Our Beautiful “Other”

This isn’t a post about him. This is a post about you.

You, dear reader, are a human being. You are a person who breathes and lives and who is capable of the same intelligent thought that invented everything from the wheel to the iPhone. The fact is that you are here because at some point in history, two other human beings brought you into the world. My opinion is that you’ve made it this far for a reason.

You are not the only one who is here. There are others. Some worship the same God, some don’t. Some have more melanin. Some love different people than you would like them to. Some have embraced their true identity, despite the one forced upon them at birth. Some have worked hard even as their bank account reads E, while others lavish in mansions because they were handed opportunities based on a privilege they did not ask for, yet have anyway. There are almost 7 billion others, not a single one of them you, but each of them them. 

To them, you are a them. Each of us exists as an other in relation to someone.

Yet it is in our otherness that we are one. Our skin and our minds and our hearts and our spirits are each of them unique and other, and that is what makes this world we did not ask for, yet have, a rich mosaic of life. We are each a stroke in a painting that’s a few thousand millennia in the making, each of us a word in a book that’s still being written. Every one of you is part of humanity’s verse in history.

Black, white, able bodied, transgender, Islam, impoverished, Asian, two-spirited, Latino, cisgender, disabled, young, Christian, mentally ill, thin, wealthy, elderly, fat, bisexual, agendered— these and countless more markers are all truths for certain individuals. These unique elements build our identity and make us who we are, and they are all of them valid. Because you are the intersectional sum of all these things, you too are valid. You have others who love you, as you love them. And for the sake of each and every other, we must all have love for one another.

When hate enters your heart, it’s like clear waters destroyed by oil. It poisons you and all who drink you up. But love is what heals. Love is everything the light touches, love is what brings flowers to bloom and humans into being and puts wonder into the eyes of our children. We only make this world any kind of better or any shade of great when we see the value in each and every other. The individual stanzas that are our other is what makes us a beautiful poem when we all come together.

So as you are here, you with your beautiful other, remember others are also here. We are all here together, and it is together that we will decide what kind of poem we want to be.

(Note: Featured image is an original abstract painting by Elayna Mae Darcy)

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Your Story Deserves Better

Exactly six months ago today, I was basking in one of the most incredible sensations I’ve ever felt in my life. My short story, Continuum, was going to be published in a short story anthology by a publisher called Inkshares. We won The Nerdist Video Games Contest, and sold the highest number of pre-orders, which meant we’d receive full publication. As of today, you can still visit the page for the book where it’s the #1 Bestseller in Video Game related books. I have never felt as euphoric as I did on July 15th. I made a video in which I cried and poured my heart out about how good it felt to be accomplishing a dream I’d had my whole life at the young age of 25. I never released that video to the public, and given my news from this weekend, I doubt I now ever will.

Why? Because Inkshares emailed us this past weekend to tell us they were cancelling our book.

My first published work is getting ripped out from under me, and I refuse to pretend that I’m not simultaneously devastated and mad as hell.

Inkshares was a company that, this time last year, I believed in so fervently I could barely get through a day without telling someone about it. I sang their praises till I was blue in the face, and believed in them the way a kid believes in their parents. I thought Inkshares was it. My gateway to the world of being a published author. I had more hope than I can convey in words that this would be how my book got into the world. I believed this so much so that I ignored any opposing views that might suggest otherwise. How could a site that had given me so much (friends, a platform, hope) be so bad?

I look back on that time and long for it, because while the first five months were full of learning and growing and trying new things, every month since their change in management has been a nightmare for me and countless other authors, and given this weekend’s events, I can no longer stay quiet about it.

Now, please keep in mind as you read this, that my opinions are MINE. I’m in no way speaking for any other person who has ever been tied to Inkshares, mainly because some of them have had fine and dandy experiences. To them I say, that’s great. That’s not my experience, and from the conversations with friends, the emails I’ve seen (or lack of correspondence and transparency all together) on the parts of others, has led me to be utterly appalled at the way business is now being run. While there are perfectly lovely people working there, recent decisions have been made without any regard for the creators who fuel the site. Here is what transpired for me with them since things began to change.

In June of 2016, a small band of authors from Inkshares got the idea to write an anthology and enter it in the Nerdist Contest. Weary that perhaps an anthology would be unfair to other authors, several members of our group reached out to the staff at Inkshares (honestly can’t remember if it was 3 people or 5 people) and we were given the go ahead. Their staff was enthusiastic. Said it would be great. Several of said staff bought copies almost immediately. All of us authors were THRILLED when the book took the lead. We had done everything to make sure the company deemed this entry fair, and were succeeding.

In July, we won the contest. Our book sold over 400 copies to 366 unique readers. I cried and felt that immeasurable joy described at the start of this blog post. It was brought up that the new CEO of the company was less than thrilled at the notion of our anthology. But we had won the contest, which meant we would be published. All seemed well. We submitted our manuscript in August, then waited for news.

In December, we FINALLY heard from the CEO! He was asking us for a synopsis and a log line for each of our stories. While his email read like he didn’t even know we’d submitted our manuscript, we sent them anyway. Some in our group had hope that this would mean we’d soon have feedback on our pages. Some were frustrated that it took them this long to acknowledge our existence. I toed the line between the two, the optimist in me still really hoping I was wrong about my mounting fears that were based on bad experiences others at the site I knew were dealing with.

Cut to Friday. We received an email from the CEO saying our book had been cancelled. It was a flat dismissal, with no room for discussion. The basic issue was that some of the stories were not closely related enough to video games, which would make Legendary (the production house) frown on the submission as a “bait-and-switch.” He also claimed that, because the stories weren’t all video-gamey, that some readers would feel deceived by the anthology.

Why does that have anything to do with them publishing the book? We won the contest, they publish the book. Selling the intellectual property to a production studio is secondary.

The real kicker though, was this line:

“Some of you did write stories about video games, and I very much regret if you feel that you are being unfairly punished.”

 Basically, sorry not sorry to those of you who tried. Even though you did as asked, you don’t deserve publication because we as a company are too lazy to do our job and help you work through your manuscript to make it the best it can be for the readers who paid for it.

After hearing other stories of disappointment and hurt, many of which had to do with this obsession with IP sales, this felt like the nail in the coffin.

My story is not the only one. I have a list of friends with concerns regarding this site that’s as long as my arm, and while I would love to share more on that, it’s not my place. And I note again, I speak for NO ONE else in this anthology but myself. I know many of them will probably not agree with me sharing the information I have already, but I for one cannot continue to stay quiet about the way in which some authors I know have been treated. All of us in this anthology were cheated, and I don’t feel it was fair to any of us to have this taken away when the concerns expressed were something that could have been easily resolved.

I don’t come here to tell you, HATE INKSHARES THEY SUCK, because that is not true, nor is it fair. Plenty of people have had great experiences publishing through Inkshares, and I am sure those individuals will continue to defend them tooth and nail, as is their right. But it is also my right to tell another side of the story. A side some would rather have kept quiet. I leave it to you to decide whether or not to ever publish with them or purchase with them. But you cannot make an informed decision when all you hear is the sunshine and daisies side of the story, just as you cannot know everything from reading this overwhelmingly negative (and lengthy) blog post.

I just encourage that you think for yourself. Ask questions, ESPECIALLY when people are telling you not to. And know that if you are a writer seeking publication through Inkshares, you don’t deserve to be treated like this. You as a writer deserve respect and fairness and honesty, because these are things every human being deserves. You do NOT deserve to have your work dismissed and cancelled because it isn’t good enough for someone else, or because they don’t want to spend the time of day to help you publish the book you crowdfunded. Whether you write with Inkshares or not, your stories are worth fighting for. Your story deserves better, and so do you.

 

Talk Less, Make More

2017 is here and with it comes lots of people making lots of resolutions that they don’t keep up with. Me? I’ve been one of those people. Many times. I sit myself down on day one of a new year and say things like…

You will make ____ blog posts per week! MINIMUM!

You have to make ____ videos a week or ELSE!

Workout ___ days per week or feel ASHAMED.

Almost as soon as these goals are declared either out loud by me or put up on the internet, I seem totally unable to keep up with them. This leads to feelings of shame, frustration, and makes me feel like anything I do accomplish isn’t good enough because it wasn’t “the goal”. I end up spending the rest of the ensuing year being like…

deal

That’s not the kind of year I want 2017 to be. I know that I have things I want to accomplish this year. Many things in fact. But if I am ever to grow I need to check myself, and part of checking myself is knowing myself well enough to know that when I set hard number goals, I fall short. As opposed to when I am more abstract in my goals, and then usually tend to exceed said vague expectations.

This is the kind of year I want. I want to read more books. I want to take more photos and make more video blogs and write more words. But what I DON’T want to do, is beat myself up for the next 12 months because I didn’t hit every point on a list I made at the beginning of the year. Let this be my little social experiment in not being hard on myself, and instead going with what feels right. Maybe I’ll have two months where I don’t post, and then post three times a day in a week. Maybe I’ll manage to take tons of photos one month, and then none the next. No matter how this ends up, I just know that this wibbly-wobbly set of expectations feels so much more free to me, and thus much more attainable.

So here is to 2017 being a year of quality over quantity! Here is to a year of me making cool stuff because for one, I love when people enjoy the work I do, and two, because it’s just so much fun.