Random Thoughts: On Writing, Politics, and Silence

I really love what she has to say about silence vs. being loud.

Reggie Lutz

Today, I am supposed to be writing a dinner scene among a family between whom there is no political agitation. Given the political agitation that is currently in the very air we breathe this is no easy task. The brain desperately wants to engage with that while the particular demands of the story I am writing now require that my brain engages with something else. The fictional family’s conflict that I am writing about has to do with combatting negative paranormal energies that they are, as humans on the living side of the equation, unaware of. This has nothing to do with politics, as far as the moment goes. Except that I remember in fiction, as in politics, conflict arises when character agendas diverge and come into opposition. So maybe I can use the present turmoil as a way in, as I write, even though the characters are fighting with…

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On the Importance of Strong Female Characters

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From the Women’s March; Seattle, WA; January 21, 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.

As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without a doubt—that the strong female characters we see on screen and read about in books really do have an impact on us and how we view ourselves, each other, and our roles in the world around us.

What would General Leia do?

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These three signs caught my attention, but you couldn’t swing a pink pussy hat without hitting a Leia Organa reference. Considering that Carrie Fisher was a badass in real life, this is not surprising. If the dead really do get to hang around and see what the living are up to, I’d like to think that she got a giggle from the “Carrie Fisher sent us” sign.

I’d like to think that she’d be proud to be our rebel leader.

Are you ready to be strong?

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Fans of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer not only know where the words on this sign come from, but many of us can recite the entire speech—if we can get through it without crying, that is. Submitted for your misty-eyed pleasure:

For people like me who rarely view embedded videos in an article, here are the highlights:

They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power…From now on every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

-Buffy Summers

A whole damn lot of us made our choice and are ready to be strong.

And then there’s this:

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The picture says it all.

Xena will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Xena poster I hung on my wall to remind me not to take any shit, particularly from real-life Joxers.

I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I was a big Xena: Warrior Princess fan and he responded, “You know Xena and Gabrielle are lesbian icons, right?” Well, I hadn’t actually known (naïve me, I guess), but the only troubling thing about finding out was this guy’s tone and his obvious suggestion that there was something shameful about being a lesbian icon. Fuck that noise.

So here’s the thing…

The articles reminding us that one march isn’t enough are already flooding my feeds—as well they should. Marching is great, but there is more work to be done. There are the things we can all do as citizens; then there are the things we can do that are more personal.

I’ve always known that the presence of strong female characters in fiction is important, but this march solidified for me what a great female character can inspire in real life women. As a result, my dedication to writing these characters has been renewed. I intend to contribute as many badass women to the fiction world as I can because…well…I can. And of course, I don’t want to do it in some pandering political way—obvious and boring as hell to read—but in a way that’s honest. A way that inspires.

I suppose I can call it my duty. I prefer to call it my privilege.

Trails from the Crypt

With Labor Day just over a month in our rear view, the autumnal equinox a couple of weeks past, and the weather forecast assuring me that the rain has returned and is staying for a while, I find myself reflecting on summer. I spent quite a bit of time hiking trails at various state and national parks and so I tormented my Facebook friends with photos of mountain views, glorious sunsets, and every damn waterfall I came across all summer long. That is, admittedly, a pretty happy and sunny method of torture, but then, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows on those trails. Sometimes, I come across some seriously creepy shit.

Since summer is officially over, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year (Halloween), I thought I would take this opportunity to share a shiver in the form of some of the more unsettling pictures from this summer’s adventures.

The Silence of the Ram

Okay, so here’s the deal. I have no bloody idea what this is.

I mean, seriously!

I mean, seriously!

I just know that when we turned the corner at Paradise Valley Conservation Area and there it was, I had to get photographic evidence. Now, I’m sure that whatever this actually is, it’s just the result of some perfectly innocent creepy kid shenanigans and not in any way related to any real kind of evil ritual. However, coming upon a scene that features a pink plastic pony head with blackened eye sockets stuck on a human doll body jammed into the throat hole of the pink pony body – the ruined and severed human doll head perched on a nearby rock – would make anyone stop to ponder. Perhaps it might make some run. Either way, can someone please explain the ram?

My WTF meter is still spiking on this one and will likely continue to do so. A couple of weeks after this photo was taken, my husband and I were back on the trail and this little horror scene was still there. It even had some new additions, though nothing worth taking a follow up photo.

That said, the next time I’m there, you better believe I’m going to check for it again.

The Tortured Soul

The cool thing about this picture, aside of its high creep factor, is that it was one of those “and we didn’t even notice until we looked at the pictures later” scenarios. We decided that we wanted to stop at Ape Caves, Mount St. Helens Lava Tube. We didn’t venture very far into the cave because we didn’t have adequate light sources and hadn’t planned to do any deep spelunking that day anyway. Perhaps the poor lighting provided by the flashlight on my cell phone was why I never noticed what looked like the agonized face of a tortured soul trapped in the rock.

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I’m in the blue hoodie. The giant tortured face is to my right.

It wasn’t until we returned home and started going through the pictures that my husband exclaimed, “Wow! That’s sort of freaky!” and I saw it. Since we were taking photos in the dark, it’s entirely possible that the face was a trick of the light and that even with proper illumination, I will never see the giant tortured face in person, but again, I’m going to go back to look.

Also, I’m seriously considering using this for my next author photo!

The Third One Because I’m Weird and Need a Third One

I admit that this one is a bit of a stretch but I really like the number three. I like it so much that I’m willing to reach as far as this photo just to include a third example. Also, I like to brag about hiking the Carbon Glacier Trail at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a long one and we do it in a day.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

As we were climbing the final yards of the trail with the glacier well within view, my desire to get close-up shots of high altitude wildflowers battled my desire to keep climbing. At that moment, I was particularly interested in the thistle when I came across this one.

I’m not sure what kind of ants they were. I’m not sure why they were all over that thistle, but I couldn’t help but think of swarming bugs on dead and dying things (or really, just swarms of bugs at all), and get a little shiver. I still say I’m reaching a bit with this entry; at the same time, I’m getting kind of itchy thinking about those ants crawling on me.

How ‘bout you?

Excuses, Excuses!

“What’s your excuse, now?” you might be asking, and you’d be within your rights. After all, every time I’ve been quiet on the blog, or the internet as a whole for that matter, I’ve come back with some flimsy excuse as to where I’ve been, but this time the excuse is a good one. I promise.

Yes, I’ve been trying to find balance in my writing life again, but this time it’s because I’ve landed a new paying day gig. It’s a technical content writing job and it’s actually kind of perfect for me. It is also particularly significant because landing a full-time job was the final piece of the puzzle before feeling like I really live here. Driver’s license and registration updated: check. Registered to vote: check. Employed by a company in the Greater Seattle Area: check. Though I rarely have to commute (working remotely is nice, I’ve got to admit), there’s something about being able to complain about the traffic with the other commuters that just makes me feel like part of the community. Of course, I realize that as a transplant, I’m actually a part of the traffic problem we face.

There’s also the issue of getting the most out of the few remaining days of summer. It’s no secret that I hate going to the gym. I’d much rather get my exercise from an outdoor activity. So while I still have enough daylight to hike a trail or skate (inline) around the park after work, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. There are plenty of short, cold and rainy days on the horizon that will find me on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Or maybe I can just suck it up and learn to be cold and wet in the dark.

I really hate the gym.

But time marches on. Summer is almost over and autumn is upon us. Aside of perhaps having to return to the gym (I say “perhaps” because I’m seriously considering that cold and wet in the dark thing), I’m excited for fall. I’m ready for hot cider and Halloween. Fall is also my most inspired and prolific time of year, which is good because I have a lot to do.

And if I can find that elusive little critter called balance, you might actually get to hear about it.

It’s Been a While

Hello all. It’s been a while since my last post and I figured it was time for an update lest anyone think I succumbed to the frustration of the job search, walked into the woods, and never came back out again.

While there hasn’t been a big, blog worthy event, there have been a few things worth noting and some thoughts clinking around in my brain. You have been warned. Read on at your own risk.

The Work In Progress

In my last post I talked about how I was having trouble settling on a novel to write. I considered whether I had a fear of commitment when it came to novel writing. Well, I have finally committed to a tale. I’m excited about it. I hope the excitement sticks.

The Ugly Side of the Internet

Social media, and much of the internet in general, gets ugly(er) during an election year. It just does. I’ve come to terms with it, and while I wish people could be a bit more civil in their discussions, at least the discussions are happening. That said, there’s only so much vitriol I can take before I hear a primal rage scream that, as it turns out, is coming from me. My sanity benefits greatly from closing the laptop, silencing the notifications on my devices, and walking into the woods—threatening never to return.

Unfortunately, election year also coincides with my search for full time employment. Given the kind of work I’m looking for, it’s not the best time to slash my internet time. Now’s the time to prove I’m a social media goddess who navigates the digital world with ease and panache. I need to be expanding my presence, not narrowing it. So, I spend a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and refuse to engage in the outrage, which brings me to…

Can We Please Talk About the Toddler?

Look, I’m not going to rehash the whole story about Harambe and the Cincinnati Zoo. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard it. I’m not going to talk about the perceived negligence of the mother of the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure, nor will I discuss the merits of tranquilizer darts vs. bullets, or whether Harambe was protecting the child, or whether zoos should be shut down. Instead, I’d like to focus on the little boy.

Imagine, for a second, growing up knowing that there were people outraged about the decision to save your life. Imagine growing up knowing that a large number of people valued the life of a gorilla (that they probably hadn’t even heard of previously) more than yours. Doesn’t feel very good, does it? Of course I’m sad about Harambe, but my heart breaks for the child.

I just hope this child is being shielded from the outrage and that things on the internet maybe can disappear after all, buried under the newest news of the day, because if I had to live with the evidence of how little people valued my life, well…

I’d walk into the woods and never come back out again.

This Is Just How It Goes Sometimes

It’s always good to hear from writers when things are going well: when a project has been picked up or published, when momentum is strong and daily word count is high, when there’s sage wisdom to impart. These posts give all of the rest of us hope that we’re not wasting our lives (and advice about what to do when we’re banging our heads on the desk, feeling like we are). These posts are necessary.

Also necessary are the posts that say, “Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this.” Well…

Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this:

Let’s talk about those works in progress.

I wasn’t quite done with 13 Morbid Tales when I started keeping notes for a novel. In fact, I often had to remind myself to focus on the task at hand; 13MT had a deadline and the novel did not. Nevertheless, I was chomping at the bit to start typing away at my new—clearly brilliant—idea. So, with 13MT finally finished and out, I sat down and began working on this wonderful new project…

…and it was just bad. It was hackwork wrapped in cliché, skipping down Redundancy Road. I put it aside until I could bring something new and fresh to the table and went back to the drawing board.

It was as if the new idea was already there. It was so much better, so much darker, than the dreck I’d just put aside. Chapter one flowed from my brain through my fingers to the page in record time. This was it! I was on fire! I was telling everybody about it!

Guess how long the cursor has been sitting on the first page of chapter two. Actually, no. Don’t. It’s embarrassing. Also, I think I hate chapter one. “It is not going well, friend. It is not going well,” I answered when a friend asked. I do, however, have some great notes—for a third freaking novel. Yeah.

I’m seriously starting to think that I have a fear of commitment when it comes to writing novels.

Let’s talk about that job search.

I’m still in pursuit of a full time writing job: firing off resumes, applications, and cover letters. In some instances, I’m taking writing tests. Now, I like writing tests. Writing tests are good. They keep me sharp and, since it was literally illegal for me to retain samples from my last writing job, they give me a chance to prove myself in the face of my relatively slim portfolio.

Keeping that in mind, it makes it sting all the more when the writing test doesn’t result in further interviews. I get that job hunts as a whole are full of rejection, hundreds of people applying for the same job. I get that the writing life as a whole is full of rejection, hundreds of manuscripts on the same desk. But holy crow! Combine the two, it’s like Rejection-palooza over here.

I can remind myself that, this is just how it goes sometimes, all day long. Eventually, the doubt sets in and I ask myself why in the world I chose to be a writer. Then I remember that thing I’ve said many times before and will say many times again, “I did not choose the writing life. The writing life chose me.”

And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Marshmallow Peeps and S’mores

It all started when a former colleague posted this little gem on Facebook.

The Debate

Now, if you’re like me, you’re appalled that anyone eats these at all. Marshmallow Peeps, in my view, are Easter’s version of candy corn. Nobody in their right mind eats them when there are still chocolates and Starbursts to be had. I commented that, for this reason, I’d never actually eaten a fresh peep so I couldn’t properly weigh in on the fresh vs. stale debate. I may have also called peeps an abomination that could have only come from Hell to begin with.

However, as this very serious—ly hilarious debate continued, I started to get curious. I voiced the curiosity, stating that I wondered how peeps would be in s’mores made with peanut butter eggs.

And so here we are.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

In case any of my readers have never been around a campfire, the recipe for s’mores is simple: toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate pressed between two graham crackers.

I’m lucky enough to have a working fireplace in my apartment, so the microwave method of “toasting” peeps was out. If I was going to eat one of those sugary little bastards, I was going to toast it over a real fire.

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

As I unwrapped the peanut butter egg that I knew was already delicious enough on its own, I seriously considered abandoning the whole s’mores idea and just eating the damned egg, but since it was only one of four, and I truly was curious, I continued on.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; salty snacks are my jam. As curious as I was, I brought that gooey, diabetic nightmare of a mini sandwich to my lips in slow motion. My curiosity did not equate to a belief that I would like it. In fact, I was hoping to write a scathing review of this atrocity.

Instead, I need to go buy more peanut butter eggs so hubby and I can finish the remaining peeps. Seriously, that s’more was that good. It was the kind of good that must really be evil because nothing truly good is ever that enjoyable.

It's safe to say that hubby also liked it.

It’s safe to say that hubby also liked it.

Of course, now that I know I like Marshmallow Peeps enough to make s’mores with them, now that they’ve proven themselves a useful holiday candy, I almost feel bad about toasting their cute little sugar-butts.

See? I have a heart.