The thing is . . .

. . . while I know that I am responsible for my own media consumption, for policing what I can and cannot consume lest it set off a bomb in my brain (thank you, mental illness), while I never hold anyone else responsible for the task of policing my media and keeping me safe, it’s exhausting.

It’s also isolating.

So, hi, I’m gonna talk about something that frequently gets skipped over in the debate about trigger warnings, and that is how much fucking work those of us who have triggers–especially those like me who have a shittily unfair number of them thanks to craptastic life experiences–have to put into policing our own media. And how hard that job can be. And, also, how unfair it is to tell us “just don’t watch/read that!” if we DO consume something that winds up being triggering.

Because here’s the thing: when you have triggers, you have to be careful of every single piece of new media. You have to look up spoilers, or ask friends who’ve already seen/read the thing if it’s safe territory for you. You have to avoid outings with friends to the theatre unless you’ve researched ahead of time, you have to decline starting a new TV series or watching an old film you haven’t researched if you’re staying in, and, if you’re as sensitive as I am, there are some topics and media that can’t even be talked about, never mind consumed.

Over time, you stop watching trailers. You stop reading about new media coming out. Chances are, you won’t be able to enjoy it anyway–not with how dark, gorey, rapey, dystopian, and all-around angsty mainstream media has gotten in the last several years.

And, I get it. Fiction is the safe place to explore the things that scare and fascinate and haunt us. But when you’ve already lived through horrors, large or small, that exploration ceases to be entertainment. Some things are only fun to read/watch if you’ve never had to live through them.

So, yeah. Sometimes, that means we read or watch something we shouldn’t, or regret. Because we’re tired of always saying “no”, of putting in the time to research, of having to avoid common social activities for the sake of our mental health. Because we think that, hey, if my best friend likes it, I probably will too, this should be fine. Because we’re tired of trying to dig for “safe” media to consume, because maybe we want to feel normal, just this once.

So, no–I don’t expect anyone to police my media consumption for me. But I do wish that there was more media I could enjoy without risking my sanity, because entertainment is everywhere and is a common topic people bond over. Because it stings, just a little, every time someone mentions a TV or book series, a movie they have watched and loved, and I can’t discuss it with them, can’t let them share that love with me; every time someone asks “Have you seen [y]?” and I tell them, “Just assume I haven’t seen anything you’re talking about.” Because it’s one more obstacle my mental illness creates for me, one more barrier between me and finding positive common ground with the people I care about.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Well, This Sucks

So . . . shitty news. Specifically, on the writing front.

Turd the First: the publisher I submitted my novel to sent me a rejection letter last week. They were pretty awesome about it, made it clear that it probably wasn’t because I suck at what I do, but it was still a form-letter and it absolutely sucks.

I’m still hurting about this one. I wrote that novel specifically for this open call. I knew it was kind of a long shot, but still. I hoped.

Regardless, I’m not giving up on it. I’ll need some time to feel shitty about it, but then I plan on re-reading, revising if needed, and sending it somewhere else. Maybe some other publisher will be interested in it. I can’t say “it doesn’t hurt to try” because, actually, it does hurt, but I’m gonna try anyway.

Turd the Second: apparently Torquere LLC, the publisher that first told me “yes” and published my short story “Closer”, is going under. There has been a lot of talk over several months that’s made me uneasy, but I chose to have faith in the owners and editors. I decided to move forward with the contract I signed. It turns out that that was probably a mistake.

This makes me feel absolutely heartsick. I feel like I was taken advantage of, because I was so very, very new to the publishing world. This, combined with the rejection, has me wondering if my dream of being a writer is laughable. The idea of submitting my works to other publishers and finding out later that they’re untrustworthy is not only exhausting, it’s disheartening.

I don’t know what, exactly, my next move will be here. I’ve contacted someone in the industry with experience, and plan on reaching out to others. I’m going to try and get more information before deciding what my next move is. The only thing I know for sure, though, is that I won’t stop writing. I can’t. I’m simply not capable of it.

I might, however, take a bit of a break from it. Just for a little while. Maybe. More because I have a lot of other things going on in my life right now — upcoming holidays, the anniversary of Motherunit’s expiration, sorting out my health — than because of this whole debacle, but still. Putting pressure on myself to write when I’m overtaxed and my heart isn’t in it is a bad idea.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

It’s Official

I’m a writer. Not just in the sense of “this is who and what I am” but also in the sense that I HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED. There is a career trajectory, now.

Which. Exciting! But also scary. I haven’t heard back on the book, but I’ve had a piece of poetry published in ImageOutWrite Vol. 5, and a piece of my short fiction was just published by Torquere. The short story is part of the Harvest Moon anthology.

Getting here wasn’t easy. There were a lot of speed-bumps and obstacles along the way, and I know that this is just the beginning. I have to hope that my writing catches people’s attention, and that I can build a readership. I have to keep writing, even when my insecurities whisper that I can’t do this, that the publications I have only happened through luck, that I’m not actually that good. I have to keep telling the stories that make my heart sing, even when it would be easier to follow trends and convention.

But you know what? For right now, I’m just going to celebrate a little.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Writing Confession:

I have never, ever, not once in my life, written a second draft. I honestly do not understand the concept.

Looking through most writing guides, you hear over and over again that “good writing is rewriting” and that you should expect most of your first draft to be shit. That the second draft is where you fix plot holes, cut out unnecessary scenes or chapters, where you fix problems with your structure and add more to the parts that are lacking. It is, supposedly, where you do “the real work” and where your piece of fiction or poetry becomes more authentically you.

And, uh. I’m looking around thinking, You people don’t this on the first go-round?

Because here is the thing: by the time I sit down and start writing a story, I already know what kind of story I want to tell. I know what I want to make my readers feel. I know what structure I will use to achieve that, because I’m all about letting form follow function. Certain stories have more impact when told in a non-linear fashion, where other stories benefit from the crisp minimalism provided by drabble sets. Other stories are better told in past or present tense. Depending on what kind of story I’m telling, on who the characters are and what the primary conflict is, I might write from one character’s perspective, or two, or even head-hop. But I know all of this before I set the first word on the page.

Because by the time I sit down to write a story, I have pages upon pages of notes. I have notes about character backstories and world-building. I have a plot outline. I have a timeline to refer to, if the story is taking place over a number of days (or even weeks, or months) and the passage of time is important in the story. I have answered questions about potential plot holes. I have presented the basic idea to my writing friends, and then answered their questions in my pages of notes. I have usually brainstormed three different endings, and made notes about how each will play out and what it would mean to the story as a whole.

I take days to create an entire world inside my head before I set my fingers to my keyboard and start setting it free. I re-write as I go — I might change a particular sentence or paragraph five times before I move on. I go back and re-read, adjust word choices and tweak dialogue and cut sentences when I’m still in the middle of the project. I am ruthless as I write. Description is kept to a minimum — if it’s not important to the character whose head I’m writing from, then it doesn’t need to be there. Every interaction and scene has to serve at least two of the following purposes: 1) furthering the plot/ developing the primary conflict; 2) development of one or more characters in the scene; 3) exposition; and 4) drawing connections between cause and effect, past events in the story and the present moment, and/or between characters. Ideally, it should be doing all four.

So maybe the real reason I have never written a second draft is that, really, I’ve never written a first one.
~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Fiction: What it’s Worth

Mermaid scales were easy. It was the matter of a moment to brush a few from my tail and tip them into your cupped palm. The herbs I left you to gather. The land is your home, and you’ve known magic since before you drew breath. I knew you’d find what you needed.

The other things, though. The ones I promised to get for you, those I left to retrieve with the promise to be back in time. The full moon was just two days’ away, and the spell needed the right amount of moonlight to work. I flicked water at you and told you to have a little faith in me.

I did not tell you I feared that I would fail. Didn’t tell you that I had to make promises to the squid in exchange for his ink, or that I was afraid of the ghosts in the shipwreck I searched to find you the finger bone of a drowned sailor. I did not tell you that I fought with my sister, because she did not believe any human was worth the palmful of sand from the ocean floor I gathered for you. I didn’t tell you of the hours it took to find the grumpy old crab a new shell before he would let me have his old one.

I did not tell you any of these things, because the moment you shed your dress on the beach after completing the potion to lie beside me in the wet sand as the magic took hold and fashioned you a tail was worth it. Being able to kiss you under the waves and have your breathlessness be from my lips and not the need for air was worth it. Being able to show you the world I grew up in, with all its dark, dangerous beauty and bright colours and happy memories was worth it. I would have paid that and more to be able to look down at you, sleeping peacefully in my arms and know that I can sleep, too, and that we will both still be here when we wake.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Random Research

The weird thing about writing a book is all the random details that you end up needing to research or double-check. Like. It got a little ridiculous.

The list of things I researched while writing The Novel include:

  • Ancient Egyptian temple practises, and the role of women in organized religion
  • Staples of an ancient Egyptian diet
  • Seasonal weather patterns in Austin, Texas
  • Hair and costume choices in belly dancers, including cultural vs. competitive variations
  • Voodoo Doughnut (pastry shop)
  • Schedules past and present for SXSW
  • The Black and White Years (band)
  • Inner-city high schools in Austin
  • The closest Starbucks to James Bowie High School
  • The driving distance, in hours, from New Orleans, Louisiana to Austin, Texas
  • The advertising industry
  • Majors offered at University of Texas
  • Sports programs at University of Texas
  • Gender-neutral names
  • Popular names for girls born in the 1860s

. . . and last, but not least, binding practises as they relate to gender-fluidity. Suffice to say, writing The Novel was an interesting ride.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Inspiration

So, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, things have been pretty quiet on the Hangover front until very recently. There’s a reason for that, and it’s this: I’ve spent most of the last three months writing a novel, and I didn’t have a lot of creative energy to spare for blogging.

But, well. The going has not been easy, or fast. I actually had to take a couple weeks, and leave it alone. I’ve come back to it recently, and after (binge-) watching Sense8, I’ve realized something that has filled me with an overwhelming desire to write, and to finish my story.

Art has value. It impacts other people. It stirs up emotion and maybe, if you’ve done something right, you’ve made people think about the things that matter (and perhaps pissed someone off).

I forgot about that. For me, writing my book has been about me, about fulfilling a dream and doing something worthwhile until my grad ceremony and pursuing something that I am so passionate about it’s actually a part of me. It’s felt like giving birth.

But I managed to lose sight of the fact that, if this story is my baby, I’ll have created something that will take on a life of its own. Something that’s capable of reaching out and touching other people. Something that will have value apart from me, something that might just matter (maybe even a lot, if I manage to do this right) to other people.

Because when I started writing, I wasn’t trying to do something special. I wasn’t trying to be trendy, or controversial. All I tried to do, and all I continue trying to do, is use lies to tell a truth. Because that’s what the best fiction is: lies that tell us something true. And in my pursuit of that, in trying to find the right lies to chase down a truth, in getting so caught up in the parts that make up the whole, in the technical things — does this dialogue sound right? is my characterization off? what is driving this scene? have I overused a certain word? do I have enough description? too much? — I couldn’t see the big picture.

I’m telling something true.

My main character is a demon, bound in a human body. And she refuses to let what she is dictate who she is. What she is shapes her life, yes. But she lives on her own terms. And there is a cost to that.

Another major character is an immortal witch. She’s lived so long that she is sliding toward apathy; it’s hard to continue to find meaning, and she can’t make herself knowingly walk into death. There isn’t much she hasn’t been in the course of her very long life, but “white” makes the list.

There is an abusive father. A loving, wonderful (but imperfect) single mother. A character who is outside the gender binary. Sexuality and sexual orientation that is complicated and messy. Moral ambiguity. Attempted sexual assault. Rage. Humour. Feeling lost.

And there is truth in all of these.
~
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.