Looking for Character References!

We are still looking for people to be character references for the artwork of Dark Soldier, the dark fantasy book I’m working on that’s hopefully coming early 2016!

Two people we need in particular: one slightly older, tall, muscular dark-skinned man (30-40) and a fit, fair-skinned blonde-haired woman (25-30).

Let me explain further with the darker-skinned guy, Rük. When I say muscular, I don’t mean just fit. I mean a man who looks like he could fight a grizzly bear and not break a sweat. Do you all know the blogger jaxblade

The big guy who’s a total workout junkie/martial artist/anime lover? If you don’t follow him, you should, because he’s awesome.


We need somebody even bigger than him, and he’s pretty big. And that’s hard to find. When I say muscular, I am talking about a black version of Gregor Clegane from Game of Thrones.


Now, Rük is still only 6′4″, so maybe there’s not such a person that fits that category. Maybe that person does not exist. And if that person doesn’t, then jaxblade could totally become Rük. If he agrees, that is. 

*wink wink, hint hint*


As for the fair-skinned Sapphire, she’s an epic warrior. She’s not as big as Rük, for sure. While Rük built himself to become a powerhouse, she built herself to hit hard and fast. Real fast. Now when I think of a lady built to do that, I think of a mixed martial artist. I think of Korra.


I think of Ronda Rousey, although she may actually be slightly too muscular for the character.


So, now that we have those specifics out of the way, send me an ask if you are interested in becoming a character reference!

So, exciting news

We now have three total character references for my fantasy novel’s paintings. Now we need some more, and if we can get Tumblr users to help it could be freaking amazing. 

Here’s what we still need: 

Male, 6’3" approximately, dark-skinned (examples: African, Haitian), brown-eyed with thick black dreads and beard. Veteran preferred. Age 40-45, looks like he could take on a bear and win. He probably could. 

Male, 6’1" approximately, fair-skinned, green-eyed with long hair and thick beard. Veteran preferred. Age 40-45, similar build to Rük. 

Male, 5’6" approximately, olive-skinned (example: most Mediterranean countries), any eye color with long black wavy hair. Age 15-18, toned muscle, similar to a sword fighter’s build. 

Female, 5’6" approximately, character is mixed-race (white/Mediterranean), blue eyed with long straight hair, any color as the character has snow white canonically. Age 16-19, toned muscle similar to Malkeon. 

Female, 5’8" approximately, fair-skinned, blue eyed with long straight hair, any color as the character has snow white canonically. Age 22-26, warrior’s build (think Ronda Rousey). 

Let’s see what we can do!!

Before I embarrass myself publicly by reblogging with an answer I want to ask… why do you think it’s insensible for people to know that not all white people are douchebags? I’m actually serious, I really don’t understand. I didn’t want to cause boundaries between races by making people it seem like all people of a certain color act the same way. It seems to be a pretty dangerous concept to me. And I actually haven’t heard of a #NotAllWhitePeople thing, so that’s not what I was trying, I swear.


This post from Slate does a good job of articulating why, in a discussion of oppressive behaviors, it’s not helpful for people in the oppressive group to chime in re: why ALL the people in that group aren’t like that. It’s framed within the context of gender issues/discussion, but the same concept applies within discussions not just of racism but specifically white supremacism (which the original post you commented on was discussing-white supremacism in fandom and the way people perpetuate it):


It’s not HELPFUL to come into a discussion about SYSTEMIC problems and point out the ways specific individuals work to not contribute to the problems; the people talking about an oppressive system are WELL AWARE there are always individuals within that system who both (1) are members of the oppressive group(s) nevertheless (2) working against/to dismantle the system. The existence of those people does not mean the system is not still a problem. Pointing out that Not All White People are racists doesn’t change the fact that racism and white supremacist ideology are SYSTEMIC and INSTITUTIONALIZED problems people have to ACTIVELY learn to not enable; no one comes to an anti-racist mindset in a vacuum. It’s a process of active and conscious UNlearning of years of societal indoctrination about the value of Whiteness above all else.

The other problem with your post is its touting of color-blindness. That’s not helpful either. People’s racial identity informs not only how they view themselves but how the world views and treats them. Acting like race-even though it’s a social construct-doesn’t exist or doesn’t really mean anything is naive. My Blackness is a part of who I am. It’s not ALL of who I am, but it’s a part of who I am and for you or anyone else to say, ‘Well, I don’t see you as Black/I don’t see your Blackness’ isn’t you being progressive. It’s you denying part of my humanity.

So I’ll admit it to all of you, I made a mistake. If you haven’t seen this little post of mine from yesterday, here’s the link. And I got schooled. Thank God I did, because the original poster was fine in what they were saying and I was wrong. And the biggest problem is that, although I tried to be clearer than I was, I came off as one of those “I don’t see you as black” kind of people, which I’m not. So let me make it clear here.

If you claim “I don’t see you as [insert ethnicity here]”… 




If you were really not a racist, you would not need to say that just to be around them. God made them as their race, and it’s not by any accident. It’s because humans are beautiful in every single shade. All of them. So if you go around trying to compliment someone by saying “I don’t see you as black”, you’re subtly/non-subtly saying that a black person is a lesser human being. Very simply, that is crap.

So don’t do that.

Rant complete.

A Guide to Black Hair #1 – Relaxers


Okay, this guide is presented as a beginning resource (see: 101 level) to black folks hair.  Keep in mind texture varies greatly depending on the person.  Hair can have very kinky curls or be rather straight, depending on the person.  Black folks who are very mixed (for example, my daughter who is only a ¼ black) tend to have curls that are looser in texture.  But there are also black people with very straight hair, so that is not always a fast and hard rule.

This guide is presented from the perspective of an American biracial (black and white) woman whose father had very coarse curls.  The differences in hair texture vary greatly for biracial folks (being half black and half Korean can create a very different hair texture, for example) but for the most part terms and experiences are similar.


Most common way to straighten hair and until recently the most popular way to wear hair (there is a beginning shift to wearing hair natural, especially amongst younger black women).  Hair is relaxed with either a lye formula applied by a licensed beautician or at home with what is referred to as a “box perm” which contain a different alkali agent but are significantly weaker and less caustic than a professional relaxer.  Over exposure to either chemical can cause burns on the scalp, and there is a prevalent myth that it has to burn to work, so often girls (few men get their hair relaxed) are taught from a young age to let the burn happen to achieve the best results.  Also, scalps that are scratched or have minor surface abrasions burn more readily, so before getting a relaxer many girls will avoid scratching their scalps so that they don’t burn.

The Process:  If applied at home a box perm can be bought from just about any retailer.  Higher quality, real lye relaxers are done in a salon or by a professional beautician in a private home.  Vaseline or another type of petroleum protective gel is applied around the hairline and to the tops of the ears to keep the delicate skin from burning should it come into contact with the relaxer.  Relaxer is applied only to the roots for a touch up or to the entire head of hair for first time relaxers.  Cream is applied in small sections, and once application is complete the back of a comb is used to “smooth” the hair and straighten it out.  After the processing time the relaxer is rinsed out and a color-coded neutralizing shampoo is applied. Once the shampoo no longer turns pink (indicating the presence of leftover relaxer cream) a conditioner is applied.  In a salon this is usually followed by a plastic cap and some time under a dryer and at home it can just mean a few minutes of waiting before rinsing.  Once the conditioner is finished processing a leave in conditioner specifically for relaxed hair should be applied.  This process must be done every 6-8 weeks, to handle “new growth.”  Since hair will grow in with the original texture pattern there is often a lot of angst about new growth showing, especially the kinkier the curls.

Styling: relaxed hair will air dry in a wavy-frizzy way if not styled.  Various methods of styling include wrapping (a solution somewhere between a mousse and a leave in conditioner is applied, hair is combed, and then person sits under a hooded dryer until dry), blow dry with a paddle brush, or air dry and then flat ironed or curled with hot tongs.  Often, a combination of methods is used.  This all depends on the length of hair and the style involved.

This biggest misconception is that a relaxer will straighten hair and make it like a white person’s.  A relaxer only loosens the curl so that the hair can be straightened more easily and so that it will retain straight styles more readily (humidity and water undo any straightening efforts).  There is still maintenance that must be done after the fact.  So a character that has relaxed hair cannot jump into a pool and them get out with straight hair like many white people.  Not to mention that relaxed hair needs a lot of moisture and can be prone to breakage since pulling the curl taught creates weak points in the strand.

So, those are the basics on relaxers.  Next up: natural styles.

I found part one! Don’t know when part 3 is coming.




it’s like, white fandom on tumblr is made of ppl who are nominally conscious of racial issues & plenty of them are marginalized in other ways so they’ll reblog pictures of models n characters of color and maybe they seem to give a shit about ferguson

but when it comes time to actually interrogate the ways they perpetuate white supremacy, mainly in the places they spend the most time and energy (e.g. fandom), that support for poc evaporates

they’ll desexualize and sideline protags of color who they can’t get away with erasing entirely and shit all over any poc who might get in the way of their white faves boning while harassing & invalidating fans of color who’re trying to carve any bit of representation we can out of what little we’re given

anyway their transparent attempts at looking progressive are fuckin hilarious, yall just look like fetishistic creeps when you’re willing to admire the way attractive poc look but refuse to humanize them in any capacity

Glad it ain’t just me.

This is a pretty big problem in booklr. 

I’m sorry to hear that this is the case with so many people. But let me give y’all a little bit of comfort. There are some fakers out there, but there are also white people who were raised around others of color long enough that just using the word “colored” to describe them feels a little weird. It wasn’t that we tried to pretend that it didn’t exist because that would be stupid, but that we came to know them enough on a human level so that it wasn’t “my Black/Asian/Hispanic friend”, but rather “Cedric” or “Alexa”. And if you dared to try claim any limitation on our friends because of their skin pigment, so help me God, you were going to get your arse kicked. We noticed the differences, but they never stopped us from seeing each other as human beings. 

So, luckily, our brains didn’t change when we started getting into fandoms. We don’t get more excited about shipping white people than people of any other ethnicity (unless those two white people just happen to ship really well). I personally had no second thoughts about making a poc protagonist for the book I’m writing, because it made sense with the story. If he’s / she’s a good protagonist in a series, we’re not going to be hindered in any way our enjoyment of the show by their pigment, and we have no issues seeing them as three-dimensional characters, and loving them for it. 

So while I’m aware there are some super-hypocrites on this site, please let it be known that there are lots of us who don’t think like this at all. Please don’t categorize fans just because of how stupid some of them are. 

A Guide to Black Hair #2 – Natural Styles


Natural Hairstyles

Natural hairstyles are as varied as textures of hair.  For simplicity’s sake I’m not going to include styles that use fake hair or additional hair, such as weaves, lace fronts, box braids, and the like.

Natural hairstyles feature hair that is not relaxed or texturized (a kind of super mild relaxer) and worn in its natural state or styled.

The Afro: This is probably the most iconic natural hairstyle and most readily recognizable natural hairstyle for those outside of the black community.  It is usually a haircut without taper and a pick comb is used to “pick out” or lift hair, causing a nice amount of poof.  After the hair is picked out it is patted back into place.  Any kind of pressure on the hair results in flat spots, which is why people who wear Afros often have an afro pick nearby.

The Natural:  This is kind of an old-fashioned term for a close-cropped hairstyle.  The hair can be tapered or a single length, but it is usually NOT picked out.  A Good example of a natural is Poussey from Orange is the New Black.

Tapered Natural/Afro: Similar to the Afro, but this is a haircut that is longer at the crown and shorter against the neck.  It can by picked out or left as is to curl.

Fades: these are cuts worn by (usually) men and done in a barber shop.  They aren’t longer than an inch at the top, and go to the skin near the neck.  Similar to a tapered cut, but much shorter all around and against the skin around the back.  Kanye wears a fade.  Fades can have lines or designs cut in along the temple.  Butch lesbians in the black community sometimes wear fades.

Dred locs or Locs:  Hair is tangled to create a rope, size dependent on personal choice.  Sister locks are tiny dred locs created with an instrument similar to a crochet hook.  Once put in dred locs are incredibly difficult to remove.  Hair can also knot naturally to create a large matted clump of hair, but these are not dred locs.  I was taught that dred locs were named after Dred Scott, but I have no idea if that is true.  Still, I like the idea of this historical tie in.

Kinky Twists:  Twists on natural hair.  If done while the hair is damp the can be removed to create smooth waves.  Usually require a special leave in conditioner.

Cornrows: a hairstyle favored by rappers and historical films.  The cornrow is created by parting hair in sections and braiding it in a pattern similar to a French braid only in reverse (where a French braid picks up hair on the top and goes over the existing strands, a corn row picks up hair underneath and deposits it below the existing strands).  Most hair-storians (if this isn’t a thing I want it to be) attribute corn rowing to tribal styles worn in Western Africa, and knowledge that was brought over with blacks during slavery.

Quick braids: Braids that are done quickly but are not box braids (the generic braids that most people recognize as long braids) or cornrows and are usually a little messy and unkempt.  These can also be called Celie braids after Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the Color Purple.  Celie braids could also be braids that form a sort of crown (depends on area, speaker).  When I was a kid my mom (who is white) used to call these unkempt braids pickaninny braids, but this is racist as fuck, so don’t use that.  Still, if folks recognize the pickaninny character from old advertisements (Google!) then they will recognize quick braids.

Straight: Yes! Some black people have straight hair (the black experience is not a monolith!).  Often you will hear people refer to someone as having Indian hair, but this isn’t people from India, this is based on the belief that Cherokee and blacks intermarried in the early 1700s (the jury is out on whether this is true or not).  Either way, these are black people with very little curl in their hair, and they can usually get away with blow drying their hair with a paddle brush and then flat ironing.

There are also folks with kinky curly hair who go to the salon every few days to get their hair straightened in what is called a press and curl.  The hair is washed, dried, and straightened by a beautician, usually using a hot comb or a Kentucky oven (a device that heats cast iron rollers to high temperatures).  It used to be difficult to straighten hair with store bought electric flat irons, but now that commercial brands have very high temps (such as the Chi and Sedu flat irons) natural hair can be straightened at home and straightened very well.

Little Girls:  Most little girls will wear a combination of cornrows and quick braids, but usually neater than quick braids. The hair will be sectioned, combed and braided, and this is a huge ritual between mother and daughter.  Little girls will sometimes have beads threaded onto the end or use decorative hair ties.  If you have a young character and refer to her as wearing braids you won’t need to go into any great detail.  In fact, the day most little girls get to go get their first relaxer is a BIG DEAL.  And the ritual of a mother combing a daughter’s hair, and the daughter complaining about the pulling, is a big one and a cultural memory for most black women. 

Red flag words

Here is a list of words that have very negative connotations when used about natural hair, especially if used by a white person:




Comparing black hair to sheep’s wool or cotton (this is up for debate, but I find it’s usually done on a very gross and othering way).

Kinky (this one depends greatly on context, but as above it’s usually done in a very gross and othering way)

Any excessive amount of description that focuses on how different natural hair is.

So, that is the basic info on natural hair.  Next up: Weaves, Wigs, and Other Styles that Use Artificial Hair etc.

This is super important for writers who have black characters in their books like I do. Make sure that it fits the era, though! I wouldn’t expect someone to have a fade in a LOTR-era book. It would be cool, though!

Looking for Painting Reference Models

We’re looking for models for Dark Soldier’s characters! Could you be one?


Seriously, we are on the lookout. We’re needing people of every skin pigment to come in for this one. Basically, the illustrator for my upcoming novel is trying to get references for her paintings, and I don’t want to just steal images off the internet. I like to have people’s permission. Sadly, we can’t pay since we’re both poor American college kids, but we will do our best to get your name…

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Looking for Painting Reference Models

Seriously, we are on the lookout.

We’re needing people of every skin pigment to come in for this one. Basically, the illustrator for my upcoming novel is trying to get references for her paintings, and I don’t want to just steal images off the internet. I like to have people’s permission. Sadly, we can’t pay since we’re both poor American college kids, but we will do our best to get your name out. Here are a few characters we could use references for:

Character 1
Gender: Male
Skin Color: Brown / Black
Hairstyle: Ranges from short hair to medium-length braids by end of book, black
Body Type: Athletic
Age Pref: 20-30

Character 2
Gender: Female
Skin Color: Unspecified, implied medium
Hairstyle: Straight, blue
Body Type: Hourglass, Average
Age Pref: 25-30

Character 3
Gender: Male
Skin Color: Fair
Hairstyle: Short fohawk, Red
Body type: Slim
Age Pref: 18-25

Character 4
Gender: Female
Skin Color: Olive
Hairstyle: Curly, Black
Body Type: Pear, Athletic
Age Pref: 18-25

If you’re interested in joining up even without fitting these descriptions, we can probably fit you in. Trust me, there are a great variety of characters.

Send an email to officialgabrielpenn@gmail.com!

A Beautiful Mess

After reading a post on what should be seen more in YA novels, I realize that mine doesn’t really make sense. And yet, it still works together somehow. The Dark Veil saga (coming 2016) includes:

  • Asian dragons and camouflaging wyverns
  • Griffins (whatever happened to those anyway?)
  • A conlang mixing Gaelige and German
  • “Shadow of the Colossus”-sized monsters
  • Mostly POC characters
  • Cultures based off medieval Italy, Ancient Egypt and Russia
  • A blend of steampunk and fantasy (a.k.a. elves with guns)
  • Elves with guns
  • In case you missed it, elves with guns
  • Judaism-based mythology
  • A lot of politics and next to no actual physical battles
  • Characters that use weapons other than swords (lots of them)
  • Consistent fourth-wall breaking

There’s way more that I could put, but nobody would read it. Tl;dr, you know. But I’m curious to see how the fans react to all this.