Superheros, Fiction, TV, and lady troubles part 2

See part one to get the backstory.

  1. Women of strength are almost always an extension of male power.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  She’s watched and trained by a male watcher.  Xena the Warrior Princess owes her salvation (and the existence of her franchise) to Hercules.  The ladies of the X-Men?  Xavier’s.  Across the board you see women who are taught to be strong by men, or women who operate under the covering of a man’s world or man’s blessing.  There are some rare exceptions, like Wonder Woman, whose existence seems to point to a flaw in my logic.  But, if you will experiment:  write down every female superhero/action hero/TV protagonist that you can think of and then highlight all the ones who are completely independent of operating under male authority.

    Trust me, you won’t need your highlighter much.

  2. Either their sexuality is hidden, or is a weapon.  Women in traditionally masculine roles are given very few options: either hide your femininity in order to dress and operate like a man, or flaunt your femininity like a weapon.  You see it in the over-sexual poses on comic book covers, in the drastic v-necks and skin tight blouses on TV, in the made-up faces and perfectly coiffed hair that have no place in a crime scene or hiding behind surgeon’s masks.

    What’s up, world?

    And most of the time when you see a female character who has taken pains to neither dress in a masculine way or use her sexuality as a weapon, the situation will be contrived at LEAST ONCE to make her into a sexual display.  (For example:  Castle’s Beckett, who normally is neither overly masculine or feminine, is contrived to have to play the role of a model on a catwalk.  Why?)  How often are male police officers forced to go undercover as strippers or whores?  When male spies have to seduce someone for information, do they have to subjugate themselves sexually to do so?  Come on.

  3. Nurture: there’s a loaded word.  Whether or not male superheros have family can be a loaded issue.  Normally, their family relations are taught with loss or lies.  Peter Parker’s guilt about Uncle Ben, Batman’s loss of his parents, and many more such examples.  But for women in the power game, the issue of family tends to come down to nurture.  The choice is clear:  for the woman to have power, she must scorn nurture.  It is implied, therefore, that nurture is a “default mode” for women that must be shut off for them to have strength.  Yet the nurture still ekes out in the form of Wonder Woman comforting Superman against her breast.

    While I understand that feminine physiology demands that women address the issue of childbirth, I also find it odd that men can have children in these situations where women cannot.  And why can men?  Because they impregnate women who do the nurturing for them.  The nurturing happens removed from the source of strength.

    When I think about it too much, I get a headache.  What, exactly, does this symbolize?

  4. Humiliation.  When male superheros are beaten down and humiliated, it usually takes the form of them being bound and gagged and their strength being mocked.

    When females are humiliated, it is all too often sexual in nature.

    Hm.

  5. And the double standard of tears.  In the first Die Hard movie, the protagonist is reduced to tears.  This stoic crying is seen as a symbol of his strength and perseverance.  Compare that to any woman crying ever.

    No, really, any woman crying ever.  I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of any time that a woman crying is seen as a sign of strength and perseverance instead of a sign of weakness and over-emotion, and I can’t think of one.  Men are allowed to cry on occasion because it is seen as a sign of them being in control, them willingly connecting to a depth of emotion that is understood to have an “off” switch if necessary.  Women, on the other hand, aren’t supposed to cry because it is seen as them being unable or unwilling to harness their emotions appropriately.  Women cry when they are in pain so that men heal them, they cry when they are upset so that men stop, they cry in this or that situation because they are unhinged or just neurotic.

    Sigh.

    When Batman cries it is because he is strong enough to acknowledge his grief.  When Catwoman cries she’s just psycho, yo.

 

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Review: Eleanor & Park (JUST READ IT RIGHT NOW.)

If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park, don’t even read this review.  Go read the book.  NOW.  Don’t waste another second of your bleak and loveless life reading my blog when you could have this book on your Kindle within seconds.  But, if you insist (or you’ve read the book), here you go:

Writing a review for this book has been incredibly difficult for me. My first review for it was one word. Just, “Eff.” Then I expanded it to three words, “Holy Effing Eff.” Then I thought really long and hard about it, and decided that this book deserved many, many, many more words.

See, here’s the thing: poverty is very hard to honestly describe. While I was still a supervisor for a homeless shelter, I often looked for books that I thought I could give to our residents to help them pass the painfully long hours of the day, and maybe help them think about their lives at the same time. This was doubly true for the teens, who were hit with the double whammy of being homeless as well as often being years behind in reading. I can still remember the time that I allowed myself to be roped into reading the Twilight Saga so that I could talk books with one of them.

Ye Gods.

I cannot say, with words at least, how much I wish this book had existed then.

Let me say again that poverty is so painfully difficult to describe with any honesty, without sounding psychotic or like you are exaggerating. It’s even harder to explain the complex emotions that go along with poverty, or the way that they shape who you are and change you. To respond to the question, “why do you always seem angry?” with “because I’m poor” sounds crass. To respond to the girls in the locker room teasing your hair for being crap with, “it’s because I’m poor” seems ridiculous. To explain the fact that your clothes don’t fit and you always look weird with, “well, we’ve talked about how poor I am” is just so. Intensely. Lame. No one gets it unless they’ve washed their clothes by hand in cold water using dish soap, or rubbed vanilla behind their ears to cover the smell of lack-of-soap. But Rainbow Rowell paints this incredibly vivid picture of how poverty shapes not just Eleanor’s world but Eleanor as a character, and it is perfect. I mean, this book is the effing Statue of David of books. Rowell is the effing Michelangelo of writers.

I have to admit I’m just the slightest bit bitter, because if I ever publish anything I know it will not hold a candle to the absolute priceless beauty of this story. God help me. I cannot imagine how to do it better.

But back to the story itself. Eleanor is a girl living in abject poverty, having just moved back in with the mother who has lost her sense of self and the uncle who drinks away all the money needed to keep the kids in clothes with bellies full. Top that off with being the new girl in school, and you’ve got a pretty toxic situation that all of the kids back at the shelter know all too cruelly well. But Eleanor’s saving grace might just be the boy who reluctantly lets her sit next to him on the bus, the cool, stable, upper-middle class Park. Their unlikely friendship turns into a bittersweet teen romance which turns so many stereotypes on their heads.

I don’t want to spoil a second of the story, but let’s just say that my favorite moment is the second best Star Wars reference in literature. (The best still belongs to the fabulous Gae Polisner.) This book made me laugh and cry like an idiot at work, and I didn’t even mind because if anyone had asked me what was up I could’ve shoved the book on them in giggly tearful fangirl glory and sat on them until they read it so we could talk about how absolutely perfect it is.

No, really. I’m a college student and a mother of three and work part time and all my money is the most precious money in the world, but I will spend that precious money on spare copies of this book because the next time a student at work tells me that no one really understands what it’s like to be poor and just trying to make your life worth living, and they just want to give up hope, I will give them this book and say, “someone gets it.”

Someone gets it.

Sometimes, that is priceless.

Sometimes, it’s all you need.

This book could not be more highly recommended. Five big fat smacks-you-in-the-feels-and-you-love it stars, but 5 isn’t enough.

Free Advice Friday: how not to suck at writing

Take my advice with a grain of salt, because I mostly learned it through sucking and then trying desperately not to.

  1. Write Things Down.  I know, right?  Writers should write things.  But here’s the thing:  Sometimes you spend hours agonizing over a character’s motivation.  Or thinking about what season the story takes place in.  Or wondering what will end up happening to this or that guy.  Or thinking about where you want the story to go.  And you need to use the toilet, or make yourself a sandwich, or move on with the day.  You think, “oh, I’ll remember.”  NO YOU WON’T.  Write it down.  The best writers leave behind notebooks, sometimes banker’s boxes, sometimes MULTIPLE banker’s boxes full of their notes to themselves.  You wouldn’t believe how quickly even a monumental plot decision leaves your head when you stop writing and start living your daily life.
  2. Write Daily.  Do not write when the muse strikes you, because the muse is a fickle wench who will run you on a bender for weeks and then leave you high and dry twenty pages from finishing your novel.  Write daily.  Even if it’s just opening the document and tweaking a few words here and there and patting yourself on the back for not completely sucking, write daily.  If you don’t, you will grow away from your story.  Every day our lives change us, even our brain chemistry changes by fractions.  We continue to evolve.  If we don’t write, we evolve away from our own words.  Trust me, I know.  Shelve your writing for a few months, come back to it, and you won’t pick up where the last sentence left off.  You’ll stare at the horrid thing wondering what self-congratulating hatchet man wrote that inane drivel and then you’ll want to drink until you forget that it was you.  Trust me.  And it’s not just that- details like people’s eye color, what kind of sweater they were wearing, what they were going to say next, how you wanted the story to end, they will all leave you faster than the proverbial Hollywood film producer upgrading to a fresher model of trophy wife.  Write daily, or write crap.  BELIEVE ME.
  3. Read.  Read good things and read bad things, but read.  The best writers are also ferocious readers.  Why?  Because when we read we learn what we do and don’t love about writing.  We, as writers, can take that and improve our own writing by knowing what is good and what isn’t.  You know that one writer whose settings always draw you in?  That author whose quirky characters always steal your heart?  That wordsmith who smacks you down with the opening paragraph and drags you kicking and screaming to the gruesome climax every time?  Don’t you want to be that guy?  I know, I know, stealing other author’s ideas is plagiarism.  But stealing their methodology isn’t, and by reading you can start to internalize those things you love most and recognize writing that you hate.  You’ll start to think, “are my characters as endearing as Rowlings?  Are my settings as breathtaking as Dickens’s?  Is my pacing as nervewracking as King’s?”  Whether you realize it or don’t, you are learning to teach yourself to write by reading.
  4. Know your characters.  Have you ever read a book where the entire time you just couldn’t make yourself like the characters?  Where they felt hollow and unpredictable?  Where they read almost more like caricatures or stereotypes than three-dimensional people with wants and needs?  Yeah, don’t write crap like that, enough other writers already do.  Before you start writing, and as you write, ask yourself a lot of why questions.  Why would he say that?  Why would he wear that?  Why would he want that?  Why would he do that?  Also, ask yourself a lot of “hows” and “whens”.  And (point one) WRITE IT DOWN.  Don’t be afraid to go through, line by line, and ask yourself, “why?  how?  when?” realizing that as you get more familiar with the process of thinking about your characters, it will become more and more second nature.  There will come a point in writing when the words just leak out of you (in an overflowing pitcher sort of way, not an incontinent bowels sort of way) and you won’t have to think and think and think.  Although there will still be times, even several novels in, where you still do have to sit there and write pages and pages about your characters in a notebook somewhere just to say “hi” and get to know them.  Think of it as a shortcut to saving a lot of time later, when you’d have to spend months editing a manuscript just to fix problems that could’ve been avoided by asking yourself important questions before writing the story.
  5. Write about the human condition.  Whether you’re a farmer in the midwest or a banker on Wall Street or a hunter-gatherer in the bush of Southern Africa, you want the same basic things as the rest of us.  You want a safe place to sleep.  You want to be loved by someone.  You want a good meal.  You want to feel like the work you do with your hands pays off.  You want to leave a good inheritance for the next generation.  You want to experience beauty.  That is what makes you human.  If you want your story to instantly speak to anyone who would ever pick it up, write about those things.  The best stories are the stories where the protagonist just wants a decent cup of tea.  Or, just wants to curl up with her boyfriend but an apocalypse keeps happening.  Maybe he’s a servant who can’t seem to even wash the dishes right, but once the adventure starts you think, “maybe he’s going to save the world.”  Even if the plot line is nearly unbelievable, if your story has those elements people will put themselves in it.  They’ll commit.  And if the payoff is good enough, they’ll be loyal to you as a writer, because they’ll feel like in some small way you wrote about them.  And you did, because you wrote about all of us.
  6. Torment your audience, at least a little.  If your protagonist just wants a good cup of tea, make sure he doesn’t get one until the end of the story.  If she just wants to smooch with her honey make sure a really good apocalypse interrupts them.  If he just wants someone to appreciate him, make sure the person he wants that appreciation from the most doesn’t look twice at him and he has to prove himself over, and over, and over.  Believe me, no one wants to read the story that goes like this:  “Susy never had any good luck in her life ever.  But when she woke up that morning, she made the best pot of coffee.  Her bacon was just crispy enough without being burnt or soggy, and for once the pancakes didn’t have any lumps.  On her way to work she met the cutest guy and gave him her number.  Her boss didn’t yell at her once, and then as she was leaving the cute guy called and they met for drinks.  They hit it off and eloped and then made sweet, passionate, just-kinky-enough love.  The end.”  YAWN.  NO.  Make sure Susy burns her toast.  She is too shy to give the guy her number.  Her boss is a major suckwad.  She’s miserable.  She hopes to see the guy at the bar but she doesn’t, but THEN…  You get the point.  People want to see their characters tested because it gives them something to hope for.  Maybe, just maybe, things will work out for Susy.  (And if they work out for Susy, there’s hope for all of us.)  Ah, that’s better.
  7. Torment your audience maybe a lot.  People say things like, “don’t kill off your most sympathetic character or the audience will hate you.”  Then authors like JK Rowling and George RR Martin have a good laugh, because isn’t that how the game is played?  Sometimes there is nothing better than holding your breath while you’re reading, starting to feel that sense of dread, your pulse banging in your ears, thinking, “oh man oh man oh man…” and then, WHEW, the protagonist dodges a bullet.  You put the book down and you think, “woah.”  And then you fall in love with the author and read the rest.  Or, once in a blue moon, the character dies gruesomely, and you throw the book across the room and cuss and cry and swear you’ll never read another word by that author, and you start to pen them a horrid note and then change your mind and read the rest of the book and adore them.  (I’m not the only one who does this, right?)  Because you realize that they were writing about life, and sometimes life takes a turn.  Sometimes it’s brutal and short and mean and the good ones die.  Sometimes by dealing with death we see people to be who they truly are.  Imagine if Harry Potter’s parents had lived; or, if certain other characters had survived in other books.  Would it have been the same tale?  Would Harry have risen up to be the man he was by the turn of the final page?  What if a certain beheading didn’t happen in A Game of Thrones?  Doesn’t the torment the characters experience refine them like coal into diamonds?  So don’t be afraid to torment your audience, because each time a reader feels their pulse change and their throat catch they feel their whole body commit to a story, and that’s good for everyone.
  8. Picture the whole story in your head.  Some writers talk about being inspired by a few scenes, images, or quirks of characters.  (William Goldman and NK Jemisin come to mind.)  That has led to some amazing tales, but don’t think for a moment that when William Goldman first dreamed up the Princess Bride he didn’t sit down and write the sword fight and pirate tale that he first envisioned and then magically end up with that classic novel.  No, he had to work out the story to give those few scenes breadth and depth and meaning.  So if you have a conversation in your head, or one quirk about a character, or a few disconnected images, don’t imagine that by writing them down you will suddenly find your muse and become the next great novelist.  Work your story out.  Picture the whole thing.  If you have to, be like Kurt Vonnegut and get a roll of paper and map the entire thing from start to finish in crayon.  Think about things like pacing and how stories have rolled out as you’ve read them, and make deliberate choices about where you will take your reader and why.  You know this muse that writers long for?  You’ve got to woo her, and you’ve got to pay your dues.  To put the figurative ring on her finger and take her home, you’ve got to know her story.  Unlike the floozies you may find at the bar in the bottom of a bottle (you know the ones, the ones you would NEVER tell your parents about) she’s not going to give it up the first time you sit down at the keyboard.  Work for it.

There’s more advice, of course, but this is the basic stuff.  The big stuff.  The game changing stuff.  The stuff I banged my head against for years and years.  It all boils down to the same thing- don’t expect the writing process to be magic.  It’s called a process for a reason.  It takes a journey to get to a good story, even a short one.  Even a good paragraph means thought, planning, and work.

So work it.

 

GUEST POST: Lee Goff reviews Honest Conversation

(A review of my novella Honest Conversation by Lee Goff, author of the Thunder Trilogy books)

Honest Conversation’ is a novella that wastes no time getting directly to one of the most controversial issues of our day, homosexuality in the church. The story opens with Zoe, an associate pastor in a local church, agonizing over the congregation’s reaction towards a recent addition to their church, two gay men, Kyle and Evan. Kyle is a long time believer, Evan is not. Enter John, the lead pastor for the church, bearing the burden of leading a church in the way he feels Christ would, which at the moment seems to be in opposition to the feelings of the membership.

Zoe, for her own personal reasons that are revealed in the book, champions both kyle and Evan, to the point of threatening resignation if they are not treated as she feels they should be. John, the one called to shepherd the church, tries to find the path that pleases everyone, especially the influential members that strongly oppose the gay couple.

Kay has chosen her characters nicely and writes in a style comfortable and easy flowing. She gratefully skips the ’feel what I feel’ format and leaves the reaction up to the reader. There is not a deep development of the characters, but that is typical in a novella. I confess some disappointment here, but it is a compliment rather than a criticism, as she has given us enough of John and Zoe to want more. In John, we are shown a pastor, the shepherd, as opposed to a preacher. He is more interested in the spiritual health of his flock than he is the potential loss of members, and make no mistake about it, this threat is a real one in our churches today. This is refreshing, and likely contradictory to the reality of many churches. Just my opinion, but his character could serve as an example of how a challenged pastor might handle this situation in their own church.

Zoe, on the other hand, irritated me beyond description. I give kudos to the author in being able to achieve this, since I rarely get this personally involved with characters. Zoe is non-compromising, bull-headed, and seems to ignore the pain her pastor and friend is going through during this time. It is in this view I have of the characters that might just be the most accurate mirror of our church society today. Sides are chosen; an ‘all or nothing’ attitude developed, and because of that, the ability to compromise is gone. Here is where the author makes a difference, and by doing so, sets this book apart from those with a singular agenda owned by the author, and the intent of pushing that agenda on the reader.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it shocked me. I expected a neatly wrapped up story with a bow designed by the author and her self-imposed agenda of accepting gays into the church without any thought to the sin that the others feel accompanies the lifestyle. The author, through the wisdom of john, the pastor, gives us what just might be the best way for a church to address this issue. It is not a compromise, it is not a victory for one side only. It is possibly just the way a man that walked 2000 years ago would have handled it.

I do not recommend this book to someone with a closed mind; unwilling to learn. I do, however, recommend it to anyone open to learning something about this issue, and willing to look at it as Christ Himself might have.

One more thing…that criticism. It’s too short. The characters and their personalities leave us wanting more of them. They are who they are due to their past, and I wanted more of that. And in the world of authors, this criticism is perhaps the best thing one could hear.

–Lee Goff

Book Review: A Name Like Thunder

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being given the book A Name Like Thunder, written by my friend Lee Goff.  It’s the first book of the Thunder Trilogy, a series about God’s relationship with his modern followers.  I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect.  Because Lee is someone I’ve known for some time and have a lot of respect for, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to like the book and unsure of what I’d do should that happen.  People who know me know that I have very demanding tastes when it comes to fiction and can be a real snob about reading.  I don’t have much time on my hands to devote to reading, so if I’m going to read something I want to feel like it really adds something to my life.   I have friends that read over a hundred books a year and I used to be able to read like that.  These days, aside from schoolwork, I only have time to read about as many books as I can count on my fingers and I want each and every one of them to be memorable.

That’s why I was mortified when just thumbing through the book I saw grammar and punctuation errors.  Those things are my kryptonite.  I reminded myself that I really owed it to my friend to try to look past it and enjoy the read anyway, and I am oh so glad that I did.

As snobby as I am about fiction in general, I am even worse when it comes to things written by Christians.  I don’t want to be preached at by anyone but my preacher, I don’t want to have someone else’s doctrine “snuck in” under the radar, and I really hate it when I can feel writers pulling punches and dipping what could be powerful moments into dopishly saccharine dialogue.  There have been some books (especially the romances) where I found myself screaming “PEOPLE DON’T TALK LIKE THAT!  YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!  WHAT IF AN ANTHROPOLOGIST FOUND THIS BOOK AND THOUGHT THIS IS WHO WE REALLY WERE?”  So when my dear Christian friend writes a novel, my first impulse is to never read it so I can keep on respecting him.

A Name Like Thunder is a different kind of Christian novel.  The fact that it is written from a Christian perspective is undeniable from the first sentence- the story is introduced by an angel and each chapter is headed off by one of the angel’s dialogues.  Yet the author focuses on telling a story instead of preaching to the reader.  The story he tells is about a normal couple who have their faith tested by a string of circumstances.  They make the kinds of decisions normal people make, doubt their faith, and doubt each other just like any other couple.  I found myself very quickly getting attached to Len and Liz, the main couple.  The fact that the story bounces around over the course of several years helped with that, as well as the fact that hanging in the background was the knowledge that a very physical and imminent danger was coming nearer.  The truth is, the author is a masterful storyteller.  He writes compelling and believable dialogue with characters that act as if they were culled from real life.  The messages in the story- that couples were made to compliment each other, that life is precious, that God is waiting in the wings with your salvation if only you would ask for it, that your calling is not dictated by your righteousness in the moment but your ability to respond to God’s call- are all very apparent, but you aren’t beat up by them.  The God that the author writes about is a God that is sadly overlooked in much of Christian dialogue.  It’s a God that longs for the holiness of his servants and loves every life unconditionally and passionately, and longs to use even the most broken for His glory.

A lot of the writing reminded me of shades of Stephen King, if Stephen King were writing for a Christian audience.  The characters love a good barbecue and they love to make love.  Friendship is fierce and binding, and evil is most definitely evil.  Even though not too much happens right off the bat you find yourself getting drawn in deeply, and once the story winds up for the end the book is almost impossible to put down.  (As evidenced by my kids trashing the campsite while I obliviously held my breath and tried to read as fast as possible.)

I would even suggest this book for a non-Christian to read, as it might illuminate some things about faith and belief in God that you might not get anywhere else.  Perhaps the most beautiful thing about A Name Like Thunder is the way it quietly defends the idea of a Christian who isn’t close-minded, bigoted, or insular.  I would strongly suggest reading Lee’s books, or at the very least say hi to him on Facebook.

A Name Like Thunder gets 4.5 thunderous hurrahs!

***This review is not paid for, sponsored, or coerced in any way.

Writing/Grief/Fiction/Growing

So almost four years ago I was trying to write a novel about abortion.  I had this awesome story line about a pastor’s daughter that ends up pregnant and has to struggle with what she’s going to do.  If she keeps the baby she honors her convictions, but it would be a black mark on her dad’s ministry and she’s seen other girls be ostracized by the church.  If she aborts, she loses her convictions but spares herself and the people she loves a lot of pain.  I really loved the concept (still do!) but couldn’t write it.  At the time, my marriage was so strained and the grief and anger I was feeling kept getting sublimated into the characters.  I had this moment when I was trying to write a difficult scene laying out why the girl and her boyfriend ended up estranged, and instead of the characters doing and saying what they should have, they kept becoming weird and abusive towards each other.

The longer I wrote the story, the more painful and freakish it got.  I kept feeling like someone was going to pull a knife.

So I stopped writing it, and that was the last time I tried to write fiction.  It’s odd, because fiction was and is my first love.

So the other day I was in the midst of many fervent discussions about women in media, and the way strong women are constantly punished for their strength in the media- especially in movies and TV.  I passingly joked that I could write a better female superhero, and then it happened.  A sparkler went off in my brain, and the writer in me said, “seriously, you.  You could write one.  You SHOULD write one.  You’ve got free time like RIGHT NOW stupid, where’s your laptop?”  So I spent some time working on a character concept, which was made easier by the multitude of discarded story lines I have laying around.  I created this theme about grief and loss and growing up and having to encounter who we and the people we love really are.  It also involves supervillains and a superhero, and of course in true comic book format one of the vilest villains used to be the protagonist’s mentor.  And as I started figuring out where the story starts and writing it, all of this ick that’s been going on in my head started coming out in the writing again.  This time it didn’t corrupt the story, it made me understand one of the reasons why stories like this are so important.

There’s this thing about symbols:  they matter.  Heroes like Batman and Superman matter not just because they are awesome, but because the struggles they have to endure mirror the struggles in our own lives.  By seeing them face and conquer their demons, people gain the tiniest bit of hope that they can deal with the pain in their own lives.  If Batman can beat the Joker how hard can it be to put up with your jerk boss, right?

So I was crying at my keyboard and thinking, “if I can make this all into words, and the words matter, maybe I can just move on.”

And then a little voice in the back of my brain said, “you aren’t the only person who has questioned your grief, your love, and your ability to make something good out of all the badness.”

I realized that I’d forgotten why I was a writer in the first place.  (But I’m starting to remember.)

My Novel

I’m currently editing a novel I wrote several years ago. I mean that quite literally- as I type this I am taking some much coveted time away from my family to edit. I just re-wrote the introductory chapter for about the fifth time, and I’m reading it over and over and wondering if it’s any good. I suspect it is, but I’m biased, and as much as I suspect it’s good I’m sure it’s not.

Anyone reading this who has written fiction for pleasure knows what I’m talking about. Even Stephen King was fairly sure that his success was just a fluke.

Yet… I love words, I love shaping them, I love stories about humanity, I love success and failure and literature even when it’s total tripe. And I love my brave little novel.

Here’s the new first few paragraphs:

Let me tell you a story about a girl. This girl struggled every day to think of herself as more than just a mess of flesh and emotions taking up space and time. This girl slid out of happiness and into chaos almost overnight. This girl’s life changed in just a few short hours.

One night she was laying on her back lawn imagining her life taking it’s carefully planned course through college and into a career. She pictured a handsome husband and two fat babies and an energetic dog. Not too big of a dog. Maybe a Scottish Terrier or a small Collie. And then our girl heard a noise on the periphery and turned to see a dark figure holding a knife.

At this point the details cease to matter. What matters is pain and fear and the things that pain and fear can do to a young girl. What matters is the focus of her existence shifting away from the American dream and towards survival and survival alone. What matters is the shame, the embarrassment, the feeling of having surrendered control, fear of judgment, fear of consequence, fear of death and fear of having to continue to live the rest of her life carrying the knowledge of torment always in the back of her mind.

Let me tell you about what happens when a girl is left standing at the bottom of a dry well, knowing that there is nothing there to give her comfort or nourish her. So the girl looks up at the sky, so far away, and wonders. Millions of years ago primitive man looked up in the sky and he asked the same question. Throughout the ages that question has fueled art and industry and science, it has made men feel less and more alone, it has inspired awe and despair. And for one girl with blood under her fingernails, it gave her something to live for just a little while longer.

Just long enough.

Of course it’s not meant to give you much information. It’s only supposed to tell you just enough so that when you get to the next scene you don’t put the book down and never pick it back up. It’s supposed to get the saliva flowing just a little. It’s supposed to make you care about the main character enough that you forgive her selfishness and the fact that the book literally starts out with a scene of self-mutilation. (Which I’ve been told is hard to understand if you don’t understand the back story, which goes back fairly far, far enough that I’ve never really known where the tale should begin. I just can’t begin it before the rape, because I can’t make myself write about the rape itself in any detail.)

I thought I’d share that tiny bit with you so that you can get a glimpse into my “serious” writing endeavors. That and if it’s total crap, someone can tell me. 😀