Ladies and Gentlemen . . . We Have Fan Art

This is going to be a short one.

But an extremely essential one.

A month or so ago, a friend of a friend asked to read “Aixa the Hexcaster.” It’s a request I get pretty rarely, and I understand why: nothing is worse for a non-writer than reading a writer’s work, finding out that it’s terrible, and having no idea how to tell them that.

So, when this friend of a friend texted me–pulling my number from the group chain we’d both been a part of during trips to PAX–I was surprised. The last time we’d hung out (during the previously-mentioned XenoPAX), we’d chatted over the massive set he’d made for Frostgrave, and laughed at a genuinely chaotic game of Gaslands, but that had all been in March.

Still, cool. Always nice to be asked, so I sent over a link.

About a month later, he wrote back and said that he really enjoyed it–that the mythics reminded him of monsters from Kingdom Death, which is an incredible compliment if you’ve ever seen the miniatures from that game (they’re often weird, sometimes beautiful, but always amazing).

He also asked if I had plans for more, expressed excitement for what he’d want to see . . .

. . . and dropped this on me:

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This . . . is . . . the unnamed asphalt mythic from “Aixa the Hexcaster,” rendered by Jesse Smolover, whose work can be found at his site, JesseDraws. And, although Jesse is a friend, this is still technically the first piece of fan art I’ve ever gotten.

I cannot express how badly I freaked out when I saw this. This was not a commission; I didn’t even joke about him doing art for the story, because he’s a professional artist and I never even considered being coy about the value of his time. Still, this man, who probably has a ton of other projects he’s working on, made this piece because, in his words, my story inspired it.

I can’t put into words how grateful I was to hear that. Every little bit of encouragement counts, and this is a whole other, totally new level of it for me.

To paint a picture of how badly I freaked out:

  1. This is the wallpaper for my phone.
  2. This is the lock screen for my phone.
  3. Now that it’s on my computer, it’s probably going to be the wallpaper for my computer.
  4. When I first downloaded it, my phone asked me if I wanted to replace it with an image of the same name . . . meaning I had already downloaded it, out of sheer, lightning-fast reflex, and didn’t remember. I still saved it again, just to be sure.
  5. I have told almost everyone about it–even people who didn’t know I’m a writer and clearly didn’t understand how big of a deal it was for me.
  6. And, of course, I have been writing like an absolute mad man lately.

Finished a new short story and submitted it. Also building a plot for another short story, while doing essential research to finish up a third.

And, of course, I’m working out a plot for more “Aixa.” I always intended to, but it was always on the back burner, behind other, huge novels that I keep struggling with. The plan now: write a novella for “Aixa.” It’s going to take a while because that world is really important to me (part of the fear has always been fucking it up), but the challenge of doing something that’s consistently resonant–a story that can’t survive without really strong, complicated emotions–wound up feeling essential to my writing. Why would I shy away from a really intense, emotional story . . . when that’s what I should always be writing?

Anyway, thank you for stopping by and joining me for this insanely uplifting landmark in my writing career. I’ll try to be a little more consistent with updates, maybe working them into the new schedule.

But, regardless, until next time, take care and write well.

The Bailey Vow

Status Update: I have successfully moved.

I’m still settling into my new home–trying, as I’ve been advised, to slow down and celebrate victories.

But also trying to settle back into being productive. The Movepocalypse sidelined all of my creative endeavors for over a month.

Well . . . except for this one post, which felt so important that I started it on July 15th. I’ve followed through and published it here because, for me, this marked an important evolution in my priorities as a writer of color. If I did not publish this, and take the ensuing vow on this site, I’d be doing my platform a massive disservice.

So, please enjoy what I’ve come to call “the Bailey Vow.”

~~~

A weird thing happened last week.

While packing, I decided to put on Deadpool 2, a movie that happened to be on Hulu–the last hurrah of an HBO subscription I bought for Game of Thrones and would never, ever renew.  The goal was “something I feel I should watch, but don’t actually need to pay attention to.” Essentially, voices in the background while I packed.

I came away from that movie with a few thoughts:

  1. Wait–Josh Brolin was Thanos and Cable?
  2. Deadpool can be funny, but when he dips into Family Guy-esque celebrity humor, he isn’t, at all.
  3. And, most importantly: wow, I love Zazie Beetz’ Domino.

They didn’t give her any development (because of course they didn’t), but she is an extremely fun imagining of a character I didn’t care about at all in the comics.

Deadpool 2-Domino just looks great. The FoX-Men movies often interpret characters to look way worse than their comic counterparts, but Domino is actually the opposite; she doesn’t look anything like her comic counterpart, but her big hair and simpler, less comic booky outfit pair really well with her character. When Domino is falling out of a moving truck but sees a giant parade float under her, she just turns her back, putting her arms behind her head, lounging, mid-air, through the wreckage and landing without a scratch; and, seeing that, we know exactly who she is–the chill, carefree vibe she puts out–and it’s awesome.

“Let me hop onto Twitter and talk about that,” I thought to myself.

And, well . . . Cue that infamous part of “Requiem in D Minor.”

“The little mermaid was written as white, was white in the film, is based in Denmark and based on a European fairytale, but is cast as black . . . How is this not racist and cultural appropriation?”

“Ariel must be a cute girl with white skin and red hair singing sweet and crisp!!”

“Ariel must be white because she is a white girl and that’s it . . .”

“Disney, you made a huge mistake by hiring Halle Bailey . . .”

“. . . This is going in the TRASH.”

Wow. Especially that second quote. She must be “singing sweet and crisp”? . . . What the fuck? It’s like a soda ad became sentient and took racism for a spin on Twitter.

For me, the “black Ariel” conversation continued immediately the next day at work.

With a Hispanic coworker. This happens sometimes, of course; a coworker who’s a fellow minority will out themselves as a fan of Ben Shapiro, or maybe an accidental supporter of the continued, often racist casting standards of Hollywood. Among the points made were . . .

  1. So, what? Is Poseidon gonna be black now?
    My Answer: Holy shit–that would be rad. I didn’t even think of that.
  2. It’s a Swedish fairy tale!
    My Answer: Keywords: fairy tale.
  3. I’d sooner believe a mermaid would be pale-skinned.
    My Answer: I’d sooner believe a mermaid had green skin, giant gills, and an unhinging jaw, actually.
  4. What if Black Panther had been White Panther instead?
    Answer: So, you mean what if Black Panther had been like every other goddamn film in the franchise?

We went back and forth for a while, my coworker making unreasonable points, me thinking, “Why . . . the fuck am I even having this debate? With a fellow Latino, no less.” Why this instead of both of us talking about how cool it is and musing, “Wow. Maybe someday, we’ll finally get a Hispanic Disney Princess”?

Instead, I was enduring the same arguments from Twitter, winding down with the same major point I’d seen on there: “Why don’t they just make a new movie with a new black main character?”

The thing is . . . I don’t completely disagree with that idea.

As I’ve said before in previous articles about All New Marvel’s weird penchant for swapping out white characters with ethnic characters and boys with girls, I don’t actually think that’s the best move for diversity (with the exception of Miles and Carol, who are genuinely just killin’ it). Sure, at this point, replacing white characters with minority characters is the best we can really hope for . . .

. . . but what would be far superior . . . is a bunch of new stories headlined by minorities. Stories like Brian Michael Bendis’ Naomi. Naomi is an amazing title because the title isn’t “Iron Man,” or “Thor” (and, of course, in the eyes of the rabid, sexist and racist masses, “Black Iron Man” or “Female Thor)–it’s just fucking Naomi. No argument, no bullshit, no looming shadow of a white predecessor.

But, to that coworker, I said, “Well, dude, no shit it would be better to have a new movie about black merpeople. But Hollywood would never do that. And people don’t–“

And I know I kept talking, but I don’t remember exactly what I said.

I had been saying, “And people don’t write their best stories with ethnic characters, because they’re usually afraid to.

“Because everyone’s been told, time and time again, that IP’s with ethnic characters won’t sell, which is bullshit.”

To which I asked myself, “Then why the fuck is Kole Buchanon white?”

Since seeing The Force Awakens, I’d imagined the protagonist of one of my own novels, Kole Buchanon, as John Boyega, but I’d never actually gone back and changed his original description–a vague set of visual guidelines that allowed readers to infer whatever skin color they wanted for the character. After all, I didn’t want to upset anyone–I wanted everyone to feel welcome. And, sure, I still do . . .

. . . but, as I said on Twitter, the reaction to Halle Bailey, like the reaction to Amandla Stenberg’s Rue before it, has made it clear that we don’t live in a world where that’s possible.

I can make my characters as welcoming to all races as I want, only for society to assume their whiteness and Hollywood to bolster that assumption, while I ultimately stand up for no one.

Or . . . I can make every single one of my protagonists a minority. Not a careful handful. Not one or two, experimentally.

All of them.

So, here, now, I’m taking what I call the Bailey Vow, so named because I don’t want to live in a world where this insane, racist reaction to Halle Bailey being cast as a mermaid, ever happens again.

I don’t claim that everyone should take this vow; I’m not trying to overturn all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and get rid of all white protagonists, because that would be bad too. But I do want to contribute to a world where protagonists being brown is no big deal. As a brown man writing for a predominately white genre, I have to contribute to that effort.

Thus, my vow:

  1. To always write stories where the protagonists are minorities.
  2. However–eternally inb4 the white-blind raging that’s sure to come if I’m successful–these stories will not always focus on the protagonist being a minority.
  3. I will always go out of my way to make it undeniably clear that my protagonists are minorities. We’re talking full descriptions of skin color, hair texture, etc., so that no one in their right mind could ever utter the words, “He / She was black / brown / Asian / etc.!?”
  4. Finally, I will always keep the film rights to all of my projects, so if any of my work ever gets optioned by a studio, I can make sure my characters are never white-washed.

It may never matter that I took this vow here; I may never be so successful of  a writer that this makes any difference.

But I took it regardless.

Now I just have to add “Redo Kole Buchanon descriptions” to my To-Do list on the Memory rewrite.

~~~

And, of course, I need to get back on the other projects I’ve been neglecting, now all backed by the Bailey Vow, which makes them more exciting–as if this is the mindset with which I always should’ve approached my projects (because it is).

Thank you for reading, and, if you’d like to be here the next time I decide to post something wildly polarizing, you can subscribe with the button on the left hand side of the screen.

Until then, take care, and write well.

Remembering

I don’t do well without distractions.

At this point in my life, being in a quiet room, without anything to do, ends horribly for me. Like characters in some of my older stories (vehicles for me to express the phenomenon), I start thinking of the many, many things that are going wrong in my life. Projects that aren’t finished, relationships that ended poorly, mistakes I’ve made. Anything that pulls me down into the silent, tight hole of depression.

It was happening at work the other day, because last week was especially bad for me; the news that an emotionally abusive and physically violent person from my past was–surprise!–living in my apartment again did wonders for my sense of dread, even before the difficulty of finding a legitimate apartment or room settled in. So, sitting at work, unable to focus on anything creative, the progression went something like this:

It’s going to take forever to find a decent room.

I’d be able to find one faster if I had a better job, but just getting an interview seems impossible.

I could get back to working on fonts, but that probably wouldn’t yield big gains.

And, besides, I can’t even focus on creative projects.

What if I’ll never be able to again?

What if I just die without being able to finish anything again?

What if “Aixa the Hexcaster” is the only story that I ever get published, because [and I can’t stress how honest and legitimate this fear is] I get murdered in my sleep?

At that point, I realized I needed any distraction whatsoever, because, for me, depression is always at its most debilitating when I fall into the pit of “I’m going to die.” I can keep myself from falling into it–settle back into a place where I’m just trying to be productive–but if I get stuck, I’ll be stuck for hours. And, of course I would, because, contrary to the word “sadness” being used interchangeably with “depression,” depression is a very different beast. Getting stuck and losing time is part of what that beast actually is.

For whatever reason–maybe because I just couldn’t think beyond the fears–I decided to pull up Google on the work computer. I fully expected it to be blocked, but I blindly typed in “Aixa the Hexcaster” anyway. I think I was trying to get to a review I’d seen on a message board: just one line talking about how, out of all the stories released in that Autumn’s issue of Mirror Dance, “Aixa” was their favorite.

But I was on image search, somehow–maybe an idle click while I was trying to stop thinking about depressing things.

I wound up pausing though–blinking. “Aixa the Hexcaster” is a pretty unique name, I’ve discovered, so if you google it, the top results are always the story itself, me talking about it, or images relating to it.

So, it was surprising when this popped up:

anime-paradise-anime-world-of-books

The very first thing I noted, for my own benefit, was that this was not fan art. I glanced at it, and in that first heartbeat, I made sure the first thing I admitted to myself was, “No, seriously, it’s impossible that this is fan art. Like, calm down. That’s not real–you ain’t there yet.” The woman in this picture? Clearly not Aixa Silva.

But what was it then? I followed through, clicking on “View Page,” hoping the resulting site wouldn’t be blocked by IT (‘Seriously, I never browse–just this once, IT, be cool’).

I found a post on the blog of Michael Matheson, a writer, editor, and reviewer. The post was a reading list they’d put together for 2016.

The list was a monster–Michael had put in a ton of time, even listing comics they’d enjoyed.

But, still, the same self-checking reflex that made me realize the feature image wasn’t fan art told me that this page must’ve been linked in error. To make sure, I hit Ctrl + F, typed in “Aixa,” hit Enter.

The page jumped down to “2016 Recommendations (Short Form)”:

  • Louis Santiago – Aixa the Hexcaster (Mirror Dance, Fall 2016) – Writer’s first publication. Still somewhat raw, as one would expect from a first sale, but Santiago’s a writer to watch.

The screen blurred. I only barely managed not to cry, but the effort meant I just sat there for a moment, looking at those words.

The gratitude I feel for those two sentences–seen at such a terrible, terrible time in my life–cannot be expressed. I cannot overstate how much it mattered for me–how much it still matters. It suddenly clicked again that, “Hey, man, you finished another story that you feel good about, and you’ve already started submitting it.”

“Yo, you almost finished the rule set for your own game; it’s almost ready to be tested.”

“Dude, you come up with new fonts really quickly. And, like, yeah, there’s still no way to tell if that will be profitable at all, in any way, but, hey, it’s still something you’re awesome at.”

I was getting somewhere. It was taking forever, and it always would, but progress was still being made. Ground was still being gained.

At the best of times, you barely even notice that kind of progress.

At the worst of times, remembering it can save your life.

~~~

I need to sincerely thank Michael Matheson for single-handedly pulling me out of a really bad place a few days ago–for helping me keep going. Michael, even if you never see this, or maybe if you see it three years from now, thank you so much.

To everyone here, thank you too. I have always appreciated everyone who stops in to read this blog. Creators say this kind of thing all the time, but, genuinely, without the support, I would not be able to justify doing any of the things I love doing, and I don’t even want to know where I would be if that was the case.

As a quick update, I have been delving into two other modes of creativity:

  • Game design, which is something I’ve always kicked around, but only recently got serious about. After a weekend of board gaming, which my friends and I called XenoPAX, I suddenly understood how to make sense of an old, problematic rule set I cooked up. Since then, I’ve been working out its kinks to make a functional game, and I’m surprisingly close to getting it into game-testing shape.
  • Font design. Long story short: a friend started a video production firm, which resulted in me dusting off graphic design skills I haven’t used since my Infinite Ammo days. I made a few logos for him, which required a custom font, and that led to the strange realization that font design just inherently makes sense to me. It’s slow going, but the goal is to use some extra time here and there to put together fonts I can sell on fontspring.

Writing-wise, I keep working on new ideas for shorts, looking for new places to publish them. I’m also getting started on rewriting an older novel. It means putting a newer one on hiatus, but I honestly haven’t done enough worldbuilding for the new one anyway, so that hiatus was happening regardless.

All of that said, I have to get back to packing and looking for apartments. Thank you again for passing by.

And, as always, write well.

Drafts – Gwin, the Red Markison

The other wayfarers were eyeing Gwin, all of them shameless about it. Not just because he was the only Avian waiting in the mayor’s antechamber, but because he was a Red Markison.

There were over a hundred races of Avian across the world, with far more visual distinctions than human races. Dramatic differences in crests, wingspan, height, body composition, and–especially–color made it difficult for the average human to keep up, so many didn’t even try. Instead, they fell back on a handful of misconceptions. Ideas like dun-colored Avian being more intelligent than their bright-colored peers–possibly because of how common brown-feathered Dallings were. Or maybe because Dallings and other such birdpeople were closest to human skin colors.

Whatever the reason, there was a very real chance that, despite Gwin’s sharp eyes, and the Avian-altered armor he wore, the mayor of Riversend would only see his bright red feathers. Or the inhuman shape of his torso. The bare talons of his feet. The mayor might, like the worst of humanity, just see an animal. A pretty beast, trained to follow Elise around and repeat what she said on command. Gwin would absolutely despise that . . . even though he called himself a “pretty beast” every single time he found a mirror.

Elise knew he wouldn’t do anything violent, but Avian were naturally prideful, and they held a completely different, entirely personal view of society. Gwin, no doubt, wouldn’t have spared a second for the mayor of Greybrush–or even the king himself–if Elise hadn’t convinced him they should.

She took it as a good sign that they made it to the mayor’s chamber without incident. But then they were ushered in, and the mayor was an old white man. The kind who used to chase Elise away from their shops in Albrook for the crime of looking at his wares while also being a dark-skinned child.

He was on his feet immediately, saying “Welcome, welcome,” offering a hand and gesturing to his seats. Elise shook his hand . . . and then watched the old man offer it to Gwin.

“He doesn’t have hands,” she said.

And the mayor chuckled a bashful, “Of course,” as he sat down without apologizing.

Gwin looked at her, sidelong, saying nothing, but walking away from his spot in front of the mayor’s desk, considering a nearby bookshelf instead; if there had been any chance the mayor would earn a spot on Gwin’s pecking order, it was already lost.

“I want to thank you for what you did the other day,” the old man said, just to her. “I don’t think Greybrush would’ve survived that rhind attack if not for your help.”

“We did what needed to be done,” Elise said. “We wouldn’t be wayfarers if we just watched the trouble.”

The mayor chuckled again. “Your bird was particularly impressive.”

Ugh. Gwin didn’t turn around, but his feathers bristled–a shudder that rushed over him.

“Did you train it to hunt?”

“His master trained him–to be a wayfarer.”

The old man smiled like it was a joke. “So you bought it then?”

My . . . god. “He’s my–” she started to say.

But the floorboards were shaking in rhythm to a chuckle. Gwin shook his head. “You are trying . . . so hard with this genuinely idiotic man.”

The mayor was wide-eyed, mouth hanging open.

“He just doesn’t know better,” Elise said, still trying so hard to be patient, knowing that, somewhere in this meeting, there was a reward–or maybe a job offer. She could do with settling down in a small town for a few months.

But Red Markisons didn’t care about making homes, and Avian in general had zero tact for those they didn’t respect. That lack of care had also been too liberating for Elise.

So she just watched Gwin chuckle. “Of course not. He doesn’t know anything. One look at that stupid fucking face, and it’s obvious.”

There was a moment where she tried to hold in the laughter . . . but she just couldn’t. Such an absurd, terrible thing to say that would solve absolutely none of their problems.

And the mayor, all balk and sputter. “Are you–is he–it–talking about me?”

She laughed harder, and Gwin joined her, his head rocking back.

When they were done, Gwin shook his head. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

A part of Elise wanted to turn, bow, thank the mayor for his audience. A much smaller part of her thought that she should apologize for laughing at him.

In the end, she just sighed. “Yeah, fuck it,” she said, and followed Gwin out of the chamber without looking back.

~~~

A few weeks back, on a snowy day here in New York, I took a walk with coworkers who are both bird enthusiasts. Idle chat about bird behaviors stoked the nerd fire in my fat soul, and I decided I wanted to try my hand at a fantasy bird race–if only because I’ve never seen a story that made them unapologetically inhuman.

In my experience, animal people in Fantasy are often just humanoid with animal heads. Worse, they’re very, very often presented as a replacement for existing human races and the social issues they face (i.e. the Khajiit and Argonians from Elder Scrolls standing in for human minorities, thus animalizing those minorities and devaluing their struggles).

Naturally, I fucking hate that. However, I thought it would be really interesting if a Fantasy animal-person race didn’t replace an existing race or shoulder their issues, but, instead, complimented them. Thus, this scene, which proposes a Fantasy race of bird people who were wildly, intentionally different from all human races, paired with a dark-skinned character who wasn’t.

If you enjoyed this experiment, and want to see more posts like this, or the other strange, manic writings of an adult man trying to get his life in order and get published at the same time, well, fuck, go ahead and hit that subscribe button on the sidebar to the left of this page. Or feel free to follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor.

Either way, thanks for reading, and, as always, write well.

Drafts – The Steelskins

Musa almost walked into them.

Coming out of Lucky’s, pulling his coat tight against the cloud-dimmed afternoon, he didn’t notice the steelskins until there were six of them, in varying degrees of contrapposto.

Only one of them eyed Musa–a stern look through a dented visor, promising there were no answers to be had here.

The others were fanned out, scuffed leather hands keeping other citizens back–away from two workers with a mop and brush. They shared a bucket between them, filled with water made frothy and pink by red bristles.

Musa knew he could ask what happened–anyone but the steelskins would be eager to gush about the person who had bled out front of Lucky’s.

But there would be significantly less heart in the asking. Someone had bled. Someone always did. If they were alive, good for them. If they were dead, Musa would rather not know.

Because it had happened so quietly–so quickly–that, if not for the steelskins, he would’ve walked past the blood without noticing.

“Alright, alright,” one of the workers said. “That’s enough.”

And one of the steelskins sighed. “The rain’ll get the rest.”

~~~

I like drafting short, throwaway scenes. It’s just practice on days when I feel like I haven’t written enough. I’ll be posting them here now, however, on an extremely loose, unreasonable schedule (Hi, 2AM!). I want to stay consistent with these . . . and I thought they might be interesting.

Thanks for reading. And, if you enjoyed and would like to know when I post again, feel free to click the subscribe button on the left side of the screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor.

Just Checking In: Welcome to 2019

It’s a new year. A new chance to finally get the life I want.

For me, 2019 feels almost like a last chance though; my internal gauge of Published Heat has officially dropped back down to 0, and if I get to 2020 without getting published again, it’s probably going to spin down further, into negative percentages. Which is supposed to be mathematically impossible . . .

. . . but not for a writer, baby! Ha ha!

Anyway, look–I’m so serious about this year that I’d already started a few initiatives and resolutions weeks before the ball dropped.

For one, I’ve stopped eating meat. Not a self-righteous decision there; I just want to make healthier food choices, and I found that being vegetarian–while not as difficult in 2019 as it was in 2008–also forces me to make better food choices.

I also drew up a Google Sheet of 52 places to apply to this year, shared with a few friends at work.

My point is, I need this year to be different, and I’m doing my best to make sure that it is.

And part of that effort means posting on here–if only to keep myself sane.

But, really, to keep myself on track creatively.

My Current WIP’s

  1. “Nurture Garden 5” – A sci-fi short story that I’ve submitted a few times. Originally, I was just happy that it was under 7,000 words. Currently, I’m in editing hell with it. Every time I go back, I comb over the same scenes, looking for things to improve, determined to do several rounds of edits in one go. It is looking promising, but it’s also very, very difficult to go back to. I’m just about in the middle of it, and the goal is to have it done–again–by February.
  2. The Hand & the Tempest – The YA fantasy novel I’ve been working on for over a year now. I learned a very, very important lesson with this one earlier in the year; I can never, ever push myself to write. If I don’t know what’s coming next in a novel, I just need to put it down and work on something else instead. Yes, that makes things horribly slow-going.

    But the alternative is writing a completely rushed chapter that takes everything in a stale direction.

    This was kind of a surprise, because, in 2016, when I finished the first draft of Memory–an fantasy action-adventure–I was absolutely sure that bolting out novels in a single month was the way to go.

    Nope.

    More on Memory later, but, for whatever reason, I just didn’t pay attention to the massive additions and edits I had to make with that novel. The endorphin rush of just finishing something quickly dwarfed the desire to make sure that something was as sound as possible. That is never the angle from which I want to tackle a project.

    Yes, I do need to finish projects. But if I don’t execute them well–the first time–they’ll be in edits forever.

    The goal with The Hand and the Tempest is to find a middle ground–a schedule that’s somewhere between belting out words every day (like I did with Memory), and wasting months on an outline that’s ultimately too rigid.

    Right now, I’m hoping the answer is meditation–or some other form of quiet thought-exercise. I haven’t tried yet, because my personal life is bad enough that I rely very heavily on distractions.
    But I will give it a shot this weekend. And maybe I’ll write about it too.

Of course, there are other projects I want to work on, and others that I’ve completed. Unfortunately, I’ve put one of those completed stories on the back burner, and retired another one completely.

  • “Lokisday” is the project that I retired. It was a fantasy short story that just had way too issues:
    • It’s incredibly long–I’m talkin’ novella length–so I ran out of places where I could submit it.
    • It was also a “working shit out” story. Not an exact mirror of a previous relationship I’ve had, but definitely a vehicle for me to work out emotions brought on by that relationship. Still, I’m too close to it to judge it honestly, which I’m so aware of that I’m just not sure I want it published anymore; I’d be giving that story side-eye for the rest of my life.
    • Anyway, because it was a working-shit-out story, it had a very, very stale theme. You can’t change the past. Love who you are. Some people genuinely aren’t worth it. Things we’ve all heard so many times from so many other stories.
    • It was also another story from me where a protagonist goes somewhere and talks with a super-powerful mythical creature. I already did that, to way better effect, in “Aixa the Hexcaster.” I don’t want to keep rehashing that experience. On to different things.
  • Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun – I’ve put Memory on the back burner. Primarily–and I hate saying this–because I think it needs to be rewritten if I intend to submit it at all.

    As I said earlier, this was my NaNo 2016 novel, belted out quickly before I realized that wasn’t a good way for me to write a story.

    It is very much a creature of the time I wrote it (a Marvel Studios-esque fantasy adventure with a strong female lead–as a secret hook, for some reason). So much of that doesn’t really resonate anymore, and I’d rather be ahead of the curve than behind it.

    • I didn’t plan to make a plot twist out of the one character being a woman–I just wrote a hyper-intelligent, super-powered character without knowing what gender they would be, then realized that she was definitely a woman.

      Somehow, though, that character’s gender came off like a plot twist regardless.
      And I hate that. I think it became a twist because, at the time, I didn’t feel like there were enough leading ladies in nerddom (and also because I love Samus Aran–not gonna lie).

      But there are plenty of strong, female protagonists in nerddom now. Or, at least, there aren’t so few female protagonists out there that it would make sense, at all, to hide the character’s gender as a twist. We’re definitely at the point where you can just add momentum to the wave without being coy. I’d prefer to rewrite the story from that adjusted angle.

      Of course, hiding that character’s identity still makes a ton of sense plot-wise, but I’ll figure something out.

    • The other protagonist never had a strong, unique arc, which I can absolutely fix. I already know where I’m taking it, and that it would be more interesting. However, it’s not the kind of thing I can just drop into the existing MS.
    • I never showed the world in as much detail as it needed to be shown. The end result was a novel that made it seem like I did minimal world-building. Also something I can fix.
    • The weirdest thing: Memory was significantly under its appropriate word count. So, rather than struggle to add something to a flawed manuscript, starting over feels like a better bet.
    • And, finally, the Marvel-esque tone just bugs me. Not because I suddenly hate Marvel movies or like DCEU movies–because just fucking no.

      It’s because I don’t want to write any of my work with the tone of someone else’s. I want it to feel like my work. I want it to read like something I would write.

      I want the visuals to be weirder and more striking. I want the action to be more dangerous. Less punchy than Marvel’s.

      I guess, more than anything, I want to finally cultivate my own style, and stick with it, unabashedly. It’s going to take practice and focus.

      But, if there’s one thing I know in the vast, mysterious hellscape of writing, it’s that finding my own style–my own voice and cadence–will absolutely be worth it.

~~~

In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting a lot more about these projects–particularly “Nurture Garden 5,” which I’m hoping to make a ton of progress with tomorrow morning.

Anyway, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post–and want to get a notification when I publish my next one–please hit the subscribe button to the left of your screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor!

Until next time, take care. And, if you have one, seriously reconsider that working-shit-out story.

A Writer Watching: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – Episodes 1 & 2

She-Ra_TitleScreen

There were a bunch of times when I wanted to return–when I considered writing posts about whatever sparked my interest. But nothing really pushed me like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power did. Not because I’m an insane person who thinks the show is bad . . .

. . . but because the angry, trolling manlings of the internet really came out in full force for this show–a reboot of a cartoon from the 80’s that was never made for them in the first place. Seriously, the unbridled privilege in action there is astounding.

So I thought, “I watched the first two episodes, and I liked them. Why not make a whole viewing journal, written as I watch the rest of the season, so I can dish on the stupid incels who hate anything remotely progressive or feminist, while talking about what the show does right and wrong?” And here we are. Full disclosure, I originally planned to make this one huge post–for the entire series–but I quickly realized that would be insane, so, instead, I’m going episode by episode (or potentially arc by arc [I’m playing it by ear]).

*Disclaimer Though: Seriously, I criticize absolutely everything. It’s just what I do. I expect the incels to already be gone at this point, but if you don’t want to see this series honestly criticized for the things it genuinely does wrong, you should probably leave as well. I like it–I don’t watch things I don’t like–but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of criticisms to make. Why make those criticisms at all, you ask? Because I’m a writer. Because maybe you are too. Why shouldn’t we be able to critique this show that’s great–but flawed–and aspire to make our own work better?

Anyway, enjoy!

Episode 1 – “The Sword Part 1”

  • (1:00) First thing–what I saw a bunch from the incels was that the animation was terrible. We’re ten seconds in, and, hey, incels what in the fat hell are you talking about? I get that there are some small animation errors here and there, but there are with every animated show. This is very obviously high-quality from the get-go. 
  • (4:50) Goddammit, Shadow Weaver looks awesome. One of those times I wish I’d designed a character. 
  • (4:51) Here’s where they revealed that Adora is a soldier for Hordak, something I absolutely fucking love, because it sets the show up to transcend the “one-a the guys” feminism of comics or other shows. Adora starts off the series being the no-nonsense, sparkle-free, princess-hating super soldier that most feminist characters are–characters who I’ve grown to think of as “one-a the guys.” Obviously, “one-a the guys” female characters are far better than hyper-sexualized, man-focused female characters, but there’s still room for improvement. “One-a the guys” are still geared to be relatable to men, and that’s always weird to me.
    Anyway, I digress. My original point: it’s interesting how Adora starts off this show as “one-a the guys” while she’s working for Hordak, who lies to her about who she is and what she’s supposed to want.
    I’m really hoping this show did that intentionally, and that it proceeds to promote being girly and being strong at the same time–as opposed to either being a woman who is tough, never acts girly, and has sex only with other women (ya know, stuff that appeals to the sensibilities of the generic straight man), or a woman who acts girly, and is either obsessed with a man, or needs to be saved by one.
    Again, I’m not sure that She-Ra is actually eschewing the “one-a the guys” thing, but it seems to be with this exposition, and I hope it is. Because we need
     strong, female characters who exist somewhere in the middle of the “girly damsel”-and-“perfect, man-like ultra-badass” spectrum. 
  • (9:11) Kinda weird how these Dreamworks shows keep starting with protagonists–who are training in the military–stealing a speeder . . . 
  • (10:43) . . . and then, while joyriding in it, finding the show’s macguffin by accident. 
  • (12:20) Having watched a few episodes of the original show years ago, one of the things I was super curious about was whether or not Bow would still have giant red hearts on his outfit. I love that he still does. 
  • (14:19) Oh no–no, no, no, no. I don’t like this weird, Catra sleeping at Adora’s feet, on her bed, thing, and it’s not–I repeat, it’s not–because I’m some kind of stupid homophobe. No, there’s just something really, really gross about it, from a friends-perspective.
    Never, ever be such a shitty friend that you let your bestie degrade themselves for you. Seriously, I know it’s small–I know that they were trying to do a cute thing and appeal to the viewer’s love for their best friends–but this moment fosters really bad interpersonal habits. Seeing the protagonist sleeping while her friend sleeps at her feet, like an animal, probably gave a bunch of kids the wrong idea about how devoted a best friend could be. 
  • (17:07) “Light Hope.” I . . . love how unapologetic they are about sticking to all of the original names. 
  • (20:25) Okay. It’s about time to talk about it.
    This show . . . absolutely, 100% has White Savior Syndrome.
    That is the massive flaw of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. There are characters from different races, but they all play second-fiddle to a pretty, white protagonist who has shining, blonde hair and glowing, blue eyes when she uses her powers. She-Ra looks great, but she fosters a trend I’ve seen of empowering white women . . . at the expense of minorities–the result of creators saying, “Well, we want to be forward-thinking . . . but we don’t want to make the protagonist a minority!”
    This scene, with Adora being shown a town destroyed by Hordak’s forces, embodies that white savior vibe perfectly.
    The white protagonist is shown how these poor, othered minorities are losing their war. If only there was a strong white woman, privileged with the power to be better than all of them–by right of just being born–who could save them all!

    Maybe that trend sticks out to me because I am a minority, but this show will forever be an example of it. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned, but it’s weird that Catra, Glimmer, Bow–they’re all nice and tanned . . . while Adora and the queen, Angella, are fair-skinned.
  • (22:09-22:30) Light Hope: “Adora . . . will you fight for the honor of Grayskull?”
    Adora: “For the honor . . . of Grayskull!”
    The writers could’ve made that smoother.
    Look, I’m a fantasy writer. And a very, very intense self-editor. Things need to sound natural.
    That did not sound natural at all.
    Light Hope asks our protagonist a question, and she’s all, “Yes, I will! But I’m not going to actually say yes, even! I’m just going to say the catchphrase that I suddenly know! Or, like, I’m just gonna repeat the last part of that full question you just asked! For no particular reason, really! I’m not even gonna be like, ‘Wait, what’s Greyskull?’”

    Just sayin’, you get one chance to make a moment like that perfect. One chance to bring She-Ra back and make it absolutely seamless. But that one moment–which should have been flawless, even if the rest of the show wasn’t–had messy dialogue. 
  • (22:44) She-Ra really does look so awesome though. She triggers such a child-like awe in me. I’m a man in my mid-30’s, watching her transformation like, “Whoa-a-a-a-a. Her hair is so pretty!”

 

Episode 2 – “The Sword Part 2”

  • (1:12) Such a good move making Adora unable to control her She-Ra powers. Giving protagonists a learning curve for their power set is always great when those powers are crazy.
  • (8:07) They’ve been mentioning it for a while, but I appreciate that Glimmer also has a learning curve with her powers. It gives her some clear, obvious room to grow, and I assume that, like Adora, she’ll grow as a person as she gets more powerful.
  • (8:14) I sure hope that Bow, who seems to already be an expert with his bow, gets the same treatment. I sure hope that, in this show that’s trying to be progressive, we don’t have a male character who’s just static comedy relief. His growth wouldn’t need to be tied to his powers, of course, but it would be kind of shit if he was just there to make the funnies. Ju-u-u-u-ust sayin’. 
  • (10:18) This scene . . . really annoyed me.
    Shadow Weaver: “Where is Adora!?”
    Catra: “For the last time, I don’t know! . . .”
    Shadow Weaver: “. . . Have it your way. I already know where she is. We’ve been tracking her.”
    Me: . . .
    Catra: “Uh, then why’d you ask me?”
    Me: Exactly.
    Shadow Weaver: “Because you’re going to get her back!”
    Me: That makes . . . zero sense.
    Don’t send some new, badass, genuinely threatening villain to capture Adora. Don’t create drama by having Catra intervene somehow.
    No, just send the one under-performing warrior-in-training, who has clear issues with authority, to do it.
    I always hate contrivances, but I especially hate them when they require characters to make incredibly stupid choices.
     
  • (11:04) Interesting how, even on this show, set in a really sparkly world with lots of pinks and purples, our magical girl protagonist hates pink flowers.
    Do ya . . . Do ya see what I was talking about earlier? Isn’t it weird that this show is designed to appeal to people who like bright colors and sparkly transformations, but the protagonist hates that shit cause writing trends dictate that she should?
    Maybe I was wrong about that “one-a the guys” thing, but I’m still hoping Adora changes as the series progresses. I’m hoping
     this is more of an “I was raised by Hordak to hate those things” kind of thing. I mean, Adora does lose it when she sees a horse for the first time, and loving horses is traditionally a girly girl thing. 
  • (11:52) Ahhhh . . . C-Cool. The minority people in this town are, like, half-animals . . .
    . . . Cool.
    Yeah, ya know the way Catra, Adora’s best friend who has tanned skin and sleeps at her feet like a fucking animal, is, in fact, part animal?
    Yeah, these other tanned-skinned people are animals too.
    great
    just . . . just great 
  • (16:30) I haven’t seen past this episode yet, so I have no idea how this Catra / Adora friendship thing plays out. She-Ra is a Dreamworks animation, and they are awesomely brazen with the sexual diversity of their characters, so I genuinely have no idea if they become a thing or not. Either way though, here’s how I feel about this:
    If Adora and Catra are friends, I like the friends angle, but I hope there’s some actual romance somewhere else in the story. Whether it’s with a male character or a female character, it would be cool to see the tough, head-bitch character at least invest time into a romance.
    If Adora and Catra are more than friends, that would lean into the “one-a the guys” trend, but it would still be awesome if it got into the emotions of the relationship (instead of the comic book approach of showing the two hot chicks naked in bed together and that’s it–not like this show would do that anyway). If I got to see the relationship that was denied me with Korra and Asami (and which is still being denied me with Shiro and Keith [#keiro]), I’d be happy. 
  • (19:26) Holy shit! There’s a magical girl transformation! A-a-a-and it’s legit as fuck! 
  • (20:20) Yo, can we take a moment to acknowledge that Bow was straight-up just ready to die fighting the Horde right here? That’s . . . That’s fucking awesome. This dude was just ready to die saving people–in the second episode. Nobody gonna talk about that? . . . No? . . . It was just posed as comic relief? . . .
    great
     
  • (20:45) I’m sure the incels would whine about She-Ra being OP and immediately knowing how to use her powers, but she clearly dips into something like the Avatar State here, where she’s amazing and terrifying, and I love that. It does make things convenient for writers, yes, but there’s also something rad about your protagonist going mute, growing 4 feet taller, and having giant, golden hair that’s awesome (just fucking try to come at me about that last part when y’all motherfuckers know you love Dragonball).
    *I watched ahead a bit . . . More about this topic next time.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Thanks for dropping by! I don’t update on a regular schedule; I’m a man trying to get his life in order and get published at the same time, so posting on this site is limited to whenever I have time and really, really don’t want to write. Or just relax.

If you enjoyed this post, and want to get a notification when I post the next part of this series, please hit the subscribe button to the left of your screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor, or just pass by again in [INSERT RANDOM NUMERIC VALUE] [INSERT RANDOM UNIT OF TIME]! Thanks!

I’m Back

Hey, everyone.

Like Castlevania’s Dracula, I have returned–once every 500 years to post for a month or two, until the urge to once again devote all of my time to my WIP’s, like a Belmont, whips me in the face.

That metaphor just kept going. I apologize.

Seriously, I’ve wanted to get back to my blog for a while, but life has been a bit crazy. Trying to keep things in order and advance professionally, combined with working on several WIP’s (i.e. securing a steady flow of rejection letters) has meant I had to stay away from the blog, even though–as you may have noticed–I gave it a face lift. Seriously, I changed themes for this site months ago, intending to start writing here again all the way back then. But, of course, life got in the way.

Regardless, though, I am back, and I’ll be posting very, very casually across the next year. If you’re still here, I appreciate you! If you’re not, I mean, A) I don’t really blame you, and B) you’re not here anyway, so why did I even write this part?

Anyway, I’ll write a proper post about what I’ve been working on soon, but, for now, I’ll publish a new post within the hour. If you like cartoons, celebrating social justice stuff, and criticizing social justice stuff, you’ll love it.

TL;DR: What I’m about to post will appeal to literally no one.

Enjoy!

Back on Hiatus

Hey, everyone. I’m going to keep this one short.

First thing’s first . . . I hated last week’s post. I rushed through something I’d intended to be important and beautiful. While at the Met, I’d taken a bunch of pictures I intended to use in “The Emperor’s Gun,” explaining how much inspiration museums provide for worldbuilding. Here’s one of those pics:

LS-BackonHiatus1

And here’s another:

LS-BackonHiatus2

The idea was to talk about how limited our understanding of the world would be without help. Without the desire to learn — particularly to do research — we’re left to assume how cultures work, and how our past happened. And, yeah, knowing that is important for us as human beings, of course, but, in terms of writing, we wind up grasping at straws and deviating into ridiculous, nonsense plots if we don’t make an effort to understand our own history and that of others.

Unfortunately, all of this fell to the wayside because I was burnt out from work, trying to post at 2AM. I wound up settling for a short, confused post about a gun. And, sure, back when I was a kid, that gun had blown my mind, and started me down the road to an important lesson . . .

. . . but I would’ve preferred to take my time. Write something that actually felt poignant. It upsets me that I didn’t.

It also upsets me that, in about two hours, it will be August — just one month until September 1st.

At which point it will be a year since I was published for the first time. My entire goal for this year had been to get another short story published.

Instead, I got a promotion — a good thing, for sure — and then spent the majority of the year struggling through the first chapters of a new book. I finished a final edit of Memory as well — also good — but I should’ve planned better. Should’ve known my limits.

What I’m saying is, I don’t regret writing here more — my stint of posting every day was a bunch of fun — but I genuinely need to dial it back. I said this exact thing a few months ago when I stopped posting every day, but that was a half-measure. I’m a man who’s only had one piece published, posting on his blog every week about writing theory.

It just feels ridiculous. And, maybe it’s taken this long for the glow of “Aixa the Hexcaster” to die down, but, once again, it feels like I have no right to talk about my process here.

It feels like the part of me that wants to keep posting is the last bit of young douchebag Louis. The guy who started this blog and almost immediately wrote that a classic fantasy series was lacking because one edition’s cover was bad.

No. No, I refuse to be that wildly bling guy anymore.

What I’m saying is, I’m not an amazing writer. And I’m not going to post on here every day until I become an amazing writing. I’m going to dial this blog back to “one post when I have something important to say,” because, otherwise, I’m just rambling on here. Or I just feel like I’m rambling, and that’s all the same.

I have many, many goals, and I have to start working on those without distractions, set up to pamper me.

This blog is one of those distractions.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported me here over the past year. You guys have absolutely kept me going. I’ve never had this steady of an audience, and it’s been every bit as validating as getting my work published. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who’s commented, everyone who’s subscribed, everyone who’s Liked a post. I will, without a doubt, write you again.

But, for now, I have to pick up my big boy pen and become the writer I’ve always wanted to be.

~~~

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx, trying to become a professional before it’s too late for me. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster” was published in 2016 at Mirror Dance Fantasy, and I’m currently preparing three more pieces for submission. I no longer post here on a set schedule, but if you’d like an email notification when I do — my words delivered right to your inbox — then please subscribe at the bottom of this page. All I get from posting on this blog is support from readers, but that support means the world to me.

Until next time, thank you again. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Talk About: The Emperor’s Pistol

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past Wednesday.

It was the beginning of a new trend I’ve started of just getting out of the house. Maybe it’s in celebration of finishing the edit of Memory.

More likely, it’s just an intense desire to be out having fun when I have the freedom to do so. In particular, I’m trying to go out with friends more often — trying to work my life into a legitimate TV show with a full cast of characters.

Because of course I have to think of them as a cast of characters.

Whatever, the point is, I wanted to head to the Met . . . because, back in February, when I started posting on here every day, I mentioned wanting to go there and write about it.

Not just because it’s an awesome museum that I genuinely get lost in every time I visit.

But because it’s where I, as a kid, had an epiphany that made me the writer I am today.

And that epiphany centers on this:

TheEmperorsPistol

Yes, it’s a gun. Nothing could seem more crass, I know, but bear with me.

This is a pistol made for Emperor Charles V by Peter Peck, a maker of watches and guns, back in the 1500’s.

It is, as you can clearly see . . . absolutely insane with detail. The etchings. The detailing on its curved grip. I have no idea how functional this thing could’ve been.

But, when I was young, I didn’t care about that.

Because, when I first saw this gun, all it did was confuse me.

Much in the same way that it’s confusing the first time you find out that Batman didn’t start with Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, or even Adam West.

“Wait . . . There were guns before the guns I’ve seen my whole life?

“But . . . we have them now.”

For whatever reason, it felt like some kind of cosmic betrayal. Like the world was messing with me. Not only had we had them, but they were actually beautiful hundreds of years ago, “when they were way harder to make . . . How does that even work?”

The answer was something that stuck with me. Something that’s prevalent in all of my work, whether I want it to be or not.

It’s the knowledge that I don’t know everything. That I, as a human being, am inherently stupid and limited in my ability to perceive the world around me. The past — the eternal majority of human existence — is a thing I can only know snippets about if someone else I don’t know compiled information about it for everyone — before I was born.

My knowledge, I discovered that day, is the sum of the scattered things I can try to learn about the past . . . and my own stupid, human assumptions.

Like that there weren’t guns hundreds of years ago.

This is the reason why I think about what’s happening 10 feet below me sometimes. With no provocation, I sometimes try to imagine what’s happening 10 feet below me — at home, on the street, or wherever there’s solid ground — and I realize that I have no idea. There is, in fact, no way I can ever know exactly what’s happening 10 feet below me. Unless a) I’m falling, or b) I’m in one of those boats with a glass bottom, to which I argue, a) Oh shit! I’m falling!?, and b) Oooh. Are there sharks?

This 10 feet down talk also applies to you — right now. Apologies if you’re paranoid, but the caveat is that you don’t have to worry what’s going on down there. If you’re in an apartment, it’s someone else’s apartment 10 feet down — none of your business. If you’re in a private house, the cat’s down there, maybe, and that’s none of your business either — even if they’re clawing up the furniture. That’s their night and you’re not a part of it, because you’re up here, reading this post.

The point is . . . our thoughts aren’t unique. Our ideas aren’t original.

When I looked at that gun, I had the first spark of the realization that humanity had not started with me. And I wasn’t the pinnacle of it.

And, despite how all of this sounds . . . I thought that was amazing.

The idea that fantasy could be more complicated — that humanity hundreds of years ago had already been more complex than I thought — blew my mind.

And that freedom — to make things complicated — is at the center of everything I write.

And, of course, I use it to promote the notion that we, as humans, aren’t perfect and all-knowing. Because that idea is beautiful and fascinating to me. It’s humbling.

And it’s reassuring to know that I don’t know everything.

And I never, ever can.

~~~

It’s 2AM and I . . . really need to get to sleep, so I’m going to keep this short. Thank you again for reading. I know this one got here at the end of the week too, but I’m going to keep trying to balance work, writing, and my personal life in the non-stop Spider-Man dance that is my life. I’m actually considering taking a break from the blog again just to get my handful of projects into submissions, but we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process — still trying to figure it out — which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email — a new post from me delivered right to your inbox — then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Thank you just for passing by, and, as always, write well.