Backwards and In Heels

"Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!" -- Bob Thaves  So this might get ranty at times, but I'd like to throw my two cents into the ginormous piggy bank of this discussion. Women on book covers/movie posters...particularly in the urban fantasy genres. This comes about because posted an article about that pose. I posted it on my Facebook page and someone asked me what a "good pose" would be and advised me to show my work. Well, here we go. It's not a new observation. There's the video that compares urban fantasy book covers. In January Jim C Hines did the iconic blog post where he tried to mimic the covers of popular books just to show how ridiculous women are portrayed. We also learned that insulin ports are sexier than tribal tattoos. Then a blogger named Anna took it a step further, imitating the same poses and those of men on similar covers. Please go check out the latter two links if nothing else. While highlighting a problem, they are wickedly funny.All joking aside, though, there is a trend in they way women are posed on book covers that pisses me off. Now, romance covers have their own tropes. Bodices splitting, shoulders bare...whatever. Those books are somewhat exempt from what I'm about to tear into and here's why: Urban Fantasy prides itself on having Strong Female Protagonists. There are whole message boards and websites devoted to amping up women's roles in books, bringing them to the fore as role models. We don't want female characters that are shoved into men's situations. We don't want wilting flowers or smoldering vixens. We want women. Real. Strong. Capable. Women. I say this as a reader, a writer and a woman. We need stories with women being themselves unabashedly, stories where her femininity isn't highlighted. You wouldn't praise Harry Dresden for accomplishing so much while also being a man, would you? Then don't do the same thing to Dante Valentine. Women need stories where our gender kicks ass, takes names and maintains herself throughout the arc. We need for that woman to be taken seriously.

These covers completely undermine that last part. I'm sorry, I can't take a woman seriously if she's supposed to be fighting demons on rooftops if she's wearing skin-tight plastic and stiletto boots. I want strength, not a firm ass. By objectifying the heroine on the cover, you've already changed the narrative in a very subliminal way. It tells me that above all things, I should value her sexuality, not her dedication, her ferocious nature or her skills.

For example, DELIVERANCE by Dakota Banks features an Elektra knock-off in an impossible pose and clothing that is straight from the goth club on a Friday night. At least her hair is braided. Because when you're fighting off evil, there's nothing worse than having to blow your bangs out of your face or stop to tie up your hair.

FORGED IN FIRE by J.A. Pitts is another one that bothers me, but in a different way. On this cover, our heroine looks like a badass! Platinum blonde hair. Shaved sides. Reasonably realistic clothing choice for a warrior against the damned. WHY ARE WE FEATURING HER ASS?!?! She's got a fucking sword and a hammer on her hip. The look on her face tells me that she could rip out my throat with her teeth. Let her be fierce, dammit! Do not ruin the effect by sexualizing her!


So, gentle reader, you may be wondering what I see as a good choice for a cover in the genre. Well, it took some looking, but I found some urban fantasy covers that I think maintain feminine integrity without objectifying the heroine.

SHAEDES OF GRAY by Amanda Bonilla. While we still have a variant on The Pose, this one doesn't make her ass the focus. She looks strong and ready to slice anything that twitches. She doesn't look like she is waiting for the first incubus she can find to shag six ways from Sunday.

Natasha Hoar's THE STUBBORN DEAD. On this cover, our heroine wears leather for a practical reason: she is riding a motorcycle. Dangerous, attractive, smart, capable. Based solely on the cover, this is a woman who has her shit together. I'd read it.

Armed. Dangerous. Lovely. Katniss Everdeen in another life, perhaps?
Caroyln Crane's MIND GAMES. Our heroine is dressed sensibly without being frumpy. She's got a wicked knife and the pose is one that is realistic. Solid cover.

 Michael R. Underwood's book GEEKOMANCY just released its cover last week and it is the hotness. We've got an attractive woman (albeit in one of the other stock poses) looking like she could be equally at home playing D&D or as an extra for The Craft. No nonsense, sexy librarian look? Yes. Witchy undertones? Yes. And in the center we've got a D20. I will read this.

It is possible to put a woman on the cover of a book without turning her into a prostitute. So why don't people do it? Why do we keep using the same dumbass tropes on our covers? And while I know it's probably asking for a lot, could we please have a plus-sized cover model? Just once? I'd love to be able to cosplay someone without saying, "Oh, I'm the fat version of ___." (Which is one more reason I love Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.)

And men, I realize that you guys have your share of ridiculous cover art as well. But, the above mentioned Jim Hines posted a spectacular blog on the topic this very morning. Feast your eyes and don't drink anything while doing so. Wouldn't want you to kill a monitor from snarking your chai.

So what about you? What do you think about book cover poses? Share some of your favorites in the comments or point me toward the ones that just make your eyeballs curdle with shame and despair.

Until then,


Ink and Pain

I make no attempts to disguise my status as a geek. I play D&D (among many other games), I read comics and will kick your ass if you say X-Men 3 had anything to do with the actual Phoenix saga, I can beat your punk ass at 6 degrees games, I love sci-fi/fantasy lit and movies, I would trade all of my TV channels for PBS, Discovery and BBC just so I could watch QI and Doctor Who on a regular basis, I look forward to conventions and will fight til my dying breath that Han. Shot. First. The only reason I don't cos-play is because I don't want to have to explain, "Oh, I'm the fat version of ___." (Although, I think I could pull off an Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.) I am a Browncoat, a Whovian, a Trekkie and would probably be sorted to Gryffindor. I am a card-carrying dork and damn proud of it. And now, I have the tattoo to prove it.

My love of tattoos is well documented. I got my first ink in December of 1998 and have been addicted ever since. Last night I went to the glorious Nicole at Urban Art Tattoo to get a very special tattoo. While it may look simple, there are layers of meaning behind it that make my seventh tattoo very precious to me.

This tattoo is my memorial piece for Nicki.

I find it hilarious that it took so much to get this little thing done. It's on my right forearm and is probably the size of a baseball. Getting to the actual inking was like a damn episode with the Keystone Cops.  First, we had some problems with the shop's computer accepting my font choices. Then we had to deal with sizing and settling on colors. As Nicole put the stencil on my arm, I turned it upside down so that the text faces me. (My ohana tattoo is for other people to read. This one is for me.) Nicole says, "You want it upside down?" Then she sighed. Apparently I kept making things more difficult for her. It started to become a joke...we just kept making it more ridiculous. "You know, while you're doing the tattoo upside down and spending a lot of time on the intricacy of detail, perhaps you should turn off the lights. I'm really sensitive to light and you could use nightvision goggles. Then, maybe we could go underwater. A sensory deprivation chamber so I have a womb-like environment of peace and calm. And I can't see your face. And I will need Peruvian dwarfs to feed me chocolate...." It just went on like that, Nicole, my friend Alicia and I all making up outlandish demands.

My appointment was for 7pm, but ink didn't start flowing until 8:30 after all the tweaking and such. Nicole puts on movies while she works, so the three of us watched Harry Potter 7 (part 1). Because of the tight line work, the needles were tiny and it hurt like a stone bitch. I think this was the most painful I've had. In fact, I think I have discovered my limit as far as tattoo sitting time goes. After 4 hours in the chair, my endorphines had crapped out and gone out for a beer with my pain tolerance. Yeah. That piece above took 4 hours and change. I think that's a person record as well.

I love it, though.

What's really odd is that the day after getting a tattoo, I'm always surprised that I'm not surprised. I don't look down and go, "oh, I will have to get used to seeing this". Quite the opposite, really. I look down at this tattoo on my arm and it looks right at home. Like it's always been there. Which makes me wonder about body art. Are we injecting things to change our bodies, to make them the way we see them in our minds? Or are we just drawing out what's been there all along? For me it always feels like the latter, like I'm rubbing away this silly body and unearthing the me within.

Alright, so some of you probably know what this design is, some of you might be going, "it's pretty, but why is *this* a memorial piece?" WELL! Here's an explanation.

The symbol itself is from Doctor Who. It's the Seal of Rassilon, a glyph of power and protection. This identified a Time Lord. And yes, the word "time" is purposely written in a wavy font. Don't understand why? Watch this clip as the good Doctor educates the class about how time works.

Yes, I added that extra little joke to my tattoo... Time is wibbly wobbly.

So, why is this blatant display of dorkdom a memorial piece? Nicki introduced me to Doctor Who when the Eccleston season began. "If you aren't hooked by the second episode, fine, but watch these two," she said. I was in love half way through the first episode. Done. Also, when Nicki and I started the performance troupe, she chose the character name "Peacock". It is impossible for me to see anything to do with a peacock and not think of her. So, I got the piece with a bold peacock blue. The text, though...that's a reminder to me. As I've said before I made mistakes in my relationship with Nicki and the worst was that I just forgot to be kind to my friend. We shouldn't need that reminder, but it's the lesson I've learned from this whole thing.

My tattoos for me have always been like the rings on a tree or paintings on a cave wall. They tell stories of me. "Take Time To Be Kind" is the moral of one. I knew Nicki for seven years and this is my seventh tattoo. Rather fitting, that. So yeah, I got this tattoo because I'm an unrepentant geek. I got it as a constant reminder of who I want to be. And I got it for Nicki because the mark she made on me will never fade away.


Here We Go Again

It's that day again. Last year I told you all why I'm of the mind that Valentine's Day is to be avoided like a hungry honey badger. This year, though, I'd like to do something other than spread the vitriol. First of all, I may have found a reason to like it. Thanks to the QI elves, I've learned that St. Valentine was also the patron saint of bee keeping. Fantastic! Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about commercialism and exclusion. It can be about Bee People! So here are some valentines for you to take with you, my dear readers. Examples of non-commercial love, Ohana, friendship and just my way of telling you that you rock my stripey socks. Happy Bee Day! :)

for family
for kindred souls
For troops and kids. (BTW: My friend's daughter.)
for truth
For absent friends.
For geeks
for zombies
for browncoats


So, my daughter watches Arthur on PBS. It's pretty rock awesome as far as cartoons go. One episode in particular speaks to me on many levels. Every time I see it, something new jumps out and smacks me upside the head. Fellow writers, artists and museslaves...please take a moment or 10 to watch Falafelosophy. (Features Neil Gaiman being awesome!)


iGrieve most people in the world, I did not know Steve Jobs personally. I never met him, never sat in the same room while he gave a speech and never so much as caught a glimpse of him through a car window.
Like some people in the world, I'm not a Mac user. I don't have an iPhone and I often joke that some of my friends are tethered to the Apple teat.
But like everyone in the world, my life has been changed because of Steve Jobs. The first computer I used in a school was an Apple II. In college, I learned how to use music writing software on a Mac. My iPod has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.
I think the biggest effect Steve Jobs had on my life, though, wasn't in his inventions, but his attitude. Steve Jobs knew what most of us creative types know: you have to fail. It's always an option and it's the only way we learn. Jobs made mistakes and kept moving forward through them. Steve Jobs took chances. One of the best risks he ever took was backing a tiny upstart group of geeks and writers in Emeryville, California back in the 80s. You know them today as Pixar.
I list Pixar as one of my most prevalent influences. No, I don't write material for kids, but then, that's not what Pixar does either. Pixar tells stories. Plain and simple. And their stories are good. I strive to find that level of mastery in my craft. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Wall-E... The world would not have those stories if someone hadn't given those geeks a chance. I am grateful not just to those at Pixar, but to Steve Jobs for making it all possible. For believing in someone else's skills enough to say, "Go for it."
When I heard the news last night that Steve Jobs had died, I cried. I've been in a state of mourning since then and part of me feels incredibly stupid for feeling so deeply about a man I never met. Say what you will about money and industry and business or bicker about being a PC or a Mac, complain about updates or lack thereof... but Steve Jobs touched our lives in ways we may never understand. The full scope of his life will not fit on a microprocessor or a nano. He was more than tech.

Steve Jobs was a dreamer. A visionary. An artist.

The world is different because he lived.
Thank you, Steve. Shine on.