Let’s Camp Again… like we did last summer

I just signed up for CampNaNoWriMo again but THIS TIME, I am writing something new instead of attempting to edit!

Also, I’m not pregnant, so that might help. But I have two children now and that will not.

So winning is not a given… is all I’m trying to say. But it’s a good chance to switch WIPs without completely abandoning one to work on the other.

CampNaNo April project page screengrab

NANO GOOOOOOOOO!

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Simpler Times for Scumbags

Well, I certainly did try to edit my NaNo project into something cohesive and I’m not saying I’m ready to give up on it. But I do believe it needs some space to breath.

This is true for most of the things I write, that I need some space between the writing and the editing, but especially so for a mostly true story about a totally shit time in my life.

So I’ve started something new! Something fun! Something that started out as a merry jaunt through time and space, an attempt to recreate a nostalgic event in the lives of the main character’s parents… but then… my mind went to the dark place and so did the story. Now the main character will share her story with her mom who’s been reading a lot about the #TimesUp movement and following coverage of a fictionalized version of that scumbag gymnastics doctor’s trial and reexamining some of those nostalgic events through the lens of a more cynical and much more informed adult eye.

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Also… woo! Road trip!

Chewbacca’s Moral Quandry

How likely is it that people who trash a story just didn’t get what they needed from it?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Between Riverdale and The Last Jedi, I’ve been reading a lot of vitriol in the realm of fandom that doesn’t seeeeem like criticism as much as bitching. It’s not in the way of intellectual discourse so much as whiny baby bullshit. And while it can be argued that many internet commentators are just dummies with a digital soapbox to abuse, it seems like many of the haters are just hurters lashing out against the story’s failure to address their inner turmoil.

I’ve written about this both here on the blog and in the novel-length, only sort of fictionalized, unreliable narrator-led personal essay NaNoWriMo project I’m still working on editing:

You know what it is? I think the reason I’m feeling the pain of these two characters so strongly, the reason I feel this kind of intimate connection to them is because they’re so broken and fragile and seeing what comfort they take in each other is vicarious comfort for me. Not that I’m broken and fragile. Not in the same way. But yeah, actually, maybe I am and maybe I’m lacking in comfort in the same way. Maybe I’m not OK at all and there’s more to my current mental state than postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation.

But it’s been on my mind a whole lot more since… well, yesterday when I got home from seeing The Last Jedi and immediately read as many articles about it as possible.

 

Lots of bitching. Only a few critiques.

And I get it! Some of us want a story we can recognize and predict because it makes us feel safe about an unknown future. Some of us want a simple story where good is good and evil is evil and we don’t have to stretch our morality or consider the perspective of The Other to understand motivation. Some of us just want the pretty people to make out so we can live vicariously through them. When we go in expecting that, wanting that, neeeeeding that and we don’t get it?

LASHING OUT! BIZARRE THREATS MADE TO ACTORS! CURSE WORDS a’FLYIN’!

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Meanwhile, I like how emotionally and morally complicated The Last Jedi is. It’s not what I expected and I don’t understand why Poe and Finn can’t be the next great space romance, but it certainly wasn’t boring, was it?

People don’t get quite so worked up about boring stories.

 

Oprah’s Big Ole Heart

There are few things more enjoyable on a cold morning than a warm beverage in a quiet place with a nice view. That place for me is work on a Sunday when less than an eighth of the people who usually work on my floor are here and most of them are just trying to get their stuff done so they can leave. Meanwhile, I’m here for the duration so I’m taking my coffee break in the lobby by the big windows, enjoying the sunshine and silence.

There is so little silence in my life anymore.

Friends, blog readers, countrypeople… I have reason to believe that I have recovered from my “baby blues” and have rejoined the world as a normal person who already had issues with mild depression and occasional existential dread. And it feels wonderful!

It feels like time to start the editing process of my NaNo project, which was written at the height of my baby crazies and is therefore probably a giant pile of poo. I’m sure it has all the narrative flow of my wildly unpredictable mood swings and stays on topic like a dog at the window on a windy day.

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And all those concerns that no one would be interested in reading it? Pashaw! Mental illness is all the rage these days! Oprah will be singing my praises for being so “raw” and “honest”. Especially with such emotional tenderness as this:

“See…” I’m clenching my fists now. Emphatic gestures to follow. “That’s not a normal thing to say! ‘She’s not as mean now,’ is not a reasonable justification for continuing to take our child to a terrible doctor. ‘Not as mean now’ isn’t a glowing review on Yelp. It’s not a person you would willingly chose to take care of your sick child!”

“I just don’t want to change doctors now. I don’t like it.”

“What YOU like has nothing to do with the quality of medical care our son gets! How is this about you at all? Because she’s your doctor too? I’ve got news for you, cupcake, she’s not very nice to you either.”

“It doesn’t bother me is all.”

“Then keep going to her. But let’s switch to the other pediatrician.”

“I just don’t… think it’s… good.”

“I just don’t think YOU are good, you selfish prick!”

“Hey!” he says, pointing to the boy.

Because that’s exactly what we need now, I think, to have our kid calling people pricks. The mea culpa stops my tirade for the moment, but I’m not done. I’m starting to think about all the times I thought I was doing the right thing only to question myself after one of her shitty comments. I’m thinking about those first few weeks with my son when I was still suffering silently with the trauma of his birth, the pain of breastfeeding, the discomfort of my changing body, and the overwhelming emotions of it all and instead of having a doctor I could trust and speak to candidly, I had this bitch making me feel worse.

In comparison, my daughter’s doctor asked me how I was doing. He made me feel normal. He listened. He asked questions and he answered mine. And then, when I admitted I wasn’t so great, he offered me resources. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

“The deal was that we’d check out the new place and see if we liked it. We did, we do, I don’t see why we can’t switch,” I say with less bite. Instead, I feel the tears welling up, the warmth in my throat that tells me a mini-breakdown is on its way. “I just want someone I can talk to, like actually talk to and be honest with instead of always pretending everything’s ok just so I won’t be judged.”

“OK,” he says but it’s distracted and dismissive and he’s looking at his phone again.

“Can you just… with the phone? Can you listen?”

“I’m listening,” he says but he’s not. Even when he is, he’s not comprehending, so what’s the point?

“You know–” I start and the anger is rising again. Peaks and valleys, dips and swerves, my emotions are a five star coaster in a two-bit park and it’s about to break down.

But my son can’t find his red transformer and he’s starting to panic. Normally, my husband wouldn’t even notice, wouldn’t hear the repeated phrase, “My red transformer, my red transformer, my red transformer.” Normally, he would ignore even direct requests for help if it interrupted whatever nonsense he was partaking in but right now, of course, when there is something more important happening on the couch, his focus is on the floor.

He gets down on his elbows and knees to search under the bookshelf and I’m left looking at his ass and wondering what to do with all this righteous indignation. The conversation is far from over but I don’t want to interrupt him playing with his son. Instead, I swallow my bitterness, chase it with a handful of my son’s cheese crackers, and check Facebook for the third time in half an hour.

Oprah’s crying right now as she reads this. I’ve obviously touched her heart.

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A Tale of Two Spiders

There is no more vivid memory in my mind than that of a nasty brown spider descending from the ceiling of my childhood bedroom. In the same way the young couple in a coming-of-age movie accidentally turns their heads toward each other at the same time, conveniently placing them lip to almost lip, I greeted that spider with an intimacy only now reserved for the closest of family members. That one experience cemented a life-long fear that no amount of therapy, cognitive or Fear Factor-style, could ever assuage. I am irrationally, screamtastically afraid of spiders.

My son, on the other hand, watched a spider descend from the ceiling of our living room just the other day, awed and transfixed at what he called the “butterfly spider.” What he witnessed was a magical creature, beautifully lit from behind by the ceiling light it was affixed to, floating down towards him and filling his world with wonder. He already loves Halloween and kid-friendly versions of spooky things, spiders included. The real thing was all the more delightful.

Our childhoods are very different, he and I. I’m almost as jealous as I am proud.

That difference in presentation of reality is what’s on my mind today, post-Riverdale. I’m still working out my obsession issues, although writing 50,000+ words about it certainly did help. I’m not nearly so upset by the breakups as I am by the act, the song, the presentation of a reality I’m familiar with and the debate I read on Twitter about the responsibility in that representation.

If there is a more existential song than Mad World, then I don’t know it and I’d prefer to keep it that way. That shit does something to you, man. Between the haunting music and the depressing lyrics… and then to show Betty’s very public exploration of her sexuality, not for her own gratification but to, well, solve a problem. It’s all a little too… real.

I’ve written about my experience with how culture shapes sexuality, specifically that of a young girl or teenager. Because, even now, even with #MeToo and #rapeculture, things haven’t really changed THAT much from when I was young. Maybe we’re ready to speak out about it now, but the experiences, for the most part, haven’t changed.

Women’s sexuality was and is defined in relation to men and I don’t mean just heterosexual women and I don’t mean just biological women. I mean we’re still part of a culture where sex is a commodity used to control others.

The purpose of Betty’s dance was to control Jughead by gaining entrance to his environment. The purpose of the serpent dance as entrance is to control the women belonging to the gang.

Was the scene exploitative? Yes. Does the show need to take responsibility for that? Yeah, probably. But was it a pretty good representation of the half the world’s experience with sexual discovery? I think so, actually, yeah.

“Children waiting for the day they feel good”

Part of that scene did feel good because DAMN BETTY. We finally got to see the buttoned up girl shed some of her layers and come into her own in a brand new way. But it also felt a little… ishy, a little uncomfortable, a little wrong because she did it for those reasons in that place in front of those people.

It is about choice–because feminism is about having and owning our choices–and that dance was Betty’s choice, but it’s also about determinism because how much of it really is our choice if we’re stuck in this culture that only reveals to us a limited set of possibilities?

“When people run in circles, it’s a very very mad world.”

I was as blown away by the power of the scene as I was horrified by what it meant for a whole new generation of women. I was as delighted at seeing Betty in a whole new way as I was sad and hopeless that things would ever change enough to get better. It was a terrifying butterfly of triggering magical spiders descending from both the darkest and lightest ceilings of our culture, both promising and threatening.

As I wrote in my journal this morning, ” I’m… shook, as the kids say. Because that song is so haunting, especially for people suffering from depression because, well, hell, it IS a mad world and nothing makes sense and maybe everything is horrible and pointless and then we all die and that’s the best part. … So that’s where I’m at, post-show. Haunted by the ghosts of Donnie Darko and Betty’s butt cheeks.”

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You Can Have My Naked Opinion

WHAT… in the HELL?

I wanted to post today about finishing my NaNoWriMo project, maybe post an excerpt, talk about how I might want to take a pause from the story and work on something else for a while.

Instead, after checking my web stats and seeing something unusual in the search terms section, I have to ask:

WHO searched for “eda j vor nude” and where can I kick your sorry ass? 

First of all, perv, I write under a pseudonym so the only pictures you’ll find of “me” are heavily processed, totally incognito pictures of my obscured profile.

Secondly, I just had a baby, man. You don’t want none of this.

And finally, NO! BAD INTERNET PERV!

The part I find slightly hysterical is that s/he landed on this blog post: Hot and Hopeless Strangers  which sounds pretty dirty, right? Haha, no, it’s about how reading too much fanfiction can inadvertently encourage some bad writing habits.

Seriously, though… stop being gross at people who aren’t interested. There’s so much porn available online. Go find that. Engage in consensual activities and leave everyone else alone.

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Against All Two Little Adorable Odds

Happy last day of NaNoWriMo 2017! If you haven’t finished, may all the words unburden themselves from your finger tips and your editing brain take a little break until you’re done.

I’m proud to announce that despite a buttload of obstacles (and by buttload, I mean the actual unit of measure equaling a barrel of wine which I cannot drink because I am nursing) I got my 50,000+ words thereby making me a…

NaNo-2017-Winner-Badge

I mean, I’m a winner no matter what because I look my mirror reflection in the eye every morning and tell her so, but it is gratifying to accomplish a goal and get a t-shirt so I can brag about it.

What I cannot brag about, however, is having a finished manuscript. Far from it. I can imagine the chapter I’m currently writing as being the last one but I have the kind of ending that’s like… “the only change was in my mind and I still haven’t decided what to do about it. The End”

True to life, man. Because I think I’ve finally emerged from the dark cave of baby blues–or at least found the exit, if I haven’t quite made it through the gift shop yet–and I don’t know what the hell to do with myself now. This WIP, this challenge was the thing that was keeping me going. After today, I don’t know. I’ll just have to use “getting through the holidays” as my motivation to keep moving forward until I find something else to cling to.

Maybe I’ll put an effort into finishing my NaNo project. Maybe I’ll start something new. Either way, I’ll definitely be doing it from a better mental state than I started this month.

Black Sheep of the Family Friday

For a limited time (that being until I remember to revert it) the paperback version of my latest book (and my winning WIP for last year’s NaNoWriMo), Lay Her Ghosts to Rest, is “on sale” on Amazon.

Consider it a holiday special if you will but really, I want to buy a few copies for family members for Christmas and if I get to control the price, I choose to pay less.

That’s why it’s “on sale” rather than on sale. There’s no real promotion so much as I lowered the price for my own benefit.

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Lay Her Ghosts to Rest is my most recent book, inspired by my dread and hatred of wakes and funerals and my desire to legitimize my fear and justify my absence from them. See, everyone? It’s bad for your spirit to attend these things! It’s bad for your soul to have one held for you! Devastation, organization, commercialization! These are all the consequences of your morbid fascination with grief theater and cadaver puppets!

It’s also about recognizing negative patterns and realizing how difficult it is to break them. Workplace drama, relationship drama, ghost stuff, a kickass apartment complex in a renovated industrial mill. That’s what’s what.

 

I imagine that’s why many small business owners open up shop: just to spend less on the stuff they love.

Nuts Need Energy to Ball

Chapter 20 of my NaNo WIP reads:

Chapter 20

Subtitle

[MC goes nutballs. To be written later]

I got up early. I’m just tasting my first few sips of coffee. I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment in less than an hour and I have to take the baby with me. Nutballs isn’t something I can write right now but it’s what needs to happen at this point in the story.

Nutballs is just not achievable at this level of momming.

Conversely, this level of momming is not achievable while nutballs. Which may be the point of the story.

Also, it may be a weeeeeee bit autobiographical.

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Hazelnutballs is about the best I can do.

The Book No One Will Read

I’m about a day and a half behind schedule and that ain’t bad for starting over on the second day.

I feel like the words will come easier for this WIP since it’s based on real life but I also think maybe the story will be lacking in commercial appeal. It’s a labor of love, challenge, and self-reflection that won’t sell for shit unless I find the magic editing potion that makes it more interesting.

But that’s next month. Right now it’s just getting the story out in as many words as I can think to use*.

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*I don’t consider it cheating to refrain from any kind of editing that takes away words until after the 50,000 are reached. It’s efficiency, if anything. Right?