers and cozies. My two faves. I love love love Ruth Ware. I will read anything she writes. I also love, love, love Kate Morton. I will also read anything she writes. On the cozy side, I'm currently enjoying Murder at Enderley Hall by Helena Dixon. Very twisty and detailed. 

What are you binge watching?

I'm getting caught up on The Great British (and Canadian) Baking Show(s) and loving, Upload on Amazon TV.  Oh, and this new show called Good Girls Revolt, also on Amazon TV. It's a sleeper. But I'm super loving that one. 
 
What is next for you?

I'm working on a new paranormal-based cozy series--my second. And I'm also finishing my first!!! I'm really enjoying it. 
 
Thanks for asking. And thanks for having me!
 
Thanks for being here. To check out Jacqueline's books or to reach her, head on over to her website

Monday, June 15, 2020

It's Hard to Make Art in a Messed-Up World

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
I have a confession: I haven’t finished writing anything in months. During those same months, a pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, and marches to protect the lives of Black people have been met with inaction and/or police violence. It’s a bit of a mess out there.

But wait, wait, isn’t turmoil supposed to breed great art? So we should be in the middle of a perfect storm for creativity, right? There is so much to say, and we can say it with insightful art fuelled by the anxiety and dread that keeps every tortured artist going.

I remember when Bush Jr. became president of the U.S. in 2001, musicians explicitly said stuff like “at least there’s an upside, because great music is born out of rebellion.”

Yet I’ve gotten nothing done in the last few months. WTF.

I’m a brain scientist in my day job, so I usually seek answers in science first. A quick review of the literature shows that, actually, happy people tend to be the most creative. Depression, stress, and anxiety either have no effect, or actively harm creativity.

The tortured artist: fake news

More anecdotally, in hindsight we can see that Bush’s reign led to a lot of war and turmoil, but did musicians create their best work? Some of the top songs during the later part of his term:
  • Thnks fr th Mmrs
  • Buy U a Drank
  • SexyBack
  • This is Why I’m Hot
  • Crank That (Soulja Boy)
All perfectly fine songs, but not exactly a Renaissance for rebellion music that will be remembered for centuries (for centuriiies (sorry, I actually really like Fall Out Boy)).

Even individual artists don’t create their best work when grieving for unique personal reasons, according to this study.

As anyone who has completed a creative pursuit knows, it takes a lot of hard work. Anything that distracts from that work isn't really helping—it's not like complicated, tumultuous emotions can just pop out of your head and take form as a profound work of art. Turmoil may inform art, or inspire art, but you still have to put fingers to keyboard, pick to guitar, brush to canvas, whatever, and it's difficult to do that when you're curled in a ball with tears in your eyes and a pain in your gut from stress-eating another tub of ice cream to briefly distract yourself from the day's latest round of Twitter-fueled fuckery.

Which is to say … we need to keep fighting. Worrying that your mom will die of a horrible respiratory disease won’t create the next Mona Lisa. Continued systemic racism won’t be responsible for the next Prince (after all, George Floyd was a musician). Let’s eradicate this virus and eradicate white supremacy, because there is no artistic upside to this shit.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Spotlight on Black Indie SFF Authors

www.karissalaurel.com
Being in the writing community, and particularly the Science Fiction and Fantasy community, I saw a lot of wonderful promotion of black SFF authors last week on #blackouttuesday. I saw retweets and posts of recommended reading including big name authors like Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemesin, Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shaw, Tomi Adeyemi, Marlon James, Victor LaValle, Dhonielle Clayton, Ta-Nehesi Coates, and Justina Ireland, to name a very few.

But being an indie author myself, my interests and loyalties lie most with that community. The growth of the indie book industry has been due in large part to BIPOC authors who have historically struggled to find fair and equal representation in the traditional publishing industry. In response, they created new means by which to tell and distribute their stories to the masses. Without BIPOC authors, the small publishing and self-publishing world wouldn't have the success, massive selection, diversity, and growing respect it's earning today. Things are changing in traditional publishing, but those dinosaurs are notoriously slow and lumbering. In the meantime, the indie world is rich and abounding in fresh stories told by black authors, and I'm highlighting (with their permissions) a few black indie SFF authors today.

Constance Burris is on a journey to take over the world through writing fantasy, horror, and
science fiction. Her mission is to spread the love of speculative fiction to the masses. She is a proud card carrying blerd (black nerd), mother, and wife. When she is not writing and spending time with her family, she is working hard as an environmental engineer in Oklahoma City.

Elves, Dragons, Shapeshifters, and Dwarves

Everything looked bleak until...

...the situation took a turn for the worse

In the realm of the fey, humans are hated.

And Coal is a human in love with his best friend who is about to become an elven queen. But Princess Chalcedony may not be as set on tradition as he thinks.

Before Coal and Chalcedony can unravel their feelings for one another, their lives are changed forever, and both will have to make terrible choices.

You'll be hooked by a world of elves, dragons, dwarves, and fairies because everyone loves a good fantasy.

Available on Amazon

Tessa is a Giant.


Well, she's almost a giant.


Before she could reach the usual ten feet of most giants, a fey queen offered her a potion to stunt her growth.

And it worked.

Now she's living her best life. Yes, she's six and a half feet tall, but she's passing as human, and she landed her dream job as a lawyer.

Best of all, she's dating her sexy new co-worker who doesn’t mind that she's an inch taller than him, or that she's a virgin (not that she plans on keeping that label for long).

But all of her perfect plans for the future are thrown into jeopardy when the fey queen who controls her potion, forces her to defend a troll in a murder case who uses glamor to appear human.

Now, she’ll have to carefully maneuver her way around a series of lies to keep her job, her secret, and her boyfriend.

Don't miss this exciting new chapter from the best selling Everleaf Series.

Available on Amazon

Jazmin Truesdale is the CEO of Mino Enterprises which comprises of Aza, Jazmin Fitness, Jazmin Angels & Consulting, and many other companies.  Despite her young age she is fast becoming known as the ‘superwoman of superwomen’.  She is a nerd at heart and loves science fiction, comic books, action movies, and the like.  It was her passion for female superheroes that lead her to create Aza, Superheroes for everyone.


I asked Ms. Truesdale for her thoughts about being a black creator in the current political environment and especially in the climate surrounding current protests and social movements. Has what is happening in the country right now affected her as a black creator? Here is her response:
"As a creator, no. Only because everything that is happening right now is what I have always written. It's just that people suddenly decided that they care about black issues when up until last week we were being ignored.
 It's effected me more as a business woman. As I'm growing and developing the brand, developing partnerships, hiring staff and building a company culture, I'm much more discerning. I'm definitely paying attention to the brands and the people who are genuinely supportive and weeding out the 'performance' supporters."
AZA ENTERTAINMENT
Aza is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Jazmin Truesdale in response to the lack of superheroes that reflect today’s evolving society.  As a fan of comic books she saw that there was a severe lack of epic heroes that were inclusive of gender and ethnic diversity leading her to set out to create a universe to reflect just that.  Using the best in the industry Aza will develop a new generation of heroes for TV, Film, Comics, and Games that will be inclusive of everyone no matter the age, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

Everyone deserves to see themselves represented in the superhero genre.  We are fast becoming a global culture in which all ethnicities, languages, and nationalities are being embraced by the average individual and it is time that our entertainment reflects that.  Despite the lack of cultural diversity I think that it is a shame that there are so few female superheroes even though women have always been the most marketable in any realm of entertainment.  I plan to change that.

——–Jazmin Truesdale, CEO

Aza Comics brings you a novel with illustrated action scenes for Teens and Adults!
Every 1,000 years a Keeper is chosen by the Gods to protect the universe.  But what happens if that person decides they want the universe for themselves?
In this space opera, discover the origin story of Amaya, Kala, Ixchel, Adanna, and Fenna as they fight to save the universe from the greatest threat it has ever known!
242 pages ; Recommended for Teens and adults
 Digital edition is now available on AmazonGoogle Play, and Barnes & Noble!




Alicia Gaile is the author of YA contemporary fantasy and fairy tale retellings. She wrote her first fairy story at the age of twelve after visiting the Goll Woods Old-Growth forest in Ohio with her aunt and wandered into a dappled glade that was the perfect space for a fairy revel. After receiving a Creative Writing degree from Georgia College & State University she began writing early versions of Trial by Song while living abroad in southeast Asia. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA with her family and two dogs.
Find her on:

"If they caught me they'd drain every ounce of my talent away. If they took my music...." He shivered.

Born with an otherworldly talent for music, Jack Sorley dreams of sharing his incredible gift with the world. But revealing his magic makes him a target of the fae, who will stop at nothing to hide their existence from mankind.

When he sneaks out to perform at the local county fair and his family’s prize-winning cow is stolen right from under his nose, a desperate Jack tries to retrieve her before his brothers find out. Dragged through a portal deep into Faerie, he finds a golden harp that could catapult his talent to even greater heights. If he wants his chance at greatness, he’ll have to take it—but stealing from faeries is never a wise choice.

With danger closing in on every side, Jack must find a way to evade the legendary Wild Hunt, or go back to Faerie and face the music.

Available on Amazon

Alicia is also a talented artist and illustrator. Many of her creations are displayed on her Instagram account, but she gave me permission to share her amazing illustration of Beauty and the Beast.

A native of Southfield, MI, Jelani-Akin moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2005 to pursue his BFAMedia Arts and Animation at The Art Institute of Phoenix. He would go on to complete his MFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University, and work as both a freelance artist and a self-published sci-fi/adventure novelist.
in

He currently lives in Tempe, AZ, focusing on his career as a writer and an artist of varying skillsets, including world building, vector illustration, and character design.

When not at work on a hundred projects whilst drowning himself in tea and/or coffee, he can be found composing music in his spare time, or (most likely) gaming or reading manga.

Find out more about Jelani at:
The media doesn’t know what to make of the bug-like vigilante. She leaps through the city at night, chasing the shadows of the Aegis Security Agency, and it’s starting to touch some nerves. She doesn’t care. She didn’t rebuild that high-tech armor to be a hero.

Teen genius Pilar Sands has her hands full with starting college at sixteen, dealing with her brother’s new nosy roommate, and her intrusive classmate, amateur detective Zoe Shinomori. All get in the way of her goal: finding her missing father, a former disgraced employee of Aegis. Unfortunately for her, she isn’t the only one after Aegis, and the enemies of her enemy might be her undoing.

Available on Amazon

Jelani-Akin is currently working on Book 2 in "The Experimental Bug" series and plans to release it in the late fall or winter of 2020.





Monday, June 8, 2020

It’s Time To Let the King Rest (Guest Post by Cassandra Complex)

Hey, everybody!  Today I'd like to welcome to the blog a unique and insightful person whose voice I've come to greatly respect and admire over the past few years.  Let's meet her briefly and then hear her thoughts.

About Cassandra Complex:



Cassandra Complex is a biracial black and white former child of poverty and current adult of relative economic comfort from the Pacific Northwest, who was radicalized by the racist terrorism she endured as a child.  In her free time, she enjoys completely reconfiguring her body to her actual gender from the one she was assigned at birth, anime, video games, and promiscuity.

Guest Post:


The world was upended the latest time this last week with the murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer with a history of complaints against him, Derek Chauvin. Predictably, the murderer was neither arrested nor to be charged despite the clarity of the evidence.

Something was different this time, however. What was different, no one can say for certain. Black men have been executed by racists for any reason or no reason at all for 400 years with rarely such an outcry as was seen this week; for the last 30 it’s occasionally been caught on camera and for the last 10 it’s been consistently caught on camera. Black people scream in anguish each time; some racists make it known they wholeheartedly approve of the most recent black execution, and the rest of the country fails to rise above a murmur, leaving black people to wonder if their silence, whispers, or murmurs are ones of tacit approval, or disapproval lacking accompanying courage to speak out. Maybe it was the way Chauvin seemed like he could hardly be bothered to even express anything at all as he extinguished Floyd’s life, apparently as indifferent as one would be if they were kneeling on an inner tube to deflate it, if anything, simply angry at the brave teenage girl who dared to record the murder, while Floyd’s eyes protruded from his sockets, a physiological and physical response exaggerating the shock and horror on his face as he realized what was happening to him.

Maybe it was the novel coronavirus, which, with its devastation, has resulted in millions of people having much more time outside work, both to read and to take action. Maybe the momentum had been building for some time, and this was the final catalyst it took.

However it happened, though, thousands of people in Minneapolis, then more US cities in more states, then US towns and international cities, took to the streets, demanding justice, demanding that the murder and his accomplices be arrested and charged immediately.

It also happened that shortly thereafter buildings began to burn, and with that, the conversation began to shift away from the grave injustice that occurred to shaming of the protesters and framing them as heathens and looters and the villains of the tale.

Now, who damaged what is up for debate; much of it protesters claim was caused by police, and I’m inclined to believe them. But even if it weren’t, I honestly would not much care. The CEO of Target came out and disavowed the people using the burning of their store near the murder as a cudgel against protesters, stating that the store could be rebuilt and their opposition to racism, and I think that’s the right call.

Instead, I’m here to talk about what I expect you’ve been tempted to do, which is look to and cite Martin Luther King, Jr. to make sense of the current situation, and guide the way forward.

I’m here to ask you not to use MLK quotes, imagery, talking points, any of it.

Here’s why.

MLK’s non-violence was a strategy. Not an ethos, despite that it surely was informed by his Christian beliefs. It was premised on the notion that if you meet violence with non-violence, your opponent will be moved to abandon his cruelty upon the sight of your suffering. To quote James Baldwin, King “made on fallacious assumption,” that the United States has a conscience.

Now, perhaps the protests show it’s not so dire. Yet it’s still true that thousands of black lives have been lost since Martin Luther King Jr. himself was assassinated after a campaign of harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, despite his position of non-violence. It’s further true that justice, or even care, by white people as a whole, has been rare. In fact, it’s been so rare that the majority of white people in the US voted for a virulent racist, rather than confront the rot of racism in America as begun under the Obama administration. Black people have been told, then forced, to stop kneeling, to respect the flag, to protest on our own time, that somehow, all of us who’ve been killed were ‘no angels’ and were doing something that invited the harm inflicted on us but white ‘peacekeepers’ and stewards of ‘justice’.

King knew that he was putting his life on the line, every step of the way, right up to his assassination, and chose to do so. In invoking his legacy and beliefs piecemeal, then white people ask, with all the weight of a system built on white supremacy behind them, black people to similarly sacrifice our own bodies, to voluntarily submit to the violence and abuses of racists in the general citizenry, in the police force, in the government, anywhere white people who do us harm are to be found, and to potentially give our lives rather than ruffle one hair on a white person’s head.

There is no other situation in which the same would ask the same of anyone else. The law permits self-defense to repel attacks, up to and including homicide, in the most extreme cases. The US used force to found itself, to preserve the union, and essentially constantly ever since to protect its interests nationwide. It is only black people who are expected to endure constant abuse, without recourse apart from to appeal to the very people murdering them from a position of submission and hope they take pity.

Whether intentional or not, I can’t see such a position as anything other than racist. One cannot simultaneously believe that black lives matter, and that an infinite number of black lives should be forfeited until their executioner stays his axe on a whim.

Now, maybe you didn’t think of it that way. Maybe you just like to believe in positivity and love and care to avoid hate. That’s not unreasonable. What is unreasonable, however, is to characterize black responses to violence as hate, or at least the same hate as that of the white supremacist. No one would say the victim of an assault who repels their attacker is ‘hateful’ in doing so, irrespective of whether they do in fact hate the person. Maybe black people do hate the system that has abused and tortured and antagonized them for so long. That still is not the broad, destructive, cruel hatred we think beneath us as human beings. It is the natural response to such abuses, just as one would not care for a person who kicks them in their ribs every day. Ergo, the result is that rather than increase the total amount of 'love' in the world, you have spared yourself unpleasant emotions again at the expense of the oppressed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. worked to liberate. What black people have seen since the rise of social media is his legacy perverted in order to oppress further; to gaslight and shame and revictimize black people individually and on the whole, either to maintain one’s privilege or simply to spare oneself the unpleasantness of looking at the horrors of racism in America without looking away.

If you truly believe black lives matter, if you truly intend to be against racism, you must be willing to be uncomfortable. That starts with abandoning the use of Martin Luther King Jr. as a security blanket for yourself and a police baton against black people to once again beat down their very human outrage. That means immersing yourself in the vast wealth of literature created since King’s death both by his contemporaries and subsequent generations of black activists. That means speaking not to black people, but to anyone in your life who is still silent about the abuses black people suffer, but vocal about their response.

Friday, June 5, 2020

I'm Sitting in Her Place

By Cheryl Oreglia
This morning I am sitting in my mother’s place. It’s early morning at the lake, the weather is as off as my mood, foggy, cool, placid. There is movement on the water, always movement, flowing north. Early morning is the best time at the lake. It is quiet and peaceful. Sleep still has me in it’s grasp but the day is gently pulling me away. My thoughts last night, this morning, tomorrow are focused on Mom. I wish she were here, sitting in her spot at the end of the long green couch, the part of the couch that forms a lounge chair, feet up, covered with a brown furry blanket, gazing at the lake, sipping warm coffee, just as I am now.

“You want to come up to the lake?” This is the one question I always got a “yes” from mom, even when we have fallen to the ground in the poring rain, and hit rock bottom. She loved being up here as much as I do and this does not surprise me because so much of who I am is wrapped up in her. When I was young I fought against our similarities, the last thing I wanted to be was my mother, now it is all I want.

I want to know who she thinks will win the bachelor next season, I want to watch her play Safeway monopoly, exclaiming over a free donut, I want to share coupons, exchange recipes, walk to the clubhouse, sit in the sun. I want to know how she got the stains out of the carpet, the orchid to survive, I want to enjoy a glass of wine with her after five, with ice, and only one. I want to go bra shopping for my birthday, I want to know what she’s reading, I want grab a bite at the Outback. I want to have her like she had me and I want her sitting in her place.

I want her laughing at my stories. I want to see her silly comments on my blog. I want to know what to plant in the full sun and under the arbor. I want someone to remember me at five, sixteen, thirty-one, forty-nine, and fifty-seven. I want the woman who loves my imperfections and knows how to vanish my fears. I want to talk with her about my dad because she loved him the most. I want her to help me organize my hall closet and pick out bath towels. I want her to watch my grandchildren grow. I want her to ask me about my day, my students, my lesson plans. I want her memories, her love, her seasons.

I didn't have the gift of my mom this mother’s day, she passed away three years ago and I miss her terribly.

Helen Keller says, “Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” I think this is true for all of us or at least I hope so. Sometimes death comes out of nowhere and there is no time to process, appreciate, prepare. But the gifts we leave behind are always available. The way a person makes you feel, allows you to be yourself, honors your journey by their very involvement in your life. That is a choice and that is the gift. Stay present, stay in, this is the only way to leave behind the gift of you.

I remember when one of my children came down with a strange illness the doctors could not diagnose. I was a mother of four children and I knew he was really sick. I would lay next to him in bed for hours, offering water, because he was too weak to hold the glass. I would memorize every aspect of his face. I lived in fear that I would lose him. I counted the freckles on his perfect nose, the thick eyelashes slightly crusted with sleep, the shape of his lips. I noted the brow line, the soft blond hair that framed his face. The perfect ears so evenly spaced. The pink cheeks I kissed repeatedly. He survived and the memory of him at six is etched in my brain forever.

My girlfriend Deborah recently lost her mom and she instinctively did the same thing. She memorized aspects of her mom to keep with her forever. I remember doing this with my Dad but that backfired a bit because I couldn’t move past the last embrace, the last time we made eye contact, the last kiss good-bye. My lovely therapist/best friend Christine warned me not to stay in the last moments, to move back to the memories, the gifts that we get to keep.

Sometimes I like to lose myself in her memory but I won’t stay here too long. Her real gifts are so connected to who I am and I’ll carry those with me into this wild wonderful life. The love of libraries and reading, antique stores and strolling, soup and egg sandwiches, dogs and cats, planting in the spring. I’m sitting in her place literally and figuratively because that is what I have of her, the present, and the future she gave me as my mother.

Whose memory are you holding on to? 

Monday, June 1, 2020

In Which I Tell You What To Do

Hello! Hola! Bonjour! Pree-vyeht!
This here is my first post with Across the Board and I couldn’t be more excited to force my wisdom (for better or worse) down your eye-holes. I’ve been writing seriously (and I mean seriously in the loosest way possible) for close to twelve years, and in that time I’ve come across buckets of advice, most of which isn’t any good. Below you’ll find some of the best and worst of the bunch. As with everything, take it with a grain of salt. In the end, only you know what’s good for you.

(Chocolate. Chocolate is what’s good for you.)

Best/Worst: Write what you know.
I KNOW. I’m groaning looking at this one too. And that Best/Worst thing? What am I trying to do? CONFUSE YOU?
Maybe a little.
Here’s the thing: the value of this advice depends on what you do with it. If you’re a cattle farmer in Idaho and all you ever write about is cow-pats and the way little pebbles always find a way into your boots, well, your writing isn’t going to have much range. You might find an audience, but it’ll be small. More importantly, after a while, even you will get bored with describing the smell of manure as it rushes over the hill.
So how do you fix it?
KNOW MORE STUFF. Learn to play the flute. Take a clogging class. Read about the great monarch butterfly migration.
Because it is important to write about familiar things. Familiarity means you can ignore the surface and scratch below it. Find meaning in the migration. Bridge the gap between music and grief. But you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, limit yourself to your current life experience.
Best: Why is more important than what.
Characters are assholes. There, I said it. We were all thinking it anyway.
You want them to go here to do this thing, but it’s like they’re rooted to the spot, arms crossed and putting. Petulant children, the lot of them.
Except, maybe they’re not.
Often, our plots demand our characters do things, be things, say things, in order to keep the events of the story moving. The problem comes when we want them to do a thing they don’t want to. If you’ve created a good, well-rounded character, you know how they will react to certain situations. Lengths they are willing to go. Their limits. Their fears. If you try to push them too far out of themselves, even the most meticulously plotted outline falls apart.
PLOT TWIST: The murderer was the best friend!
Yeah, but why?
Writing, like in murder, needs three things: Means, Opportunity, and Motive. I would argue motive is the most important. Sure, Johnny has a perfectly good kitchen knife and Karen is just sitting there looking all Karen-y, but unless he has a good reason to stick it in her ice-cold heart, he won’t.
Worst: You have to outline before you draft.
The key part of this one is have to.
Some people plot. Some people pants. Some people plants.
never outline.
WUT.
I know.
I journal. I dream. I answer questions I know will come up (see MOTIVE) so I don’t get stuck. I write snatches of dialogue to get a feel for each character’s voice. I know where it will start, where everything changes, the climax, and (sometimes) where it will end. Then I get writing.
I have never written a book that didn’t need at least 50% rewrites because I didn’t know what was really happening in the book until I reached the 30k word mark.
Would it be more efficient to plot? Maybe. Would it be more fun? Shut your mouth.
The point is that whatever works for you, works for you. There is no one way to write. Do it in the way you find the most satisfying because the writing is the easy part. Everything that comes after is hard.
Best/Worst: Show, don’t tell.
Oh, hell. Not another one of these.
YES.
Generally speaking, show don’t tell. Don’t tell me Frederico is angry; show him staring out the window at his cheating wife, eerily quiet, every muscle tense as a guitar string.
BUT –
Oh, yes. The big ol' booty.
But sometimes, less is more. If we’re writing about Frederico as a cuckolded husband and the events of his marriage that led up to this point, do we need to spend pages on his upbringing in a small house in Chile, describing his parents’ imperfect marriage, the fighting, the anger, only to stay together out of stubbornness? Probably not. In some cases, it’s more effective to tell with a line or two: Frederico, like his parents, didn’t believe in divorce. There was no argument too deep, no fight so vicious, that would justify breaking their vows to God and each other.
Worst: Writing is solitary.
This is SO the worst.
If you’re like me, and you have a significant other that not only doesn’t read fiction (GASP), but doesn’t read your work (GASP AGAIN), talking with them about the particular struggles (and successes) of writing and publishing can be like talking to a wall. Their eyes glaze over and they’re SO SUPPORTIVE but they don’t get it.
You don’t need a tribe, but you do need at least one person. They can be a cheerleader or a helpful critic or just another person on the other end of the phone or computer who understands how you feel. Who will squee right along with you when you finally figure out a way out of a plot hole, or you come up with the perfect title for your WIP.
Best: How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
No matter how small the bite, you’ll be slurping that trunk like spaghetti in no time.
(Yes, that metaphor got weird. No, I don’t regret it. Stop staring at me and go write something).


 
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