Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

The world has gone mad.

Well, it’s been mad for a while, now, but it does feel like it’s getting worse, doesn’t it? It’s not enough to wring our hands and hope for the better, it’s not enough to wag our fingers at elected officials, it’s not enough to post a meme here and there to criticise the madness. We have to take action. Here are the ways that I am doing that.

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One Tree Planted

When I published in 2018, I wanted to keep my books in e-book format only, because environmental issues are very important to me. Paperbacks, generally, are difficult to control. It would be one thing if I could ensure that the printer used recycled paper, but Amazon takes a lot of input away from you to make up for ease, convenience, and high royalty rates. So, In 2019, I yielded to pressure and agreed to release my previously Kindle-only e-books for paperback.

Also because, for the life of me, I couldn’t convince people that the Kindle app is free and compatible with all devices, so people would tell me they couldn’t buy my books because they didn’t have a Kindle device. That was very frustrating.

So, I released paperbacks- but, with a caveat. My paperbacks are a little more expensive than they strictly need to be because I wanted to donate a portion of proceeds to reforestation efforts. I wrote this blog post on the topic.

I found a charity that donates one tree per ever $1 donated, One Tree Planted. At the end of every year, I tally up my paperback sales and donate $1 per to OTP. You can even choose where the trees are donated. The first year, I donated to Guatemala, where half of my family is from, and in 2020, I donated to the Amazon Rainforest and California to help heal the damage from the wildfires.

Communities United Against Police Brutality

On May 25, 2020, I published my third book, Siren Song. I chose that date because it was the anniversary of me joining a Facebook group for people who like dressing up and swimming like mermaids.

Don’t judge me, it makes me happy.

Unbeknownst to me on the day of my launch, May 25, 2020 would be remembered as the day that George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis by three police officers, on the false suspicion of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. This horrific act, caught on film, sparked the largest and most far-reaching protest in the history of the world. The Black Lives Matter movement is currently under consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize and systemic racism is forefront of every discussion, from beauty brands to the hobby of mermaiding to politics.

Obviously, it was 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. We found out later that the BLM protests did not cause a spike in cases, because progressive-minded people are statistically smarter, and the vast majority of people wore masks and took precautions to keep these 97% peaceful protests from becoming superspreader events- but we didn’t know that at the time. So, those of us who wanted to do something felt a bit handcuffed by the situation.

My artist friend, Katrina Kunstmann, like all artists, perpetually short on money, and wanting to do what she could to help, decided to offer portrait commissions for charity. For $25, she would redraw your Facebook profile pic in her own style and donate the fee to Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Inspired by her example, I followed. First of all, my book was born on the day George Floyd died, so there’s a sad kinship, there. Secondly, Siren Song deals with some racial issues, as well as recognising, understanding, and healing prejudice in the past. It deals with fear and mistrust, generational curses, building bridges, and giving people the space and agency to heal themselves. The angry mob is not inherently wrong, and the peacemakers are not inherently right.

I set out to write a book inspired by The Little Mermaid, but with Sulat at the helm (pun intended), things always get a little more intense.

When you take a book from concept all the way to publication, it can take on a life of its own, it feels almost like a living thing with feelings and potential. I have hope for all of my books, but this one felt like it had a destiny. And when you’re self-published, there’s not a lot of money coming in because you don’t have the industry contacts or advertising funds that the big houses have.

But I had to do something. So, following in Katrina’s footsteps, I decided to donate the full proceeds of Siren Song to Communities United Against Police Brutality for the first full year. Now, you might be thinking, ‘a full year. Gee, thanks,’ but consider that in most cases, more books sell in the first year than at any other point in their history (unless the author becomes famous posthumously). It’s likely that Siren Song is doing better this year, in terms of sales, than it ever will. Also, as a self-published author, I don’t have a lot of money, so donating the entire first year of a whole novel (which take two years, on average, for me to write) is a significant portion of my income. It’s the grandest gesture available to me.

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So, these are my two big areas of activism, right now. I am very vocal on social media in support of environmental issues and people of colour, but I wanted to create a space to show that I do put my money where my mouth is, let my readers know that their money is going somewhere meaningful, and maybe give some of you an idea of how to help, if you don’t know where to start.

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