Stationary

How long has it been? Months? I’ve been away since my last post. By away, I mean an out of body experience that carried me to some deeper place from which I now seem to be just emerging.

In June, I was doing a summer semester to repeat classes in order to update my Associates degree, making it easier for it to transfer to a four year university. It was a simple class but I took the one with the insane teacher who used the weird online book and publisher developed assignments that came with the horrible user interface which only worked in theory. Four weeks of that and I was ready to explode.

On the close of that stressful class, I had a massive emotional flashback which just seemed to push me over an edge I didn’t realize I was so close to. So I allowed myself to decompress through movement one weekend, between Summer semester one and the beginning of Summer two.

I partied all by myself! I walked a lot. Over a three day weekend, I did close to 50k steps! I was on a roll! I realized at some point that I was tired. Worn out first by the school work and lots of sitting which had frustrated me to the extreme. Overwhelmed by this flashback which had been all emotion and little else, which for me feels much worse than a flashback involving images. This was me burning all of that off, frustrations and any other emotions which I might be feeling but not acknowledging just then. At the end of that weekend of walking, I decided to try and dance to some old favorite songs! What a wonderful experience that could have been!

The x-ray showed nothing is broken. However, there was numerous indicators first that there was indeed a deep joint injury. I was tired on top of the dancing and horribly sprained my entire left leg (wildly jumping up and down is not for me) and did something terrible to my left knee. I sat down for a couple of weeks and worked on my second semester. Then, feeling better, I got back up and resumed my life, unfortunately including the dancing.

That led to the second sprain. I hadn’t let it heal. So I sat down again and finished the second summer semester. Managed to pull an A and a B from those two short, intensive, slightly horrifying semesters. There was one week between the last summer semester and the start of fall semester. During that week, I should have poured all my effort into Dorian two. I should have. Didn’t.

Instead, I started another book and poured all of the stirred-up remembrances from that horrible flashback and my frustration of being forced to be stationary when I most needed to process things through movement! This book was fraught with all the feelings I’d recovered in the flashback and was fueled by much music (usually the same songs every single day) and when I looked back over it some weeks later, I discovered it was horrible but I had gotten all of the ideas down on paper.

Both summer semesters were online. The Fall semester was not, which forced me to start walking six blocks to class and six back to my car twice a week. Three weeks into the Fall semester, my left knee locked up. Thus the x-ray. I just love the phrase “age-related decline” but there were other terms in there too, like osteoarthritis and voids, and bursas. In simple terms, I’d injured then reinjured myself like three times and my muscles just got to the point where they were not working at all. I’ve been on forced rest for quite some time. I’ve been able to recover some of the use of my left leg but it’s nowhere near the movement I was accustomed to before the original injury at the end of June.

Stationary is not a word I like. I can’t ride a bike inside the house. That hurts too much. I can barely walk some days. But time, the doctor assured me, would cure all ills. And at some point, I’ll potentially start therapy to recover what I can. I started glucosamine and turmeric to deal with the joint injury and age-related issues plus the inflammation. All those things I was supposed to be doing in the house which I had ignored, I can’t do them now. I’m forced to rest and slow down and focus on things I was really running away from.

One of those is Dorian two. I’m still going over what is wrong for me to be stuck on an edit. I’m stuck on an edit! I’ve written seven hundred pages with this other book and am rewriting some of it now. So it’s not that I’ve got writer’s block. There is some issue in the continuation of Dorian’s story which is causing my brain to say nope when I try to edit it. I believe I’ve discovered what it may be and I’ve made a note on the manuscript while I’m letting it stew in the back of my mind. Meanwhile, I’m working on a manuscript of a fish with visions of being fast and furious.

As I sit here, late on a Saturday night, my left leg is aching. I’ve never appreciated a heating pad and a comfortable sofa so much before now. I’ve come to the point where I realize just how mysterious and frankly aggravating the whole writing process can be. As an author with a blog who wants to put the best foot forward and show myself being productive and all wordy, at the end of every day, there is a strange rhythm to how my writing works and I don’t always understand it.

I hadn’t even realized so much time had passed by until I realized there are only eight more weeks of the Fall semester left! Time is hurrying by me while I elevate and heal. Joanna is still on my heart and always will be. She’s so me but I’ve come to realize Dorian was another part of myself I hadn’t even been aware of. A different part of me is in the fast and furious fish who is taking up all my free time now. His struggle contains so much of what was included in that flashback in June. Joanna and her friends contained earlier flashbacks because that’s how I learned to process trauma. I write it out. Still writing. Just wishing I could be like those authors who seem to have reins which direct their skills and keep it focused. Mine seems to be as wild and uncanny as I am with my bum knee.

Final Edit

Editing is more than just reading through to spot errors in punctuation or grammar, something MS Word can usually do for me if I ask it to. Editing is often going over a document to see what the favorite transition word is of that document. I wrote one where, I swear, I must have used the word “then” two thousand times. One of my edits was focused solely on removing all of the ‘then’s. But I can’t remove them all! Some of them really do belong. It’s a matter of picking and choosing and deciding which ‘then’s get to stay and which have to be transformed into other phrases or just broken apart into two sentences.

Editing is actually quite fun if approached in the right perspective. It’s all about finding a voice for that particular novel, essay, novella or article which fits in with what the message is but also sounds the way the author wants it to sound. Sometimes, I’ll need to read through a sentence and the surrounding paragraph to decide what fix is best. It can be quite a challenge because after about forty pages, I’m normally paying more attention to the story than to the editing!

Perhaps this might give an idea of why it takes so long to accomplish the publication of a novel. I really don’t know why it’s taking me so very long to get Dorian 2 into print. Honestly, it’s been busy for me with college and also with some health issues which needed attending. Then there were household issues and Joey issues and just plain issues relating to the fact that if you spend days staring at a computer screen, a time eventually arrives when you want to do anything that doesn’t involve a computer. Burn out can happen to anyone. So much of life as a student, an author, a bill-payer, a book lover involves me staring at a screen.

For this particular book, Dorian 2, my favorite word was ‘so’. I could not believe how upset it made MS Word to have so many sentences begin with the word ‘so’. Therefore, I went out of my way to minimize how many incidences of that actually occurred. In general, editing for me requires too much attention so I’ll restrict myself to looking for certain things. Taking all the ‘so’s out for one, looking for spelling issues (which MS Word doesn’t always catch), and also making sure that if the character’s eyes are blue at the first page, they’re still blue on the last page! That means, other issues need to be addressed in future read-throughs. I pay attention to gender now. I didn’t used to do that but I do now. When I read new books by other authors (which does happen whenever I can schedule the time), I see these new trends taking place in fiction and how gender and also point of view are handled.

Point of view and perspective are also topics which must be considered. If this paragraph is allegedly coming from the thoughts of a character, does it seem like it does or is it in third person? Just a few changes of words and the placement of pronouns can make it seem more likely to be an internal dialogue and not an author stating instead of describing! Very technical and also something that can get by those who haven’t edited extensively, which was me for a great many years. I hated editing and had to force myself to do it. My way of handling it was to read through the novel and change things as I found them. Not a great strategy and certainly not time-saving, but it helped me to learn how to edit and I admit I practiced for years for I really felt like I had the hang of it. But it does take several read-throughs before I feel confident I’ve found the majority of the errors. I was just rereading Joanna two a few weeks ago to find some bit of character info I’d forgotten and found four mistakes I need to correct in a future edition! Just like trying to get ducks in a row, with so much text, it can be hard to get it all to behave as desired.

I realized while I was working tonight, the TV on mute, Joey asleep in his own bed (Yes. He has his own bed), and a fly buzzing around me that it had been quite a while since I posted anything. I’m still hard at work, editing the evening away. It’s a great way to spend a Thursday night.

Success At Last!

It’s comforting finally to be able to say I’ve got a cover image I’m pretty happy with. After all the starts and stops and changes in direction, I can say is that I’m way too picky. But I did put my heart into this one and tried to keep it similar to the image on Dorian One in that it has the filled in figures and not fleshed out people. It’s my hope to have the fleshed out people on the next cover which will be Rossyn One!

Going to art classes did help me with constructing the image I want. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help me know what image I want. That’s the issue I’ve had all this time. I’ve got a thousand images I can put on their but, halfway through construction, something inside me just says, “This isn’t the one.”

I know. There may not be “the One” for anything. Not for spouses or cars or cheesecakes. But for me, at that moment, I tend to listen to my gut instinct. It does tell me I certainly need to start designing the cover for Rossyn One now! And not wait until I’m thinking about sending it off to the copyright office. I actually believe, as I go through publishing more books and designing the covers, I’m learning more and more about how to make a great cover. Really and truly, covers aren’t what sells a book but a great cover can be what changes a mind. A great cover can say, this person spent more time on the cover and so wanted my business more. While a lackadaisical image on the cover just says it was designed, popped onto the front of the book, done.

That is one thing I still remember about cover art up to the late nineteen nineties. There were actual painters who really painted the image used for the cover and I could really tell. There were differences in cover designs if, for one book out of the others, they used another designer. It made a huge difference for me. I hope to one day be as good as a designer as I remember seeing when I look back at all the great cover art I’ve seen during my life. I’m not there yet. I’ll admit it openly. Designing a cover is still a challenge for me. I hope as I play more with Illustrator and art, taking more lessons, that will change.

Today in class, we had our first model. She was an older woman, maybe a few years younger than myself. She posed nude so we could practice drawing figures. I suck at drawing figures. That is my truth. I own it. But, like anything else, I’ll get better at it the more I do it. So that was one class down. I intend to take Drawing three in the Fall and, Figure drawing, so I can learn to make people on the page! People who actually look like people!

I was also thinking the other day about my life now. I’m enjoying these art classes so much. My father’s been dead for going on three and a half years. An old German guy, he truly was stuck in the land time forgot. His idea of home and family is nothing like what I see around me today. He controlled my every day and wanted to control every decision. If he were still alive, art classes would not be possible for me. He’d do everything in his power, including falling and hurting himself if it took that, to keep me away from a career in art or creativity. Why did he hate it so? I have no idea, but I wrote in secret for twenty five years simply because I knew he didn’t like it and wouldn’t support me while I did it.

I find it amazing that the arts are the thing which get defunded by those who have the power to decide what public schools teach. I used to wonder why that was when I’d hear stories about budget cuts years ago. I understand now why now. Art helps us to realize who we are in a clearer, more detailed way. It’s why there are cave paintings and ancient artworks which are still available to us now, because someone generations ago, sometimes hundreds of generations ago, wanted to explore who they were with a little artwork they may never have imagined would touch anyone but themselves. I find it very intriguing that art classes are so despised by so many who will then run out and spend a million dollars on some famous painter’s work just so they can hang it in their house.

Art is important and it’s why I think I have so many issues with making covers for these books. These characters were my friends during very lonely times and I don’t just want to slap some picture on the cover. I want something that speaks to me. Even if it only speaks to me, it’s an experience and a learning opportunity. I think that is the second biggest blessing in my life right now. There is a first big blessing in my life and maybe one day I’ll talk about that. For now, I’m going to find some dinner. Taking the rest of the night off to do some rug latching.

March On

February has always been a rough month for me. So many negative experiences happened in February, from my mother’s stroke in 05 to her brother, my uncle, dying in 17. This February was no exception to that rule. A difficult month filled with loss and gray skies. I was very happy to see February crawl away.

Enter March, filled with hope and thunderstorms. So far, all I’ve done is home repairs, but I am officially on Spring Break! So, I’ve spent a lot of time with Dorian 2 and I’ve also put some work on the cover. I’m so happy to say I’ve got the figures done in Illustrator. Hoping to decide on a background image/design. After that, all that’s left is to add the text and it’ll all go off to the copyright office!

That being said, emergency repairs are never enjoyable. I’m happy to have them done and can rest with some confidence I don’t have to worry about that for some time, but I didn’t enjoy spending money I would rather have funneled in another direction. With inflation and gas prices rising, I’m tightening the belt like everyone else. Less eating out and more cooking at home. Less driving and more imagining myself going somewhere in meditation.

Just as I was beginning to despair, I saw it! The very first flower of March was a blue-eyed grass blossom! I was so happy to see it. The fruit trees which normally bloom by the end of February are still bare, still preparing to burst forth with rich color and beauty. Seeing this first flower of spring definitely made my day better.

My evening isn’t over just yet. I’m sitting by the window, opened just a bit to let in the breeze. The TV is noise in the background and has to share with the sound of my typing on the laptop. I’ve spent my Spring Break doing not much at all. Did catch up on laundry and did a bit of clutter control. Mostly, I’ve spent my time reading which is always a great inspiration for working on my own creations. I’ll feel like I will have really accomplished something to get Dorian 2: Old Friend, into print. It’s required more changes than any of the others but once I discovered what was blocking me, it all went smoothly.

Next week, it’ll be back to classes and art. I do love the class but it challenges me. From drawing as a little girl to using art as a form of therapy to cope with trauma and family violence, there seemed to be something always in the way of my drawing after using art as therapy. Taking these classes have really helped me push through that. I’m still finding my voice and discovering myself. All of life is deciding who we want to be.

February

I hate February. My mother had her stroke in February. My uncle, her brother, had two heart attacks and died in February. Now I’ve lost another relative in February and the funerals just keep coming. It’s been a dismal month but I can say at least there’s been no repeat of Texas’ grid failure in 2021.

I am pleased to say I’ve finished editing Dorian 2. It’s ready to go to the copyright office. I am still, sadly, working on a cover design. It’s not that I can’t make one. I’ve made several, but each one of them just didn’t look like the right one to me. Maybe I’m being overly picky but I remember the cover designs from a few decades back.

I don’t really count the 1940s cover design as anything special. The wasp waisted, huge breasted women being abducted by glassy aliens and ridiculous robots was more like silly cartoons for me. But in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and, especially, the 80s, cover design rocked! In my mind, I can still see the cover image for Andre Norton’s Ralestone Luck and Patricia C. Wrede’s Daughter of Witches. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series always had excellent cover artists. Over time, I got to recognize the skills of certain artists and to buy those books, often just for the cover art.

It’s quite possible I’m just being a perfectionist when it comes to the cover art on my books. It may also turn out that I’m not that great of a cover artist for fiction and fantasy novels. But since they’re mine, I get to play with it and make it whatever I want. I’ve turned out about a dozen images in the last year to grace the cover of Dorian book two, but even if they were great ideas they just never looked right to me. So, I’m starting on a new image with new media.

Still in drawing, class two this semester. I’ve always loved art and drawing but in the 90s when I was doing art therapy, that changed my relationship with art and added a sort of bad connotation to the act of creating art. I’m hoping these classes will help me to separate art from my therapy. I’ve really enjoyed meeting other artists and being immersed in the world of art, as a student. It’s been a wonderful inspiration for my creativity.

I’ve had some setbacks. February is so stressful my mental health has taken a downturn. I’ve committed to my medication regimen and using the tools of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and mindfulness to get myself through it as best I can. And the calendar is slowly marching through this month. I’m so ready for March and Spring and more stable weather patterns which don’t include freezing temperatures and snow. But the Texas winter is a good time to get things done inside and I hope that in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to send off both book and image to the copyright office and to publish shortly after! That would make me very happy.

Happy 22

As I get settled into this second week of the new year, I’m aware that this is becoming more of life blog than an author’s blog. One of my favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus where Richard Dreyfus says “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

My holidays were very different this year due to circumstances beyond my control. My Christmas present was a new furnace. Not what I wanted, mind you, but very much what I needed. This Christmas also marked three years since my father died. While I wasn’t close to him, he was still my father and I spent many, many years caregiving for my parents so they were, despite our difficulties relating, a presence in my world. This was the first Christmas I didn’t honor all the traditions our family when my parents were alive looked forward to. Even my food choices changed and I have to say it brought new life to me while I was in something of a crisis mode.

I’ve also had some health issues over the holidays which are not conducive to working much less celebrating. The New Year came just the same. Time marches on. I had plans for so much I would accomplish over the holiday break and I did none of them. Joey is still here with me and I treasure every day with my 16 year old cat. His middle name should be Demanding.

I have been working a bit on Dorian 2 but it’s been mostly on the sideline and I’m not sure why that is. I do want to get it off my To Do list, certainly. I’m enthusiastic about moving on to Rossyn’s first book but there’s obviously something I haven’t done to get Dorian’s second half ready for publication. It’s an odd thing, how an author feels that the characters communicate. I definitely feel some communication as I found a huge plot hole in one scene and realized I needed to repair a scene where a contributing character was essentially forgotten. So, work continues and I hope to have results soon and a book out by Spring. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it’ll be out in a couple of weeks. It won’t. I’m just not moving that fast. But I am moving and I’m warm again! Thankful to be able to scrape up enough to get the new furnace. Fifteen years is just long enough to forget how much you paid for the last one!

I am taking only one class this semester for the sole purpose of wanting and needing to accomplish other things. I want to focus on my math and get that out of the way so I can really consider transferring to a four year college and get a Bachelor’s degree. I love to study and all my studies have been at the Associate’s level so it’ll be an adventure to study at the Bachelor’s level. Additionally, I need to make more progress on the house renovations. I need my craft room done so my crafts won’t intrude on my bedroom! And with all the drama of last semester and this holiday season, I think it’s wise to slow down and allow myself some time, especially with all that’s going on this winter already. I don’t want to miss a thing and if that means I spend some extra time with Dorian 2, then I think that’s worth it. I hope readers will feel the same.

Blessings to you for this New Year. May we all prosper and grow!

Switch

So things are progressing nicely in the world in which I live. First and for myself most important is that my furbaby Joey got a good report at the vet. He got very sick in July, just like his sister did last year. He didn’t have cancer like his sister. Instead, he had a cardiac condition common to cats of his breed. That’s now managed and his bloodwork came out good this last week, indicating he’s as healthy as a 15 about to be 16 year old feline can be. He still has a time limit because I know his kidneys seem to be aging faster than he is, due in part to his surviving the cat food recall of 2007. He and his sister were both 1 year old then and the poison in the cat food took the life of my 9 year old Spaz. Talk about trauma, knowing someone you love died because of what you were feeding him! The vet mentioned that the cancer Sadie had could likely have been caused by the poison or exposure to it, even though Lymphoma is pretty common in pets. I’ve got a friend who has recently had her furbaby diagnosed with lymphoma.

Secondly, and possibly also more interesting to others, I wrote this morning on the story that wouldn’t let go (reference a previous post). I knew it would come back when it wanted to and how it wanted. Sudden understanding of a character and a magazine article about psychopaths all helped me to get a good handle on direction and character development. I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve already got the basics for the second in the series.

Writer’s block is really like a switch in some ways. It can also be like an obstacle course forcing a person to climb out of that into a different perspective and practice of writing. Life has been complex for me this last few months. Bad memories and nightmares, all of which accompany depression and anxiety, basically killed any creativity I had. Now, it won’t kill my ability to quilt or do hand crafts but it certainly does a number on my ability to focus and write.

I wrote a lot and drew a lot while I was a kid. I never once had any problem with what to write or draw. It just flowed out of my childhood brain in a way adults envy. Later in life, as I started doing both as a way to verbalize and heal trauma, it seemed to me as if it was difficult to shift back into writing for pleasure. It was as if the trauma had painted everything with a stain which kept me from enjoying it the way I had when I was much younger. Drawing was one of my classes this semester and, while it hasn’t been difficult, the fact I used drawing to cope and do therapy for trauma tainted it as well and it’s been a long and challenging semester due to that. But I really enjoy it and it will definitely help with cover creation.

It’s keenly interesting to me how all of it works together: the creativity, the way the drawing and writing were used to heal trauma and also how that changed me and my perception of the creative natures of both of those. I love mysteries like that and it’s why I got drawn into the magazine article about psychopaths. Someone once told me my father was one. My childhood certainly testifies that he could have been. But there were some divergent areas which prove he might be kind of low on the spectrum. I do often think back to what life was like with him and what he did, trying to better comprehend his motivation for such behaviors. Sadly, there are some things which defy understanding. But, I digress. My subject matter was the fact that I’m writing again. There is the additional stimulation that the semester has only three more weeks until close, thus giving me time to get back to my previous household renovations. For some reason, physical activity is a must in my creative process. I find that doing chores requiring physical exertion can stimulate my imagination much more than regular exercise will. That and I really want a craft room.

The End Is Nigh

My whole life has been consumed with college classes this semester. IT’s not usually like that. Typically, I spend the recommended number of hours studying. Most classes take around 5 to 10 hours a week to complete in an average 16 week class. This semester has been very different and I wonder if that is because I’m breaking away from the detachment I always had. Dad paid for my classes when I first attended college after High School and since he paid he got to choose what I took. Which meant none of it was necessarily what I wanted. I could never do any art because he thought art was a waste of time. I couldn’t take classes associated with writing or composition because that was another waste of time. However, this semester I’ve been able to take classes I want. Perhaps that’s the reason this semester has taken so much out of me. I’ve applied myself more to this semester than to any previous one.

This application of my time and attention to classes means there was no time to write or design covers. I didn’t completely go without any attention to my writing. I’ve come up with several storylines for future works. Most of these, oddly enough, came to me through dreams! A shortage of time in which to write can be a useful break. It’s time away from the computer screen, time away from the character, time which can be used to get another point of view, mentally review the storyline and characters and also time which can allow me to play with the character in other scenarios which might help to continue the story in the original storyline. Just look at all J. R. R. Tolkien did with his time in between books! I can’t honestly say I’ve accomplished so much backstory but I have used the time getting to know the characters a bit better.

In three weeks, I’ll have plenty of time. Semester will be over and it’ll be a month before the next semester begins. I have big plans for transferring to a four year college but I’ve got a lot of work to do on my appalling math skills so I may keep my schedule light for the Spring. I’m also spending a lot of time with my cat, Joey, who is progressively aging and has some serious medical issues. Aging pets are like comfortable jeans which fit so well you can’t even feel them! They become a part of you! I’m already dreading when Joey passes but I don’t want him to linger just because I’m insecure. I know his sister is on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge waiting for him. This time spent while he’s so ill could mean I’ll spend Christmas on my own this year. But that’s okay. He’ll eat whatever Turkey I offer him!

DFWCon 2021

DFWCon is the shortened form for the Dallas Fort Worth Writers Conference, held every year in Hurst, Texas! I was privileged to go last year and grateful I was able to go again this year. Because of the resurgence of Covid, they decided to hold it online which worked out for me. I didn’t need to get dressed and didn’t need to shower!

The power of a writer’s conference is so multifaceted. There are, of course, the classes which can teach you anything and everything you ever wanted to know about writing. There are also the other classes, taught by writers who’ve been in this profession for years if not decades. They know about writing and many times are willing to share the tips and tricks of the trade with those who are just discovering how much they enjoy writing.

The classes covered everything from how to tell a story, Point of View, plotting, how to avoid common errors in writing and how to write query letters that get read. Since I’m what is usually called an Indie, an author independent of a publishing house or agent, I was most interested in the classes about Amazon’s Kindle platform and KDP. There were two such classes there by three very amazing instructors who had a glorious grasp on how to make Amazon work for anyone who is publishing there. There were also classes in basic story structure and how to edit your own work to make it stand out. If you are a writer, I cannot stress how wonderful an experience a writer’s conference can be. Not only do you meet people who love to write as much as you, there are leaders in the industry, many of them local to Texas for this conference, and you can connect to support for writers, editors, critique groups and other resources to help a writer succeed in a field where there is an overabundance of competition.

My focus is still on understanding Amazon’s platform. I started with the “A+ Indie Author” class and moved into “How to avoid the Mushy Middle”. A class on publishing reality was taught by an agent with numbers on what genres were currently popular and what the effect of millions of people who are staying home due to Covid did to book consumption. The day was ended with a class on how to generate urgency or suspense in writing.

Sunday only had two classes I really wanted. There was another I could have gone to but it overlapped with another I felt I wanted more. The morning I took multiple POVs and in the afternoon, I finished off the conference with “Kindle vs. Wide”, which was a very useful class educating all of the attendees on what genres you can find exclusively on Kindle and which do better on the other platforms.

I enjoyed all the classes and took extensive notes to review later. It made for a really busy weekend and a rough Monday full of homework I should have done over the weekend but it was worth it. The real value in going to a conference, while it is extremely educational, is meeting the people there. I didn’t network a lot – reference the clothing choice and no shower from paragraph one – but I did connect with the instructors, many of whom publish their own works. The part I love most about going to a conference on writing is the books I find during the conference!

I’m hoping to register for DFWCon 2022 as soon as it’s open! Hopefully, this time it will be in person again. I truly enjoyed meeting all the wonderful people and getting questions answered and finding solutions to problems I currently have and to those I may have in the future. Bar nothing, the Hurst Writer’s Conference is the highlight of my year!

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.