Monday, January 26, 2015

I'll Never Tell...

*Trigger Warning* this post contains mature situations that may trigger some people/survivors of assault or abuse.

I don’t make a regular habit of addressing issues, but lately the news and social media keep hammering me with things that hit me hard emotionally, and I really have something to say. I’ve never written about these things, so this is all a bit raw.

When I was a kid, set your way back machine for 1989, I was a little bit more than a handful. My Dad left my life when I was five, and my mom worked full time and went to school, and me? Well, I went a little wild – left to my own devices. I was an avid maker of mix-tapes and reader of comic books. I was a 7th grader with a bus pass, and we lived in Tucson at the time, and the city was my playground. It was an over-all miserable time in my life, but I can look back on the bright spots of it fondly. Candy and Baseball cards from the Circle-K and used comics from Bookman’s – where I spent way too many afternoons reading books and magazines that I’d never pay for – it was before the days of the internet, and I read whatever I could, wherever I could.

The meat of this little tale though, has to do with my education. I lived in a low rent apartment complex and attended a school that both served to teach me more than the lessons that generally come wrapped in school books. I had lived in Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky, before moving to Arizona, and I had dealt with a different sort of public school education before relocating to the South West. I was thoroughly unprepared, sheltered a bit maybe, for the Spanish language barrier. I was also completely unprepared for being hated for the color of my skin.

I was chased from the bus stop at my school, and in my neighborhood, more than a few times by angry children my age or older in groups, sometimes being pelted with rocks, other times being hit with worse things.

White was not a thing to be. Evidently neither was Asian-American or African-American. I had some Latino friends, but by and large, I found that most of the native Spanish speaking children had their own groups, cliques, and clubs, and the other races – the minorities – were seen as un-people.

I had never had a very racially diverse group of friends before in my life and suddenly my social circle was a melting pot. From African-America and Asian-American to Indian and Native American, we all shared a similar disdain from a majority populace that spoke a language we didn’t and that a majority of wanted to marginalize us at best or, in the worst cases, wanted to harm us for who we were.

I was hated in those situations, for nothing more than being present and being white.

That didn’t last, for me. It was an isolated incident in my life. It was a time and place that is filed away in my mind, that I can look back on and remember, but it isn’t my day to day experience anymore. Why? Because I learned different behaviors, to avoid those situations? Yes. Because I eventually moved away from there? Yes. Because kids grow up? Yes, that too.

But, I feel that living it was a positive experience for me. I had a time in my life when being white wasn’t a positive thing. Other people with other skin colors don’t get to have a limited exposure to this kind of treatment, and then get to “get away from it”. It’s their lives. It’s real. It’s every day. And it’s total bullsh*t.

I’ve seen far too many people talking about “white privilege” as a creation of minority groups. They talk about it like it’s some kind of fiction that people of other skin colors made up to somehow victimize white people. Guess what? That’s bullsh*t, too.

Fast forward a year, and there was another lesson for me. Something I never wanted to learn, but something life was going to teach me. I was a more rebellious and more difficult to deal with child. I was depressed in school, acting out at home, loud and obnoxious to those who cared about me, and lost in a world of books to hide from all others my age that I was too afraid to talk to. I was coming apart at the seams.

My mother, God love her, headed the advice of a pastor and had me sent to a Baptist boarding school. All of the students were going home for Christmas break. The only two left in the dorms were 8th grade me, and a popular, awesome, senior football player who told me of the wonders of the video game system in his room. He told me I should join him and play some games. We were going to be friends. My social stock was going to be on the rise, after break, and I got to play video games, too. Life was really looking up.

Once in his room he suggested, as I was playing, that we sit, and then lay on his bed. Then he said I should take off my shirt and he’d give me a back rub. I thought that was odd, but he was a big popular athlete guy, and I was a pudgy little 8th grader who was always alone with my books. Who was I to argue? Right?

Some crying and screaming and attempts to kick him off later, all the while with him telling me “Just let it happen. You’ll enjoy it.” He finally got sick of my fighting and just punched me again and again until I was spent and simply laid still and took what he wanted to do to me. I was numb. It hurt, and I was crying, but my mind just turned off. I stared at the word Nintendo until that was all I knew in the world – all I could wrap my mind around.

I was black and blue and bloody when it was over and he shoved me out of the room, telling me I needed to get a shower, and that if I told anyone my “ass was grass”. He had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I was too embarrassed, and hated myself too much for letting that happen – for not being strong enough or smart enough to stop it or prevent it. I wasn’t telling anyone. What he gave me in that room that day was a lifetime of anger, and self—loathing, and misery. I did eventually ‘let it happen’. I didn’t ever ‘enjoy it’.  

(I’ve never written about this before and it never even occurred to me, until writing this down, that after this I completely stopped playing video games, and to this day still don’t have an interest in playing them.)

Where I live now, where I’m at in my life, as a thirty—something adult and father of three, is a completely different reality. I’m not afraid. I’m not a victim. I don’t have to deal with suspicion of my actions, or my motives, or my very presence, based solely on the fact that my skin in pale. I am a man, so I don’t have deal with the fear that women have to deal with every day, of becoming a victim of male-on-female violence simply for being born a gender that society has allowed (for far too long) to be mistreated. I am heterosexual, so I don’t have to worry about being the victim of a hate crime simply for expressing myself or my love for another person. These are privileges I enjoy, even if I didn’t ask for them, simply by being a straight white man. The thing is, these aren’t privileges. They are basic human rights – to live, and to love, and to exist without fear. That’s common sense, or at least I believe it should be. The hour has grown far too late, for us not to understand this, and not to eradicate the prejudices that promote racism, sexism, homophobia, and a scads of social injustices that people try to shelter, hide, obscure, and yet still promote through their daily life.

I’m not a fan of labels, personally. I never have been. I don’t see any other way to deal with this kind of bigotry though, other than to call it what it is, and by not being afraid to call it out when we see it – to not accept it. Call it what you will – racism, rape culture, gender inequality, homophobia, hate, lack of human compassion. It has to be called out, it has to shamed, and it has to be clearly and plainly shown that it is not acceptable. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

-Dennis Sharpe

Friday, January 16, 2015

State of the Witless

The big question… 
“So, Dennis,” you ask, “what are you up to?”

I’ll do my best to fill you in…

Well, besides trying to keep my children from going to all-out war with each other over who gets to pick more – from meals, to games, to entertainment. Peacekeeper is a full time job lately. Add that to the standard homework, and hygiene routines… and well… I wouldn't have it any other way. My little people are the best.

Personally, I've finally started watching Agent Carter, and while it doesn't quite live up to the quality of Captain America: the First Avenger, it is certainly better than a lot of modern television. 

Currently, I also need to catch up on How to get away with Murder. Have you seen it? It took me a little while to really get into, but once I did... totally hooked. It's scripted well, and the acting is well above what I've come to expect from modern television. You should check it out... if for no other reason than because Viola Davis... 'cause seriously, wow!

I’ve finished reading Rachel Thompson’s latest, Broken Places, and I’ll be writing up a review shortly. You should pick it up if you have the time. It’s not initially as stunning as her Broken Pieces, but it has a slow build power that is moving, and undeniable… most definitely worth the read! Trust me. The writing is simply amazing… you can read my review here.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that in my lackluster foray into the wonderful world of eBay, has begun to convince me that Paypal is the devil; and if not the devil, then certainly a high level minion. For the amount of information they need and all they require, they are certainly not in a hurry to help you out… or to actually be all that easy to use in any capacity that doesn't include taking you money out of your bank account. Then there are the issues with the ‘day job’ and the search for a newer better one… also, why does a company bother to have a human resources department if no one in it ever answers the phone? Enquiring minds want to know!

Sorry, I’m rambling… back to what I’m working on…

The Booktrope re-release of Blood & Spirits has been fun so far. The sales and reviews that have been generated have been positive. There’s even a giveaway that Krystal set up over at Goodreads for two paperback copies with the gorgeous new Shari Ryan designed cover.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood & Spirits by Dennis Sharpe

Blood & Spirits

by Dennis Sharpe

Giveaway ends February 08, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
I've been doing a ton of writing for the release, but I’m pleased with the effort… all my guest blog posts and interviews for my blog tour to promote Blood & Spirits are finished... save one. Isn't that always the way? The last thing on the list is the killer... (sigh)

I also just got in the big box of author copies of Blood & Spirits... I'm about to start signing a few of those and getting them out to my readers... I think I'm going to do a giveaway on my blog or my new website

What do you think? 3 signed copies in a giveaway? Sound good? I'm open to suggestions. 

I’m still happily, and regularly, promoting Wednesday. She’s gone far… and looks to go a lot further. She’s got an awesome listing on IFList, you can go see it here:

It's an awesome site that sets up books and games for film adaptations, and allows people to vote and show their support. Head over there and check it out!

I’m currently doing what I've decided is my ‘last pass’ edit on Distant Thunder. It is due with the editor soon, and I can’t wait to see what Shari Ryan comes up with for the cover for this one. Did I mention that this one will have a new editor? Her name is Katrina, and I can't wait to get to work with her. 

I really am chomping at the bit to get at it, with this book… there are so many more piling up behind it. 

Saturday Night To Infinity, Mitch Will vs. The Queen of Evil and Her Space Zombies!, Driving Rain, and Her Boy Friday... for starters...

A lot of late nights and coffee have added quite a bit to the sheer volume, but all of it will be out and available soon enough. I just dropped twelve more titles into the queue with Booktrope, and the team I've got there - Krystal, Shari, Samantha, Katrina, and Jesse – are awesome… and efficient. Look for a lot of good stuff in the very near future - starting with the re-release of Destroyer of Worlds, on January 14th, with yet another beautiful Shari Ryan cover. 

Click here to get it on Kindle

Any other questions? Just ask. I’ll have more news to post soon enough… trust me. 

Thanks for reading, as always,


Monday, January 12, 2015

Balancing Act: Not At All Balanced

Right now I have two novels very near completion. I have five blog posts and three interviews I'm working on for – among other things – a blog tour to promote the release of Blood & Spirits by Booktrope. I'm also trying to put together three cooperative projects that require my management and attention. This is not an uncommon workload, and often there is much more to be done. All of these things, these projects, are things that I handle on my lap top, and – internet connection willing – I manage to stay on top of it all… most days. Today, however, I lost my computer for twelve hours and some change, to streaming video of Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and the ever popular Phineas and Ferb.

No. I'm not an ADHD Cartoon junkie. Well, I might be, but today's loss of my laptop – and thus my productivity – was my obligation (and joy) as a parent. I have a seven year old daughter and a nine year old son whose time is just as precious as mine. Between family plans, activities, and the desire to play outside with friends… I accept all the time they have to give me. If that means that I write a little less, so be it. If that means I'm pushed a little closer to a deadline that I might or might not make, so be it.

Why would I put myself under such unnecessary stress? Because, to me, it is necessary.

I am a writer, an author and screenwriter, an on again/off again indie film maker, a creator. I spend my time split between gritty urban tales of vampires, ghosts, and zombies and science fiction realities set in modern day and off in distant futures.  I am that person, that creator, that writer… but I'm also 'Daddy'. That last title is the one I'm the most proud of, and the one that trumps all the others.

There are days, of course, when I'm "in the zone" and the words are flowing out of me a mile a minute. I get distant, lost to the worlds that I'm exploring with my characters and the emotional and often physical pains and triumphs they experience. On those days, it's – I'm not going to lie – a little painful to drop a scene in the middle to go make pasta, or settle an argument. My characters scream in my head, demanding that I tell their story – that I get their tale down in words immediately. But all that just has to wait and, no matter what, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've been asked how I can balance being a (single?) parent and being a writer, and I never know quite what to say. I know how I live my life, but I don't know that I can conceive of any other way of doing business. That's not true, not entirely I suppose, but I couldn't handle it any other way. Not me, personally, I mean. I'm not one of those people who feels they should sit in judgment over others, and how they parent or don't. I just know that when I consider doing things differently for myself, it seems like torture, or worse… being a villain from a children's book (…or, yes, a cartoon).

So what if my coffee gets spilled a bit more than it would otherwise? What's the big deal if there are peanut butter finger prints on my mouse pad? Who cares if I know the names of most of the characters currently appearing on the Disney channel? Does it really matter if I need an extra couple of days to really lock down a scene? I find the answers in the faces of my kids… who I know are growing up fast, and who will – all too soon – be out on their own… kids, I'll miss every second. It's simple. One day my kids will have kids, and it will have been my responsibility to show them how to ensure that their kids know that they are vital, important, and loved. I don't intend to fail in that job. That job is the only career that matters to me… everything else is secondary.

Pink eye, head lice, 'he hit me… ON PURPOSE', and bad dreams that need snuggling are all plot points of greater magnitude than any I could create in fiction.  So, when it comes to balancing being a writer and being a dad, there really is no balance. If one were to put my writing on one side of a set of scales – knowing full well that from before my earliest memory, it was the only thing I ever really, deeply, passionately wanted to do – and set my kids on the other side of those scales… my kids would win out every single time, no contest.

Maybe one day I'll even be able to share some of my books with my younger children. My eldest is twenty-one now… almost twenty-two… and he has a kindle, and paperbacks, and I really love hearing his thoughts on my work, especially when he really likes something. I think that, however, is fodder for another conversation, on another day, though… no?

Ultimately, my point here is this: Of all the characters that I've created, or had a hand in creating, my kids (all three  even my oldest, who's out on his own and just got engaged) are the ones I'm the most invested in, the ones I care most about, and the ones whose stories really matter to me.