Category Archives: The Velocipede Races

The Velocipede Races Featured on Kickstarter

Emily’s book, The Velocipede Races, is the featured publishing project today on Kickstarter! This all new version of the book is being published by Elly Blue/Microcosm Publishing, provided it gets funded by November 28th. Take a look at the cool project and its many fun rewards, and please support it if you feel inspired!

 

Summer Writing Fun

Luminous Creatures is back from a long but productive hiatus. Beth and Emily had a great writing meeting today to plan our next few months of LCP activity. We discussed the upcoming release of Emily’s new fantasy book, The Gantean, our plans for a summer flash fiction contest, and the impossible evil of pants.

Afterwards we went shopping for costumes for a book trailer for The Velocipede Races special edition and found a perfect racing jacket and gauntlets, not to mention black lace gauntlettes!

Stay tuned for updates on all fronts. The Summer of Super Short Stories ’15 will commence the first week of July. We have a very unique theme planned to take us through eight weeks of fabulous flash fiction.

Strangers on the Interwebs

When Beth and I set out to become Luminous Creatures, we knew nothing about being self-published authors. We simply wanted to do it, and with characteristic earnestness and eagerness, we leapt into the deep end of the pool. Marketing quickly emerged as our butterfly stroke—you know the butterfly stroke, the one no one can learn, the one that makes you feel like you’re a flailing cow in the water? That’s marketing.

Our deepest marketing questions: In a market flush with too many options, how do you convince a reader to take a chance on your unknown book? Particularly when you’re working on a budget of dreams and effort rather than money?

Determined to solve the mysteries of marketing with minimal flailing, we explored options. Social media emerged as an obvious avenue, though we were both a little skeptical about how participating in these websites might translate into actual sales. As Beth pointed out loudly in the middle of our favorite meeting spot, The Barefoot Café in Fairfax, California, “Twitter is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Tweeting is a moronic verb.”

Aside—the folks at Barefoot must get a kick out of us. We’ve had some pretty funny conversations there:

Beth, earnestly, in her onstage voice: “Did you know? I’m an extrovert! I can belt a conversation across the room from the power of my butthole.”

Emily, wryly: “Really? I had no idea.”

Then there was the time we performed squats after lunch to determine the best way to describe Emmeline’s exercise regime in The Velocipede Races.

Oh, yes. They love us at the Barefoot.

Being the introvert to Beth’s extrovert, I wanted nothing to do with putting my private thoughts on a public board. Being the intrepid extrovert that she is, Beth opened a Twitter account. Here’s what I love about my writing partner: She hates it? She thinks it’s moronic? She does it anyway!

I dug in my introverted heels, saying, “I don’t like interacting with strangers on the interwebs. It’s creepy.”

Beth agreed she’d be the official Luminous Creature on Twitter and cheerfully tweeted away, usually posting something about our books. She complained [loudly] about the stupidity of it for several weeks. But a month or two later, she began to make friends with other self-published writers, specifically those who write Jane Austen spin-offs like some of her recent work. She connected to a whole wide world of Austen fanatics.

We kept exchanging startled looks over lunch and saying, “Who knew there were so many Jane Austen fans out there hungering for sequels?”

Beth found a blog to review Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven and wrote a guest post. She connected with a young woman in England and exchanged reviews. Mysterious marketing leads were arising! The social media were working! With great reluctance and a fair amount of [quiet] grumbling, I slumped to my desk and opened my own account on The Twit to begin the painful process of interacting with strangers on the interwebs.

At first, I was overwhelmed by self-published authors tweeting the titles of their book IN CAPITAL LETTERS and the seemingly endless stream of people informing me that their wrists hurt because #amwriting and OMG 1550 words today!!! Gradually, I learned to use the list function to sort the interesting tweeps from the shameless self-promoters, the thinkers from the whiners.

And now, in the past two months, two exciting things have happened because of strangers on the interwebs! I can hardly believe it. Momentum Magazine, which covers “the bicycling lifestyle,” put out a call for bike commuters interested in being interviewed. I submitted my name because I wanted to promote The Velocipede Races, which I largely composed while commuting by bike, desperately repeating phrases as I rode so I could scribble them on index cards when I arrived. Momentum wrote me back with interview questions and photo specs and collected my replies in a matter of days. I’m currently waiting to receive my free copy. Keep your eyes peeled for the April/Spring issue on stands in your local health food store. You can also check out Momentum online.

The second, more exciting lead revolves around writing. I follow Maggie Stiefvater on The Twit. She is the author of fantastic YA books, including The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys, and she is also an entertaining and humorous tweep who made it onto my “real people” list for her amusing posts. A few weeks ago she posted a match-up on her blog for writers to connect with potential critique partners—not friend crit-partners as all mine have been—but rather strangers-from-the-interwebs critique partners. I submitted my data and bit my nails. I exchanged information with five other writers, including brief descriptions of my works-in-progress, an introduction to my reading and writing interests, and of course, samples of my work for them to critique.

Two of my exchanges were discouraging, one a flat-out poor match, the other a rather painful case of drastically different writing styles and strong opinions. But the third stranger was a match! I was so excited to receive my first feedback from Tony Caruso of Long Island, New York. And truly, I was even more excited to give my first feedback to him. My secret fantasy profession—aside from a velocipede jockey or a circus acrobat—is an editor.

At any rate, I thoroughly broke out the red text all over Tony’s gripping work-in-progress, Welcome to the End. People who know me know I only bother with the red text if I think something is good. But I’m so used to working with Beth that it never occurred to me to take it easy on my first real possibility of a new crit-partner. I’m a little…avid. Especially if I get to write rather than talk, though those of you who have heard my rant about the pitfalls of belly-breathing and the importance of the side-belly muscles may think I’m…avid when I speak, too.

After hitting send on my editing demonstration, I gnawed my already-chewed nails. Had I been too aggressive? Would he think I was a big meanie for creating all that red sprawl on his pristine document?

And there it was, quickly! The reply! I opened it with a shaking hand. (One of the reasons I now know Tony is a good crit-partner match for me is that he always gets back to my emails very promptly, and he writes a nice long chunk of an email when he replies, too.) He told me he was surprised when he first saw my edits, and my hopes fell.

He hates my comments. I’m a big meanie.

Soul-searching commenced. I admitted to being aggressive when it came to editing. I asked myself, Am I one of those people? A nasty dream-crusher?

If I am, I defended, it’s not my fault. It’s all that ballet training when I was a child. I only learned to give criticism because we had no time for compliments while seeking perfection.

Tony, a mature, open-minded sort, reassured me that he thought my edits were helpful, and we have proceeded with sharing more. He sent me edits on the first few chapters of my epic fantasy book, The Gantean, offering suggestions for line edits, cuts, and world-building. The exchange has so far been an incredibly rewarding process and fascinating, too. I’ve gotten to do fact-checking research on pharmaceuticals, methods of murder, minarets, and the difference between acids and bases. I’ve gotten to experiment with recreating fight scenes in the privacy of my office, not to mention discussing the best insult for a teenage girl to use on her sister.

Who knew it could be so much fun to connect with strangers on the interwebs?

Fear of Strong

I’ve been thinking about strength lately: bodily strength, mental strength, and the places where the two intersect.

All day long, I cultivate strength—my strength, particularly my body’s strength, and other peoples’ bodies’ strength. I help people find their muscles and use them, which is great fun. I can’t help but notice as I do this that finding physical muscles often results in finding mental ones, too. Finding physical strength requires attributes like discipline, determination, and will, and these qualities are the underpinnings of mental strength.

Becoming embodied—and I mean that in the sense of truly inhabiting one’s body, being in sensations—creates an independent mind. Being aware of your body makes you aware of your internal reality. I’m pretty sure that self-awareness through physical exertion was the original intention behind yoga asanas.

Although we are not surrounded by images of strong female bodies, we are all overly accustomed to the hyper-sexualized female body. You cannot escape it. You get Victoria’s Secret catalogs in the mail. There are buttocks selling thong underwear on the side of the bus, pouting lips promoting ice cream on TV, and hairless legs hawking shoes at the mall. Very few of these bodies (you can’t really call them women—that’s not what they are—they are often headless, chopped up, clearly objectified bodies) are what I would deem physically strong. In fact, just for fun, I searched through dozens of images of “beautiful” or “hot” female bodies: Victoria’s Secret advertisements, Vogue spreads, fashion layout after fashion layout, and guess what? I found a disturbing recurring theme: these women are posed in the strangest, most flimsy postures you can imagine. Hips thrust awkwardly to one side, buttocks stuck out so the back arches in parody of the lordosis I try to cure in peoples’ spines daily, and the slumping shoulders and caved-in chests in the high fashion spreads…don’t get me started. They are, in short, a mess of bad posture, weak centers, and wilting arms: the ideal woman as weak and helpless.

I only care about any of this because I think the images of women we see regularly do damaging things to women’s brains. We can’t help it; we are social creatures; we compare ourselves to each other, especially in the domain of our appearance—for better or worse. Because women compare themselves to other women, the pictures we see on billboards, in advertisements, and on television or the internet have an effect on our brains. If we look at these “idealized” images a lot, we may begin to think they are a prescription for how one should look. Then we start to try to fit that mold.

This desire to fit the mold brings me clients who say things like: “Will this exercise make my calves big? Because I don’t want to do this exercise if it will make my calves get muscular.” I’ve heard this comment (or substitute some other body part for calves) countless times. Every time I have to bite the inside of my cheek, hard. I have to coach myself to have sympathy and compassion and remind myself that I am hearing a deep insecurity about embodying strength that is the one of the curses of women in the world I live in. Even after two waves of feminism, we are still dealing with this fear of strong.

In The Velocipede Races my main character, Emmeline is a strong woman—physically and mentally strong. I wanted to explore what happens to such a woman in a world where women are expected to demonstrate physical frailty. The women of this world, bowing to social custom and aesthetic, wear corsets and are squeezed into their weakness. Women like Emmeline who wish for a different life, are thought of as freaks. But let’s face it: a really muscular woman in our world might endure similar comments to those flung at Emmeline. Comments like “You’re mannish and unfeminine. You’re too big. You take up too much space.”

But as we see from Emmeline, who rebels against the fashion dictates of her world, aesthetic originates outside of us, in the opinion or view of others. Function originates inside, with awareness of sensation. There is a lot of power in being free from others’ opinions. Emmeline gets so free from others’ opinions of her that they go to great lengths to get her to care again. Breaking the mold is not usually a popular activity.

I think it’s possible to escape the vicious head game born from seeing too many images of women’s bodies, to break out of that mold, but it takes a lot of mental strength, a willingness to swim upstream, and a contrariness that you’ll have to defend again and again. How do you get that mental strength? Physical training might be one way.

Being physically strong, as anyone who’s been there knows, makes you feel different. You are less afraid. More capable. More certain of yourself. The way you assess your possibilities is different. You say “I can” more often, and “I can’t” less. You rely more on yourself, and less on others, both for doing things (picking up that heavy box, standing on a ladder to reach for stuff in the cupboards, moving the trash cans) and for permission to do things.

By building that physical strength, a woman breaks the mold. She puts herself in a position where she has to face others’ opinions of her, whether good or bad. And then she has to say: I don’t care what you think of me. I’m going to please myself. And if lifting this weight, or climbing this hill, or running this fast is what pleases me, then I’m going to do it. Even if it makes my thighs big. Even if it means I take up more space than the world wants to give me. She, like Emmeline, places function over aesthetic, which is one of the most physically empowering things you can do for your own view about your body.

-EJS