Variation on a Theme

I’m sure everyone is sick of me talking about Caitlyn Jenner, so I’m not going to do that today.  Instead, I’m going to talk about my book, Celia.

For those who haven’t read it, Celia is the story of a woman whose husband tells her he is going to transition from being a man into a woman.  That bit is a slight plot twist, but there are spoiler reviews out there so I might as well give it away at this point.  It’s told from the wife’s point of view and it follows her journey through the transition process.

(For the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to the husband as Brian because he is Brian nearly through the entire book.  It’s going to get confusing if I do it any other way.)

Brian is the bad guy in the book.  Here’s the thing, though.  Brian isn’t the bad guy because he’s transgendered.  He’s the bad guy because he lies to his wife.  He’s secretive and hides things from her.  He excludes her, and he doesn’t care how she’s acclimating to all of these changes with him, with their marriage, or even with herself as she figures out how to navigate this new relationship dynamic.  This is something that’s very important.  Trans* people can be good people and they can be bad people because they are people.  You don’t lose your humanity because you are transgendered, so as many variations as there are in humanity, so can there be in any portion of humanity.  In short: Brian is an asshole and he’s transgendered.  He isn’t an asshole because he’s transgendered.

So, why did I write a book about a transgendered person from a spouse’s point of view?  Well, for starters, my former spouse began transitioning during our marriage, so it was the point of view I had experience with.  From there, it might be easy to think that I am bashing transgendered people because of the actions of one person.  Except, the book never undermines Brian’s decision to transition.  There is never that unseen entity pointing a finger and saying, “See what you’ve done?  You should never have done this.  This is all your fault.  You should have just stayed the way you are.”  The book does criticize the way Brian handles it, however.  We’re all dealt a hand of cards and what we get is what we get.  We don’t get to control that.  We do get to control what we do with them, though, and Brian doesn’t make the best choices.

So, why write the book at all?  I think most people think I wrote it for cisgendered people.  The fact is, I wrote it for transgendered people and for people who might be the parents of transgendered people.  Clearly, this is not representative of every transition experience, even those that occur within a marriage.  Not all marriages end in divorce because of a transition (though a fair amount do, including my own, for various reasons).  At first, Brian’s wife does the best she can in order to be supportive of his transition and to help whenever she could.  Many wives and husbands are supportive.  So, while this is not representative of transition experiences, it is a type of transition experience.  This is what can happen when someone is told they can’t be who they truly are.  This is what can happen when someone is beaten for questioning their gender identity.  That child or adolescent grows into an adult who might think that if they could just find the right partner, that partner could “fix” them and they would be normal.  Except, there’s nothing to fix because they’re not broken.  This sets up the transgendered person to be depressed, miserable, and possibly even desperate.  They might marry someone and even have children while they’re living their own personal lie.  This makes for an unhappy home life for everyone involved.

I wrote this book to say, “This is what you are setting yourself/your children (for parents of trans* youth) up for if you can’t be who you are/if you can’t let them be who they are.”  In my own case, there was a lot of pain, not just for me but for my children who I lost custody of.  I live in Indiana.  ‘Nuff said.  While writing this book, I kept thinking back on my former spouse as a child and thought about all the pain that could have been avoided if my in-laws had just allowed my former spouse to be authentic.  If I’m being honest, I blamed my former spouse to some extent, too, for not being strong enough or brave enough to be authentic in spite of it all.  That’s not fair, but we don’t always react fairly when we’re in pain.  I don’t have a high opinion of my former spouse and I probably never will, but it isn’t because of the transition.   I have always supported the decision to be authentic.  I don’t think highly of my former spouse because my former spouse is a selfish asshole who didn’t care about anyone else’s needs.  I don’t hate the cards.  I hate how they were played.

This is why I feel so strongly about Caitlyn Jenner being so high profile.  If it allows one parent to look at their trans* child and say, “You know what, maybe this isn’t such a horrible thing after all,” then she’s done something tremendous.  We are not islands.  We ripple, touching lives beyond our own.  I imagine my former spouse transitioning as a teen, being comfortable enough to say, “This is who I am” and finding someone who is comfortable enough to say, “I want to be with who you are.”  So many people wouldn’t have been wounded later on.  This is why I wrote the book.  It’s a warning, a preview of what can happen when you try to live as someone you’re not for the sake of other people.

Celia’s Now at Barnes & Noble

Just got word in the last day or two that Celia is now available through Barnes & Noble online!  This means that I can start working on a book signing now that my book is a part of their catalog.  I should very much like to do a book signing, so if you should very much like to attend a book signing, let them know.  You can find them on Twitter or on Facebook.  Who knows?  Maybe if out of town stores get enough requests, I can travel.  Wouldn’t that be nifty?  And if you’re local?  You can always call or pop on in.  Consider this your holiday gift to me.  😀

Changes Make Life Interesting

At least, that’s what they say.  I actually have lots of tidbits to share today, so lets get started.

First, you might have noticed there was no Author Corner this week.  Tuesday was moving day for me, so I’ve put a hold on them for the next week or so more.  Moving went great.  I’m very tired, incredibly sore, and I have lots of bruises and blisters, but I’m all settled in and ready to get down to business.  In related news, I bought a 7 qt. Crock Pot for $25.  If I’ve never mentioned it, I’m addicted to kitchen stuff.

Author Corner will be returning September 3rd.  I’ve got a great new batch of authors stopping by to meet Charlie.  Ok, they’re not really coming to meet Charlie.  Just, don’t tell him that, ok?  He’ll pout, and if you’ve never seen a corpse pouting…well, it’s not an easy image to purge from your brain.

Speaking of interviews, I was recently interviewed.  I stopped by The Undercover Reviewer and chatted with Amy.  She also reviewed Celia.  If you haven’t read it yet, her review is a spoiler so you might want to hold off checking that out.  I can tell you she gave it 5 stars.  On September 27th, I’ll be appearing on Newbie Writers Podcast.  If you’ve ever wanted to hear my dulcet tones, make sure to tune in.  Oh, and by dulcet, I mean juvenile.  I sound like I’m 12.  I’ll be sharing that around when the time comes.

Now that I’ve moved, I’m going to have a lot more time to devote to Enraptured.  I’m ready to get back to the grindstone with that.  So far, I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out.  I have a lot more work to do, but that’s true for a lot of things.

I have some books coming in for Recommend It Monday.  I’m pretty excited to be checking out some new-to-me authors.  You can look for those in the upcoming weeks.

I’m going to be adding a new page to Erindipity.  It occurs to me that, seeing as how I do interviews and book reviews, then perhaps I should have a section about those things.  You know, in case anyone wants to pop on in and get molested by my corpse.  No, that’s not a euphemism.  Sorry.  It’s not up yet, but look for it by the end of the day.

I dusted off the website a bit and spruced it up.   If you’re new to the blog, mosey on over to the site and have a look around.  The newest interview is posted and there are two short stories available.  Yes, I said mosey.  I also say “fixin’ to,” “done” as in “I done started it already,” and “caterwauling.”  I just try not to say them in public.  Much.

Grad school starts next week.  I have orientation tonight.  I wouldn’t go, but they’re going to have food.  I always go where the food is.  I’m excited to be starting my advanced degree and getting this next piece of my plan going.

I have a guest post for Rainstorm Press coming up on September 10th, and I’ll make sure to have links to that handy.  I have no clue what I’m writing about yet.  It may have something to do with pie.  I once rewrote Psalm 23 and started it out, “The pie is my pastry; I shall not want.”  I’m relatively certain there’s a special circle of Hell reserved for people like me.

I’m the webmistress again for the Indiana University-South Bend Creative Writing Club, so if you know people who would like some writing inspiration, you can send them over there.  Writing prompts can be anything from world building to character creation.  New posts go up on Wednesdays.  You don’t have to be a student at the university to participate online.  Post your exercises in the comments and lets discuss.

And hey, cheer up, Buttercup.  It’s almost Friday!

Paying The Bills

One of the goals I have is being able to support myself and my children with writing.  Now, I’m not going to lie.  When I originally thought this whole thing out, I was picking out who I wanted to play what roles in the movie version of my books.  Just so you know, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

However, I am earning money with my writing, so I will consider this a step in the write direction.  (You see what I did there?)  I’m writing SEO copy for a local business.  It’s very different from the writing I’m accustomed to doing, but it isn’t horrible.  Like anything, it’s going to take me a minute to get into the swing of things, but I’m optimistic.  Of course, there’s still Celia.  I mean, I’m just throwing that out there.  I’m also expecting a round of feedback about Enraptured, so in the next week or so I’ll be back to working on that.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the book trailer for Celia.  This SEO copy isn’t writing itself, you know.

Use Your Words

Once upon a time, before I decided to be an English major, I was an English Education major.  I wanted to teach kids about the wonder that is language.  And then I realized I would have to actually be around kids.  So, here we are.  While my degree changed, my sense of awe in language has not.  

The first words I ever read completely on my own were “No Parking.”  The street I walked to and from school on was lined with them.  Every few feet there would be another sign, “No Parking.”  The day I read them alone, I stood at the first sign.  I sounded out all the letters the way my kindergarten teacher was teaching me to do.  I smooshed all those sounds together until I had something I recognized, and it was like the Hallelujah Chorus exploded in my head.  I admit, they weren’t that impressive.  It wasn’t what they had written on them so much as what they represented that made me tingle with all of the possibilities.  You see, I could read.  I. Could. Read.  The days when my mom could write little notes to keep me in the dark were over now.  Well, except for that whole cursive thing.  The devil really is in the details, I guess.  At five years old, I began to understand the power of the written word. 

If you asked me what I consider the greatest human invention ever, I would tell you that it is the written language.  Babies will learn how to speak all on their own, provided they are exposed to language.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak.  Expose a child to that language, and the brain will start filtering out all of the human sounds not used for it and chucking them in the bin.  Can’t trill your Rs?  Your native language probably doesn’t use that sound.  But no matter what language you speak, you must be taught to read and write it.  People came together and agreed that when you make this squiggle, it represents this vocal sound, and if you put a series of different squiggles together, you now have a graphic representation of a word.  This entire post is nothing but a series of squiggles smooshed together and we, as English speakers, have all agreed that these squiggles make sense and that we will all read the same series of words, even if we read different meanings into them.  

Here’s the awe-inspiring part for me: language allows communication across centuries.  When I pick up my copy of The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English because I’m hard core), I’m reading words that someone who has been dead hundreds of years wrote.  I don’t just mean Chaucer.  Even the scribes who copied the different manuscripts have been long dead.  When I read the diary of Anne Frank, I’m reading the words of a young girl who died decades before I was born.  If I am lucky, maybe in two hundred years, when I am dead and everyone who ever knew me is dead, someone might find a copy of Celia somewhere, dust off the cover, and start reading.  Just the thought gives me chills.

But what about language itself?  Have you ever thought of all the different ways we have of saying something.  

  1. I dislike prunes.
  2. I hate prunes.
  3. I loathe prunes.
  4. I detest prunes.
  5. I despise prunes.
  6. I abhor prunes.

If this broad verb “to hate” is, oh…lets make it the color orange, then every synonym for “hate” is a different shade of orange.  Maybe “dislike” is a cheery light orange.  “Detest” might be a bright day-glo  shade.  Perhaps “abhor” is the most obnoxious shade of orange you’ve ever seen.  This…this right here is what turns language from awe-inspiring to magical.  The shading, the nuance, the ability to paint word pictures, this is the greatest human creation.  I often picture words as a box of crayons.  I want the biggest box of crayons I can have.

More Fundraising For AWP

Most of you know that I am the webmistress for the Indiana University-South Bend Creative Writing Club.  If you’ve not heard, we are trying to raise funds so we can attend the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference in late February 2014.  The conference changes cities every year, and this conference will be held in Seattle, Washington.

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AWP is a lot like the fortress in Krull. It’s constantly changing locations.

The money we raise will be to help us cover travel expenses and lodging.  We  held a fireworks fundraiser for the 4th of July holiday, but as anyone who lives in Northern Indiana can tell you, the weather refused to cooperate.  Now we’re starting a new fundraising event and you don’t have to live in Northern Indiana to help up out.

Brandy Bohm, Vice-President of the CWC, is holding a Perfectly Posh event from July 22nd until July 28th.  Perfectly Posh is a line of spa and pampering products that are not tested on animals.  Brandy is donating 100% of the proceeds to the AWP fund for the club.  There is a Facebook event page if you would like more information and you can go the the Perfectly Posh website to see their catalogue of products.  They make excellent gifts, as well.  If you are not local, Brandy will ship your orders to you.  This is a one week only event and every penny counts, so please consider pampering yourself or someone you love (or yourself and someone you love) and help this great group of writers attend this professional conference.  After the event closes, we will randomly select one person to receive an autographed copy of my book Celia from Rainstorm Press.  We will choose two other names to receive 3 Celia bookmarks.  They’re high quality and very shiny.  You’ll like them.  Celia has a 4.8 star rating on Amazon.

We appreciate all of your help.  And as a little added incentive, if we reach our goal as a result of this event, I will randomly select one person to be a character in my current work-in-progress, Enraptured.

Ebooks vs Tradition Print

I have a lot of ebooks waiting to be read.  I’ve tried to read them.  I just can’t do it.  It’s not the quality of the book.  I read Game of Thrones in hardback and devoured it.  I tried to read Clash of Kings on ebook, and I’m lucky if I got halfway through it.  Ebooks feel…wrong.  I don’t judge.  In fact, my book Celia is available in ebook format.  The ebooks I have read I’ve had to force myself to finish because the format just wasn’t working for me.  What about you?  Do you have any preferences?  Are you OCD like I am in the preferences department and actually have a hierarchy of preferences?  For any given book, I will choose them (based on availability) in the following order: hardcover, paperback, ebook.  Although, if I’m honest, if the ebook is all that’s available, I’ll probably wait for one of the other two formats to free up.  I always go for hardcover first, though.  I do like how I can have so many books saved up on my Nook so I always have something to read.  I don’t have the physical space to house all the books I want to have.  It’s not the staring at the screen as it is the inability to turn a page.  Swiping a screen is not the same as physically turning a page.  The sound the page makes.  The smell of them.  The way the page feels in your hand.  All of that is missing with electronic reading and for me, personally, I think that’s a deal breaker.  I need a bigger office.