I have a book out today, Ghosts of Christmas Past.

I’m proud of it, I love the characters of Al and Noir, I love that it’s a Christmas story, and I love that I was able to integrate A Christmas Carol into the plot.

But a part of me feels like it’s a little gauche to celebrate my personal victory today with the tragedy of what’s happening in Ferguson and the continued tragedy of deadly race relations in America.

My story features a cop as the hero, an African-American detective who’s one of the few honest men in his city, like Jim Gordon on the Gotham television show.  Why is he African-American? Why wouldn’t he be in an urban city like my Charlton City aka the Double C? And there seemed something off to me about a white cop trying to impose order on a racially mixed city, even a fictional one.

When I was writing this story, I tried hard to make the setting realistic, to make certain anything that happened could potentially happen in our world. In one sequence, Al stops the corrupt SWAT team from tossing flash-bang grenades into a restaurant full of civilians.

I thought this might be pushing the boundaries of what could happen in an American city.

Then Ferguson happened.

And suddenly, my corrupt SWAT team paled in comparison to the sight of police officers, 99 percent white, in full riot gear imposing order on the mostly African-American citizens of a city.

I don’t want reality to be worse than a horrible situation I create for fiction.

But this is another reason that Aloysius James is who he is. Because as long as we (society) view the world as black and white, as long as some people are seen as the other, then we’re going to continue to have these problems. We need change.

I’m not patting myself on the back. I think adding in diverse characters to my stories, like Al, or the Japanese-American heroine in Phoenix Rising or the Native American heroine in Eagle of Seneca, or a mixed race hero in the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance, is the absolute MINIMUM any writer can do.

Because, at this point, using only straight white characters in stories is ignoring reality. A writer has to deliberately eliminate part of the reality outside our windows, on the internet and on our televisions screens, in order to create an all-white world.

Acknowledging reality’s truth is the least I can do.

 

 

This week was one of those weeks where I thought I didn’t accomplish anything and then I looked back at the week and realize that, yes, I kinda did.

First, not my post, but a wonderful review of Luminous over at It’s About the Book.

Luminous, superhero romance, Jim GordonFrom the review:

Oh man oh man oh man. What a delightful surprise! The author sent this to me so that I could review the following book about Noir and Al that’s due out on November 25th, Ghosts of Christmas Past (The Phoenix Institute Series). So I settled in last night, knowing that since it was a novella it wouldn’t take me too long. ~STOP~ One hour later I’m floored! It is absolute genius! I fell in love with it from the first page and it never faltered, not even once. It was… simply… luminous.

This warmed my heart because it always warms a writer’s heart when someone absolutely gets your story and loves your characters as much as you do.

And also because the same character, Captain Aloysius James of the Charlton City Police Department and Noir, invisible superhero, are also featured in the soon-to-be released Ghosts of Christmas Past.

I love the hell out of these two and the world they live in, which is my loving homage to Gotham City in the Batman universe. I love them so much that I’m currently writing a very short story for an upcoming holiday book event in which Al goes shopping for Noir’s Christmas present.

It turns out to be a lot more complicated than just a simple trip to the mall. 🙂

Next, there was my post on Beyond the Veil about how inserting a real event into a work of fiction doesn’t necessarily make it believable.

From the post:

One of the final copy edit notes I received back this month for the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance was that the near-deadly snowstorm that opens the book is wrong.

The copy editor, bless her, thought more snow should be present, especially in the aftermath.

Here’s the photo of the real storm. You can read my conclusion at the post.

Our swingset after the October 2011 snowstorm.

I continued my recaps of Gotham, the television show that has such quick cuts that it can make the viewer dizzy. Is Barbara the dumbest woman in a current superhero show? Discuss, as she has competition from Laurel on Arrow and Iris on The Flash.

And over on GeekMom:

1. I reviewed a bunch of new comics, including the Teen Titans Earth 1 graphic novel, Batgirl #36, the second with a new creative team and some innovative artwork, and the new crime novel, The Kitchen, about a group of women who take over their husband’s mob organization. (All pretty good.)

2. I interviewed the new writer of the Wonder Woman comic, Meredith Finch, who received the job amid controversy.

3. And I wrote my regular Cliffs of Insanity column, featuring the European Space Agency landing a spaceship on a comic and the world’s ugliest work shirt, my thoughts on the possible director for the Wonder Woman movie, and my take on Big Hero 6, a movie I adored so much, I wanted to hug it.

Oh, and I wrote 3,000 words on the work in progress and had a great brainstorm about the Big Bad. It’s perfect. I can’t wait to write the rest of the scenes.

Now…the weekend! In which I attempt to clean off the dining room table so we can actually, you know, eat at it, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

On the holidays, I have an upcoming release!

Already up on Amazon for pre-order. It’s my vision of Christmas in a Gotham-like city. So there’s a bit of murder but also more than a bit of sex.

Unfortunately, there’s precious little sex in the television show Gotham so far. Instead, the show earns its mature style with over-the-top deaths, like being floated into the sky via balloon or crushed by ATM or death via insane ritual.

Also about sex, from a more serious standpoint, is my recap of the Sex Scenes From the Female Gaze panel at GeekGirlCon last month.

A sample:

When I put together this panel for GeekGirlCon 2014, I had two goals. One was to have a good time. The other was to shine a light on how our society tends to view sex and sexuality from only one perspective.

To those who attended the panel, I hope you had fun. It was awesome to see a packed house. I’d no idea we’d draw that many people to our panel. I laughed when reading the “Pool Boy” letter in preparation for the panel and I thought it illustrated our point well: this is how the stereotypical male gaze views women. (God forbid one should be over 40 and not have a bikini wax.)

But the second goal was more serious. I need to thank the questioner who asked why call it “sex scenes from the female gaze?” because that brings in all sorts of gender assumptions that may or may not be true.

I could lie and say I thought “The Smut Panel” wouldn’t be accepted by the GeekGirlcon organizers but the truth is that when I named the panel, I thought less of how individual men and women view sex and more about how our pop culture, which is predominantly male-dominated, views sex, especially sex for women. Whatever gender we happen to be, we get a steady diet of what female and non-straight-white male sex looks like through the straight white male gaze.

The rest at the link!

And speaking of the real Gotham, I’ve been recapping every episode over at CriminalElement.com

Here are some highlights. Click on the links for the full recaps.

Premier: Episode 1:

The first episode of the series nails Jim Gordon’s essential morality. There’s a line he won’t cross and shortcuts he won’t take. At least so far, because the first hour of Gotham promises some serious challenges to his worldview. It also provides Gordon an excellent counterpoint in cynical, slovenly and yet smart Detective Harvey Bullock. If Ben McKenzie doesn’t watch out, Donal Logue’s Bullock is going to steal the show from his Gordon. Watching the two of them this season together promises to be a lot of fun, especially if they can continue to exchange the wryly funny looks like the ones they gave each other while upside down on meathooks.

So what did we learn about the future of this show in the pilot?

“Selina Kyle,” Episode 2

Instead, from Falcone’s public beating of Fish’s lover, to the too on-the-nose dialogue about being “with the program” from Capt. Essen, and Bullock’s repeated badgerings of Jim Gordon to stop acting all high and mighty, Episode 2, “Selina Kyle” became, at times, almost as silly as its Monday night companion, Sleepy Hollow but not nearly as fun as Sleepy Hollow, which embraces its ridiculousness. (Look, everyone, studly naked torso!)

“The Balloonman,” Episode 3:

The show’s writers know that handcuffing corrupt officials to weather balloons and sending them up in the sky is a comic book murder concept. They use that ridiculousness to their advantage, even having one of the dead bodies fall back to earth, squishing an old lady in a scene that reminded me of the old woman with the dogs in A Fish Called Wanda.

“Arkham,” Episode 4:

Gotham should be subtitled “Rise of the Penguin,” as it’s clear by this fourth episode that this season is all about Oswald Cobblepot’s bid for power.

Focusing on the villain is a tradition in Batman screen adaptations, all the way back to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. And Oswald is perfectly cast to fill this need. Robin Lord Taylor has on-screen charisma to burn, enough so that while he’s a cheerfully unrepentant murderer, I find myself rooting for him. Oswald took a big step forward with this week’s orchestration of a robbery and then dispatching his hired help via poisoned cannoli. (He takes the gun, the cannoli, and the money.)

“Viper,” Episode 5:

Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.

“Spirit of the Goat,” Episode 6:

What’s next?

Likely Barbara will stand by her now-proved innocent man. In any other show, I’d be worried that Barbara would be killed to add some more angst but, hopefully, Barbara’s future role as the mother of Batgirl prevents that.

Oswald will have fun manipulating everyone and trying to “help” his good, true friend Jim. It’s amusing that both Barbara and Oswald look to Jim as a paragon of virtue.

Bullock might keep on doing real work? I hope that means he’s redeemable.

And this show went a whole episode again without Oswald killing anyone. Pretty sure that’s not going to last.

“Penguin’s Umbrella,” Episode 7:

And, yet, it was also full of what’s becoming Gotham’s trademark humor: from Penguin being overly formal, apologetic and making honking noises, to villain Victor Zsasz’s Funkytown ringtone and to Harvey’s taste in bedroom companions. But the funniest sequence had to be Falcone’s idea of kidnapping nuns and chaining them together to block Maroni’s trucks from leaving the city.

What do I think of the show so far? Entertaining, a bit shallow but growing progressively better each episode.