I Got Bookmarks!!! Also Other Stuff.

So I haven’t written in a while–bad Beth! But in fairness, I’ve been hard at work completing rewrites on The Demon Within. I took a few days off at the end of last week to give myself a big push, and I’ve been working all week long with almost no breaks. It’s basically been work, write, and sleep for the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I haven’t been sleeping enough, so I find myself drifting off at inopportune times. Not good. I think I was a cat in a past life, because I can pretty much nap anywhere, and in any position. Blame having AP Chemistry as my first period class during my junior year of high school. I liked chemistry, but advance science is just not something you should to a 16 year old at 7:30 in the morning.

So I was going to write tonight, but I’m feeling a little groggy and a little headachy, and I think I might be better off getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting up tomorrow morning to write. I’m hoping to finish the draft by the 31st. It’ll be close.

First things first…I HAVE BOOKMARKS!!! They are so amazing and awesome, and here’s a picture:

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They look amazing! Thank you to the amazing Robert J. Peterson, who, in addition to being my editor over at California Coldblood Books and a talented author himself, is also a kick-ass web designer and graphic artist. He designed the bookmarks for me. He wears way more hats than I do, and I am in awe.

This is not the cover of the book. The book cover will feature original art, and it has not been designed yet.

The blurb is a little hard to read in this photo, so it says:

All Dale Highland wants is a normal life. Too bad she can’t stop killing people.

It’s been ten years since the first time Dale blacked out and killed someone. Since then, she’s been on the run, searching for the cause of her blackouts–and a way to control them.

When an enigmatic and sexy assassin named John tells her she’s half demon, Dale and John embark on a quest to find the only person who can answer Dale’s questions: her mother.

But Dale’s mother is the key figure in an ancient war between angels and demons. To find the answers she seeks, Dale will have to risk not only her life…but also her soul.

It’s pretty much the same as what I now have up on the Books page, but it was condensed a little more for space on the bookmark.

I did go to Wizard World Comic Con a couple of weekends ago, and I did get to meet David Tennant. I told him how much the show meant to me, and how it helped me get through after my mom’s death. He seemed really touched. Unfortunately, since I signed up for an autograph and not a picture, I didn’t get a selfie with him. (I suspect it was a time thing. Some of the other celebrities had provisions for selfies, but the line for Tennant was HUGE! “Who” fans are a devoted–and apparently rich–group.

My autographed photo is now sitting on my desk, glowering at me. Motivation.

I did get my selfie taken with James Marsters (of “Buffy” fame):

James Marsters

This one meant a lot to me, too. I was a huge “Buffy” fan during high school and college. It was a passion my mom and I shared. While, as a dumb 15 year old, I was Team Angel all the way, she was always all about Spike–even long before his affair with Buffy. It took me getting a little older and wiser to see the appeal, but I so understand now. I’ll just pretend that episode in season 6 never happened.

James was great, very friendly and courteous to all the fans, and he really took the time to talk to each of us.

It was a great experience, all around.

An Open Letter to David Tennant

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Dear Mr. Tennant,

This weekend, I am attending Wizard World Comic Con in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I will be meeting you. I already have my ticket to get your autograph, though me being the worst-case scenario type that I am, I’m a little nervous that something will go wrong. But I’m not going to give that possibility any more power than I have to. This weekend, I’m going to Wizard World, and I’m going to meet you.

I’ll be nervous.  Hopefully I won’t do something completely embarrassing, like ask you to have my babies, because that would just be weird. I hope there’s time for me to at least say hello and tell you thank you for being such a big part of “Doctor Who,” for being part of a show that has been such a big part of my life.

But I know I won’t get a chance to tell you why. Even if I had time—which I won’t, since there will be hundreds of other people waiting to get your autograph, I’m sure—I don’t think I could manage to untie my tongue long enough to get through the words. So, on the off chance that you peruse blogs of soon-to-be-published American urban fantasy writers in your spare time, I’m writing you an open letter.

I started watching “Doctor Who” in November of 2013. It was the month that the 50th anniversary episode aired, so everyone was talking about it, and my cable company had all the episodes of the rebooted series airing through their video-on-demand system. It was also the month my mother died.

My mom and I were close. My father died when I was 13, leaving just my mom, my younger brother, and me. We had a rough time when I was a teenager, but as I became an adult we grew closer. My brother and I never quite saw eye to eye on things, so my mother was the one I talked to and relied upon. She was my best friend and closest confidant. Her death was sudden. I was 30, and she had just passed her 65th birthday—not young, but my grandmother (her mother) lived to be 90, so I was expecting many more years with her. Then again, she had heart problems caused by a bout of rheumatic fever when she was a child, and I’d been asking her for years to quit smoking, so maybe it shouldn’t have been so unexpected. But these things always seem clearer in retrospect, I think.

My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

I don’t know if you know what it feels like to wake up every morning with a piece of yourself missing, a big gaping hole where you expect there to be something. But that’s what it was like. I had trouble sleeping. I vacillated between binge-eating and nausea that left me nearly unable to eat at all. I became prone to episodes of extreme anxiety and panic, especially at night. My health suffered.

But, without the luxury of being independently wealthy, I had to go on. I had to go to work. I had to pay my bills. I had to deal with my mom’s estate business. I had to feed the cat. I told everyone I was okay, not because I really was, but because I had to be. I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I had been binge-watching “Homeland” prior to my mom’s death, but afterwards I found I just couldn’t stomach another seen of Damien Lewis going through violent withdrawals or Claire Danes going crazy (again). So I started watching “Doctor Who.” I was immediately captivated by the Time Lord in the funny blue box and all of his intrepid companions.

As a kid, I used to imagine myself as characters in my favorite television shows. At 30, I found myself doing it again. I wanted to be the Doctor’s companion, to travel all of time and space with a two-hearted alien. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be silly enough to fall in love with the nearly-immortal alien; that kind of thing never ends well. But at least I’d have a friend who was there for me, a friend who could take me on adventures, a friend who could whisk me away from the endless bleakness of my life and allow me to forget the real world for a while.

But in retrospect, I wonder if it was the Doctor I actually identified with more: the last of the Time Lords, surrounded by people but always truly alone, making friends he always had to say good-bye to. It really got me in “School Reunion,” when the Doctor told Rose how he had to watch his companions—all the people he loved best in the world—wither and die. I may not be a near-immortal Time Lord…but I got it.

Watching “Doctor Who,” escaping to that place where I didn’t have to face my troubles for half an hour, kept me afloat when I was drowning. It kept me company when I was alone. And even though things are better now, the show is still special to me: I was all by myself, telling the world I was fine. But, silly as it may seem, the Doctor got to be there for me during one of the most difficult times of my life.

So what I’m really trying to say here is: thank you. Thank you for being there with me, if only through a television screen, during the hardest months of my life. Thank you for being part of a show that has meant so much to so many people. Thank you for coming to conventions and indulging blubbering fans like me. Thank you for being my favorite Doctor—because you really are, you know.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely,

Beth Woodward

Seanan McGuire Quoted Me!!!

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About two and a half years ago, I wrote an advance review of Seanan McGuire’s Ashes of Honor for CC2Konline.com, a website dealing in all things pop culture.  McGuire is one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, and I had the privilege of being able to interview her as well.

All in all, it was a great experience, but also one I hadn’t thought about in a long time…until today.  I decided to re-read The Winter Long, the 8th book in McGuire’s October Daye series, and I saw this:

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It’s a little hard to see, but that’s my Kindle, opened up to the promotional quotes section of The Winter Long.  And that last quote…I wrote that!  Even if I hadn’t seen CC2K, I’d recognize my wholly unnecessary use of em-dashes anywhere!

Since it’s a little hard to read, it says:

I love this series.  I love that Toby is a strong, independent—yet still vulnerable—heroine.  I love that this is a world where people die, where consequences matter.  I love the complex world-building and mythology.  I love the almost film noir tone of the series.  I love that each book leaves me wanting more.

If you dig urban fantasy, this is one of the best out there.  If you’re looking to try the genre for the first time, this series could be the place to start.

And even now, that pretty much sums up my feelings about the October Daye series in a nutshell.  Seanan McGuire is one of the best urban fantasy writers out there.  I have never picked up a book of hers and been disappointed.

I don’t know whether McGuire herself chose the quote, or someone from the DAW promotional team.  Either way, I am completely flattered (even if I am six months late in noticing).

If you’re interested in the series, do yourself a favor and start with Rosemary and Rue, the first book.  The plot and worldbuilding are too complex to jump in the middle, and you’ll find that McGuire, as a writer, plays the long game: the books pay off more the longer you stick with them.  It’s worth it, too, because they just keep getting better and better.

Outlander: Contemplating *That* Scene

Outlander

When Starz announced in 2013 that it would be adapting Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander book series for television, I wrote an in which I voiced some of the problems in adapting the series for television—and in doing so, inadvertently ticked off some of the book’s fans. A year and a half later, I am still concerned about some of these things.

That said, Ron Moore and his team have done an amazing job so far. The season began a little slow for my taste, but more than made up for it during the last few episodes. Moore has, so far, stuck pretty closely to Gabaldon’s story, with one notable exception: the decision to bring Frank, Claire’s husband from 1945, back into the story during the last episode, show how he’s been coping with the loss of his wife, and have Frank and Claire almost but not quite reunite at the stones. It was one of the most tense, dramatic scenes in the series so far, and it was awesome. The television adaptation also shows some of the most empowering, and frank, depictions of female sexuality that I’ve ever seen on television. (How can you leave a husband who goes down on you in the middle of a ruined castle?) Having seen Moore’s representation of this world, I have more faith that the show can weather the time jumps than I did a year and a half ago.

(Also, the wedding episode. Holy hell, the wedding episode!)

But the other stuff…well, my issues there have more to do with Gabaldon’s original novel than the television adaptation of it. They haven’t become an issue so far, because we haven’t gotten that far in the storyline. But we’re about to…

SPOILERS for people who haven’t read the Outlander novel…

 

I am talking, of course, about the spanking heard ‘round the world. And no, this isn’t 50 Shades of Grey here. The first half of the season ends with Claire being abducted by the evil Captain Jack Randall on her way to return to the stones and get back to her life in 1945, and Jamie dramatically (and handsomely) coming to her rescue. BOOM, end of episode, end of first half of season 1. It’s a pretty awesome note to go out on, and practically guarantees that viewers will want to come back for more.

Readers of the book know that Jamie will rescue Claire. Problem is, Claire’s actions in disobeying Jamie have put the entire group in jeopardy, and Claire must be punished for it. Jamie whips Claire with his belt. Claire is angry and humiliated, though she ultimately forgives Jamie when he talks about how his father used to whip him as a child. She also extracts a promise from Jamie never to do that to her again.

I recognize that the norms and mores of 18th century Scotland are a lot different than 21st century America. But I am approaching this book as a 21st century reader, and a 21st century woman…and frankly, the scene bothered me quite a bit when I read it. Claire is his wife, not a child…and furthermore, Jamie seems to enjoy it, admitting later that he was turned on afterwards.

There is always a certain violence to Jamie and Claire’s sexual relationship, and at times this can get more than a little disturbing—I’m thinking of one particular scene, late in the book, when Jamie is traumatized and delirious from fever—so this isn’t unprecedented, or out of character for him. And afterwards, he never breaks the promise he makes to Claire never to beat her again.

But we’re reading the story entirely from Claire’s perspective. Claire is stuck in a time that is not her own, trying to make the best of a bad situation. She married Jamie because she was forced to, but she unexpectedly developed real feelings for him. Claire is keeping so much of herself hidden, and she’s surrounded by people who don’t trust her. Jamie has been, through all of this, her only ally. Though she hasn’t been able to be honest with him about her situation, they’ve formed a deep friendship and trust in spite of everything. When Jamie whips her, it feels like a betrayal.

Yes, you can make the argument that Claire never should have disobeyed him in the first place. But Claire is not a child, but a grown adult. And yes, again, I also recognize that applying 21st century values to an 18th century situation isn’t historically accurate. But when you write a book, you create your own reality. It might have been accepted, even common, for an 18th century man to beat his wife. But I’ve read plenty of historical romances set around the same time where the man would never dare so such a thing.

There’s no right or wrong here; this one is just my opinion. It unsettled me, but not enough to stop reading the book. I ultimately forgave Jamie, but it took me a lot longer to do so than Claire. Even so, I’m not sure how I’m going to react to seeing it on screen.