This Evil Bitch Commie Is Full Of Ideas

my street at night

This past couple of weeks have been pretty intense. What with High School starting for Max (and he’s begun growing a shadow mustache!) and the events in Ferguson Missouri and us suddenly having higher rent to pay that is not affordable requiring me to concentrate hard on how to revamp my Etsy shop and make extra income and finding out my mom probably needs another surgery and my step mother* commenting on my blog (deleted), and of course the middle east situation continuing, and people everywhere being complete and utter assholes to each other.

I have a lot of thoughts about the situation in Ferguson. I’ve heard some really disgusting racist things being spewed and people showing just how sick inside they really are.

I was called an evil bitch commie because I confronted a man who doesn’t think black people are even human beings. I know, if someone is saying something like that they are already so far down the crazy-shoot there’s no retrieving their reason, I shouldn’t have commented. But it’s really hard to stand by and say nothing when people say such awful things.

The trick is to speak up in situations where it will actually help someone out or be useful in some way and to avoid engaging with people who are already diseased in their body and soul.

I’m going to say right now that I think if you are a police officer you are never in the right shooting an unarmed person of any race. I don’t give a shit if they’re 8 feet tall and charge you. Your job is to deal with dangerous people on a daily basis in the least harmful way possible. It doesn’t matter what a suspect’s character is, what matters is that you, as a police officer, have the tools to diffuse aggression without lethal force. If you are too scared to deal with people bigger than you and more aggressive than you – you without shooting them – you do not belong in a police uniform.

I will also say that police departments are quite possibly failing in their training if officers believe that the merest threat of harm to them warrants firing their gun.

Of those things I am absolutely clear.

I get that if someone open fires on a police officer that the officer may need to fire back to protect themselves and bystanders. But there have been plenty of instances where people fired on cops and the cops did not fire back. Happened in my own city more than once. Instances where an officer with a gun pointed at them apprehended the person pointing the weapon and took them into custody without firing so much as a single shot. That’s good policing.

So this whole Michael Brown killing was bad from the start to finish. If Michael Brown accosted Wilson physically, as is claimed, and then ran away – Wilson did not need to shoot him. He should have run after him and used his skills to take him down and cuff him.  He should have called for back up and run after him. Brown had no weapon. NO WEAPON. And once Brown was running away, Wilson was not in danger anymore. No fatal force needed.

That’s bad training at the very least but what it definitely looks like, confirmed by the entire department’s handling of the situation, is that Wilson didn’t care about the life of Michael Brown and acted in an unconscionable way.  That’s a bad shoot.

I don’t actually believe that Police officers should be allowed to use lethal force when threatened. They are threatened all the time, depending on where they work sometimes they are threatened daily. The nature of their job is dangerous, they go into the force knowing they are taking on a dangerous job and being given weapons and the power to apprehend citizens merely on suspicion means they need to be held to a higher level of integrity than the average person.

I don’t think cops should carry guns. I think they shouldn’t carry any lethal weapons at all. But living in a country in love with lethal weapons I know that that will never happen. It’s too bad.

If I believed in God at all I would have to believe that firearms are the tools of Satan.

Those are just a few random thoughts right now. Not an organized essay on what’s going on in Ferguson. So don’t treat it like one. The situation is unbelievable from beginning to end.

That entire police force needs to go on trial for their suppression of constitutional rights of the citizens protesting and those trying to report on the events. They need to be fired and replaced and trained better to deal with both apprehending unarmed (AND ARMED) suspects and protests.

That police department has behaved shamefully.

No, I don’t think the looting that’s happened is okay. But don’t let the looters  be confused with the peaceful protesters. They are not the same people and if the police force wasn’t 100% concentrating on suppressing the citizen’s right to peaceful protest and shooting them with rubber bullets and gassing them – maybe they could have actually quelled the looting and jailed looters.

It’s been a tense two weeks. Our country is like one big castle of dry rot surrounded  by lit matches. It would take so little to destroy us right now. We spend billions of dollars arming the entire world when we should be de-arming everyone and rebuilding our economy on manufacturing and inventions. We are, in my opinion, the most evil country in the world with the way we have armed both allies and enemies with every way to kill other humans under the sun since the early eighties. We have trained the armies of dictators and then trained their enemies too while they’re not paying attention.

The United States is the single largest firearms pimp of the entire world. We stand for war, killing, aggression, invading, and weaponizing.

I want us to stand for innovation, peace, great education, quality manufactured goods, and civil rights equality for all citizens. That’s a United States I would be proud of. That’s a United States I will stand up for and whose flag I –

Nope. I’ll never be a flag flyer.

The answers to how to fix our economy and country are already there in front of us but few people are brave enough to let go of their old ways of dealing with conflict. Few are brave enough to put down their weapons. Weapons are the most cowardly way to deal with ANY conflict. Cowards shoot. Cowards swing axes. Cowards punch people.

Bravery is confronting adversaries without weapons. Being willing to come together and come up with nonviolent solutions. Bravery is knowing you will be hurt in the fight but refusing to fight back.

The weakest and most cowardly people of all are those that wear masks to hide their identity while harming others. If you belong to the Klu Klux Klan you are the weakest and most cowardly of all human beings. You are even beneath snipers who shoot from hidden vantage points and at some distance. You are the lowest of the low.

Hang on, I might be wrong about that.

Those who hide their hate and poison behind corporate law might not be as low as the KKK but they are more dangerous than little boys wearing silly dunce-cones and calling themselves “knights”.

I’m tired. I’m really tired of all the hate and the shooting and the aggression and the ugly and the wars and the rapes and the trampling of peaceful people.

I am redesigning my Etsy store right now to make it into Cricket’s world. I have my salve listed and soon I’ll be listing lip balms and first aid kits. I’m also working on other things. I hope to create a really fun and cool post apocalyptic themed shop. I need to concentrate on creating to keep my spirits up. To keep my hope going. Redesigning my shop has inspired me to dig back into book 2 of Cricket and Grey. I guess I needed a really long  break and to give myself permission to step away if I need to. To take the pressure off. Making things that Cricket and Julie might make is incredibly enjoyable.

I’m not taking my eye off of what’s happening in Ferguson – my heart is with Michael Brown’s family and community. My heart is with social justice, but my actions need to be rooted in creating and making and writing. Things that generate ideas which are what we need more than weapons in this world. Ideas.

So today I’m working on an apron made from a used men’s shirt and I’m excited. I think I’ll dig into Cricket and Grey for some light editing of the second chapter later on.

Peace. Especially to those people who don’t even know when they’re being assholes. Peace to everyone.

xoxo

a

*The Israeli one, not the Scottish one.

Book Trailer Idea Post

brokedown horse fence

This post is meant as an inspiration board for a book trailer.  That is all.

water hemlock 2

field of camasbroken fencedust cloudhorse and petals

real American home squalor Yamhill riverscatter shot   The unnamed bent shot Starting image is broken down rural scenery going by?

***

She moves like an immature leopard.  Restless.  Wonder what it would take for me to see her teeth?  She’s hungry for more than food, that girl.

She’s sniffing the air to see which way my scent is coming from.

Her skin smells exactly like her mama’s did.

Before I touched it.

***

Stack of old photographs fall from a shelf floating to the floor of a rustic room

***

Seeing my work spread across her bedroom caught my breath.  Touching the photographs brings me back.  I can almost taste the burning.

The necklace smells like her mother.  I went back to the place where I waited.  I couldn’t find it.  She was there.  I know she found it.  I know she found it.

***

There’s a gold necklace with a thistle pendant on the forest floor – a hand reaches down and picks it up – you see just from the torso down, hand hanging at side with the necklace hanging down in hand with blood dripping from the hand and down the necklace.

***

Little leopard moves like I move.  She feels me in her muscle now.  She’s low to the ground and invisible, like I’m invisible.  The boy rots her at the edges, like a sandwich gone soft at the crust, falling apart in her fingers.

***

Feet rush through the forest – shot just of feet (with old work or combat boots on them) – the angle is as though the viewer is crouched down hiding from the person in the forest.

***

You think it will come down to drawing fastest.

But you can’t outrun me.  You can’t lose me.   Those photographs are your garrote.

***

Hands holding a pistol fires off three shots

***

I’ll never be full without you.  I’ll never be finished without you.

When Research Looks Like Pornography

P1000696

(special note: do NOT investigate the links I’ve shared if you don’t want to see graphic images of syphilis rashes on dead people, live people, and genitals.  I provide my research links for those who are curious to see them but some of them are GNARLY and if you get nightmares or PTSD from looking at them you can’t hold me responsible for it!)

This morning I have looked at pictures of syphilitic penises and vaginas and feet and hands and lips and backs and anuses.  Not really breakfast fare.  It occurs to me that if I went to med school I would get very thin very fast.  There was one image of a syphilitic vagina being held open by a woman’s hands with long bright red nails which I found so disturbing that I can’t shake it from my brain now.  I keep wondering if the hands belong to the vagina or to a doctor or nurse assisting in showing off the sores for the camera.  Hard flash and clinical exposure.  Medical porn.  I was doing this syphilis research while Max was getting ready for school and I thought that if he were to walk by  my office and see what was on my computer screen it might scar him for life.  To think he caught his mother looking at porn at 8 in the morning over a cup of coffee.  And if he were to look up close he would never eat again when he saw the luetic lesions* I was really studying.

Pornography and syphilis are not unconnected.  I’m enjoying the irony of looking at syphilis images that look like super-sick porn and realizing that the pornography field has probably led to thousands of cases of syphilis.  I’m not sure it says anything good about me that I’m enjoying such a depressing kind of irony.

I saw the image of a dead man in the tertiary stage of syphilis.  He had a white head covering like a nun wears under her habit.  The two macro-genital images above it are very hard to look at so I don’t recommend you open that link.  Only the very curious and impervious need see what I’ve seen.

I now know how to create dark field microscopy using a dissecting microscope AND a lab microscope.

If I don’t know what syphilitic rashes look like in all their forms and what all the symptoms are – and then I write about it – you better believe readers will be able to tell that I have never looked at a luetic lesion or learned what other rashes can be confused with syphilis.  It would be ideal if I could go to a lab and have someone show me how to use dark field microscopy to test for syphilis in person.  Where could I learn that in person?  I’m reading all about it but I would rather get to do it in real life.  If any of you have ideas on how I might acquire this experience, please tell me.

Soundtrack today is “Wolves” by Broken Records.  On repeat.

Yesterday I asked Philip and Max if I have to work on the second Cricket and Grey next or if I can work on a different book first and they both said I have to work on Cricket and Grey.  I said I was struggling to really get swept up in the story right now.  The writing is going so slowly.  I’m excited about my two new characters and I’m excited about a couple of chapters I’ll be writing but it’s really stilted at the moment.  I know it’s the first draft but this is the time when I should be really excited writing it.  this is when I should be in a rush to get it all written down.  Then I do the careful cutting and rewriting.  Right?

Max suggested I write a little bit about each character to get into the writing.  I thought that was a great suggestion.

I know the writing process is different for everyone so there are no rules or universal answers to writing challenges.  I can’t seem to tap into the place I draw poetry from – not on purpose.  That’s what I need to be able to do professionally.  I need to learn how to trigger it because waiting around for inspiration to hit is too haphazard and passive.  Like waiting for life to make you happy.  Half of happiness is finding it for yourself.  It doesn’t just randomly drop into your life.  At least that’s what I believe.  I want all my prose to be sensory rich the way poetry is.  I know how I feel when I’m in that flow, when I’m tapping into that creativity that is inimitably mine, it’s like being .  I know when I’ve hit it and I haven’t been doing it at all lately.  I’m starting to wonder if it’s because I’ve gotten too far away from writing poetry.  I rarely ever share poetry but I used to write it often in my journals.  My brain thinks in pungent shorthand.

When I can tap into that creativity on purpose I will have reached a new level with my writing.

*New word of the day!  Found in a paper written in 1924 about the rashes commonly mistaken for syphilis.

 

In My Hands

pretty coverI can’t stop smiling right now.  You can’t see it because I just got it and haven’t photographed it yet, but I not only got the paperback edition of my book in the mail this weekend (as seen above), I also have the hardback in my hands.  This book represents 4 years of work.  Two for the writing and one for the rejected submissions to agents and this last one for Philip to edit and prepare all the files, Sharon to paint the cover, endless hours of research into the best self-publishing platform to use, and then Philip (again) laying the whole thing out.

I’m going to share something surprising with you.  I think I’m more proud of this book having self published it than I would be if a big publisher had taken it on.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t be superlatively thrilled to have had it taken on in the traditional way, but this is how I usually do things best – on my own.

(Except for the selling part.  fuuuuuuuuck.  I’m going to have to promote this book like my soul is on fire.)

If I had gone through a traditional publisher I wouldn’t have been able to have my friend Sharon paint the cover.  Authors don’t actually get to have a lot of say in their book cover design.  I can’t imagine my book having any other cover than the one Sharon Painted for it.  My dear and incredible artist friend of 23 years.

ma book in motion

Shut up.  You might have prettier thumbs than me but your toes are probably squat and foetid.

This is my book.  It’s not for everyone but I think it’s for a lot of people.  You definitely want to get to know Cricket and Grey.

I think you should know that I’m listening to “Only You” by Yaz because I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since hearing it during my Fringe-Binge.  This is adding to my happiness factor.

chapter four

I can smell figs splitting in the heat while sitting on our old wrap-around porch in Ashland Oregon reading books all summer in the moldy wicker chairs.  Those were the most delicious moments of my summers as a kid.  I did a lot of running around with friends, down in Lithia park and at friends’ houses, but my favorite thing was to read around the corner from the front door smelling the ripening figs and getting lost in books.

I don’t even like fresh figs.

And all of you old-time readers of my blog have helped me get here to this place.  You helped me navigate through hell and back, you encouraged me and held me up through such dark times.  Knowing you were there was sometimes what got me through the day, that I wasn’t shouting into an empty universe was such a buoy.  You listened to my every twisted thought, deviation of character, and told me my insecurities were bullshit.  You listened to me freak out about Safeway COUPONS and how they’re the fucking devil and I’d (apparently) rather starve to death than wrestle competing coupons for a living.

Thank you.

I want to list all the names of the people I know have been reading and supporting me but then that would sound like an Oscar speech and that’s not becoming to a completely unknown author.

But listen up: I believe my series will become a movie some day and I’m already designing the outfit I’m going to wear to the premier.  If you can imagine something you create a path to achievement.  My friend Sean Bonner said it best:

“It’s a mental scaffold”

Those of you who know me well must know that I’m already feeling spooked expressing such happiness and hope – what flying bricks of shit am I unleashing by allowing myself to feel so much confidence?

I’m going to shut up now.  Before I spoil the magic moment.

I want to give all of you this feeling for yourselves if you don’t already have it.

**Shhhhhhh**

All of you.  Seriously, I’m not drunk, I’m just feeling a whole lot of love and gratitude tonight.  It will pass.  But before it does I think you need to understand how much your support has meant to me over the years.  When I was wishing I could go to sleep and wake up just before it’s time to die – you all made me get up and keep looking for the light.  When I was excited about things I was doing, I couldn’t wait to tell you.  When I was brutally honest you all gave me a net to catch my terrified spirit and then you thanked me for being raw.  When you told me something I shared hit you in the solar plexus, it gave me purpose and made me feel connected in all the ways that matter.  When you told me I was your lifeline I felt honored and useful on a molecular level.  So now I’m going to say your names real quiet-like.  I might be missing a few and if I am I’m going to feel dreadful when I realize it.  You know who you are, I think, but I need to say your names tonight.  I might never end up amounting to much in the world at large, but you all have amounted to a lot in my life:

(Taj, Jay, Emma, Robin, John, Jin, Pam, Melissa, Laura, Laurie, Angela, Diane, Lonnie, Jen, Aimee, Sarah, Tonia, Kathy, Riana, Nicole, Lucy, Skye, Ann, Renee, Alice, my other Sarah, Erin, Tarrant, Denise, Nicole, Kelly, Amy, Jess, and Monica.)

My Frustration with Fringe and Under-explored Female Archetypes

meat and buildings sf

Work on the second book is going slowly and not that well.  I’m on chapter three.  So far I can tell that the biggest problem is way too much dialog.  Like I’m making my characters say EVERYTHING they could possibly say all RIGHT NOW.  Which is funny considering how Cricket and Grey aren’t exactly chatterboxes.  I know the general direction I’m taking book two but I haven’t mapped it out chapter by chapter.  I’m still struggling to find the main – the large – story arc that goes from book one to book two.  I have all these things I know the characters are going to go through and I know that ultimately the largest story arc is the transformation of Cricket from living her life passively as a member in a safe family unit to living it on her own terms.  Growing up and finding a new sense of family and belonging.  But the vehicle that will drive that transformation – I know it’s there already but it’s shadowy like I’m under water and seeing it move across the cloudy rippling surface of a lake.

Meanwhile – you can now purchase my book from Amazon in both trade paper and hardback editions.  I think if you want to buy it as a gift for someone else it won’t get to you in time.  They say 2-4 weeks to ship to you.  That’s because it’s print on demand.  So if you were thinking of buying any trade paper copies for friends or family as Christmas gifts you’ll be able to buy them from me – probably by the end of the week.  I’ve ordered 20 copies to sell from this site and from my Etsy shop.  I will announce when they get here.  But if you want to buy copies for yourself you can do that now!  Click on the image below and it will take you to the trade paperback listing:

It’s been pretty cold here and I’ve been loving it.  21 degrees last night.  We don’t get snow here but at least we’re getting some wintery temps.  More than I can say for last winter.

Max just turned 13 years old and suddenly is losing all his baby teeth.  I didn’t realize how many of them he had left.  I think most kids lose them all before becoming teens.  He’s lost 4 teeth in less than two weeks.  It kind of freaks me out.  Partly because he has been aggressive about yanking them out of his own mouth (or making his dad do it) the minute they’re loose.  I’m scared he’ll start pulling out his adult teeth.

I’m watching Fringe right now.  I’ve been binge watching it for a week and have just started season 3.  I notice something about myself that is very inconvenient much of the time.  I can’t take too much suspense once I’m super invested in television characters.  Usually when there are partners with sexual tension I get extremely annoyed with it after one or two seasons.  I find it tedious to see couples constantly ALMOST get together and then fuck it all up with stupid decisions.  It seems that, in spite of being very unromantic in real life, in fiction I always want couples to get together and stay together.

*Spoiler alert for anyone just starting to watch Fringe*

So by the end of season 1 of Fringe I really wanted Olivia and Peter to end up together.  The hints that they liked each other were plenty but I had to know if they would ever get together so I looked up spoilers.  I discovered that at the end of season 2 they kiss.  So that was reassuring enough to get me to the end of season 2.  Which I stayed up until 2:30 am watching last night.  Only to discover that just minutes after Olivia and Peter kiss the first time she is replaced by Fauxlivia.  SO FUCKING STRESSFUL.  I can’t stand it.  So I woke up late this morning and what do I have to do?  Watch the first couple of episodes of season 3 but I’m totally stressed out now because Fauxlivia is hanging out with Peter and he can’t tell the difference because apparently he’s dumb as a hammer all of a sudden.  Meanwhile, Olivia is having very bad adventures in the alternate universe.

I couldn’t stand the suspense so I read spoilers for the entire series up to the very last episode and now I don’t think I can continue to watch this show because the writers constantly put Olivia and Peter in turmoil with each other as well as in every other conceivable way.  What bothers me the most is that Peter has sex with Fauxlivia and later it turns out she gets pregnant with his baby.

Of course she does.

And then she tries to lure him back to the alternate universe where she is and where he really is from too and I’m so irritated with this twist I am still bumming right now as I write this.  Why?  Because once a fictional couple gets together and you’ve already bought the subtext that they really are supposed to be together, I can’t stand to see them constantly betraying each other.  Yeah, even if I’m supposed to understand that they don’t know they’re betraying the other person themselves.  Or even if there are REASONS.

*Yeah, I’m a fictional WIMP*

So here’s a little spoiler for the tiny group of Cricket and Grey fans: Cricket will never have sex with anyone but Grey.  Grey will never have sex with anyone but Cricket.  Furthermore, they will not betray each other in any shockingly big way.  Maybe they’ll fight.  Maybe they’ll be unwillingly separated.  But most of the conflict in my series is outside of them.  They’re partners.  They face adversity together.  That’s the model I like.

But I realize, in having many discussions about shows with friends, that while I love it when partners finally become real partners and have a relationship, many of my friends get bored once a couple has become a couple.  I think most people just want the sexual tension to keep going and going with no real reward.  Or they want to see the couple get torn apart and tortured so that they are never actually happy with each other or done not-really-being-together.  I hate that.  I hate it.  I almost gave up on Bones because it got so fucking tedious – the obvious attraction between them.  The obviousness that they were great as a couple.  And then the constant pushing each other away.  I only came back to it when they got over themselves and finally got together and I’ve been loving the show again ever since.  There’s some strife, they have their difficulties, but they are going through it TOGETHER.  The exact same thing with Castle.  I just about gave up on the whole push-me-pull-me sexual tension never being resolved bullshit.  Since they’ve become a real couple I’ve enjoyed the show again.  And since that happened many of my friends are finding it boring.  Just as many of them are bored of Bones now.

The model of story I love best is when people find their friendships or their romantic partnerships (my favorite) and once they do they have adventures and go through fire and brimstone TOGETHER.  I like the model that people accomplish more and better things when they’re paired up against adversity.  The world is a very lonely and hostile place for people without close friendships and who don’t experience partnership as a couple – the kind where you feel safe enough to explore and do great things or maybe fail a lot before you do anything great and to know someone is there who will hold you up.  And to be a person who will hold a partner up when they need it.  The world needs more of that.

I realize that I put my main characters through hell in book one.  Really, I let a lot of horrible things happen to them.  The one blessing is the friendship that comes from it.  And then what comes out of the friendship.  It’s largely about how Cricket doesn’t think she needs anyone and discovers she really does and – has to figure out how to navigate her life in different partnerships.

So.  Will I finish watching Fringe?  I don’t know.  I know it all resolves in the end.  Peter and Olivia manage to work things out, it seems.  But in order to see them actually come together for real and in real partnership I have to wade through three seasons of them constantly being torn apart and unable to trust each other and betraying each other in one way or another?  I don’t think I can enjoy seeing all that.  The other characters are totally interesting and the concept of parallel universes being played out is interesting but I think I will just be too fucking annoyed with the crap going on between Fauxlivia, Olivia, and Peter to enjoy the journey.  I think the whole show pretty much ended for me the moment Peter and Olivia finally kissed – but before Fauxlivia returns to the prime universe to fuck everything up.

I’m having the same problem with Warehouse 13 now.  I have come to a point where I actually think that Myka and Pete (ha!  another Peter!) should become a couple.  I guess I should see if the show has been cancelled and read all the spoilers for that one too.

At least I still have Castle and Bones.  Though since most people like to see couples get torn apart and dislike couples to ever have any peace or happiness, my guess is that those shows are destined to be cancelled soon.

Stories and character types I will never write about either because it’s already been told five billion times or because it annoys me or because it’s not a story or character I’m capable of or interested in writing about:

  • Stories about women who want children
  • Stories about women who want children and can’t have them
  • Stories about women who have children
  • Stories that string you along with suspense and devastation that never pay off in a happy (or at least hopeful) ending
  • Stories about women characters who wear strappy stilettos while chasing villains down
  • Stories with women who are martyrs
  • Stories about men who only like women with long hair and big boobs
  • Stories about men who want children
  • Stories where the main characters don’t evolve
  • Stories about femme fatales (I find that female archetype much more annoying than the martyr)
  • Main characters who cheat on partners or spouses

It will be interesting to see if I end up proving myself wrong with any of these.  One thing I know down in my bones is the first three will never change.  The women/children story and all it’s variations have been told five billion times and I find it boring.  I am only interested in exploring female main characters who have no interest in having children because I relate to it so much and I feel that it is a ridiculously underexplored female archetype.  In fact, the archetype doesn’t really exist at all yet.  You really only encounter childless women in stories where they are shown as having chosen a career over children because they are driven in a seemingly man-like fashion which suggests that real women will always at least long for children even if they choose not to have them.  You rarely see women in literature who never desire having children in the first place, women who have defined themselves not on what their reproductive organs are capable of but on what they’re capable of as a whole person, which for them doesn’t include children.   Women characters who are womanly in every way except for not wanting to procreate.  It’s time we make new archetypal women characters to include those of us alienated by all the old ones.

 

The Color Pink, Early Christmas Fatigue, and Our Unconventional Family

Penny playing

This post will mostly consist of thought spew.  Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

The stores and commercials on television are already all about Christmas and as tedious as it might seem to some of you Christmas fanatics to hear yet another Grinch complain about this – it really is disgusting.  It disgusts me and it depresses me.  I’m not a big shopper in the first place but obviously I am repulsed by Black Friday which has now become Black Thursday, a day I used to know as Thanksgiving.

I’m hearing a number of women on my facebook stream complaining about targeted marketing to girls – specifically with regards to color.  This reminds me of the brilliant bit Elle Degeneres did on the “Bic for Her” campaign.  Some women seem to think that if manufacturers didn’t make girls’ toys in pink and purple that girls wouldn’t like it – that girls are being essentially brainwashed into liking pink.  I personally think that gives too much credit to manufacturers power to tell us what we like and too little credit to girls being able to decide for themselves what colors they like.  I grew up in a sea of pink toys and yet I’ve never liked pink and managed not to have very much of it in my life.  And it’s not like I didn’t like conventional girl toys either.  I did.  I was UBER-GIRLY in my love for Barbie dolls and playing dress up.  But my Barbies, who were packaged liberally in sparkly pink boxes, rarely wore pink once in my hands.  I believe that manufacturers make what they think girls want and if girls keep choosing pink they’ll keep piling the shelves with pink.

Mostly I think it’s a waste of time to obsess over gender targeted toy and color choices.  As a parent you can offer your children more choices in toys and colors available to them and if your girl wants dolls and pink – let go.  If your girl wants to wear black and play with trucks – that’s great.  I gave my boy a baby doll when he was little and he banged its head against the wall for fun so I took it away.  He liked weapons and trucks and trains.  So what?  He had a choice, he chose, and it’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I’m training him up to be a chauvinist.  A neighbor boy of his same age had a choice too and nurtured and loved his dolls.  Totally cool.

What I’m saying is – I find it offensive to suggest that the only reason girls like pink is that they’re being brainwashed to like it.  Also – while I don’t love pink – what the fuck is wrong with girls liking it?

This book came to my attention yesterday: To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.  I’m not going to link to the book because it’s evil, instead I’m linking to the article that led me to it.  Michael and Debi Pearl should be jailed for encouraging people to criminally abuse their children.  Manson is in jail for getting other people to commit murders.  This couple is responsible for inciting parents to whip and starve children into submission.  This is an example of religion causing people to do evil instead of good.  It makes me sick to my stomach.

It’s raining today and I LOVE IT.  Max is loving it too.  We don’t miss much about living in Oregon (besides missing our friends there) but the weather – oh man, I really miss the weather!

Max’s birthday is tomorrow and he’s turning 13.  Jesus!  He’s a real teen now.

Yesterday he mentioned his directed studies class (for kids with IEPs) in which they were working on making a coupon book of potential treats they could have for good behavior.  Max couldn’t really think of anything and when the teacher suggested things like “How about you get to go out to eat and you get to choose the restaurant you go to?” and Max explained that he always gets to choose where we go.  After a few more suggestions which Max explained weren’t treats because he already gets pretty much everything he wants he said the teacher made a comment about him maybe being spoiled.  This makes us look like such bad parents.

But the truth is, we’re not a conventional family in any way.  Max gets to choose where we go out as a family because there are only a few places where there’s anything he likes to eat.  Going out to eat as a family should be enjoyable to all of us.  So he gets to choose which of the three places that have things he’ll eat we go to.  There’s something for Philip and I at each of them so we don’t really care.  We’re not sacrificing anything by letting him choose.  When Philip and I go out alone we go places that Max won’t go.  Everything is a kind of negotiation in our family between all of our particular “special needs”.

He doesn’t get whatever he wants whenever he wants it but he doesn’t really ask for a lot of stuff.  So if we can afford what he wants it’s often okay.  And when we can’t afford things he’s pretty understanding.  There is a lot of harmony in our family and our child is treated as an equal in many ways.  When it’s important that he do as I say or that he cooperate – I don’t have to work very hard to get it because he feels respected and loved and safe in this house and he knows I don’t ask a lot of him.

But we really do look like bad parents most of the time.  That’s okay.  I prefer the harmony in my little family over the incredible discord and fighting that I grew up with.

Now I’m going to warn you who are still following my blog that I’m going to be flogging you with my book.  I’m going to include a link to buy my book in every post at the bottom.  I’m going to ask you to tell others about it and if you can think of any way I can promote it – please share your ideas.  I have, in the past, completely sucked at marketing my products.  But here’s the deal: I want to make a living as a novelist and I’ve got a lot of things going against me (being an unknown author and being self published are two of the biggest factors I have to overcome) so if I want to succeed I’m going to have to get good at this marketing thing.  Even if it makes me exquisitely uncomfortable.  This is the most important thing I’ve ever done and there is nothing I want more than making a living writing novels.  So I have to really go for it.  And that means I’m going to ask for your help and I’m going to plaster links to my book everywhere I possibly can.  Okay?

I’m going to succeed at this.

Winter; Cricket and Grey: buy your e-book version today!

CandGcover-EUPHEMIA

Before I say anything else I need to say that my friend Sharon Eisley painted this cover for my book and it is everything I imagined and hoped it would be.  She’s an incredible painter whose work I’ve seen evolve over the last 20 years.  Please check out her other work at her website Sharon Eisley.

You can buy my book now in e-book formats at Smashwords:

Winter; Cricket and Grey

I started writing this book in 2009.  4 years, 6 complete edits plus a thousand minor edits, and a book cover later and here it is!  It’s not at all like giving birth, in case that analogy came into your mind.  It’s exactly like spending an obsessive amount of time shutting the rest of the world out in order to hear and write a story that was waiting to be told, that was living in the alternate universe that all fiction comes from.

Philip has directed me to write a kick-ass post about my book.  No pressure or anything.  This is the first day of my life as an official author and the hour is dead.  It’s 12:55am and everyone is asleep.

I want to be Cricket Winters.  It is a well documented fact that authors always write characters who embody themselves – that somehow reflect a part of who they are whether it is invisible to the naked eye or well known.  But I am nothing like Cricket.  She’s the person I am too anxious to be, the person who will get in a fist fight to defend an underdog in a brawl.  She’s the person who will say exactly what she’s thinking no matter what price she has to pay.  She isn’t infallible, nor is she impossibly flawed.  She’s as real as we are.

Why I loved writing Cricket: small boobs, freckles, red hair, fistfights, loves good catgut, honesty, fearless, fleet.

Why I loved writing Grey: loyal, gives dead grouse like wildflower bouquet, loves good catgut, fearless, honest, doesn’t have perfect teeth.

At the core of this story is the question of what we’ll do for medical supplies when they are no longer readily available to us, what would we all be willing to do to get Ibuprofin and to get cancer treatments and what if it was just as hard to get either?

I’m lying.  The core of this story is the fact that every family has its own lore, its own lies, and we all have to figure out where we belong in the quagmire of our own family shit.  What would you do if you found out your parents were both living double lives?

Would you let yourself be wrapped up in bandages you knew someone had to die for?

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter Two

Dawn broke frigidly across the hills, the grey rising to reveal a frail winter light, not quite sun but enough change in brightness to wake the birds whose sharp territorial cries shot through the quiet like little knives punctuating the soft skin of sleep.  Cricket heard the rustlings and felt the dark dissipate but didn’t lift her head.  She sat in her father’s fresh dug grave, knees pulled to her chest, arms resting loosely across them, her head bent between them in exhaustion; too tired to feel the cold reach through her.

Her father’s stiff shrouded body lay on the cabin floor in the deep shadows of dawn, waiting to be laid to ground; the ground in which Cricket still sat, her muscles stunned into paralysis by the repetitive work of gouging out the hard stone-shot dirt, her head still ringing with the rhythm of digging. All she could do was think of her mother, dead three years.  Mairead had always said Cricket was just like her father, as though this was too bad for a girl, chiding Peter for turning their daughter into a pugilist by the time she was six years old.  He laughed it off saying that the girl would soon enough be the spitting image of her mother, full of wit and grace and beauty.  He would remind Mairead that it was his job to make sure Cricket could protect herself.  It wasn’t the “old” country they were living in where family might come to help, he would remind her.  They were alone here.  “For twenty years we’ve lived here, Peter.  How long does it take to stop being the ‘newcomers’?”  “I don’t know, darlin’.” He’d say.  “I suppose it’s the same everywhere; we’re newcomers til we die if we move from the place we’re born.  Our girl belongs here, that’s got to be enough.”

It was strange how losing her father made her miss her mother more all of a sudden.  She missed the smell of her skin, the sound of her husky laughter and the way she’d read aloud in the evenings from favorite books.  She missed crawling through meadows with her in the summer foraging for chicory root and self-heal, the air hot with the smell of drying salvia.  Looking up from the grasses she would see her mother blazing like a wildfire in the bright sunlight.

She still hadn’t moved a muscle when Shockey walked up to the lip of the six by six, his large belly visible over the edge before his head.  Removing his smashed up soiled rag of a baseball cap, he mumbled something meant to be respectful and grave-appropriate but which sounded more like a rough shambling speech appropriate for a congregation of prison lifers.  Cricket had long since learned not to try to decipher everything he said.  Whatever was really important always came to light eventually if you waited patiently for it.  Which it did, more quickly than usual this time, when he asked her if she was planning on burying herself instead of her father.  Before she could form an answer another figure appeared at the edge and looked down into the grave and when Cricket looked up at him he froze in surprise.

Grey Bonneville had heard a hundred late night stories about Cricket that Peter told like all proud fathers are prone to do, though most of them told such fond stories over a friendly barbeque not during an armed stakeout. Grey had practically fallen in love with Cricket through Peter’s colorful stories.  Peter had made her out to be larger than life; brave, reckless, beautiful, strong, impatient, and unintentionally amusing the way she was always getting herself into trouble with her temper and fists.  What Grey saw when he peered over the edge of the grave was a shivering woman covered in smears of dirt who looked startlingly like his old friend staring up at him with the same clear grey eyes. Though her hair was straight and cut in a bob instead of being short and wavy it was just as red as Peter’s had been.  How could this girl be the fierce person Peter had told so many stories about?

Grey was nearer to Cricket’s age than she’d imagined he would be.  He wasn’t especially tall but was well built, had dark short-cropped hair, and his clean shaven face was weathered as though he spent a great deal of time outdoors, which he did, but was otherwise handsome with high cheekbones, grave hazel eyes, and a sharp straight nose.  The first thought that ran through Cricket’s head when she saw him peering down at her was how annoying it was that her father was friends with such a good looking young man who was undoubtedly irritatingly fond of delicate females with floral complexions who could bake the fluffiest cakes out of nothing but water and dust.  The last thing she needed on the day of her father’s burial was to be reminded that she was nothing but a scrapper of a girl.

First impressions can be a real bitch.

“Need a hand outta that big hole?” Shockey asked.  Although she was only five foot six she didn’t think it was particularly difficult to climb out of a six foot deep grave when there was a ladder within reach.  Time for dreaming with the dawn, for waiting on ghosts to subsume the quiet was over.

She unbent herself and stood up stiffer and colder than she realized she’d become.  It was thirty five degrees and she’d been working without her coat on for hours after tossing it when the digging made her too warm.  She was shivering now but paid no attention as she climbed out of the hole.

Shockey performed his version of introductions which went something like “Mumble mumble- Peter’s half pint- blah blah- has the hardest left hook- mumble- old friend going to play the pipes for Peter- blah blah- staying with me and don’t tell no one.”  Introduction done.

Cricket said hello quietly and Grey said “I’m sorry for your loss.”  The three of them stood at the edge of the grave awkwardly, Cricket shivering but not noticing it, Shockey noticing it but distracted by thoughts about Peter and, impossibly, summer cherries.  Grey noticed it and waited for Cricket to pick up her coat which lay crumpled on the ground at her feet.  When it seemed obvious she was going to ignore both the frosty air penetrating her cotton shirt and the wool coat that was the remedy Grey picked it up and said with exasperation “Jesus pet!  Do you not notice you’re all to pieces with the cold?” and put her coat around her shoulders which she wanted to resent but was too relieved to bother.  She was distracted by Grey’s accent, so much like her father’s that for a moment she thought she might turn around and hear him admonish her for being so careless of her health.  The thought hurt a little and Grey noticed the small look of pain cross her face and felt guilty that he’d been impatient with the girl when he should have been kinder because it wasn’t just his friend being buried today, it was her parent.  He would have been surprised to know that his accent had given both pleasure and pain and that it would continue to be a source of both.

“I’m not your pet, Jimmy, but thank ye.” She said mimicking her parents’ dialect as she pulled her coat more tightly across her body adding “Come ben the hoose.”  This surprised a smile out of Grey who hadn’t expected the lass could speak any Scots.  His smile was arresting, not because he had a great big mouthful of bright white straight hero teeth (his teeth were neither especially white nor very straight) but because it was in such contrast to the serious expression he generally wore.

“Aye, it’s fair Baltic the day.” Grey said, still smiling.  Cricket wasn’t proof against such warmth and because her parents only spoke Scots at home between them it felt familial and made her happy to hear it on a day otherwise caustic with loss.  Without realizing it she was smiling too. Shockey watched the two of them, his face passive and curious, rubbing at his messy white hair absently pushing it to new levels of dishevelment.  Not understanding them he let it wash over him like a pleasant echo of Mairead and Peter, whose lively voices had filled his life for over twenty years.  He thought Bonneville and Cricket were both too serious and needed to let go a little, have some fun like young people like to do.  These thoughts came through the old man’s mind in images and disjointed words rather than fluid coherent thoughts.

Cricket, suddenly aware that she was standing around shooting the shit in Scots with a man she’d just met, started walking back to the cob cabin motioning the men to follow her without further invitation.  The cabin was so cold inside their breath made thin arctic clouds.  No fire was lit because Cricket had been digging all night.  She bent to the woodstove and built a stack to light.  While she got the fire going Grey stood over his dead friend’s shrouded corpse lost in silent observance.  The old man disappeared into the kitchen where he made a great deal of bumbling noise and yet managed somehow to provide, in a few moments, the most heavenly unexpected gift to warm them: three steaming cups of coffee.

“Shockey!  Where did you get this?” Cricket asked in astonishment. Shockey shuffled and mumbled something about Red Bess (a local dairywoman) and her “connections”.  Apparently he performed some dubious favor for which her gratefulness apparently knew no bounds because coffee was not an easy or cheap commodity to come by those days.  If you had some it was almost certainly grown in the southern states which, while acceptable, was nothing to the imported beans which only found their way up north through shady deals and great expense because so few ships were bringing goods from South America and Africa anymore.  If you had some, you probably didn’t come by it honestly, or at least you must be someone’s bitch who themselves didn’t come by it honestly.  Or else you were rich.  The three of them stood by the weak fire, reverently inhaling the dark bitter smell of the coffee while waiting for it to cool down enough to sip.  The big mugs warmed their cold fingers.  Cricket was still shivering and Grey suppressed an unaccountable urge to find a blanket to wrap her in, choosing instead to fuss with the fire to coax more heat from it.

All of them were painfully aware of Peter laid out on the floor behind them already beginning the process of decomposition.  Peter had been right in thinking that Mitch Smith and John Hesse would take a personal interest in his burial, though Cricket failed to see why her father considered them a danger, for he certainly meant to warn her of more than bureaucratic harassment.  So far Mitch Smith had delayed the burial by forcing Cricket to rewrite the permit paperwork three times claiming she’d filled it out wrong.  Then he’d refused to approve the precise spot her father had chosen to be buried in, claiming that it was too close to the public road (though this wasn’t true) and she couldn’t start digging until he stamped and signed the permit. With each delay she grew more anxious and began to feel that Smith and Hesse were enjoying her discomfiture.  She wasn’t wrong.  The burial had already been delayed by three days when a fresh one cropped up causing her to clench her teeth to bite back the temper she’d held in surprisingly tight rein for long enough to have shocked anyone who knew her well, had they been witness to her uncharacteristic forbearance.  She had only gotten the signed permit back last night, five days after Peter’s death.

Through all of this Cricket had acted alone.  The Martins offered to help her with everything but Cricket didn’t want anyone near her until the wake which she had to share with everyone.  She was one of those people who, when wounded, prefers to den up in solitude to experience pain alone with no witness and no fussing.  The Martins would most certainly fuss and Cricket couldn’t bear for any of them to watch her wade through the first few days of mourning.  She didn’t want anyone at the burial either because she wanted her last minutes with her father to be her own.  In the end she admitted to herself that she couldn’t manage to get him into the grave without help for logistical reasons and since the burial attendants don’t help with the burials they attend and are there strictly to oversee that it is executed properly, she had to ask Shockey to help.  Shockey was okay though.  He wouldn’t fuss.  He was naturally barely coherent and his habit of saying peculiar and inappropriate things was a quality she found strangely comforting.

The coffee was warm but not warm enough.  Cricket pulled out a half empty bottle of Shockey’s White, the cheapest alcohol he produced, similar to grappa, and poured a shot into her mug.  Now the drink burned hot all the way down to her stomach and sent radiating waves of warmth through her muscles.  She offered the White to Shockey and Grey who gratefully took a shot in their own mugs, each thinking essentially the same thought: here’s a girl with good sense!

There was still a little time before Smith and Hesse would arrive and Cricket had to send a message to the Martins that it was time to head over the mountain to meet her at the cottage in town for Peter’s wake that afternoon.  She told the two men she was going to the dovecote for a few minutes and to shout up if they needed anything.  They nodded silently as she pulled down a cord to a trap door in the ceiling of the tiny hall that separated the main living space from the only bedroom downstairs, unfolded the attached ladder, and climbed to the second floor of the cabin which was completely round but divided into two halves, one was her bedroom and the other was the dovecote.  Once in her bedroom she pulled aside the beautifully finished dresser her father had had made for her when she was a child, revealing a small hatch door which she opened and crawled through.

The dovecote was one of her favorite places to sit alone, though perhaps part of its charm was that she could think her thoughts uninterrupted but in the company of her birds for whom she had a keen affection.  Along the straight wall that divided the two halves of the second floor hung several decent sized cages in which perched the Martin’s pigeons which she kept until she needed to send a message at which point she’d stuff a note into a tiny metal capsule fixed to one of the pigeon’s legs and, set free, it would fly home to them in Pacific City where the message would be received.  The Martins always had several of the Winters’ birds waiting in cages to perform the same office.  All the uncaged birds in the dovecote were their own.  Free to come and go as they chose until caught up and brought to the Martins for their turn to provide messenger service.

The pigeon post wasn’t the perfect messaging system but it was more reliable than sending messages on computers (provided you had access to one) which were notorious for breaking down or being intercepted by hackers.  It was also more reliable than phones on most days because the phone services were always crapping out and this was provided you even had one because most people couldn’t afford to have the service in the first place.  Phones were hard to come by now and once your phone died it could be months before you could afford a refurbished replacement model even if you were able to find one.  Though the pigeons were occasionally killed by hawks the only real trouble was that to get a message in a timely fashion you actually had to be sure to check your dovecote frequently for any returned birds.

Luckily for Cricket the Martins were waiting for word from her so someone, almost certainly Julie, would check their dovecote frequently.  They’d be waiting for word to ride over the mountain to come to father’s wake.  She knew that even at this early hour they’d be ready.  She sat quietly with the pigeons for a few minutes listening to their noisy cooing and fluttering; the jostling for position on the ample perch was entertaining.

She knew she couldn’t sit there all day ignoring the world no matter how much she wished she could bring a blanket into the dovecote with her and hide until everything was over.  She went to the corner where a small wooden bench and a counter were fixed close to the wall.  Here was where they kept the feed, the salt licks, other pigeon-keeping accouterments, the message tubes, and the thin sheets of cigarette paper they used to write their notes on.  She wrote in a careful tiny script “It’s time.  Wake at 4pm.  Bring accordion.  Father will want you all drunk by midnight.  LC”  She rolled up the little paper and after enclosing it in the metal tube she opened up one of the hanging birdcages and pulled out a sweet little pigeon named Juju.  Once the note was in place she held the bird for a moment, looking it square on and said “Listen swifty, don’t get eaten by a hawk.  This is important.  Got it?” the bird blinked and cocked her head slightly as though considering the request carefully.  “Right.  So long as we understand each other.  Now go!” she set the bird free, watching as Juju stretched her wings into flight and within half a minute was already out of sight above the thicket of trees surrounding the large clearing the cabin was situated in.

When Cricket reemerged in the living room it was much warmer than when she left it fifteen minutes earlier.  Shockey handed her a fresh hot cup of coffee and she looked at him in surprise “So much?  What the hell did you do for Bess, buy her a new cow?” Shockey would have blushed if he’d had enough blood left in his old body to reach his cheeks but since he didn’t he shuffled his feet uncomfortably instead and avoided looking at Cricket by turning around and heading back to the kitchen because in spite of his discomfiture he was grinning mischievously at a private (recent) memory.  Grey smiled at the old man warmly.  Cricket hadn’t realized that they already knew each other well until seeing Grey look at Shockey the same way her father always had, with obvious affection.  It was true, the two men knew each other very well.  Though Peter hadn’t wanted to introduce any of his work mates to Cricket, claiming it was because they were an uncouth lot, Grey had stayed with the old man discreetly many times between guard jobs that took him through McMinnville.  Seeing Grey smile fondly at the old man made her feel outside of her own life the same way she felt when her mother died, feeling that everyone knew each other better than they knew her, as though she was a detached observer in an unfamiliar life.

Shockey brought in a tray of food and said “Don’t do no good to starve yerself smaller.  Yer mother’d find her way from the grave (something garbled here) an I don’t fancy no innerference so you best eat.” She looked disinterestedly at the tray and pushed it away but Shockey was persistent “Don’t eat and you’ll fall in the pit yerself from fatigue like some dab a flesh, don’t mind me sayin.” The image made her laugh and she took a piece of stale bread to go with a slice of Shockey’s home made cured meat and cheese.  At first they tasted like stale straw but once her palate was cleared and her body received a bit of food she realized how hungry she was.  Shockey’s meat and cheese were always as good as his liquor but today they seemed to be especially good.  It was with great satisfaction that Shockey watched her eat.  He himself ate nothing but insisted that Grey eat some food too.

Into this strange domestic scene rose the sound of tires biting into the gravel drive leading up to the cabin.  They all looked at each other and Cricket got up the fastest to look out the living room window.  This was it.  They were here.  What pomposity that the federal agents drove cars when no one else could.  What a stupid thing to think at a moment like this.  Cricket didn’t want to go outside again into the cold, but her father’s body needed to be buried so she opened the door and stepped out onto her little porch to watch the arrival of the agents.

A big black car stopped close to the grave site which was a couple hundred yards from the front door of the cabin.  The car, which was once a very expensive luxury vehicle and from a distance still looked lush and sleek, was, up close, full of dings and rust spots which was to be expected if you drove it around here in the damp country on roads that hadn’t been kept up for nearly thirty years.  Cricket watched as Mitch Smith opened the driver’s door and climbed out of the vehicle, all burly dense five feet ten of him.  He wore a long black overcoat under which he wore his usual starchy black suit, blindingly white shirt, and black tie.  He could not have looked more like a fictional federal agent if he tried.  The fact that his partner Hesse was dressed identically to him made them seem even more like caricatures of FBI agents but, other than being dressed the same, they looked nothing alike.  Smith had the wide shoulders and the muscled physique of a man whose main hobby was benching metal.  He wore his nearly black hair combed back neatly with the use of some sort of shiny pomade and his dark brown eyes were large and attractive in a way that might have seemed almost pretty if they weren’t set in such a mean square-jawed face pocked thoroughly in his youth with untreated acne.  Hesse, by contrast, was very tall and thin with narrow shoulders and spidery limbs.  There was nothing particularly distinct about his features which were in every way unremarkable.  The only thing anyone could ever remember about him after meeting him was that he was tall.  He had the power to be invisible in spite of his height which was a gift he put to good use in his work: materializing out of the background with loaded gun which was not a lucky time to notice him as he was an expert marksman.  They didn’t immediately approach the house where Cricket was waiting for them on the small front porch.

“It’s like she’s actually trying to look like a smuggler’s daughter.” Smith said with a thin lipped sneer to his partner.  “Absolutely filthy with dirt!  How the hell does a woman like Mairead Winters have a daughter like that?” Hesse, who wasn’t much of a talker took in the sight of Cricket who had maintained a reasonable cleanliness during the last few days.  He didn’t bother to tell Smith that from his observation smuggler’s daughters didn’t look much different from anyone else’s.  Smith was still talking while they gathered the paperwork that Cricket would need to sign.

“Her mother was something else.  She’ll never have a figure like that.  I remember the first time we busted Winters and Mairead came to bail him out. I would have tossed her right there if I could have.  I always regretted that.  I had more scruples back then.  Her daughter doesn’t hold a candle to her.  She’s got no tits to speak of.  What kind of figure is that?”

This was too much for Hesse who retorted “Oh for fuck’s sake Mitch, you didn’t have scruples back then.  You didn’t toss her because Winters would have killed you in your sleep later.  Anyway, what makes you so confident Mairead would have willingly slept with you?  She didn’t exactly strike me as the cheating type.”

“What would you know about that?  I’d lay odds you’ve never slept with anyone you didn’t pay for.  Anyway, I didn’t say I would have asked her permission.  God doesn’t give a woman a body like that without meaning for it to be used.  That’s your problem Hesse, you’re weak when it comes to taking your due.”  Hesse didn’t answer this accusation because it was pointless to explain to Smith that what he wanted as his “due” was entirely different than what Mitch wanted.  Mitch was all about the classic male vices: women, money, power, and sport, whereas what John wanted was something darker, finer, and couldn’t be recklessly snatched at.  Mitch had got one thing right though, John never slept with anyone he didn’t pay for.  It kept the balance of power where he wanted it and the way he saw it, it was more honest because no woman ever left John wondering what his intentions were or whether he’d call them later.  Far from being ashamed of only sleeping with prostitutes, he believed it made him superior to other more sentimental men.  What Mitch thought was a well delivered insult was wide of the mark and all John had to do to convince Mitch that he’d succeeded in driving his insult home was to keep silent, which Mitch mistook for an admission of shame.

Cricket was still watching them, with her hands shoved deep in her coat pockets, and when Hesse returned her stare she got the queer feeling that he was scouring her for silent information, as though there was a message written across her skin and it made her uneasy.  Like an animal, the man seemed to know the effect he’d had on her and his lips curved into a slight but unmistakable smile.  She’d been dealing with these two for three days now and Smith she understood immediately – he was a swarthy swaggering bore who would bully and steal his way to whatever he wanted, but this other one was something else.  He didn’t look like much.  He was tall but his demeanor was quietly unassuming to the point where you might not see him in a crowd if you weren’t paying attention but one thing Cricket was sure of – you would feel him there.  While she knew how to read and handle men like Smith, she couldn’t read Hesse which disconcerted her. He not only seemed to be aware of this, he seemed to enjoy it.

At last they walked up to the cabin.  When they got to the door Smith said “It’s a freezing morning for a burial Miss Winters but at least you can be thankful it isn’t wet.  We’ll see the body first and then we’ll inspect the gravesite.”  She let them in the front door without responding and stepped aside so they could see her father laid out in the living room.  The cabin was one big open space with the front door opening into the living room and from there you could see through to the kitchen space.  Peter’s body was laid on a stretcher of rough wood on the packed earthen floor just inside and to the left of the front door where Shockey and Grey stood over him like sentinels, both looking grim.  Smith gave the two men a curt nod and said “Amazing how I can never find you when I want to talk to you Bonneville, but here you are when I’m not looking.  Next time I want a word I guess I know how to flush you out.”  Neither man spoke so Smith commented on the odor in the living room as though he felt the company needed a specific topic to focus on.  The odor was faint but they could all smell it.  Cricket retorted that if she’d been allowed to bury him three days ago they would all have been spared the stench of putrefaction.  In truth, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it would have been if it hadn’t been so cold the whole week.  Smith said lazily that it made no difference to him, he was merely noticing.  This rankled Cricket but she had nothing to say that didn’t involve calling the man an asshole and besides, she was tired and sore.  She watched silently as the two inspectors examined the body.  Seeing nothing remiss they walked out of the cabin to the grave site they’d finally approved.

Smith ordered Hesse to measure the grave while he did nothing but chew on an imaginary toothpick and continue to lay his appraising black eyes across Cricket who had come out to watch them measure.  She noticed Smith staring and stared back at him unflinchingly, without embarrassment or fear and without knowing it she had dealt a blow to him better than any retort she could have made.  To not be in awe of him in one way or another was unacceptable to Smith, especially in a female.  He stood taller under her stare and tried to appear more impressive.  In a twisted way his disgust for her almost felt like attraction and this annoyed him.  He asked Hesse to hurry up.  The measurements were reported and the numbers brought the insolent smile back to his waxy pocked face.

“Ah.  Now that’s too bad Miss Winters.  It appears you’re a couple inches shy of the depth requirement.  We’ll have to come back tomorrow and try again.” The look on Cricket’s face was a mix of horror, exhaustion, and anger which was better than Smith was hoping for. Telling Hesse they were done there for the day he turned to leave when Cricket almost yelled out “You can’t do that!  You can’t make me wait another day.  Surely that’s a health hazard?  My father is starting to rot in there.”  Smith stopped and drank in the desperation and holding his hands out in a gesture of helplessness asked her what he was supposed to do?  It wasn’t his fault the grave was too shallow.  Rules were rules and he was paid to make sure she followed them.

Shockey and Grey who had been watching from the living room window looked at each other and without saying a word they both turned from the window and left the cabin to see what was going on.  Shockey was distressed to hear that Cricket was short a couple inches and still without words he ran to get the shovel that Cricket had dropped unceremoniously in front of the cabin porch earlier and returning with it he climbed into the grave and began to dig which was difficult for an old man like him because though he was strong for his age the soil was hard from weeks of dry cold weather.  Cricket climbed into the grave and gently took the shovel from him.

“You’re too old for grave digging.” Shockey hesitated and seemed to be looking for the words to make an objection.  She put her hand on his arm “Just having you here is everything.  But let me finish the job I started, let me make it right myself.”  He nodded and climbed out of the grave.

“Oh, did you think I was going to wait here while you finish digging?  You should have made sure of your measurements before we arrived.  I have other things to do and this isn’t my problem.” Smith said glancing at his watch. “I’ll come back same time tomorrow morning.  Have it fixed by then.”  And with that he turned from the grave and started to walk away.

“Come on!” Grey said “Winters needs to be buried.  A couple inches won’t take much of your time.”  Smith looked hard at Grey, a man the bureau had an “interest” in and said smoothly “If you do the digging yourself I’ll wait.  I’d like to see you sweat a little, Bonneville.” With this caveat Grey jumped into the grave and reached to take the shovel from Cricket but she didn’t relinquish it immediately.  She had spent all night in a meditation of sorts, letting the job of digging the grave fill her mind and her ears and delay grief a little longer.  What soothed her was the action, the repetitive action, to be doing something for her father, knowing it was the last thing she could do for him.  She had done nothing for her mother, just let her father take responsibility for everything without question, without objection.  This time it was her turn.  Grey wrapped his hand around the shovel and said very quietly “Go on, let me have it, hen.  I know Smith, when he has a flea up his ass he won’t back down.”

“I’m not a hen, lad.  I liked ‘Pet’ better.” She said.

“No man over thirty is a lad, pet.  I liked ‘Jimmy’ better, reminded me of home.  Now please, let me have the shovel.  I’ll-“.

“I don’t have time for this crap, make your minds up.”  Smith said impatiently.

“Okay.” Cricket said almost inaudibly letting go of the handle of the shovel. She climbed out of the grave and without looking at Smith or Hesse, walked back to the cabin and Shockey, who had been standing nearby worriedly, followed her back inside where she added some wood to the stove which sat in the center of the house between the living room and kitchen.  Shockey sat himself down near Peter and didn’t attempt any conversation with Cricket.  Neither of them was uncomfortable with silences and followed their own thoughts while listening to the sound of the shovel cracking into the dirt outside.  As it turned out, both of them were thinking about the last conversations they’d had with Peter and wondering how they were going to stand not hearing his rich loud laugh again.

Grey was a strong fit man so he managed to dig out the required couple of inches in little time.  When Hesse re-measured and pronounced it to code Grey returned to the house telling Cricket and Shockey that is was time to put Peter to ground.  They picked the stretcher up together and slowly carried him out and lowered him, not completely without mishap, into the grave.  Grey said he had to do one more thing for Peter and without further explanation ran off for a moment and returned with bagpipes that Cricket hadn’t noticed sitting in the cabin.  With each of them on a different side of the grave, he played “Amazing Grace”, Peter’s favorite song.

The hairs on Cricket’s arms rose slightly in response to the wailing bellows.  She loved the pipes as much as her father had though she’d heard them less often.  For the first time since he’d arrived, Cricket took a really good look at Grey who was wearing an olive button down wool shirt tucked into a matching plain olive wool kilt, the effect being somewhat military.  He wore gillie brogues and black hose with no flashes.  His crisp tidy appearance was slightly marred by the dirt on his kilt and the dark sweat stains on the shoulders of his shirt, yet he still managed to look clean and well dressed making her suddenly self conscious as she looked down at her dirt streaked clothes and mud caked boots.

Mitch Smith had been walking slowly behind Grey eyeing him with some derision and was now making his way around the grave to where cricket stood.  He stopped to stare openly at the specimen before him: the lowly daughter of a smuggler looking as dirty and poor and unladylike as one of the homeless road travelers that crawled through town occasionally begging and bleeding through the streets.  Cricket could feel his insolent stare on her skin and chose to ignore it because her mother would have wished her to behave with some decorum and grace at a moment like this.

When the last notes of Amazing Grace fell across them there was a profound answering silence broken unceremoniously by Smith’s voice drawn close enough for Cricket to feel his breath on her face.  He said “You’re mother was a whore.”  Cricket, deciding it was best to ignore him, refused to answer or to look at him keeping her eyes focused forward, on Grey, as a matter of fact.  Smith was holding a small folded piece of paper in his big hands “I’ve been carrying this around for a while now wondering what I should do with it.  It’s evidence, of course.  I should have turned it in.”  He unfolded the paper and held it in front of her face which she didn’t want to see but she couldn’t keep her eyes from the familiar handwriting which opened up a sharp twist of pain in her chest.  Her mind was racing, boiling with questions and confusion.  It was a note directed to a man, an assignation, something Peter wasn’t meant to know about.  Smith sneered.  She wasn’t able to read everything in it before Smith snapped it away from her, refolding it, putting it in his pocket again for safe keeping. Cricket kept her expression as passive as she could, hoping to give nothing away but Mitch Smith saw enough of what was in her mind to spur him on, especially because she wasn’t asking the obvious questions.

“You want to know why I would hold back such a choice piece of evidence.”  A statement of truth.  Cricket focused her eyes back on Grey with some effort, observing how straight his nose was and how high his cheekbones were, almost like a Slav’s.  He was focused on her as well and observed that she was coiled tight like a spring.

“She inspired appetites in men.  Does it make a difference whether she was screwing for fun or for pay?” He looked her up and down with obvious distaste which, if he was intentionally provoking her was working better than Smith could have hoped though he couldn’t tell yet.  She was as still as a fox in a hole, waiting.

This would have been a good time for Smith to stop.  Hesse saw three vultures circling in their slow lazy way no doubt getting wind of death the way they mysteriously do before any other animal does making them grim messengers of decay.  If the vultures had got wind of a ripening corpse then it was high time they got this one covered in dirt.  Hesse, having no real conscience of his own, didn’t mind letting Mitch have a little fun with Winters’ daughter, call it a perk of the job if you will, a little bullying, a little cat and mouse fun with the occasional rape before closing time.  But Hesse was eager to get back into town where he might get some breakfast off his mother with whom he still lived in a mutually satisfying arrangement of semi-indentured servitude on her part and a great show of devotedness on his part which cost him next to no expenditure of energy and stroked his ego on a daily basis as he got to congratulate himself on keeping his mother from living on the streets.  It might be lunch by the time the grave was filled.  He shifted his feet impatiently.

“You’re nothing but the daughter of a smuggler and a whore.” For all of Smith’s prowess reading people he had missed something with the Winters girl because he never saw it coming.  Grey Bonneville didn’t see it coming either until it was too late.

At Smith’s last words Cricket suddenly became electric energy gone hot and charged, her right fist shot into his face with a breathtaking economy of motion shocking Mitch backwards with an ugly smear of an expression blossoming in tandem with blood from his nose.  Immediately he caught his footing and with ferocious speed he threw a punch back expecting to hit soft flesh with his large hard hand used to getting its way through split skulls, but it met air; Cricket saw it coming and ducked.

By this time both Shockey, Grey, and Hesse were moving towards the pair and all of them heard the sickening sound of Cricket’s second punch hit Smith’s face, this time catching his chin which split open like a soft peach as he fell backwards.  However, the shock of the unexpected violence from this scab of a girl was over and he recovered himself quickly. “You bitch!” he yelled driving his fist into her left cheek twisting it just as it caught her skin, ripping it open with a painful tear.  This punch sent her backwards but didn’t knock her down.  She was aware of backing into someone behind her, of hands grabbing at her arms, trying to restrain her, but she smashed her elbows into the body behind her catching a pair of ribs and having broken free she lunged for Smith again but this time he stepped out of the way easily.  She only hesitated for a second before she kicked the inside of his knee causing him to cry out and his retaliation was a fist to her stomach which took her breath away causing her to fall backwards again.  This time when a pair of strong arms restrained her she couldn’t get loose because she was still trying to get air back into her lungs.

“Stop it!” Shockey yelled at Smith.  “You son of a monkey’s ass!  Her dad’s dead, you got no respect?”  To which Smith growled before replying “That little cur attacked me, not the other way around, old man!”

No one but Smith knew that Hesse had his Glock pointed at Cricket’s head.  Smith knew because his partner was quick to pull his gun out and Smith also knew Hesse to be the best shot in the county.  There was, so far, no target he couldn’t hit if he set his sights to it.  It was one of the things Smith liked best about his otherwise flaccid mamma’s boy partner: his complete transformation into a dangerous animal with a weapon in his hands.  The man always had his back which gave him a little  more room to do as he pleased, assured that if things got ugly enough, Hesse would be there, ready to shoot.  Now, as Smith stepped slightly aside revealing that his partner had his gun  to Cricket’s head, the other two men became more careful.

Cricket, having got her breath back a little, sank down to the ground and Grey, who had been restraining her, let her go when he felt her muscles relax. No one spoke until Smith approached Cricket, completely ignoring Grey, his easy cat-like swagger restored, and said with obvious pleasure “You are under arrest Christine Winters.  Stand up.” She barely registered what he said because she hadn’t heard her birth name said out loud since she was a little girl.  She wasn’t even sure why her parents gave her a name they never intended to use. Hearing it now was like having a queer flashback in which you become someone you don’t even know and wonder how you came to be wearing their skin.  Christine?  Who the hell was he talking about?

“Get up, I said!” Putting her hands to the ground she tried pushing herself up but her stomach cramped sickeningly.  She might have fallen over but for Grey’s quick hand to her elbow.  He helped her up, keeping his eyes on the gun rather than on Smith.  “Now turn around.” Smith commanded.  She turned around and found herself face to face with Grey whose eyes shifted from Hesse’s Glock to her and new appraisals were made between the two of them.  Grey’s original impression of Cricket had undergone some serious changes in the last few minutes.  He was no longer surprised by the things Peter had said about his daughter during those long stake-outs in the dark.  In fact, it was uncanny how much like Peter she was.  Her grey eyes might have been framed by slightly longer and darker auburn lashes than Peter’s had been, but they were just as unflinching and steely and at this moment full of burning anger.  She had the same pale skin covered with apricot freckles, not just across the bridge of her nose but across her whole round face, this he could see in spite of the dirt smears and blood streaming freely down her cheek and onto her coat.  She no longer looked the least bit small.

Smith read her rights while he roughly handcuffed her but Cricket wasn’t listening because she was distracted by uncomfortable thoughts about how Bonneville had fit into her father’s life without bisecting hers as though her father had been living two lives instead of one.  It was uncomfortable to suddenly, for the first time, wonder why she had asked her father so few questions about his work life.  She mentally shrugged off this uncomfortable question and instead coolly looked at Grey whose eyes were softer than hers; the color of faded conifer needles, and she noted with annoyance that he had better lashes than she did, and he probably didn’t even care.  She realized how ridiculous it was of her to be jealous of a man’s lashes, to even think of such a thing at a moment like this.  A sheepish flash of a smile and a quick flush crossed her face which was immediately erased by a wave of pain.  Grey said to Smith “She needs her cheek seen to.” To which Smith made no response aside from jerking Cricket towards the ostentatious black car, shoved her into the back seat, and slammed the door shut.

Read Chapter One of This Book:

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter One

 

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The Minutiae of Editing: a thousand tiny fixes

Today Philip returns to McMinnville for one last truckload of our stuff.  I’m excited to have my laundry baskets and wastebaskets and plastic pails and –

What?  You don’t think these things are worth getting excited for or going 600 miles north to get?  Yeah, they don’t seem important until you have to buy them all over again.  We also have quite of bit of furniture left up there.  All together it would cost us a lot more to have to replace all of that than to go get it.

My head is barely in the moving game.  I’m all buried in editing and it feels so good to be working on a writing project again.  I am not a natural at editing.  Some writers are also fantastic editors and some editors have the creativity and skill to be fantastic writers.  I am not one of these geniuses.  My editing skills are improving through practice but I can’t wait to be able to pay professional editors to help me with my novels.

Cricket and Grey Editing Notes

I’m pleased at how few spelling errors I’ve found in the manuscript.  I’m embarrassed that one of the two errors I’ve found appeared in the first chapter.  (I fixed it before posting it to the blog)  I have no idea how I could have continually missed it edit after edit.  It was right there being flagged by spellcheck.

Finding the line between writing style and good writing isn’t always as clear as you’d think.  One of the things I do when writing short creative prose is the use of “and” instead of commas.  I don’t do it all the time but when I want to create a sense of urgency and breathlessness it’s very effective.  Using this style can pollute your longer prose – I have been deleting “and”s like they’re breeding ferrets in my novel.  I can see places where it works but, man, I need to be more careful using “and” in the first place.  I have taken so many single sentences and made them into two.  I have also turned many an “and” into a comma.

I have finally discovered what that quirk of my writing is that bugs me that I couldn’t pin-point before.  I have a tendency to invert* adverbs with the verbs they’re attached to without meaning to or thinking about it or noticing it until editing.  It’s the kind of thing a person does frequently when speaking or writing in a foreign language.  Here’s an example:

“She walked softly into the room.”  (“walked” is the verb in past participle form and “softly” is the adverb qualifying it)

“She softly walked into the room.”  This is incorrect.  I do this ALL THE TIME.  It feels like a brain glitch.  Like some form of sentence structure dyslexia.  Is that even possible?  I think I’m writing “She walked softly into the room.” but in my typing I invert it.  What I’m curious to know is – do I do this when I talk?

As I’m editing I find myself getting a little bit confused about consistency of tense.  It may seem simple to other writers but to me it gets confusing when dissecting a story sentence by sentence.  “I had taken” versus “I took”.  I don’t know, when I’m writing I am telling the story in my head as I’d tell it out loud to you, whatever tenses I’m using feel natural at the time.  Sometimes it’s passive and sometimes it isn’t.  To go back and examine every use of tense is confusing me.  It’s a thing I don’t think consciously about

There.  I did it again.  That’s another version of that thing I do.

“It’s a thing I don’t think consciously about”

“It’s a thing I don’t consciously think about”*

Which sounds right to you?

Anyway – back to tenses.  I notice I have a tendency to either write passively or urgently without a whole lot of shading in between.  Effective writing style or jarring?  As I go through the chapters I’m trying to correct passive language as I find it but I’m wondering if doing this is ruining the greater continuity of storytelling?  By looking at each sentence microscopically am I losing sight of whole paragraphs?  Am I losing sight of the greater flow?  I will be reading each chapter one more time before posting it to the blog so I should be able to answer this question as I go along.  Right now I’m just digging through each chapter reading and stopping when I find something that doesn’t seem right.

Another thing I have been cleaning up are contractions.  I don’t use them in my writing as much as most writers do.  I don’t use them in my speech as much as others do either.  Overall my use of them is highly inconsistent.  Fix it or leave it?  When you’re writing characters you have to make a decision about how they will speak and this will be influenced by their characteristics.  A casual person is not going to say “do not” where they can say “don’t”.  A more formal person is likely to speak with fewer or no contractions:

“I would like a slice of cheese but please do not slather it with that atrocious goose fat.  I simply can not digest it!”

“I’d like a slice of cheese but please don’t slather it with goose fat.  I can’t digest it!”

OR “Gimme a damn slice of cheese with nothin’ else on it.”

Haha.

The other thing I’ve been cleaning up is Cricket’s repetitiveness.  There are a couple of big themes in this story that she has to grapple with and come to terms with and in the process she mentions them in her narrative and then it comes up in conversation with others.  This is fine.  You don’t bring up a huge event in a character’s life, show that they are deeply disturbed by it, and then not mention it again until the end of the book when suddenly they’re just fine (or not).  A theme is something you weave into a story and it influences what your characters do and say but the trick is to avoid hitting readers over the head with it.  I used much too heavy a hand with this.

I’m cleaning this up as I go along but I admit to approaching it conservatively.  Cricket is meant to grow quite a bit by the end of the first book but her emotional and moral growth is meant to extend over all the books so she can’t be all done growing by the end of the first book.  She has anger and hurt to work through and it has a very direct influence on the kind of choices she’s making – I can’t have her be all easy going until she’s worked it through.  As the story progresses she gets more and more information that adds to the crushing of her previous naivete with regards to certain aspects of her life so the things she’s feeling are compounded rather than immediately relieved.  The trick is to show this more subtly than I have.  Again, being buried in the tiny details of specific passages makes it hard to see if I’m really fixing things or not.

By the way, Cricket is no virgin.  In case anyone was thinking she might be.  In rereading this book I see I’ve left out some passages from earlier drafts that gave insight to her previous romantic tangles and how she’s not only not a romantic, she is very comfortable with sex being an appetite you satiate but she has never carried on a real relationship with anyone.  Being in love with Tommy is the only emotional romantic attachment she’s ever had for a man and, as you see from chapter one, her feelings were never returned.  I don’t know why it’s important for you to know this but it would truly bother me if anyone thought Cricket was sexually naive.  I guess it would bother me because it’s untrue.  Her naivete is limited to her trusting relationship with her parents.

It’s time to get back into the editing trenches.  I have chapter two all ready to post on Monday.

I think I’ll do some dishes to clear my head before diving back into the editing fray.

*This is what I meant to say and it sounds right to me and clearly expresses the intended meaning.  In this case the qualifier sounds better coming before the verb but in many cases the qualifier should come after the verb.  What do you think?