Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To get from point A to point B...

It's a very satisfying thing to find someone who could (and initially does) prove to be a valuable resource.

I take research very seriously. It's important to me that I get the facts straight, that I get pertinent information clear in my head. Fact checking is a huge part of my research. Yes, I'm a writer, and yes, I can, and do, make shit up, but when it comes to the law, or police work, or medical situations/terminology, I like to ensure that I know what I'm talking about. To that end, I've met with several professionals over the years who have helped me enormously in this regard.

Today, I met with a law professor, who specializes in a field that pertains with startling immediacy to one of my characters. I couldn't have asked for a better contact, and she was the one who contacted me. Over lunch, she asked very precise questions; within half an hour she had warmed to my character, and started addressing her, and her situation, in very realistic terms. Her questions startled me with their astuteness, but didn't stump me: Is she like this? Has this happened? What is her motivation? Why do this, and not this? Is she violent, or merely driven? Are you envisioning a court case, or will you breeze past that? She was excellent.

I spent two hours with her, and could have spent more, but the amount, the sheer staggering amount of information she provided, and could yet provide, was rather overwhelming, and so I gracefully terminated the meeting. I extended the courtesy I always do with my contacts, the promise of respectful acknowledgement, a recompense for their time (I bought her lunch), and the hope that I could return to her should I have further questions.

But there's this: she was able to, immediately, make a connection I'd been worried about, with regard to a certain protagonist, in a certain well-touted, well known novel, and dismiss it. I was astonished. My mind had gone there, and worried at it like a dog worries a hot spot, and she had arrived there within thirty minutes, considered it, and then dismissed it. She had correctly ascertained that there was no correlation, that my character was unique and separate unto herself. I was deeply relieved. And completely unable to hide that relief.

And she said, "Your character, this girl, is well thought out, and while you haven't fully considered all of her, she's obviously complex, you're presenting her in a very realistic manner. Pay attention to her motivation, whether she's self-driven, or there's another, underlying motivation. I'd like to know more."

It's an amazing thing, to create someone, from the ether, and have someone else believe in her as strongly as I do.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Call me if you need to...

She calls me, later than expected, and within seconds, it's obvious she is extremely frustrated and aggravated.

She has spent the last four days with her mother, who is deeply grieving the loss of her husband, and who had chosen to go somewhere that re-awakened hugely painful memories of the times spent at this very same locale with him. Her mother has done things which seem so oddly disjointed and disconcerting, such as locking her purse in the trunk of the car, her purse which contains the keys to the car, and since the car does not have a trunk release button, a locksmith must be called. She cannot conceive how her mother could do this. and then, to top it all off, her mother informs her, in a rather vague way, that the dogs have escaped because she didn't close the back door to the house properly.

She tells me how she has spent the last hour trying to retrieve her dogs (the youngest of which has been enjoying his fling with freedom from confinement with carefree abandon), and trying to figure out a way to retrieve the purse from the trunk of the car. She sounds ragged, and tired, and at her wits end.

And then she starts to cry.

I listen to her diatribe patiently. I withstand her venting calmly. And then, slowly and carefully, I interrupt, interject, ease her out of her tears, with funny anecdotes, and soft wisdom, and tell her shit happens, and that I understand. We continue in this vein for some time, her venting, her frustration level climbing, and I listen, and patiently say, Yes, I understand, but what about this? Listen, what about this?

It takes several minutes, but eventually, she laughs, and then I tease her, gently, and distract her, and I can hear her calming. And I think, I can do this. For her, I can do this.

And I tell her, It's all about perspective. And choice. Pay attention to your perspective. Honour your choices.

She gets fired up once more. It's not about perspective, she says. I have perspective. It's more than that.

And I say, No, there's nothing more than perspective. Never lose your perspective. If you lose that, you lose everything.

She goes silent for a few moments, and then she laughs again, and I warm to it.

"It's good to talk to you," she says. "Talking to you is such a good thing."

I don't know if it was me, or if she just needed to talk, to vent. I won't flatter myself. But either way, I was the one she chose to talk to, and I helped. We all make innumerable choices, and sometimes those choices are bad, and sometimes they're good.

I'd like to think she made a good choice, calling me, feeling as terrible as she did. Because she's feeling the loss of her father, just as her mother is feeling the loss of her husband. But she made a choice. And if you choose to support someone in their loss, then you must set aside your own feelings. However briefly.

And never lose your perspective.

Friday, April 22, 2011

To have and to hold.

I go up to the room at the top of the house, as I often do, to have a smoke. The window there looks out onto a park where, more often than not, there are children of varying ages playing, their mothers look on, or chat with other mothers, or couples lounge, apart or together, so close together, and talk of things I cannot hear.

Today there were two boys, perhaps 4 or 5 years of age, oddly uncoordinated (was I ever that clumsy?) who are brandishing branches, as long as they are tall. There are rocks, and picnic tables, strewn about the park, and the boys stumble-run between them, smashing their branches against these mostly impervious objects. They seem very serious as they go about this, there seems to be no joy in it, just a willful determination to destroy their branch. To smash it into fragments. Unfortunately for them, the branches are much more resilient then they expect, and they don't break easily. I watch as their frustration grows; it's obvious in their stance, and in the way they run faster (though still clumsily) between rocks, and picnic tables. They bring the branches down again and again, harder each time. Some pieces fly off. They want more. It's so obvious.

Why? Why this need to destroy? It's not about the rocks. Or the tables. It's about the branch, and their need, their almost desperate desire, to shatter what they hold. There's no thought behind it. If you were to ask them what they're thinking, it's unlikely they could tell you, or certainly not coherently. The need to destroy is neither cohesive, nor coherent.

Yet here's the thing: I have done the exact same. And there is no thought behind it. You pick up a branch, maybe carry it around for awhile, but eventually, without even thinking of it, you swing that branch against something unyielding, just to break it. There's no other reason for doing so. You wish to break it. Even if you haven't given it any thought. the driving force behind your action is to break that branch. It is, sad to say, satisfying, in it's own way.

To break something, to destroy what you hold in your hands, simply because you can.

And I ask again: Why?

To be so lucky...

He's been gone for such a short time now.

I miss him. God, how I miss him. I think about the things I'd like to talk to him about. How I'd like to tell him about all the good things that are currently happening in my life. How I know he'd be so happy, so proud. He'd be so proud of me.

I didn't handle the loss of him how I thought I might. I haven't cried. You can think of that whatever you like. But it's a fact: I haven't cried. It's not that I wouldn't, or couldn't. It's that I don't feel I should. Or need to.

Now please understand. I'm easily brought to tears. I'm a sensitive girl. I always have been. In this instance however, it's not about that. It's not about tears. It's about respecting, and understanding, the man he is. Was. Whatever.

He was my father. The only father I knew. He was my dad. And I loved him fiercely. I would have been there more often, but that was not something I could do. He understood that. Or, at least, I believe he did. We touched on the topic lightly, a bare fingers breadth of touch, that led me to believe that he understood. Did I pursue it? No. I felt no need to. I'm not one to relentlessly pursue something if I feel it's pointless, or already understood. If there's need for more discussion, I'm confident that the other person will bring it up, or I will. I never felt that was the case.

But, my god, I miss him.

I understand him. It took awhile, though. To add everything together. All of the experiences, his and mine...put them all together, in a storybook kind of way...and think, yes, that's a complete picture. I have done that. Added it all together, and been able to think, Yes, this. And that. Yes. I see it.

He was the most affecting, most fundamental person in my life. I could string together endless number of words to describe him...but if you knew him, you'd know that words, endless words, are superfluous. Yet words are what bind him and I together. He taught me to love words, to learn words, to know words. I would not be who I am, if not for him. That's heady. Weighty. I am, I simply am because of him.

He was my father, the only father I knew, the best I could have had. Any and all of you should have been so lucky.

I think sometimes I can still pick up the phone, or go for a drive, and talk to him, see him. Of course, I can't. But I am not distraught with this realization. Yes, I miss him. But I remember how happy he was to see me, when I last saw him, and I must, I simply must, remember that. It's no small thing to bring a smile to the face of a dying man. And I had already told him my first published novel would be dedicated to him. Because he had taught me to love words. To pay attention to words. That is something you never forget.

I'm quite certain I would not be who I am, if not for him. So if I don't cry, it's not because I wouldn't. Or couldn't. It's because I won't. That it's not appropriate. It doesn't fit. I think he would understand. I don't care if no one else does.

I love you, daddy. I always have, and I always will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There will always be more.

It's a startling thing, to receive something you have long anticipated, yet never really expected.

I received my publishing contract today. For my first novel. A piece of work written, roughly, over the course of 10 years, though granted not full time. Life gets in the way. I started the novel in the summer of 1995. I started it because I got tired of reading bad lesbian fiction (though in truth, I'd only read three books, but that was enough). I wanted to write what I wanted to read. My first attempt (9 pages) was so poor I had to laugh...and then tear it up and start over again. The next attempt was true, more true to my idea, my vision, of what I wanted to ultimately present.

It wasn't easy.

I write from a hugely emotional place. Nothing is trite. My life, my experiences, my feelings, are not trite. They carry weight. I've heard a few comments about how long it took me to write that book. From people who don't write. I shrug those off. Granted, there was a very long time period from when I wrote the first 14 chapters, to when I completed the rest of the novel. As I said, life gets in the way. But until you have done what I, and other writers, have, I caution you to keep your negative, disparaging comments to yourself. It may have taken me a good portion of time to write this book, but it was time well spent.

And now, today, I have signed a publishing contract. This is an astonishing thing. Astonishing. More so because I had previously turned down one publisher (five years ago), and been dismissed by another (less than a year ago). I'm not an easy egg to crack. In fact, if you were to ask anyone who knows me well, I'm very difficult to crack indeed. I have a very clear vision of who I am, what I want, and where I'm going. My thought, my belief, has always been, I will get there eventually.

I'm very proud of my first novel. I'm very proud of myself. Of my commitment. My belief. Writing from the emotional place that I do is very draining. Continuing to do so is a commitment to continual pain, and joy, and, ultimately, satisfaction. I'm okay with that. If I must bleed, and cry, rend myself, display myself openly for all and sundry to view, then I will do so with integrity and courage. I've never questioned it. I just do it. The whys, wherefores, and hows never cross my mind. I just do it.

I have now signed the contract. The contract that has my name, and the title of my book, in bold print. Bold print. My god. I will mail it tomorrow. And that, as they say, is that. But it's more than that. It will always be more than that.

And a part of me is scared to death of all that that entails.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The sun rises and sets...

I have seen many sunrises and sunsets.

I make it a point of doing so. If I am not someplace where I can view either easily, I have made a point of going to somewhere I can do so. To see it. To experience it. To feel it.

This...habit of mine, if you will, applies to the entirety of my life, my existence. I need to see, to experience, to feel. I will go where I must to take in all I feel I should, all I feel I need. 

We are only granted one life. So far as we know. I've made it a point to try to cram in as much of the beauty of this life as I can. Within the limited resources of my finances. I can't travel to all places deemed beautiful. Yet. But what I am able to view that is beautiful, I will.

I'm currently in the beginnings of a long distance relationship. The woman I am involved with possesses a fine mixture of characteristics I've never before come across. She is sweet, and funny, articulate, and intelligent. Witty, sharp, compassionate, present in a startling way. She does not mislead, nor misrepresent. She is disarmingly forward, yet so very concerned that she not be misunderstood. She surprises me often. While I had no expectations, she constantly exceeds any expectations I might have had. She is, frankly, a beautiful person.

She's on the same continent, but quite far away. Yet, true to my nature, I will go where I must to experience that which I feel is important to me. She does not even question this. She understands the risk, the fear, the trepidation, the bravery, but she does not discourage it. If I need to experience, to feel, to know, she says, Yes, please, I understand.

I will go wherever I must, to find and experience that which my soul craves.

The beauty of life.

The only life I have.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Growth vs Need

I didn't know I needed instant gratification.

That's not something I ever really paid attention to. The need for instant gratification. The need to put something out there, for someone, and get back what I needed, emotionally, in return, almost immediately.

I'd never known that about myself.

Until I started playing music.

Being a dj, in a club full of women, playing music for them, provided instant gratification. It's that kind of job (though it never felt like a job, not ever). You play the tunes, they either love what you play, or they don't. Your feedback is the number of bodies you get on the dance floor: instant gratification. When my mentor first mentioned this to me, I was mystified. Once I'd been doing it for awhile, I understood it better. And understood that it was something that fed some hunger in me I'd never known existed. 

Later on, I learned that I actually am that kind of person: I require instant gratification. Outside of playing music, in every day situations, if I give you something of myself, no matter how small, I need something in return, some kind of recognition, acknowledgement, to let me know that you have received what I have given, and that what I have given has affected you in some way. Positive or negative. It doesn't matter. I. Need. To. Know.

For awhile, when I'd send her something, I would receive that acknowledgement. That recognition, that I had put myself out there, for her. An email, an explanation, a thank you. Lately, that hasn't happened. I know why. She's exhausted at the end of the day, she's not one to check her email on a regular basis (though she's gotten better with that since we've come together), and when she does check now, I believe she feels that since we'll talk the next day (we always do), it's okay to just hold her thoughts and words and feelings until then.

Yet I'm impatient. 

I can send flowers days ahead, and know when she'll receive them (roughly), and wait with anticipation for her to tell me of her surprise. But if I send some poem or rambling thought process of emotion, I expect something almost immediately in return. It makes no sense, really. My impatience. My requirement for instant gratification. 

But there's a tempering factor now. Where once I would have asked, perhaps demanded to be acknowledged, that no longer occurs. Now I am patient enough to wait for her recognition. To know that what I have done, my actions, will be received and, eventually, acknowledged. Positively. So positively.

Over the years, and with the help of learning through some very poor relationships, I have come to understand that instant gratification, while not a bad thing, is not all it's cracked up to be.

But I find I cannot easily let go of the need. However, I've also found that, unlike in previous relationships, I feel no need to tell her of this. I may never tell her of this.

This, then, is growth. I have grown.

My god, how I have grown.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Here be Dragons...

I have a vast imagination. I admire others who do, as well. I have always been one of those people who are often lost in thought, staring out the window, or off into some distant space, when I should be doing something (supposedly) important and/or constructive. I have always been a daydreamer. I still am. My mind is a constant source of entertainment. Who needs television? I just look inward, and my god, the thoughts, the ideas, and the visuals that accompany them, are staggeringly endless, and endlessly captivating.

When I was in my late teens, early twenties, I became engrossed in fantasy novels. Not so much science fiction, though I did read a handful of those. But the technicalities of SF often caused me to lose interest. Fantasy, on the other hand, had no technicalities. Anything goes in fantasy. Dragons, elves, trolls, unicorns, wizards, magic!! Swords, and spells, and that was a world that beckoned to me, and I ran, no, pelted away from my own boring landscape to live, however briefly, amidst the charms of those worlds.

And then, for some reason I don't recall, I stopped reading fantasy. And science fiction. I stuck with mainstream novels, about mainstream topics, and situations, and people. And then, 15 years ago, I started writing. I believe that what happened was, I knew I would never write fantasy novels (that's not true now, I do have one in the planning stages), so it would obviously behoove me to stick with my own world, and learn the tropes and trails of writers who did the same.

Fast forward 20 years. I am once again reading, and fiercely enjoying, fantasy novels (and some SciFi), complete with dragons, and elves, and trolls, and wizards, and magic...and dragons.

My god. Dragons.

A year and a half ago, I discovered Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series. They were recommended to me by a staff member at a local bookstore. I am including a link here, so you can read about this amazing series (that I am only halfway through; so many books, so little time, and money).

These books are amazing. They are intricately and superbly written, completely captivating and engaging, and emotionally/mentally affecting. Here are some examples of the cover art.

Stunning artwork. To accompany what I, personally, consider to be stunning books. Obviously, that's just my opinion. But it's not often I get excited, to the point of wanting to rave, about certain books and/or authors. If you know me, you know how fussy I am about the quality of the books I read.

Also, I just found out that Peter Jackson acquired the rights to this series, to develop, possibly, as a mini series. This excites me.

Excited is good.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Choose as you will

I want to talk about choice.

About how the choices we make are ours, and how those choices affect us, as individuals. Not how they (may, or may not) affect others. But how they affect us. Each of us. Separately.

The other night, in a conversation, I stated how I was feeling rather overwhelmed, how I'd lately found myself reacting in ways I hadn't in a few years. Of how I'd seemed to have lost my cool, as it were. I've found myself feeling edgy, and more tense then I have in some time. I've prided myself on having made a transition, a difficult transition, one my therapist and I (amongst others) have admired. There is good reason to admire this transition: it's not one a lot of people are capable of making, or of even being aware they should make. So, yes, dammit, I've been proud of myself.

(A sidenote, a pet peeve, if you will: Unless you actually played a part in some persons forward progress, you should not state, however innocuously, that you are proud of that person. If you played no part, you have no right to any feeling of pride.)

During the conversation, she said she hoped she had not contributed to my current state. I went very quiet for several moments, while I processed this, and marshalled my thoughts. What I then said was, "No, of course not, this has nothing to do with you." Which is true. It really has nothing to with her, per se. What it has to do with is the choice(s) I have made.

I find it interesting when people are so willing to take on responsibility for what is not theirs. Blame is so easy to apply. And some people are so quick to blame themselves, without even thinking about it. Blame is often applied as easily as paint to a wall: a few quick strokes, and there it is. But it doesn't work that way. Because what comes into the mix is responsibility. And choice.

If I choose a certain course of action, a certain direction, that choice is mine, and mine alone. I own that. Granted, I am not in control of every aspect of whatever follows, but the initial choice was mine, and I'm good with that. I will be, and always am, cognizant that the initial choice was mine, and that, should I choose, I can walk away. Certainly, there are factors that may come into play, unexpected behaviours or situations that crop up, that I have no control over, and that throw the balance one way or another. But if the choice was mine to begin with, I'm completely comfortable with that, and I will go with that. That is my path. It's clear to me, and always will be.

But blame is an interesting thing. I rarely lay blame, unless it's against myself. I've been that way since I was a child, and it has held true until now. With some exceptions. Self-awareness is a powerful thing. A freeing thing. It allows you to view the world in a dispassionate, yet wholly compassionate way. And what I've come to learn is that I will blame myself now where I deem it appropriate. I'll beat myself up far quicker, and far worse, than anyone else possibly could. But if it's not mine to wear, I'll drape that mantle of blame where it should lay. It's all about understanding.

For her to think that she had any part to play in the state I now find myself, for her to be ready to blame herself, when the initial choice was mine, to pursue a certain course, made me feel sad. It shouldn't happen that way. People should be more aware of the spaces they occupy...of where they belong in the hierarchy of importance. And it saddens me when people want to take on what couldn't possibly be theirs. It makes no sense to me. If I feel, or react in, a certain way, don't automatically think it's got anything to do with you. If I have a choice (and I do), I will choose. And that choice is mine. Not yours. My choice has nothing to do with you.

It really is all about me. Not you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Let's be clear...

I find myself in an odd quandary.

It started off innocently at first, the attraction. The fact that, sure, it was there, initially. The attraction. And I acted on it. Sure, it was strong, and I'm a reactive person, and then she shut me down. Hard. It kind of shocked me. How she stated flatly she'd have no truck with that. No deliberate sexual innotations.

Okay, I thought. Okay, no problem, I can do that. And so I levelled down, and stopped with any suggestive comments.

A few days later, she ups the ante, by making her own suggestive comments, and I'm at a loss. How do I respond? I wonder. Should I respond? And I choose not to. And I can hear the subtle disappointment in her voice, as she playfully tosses out innuendos, and I carefully bat them aside. Words are tools. I wield mine carefully. And all I get is silence in return. And I wonder, How is what I did so different from what you're doing? And is it fair? If I can't, why can you?

I make a point of bringing this up in our latest conversation, and she says, Well, I needed to make you aware of my limits, what I was comfortable with. I won't be that blatant.

And so I ask, How is what I said so different from what you're saying?

It's about placement and timing, she says.


Control is an interesting thing. Balance is an important thing in a relationship, any relationship. She made a very pertinent point. I need to take responsibility for what I say, when I say it. If I'm just going to blurt out what I want, when I want it, and it doesn't match her own state of mind, I must curtail that desire. That need. By the same token, if I get shut down, and three days later, she tempts me with the same thoughts, the same words, and I stop breathing, she must take responsibility for that.

I will grant her the control she needs. I can see it's far more important to her than it is to me. I'm a reactive person. I do tend to blurt out what I want, when I think the field is open. I'm not thoughtless, but I will, when I think there is receptiveness. But if I misread that, if I get it wrong, I have no problem with apologizing, and doing a backstep or two. The problem comes in when she does what I was previously gently reprimanded for, and that's okay.

I need to understand.

She makes a habit of shrugging off my apologies. I call her on that. You can't take me to task, and then say, No, it's okay, don't worry. If I've overstepped, if I've mispleased you, you should stick to your guns, and tell me so, in no uncertain terms.

Relationships are built on trust. On belief. Don't let me cross your boundaries. If I do, call me on that. If you expand your boundaries, let me know. I'm adaptable.

Just let me know. But don't play with me. Confuse me. Let's just be clear on this. On everything.

We owe each other that.