An Adventure for the Kids

I want to let you know about a sort of wild idea we came up with at Atthis Arts, and ask you to spread the word – we only have less than three weeks to fund it, so I’m hoping for some buzz.

Behold: The Lyric Poets Project

lpp_logo2_transparent_smallWhat is it? Kids help edit a fantasy book during the summer. Then they get the book.

Who is it for? Upper elementary kids (also known as lower middle grade), approximately 8-10 years old. Middle school kids who are interested in writing or publishing would also enjoy. Or your genius toddler. I mean, I don’t know.

Why would they enjoy this? I think being part of a book sounds sort of awesome. (Says me as I wrap up my third novel.) Anyway, there’s no pressure to participate if they decide they aren’t into it. And they’ll still get the book at the end. On the other hand, maybe they’ll love it.

What author is this? Check out the Kickstarter for details, but it’s a book by K.J. Quint. He’s a debut author who we picked for this because of his vibrant and unrestrained imagination. His characters are alive, big, and bold. I dig it.

Where did you get this idea? When we were looking at an early manuscript I asked my son, Vance, to read it and provide his thoughts. He provided these really insightful, fun edits that brought the introduction to life. My husband and I thought – wow – what if we had a whole group of kids providing these sort of big imaginative edits. So we are giving this idea a chance. We hope it succeeds, and we hope you let people know who might enjoy.

One more time! The Lyric Poets Project ! Specifically: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atthisarts/lyric-poets-project

If you know people who might enjoy: people raising kids, people teaching kids, people who like to give presents to kids – please share the link and let them know! This project supports several artists and small businesses and we hope we’ll teach some kids some skills in the process – thanks so much.

Cheers – E

P.S. I’m still looking for dust jacket reviews for The Fettered Flame. ARCs/Galleys available 1 May – please email us at atthis@atthisarts.com if you know someone who’d be willing to review.

 

My Fantasy

There are two questions I often get about my writing:

1) Why do you write fantasy? I don’t read that stuff.

There is often this sense that by putting a dragon on the cover, the book must be for “someone else” – someone who “likes that stuff” – that nephew they have that hangs out at the gamer store. I think it’s a shame that people limit themselves that way. This buys into a restrictive, cool kid mentality that I reject. Fantasy is wonderful and magical and fantasy is for everyone. Fantasy throws out the rules and the restrictions that confine us in our normal life. It lets us discover magic, or see the future, or befriend a dragon. In fantasy, everything is more vibrant, because we are unconstrained. We are free. It is a glorious way to write and to read.

The next sculpture was so low to the ground they almost didn’t see it. It was a field of low waves, like those upon the ocean near the coast. Cor was drawn to its grace. “This is beautiful,” she whispered.

Iohn studied it a long moment. “I don’t care for it,” he said at last in a decisive manner. “It’s exactly what the water was like before it froze. It’s pretty, but it’s not art. That’s just imitating what nature already did. If I wanted to see the ocean in summer I would just wait until summer, then go to the ocean.” He winked at Cor.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 12: Heartbloom

2) What are you genre-bending? Bending fantasy and what?

Just as fantasy isn’t constrained by the realities of our world, I believe fantasy shouldn’t be constrained in the type of storytelling it undertakes. I’ve had people tell me my dragons are not accurate! Inaccurate dragons! I think they have forgotten: Fantasy is unconstrained. I believe in this. So in many ways, what I write is contemporary fiction. It’s relationships and social themes and dilemmas our world faces today. I just want there to be dragons and magic too because it’s more fun that way. The Shkode trilogy is fantasy and contemporary fiction. It’s also ripe with satire and philosophy, has a little humor, and toys with a little mathematical fiction. It’s all of that because I think the blend is more interesting, and has something for everyone. P.S. If you misread this and still think I’m talking about gender-bending, you’re not wrong either. I love that too.

“Ok. Maybe he’s you.” Iohn’s face twitched, as if saying it out loud didn’t make it any more plausible. “Why do you make him dislike women so much?”

“People enjoy it. Keeps them reading. But really, haven’t you heard of satire? It’s actually a thing now. Very popular. I figured if most women read it long enough, it would start to tick them off. Maybe they’d finally stand up for themselves.”

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 20: Until We Meet Again

In that case, what is the Shkode trilogy, anyway. Who’s it for?

To me, it’s about passion. The word shkode means fire in Anishinaabemowin, the native language in the Lake Superior region. It is a word that speaks to me, and symbolizes passion and struggle and glory. This trilogy is about characters who struggle to see their own potential. It’s different. It’s thought-provoking, satirical, and sometimes just silly. And it’s a piece of me that I want to share with you. Who is it for? It’s written for adults, appropriate for mature young-adults, and I’ve found that it’s liked by a fairly diverse audience. Some people like the fantasy setting, others like the social themes, and others enjoy the unique world-building and rich character development.

Jwala knew she should not speak, knew she endangered herself as her mouth opened. She begged herself to stop. But her body burned with rage, and in the decision to act, she felt the weight of her burden shatter—its invisible shards flying from her, clattering to the ground. It was enough.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 06: A Change of Plans

If any of this interests you, here are a couple things I’d be humbled for you to check out:

The Fettered Flame Project – I won’t be able to continue editing, illustrating, and printing the Shkode trilogy without your help. It’s that simple. We need all levels of backers, from $5 e-books (these get us more visibility) to larger backers (there are some cool rewards like naming a character!). Please join me.

Mase: The Modern Dwarf – I wrote this short serial on Wattpad. It’s free and it’s ridiculous. If you like it, click the ★ to give it a vote.

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell – October 2015

Book 2 Title Reveal !

Let’s do this! Here is the trailer to Shkode: Book 2, the sequel to The Banished Craft. Click this magic link to reveal the book’s title! Many thanks to a great voice actor Anthony Sardinha for his fantastic rendition of Atesh.

Bottom line / TL;DR – Follow this link to Kickstarter. Pledge an amount. Get a copy of the book (and/or other cool rewards) when the book is done.

So, we are launching a Kickstarter project to run throughout October 2015. Here are a few things I’d like you to know about it:

Book 2 is better. Book 2 is better! It’s the best thing I’ve written yet – by far, I think. The characters are developed further, the flow is better, and there is more action. Yes, still two worlds and lots of characters, but that’s part of what makes it different and interesting. I am really excited about this book and I want to give people the chance to read it.

Argh, I don’t know what any of this is! I’ll explain it! The bottom line is I’m not making enough money with my writing yet to pay for continued illustration and editing of the series. But many fans of the series love the high-quality production, including the beautiful custom covers and offset-printed hardcovers. And they are telling me to keep writing! So what I want from you is to pre-order the book through Kickstarter.com between 1 and 31 October to provide enough money to get it edited and produced. You’ll be the first to get the book, and if it’s a hardcover it’ll have a first-day signature date. Which is fab.

Why am I giving you money? You’re actually pledging for cool rewards so I have money up-front to fund the project. Think of it as pre-orders, or just being completely awesome so I can produce this book. Your pledge helps me a great deal (really!), but it’s not a donation. All the money goes into the project, and you get rewards in return. It’s like a pre-order with extra love.

Why did you raise the Kickstarter amount from last time? There is no trick here. I won an award through my company in 2014 and I invested the award money into the production of The Banished Craft. There is no award this year, nor can I continue to afford to invest the same amount I have been. I need readers as well as general supporters of my type of genre-bending fantasy. I need you! The base amount of $7500 (remember, that includes fees, reward costs, and shipping – it’s a significantly lower amount we actually get) will cover the combined illustration and editing costs. What we’d really need to reach in order to fully cover our up-front costs (including minimum print set-up and basic promotion) is about $15,000. (Again, that’s the Kickstarter total, not the amount we’d get.)

Why should I support this Kickstarter again? If any of these reasons apply (doesn’t have to be all), I’d love to have your support.
– You’re supporting my dream! I love to write!
– You’re supporting indie writing. The Shkode trilogy provides readers something different.
– You’re supporting several other small businesses including editors and artists.
– You support integrating gender themes, equality themes, or LGBTQ themes into fantasy writing.
– You support integrating vegan, animal compassion, and non-violence themes into fantasy writing.
– You like to read books! This is a story! Read the Goodreads or Amazon reviews of The Banished Craft – people have enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thanks for your support! I appreciate it so much, and I hope you enjoy The Banished Craft and…well, Book 2. Go watch the video!

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell, 24 September 2015

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

Desert Island Playlist

Ok, just for fun, here’s my 50 song desert island playlist. Understanding this would probably change everytime I created it, here are my top 50 songs I’d take to my desert island. Today. There are several of my favorite artists that aren’t even on the list, but I figure they’d show up better under artists then songs, as I love their catalog, not just one song. I tried to leave off songs that have a special place in my life, or songs I’d want to make a statement with, and stick to songs I seriously want to listen to forever.

So fifty songs is just a sample, but maybe if you haven’t heard some of these you can check them out. (Retrospective note: Yes, I regret not including November Rain.)

50: Garbage, Stroke of Luck
I love Garbage – I almost went with Androgyny.

49: Gladys Knight & The Pips, I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Classic.

48: Marvin Gaye, Inner City Blues
Make me wanna holler, the way they do my life.

47: David Ruffin, My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)
Wonderful emotion.

46: Björk, Náttúra
I bet Mother Earth has this on five star.

45: Mary J. Blige, No More Drama
So tired of all this drama.

44: The Beatles, You Never Give Me Your Money
A long time favorite.

43: Jesus Christ Superstar, Heaven On Their Minds
Because my mind is clearer now.

42: ELO, Mr. Blue Sky
Never mind; I’ll remember you this way.

41: James Taylor, Your Smiling Face
I sing it to myself when work gets me down. No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today…

40: Giorgia, Arriva Il Temporale
Sono solo una donna.

39: Lady Gaga, Judas
It’s also among the best music videos I’ve ever seen.

38: Björk, Pluto
Not for the faint of heart. But brilliant.

37: Fiona Apple, The Way Things Are
I wouldn’t know what to do with another chance, if you gave it to me.

36: The Isley Brothers, Voyage To Atlantis
Because I do want some cheese with that wine.

35: Lisa Loeb, Garden of Delights
You are my Jesus, boy, you’re laying on a bedley cross. I’ve got you taped up to the wall.

34: Elton John, Rocket Man
None of us are the men they think we are.

33: Kelly Clarkson, If No One Will Listen
Always moves me.

32: Fiona Apple, Left Alone
‘Cause I’m hard. Too hard to know.

31: Lady Gaga, The Edge Of Glory
Did you know it’s about death?

30: Lisa Loeb, This
Like my blog, this is where I can tell you everything.

29: Alanis Morissette, Your Congratulations
I’ll never forget seeing her perform this as a live, a cappella, encore.

28: Wham!, Careless Whisper
Funny, George writes this off. But George is wrong.

27: Madonna, Frozen
If I could melt your heart.

26: Gwen Stefani, Early Winter
Over and over and over.

25: No Doubt, New Friend
Never made it onto the album, but it’s amazing.

24: Diana Ross, Missing You
Raw.

23: The Temptations, Cloud Nine
Up, up and away.

22: Michael Jackson, Unbreakable
And you – can’t touch me. Cause I’m untouchable.

21: George Michael, Freedom 90
That’s what you get for changing your mind.

20: The Isley Brothers, Love The One You’re With
Good advice, if you take it the right way. If you’re used to the other recording, this one is better.

19: Björk, Hyperballad
I’m back at my cliff, still throwing things off.

18: Michael Jackson, Man In The Mirror
One of the most moving vocals in recorded pop.

17: The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Check out the “Love” version too. Stunning.

16: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, You’re All I Need To Get By
Love you, Ashford and Simpson.

15: Fiona Apple, To Your Love
Another chain of thought too hard to follow. Trust me, I know.

14: Michael Jackson, Human Nature
Irresistible.

13: Bobby Brown, My Prerogative
Equally happy with Britney version. Hey. They say I’m nasty, but I don’t give a damn.

12: The Cure, Lovesong
This song could describe my feelings about this song.

11: Gordon Lightfoot, If You Could Read My Mind
Poetry as legitimate as any. Always moves me.

10: Fiona Apple, Criminal
If I’m on a desert island, I must have done something.

09: The Lion King, Endless Night
Medicine for my spirits.

08: Sarah McLaughlin, Dirty Little Secret
I gave up the fight years ago.

07: Madonna, What It Feels Like For A Girl (Remix)
Good that I’m on a desert island; this song is dangerous while driving.

06: Cyndi Lauper, True Colors
That’s why I love you.

05: Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
I still only travel by foot and by foot it’s a slow climb.

04: Madonna, Human Nature
Oops, I didn’t know I couldn’t speak my mind.

03: The Beatles, In My Life
Danced with my dad to this at my wedding. DJ told me it was inappropriate to dance with my dad first. I said no it’s not.

02: The Jackson Five, I Want You Back
Magic. Just magic.

01: The Temptations, I Can’t Get Next To You
Didn’t know this was my favorite song? See, that’s sort of the point.

Still on the island with me? Excellent! Thanks for listening, and don’t worry; it’s on repeat.

Stage

Touching Björk’s Stage.