An Open Letter to Drag

I’d like to talk about the other word.

In the wake of the big RuPaul’s Drag Race finale (I was so for Violet; I admit it – she had me at that bearded runway) I had some thoughts about the topic I wanted to share. Yes, I know I’ve experienced a commercialized version of drag and am one of those Midwestern moms the queens chuckle about. Maybe I’m not cool enough to talk about it. But I think I will anyway, because that’s my realness. If you’re interested, read on.

Some of you may know that I have been a fan of RuPaul Charles since the first time I saw him on television in the mid-nineties. (For some of us, that won’t seem very long ago and for others I suspect it will.) I followed his career, bought any magazine that featured him, and listened to, “A Little Bit of Love” constantly.

I’ve never been focused on his famous drag character. Sure, she’s stunning and classic and all that. But it’s Ru himself that has fascinated me. He’s bold, interesting, and revels in a fearless androgyny far ahead of the market’s ability to support it. He’s also entertaining, witty, and uplifting. And have you read his books? They are inspirational as well as entertaining. Ru is an amazing person.

It’s quite ironic that I enjoy drag so much. I don’t wear any makeup or heels of any height. I believe in natural beauty. And velour pants. But I do appreciate art. And to me drag is a fascinating mixture of art. It’s entertainment and sometimes comedy. It’s larger than life – and it’s bold. I can’t turn away. I particularly enjoy Pandora Boxx and Jinkx Monsoon; they are so talented. My fandom has crept into my writing – Rikian (the intersex elf) quotes RuPaul in Spireseeker, and some of you might have picked up that Cor’s mother in The Banished Craft is named Ruby. Mother Ru!

You may or may not have followed last year’s controversy (much of it clearly contrived by the media) surrounding the use of certain terms on the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. The most controversial of these being what I will refer to as the t-word: an innocent or fun word for some invoking Rocky Horror or other diversions, but to others a symbol of hatred and oppression against transgendered individuals.

The drag industry seemed torn on how to respond. Should they defend a pioneer of gender-forward entertainment in the mainstream—the main reason their own careers exist? Should they risk giving the impression they are not behind the transgendered community, a community with a horrifying rate of murder and suicide? Some even got into the debate whether drag itself is a transgendered lifestyle—an argument with cause but that I’m certain is troubling to at least some of those who have lived through hell because they can’t ever “de-drag.”

I also get Ru’s argument on the subject. I’ll paraphrase here, but basically he’s said that drag is punk and censoring it only hurts it. He said people need to grow stronger and remember words are just words. He also suggested that the stir was not being caused by every-day transgender people, but basically by attention-seeking bloggers, looking to play the victim. He made some great points.

Either way, this season the show has backed off some. Their gendered play on “e-mail” has disappeared, and I have not heard the use of the t-word. I’ve noticed other subtle changes as well.

So what’s my point? Why rehash an old conversation? Because something’s been bothering me, and I’d like to talk about it. It’s the other word. The one no one has brought up.

I don’t use this word, so I’ll call it the b-word. And it’s not just the b-word that bothers me, it’s the constant misogynistic references in the drag industry. Do I think that drag queens disrespect women? No, not generally. I just think they have become desensitized to the language and imagery that they use, just as our culture is in places to terms against races, orientation, or other characteristics.

Now, time to get ready, because today I am serving tea.

Here’s my message to queens and gender-blurring entertainers everywhere: You don’t need to degrade women (any type of women) in order to be fabulous. You can be as punk, funny, and bold as you want without laughing at vaginas, or making flippant jokes about dropping babies out of them. Those jokes can be hurtful to people on a very personal subject, and in my opinion it has nothing to do with your craft. You don’t need to call yourself the b-word or cutesy variations on the c-word. You don’t need it. Those are cheap jokes; cheap gimmicks. And you just don’t need them. They lessen your art.

I think many people misunderstand the b-word. They think maybe it means someone is emotional, even affected by hormones. Some people have twisted it to mean you’re tough. Or feminist. Or awesome. Or sassy. Or gay. But maybe they don’t understand that it’s a common term in rape and slavery – against males as well as females. They don’t know that its origins are comparing a woman to a dog in heat – reducing her to an irrational sexual object without the ability to decline. Maybe they aren’t aware that in dog breeding the man often has to hold the female dog down so she is unable to escape while the male dog has his way with her. It’s really an ugly term.

I consider myself a modern woman. I detest gender rules, and love pushing boundaries. I try to be punk. But I am not a b-word, nor would I call anyone else one, even in jest. I used to say it, years ago. But I’ve stopped. And I don’t use it in my writing. Sometimes I think it might be funny, in context. You know, “b- please!” It makes people laugh. But I talk myself out of it every time; it’s never worth it.

I’m not asking for drag to be any less punk. I’m not calling for anything to be banned. But if you don’t use the n-word, you don’t need to use the t-word, the f-word, or the b-word. Be cleverer than that. Promote drag, glamour, androgyny, or just put on a great show. Be rude or x-rated if you want. Be edgy. Wear fabulous wigs, and put them on top of other wigs. But leave the misogynistic language out of your routine. You’re better than that.

What about Ru’s message to be stronger? Women are stronger. Professional women, domestic women, transwomen, women of color, all of them. They’ve put up with a lot over the centuries, and they are stronger than they’ve ever been. As are a lot of people who have been considered lesser or different. We’re really getting there, one step at a time.

So, drag community: I’m not mad, or demanding anything, I’m asking the question. Do you really need degrading language in order to be punk? My opinion: you don’t.

Just something to think about. And RuPaul – I truly adore you, at least as much as I can from what you show the world. Don’t take any of this for shade. I’m just speaking up.

Love and respect, E.D.E. Bell

June 2015

An Open Letter to Drag

A Note from the Real Mom

I’m hesitant to write about this at all. Reason is, family ought to just be family. Not a non-traditional family, a mixed family, a blended family, a multi-spectral family, an assorted family, a variegated family, or whatever term people can come up with to imply their acceptance of diversity while ensuring they segregate it. Family is just family. So I guess that’s why I decided to write this. If I can cause one person to think before speaking – to consider the impact of their words – then it’s a topic worth addressing.

So. We adopted our daughter. I don’t actually think that’s a big deal. I think it’s cool. But I also think it’s cool that women severed my muscles to remove my sons in front of my eyes, yet I don’t talk about that much either. My kids are just my kids and comments that imply any caveats on that are startling and hurtful.

Please, consider the following things when talking to families who have or are thinking about adopting. And if you hear someone else making insensitive statements, maybe pull them aside and clue them in.

It’s a verb: One of the best things I’ve heard is the idea to use adoption as a verb, not an adjective. Adoption is a process with a beginning and an end. Saying people “were adopted” rather than “are adopted” is a nice way to reference that process (in an appropriate context) without making it an obligatory lifelong caveat.

Who are these people? I don’t know who these people in the “traditional family” are, but they seem awfully smug. I suppose there needs to be two parents: a man and a woman, who have had at least one child. The parents can’t have been married to anyone else in the past. Both of the parents need to be biological parents of the children, and both the same race. I suppose at least one parent has to stay at home, and the other one works. The working parent better be successful and stoic, and the stay-at-home parent better spend all their time with the kids. They can’t be too young when they got married, or too old. And they should be the same age. They’d better be religious (and the same religion at that), ensure their children share their beliefs, while not teaching them anything that isn’t mainstream. No drinking or smoking, or music with inappropriate themes. Most importantly, their children can’t tell butt jokes at the table. I’m pretty sure this is key. Where I’m going with this: unless you are an actual family court judge, nobody asked you to arbitrate families. Nobody likes being compared.

Pregnancy is special. But it’s not the only way. When I listen to people go on about the unique experience of pregnancy and birth, I feel bad for people who have never been pregnant and worry they are missing out. Starting, I suppose, with all men. Look, I know how special pregnancy is. I’ve been there. I also was proposed to in a Broadway theater – it was indeed special. Should I look down on others who had a different experience? If you have children but have never been pregnant I have great news: your way was not inferior. And your bladder was probably much better off.

The Easy Way: Never ever say to an adopting parent, “I see you are doing it the easy way.” Adoption is every bit as difficult (often more) than pregnancy. Pregnancy can be rough. I’ve had a miscarriage, and I’ve had gestational diabetes. Not fun. And through adoption, I had to wait during the pregnancy day after day, without any control over the end outcome or even the ability to be reassured by the baby’s movements, or even the understanding of your friends, who have no idea what you are going through. I’ve also had what they call a “change of heart”. This means you are holding a real baby you think is yours and then someone takes it away forever. And after that I had to hear people call it the easy way. Put this one out of your vocabulary.

Use race in context. If your friends have never called your kids white, probably best not to randomly call their kid Asian. “But it’s true.” I know, but there’s no context for it. Your need to point it out begs the question why. Also random references to basketball—best to skip.

Law & Order. Bum-bum. Everyone has apparently learned everything about adoption from Law & Order. How “they” can take the child away years later. How mothers make a fortune selling their children. How the children are actually kidnapped. No, it’s real because it was ripped from the headlines. Please. Stop. I love that show too, but stop.

The Exception is not the Rule: On a related topic, that one guy you heard about does not define the rest of us. I’m sure there have been some crappy adoptive parents. And some crazed-out kids. Or some guy you knew that is bitter about his life. Or some article you read. This is true for any subset of people. Don’t be so selective.

The Birthmother. “So, was she poor? She just couldn’t afford another kid?” Yes, that’s right. Women make the life-changing and self-sacrificing decision to carry a child, find them a loving home, and potentially never see them again because they are poor. In fact, if you drive through an impoverished neighborhood, you will find there are no children there. They cost too much. In reality, there are many reasons a woman chooses adoption. Perhaps the child would be in a dangerous situation, exposed to drugs or abuse. Perhaps the child would be hated by others in its life. Perhaps the woman was raped, and can’t subject a child to a lifetime of its mother seeing a rapist in their eyes. Perhaps the woman is terminally ill. Perhaps she is already obligated to full-time care of another. Perhaps she is disabled. First point: Don’t ask this. It’s awfully personal. Second point: No, it probably wasn’t about money. P.S. I’ve never once been asked about the Birthfather’s motives.

Well, she shouldn’t have got pregnant then. Sigh. Great advice. I mean, come on.

Investigative reporting. So why did you adopt? Are you unable to have kids? Did you have medical problems? Did your doctor recommend not getting pregnant or was it just a choice you made? When did you bring them home? Where are they from? Aren’t you worried they’ll have bad genes? Are they as smart as the other kids? Do you feel differently about them? First: This isn’t 60 minutes. Second: Consider whether you’d like to be asked these sort of questions about your choices in life. These questions are really quite rude, and focus on entirely the wrong things. Third: Ask about the kid. “How’s she doing? What does she enjoy? What grade is she in?” Parents love to talk about their kids. Do that.

Real kids / Real parents. What. Planet. Did people grow up on. Where this is acceptable. Don’t refer to biological relatives as “real”. Ever. If you want to inquire about someone’s biological heritage, first ask yourself why? Are you their doctor, concerned about genetic risks for disease prevention purposes? Are they famous and you are writing their biography? Sounds legit! Please ask about their “biological” history. If not, are you simply curious? Is this person that close to you that it’s an appropriate question? If you have no real reason to ask, don’t. Again, this is personal. In case you think I’m making this up, I’ve had people ask me about my child’s “real parents”. I’ve had people ask me, “One of your kids isn’t yours, right?” (And note even after I told the person this was upsetting to me, they insisted it was the correct terminology, since not all my kids were “mine”.) People have complimented me on my ability to treat all the kids the same. (What?) Once I showed someone a picture of my daughter and said she was laughing at her dad, and the person responded, “I thought she never met him.” I could go on, but I hope you get the idea. All. Families. Are. Real. Saying otherwise is just mean.

Stop making excuses. “Oh people just don’t know the PC thing to say.” “Oh, it always changes anyway.” “Oh, people get so wrapped up about words.” No. Stop. Words are a primary method of human communication. And there is nothing about not saying someone’s child isn’t “real” or “theirs” that requires an abundance of political correctness. Don’t make excuses for people; tell them to use their noggins.

Bottom line: Think before you speak, and when in doubt—remember the golden rule.

Thanks for listening. With love, The Real Mom
E.D.E. Bell – February 2015

Mommy’s Little Princes

[Note: I wrote this piece over a year ago, but was worried it would come off too snarky, as I believe in tolerance and positive messages. However, after a recent trip to Disney World (and thank you Disney World; we sincerely had a really wonderful time) I decided to take the risk and dust it off. I have no issues with children who love the idea of princesses (hey, I’m a fantasy author!), but as parents I think we should sometimes be more thoughtful about both the priorities we set for our children, and the way they are applied across genders. No disrespect is intended – just a different perspective on the issue, for thought.]

Luckily, one of my children is a girl. This way, I have someone to pass my life skills to, and someone to watch the Lions with me on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Maybe someday she’ll even become an engineer, like me. Though, I remind her, she’d need to work hard in school so she can get into a good college. I encourage her to join Science clubs, and to stay active. It’s a lot of work to get a good job and support a household. After a good talk, we go outside for a game of catch. She’s my buddy, and nothing can take that away.

But as much as I love my daughter, I have an extra special relationship with my sons, or as a call them: my princes.

Like all little boys, they have always been into princes, from the time I bought them their first prince board-books when they were babies. Every night, I used to read to them about being a prince, and tell them that someday – if they stay handsome and sweet – someday they will find their very own princess. As they got older, I got them prince dolls, and even toy chariots that the prince dolls could ride around in. They even have educational toys for boys now, like prince board games, where the boys can learn strategy while pretending to be their favorite princes. I also remind them that princes are brave!

My husband and I are just so committed to the prince theme, but only because they love it so much! I admit, it helps me keep the kids in line as well. You know how rowdy boys are. If they are a little messy, or forget to play quietly together, I remind them – if you aren’t proper gentleman, your princess might not want you! That usually settles them down, and reminds them it’s time to watch one of their prince movies. Only for the millionth time!

It’s hard to keep them out of their prince costumes. Each one has a series of little blue crowns, tabards, and swords, and they insist on wearing them around the house, running around looking for princesses to rescue. Then when Halloween comes, they pick their favorite prince costume and spend at least an hour getting ready to go out. This is the one time of year their dad lets them borrow his hair gel and his fancy cologne, so that they really look like grownups! Handsome grownups that will attract princesses!

On their birthdays, I hold prince-themed parties. There are princes on the cake, and the napkins, and even plastic signet rings as party favors. The girls won’t go, of course – princes are a boy thing. But the neighborhood boys love it. They get together, wear paper crowns, and talk about who their favorite prince is. My sons love Eric, from “The Little Mermaid.” He was really handsome.

Some of my friends (you know, the kind of moms who read too many internet blogs and need to settle down) have suggested that I push the prince theme on the boys, that they might be interested in learning about dinosaurs, or playing with building toys like their sister does. But those are people who don’t understand nature, I think. Boys will always be boys. You just can’t push it out of them! And why would you? If there’s one thing boys love, it’s princes.

Once, the boys asked me what a prince really was, which I thought was cute. My boys are so smart, too. A prince, I explained, is someone who is born into a royal family. It’s their job to set rules for other people to live by. And as long as they stay very handsome, people will listen to them as well as adore them. And someday, they might marry a princess, and then have beautiful babies, who can also be princes.

I know that as the boys get older, they might want to redecorate their prince-themed bedrooms, and maybe even think about things like hobbies, music, sports, or even going to college. But I hope I can keep them princes for as long as I can. I just don’t want these days to end. And – no matter how old they get – they will always be my little princes.

E.D.E. Bell – 12 January, 2014

Can Engineers Write?

Of course they can. Engineers are creative! Let’s dispel that myth right now. Engineers aren’t given a set of instructions to follow; they are given problems to solve or prevent. For me, creative writing has been a fun and challenging expansion of what I already do.

I had the privilege to attend the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Great Lakes Region annual conference in Chicago this fall. Being around such passionate Systems Engineers got me thinking about how much my engineering training helps my writing. As some of you know, I’m a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) – not a standard qualification for a fantasy writer. SE application may be a dry topic to many, but this unconventional training is central to defining who I am as a writer. I’ve found that the more I get used to writing, the more I am able to leverage my engineering skills.

Following are a few examples of how my SE training helps me write:

Listening: Systems Engineers are the bad guys! They tell their management when a plan isn’t likely to work and offer ways to resolve it. Those corrections usually involve a short term cost – either additional resources, a time delay, or just the embarrassment of changing course. I know very well what it’s like to be right, but still be ignored because the news is unpopular. That in mind, I listen carefully to everything an editor has to say, because I understand their job is to make the story better, not to say things I want to hear.

Architecture: Systems Engineers are charged with the big picture. Many SE professionals lament that western training “trains out” the Systems perspective from bright young minds: driving them toward specialized expertise, but losing our instinct to take in the whole world with curiosity. Being trained to see everything at once, it’s easier for me to design the story’s architecture, and slice that into different “viewpoints” – who are the characters, what are the places, what are the plotlines, how does everything connect? This is crucial to identifying and correcting gaps.

Process: Yes, the Systems Engineering “V” model works for novels! In non-technical terms, this says: 1) Plan time in the schedule for all the steps 2) Do things in the right order. (Worldbuilding before writing, for example.) 3) Check readiness before moving to the next phase. 4) Don’t be afraid to go back to earlier phases. 5) Keep all the steps in mind throughout the process. (When you’re worldbuilding, remember you’ll need to write this, and when you’re writing don’t forget how it fits into your world.) Knowing the V-model is especially critical as an independent publisher, where you’re planning from concept through reviews. That process is second-nature to an SE, allowing the focus to be on the writing.

Iteration: Systems Engineers are driven by the idea of feedback. Feedback within the V, but also to the next delivery, the next increment, the next project. We thrive on the concept of the “Lessons Learned.” Instead of negative feedback stopping us, it fuels us to do better. It’s the whole challenge of an SE project – take a need and turn it into a functional system. And then do it better the next time.

Think this is boring? If so, 1) Thank your local Systems Engineer – they are the ones we need to save our world from the crises it faces. I mean that. 2) In fairness I’m also writing about dragons and wizards.

Cheers – E.D.E. Bell, 1 November 2014

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What’s with the Vegan thing?

Veganism isn’t a widely accepted lifestyle, at least not in the Midwest, at least not yet. I get it. If you don’t, just be grateful your beliefs aren’t judged as harshly. (And if they are, then maybe you understand.)

But I’ll tell you something – I have been very happy about converting to full veganism after about seventeen years of moving that direction anyway. It was time. I’m not apologizing for it or downplaying it anymore. This is who I am. I don’t wear leather, I don’t use animal fat on my skin, I don’t eat meat, eggs, cheese, or dairy – and I’ve never felt better about myself.

So here’s the deal. I’m not going to make the case for it. If you want to learn more about the reasons people live a vegan lifestyle, go to vegan.org or search the wide number of blogs or websites. You’ll read that people become vegans to decrease suffering to animals, to promote non-violence amongst humankind, because they don’t want to support the practices employed by factory farming, because they don’t want to kill intelligent life without cause, because of the health benefits, because it’s more environmentally friendly and sustainable, or maybe just because it makes them happy. Do your own research and make your own decisions.

For fun, check these people out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_vegans

Or, more substantively, listen to this guy: Dr. Kim Williams

So maybe I’ll just answer a few questions people have had for me. Since we’re chatting.

It’s just a diet, right? – Some people eat a vegan diet. I’m a vegan. There’s a difference. That means my shoes, my purse, and the stuff in my bathroom are vegan, and I live a life that looks for opportunity to reduce suffering to intelligent life. I’m not perfect or even that great; I’m just trying.

Ok, but why do you have to talk about it so much? – It seems like we talk about it a lot because it’s different. But I assure you, there are plenty of posts about pig roasts, grilled steaks, and meats wrapped in other meats in my news feed. Plenty. Not to mention jokes about vegetarians. Which, yes, even my friends post.

Everything is cooked in butter. – Yeah, you’re telling me. But it doesn’t have to be. Even if you don’t prefer oils like olive or sesame, try Earth Balance vegan butter sometime. I bet they sell it at your grocery store (though it may be called Smart Balance Light).

How can you not eat cheese? – Actually, I just don’t. It was never good for me anyway, nor was I ever really comfortable with it. Then I learned about spiked nose rings for calves. So I’m good.

How can you not eat pizza? – Yes, pizza is delicious. Vegan pizza is delicious. The fact that most pizza places don’t offer it bothers me much more than it does you. Maybe someday they will. In the meantime, I add my own toppings at home, or buy frozen varieties at the store. (Bold Organics, Amy’s, Tofurky, among others sell delicious vegan pizzas.)

What about protein and vitamins? – My, what a personal question. I have medical care, and they test me for these things. I’m fine.

But B12 only comes from animals. That proves you should eat animals. – First, are you aware that meat and dairy are fortified? Does that prove that a meat-focused diet is inadequate? Second, B12 comes from poop. If anything, this proves we should eat poop. If that appeals to you as much as it does to me, then you have two more choices: eat animals who ate poop, or eat lab-grown bacteria.

But vegan food tastes awful. – No, it actually doesn’t. If you’ve had bad vegan food, I’m sorry. Eat at my house sometime. My husband cooks vegan for our family and it’s all delicious. Also, remember that centuries of research and decades of technology have gone into refining animal-based foods. Once society puts as much effort into plant-based options, the options will accelerate rapidly. The advancements in cashew cheese and other vegan products over even the last couple of years are astounding.

I try to live with respect and tolerance for other people’s views and beliefs. It’s liberating. Negativity will only drag you down. So if you’re still reading, let me challenge you to something. No, not a vegan meal. Something else. For the next week, read your own social media posts, and listen to your comments. Before you write or speak, ask yourself: am I saying something positive about what I think, or am I saying something negative about someone else or what they think?

Don’t want to try it? Then don’t. It was just a thought. Meanwhile, I’ve got an order of Japanese Pan Fried Noodles on order with tofu and extra shiitake on the way. Thanks, Noodles and Company!

With love and respect and only a pinch of snark –
E.D.E. Bell
07 September 2014

The Last Two Weeks

Ha! The title means two things! Words are hilarious that way.

What have I been doing over the last two weeks:

Working and Living: Job. Management. Hug kids. Pet cats. Hope for thunderstorms. Same same.

Writing: I am 85% done with the first draft as of today. This is only the beginning, though. I have tons of notes, and foresee many more rounds of editing before I even think of putting this novel into your hands. I want it to be awesome! Whether you backed the project because you’re a friend, a fantasy fan, a vegan, or just like to read – I’m working hard to have something you’ll love about this story.

Reading: I snuck in reading a book I received via a Kickstarter project – it’s called The Book by Roger Jarman. It was filled with indie love, was exceedingly British, and had some very exciting moments. I am always so proud to be a part of fellow indie writer’s creative endeavors.

Lumberjacking: Ok, not really, as I adore trees, but I did go to the Farwell Lumberjack Festival in mid-Michigan with a pocket full of vegan jerky and a heart full of lumberjack street cred. And I did watch people throw axes at each other (really) and log roll. And I got an eagle carved out of white pine with a chainsaw. So that’s one more life goal achieved.

Also, let’s talk about the last two weeks of my pre-order campaign:

The End is Near: The campaign runs through 11 August so if you’re interested, don’t wait! Signed hardcovers are fun to have, and fun to give as gifts. Know someone for whom it’s impossible to shop? Well, I promise they won’t already have this.

Be a Bro: Please spread the word. I’m nowhere near what I’ll actually need to spend on editing, so every pre-order is a tremendous help to me. Remind your friends that it’s worth the entertainment value alone of watching me write about dragons, for only the cost of a fancy coffee. And besides that, you’ll get a cool book! I’m hitting refresh looking for you right now!

Artwork: Anna Rettberg has been working on the cover and I’m in love with it so far. I’m hoping to get you the early artwork soon – who knows maybe even the finished cover reveal. And the $4000 stretch goal introduces chapter title illustrations, eek – I hope we can get there!

Excitement: I’ve been working really hard on this story, and I’m determined to make it the best that I can. There is world-building, dragons, wizards, art, drama, fighting, sex (oh my!), totally dysfunctional people, and even a touch of mathematical fiction. It’s like getting invited to a fantasy potluck. I can’t be sure to what extent you’ll like it, but I sure hope it’ll be worth giving it a try.

Pre-order The Banished Craft – and thank you!!!

E.D.E. Bell

30 July 2014

Getting By with a Little Help

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the people with whom I collaborate, including other writers, illustrators, editors, reviewers, bloggers, printers, and retailers. I also talk about my cats, probably since they are at my side for every nearly word I write. But I would not still be pushing forward without the support of the people around me who keep urging me to continue. So, you wonderful people who won’t let me give up, here is my brief but heartfelt tribute. To you:

My Husband: I couldn’t do any of this without Chris’s constant support and encouragement. Period. It probably seems like I don’t give him much credit, but that’s because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If I started to tell you about it, I’d never have time to get back to Chapter 17 today. In Spireseeker I thanked him for “everything.” While I giggled at the understated nature of the remark, I meant it.

My Friend, Meghan: You may not know this, but I have an amazing friend in Virginia, Meghan, who reads everything I write before it’s released – often multiple times – and gives me wonderfully insightful feedback. She also points out additional opportunities to honor cats in my work. I don’t know what I would do anymore without her.

My Mom: My totally amazing Mom was one of the first people to encourage me to actually publish what I had written. She told me, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Everyone will hate it and you’ll be completely embarrassed. So?” My Mom tells me to believe in myself, work hard, do what I love, and not to worry so much what other people think. I couldn’t ask for more. I feel comfortable being myself because I have a mom who taught me how to do it.

My Kids: My kids sacrifice the most for my evening career. I know it. They know it. But when I ask if they want me to stop they all insist that I can’t, because they want me to be happy, and they know that I love doing this. It’s all a little Cats in the Cradle, but we make it work.

My Mother-In-Law: Nancy has sold more copies of my books than anyone except maybe me. At a recent signing in Kansas, a gentleman bought a hardcover of Spireseeker. Nancy handed him a copy of Stonecrop and said, “You want the companion novella too, right?” Of course he did. Sorry, Mom B, about the unicorns. Want to know a secret? I think they’re ok.

My Father-In-Law: Tom earns the distinction of being the only person outside of my house to have read Spireseeker three times. He claims he likes it better each time.

My Brother: Art, despite his busy job, has been one of the first people to read both of my books and provide feedback. He even invented an amusing name under which to post a review. He’s always had my back as long as I can remember, and this is no different.

My Friend, Barry: I just happened to mention to Barry once that I was writing fantasy. Not only did he jump in with a generous backing pledge on the Spireseeker Kickstarter project (I’m still trying to make your #01 print worth a million dollars someday), he’s offered to beta read everything I write. Not to mention that I credit him with saving the ending of Stonecrop.

My Boss: My boss at what I like to call my “paying” job is basically the opposite of anyone who would ever like my writing. Culturally and otherwise, it would be safe to call it not his thing. Yet, he has continuously told me he is proud of me. He submitted the publication of the book to the newsletter, when others I work with were just plain uncomfortable about it. And he even bought a copy, just to show support. It’s hard to express how I feel about this.

My Fans: Thanks to those of you who have generously backed my Kickstarter project, including people I’ve never met who simply say that they believe in me. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write a review. Thanks to the amazingly supportive vegan community. Thanks, Ann and Aimee. To those who’ve attended my attempted signings. Thanks Gregory (aka Tul). Thanks, Scout. Thanks, Waywards. Thanks to the man who backed at the “Emperor” level and then upped it so I’d pass my base goal. Thanks to all of you. You humble me and make me work harder.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of The Banished Craft, the campaign runs for three more weeks. Thanks again for your support. And as you can see, I have a lot of it.

Link to Preorder Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/506671/the-banished-craft-a-fantasy-tale-of-dragons-and-w/

Link to Chapter 2: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/506671/the-banished-craft-a-fantasy-tale-of-dragons-and-w/posts/919484/

E.D.E. Bell
20 July 2014

Ode to June

This has been a busy month! I’ve had two book signings, was featured on reddit, and we launched our Kickstarter for Shkode Book 1: The Banished Craft:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/506671/the-banished-craft-a-fantasy-tale-of-dragons-and-w/

Please consider pre-ordering a copy of the book through the link above. An e-book is only $5, and by backing the Kickstarter project, 1) you’ll get a great book 2) it’s just a small way of saying you believe in me.

I sometimes don’t appreciate June enough. Sometimes it gets lost between the renewal of Spring, and the festivities of Summer. It’s that month where one day you think Summer is just starting and another day you realize it’s rushing by. And so, for just a quick little moment, I would like to celebrate June.

Ode to June

In June, I harvest twirling, swirling garlic scapes. I chop them into little pieces and use them all month in stir-fries and soups. I try not to be smug to people who don’t know what garlic scapes are.

Thunder crashes and I rush to open the window so I can watch the rain and see the lightning. Sometimes the neighbor is there. Our windows are much too close together.

I celebrate my dad in June, and think not just about everything he’s given to his family, but how much we like him, even when he makes that stop it face.

The pool is open, and finches visit during adult swim time Sunday morning. Stay at home, kids. This is our time to swim. Hello, finches.

The tomato plants grow strong and pop through the top of those metal cages that seemed way too huge. In May.

Fireflies twinkle in evening’s dusk, flying back up into the sky again to become the night stars.

My husband turns another year older, and I’m glad that we are best friends.

Concerts are outside, and the base player gets a funky riff.

I’m barefoot and it’s not too cold or scratchy.

Oops it went by too quickly.

I love to live life.

In June.

E.D.E. Bell

26 June 2014

Firestarter

I am hard at work on Book 1 of the Shkode trilogy, and have a Kickstarter campaign in the works. More to come on that, including a title reveal. In the meanwhile, let’s start talking about it. Since, you know, I think about it daily. Time to bring you in on that.

Five Things I Love About Shkode

1) It’s better than Spireseeker. This is no knock on Spireseeker – I am so proud of that story, and have actually been disappointed how many people don’t get what I was trying to do there. (And even more thrilled by so many of you who love it!) But I wrote Spireseeker with no editor (initially), no writing training, no experience, no beta readers — you get the picture. I’ve heard your feedback loud and clear, and know what to work on this time. And I’m a fast learner, which you’ll see when this series starts to come out.

2) It’s about wizards and dragons. Breathing and conjuring fire, and making cool stuff happen! Even I was astute enough not to burn this subject on the first try. But now I’m ready to give it a shot, and you know I would do everything I am able to give it justice. Wizards. And. Dragons. I’m even inventing dragon slang, like get out of the way before you get wingslapped.

3) I’m already in love with the characters. Even the misbehaving ones. The one consistently positive feedback I get on Spireseeker is that people love the characters. Great. Well, I’m determined to make sure you’ll really love these ones. I want you to know them, cry with them, and celebrate with them.

4) It’s crazy and quirky. My mind is a strange place, and I really hope I’ve come up with at least a few scenes, a few ideas, that you haven’t heard before. And that you enjoy! Sometimes, I just forget to follow the rules. And I hope you’ll join me for the experience.

5) It’s about hope, passion, and perseverance. Shkode means “fire” in the Michigan dialect of Anishinaabemowin, and this story, in the end, is really about the Shkode that burns inside each one of us. And to write with such a goal in mind—it’s a fulfillment all its own.

I look forward to the journey. Hope to see you there.

E.D.E. Bell
04 June 2014

What’s The Buzz

Happy April everyone! I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, and wanted to let you know the latest:

Thank you: First, thanks to everyone who has read, shared, or reviewed Spireseeker or The Taking of Stonecrop. Art can only exist through experience, and there are few things that bring me greater joy than hearing that someone read and enjoyed my words and stories. So, in the words of Beryl, “Thank you for your friendship. I promise I will not forget it. You have my loyalty and that of the Spire.”

Underground Book Reviews: I’d really like your help. I want to win this pitch contest, which would earn a review and interview for Spireseeker. It only takes two clicks: Click this link, then “like” the post that pops up on Facebook. No strings attached – you are just liking the post. Thank you! (Votes only count until the end of April, so please vote today.)

Reviews and Awards: I am thrilled about this glowing five-star review of The Taking of Stonecrop written by Bil Howard of Readers’ Favorite. Also, Spireseeker has been announced as a finalist for the MIPA Midwest Book Awards in Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal! This puts it in the top three, and we will find out who won in May. (How exciting!) In addition, at least two super-cool bloggers are currently reading Spireseeker. We’ll let you know via social media when their reviews are posted.

Book Clubs: A couple of book clubs have said they are going to read this, including an LDS book club in Nevada (shout out!) and some guys that are way cooler than I am in Dayton (sorry that my book doesn’t have enough bazoongas, guys, but thanks for being bros anyway). I hope both groups enjoy it. If your book club is interested, just drop us a note at atthis@atthisarts.com. We offer discounts on group purchases as well.

Wichita: I am honored to be featured at Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita Kansas, during the Local Literary Festival on Saturday, June 14th, signing copies of Spireseeker. I will post more updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages as they become available. If you’re in the area, we really hope to see you there!

Ionia: Spireseeker is also available at Second Beginnings in Ionia, Michigan. Stop by if you’re in the area. We are looking at opportunities to get up there for a signing.

Reddit: Now that I am hip enough to grasp what Reddit is, I am entirely excited to be the /r/Fantasy Writer of the Day June 18th. This is just like an AMA (that’s “Ask Me Anything”) which means, well, just what it sounds like. So be sure to hop onto http://reddit.com/r/Fantasy on June 18th (beginning around noon Eastern) and ask me a question! Not sure what to ask? How about stuff like: fantasy, writing, independent publishing, Spireseeker, parenting, being an engineer-turned-writer, veg and gender themes in my writing, on and on. Show up and ask away!

Kickstarter: We are gearing up for a June/July Kickstarter run to fund illustration, editing, and printing for the first book of the Shkode trilogy. Dragons and Wizards! No that doesn’t mean the book is done; it means I’m broke and if you want to ever read this thing, I’m going to either need some fan support via Kickstarter, or a magic wizard to buy all the copies of Spireseeker stacked in my basement. Pending the latter, we’ll plan for the Kickstarter. I really want to make this worth your while, though, so we are working some ideas for really cool Kickstarter rewards.

Sister Authors: Had the pleasure of meeting Anne Weisgarber, author of The Promise – a lovely historical fiction novel set in Galveston, Texas during the deadly hurricane of 1900. Also, if you have tween kids, you won’t want to miss the Jack O’Rourke Series, by my high school classmate Kristi M. Washbourn.

Mothers’ Day: Look, I don’t know how else to break this to you, but your mom wants a signed copy of Spireseeker for Mothers’ Day. It’s my job to tell you these sort of things.

Newsletter: If you like these sort of updates, they will mostly be posted to our newsletter. Want in? Subscribe on our new Atthis Arts website.

And please do follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I’ll see you there.

And hey, isn’t this about writing? Let’s end with an excerpt from The Taking of Stonecrop:

Klev looked at her thoughtfully. “Rarely are those who clamor for power unblemished. It is a delicate game that enables people of motivation to stay in power, yet finds those motivated for the best reasons. There is never a perfect solution, only a never-ending struggle for balance. The night’s events will inflame great passion, and move that point of balance even further out of reach. Nobody even knows which side they are on anymore.”

Byrn stared at the torches burning on the walls of the spacious underground room. “I wish we didn’t have to pick a side, that we could just work together.” Klev did not respond. Around her children sniffled, and their parents as well, perhaps imaging what it would be like to see your family killed before you. For no worthwhile reason. “We can’t let them go to war. These are my people.”

“If war could be prevented by will alone, then there would never be a battle fought.” Klev stood a little straighter, and now spoke in a whisper for Byrn’s ears alone. “And, your Highness, despite our unyielding loyalty, you will lead us best when you learn we are our own people.” Byrn’s cheeks flushed, and Klev softened his tone. “But, still, Byrn—we’ll try. Together.”

Cheers, and enjoy a well-deserved Spring!

E.D.E. Bell

16 April 2014