How much changes in six years?

The Original Teddie

As my novels receive their new names, they’re also getting rewritten. Lingering errors are being fixed, and unnecessary words, phrases and entire scenes are landing on the cutting room floor. All well and good. My biggest conundrum doesn’t come from what should never have been that way to being with.  It comes from what shouldn’t be that way now.

The first draft of this novel was written in 2013. How much changes in six years?

Society continues to evolve. At least more so than not.

My book Layers of Light is not only about human trafficking and female heroes, it is a book about the obstacles faced by women everywhere. It was written before the Me Too movement, and before we had a major candidate for president who was a woman. It was written before “grab ’em by the pussy” and Stormy Daniels. In some ways, it feels to me as if it comes out of a more naive time. How much of the world of 2019 should go into a rewrite?

I also continue to evolve. At least I hope so.

The New Teddie

For over three years now, I’ve been a more or less full time writer. Thanks to classes, groups, and online opportunities, I’ve gotten better at my craft. Practice and study will do that for you.

I’ve also become more politically aware. Writing full time gives you a little more wiggle room to pay attention to the world. As you pay attention, you learn.

Having more free time has also allowed me to be a volunteer. I spend a day a week helping survivors of domestic violence. Individually and in aggregate, they and the social workers who assist them, have taught me so much. It’s no surprise some of that pertains to novel about obstacles women face.

So how much of the new me should go into a rewrite?

I’m making decisions about this all on a case by case basis. Definitely redo that. Don’t touch this. Modify a little here. I hope the result will be a realistic book about young women in 2012 that resonates with the real women of 2020. I think that’s possible.

 

 

c3 is dead

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

A few weeks ago my fourth novel, c3, was killed by own hand. It made me sad. I finished writing c3 in late 2013, and released it on Kindle February 6, 2014. I’ve been told its hero, teenager Teddie Zeitman with her exuberant heart and a talent for out-of-body experiences, is one of my best creations. Green happens to be my favorite color, and the ethereal cover for c3 was my favorite of all the six.

But times change. Goodreads shows only three people currently reading my novel. Sales have gone from small to nearly zero.

I’ve never totaled up the exact sales, because it’s hard to separate a sale from a give-away but I suspect I’ve been paid for about a hundred copies (if you don’t count friends and family.) I’d hoped for more sales, of course, but every time a stranger liked my book and let me know, it delighted me. No regrets.

A few months ago, I attended a conference of science fiction writers, and signed up for a mentor. It may have been one of my more useful decisions. This professional writer pointed out that I could still have a marketable product in this particular story, but I needed a more genre-appropriate cover, a much better title, and an updated and aggressive marketing plan.

I can change the title of my book? Apparently I can. I need a new ISBN number (no problem). I  need to acknowledge to the new reader what has been done (just in case he or she is one of the 200 or so humans who already read this story.)

And …. I needed to kill c3. That is, it had to go off the market completely. No electronic versions for sale, although those who have it obviously always will. No new paperbacks printed and sold, although nothing can prevent current owners from reselling their copies on Amazon and elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve eliminated all the hyperlinks in the book, and the text that went with them. I’ve made corrections and done minor clean-up. Why not. But I’ve refrained from doing anything major.

Because this will be a new book, I have the chance to do some serious editing. So I am. I’m giving more attention to point of view. I’m taking the techniques I’ve learned over the past six years, at conferences, from other writers, and simply from practicing my craft for hours every week, and I’m doing my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

It is still a work in progress, but so far I’m pleased with the result.

So while c3 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel, to be called Layers of Light. I’ll be blogging all about it here soon.

 

Moments and Movements

It’s easy to hear commentators describe the “me too” moment and feel cynical. It is tempting to lump it in with the marches for science and climate sense, and the recent amazing push by high school students for gun safety laws, and all the writing and calling so many of us have done for so many causes, and conclude it has all been useless because things aren’t any better. Is it true?

My husband and I have a fondness for procedural crime dramas, and we’ve recently gotten hooked on a series about a Wyoming sheriff from a decade ago. He and his wise Native American friend Henry handle all manner of mayhem, but a recent episode about sexual assault took a turn for the serious when justice was not had. The young female Cheyenne survivor was referred to a group of Native American women who met monthly to help women in her situation.

“How long has this been going on?” Henry is asked. He gives the questioner a funny look.

“Forever,” he answers.

The writers got that one right.

Yet, what we forget is there has been change, in this area and so many others. Both laws and attitudes about sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence have slowly crept towards reasonable, as have our laws and attitudes in other areas of human fairness.

I understand there is debate about Martin Luther King’s quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Some argue these words discourage the hard work needed to make a better world. I see the quote  differently. I think it means that if we do the hard work, if we raise awareness and argue for fairness and believe in justice, then slowly, the inherent goodness in the human soul will respond with a gentle lean towards what is right. I think the quote means that ultimately humans are a moral people who understand and wish for goodness. Given time and encouragement, they will grow in that direction much as a plant grows towards the sun.

No single event ended segregation, no one protest stopped the Vietnam war. But over years, the hatred behind racism and the futility of needless conflicts fell out of favor with mainstream American, and differences were made. Perhaps too little. Certainly too slowly. But it was undeniably better than if there had been no progress at all.

So I try to remain hopeful as I listen to the “me too” hype. Nothing will be particularly different tomorrow. The success of the movement will be apparent a generation from now, when mothers tell their daughters how bad it once was, and the daughters have trouble believing them.

 

Greener Grass

I’ve never liked the expression “watch what you wish for”. I think it discourages dreaming, and pushes people to settle for what is, rather than encouraging them to make positive changes in their lives. It feeds that innate fear that anything we do will make matters worse.

Gathering vibes 1But there is a reason that we share this collective fear. Often we idolize what we want and once we do get it, the reality falls short of the the dream. It still may be an improvement over what we had, and it might even be a big improvement. It’s just not perfect. It doesn’t make us perfect. It doesn’t make everyone around us perfect. So another dream looms. A different job, a new lover, another town, or maybe better friends. The tough part is figuring out when it’s time to stop chasing perfection and embrace the life you are living.

Do this too easily, and you are settling for less than you should.  Never accept anything other than perfection, and you have chained yourself to a life of discontent. This living life well shit is so damn difficult, isn’t it?

Obviously this little tirade is based on my current situation. I recently quit my job and moved across country, to live in the mountains. I’m off a dirt road, surrounded by beauty, fresh air and all the time in the world to write. It was supposed to be perfect. Unfortunately, I really wanted to move to the Rockies. My life partner wanted to go the the east coast. We wanted to be together, so, we moved to the Appalachians.

There are trees everywhere. So many of them that you can’t tell where you are. It’s not quiet. This damn place is full of something called cicadas and they make a shrill racket worse than any city noise I’ve ever heard. I’m hoping I can write here, but I wouldn’t know because after two months I am still unpacking. This is not what I had planned. It is not perfect.

Pick up and move again? Difficult and very expensive, but possible. Or try learning to love this new home?

Yesterday, I learned how to use a chain saw.  It’s not complicated, but it takes a little confidence with power tools that I needed to gain. Point forward,  I’m going to take down one tree every week until I can see out in at least one direction. I like trees. But I figure that there will still be four million of them within my view, so I’m not exactly affecting the amount of oxygen on this planet.

grassI’ve also discovered that cicadas die off at the end of summer and the really good news is that summer ends here in September like it should. So there is hope for quiet. As to the writing? The stories are starting to form in my head again, in spite of the time I am spending unpacking. They’ll want to be put on paper soon.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Here in my new home, the grass is actually greenest right above our septic system. I’m not sure exactly what that proves, but I think I’ll stay put for now and try to figure it out.

(For more thoughts on making major life changes see my blog posts Wise and Quiet, Am I a Shape Shifter Now? and If You’re Going to be an Old Car.)

“Give Mother the Vote”

A bit of history to remind us of how far we have come. 96 years later, the animosity directed at this fight for the right to vote is hard to believe. How many of today’s issues will seem equally absurd 96 years from now?

vote from herstory

Today in 1916 the 19th amendment finally gave women in the United States the right to vote. New Zealand was the first country to do so, in 1893, and Saudi Arabia holds the dubious honor of being the most recent, in 2011. Change takes time.

The United States hardly lead the parade for voting rights for women. Women in countries ranging from Denmark to Uruguay to Armenia were able to cast their votes first. 1947 was the biggest year for women’s suffrage, with eleven new countries deciding it was time to join what was once considered a radical movement.

Please drop by the Facebook page “Herstory” and give them a like for the poster above and checkout the full timeline of women’s voting rights the world over on Wikipedia. It will surprise you.

vote mother

Am I turning into a wild animal?

Hip and HumbleI’m finding it ever more difficult to stay indoors these days. Cooked food doesn’t even sound good. I suppose some of it is stress. There is a big change coming up, and a move across the country, and of course a lot of new things are going follow. Still, I’ve been through these sorts of upheavals before, and my normal reaction is to, you know, eat chocolate and drink wine. Watch more TV and sleep late.

This time around, I can hardly make myself look at a clock, and my electronic devices all irritate me. I’m waking up before my alarm and I get though my day watching and waiting and I’m not sure for what. I mentioned to my husband that once we moved, I might just live on the porch for awhile and not come inside for days.

“Do you think maybe I’m turning into a wild animal?” I asked him. “Like, I used to be domesticated and it’s wearing off? Sort of like, I don’t know, rose bushes that revert back to what ever it was that they really were before some nursery grafted something else on to them?”

I can tell that I’ve lost him with the roses thing.  He’s not much of a gardener and he’s got no idea of what I’m talking about.

“You’re fine,” he laughs.

“How do you know?” I want a little concern here, some acknowledgement of the oddity of my situation.

“I know you. You love being outside. It’s where you go to calm down. But you are always going to come inside to use the bathroom, and you’ll never get so wild that you’ll turn down ice cream. That’s good enough for me.”

Me too, I guess. Once we move, maybe I’ll metamorphose into a creature that craves the sun and the wind and sky, but who won’t give up her indoor plumbing and can always be called with a dish of frozen sea salt caramel yogurt. That could work for us both.