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Sometimes when I’m talking about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I have a hard time trying to get across the point that there are worse things that can happen to a girl raised around drug addicts. For a lot of readers, Wavy’s life seems utterly horrific, as is her relationship with what one person described as a “drug-dealing bike thug with a violent, hair-trigger temper.” Even as I wrote Wavy’s story, though, I was carrying in the back of my mind the knowledge that things could have been so much worse for her. As bad as Wavy’s parents are, there are far worse monsters out there.

Victoria-MartensToday, the morning news contained a visceral reminder of that. Here is the story of Victoria Martens. Drugged, raped, and murdered by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s cousin. This is real life, not fiction, and it illustrates the absolute most horrific thing that can happen to a child when the adults in her life are drug addicts who have lost touch with reality, decency, and respect for human life.

And while the news doesn’t mention it, these people are drug addicts. Casual users of drugs pop pills or snort coke, like they’ve seen in the movies. Casual drug users don’t keep the necessary equipment to inject a 10-year-old girl with meth so that their boyfriends can rape her on her birthday. (I have no interest in parsing the details of who did the injecting, raping, murdering. If her mother was there for it and could have intervened, she as good as did it all herself.)

So while I will be the first person to acknowledge that Wavy’s relationship with Kellen is neither ideal nor desirable for a young girl, I also tend to look at it from the slant of other little girls’ tragedies. I wish every girl in this situation could simply get out of it and go to a safe home to live with responsible, loving adults. Failing that–and as a society, we are failing that–I wish all the girls in this situation had at least one person to provide them with unconditional love and protection. I wish the Wavies of the world could always have a Kellen in some form or another, but so often they don’t.

Love and peace to you, Victoria.

It was recently (like 5 minutes ago) pointed out to me that this might be useful to readers who’d rather not do math between chapters. This is the chart that I sent to the narrator of the audio book of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, to help her parse how old everyone is at various points of the novel.

Chapter Year Kellen Wavy Donal
Part 1, Chap 1 1975 18 5 x
Part 1, Chap 4 1977 21 8 18 mos
Part 1, Chap 8 1978 22 9 2
Part 2, Chap 1 1979 23 10 3
Part 2, Chap 3 1980 24 11 4
Part 2, Chap 6 1981 25 12 5
Part 2, Chap 9 1982 26 13 6
Part 4, Chap 1 1983 27 14 7
Part 4, Chap 11 1986 29 17 10
Part 5, Chap 1 1987 30 18 11
Part 5, Chap 3 1989 32 19 13
Part 5, Chap 5 1990 33 20 14
Part 5, Chap 20 1990 34 21 14

It has also been pointed out to me (like 2 minutes ago) that I should perhaps do an actual FAQ page for the book. This seems a bit daunting, but I’ll consider it.

Among the unexpected responses I’ve gotten to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things are reviews and emails bemoaning Kellen’s physique. “Whyyyyy?” one reader asks. “Why does he have to be fat?” Also: “Ewwww, that’s so disgusting.” Plus: “It’s so sick that you made him a gross fat guy. What purpose does that serve?”

Many of the characters who describe Kellen in unflattering terms aren’t necessarily characters we ought to trust. Liam, that Prince Charming, is the one who calls Kellen a fat fucking slob. Dee refers to Kellen as sweaty and walrus-like, but then she also considers him slow. (I’d like to see her rebuild a motorcycle engine or solve a Rubik’s Cube.) Miss DeGrassi, a more reliable narrator, describes him as greasy and meaty.

Of course, even if we look through Wavy’s eyes of love, she’s the one who says, “I had nothing on my body like the warm damp crease between his tits and belly.” That line apparently makes some readers cringe. Man boobs are not on the list of desirable traits in our society.

It makes me sad when readers write to say, “I was so disgusted at him being fat that I just had to pretend he wasn’t,” but I regret nothing. While some readers may be turned off by Kellen’s size, it’s at the heart of Wavy’s physical attraction to him. His status as the Giant means that he can protect her. His size is safety. Also, as a skinny, hungry girl, she admires how he eats, and she desires the solidity and strength that his body represents. She goes so far as to compare him to food she wants to eat. For her, he’s attractive because he’s powerful but soft.

It’s not just as a writer that I’m saddened by this negative reaction to Kellen being something other than a chiseled stud on a motorcycle. Personally, it makes me sad to see so much hate for big boys. I readily admit that it was easy for me to tap into Wavy’s desire for Kellen’s flesh. Objectively I can admire a well-toned physique, but in my personal life, I’ve never been a big fan of sculpted abs. I like big boys. Guys who look like they could wrestle a bear and still make a good pillow. At a few of my book events, readers asked me to “dream cast” a movie of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. That’s a really hard question because for the most part Hollywood doesn’t offer any actors who are remotely like I imagine Kellen being. (As much as I like Jason Momoa, he’s not even close.)

In fact, to try to show you what I mean about the beauty and power of a big, beefy guy with a belly and tits, I had to go the wrestling route. My current favorite rikishi is Endō Shōta. Although he only clocks in at 6’1″ and 330 lbs (quite a bit smaller than Kellen), he embodies the kind of physical presence I imagine Kellen having. And while Kellen is Choctaw, and Endō is Japanese, he has an adorably shy smile and soft brown eyes. Although he’s carrying enough body fat that he would be called “fat” in America, he’s also carrying a whole lot of muscle under that protective fat. Nothing sculpted or toned about him, but he’s built for the hard work of wrestling.

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Or here, have some of my other favorite wrestlers, like André Roussimoff and Akebono Tarō:

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Of course, André was an actual giant, massive and formidable, but Akebono is 6’8″, and at the height of his career as yokozuna was 500 lbs. (A little bigger than Kellen.) He was magnificent and nearly unbeatable. Consider the incredible power stored in a body like that. To me, that’s gorgeous and sexy as hell.

Well, my people, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things has been loose in the world for ten days now. Now that I’ve got an evening to sit on the couch and pet dogs, I thought I’d do a little wrap up of my last two weeks. There were three TV appearances, two radio interviews, four interviews for other things, and four book signings!

Back when I worked for Planned Parenthood, I had to get up in front of people and talk all the time, but I’ve never been in the habit of discussing my own stuff, so it was a bit of a gantlet. For fun, here’s a little slideshow of my past two weeks.

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As for what’s coming up … well, I’ll be in San Diego for a day-long book club event at Mysterious Galaxy in October. (Have not yet worked out whether I’ll actually be doing just a reading/signing.)

I’m in Lawrence Magazine this month. And I’m on Bustle.com. Heck, look in your glove compartment. Maybe I’m in there, too. (If so, could you slip me some chocolate?)

Also I’m Skyping with book clubs! If you’re interested in having me chat with your book club, get more info here.

And at some point, when my head is spinning a little less, I’ll be buckling down to work on the next book.

Despite some doubts along the way, it turns out that I really wrote this book, my amazing agent really took a chance on it, my incredible editor really bought it, and it’s really for sale today!

ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL

It’s for sale pretty much everywhere in North America: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, plus maybe even your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, they can order it for you.

Now, obviously, I love this book with all my heart, but you don’t have to take my word on whether it’s worth reading. Here are some of my reviews:

Kirkus Reviews called it a “powerful, provocative debut” and “Intelligent, honest, and unsentimental.”

Publishers Weekly says it’s “a memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love under the most improbable circumstances.”

Library Journal said the book is “so freakishly good and dangerous that it should come with a warning label.” I’m pretty sure they mean that in a good way.

The Associated Press calls it “captivating and smartly written from the first page … instantly absorbing.” But they also warn would-be readers that “This book won’t pull at heartstrings but instead yank out the entire organ and shake it about before lodging it back in an unfamiliar position.”

Tonight I’ll be having a book release party at the lovely Lawrence Public Library at 7:30 pm. (Co-hosted by The Raven Book Store.) If you’re in the area, come on out!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. If you’re long distance and want to purchase a signed copy, you can order one through them.

Today, it’s less than two weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things releases into the wild. In the vernacular of my youth, I’m pretty stoked.

I am also starting to fill up my dance card with a lot of events. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve got events at four Kansas bookstores in the week after the book’s release. More details here.

There are also two giveaways currently in effect. One on Goodreads and the other on Go Fug Yourself. (Please note I pulled the link for that by Googling Go Fug Yourself Bryn Greenwood. Yep.)

So while I’m totally open to ideas about what I should talk about at these events, I’m not very nervous about them. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, much of it involving talking to giggling teenagers about sex. Far more unnerving is the fact that I’ve also got two television appearances scheduled. I used to do some TV spots when I worked for Planned Parenthood, and a few times I made quick talking head appearances when the real PR person wasn’t available. I’ve never actually been asked to talk about my own personal shit on TV, though. Still, I was okay until I read my refresher on TV appearances and was reminded that one should never wear black, white, red, or patterns on television. My closet:

Black like my soul

So, that’s black, black and white, red, black, leopard print, black, and a blue muumuu. After I stared this down for ten minutes, I started to wish that I were going to appear on a German naked newscast. I’m not, though, so pinky swear that I will be on TV, wearing something that isn’t black, white, red, or patterned.

Of course, as soon as I ventured into the world to shop for clothes, these are the things that jumped out at me:

Awww yeah. I love shopping at thrift stores, but aside from reassuring myself that the world is full of truly fantastic prints, I didn’t find anything. Guess that means I’ll have to break the old admonition about avoiding any activity that requires one to buy new clothes.

One thing I do know I’ll be wearing for at least some of these events: these super fantastic Fluevogs.

Fluevog Odettes

 

First order of business: announcing the winners of my book and book swag giveaway. Congratulations to Sue S. and Evann A.! Check your email for information about claiming your prizes.

Second order of business: quietly freak out that it’s only 5 weeks until All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is loose in the wild. Today, at least, I’m opting to quietly freak out. We’ll see if I can continue that level of calm as the day approaches.

I have finalized four events that I’ll be doing in the two weeks after the release. If you’re in or near Kansas, these are the places you can come to watch this introvert try to pass herself off as a professional writer. Try not to laugh too loudly and I’ll try not to be too drunk.

August 9, 2016

Official release day for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Hosted by The Raven Book Store, the event will be held at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. August 9, 2016, 7:00 pm.

August 10, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. August, 10, 2016, 6:30 pm. For more information, visit Rainy Day’s event page.

August 15, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Bluebird Books in Hutchinson, Kansas. August 15, 2016, 6:00 pm.

August 16, 2016

Book signing and discussion at Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas. August 16, 2016, 6:00 pm.

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