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A guest post for the drollerie blog tour!  Enjoy- EGD

Dangerous Words

What is the most dangerous thing I’ve written? That’s always a moving target. I often write stories that deal with politics and religion. Some people say you shouldn’t, but that strikes me as absurd. Politics and religion are a part of life, so leaving them out seems insincere. Shakespeare wrote about politics, as did Mark Twain. C.S. Lewis hardly wrote anything that didn’t deal with religion. I try not to let my own views get in the way of an honest character portrayal.

But the most dangerous stories I write are about sex.

In college I wrote a short-short story called “WELCOME (a fairy tale)” that begins, “You know the story where a frog turns into a prince? Well, once upon a time I kissed a girl and she turned into a doormat.”

A week after it came out in the student literary magazine, a columnist for the campus newspaper excoriated the magazine for publishing a story that “condones rape.” And for 2 weeks I was the hot topic on campus. Much was made of the sentence “Sometimes I’d knock first, sometimes I wouldn’t.” And much should have been. I agonized about whether to keep that sentence in but ultimately made the call (rightly, I think) to skim the surface of the darkness it hinted at.

The only beef I have with the article is its use of the word “condone.” Perhaps I should not have expected college students to grasp an unreliable narrator. Or to read 3 layers deep instead of just 2.

Now I’m at it again.

Like religion and politics, sex is a part of life (essential to the continuation of the species and all), and often associated with conflict and emotional distress. But, of course, distress and conflict make a good story, whereas contentment rarely does. So I do tend to pay more attention to detail when the details are relevant to the character or the story. So healthy, fulfilling sex is portrayed off scene, or through the eyes of the jealous, slighted lover. But when consent is not quite clear, or when a struggle for power depends on the nuance of every touch–that is when the details are important to the story and must be told. The consequence ends up being that the more disturbing the sex is, the more graphically I describe it.

In Shadow of the Antlered Bird, I wrote a birth-of-monster scene about which one reviewer  wrote “if you’re contemplating becoming a mother, skip that page. Trust me on this.”

In the short story “Wood,” which will appear in the upcoming anthology Like a Sacred Desire from Circlet Press, I applied the same guidelines to my first, um, officially erotic story.  This is a hard one to discuss, because I feel like some readers need a justification for writing erotica, but others will feel I sell out if I give one. Personally, I believe erotica can have literary value, but I also know that erotic writing can get published without literary merit. But Circlet has higher standards than that, and of course my name would be on the finished work, so I decided from the outset that I would only do this if I could make it a good story, and one in which the sex was integral to the telling of the story and not just tacked on. The result was a tale in which an old witch uses illusion and sexual domination to exact revenge for something that needs avenging. You don’t find out what until almost the end, and whether she goes too far… well, you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

“Behind the Tower,” which recently appeared in the Drollerie e-book Straying from the Path, deals with a male-to-female transsexual’s first sexual act as a woman. Because of other circumstances it is an unhealthy, arguably abusive sexual encounter, but it serves a ritual function that helps her to become the person she was meant to be. A friend who read that story said it was hard to critique honestly, because the sex made her uncomfortable. I responded that it made me uncomfortable too.

Ultimately, if I ever write a story that opens old wounds for a reader, or leads to an angry mob coming after me with torches, then it won’t be because I questioned their leaders or their idea of God or gods, but because I wrote about incest, or a sexual power struggle, or an encounter involving ambiguous consent. But I also think these stories may be my best chance to write a story that helps someone heal, or to have an insight or understanding that they might not otherwise have had.

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Let’s give a warm welcome to Angela Korra’ti ^_^! If you like what you see, please check out her blog (which is hosting my post, as well). You can find a link at drolleriepress.com. Without further ado:

I’m doing double duty on the Drollerie Blog Tour this month, due to a mixup in who all was scheduled! I’ll be posting over at Heather Ingemar’s place about music in general and how it’s influenced my writing, but here? I’m going to bring y’all my proposed iPod/iPhone playlist for Faerie Blood!

  • “Whirl-Y-Reel 2” by Afro Celt Sound System
  • “As I Roved Out” by the Fables
  • “Contrari Dance” by Heather Alexander
  • “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
  • “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley
  • “Don’t” by Elvis Presley
  • “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
  • “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley
  • “Wild in the Country” by Elvis Presley
  • “No. 6 The Coombe” by the Chieftains
  • “The Samurai Set” by Gaelic Storm
  • “Trouble” by Elvis Presley
  • “Walk on the Moon” by Great Big Sea
  • “Only the Music” by Heather Alexander
  • “Sonata for Violin and Piano” by Irene Britton Smith
  • “The Storm” by Gaelic Storm
  • “John Barbour” by Great Big Sea
  • “Tam Lin”, by Tricky Pixie
  • “Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, KV 550: I. Molto Allegro” by Mozart
  • “Swallow’s Tail Jig/Cabin Ceilidh/Swallow’s Tail Reel” by the Paperboys
  • “Life Less Ordinary” by Carbon Leaf

Most if not all of these selections, of course, will make better sense if you’ve actually read the book. But for those of you who haven’t, here’s a brief rundown on why I chose these various pieces.

“Whirl-Y-Reel 2” is because my heroine Kendis is an Afro Celt Sound System fan. This particular piece of theirs is off their first album, Volume 1 Sound Magic, and has a nice tension to it that felt appropriate for the opening of the book.

“As I Roved Out” is the Fables’ take on a good trad ditty and is pretty much required for any portion of a story which involves roving.

Heather Alexander’s “Contrari Dance” is an instrumental. The idea of this song is supposed to be that the good faeries get into a dance-off with bad ones, but the longer it goes, the closer the two sides get to one another in what they’re doing, until it becomes one great big wild faerie romp. It’s played very jauntily but with a touch of mischief, and seems like the right music for when Kendis gets waylaid by Seattle faeries.

Most of the Elvis songs are on this list because of being mentioned by name or by description in chapters Five and Six. Also because, well, Elessir.

“No. 6 The Coombe” is here because you don’t get much more trad than the grandfathers of modern Celtic music, the Chieftains. This ditty in particular has a long whistle solo at the beginning and then kicks up at the end with some other instruments coming in, and basically seems an excellent theme for Millicent.

Gaelic Storm’s The Samurai Set is my current pick for the background music for Kendis’ dream sequence in Chapter Ten.

The last Elvis song on this list, “Trouble”, is hands down my favorite from the movie King Creole. It is arguably Elessir’s theme song.

“Walk On The Moon” by Great Big Sea is here for Christopher, and in particular, what he does in Chapters 16 and 17.

Another Heather Alexander ditty, “Only the Music”, seems appropriate for when Kendis and Christopher take time out to jam together.

Irene Britton Smith’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano” is a song I don’t actually own yet but which I need to acquire. There’s one CD out there that has a recording of it, a compilation of music by African-American women composers. Kendis owns the sheet music to this song.

Back to Gaelic Storm again with the simply titled “The Storm”, off their very first album. It’s good background music for the big confrontation that stretches across Chapters 18, 19, and 20.

“John Barbour” and “Tam Lin” are both here because of being trad ditties Christopher sings. The specific versions that would be on the hypothetical Faerie Blood soundtrack would be by Great Big Sea and Tricky Pixie, respectively.

The first movement of Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40” is here because I played a dumbed-down version of it when I was in middle school, and it is therefore probably one of the first pieces Kendis learned how to play when she was in orchestra in school. It’s comfort music for her.

“Swallow’s Tail Jig/Cabin Ceilidh/Swallow’s Tail Reel” is a big lo’ instrumental by the Paperboys, and it’s here because of the music Kendis and Christopher are playing in the very last chapter.

And last but not least, “Life Less Ordinary” by Carbon Leaf is, in my brain, sung by Christopher to Kendis. Especially the opening bit of the first verse: “Live a life less ordinary / Live a life extraordinary with me”. Very fine song all around.

Hope y’all have enjoyed this musical interlude, and I hope it’ll encourage you to check out one or more of these songs via the music provider of your choice–not to mention my book! Thanks to Elisa for having me, and to her readers for taking a listen.

Are fathers necessary? 

 I’m quite fond of mine, but I’m talking about fiction here. If a character’s father doesn’t appear, isn’t referred to, how much do we need to know about him?

 Back when I started writing, a Writer’s Digest article introduced me to the idea of drafting up a character background sheet detailing everything you need to know about them, and then some. The article writer, a romance novelist, insisted you had to know much, much more about the character than ever appeared on the printed page because that way they’d be more real and more complex (or something to that effect).

 I couldn’t help noticing, though, that in a sample character list from her own work, she’d brushed off her protagonist’s family history with a note that “parents are unimportant to the plot.” In fact, I’m not sure there were any details on the list that wouldn’t figure into the plot.

 So how much do we really need to know about our characters’ families? Or their hobbies, their reading material, their favorite TV show, and whether they like Thai food mild or spicy. If it doesn’t appear on the page or affect the plot, does it really make our characters more complex, or is that a comforting illusion (“My character had a lot more depth than you think, so there!”)?

 And my answer would be a big, strong firm “It depends.”

 In the book I’m working on now, I know about Dani’s father because he’s a huge influence on how she sees life, her choice of a career and her love life. All I know about Steve is that he was blue-collar; since Steve’s an orphan, that’s all I needed. Gwen is shaped by her antagonism to her mother, and she’s a well-developed enough character I don’t think my knowing about her father would add anything.

 Generally, I use character sheets, but I never draft them up until after I’ve written a couple of drafts. I can’t build backstory in a vacuum: I need to know who the characters before I can figure out where they came from. That’s something I’ve never been able to figure out in advance.

 And of course, once the backstory is built, if I’m doing it right, I’ll get fresh ideas for the characters and the plot. And then I’ll tinker with the characters some more.

 Sometimes that means fathers acquire an importance they didn’t have at the start: I didn’t develop Dani’s father until I realized her character didn’t work and I needed a different background (a strong father who set high goals for her and steered her into medicine) to make her click for me.

 Are father’s necessary? Like I said, it depends … just don’t mention to my dad that I said that, OK?

*you can visit Fraser Sherman’s blog at http://frasersherman.wordpress.com/

Fun times!  I’m participating in the Drollerie Press Blog Tour, which means I’ll be hosting a different author and a different author will be hosting me to talk about fathers (the topic changes from month to month).  I’m a big fan of the DP blog tour, and I highly encourage everyone to go check it out.  The links will be listed on the main-page of the website this weekend, and here’s a link.  Have fun!  I’m sure I will ^_^ -EGD

So, since I’ve not been here for a while, let’s back up for a bit.  The end of September was total and utter chaos.  I visited my primary care physician, who sent me to an ENT, who sent me for a CT scan, and this all happened between Monday and Saturday in the last full week of September.  Chaos, I say!  On top of that, that very weekend I went to four auditions.  On friday, I auditioned for Miracle on 34th Street, and that went very well, and the director asked me to swing by the next day to help with the Saturday auditions, which I did… after I got that CT scan and auditioned for Musical Theatre Southwest’s production of Scrooge the Musical.  What started to get freaky was that I got called back for Scrooge the Musical for Sunday.  This would have been 150 different kinds of awesome if both of these plays didn’t run on two out of three of the same weeks, six of the same days, six of the SAME EXACT TIMES.  I started to get antsy because the director for Miracle said I might land the leading lady role, and I’d been called back for (check this awesomeness) Mrs. Cratchet and the Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooge the Musical.  When I got back from the Sunday call-backs, I was confident that I’d been cast as *something* in Scrooge, but I wasn’t going to hear back from that director until Monday or Tuesday, and I’d gotten a call from Miracle’s director while I was *at* the call-back to tell me he wanted to cast me as Miss Adams instead (which is still a huge and awesome role that had me giddy).  It was stomach wrenching.  I couldn’t tell him yes right away with Miss Adams as I would have with Doris, but I really wanted the role.  He was kind enough to say I had until the end of the evening to call him with my verdict, so I called Scrooge’s director and begged to know my odds, appologizing the whole time like a Japanese secretary who’d forgotten to refill the loose tea canister on the day of a business meeting.  What followed was an hour and fifteen minutes of waiting by the phone for a call from the director of Scrooge that tied my nerves in twisty little knots.  He’d said he’d call me back “in fifteen minutes,” you see, and when that didn’t happen, I agonized about whether or not it would seem pushy to just call him again.  When the clock ticked past 8:00 PM, I threw up my hands and *did* call him, and he said he wanted to offer me a role in the chorus (not what I’d auditioned for specifically, but cool just the same), which I REALLY WANTED, but for the first time in my life I had to turn down a role, and I had to think on my feet, and I told him I was going to take the role in Miracle on 34th Street.  I then called that director back and had done with it.  Soooo…. yeah, I’m Miss Adams, the Kris Kringle cheerleader secretary of Doris who bounces around and shouts in the courtroom as though the legal preceedings were a sporting match.  But man, that was hard.  I’ve never, ever turned a role down in my life, and who would have thought that *I* would go and turn down a musical theatre role for a non-musical theatre role?  After all-summer of rejection, who would have thought I’d wind up having to do some rejecting of my own?

Anyhow, I still haven’t heard back about that CT Scan.  I’m assuming this is a good sign.  If there were an abnormal growth in my sinuses or brain, I’m pretty sure someone would have told me by now.