Monday, February 28, 2011

Gender and a sense of mystery

When it comes to politically correct terms for gender roles, anyone who knows me personally long ago gave me up as a lost cause. I don't care one bit about the generalized 'man' being a collective for both males and/or females such as in words like mankind and chairman. I find the insertion of the word woman in such words to be amusing, and the substitution of 'person' downright silly. In person, I'm not even particularly inclined to differentiate male and female versions of long held titles. For instance, I may mention the party's host, and mean the woman hosting it. And as far as new 'titles', well, expect an eye-roll if someone refers to me as an authoress.

In print, my characters speak and think in terms that are in line with their views. Unless they are particularly pushy in the politically correct department, my characters typically follow common gender grammar rules simply because 1) so far I haven't had a good reason for one not to and 2) it is less confusing for the reader. But occasionally the issue arises where the character doesn't know the gender of the person they are referring to. This is an issue I run into a lot when building a mystery. When a suspect's gender is unknown, and the characters are talking or thinking about the suspect, there are only a couple options for pronouns, and I've yet to find a great solution.

Technically, English does have a singular, gender neutral pronoun. That would be the word 'it'. Yeah . . . I don't know about you, but in my experience people get upset if you so much as refer to their pet as an 'it', let alone use the word for a person. Also, the word just isn't accepted. Imagine a character saying, "We've tracked the suspect to the warehouse district. Don't worry, it won't get away this time." Nope. People would be up in arms.

Okay, what does that leave us with? The cumbersome his or her/ he or she? Imagine a conversation filled with his or her. It would get old fast, and it just doesn't sound natural. Sometimes we are encouraged to switch. One sentence use 'he' and the next 'she'--Ugh. Just ick.

Well, there are always generalizations (which drive the PC people nuts but always seem to be the grammar-pushers top choice). I admit that this is what I'm typically forced to resort to, though I hate it--particularly when forced to pick a gender pronoun as it relates to the mystery of the story.

Why do I hate it, especially since I stated above that in my personal life I'm not particularly politically correct and don't mind gender generalizations? I have a two main reasons:
  • As mentioned earlier, confusing the reader is never good. The words on the page are the only way I have to convey my story, and unless I've established the fact my narrator is unreliable, the reader expects the character's interpretation of events to be true. If my character refers to the suspect as a 'he' an unknown male is painted in the reader's eyes. What if the suspect is female? That's not a fact that can just be tossed out there, but the reader should also not be mislead unless the red herring is part of the plot.
  • the automatic assignment of gender pronouns can make the character sound prejudiced and shallow. Why should the character assume that the killer is male and the dead prostitute is female? Until the facts are available, gender is unknown.
To get around at least the first of the above, a character's assumptions are often laid bare. I'm sure we've all read/seen on TV some version of the following conversation more than once:
Character 1: "He shot the victim three times from close range."
Character 2: "How do you know the shooter was male?"
Character 1: "Well, statically/ based on height/ some fact that could eventually be challenged . . . "

So if we can't us "it", "he or she" is too cumbersome, and generalizing is  unappealing, what option is left? Not anything your high school grammar teacher would approve. Personally, I tend to try to get away with using "their" and "they" as singular gender neutral pronouns. It's incorrect, but I like it better than the other options. My Copy Editor doesn't agree. I don't use 'their' or 'they'  for this purpose often, but at every instance, my copy editor left me a note about number agreement. *sigh*

What do you think is the best solution? Have you found a good way around this issue, or read a book that used a clever method of handling the singular gender neutral pronoun?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

THANK YOU--Bookmark Project

Thank you everyone who volunteered to be part of the bookmark project! I wasn't sure what kind of reception the post would get, but a ton of readers contacted me and now bookmarks will be headed out to dozens of stores across the states. I'm prepping packages of bookmarks and goodies for the mail, but hopefully everything will be shipped by the beginning of next week.

Thank you again! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Bookmark Project

You might have seen my tweet yesterday about the fact I just received two boxes of shiny new bookmarks. I'm very excited that I'll have these available at future cons and events, but I haven't quite run out of my last run of bookmarks yet, and there is only so much room in my luggage and on tables, so I need to reduce my stock. With that in mind, I'm looking for some minions volunteers who would be willing to see that the old bookmarks make it to bookstores where they can find a new home. 

Okay, let's  talk about what is actually involved in this "bookmark project."

What I'm proposing is that if you're interested in helping me get the word out about the books (and helping some bookmarks find good homes) send an email to kalayna(AT)kalayna(dot)com with the words "BOOKMARK PROJECT" in the subject line and include your name, shipping address, and the name of the bookstore you plan to take the bookmarks to. I will then send you 20-30 bookmarks that you can take to the bookstore and either ask the manager to put on the checkout desk for customers to claim, or you can take the bookmarks back to the fantasy section and place them inside other urban fantasy titles so that the reader who buys that book will have a free bookmark and learn about my series. I will also send you your very own minion button (everyone wants one of those, right? Or is that just me?) and I'll send you one of my brand new signed bookplates that you can put in your book.

Anyone interested?

Monday, February 21, 2011

StellarCon Schedule

I know, I only just hung my corset and kicked off my boots from the last convention, but the next is just around the corner and they sent me my panel schedule, so I'm anxious to share it with you. March 4th-6th I will be in High Point North Carolina for StellarCon and if you want to take a peek at my panel schedule, it looks like I'll be chatting about a lot of vampires. LOL. (Don't worry, if vampires aren't your thing and you'd rather chat with me about fae, witches, shifters, mages, and/or soul collectors, just find me outside the panels!)

Okay, without further ado, my schedule:

  • Reading (Heritage, Friday @ 4:30PM)
  • Opening Ceremonies & Guest Meet and Greet (Queen Anne B, Friday @ 6:00PM): Come to the Opening Ceremonies and meet StellarCon 35’s Convention Manager and Guests of Honor. It is followed by a meet and greet of all this year’s guests.
  • Vampires of the Past, Present and Future (Victorian B, Friday @ 9:00PM): Come and explore the world of vampires from the vampires of the past, of the present, and of the future.
  • Signing (Dealer's Room, Saturday @ 1:00 pm)
  • Kindle, Nook, and other E-Books: The Future is Now! (Victorian A, Saturday @ 3:00PM): E-Books are actually becoming a very popular source for reading. Our panelists will discuss their use of these devices and formats pertaining to their books. And what the future might hold for this technology.
  • Tony’s Quick Write (Heritage, Saturday @ 4:00PM) This is the wildest, craziest writing assignment you have ever seen and the best part is it involves our LGoH, Baen Special Guest, and a good number of our Author Guests. If you have never seen it, you need to see this one.
  • What Does A Vampire Have To Do To Get Your Attention? (Victorian B, Saturday @ 6:00PM): In a world filled with vampires, not the real world, but the worlds of fiction from print to visual media what does a vampire have to do; to stand amongst the sea of vampires that now exist?
  • Signing (Dealer's Room, Sunday @ 10:00 AM)
  • The “Urban” in Urban Fantasy (Queen Anne B, Sunday @ 11:00AM): A discussion of the implied importance of cities in urban fantasy, if books set in rural towns should be classified as urban fantasy or some other sub-genre, and/or real vs. fictional cities in urban fantasy.

What do you think? Sound like some interesting topics? You might have noticed that "reading" in there. I will most likely read from Grave Witch -- though if there is interest from those at the reading, I might read from one of my upcoming releases. Now I have to pick a scene or two. I've never done a reading before!

Well, happy Monday everyone. I hope to see you at StellarCon!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

RoundCon Wrap Up

RoundCon has come to a close. Cons seem to go by so fast, but then you know what they say about time and fun. ^_^

With Misty Massey and Faith Hunter at our table
This was the first year RoundCon featured a creative track, and anything new takes a bit to catch on. During a few panels the panelists outnumbered the attendees, but as the con continued I think word got around and we ended up with a nice handful of people by the end of Saturday night. (Not surprisingly, our "The Battle of Sex" about sex in genre and writing sex and sexual tension was the most popular panel. It was also our last panel of the night and we were all a little silly by then.) The great thing about such a small group was the amount of interaction that was possible. We really got to chat with everyone and we were able to shape the discussions to what attendees wanted to talk about. I'd like to send a special shout out to Pat who attended every single panel and Debbie who started with us bright and early Saturday morning and hit almost every panel.

John, Faith, Misty, Elysabeth, Me, and Christina
Another plus to the con being small was the amount of time I had to spend with other guests. Many times you sit one or two panels with any given writer and you might catch a drink at some point, but your paths don't cross for extended periods. This con I had the opportunity both on and off panels to chat with Misty Massey and Faith Hunter, both of whom I already knew and liked (both for their work and as people) but who I really had time to become friends with over the course of the convention. I also met John Hartness and Elysabeth Willams, who were tremendous amounts of fun. I didn't get to chat with Chistiana Stiles as much as I would have liked as she was running games, but hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with her at ConCarolinas in June. And speaking of other cons, I just received my schedule for StellarCon (which is only two weeks away) so I'll get that up on the blog Monday.

Well, I think I've rambled on long enough in this post. I hope the creative track at RoundCon will continue to grow, and that they will invite me back in the future. Thank you everyone who organized the event, and of course, everyone who attended and dropped by panels and/or the table to chat!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will you be at RoundCon?

I can't believe how fast February is flying by. I swear I blinked and opened my eyes to find the first third of the month had already passed. I guess time has never been my friend, but the middle of the month means that one of the events I'm looking forward to is right around the corner.

This year I will be kicking off my conference and convention season the weekend of the 18th with RoundCon, a fantasy and gaming convention right in the heart of Columbia, SC. Faith Hunter (Rogue Mage and Jane Yellowrock series), Misty Massey (Mad Kestrel), and I met not so long ago to plan and propose some topics for the con's creative track, and it looks like everything is set to go. There will be a great selection of creative guests (as well as gaming and anime tracks if your geek-nature swings those directions) so it looks like it will be a great weekend. Here are some of the topics planned:
  • Pitch Session Tactics Pitch like the major leagues and learn how to increase your chance to sell your book.
  • Fiction to Gaming, How Hard Can it Be?
  • Books with Pictures The new popularity of comics and the novel-to-comic transition.
  • The Flawed Hero
  • Building Magic Systems Learn how to develop you own magic system for your fiction or game universe!
  • Post Apocalyptic / Alternate Reality What? My world isn't weird enough already?
  • The Battle Over Sex Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy, vs. Erotica
  • Open Forum - Ask the Writers You have questions. We have answers.
Sound like fun? I'm hoping so!
This will be my first time as a guest at RoundCon, but as this is a smaller con, I have the feeling the panelists will have more time and availability to interact and address questions from the attendees--especially in the open forums!--than at some of the larger cons, so if you have questions you've always wanted to ask a published writer, this would be a great opportunity.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Countdown Meter for GRAVE DANCE

Hello everyone. A flyby post here, but I just had to share this beautiful countdown meter Larissa Benoliel made for the release of GRAVE DANCE. If you would like splash this counter on your webpage, you can find the code on Larissa's COUNTO page. (Scroll down until you see the Grave Dance counter, the code is in a small box below it.) You can find out more about Larissa at her home page HERE or at her TWITTER.

Thank you again for the gorgeous counter, Larissa!
Happy hump day everyone!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

GRAVE DANCE Cover and Blurb

As promised last week, may I present for your entertainment the official cover copy (back cover blurb) for GRAVE DANCE:

Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft.

After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.

The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

Have a great day, everyone!