Michaeline: Writing Multicultural Stories When Your Background is Monocultural

Colored crayons or beads, lined up.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

All of us Eight Ladies are white ladies.

I think as white writers, it’s difficult for us to understand what it’s like when a largely mono-cultural writer tries to jam in a character from a different culture in order to spice up a book, or attempt to be inclusive.

We can get a tiny taste of it in the Bollywood movie, Bride and Prejudice (2004). I love this movie and have seen it more than once, so I’m not complaining. I’d rec this movie to almost anyone because the writing is fabulous, the cinematography is gorgeous, and if you were moving in society in the 90s and early 2000s, there are universal themes that will resonate with you. (Heck, let’s not be so limited. Being based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, means many of the themes cross cultures and time. Time-tested and highly adaptable.)

However, among the deep characterization and fun interactions, there’s a white guy who reads like he’s a piece of cardboard. He’s a bit whiny and a bit shallow . . . and maybe he’s the white guy a lot of people from India see. He’s somewhat believable, but he’s the only white person in the whole production, and he’s not exactly the hero type.

And when you think about it, that’s really unfortunate because he’s Will Darcy . . . you know, Fitzwilliam-fucking-Darcy. The hero. Continue reading

Michaeline: Debate: How hot is summer romance?

1908 girl in a skirted bathing costume having fun on a dock while two admiring boys splash in the water below.

“Oh, how we would laugh at anything!” — kd lang, “Summerfling” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, dear readers, do you like a romance set in the summer? There’s no denying that there’s nothing better than lolling on the sofa during a heatwave with a cold drink and an engrossing romance (unless it’s lolling on the sofa during a winter storm with a hot drink and an engrossing romance). But have you set your romances in the summer? Or do you have any favorites that involve sun and heat?

Here in northern Japan, we’ve been enduring 35C (95F) temps for more than a week, and Hokkaido is not used to this. We don’t have an air conditioner in our home, and none of my schools have AC, either. We’re on summer break, so when we’re not doing special classes, we’re in a government high-rise, and the summer code-word ever since 2005 has been “cool biz” – it’s an effort to conserve energy which includes shirt-sleeved business shirts, and also keeping the air conditioning on the edge of comfort – I’d guess about 27 to 28 C. (That’s 80 to 82F for the Americans playing the sympathy game at home.) The campaign got a boost after the energy crisis after the 3/11 earthquake, and was lengthened from May to October.

So, I can say for sure that in REALIA, the heat sucks. How about in Romancelandia?

Heatwave + Romance CONS.

It’s too darn hot, and Cole Porter recognized this way back in 1948. (YouTube clip from Kiss Me, Kate 10:55)

I’m pretty sure “Sweet summer sweat” is a fantasy trope. (“Hotel California” Eagles Live 6:48) Stuff STINKS during summer heat, and places stink, and people stink.

When the temperature rise, tempers get short. People get into stupid arguments, and it’s such an effort to be polite. It’s even more of an effort to apologize. If there’s a crowd of cranky people, it can easily turn into a riot.

Lack of appetite. For everything. Ugh.

Heatwave + Romance PROS Continue reading

Michaeline: New Reading! Penric 7, or: “The Orphans of Raspay”

Cover of The Orphans of Raspay with Penric kneeling in the hold of a ship with two girls regarding him with suspicion.

“The Orphans of Raspay”, a new novella by Lois McMaster Bujold in the Penric and Desdemona series, came out July 18, 2019. Image taken from Amazon.com.

A Review in Three Stages

If “The Orphans of Raspay” is your first Bujold: Penric is an archetypical hero, and sharing a mind with an entity is an old and wonderful trope; Lois McMaster Bujold does her trope-twisting magic with both. You won’t have any trouble following the story on this level. This is an exciting tale with a happy ending, and lots of things that go boom. Some people may feel leery about the fact that the Orphans could be sex-trafficked. I’m squeamish myself, but Lois has a light hand, and while I worry about the girls, I know they are going to be fine. The girls are really well done, too. So often, writers turn child-characters into plot moppets, or precocious brats. These kids are essential to the story, and they act like kids. If you like clever tales of adventure, this is well worth a few hours of time. Penric and his demon, Desdemona, are a great team!

For people who have read the Penric series, but not much else:
CAUTION: HERE BE SPOILERS FOR THE PREVIOUS NOVELLAS (maybe).

It’s another Penric and Desdemona! Fabulous!

Let me get the bad news out of the way first: Continue reading

Michaeline: Kaiju vs. Dragons

Japanese movie poster from 1954 Godzilla with Tokyo on fire

Hydrogen bombs, giant monsters, love triangles . . . Godzilla has got conflict out the wazoo. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Dragon: 1. Archaic: a huge serpent 2. :a mythical animal usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent or saurian with a crested head and enormous claws 3: a violent, combative, or very strict person 4. capitalized: DRACO 5. :something or someone formidable or baneful. –Merriam-Webster, 2019 07 13

Kaiju is a Japanese word meaning “strange creature”. In English, it has come to mean “monster” or “giant monster”, referring to creatures of a large size seen in movies from Asia. –Simple English Wikipedia, 2019 07 13

Tor recently had a Dragon Week, and asked on Twitter, “Which is the deadlier dragon?” The choices were Smaug (dragon from The Hobbit; voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie) or Godzilla (a spitting lizard boi from the 1954 eponymous film).

And, Twitter (predictably) lost its mind, arguing that Godzilla was not a dragon. Continue reading

Michaeline: Happy Half-Year!

Gibson girl writing on piece of paper.

Writing is a series of decisions. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I swear, I’ve only had time to turn around three times, and already, we’ve gone from the depths of winter into the abundance of summer (at least here in the northern hemisphere). “What have I accomplished?” makes me want to crawl back into bed and sleep for the rest of the month.

But the ever-hopeful “What will I work on?” makes me think of breakfast in bed, and planning checklists with colored markers and beautiful paper, all while dressed in a beautiful negligee.

(Note: this is all in “writer-space” – that place in our imagination where anything is possible and everything is as easy as we want to make it. It’s kind of like “cyber-space” but much more ancient. In real life, I’m at the kitchen table in a quick-trick skirt, pounding away at the computer keyboard. My hair is in an unravelling braid, but . . . BUT, I did manage to pull a pineapple/lime water from my imagination, and I’m drinking it as I compose my dream for the next six months.)

So, here’s a status report. Continue reading

Michaeline: Twitter Games Weekend, Part 2!

A young fortuneteller sees a male shadow with a gun in her crystal ball.

I see . . . I see . . . I see Humphrey Bogart in your future! “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Slumps over.) Image via Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday, we took a look at our influences from the past with the “Who are Your Literary Parents” game. Today, let’s move our past into the future with a new game from Bitter Script Reader, who says: “Good news! Your next pilot’s been ordered to series before you’ve written it.

“The catch: it’s pre-cast with your celebrity crushes when you were 13. So how are you building a show around that?”

I said:
“OMG! They got Robin Williams! OK, it’s going to be a Continue reading

Michaeline: Twitter Games Weekend!

A French family tree for some Zola characters.

So, what does your literary family look like? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This has been a very good week for Twitter games for writers – games that boost creativity and make you think about your writing roots, and what you love. It’s nice to take a break and remember the joy of writing, so let’s take a few minutes this weekend to have a little fun.

Today’s game is from Amber Sparks, who writes: “Who are your literary parents? You only get two, duh. Any gender of course.”

(-: And then she promptly breaks the rules with: Continue reading