Character Quirks: If they’re supposed to be angels, then why aren’t they angels?

Do you know what a cherub is? It’s a little baby with wings. It’s pink and chubby. It’s supposed to be an angel. And I dunno, maybe there are angels like that in the Bible or what have you, but how could they possibly be of any use? Have you read the Bible? I mean the cool parts when an angel shows up. They’re intimidating. Every time. If a little winged baby showed up right now, you’d bend down and pinch its cheeks. You wouldn’t need it to say Be not afraid, which is classic angel intro talk.

And frankly, angels annoy me. Did you ever watch that show Touched by An Angel? Every episode two to three angels show up and help someone get over their issues with God. I mean it’s a positive show and there’s always a happy ending but life gets dark, and it gets dangerous. There’s a child on this planet right now sleeping under a tree, starving. There are children with automatic weapons fighting to stay alive. There are child predators and slavers. And those are just the dangers in this world I can think of without bursting into tears. Well almost.

BUTTERFLIES! PUPPIES! BIG BIRD!

Phew! Ok. Angels. So I figure, if you’re in trouble I mean real honest to goodness life or death peril, you don’t want cupid to show up and squee at the bad guy. You want an impossibly big Doberman to show up and help you out. Or a dude that’s impossibly tall and can kick really hard.

Whatever sort of Above you believe in, I think we can all agree that if someone’s going to be sent down to bail us out of trouble, we want them to look the part.

Once, during my middle-school years I was in my garage, probably putting away the garbage. I’m about to walkout the side door just a few steps from the kitchen door and I see this cockroach. Now I’m from Texas, and if you need to know one thing about that state, everything is bigger there. I mean the fireants alone are as big as your thumbnail.

So I’m heading through the door and I stop because the Father of All Cockroach Kind is hanging out on the doorjamb. Now this was a tree roach. They can fly.mib_101SmithEdgar

They. Can. Fly!

So I was stuck…because  I was scared of having a giant bug fly into my face but whatever. I couldn’t open the garage door because it was broken. Through that doorway was my only escape. I started to wonder how long I could live in my garage. Motor oil was probably chock-full of protein or something right?

Outside the garage was the family dog, Kofi. Well, she was my dog. I got her for my birthday and she was my responsibility, but the whole family doted on her. So she’s outside leashed to this trolley thing because we didn’t have a full fence and we wanted to make sure she could get her exercise.

Well she’s outside the doorway of the garage, looking at me like I’m crazy because I won’t come out and pet her like she knew I’d planned to do. She’s stretched to her limit on her leash trying to figure me out. But I’m just standing there waiting for Poppa Roach to skedaddle. Finally he does. He skitters around the doorjamb and outside.

But now I’m worried that if I go out the door he’ll still get startled and fly into my face.

That’s when Kofi sprang into action.

Stretched to the limit on her leash, she jumped up at the doorjamb and clawed at the Progenator of All Cockroaches. Then I watched her watch it scuttle off. Then she looked at me as if to say: “All clear”.

So I exited (re: leaped) the garage, and when I stopped to give my dog a good rub, I saw no trace of the mythologically immense cockroach.

So why then are my angel-types not shown as classic angel-types? Well for starters, that iconic look has been reserved for the Persons of Light. And second, I’d much rather have Kofi at my side any day of the week than Roma Downey or Michael Landon.

Just sayin’

 

Touched-By-An-Angel-touched-by-an-angel-30870591-1024-768

Sincerely,

Shomari

 
Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me at: author@sabiensquest.com

Character Quirks: Did that princess just burp?

Ugh, yes!

Why? Because people have gas. Even princesses. Sometimes it’s hilarious. And it’s always awkward. And come on, aren’t you tired of reading about dolls? I know I am. Maggie’s a dame, a broad, a lady, a girl, a maiden, a woman. And spoiler alert, ladies, women, and girls are people. If Ska can burp, so can Magnificent.

Sincerely,

Shomari

Diversity n Stuff: Dorothy & Ellen & Sappho

This post has been on my mind for quite the while. I keep thinking I shouldn’t write it (spoilers) but it all comes down to a crisis of conscience. Frankly, I might be in the business of lying (re: fiction), but I’m not necessarily in the business of duping folks. So here goes Questors:

Vii is gay

Or a lesbian. Honestly, I’m not sure if those two are interchangeable or not. I never understood why guys get to be gay, and while women can be gay too, they must be designated lesbian. I mean I know the whole Sappho/Lesbos thing but why isn’t saying “gay” then “female” enough to designate gender and interest? But whatever, that’s not the point of this post.

 

The point of this post is Dumbledore. After the books came out, and before the last three movies premiered, JK Rowling told some inquisitive someone looking for trivia that Albus Brian [Other Middle Names, I Know] Dumbledore is gay. And the media blew up for the day, because it was a slow news cycle I’m sure. AlbusDumbledore

Years after I read this article refuting the sexuality claim regarding ol’ Dums: http://www.civitate.org/2007/10/dumbledore-is-not-gay-taking-stories-more-seriously-than-the-author/. The author stated that Dumbledore’s romantic preference was never presented in the books. It didn’t come up until after everything was said and done. Arguably, despite Rowling’s claim/statement Albus is straight. Or maybe asexual. Or maybe whatever you believe him to be without any defining proof.

The point is when HP first hit the market, there was a rise in anti-wiccan sentiment, mostly from those in the pulpit who have a direct line to the nightly news. But the book lived on and so did the movies, but when this homosexuality statement came through, I feel like the anti-HP speeches were headline news again.

Right now, Sabien is taking off. It’s great. People are forming opinions and speculating outcomes and I’m very excited. But I don’t want anyone to feel hoodwinked when they find out at least one of my characters is gay. If you have a problem with Vii now, I understand. If you want a refund for your book, email me and I’ll see what I can do.

I guess the question I feel will be asked, or at least the question I asked when Willow Rosenberg came out, is Why is she gay?

I’ll tell you why!

I wrote what are to become Sabien’s Quest: The Light volumes 1-3 in high school. During my first summer after college I started writing Ei Lata’n’s SideQuest novel. As I was brainstorming her life before meeting Sabien I started to consider who her friends are, who her boyfriends were, what sort of firsts she’d had (fight, kiss, ice cream, etc.). When I started thinking about her romantic interests I’d already decided to make her fall for this wimpy Slagg with a heart of gold who was soul-attached to the Deliverer.

I know, I know, but that’s what brainstorming looks like.

Once I got over that idea, I decided that there wasn’t a man good enough for my Jacquie.

Meanwhile, the wimpy Slagg guy disappeared and slowly Mikela the nursemaid who became Vii the nursemaid not a nursemaid became prominent. I thought it would be great that she and Jacqs become rivals/bffs/frenemies. And then I thought cripes, now I’ve got two awesome ladies and not even Ska is cool enough for them. Well maybe they would like each other? That could work.

But I was 1/3 through Ei’s SideQuest before I put it down. In it I actually wrote in a romantic first for her, and that character actually sticks around. And he’s a he. I inadvertently created someone worthy of her, and I liked them together because they would have a true connection and a history I could play with. Her and Vii’s encounters are circumstantial. They run into each other and develop mutual respect (Spoilers I know, sorry).

So Ei Lata’n went back to being hetero and Vii stayed gay. And I like her that way. No, she won’t be striking poses and making out with every lady in sight. I don’t believe that’s what gay is. That’s not what straight is.

The idea of the Strong Female Character gets tossed around a lot. Buffy is a SFC because she literally has muscular strength, and so it goes for a lot of heroines. They can knock back chocolate milk with the best of them, but that’s not what makes someone strong. I think the easiest way to write a SFC is the same way I’d write a SMC:

I write a character who wants something and fears not getting it. Somewhere along the line I assign a gender. And honestly, if I feel like I have too many of one thing I bring in someone else. I feel as though life works like that. Equilibrium. Vii doesn’t exist because she’s gay. She exists, and she’s gay. I have a character who wants something and fears not getting it. Somewhere along the line I assigned her a sexuality. I hope I do her justice. And yeah it’s in the story.

And remember if you hate this series and want to defame it, be sure to buy plenty of copies for you and your friends and burn them good. Don’t forget to spit on ‘em, too. That always helps.

Character Quirks: Do monks really know kung fu?

Yes and no. But mostly no. Unless it’s yes. Look, all I know is this: Bruce Leeroy is my homie.

Barry Gordy’s The Last Dragon was my favorite movie as a kid. Well after King Kong. And Teen Wolf. But I’ll get into those later. The Last Dragon is the story of a guy who knows karate, and then fights another guy who knows karate. And it takes place in Harlem, New York.

And it’s AWESOME!

In 10th grade, when I was supposed to be thinking about Spanish and English and Geometry, what I was really doing was counting down the minutes until I could get home and play Silver.

Cover

This game was a love letter written only for me. You could become a werewolf. You could use your mouse to slash and stab the way you’d use a Wiimote now. And then you could grab these magic orbs, one of ice, another of fire, and then shoot fireballs. And you could even get a sword that shot ice!cagen

But the coolest thing was that there was a character you could add to your party who was this monk, Cagen. He knew kung fu, and whenever you swiped your mouse, instead of stabbing with a sword he could punch kick. It was the best.

And he was such a pleasant guy! Bruce Leeroy, too. They were swell fellas. I wanted to write about a monk who studied fighting at his monastery and was as nice as them.

So I did.

Now for those of you who didn’t take martial arts as a kid, there are these things called katas. Basically, it’s you moving around the room in predetermined stances strung together. If it were figure skating you’d call it the routine.

(Figure skating? What made me think of that?)

I wanted Sabien to be one of those Way of the Peaceful Warrior types. I wanted him to be able to defend himself. And I wanted to write what I knew.

So yes, monks DO know kung fu.

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me: author@sabiensquest.com

What’s In a Name: Bixle Buzz, right?

How do you name a demon? More importantly, how do you name several demons?

Ok so my first challenge when it came to demon naming was: How do I manage to make my hero say I’m the Christian the Devil warned you about? We’ll talk later about the whole Christian thing, right now it’s demons, demons, demons.Satine

First up was making a fantasy version of the Devil and not calling him the Devil. Maybe Satan? Or Satanno?

Nope, can’t. Have to mirror the line.

Okay, okay, what about Day’vle?

Meh. Close enough.

So there you have it. The top dog became Day’vle. But what about his henchman (henchdemons?)? Should I just name them after the Four Horseman or something? Let’s see, there’s Death, Wrath, Sloth, Pestilence…okay so some of those are sins but you get the picture. They didn’t sound all that menacing. Once quirky name I had heard was Beelzebub.

I still don’t know if it’s an alternate name for the Devil in Christianity or if it’s a different guy altogether. But I totally dug it. I remembered reading that name in my bible during Sunday school, and thinking Wow, what a name!

But I needed to redeem myself. I wanted another slice of that clever pie, and there was no way I was going to get served because I brought weak sauce Devil-uh-I-mean-Day’vle to party. So I broke it a part:

Be elze bub

And changed my second favorite letter Z with my favoritest letter X:

Be elxe bub

Twisted that up, and then decided that Bub sounded silly:

Be’axle Been

Booyah!

 

And for those of you playing at home—

Be’axle Been –

Pronounced: Bee-Acks-uhl-Bean

Xir’gol –

Pronounced: Zeer-gall.

(This name I just pulled out of the again, because again I like using X’s and Z’s)

 

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me: author@sabiensquest.com

What’s In a Name: Skunkdaddy? Don’t you mean Wolfdaddy?

Ahem. “For best friends and big sisters, without which the road of life would be one long walk.” Words of a genius if you ask me, but you can only ask me, got it?

For most of my pre-adult life my best friend was a fella name Michael Wayne. If you think Sabien and Ska are pals, you should’ve seen us in our prime. Now for some reason that has been lost to the sands of time, Mikey Wayne became obsessed with skunks. It had to have been around 7th grade because AOL had just released their instant messaging program to the masses. You know how texting your friends now is so big it causes car wrecks? Well AOL Instant Messaging (AIMing) could ruin middle-school relationships. And we all know how sturdy those are.

Everybody who was anybody had an AIM account. Sort of like how everybody has a Facebook page now. Mine was Blakboy14, because for some reason the internet protection software on my dad’s computer wouldn’t let me spell out Blackboy14.

Now somewhere, somehow MW got his hands on this quote–

A woman is like a snake:  beautiful to look at, sensual to the touch, dangerous to possess.

And around that same time he started using the online handle/AIM screen name Skunkdaddy. And pretty quick, that quote became–

A woman is like a skunk: beautiful to look at, sensual to the touch, dangerous to possess.

I remember at one point, his entire profile consisted of skunk references and ended with that quote.

Though to be fair, my profile consisted of some weird lyric I stole from this band called Dru Hill. It had something to do with being so smooth I could sell the Grinch a Christmas toy.Male 3

Still shut up.

So waaaay before I put pen to paper, or rather finger to keyboard I had it in my head that Michael Wayne was going to become a literal skunk daddy if I had to write the reality myself.

And there you have it. Skunkdaddy is a real moniker, and when I needed to create a werewolf with social issues that happened to be best friends with a hunchback, I made a dream come true.

Just to be clear it was my dream that came true. Michael probably wants to forget that whole Skunkdaddy phase of his life.

What’s In a Name: Twiggy-what-now?

You guys, keep in mind that I read A LOT when I was younger. I could read because I read. And a lot of stories for kids are about animals, and those animals are always, ALWAYS from Animal Town.

That never made any sense to me! Gorillas are from Gorilla City? Why? I’ve never met a guy from Peopleville. Space puppies were from Planet Puptron. Cats were from Kitopia. Okay that last one’s not bad, but you get (or probably remember) the picture.

So there I was, trying to figure out what to name this troll-like creature I’d sketched during Trigonometry class. He was a forest dweller, and he had these leaf scythes. What should I call him? Twig? Leaferton Oakface? I liked the idea of naming his people the Hedge or Children of Scion. Back then I was real big into my thesaurus. Scion and Hedge were just too good to pass up, like naming a werewolf Remus Lupin and a dog guy Sirius (looking at you JK). And I’ll be honest, that’s clever. Hiding facts and riddles inside of a name. I wanted a piece of that clever pie.

But naming a forest dwelling character Twig would get me laughed straight out of Peopleville.

And then, inspiration:

I must have seen that episode years before, and Bart’s made up word just stayed with me. I love made up words. They’re maybe a little pompitous, but it’s my fantasy and I can write what I want to.

So then:

Twij’e Bo –

Pronounced: Twee-juh Boh

 

And for you wiseacres in the room, no I did not have a crush on a celebrity named Obejiwt.

 

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me: author@sabiensquest.com

What’s In a Name: Ok, is it pronounced Ei Lata’n or Ei Lata’n?

Okay, I get it. Names can be weird, and weird names can be difficult to pronounce. A substitute teacher once asked if my name was Shannon during roll call. So I’m going to treat you to not only the correct way to pronounce Ei Lata’n, I’m going to give you it’s etymology*.

Ei Lata’n

Pronounced: 1) Eh-la-tawn,  OR  2) Ee-la-tawn.

She prefers the first pronunciation. I mispronounce it as the second all the time, so I figured I’d include it. If you’re in her presence and feeling squeamish, just call her Ellie. Trust me, she’ll allow it.

Back when I started writing Sabien’s Quest, I had this smart-mouthed friend named Jacquelyn, but everybody called her Jacquie. When I started writing this story I thought, oh I’m definitely putting Jacquie in there. I even quoted her. As a matter of fact, first draft Ei Lata’n is pretty spot on IRL Jacquie. Once I got to know the fictional character better, her words came through loud and clear and managed to stop borrowing from her IRL model. But I still kept one quote, because it makes me laugh every time she says it.

Now I knew early on that Jacquelyn Ana-liz Slashwind was going to be given a codename, but 007 was already taken.

[crickets]Female 1

Ugh. Ok I’m just gonna come out and say it. I had a HUGE crush on Natalie Portman when I started writing this book. Phantom Menace was still fresh in my mind and I was OB-sessed. I even saw that Where the Heart Is movie she was in. IN THE THEATER.

Shut up.

So anyway, as a way to get Natalie Portman’s attention I decided to name one of my characters after her. That way when this book is turned into a movie, or at least a radio-play, I would be able to declare my obsessions to the world and hopefully get to meet her.

So there you have it: Ei Lata’n is Natalie spelled backwards.

Be honest, how blown is your mind right now?

 *look it up

 

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me: author@sabiensquest.com

Diversity n’ Stuff: OK, maybe it was wrong of me to laugh at LOTR

The other day I posted about Sabien’s appearance and how it kept him in constant danger. During that spiel I mocked the trials of Harry Potter, and Eragon, and the Fellowship. Well mocked is a strong word. The reason I laugh at HP and Eragon and the Fellowship most groups of characters you can think of are because they don’t look real to me.

Wait, wait, let me explain.

The world, my world at least, is mixed up. When I was kid my friends didn’t look like me, because there were plenty of kids around who didn’t look like me. When I was an adult my friends didn’t look like me, because there were plenty of adults around who didn’t look like me. Occasionally, I’m still an adult, but don’t tell anyone.

Because of all the name dropping I did last time, you know I’m a big comic book fan. I’d even go as far as to call myself a comic book nerd. My library as a 7-year-old consisted more of Spider-man than Seuss. I had X-Men trading cards and watched their ‘90s cartoon growing up. Nightcrawler was my favorite, and I still say “..nor iron bars a cage” because of Hank McCoy. As my reading tastes developed I stumbled upon a series by K.A. Applegate called Animorphs at a school book fair. There were kids on the cover changing into animals. I made my parents buy three of them on the spot.original-group

Now, I had just come out of my Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers phase and the Animorphs series was a smooth transition. Why? Well because the MMPR looked like me and my friends. Go ahead and look up the original line-up. I’ll wait.

Got it? Sweet.

Now, costume arrangements aside, MMPR was big deal for me. Like I said, I was reading and watching X-Men and Spider-Man at the time, with some Batman thrown in for good measure. When I decided to stop plagiarizing and just use my imagination, all of my stories revolved around versions of me that got super powers of some sort. And my friends were right there with me.  Unfortunately, if I wanted to visually identify with one of my heroes I’d have to be blue and furry, or not there at all. Until Zach the Black Ranger showed up.

And thanks to Mrs. Rather (3rd grade, Haude Elementary) I was exposed to the fantasy genre. She read The Dark Green Tunnel to our class and I never looked back. Again, this was a story about two kids who were in a new world, and had to hide, but looked just like everyone else. I didn’t immediately see the danger other than they couldn’t defend themselves. I don’t remember reading about any characters in an alternate world that didn’t already fit into the Europa based setting. Now this was of course years before I was introduced to Octavia Butler’s catalogue.

But then came the Animorphs. Rachel, Jake, Tobias, Marco, Cassie, and Aximilli Esgarouth Isthil. They were the best. Saving the world on the weekends from the alien invasion happening right under our noses. And their descriptions (as well as the cover art) reminded me of my friends and the stories I wrote. Girls were friends with boys, and not everyone was from the same family tree. There was even a part where their resident alien, Ax, took each of the other Animorphs’ DNA and created a human form.

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To me that was groundbreaking. In X-Men, if Beast or Nightcrawler gets shot with a human ray, they look just like Peter Parker. In an episode of Gargoyles, another childhood-era favorite, when the Gargoyles, that are purple and red and green and brown, get humanized, they get pale skin.

To me, Applegate with her Animorphs series acknowledged that humans don’t all look the same and aren’t derived from the same palette. It’s a simple truth, but I hadn’t seen much of it at the time. But of course, Star Trek acknowledged it immediately.

My father is a Trekkie. I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation playing in the living room as I went about my evening. Now I’m a Sisko man myself, but I’ve got plenty of love for Picard. And between the two of them, and even with Kirk, they were working with a diverse crew.

Even the Planeteers acknowledged that different faces from different places can save a world.

So there I was, at respective times in my life, seeing the Power Rangers, and the Planeteers, and space station Deep Space 9, and the bridge(s) of the Enterprise, and five kids plus one alien saving worlds.

And then PBS brought it home:

 

 

That’s a clip from PBS’s Puzzle Place. The episode is titled Rip Van Wrinkle, and I won’t fault you for checking out the rest of the series. It’s pretty cool. In that bit the Puzzlers have just read a picture book version of Cinderella and want to act it out in a play. But there aren’t roles for everyone.

I liked my fantasy stories with their magical gateways and mythical creatures (lookin at you werewolves) but there didn’t seem to be any room for me in them. I could get superpowers and save this world, but what about the others? Could I rule over Narnia? Was it allowed? And why can’t dwarves and elves and humans work together? Was their struggle supposed to be commentary on arbitrary differences?miles-morales-1-610x729

I felt there were actual differences with actual consequences that could be commented on as well. I laugh when I’m told Arwyn and Aragorn can’t be together because they’re different. And I chuckle when Harry Potter has to live in the woods to hide when his only distinguishing feature can be covered up with cover-up. I get that they are fantasy stories, but to me that’s unreal.

What if Harry and Ron and Hermione had to find a horcrux in India without detection? What if the Fellowship had to make a detour through Harad?

What if five kids and an alien were being hunted on an alien planet? [See Animorphs: The Attack (#26) for the answer.]

Now, why should science fiction with its lasers and spaceships have all the fun?

I wanted to make my characters’ lives as challenging as they could be. At home, Sabien’s weird looking because he has a hunchback. It gives him a complex. Ska can’t get a date because he looks like a skunk, not a wolf. And then they have to go out into the realm! Not only are they freaks at home, they stand out something fierce just walking through a random city in the kingdom. Maybe a needle can hide in a haystack, but a tree can’t hide in a meadow. So what’s a tree to do when it’s being hunted by lumberjacks and there’s no forest nearby?

 

Sincerely,

Shomari

 

Want in on the Brainstorm? Email me at: author@sabiensquest.com