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.

Crickets…Crickets Everywhere…

It’s been a bit quiet on here lately.  There’s a lot of changes in the works, most of them have nothing to do with writing, and I’m very distracted.  <chorus> How distracted are you?  Well, distracted enough that I forgot to prep this week’s interview last week.  So, there was no interview this week.  /facepalm

I was planning on taking a screenwriting class this summer that would have continued through the fall semester.  It turns out that I won’t be able to get grad credit for it because the instructor isn’t credentialed to teach grad students.  So, no screenwriting class for me.  It’s just too much work to add to my semester, and since I’ve never been a grad student before, I’m wary about adding too much to my schedule without knowing how much work I already have.  I have the book they’re using, though, so I can still do it on my own if I want to.

Since I’m not taking the class anymore, I’ve been thinking about Home and whether I’m going to develop it or not.  I came to the conclusion that it would make a most excellent book, as well as a screenplay.  What’s that?  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the dollar signs.  It’s something to work on.

Tomorrow is the first formal workshop for Enraptured.  I haven’t worked much on it in the last week or two.  I’m having a concept problem and I’m trying to figure out a workaround.  I’d rather fix it now than write the book and have to rewrite it so the concept fits better.  I have some ideas on how to fix it, though, and I’ll run them by my people tomorrow.  I don’t really have people.  I just enjoy sounding pretentious.

I have bookmarks!  They’re absolutely gorgeous, and they’re rather sturdy.  I plan on hitting the local library branches to see if I can leave some there for the patrons to have.  Who doesn’t love a free bookmark?

The Finish Line is in Sight

I’m finally caught up enough on everything that I’m no longer freaking out about it on a regular basis.  If you are in the area and would like to go, there is a reading at The Well on April 28th (next Sunday) at 2pm.  I’ll be the featured reader at that event and I plan to read the first chapter of Celia, my short story “Blood and Rain,” and if there is time, a couple of the shorter pieces from Some Reassembly Required.  If you are local and would like to read at this event, there are some open slots left, so leave a comment or send me an email, or invite me over for refreshments and let me know.  I can get you in touch with the proper people for that.

Graduation is just over two weeks away.  The ceremony will be held on May 7th at the Joyce Athletic Center on Notre Dame campus at 7pm.  It’s free, so if anyone would like to attend that, you are most welcome to.  I hope to have some pictures, so I’ll post a couple so you can see my spiffy honors cords.  😀

New Book Trailer and Website

I’ve talked about my multimedia writing class before.  For part of the class, I had to design and build an online multimedia portfolio.  It’s still in progress, you it’s live so you can check it out.  It has a couple of short stories of mine, so if you’ve ever been tempted to read my fiction instead of the poetry I’ve posted, it’s there.  I plan on adding a couple more stories, but there are two up now.  The coolest feature is the trailer I just made for my book, Celia.

I’m pretty thrilled about the way it turned out.

And the Winner is…

Wow, today has been a very busy and exciting day for me.  First off, my short story “Blood and Rain” won first prize in the IU-South Bend English Department Writing awards.  There will be a formal awards ceremony for that next month and a ceremony for Analecta, the journal that published “Blood and Rain” in two weeks.

On April 28th, I’ll be the featured reader at The Well.  Local writers will be reading their work and I’ll be doing a short reading from Celia and then reading “Blood and Rain.”  If you’re in the South Bend, Indiana area, you should try to make it.  It should be a great time.

And last, but certainly not least, the amazing Susan Dorsey had me over to chat on her blog today.  We chat about Celia and a bit about my current work in progress, Enraptured.

Cracking the Whip

One of the many projects that I’ve been working on is being the webmistress for my university’s Creative Writing Club.

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The only thing that should wear this much leather is a cow.

I won’t lie, some mornings (translation: all week) I wake up and I just don’t want to deal with it.  And then I pull up the blog and start in on the day’s writing prompt.

I have not had the chance to write on any of them because of all the other stuff going on.  If you get the chance, you should check them out.  The book I’m pulling the information out of was one I used for my advanced fiction writing class and the end result of the class was the publication of Celia.  These are especially great if you’ve always wanted to write, but had no idea where to start, what to do, or was too scared of ridicule to try.  You have to be local if you want to attend the club’s weekly workshops, but you can participate online almost as much.  You’ll meet people who just started writing and who have been writing for awhile.

Stop on by and then tell me what you think of things.

Updates and Whatnot

I’ve been battling a second round of flu this week, but I’m happy to report I’m finally on the winning side.  Still sick, but not begging people to rob pharmacies anymore.  Yes, I actually did this.  No, there were no pharmacies robbed as a result of my illness.  Before you judge me, you should know that at one point my face looked and felt like this from all the sinus pressure:

Puffer fish photo

The week wasn’t all bad, though.  I received word that I was unanimously accepted into my grad school program.  I start in the fall and I have my classes already picked out.  It’s only six more weeks until graduation.  As part of my multimedia writing class, I have to build an online portfolio.  I’ll be sure to post links to that once it’s up and running.  I plan on including a book trailer for Celia, so if you’ve been waiting to get it, hopefully it will convince you to wait no longer.  Since I’ve been sick, and all of my efforts have revolved around breathing properly, Recommend It Monday will be put on hold next week.  Instead, I’ve invited Lori Michelle over to vist for the first ever author interview.  I wanted to add this as a Tuesday blog feature, and will in the future, but this week I’m going to cheat a little bit.  At least I’m honest about it.  I was recently interviewed about Celia as well.  That interview will be posted on April 24th, and I’ll provide links to that.  The poetry chapbook is almost finished.  I’m waiting to get some feedback on the MS before I decide I’m officially done with it.  Hopefully, I’ll have some official news on it in the next few months.

Digital Autographs

I was going through my Facebook news feed, and I saw that one of my author friends had “liked” a page called Authorgraphs.  I was curious, so I went to the page to check it out.  It’s a service that delivers personalized digital autographs for ebook owners.  I’ve been making jokes about autographing people’s Kindles with a Sharpie, but with this I don’t have to.

It took forever to get a signature that even remotely looked like mine.  Apparently, I don’t write well with a mouse.  But after about the 10th try, I decided it was close enough.  I loaded my book onto the site, and I’ve already signed my first digital autograph.

If you use GoodreadsCelia is listed there as well.  It’s getting fantastic reviews, so if you haven’t read it yet, please consider grabbing a copy.  I’d be thrilled to sign it for you.

“Day Off” is a Mythical Creature

I don’t know about you, but my days off never feel like days off.  There’s always a million things that need to get done.  It’s been a rather productive morning, though, and this stuff won’t do itself.

  • Updated my book contract and reviewed my quarterly royalties statement.  That was pretty neat, actually, since my book just came out last quarter.  If you have not yet read it, please consider doing so.
  • Made edits to a story I have coming out in a few weeks.  The name of the collection has not been decided on yet, so when I have it I’ll pass that information along.
  • Formatted and submitted two manuscripts for my university’s English Dept. Writing Awards and the campus literary journal Analecta.  If you submit for one, you’re automatically considered for the other, which is handy.  I sent one manuscript for fiction and one for poetry.  Analecta has a history of hating my work, so I’ll be posting my first rejection blog in a few weeks. 😀

I’m hoping once I get through the homework portion of my day that I can get to work on some new poetry pieces.  I wrote a new piece last night, and I’d like to continue down that road and see where it takes me.

Seven Reviews and Counting

One of the most thrilling, yet completely terrifying things about being a newly published author is having people read your work.  I’m not talking about your parents or your best friend, here.  I’m talking about People.  The ones you don’t know, who live and work in places you’ve never been to.  Writing is a lot like art because once a piece leaves the creator’s hands, you lose all control over how people interpret it.  What they take away from your story, your poem, your novel may be completely different than what you meant and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  You’ve given a piece of yourself to the world and you can only hope they won’t wound you to your core.

Now, periodically, I like to check Amazon to see how my book, Celia, is faring.  Most of the time, it’s pretty depressing as I’m bouncing around between #1,000,000 and #250,000,000 on their best seller list.  No, those zeros are not typos.  Today, however, I got a very happy surprise: my seventh review.  What makes this review more noteworthy than the other six reviews is that I have no idea who this person is.  Because I am a new author who published a novella length manuscript through an independent press, most of my readers so far have been people I know.  To be honest, it’s been pretty hard to burst through that bubble and reach a wider audience.  I did it, though.  I reached one person I don’t know with my book, and I made an impact.  He or she (it’s a gender neutral name) gave the book five stars and a great review.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about for me.  I may never be famous, and I might have to do something other than writing for income, but someone out there read what I had to offer and it made a connection.

Old Blog, New Content

A few semesters ago, I started this blog as part of my web writing class.  And as with most of my attempts at blogging, when the class was over, so was the blog.  This time, I have not one but two classes that I will most likely be using this for, and because one of them is a publishing class, chances are better than usual that I may actually keep up with it this time.

So, first some updates.  I am in my final semester of undergrad studies at Indiana University-South Bend.  I graduate in May, and I accept monetary gifts and foodstuffs (especially foodstuffs in pie form).  I’ve applied for grad school and am waiting to hear on that in the next few months.  I published my first novella, Celia, through Rainstorm Press and I have a short story coming out in the next few months with them as well.  I’ve started writing my first full length novel, Enraptured, but it’s taken a backseat to school.  I plan on getting back to it, and I have a decent chunk of it started.  I have not yet received a little pug dog.  Or an angry looking cat.

The primary class I plan to use this blog for is my publishing class.  As a part of it, I’ll be writing a chapbook of poetry.  I may also use this for my multimedia writing class.  So no, I’m not schizophrenic nor do I have multiple personalities…just multiple classes.