28 August 2014

Bound for Kodiak: Memoir as Therapy

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.
~ John Muir

The countdown to Kodiak clock is winding down fast – as in tomorrow!  As there will be no internet there, I will not be posting again until my return. 

eginning tomorrow, Friday, August 29th, I will head out t othe Last Frontier.

For a week, I’ll be writing, relaxing, reading, and hopefully taking pictures of grizzlies and not getting mauled by one.

Oh, and did I mention there won’t have indoor plumbing?

Yeah. Roughing it at last!

Ever since I was seduced by her majestic mountains and clean, brisk air, I have longed to return.  So this trip is a dream come true for me and one I can cross off my bucket list.  And I almost gave up on it barely before I got started. 

All because of negative feedback. 

Ironically, I am going on this trip to work on my memoir.  Sending out those few, vulnerable little chapters was difficult ~ not because I’m afraid of constructive criticism.  But because the content is so raw and painful and intimate and personal.

It’s like stepping into one of my personal journals.  Or sitting in on a therapy session.

Memoir experts say that your memoir shouldn't be about getting revenge or a way to work through your issues.  But I say ~ just write.  Get it all out, vomit on the page, deep clean those memories and wounds and trauma.  Once it’s all out there, then you edit.  Tweak.  Delete.  Reword.

Use your writing as therapy all you want.  It’s only the final draft, the one that’s ready to go to the publisher, that should take your personal story, your personal pain, and make it universal.  Because a memoir is never just about you and your healing.

It’s your story of healing being a beacon of hope to someone else who may be suffering in a similar way.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Do you use your writing as a therapy tool?  Why or why not?

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29 July 2014

No Means Yes: 50 Shades of Domestic Violence

A real man doesn't slap even a ten-dollar hooker around, if he's got any self-respect, much less hurt his own woman. Much less ten times over the mother of his kids. A real man busts his ass to feed his family, fights for them if he has to, dies for them if he has to. And he treats his wife with respect every day of his life, treats her like a queen - the queen of the home she makes for their children.
~  S.M. Stirling

The countdown to Kodiak begins! For the month of July and most of August, I’m concentrating on writing my memoir, so there won’t be as many blog posts.  Have a book-filled summer!

hen is domestic violence acceptable?

Apparently when it sells 70 million copies.

Offended by that statement?  You should be.  And yet, women across the nation seem to think that when the violence is sexual in nature and perpetrated by a sexy rich guy, it’s all good.

Because of course, what happens in the bedroom between partners is nobody else’s business.

Unless of course, it’s your neighbor or best friend, and she covers up the bruises with excuses and a brave face that hides her fear and self-loathing. 

Still,  you do nothing because  you “don’t want to get involved.”  In today’s society, we value autonomy over real freedom and blind tolerance over decency.  But to ignore the signs and symptoms of domestic violence is to silently approve of it.

That’s bad enough.  But to glamorize it?  To make it exciting and titillating? 

That is truly sick and perverted.  Yet make no mistake, that is exactly what 50 Shades of Grey does.

The Sacred Duty of a Writer
As a writer, I am very careful about book and author reviews.  I know what it’s like to pour your heart and soul onto the page and hope that your dreams and imaginings will touch at least one person’s heart and make a difference.

Even romantic fiction, fantasy, and science-fiction ~ incorrectly considered “fluff” writing by many ~ serves a higher purpose: to provide hope and escape to a reader bogged down in a mundane and soul-sucking life.

And yet, such a lofty gift comes with a heavy responsibility.  A sacred duty to your readers: to provide a well-written story, a believable plot, detailed character development, and attention to proper grammar and word usage.

But inherent in that is also a duty to reach out to them and show them that no matter how difficult their personal circumstances, if this character can overcome the odds, they can too.  Because ultimately, we read to know we are not alone.

E. James does none of this. 

50 Shades of Hack Writing
Let’s forget for a moment that 50 Shades is an adult version of Twilight (true story – it started out as fan fiction).  Let’s focus just on the story and plot, which made me cringe.  I’ll be completely honest  ~ I only read about 30% of it and that only so I could see what all the fuss was about.  It was so poorly written and ludicrous, I couldn’t finish it.

Whenever I read a new book that has several 5 star reviews and discover that a sixth grader in private school could write a better plot, I wonder who these reviewers are.  I can only imagine that the women who rocketed Shades to best seller status must be white, middle class married women who haven’t been properly laid in years, and are looking for a forbidden thrill. 

How else to describe this fascination with violence in the bedroom? 
Image Credit

It’s a common human failing, this tendency to romanticize the lives of those we consider different or beneath us.  It used to be called slumming.  

Think married women of the aristocracy of the 19th century consorting with commoners or paying to play prostitute when their other amusements palled.

Violence By Any Other Name
I wish I could tell you that writing such tripe is harmless fun.  But it is not.  It perpetuates the belief that women are nothing more than sexual playthings.  

It saddens me that in our technologically advanced society, we are still fighting discrimination, misogyny, prejudice, and violence.

This is a tough subject, but ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Some statistics about victims to put this in perspective:
2/3 had a prior relationship with the aggressor (age 18-29)6 out of 10 were assaulted by an intimate partner9 out 10 knew their attacker (college age)1 in 6  have experienced rape or attempted rape in their life1 in 4 women has had a sexual experience she did not want by the age of 30
Do you see the pattern here?  Most women who are victims of sexual abuse know their attacker.  While there are cases of women being snatched off the street by a random stranger, that type of attack is rare.

I wonder if you asked these women whether it made a difference if their attacker was rich, sexy, or apologized later.

The fact that a woman has written a book that romanticizes sexual violence just adds insult to injury.

Has Ms. James ever volunteered at a battered women’s shelter, counseled rape victims, or spoken with survivors of human sex trafficking?  

I have to wonder. 

Because when you spend even a small amount of time with these precious women, you know that violence in the bedroom (or anywhere in the home) is not sexy or exciting or worthy of glamorization.

Violence By Any Other Name
The reality is bleak, frightening, and too often ends in death. 

The following is a partial list of behaviors: 
JealousyAt the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealously with love. The abuser will question the victim about who the victim talks to, accuse the victim of flirting, or become jealous of time spent with others. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim. 
Controlling behaviorIn the beginning an abuser will attribute controlling behavior to concern for the victim (for example, the victim's safety or decision-making skills). As this behavior progresses the situation will worsen, and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely. 
Unrealistic expectationsAn abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser's needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically. 
IsolationAn abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim's ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim's friends and family of being "trouble makers." The abuser may block the victim's access to use of a vehicle, work, or telephone service in the home.

Review these signs of abuse and ask yourself: 1) do you really want to read or watch a story that makes it look fun and harmless?  2) Do you know anyone who experiences these?

Naked and Unashamed
I am about as far from prudish as you can get.  My Southern Baptist-raised mother is continually shocked by my outlook and some of my beliefs.  What can I say ~ I like a well-written love story with detailed steamy scenes and I make no apologies for my liberal and eclectic taste in reading material.

But it is one thing to write a book that contains violence against women or children (Crime and Punishment) where the attacker is shown to be evil and justice is served.  It is quite another to write a book that tells men that violence is a turn on and even if she says no, she really means yes.

Ms. James, speaking as a writer and a woman, I am disappointed.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

"She liked a very particular kind of plot: the sort where the pirate kidnaps some virgin damsel, rapes her into loving him, and then dispatches lots of seamen while she polishes his cutlass. Or where the Highland clan leader kidnaps some virginal English Rose, rapes her into loving him, and then kills entire armies Sassenachs while she stuffs his haggis. Or where the Native American warrior kidnaps a virginal white settler, rapes her into loving him, and then kills a bunch of colonists while she whets his tomahawk. I hated to get Freudian on Linda, but her reading patterns suggested some interesting insight into why she was such a bitch."
— Nicole Peeler (Tempest Rising, Jane True #1)

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16 July 2014

Long Way to the Top: Lynda Cox's Debut Novel

If you have a dream, don’t just sit there.
Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.
~ Roopleen

The countdown to Kodiak begins! For the month of July and most of August, I’m concentrating on writing my memoir, so there won’t be as many blog posts.  Have a book-filled summer!

s I scribble down notes for yet another chapter idea, I wonder why the heck I ever thought I could write a book, much less one that anyone but my therapist would read.

It’s a common doubt that writers (and most artists) share: will anyone accept the work we have created?

It’s also one that should be locked away until the work is finished.  There is no magic formula, there is no easy way.  And the road to publication is long and filled with rejection potholes.

Today, Lynda Cox, tells us about her journey to publishing her first book, The Devil’s Own Desperado.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Long Way to the Top
Lynda Cox guest blogging here. Give me a few seconds to make the introductions and then we can get down to brass tacks, as my grandmother used to say.

I’m a fifty-something grandmother raising one of the grandkids, and when I’m not writing romances, I show collies. I’ve been involved in the sport and insanity known as dog shows for better than thirty-five years.

I’ve been a Star Wars AND Star Trek geek all of my life. I grew up watching syndicated westerns, with a steady diet of John Wayne westerns thrown in. I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.
The AC/DC song “Long Way to the Top” kept running through my head while I was thinking about writing this blog.

In my late thirties, I enrolled in college. My first day of classes, I looked around and realized that I was old enough to be the mother to almost every kid in the classes I was enrolled in. During my freshman year, I took a creative writing class. Maggie Wheeler, the instructor in that class, encouraged me to keep submitting.

So I did…and kept getting rejections.  But I didn’t stop writing or submitting.

It took almost twenty years to get published. I refined my writing, submitted my manuscript to an agent, and received countless form rejection letters.  Sometimes, I’d get a very personal letter that gave me hope to keep on trying.

There were times I stopped writing, but never for very long.

After my undergrad degree in English, I went back to work on my master’s. I concentrated in creative writing. One of the instructors I had as a grad student also served on my master’s committee and that man pushed me harder than I had ever been pushed. Aaron Morales told me after I’d defended my creative piece for the masters that the reason he pushed me so hard was he hadn’t seen the kind of writing talent I had in a long time. That was funny, coming from someone who’s almost twenty years younger than me.

But Aaron not only pushed me to go in directions I never would have thought I could go with my writing, he pushed me toward publication.

In a class of twenty five students, more than fifteen of us were published at the end of that semester.

Because I was concentrating in creative writing, I could take Aaron’s class more than once. Each semester, I found myself being published in a literary magazine: Blue Mesa Review, The Heartland Review, and Indiana English.

Those short stories opened the door for me to be published in novel length. I was better prepared to research where to submit. I now had publication credits in highly respected literary magazines. I decided I didn’t need an agent, that I’d work my way up through the slush pile. I submitted to The Wild Rose Press and waited. I received the standard form response that my query had been received and I should hear something in six to eight weeks. Almost twelve weeks went by without a word, so I sent an e-mail to The Wild Rose Press, asking if there was any news.

I received a very personal e-mail back, apologizing for the delay, and oh, by the way, if I would be willing to make some changes to the manuscript they were very interested in publishing my romance novel. I was working at Indiana State University at the time, directing the operation of the Writing Center, and I made my boss, the department chair, read that e-mail because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I made the changes that Susan—who then became my editor—asked for and within a week of submitting the changed manuscript, I had a contract for The Devil’s Own Desperado.

From signing the contract to release date was just a little under a year. I spent that year alternating between being so happy I was giddy to incredible self-doubt. The self-doubt grew worse when I thought about submitting a second romance to The Wild Rose Press.

What if I was only going to be a one hit wonder?

That doubt was removed when I was offered a contract for my second book, Smolder on a Slow Burn.

After The Devil’s Own Desperado was published, one of the professors at State asked me to come and talk to his Popular Literature and the Mass Media class, as one of the books read in that class is a romance novel. I was shocked to learn that Dr. Connelly was using my romance in his class. One of the questions the students asked was if I’m any different now that I have a published novel to my credit.

And the answer is, no. I’m still the same person I was before I signed my contract, before I saw the cover to my first book, before I held my first book in my hands. I’m just one of the lucky ones to have a romance novel published.

Yep, I’m one of the lucky ones. And, it’s still a long way to the top.

Lynda J. Cox will tell anyone who will listen that she was born at least one hundred and fifty years too late, and most definitely in the wrong part of the country. Her heart has always belonged to cowboys, the wide open spaces, horses, and Lassie. She grew up on a steady diet of cowboy movies, syndicated Westerns, and Lassie. All of those influences play a role in her life now. She writes western historical romance and raises and shows collies. She holds a master’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Indiana State University after earning her BA from the same university as a non-traditional student. (Think being old enough to be mom to 90% of the students in her freshman cadre.) She’s kept busy with two spoiled rotten house cats, a 30 plus year old Arabian gelding who has been nicknamed “Lazarus” for his ability in the later years of his life to escape death, and quite a few champion collies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on the road, travelling to the next dog show. She loves to chat about books, the writing life, and the insanity which is called a “dog show” and can be reached through her Facebook page.

Media and Web Links

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26 June 2014

Falling Off the Writing Wagon (or No, My Brain Wasn't Eaten by a Zombie)

You must write every single day of your life...
You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders 
to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads...
may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. 
And out of that love, remake a world."
~ Ray Bradbury

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!

very time I thought about writing a post last week, I felt exhausted.  Tired, drained and unmotivated were the trending words in my little writerly bubble.

Basically, I had a six year old living in my head all week:

But I don’ wanna write!
No one reads my writing anyway!
I wanna read!
I’m bored!

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

A couple of sleepless nights didn’t do the little brat any favours either.  Add to that, severe adrenal fatigue, the possibility of Lyme, and an unhappy digestive tract (bet you saw that one coming) and you have a recipe for a writerly clusterfudge of epic proportions.

Also known as lethargy.
Also known as radio silence.
Also known as writer’s block.

I didn’t just fall off the Blogathon wagon, I rolled down the hill, through a cow patty, and into a haystack.

Where I stayed, on my back, staring blindly at a blank paper sky. 
Image credit: Quickmeme

Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing
But what is the one rule of writing that all writers must learn and re-learn? 

Just write.  Type until you can’t type anymore and your hands look like claws and your wrists fall off and your eyes are as “raw as meat in a butcher shop.”*

Even if it’s gobbledygook. 
Even if it’s  painful. 
Even if it’s messy. 
Even if it’s rough.

And don’t stop.

Because if you stop writing, you’ll start editing.  Erasing.  Cursing.  Eating things you shouldn’t (hence the rebellious digestive tract), and eventually, you’ll stop writing altogether.

The only time it’s acceptable to stop writing is when you’re out living and listening.  So you have something to write about.

Or reading.  So you have writing prompts that will kick start your writing.

Or if a zombie ate your brains.  Because then your thoughts would really be scattered and your writing wouldn't make any sense.

So you didn’t blog all 30 days.  Did you write every day or read something that you could write about later?  Yes?  Great!  Then it was a success!

The Three Rs: Rest, Reading and a little Rx
But my name isn’t Pollyanna or Bright Eyes, or Dorothy.   And sometimes, even the smallest task is simply too difficult when you are exhausted and tired and starting a new medication.

That whole myth about writers and artists churning out masterpieces while high or drunk is definitely a myth.  Not that I was high or drunk, but the new medication…oh wait, it was to help calm me down and make me feel happy. I think.

Nevermind.  Maybe it’s not a myth.  Still not really that interested in testing it out.  Oh, Mythbusters!  Yoo hoo!

Bottom line: I wrote abso-freakin-lutely nothing last week.   Instead, I threw myself a writer’s pity party.  Anne Shirley would have loved it.  I was in the depths of despair over my lack of talent and my shoddy consistency ~ blame it on the ADD. Wait.  Isn’t that a song? 

But I read.  A lot.  Some really good stuff.  Some gloriously trashy stuff.  Some books I laughed at ~ not because they were funny, but because they were just that awful.  Some made me cry.

And some…inspired the Muse.

Which is the whole point of reading when you can’t write and writing all the time even if it’s horse caca.  Because that fickle, beautiful Muse ~ she better not find you napping.  Or at the least, without some way of capturing the bones she throws you.

I mean, it looks like she was also able to get that inner 6 year old to shut up and go play in someone else’s head.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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15 June 2014

How to Have a Healing Father's Day: Reblog from Leslie Leyland Fields

When my father would yell at me, I told myself someday I'd use it in a book.
~ Paula Danziger

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!


We learn it first from our parents.

And more often than not, it’s an imperfect lesson.  Because our parents are human.

Today is a tough day for some people.  Either because they had a rough childhood, or because their father has died without there being a resolution to the past.

Image credit: whatwillmatter.com
Today, I’d like to direct you to read a post by author Leslie Leyland Fields, author, Alaskan fisherwoman, and leader of the Wilderness Writers Workshop I’ll be attending this fall!  In her post on What Are Fathers For, she explores this often painful relationship and offers some advice on how to cope and live your life in the present.

Read and be moved.  And let’s talk some more on Monday.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What will you do to celebrate Father’s Day today?

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14 June 2014

Tomorrow is Father's Day: Celebrate with a Nap!

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since:
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!

omorrow is Father’s Day and a Sunday. 

Stop reading this and go sit with your father for a little while.

You don’t know how much longer you’ll have him.

It’s also okay if you’d rather have a steak and a beer by yourself because your father was rotten to you. 

Come by tomorrow ~ we’ll talk.

Yeah, I think I need one of these!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Father’s Day has become so complicated for many of my generation.  I think I’ll just go back to sleep.
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13 June 2014

Messengers of Healing: Drowning Out Negativity

Words are thought descriptors. They project thoughts from anonymity. They transfer thoughts into messages. Messages move the world.
~ William E. Jefferson

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!

essages bombard us every day.

Buy this now – so you’re just like everyone else!  Even though you’re already in debt and the economy has stalled.

Try this pill – it cures everything!  Even though it may cause death.

Eat this burger– it’ll make you feel better!  Even though it doesn’t look anything like that in real life.

Don’t eat that butter – it’ll make you fat! Even though everyone agrees poor body image is too prevalent and eating disorders are on the rise.

And those are just the messages we hear from the outside.  The ones we tell ourselves are often even more damaging:

I’ll never get that promotion.
Why am I always so stupid?
I can never do anything right!
I am unlovable / undesirable /untouchable / unworthy.

What makes this more damaging is that while we repeat them over and over to ourselves, we sometime end up repeating them to others.

Changing the Messages We Hear
You can’t give what you don’t have.  So if we’re filled with self-loathing or feel unworthy of love, we aren’t able to love as freely or as warmly as someone who is confident in their worth.  And so the cycle of negative messages continues.

It’s been said that we can never fully erase the hateful messages we tell ourselves, and it certainly seems that way in my experience.  No matter what positive things I tell myself or that my therapist or close friends tell me, the negative ones come back ~ and hit the positive ones over the head with a big, heavy stick.
Image credit: alyssaandbrianna.blogspot.com

And yet, the only reason the ugly ones stay is because they’ve been repeated, over and over and over.  So in order to get rid of them, we have to repeat the positive ones over and over and over.   

Until they play over top the negative messages.

This process isn’t easy and it takes time.  Most of us have heard these negative messages for years, some of us since childhood.  

You can’t overcome 30, 40, or even 60 years of emotional brainwashing in just a few months or even a couple of years.

The upside to healing?  You then become a messenger of peace and positivity and stop the cycle of negativity.

As for taking that death pill with that fatty burger in that new car you can’t afford – turn off the idiot box and get outside, read a book, or spend some time with friends and family.  You can always stream a show later - minus the negative commercials.

Your awesome body and your bank account will thank you.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What messages hold you back?  What are you doing to drown them out?

Five Minute Friday is an ever-growing group of bloggers who write for five minutes flat each Friday on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts each Thursday evening. It’s five minutes to see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing. Those without a blog can post their five minute piece as a comment on Lisa Jo Baker’s blog. For more details, visit Five Minute Friday.

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