Revisiting Old Short Stories

As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m just about to the end of my current semester at Rowan University. As of today, I’ve completed everything for one class except the final reflection/evaluation (which is essentially an argument for what grade I deserve), and everything for the second class except final revisions of two short stories. After that (all of which is due by next week), I’m finished until the end of May, when my summer course begins.

Being at the end of the semester and realizing I’m about to have a lot of free time available is making me consider what to do next. For starters, I’ve refined my writing schedule with the hopes of finding more time to work in Arcana Revived over the summer. I’ve blocked out a minimum of 10 hours each week to be spent on that work (in addition to 3 hours writing blog posts, at least 4-6 writing paid Rowan University blog posts, 10 hours doing Graduate Assistant work for Rowan, and whatever additional writing I can squeeze in on my phone when I’m away from home [yes, that’s about 30 hours a week of writing in addition to my full time day job]). The question, of course, is how will that minimum 10 hours be used?

First off, I’ll be working on Manifestation in order to get the novel ready for release. Second, I’m continuing to write the first draft of Mutation (as noted by the progress on the red sidebar to the right). In between those, however, I also plan on working on some more Arcana Revived short stories.

I currently have 14 short stories written in the Arcana Revived universe. Two of them, Crying and There’s No Such Thing As Monsters are flash fiction pieces hosted on Ravenheart Press, run by my friend Eve Jacob. If you want to get a taste of my writing, I’d definitely love for you to check them out (along with the other flash fiction pieces at Ravenheart). If you enjoy those, there’s also my published short story ebook, Radiance.

The other stories I’ve written are mostly first drafts. One I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog, Belladonna, is on Draft 6. A couple of others are on Draft 2 or 3. The reason most of the other stories haven’t been revised is because my primary attention has been on Manifestation, since I want to get the novel out before releasing other short stories in the world. Since I’m close to releasing Manifestation now, it seems like a good time to start working on some of these stories. A few of them won’t be released for quite awhile, since they relate to the later books in the series. For example, Questioning Angels actually takes place in between Book 2 and Book 3, so I obviously won’t release that until after Book 2 is complete. About half of them, however, would be fitting to release after Manifestation, and my hope is to release them one at a time after Manifestation is out but before Book 2, Contamination is ready.

So over the next few weeks I plan to revisit some of these stories, revise them, and get them ready for publication. I might post a few samples from some of them, once I think they’re ready. In the mean time, stay tuned for updates on my overall progress on the novels, the short stories, and life as a whole.

#ProtagonistPickupLines

#ProtagonistPickupLines is a meme I devised over the weekend. The idea is to come up with lines that a book’s main character might use when flirting with their author. Think of it like the romance writer’s version of “Stranger Than Fiction,” where a book’s character comes to life and interacts with their author.

I decided a fitting way to portray this meme was to use the images of actors and actresses from books-turned-movies (or tv shows):

#ProtagonistPickupLines Katniss

#ProtagonistPickupLines Harry Potter

#ProtagonistPickupLines Aragorn

#ProtagonistPickupLines Richard Rahl

#ProtagonistPickupLines Kahlan_Amnell

#ProtagonistPickupLines Frodo#ProtagonistPickupLines Carrie

If you have any other ideas for #ProtagonistPickupLines, feel free to share them here, or tweet them at me @CantrellJason.

 

Photoshop Experiments: Maelyssa Southeby

Maelyssa “Mae” Southeby is one of the major supporting characters in the Arcana Revived series. She’s also known as “the girl with the belladonna tattoo,” and in addition to her supporting role in the novels, she’s the main character of the short story Belladonna. Her character inspiration is a model I only know by her online username, “Ledabunnymonster.” Here’s an experiment with adding both glowing arcana eyes and the manifestation of Mae’s power pouring from her palm:

Mae with Arcana Eyes
Mae with Arcana Eyes

Photoshop Experiments: Gabby Palladino

Gabby Palladino is the main protagonist of the Arcana Revived series. Her inspiration comes from Anna Popplewell, most known for her role as Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m experimenting a bit with how to use photoshop to give Gabby shining eyes glowing with arcana:

Gabby Palladino with Arcana Eyes
Gabby Palladino with Arcana Eyes

Blogging, Writing, and Photoshop

I’m a writer. Well, yeah, duh, the blog isn’t called “Writing Possibilities” for my health. But what I mean to say is, I’m just a writer.

I don’t mean that “just” to imply triviality. On the contrary, I take pride in the time, effort, and dedication I put into my writing. I’ve come a long way as a writer during the course of my life, and particularly over the last few years. I’ve graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s degree in Writing Arts, I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree, I’ve worked as a professional freelance writer, and I’m working on a novel series that I’m going to publish starting this year.

While I know a lot about writing, however, I don’t know a lot about other creative pursuits, like any kind of visual art (from drawing to painting to photoshop and whatever else you can think of). I have studied visual arts from a philosophical and theoretical point of view. I can analyze a work of art to explain the symbolism, the techniques of visual rhetoric, the semiotics, and the way it communicates its message to the viewer. That’s not the same, however, as knowing how to make that type of art.

Art and writing go hand in hand in a variety of ways, so as a writer I do think it can be valuable for me to learn art. I doubt I’d ever become a skilled enough artist to make my own cover art (I’d far rather hire professionals like Ravven who made the cover for Radiance, and with far more skill than I could hope to achieve). Aside from cover art, however, there are other options, like incorporating images into blog posts. I don’t often include images in my posts, because I’m just not a “visual thinker,” but I do find that images can work really well to make a blog post more interesting. I don’t believe in adding images that don’t add anything relevant to the piece, but they can be properly integrated into a post so that they aid the post instead of just being decoration.

A good example of a blog that makes good use of images is Drew Chial’s blog. He has some pretty amazing photoshop skills (see here, here, and here for some of my favorite examples of his art). While I have no expectations of getting up to that level of skill, I’d like to start practicing in order to develop some photoshop skills of my own. I think it could add an interesting element to my blogging.

I have a free version of photoshop, which you can find here. You’ll need to create a free account to access the download site, and the site warns that the version of photoshop that can be found here is about 10 years old and no longer supported by updates. As a result, it might not run on Windows 8 or some other modern systems, and it’s generally obsolete. However, the main photo editing functions of this older version work just the same as the newer one; mostly what’s missing is features like being able to sync your library online and uploading directly to websites, etc. Of course, a professional artist would surely prefer the most up to date version with its superior image quality and so forth, but if like me you just want to play around and not have to pay $99.99 for the program, this works just fine.

And I suppose I can’t write a whole blog post about photoshop without ACTUALLY posting a photoshopped picture, now can I? So here’s a little “first attempt” practice I just did (following a YouTube tutorial).

Here’s the “before” picture, of Alison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13. She serves as the inspiration for Tock Zipporah from Manifestation:

Alison Scagliotti
Alison Scagliotti

And here is the photoshopped version, showing how Tock Zipporah would look when channeling her arcana (as described frequently in the novels, the energy flowing through a person’s body makes their eyes glow:

Tock Zipporah
Tock Zipporah

Progress on Book Four, and Upcoming Plans

I’m nearly at the end of the spring school semester at Rowan University, so it seems like a good time to make some updates on my writing projects and where they’re going.

First, I’ve got about one week left now before all my classes are complete and I’m off for a month. I’ve got a few final assignments left this week, mostly involving revisions. Two of the pieces being revised are Arcana Revived short stories that I wrote for my fiction workshop class. The stories, currently working under the titles Questioning Angels and Next Spring are both centered around Callia Gainsborough, one of the major supporting characters of the series. When Manifestation comes out later this year, you’ll get the chance to learn more about Callia. She has a major role in the series, but she doesn’t usually get to be in the spotlight on her own, which is why I wanted to write a couple of stories about just her. They provide some interesting character development, giving the chance to see more about who Callia is outside of her relationship with Gabby Palladino.

After the semester is over, the next main project will be finishing up preparations on Manifestation. The manuscript is currently with my editor, and after the edits are complete, I’ll be going over everything to determine if any further revisions are needed. After that the only remaining steps are formatting (to get the manuscript ready for physical printing and ebook conversion) and cover art (which will be the last step after the formatting is complete since the exact physical size of the book needs to be determined). I’ll have a more exact date figured out soon, but for now I’m aiming for “before September” with a failsafe of “before the end of the year” to have the book out and ready to go.

Next, there is the writing of the next book in the series. Manifestation is written, revised, and being polished. The second and third books in the series, Contamination and Collapse are complete first drafts. I won’t be revising those until after I’m done getting Manifestation ready. So while those two are awaiting revisions, I’m working on writing the fourth book in the series, which is being written under the working-title Mutation.

Over the summer, I’ll be in a graduate-level course called “Writing the Novel.” While I don’t yet know the exact course requirements (such as how many pages or chapters of writing will be required as assignments), based on the way past classes go, I expect to be doing a decent amount of creative writing during the course. If possible, some of that writing will be chapters for Mutation, and I’ll also be doing plenty more writing for Mutation on the side of any writing I do for the class. Since the class lasts just over a month (from May 27th to August 1st) I’m planning on treating it as an unofficial NaNoWriMo so that I can finish the book. I’m currently sitting at almost 45,000 words, and the other books in the series all hit right around 120,000 words. If my past NaNoWriMo experiences are any indication, I should be able to finish the remaining 75,000 words before August.

Then, of course, during the real NaNoWriMo this November, I’ll be starting on Book Five.

In the meantime, if you’re curious to see what Arcana Revived is all about, you should check out the first short story ebook I published, Radiance. Radiance is the origin story of a girl named Maria Vasquez, who becomes a major supporting character later in the series. The short story shows you how she gets started in a world where magic is returning for the first time, after centuries of people thinking such things are nothing more than myth and legend.

More updates will come when there’s more to tell, especially over the summer as work on the series continues.

Character Relationships: Til Death Does Them Part?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to how to develop character relationships in writing. I’ve never been a romance writer, and I’ve only read a few romances in my time. I tend to lean more towards science fiction and fantasy. Of course, there are always plenty of romantic subplots in sci fi, fantasy, and plenty of other genres. They just aren’t a primary focus, and they haven’t been something I delved into in deep detail in the past.

Like in many other works, my own series, Arcana Revived includes a couple of romantic subplots. The primary one is between the main protagonist, Gabby Palladino, and her love interest, Callia Gainsborough. To avoid spoilers I won’t go into too much detail about their relationship, but suffice to say it’s something that is developed in an ongoing fashion across the first few books I’ve written in the series so far. The more time I spend developing their relationship, the more I have to consider what elements make for a good relationship in fiction.

One thing that comes to mind is that most characters who end up in a romance plot seem to start off single, and their relationship sparks sometime early in the course of the plot. When I think of the various romantic plots I’ve read about, almost none of them involve characters who start off already involved at the beginning of the story. In fantasy series, some of the most prominent that come to mind are Richard and Kahlan from the Sword of Truth series, Rand and Min/Elayne/Aviendha from the Wheel of Time series, Caramon and Tika from the Dragonlance series, and dozens of examples in the Xanth series (many of which include interspecies romances between various fantasy races like humans, centaurs, zombies, dragons, and demons). Each of the examples involve couples that weren’t romantically involved at the beginning of the book, and the majority of them are characters who didn’t even know each other before the story began.

Based on these, and other fictional couples, it seems that part of the appeal to romance stories is developing the initial attraction and building up tension. Indeed, the “Will they or won’t they get together?” question seems to be a common trope that’s also seen across television and movies. It also seems that this tension can be played out across several stages of the relationship, from “Will they or won’t they kiss?” to “Will they or won’t they have sex?” and even “Will they or won’t they break up?” These questions link back to a basic conflict-building technique: give your character a goal, then put obstacles in the way of that goal to keep them from achieving it as long as possible. The first goal might be getting their love interest’s attention, then once they’ve achieved that the next goal may be a kiss, and so on and so forth. The tension and conflict of the relationship can, in such a way, be built up and carried on for quite some time.

The question, then, is how do you know when a romance is complete? The few romance novels I’ve read seem to go through several stages: courtship (developing interest between the characters), buildup of the relationship, a crisis (something that almost ends the relationship), a resolution, and finally an ending that implies there will be a “happily ever after” for the characters.

Is that “happily ever after” really the end, though? Aside from the potential for future conflicts related to marriage, children, and the various troubles that life throws at people, how do you know when the “story” of the relationship ends? It’s a bit of a different question than knowing the ending of the other conflicts I see in various stories. A mystery might end when the murder is solved, an adventure end when the treasure is recovered, a fantasy epic end when the evil wizard is defeated, and so on. A relationship, however, is an ongoing thing; if the relationship is expected to continue “ever after,” then it wouldn’t truly end until “death do us part.”

This thought brings to mind a topic I first read about in the book Radiant by James Alan Gardner. The plot of Radiant involves a character named Youn Suu traveling with another named Festina Ramos, as they try to solve the mystery of a dangerous planet and the alien powers there. In addition to the primary conflict, there is an additional conflict between these two characters based on their backgrounds and viewpoints. Youn Suu is a Buddhist and her viewpoints in the novel are largely inspired by Eastern cultures, while Festina’s viewpoints are more in line with Western cultures.

The difference between Eastern and Western cultures comes up frequently throughout the book, but one particular aspect is relevant to this discussion about character relationships. Gardner (writing in Youn Suu’s voice in first person) describes the difference between Eastern and Western heroes and the way stories are told and how they end (p. 84):

There’s nothing dearer to my people’s hearts than an admired soldier who refuses to break some minor Buddhist precept and, therefore, dies horribly. The more pain and mutilation, the better. In Eastern legends, death is always part of the story. Even if a hero dies peacefully at a ripe old age, you have to include that death as part of the hero’s tale. Many Western champions just vanish into the sunset or “live happily ever after,” as if death passes them by . . . but in the stories I heard growing up, the time and manner of a hero’s death were never glossed over. Often, they were the whole point.

While this concept is described in relation to a character as an individual, it can be applied to a relationship as well. This passage essentially describes the same “happily ever after” idea I mentioned earlier, where the audience assumes that a relationship continues without any serious problems long after the book, movie, or show has ended. If a writer were to apply this Eastern philosophy to a romance story, however, then the story would have to continue until the end of the relationship. This could either mean moving ahead to some time in the future when a couple breaks up or divorces, or following them until one or both of their deaths if the couple remains together until death does them part.

I’m not familiar with any romance novels that follow a relationship to this point, but I’d be curious to see how it would work. There are plenty of ways that a following a couple to their deaths could still lead to a happy ending. The most prominent example that comes to mind is the movie Bicentennial Man, which follows the main character and his wife right up to their death bed. They die on the same day. After spending a life together, there is a certain romanticism about the idea of a couple leaving the world together, so that they won’t have to live without each other.

I’ll be reading a lot more romance novels in the near future, especially since several of my Twitter friends are romance novelists and I’ve started buying their books. I’m curious to see how each of them ends . . . will their romances simply have a happily ever after, or will death do them part?

Searching the Present for Signs of the Past

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been engaging in research lately with a focus on learning about the connections between the past and the present. I’ve learned that there are a lot of things I just haven’t been exposed to, such as some of the less savory aspects of this country’s history, as well as many present-day issues that are ignored by the media and the general public. Oftentimes these ignored parts of history are directly connected to the ignored political issues of today. For example, our schools here in New Jersey fail to teach students that the lands we’re living in today originally belonged to the Nanticoke tribe. My research has shown that while they lived here for thousands of years before us, they began losing their lands not long after European settlers arrived, and they still struggle with this issue today. As early as the 1700s, the Nanticoke were restricted to reservations in Delaware and New Jersey, and in more recent times, the tribe is still struggling with issues like state protection of their lands, property tax issues, and pollution.

onlooking_horowitzIn addition to learning about specific political and civil rights issues, I also wanted to learn about how to see more signs of the past right here in the places I live and work every day. It occurred to me that there could be issues right in front of my eyes that could connect to things from the past. So I took a step back from examining specific issues in order to learn how to look at what is around me. The inspiration for this exploration is Alexandra Horowitz’s book, “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.” In her book, Horowitz takes walks around her familiar city blocks with various experts, including her dog (who “saw” through scent and thus introduced her to a new way of seeing the world), a geologist, a bug expert, an expert on typography (who could tell her a lot of things about a building’s history just by the type of font used on the building signs), a doctor, and even a blind woman. After traveling with each expert, Horowitz found her mind opened to new ways of seeing the world around her.

Along those same lines, my hope was that being guided by an anthropologist might give me some insights into understanding how the world can be seen when you understand the connections between the past and the present. I contacted the Rowan University Anthropology Department, and I was put in touch with several professors who work in the Museum of Anthropology at Rowan University. The museum is brand new, having only just opened in 2012. I was taken on a tour of the museum’s collection by Maria Rosado, Rowan professor and one of the museum’s curators. I asked her to explain the museum’s artifacts to me so I could understand how they can serve as evidence of the past.

Most of the collection included bones and skulls from humans and various other species. Some were real bones, while others were plastic and plaster replicas made from the originals that are kept in other museums. Professor Rosado explained that original artifacts are always kept in museums near the place where they were discovered. I found this to be an interesting fact in relation to my Native American studies; just as many people wish to remain in the lands where their ancestors lived, it seems that anthropologists believe in keeping fossils and artifacts near their place of origin. The artifacts on display at the museum included replicas from Clovis, New Mexico, from the La Brea Tarpits, and from various other places around the world.

When I first asked what could be learned by studying these bones, Professor Rosado told me one of the main uses is forensic anthropology, which she called “The study of corpses as evidence.” Markings on the bones, for example, can indicate the cause of death, such as from a bullet wound or a stabbing. She also explained that the bones alone can tell a researcher a great deal about who the person was when they were alive. The shape of the skull can indicate sex, the size of the teeth can indicate whether it was an adult or child, cranial sutures can tell age, and the shape can even identify race. Individual physical characteristics can also be determined, such as by measuring the bones to determine the person’s height.

We then began looking at some of the animal fossils on display. I asked Professor Rosado what we could learn about human history by studying animal bones. It turns out that there is a lot we can learn. First, she showed me a fossil of an ancient horse skull, and she explained that horses were extinct in America for about 10,000 years. In fact, it turns out that American horses lived here for millions of years, and some that traveled across the land bridge to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Present-day zebras are descended from those horses that originated in America. The horses that remained in America, however, died out as part of the mass extinctions that came as the planet grew colder and many species were unable to adapt. Horses were then reintroduced thousands of years later, when Europeans brought them here during the colonial period. Other examples included the American Mastodon, the Giant Beaver, the Giant Armadillo, and the American Lion. While most of these species are extinct today, they were alive when the ancestors of Native Americans first came to these lands, and they would have been hunted by those original inhabitants of the country.

This led to us discussing the evolution and migration of human life. Professor Rosado explained that current evidence suggests all human life began in Africa. She also sat that National Geographic has been tracing genetic mutations to compare populations to determine where people came from geographically. The oldest known human skeletons were found in Ethiopia, and date back 120,000 years. Genetic tests on ancient fossils, however, can do more than just tell us where people came from. They can also show a connection between present day humans and their ancestors, by tracing DNA. Professor Rosado explained that DNA comparisons between fossils in Africa from 50,000 years ago have been matched with the DNA of people living in the same region today, showing that those people are descendents of the land’s original inhabitants. Along those same lines, it is possible to test DNA to show the connection between Native Americans living here today and their ancestors who inhabited these lands for 10,000 years.

After speaking with Professor Rosado, I had a second guided tour by Rowan Professor Jared Schultz. This tour went beyond the Museum of Anthropology and took us out onto the campus itself. The goal was to see what we could find around campus that could be connected to the past. Specifically, we were looking for anything that could be connected to Native American history and culture.

We walked around the campus on  a warm spring day, which was conducive to an open and exploratory stroll. The first thing that Professor Schultz pointed out was the trees. He pointed them out as an artifact of cultural ecology, and as a renewable resource. He also explained how Native American tribes of the northeast cultivated the land through the use of what he called “slash and burn agriculture”. He explained how they would burn down trees, shrubs, and undergrowth in order to simultaneously clear and fertilize the land. This not only kept areas cleared of undergrowth to make plantation easier, but at the same time the burned plant life created nutrients for the soil.

Professor Schultz then pointed out the overgrown plant life that covered the campus just off the cement walkways we were walking along. Several of the trees were overgrown with vines that were choking them and stunting their growth. Professor Schultz explained that when the lands were cultivated with slash and burn agriculture, that kind of overgrowth wouldn’t have occurred. The overgrowth was made worse by the introduction of invasive species, which are often brought in for aesthetic purposes without proper consideration for the effect they will have on native plants. In fact, Gloucester County, NJ, where Rowan University is located, is home to 163 different invasive species of plants. Some of the invasive species commonly found in New Jersey include English Ivy, which was first introduced to the United States by European immigrants, and which can often be found growing over walls and choking tree trunks.

While we were examining the trees, Professor Schultz also pointed out the tree trunks and drew my attention to their bark. “We’re looking at the presence of Native American culture that’s not being used anymore,” he explained. The bark, it turns out, was once used in the building of wigwams, longhouses, and wattle and daub houses. Different types of bark would have been used for different purposes: birch was used in the construction of wigwams by the Algonquin, elm was used in the construction of longhouses by the Iroquois, and wattle and daub houses were made with rivercane and wood by the Cherokee. Other types of trees would be used in making other tools or canoes, depending on the type of wood.

After examining the plant life, we also toured some of the campus buildings. While we didn’t find many examples of Native American art, culture, or architectural influences, one modern thing that Professor Schultz did point out was the Rowan Lacrosse team. Lacrosse, he explained, was originally invented by Native American tribes. It was played as far back as 1100 AD, and it was introduced to European settlers in the 1600s.

At the end of the tours, I was left with more questions than answers. These connections, from DNA to plant life to sports, are just some small examples of the connections between the past and the present. What was most interesting, however, was how those connections can be found in such simple things that are right in front of our eyes. Hopefully, in the future I’ll be able to learn to look at such things with new insight. It takes a lot of deeper digging to learn all of the facts and details behind such things, but knowing where to look in order to ask the right questions is the first step.

Past and Present Oppression

As you may know, I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into Native American culture. I’m about to start working on an article based on what I’ve learned so far, which with any luck will end up being published somewhere in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve still been exploring different avenues of research and trying to make connections between them. A few weeks ago, I attended the Native American Voices exhibit at the Penn Museum, and then I had the privilege of speaking with an official representative of the Nanticoke tribe in Delaware. These experiences, combined with the reading I’ve been doing, have led me to want to learn more about how issues of the past are connected to the present.

Initially, I made some connections between past and present issues of oppression. Native Americans have been oppressed in the past and are still oppressed today, and a lot of the reason has to do with the way history has depicted them. For example, in elementary school, my class learned about Native Americans in the 1600-1700s, in relation to colonial history in the United States. What we learned back then has three major issues. One, students are only taught about Native Americans from a colonial perspective, so almost nothing is taught about Native American history and culture before the Europeans arrived. However, there are thousands of years of history that go back long before Europeans ever came to these lands, and that history is far more vivid and deep than most people are taught. I’ve begun learning a bit about it by reading the Book of the Hopi, which combines Native American history and mythology with present-day archaeological research to tell a detailed account of the lives of Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans. This book is just one small example, but it represents an entire ignored area in our education system. If the depth of Native American history before the colonial period were taught in schools, then their culture might not be ignored as much as it is today.

The second issue in this education is that it only depicts Native Americans in ways that are easily stereotyped and which tell us nothing about their real culture. For example, children are taught about the First Thanksgiving, but the typical depictions have led to us having a certain inaccurate image that persists in our cultural awareness.

Image Credit: Wikipedia
Image Credit: Wikipedia

This image, however, has been described as not only inaccurate, but as being based on a story that is completely made up. Furthermore, it presents an image of Native Americans that isn’t accurate to who they are today. We don’t think of modern day Americans as still being the same people as the pilgrims that first came here in the 1600s, but many people still view Native Americans based only on these images from the past. This leads to issues like the #NotYourTigerLily debate over the  selection of white actress Rooney Mara to play the role of Tiger Lily in the upcoming live-action Peter Pan remake. In addition to protests over casting a white actress in a Native American role, there are protests against the very use of the Tiger Lily character, based on the argument that she portrays a stereotypical view of Native American women that is harmful and offensive. This view ignores the reality of modern Native American women by depicting them as a caricature rather than as people (imagine, by comparison, if modern day white women were still viewed in the images of their Puritan Protestant pilgrim ancestors). By contrast, many online activists have been posting pictures showing what real, present-day Native American women are really like, such as in this photo posted by online activist Jacqueline Keeler.

The third issue, which stems in many ways from the first two, is the complete lack of education about the present-day struggles of Native Americans. In addition to the mascot debate I’ve been researching, and the #NotYourTigerLily debate I just mentioned, Native Americans still struggle with many issues that are ignored. For example, 28.2% of Native Americans are living below the poverty line (and on reservations, that can increase to between 38% to 63%). By comparison, the National Poverty Center reports only 15.1% of Americans nationwide living below the poverty line (it is also worth nothing that the NPC  page linked here includes subsets for the poverty statistics of whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, but doesn’t mention Native Americans). Another issue related to the media portrayal of Native Americans is that Native American women are twice as likely to be raped as women of any other race in America. One explanation for this is that Native Americans are viewed as a “conquered people,” and media portrayals of Native American women (such as in movies like Peter Pan) depict them as weak, vulnerable savages that are submissive to white men. This portrayal leads to them being more likely targets for aggressive and violent criminals. There is also the issue that many of the assailants are never prosecuted, and tribal courts often lack the legal authority of their own when state and federal courts fail to act.

These and many other present-day issues are often ignored by the general public, and awareness of these subjects seems to be low. At least part of the blame for this lack of awareness surely stems from the lack of education in mainstream schools. The schools I’ve attended, from elementary school through high school and college, educate students about plenty of other “current events” issues, including the gay marriage debate, copyright laws in the digital age, healthcare reform, and the wage gap between genders. My classes have been invariable silent, however, on any issues related to Native Americans.

While exploring all of these issues, I became very aware of my own blindness and lack of understanding. I therefore sought out the assistance of experts who could better understand the relationship between the past and the present. This is the core concept of Anthropology, which is defined as “the study of humankind, past and present.” To learn more about this, I contacted a group of Anthropology professors from Rowan University, two of whom were kind enough to take the time to assist me in my research. My next post will explore what I learned from them as I attempted to open my eyes to seeing beyond the world right in front of me and into the connections with the past.

Updates on Life and Writing

Hey, it’s been awhile since I wrote a normal blog post about “stuff” instead of academic research, eh?

That’s because grad school CAN and WILL kick your ever-loving ass, and there’s nothing you can do about that. I’m extremely behind on a lot of things at the moment because I’m focusing the majority of my efforts on school. However, aside from school itself (and the academic research I’ve been doing), there is a bit more going on that I decided to make some updates about.

First, my short story Radiance has just sold its 50th copy. That’s cause for celebration. Radiance is the first short released in my upcoming series, Arcana Revived. The first full length novel, Manifestation, is planned for release later this year (once the school semester ends, I’ll be working on that more than anything else). But in the meantime, Radiance provides a preview of the story world, as well as an introduction to a character who will become a major player later in the book series.

Second, it’s my birthday in, oh, about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you didn’t get me anything, I understand. You can get yourself a copy of Radiance as an un-birthday present and I’ll consider that a happy birthday indeed.

Aside from that, I’ll also be updating soon about more short stories I’m working on. I wrote one earlier this spring for my Fiction Workshop class. It follows Callia Gainsborough, one of the main characters of Arcana Revived and love interest of the main protagonist, Gabriella Palladino. Gabby and Tock tend to get most of the spotlight in the novels, which is one of the reasons I love short stories. Characters like Callia, or Maria Vasquez from Radiance can get their own chance in the spotlight, even though they’re second-or-third-billed in the novels. The story I wrote for class (under the working-but-maybe-to-be-changed-title Questioning Angels) takes us a bit closer into Callia’s character in a short but sweet adventure that takes place in between Book Two and Book Three of Arcana Revived. That means it likely won’t be published for quite a long while (after Book Two, most likely), but it’ll benefit from being workshopped in a graduate-level class and going through multiple revisions.

I’ll probably be writing another story for class soon, which will also be part of the series. And of course, there’s still Belladonna, and several other shorts that have each been through a few revisions. They’re all on the back burner right now because Manifestation is in edits and on the verge of being released, so it takes #1 priority over everything else until further notice.

So I think that’s it for now. Expect to see some more academic blog posts in the near future, and the continuation of the Ethnographic Hockey series. And a Very Merry Unbirthday to You!