Rejecting the Fiction

I spent a very pleasant hour watching Heather Cox Richardson (https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson) as she talked about Laura Ingalls Wilder and politics. I spent my pandemic learning. It was a way to pass the time but it was also a revolutionary act. I was born the last month of the 1960s. I grew up property of my parents. I grew up when there were no phone numbers on billboards for help if your situation had become intolerable. Many in my family were profoundly mentally ill. My father was a former foster child from the 1940s and I’d guess his foster experience wasn’t a good one based on the family life he provided for me. He was angry beyond all reason and bitter, often telling me he was jealous of me and that he hated me. My mother, bless her heart (see southern translation for “Bless your heart”) was also profoundly mentally ill and the product of a home with massive family violence. She was also a compulsive liar. This was my family. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, learning what I wanted to wasn’t an opportunity I could have. My family chose the education I received and most of it was propaganda stating how lucky I was to have them for a family.

I don’t reminisce much in the public space. I haven’t released my testimony nor really spoken to a lot of people about my life spent with my parents, first as a child then, later, caring for them. I couldn’t work outside the home much because I had PTSD and agoraphobia for many years. I went out only to attend to duties I had to do and then came home. Sounds odd now, to be so eager to come back to a place where I was unhappy.

Ms. Richardson’s video blog touched a place in me because it was based on myths. In the 70s and 80s, every sitcom and program ended on a high note. Problem solved. Happy ending. Aren’t you glad you watched? At the same time, I was exposed to Christian fiction in the private school I attended. I was discouraged from reading anything else since it was secular and therefore considered bad. In fact, I was often told that reading anything other than nonfiction, educational materials was a waste of my time. My childhood education and even to some degree my adult education was controlled by my father who paid for it. While there was always the potential I could go to the authorities and ask for help and report what he did to me, since I had no proof and I legally belonged to him, that might have made my situation much worse.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m fifty years old. My parents are gone. My father’s influence on me is far from ended. I still have PTSD and still experience flashbacks of the things he thought would “teach me” to be a decent human being, or at least be useful to him. The legacy of family violence, I believe, still colors a lot of my decisions. As always, everything in my world relates to my writing. My father didn’t approve of me being an author. He insisted I go to college and just about told me what classes I should take, expecting me to come home each day and tell him what I’d learned. To say this diminished my desire to go would be an understatement. Since I had issues with PTSD even then, staying home and out of sight was usually preferrable to me. But over the subsequent years, I learned that education really was a powerful thing.

The power I have today to choose for myself what I learn and study just really hit me as I was listening to Ms. Richardson’s talk. As my parents, grandparents, and extended family were trying to convince me I really did have the best family life I could ever ask for, I was being strangled with the attempts of all the adults and authority figures in my life to convince me of my place in the world. My father expected me to be someone useful to him because that is the role of a female in society at that time. It was the only role. When my parents started asking for grandchildren, I absolutely refused to marry or have kids.

Now, back to my writing. I wrote books to visually and psychologically process the changes I was going through as I pursued not only education but also self-editing. I was gradually over a long period of time separating myself from my father and what he’d tried to brainwash me with. Now, when I go back to read the books I wrote I see so clearly those same gender assumptions in my work that existed in my life. Myths. Lies, really, but ‘myth’ is a fun word I don’t get to use a lot in real life.

That’s why it’s taking so long to edit and publish successive books. I go through to read the books and now I can see so many more plot possibilities and so much more potential in the characters than I could when I first wrote these books back in the late 1990s. In some respects, Joanna has a lot to do with what I was going through at the time, growing up in a family where her role was always not specified. She was brought up so different than her siblings and felt it even though her family refused to acknowledge it out loud. As time goes by and she’s exposed to other influences, namely the two guards who help her escape and assist her in learning what her potential is, she eclipses them.

Writing Joanna was very liberating for me because I was making a journey on paper I was also making in real life but things are just so much simpler in a storyline than they are in the present moment. I controlled Joanna’s decisions and outcomes while in real life I had no such safety net. It took years for me to see plot lines and possible outcomes which I had never thought could be but now embrace because I can. Studying the differences between the world my father tried to present to me versus the world available to me now really interests me and I look forward to exploring it in other works. In many ways, Joanna’s story is a presentation of how you can be told lies and embrace them only to then learn the truth and start to assimilate that and all the opportunities and realities it represents.

I’m sure I’m not doing this justice when I write it out because it is late and I’m tired (edited before publication. There are still books I read among the Christian Fiction genre all those decades back that I still love to read now but I can see in them the same myths so many young people are proving to be outright lies! I’ll be honest that I never examined a story quite the same way Ms. Richardson examined Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work and related it to the times and the politics of the moment in which it was created. It’s got me excited to pursue my education and to learn more. I’m obsessed with this idea of creating a fiction to sell something which doesn’t exist. Happily ever after doesn’t exist. My father’s family told me that reading fantasy was akin to devil worship. All the while they were telling me how fortunate I was to be be part of their family.

Updates

Writer’s block gets a bad rap. It isn’t wholly unproductive though. While I haven’t written every day while blocked, I have worked here and there and moved the story line on toward where I envisioned it going. I’ve also enjoyed several story ideas which mostly came to me in dreams. Odd that, dreaming of a story line. I never understand how that works but that’s how I get some ideas.

I’ve been slaving away with homework to the point where there’s hardly any time to think. My community college recently reorganized, probably to survive the pandemic. Instead of a group of colleges all administered together, they are now one college operating under a single administrator. So Dallas County Community College District (collectively known as DCCCD) became Dallas College.

They like to lump classes together if they’re taught by the same instructor and similar. So Drawing 1 and 2 are together. They’re very different classes but share the same instructor, the same studio space but are focusing on two different types of drawing, beginning and the more advanced studying together. This is actually a good thing because classes which fall below the standard limit of student number to keep it going, can now continue because the two classes are one. That gives us small classes which increases learning potential and it’s fun to see the advanced students’ work.

Another class did that too. Basic Design was lumped together with Visual Design for New Media and the instructor is one of those old school military school directresses with the bullhorn and pages of instructions on how she wants every detail of your life to be lived while you’re in her class. I did jump through her hoops and exhaust myself to earn two zeros in her class. In her defense, there were students who were doing really well. But both classes were doing the exact same homework! I was encouraged to complain when I dropped the course but I chose not to. Just because it isn’t for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t helping someone else. And she had mad photoshop skills. So that’s next on my list of want to take is a photoshop class.

I am still strongly considering going to a four year college, one that seems too grand for me really. Dream big, right? SMU has a Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis on writing that sounds like it’d be divine to take! I’m not certain I can get in. It requires a 3.5 GPA to be accepted and my transfer grades are only 3.22. They’d be significantly lower if I’d stayed in that Visual Design class where the teacher appeared to not like me very much. So, keeping my focus forward, I’m strongly considering what my next move is and when I need to make it.

I’ve registered for the 2021 Dallas/Ft Worth Writer’s Conference in Hurst. At first, they said they were definitely going to have it in person but it has now been officially switched to virtual. I’m not sure how that will work but I’m still interested and glad they’re going on with it! I really missed it last year! I hope to learn more and just basically enjoy myself and the whole writing/author thing.

Joey. I adopted him and his sister in 2006 after I lost one of my cats to Kidney disease. They were to be my mother’s cats but after the vascular dementia set in quickly became my cats. His sister passed last year at this time. Joey has been diagnosed with significant heart disease, a genetic disorder which suddenly appeared and has taken a toll on his health. I’m enjoying the time I have left with him and cuddling him extra close and he is surprising me by allowing that even though he usually hates it.

I’m working on the cover for Machine Planet after having a revolutionary idea during a drawing class. And that’s about it right now except for the story that won’t let me go which is progressing slowly. Last night, I stayed up late with a story I’d written 20 years ago. I read through that, editing out spelling or grammar errors, changing a word there or editing a sentence here. I really enjoyed that story and hope to write a sequel to it soon. But for now, I’ve got writer’s block so I’ll go back to homework.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block can take several different manifestations. It can be first and foremost fatigue. When anyone has been doing the same thing day in and out for weeks or months without many breaks, fatigue will set in no matter what. Secondly, it can be a relative of fatigue called “I’m sick of this” where the person will do anything, even the dreaded items on the TO DO list, to avoid the activity they quite possibly enjoy but, because they’re burned out, they don’t want to do anymore. Thirdly, it can be because life has invaded their workspace.

My writer’s block can be attributed to all three. The next semester starts again on Monday. This semester, I have classes I must actually attend. That will be an adventure since I’ve spent so much time at home. I’m basically going to have to learn how not to be a hermit! But I am looking forward to getting some time out of the house.

I’m still studying the Graphic Design and hope to be able to open up new avenues of creativity with these next classes. I spent a good part of yesterday gathering up the supplies needed for a new semester and today I’ll go through and find the school room locations and get the train schedule so I can save myself the $40 in parking fees every week.

Knowing myself as I do, once the newness of the beginning of a new semester has moved on into “They want me to do what on the first week?” I’ll be writing again very soon. Hoping to get Dorian 2 out by Christmas and also possibly get two more out before then but that will largely depend on the workload of my classes and also on my motivation!

Good Luck to all of us starting something new at this late part of the year with a hint of Autumn in the air. That hint is only a threat here in Texas where the temperatures are going to warm up again as we head toward the end of August into September. But Fall decorations are going up on doorways and the late season flowers are all blooming, a sure sign that, even if it’s hot outside, the season is still progressing onward toward the Autumn.

Dorian Book One

I’m sitting in my favorite chair by the open window with my old friend, Joey, in the window, soaking up the sunshine like cats like to do. There’s a breeze occasionally and I’m working on emails and catching some of the day’s news.

Dorian 1: Witch’s Brew went live on Kindle last night and as of this morning is live as a paperback! I can order my author’s copy!

Since I got a lot done yesterday, I’m not planning a lot for today but I will likely order a pizza later and probably paint a chest of drawers I decided to salvage. I might also pull out the quilt I’ve been working on and put the edging on which will finish out that quilt! Since it’s my first, I’m sure it’s not as pretty as others but I love it. It’s just for me so there’s no pressure. I can also start looking for my next quilting adventure even as I get down to work on putting more books through the copyright pipeline and into print. Today I can spend time on deciding which book that needs to be. On the whole, that is the best day I can imagine having.

Publication!

It’s too hot and humid to do much in the way of renovations so I settled down and decided to tackle the publication now. It’s a lot of uploading and waiting along with error corrections for anything KDP doesn’t like. It takes about half an hour to an hour for the ebook, which should be available for order in a few hours, and up to two hours for the paperback, which may take as long as 24 to 48 hours to be available for order.

As soon as it’s live, I can order my author copy and be able to hold it in my hands! So exciting!

Dorian 1: Witch’s Brew can be read on it’s own or in the series. If any formatting issues are spotted, please let me know. Comments are always appreciated. Thank you for checking out my blog!

Summertime

I have three weeks left until the start of the Fall Semester! I’ve been working nonstop on the household renovation projects and finished one and decided to try to finish another (Craft room!) before the start of the semester. This leaves little time for writing or editing but I did get the certificate for Dorian 1 copyright so that is in the works and should be live on Amazon before the end of the week.

I’ve also been reading a lot. I found a series by Pedro Urvi that I really like. It’s a YA series but doesn’t feel like it. Some of the YA series are more focused on the younger readers. William Joyce fit into that category. His books about the Guardians of Childhood were fast reads and enjoyable despite the fact they were largely meant for younger readers. Pedro Urvi’s Path of the Ranger books don’t feel like that and I enjoy the story line. It’s a bit like Harry Potter with a school setting with the main character being special in some way, first because his father was a traitor then because he can do magic. It’s kept my attention and I just ordered the two next books in the series.

Urvi’s books are translations so there are some issues with that and this last book, the third in the series, has some formatting and editing issues. Still, despite that, I’ve enjoyed them and the break I get. Writing and editing all the times does get tedious after a while. Normally, this time of year, I’d be travelling at least once a month to friend’s houses and maybe to see my cousin in Michigan. This year hasn’t been as hard as last but my Mom’s cat, Joey, has been sick. So I’m sticking close to home for him and keeping him comfortable.

I lost my mom is 2011 after a lengthy battle with dementia. She had schizophrenia before that and caring for her was a way to get to know her. We had little in common but she taught me to love books and reading. Her two cats became mine when the dementia got bad and Joey is the last of the pair. I lost Sadie last year to cancer. (I really miss Sadie.)

The summer is quickly passing by and with it all the days to be able to get things accomplished before the busy months of Fall and Winter. At the same time I’ll be preparing Dorian 1 to be published, Dorian 2 is going through a final edit and I’ll need to get together a cover image for it. Since I have the cover for Dorian 1, I may use a version of that to create a cover for Dorian 2.

I started reading Urvi’s books because I was looking at book cover art in Amazon’s store when I happened on his first Path of the Ranger book. I loved the cover art! It was so spectacular and when I read the description, I decided to buy it. I have read a lot of books through Kindle but I really prefer to hold a book in my hand while I read it!

Daylight is quickly passing me by while I’m roaming through crochet patterns online, sorting through emails, updating my blog and planning my afternoon. I have to get up and get going so I can accomplish some things while Joey takes his midday nap!

Finishing Things

Today was the day. After all the hard work of editing and re-editing, searching for a lost copy of an edit I especially liked and then proofreading that, I can officially say I’m done with Dorian 1.

Even though the copyright law has been amended to say any work created by an author belongs to that author, in our modern world with modern ways to obtain things, the advice I received at the last writer’s conference (Dallas has a great writer’s conference in Hurst every year!) is to copyright everything! It’s horrible and it’s a terrible side of writing but it’s part of the business.

Also, I got to copyright my first self-made image of cover art. It isn’t what I envisioned but, when I finally got it done, it looked just right and I believe it represents the contents of the text. Two submissions to the copyright office for text and for artistry will hopefully be approved within the standard three months. I’ll stay busy until then by packaging up Dorian 1 for publication and getting it ready. Then, when I receive the certificate, I can publish.

Whew! I was so disappointed in myself for taking so long. I love seeing the books in paper and being able to hold them. It’s been so much fun to publish and also very much an opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone. Illustrator definitely stretches me and learning new things gets harder with every decade that goes by. (I’m still 35. Honestly.) But it is a good thing to learn new things and stay relevant in our ever evolving society.

Still quilting but it had to take a back seat as I made curtains for the MBR. The next semester starts in just over a month and I’m still considering my long term options in education. I’d like to go for a Bachelor’s but I’m still on the fence. Then there’s the continuing renovation. I’m approaching the end of creating a Master Bedroom from the rubbish-filled ‘sunroom’ (It has a lot of windows.) my Dad left behind. And I’ve still got my writing. I’ll begin edits on Dorian 2 and also the creation of the cover art. I’d hoped to publish everything in quick secession but my desire to make them look professional and something I can enjoy means I need to take my time. And that’s fine too. I’m living a dream I’ve had for decades and I want to enjoy every moment and learn all the lessons I can from it.

Notes to Myself

Depression is a horrible thing. I’ve struggled with it all of my life. I shouldn’t complain. My mother and both grandmothers had schizophrenia so I’m really fortunate. But that’s not the topic of this missive. Notes. I make a lot of notes to myself and I put them where I can find them. Yeah. A year later! So writing is a very creative thing and ideas don’t always pop up exactly when I have time or the enthusiasm to write them down. This creates a lot of notes which are specifically about whatever I’m working on at the time I wrote them. I’ll find these notes months or years afterward and realize I’d had that idea but forgot about it – because I lost the note – and moved the story in another direction. The importance of storing notes where I can find them obviously needs to be a priority for me.

I haven’t written for so long that my arm aches as I’m writing this but I believe I have officially come out of the dark tunnel I’ve been in for so the last few months. I can think better. I can see better! I can drive safer than I did when I had that reaction. I’m also working again, not only on the renovation but also on my writing. I’ve also been working on the cover for Dorian one and actually started to gather ideas for Dorian two. I like to stay ahead when I can!

I came up with a novel cover idea and worked with it and, after watching a couple of Youtube videos on how to use the shape builder tool, I came up with a cover that is not exactly what I had in mind but that I actually like. I changed the cover on Joanna 1 several times because I just really had no idea how to do a cover. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then. Dorian 1’s cover has more of southwest feel to it than I’d planned but it has all the elements I was wanting and it looked nice as of last night. I’m letting it rest so I can view it with fresh eyes today and see what I really think of it, remembering my epiphany of quilting. I’ve taught myself over decades to be more compassionate in some of the areas where I realized my inner critic was absolutely merciless! Creating artwork in Illustrator is going to be another one of those areas.

I’ve had to learn how to break down creating the cover into a series of smaller tasks which are easier for me to handle at this moment instead of one huge sit down where I conquer the world, end world hunger and bring about world peace. I’m still sometimes a type A person, especially when it comes to learning new tasks.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Notes. I’m certain when I was reworking Dorian 2 that I saved a certain character who was killed in the rough draft. I ‘remember’ rewriting it and then journaling that I’d changed the story line and would need to remember to continue that change throughout the following books. But when I went to read through it, I noticed it wasn’t done. That character still died.

I had to stop a moment and wonder if I’d dreamed it. I do have complex dreams about things I’m thinking about in real life and often about concepts and realities I don’t want to think about in real life. So it was entirely possible I’d dreamed about saving this character. The other option was that I’d made a note about saving him but then lost it. That is also a very real possibility. The third option doesn’t bear consideration because it’s too scary – the possibility that I’ve lost a version of a book I’ve written and all the changes and character development I’d worked on. That was a horrifying thought!

So I saved him. It’s a moment where Dorian is on the precipice of staying the same or vowing to bring the change that he saw in Crestival into his own world. While he really believes Joanna is the only one to create the change, really and truly the only one who can create that alteration is himself. We can only change ourselves and no one else. So it’s an important point in Dorian’s character path. Also, randomly, I’m certain it means something to Olozcho, the character being saved. He’ll go on to participate in future stories and have more life. I know it may sound crazy to think about my characters as if they were real people but for me they kind of are.

I’m not a a great artist at all. I’ve done a lot of things but I know people who can do them all better and prettier than I can. Still, I have to say I’m proud of my quilting start. Bees were the topic since bee lives and all the benefits (of pollination) they bring are so important. I’ll add honey to that benefit since, when I got MRSA when I was caring for my Dad in 2007, they just really had no idea how to treat the resistant staph. A microbiologist came up with the idea of using honey, specifically Manuka Honey, to treat MRSA and it worked! So while bees do pollinate great things for us like coffee, there are other benefits they offer which are also worth preserving.

Bee Quilt Top.

Developing a Strategy

This blog has been less of a writer’s blog and more of an author’s blog. To recap, I got sick a few weeks back and visited the doctor, the first visit in a long time due to Covid. She put me on a medication my father took for years to prevent or slow disease progression, specifically heart disease. That medication made me very sick. So, here I am today, with nothing to show in the way of progress. Everything I had set up to make progress on for the last month is still sitting there waiting for me to get it done. I’m off that medication and my life is running more smoothly now. Ironically, my cat Joey got sick about the same time and is now on medications which are making him feel better. Definitely a trying time having us both feeling under the weather.

It’s all made me very frustrated. I’ve produced three which aren’t bad but when I look at them as book covers my inner critic refuses to allow they’re good enough. So I’ve come to this point in my life, a point I’ve visited several times over the years I’ve been writing or crafting any thing: When do I decide my work is good enough? When I do approve of what I’m producing? It’s so easy to look at something I spent hours creating and believe it’s no good. It’s harder to do that over time. Something I crocheted at the moment I finish is “okay” but if I fold it up and store it away for cold weather, once I pull it out and look at it anew and with fresh eyes, it becomes “beautiful”.

My desire to punch out books covers as fast as I can crochet granny squares has not manifested itself in reality so I’ll fall back on what I know to be true. An hour a day can accomplish great things. When I first started writing, an author I was corresponding with told me that her secret was to write one page a day. At the end of a year, all the pages equal a book. That is a strategy which works on many things from home repairs and remodeling (just spend an hour a day when you get home from work and before you know it the big project will be done), writing, crafting, and housework. I’ve spent so many hours in front of Illustrator crafting a well done image only to throw it out the next day and all I’ve actually accomplished is getting sick of the whole thing. So I’ll fall back on what I know to be true. Strategy wins the war.

Oddly enough, during this whole ordeal with the medication reaction, the only thing I kept thinking is that I wanted to start quilting again. I haven’t quilted in decades! I used to do it a lot when I was caring for my grandmother when I was in my late teens but put it aside as requiring too much attention when I was caring for my schizophrenic mother. Now I’m only caring for myself and Joey so I’ve pulled out the new Singer sewing machine I bought three years ago and set it up in the only space I’ve got room, which is the recently renovated laundry room, and I’ve been quilting. I kind of went crazy at the fabric store but the lady at the fabric cutting station told me if I quilted for an hour a day, I’d get it all worked up and finished. Amazing how that strategy is embraced by so many others on so many different projects.