(I wrote a whole longer version of this post but then Squarespace deleted it, so.. here's what I remember writing.)
Warning: There be politics ahead.
It's hard to create right now. I'm feeling it and hearing the same thing from author friends. While the world around you seems to crumble, it's hard to find the focus to pick up a pen or a computer and try and write happy tales of love and romance. Compassion and reason are being thrown out the window as if they don't matter... so it's hard to remember the good in the world.
Yesterday, friends gathered at my home for what is now a seven-years-strong tradition--a 12+ hour marathon of all three Lord of the Rings movies. (Extended editions, thank you very much.) This is our nerd superbowl. We are a fellowship. We plan for months, and then gather to enjoy these movies and eat far too much food, which is often themed.
Yesterday felt different. While we were celebrating, a ban was put in place and protests erupted, some of which happened at O'Hare. O'Hare is a half hour drive from my home. Some of us kept checking phones for news as the ban turned to protests and then turned to the swift action of a barrage of lawyers and the ACLU...
I live here in Chicago - this city I hear the President refer to as worse than a war zone, worse than Afghanistan. It's not. He's lying. Chicago is certainly deeply flawed and has more than its share of problems, but I and millions of others love it here and raise our families here. I grow increasingly upset with people who've never been here talking about how terrible it is.
Here in Chicago, my friends are made of starstuff. They come in a wide array of colors and orientations. They are beautiful people. Some of them are immigrants. This legislation threatens them, and some we hear rumors of coming threaten others for other reasons. People are scared. Americans are scared of America.
I keep hearing people say authors/entertainers/teachers/doctors/whatever shouldn't talk about politics - and I think that is bulls@#t. We are also citizens and humans. I'm a writer, yes, but I'm also a woman and a mom and a citizen. Our voices matter.
The world needs heroes, yes, but it also needs helpers.
I'm a white woman. I've come to recognize that this puts me in a position of privilege. Chances are - unless, you know, martial law is declared on my city because thats an actual thing that could happen - I'm probably going to be fine. I could bury my head in books and binge-watch Netflix and let others do the work of fighting back for me.
But, back to Lord of the Rings - Tolkien is certainly a problematic favorite as a writer, but the characters in these books/movies come in all kinds. In LOTR, an Elf and a Dwarf put aside their differences to fight side by side. Two foolish hobbits who don't even need to go on the journey tag along to help their friend, and in the end are second and third in line to charge into battle. A noblewoman, who could sit back away from the carnage and inherit leadership, dons men's clothes and goes to fight. These are not trained swordsman or magical creatures. For some of them, it's not even really their fight. They're helpers.
And then there's Sam. A simple gardener, who values a roast chicken and carries a frying pan for far too long, he goes with Frodo because his friend and the world needs help and he has a good heart. When Frodo is low, Sam reminds him of whats worth fighting for.
So I have a book coming out on Tuesday. ESME (Maidens & Monsters, #4) - and it's a book that means a lot to me right now. Releasing a book right now seems foolish and silly and sort of pointless, but It's been in the works since before the election, and finishing it has been cathartic so I'm doing it. Maidens & Monsters as a whole has been about smart young women and the sorta-strange dudes they fall in love with trying to expose the shady dealings of the Town Fathers of Mapleton, Kansas. ESME is a loose adaptation of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and is the story of Esme (our Mexican orphan heroine) and Quincy (a wounded former Civil War soldier) finding each other in the middle of danger and darkness. Esme and Quincy are heroes, but they have helpers of all kinds.
I'm going to be a helper.
All proceeds from ESME will be donated. I'm pretty sure I can't post/announce the groups I'm donating to because of non-profit rules & regulations, but I'll say they are organizations who stepped up and jumped into the struggles and are trying to do good.
Be the Sam/Eowyn/helper/hero you want to see in the world, and I'll do the same.