4 – Twenty Five Things Tuesday: Will Write For Food

write

Before I die, I want to earn my living writing books. Here’s the interesting thing, when it comes to this part of what I want to do before I die, I’m not sure that I care too terribly what kind of books they are. I don’t care if they are smut or deeply good, important books. I just want to make my living by writing them. Before I die. So, sometime in the next sixty years if I am lucky.

I <3 My WIP (Though It Kicks My Ass)

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I don’t blog about my writing very often, mainly because I don’t feel that I have anything helpful to contribute to the blogosphere on the subject. Part of the reason for that is I’ve been stuck in Work In Progress limbo for quite some time and it’s a kind of hell all its own. I end up in this space from time to time–multiple WIPs in the pipeline with no clear ending in sight for any of them. It’s during these stages when blogs on writing usually bring me down. I mean, all of these authors who seem to crank out work after work all blog with authority about just how I, too, can improve my output if I only do something specific like outline better, have a notebook that details everything about my characters before I set down the first word, write linearly, set aside a specific time every day (despite my day job and my motherhood responsibilities) to write, and basically become a totally different person/writer.

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Let’s add a layer of blue over this whole story, why don’t we?

The fact is, I’m the writer that I am. I can outline, make index cards, create Pinterest inspiration boards, do character-building exercises out the wazoo (and I will) but I think that I’m always going to find that I write in layers, more like an oil painter, and not in any type of linear fashion. I need to find a way to be okay with that. For example, I’m on the ninth draft of one of my WIPs and on this pass-through I saw gaps I’d never noticed before, easy places that I could drop in a paragraph, or change a conversation in order to strengthen the character’s motivations or the emotional impact for the reader. I suppose other writers see those places and write them in from the beginning, but that is apparently not how I work. Again, I need to be okay with that.

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Be okay with being a tattooed skeleton wearing a flower crown, okay?

Awhile back, CB Wentworth made a post listing all that she loved about her current WIP. She said:

The practice is meant to revitalize creativity for the project, while also helping to keep the focus on what is working in the story. Essentially, the Love List is a collection of everything a writer loves about a WIP, whether it be characters, setting, the writing process, or anything that gives a reason to keep writing!  This is the ultimate individual motivator that will give your muse a supreme kick in the butt!

In an effort to appreciate the writer that I am and not beat myself up about the writer I wish I could be, let’s do this!

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Things I Love About My WIP

1. Our Pinterest Inspiration Board! So many great and inspirational pictures!

2. The fairy tale world we’ve created. It is beautiful and hopefully readers will find it as imaginatively engaging as we have writing it.

3. Despite their initial reluctance to be forthcoming with me, I’m loving the characters. They’ve been slow to open up, necessitating more reworkings than almost anything I’ve ever written, but now that they’ve deigned to give me a better idea of who they are, I’m growing to love them a lot.

4. I love the ending. I admit to wondering if the end will be satisfactory to some because it leaves the HEA for the epilogue, but I think that it will be a nice change of pace and, most importantly, works for these characters.

5. I love some of the character building exercises that I’ve found while trying to needle these characters into talking to me. I believe they will come in handy in the future.

6. I love how hard this work has been. Even though in some ways I wish it was easy, I do feel a great deal of satisfaction whenI locate a problem in the story and then find a way to fix it. It’s like that wonderful snap of a puzzle piece fitting into place, and the general satisfaction that comes from that.

7. I’ve enjoyed how hard I’ve had to think. Usually, characters are very open with me, but there were many scenes in this WIP where I had to sit for a long time with the characters and say, “Okay, I’m listening. Tell me how this event made you feel. What are you going to say here?” It was a slow thing, but it definitely took me through some of the paces that I often manage to skip simply by having outspoken/loud characters to begin with.

8. I look forward to having it done. When it’s behind me, I think I’ll look on it with a lot of love and fondness.

What about you all? Are there any things you love particularly about your current Work In Progress? Let me know in the comments!

Reading: Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex

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Before we talk about sex, I wanted to let you know that I was interviewed about my writing process, themes in my writing, and more HERE at Cindy Spencer Pape’s blog. Check it out!

Now, on to the sex talk.

My daughter is six, and recently while at the zoo, we had the following interaction.

Zookeeper (indicating a group of adult rhinos and a baby rhino): They are on a Species Survival Plan. The AZA comes to look at our rhinos, evaluates their health and genetic history, and then tells us which two should be mated in order to produce the best outcome. This little guy has been selected to be the next breeding male for our zoo, and he’s here getting acquainted with our girl rhinos. When he’s older, we’ll be told which rhino he’ll be paired with to mate.

At this point, the zookeeper helpfully walked off.

Daughter: Mom, what does that mean? ‘To mate’? What does that mean?

Me: It means to try to make a baby together.

Daughter: How do rhinos make a baby together?

Me: Well, you put a grown-up girl rhino in the same area with a grown-up boy rhino, and…sometimes they make a baby.

Here I paused and waited for the obviously inevitable question of, yeah, but just how exactly do they make this baby?

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Daughter: So…you put a boy rhino and a girl rhino in the same area…and they’ll make a baby.

Me: Sometimes they’ll make a baby. Not always. Or sometimes they’ll try and it won’t work. And sometimes they just won’t try at all. Oh, and they have to be grown up rhinos who are old enough to make a baby, too.

And I waited again.

Daughter: And the Species Survival people get to choose which rhino has to make a baby with which other rhino?

Me: Yes, in the zoos they do. But in the wild, the rhinos would choose for themselves.

Daughter: Okay, so, you put a girl rhino in with a boy rhino and if they want to and they are old enough then they can make a baby.

Me: Yes.

Oh, my God, I was sweating by now. I just knew the next question would be the big one that would require the full explanation.

Daughter: Okay.

And that was the end of that conversation. But obviously it isn’t the last time this will come up, nor should it be. And the last thing I ever wanted to happen is for this to end up being me:

Julia Sweeney talks about sex with her daughter with hilarious and horrifying results. Please watch this. You will cry laughing.

So, in preparation for what is clearly an upcoming conversation (or series of conversations over the course of many years), I started looking for books to help me get age appropriate talking points in order.

I very quickly found a rather troubling reality about the sex-ed books out there–most of them were very wrapped up in the cultural presentations of sex as something spiritual in nature, a beautiful life-time event, a gorgeous merging of souls and bodies, that produces almost magically a souled and personified creature within the woman’s belly. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the books gave the information needed to understand how sex works to make a baby, but the books also placed sex in a framework of a culture that sees sex as something to be dressed up in the window curtains of wonder and magic, in order to cover it with a sense of mystery and secrecy, leaving behind a whiff of sin. Many books placed a large emphasis on chastity and purity while presenting sex as a near soul-twining event that is beautiful, intimate, and elevated above all other forms of interpersonal communion.

I find these messages to be damaging. Sex, quite frankly, takes some getting used to, and it’s not always (or even often) a beautiful lifetime event. It can be awkward, and weird, and sometimes a little uncomfortable. If it’s not with someone you care about (and even if it is with someone you care about), it is sometimes embarrassing, or strange, or disjointed. Sex can be a lovely soul-twining moment. It can be beautiful, intense, passionate, amazing. But, you know what? A lot of the time, it’s just fun, hot, awesome, boring, dull, entertaining, amusing, awkward, weird, satisfying, whatever, and it doesn’t do anyone any favors to make sex out to be something it’s not.

Also? All of that has nothing to do with how babies are made. Babies are made by a simple biological function, and love and wonder and soul-twining have nothing to do with it. Babies are made in all kinds of situations where this idealized version of sex doesn’t come into play at all. (Shocking though that news may be to that asshole, Todd Akin.)

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I know this picture is cute, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have cute, pesonified versions of eggs and sperm in kids’ sex education books. It seems like only a step away from defining personhood as a fertilized egg.

As I looked through book after book, a question kept coming to my mind. Why is sex the only thing we teach our kids about where most of the material out there to teach it advocate giving them as little information on the subject as possible? How often have I heard someone say, when it comes to teaching your kids about sex, “Just answer their exact question. Don’t give them more than that.” Why? If my child asks me about electricity, I will try to deliver the information to her on her level, in terms of her ability to understand, but I won’t try to stop her from learning more about it by only giving her the answer to the exact question she asked me. It seems to me that sex is far too important and the possible outcome of ignorance far too negative to think that is the right course of action when teaching about it.

All I wanted was a book that would:

a) give the facts about how babies were made, actually made, without the religious overtones that were implicit even in the ‘non-religious’ books.

b) balance my desire for my daughter’s future sex life to be safe, consensual, respectful, pleasurable, responsible, and fun, without it having anything to do with the beauty of human intercourse and the gorgeous intertwining of souls to make a baby.

So far this is my favorite.

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Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask)

A father who looked to be about forty-five asked one of us a question, and as he spoke, it seemed as if he was voicing the dilemma of an entire generation. “How can I give my daughter a healthy attitude toward sex,” he asked in earnest,” but prevent her from having any?” If you know where this guy is coming from, this book is for you.

From the product description on Amazon.com:

If you’ve ever tried to tell your six-year-old how babies are made or your fourteen-year-old how condoms work, you know that grappling with telling your kids about sex can be a sweat-drenched exercise. But it doesn’t have to be. Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask) is a one-of-a-kind survival guide that will help you stay sane through every stage of your child’s sexual development. After interviewing scores of parents and analyzing decades of scientific research, two nationally respected, Harvard-trained physicians share their expertise in this brilliantly insightful, practical, and hilarious book that has fast become the leading resource for parents of toddlers to teens. This indispensable guide covers all the bases, including:

• What to expect at each stage of your child’s development and how you can influence it from birth onward
• What to tell your kids at every age about sex and how to get the conversation going
• What to do when your five-year-old turns up naked with the girl next door, your toddler is rubbing on her teddy bear, or your six-year-old walks in on you having sex
• How to avoid unnecessary clashes with your middle-schooler while managing privacy, crushes, and what to wear
• How to encourage your teenager to use contraception without encouraging her to have sex, and how to help her choose the method that’s best for her

I have laughed out loud over and over and I’m only a few pages in. Something this book accomplishes in the very first five or six pages it to make you feel like your child and his/her behaviors and questions with regards to sex and sexuality are all incredibly normal. It also advocates a good approach to the possibility that your child might be gay and promotes the concept of sexual diversity being normal and to be expected. And it gives parents really excellent talking points and reality checks, while normalizing our nerves and anxiety about these conversations.

I absolutely and without reservation recommend this book. Oh, and you can buy it at any age. It’s got good information for all stages of a child’s development. You can buy it HERE.

CROSSPOSTED TO STEEMIT

Release Day! Earthly Desires Now Available!

Let’s try this one again!

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Reba, the goddess-patron-saint of Nashville (according to Jay Brannan) celebrates with me.

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You can by the book here. Right here. At this handy link. This one. You can also read the blurb and an excerpt there to help you decide if you want to give this book a chance at a top spot on your e-reader.

Here is a link to the book on Goodreads, should you wish to add it to any of your shelves there, or maybe, possibly leave a review that says something nice about it. If you read it and hate it, you can also leave a review saying something not nice, I guess, and…well…fine. Be that way. 😛

I’ve mentioned before that I am often inspired by music. In the case of this tale, there were several songs that took root in my mind and which became the basis of inspiration for this book. Because I’m feeling self-indulgent, I thought I’d share three of them.

Never Let Me Go by Florence + the Machine

Astronauts by One Eskimo

All This and Heaven Too by Florence + the Machine

And, lastly, because this is my first book, I wanted to thank some people specifically and this seems like as good a place and time as any. Thank you to:

Keira — for co-writing this with me, and for being a steady support in all ways.
Jed — for being my best friend, for buying me the copy of The Light Princess years ago now, for supporting me always in everything, for being my sounding board, my beta reader, my one in a million.
Husband — for being a good man, a loving partner, and the best decision of my life, for being an amazing father, for making time for my writing, and for not caring one whit what I write about, so long as I feel fulfilled doing it.
Daughter — for giving up mommy time so that I can write, and for being an inspiration simply by existing, breathing, smiling.
JJ and Punny — for twelve years of support and friendship, for loving me unconditionally.
Alice, Beth, and Aimee — for beta readings, hand-holding, friendship, and lots of emotional support.
SIL — for helping with childcare, for being supportive beyond your call even when stressed to the gills yourself.
MIL — for loving my kid enough that I trust her to you, freeing me up to do what I need and want to do with regards to writing.
Any and all readers, past and present, of original works or fanfiction who offered me support, beta reading, friendship, kindness, criticism, and your time. Thank you. Thank you very much. So much love to all of you.

The Inspiration

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In the past, I’ve almost always been most inspired by music and I tend to write while listening to a specific playlist. When suffering from the occasional writer’s block, music has most often been the source of breaking the inspiration free again, providing me with solutions to the problems, and setting me off on another rush of creativity.

Recently, though, I’ve found another source of input very inspiring. Photographs. As most artists have been doing of late, I’ve started making Pinterest boards that correspond with my writing. It has become a huge source of inspiration for me, though, unlike music, the boards don’t seem to help me problem-solve, but merely help me visualize how I want to describe things and people, and to help establish the atmosphere and vibe of the story.

As an example, working on a recent fairy tale for our series, Tempting Tales with Ellora’s Cave, I found the following image incredibly inspirational, even if this castle and these swans don’t appear at all in the story. It was the magical, fairyland, unreal atmosphere that I wanted to capture.

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I’ve got pin boards for Fairy Tales in general, boards for specific stories like Spanish Dancing Shoes and The Frog Prince, and boards for random and currently unplaceable inspiration.

From the Spanish Dancing Shoes board.

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A potential future protagonist from the Inspiration board.

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If this isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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From the Frog Prince board.

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Feel free to follow me at Pinterest and get a glimpse of the beautiful things I’m using to juice up my inspiration, or, heck, just for some pretty pictures.

The Book of Imaginary Beings: Mirror Animals

Bikini Bird is in love with Jorge Luis Borges’ book The Book of Imaginary Beings; she peruses it while using the toilet. It is, in fact, the perfect toilet book for the whole family, just so you know. It’s got pictures for kids and short entries about amazing imaginary beings for adults and kids-of-reading-age alike.

At her current age, the vocabulary is at times too advanced for Bikini Bird, so I end up reading some of the entries to her, and explaining them a bit. There are entries I skip, though, because while they might not be too frightening for her, they are too frightening for me. I kid. Kind of.

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For example, the entry about Animals Which Live In Mirrors:

The Emperor pushed back the invaders, imprisoned them within the mirrors, and punished them by making them repeat, as though in a kind of dream, all the actions of their human victors. He stripped them of their strength and their own shape and reduced them to mere servile reflections. One day, however, they will throw off that magical lethargy.

The first to awaken shall be the Fish. In the depths of the mirror, we shall perceive a faint, faint line, and the color of that line will not resemble any other. Then, other forms will begin to awaken. Gradually they will become different from us; gradually they will no longer imitate us; they will break through the barriers of glass or metal, and this time they will not be conquered. Water-creatures will battle alongside mirror-creatures.

That doesn’t seem that scary, does it? Well, that’s because you are not in my mind, and you don’t understand — I have mirrors in my house, people! I don’t particularly want to look into them and see fish, or tigers, or mirror-creatures! I played Bloody Mary as a child! I have a vivid imagination! I started reading Lisey’s Story by Stephen King and couldn’t finish it because of the sheer terror! (For those who don’t know, it is a book about a terrifying thing that lives in mirrors and gets you! And I bought the book because I’d read that it was Stephen King’s foray into literature, so I thought it wouldn’t be scary. a) it was not literature, and b) it was scary!)

And yet…I do find the idea of another world within mirrors intriguing, mystifying, and kinda desperately intoxicating. I’d like to write a story about it, and I very well may. It would fit well into the Fairytale series, and so, like many things that frighten me (like documentaries on serial killers), I feel a draw to it that might require some exploration. It could be a very sexy story – a mirror lover. (I do not, however, think that a serial killer story is necessary, nor do I think that would be sexy. Do you hear me, brain? I do not need to work through that terror via erotica. Okay? Okay. It would be wrong.)

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There is another beautiful association that I have with things that live in mirrors. Back in my youth, I was (and remain) a pretty big fan of one Jennifer Jane Niceley, and she had this song called “Siamese Twin” (uh, at least I think that was the name) and it was all about the ‘other’ that lives inside of us, the not nice one, the terrible, terrifying one, the one we try to kill, who humiliates us, or horrifies us. The only lyric I can remember comes after she has battled the demon down, and thought that she’d defeated it, but “she still shows up in shiny spoons and dark dinner plates.” How gorgeous is that? How haunting? How evocative? I would love to hear that song again, but I doubt that I ever will. She doesn’t perform it anymore.

Oh, Jennifer, you are so lovely.

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Are you intrigued or frightened by the things that you might find in a mirror? Do you think that the evil twin who shows up in shiny spoons and dark dinner plates is worth making peace with, or do you want to destroy her forever? Did Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story scare the bejeebus out of you? Or did you find it tame and lame? Do you think serial killer fears should be explored in erotica? Do you think Jennifer Niceley has a beautiful voice? Do you want to buy her music? Please do!

Reading Memoirs: Spying on Dysfunction

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After reading The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir twice, I decided that I would read another memoir to see if I could capture that glorious feeling of spying on hope again. I knew I had many unread memoirs in my stash of books, so I perused them and eventually chose out The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

I’m pretty sure that this book is more about spying on dysfunction. And truly I, like almost everyone else in the world, really don’t have to go very far or read a book to do that. I read the first two chapters and then had to put it down. It is, from what I read, a fantastically told tale, and one that many people will probably enjoy.

As a mother, however, I could not get past my rage at Walls’ parents. There were aspects of the brain washing depicted in the story – the father encouraging the children to believe that life on the run from the FBI (creditors) was actually the very best way to live – that reminded me too much of very recent realizations I’ve come to regarding the experience of childhood. While I’m always open to anything I’m reading challenging me emotionally, there are some things that are better left to cook awhile, rather than eaten raw and bloody. So, I’ve shelved that book until later, and I’ve put those thoughts about the nature and experience of childhood into a pot on the back of the stove to simmer quietly. I suspect that stuff will come out in some of my writing in unexpected ways. That’s the best therapy there is for it anyway, you realize.

Here, look at this picture of Brent and Josh’s most recent baby goats, apparently named Dion and Donatella, and spy on hope again for a moment. Wash away the taste of bad parenting, childhood brain washing, and bloody, raw, boiling soup of uncomfortable realizations with the adorableness of baby goats. Aahhhh, that’s nice. Much better. Oh,and you can follow the Beekman business at Fabulous Beekman Boys on Facebook, if you want more updates of goats, sweetness, and hope.
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In the end, I went back to reading Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente rather than continuing to search for another memoir that might hit the blissful spot that The Bucolic Plague managed to hit. Deathless is, by far, my favorite book that I’ve read in a long time. It is taking me months to finish it, though, because it is the most delicious word porn. Mmm, so good.

When reading memoirs, what you expect to get out of it? Do you expect that you will have a sense of, “Well, at least my life is not as bad as all that?”, or do you hope to feel inspired, or to feel like you can relate to the individuals writing? Or do you just want to read a good tale?

The Book of Imaginary Beings: Masks

For Christmas, my friend, Cricket, bought me a copy of The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Borges; it has become a mainstay in our household, entertaining and inspiring me, while also enthralling my six year old daughter, Bikini Bird. She is amazed by the pictures, and constantly asks me to read aloud from it, even though the vocabulary is often above her head.

I actually started googling about the book this morning because I wanted to draft a post focusing on a particular quote regarding talking with things that have no voice, but then I stumbled on something magnificent! Something that I cannot wait to talk about! And so I will have to discuss things that have no voice on another day and we’ll all thrill and clap over this awesome find instead!

Kest Schwartzman’s Blog dedicated to making masks depicting each of the imaginary beings discussed in Borges’ book!

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The Chimera

In order to fully explain my reaction to this project, I should first reveal that I have a long-standing fear of masks. One might even call it a phobia. I get so unnerved by masks that I once ended up leaving a restaurant without ordering because they had masks everywhere on the walls, peering down me with their empty, hollow eyes, scaring the bejeebus out of my poor, scaredy-cat soul! So, the fact that I utterly love Kest Schwartzman’s project represents not only just appropriate admiration, but a conquering (to a degree) of an unreasonable fear. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t still freak out if Kest Schwartzman showed up in my living room wearing these masks, because I very well might, but it’s a plus that I’m very excited and inspired by looking at these photos, rather than just horrified.

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Lunar Hare

As I looked through the pages, I was wowed by the detail and thought given to each piece. I was impressed by the quality of the materials used. I thought that there could be few things inspired by The Book of Imaginary Beings as awesome as this particular project. The beings only exist inside our minds as a reflection of ourselves and the masks allow for a person to take on that internal monster, wear it around for awhile. There’s something magical about that, something spiritual, and goes above and beyond the masks themselves. It’s a means of channeling that creature’s energy. It reminds me of rituals that I’ve never witnessed, ancient mysteries that I’ve never known. Looking at the pictures, I imagine that if one were to wear the mask the person inside might leave for awhile, replaced by the monster/creature for a short time.

Perhaps this is why I’ve always feared masks anyway? I tend to see them as magical things that can override the person within.

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The Elephant That Foretold Buddha

More about the book itself in later posts. For now, I encourage you to start at the beginning of Kest Schwartzman’s blog and admire her work. I see that she’s got a kickstarter project associated with it, and a donate button. If you feel inspired by her work, or wish to support it, definitely click on that button.

Beautiful work, Kest Schwartzman! Thank you for sharing it with the world!

How do you feel about masks? What do you make of the work that this book has inspired? Are imaginary animals of interest to you? Do you wish you could have one of these masks and be a centaur for awhile?