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Tonight is it. The last episode of Game of Thrones. It has been one heck of a wild ride. Eight seasons, 72 episodes and only the gods, both old gods and new, know how many hours.

All I have to say is that it has been a shame that GRRM didn’t finish the books in time for the two Ds to finish up the series. They are clearly just rushing to burn the whole thing down and finish up their work so they can move on to wreaking havoc in the Star Wars franchise.

I have no idea how they are going to wrap up what happened last week in one episode. Whether it is 60 minutes, 80 minutes, or 90 minutes, the task they have in front of them is immense. And from what I’ve seen this season, I’m not sure they are up to the task.

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to tie up loose threads and bring a story to a satisfying conclusion. I do. And I’ve not written anything as complicated or intense as GOT. This season was always going to be a daunting task, especially since the source material is incomplete. Even if GRRM shared his thoughts and plans for the books with them and they based their story on those notes, I don’t see how they can leave the audience with anything other than an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Dany going all mad-queen and burning everything to the ground on us. I think given that she’s a Targaryen and has had a difficult rise to power, it is all too believable. My problem is that is not the ride we have been taken on for the seven previous seasons. For seven seasons, she has been:

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.

She freed the unsullied, freed the slaves in Mereen, broke their chains, and won their loyalty by standing up for the downtrodden, innocent, and powerless. That is an honorable and powerful list of accomplishments and titles.

And now she’s the Crazed Killer of the Innocents? Fire Queen of the Westeros, and Destroyer of King’s Landing?

I do not buy it.

Like I said, I could buy that she could snap and turn into the mad-queen. There were hints enough in the book that she could head in that direction. The problem I have is that the creators of the show did not do the deep-dive into her psyche to make it believable. She has stood as a paragon of leadership for seven seasons. And the rush to the mad-queen feels just that, rushed. Moping around Winterfell for two episodes because nobody loves her is just not enough.

The fans of the show, both the readers of the books and casual viewers, have lived through seven seasons of betrayal, death, war, rape, madness, and cruelty. The characters, both protagonists and antagonists, have been complex and layered. And the story has been compelling. Yes, it is a grim-dark tale that could go bad, absolutely. This has not been a hero’s tale of overcoming all odds to defeat evil. Evil has won at almost every turn.

Nonetheless, throughout the books, and the show, there was the promise of something better. The promise of Azor Ahai, the Lightbringer, who will arise to fight against the darkness.

“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”

So, I don’t think it unreasonable that fans of the show would hope for a hero’s ending.

They defeated the darkness of the frozen north with the help of Dany and her dragons. And Arya. Gods love Arya! The White Walkers are finally, and hopefully, forever defeated. Now all they needed to do was rally support to defeat evil in the hearts of men, (and women), to come together and truly unite the seven kingdoms.

And maybe that’s the problem. The evil in the hearts of men can never truly be defeated. It will always be there. I guess I had hoped that in the fantasy world at least, they could overcome it enough to keep it at bay, to push back the tides of fear, distrust, and hate.

It is clear that this is not a hero’s story. Possibly never was. At this point, to try to create a happy ending out of the ashes of King’s Landing will feel false, and to end with the Mad-Queen on the Iron Throne will not have been worth the investment of time the fans have sacrificed.

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I have been mulling this post over for a couple of days unsure if I should write about it, but I feel I need to.  I have been part of some conversations recently about decency, politeness, and safety.  I get the impression that many people, (read: men), feel women think about safety too often and make overly harsh judgments about people because of some irrational fear.

This past weekend, I met two friends at an art studio to discuss writing. We are all writers, poets, or artists. A mutual friend gave us the keys to her art studio so we would have a place to meet.

We were in a safe place, a place we’ve been to many times. We let our guard down. The art studio is in a community center. We sat with the door to the studio open and very openly discussed writing, race, politics, how to write inclusive characters that did not sound stilted or stereotypical, hair, how to outline a novel, shoes, family, etc. All things women writers discuss.

An elderly man walked in asking when the computer lab opened. We did not know and told him as much. He came in and asked what we were doing and what kind of place is this?

We told him it was an art studio and we were talking about writing. He then peppered us with a myriad of questions. Where did we go to school, what were we doing, what kind of stuff are we writing, what was our favorite word.

We all started answering his questions at first, and then one girl started to refuse to answer him while trying to be polite. I could tell we were all slowly becoming uncomfortable with him.

We started noticing things.

  • He had hospital bands on his arm.
  • He sat the whole time with his hand in his pocket.
  • He volunteered that he is bi-polar.
  • He told us he was a former law enforcement officer.
  • He seemed more than a little off.

I wanted him to leave. I could tell the other girls did too. They were feeling the same discomfort I was feeling.

I slowly started packing my stuff. I politely put my laptop in my bag. I quietly wrapped up the charger. I silently put my phone in my purse. I unobtrusively put on my poncho. I was ready to leave. I had to go to work. But I did not want to leave the other two alone with him.

Nonetheless, we politely tried to send him messages by making silent moves that we were leaving that it was now time for him to go.

When we got to the “What’s your favorite word?” question, I told him mine was serendipity because I like the melodic sound of the word. It has a syncopation quality that I enjoy. He asked me what serendipity meant.

I told him it was a fortuitous happenstance. He said he liked the word happenstance. He also liked the word “cloak and dagger”.  That was it for me. I was done being polite.

I loudly stood up and said, “I have to go to work.” As soon as I announced I was leaving, the other girls grabbed their stuff and agreed. “Yes, we have to go, too. The studio is closing.”

I could hear the elevator down the hall, which meant there were other people in the building. I made a point to be loud about us shutting the studio down. One of the other girls politely helped him stand up after he announced he needed help. I stood close by keeping an eye on the situation. He was elderly and frail, but none of that would matter if he had a gun. And being former law enforcement, he would know how to use it.

He shuffled out of the studio and walked down the hall to ask other people when the computer lab opened. We felt much better. Still, we took the back stairs out of the building and once safely outside, we shared our mutual fear of the situation.

He could have just been an elderly man who has some mental health problems but is otherwise safe if not just a little creepy. He could have been someone who has the potential to be a danger to himself or others. The truth is we will never really know.

What we do know is that 100% of the women in the room had the same unsafe feeling.

And yet, we were polite.

We did not immediately tell him, “No, you cannot sit here and talk to us. We are having a meeting.”

We did not say, “We will not answer your questions because you are being creepy and that makes us feel unsafe.”

We did not say, “Your presence is making us feel uncomfortable.”

We did not say, “Why are you keeping your hand in your pocket? What do you have there?”

In season 2 of A Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s serial version of Margaret Atwood’s famous novel, the main character, June relates this quote:

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This quote is a summary of part of an essay in Atwood’s 1995 collection of Second Words: Selected Critical Prose,

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That may seem an extreme view, but women feel this every day in everything they do and everywhere they go. There are a million ways in which women are taught to keep themselves safe every day. We think about safety in every situation.

  • Where we go.
  • Where we park.
  • How we dress.
  • Where we live.
  • What we eat.
  • What we drink.
  • Who we date.
  • Groups we join.
  • The people we date or marry.

The problem is so pervasive that other people get involved to give women options to keep themselves safe:

  • There’s nail polish we can wear that if we dip our fingers in a drink we can tell if it has been drugged by men who mean us harm.
  • There are signs in the ladies’ rooms in bars with safe words we can give to a bartender if we feel we may be in an unsafe situation we don’t know how to get out of.
  • There are shelters for women who are abused.

I could go on. I could provide links and proof to back up everything I said here. I could give statistic after statistic of domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, attacks, or deaths of women at the hands of men. Men they trust. Men they don’t trust.  Other people have done a much better job of providing these resources. I encourage you to do some googling.

What I want my readers to take away from this, the salient piece of information I hope you understand, is that women do an internal threat assessment of everyone they meet and in every situation they find themselves.

  • Is this parking lot well lit? Can I get back to my car safely?
  • This guy I just met…how safe do I feel around him? Could I take him in a confrontation?
  • Boss’s behavior is boorish. Might make inappropriate comments. Will he stunt my career if I indicate I won’t put up with his bad behavior?
  • Do I feel safe walking through this neighborhood after dark if I rent this apartment?
  • If I voice my opinion, will people think I’m a bitch or dismiss me out of hand?

And through all of it, we are trained that we have to take other people’s feelings into consideration, so we are polite.

Here’s what I have to say to that.

STOP BEING POLITE.

You do not need to justify your safety.

  • If the guy sitting next to you on the bus is being creepy. Get up and move.
  • If you are afraid of the guy you just met, call a friend to meet you.
  • If you feel unsafe walking back to your car, ask your friends to walk with you.
  • Be loud.
  • Be outspoken.
  • Share your opinion.

Listen to your gut. Listen to that internal voice telling you that something may be wrong.

I’m not saying to live in fear. I’m not advocating treating people badly. I would never advocate violence. (And the fact that I feel the need to say this, angers me.)

I am advocating women, or anyone really, who finds themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is a concern to listen to that voice, stop being polite, and do what you can to protect yourself.

People will think badly of you whether you’re polite or not.

I think Anne Lamotte’s quote about writing your story applies aptly here:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Apply that to people who expect you to be polite in a situation that makes you feel unsafe. If they expect you to be polite, they should behave better.

On Bullying


Grade school was tough for me. I was horribly bullied. I was a shy, quiet, small child who did not speak up for herself at all. When the kids at school began bullying me, I retreated into myself. I tried a couple of times to stand up for myself. All attempts ended disastrously.

That’s not to say I didn’t have friends. I did. Two good ones that I am still friends with today.

Still, the bullying was brutal and affected me deeply for many years. I spent many years wondering why me? Why wasn’t I popular? Why did they torment me? Why didn’t they like me? What was wrong with me? What could I have done to make them treat me better?

There are many answers to these questions, none of them have anything to do with me. But the truth is that their bullying had nothing to do with me, but had everything to do with them. The “strong” put down the “weak” to make themselves feel better, to draw attention to themselves, to revel in their own sense of self-importance, to stand tall on the shoulders of those under their boot.

By the time I got to high school, I was doing better. I was not popular, but I had friends. I valued and cherished them. The two biggest bullies in my past did not go to that school and I created a new life for myself.

I eventually learned to stand up for myself. Some of my friends in high school helped. One girl I went to high school with decided to start harassing me. We had been friends and I did not understand the change in her. She was too cowardly to bully me directly. She manipulated a younger boy into doing it for her. She would sit back and laugh.

One time, he came over to my lunch table and tried to pour a can of coke on me. I pushed him away and told him to leave us alone. My friends were furious. “You don’t have to take that from him!” One girl took a sip of chocolate milk and made a face. She plopped the carton in front of me and said, “This is sour. I can’t drink it.”

Everyone at the table egged me on and followed me over to his table. He was sitting next to my tormentor and they were laughing. I walked up behind and poured the container of chocolate milk over his head and said, “Two can play at that game mother fucker.”

My tormentor stood up and looked absolutely shocked and said something like, “How dare you!”

“Be careful,” I replied to her. “You might be next.”

A table of senior boys watched what happened and stood up and started whooping and cheering. The entire cafeteria broke into laughter and cheers. My friends and I ran towards the exit to get out of there before we got detention. I saw the freshman English teacher cheer and clap and laugh. The hard as nails history teacher turned on her heel while covering her mouth pretending she didn’t see me.

I turned back to face the room at the doorway. I took a bow then fled.

Standing up for myself was exhilarating. I did feel badly that the kid had to go through the rest of the day wearing a sticky wet chocolate milk covered shirt. But none of them ever bothered me again.

There are times I definitely wished I had given the grade school girls a good sock in the face. That may not have changed anything, but maybe it would have given them pause the next time they tried to torment me. Maybe I would have felt better. Maybe not. But. I never did.

Yesterday, a friend of mine from grade school shared an article on Facebook. One of my tormenters from grade school was in the paper. She had done well for herself over the years. But now, she is facing grand jury charges for corruption on multiple counts. And more people are coming forward to file complaints against her.

A very small part of me felt gratified by this, I’m ashamed to say. I am not a bully. I do not revel in the pain of others. At least, I don’t like to think that about myself.

Another part of me actually feels sorry for her. If the allegations against her are true, that says to me that she did not grow at all from the angry young bully I knew in 8th grade. Instead, she learned all of the wrong life lessons from her behavior and let that infect the whole of her life. What a sad way to live.

If the allegations are false, she is having done to her what she did to me, but a hundred times worse. If she is acquitted of the charges, they will still taint everything in her life from this moment onward. And that is also very sad.

Maybe she had it coming. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe it is not my place to pass judgment. But the news articles I read got me thinking and I wanted to write about it.

If I had known then, what I know now, how differently I would have lived my life. I don’t think it would be very different than it is now. But maybe I would not have given the bullies so much of my own power. They did not deserve any part of me. They are no better than I am. And they were not worth the effort I was putting in trying to be friends with them.

These are some lessons I’ve learned over the years about myself, but also about the other people, specifically, people who have put a lot of energy into making me feel that I am not good enough.

  • Everyone is insecure.
  • Everyone is afraid.
  • Everyone feels they are not good enough.
  • Everyone finds it easier to believe that bad stuff about themselves than the good.
  • Everyone is trying to make people like them.
  • There will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, richer, taller, and seemingly better than you in every way.
  • The people who you view as better than you are not.
  • Beauty fades.
  • Money can be lost.
  • Health declines.
  • Character matters.
  • How you treat people matters.
  • Everyone has worth.
  • People who do not appreciate you, are not worth having in your life. Stop fighting for their approval.
  • People who appreciate you and love you, cherish them.

Bullies will always try to make you feel bad so that they feel better. They are manipulative and mean. Chances are good, they are only trying to cover up the ugliness they feel inside. Or maybe they have just embraced and accepted that ugliness as their truth. Who knows. Until they are ready to do some soul-searching and figure it out for themselves, it is not your job to feel their pain.

But I have to end this on a positive note, because the bullies in my life have actually taught me a great deal about myself and about life in general.

  • I know my worth.
  • I know what I can do and what I’m capable of.
  • I’m a good person.
  • I’m caring and loving and optimistic.
  • I have not let them change who I am at my core. And that makes me happy.
  • I stand up for myself and the things that are important to me.
  • I have a voice and I use it to speak my truth.
  • And I can spot a bully a million miles away.

If I could share anything that I’ve learned over the years with the shy, young girl I was all those years ago, I would tell her to believe in herself despite the haters. They are wrong and small and ugly on the inside. She is stronger than she can imagine. And one day, she’ll know that for herself.

 


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Well, I did it! I forced myself to stay up last night and finish, and about 1:00am EST I crested the 50,000 word mark.

So, I am officially done!

But here’s the thing, I’m not really done. Not by a long shot. I completed NaNoWriMo, yes. But the novel itself is not quite completely written. I still have a couple-three chapters to write somewhere in the middle. And then I have to start re-writes and corrections.

I also did stupid things like when I would get lost in a scene and not really know how to fix it, I just made some notes at the end of the scene of what I should probably fix and then I moved on to another scene.

I wrote things like:

“I hate this scene. This person cannot be here now. Find a way to fix it later.”

Or

“Dialogue too cheery! These people hate each other. Fix later or delete scene?”

Or

“Video of this person’s death released. This is how he died…describe in detail later.”

Then I would just hop to another scene or chapter.

Some of it I wrote sequentially. Some of it I did not. A lot of it I did not, actually. One great feature of Scrivener is that you can jump from scene to scene or chapter to chapter pretty easily which made bouncing around easier.

There is something to be said for just pushing yourself through to just write as much as you can of your story without really stopping. It is not perfect, but no first draft ever is. I feel like I have a solid 125,000-ish outline of a story. It is more than that, I know. I have the bones of a good story in there…somewhere. I have to find it, re-write it, refine it, polish it, then polish it again.

Bottom line, I have a lot more work to do before it is an actual novel. But as far as NaNoWriMo is concerned…I am DONE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Dialogue way too cheery! These people hate each other. Fix later, change scene or delete?”

 

 

 


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Naomi plotting world domination.

Good-bye November! Good-bye NaNoWriMo!

Hello rewrites!

Tomorrow is the end of NaNoWriMo! I am about 1,300 words from finishing!

Well, 1,300 words from writing 50,000 words in one month. I may still need about 5,000-10,000 more words to finish the shitty first draft of my novel. Now that I’ve written the main storyline, I am very aware that I am missing a couple of important chapters in the middle. It’s not a lot of information, just a few key points. I can probably do it in 5,000 words, but we shall see.

I cannot believe I did it. It was a lot of work and took a lot of focus. Two things I’m really not good at. At all.

A couple of things helped, though. One, I really wanted to finish this book. I’ve been working on it for over a year, and I just wanted to get it out already. I mean FFS Colleen, just write the damn thing.

The other thing is just before NaNoWriMo began, I joined Patreon to contribute to one of my favorite podcasters. I listen to Mur Lafferty’s podcast, I Should Be Writing. Her podcast really helped me push myself over the past year to keep writing. I started contributing to her Patreon account, which gave me access to her Discord channel. Discord is a chat program that some gamers use. She has allowed her contributors to use the channel to talk about NaNo.

We used the channel to talk about writing and push each other with writing sprints. This helped me a lot. If I was doing a writing sprint, I was less likely to wander to the kitchen, fuss with the cat, play Facebook or phone games. I would write. Then I would get myself on a roll and keep writing. It has been very motivational.

So, that’s it. I’m nearly done. I’ll probably write the two or three chapters I need to write over the next week or so. Then I will set the book aside through he holidays and just relax.  But in January, the rewrites shall begin!

Just keep writing…


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My First Critic

I have fallen behind and I’ve lost track of my word count. Not unexpected with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and my crazy work schedule, but I am stressing out for sure.

Midnight Friday. That’ is the deadline.

Current word count 40,994.

I am over 4,000 words in the whole. And I have to write almost 9,000 by Friday.

The race is on!

Bad news, I work a lot between now and then. And this past weekend, I had to pick up two extra shifts I was not planning on working.

Good news, I did some writing this morning. I have tomorrow off.

I work today, but I have some time to get writing done tonight. Between tonight and tomorrow, if I focus, I feel that I can not only get caught up, I can maybe get a little bit ahead.

Wish me luck!

Just keep writing…

 


When will this month be over??

By the end of today, I will be 2/3 of the day done with NaNoWriMo! I will have over 33,500 new words written in my novel! 

This is by far the largest project I have ever worked on. Before NaNoWriMo, I had well over 74,000 words written. And I wanted to use this month to finish writing my book. I can’t believe I’m about to write this next sentence, but I just realized I have written over 100,000 words!

Wow.

Just Wow.

I am almost done. And I will have the rough draft complete by the end of November. I’ve written some pretty fun scenes.  I’ve written myself into holes and had to find a way to write myself back out.  And sometimes I didn’t write myself out. I just skipped it and went to another section. I’m not too worried right now about fixing things. That’s what the re-write phase is for. 

My cat might need some therapy after this is month is over. She is decidedly unhappy with the amount of time I have spent on my laptop.  She has been finding ever more creative ways to keep me from writing and refocus my attention on her.  Poor thing. I’ll let her have the final word on this post!

OK, that’s enough computer time. Now pet me dammit!