Minerd Reunion, Blood+, and what it means to be a family

Last week I was asked to give a presentation on “Legacy” at a family reunion. My stepmother’s family reunion. Yes, I thought it was a little odd at first, but Mark Miner asked me because writing is a form of legacy and I have an extensive list of publications. I was on a panel with two people who share actual genetic material with the Minerds, a woman who did scrapbooking and a man who had written two memoirs, one about his experiences as a police officer and one based on his mother’s diary.

Saya with her brothers and father

Saya with her brothers and father

The experience got me thinking about what it means to be family. I realized that one of the reasons I found the anime series Blood+ (which features heavily in my novel Because the Angels) so compelling, was that it grappled with just that question. Throughout the series, Machiavellian forces are seeking to rule the world using compounds made of the blood of Saya and her “evil” twin sister Diva. The protagonists are out to defeat them, of course, but in their deepest hearts, what they are looking for is family. The times that Saya is happiest are with her family in Okinawa, with a father who adopted her as well as her two brothers. Her “chevalier” Hagi is utterly devoted to her, but concedes that he had never been able to make her smile as they had. (Given the importance of bloodlines in Japanese culture, I would be interested in knowing if this concept of a happy family composed of genetically unrelated people who love each other sacrificially was meant as some sort of statement by Blood+’s creator.) Even Diva, who is treated as a spoiled princess by her chevaliers, at the end wants nothing more than to take care of her babies. In Saya and Diva’s final, climactic battle, the battle to save the world, Saya kills her. As Diva turns to stone and crumbles (too complicated to explain here), Saya sees her as she could have been, just a young mother, lying on the grass, enjoying her twins, and the full realization of what she has done, killing her own sister, is one of the most powerful moments of the series. Diva’s chevalier Nathan then says, “Poor Diva—all she ever really wanted was a family.”

I did say her handlers were Machiavellian, right?

My own stepmother, Sharon, has always treated me with great affection that helped teach me how to be a step-parent myself when I married. I have another relative, who in a brief, unhappy marriage brought maternal compassion, three sisters and a brother to a neglected, alienated stepdaughter who was starved for a real family, and those relationships have lasted long after the divorce. And Mark Miner himself, who has a passion for finding Minerds/Miners/Minors wherever they may be told me that he couldn’t love his adopted niece more.

Blood may be thicker than water. But love is a whole lot stronger.

First Minerd reunion 100 years ago

First Minerd reunion 100 years ago

100th anniversary Minerd Reunion.  I am seated on the floor near the middle in a gray dress.  My stepmother Sharon is to the right in a black top and jeans.  My stepsister Lisa is to my left in a purple top.

100th anniversary Minerd Reunion. I am seated on the floor in the middle in a gray dress. My stepmother Sharon is to the right in a black top and jeans. My stepsister Lisa is to my left in a purple top.

Why the cover of Because the Angels looks the way it does

I am nothing but thrilled by Davey R. Jones’ Amazon review mentioned in my previous blog post. I mean, “Most Surprisingly Good Read of the Decade?” Last night I went through the last 40 of his 81 reviews on Amazon, and mine was the only self-published novel that he had reviewed at all. So what follows should not be interpreted as a criticism of him, or of Taylor Ramage, one of its earliest reviewers who wrote, “Because the Angels is a classic example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or its layout, for that matter). Although it’s very sweet that the author’s family got involved in the design process, it’s honestly not too impressive.”

They did not like the cover. In fact, I think I could posit a mathematical theorem based on the titles of their reviews: Taylor titled her review, “Because the Angels: What Christian Fiction Should Really Aim For.” ∴ Grandiose praise of Because the Angels in review titles is in inverse proportion to the reviewer’s regard for the cover design.

imagesSo why did I choose to have the cover look the way it did? Well, my novel heavily featured the anime series Blood+, so in my writer’s fantasy, an editor would be bowled over by the novel’s unique concept, of course, and consult me about the cover design. I would suggest that they contact the production company that owns the copyright to Blood+ and get permission to have the main character, Saya, slashing through a collage of photos representing the Iraq War (blood, explosions, Abu Ghraib, etc.) with her sword.

This event did not happen, so I thought about getting a picture of a samurai girl—as a nod to Samurai Champloo, also featured heavily in the novel—doing the same thing. My brother mentioned that my niece was a member of her anime club at school and liked to draw anime characters. That took me on another train of thought. Spike and Marcus, two of the main protagonists, are writing cut-above average fan fiction based on Samurai Champloo into which their anxieties for Spike’s kidnapped sister Margie subconsciously intrude and that eventually gets turned into a trashy fantasy novel. I thought having a somewhat amateurish drawing of a samurai girl against the background mentioned above might actually be in keeping with that subplot. As it happens, my sister-in-law is a professional graphic designer. If you see this ubiquitous design all over the web, that’s her:

because-the-angelsShe took my idea and designed a much more understated background, which I realized was a better choice, but when I said, “Could you put Gandhi heads on the samurai’s kimono?” (Margie, the hostage, is fully committed to nonviolence.) My sister-in-law said, “Sure.”

I had wanted the samurai figure to be wearing sneakers, but neither my niece nor my sister-in-law could get the feet right; hence, the explosion.

But overall, I am still pleased with the result. If the book is ever picked up by a another publisher and they say they want a different design, I will be open to that, of course, but for now, as an indie author, I can only be grateful to have artists, professional and amateur in my family, who listened to my ideas for the cover and for independent reviewers who liked my book—and also didn’t charge me.