And then I go outside and join the others, I am the others….

Rantypants post ahead. You’ve been warned.

It’s been a turbulent year and more for equal rights in this country. I find myself having arguments with people who can’t hear me, and who wouldn’t listen even if they could. But here’s the main point of this whole post that I’m about to post, that I want understood LOUD and CLEAR: I’m a feminist. I’m someone who believes that women are equal human beings to men and should be treated as such, with equal rights and opportunities – which, despite constant derailing attempts from certain quarters, is what the word feminism means. If you don’t agree with that you are wrong. That’s what the word means. Look it up. It’s how definitions work. As in, “veterinarian” means a person who is trained as a doctor to give medical care and treatment to animals. You might argue about the way some people express their feminism, but you don’t get to argue about what the word means.

Furthermore in this equality vein, trans humans are humans, gay/lesbian/bi/queer humans are humans, humans who are not white humans are humans – and all should be treated as such with equal rights and opportunities. I think those ideas should be universal and obvious, but I know we have a long way to go before that’s true for all of our population. We have a big problem in this country – in the world, but let’s focus on this country, because I think we need less with the rah-rah and more with the be-better – Bigotry. Desperately denying bigotry to try to keep people seen as other within that framework from having equal rights. These are not new problems by any means; they’ve been centuries in the making. I think we (as a country) try to pretend that all of those problems are solved now, and “that sort of thing” is all in the past. But it’s not, and it’s wrong to pretend it is.

There are many recent examples of various types of bigotry that I could rail against, but I think I’ll just start with something on the small, absurd side right now. Yesterday I read with cautious enthusiasm the news that there will be a Ghostbusters reboot, which will star all women. Cautious, because I hope they write a good script (please no poop jokes), and I hope they avoid either outright or unconscious racism. And enthusiastic, because an all-woman cast is still ridiculously rare, and I really want to see more women in film having important roles. Sadly, this idea excites pathetic comments from people who seem to think that this means no one is casting men in anything anymore. Really? Have you seen any movies? Count the men in them. Compare them to the numbers of women. Go ahead. We won’t wait for you, because we are *tired* of waiting for you, but if you do actual math with actual numbers, you will see that isn’t even remotely a problem.

There are those who are worried that it will mess up their childhoods somehow: ruin this movie and everything good and true in our lives is over! Don’t be asinine. The original Ghostbusters still exists. You can watch it any time. If you don’t have access to a streaming service or all the reruns on tv, you can borrow it from the library. Really, people: the original movie won’t suddenly cease to exist if they reboot.

Or is the real issue due to the cast consisting of all women? If they cast all women this time, how does that negate the cast that was all men? Let’s take an honest look at how many women had significant speaking roles in the first movie, out of a cast with about nine or ten such: Two. Yes, that’s right, two women. Oh, and Gozer, so if you’re counting the god at the end as female (and I do, why not? But many just count it as androgynous), that’s three, but Gozer is on for all of what, five minutes? At least Dana and Janine got some sort of character arc (less so for Janine). So if the genders are reversed, we get two men. Unless we’re femslashing it all up, and I’m all for that, because hey, that’s cool. But even if THERE ARE NO MENS OMG and the thought of women having all the speaking roles in a movie makes you afraid for your life, the original movie WILL STILL EXIST. Is it really so terrible that marginalized voices might get to have a movie? Really? Because we get the mainstream voices every damn day, all day, screaming all of their mainstream screams. The occasional shout-out from another set of voices really shouldn’t threaten you. Having a reboot with a slightly less mainstream slant is fun, and exciting. We need a lot more of it, because of all the mainstream screaming. It’s hard to hear other voices, and we need them in our fiction and in our news and in our lives. We need them as a society, to be better. Without them, we are inarguably worse.

And while we’re talking about reboots, and movies, and women getting roles typically (still and historically) reserved for men, I understand there’s talk of rebooting Indiana Jones. Not that I think that franchise needs to be remade, because seriously, we just had that last one, and we really don’t need to remake *everything*. There’s also a big fat thread of racism throughout them that is pretty hard to ignore now that I’m all grown up. I still love those movies. I still watch them. But it would be nice, if there’s a reboot, if all the non-white people aren’t evil/stupid/exploited workers/barbaric tribes/desperately waiting to be saved by the white hero. Come on, now.

But anyway, since the universe is not apparently willing to give me Gina Torres as Wonder Woman (PLEASE SANTA I HAVE BEEN SO GOOD AND I WOULD STILL WATCH THE CRAP OUT OF THAT), I think the universe should really seriously give me Gina Torres as Indiana Jones. BECAUSE GINA TORRES AS INDIANA JONES. HOW CAN YOU ARGUE WITH THAT BRILLIANCE, PEOPLE?  If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right. Anyone arguing she’s too old can kiss my 40+ ass. Not to mention hers – although I don’t recommend trying it, as she’d likely kick yours. Deservedly so. Anyone arguing Indiana Jones can’t be a woman or black due to historical accuracy can kiss all the womens’ asses and all the brown peoples’ asses from all of history ever. And also the ass of all of fiction. ALL OF FICTION, LOUISE.

Of course, the movie industry is not the only place sexism and racism keep rearing their ugly heads. It’s everywhere, and anyone who identifies as female, or let’s be real, not straight male, especially cishet white straight male, is liable to be attacked just for existing. The whole gamergate thing is still apparently … a thing. I read something where one of them said they refuse to stop trolling and harassing and stalking and doxxing people until no one will ever publicly identify as feminist again. Are they kidding? That’s preposterous. I personally know huge numbers of people who consider themselves feminists. An online movement of horrible people who have no idea how to behave like decent human beings is not going to stop them. It’s not going to stop me. Why would it? They’re only proving our point. They are terrible people doing terrible things, and they think that they have the right to hurt others to get what they want. But what they want is to make women lesser, and since we aren’t, they can’t have it. They might make things awful for specific people, which is criminal and they should be arrested and charged with hate crimes, but that doesn’t make women lesser. That will never happen, because human beings are all human. Treating us as lesser doesn’t make us so.

That goes for Black people, Native people, Asian people, Latinx people, LGBTQ people, people who encompass one or more of any of those and others I’m failing to list here … all the types people. Just because our society is set up to treat some people better and some people worse, doesn’t mean that those things are true. It’s wrong, that set up. We need to change it. I want to help work to change it. I’m not always perfect at it, I’m not always aware of my privilege when I should be, I’m not always even aware of my own internalized sexism, although I’m working on both of those. I’m not always good at changing myself, either. But I’m going to keep trying, and I’m going to try to call out the terrible behavior when I see it. And I’m going to exist here and call myself a feminist, out loud, in public. Because I am.

Title is from Dar Williams “As Cool As I Am.” 

I’m the hitch, I’m what no one believes, I’m the witch …

I want to talk about emotional impact, and different versions of the same story. I’ve been mulling over how characters other than the main protagonist move the plot and add to its heart. I’m still working through my thoughts on this, but I did promise people more posts, so I’m going to let you see my mess a bit. I hope to be coherent about it.

I love storytelling – all the ways we tell stories. Fables, fairy tales, paintings, novels, short stories, movies, tv shows, gossip, eavesdropping, jokes, plays, musicals, comics, Morse code, Semaphore … OK maybe not Morse code and Semaphore so much. (Cue silly Monty Python skit, giant flags waving wildly for “Heathcliff!”) Everyone has their favorite way of getting story, but everyone gets story in multiple ways. You choose your mediums and you learn or entertain or teach or are entertained. Humans like stories. We tell them even when we don’t know we’re telling them. And while we do like new ones, we definitely like to tell the same ones over and over. We like the emotional payoff.

There’s a saying that is something along the lines of “There are no new stories,” and that’s sort of true, if you look at it in the macro-sense. We’re always retelling the same story :

  • What is human?
  • What is love?
  • What is right?
  • What is wrong?
  • What is that thing over there, is it a spider? Because if it’s a spider I really have to go now.

The specifics are what make the story interesting. Sometimes the specifics become a trope, or a meme, or whatever you want to call it, with the same medium-macro specifics, such as the Cinderella story. So many versions of Cinderella – in other cultures, it’s not called Cinderella, but it’s the same basic story. A young person is abandoned and/or wronged by people who should protect her, but because of her (it is usually a her) innate kindness and goodness (or the ability to weep/sing/make sweaters in a fetching manner), and a little outside help, she is shown to be the most worthy person for … well, marrying a prince, usually, but a better life, or a release of the evil spell, in any case. (Also fits Snow White, Beauty & the Beast, Seven Swans, Toads and Diamonds ….)

(As an aside, I think a big draw of fairy tales in particular for women, is that the main characters are often girls – sometimes the girls are completely wet and useless, and their fate isn’t all that pleasant, and the morals tend toward “Be super impossibly ‘good’ and ‘pretty’ or else,” but at least the girls have names, and get to do SOMETHING, and have adventures. So if you grow up as a woman and realize your favorite tales are really problematic, feminism-wise, just remember that those tales are about women characters you can at least pretend have some kind of agency.) (I write long asides.)

So humans like old stories. We tell them all the time, sometimes with a lot of embellishment, sometimes with very little. Sometimes we stand it on its head, and sometimes we shake it until it’s all-but unrecognizeable. And that’s great – I love retelling stories sideways and upside down and inside out and giving the unexpected tweak to make it all seem new again. I love new versions of old stories. I love old versions of old stories. I like to see what those changes make to the central message of the story, or how the central message is the same but feels different.

Which is a long way of saying: stories tell us about ourselves. We’re always trying to tell ourselves about ourselves, and we keep changing our own rules. While we’re changing the story and rules around, sometimes we change who is important in that story. It isn’t always just the main protagonist moving the story. Sometimes our protagonist needs jump-starting.

I saw the movie version of Into the Woods, and I both liked and didn’t like it. That is, I enjoyed myself; I enjoyed the slightly different take. It’s well-acted and well-sung, and I laughed and ‘aww’ed and smiled. I tried really hard not to sing along. I can see, time-wise, why they didn’t keep some of the asides and songs and reprises and … but it makes it a much flatter feeling story, even though the central message remains the same. So this time, the retelling didn’t change what we tell ourselves, but it changed the feel of the story, and the emotional payoff wasn’t as good, at least for me.

(There may be spoilers for the musical plot and the movie changes from here on out, so if you don’t want any of those, skip to the end.)


The central message of Into the Woods, as far as I’ve always found it, is: You Have to Change Your Own Story. (He hits you over the head with Children Will Listen, but that’s really not what he’s telling us the whole time.) The other main message of all of Sondheim’s work is always: People are Effed Up. Yes, You, Too. Sondheim delights in those messages, and when he’s at his best, he can make us delight in them, too. We laugh and we cry and we shiver along with him. We are absolutely gleeful to do so.

In this version, the movie takes out some of the Witch’s moments, songs, and motivations. This makes her a lot less fun, amusing, sympathetic, or morally ambiguous. It makes her more menacing, but also less so. It pulls her teeth while at the same time giving her a spiked stick. The musical Witch is our bitter jealousy, our anger, our sense of unfairness, our excessive revenge, but she’s also our prankster, our gleeful chaos, our snide, snarky, insightful jerk. She’s not good, she’s not nice, she’s just right. The movie takes some, but not all, of that away. It makes her a little flat. Meryl Streep did a good job with what they gave her, (she’s not Bernadette, but who is?) but she can’t give you what the rewrite didn’t provide. She can’t be playfully vicious any further than the lines allow.

I think that’s the center of my issues with this retelling. The Witch’s sarcasm and snark and chasing of the Baker’s father and the eating of that bug and the line “A bear? Bears are sweet!” is part of what makes the story fun, and moves it along. Her loss of Rapunzel to death, not just leaving, gives us most of the reason the second half of the second half is so much darker. Yes, I missed the reprise of “Agony,” and the “Justifies the Beans” song, and I wish they’d kept the narrator, because man, the narrator is great.

But without the malicious levity that the Witch provides, the story gets bogged down in People are Effed Up and Wow People are So Effed Up, and the laughing is a lot less even before we lose the Witch to her beans. When she does her “Last Midnight” song, she’s not nearly as scary, because she’s already been there for most of the movie – overly vengeful, bitter, lost – the humor/horror juxtaposition doesn’t work as well. And then she’s gone, and we’re left with our effed up non-heros, who have to sing about how lost and non-heroic they are. (Let’s be honest, the “No One is Alone” song might be a major point of this story, but jeez, that song is long and boring. (It seemed shorter in the movie, and thank the deity of your choice for that, because Oy.))

Once the Witch is gone we lose some of the urgency, even though there’s still a very (justifiably) angry giant roaming around killing folks. The Witch pushed us to move, and now we have to push ourselves (another point of the show, yes). I feel like, in the movie version, they yanked the urgency out sooner, and lost some of the thread that ties all the stories together. So even though we have Cinderella, and Jack, and Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, etc, as main characters, the Witch is the driver of it all, and if she’s not running around making everything jump to her commands as much, if she’s not shocked to bitter rage at the sudden death of the one person she loved, then the movement is disjointed and the emotional impact is different.

The emotional impact is less.

And now, I finally get around to my point about my own writing.


When I originally wrote A Ragged Magic, Orrin was not a main character. He was just an acolyte, being horribly abused by Bishop Gantry, and while Rhiannon knew bad things were happening to him, she had a lot less proof. She didn’t want him to suffer, but she didn’t have any driving reason to rescue him above herself, either.

There were other issues with that earlier version that I’ve (hopefully) fixed now, but the emotional heart of the story was a lot less urgent. Without a compelling outside person to push herself for, Rhiannon stays lost. She needs someone to take risks for. Without Orrin, most of her compelling reasons are to hide – why take chances? Which makes perfect sense in a real world, but it makes it a less impactful or interesting story. Orrin makes her a better person. Orrin is flawed, a little naïve, and certainly grieving and in pain himself, and he’s her friend quickly and intensely in an intense situation. His sudden and horrific situation makes him sacrifice himself to save everyone else. And his peril pushes Rhiannon to take risks to save him, along with herself (and everyone else). And all of that drives the story in a much more impactful manner. Without this rewrite (for which we can thank Fabulous Editor Jak ™) (along with many months of me banging my head on a keyboard) we don’t have any of that. We don’t know Orrin at all, and Rhiannon is more timid, has fewer leaps in growth, so the end of the book feels muffled and lost. Orrin is not the main character, but now he is a central character. When he was less, so was the story. When I made him more important, I made the story’s heart bigger, too. (And hopefully I did a good job of it. Eeep.)

All of this is the (quite) long version of saying – sometimes your central but not-main characters move the story along in a way you’re not even noticing. And if you slight them, you slight the story.

Moral: Don’t Slight Your Sidekicks – They’re Not as Side as You Think.

(Other Moral: I Like Parentheticals and Long Paragraphs. Sorry About That.)

Title is from “Last Midnight” from Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. In case you didn’t get that.

The woods are just trees, the trees are just wood …

End of/beginning of the year post – it’s so much pressure. How do I sum up this past year? Some really fantastic stuff happened – milestones that I had almost given up on, in years past. I wrote a book, and more than that, it’s now published! “A Ragged Magic” can be found online and in stores – all you have to do is ask for it. How freaking amazing is that? Scott also had his first physical book published, “Homefront” (you can find others online, but this is the first one in PRINT, so that’s full of awesome) and we both did some author readings and signings, and are busy writing MOAR THINGS for to put in front of people’s eyeballs. This is all good stuff, and we are happy and hopeful in our current writing trajectories.

There were other good things – I have a new niecephew, and she’s adorable. The other niecephews (including my counsinphew, but we’re just gonna ignore the 2nds or once-removeds, because that’s too much work) are adorable, too, and I got to see them all over Thanksgiving. I danced in eXit SPACE’s show in the spring, which is always a wonderful time. The piece I choreographed for my friend was performed at the show, and was very well received by everyone. I continue to be able to dance, even though my knees are a wee bit crabby. Dancing is always a joy, and one I’m incredibly grateful for.

More other good things: I did well at my job. I started this website (with help). I had my first author picture taken. I was retweeted by the Bloggess a couple times this year. OK, that last thing is really only exciting to me, but I did squee. Celebrate the happy, as much as possible.

Some really not-great stuff happened, too. I don’t want to go much into that, but we (Scott and I) would like for all loved ones and liked ones and ones in general to get or to stay happy and healthy. Terrible things happened around the world, as the world is wont, but so many of them seem so much more awful than usual. I don’t know if that’s age, my own removal of personal blinders, or a feeling of futility, or what.

But I don’t want to write a post about how to make the world a better place at this time. I think it’s important, I have thoughts, but I’m not ready to talk about them here.  So for the time being I will stick to the personal. (In the personal realm that I don’t want to get into, either, I’d like to be able to realize some other dreams that seem even farther away than ever now, and I don’t know how to achieve them anymore. I’m working on it, but sometimes life gets overly complicated for no good reason, and that has been my set up for far too long. I’d like to simplify and make those dreams possible this year.) So instead, mostly writing and dancing – as it should be, on my writing blog. (You can’t get away from dancing. It’s always there.)

For 2015 I have goals – not resolutions, ‘cuz I hate those. “Resolutions” say that I must do it perfectly or fail, which will make me fail, because that is the set up. “Goals” say that even if I fall down, even when I can’t give my best so I give my medium, and even when I have no medium to give so I give squat-all, I’m still working. When I’m doing just a little, I can say at least I’m still working. When I have squat-all, I can say, I’ll work on it when I can. That way when the work happens again, it’s not starting from scratch. It’s picking up a thread that’s already there, and it’s less overwhelming.

My writing goal is to finish a rough draft for the sequel to “A Ragged Magic,” early on. Then once I have some feedback, write the second draft and get that done as soon as possible. (Once I have a publishing target, we can figure out editing passes, I guess). While that book is with my editor, I want to get back to writing the rough draft of my Not-Little-Red-Riding-Hood book. It’s about halfway done now, and it’s been sitting for a couple of years. I really want to finish the draft so it’s ready after I’m done with edits for the ARM sequel. Ready for what? Well, I guess I’ll figure that out when I’m done with it. And I’m going to try to make a new outline for my Dancer books, and figure out how to write them, or if I should just trunk it forever. Also I have a not-really-Rumplestiltskin story that’s been banging around my head for awhile, and I might get started on notes for that. Considering my writing pace, that’s probably enough goals for 2015. (and possibly 16)

For this blog – well, I am going to work on more content in general. I think posting up snippets from “A Ragged Magic” might be fun, and then as I get more polished in my draft of the sequel, snippets of that from time to time, to tease you. In the best way, my darlings. With fiction. I may start putting up reviews of things I’m reading, along with my thoughts on publishing, writing, and being a newbie in a changing publishing world. To facilitate that, I’d like to post at least twice a month, on a more regular schedule. I’ll work on it, and you’ll see the results here. You can always send me an email to remind me, if you want to.

For dance – well, I always have the goal to be stronger and more flexible and progress. But this year I think I’d really like to work on strength and balance in pirouettes. I’m always working on them, but as of yet I am not consistent in my ability to do a clean double on both sides, and I’d like to improve that finally. Consistency! I hear it’s key. I’d also like to improve my jetes. A better lift in the middle, a better stretch to my legs. And finally, I MUST get better at NOT LOOKING AT THE FLOOR – I’m better during performances, because I’m such a ham, but it will help me so much to be in the habit of looking out during rehearsal and class. If I can improve those things (along with a slew of other things, of course, but concentrate on small goals, dear), I think my dancing will be that much more solid and dependable for the choreographers – for the show this year, and beyond. And it will be more fun! Which is always the goal, after all. Fun is the best goal for dance.

There you are, my lovelies. I have listed out my wrap up and goals for your perusal and my own reminder. Whether you celebrated the new year on the 1st, or your cultural new year is at a later time, I wish you the very best in the coming months. Let’s all celebrate the happy where we can.

The title is from “Into the Woods” from the musical of the same name, by Stephen Sondheim. I sort of hate to ask it, but do you have a basket.