The Inclusive Child

A few months ago, when the riots were going on in Baltimore, I took this picture.

noh8

I snapped it quickly and didn’t make a big deal out of it, because honestly, it shouldn’t be. Yet every time I come across it in my phone I smile. My daughter has friends of every color. She knows and adores adults regardless of how they identify or who they love.

We talked to her about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how before the Civil Rights movement, our neighbors wouldn’t have been able to get married. Or how the other two girls in this picture wouldn’t have been able to play with her or go to the same school.

“That’s just… dumb.” She sputtered.

Then we talked about how two of our favorite women are finally able to get married in a few months, when they couldn’t before.

“What does it matter?” she asked. “They’re awesome.”

She sees me watching the news and asks about the presidential race.

“You mean before him, there weren’t any people with brown skin to be president? And there’s never been a girl president??” she scoffs.

I can’t speak for the younger one yet, we’re still working on what the word ‘no’ means. But with this one… I think we might’ve done something right.

How I Write

Even though my book is far from the NYT Bestsellers list, I still have people say to me, “I just don’t know how you did it, wrote a whole book.”

I mean, what do you say to that? “Well, I opened Word one day and started typing…”

And don’t even get me started on the fact this was during my first pregnancy and after Monkey was born. You’d think it was next to impossible.

It wasn’t, obviously. And now that I can look back at Second Death and say it’s not half bad, albeit five years later, I find myself wondering the same thing. I have a couple of ideas I’ve been excited about for some time, but how the hell did I get from there to a novel I’m not embarrassed to pitch?

(On a side note, it has been brought to my attention I can’t take compliments. I’m not asking for one. Saying I’m not embarrassed of SD is as close as I’ll ever get to saying I’m proud of it. But I digress.)

Looking back and not knowing how I got here is the thing (in my opinion,) that has taken me so long to get SD ready to go and figure out what’s going on in the sequel. It’s like going to sleep in Texas and waking up in London. Am I happy to be there? Hells yeah. But damned if I could tell you whether I flew, took a cruise, or was abducted by aliens. And how the hell am I going to get home?

So I’ve been reading some writing craft books. I never finish them. I subscribe to a number of writing blogs. I read them occasionally. All they tell me is that I probably flew, either commercially or in a spaceship to London, because if I’d sailed I’d still be somewhere in the Atlantic after one night.

My beloved editor tells me I’m a pantser, as in I write by the seat of my pants and see where the story goes. But even she says I have to outline some, just so I know where I’m going. My big issue with that is that by the time I fill in all the blanks, I don’t like it anymore, thus leaving me in the Bermuda Triangle of plot revision.

Trust me, it’s not near as cool as it sounds.

And then today happened.

After self imposed exile to my bedroom due to the overwhelming feels of pregnancy, (it’s been a rough week,) I started reading my latest writing craft book. Or I tried. At the bottom of my home screen, dear, sweet, Amazon suggested a few other craft books. And that’s where I found it. Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell.

It’s $2.99. It’s 72 pages. It was as if I walked into a psychiatrist’s  office for the first visit and the doctor outlined all my hangups, the cause of them, and then sent me on my way to fix them.

The guy knows me. Better than I know my writer-self.

As soon as I started reading it, I was like, “Holy crap! That’s exactly what I did! How did he know when even I didn’t know?”

In a nutshell, Bell tells you there’s this one moment, a “mirror moment,” where your character evaluates themselves and makes a decision in regards to what they find. Once you have that, it keeps you grounded enough to fill in all the other blanks, however you want. Pants or outline, or some hybrid outpants type thing.

And I didn’t even know I did that. But it’s there.

One of the first really solid, knockout, “yeah, this is it,” scenes I wrote in SD is the warehouse scene. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, it was brought on by a road rage incident.

No, I didn’t start it.

But I did go straight hyena mom on that stupid m-fer’s ass. (See, it still pisses me off.)

Alas, because for a rare occasion the Hubs was the one who kept his temper, I was not able to rip that dude’s eyes from his sockets and squish them to jelly between my little angry fingers.

So instead, after the shaking had worn off and I had a good cry, I wrote him into my book. Then I killed him three times, until I felt better.

If you’ve read SD, you’ll know what scene I mean. It’s the scene where my heroine decides she is fed up with being a helpless girl/victim. You mess with her people and she will end you.

And for her, finally, it’s not just talk.

This is her mirror moment.

It’s also the part that my mother didn’t like,  (“I just couldn’t believe my baby girl wrote that.”) And the part that made my husband a little afraid of me, (“Jesus. You’re kind of scary, you know that?”) Which probably explains why it’s my favorite scene too.

Because, no, I’m not always the sweet baby girl you knew, or wanted me to be. And yes, you’re damn right I’m a little bit scary. So don’t forget it. ; >

Now, while you’re shaking in your boots, might I suggest you read this little gold nugget of plot development? You and I both know you have an inner badass who’s been dying to get out. If you want to write (and actually finish) a book, maybe it’s time you let them.

Some Parenting Advice

39 million, 100 thousand. That’s how many results come up in a Google search for “parenting strategies.” Good Lord.

Admittedly, I have only been parenting for four years, seven months, and two days. Still, there are a few things I thought I would share that have really helped me along the way.

  1. Most importantly: Every child is different. Feel free to look at what I do, but by no means think it’s a guide you must follow to raise a decent human being. Like I said, Monkey is only four.
  2. Solidarity. This was a new experience for me, being raised by a (wonderful) single mother. One of the most comforting things about raising Monkey is knowing my husband has my back and I have his. No matter what. Even if he doesn’t agree, we side-table the issue until we are able to discuss it — without Monkey. This really helps when she is whining… which she does… daily… at length.
  3. Appropriate punishment. It’s inevitable. Kid steps out of line, parent must respond. We’ve tried a bunch of different things. Time out never worked because it became a game to see how many times she could escape. Also, as right now she’s an only child, it’s not like she’s missing out on that much; we have yet to go in her room and play with her toys without her. Spanking… very controversial. We’ve tried giving her open handed swats on the but. She might cry, but then moves on. Her attention span is that of a gnat. In ten minutes, she’s forgotten what she did and why she shouldn’t. Also, she was one of those babies that liked her bum patted, and has yet to grow out of it. I truly think that the best way to correct behavior is to get inside your kid’s head. What does my kid want? To please people and not missing anything. Which means that as long as she’s been able to comprehend what we’re saying, we’ve been telling her when her behavior disappoints us. I can’t believe how well it works (I would’ve just said sorry and kept it up. She gets devastated.). Now that she’s “big” something that really helps is moving up her bedtime. She never wants to go to bed, convinced we throw all night parties the moment her door shuts. So now, when she doesn’t want to listen, her bedtime gets docked 30 minutes. The best part: we’ve never had to dock bedtime more than once.
  4. You and, if applicable, your partner are the ones who decide what’s good for your kid. It took me a while to get this one down. I come from a family of outspoken women, and at least one outspoken man. Which means on more than one occasion I’ve been told I’m too strict, not strict enough, no fun, not serious enough, an alcoholic, and a bad mother. What the hell ever. You know what? I have never had to leave a restaurant due to my child’s behavior. She’s never that kid. Not only that, she’s a legitimately good kid. Which means I’m doing something right. You know what else? I bet you have a good kid too. If anyone starts telling you you are raising them wrong, or not “right enough,” they can back the f up and worry about themselves and their crazy suppressed kids that are someday going to go postal.
  5. Kids have terrible memories. This is especially important with your first kid. You get pregnant, have a baby, and the next day they send you home with a human being and tell you, “Have fun! Don’t raise a serial killer!” With that pearl of wisdom you arrive home, put the tiny human in some contraption that Parent’s magazine told you buy and then you stare at it. Breathing, yes. Asleep, yes. Soooooo… now what. Here’s what: you will mess up. A lot. I did. This tiny human will make you want to punt them between the goalposts and bring you to tears. You will call your parents and apologize for being the little $hit you know you were, because it must have compounded and made your child a demon baby. You’re folding laundry when the baby picks that moment to learn how to roll… right off the couch. The good news? They will forget. (Also, they bounce and are surprisingly resilient.) I don’t want to sound harsh, but I don’t want Monkey to see my parental failures. All that’s important is that she knows I tried my best. She doesn’t remember the day I had to put her in a pack n’ play, go in the other room, and cry for a half an hour because of how angry she made me. As if that weren’t enough, then I felt guilty for being angry at a toddler. However, she’s not going to remember this until I tell her, which I plan on doing when she calls crying to apologize to me.

If any of this helps, awesome. If nothing else, you can take my advice from #4 and tell me to mind my own beeswax. Just remember, there are plenty of people you know who have been through this before and survived along with their children. If they can, so can you.

60 days to be a Writer Day 17

Today Monkey asked me why I was always on my computer with books and writing all the time.  I tried to explain my goal, and all I got was “Yay! That means you can buy me toys and take me to McDonald’s!”

Seriously, what do you say to that?

I hope everyone enjoyed the Render tour.  Hopefully we will be doing one for me someday.

SD 2nd round edits will be back on 9/26.

I’ve had a couple of writing hangovers for my other project, tentatively called 3 Against 1. Any adivce on writing love scenes wherin the characters leave all “jelly-kneed” would be greatly appreciated. I’m so out of my depth. (My mom reads this blog, so jelly-kneed is as detailed as I’m going to get here.)

I have a few ideas I’m going to pitch to Cracked.com, one of my favorite comedy websites. I may use those lists I made up a while back. Who knows?

I have so much going on, I’m going to have to get super-organized. I always try, but have a hard time sticking with it. Any apps that have been helpful for you, please recommend.

Emily

60 days to be a Writer – Day 3

So when I first finished SD, I remember everyone asking me, “How did you ever find time to do that?” At the time, it seemed like a really odd question. I was a stay at home mom with an infant. She slept a lot and was easily entertained. What else was I supposed to do?

Now I get it.

She’s four. Everything is, “Look at me do this! Look at this!” and “No, Mama! I can do it myself!” followed by the inevitable spill/rip/crash etc. 

I sit here and It’s almost 9pm. Where did the day go? And I’m so close to finishing my edits! Her Daddy is helping… almost. College football started today, the Huskers are playing, and the Monkey’s grasp on the finer points of zone defense is lacking. She’s still asking about the numbers on the field.

On the writing field, I only have three little scenes to write, (my editor wants me to make my villain more scary, and since my readers don’t live in my head, she does have a point.) Also, my first article will be on Examiner.com soon. I’ll do a post and a link once it’s up.

And on that note… anyone want to babysit? Please??