Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What do You Say to Your Children?

I watched, last night, as something truly frightening happened. I also watched as my news feed was flooded with people saying "what do I say to my children?" I've been thinking about that a lot. I'm not a political expert; I'm not an expert of parenting, but years of dealing with a hurtful, sexist, homophobic, selfish dictator of my own taught me some things. Raising a child who was rented out for medical students to practice on taught me some things. Helping my tender-hearted son and my autistic son navigate the world has taught me some things. I'm going to share those now. I hope they help.

First of all, if you told them that Hillary was definitley going to win, or even probably going to win, if  you made plans with them based on what you would do when Hillary won, your first step is to apologize to them. You had no way of backing up that promise or assurance, other than speculation from an admittedly slanted media. So if they are let down because this was in any chance broadcasted to them as a certainty, you are on the hook for that. So you apologize for making a promise you had no power to keep, you take responsibility for your part in their disappointment, and you try not to do that again.

Secondly, if  you are a person of faith, any faith, you lean on that. I don't care what faith it is. I'm pretty sure there is something in your texts or beliefs about balance, about caring for others, about finding peace. Find those things. Try to do them. Try to believe them. It's hard sometimes. But it helps.

Next, you remind them that you will protect them. That you will physically stand in the gap when you are able, That when you are not able to be there physically, you will make sure that there are support personnel there, a team, to keep them safe. Educate them on steps to take if they feel frightened or unsafe (as an aside, the need to do this is not new to this election; I've been doing it for years). Then give them the mental, emotional, and physical tools they need to protect themselves. Build an amazing foundation, take self-defense classes, spend time together talking, create family rules regarding respect. When my daughter had grown men making fun of her because of her disability, I taught her how to pretend to fall and use her canes to smack them between the legs. When we had racial slurs graffitoed on our playhouse, I painted over them and talked to my kids about why people would feel like they needed to do that. When it still wasn't safe, we moved. My son is having issues now that he is discovering, for the first time, that autism is considered by many to be a bad thing. We are working with a therapist, a counselor, a psychiatrist, and two teachers to solve this problem. That's what you do. You protect them.

Then, you remind them that we are all, individually, responsible for taking care of each other. So, if you're scared for your Muslim friends, join an interfaith community, keep tabs on events, and participate. Ask your LGBT friends how to be an ally. Feed the homeless. Stand at Standing Rock. Volunteer at a Domestic Violence shelter. Do your part to make sure the children you raise know to love and respect all people, to stand up for the least among us. Do it by showing them, by telling them, by living it not just with words in your family but in how you act.

Finally, you educate yourself on how this happened. I see so many people shaking their heads today and asking "how."  I remember doing that at the end of my first marriage. Wondering how I got there. So I did research. Really researched signs of emotional and mental abuse, how it started, how it advanced, how it affected people. I mean, the situation was textbook once I did my research, and this one is as well. Research how people act when they feel unheard and the pendulum effect. Research ogliarchy. Research what happens when the establishment has predetermined candidates. Research three party systems. Research voter turnout. Know what happened so in four years you can do your part to make sure it doesn't again. Because when you know those things, this really isn't that much of a surprise. Disheartening, sure, but not a surprise. Situations like this are all over history.

So, what do we do? We hold each other close.  We apologize, pray, protect, act, and educate. And know that this too, shall pass. It may pass like a gallstone, but it will pass. I've seen gloom and doom predicted from George Sr. to now and while bad things have happened, we are still standing. We will continue to stand. Let's stand together.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Inspiration Vs. Replication

It's NaNoWriMo, and that means that authors everywhere are flocking to their computers to. .. write blogs, to "research," to engage in social marketing. In other words, we are flocking to our computers to do anything other than write our wretched, soul-sucking novels. The novels that we would be overjoyed to write any other time but suddenly feel the weight, the pressure, of a deadline.

I am no exception.

But I figure in my attempt to escape my lagging word count, I can talk about some things that we, as writers, face.

When you're a writer, some people assume that everything in your books is about them. I've had more than one family member get angry with me about things that I have written. Sometimes they had been the inspiration. More often not. I realized long ago that I wouldn't convince them either way, so I smile in a way that is meant to be enigmatic but most likely just looks gassy. Ah well, you can't have everything. My point is, that while we aren't necessarily just waiting to paint you as a caricature in our next novel, we are always listening. We are making mental and sometimes physical notes. We are gaining inspiration however and whenever we can

And usually that's what it is. It is inspiration. We use it to further the plot, to add nuance to a character. We use it to create the feel that we want, to make YOU feel what we want you to. Sometimes, though, far more rarely, inspiration becomes replication. We forget, somehow, that what we are writing is fiction. We get too close. We are working through something or we really want you to feel how we felt in that moment.

I have been struggling with that, lately. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, writing the second book in my series, when another story started tugging like a fishhook in my brain. This story is that of the one and only lost girl to be in Neverland. This story incorporates Pan as he actually was. Sure, he was fun-loving. He was also manipulative, arrogant, and a murderer. Yes, you read that right. If the lost boys displeased him, he was not above "thinning them out." So, anyhow this lost girl somehow finds herself as the caretaker of a bunch of Pan's castaways. While Pan doesn't want the responsibility of taking care of these boys, he doesn't like that she is doing it and therein the conflict lies. It took me a solid month of writing this book to realize why it was bothering me, why it had to be written. Once I saw it (and recovered from the "duh" moment of why I didn't see this from the beginning) I knew why it was with me. From that moment, though, my inspiration keeps trying to edge over into replication. Every time that happens, I start to get lost, bogged down. That character, he needs to do a certain thing to advance the plot but he can't because my son wouldn't do that. That character must be defeated, but the scene is taking me a weeks to write because I keep getting really anxious whenever I write it. I can't hurt that character because he is based on my other son.

I know I'm not the only one who does this. I know of a writer who had based the main love interest in one of her novels on her boyfriend. When the relationship ended, she couldn't bring herself to finish the book for over a year. Another author started a book based on her five children. Then she had two more. She didn't know what to do, because adding more kids made the story unwieldy but she didn't want the younger two to feel left out.

I don't have an answer to this. I just know that we cannot fall into this trap. Our writing suffers, first and foremost because we get bogged down and it slows our writing. Our writing also suffers because we are too busy staying true to reality to stay true to the story. It makes for a worse story that takes too long to come out. But once it is in our mind, compartmentalizing becomes more difficult. So, tell me, what tricks do you use to separate the two?

And now, I feel like I've procrastinated long enough. I have three kids stuck on the top of a cliff. I'll look forward to reading your comments below.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Back up the Rabbit Hole

Life is sometimes about hard decisions. Sometimes you have so many things that you love that you can't do them all. That's not a bad problem to have. I mean, I'd rather have to deal with that then find myself falling into ennui or apathy. Still, lately I tried to take on too much and didn't know it until it was too late. I fell. Flat on my face. So then I had to reevaluate. Let me tell you about the rabbit hole I found myself in, and what I'm going to do about it.

I wrote a book. Well, I wrote two. They were both published by publishers who did not comport themselves in the best of manners. So, when the second one went south, I decided that I may not be the best publisher. I didn't, at the time, know much about the process, but I knew that I would never give up on the people who had trusted me. I would never quit. Also, I realized that I was the only one who would work as hard for me as was desired. So, to become a better author, I became a publisher.

And I loved it. I do love it still. There's nothing like helping get good books seen, helping make dreams come through. Well, then we grew. And we grew. It became clear that I couldn't grow more without dedicating more time to it, and I didn't have enough time to give. At the same time, my then-husband said that he didn't know how I could expect him to dedicate time to our marriage with him working full time. My sadness with our marriage made me short with the kids.  So, to become a better publisher and a better wife, and a better mother I became a Rennie.

And I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved the people. I loved the travel. I loved the pride and the community and the long days in the sun. The books were doing well. However, between royalties and restocking we were making quite a bit but not quite enough. So, I came up with the idea of the absinthe business. I came up with the recipes and found the sources and made up some business cards and I became an absinthery to be a better Rennie.

Then my marriage imploded. So, I had to get a real-live house and put the kids in public school. My daughter's health got significantly worse. I fell in love. I tried running the absinthe business remotely.I tried working faire and then going back and trying to keep up my house. I found that I wasn't doing any of it well. It was too much. I was letting people down. I felt stretched thin, with one foot in too many worlds.  In other words, being an absinthery was taking away from being a mom, and a wife, and a publisher. Weird how that worked. I love being a publisher. I love being a mom. I really hope that I'm a good wife. I loved being a Rennie, but it doesn't fit right now, and of the things I love, I loved that the least. Given the choice between pride and travel and doing what's best for my kids, well that isn't a choice at all. And the absinthe. I never liked that. I liked the money. I liked that I had done something to support my family. But teh business itself. Meh. So, I've found a new direction. I've rededicated myself to the things I love the most. I'm not sure how it will work, but I feel better having made the decision at last.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Defying Gravity

It's been a hell of a year, and it doesn't show any signs of letting up anytime soon. Some things are good, and some things are bad, and some are incredible. Either way I'm going somewhere new, and exciting, and a little bit scary. So, I'm discovering some things about myself, about what I think and feel and like, about what I can achieve and what I cannot, and about what I really want. I'm going to share some of those things. Not because I'm looking for either pity or accolades, and not because I'm looking to villianize anyone. I'm going to share because I feel like there are thoughts and experiences that people need to hear, because these things affect me as a writer, and because I need to get this out. Is that okay? Are you ready? Will you come with me? Here goes.

I watched Glee yesterday. I'm watching it now, in fact. This is a big deal for me. Not because I'm overly attached to television shows. Except for one. And really, how often can you watch 14 episodes? But, you see, I've only watched one and a half episodes before this. Which is odd, when you think about it. I mean, pithy lines, ensemble cast, great music, and the art nerds. If ever there a show that seemed me, this was it. But, you see, it wasn't allowed. I couldn't watch Glee because, as I was told, it was contributing to the Overton window effect on our society and the kids would see it and what message was that sending them and so on and so forth. I didn't agree. I don't now. Not about Glee and not about the deeper issues behind it. I was allowed to not agree and to have my own opinions, but only if I followed the rules, you see. But I love Glee.I love musicals.  I love being an ally.

It goes deeper than a TV show, though, as fabulous as this show is. A couple of months ago, I got to baptize two of my kids. They asked me to, and I don't know if I've had many prouder moments than that. I was terrified, though, and sought a lot of guidance. You see, I wasn't allowed to baptize my kids because I was a woman and that wasn't a woman's role. That's what I'd been told, anyway. But I did, because I could, and a whole slew of fellow Christians cheered and shouted. Mostly for my children and what their commitment meant, of course, but I like to think that a little bit had to do with being happy for and proud of me.

Also, extracurriculars. I get to take my kids to those. That wasn't ever forbidden, not that one. It was just that I would sign them up and get them to practice and then . . priorities would change  Because, you see, sports were a waste of time. They didn't benefit anything and it lead to adults who were "stuck in their high school glory days." So we'd miss practice and then I'd get all anxious because I know it is important to be consistent and I felt bad and well, Duncan would see that he didn't HAVE to go and it would be a fight and, well, we'd end up fading out. But you know what I think? I think group activities are important. I think they teach kids how to work within a community and how to follow rules. I think they teach kids how to be consistent and dedicated, and follow through even when they don't want to.

I wrote this morning. Not one of my big project. Just something that got stuck in my head that I wanted to play around with. Now listen, there was support for my writing. I'm not saying there wasn't. But I was once told that I looked "vaguely retarded" when I was writing in my head. Another time I was told that artists were expendable. That it wasn't understood why actors and such got paid so much, because what they contributed was completely unnecessary to society. So, every time I wrote I felt self-conscious, and guilty. Like there were better things that I should be doing. But I wrote today.

When the divorce was filed, and especially when it was final, people told me I was free. But, I never felt free. I had to go off the road, and felt really bogged down by the minutiae of having a house with all of the obligations and time that goes with it. I had to enroll the kids in school, and that left me feeling even more trapped. No more random trips, being told when I could and could not pick them up and so on. Anyhow, I didn't feel free. Then, I realized the other day, all the ways that I am. It's not about where I can go. It's not about what I can do. It's about who I can be. I can be me. I can think what I want and I can say what I think and I can tell people how I feel. I can have my passions and not have them belittled. That, my friends, is freedom. That is flying. That is defying gravity.

Friends, don't let anyone clip your wings. Listen, people make comments sometimes that hurt. Even when they love you. Especially when they love you, because truly if you don't care about the person what they say doesn't that have much of an impact, right? It's important, once apologies are made, to move on. And in any relationship, rules and standards are important. But, if someone is making you feel badly about being you, if you find yourself not being allowed, or being scuttled in your attempts to do things that you think are important, that's not okay. That's not love. And you deserve more. Me, I'm going to try flying. After this episode. It's the one where they do ballads.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Headlines. They are designed from their very inception to grab your attention, to compel you to feel one thing or another. “British Scientist Cures Aids!” “Brad Pitt Devastated at Abuse Allegations.” “Hillary Clinton Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease!” I mean, look at that right there; elation, sad indignation and shock respectively. Maybe you want to find out more. If you care enough about the people and the issues. If you have enough time between all the minutiae or even maxutiae of your life, that is. If nothing else draws your attention more. Otherwise, you move along, content with the somewhat cathartic experience that was having felt something about a statement.
And listen, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sensationalism sells and clickbait is a thing and as long as no one is getting hurt then go ahead. Hit that headline. You know, I wrote for a while for a “multi-source online news aggregate.” It hurt my soul every time, but I did it because money is necessary and all of that. But you know, the more sensational the headline, the more clicks I got. It’s human nature, for better or worse. I don’t even feel like there’s anything wrong with that short burst of catharsis, either. We sometimes need to feel little, fleeting bits of something. It’s a nice change from the larger, real emotions that come with dealing with reality. Except. ..
Except that people have started speaking in headlines, too. Facebook. Twitter. Whole conversations that are nothing but summarizations of an event with added emotion and an exclamation point for punch. Except, that with that people have stopped looking deeper. And that’s where the problem lies. I have an ex-husband. He used to say that one of his favorite parts of being a soldier is that it made for better headlines. You know “United States Soldier Imprisioned for Not Fastening Seatbelt.” Or “National Guardsmen Left Unable to Serve Due to Dishonest Mechanic.” “Deployed Soldier Victim of Usery.” He would say this often and while true, it exemplifies everything that is wrong with headlines.
1.       While technically true, headlines are not the whole story. The proof is in the pudding. The devil is in the details. Use whatever metaphor you like, but we all know that an incomplete truth is a lie and that’s what a headline is. It is a snippet of the truth. If you don’t read on, you don’t know the whole story. To go back to the beginning of the post, we don’t know that in reality the first member of a trail group has gone through their first test since treatment and is showing negative for the AIDS virus. We don’t know that Brad Pitt is going along with anything and everything suggested by the professionals in order to show that he is not abusive and to help his kids. We don’t know that the doctor who “diagnosed” Hillary has never actually treated the woman. We don’t know. And that’s not on the one who wrote the headline. That’s on us. It’s on us to care enough to inform ourselves and not be content with catharsis.
2.       They are INTENTIONALLY spun to make you feel something. You are being manipulated. You are. Chemicals and endorphins are being caused to flow and if you don’t take a minute to step back, if you just reply with a headline of your own, then more chemicals flow without facts. And more. And more. And we as a society have a tendency for “topping,” which makes it all that much worse. It becomes all feeling and no facts.
3.       Than, after all the feeling is done, and the half-truths are told, these things are then passed on as truth. Without any of the research being done. Because at the end of the day we are emotion junkies and we want to be important and the only thing better for some people than getting juicy news is GIVING juicy news. And sometimes, people take these emotion-driven half truths and act on them. They actually take action based on a headline that is now fourth hand information. 

But folks, there are PEOPLE behind those headlines. That’s twofold. There are people writing the headlines, and they have their own intentions. You deserve to have something real. A real opinion. A real emotion. Based on the real story. YOU DESERVE THAT.  The person writing the headline is probably serving themselves. Which isn't a problem, as long as there's an article that follows. Except ever increasingly there isn't.  More importantly, though, there are people ABOUT WHOM YOU ARE WRITING THE HEADLINES. Those people? They deserve for you to take the time as well. You are ruining these people’s reputations. You are hurting their feelings. You are making their life more difficult and if you think it doesn’t matter you’re flat wrong. It does. And if you care enough to use them for your own little emotional high, you should care enough to fact check a little bit. Otherwise, you’re just hurting them for your own thrill.
Harsh? Maybe. But I’ve heard about a lot of headlining going on about me, some from people I respected. Were the things they were saying true? Technically, yes. Sometimes. By the thinnest of margins. But was it the whole story? Not even close. Was there anything to be gained by their actions? Not really. Did it suck? Wholeheartedly. While I understand the wisdom of never arguing with a fool, for the reasons that people wiser than me have said, and while a dear dear friend pointed me towards Exodus 14:14 and I've been clinging to that, and while Dr. Seuss that "those who mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind" or something like that, it's hard. And frustrating. 

So, as you move about your day, sometimes in 140 characters or a talk to text Facebook message, please consider if you are headlining or being headlined.

Because we all deserve more than that. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Talk to Me

This post started, in my head at least, last week when I was sent a picture from Fandom Fest. The picture was of Slave Leia. Male Slave Leia. Not a gender-swapped version,though if someone wanted to do that I'd love to see it. But a male. Dressed as Slave Leia. Now, I've met MSL at this event in previous years, and he's a nice enough guy. Quiet. A little shy. There to be silly with friends, with whom he occasionally gets loud. But he's always been polite when I've interacted with him. In this picture that I was sent, he was wearing white leggings. Rumor has it, (and let's take this with a shakerfull of salt because I wasn't there and I don't know), that he was wearing the leggings because there were complaints about his level of nudity.

Um, what?  I mean, if he'd been asked not to do this because it's now 2016 and dressing as the opposite gender isn't a joke anymore, then I guess I could understand.  If he'd been asked not to do this because Carrie Fisher was there and disapproved, okay. Though, she saw him last year and to the best of my knowledge was a good sport. But, as I understand, he was asked to do this because people were offended at his amount of skin. At a con. He was showing too much skin. Listen, I sometimes get a little uncomfortable about the kiddos who just want an autograph from one of their heroes next to Nearly Naked Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn Whose Clothes Were Apparently Eaten By Acid, but the simple fact is that there's a lot of almost naked at a con. I've never seen, at this particular event, someone get called out before. But this guy did.

So, I've been pondering this for a few days when along comes Orlando Bloom's Wang. Yep, Orlando Bloom was naked and someone took pictures and shared them without consent and everyone is acting like this is somehow a gift handed down from God Himself. Unabashedly sharing links and discussing this man's penis. That was shown to the world by someone else.

Okay, so there's no such thing as reverse racism and I imagine there's no such thing as reverse sexism, but here's the thing. ..

If women can show a lot of leg or butt or nipple and it's okay because we are enlightened now, then a little bit of manthigh, or a lot a bit of manthigh surely isn't a problem is it? I understand rape culture and #yesallwomen and the Schroedinger Rapist and these things are real. But thigh? The potential for a glimpse of penis? On the other hand, another penis is being lauded. If Jennifer Lawrence was violated and everyone who saw the pictures or thought it was the price of celebrity is a horrible person, shouldn't the same apply now? I mean, I guess. .. I guess I don't understand.

So, enlighten me? Talk to me. What's the difference? Because right now, from where I'm standing, this is a problem.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

No Frills, No Curlicues

I've been thinking about simplicity a lot lately. I've been planning my dream house, and I've been growing my publishing house. The tendency with both is to add the frills, the decorations, the little curlicues around the edges. What are those called, again?
In any case, I've come to believe that, while nice, they aren't necessary. What is necessary is figuring out exactly what you need to take care of yourself in the present, and plan for growth in the future. In the case of my dream house, that means an adequate number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen, a space where the kids can play, a place where those who need alone time can get that,  and a place where we can all gather, and not much else.
In the case of the publishing house, it means I tried something new. Stocking for big shows is financially difficult, transportation is tricky, keeping them protected from the elements is worse, and if it doesn't go well, you have way more stock than what you may need for a good long while. So, I attended a show where I brought display copies, backups, a well-established paperwork and electronic system, and that's all. We decided to ship all orders.
We launched the system today, and it went incredibly well. I was surprised at how many compliments we got for being so conscientious of our customers, and how many other booksellers complimented us on our business-savvy. I couldn't be more pleased. I'm excited about what this may mean for the future of our house, and how it can help us grow without overstretching.

No frills, no decoration, no little curlicues. Just what we need to grow.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

My Queue

I've been stuck. I have all of these ideas, but I'm having a hard time getting them down on paper. So, I've decided to do something fun! The next in the Hauseman Guild series HAS to come out next, but I am letting YOU decided which book in queue I work on next. It's an election year after all, so we might as well get in the spirit. And these are candidates that you can unashamedly support. No misogyny, no potential indictments, no party lines, just good, quality fiction. That's right, YOU get to determine my fate. The power! The control! YOUR NAME IN THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS! You can have it all, just comment below on which book you think I should write next! Nothing like a little pressure to prime the pump, right?

This is a collection of short stories about a planet stuck on an event horizon. A frame story, this follows the lives of all who inhabit it and must dance around the timelines or face the consequences. A single misstep could take you 100 years into the future, or the past.

This is a new idea I just started kicking around today about a young woman who gets superpowers, but told from a distinctly Christian perspective. Fun idea.

The Skater Girls of Afghanistan
This is a story told from five different points of view. Set in Afghanistan, it follows the lives of five young women from childhood through adulthood.

Middle grade fiction about a young woman who is struggling with identity issues. Feeling her life is out of control and struggling to come to terms with her parents' divorce, she makes a wish to become a mermaid. She does, but she is a shark/human hybrid. As such, she has to find her peace in a way she never imagined.

The Last Faerie
A sweet story about the very last faerie who is forced to Become before her time to battle the forces of evil. This story started as a bedtime story I told my kiddos.

Danny Daimiano
Another book set in the same world as Charlotte and Daisy, this one starts right after Unification and tells the story of a young soldier turned boxer who is involved in the mob. The mob, on the other hand, is involved in a tech race. What happens when he runs afoul of their plans?

The Incredible Adventures of Absolutely Normal
Don't. Please just don't. This is my opus. I'm not good enough yet.

Ready, set, VOTE!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In Which I Digress

This is not my normal kind of post. Still, I hope you read and enjoy. This is a bit close to my heart.

I took the kiddos to a movie today. We had an amazing time, but while there I saw a preview for an upcoming movie called “The Shallows.” According the Wikipedia that shallows is about, “a young pro surfer named Nancy [who] is surfing at a secluded beach when she becomes stranded on a giant rock 200 yards from shore after an enormous great white shark attacks her. Now, she must find a way back to safety, proving the ultimate contest of wills. For those of you interested in the trailer, you can see it here.

I will not be seeing this movie. I heartily implore you not to see this movie. Sharks are easy targets for horror films. They are large, and toothy, and appear seemingly out of nowhere. So, it makes sense that they fit neatly into the summer scare niche in order to make people think it’s “not safe to go back into the water.” However, time and time again it has been shown that such films have negative effects.

Peter Benchley was the first to cash in on this trend. His Freshman novel, Jaws, sold over 20 million copies and was made into the movie with the iconic two note soundtrack. However, Benchley later greatly regretted the novel, despite it becoming one of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. He was upset that people often forgot that the book was simply fiction, and was heartbroken over the rise in shark killings that took place as an indirect result of the fear the book and movie inspired. The Great White Shark population was decimated by those seeking an awe-inspiring trophy in the years following the movie; a hit to their numbers from which they are still recovering. To counteract this, Benchley  dedicated much of the rest of his life to the conservation of sharks.  

Years later, Deep Water would spur another round of shark killings as fear prompted people to act irrationally. Sharknado has yet to have an impact on anything other than Ian Zearing's career. 

Now here we are, after a year of record shark attacks. Greater numbers of people entering the water combined with warmer water led to 98 unprovoked shark attacks in 2015. People are already tense. In fact, just recently a 24 inch nurse shark was killed after being provoked and harassed into biting. However, despite their size and reputation, sharks in general are not quick to attack. Great Whites especially are not incredibly aggressive to humans, with only 220 documented attacks since 1907. Humans are, in fact, far more of a threat to sharks; for every human killed by sharks, 25 million sharks are killed by humans. History has shown us that “The Shallows” has potential to make those numbers rise even higher.

Please don’t contribute to the senseless fear-mongering and murder of a non-harmful and beautiful special. Please don’t support “The Shallows.” 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Case For Grace

I was always a vengeance sort of girl. There was something deeply and uniquely satisfying about dealing with a problem by leaving a piece of scorched earth. Issue? Solved. Quickly and efficiently and with a good dose of catharsis thrown in as the icing on the cake. You see, it wasn't enough that a person be wrong. They must know without a doubt they were wrong. Other people had to know they were wrong. It had to be done quickly, and it had to completely eliminate the chances that anything like that would ever happen again. To paraphrase Ender Wiggin, the first punch was to stop that fight, the rest were to stop any others that might happen. And there was just so much I wanted to say.

And it worked. But not really.

The collateral damage was high. There was no chance of reconciliation with the person who had wronged me. While it felt good at the time, eventually guilt and remorse would kick in. So, things changed.

I started a business. There are people involved in this business that I don't like. There are people who engage in shady business practises, who are just damned abrasive, who are unprofessional, who have unreasonable expectations, who break promises. There was even one who headed up one heck of  a Salem style witch hunt against me. And man, sometimes I just want to put them in their place. But I can't. I have a business. Which means I have to be professional. There's way too few bridges in this microcosm of the publishing world to start burning some to the ground. So I learned to moderate myself. I made mistakes along the way.

I had a family. I didn't want to reflect badly on them. I didn't want my children caught in any crossfire. I wanted them to enjoy the stress-free holidays that I didn't. I wanted their lives to be filled with joy and ease. I had done a couple of things that were irreparable and didn't want to do more. I wanted people to be proud of me. So I learned to moderate. I made a few mistakes along the way.

I grew closer to God. For me, that means extending the grace I am so freely given. That's the biggest tenant of the Faith, for me. No matter what I do, He will forgive me. He will bless me. No matter who I am, he will love me. So, I tried to emulate that. I made A LOT of mistakes along the way.

I am now in a situation where there cannot be mistakes. There cannot be missteps. The stakes are way higher than anything I've ever encountered. A huge amount of damage has already been done, outside of my control. And oh, man, I want the vengeance. There are so many lies being spread and so so much I WANT TO SAY. I want to hurt those who hurt the ones I love. But I can't. I cannot. So, while actions have consequences, I am doing my best to move with grace and dignity. I have to trust the judgement of the people I love. I can trust them to see the truth. I have to trust in God that He knows the truth and will act in truth and justice and love, especially when it is difficult for me to do the latter two. To hold my tongue. To walk slowly. It's not cathartic. It's not fast. It's not efficient. But you know what? I feel better at the end of it. I can look around at the end of the day and say "I did good." I can turn to my loved ones after engaging in more grace and dignity than I thought I could and say "did you see that?" And they say "yes, that was awesome." I can help my loved ones heal the wound, protect them from further wounds, but not accidentally create more.

And it's working. Slowly. Painfully. Diligently. But it's working.

Vengeance? That was effective in it's way. But I'll take grace.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Here's the Thing About Extroverts

I've been hearing a lot about introverts lately. I get it, introverts have been feeling the strain for years. They feel as though they are expected to be something they're not, that it's an extrovert's world, and now with the rise in popularity of the geek and so much of our lives being done in the relative safety of Facebook, they feel as if they are finally given a voice.

And that's awesome. Anytime anyone can be their authentic self (without actively harming others) is great. Anytime someone can be heard (and they are speaking our of love or desire for understanding) is great. Most of my friends are introverts, and I love being able to understand how to better care for them.  But, as the token extrovert, here's what extroverts want you to know:

It's not all sunshine and roses for us, either. Here's why:

1. People don't understand this is a need for us. When we ask you to come over, to go do something with us, to talk to us on the phone, it isn't always just casual. Just as you need time without people to recharge. We need quality time with people to recharge. So, when we are rejected, it can be difficult. It hurts. When it happens consistently, it hurts more than just a casual "I don't want to" or "I don't have time." Because what it means is "I don't understand or care about your needs enough to step outside of my comfort zone to help you refuel." Too much time without people makes us feel claustrophobic, a little twitchy. This is what we need to  feel the most healthy.

2. It's hard to balance our extroversion with our duties. It really is a golden balance. I have to clean my house. I have to educate my kids. I have to run the publishing house. All of these things require quiet time at home. However, too much of that, and I lose the focus to do those things. Working quietly with others is optimal, but even then quietly means with music happening, chatting while we work, and a lot of introverts aren't able to function that way. And two extroverts together means very little work gets done. So it's a constant balancing act of keeping myself charged enough to function optiimally, but leaving time to function.

3. You feel like you are constantly told to change who you are. Yep, introverts don't have exclusive rights to that. "Why don't you just sit quietly and relax?" "You're too outgoing and it puts us off." "Wow, you spend more time out of your house than you do in it." "Can't you just dial things back a bit?" People don't realize that relaxation is different for us, and so to please them we do things that are antithetical to our extrovert nature, and then people don't understand why we are fidgety. We have to tone down our fire for the comfort of others. We have to be alone for a socially acceptable amount of hours. It gets exhausting. But because your need to refuel depends on other people, we have to be dependent on their understanding of our situation. As most people aren't, it can get a bit claustrophobic.

4. People suggest solitude and you want to die a little. "You've had a tough time, why don't you just take a little while to relax." Let me tell you, we need people, and energy, especially when we've had a rough time. Leave us in a quiet room when we are already emotionally strained and you'll have us clawing at the inside of our skulls. We will get mopey, lethargic. But all too often, well-meaning people give us our space in times of trial. I don't need space. I need people. I need energy. I need activity. I will come back better able to deal with things, if given those.

I love my introvert friends. They go out of their way to help me balance my needs. So, if any of you are reading this, please don't be offended. But I do get frustrated at the concept that societal pressures are exclusive to the introvert set. They aren't. They're just different, that's all. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a whole wide world out there and I need to touch it all.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oh Gwyneth

I will admit, I've become fascinated with Gwyneth Paltrow's website, Goop. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for tips, and I'm certainly not shopping. It is kind of like watching a video of pratfalls, or maybe a trainwreck. I'm pretty sure, in her glorious, pristine world, that she's not sure what goop means.  It's painful, it makes no sense, and yet I cannot look away. Lately, I've noticed some of her invigorating morning meals and routines. She wakes up, most likely wearing some of the $100 pajama pants that she offers on her website. She floats, ethereally down the stairs, and makes herself a smoothie. The recipe for the smoothie literally reads like this:
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maca
1 teaspoon ashwagandha
1 teaspoon ho shou wu
1 teaspoon cordyceps
1 teaspoon moon dust of choice:Action Dust to soothe overworked muscles, Beauty Dust for a glowy complexion and healthy hair, Brain Dust to combat mental fogginess,Goodnight Dust when sleep has been evasive, Sex Dust, for, you know, and Spirit Dust to get that extrasensory perception going.
pinch Himalayan sea salt
pinch vanilla powder (optional)

I don't know about you, but I don't even know what half of those ingredients are. That's okay, 
I'll move on to the omelette. Wait, that involves free range duck eggs, organic spinach, and organic crimini mushrooms, none of which I frequently keep stocked in my kitchen. And you only use the whites of the duck eggs. At roughly $3 an egg, that's a lot that I'm just throwing away. Unless I want to make some duck yolk lemon curd. With organic lemons. 'Cause Gwenyth. Also, this invigorating morning routine costs about $85. And seems to involve at least 45 minutes of effort. I have neither.  So, I've decided to pass on 6 of my most invigorating morning wake-up tips. 

#1 See if you can plan your puppy's vomiting to take place within an hour of when you'd like to wake up. That sprint down the stairs, dragging a reluctant and heaving puppy, that will wake your right up. 

#2 If you live, like I do, in a poorly-insulated 200-year-old house - go straight to the kitchen to make coffee. Do not put on slippers or a robe. Standing there while the wind whips around your head, your feet getting chilblains, while you wait for that blessed brown cup of sanity will ensure that you don't get to sleep again anytime soon. And those capillaries will expand again someday. 

#3 Check your email - Most likely there will be something in there from either your psychotic ex or something involving your job. They will not be good news. You will have to write a furious response, refrain from sending it, type a more reasonable response through your rage and frustration, and then send that. This actually does double duty as it will not only stimulate your brain but will also get your heart pumping. 

#4 Finally get around to pouring that cup of coffee. Then, on the way to the couch, make sure you step on a stray lego left of the floor. The excruciating pain will cause you to dump some coffee down your shirt, which will not only further invigorate you, but will leave you with a warm, pleasant all-natural parfum, if you are carbon-footprint and temporally aware enough to eschew changing your shirt. 

#5 Take a shower. This will ensure that your sleeping children will wake up, no matter what time it is. They will file into the bathroom with their demands, which you will try to accommodate while lathering yourself with soothing aromatherapy-based shampoo. You will not be able to do this, but will instead come charging out, soaking wet, wrapping yourself in a towel, in order to put out whatever hopefully metaphorical fire is now raging. This will again, stimulate your brain, your skin, and your cardiovascular system. 

#6 Stare longingly at the coffee which has, by now, been spilled on the floor. This doesn't help, but is necessary for the next three steps which are a) clean up coffee b) pour more and c) get around to drinking it. 

These tips are tried and true; I have been using them for nearly a decade now. I guarantee that they will work for you. Best of all, this whole morning costs less than $5! Tune in next week for more happy, healthy, joy-inspiring tips from someone who truly understands goop. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

5 Things Not to Say to an Author

Occasionally I go out. When I go out, often it comes up that I am an author. People are usually pretty great about it, but many times someone says something that really just gets under my skin. After three years now of informally gathering data, I present to you the five worst comments that we hear.

1.      I Could Write, but I Don’t Have the Time
Here’s the thing, none of us have the time, some of us make the time. Most authors I know have a day job and a family in addition to their writing career. They have houses, hobbies, significant others, field trips, and pets. Being an author doesn’t somehow magically release you from all of your other obligations, though wouldn’t it be amazing if it did? We write because it is such an intrinsic part of us that we don’t feel whole unless we do. We become cranky, irritable, creatively constipated. So we make time. We give up sleep, we jot things down in the checkout line at the supermarket, or dictate into our phone while we are driving. We sacrifice time out in favor of a night at our laptops. We wake up hours early or stay up hours late. To assume that we just “have the time” cheapens the deliberateness and sacrifice we make for the sake of our passion.

2.      You Should Write My Story- You Wouldn’t Believe It.
This is generally followed by the line, “you’ve never heard anything like it.” Actually, I have. In fact, I have this exact conversation at least once a week. I don’t want to write your story. You write your story. I want to write my stories. Also, real-life drama generally doesn’t for good stories. Either they are not as interesting for the larger audience than they are for the writer, or they come across as trite, bitter, or contrived. So listen, if you want to write your memoir, do it. You have my full support. If you want to fictionalize some aspect of your life, even better. But please, please do not make me feel like I need to sit down with a stranger and take notes on their life story so that I can somehow help them. I love helping people, just not that way.

 I Always Thought I Could Be a Writer?
Really? I always thought I could be a Neurosurgeon. You know, if I’d applied to med school Then graduated. Then picked a specialty. Then excelled at it. If I’d done all of that, I could totally be a neurosurge
on. In fact, I bet I could do it now. I’ve watched a lot of medical shows after all. I took an anatomy class online. Sound ridiculous? It does to us as well. Being a writer involves dedication, practice, honing your craft, talent, all sorts of things. Can anyone do it? Maybe. Should everyone do it? No, no they shouldn’t. Can the average person toss out a well-crafted novel on the fly? Not usually. Give us some credit, please.

4.      If I Tell You My Idea, You’ll Steal It
No, I won’t. There are so many reasons I won’t. First and foremost, I have way too much respect for other people to do something like that. Our ideas, that little seed that germinates into this (hopefully) beautiful, blooming plant, those are precious. I won’t come creeping into your garden and steal yours. I’m a better person than that. Second, I have enough ideas of my own, thank you very much. I currently have 12 novels outlined, and that’s less than a lot of people I know. These are ideas that I had, about which I am passionate. I don’t need your idea, and I’m kind of insulted at your implication.  Finally, I know that it wouldn’t be as good even if I did. Our ideas are our passions, our perspective, and trying to write as you, or write something you saw, just wouldn’t work. So please, don’t worry.

5.      But What’s Your REAL Job?
Other job? Sure. Day job? Likely. But please don’t use the word “real.” “Real” implies that writing is fake, invalid, when the simple fact is that for most of us it’s the other job that is unreal. Writing is when we come alive. It’s when everything feels like it is falling into place. It is us pursing our passions, talents, and drives. Please, don’t try to tell me that’s not real.

So that’s it. Next time you see an author, pull up a chair and chat if you like. But be kind, be respectful, and don’t be one of those people.

So, fellow authors, what WOULD you like people to say? 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Don't Look at Me; I'm Hideous

So there’s this guy. He’s amazing and incredible and smart and witty and talented. We are dating. No, not dating. We are a couple. There. I said it. We’ve been friends for a while and I’ve watched him date other women and choose not to date still others and among all of that there was one rule that he had. He didn’t’ get serious about women with children. He tried a time or two. It didn’t’ work. Not that he didn’t like kids; he does. But he felt like he wasn’t up to the task of step-dad, and so he didn’t want to waste his time or theirs on something he just couldn’t do.

Now he’s dating me. Think of that for a minute and chuckle. A lot.

I will never apologize for the existence of my kids. Never. They are the best part of me. They are amazing and if a person gets to be a part of their life they are incredibly lucky.

That being said, I understand that we are a lot. Like, a really lot. So, whether it’s my friends without kids or my family who haven’t had kids in the house for a while or this guy I try to act as a buffer. I try to make sure that they get to enjoy the kids. I’ll take care of the unpleasantness.

It’s a good system. And it has worked. Until last week.

So we are hanging out at the house. I made dinner. He brought popcorn and the new Star Wars movie. What could go wrong?

Well, it’s possible that, seemingly apropos of nothing my daughter could cough and then start grabbing her legs and screaming and crying. Loudly. It was time to go to the hospital. So, I start frantically grabbing all of the accoutrements to take five people to the hospital for an indefinite period of time. That indefinite period turned out to be eight days, by the way, but that’s a different story. At some point in my frenzy, I saw him looking at me with that look. There’s this look he gets sometimes when he’s determined to do something nice for me. Open eyes, locked jaw. Like he’s trying to be super nice but dig in for a battle all at the same time. Which is probably exactly what is happening. Everything in my body reacted. Hugely. Viscerally.

“No!” My inner self was screaming. “This isn’t fun. This isn't light. This isn’t easy!” Then, a small voice spoke up. “But it’s real.”

And that’s it. When you have kids, vomit happens and if you’re really lucky that’s the worst bodily fluid you will have to deal with. Injuries happen. Power struggles happen. And if he is serious about me, he needs to experience these things. I can’t lead him into this promising sunshine and rainbows. And I really did need the help. So I let him. I let him keep the boys that night and when that night turned into the next day he took the day off of work until the reinforcements arrived.

The entire time I was convinced that this would be the moment. The moment he waved off. The moment he, gracefully and gently left. After all, this is exactly what he wasn’t up to.

Except he was. He dealt with the boys like a champ and then, when he could have called that good enough, he did  more. He brought by food and played cards and read to us. He held me when I cried. He encouraged me to sleep. He was one of many, many people who made this past week less hellish. And I let him. Because while we are taking this slow, and I try to respect his boundaries and need to ease into this, I’d rather he see the real and leave than see the masquerade and stay.

He could have left. I wouldn’t have held it against him. But he stayed. He saw us at our most ugly, and he stayed. And for someone who has learned their whole lives, from various step-parents to societal stereotypes to the well-meaning advice that the best I could expect as a single mom is someone who would tolerate my kids, this was pretty amazing.

I’m not saying this is forever. But I’m saying as a single mom, this gives me hope. Not just for me, but for all of us. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Gave It.

“You’ve taken away everything that makes me, me,” I said once. At the time it seemed true. And it couldn’t be denied that so much of what I was had been lost, cast aside, or damped down. But I realized something the other day. It wasn’t taken. I gave it.

It all started with a stag at a petting zoo. He was old, and sick, but he was beautiful. Giant, with a head as long as my youngests’ arm. Magestic with his shaggy fur. Enormous, liquid eyes. The kids were delighted. They pet it. They talked about how pretty he was even though, quarantined, he was also abviously old and ill. “Daddy would like this a lot,” one of them said. “He sure would; you’ll have to tell him all about it,” I replied. And that was it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. One of my friends was with me, and gave me the raised eyebrow of “what’s up?” “I’m just so glad to miss the 15 minutes of the importance of the stag to our family,” I replied. And I was. God, I was. But I thought about it, later.

I never minded the stag being part of our lives. Or the tartan. Or the ivy. Or the family saying. I was once incredibly proud to wear the brooch. I embroidered the family crest on our ring bearer’s pillow. I took my ex-husband’s name gladly and am keeping it, if only for the sake of the kids. I gave up my name and my heritage and took on his not just willingly but proudly, gladly. So when did that pride turn to an inward groan? When did that stag talk start to make me feel small? I guess when I realized that when I was taking that on I had given up my importance. When I was upset because I wasn’t allowed a voice in naming our youngest. When I was told that he “had a plan to honor their blood.” “My blood is there, too,” I said. “I let you name one after your family already, we aren’t doing more,” he replied. And I was hurt.  But I gave that power away. I guess it changed when I would try to interject our family stories and histories and traditions and they were brushed aside. The kids were Huntleys, not Rotaches after all. But, I went along with it. I gave it, even though I didn’t’ know what I was giving.

My kids are being baptized in a couple of weeks. I want to do it. I want to be the one who is there in the pool with them. But the thought gives me an anxiety attack. Because, you see, I’ve been told that women shouldn’t do such things. It was inappropriate. But I remember when I started looking to him as a spiritual mentor. You see, when we met I was not Christian. But he was, and he answered all of my questions more thoroughly than anyone ever had, and eventually I came around. So, in that process, when he mentioned that I couldn’t practice my faith it was done in such a way that it made sense. He was so smart and made so much sense that I took everything he said as canon. So when only men in the family were asked to join us on stage for a dedication, I was mad, but I didn’t question the heart behind it. When I was told I couldn’t be the one to baptize the kids, I took that as truth. So I believed I was less than due to my gender. I gave that power and control.

I’m discovering again that it’s okay to have emotions. Big ones. I snuggle and give giant hugs and laugh way too loud. I have days when I am angry at everyone and moments when I am angry at just one person. I am scared. A lot. All of the time. Sometimes it motivates me and sometimes it paralyzes me. I love hard and a lot. I laugh. These things are okay. Which seems simple, but you see for a long time they weren’t. Okay, that is. And it started with the best of intentions. You see, he told me that my big emotions were bad for me, and it was true. At that time, I didn’t know how to moderate. I coudlnt’ tell a 3 on the scale of relevance from a 10. So everything was huge. And so when I told me I needed to take things down a notch or 12, I believed him. But things kinda escalated from there. When I was excited it was bad because it would lead to bad ideas. I hugged too hard. When I was angry I was unreasonable. When I was happy, another shoe would fall and my down would be harder. So it’s best to stay neutral. So I did. And was miserable. But that control wasn’t taken, I gave it, even if I didn’t know what I was giving at the time.

So, I’m finding myself again. I’m discovering my flaws, which are Legion, and my strengths, which are pretty great too. I’m finding out what is important to me. I’m discovering that I have bad habits that I will have regardless of my surroundings or influences until I choose to break them.

And I’m in a relationship again and it’s a pretty big deal.

I mean, he’s a really great guy, and wouldn’t ever intentionally hurt me, but still I’m terrified.

Because I can’t ever again not know what can happen. I can’t ever not know that a love that is giant and huge and amazing can turn to apathy or fear or pain. Or all three. I can’t ever again be certain of a happily ever after. And I can’t ever forget that, while a lot was taken from me, my power wasn’t. Because I gave it. I gave it once and I could do it again.

Compromise is important. Learning is important. Choosing a leader is important. Growing is important. Making concessions is important.

But complete abdication of power? If the person is human, and therefore fallible, that’s dangerous. Being made to feel small is dangerous. Following someone who is not  following a higher purpose, calling, or power is dangerous.I did it once, and I must guard against doing it again. Because it wasn’t taken, I gave it. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Thing About Bathrooms

I’ve been hearing a lot about bathrooms lately. With the passing of the controversial and, in my opinion, horrible new bathroom law in North Carolina, it seems that social media and news outlets are absolutely inundated with all things lavatory. Now, I know this isn't about bathroom, any more than the sit-ins and marginalization of years past was about lunch counters or bus seats or drinking fountains. But, there is a lot of the movement that focuses on practicality, so that’s where I stand as well.

Because see, I know a little about bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I am cisgender. I don’t have  worry about getting kicked out of a McDonald’s. I don’t’ worry about getting physically assaulted. But the strange looks, the anxiety, the fear that can sometimes accompany a trip to a public restroom? Yeah, I know about those.

You see, I’m a mom. I’m a mom of four young kids who has spent the past decade doing the largest bulk of our shopping or fun trips by myself. Not all of my children are the same gender as myself, and while they are young, they are above preschool age. Two of them have special needs which means one still needs occasional assistance in the bathroom and the other did until he was, especially being large for his age, “too big” to go into the ladies’ room. This, for those who are uninitiated, leads to a variety of problems.

Let’s say, for example, that your child is older or larger than preschool/Kindergarten age. He’s not yet incredibly adept at bathroom cleansing, or he gets easily distracted, or he is prone to gastrointestinal issues that have to be kept an eye on.  You take him into the bathroom with you a couple of times, and are told by people whose business it really isn’t that he’s too big to be in the ladies’ room. So the next time, you let him go by yourself. So, you sit there, waiting for him to come out. It takes longer than usual. And you’re nervous. Is something wrong? Is the process causing him pain or damage as it sometimes does? Or is it something worse? Then he comes out and you’re relieved. Sometimes. Or he comes out requiring assistance which means that, mortified, you get to drag him into the other bathroom to provide help. The best of all worlds, yeah?

Or, let’s say you have the misfortune to have a miscarriage in a grocery store, like what happened to me. Or even just a tummy bug, since that’s likely more relateable. You’re going to be in that bathroom for a while. Do you take your older kids in with you? Or leave them outside the door for maybe 15 minutes? You decide to take them in. There, you bump into a very helpful little old lady or employee who informs you that you can’t have them in there. So they go out. And then you’re trying to deal with a situation that can’t be rushed at about the speed of sound.

Or let’s say you have a physically different child. She needs help. So you take her to the ladies’ room. But your boys are older. But it’s a busy day at the zoo. What do you do?

No, I don’t know what it’s like to be assaulted. I don’t know what it’s like to be kicked out of a place. But I know that children can be abducted. I know that sexual assaults can happen in a bathroom (I’M NOT SAYING THAT TRANS PEOPLE DO THIS. DON’T READ THAT. I’M SAYING SICK PEOPLE DO THIS). I know what it’s like to not know what to do, to fear bathroom stops, to get looks or comments. To be embarrassed. I know how inconvenient and irritating and sometimes necessary planning your day around a place with a family or unisex bathroom can be. I’ve been dealing with it for years.

So, here’s what I propose. First of all, the door gaps. Let’s just get rid of those altogether. They’re ridiculous. It can’t be that hard to create a private space that is actually private. Urinals? Let’s get rid of those as well. Or put a bunch inside one giant stall. Then make bathrooms giant and unisex. All of them. Maybe with a couple of big stalls for families. Because really, do you need two walls of separation from anyone of another gender? I don’t think you do. We are, after all, eliminating our bladder and bowels in there. See? Easy. And while it doesn’t have the added benefit of providing validation for an under served group, this solution would make life easier for another under served group, exasperated, exhausted moms. Everyone’s happy.

After all, we all just want to pee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Formalism, Diversity, and Lion Pride

I have a confession to make.

I never intentionally sought out diversity in my publishing house. Not in the authors, anyway. I certainly looked for diverse stories, for unique characters and different spins on old ideas. But as far as the faces behind the stories go, I didn’t go to any great lengths to ensure that our publishing house represented various races, cultures, religions, or sexual orientations. I never once put out a call for stories from or for a specific group of people. I have never signed, or rejected, an author based on the color of their skin or what they believe. It wasn’t that diversity wasn’t, or isn’t, important to me, because it is. Understanding, respecting, and allowing yourself to be influenced by those whose experience is not the same as yours is necessary,  not only to be a viable part of an industry known for pushing boundaries and challenging conventional thought, but even more importantly, to be a compassionate, intelligent, and all around decent human being. However, I believed, perhaps idealistically, that if I were open to whatever may lie out there, conducted my business in a forward-thinking and honest manner, and accepted the good stories that came my way, diversity would happen on its own. I’m not saying that this happens in every situation. I am ecstatic that, in this case, that is exactly what happened.

We now represent authors from six different countries. Six! Our authors are African-American, Asian-American, Caucasian, Indian, Italian, and Hungarian, among others. We work with authors who are Wiccan, Christian, Atheistic, Hindu, Agnostic, and Muslim. This, to me, is incredible on so many levels. We are a small press. We don’t represent a gigantic number of authors, so while I understand that we still have a long way to go, I am proud of what we have done. While I struggle with technology, and mourn the fact that so many people use the instant, worldwide access that we have to bully and harangue others, I have to admit that living in a time in which I can communicate in real time with authors halfway around the world, who I would have never had a chance to meet otherwise, is amazing. More than that, so much more, is the fact that we are able to not only reach out to a larger number of people, but to show them the world in a way that they may not have seen before. Because we meet everyone, often quite literally, where they stand, we are able to give people the chance to achieve their dreams, who may not have had such. I am so proud that this is what we Lions stand for.

But, this saddens me as well. This saddens me because this dynamic seems fairly rare in the world as a whole. The recent #oscarssowhite controversy, as well as all of the rhetoric and platforms being spewed by various parties in this election cycle shows me that we have so, so much farther to go as a people. I was curious, and decided to do some research to figure out what the variable was in this situation.

My first thought was that perhaps it was the genres we favor. While we are purveyors of outsider fiction, fiction that doesn’t fit nicely into any one genre, we tend towards speculative fiction. I know firsthand that, infighting and squabbling aside, geeks do tend to be a rather inclusive group. So, I thought perhaps that was how we’d encountered this phenomenon. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a blog post written in 2014, Jason T Low reviewed the top 100 grossing science fiction movies to discover ridiculous amounts of underrepresentation regarding gender, sexual orientation, race, and physical differences. Layne Haymont of FantasyBook Review discussed a similar trend in Fantasy books. So, it appeared that my first hypothesis was incorrect.

My second thought was that it is possible that the world, suffering as we do from “Not in My Backyard” Syndrome, allows for minorities to have voices, but perhaps not faces. In other words, perhaps the masses are more comfortable in those not in the majority are heard but not seen. Understand, please, that I am condemning, not condoning this mindset, I have known the race, culture, and religion of most authors before I signed them and was encouraged and excited to add new voices to the group, but I understand that, as incredulous as I am at this concept, this is not an approach universally held. However, a brief look at The Hollywood Writers Report and The HollywoodDiversity Report show that while small gains in both pay and representation have been made in some areas, ground has been lost in others. So, it appears that wasn’t the case, either.

I finally gained a little bit of insight in this article originally published in “The Guardian.’ In it the author, Kavita Das, speaks of “formalism.” Formalism is the process in which authors, particularly minority authors, are expected to follow a particular formula in their writing, and to avoid themes or styles that are specific to their identity, experience, or situation. This can be problematic, as many publishers will either not be able to understand or identify with the story being told, or will feel that the work will not appeal to a large enough audience.

And that’s damned shame. It was one of the most poignant examples of majority privilege that I’ve seen. I’m not sure how people can accept worlds of elves and orcs and robots but not black elves and orcs and robots. And while Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and most recently the screen adaptation of the Gunslinger have gone a ways to introduce characters of various races and sexual orientations , even then the authors were Caucasian and so the story has the majority perspective built in. What is literature for if not to expose us to ideas and situations that we have never experienced?

I understand that we have a long way to go. Not just we as a house, but we as a society. In this moment, though, I’m  proud to be a Lion.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thanks for Being my "We"

I realized last night that I've done a disservice to the people who care about me. I'm a little whiny, lately. And grieving. And adjusting to something that I never thought would happen. I'm adjusting to the loss of one person, and all of the fallout that comes with it. But, let me assure you, I am not alone.  I haven't been alone since the moment that I swallowed my pride enough to let people know I was hurting, and I'm so grateful.

I have lots and lots of very good people who have stood steadfastly and gone above and beyond in every step of this process. From going out of their way to give me company and safe places to escape, to opening their homes, to giving me a financial boost so that I could get on my feet, people have been there. Praying for me, sending me messages every day, building me up, mediating the custody discussions, people have been there. I may be lonely at times. I may miss that one person dreadfully, but I am absolutely not alone. And guys, I'm so, so, thankful and humbled and in a way this feels incredible because for a long time, I was alone. I was isolated. I felt like my value to others came from my then-husband and my kids. I'd pulled away spiritually, because I felt unworthy. But not anymore. I'm, in many ways, feeling more loved and more whole than I've felt in a very long time.

I could give a story for each person, and perhaps I should. Today, though, I want to just focus on one. This happened this week, and it woke  me up in about one hundred different ways. My oldest son is on the autism spectrum and he is struggling. He is regressing quite a lot in the face of all of this change; I am seeing behaviors that I haven't seen in years. In the past, when he got lost inside his own head, I could always go in after him. That's how I viewed it. I would walk into the woods where he'd gotten lost, and would find him, and together we would find our way out.  Sometimes it took longer than others, but I could always find him and, hand in hand, we could always navigate to a path. Usually our own path, because that's just us, but a path nonetheless. This time, it can't be me. He's mad at me. He understands, on some level that I couldn't stop this, but he's still so very angry. So, it's me that a part of him is fleeing and while I am working to change that, actively pursuing him could just push him farther into the dark.

I explained this to one of my friends the other day, and he said five words. Five words that rocked me to my core. Five words that left me gaping like some strange, fuzzy-haired fish and later would leave my crying in gratitude.

"So, what do we do?"


What do WE do.

Do you see it? This didn't have to be his problem. Just like my firefighter training didn't have to be a group effort, or getting my house in shape didn't have to be a multi-person undertaking. My custody woes or financial concerns didn't have to affect anyone else. But people are reaching out and willingly taking some of my load. My load is lighter than it has been in years. Scary, and terrifying, but lighter because people are standing next to me and caring. And carrying.

Autism at it's best is overwhelming and exhausting. Even with the good things because moderation isn't really my 'lil dude's strong point. Autism at it's worst is frustrating and heartbreaking and scary. There is no reason this man should dive into the middle of it, and part of me wants to shield him from it. But he did it. He dove. He chose to go where I can't right now.

We. It's a pretty wonderful thing, y'all. Thanks for being my "we."

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Green Zone of Write-ability

I've never been one to believe in the need for inspiration in regards to the ability to create art. Perhaps it comes from my somewhat tempestous relationship with my muse, aptly named Cecelia. Perhaps it comes from my father, fiercely and proudly and wonderfully blue-collar, who taught me that you work whether or not you feel like it, and whether or not you enjoy it. Perhaps it is the fact writing, for me, is neither a hobby nor a part-time gig, but one of the very real ways that I feed my children. Or perhaps it is some combination of the three.

So, I write. I write whether or not I feel inspired, and whether or not I still like the story. I write what I will enjoy and what I think will sell. I write when the seed has just sprung and all is shiny and new and I write when the bloom is well off of the rose and it feels less like art and more like work.
Except. .. lately I can't. It's not for lack of trying. It's not for a lack of stories in my queue waiting to be told. It isn't even, really for lack of time. I just sit with my notebook or my Alphasmart or my computer and I say I'm going to write and I get my hands in the right position and nothing happens. Nothing. At. All. Ernest Hemingway said once that writing wasn't hard, you just sat at your typewriter and bled. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I've been bleeding out in too many other places. But the nothing has gotten frustrating in the extreme. In examining it, and talking to others, I've come to believe in the "green zone of write-ability."

In my mind, it's like an gauge on a control panel. To one side, in the red zone, is not enough stimulation. Not enough "anguish," let's say. "Oh piffle," you respond, "that trope about poets needing pain has been done to death." Maybe it has, but the very real link between artists and slightly less-than optimal mental health has been shown again and again. To read more, look here and here. Also, and if any of the people I'm lucky enough to work with read this, please hear what I mean and not what I say, I've known enough artists and authors to say that, empirically, I've found this to be true. Creativity, artistry, requires a bit of instability to create a fertile field in which it can grow. It feeds us, somehow, allows us to see more and feel more and then use our talent to show it all to the world. Like Aladdin's carpet, if carpet occasionally crashed and burned leaving Aladdin and his lady-love all broken and burned on the ground.

On the other side of the green zone is "too much anguish." When our demons become external instead of internal, we go into full survival mode. Real-world problems rarely make good stories, not as raw and simultaneously mundane as they are. I've been pondering the thought that real-world romance doesn't either, but that's a post for another day. I can talk about how, when Charlotte's brain was glitching, she shoved Aidian away and the pain they both felt. That's big enough. Epic enough. It doesn't make a good story to talk about how my ex-husband is everywhere. His belongings mixed in with mine, his phrases coming out of my mouth, memories of him in nearly every city, his facial expressions on my son's face. He is everywhere and while sometimes I'm pragmatic enough and able to compartmentalize enough to take the good and leave the bad, other times I think I'm going to go insane. I don't know how to live in a world that he isn't in, when he is literally everywhere. That doesn't make a good story or, if it does, I'm not detached enough right now to figure out how. Maybe someday. The fact that I'm afraid that my income won't match my needs and that any job I can get (because I forgo continuing education and an out-of-the-home job because that was our agreement and I didn't ever expect to find myself here and. .. and. . but I digress) would barely cover childcare doesn't make a good story. But these are the things taking over my mind right now.

I'm hoping that soon I make my way back into the green zone. Because I need to write. For practical reasons, and because, as a writer, it's more than what I do. It's part of who I am.

*Photo credits to Disney and Gary Larsen