PINNED POST: Recap Directory for Grey, the pseudo-new Fifty Shades book

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New chapters will be linked here as they post.

Acknowledgements and Chapter 1, Monday, May 9, 2011
Chapter 2, Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Chapter 3, Sunday, May 15th, 2011
Chapter 4, Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Chapter 5, Friday, May 20th, 2011
Chapter 6: Saturday, May 21st, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 6: Saturday, May 21st, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 6: Saturday, May 21st, 2011, PART 3
Chapter 6: Saturday, May 21st, 2011, PART 4
Chapter 7: Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 7: Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 8: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 8: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 9: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Chapter 10: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Chapter 11: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 11: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 11: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, PART 3
Chapter 12: Friday, May 27th, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 12: Friday, May 27th, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 13: Saturday, May 28th, 2011
Chapter 14: Sunday, May 29th, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 14: Sunday, May 29th, 2011, PART 2
Chapter 14: Sunday, May 29th, 2011, PART 3
Chapter 15: Monday, May 30, 2011, PART 1
Chapter 15: Monday, May 30, 2011, PART 2

“After” recap, chapters 0-15

So let’s begin this thing.

I usually like prologues, but this one is pointless. A first-person present tense book really shouldn’t have a prologue talking about the future. In present-tense, you can’t know what will happen later on since you haven’t experienced it yet. Reflecting on things that happen in the book only works if the story is past tense.

It’s an ominous sign when the narrator, Tessa, even asks if she’d make the same choices if she knew what would happen, and isn’t sure. I made bad choices in my life that led me down the path to meeting the man who became my husband. Know what I know now, would I make those same choices? YES, because he’s worth it. But for Tess, one half of this supposed wonderful romance, she’s not sure. That is such a bad way to start a book, and plants the question of “is this really worth it?” in the reader’s head.

When the story opens, she’s getting read to leave for college.  Like Twilight and Fifty Shades, the story is in Washington.  Can we pretty please stop having books set in Washington?  I live there.  In Vancouver.  The same Vancouver where Fifty Shades’s Ana is from.  The same area where Twilight was filmed.  People aren’t so thrilled to constantly have our state bastardized and misrepresented (Fifty Shades portraying OHSU as she did, a real hospital, the one where I go…).  How about setting a book in Idaho?  Or Nebraska?  Just give Washington a break.

And please, PLEASE, can we stop having idiots for protagonists who we are supposed to believe are smart when we’re shown the opposite? “I had no idea that there would be so much more to college than academics.”  She’s going to be living in a dorm.  How can there not be more than academics when you’re literally living at your college?  Your entire life will be college and what goes on after and in between classes.

Speaking of, her college, which is the only one she applied to, is called Washington Central University.  C’mon, Todd, you’ve got internet access.  It’s Central Washington University.  Get the name right if you’re going to use a real school.  CWU is Ellensburg, a little over a hundred miles south-south-east of Seattle.

Once more, we’ve got an English major on our hands.  Can we stop it with characters always having just one hobby?  Especially when it’s not believable?  We saw Bella “Beautiful Swan” Swan reading for pleasure just once, and she fell asleep doing it.  There’s no sense of Ana Steele-Grey enjoying it either.  For the love of the gods, can books stop dragging in Jane Austen?  More on that later.

Do we really need a play-by-play description of getting ready?  Multiple pages of it.  Hot water ran out.  Shaving.  Blow drying her hair.  When she zips her dress up.  Getting her favorite sweater.  Sweater has a tear.  Throw it back.  Info that adds nothing but word count without showing us anything at all about the character.  At least Bella’s shaving scene after her wedding showed that she was nervous about having sex and was procrastinating due to those nerves.  But all this for nothing?

When she heads to the kitchen, we do get a good way of adding physical description without a bunch of exposition or a mirror.

“Hey.” I give him an equally bright smile, trying to hide my nerves, and pull my dirty blond hair into a ponytail.

Good job casually dropping in info.  But then she looks into a mirror.  Because

Once she gets to school with her 17-year-old boyfriend, Noah, and her mother, we find out she hadn’t ever even been there before, despite it being just two hours away.

It looks just as great in person as it did in the brochures and online, and I’m immediately impressed by the elegant stone buildings.

If a school is local, you’re supposed to visit.  That’s logical.  Logic is lacking in this book.

Nothing to this point indicates she brought stuff for her dorm.  We read pages and pages about her getting dressed, but nothing about her packing anything.  It does turn out she brought a few clothing items, a blanket, and some books.  A little tip:  Get the image in readers’ heads, even if you need to cut some stuff that’s not relevant to nothing.  Until this point in this story, a reader won’t be imagining the characters carrying anything.  There’s no reason to. Have a character grab her duffel bag, making sure her favorite book is in it with her blanket and some clothes, then head to the car.  Another little tip: Cut that irrelevant stuff anyway.  If it serves no purpose, don’t serve it to the reader.

We are introduced to Tessa’s judgmental side, which will be a character on its own.  She sarcastically notes that her mother watches QVC for beauty products, notes that her mother was “careful” not to mess up her makeup when she was teary-eyed since it’s apparently a bad thing to not want makeup-streaks, snaps about her mother wearing heeled shoes.  Once they find her very small dorm room, she then tears apart her new roomie for being covered in (years-of-work’s-worth of) tattoos, wearing eyeliner, and wearing something that shows a bit of cleavage.  Her mother openly gasped, so I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“Hey, Tessa, nice to meet you. Welcome to WCU, where the dorms are tiny and the parties are huge.”

What does this show us about the roommate, Steph?  Only that she’s trying to greet the person she’ll be living with for the next nine months and is making small-talk.  No big deal, right?

Well,Tess, boyfriend, Noah, and her mother don, as she puts it, “three horrified expressions.”  Over an innocuous greeting.

I feel bad for Steph.

A couple of Steph’s friends, some One Direction members come in (I don’t now who they are, so can’t tell you the real names of the characters, nor do I care to go find out).  One is so covered that literally “every visible inch” is covered.  We come to find out later that they’re sophomores (colleges don’t dorm freshmen and sophomores in the same rooms…).  So they’re 19ish.  Tattoos take time.  Large tattoos, which would include full sleeves, are done over several sessions with long breaks between so that the skin can heal.  Getting so many tattoos would take longer than these students have been adults who tattoo artists could legally work on.  The laws of the UK, where 1D is from, might allow tattooing people under the age of 18, but this story is set in the US, where it’s a criminal offense to tattoo someone under the age of 18 without a medical reason.

Regardless, one of the two kindly greets Tess, and the other is quiet, yet Tess’s mother calls them “punks” based solely off of how they look, and insists her daughter get a new roommate.  Steph hasn’t even had a chance to do anything wrong!  She’s got tattoos, and, as far as we know, none say MAGA, have swastikas, are gang-signs, or anything to indicate alliance with hate-groups or gangs, and the same goes for her friends.  I’m pretty sure my dad’s one tattoo is “worse.”  He had the Pink Panther on his right arm with “Budweiser” above, and the panther was holding a can of beer and smoking a doobie.  Nothing wrong with it, but I’m sure the Judgmental Asses Three would think he was the antichrist if they’re freaking so much about tattoos of fairies and flowers.  At last, two of them leave, and Tess decides to go take a shower.<

Didn’t we already go through the play-by-play of a shower?  We get another.  The word “naked” is used overly much.

The showers in this dorm building are co-ed.  I’ve never heard of a college for where everyone showers together.  The reasons to not have people of mixed genders running around undressed are so obvious that I’m not even going to say it.

For actual showering, there are stalls.  However, the stalls are so small that Tess can’t straighten her arms.  So there’s no way around having to be naked in front of men.  How safe do you think it would be to have a 18-year-old teenaged woman naked in a teeny shower stall having to get out and be naked in front of, say, a bunch of guys like Brett Kavanaugh?  And the only option is to not bathe?

Tess tried to do it all in the tiny stall, but knocked her clothes off the rack, and so runs back to her room wrapped in just a towel.  He finds a guy in there, not one she’s met before.  Tattoos, a British accent…it’s Harry Styles!  I mean, Hardin, as he’s been renamed.

And he is a grade-A asshole.  She wants him to leave.  Understandably so!  But he won’t.  He laughs at her discomfort.  Mocks her.  She has no choice but to get dressed in front of him.  The word “naked” is used overly much.

Any reasonable person wouldn’t find a guy like this attractive.  He’s rude, he forced a woman to be naked in front of him, is getting some sadistic pleasure out of her discomfort…  Naturally that means he’ll be the one Tessa’s going to be in bed with very soon.  When Steph gets back and tries talking Tess into going to a frat party, Hardin amps up his mocking.  Since Tess isn’t reasonable, of course she decides to go.

Anna Todd is clearly trying to make us hate everyone and see everyone except Tessa as whore-bags and bad people.

“The dress—no, piece of scrap material—she chooses is a black fishnet, which lets her red bra show through. The only thing keeping her from showing her entire body is a solid black slip. The dress barely reaches the tops of her thighs and she keeps tugging the material up to reveal more leg, then back down to reveal more cleavage. The heels of her shoes are at least four inches tall. Her flaming red hair is pulled into a wild bun with curls escaping down to her shoulders and her eyes are lined with blue and black liner, somehow even more eyeliner than she had on before.”

That’s sex-club attire (nothing wrong with those, and I used to go to them…TMI?), not frat party stuff.  But remember, Steph is a bad person, a whore, a punk.  That means dressing her unreasonably scantily.

Meanwhile, our gentile, demure, chaste good girl shows up how good people dress in dresses….

The maroon material is soft but sturdy, the same material business suits are made of. The collar goes up to my neck and the sleeves are three-quarter length, hitting just under my elbows.”

It also goes  below the knee.  Steph calls it too formal for a frat party, and it is.  But we simply must know that Tessa is good, and Steph is bad, and Anna Todd doesn’t know how else to show different personality types than polar opposites, and anyone who isn’t a pure little virgin is bad.

Does anyone else get tired of non-virgins being vilified?  It’s fine if someone is a virgin at 18 because they don’t feel ready.  My character of Juliette in Sacred Blood was, because she wasn’t ready due to circumstances in her life, but it wasn’t to show her as a better person than anyone else.  It wasn’t put on a pedestal with a spotlight and people praising her for never having touched a penis in any way.  It wasn’t fetishized.  Yet many books make virginity out to be what makes someone a good or bad person, clean versus dirty.  Virginity is used to assign value, and sex before marriage means that the good lil’ virgin has fallen thanks to the hero character, or, if they wait until after marriage, it means that they’ve got the good morals.  I’m sick and tired of sex being used this way.

Also, Tessa doesn’t wear makeup aside from mascara and lip balm.  Because she’s a good girl.

One of the nice guys she met, Nate, picks up Tess and Steph, and Hardin is in the care.  He mocks her for being uncomfortable.  Can we expect anything else from him?

At the party, she does do a smart thing in not drinking from a random cup some random guy shoved into her hand.  But then she finds tattooed people and judges them.  Since they have to be the bad guys, one calls her a priss for not drinking.  She’s sad, and instead of trying to find someone else to talk to, she goes upstairs to find a bathroom, but finds Hardin in a bedroom making out with someone, which Tess says is “practically having sex.”  A girl in a guy’s lap, fully-clothed, and just kissing is not “practically having sex.”  Be reasona–oh.  Right.

When Tess doesn’t leave, the girl asks, “Can I help you?” which results in Tess telling is the girl is rude.  No, the one staying is rude.  Hardin was rude for staying where someone doing something personal didn’t want him.  Tess wasn’t rude for telling him to leave.  But now that the tables are turned, the one telling the invader to leave is suddenly the rude one?  We shouldn’t have double standards, but Tess always has to be the one in the right, even when she’s wrong.

She finally goes back downstairs where she sees a guy holding a girl’s hips while dancing.  We aren’t told that that couple is twerking or that hands are under clothes.  We are only told they’re dancing and his hands are on her hips.  This is scandalous to her because she and Noah have been together 2 years and haven’t done that much.   Because she’s the good girl.  It’s too far for a guy to touch a girl’s hips. I’ve getting very Duggarish vibes from her.

It hasn’t been that long yet, yet Steph is so drunk she’s about to throw up.  Nate and Tess get her upstairs to a bathroom just in time for her to make an offering to the porcelain god.  Tess tells us how much she already cares for Steph.  You know what?  This book is one of those lessons in what NOT to do as a writer.  Don’t show us the thoughts of the first-person narrator where she’s thought nothing positive about someone, not one thing, literally not even one single positive though, then tell us later that that person actually really does care.  If you show and tell different things, we will believe the show.  The actions must match, and if you put us in the narrator’s head, you must show is thoughts that align with what we’re told later.

She and Nate then lay Steph down in a random room, and she starts reading a book.  Wuthering Heights.  Can the Brontës and Jane Austen please be left out of this stuff?  These books have become cliches at this point, misused by writers who don’t understand them.  I’ll get back to that later.

And shit, Brontë names.  In my current WIP, the children of one man all have literary names, though there’s a reason for it.  The main protagonist’s best friend is Emily, after Emily Brontë.  Her brother is Byron, after Lord Byron.  I was inspired to use these names when I found a 19th century copy of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in an antiques shop, and the engraving of Lord Byron looked exactly as I’d envisioned my -then-still unnamed male lead.  Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by the way, is a long narrative poem about a restless young man traveling the world, and reflects Lord Byron’s travels.  This is the work that made him incredibly famous.

Using literary names isn’t new for me.  My dogs always get literary names.  My golden retriever who died last year at the age of 12 was Emma, after the Jane Austen character.  My 12-year-old golden, Emma’s daughter, is Luthien Tinuviel, one of Elrond’s ancestors in Lord of the Rings.  My Norfolk terrier is Juliet, after Romeo and Juliet.  My Yorkshire terrier is Ella Ophelia, a name that reflects the E and L for my goldens and yet is a nod to Cinderella, and a nod to my Norfolk with another Shakespearean name.  Even my daughter didn’t escape the literary naming.  Charlotte.

Back to the story, if we can call this thing a story.  I’m not going into overly much detail.  We are in chapter 9 right now.  Yes.  9.

Well, the room is Hardin’s, and he’s pissed she’s in his room, his personal space.  Pot, meet Kettle.

He corners her physically, she’s scared.  Yup.  It’s gonna be looooooooove.  We can’t have a love story without the guy being rude, doing something that can be argued as sexual harassment, denigrating the woman, scaring the hell out of her, and making her cry because what he enjoys doing hurts her.  She manages to get away, and he continues mocking her as she leaves.

I miss the days when Edward Cullen was seen as bad.  He’s so kind compared to this.  And THIS, folks, is how these books are dangerous.  Edward’s not a good guy.  He’s a controlling ass, and yet he looks positively charming compared what we’ve got now.  His behavior is no big deal compared to this.  His behavior has become acceptable, and he changed nothing about his actions.  Society is what got worse.

In chapter 10, she ducks into the bathroom because she realizes she doesn’t know where her dorm is, had a quick thought about Hardin having books…

There is no way a rude, disrespectful, tattooed jerk like Hardin could possibly enjoy those amazing works. The only thing I can picture him reading is the back of a beer bottle.

(I do like the line about the beer bottle.)

She has a very quick call with Noah to slam Steph, then opens a door to see Hardin.

That’s all of chapter 10.

In 11, he is standing in front of her, asks if she’s been crying, and tells her she can sleep in a room down the hall.  She starts walking down the hall.  End of chapter.  No, really.

The next day, she finally decides transit is a thing, and runs into Hardin.  Again.  Of course.  She’s so judgmental that this exchange…

“Is there a bus that runs close to here?” I ask, not expecting an answer.

“Yep, about a block away.”

I follow him around the kitchen. “Could you tell me where it is?”

“Sure. It’s about a block away.” The corners of his mouth lift, taunting me.

…has me on his side for a moment.  No, she doesn’t deserve abuse, but she’s just so unlikable that I can get behind sarcasm meant to annoy her.  Also, it’s sarcasm that matches my own.

Someone must have told Anna Todd not to give us every single detail because she actually skips time.  She gives us a paragraph or two about Tessa shopping for more clothes, and then it’s Monday.  School time.  

Tessa dresses in what can best be described as Mormon Summer Camp chic: White button up, tan pleated skirt, etc.  Y’know.  Good girl stuff.  I’m mildly surprised it’s not a tan jumper to really play up the innocent good girl angle.

In her fifth class OF THAT DAY, she meets a nice guy named Landon.  They only talk for a page, but in that time, we are shown that he’s a nice guy, and has a girlfriend named Dakota.

Did I mention yet that Anna Todd and EL James are friends?  No?  Well, they are.  So.  Dakota Johnson.  This book really has a lot in common with Fifty Shades, just with 1D names.

And five college classes in a day?  That’s a full course-load, in just one day.  And Tess is glad she doesn’t have to stand in front on the classes and introduce herself “like high school teachers make you”?  Did Anna ever go to a school in the US?  What high school has teachers who make everyone go to the front of the room to introduce themselves on the first day?

Hardin’s in this class as well, because of course he has to be in the lit class, and he scares Landon off.  Great sign there!  Landon’s so scared that he actually runs off.  Hardin is isolating Tess from potential friends.  He mocks her more, they walk back to her dorm while she’s thinking about how “attractive” he is…fucking hell.

What have we need that could make him the least bit attractive?  He’s mean.  He’s rude.  She’s dreaded seeing him because he’s so cruel.  He mocks her.  He makes her cry.  We have literally seen absolutely no nice actions from him.  Toward anybody.  He’s the worst to her.  But he’s attractive now?

Another little tip: What you show and what you tell HAVE TO ALIGN.  Otherwise it’s not believable!!

And then we get this.

We begin walking along back in the direction of my dorm and get about twenty steps when all of a sudden he shouts out, “Stop staring at me!” turns a corner, and disappears down a pathway before I can even think of a response.

Huh?  That was out of nowhere.
Now it’s Friday and she plans to work ahead in her courses because I guess that’s how college works…?  You can just work ahead?  In the class with Hardin, because all classes are five days a week…because that’s how it works now…?, they’re going over Pride and Prejudice.

I’ve got words to say in a moment.

After class, Hardin does what Hardin does, and he mocks her some more, and says every woman who has read the book is in love with Darcy.  Actually not…  I’ll get back to this in the aforementioned moment.

“I’m sure you aren’t able to comprehend Mr. Darcy’s appeal.” My mind goes to the massive collection of novels in Hardin’s room. They couldn’t possibly be his. Could they?

The appeal is a wet shirt…wait for it.

He replies,

“A man who is rude and intolerable being made into a romantic hero? It’s ridiculous. If Elizabeth had any sense, she would have told him to fuck off from the beginning.”

YES.  Thank you for lampshading the problem!  So tell Harden to fuck off now!  This self-awareness makes this book’s direction more aggravating.  The oh-so-romantic hero is an ass who needs to be told to fuck off.  So why is that not happening?!

Then Hardin calls Elizabeth an idiot, meaning Tess is an idiot by proxy.

Tess says she’s “one of the strongest, most complex characters ever written.”  Hate to burst your bubble, it no.  But I’m sure we’re supposed to see Tess this way since Anna’s trying to not-so-subtly tell us that they’ll be Darcy and Elizabeth, only it doesn’t work here.  Elizabeth was stuck with societal limitations….

I’m in several regency groups, the sort where we spend fortunes on gowns, even for children, for themed retreats and work quotes into daily life.  (I made the two to the right.)  Jane Austen Society, yearly pilgrimages to Bath, England, can tell you all about Jane’s life and enough else to fill up the time for a few college courses.  Not a single person I know gets excited about these books being in crap like this, not when the actual intended meaning of them is excised.  Then again, we were all fans of Austen before it became trendy.  (Yes, it’s trendy now to be a fan.  If you miss the sarcasm in the books, you’re probably on the trend bandwagon.)  Those books were a sarcastic look at her society, but you don’t learn that by a surface read of the books.  You have to study the era in which they were written because context is EVERYTHING.
Part of what annoys me and many, many long-time fans, about Austen’s works being used so often is how many people don’t know what they’re about.  Pride and Prejudice isn’t a romance any more than Romeo & Juliet, another story that is misunderstood too often.  Jane Austen wrote books that were satirical with a large heap of irony.  P&P opens: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  This is intended to set the tone of the book.  These books became so popular at the time because of how much they lampooned societal issues of the time.  She didn’t like that women were supposed to be subservient.  She didn’t like that women were property, more commodity than person.  “Well, a rich guy wants to buy himself a woman ’cause that’s how the world works.”  That’s the tone.  Try reading these books as if they’re being acted out on Saturday Night Live.  SNL is never serious, and neither are these books.  They’re not love stories.  They’re not romances.  Elizabeth Bennett submitted to Darcy because that’s what women ultimately had to do back in a time when Jane Austen’s books had to be published under the name of one of her brothers because women weren’t allowed to be published writers (the Brontë sisters used the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Belle, for Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Anne Brontë, and when Wuthering Heights came out, it was believed that women weren’t capable of that sort of writing). 

At the time, women weren’t allowed to have their own income, and credit for accomplishment belonged to men.  Anything a woman earned belonged to whichever man had possession of her.  We saw Elizabeth be a strong person on her own, but in a time when women has strict limits, her long-term survival depended on finding a man to marry.  Darcy was jerk enough to basically dominate her, and her initial refusal to marry him made her a challenge.  When these books were written, contemporaries understood this.  Even in the book, other characters acknowledge it, and call him selfish and unpleasant.  Being strong on her own was a luxury not available to Elizabeth.  It was a fantasy, and knocking her down to a submissive wife drove home the desire versus the reality in stark contrast. 

As far as Darcy, what regency enthusiasts get hot and bothered over is Colin Firth and his gratuitous wet shirt more than anything, and when it’s not the infamous wet shirt scene, it’s an openly-acknowledged-as-modified version of Darcy, an Austen-fandom-creation of Darcy, not the Darcy as written.  We aren’t under the impression that he’s a romanic nice guy.  When played by Firth, he’s an acknowledged jerk in a wet shirt.  The Darcy-love is Colin Firth fandom.  A few years back, the Washington Regency Society held its annual retreat, that year at Tokeland.  We had a ball one night in our regency ball gowns, drank a lot of port, flirted with the inn’s silver fox of a chef, and had a photo of Colin Firth in a clawfoot bathtub above the shared clawfoot bathtub (ver old inn, built before in-room bathrooms).  Darcy-love is Firth-love, and it’s an inside way to bond.  You have to remove Darcy’s many jerkish thoughts (I will be generous and excuse his sexism to an extent considering the era, but when he’s jerk enough to be called out in the book for it…) to find Darcy himself so desirable these days, at least you do if you understand the motivations for what he was doing.  He wasn’t changing.  He was manipulating.  Him changing would have been emasculating.  Christian Grey admitted his own faults, and never changed.  Ana just learned to manage him.  Darcy was “the man” to other men, and Elizabeth was relatable to women with Darcy as a man who they could openly laugh at while acknowledging that they, too, would likely have married him despite him being a joke of a man.  Read Mr Darcy’s Guide to Courtship: The Secrets of Seduction from Jane Austen’s Most Eligible Bachelor if you want a modern satire about how much his methods are made of fail.

If anything, Austen’s huge show of genius with him was writing a character who women of the day would want because of his ability to give financial stability, as well as one who, as time went on, would have qualities that readers would strip away to see only what they wanted to see, despite many still being able to see the full package that he is.

(On a semi-related note, in the same era, Mary Anning, the women in the tongue-twister “she sells seashells by the seashore,” was the mother of paleontology, yet her discoveries were published by men without credit going to her.  She was an outsider to the scientific field she started while men made the money from her discoveries, and she was resentful of this.  That’s the world Austen satirized.  Austen’s books were a release and an outlet for venting.)

Now what are we here for?  Oh.  Right.

Back on Tessa’s and Steph’s room, Steph’s getting dressed for another frat party and Steph’s wearing something Tess tells us “leaves little to the imagination,” envies Steph’s confidence, then tells us she’s she herself has “hips and breasts are larger than most women my age” and that she tries to hide them.  Um, there are worse things to be than a thin shapely woman with boobs.  I’ve been on both sides.  Both sides have drawbacks.  Having boobs and hips doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t wear potato sacks.  You’re in college.  Shut it with the humblebrag about physical perfections.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see a physically attractive character who acknowledges it without expecting sympathy for how hard it is to be pretty?  Instead of yet another “it’s so hard to be pretty, feel bad for me” character?

Since her laptop breaks, a la movie-Fifty Shades (in the book, Ana didn’t have a computer at all and didn’t even know how to use the internet, which is why Christian bought her a computer that didn’t exist, a point the director changed to Ana’s computer being broken), and she can’t watch Netflix, she agrees to go to the party since she’s the idiot Hardin called Elizabeth.  She knows she won’t have fun.  But there’s just nothing else to do on a Friday night the first week of college other than to watch Netflix.  Or Netflix&chill, though that would probably give Tessa the vapors.

This time she wears jeans she says are “a little tighter than her usual pants,” and a black sleeveless button-up with lace.

The girl who called her a priss the previous weekend and who was kissing Hardin is finally given the name Molly, and she is going to pick them up.  Steph says Molly’s “intimidated” by Tess because Tess is “different.”  Precursor to “not like other girls”?  Yes.  Yes, it is.  And it’s going to make Tessa better somehow.  The “not like other girls” angle really is not a positive one.  Because you’re bad if you’re like Steph and her friends and choose to have sex and not dress like a parochial school girl, and good if you aren’t like Steph and her friends.  So don’t be like Steph and Molly.  Don’t be like those other girls who make different, not-dangerous decisions for their bodies.  Just join Tess and Steph as they trash-talk Molly for how she “changes guys every week.”  Because she’s not the different one, and what’s good is being different than the other girls, not being like other girls.  What’s good is being like the different one, like Tess, and hating the bad “other girls.”

Then Steph firmly and undeniably establishes Hardin as Christian Grey:

“Hardin doesn’t date. He fucks with a lot of girls, but he doesn’t date anyone. Ever.”

Where have we heard something like this before?

Hello, Christian.

Tessa’s not having fun, which we knew would happen.  Which SHE knew would happen.  Hardin sees her, comments her clothed fit this time…nothing indicated her maroon dress didn’t, despite it being extremely modest.  But she’s wishing she was “wearing her normal loose clothing.”  Oh!  The ponytail.  Frumpy clothes.  Being convinced she’s less than average in appearance despite being all that and a bag of chips…  Hi, Ana!  She walks away, and tells us she wished Hardin would follow her.

Why?  Why is she so attracted to someone who treats her so badly?  Why is ANYONE attracted to this guy?  He’s scary and tears her down with his mocking and makes her cry because he hurts her.

Hours later, the “punks,” as Tess cals them this time, play Truth or Dare, and Hardin’s hand is noted as being so large it completely covers his “red cup.”  Y’know  A Solo cup.  That’s a massive hand, a Hagrid-hand.  Oh!  Replace the G with an N, and rearrange them, and Hagrid becomes Hardin.  Tess is invited to play, and does when Hardin calls her “prude.”  She defends herself to the reader saying she’s not a prude because she’s “not some cloistered nun.”  She’s a prude, by the very definition of the word.  It’s not someone who is just chaste.  Prudes look down on others for not being as pure as the prudes see themselves.  It is a sense of moral superiority.  It’s about being judgmental and holier-than-thou against those who make the choice to have sexual contact with others.

You know, I don’t care if someone simply chooses not to have sex.  It’s the attitude that goes with it that’s going to make me go to one side or the other.  In Sacred Blood, Juliet was a virgin until 21.  She just wasn’t ready until then, but she did get horrified at the sight of hands on hips or a couple people kissing, and think she was better than them because she made the “right” choice and they’re “wrong” for it.  (She also had a box of adult toys, meaning Tess would probably see her as bad as well.  Plus Juliet kisses more than one guy, by choice, in that trilogy.)

So Hardin asks Tess truth or dare, and she picks truth.  I always pick that as well, just because I’m one of those people who will devise a dare so bad (never dangerous or illegal) that I don’t want to risk revenge that I’d rightly deserve.  So no flack on her for picking the safe option.  Hardin’s friend, Zed, butts in and asks her if she’s a virgin.  Hardin goes along with the question and demands to know.  She nods at them, but says to us,

Of course I’m a virgin; the furthest Noah and I have gone is making out and some slight groping, over our clothes, of course.

See?  That’s why she’s a prude bitch.  She’s a good girl, see, so “of course” hands are only over clothes, and it’s the only right think and anyone should know that.  Because of course.  How can anyone possibly think that she might even have touched a tiny bit of skin?  What a sick, scandalous thought.  “Of course” good people won’t let any skin at all touch.  That’s the stuff bad people do….

Still, no one seems outright surprised by my answer, just intrigued.

She’s only met most of these people twice, yet has been so judgmental about things like hands on hips that they can all tell she sees herself as above that.  Is this really someone that people find relatable?  It’s probably why she doesn’t actually have friends.  She thinks she’s better than everyone, and makes no attempt at hiding it.  Remember, right from the start, she admitted joining her mother and Noah in making “three horrified expressions” over Steph’s greeting of a hello and a quip about notoriously small dorm rooms.  She and her mother and Noah deserve each other and should go live in a cave somewhere.

“So you have been dating Noah for two years and you haven’t had sex?” Steph asks

And now, at the end of chapter 15, Ana…a genuine typo I made without intending to, but will leave there…TESSA is now established as a conquest with some “flaw” that the “romantic” guy will need to “rectify.”

We are 15 chapters into a story in which almost notable has happened, much less enough stuff to take up more than half as many chapters than the average Harry Potter book (those books average 28.4 chapters, 199 chapters total divided by 7 book).

We do get a lot of mixed signals toward the end there.  Clearly Tessa’s view is that women who have had sex (or touch each other’s hips…or kiss…) or who do anything she doesn’t are horrid, but it’s going to be made into something that is okay for HER to do, because the rules for her versus the rules for everyone else are going to be different.  Tessa will be able to do no wrong.  Yet no other girl will be able to do right, because this is chalking up to be yet another book where all the other girls are bad because girls just can’t exist in fiction without having to compete and compare themselves to others with others coming up short.

Connotations of words and word choices

I was writing a disclaimer on a post to try ensuring readers would understand that my calling female people “girls” isn’t an infantilization of female people, and it started becoming its own post.  Word-use caries by demographic, by region, culture, country…  This is something I’ve struggled with when writing book things because it’s far too easy these days to be “cancelled” over using a word that has never been offensive where someone is from, but that has become offensive where others are.  I’ve seen YouTubers “cancelled” for words they used a decade or more ago, when those words were common, but that have become offensive.  What words to we use today will get us in trouble in another decade, when they’re no longer acceptable to use as we use them today?  This can make speaking or writing at all incredibly stressful.  Far too often, our context is ignored, with new context applied to turn innocent things into offensive, bad, shame-on-you-forever things.

In short…or long…to start with “girl”, and then expand outward, since that is what inspired this particular post:

I alternate between calling female people girls and women, while also talking about how some things in a book are used to indicate if someone is “a good girl” or a “bad girl.”  In said post, there is a lot of slut-shaming and woman-hate used to denote who is supposed to be good and who is supposed to be bad.  At times I refer to gatherings of female people as just girls, without positive or negative qualifiers.  Each individual use, aside from “good/bad girl,” when taken in context, are innocuous.  Yet it’s too easy for someone out there to get horribly offended because in their personal world, the day someone turns 18, “girl” is no longer allowed, and the context doesn’t matter one iota.

In my social sphere, we also refer to ourselves as girls and to the men in our lives as “the boys.”  We don’t call them that in place of their names, like “Hey, Boy!” but we will talk about how the boys are going to see a movie this weekend, or let’s leave our kids with the boys so we can go do some girl stuff, and talk about planning a makeup night for us girls.  So not this post serves as the all-but-mandatory-in-2019 disclaimer that your area where “girl” or another word might be bad isn’t necessarily the same in my area where it’s not, and there’s literally no way to use words that can’t offend everybody.  I once lived in an area where calling female humans “woman” and “ma’am” were taken as calling someone old because they’re ladies and or a miss,(I had a customer demand to talk to the manager when I said “ma’am,” since she was offended I didn’t caller her “mademoiselle,” something not exactly used in common US vernacular), yet there are areas where “lady” is seen as insinuating a certain behavior stereotypical of the sex, “be lady-like” and such.

And another disclaimer, because 2019: The phrase “girl stuff” does NOT exclude people of the male sex who identify as women, or people of the male sex who identify as male who enjoy things like makeup.  It’s just doing stuff considered stereotypically feminine with a group of friends who can also share some general bitching about the way sexism still impacts us, how much dealing with birth control can be annoying [before saying that’s bigoted against transwomen, know that, in my group, not all of us can just toss birth control and get pregnant–I myself am infertile and needed IVF yet can still commiserate about the lack of viable alternatives for penis-havers other than condoms, which can break, and how stupid it is that medical stuff tends to be tested with men in mind, but when it comes to thinks like birth control, that’s “woman stuff”], and so on.  It doesn’t mean transwomen aren’t women, or that transmen aren’t allowed.  A friend’s young son enjoys makeup stuff, and would be hurt if she and a non-childed friend and my daughter and I went to Ulta without him, and so he’s free to join us for girl stuff, and he knows boys can do stuff called “girl stuff” and my daughter knows girls can do stuff called “boy stuff,” and both only get offended if something is said to be “for” one sex or the other.

But others might see it as being exclusionary based on their experiences, and there are people as well who think that we should literally eliminate every word that can be connected to a sex or gender, no matter how tangential, because they’re offended by not identifying with one or the other, with both, or sometimes they do, but think gender identity divides people in bad ways.  Yet still there are others who see it as important to have spaces for people of marginalized sex and genders (i.e. cisgender women, transwomen, and transmen) can freely converse without what can feel like oversight from the ruling sex (cisgender men).  It’s very easy to see how both sides can feel this way, but there’s no way to meet halfway on this.  So what do you do?

So take a deep breath and remember that different words have different connotations depending on where we are, and where you are isn’t necessarily going to be like where I am, and where I am isn’t necessarily going to be like where you are.  Keep in mind different connotations of different words exist, and that personal experiences factor in, and look at the total context of what is being said, instead of taking one word of phrase on its own and presuming it must be meant with whatever meaning is used in a different part of the country or world.

This goes not only for words regarding gender identity, but many other words.  Right now, I’m sitting in a country where “gypsy” is not a bad word, and when I asked a couple friends of mine who identifies as that, as in ancestral roots and all are gypsy, they both, independently, told me that refusing to call them gypsies is stripping them of their cultural identities and that refusing to say it is like saying their culture is so bad that it can’t be spoken of by name (so, like Voldemort versus he-who-shall-not-be-named).  One of them told me that “traveller,” which is a common term in the US now, doesn’t connect.  The other said not all Roma identify as gypsies, and using Roma instead is saying all Roma people have the same culture.  (Some latinx people feel the same about all latin cultures being lumped together as the same, and so prefer to be called Mexican, Cubano, etc.)  I can’t remember which, but one said that people who think the problem gypsies need to worry about is what they’re called need to try living in an apartment building of other gypsies that gets condemned to get gypsies out of the area.  Another thing pointed out is that it’s what is being said that will determine if someone’s being offensive.  “Filthy gypsy” is absolutely bad, or saying “gypsy” in a tone you use for something unsavory, but just a a general word, on it’s on, it’s not bad.  Yet in the US, you may as well be banned from existence for calling someone a gypsy, even if you are one, and even if the people spoken about are in Europe and want it used (one of my friends in America descents from this group, and it kills her that her own friends are afraid to use the name she identifies with for her culture), It doesn’t matter in the US that in other parts of the world, refusing can be seen as denying someone of their cultural identity.  Since I’m from the US, where we are a step away from calling it “the g-word,” I won’t use it unless quoting or in context of a post discussing the world, regardless of my thoughts, and regardless of having my butt sitting in a country where it’s not a bad word.  The words my country allows are offensive to a lot of gypsies here, but there’s nothing I can do about that.  So, because of where I’m from, I will be stripping people of their cultural identity until my personal society can start looking at context.  To make my personal society happy means hurting others.  Making those others happy means pissing off my society and expulsion.  It’s a no-win situation since context, in my society, is ignored.

An example of a word used in other places that is offensive in America is calling a person with something like autism, a person like my daughter, retarded.  In the US, it’s become pejorative, but in other places, it still means to be slow or delayed or otherwise have challenges, and that’s correct.  In those places, it hasn’t seen widespread use as an insult.  I’m not going to be bothered if a French person and I are talking about my daughter, and she is referred to as retarded, but if I’m talking with an American and the same happens, you better get the hell out of my presence before I punch your face.  In the US, the word “cunt” is seen as one of the most offensive words there is, yet in other parts of the world, like Britain and Australia, if you call someone a “funny cunt,” it’s positive.  But you won’t see me calling people “retarded” or “cunts” just because they’re okay outside of my culture.

In the US, frogs aren’t a big deal, and kids play leapfrog and can be compared to frogs jumping around, but it’s also a word that has been used in parts of Europe as an offensive slang for French people.  “Coconut” has been used as a slang in some places against people of Polynesian descent.  Some people were offended by the coconuts in the movie Moana (called Vaiana here in Europe) because of this, even though it meant the actual fruit.  Within the US, calling someone a Brownie can refer to the Girl Scout level of be used as a racial slur against people of Hispanic, Indian (from India), or Arabian descent, because of their brown skin, and some Native Americans consider Indian to be offensive, others don’t, and others do or don’t depending on context.  Context matters, as well as where someone is from.  So I will use those words in the ways acceptable where I’m from, just as people where I’m from need to accept others doing with how words are used in their cultures.

There are many other words like this, and I’m not going to get into all of them.  But can you imagine reading a word that is deeply offensive against your culture that isn’t in other places, and having to just deal with it and understand that it’s not the same everywhere?  We (this means my fellow Americans) aren’t going to nix talking about frogs and coconuts, yet expect the rest of the world, and even our own country, to not use words we don’t like, or in ways we don’t?  So don’t call people cunts, don’t call female humans girls, etc? (No, those aren’t on the same level anywhere in the US, but offensive is still offensive.)

We all need to keep in mind that what is okay or bad where we’re from and in our own infinitesimally small slice of the world is not representative of the world as a whole, and our slice may be very different than someone else’s slice, and we can only try to accommodate so many slices before there are no words at all we can use.  There are many, many, many cultures with many more different histories, even within the same country, which is a great thing, but it also means that word-uses are often specific to where each person is, and it’s conceit to expect the rest of the world to change to match our own slices.  We can all only do the best we can, and we all should be paying more mind to how other people aren’t going to share our spheres, and that doesn’t make them wrong and us right.  The best we can do is be mindful of our own choices while also looking at the context of what others are saying while remembering that where they are from might have different word-rules.

I’m going to use “girl” and “boy” and “lady” and “guy” and “woman” and “man” in the acceptable ways for where I’m from, and I use them as gender, not as sex.  I’m going to still talk about frogs and coconuts and still call my daughter a Brownie for the rest of the short time that she is one, and do on, but I also don’t ignore that someone referring to an autistic kid as retarded or to a woman as a cunt may just be socially acceptable and not at all offensive where the speaker is, and so I will accept their words without being offended.  How we Americans feel about that four-letter c-word is how some feel about our seven-letter c-word.  It’s sooooo not a big deal to us, yet is to others, and what is sooooo not a big deal to others is to us.

So remember you aren’t the entire world, I’m not the entire world, and that context of how speech is used needs to be the determining factor over individual words and phrases.  So, while I will absolutely modify my speech to the best of my ability when I travel (I can’t know all things offensive in all cultures), when I am writing, whether online or in a book, somethings that can go to more places than I can physically be, I will use words the way my culture allows, and not use words in ways my own culture doesn’t, and will respect that others do the same, instead of being ready to be offended in an instant.

So I shall recap and comment on After by Anna Todd

Posts will be listed and linked as written:
After Recap Chapters 0-15 (not much happens in them)

A few years ago I heard about a book that had been written on Wattpad and had a lot of followers.  Cool, I thought, and hoped for something good.  I really love when there’s a good book or book series so I can jump on the fandom-bandwagon.  Few things are as fun as anticipating the next thing with millions of people.  I was a major fan of Harry Potter back when there was only one book and everyone asked why adults would read children’s books, back when there was no big fanfare for the second and third books being released, and so got to experience the sudden explosion.  I was a major fan of Tolkien back when the Lord of the Rings movies came out, and loved seeing people dress up to go stand in line for hours for new releases.  This stuff is FUN.  Not feeling the same passion isn’t fun.  I wanted to like After and to be part of something fun again.  Well…  Let me back up.

The Hunger Games books have a lot of fandom, but the fandom around it isn’t the same.  There isn’t that die-hard love where you can quote one thing, and everyone knows what you mean, the way there is when you say “my precious” or “avada kedavra” or parody a line and say “I’m never late–I arrive precisely when I mean to,” or draw out “always.”  (Love Snape or hate him, it’s hard not to sympathize with unrequited love and missing and still loving someone for years upon years after they’ve died.)

Twilight was a let-down.  I had hoped for some fun vampire books.  Obviously HP and LOTR fans enjoy supernatural stuff (and probably Supernatural…those Winchester boys are like a fine wine…).  But Edward’s treatment of Bella was anything but romantic, and Bella’s supposed love wasn’t believable when she was so focused on becoming a vampire so she’d stop visually aging.  Edward seemed to be just a means to her desired goal.  And when one of the vampires we’re supposed to like was a major in the confederate army, which fought for the right to continue owning black people…  No.  Absolutely not.  The first two and a half movies are hilarious, though, and I admit I enjoy watching them because they’re so unintendedly bad.  And I know many of the places used for filming since it was in the area where I live, and most of the forest scenes are in the state park by where I went to high school.

Then along came Fifty Shades, and I’m not against fanfic, per sé, though I do get annoyed when something is just a retelling, and not subtly.  It’s like paraphrasing and taking credit for the story.  But I was willing to give it a chance.  I didn’t expect it to be so full of abuse that people would defend because “he had a hard childhood” and has lots of money and can give orgasms easily.  Money and orgasms don’t matter when someone controls your every move, violates your body, frightens you, tracks you across the country when you said you were going away to take a break from that person, obsessively follows your every move and dictates where you can go and who you can see, etc., to the point that you fold and abide by the orders since it’s not like you can get away from someone who managed to access your bank account and sell your car without your permission, meaning somehow getting the title paperwork to it.  And no, hard childhoods don’t cut it.  All his memories of time with his mother were sweet, like her singing when happy, or baking him a birthday cake.  There was nothing to actually indicate she used drugs.  Her being a prostitute doesn’t make her a bad person (the treatment of prostitutes in this book inspired the occupation of one of the mothers in my current WIP).  She did what she could.  Her pimp put out a couple cigarette butts on Christian, and that would be traumatic, but he was adopted at the age of 4 by extremely wealthy people and given every privilege in life.  Even if he had been actually abused by his mother (her being poor and a prostitute doesn’t mean abuse), that doesn’t excuse abusing people later.  It doesn’t help that EL James has no idea what BDSM actually is, and has led to millions of women thinking they now know, and they think they know better than those of us who have actually been a part of it for real, and she and they have made it out to be something for the mentally troubled.  Abusing someone and calling it BDSM doesn’t make it BDSM.  You can be a sadist, but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is covered under BDSM.

Obviously I didn’t like the books, and still don’t.  And no, “It’s just fiction” doesn’t cut it.  When the behavior of even fictional characters is held up as ideal, what does that tell people?  it tells them that this behavior is acceptable, and that normalizes abuse.

So I’d heard about Anna Todd’s After book, and how popular it was, and how it had affected the life of 1 Direction band member Harry Styles.  “Can’t be as bad as Christian Grey,” I thought, and so decided to give it a try.  I don’t care for the bank 1 Direction and couldn’t name a single song, but did feel bad that fans were treating him very, very badly because of this book.

In some ways, he’s even worse, and it doesn’t help that this is explicitly targeted at the teenage crowd.  Harry, who became Hardin in the published version, doesn’t even have the non-excuse of a hard childhood.  He’s just an asshole from the start.  From his first meeting with Tessa, he’s a jerk, to put it mildly.  At least Christian “merely” made some inappropriate innuendo.  He didn’t refuse to leave when a girl he just met was naked and wanted to get dressed in peace.  When I’m able to say “At least Christian isn’t a bad as,” something is very wrong.  Getting through the rest was all downhill from there.  Even ignoring the horrid writing that makes EL James look like a master of the craft, even ignoring how Todd tells us every damned detail of things we don’t need to read about and that don’t affect the story or tell us anything about anyone or anything, even ignoring how Todd knows as much about college and James knows about BDSM (as in, nothing), the story itself was horrid and the characters meant to be the protagonists are both rotten people.  Hardin is an abuser, and Tessa slut-shames women and looks down on anyone who doesn’t dress like they’re extras in Handmaid’s Tale.

Like Twilight and Fifty Shades, After got a movie deal.  I expected it to peter out the way so many deals do.  Rights are bought all the time, but usually studios decline to use their option, and the rights are released.  (A deal doesn’t mean something will become a movie, just that that studio is buying the right to get to be the one to do it if they decide they want to, and they usually have a set time to decide.)  Well, it’s coming out next month.  Since it’s more of Fifty Shades fanfic using the band members from 1 Direction, and is aimed at teenagers, and since I’m against putting abuse on a a pillar and insisting that it’s romance…

I started writing books because I was tired of abuse being hailed as romance.  And here we are, in a just-post-#MeToo society, still praising abuse and sexual assault.  This is why nothing changes.

 

Being busy and wanting to write!

One of the worst things about being a writer is wanting to write, but having other stuff that is more pressing.  It feels like suffocating, like there’s breathe in me that can’t get out to left fresh air in.  Then, when I get to sit down and can start, there are so many scenes in my head trying to get out at once, and they bottleneck and can’t.  How do others deal with this?

Writer’s Toolbox

Something I do is make notes about what I’m feeling to refer to later when a character has a certain emotion, and I try to think about all the senses, no matter how stereotypical you think a description is.  It the end, this will help give you rawer descriptions of what different scenarios feel like, and if you note it while you’re going through it.  Let’s use this example, and what to do with it since there are some commonly used descriptions:

Mourning:
Breathing feels difficult
Taking a breath in hurts
Achy from crying
Like something is squeezing your heart and trying to rip it out
Trying to imagine the world without that person is impossible
Tired, but unable to sleep
Eating causes stomach, then nausea
Feeling disconnected from body
Feel unable to move sometimes, frozen
Entire face, especially teeth, throbbing while and after crying
Confused about basic things, like the date
Waking up crying, hyperventilate until back to sleep
One nostril clear, the other stuffy but runny
Uncertain
Confused
Forgetful

We all know about the heart-punch feeling, but have you ever felt like your body is on autopilot and you can’t feel your fingers because your brain just isn’t there?  Or had your back and chest muscles ache from the force of crying?  Or the throbbing teeth?  You probably have, then don’t consciously remember.

When going through something hard, it also lets you go into some denial about what’s happening.  Suddenly it’s like a bit of research.

Then I compile papers for each type of emption, mark off the common things written down, and look at the ones I only described once.  Those are more likely to be words not seen much, and that do more than the stereotypical  terms:

She felt like her heart was being ripped out of her.  It all seemed so wrong

Sure, I guess.

Her face throbbed from the force of her tears, tears that escaped so rapidly and profusely that her back hurt from the effort of trying to keep her upright instead of letting her crumple to the floor.  The back of her hand wiped one stuffy, yet runny, nostril.  Breath.  She had to remind herself to just breath.

Okay, not the greatest example, but I am sitting here in mourning with tears clogging my vision.  Didn’t need the commonly used heart-ripped-out, and you know more about just how much crying she’s done.  Whether you’re describing an emption or an experience, look into yourself while going through your feelings.

If anything in this doesn’t make sense, it’s because this is being typed from a cafe while I’m actively in mourning.

Sometimes life happens

In October 2017, I neared a mental breakdown, seemingly out of nowhere, and it wasn’t good.  It took a while to get me to a level place, and then I went off to Paris for a couple months to basically try to reset my mental system.  My hypothesis was that the rush of chemicals and hormones that come with the stress and excitement of somewhere new might be enough to scramble everything and let it all settle back down to a more typical place.  And, for me, it worked.

Since then, life has gotten easier in some ways, and there have been some very hard losses. One is my oldest dog, Emma.  She got very sick, on top of being very old.  You can tell by her silhouette that she wasn’t doing so great anymore.  By the way, I didn’t edit this photo.  I used a wide-angle lens, wide aperture, low ISO, and I can’t remember the shutter.  That it came out this well means something to me, like I was somehow meant to have a beautiful memory of her.  It’s still hard to think about her or talk about her without crying.

My girl, Emma, and her last sunset at the beach. Copyright me, don’t steal my photo. That’s just plain evil. This picture means a lot to me.

This last week has been rough, and I’m not yet at liberty to discuss the worst of it.  My daughter getting measles isn’t a big deal (she’s fine, seriously), but it sucked getting t-boned when I was on my way to see an author I admire.  Still waiting on the insurance stuff.  It wasn’t fun having someone run into an intersection and into the side of my car.  My trip to Paris may be cancelled.  One thing after another.   I’ll talk more when I can.

Among other things, my daughter was cast as an angel in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker for the 2017-2018 season.  Here she is in her makeup and hair done, waiting to get into costume.   She’s a beautiful little dancer.  In the photo of her in blue, she’s at Northwest Dance Project.  She’s a tall, leggy child who lives for ballet so much that it’s hard getting her to ever take her dance stuff off.  When we do, she usually puts it back on when she thinks we won’t notice.  Well, I am almost always in dance wear, so I guess it’s fair.

I did some travel.  I spent two months in Europe.  London was something I decided on sporadically, and was heading there fifteen minutes later.  If I’d have thought it through, I would have thought to check the weather and take gloves.  In my current manuscript, there’s a scene in London that I will admit is directly lifted from when I went there.  It was just so cool, but so cold!  My bad for not preparing.

In Paris, I got caught up in a big protest-riot thing.  The French are precious.  They considered that riot to be bad and dangerous and such.  I was like, really?  I mean, where I come from, that is mellower than a typical flea market/swap meet.  It really was fun.  They’re so progressive there that Macron, who American’s conservatives tend to have for being too liberal, is so conservative there that they hate him.  That really demonstrates how far apart the US and France are in politics.  Macron gets to be hated from both sides.

Their riot police do get spiffy hats, though, and look like they belong in a video game more than they look like they belong on the streets watching the big, bad rioters.  Oh!  And we were barricaded in.  I was thrilled.  Part of me wanted to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”  But I thought that, if I did, no one would be too thrilled.  Well, they might have been if I told them I know Les Mis is about the June rebellion, not the revolution.  While so many Americans rue King George III not continuing his battle and want Queen Elizabeth II to take America back, the French are incredibly proud of having beheaded their last sovereigns.

Among other things, after Emma died, we added this little poppet.   Her name is Ella Ophelia, and allow me to share the meaning of her name.  We had Emma, after Jane Austen’s Emma, and Luthien after Elrond’s great-grandmother in Lord of the Rings (you have to read History of Middle Earth to get that).  Juliet, our small dog, is after the Shakespeare character.  When we got Ella, we wanted to incorporate all three of their names into something bookish as well.  E for Emma, and an L for Lu.  Elle didn’t work.  Sounds like the letter.  So…Ella.  Also Ella Enchanted.  And Ophelia for the Shakespeare character as a nod to Juliet.  Out cats are named after gods and a goddess: Thor, Ares, and Diana.

During this entire time I’d been working on outlines.  I have so many stories outlined.  So, so many.  But when one has fallen off the face of the planet for a while, it’s easy to feel as if that one shouldn’t exactly exist in the writersphere anymore.  Since I’ve been gone long enough, I’m going to use this as something of a chance to restart, and pick a new pen name.  I let a group of people pick my pen name as a dare, and they picked a name that is made up of three references to some books I really don’t like.  The name I would most like to use is a name incorporated into my current works in progress, which makes that kind of a NO.  I’ve actually given serious consideration to legally changing my name to that name because I have since found out that very few people have ever heard of it.  Also my legal name is now one of the most popular baby names in the US, and a very popular name to use for things like makeup colors.

I guess this is a long way to say…look out, Planet Earth.  I’m back!

Being a full-time everything is tough

A peril of being an independent writer is that you have to do it all yourself.  Everything from writing (of course), to correspondence, to finding events, to figuring out marketing, to making book covers, and so much more.  This all takes a substantial amount of time.  But if we pay, then we need to come up with the money, which means working, which cuts into the time to write or revise or do anything else.  Add in parenting for those of us who are parents, time with friends, other activities…

In addition to being a writer, I am also a mother of a 7-year-old who is partly homeschooled and who takes ballet multiple times a week in a professional school in the next state over, and I take ballet, and I’m on the board of a regency society, a Girl Scout leader, a volunteer for many things, and we haven’t even touched on me being a wife or having friends.  Oh!  I also have a small business, and that means doing everything from website work to Facebook page stuff and Easy, fielding commission requests, doing those commissions, shipping, and on and on.  I don’t sleep much.

Writing a blog, after all the other typing I do, just makes my hands tired.  I’m thinking about attempting a vlog.  There’s so much I want to write about that I get overwhelmed.  I’ve had so many questions from here and there and everywhere, some which I think are very important to address (such as would I consider writing a book through the POV of a non-white or LGBT person?) and writing tips I’ve learned along the way.  I think this is what I will do.  Since I need some breaks here and there anyway, why not do some work that won’t feel like actual work?  I’m sure that any vloggers reading this are laughing at me.

I think I’ll do this on Wednesday mornings since my daughter has campus classes those mornings.  So, I suppose, watch out next Thursday. 🙂

Systemic Sexism

I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve last written.  I will address this tomorrow in a post I already have written.  I wrote this post on Facebook, and it’s relevant here, and so I’m sharing it:

Best Seth Meyer segment I’ve seen to date. Sad, sad reality is that this shit happens so often that we women more or less accept it as a sort of tax on being women. I was first molested at 5, an incident when I was 11 that I still can’t talk about, a classmate tried to force himself on me when I was 17, spent five years in a relationship that turned abusive not even one year in (physical, sexual, and mental), I can’t even begin to put a number on how many assholes have groped me on BART trains in the Bay Area or forced themselves on me at clubs. The reason only the molester when I was 5 was reported is because who would have believed me the other times, and, if someone did, it’s not like the police would do anything more than ask me why I stayed with an abuser, or how can I prove anything.

That at least 25 women have been assaulted and raped by Harvey, 51 women by Cosby, I don’t even know if we can count how many women Trump have pushed himself onto, at least 7 for O’Reilly, “just” 3 for Clinton (that I could find in a 5-second Google search)…83 women whose names are known…and yet those cretins suffered no consequences for years because the word of women isn’t taken at face value. Those women stayed around and stayed quiet because they had everything to lose. The men held all the power, and they had none. So the men saw, and still see, women as their property.

By the way, when you hear the stat that 1 in 3 women have been sexually assaulted, and think to yourself, “But 1 in 3 men aren’t rapists and wouldn’t assault,” just remember that those five men are responsible for at least 83 women. If each man was responsible for just one, which is what would be needed for 1 in 3, then we’d need a group of 249 men so that 1 in 3 are bad. But if you take those 249, and have those five assholes be in that group, well, you’re got 244 good guys who would never assault or rape a woman. There are far, far, FAR more guys out there who would never rape, but those who do are extremely dangerous and rarely stop at just one. They have no reason to. We women are their property because they have the power. This is male privilege. Thank goodness most men will not take advantage of it, but that they could, and could get away with it, just scratches the surface of this major problem.

Beauty and the Beast dropped the ball, BIG time

Yes, yes, I know, I keep waxing and waning when it comes to this blog.  It’s never far from my mind, but time is extremely illusive.  Soon, I will write a week in my life.

The rest of this post will have spoilers, but they’ve been confirmed by the cast and crew.

Tonight Disney confirmed that the character of LeFou will be gay.  On top of Belle being rewritten as a confident inventor who invents the washing machine (they said that we were never given a reason for the townspeople to hate her, even though we totally were, and now there’s a reason that they should all want to be her best friend), Maurice being demoted from inventor to senile old fellow, and Beast being a lover of literature (so being a bookwork is good enough for him, but not for Belle…?), we have another social commentary issue.  I’m not sure where on earth the story is anymore.  It’s buried under all the social commentary!

However, there are some HUGE problems with having LeFou be gay.

Who is the character who mentally and physically abuses him?

Gaston hitting lefou abusive

Disney’s first openly-gay character is not only in love with someone who isn’t gay (meaning a dead-end…mercifully in this case), he’s in love with his abuser.  Rather than getting to hope LeFou finds happiness with the person he’s in love with (it could have been sweet if he and another man had eyes for each other and exchanged sweet, shy smiles), we’re left to hope that he’s broken–hearted because that’s better than ending up in an abusive relationship.

I really wanted to love this movie.  When I heard it rumored, I was excited, and when it was confirmed, I was thrilled.  But as more and more has come out about it, an extremely high amount, actually, that has been confirmed, almost as if they’re trying to justify some of these changes ahead of time, the less and less excited I am to see it.  The scenery and sets are stunning, the background characters’ clothing are wonderful, most of the main cast’s wardrobes are as well (Emma’s yellow gown is very, very modern, but that’s the least of my aggravations when it comes to Emma Watson, who has made it painfully apparent that she doesn’t understand the role of women and their clothing, namely corsets, throughout history, while painting herself as an expert on the very thing that is actually my career), but when it comes to the changes made to the characters themselves, and the super-secret change to the end, only said as Belle will be the one to save the day, I am no longer looking forward to this movie.  I’m actually upset.

LeFou being put into a position of loving an abuser, something it seems we’re supposed to root for, has made my anger explode.

Great job, Disney.  The first gay romance is once we need to root against because it’s a dangerous one.  FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC.

Carrie’s impact on me as a young girl

I keep choking up today.  See, when I was a kid, I loved math, and was told that that was s boy thing.  I loved science, and was told that that was a boy thing.  Being a leader was a boy thing.  To be blunt, it really fucking sucks when you’re a kid, and are told that building things and figuring things out are boy things.  I am so thankful we had Carrie and how she portrayed a young princess kicking ass and not bothering to take names.charlotte-as-rey

Leia was a hero in her very own right.  She wasn’t an off-shoot, like She-Ra was to He-Man, and she didn’t sit at the seat while the men did the major work.  Carrie could have made Leia a joke, but instead, from her first moment on the screen, she owned that role, and she made it clear that power was hers.  In that first moment, you could believe that she was the leader of those around her.  Her head was high, and she had a steely glint that showed that no one was going to be the boss of her.  As a little girl, that made an impact on me.   Here was a woman who was doing what girls weren’t supposed to!  Here was a girl who was just as strong as the boys, who could save people just as well as the boys.  She was smart and in charge!  She would fix things and solve problems!  She went against the grain and said that girls can do the “boy” things too helped me continue doing what I loved even as I was told by so many people that boys are the ones who are supposed to do math and science.  Carrie showed women (and girls) can be strong all by themselves.  Even in her iconic leather and metal bikini, she exuded bravery and confidence.  And that was pretty damned awesome.  That was Carrie.  How she played Leia is her.  A fighter.  A feminist.   A leader.  A problem-solver.  An advocate.   She was who we had. 

I’m glad that my daughter, Charlotte, is now growing up in a world where she has role models who are girls who are strong for themselves.  Even among a bevy of women and girls who save the day, she is drawn to Star Wars.  She loves Rey.  Rey is today’s Princess Leia.  Carrie showed that a young woman can be prominent in an action sci-fi film, and that audiences would believe it and want to have move.  In her way, she helped pave the road for The Force Awakens to center around a young female protagonist.  We are extremely lucky to have had her in our world.

director-j-j-abrams-note-about-carrie-fisher