Monday, May 26, 2014

The Danger of Just Being Female

The #yesallwomen hashtag has me thinking, which is exactly the point. I'm part of the fortunate minority of women who have never been the victim of sexual assault, but I certainly fear it every day (whenever I'm walking alone at night or in a darkened parking garage or anywhere quiet where I could be cornered and overpowered or even when I let a repairman into my house to fix something when I'm alone). And because I have a young daughter, I fear the possibility of someone attacking her every second of every day. That may sound dramatic or ridiculous, but it's true. I fear it every day, an almost physical pain that seizes me every time she leaves the house. Because it could be anyone. A coach. A teacher. A friend's parent, uncle, grandparent. And, sadly, even a family member. I protect myself by being hyper-vigilant (walking with keys sticking out between my fingers so I can aim for the eyes or throat if attacked, locking the car door the instant I get inside, avoiding men if I'm walking alone, identifying escape routes if confronted suddenly, etc.) but protecting my daughter is tricky. When she was very little, I simply didn't let her out of my sight. Easy peazy. But once school aged, what then? How does a mother educate a daughter to protect herself without tacitly placing the responsibility for future attacks on her and not her male attacker? I don't know that there's a way to do that, not really, not with society informing her that if she gets drunk at a party or shows up wearing a short enough skirt, she's fair game. Not with the 'bros before hos' mentality we have going in conjunction with slut-shaming and prude-bashing. It's a no-win situation, so I teach my daughter how to protect herself at parties, at school, and in life in general though it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

And when I say I was never sexually assaulted, that doesn't mean I wasn't almost assaulted. Here's just one example: in high school, I had a cross country coach who started getting a little too handsy with a few girls on the team, me included. I went to my mother and, together with 1 other girl (her parents didn't show up and most of the other girls didn't want to speak out, one even went so far as to try to shame us into not talking, 'what about his family', 'he's not really hurting us', and other such bullshit), we went to talk to the vice principal, who was friends with the coach, it turned out. We told the VP that the coach would continue to hug and touch the girls after we asked him to stop. The VP's response? 'Oh, I hug students all the time.' My mom's response? 'You hug students even after they ask you to stop?' Well, of course he didn't do that, but he still didn't see the issue. My mom wasn't having it and she demanded the VP take action. His idea of action? To tell the girls we couldn't run in just sports bras and shorts anymore, as that was drawing the unwanted attention (not from the other teenage boys on the team, mind you, but from a coach in his 40s). Because it was clearly our fault that some perv coach was putting his hands on us. Well, we made a big enough stink that the coach was forced to leave the team, although he was still good to coach girls basketball in the winter despite those girls making similar accusations. Cut to a few years later, this guy was fired and convicted for raping a handicapped student. Class act. I wonder, was that girl wearing a sports bra when it happened? What exactly did she do to bring on that 'unwanted attention'? This is just one example of the kind of shit that happens every day...and that's in a country where women are treated 'equally'. And I'm supposed to let my kid go to college one day when I barely feel safe walking the streets myself?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This is a Job.

Well, so I'm finally blogging after almost a month and it's mostly just to bitch and complain, but it's my blog and I can cry if I want to.

Have you ever noticed that when you tell someone you're a writer, they either ask (with an amused titter), 'Oh, well, do you have a real job?' or get super excited because all the 'free time' you have during the day could be used to help them out with stuff (i.e. crap they don't want to do but figure you can do since you spend your days thinking and eating bonbons whilst reclining in front of the TV). Yes, it is nice to have a flexible schedule--I can take a break to go to doctor and dental appointments, school functions, or tend to the responsibilities that fall into my lap as a military spouse--but that doesn't mean I don't actually work. I take writing very seriously. On a regular day, I sit down at the desk at 7 in the morning (after running 6 miles, mind you, so there, motherfuckers who think writers are inherently lazy) and don't leave it again until at least 5, depending on when I need to pick Kiddo up from school. I eat 2 out of 3 meals at my desk; I sit there even when I'd rather be doing anything else in the world, including laundry. On the weekend, I do all the shitty domestic things I put off all week so I can focus on writing. Do I get paid? Not yet. But does a stay at home mother get paid (hey, I'm one of those too!)? Nope, and that's a legit job too, and a damned hard one. But for some reason, if I can't show folks a book with my name on it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or a current paycheck, I should explain why I'm wasting my time. Of course, people don't actually say this outright, but that doesn't mean the sentiment doesn't come across. Because it does. Loud and clear.

There's also an attitude of, 'Hey, if you aren't published by now, why keep trying?' Uh, because quitters never win and winners never quit, or whatever. Didn't you learn that as a child? Weren't you on a sports team of some sort? Didn't you ever see an inspirational movie about a group of underdogs finally succeeding after lots of hard work and good old fashioned determination? Come on! My parents didn't raise no giver-uppers. And how many of my friends and family are working in jobs they despise? Jobs they wish they could quit so they could pursue things they actually like and care about? That's what I get to do every day! I love writing. I think about it all the time and even when it annoys the fuck out of me, I couldn't imagine giving it up. One day, I will get paid for it. Maybe this year. Maybe five years from now. But it will happen. I don't need to make a million dollars (not turning it down, though, so, you know...), but it would be nice to make a legitimate living at it. The people that matter to me believe in this stubborn dream of mine right along with me, but why do so many others discount endeavors that don't immediately produce hard cash? Is that what's important, ultimately? I think not. All this is just a long way of saying, look, I don't rain on your parade, so don't rain on mine. Not my fault I actually enjoy my parade...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hey, Remember Me?

So, I've been terrible about blog posts lately, but I have been busy (sort of, not really, well, let's agree to disagree on that). In the last few weeks, my husband returned from deployment, I redecorated my house, finished a WIP, and bought a new motorcycle. Not to mention my guy's new job means a lot of ongoing responsibilities for me (busy military wives, holla!). Lots of fun new things. Also, my husband decided we'd go all Virgina Woolf, create a publishing company, and try to self-publish one of my older novels that I'm in the middle of editing. He has a business degree and seems quite excited by the prospect of advertising the book and doing all the necessary stuff that his hermit, writer wife doesn't want to touch with a ten foot pole. I don't even like talking to strangers on the phone (or in person). I should probably see someone about it, but that would mean calling a stranger and then going to meet with said stranger. Yeah, not happening. But the husband's plan should be interesting. I'm still sending out queries for my other projects, but it'll be cool to see what might happen going the self-publishing route. Not sure what I did to end up with such a supportive guy. He might even believe in my writing more than I do.

Speaking of queries, I have a full manuscript out with an agent right now, so let's see where that goes. I always plan for the worst, so after I fix this current project so my husband can do his magic, I'll edit my NaNoWriMo novel and get it ready for submission sometime before or during the summer. After that, the novel I finished last month. After that, the novel I went through whilst here in FLA on spring break that needs a serious rewrite. I hate querying (maybe even more than I hate calling strangers and I REALLY hate that), but the shit has to be done.

And guess what? My house actually looks like adult people live in it. I successfully (and expensively) decorated it to surprise the hubs and he loved it (of course, he didn't see any of the bills, but...). Now I want to redo every single room and get rid of any piece of furniture not purchased in the last three months. I believe I'll have to slow my roll on that, but in the next few months/years, we'll have all new stuff. Now that I know a few things about decorating (emphasis on 'a few'), I hate all the old stuff. Daily, I'm like, 'who picked out this horrid crap?' and then I remember that I did. Damn it.

In the next week, I need to send out a few of my short stories to lit magazines. I've polished them several times (see how sparkly they are?), so now I just need to bite the bullet. They're so pretty though. It's like sending a child out alone into the wild--she might make it to her very important destination but, more than likely, she'll get beaten to a pulp. But you'll never know if you don't send her out there. I did write another story a week or so ago that took an interesting (and dark, of course, because it's me) turn. It's pretty bad when you feel sorry for a character you made up and dragged through hell. Still, I left the awful stuff in there. I'm glad I started writing shorts again. I forgot how much fun it was (I'm finished way before I start wondering why I started the piece in the first place). It feels kind of like cheating. Just a jump in, then a jump out. Easy peazy. And I can edit them a bajillion times without it taking hours. But now I need to stop editing and actually send them out. That's the hard part. They always seem like they need more work. Could post one on here for feedback. Hmm...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Said, This Shit is Bananas.

So, this house stuff is getting out of control. That may be an understatement. I think it's well and truly out of control as we speak (type). Remember that switch I mentioned? Well, it's been flipped and locked into place. I can't go to a store without thoroughly casing the joint for housewares...and, in fact, I mostly go to stores for that specific reason. The husband is due to return sometime this weekend, so I have to get it together before then. But the list of stuff I need/want/must have/can't live without only gets larger with each new purchase. Talk about knocking open Pandora's Box (and the box goes really well with the theme in the living room, btw). The house looks great, but I'll need to freeze my credit cards in a block of ice if this goes any further...then throw that block of ice in a river.

On the writing front, things are going swimmingly (writingly? Why isn't that a word?). I hit over 4k words on the WIP for the second day in a row, nudging me close to 119k overall. I'd hoped to keep it below 100,000 words, but I think we all knew that was never going to happen. I just might finish it by the end of next week (well, this depends on when exactly the husband gets home--should be this weekend for good!--and if he'll hang around the house before reporting to his new unit, which will cut into writing time). I hope to keep it around 130k and then shave away at least 20,000 words in the first edit. Unfortunately, I still don't know how it's going to end, but I've already had one surprise from my male lead. Turns out, he's not a bad guy after all. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure, even though I made him up. These damned characters just do whatever the hell they want whenever they hell they want.

Oh! Also, an agent is currently reading the novel I shopped around at the beginning of the month. So, yay. Let's hope something good comes of that. My fingers hurt from staying crossed so much. I haven't heard from all the agents I queried yet, so maybe I'll get more good news. Won't hold my breath though...mostly because it wouldn't help if I did.

What's next after I finish the current WIP, you ask? Well, I'm going to spend two weeks writing short stories. Last time, I did about 6 in the 2 week break after a major edit. I'd like to do the same this time, that way I'll have more material to send out to literary magazines. So far I've sent out zero stories. Yeah. I should get on that...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Don't Have Writer's Block...I Have Living Block

My husband brought up an interesting point when he came home from deployment the other week: our house looks like we just moved into it earlier today. No discernible theme or attempt at decoration. It's clean and we have the necessary furniture for sitting and such as well as a picture or two, but that's about it. This honestly never occurred to me, but once it did, I found it impossible to stop thinking about it. I've been to houses that look like something you might see on HGTV after the extreme makeover. And I like HGTV, but I never really considered doing anything to my own house. Not sure why, but my husband's comment was enough to get me thinking. And, in a perfectly timed twist of fate, he had to go back to Louisiana for a few weeks before coming home for good, so I'll have the time to do a little bit of decorating to surprise him. Too bad I didn't think of this earlier, since he was gone for a year and I probably could have done quite a bit in that time. Oh well--hindsight, that filthy bitch.

So, how did I get myself into this strange, thoughtless predicament--I who spend all day effectively thinking? Well, for me, writing is a bit like falling into the rabbit hole. It's strange in there, fully furnished and pulsing with life, and once I get in it's hard to get out, mostly because I don't want to. On the other hand, my house is a sparsely furnished, borderline barren wasteland because I spend so much time curled up in my own private Wonderland. After a long day of writing, plotting, researching, or editing (or a hearty mix of all four), I'm rarely good for much more than throwing dinner together, mostly because the law says I have to provide sustenance for my child. Having an obsessive personality doesn't help, as when I do something I consider important, I often can't do anything else. Occasionally, I'll find something whilst out shopping that would look cute in the house, but I have nothing else to work with, so I abandon the item and go find the shoes, jackets, or cardigans (I have several of these, and by 'several', I mean at least 20). Well, there's my excuse, like it or lump it. But I'm not letting myself off so easily in future. I have my newly acquired stash of magazines (I'm not kidding when I say I know zero about this interior design stuff), a notebook full of ideas I stuck in there with a glue stick (I do love glue sticks), and measurements scribbled in a journal I can carry with me while I shop for things. This weekend I'm stepping it to IKEA for more ideas. Now that I've started, full-scale obsession mode has engaged, so shit's about to get real. I'll decorate this damned house...or die in the attempt (I also have a flare for hyperbole, fyi). Step one: slipcovers for my tired old couches...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Brief Interlude: Summing Up the Last Few Weeks

So, it's been awhile since I last posted. My life is such a whirlwind of fun, excitement, and intrigue that I just haven't found the time to write! Yeah, no. Mostly, I'm just too damned tired at the end of the day and would rather sleep an extra half hour. So, like I said, a whirlwind of excitement, nonstop and action-packed. Shall we do a list to cover everything? Yes? Well, I agree.
  1. Most important development: my husband has returned from the land of sand and sun. He touched down on US soil yesterday and I hope to have him home again finally after about 14 months apart. We are now exiting deployment mode. Nobody said life as a military spouse was easy.
  2. Work on the WIP is going quite well. It's sitting at about 88k words as of close of laptop this afternoon. I realized that this one is going to be much longer than I originally planned. My novels are usually ginormous, but I've been consciously trying for more compact stories (compact for me would be around 90 to 100k). My NaNo story is about 93k and it might stay close to that after edits. I was hoping for something similar here, but I doubt that's going to happen. I'll shoot for no more than 120k and hope for the best. I can always slash words later.
  3. I completed and proofed both synopsis and query letter for the latest novel, which means I'm ready to shoot out another round of submissions. I HATE THIS PROCESS. Cannot stress that enough, but it's necessary. Step one on the road to getting published. Goddamn, is it a long, lonely road (burn of the week: I'm currently reading The Kite Runner and the main character writes his first novel, gets an agent immediately, and then gets a publishing contract a month later; for a moment, I was insanely jealous of a fictional character).
  4. I proofed a few of the shorties I wrote several weeks ago as well. After I submit to agents, I'll shoot these stories off to some literary magazines. Should be fun to get a different sort of rejection letter, huh? I've also had a crap ton of ideas for future short stories. Can't wait to get on some of those.
  5. I'm about to finish The Kite Runner (which is amazing, btw) and afterwards, I plan to start Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It's supposed to be a groundbreaking series so far as steampunk goes. We'll see.
Remember all that stuff I said about my life being interesting? Yeah, well, I lied. I read, write, eat, sleep, and run. That's about all I've got. And speaking of reading...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why's the Title the Hardest Part?

You know what sucks? Titles. No matter what, the title I pick for a novel once I complete it never seems to work. I read other books with titles that seem perfect and wonder why it has to be so difficult for me to chose one. When I first started writing seriously (middle school, as you'll recall, or not...very few people read this blog, so...), I used to decide on a title right away and then attempt to craft a story to go along with it. This didn't seem to work very well, so I decided to flip the process, which would work fine if only I could figure out a decent title once I've gathered together 100,000 or so words. I don't have this problem with short stories. The titles come somewhat easily after I finish writing them, but naming a novel length project is like pulling an impacted wisdom tooth sans a local anesthetic. Not pleasant. Either the title that seems right is too damned long or it just feels forced. I can never come up with one of those catchy single word titles that seem to be super popular amongst every third writer nowadays. If I can't keep my novel south of 100k, there's no way in hell I can come up with a one word title to describe it. I just can't help but think that this shouldn't be so difficult. I just finished writing thousands of words. I of all people should be able to come up with a snappy, appropriate, awesome sounding title to describe the work I've just done. But damned if I can. I mean, I do. I have to. It's hard to write a query letter when your novel is title-less. But I rarely like the titles I choose. They have to grow on me, and that's a slow process. I do occasionally come up with a name easy-peasy, but the last time that happened, I did a quick scan of Amazon to see if another novel came up with that same moniker and there were two. Yes, not one, but TWO. Balls. So I high-stepped it back to the drawing board, eventually coming up with a name that isn't perfect but will do in a pinch.

Good news: the current WIP (hovering at an oh-so-lovely 61k) might not suffer from the same fate as every other novel length project I've ever written. I think I might already know the name. Shit. Probably just jinxed it.