Friday, December 21, 2018

A Question of Heritage

In our "politically correct" society, we spend so much time fretting over word choice and potential offence. I am a biracial woman, the child of a Hong Kong born Chinese father and an American born mother of Welsh and German descent, who married a white man. I enjoyed living in racial majority until age ten when we moved to a predominantly white (and rural) community. I take pride in my unique heritage and find the various ways people ask about my racial background interesting. "What are you?" "Are you Hawaiian?" "Are you mixed?" I am matter-of-fact about my heritage. I am half-Chinese, born in Canada to immigrant parents.

My father never pressed my younger sister or I to learn his mother tongue. He learned English as a second language and seemed self-conscious over his mastery. As a child, I learned some words in Cantonese, but now I can only count to ten, sing "Jesus Loves Me", say "thank you" in two different ways, and wish others a happy new year. Not exactly life skills. My rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" seems to please my Chinese-only speaking grandmother.

I have oriental decorations in my house, I have worn traditional clothing, and I love Chinese food. I can relate to the "only exceeding perfection is good enough" parental expectations. Indeed, I wonder if my father has ever been proud of me. He never says he loves me, although my mom assures me he used to when I was little. He demonstrates his love by offering me money—even though I don't need it—as financial security is very important to him. My mother is very vocal about her pride and love. I don't feel unloved. I'm actually quite confident my father loves me. I know he loves my children.

My father has taught my boys to count in Chinese. He would prefer they call him "Goan-Goan" which is the Chinese name for father of the mother. It's hard to change a lifetime of Anglicisation. They usually call him "Grandpa". My oldest son, although one-quarter Chinese, identifies quite strongly as Chinese. My youngest son doesn't consider himself Chinese at all. My husband and I encourage the kids to learn and appreciate all facets of their heritage.

What started me on this line of thinking? I sent out a digital Christmas card to my mailing list this week. One person unsubscribed with a lengthy comment about how my characters are white-washed and don't reflect my heritage. This is something I have never considered. Character selection is driven by my characters themselves. I don't give them red hair or dark features. I don't write them as happy or angry or high-strung. They assign their own appearance and personality. To force the issue would be akin to betrayal.

What does this say about me and my identification to my heritage? Should non-white authors write non-white characters?


Friday, December 14, 2018

Books: Paper, Electronic, or Audio?

I started reading when one option existed for books. Paper. I still read a physical book. If I'm buying a book I'll reread, I buy a physical book. But, most of the time, I read e-books. I love the convenience. Not forgetting to renew my library books or return them on time. Bringing a book or twenty with me on vacation. Searching. Highlighting. Knowing how many pages are left in my chapter (without counting).

Audio books are fairly new to me. I'm listening to my second audio book. I borrowed it from the library because the book wasn't available in electronic format. Listening to a book is definitely a different experience than reading it yourself. My kids love when I read to them... Although, perhaps they just don't want to read themselves, and listening to me is the lesser of two evils... I can read in my head so much faster than I (or anyone else) can read out loud. For that reason alone, I don't prefer books in audio format.

I see the appeal of audio books. We have commuter friends who swear by the audio book. Really, anything that supports authors, books, and reading is a good thing in my book. Oops! Sorry about the book pun...

Which format do you prefer? What are you reading right now?


Sunday, December 9, 2018

After the First Draft

Excitedly, I typed "THE END" just after midnight on December 1. The first draft of the book I had started writing in December 2017 was complete.

I love writing. It's the way I communicate best. Ask my husband. I don't talk about my feelings. I cry at books, TV shows, and movies, but I rarely express my emotions about real life. It's like I'm part Vulcan and have disciplined myself to follow logic rather than emotion. I want to say how I feel out loud, but I run into an impassable barrier each time. My mouth opens, but no words come out.

Writing is different for me. I still hold myself to a rather formal tone—except when my characters are screaming at me to write them differently—which highlights my logical mind, but I get IT out there. Outside of my own mind where I can analyze my words and figure out what is what.

In that regard, my writing is deeply personal. If I've told you I've written a book, I've overcome the compulsion to hide away which is nothing short of a miracle. Talk about your book promotion conundrum. But this post is not about book promotion. I wanted to write—after two blog-less weeks—about writing A Wizard's Choice.

I introduced my character Kuris Warde to my readers in A Vampire's Tale and realized he had a story that I needed to tell. His entire life was about duty and responsibility and—ironically—the only choice he was given—whether or not to become a wizard—was no choice at all. Rejecting the brethren of wizards would disappoint his grandfather Waldor Warde, the man who raised him. Accepting them would sentence him to a life of unhappiness. As I delved deeper into Kurtis' story, other characters spoke to me. I saw how their history impacted Kurtis, and I began to write side stories about Kurtis' family members. Waldor's words "You must understand where we came from to know where we are going." ran especially true for Kurtis who never knew his parents. He needed to know his history before making a choice about his future.

Participating in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) was an experience. I wrote more this November than I ever have before. It was hard, and I got sick (and sometimes sicker), and there were several days that I couldn't write anything at all, but I finished my first draft. It was exhausting, truly emotionally draining, hence the radio silence during the first week in December. Next steps? Really fleshing out my plot, developing my characters, and making this my best book yet!