Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writing half-assed stuff is better than not writing at all

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I'm afraid this is going to be another half-assed post. In an ideal world, I would plan all my posts ahead of time, do like three a week, and they would all be helpful, interesting, and to the point. Instead, most of them I write feeling like a chicken running around without a head--basically saying I know this sucks and I really hope to one day be a good blogger, but, as Arya was taught to say, "Not today," is what I tell the God of Good Blogging.

I did have an insight today. My kids' dad is visiting, so I actually haven't been a single mom for the last three weeks. It's been really nice in many ways. But I realized that when I'm a single mom, I take a lot better care of myself and I observe my limits a more--just because I can't afford to fall apart. Okay, that's not entirely true because I did completely overwork myself over the summer and had adrenal exhaustion as a result. But what I mean is that I know I have no safety net as a single mom, even if I sometimes take the risks anyway. Now that I know someone else is around, though, a part of me knows that there's a safety net, so it's harder to make myself go to bed at a decent hour and be realistic about the amount of projects I can take on.

So I've been awash in self-created chaos, I'm afraid.

Anyway, even times like I'm having now in which I am no longer the cause of my life, just trying to keep up with the effects of my creations, I recognize that it's good to keep writing, keep expressing, communicating, connecting, even if it's not perfect, not planned.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Blogfesting with Resurrected Bacon and Shakes

For the Resurrection Blogfest, I am resurrecting a blog post I published last year on November 25, 2013. I chose this post because I liked these poems and figure they're easier reading than most of my overly heady fare. Here it is:

Bacon and shakes poetry

This past week and a half I've been writing a poem about bacon and shakes every day, for a Culver's sweepstakes. Although the entries are randomly drawn, so I could have just submitted the same poem every day, I decided to write a different poem every day anyway. Here's my collection:


I have a dream of a creamy shake
And crispy fat bacon – for together they make
A near-perfect meal in some version of Eden
Where  health is no issue – just lots of good feedin’.


When I’m just wakin’
I want me some bacon
Then once I’m awake
I want me a shake
What’s the difference
‘Tween wakin’ and waked?
Salt-sweet or cream-crisp
Heaven on my tongue.

3. Haiku

When I first met you
Lust sizzled like crisp bacon
Heat melting my shake

4. Limerick

There once was a big plate of bacon
So  big I thought, “You must be fakin’!”
I slurped up some shake
But before I could take
It some dude grabbed it – now belly’s achin’!

5. English sonnet

Dreaming of bacon is never a bore
Its exquisite taste is beyond compare
The only thing that I would like even more
Is a shake by its side and you with me to share.
Popping crisp morsels in between your sweet lips
Hearing you sigh as you experience bliss
Then lifting the shake for your edified sips
And lifting my face for a salty sweet kiss.
Your skin tastes of bacon, it’s something divine
The words that you murmur are as sweet as a shake
What I feel when we eat and make love is so fine
That if this is a dream, I hope never to wake.
Bacon and shakes and my lover and me
And a bit of indigestion—but worth it, you see.

6. Jeremiad

How doth mine plate sit empty, that was full of crisp bacon! How is it become as a skeleton stripped of flesh, of life! A chest bared, its treasure stolen by a fire-breathing dragon! It that was so delicious crunching between my teeth, salt bursting across my tongue like diamonds over a whore’s clutching hands, how is it become as nothing!

Hear me weepeth sore in the night, my hands trembling as I sip the dregs of my caramel-laced turtle shake with brownie bits: among all my foodstuffs hath none to comfort me: all seem as my enemies, because they are not my bacon.

Oh what has the world come to that I must don my longjohns and robe and wring my hands weeping through the house for loss of my bacon. What abominations torture me as I curse the lack of 24-hour supermarkets from whence I could feed my unquenchable lust. Oh, abomination! Oh, strife! Oh, the gates to my soul are desolate, and the aftertaste of sweet shake and salty bacon are bitter on my tongue, for they are no more.

7. Butterfly cinquain

My heart
Broken by you
Like bits of crisp bacon
Crumbling into the aftertaste
Of tears
Cold like a creamy custard shake
Melted before its time
But never warm


I’m sick of writing ‘bout bacon and shakes
But I’ll never be sick of their taste
I could eat ‘em all day and all night until dawn
Stopping only to get rid of the waste.

9. Alexandrine

I’m dreaming of slapping you hard
With some bacon
I’ll catch you so much off your guard
You’ll be achin’
I’ll fling my shake into your eyes
With a wrist flick
While yelling about all your lies,
That you’re a prick
I’ll just be regretting that I
Used my bacon
Between you two pigs, you did so
Much more fakin’.

10. Huitain

I like to eat my shakes real cold
And I like my bacon real hot
I like even more when I’m told
That you think I have an awful lot
Of great qualities and I ought
To write more stuff both long and short
I’ll thank you so much for that thought
The grind’s not so bad with support

11. Triolet

Poems about bacon are so fun to write
It’s almost as fun as it is to eat
With a shake I could go from day until night
Poems about bacon are so fun to write
My stomach gets heavy, my heart gets so light
I’m dancing a jig to its sclerotic beat
Poems about bacon are so fun to write
It’s almost as fun as it is to eat

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Do we write in order to avoid communicating?

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Lately I've been insecure about my using writing in order to avoid real contact with people. I didn't used to text at all, and I wondered why anyone would even want to have conversations in these short Twitter-sized bits. Now, it's my main form of communication and it's even overtaken emailing.

A friend suggested to me recently that I ought to try calling people instead. I promised her I would do it sometime in the coming week. On a wave of enthusiasm, I did call a friend instead of texting, but I have to admit that I felt slightly relieved when his voicemail picked up and I didn't actually have to talk. (Then he didn't check voicemail for a week because none of his friends ever call him, they just text.) My promise fulfilled, I made no other such attempts in the following days, except for with my best friend, who perhaps has kept our connection alive by standing by her dislike of email throughout the 16 years we've known each other. Because of that, we've always had a great phone relationship.

I think about how when I was in high school and there was no email or texting, I actually called up guys to flirt and sometimes even ask them out on dates. Now, even people with whom I'm intimate, I don't have the courage to call them. I just text, I google chat, I occasionally email when I have something slightly longer to say.

It makes me wonder how many writers adopted this form of expression as their m.o. because they felt unsure or scared or without right to impose their speech upon the world, to take up others' time and attention without knowing if they had something worthy to say? Did they write hoping that others would validate them and thus show the writer that she was welcome before she felt she had the right to have their ear?

Maybe "insecure writer" is a redundant term...

That said, I'm going to try again this week--I'm going to call one person I've only chatted or texted with before.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creating depth in fictional characters

I read Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea series a long time ago--probably when I was in high school. I recently revisited the world by reading Tehanu, which continues the story of Tenar, a beloved Earthsea character--except here, she's a middle-aged woman who gave up power in order to embrace an ordinary, invisible life as a farmer's wife.

Comparatively little takes place in this story, yet it really struck me as being powerful. It seemed to me that here was a character who truly embodied the antithesis of the Mary Sue--when an author creates a character that she uses to live out fantasies of her own life, without giving her any truly meaningful challenges. It took a while of musing on why exactly I was so affected by this story.

It comes down to something said in this talk: David Brooks on "Should you live for your resume or your eulogy"?

He talks about two selves we all have--one that focuses on building one's strengths, and craves success, and one that focuses on battling one's weaknesses, and on charity, love, and redemption. Only the latter creates depth of character. He quotes Reinhold Niebuhr--"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime."

Mary Sue stories (Twilight is a good example, in which the only weakness focused on is Bella's physical clumsiness) focus on characters' strengths; the backdrop of the story and the plot are only meant to showcase those strengths. Tehanu, on the other hand, focuses on testing the characters' weakness--and the story is about the building of depth of character. Not only does Tenar care only about charity, love, and redemption, but she eschews recognition for her past achievements.

We can admire Mary Sue characters, and fantasize about being them, but the fiction is ultimately escapist. There is a place for every kind of fiction, of course. But when I read something that somehow keeps me in reality even as I'm indulging in fantasy--something in which I truly feel like I'm relating, that my brain synapses are firing in new patterns as I align myself to a character's search for identity, purpose, ways to embody humanity in their being and actions--there is something truly special about the experience.

It's hard for fiction, especially in the fantasy genre, to show us what we can do in our lives. We don't have much cause to battle evil in the form of paranormal creatures or magicians. But fantasy can, if done right, show us what we can be, and as it taps into the mythological archetypes that exist in our subconscious, maybe it can do so even more than other genres.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My story is on tour today

The 50 Shades of Green anthology is on a 20-blog tour and my story, "Sunlight and Water," is excerpted here today!

Life is good. It's on my to do list to update my blog this weekend. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to make narcissistic small talk interesting

So one of my Facebook friends posted this article today, "What to Talk about When we Don't Know What to Talk about," by Amanda Stern. It lists "14 topics which no one will find interesting. Ever." I read through them and had a "Golly gee!" moment because I talk about nine of those 14 topics somewhat regularly.

Anyway, it got me thinking about breast pumping and when I used to do it daily. After I had my first son, I started working at the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley, CA, and because he was only a few months old I was trying to maintain my milk supply by pumping at work. It was frustrating, grueling work, because you know the milk doesn't release that easily when you don't have a baby sucking at the nipple to trigger the let-down. So I used to spend half my lunch break milking myself in my massage room, frantically pumping, watching the trickle of translucent white liquid collecting in the bottle and every so often dabbing the clamminess from my brow with towels from the hot towel cabbie.

The massage rooms at the Claremont are arranged in a U shape downstairs, in the basement floor. There are eighteen rooms, and everybody knows that room #17 at the end of the U is haunted. Therapists have reported strange caresses on their own bodies as they're massaging their clients, things dropping from the walls, the doors slamming shut when no one has pushed them closed. A strange coolness in the room that never quite goes away, no matter how high the heat is turned on.

One day I was assigned to work in room #17. I was late for work that day and thought nothing of it at the time, rushing to get things ready for my first client. "It's a bit chilly today," my client said as I worked, but that was all. I turned up the table warmer and hoped I'd still get a decent tip.

While I worked on my second client, things started to get a little strange. I was more relaxed by then, no longer hurried, and I had drifted into that altered state of matching my client's energy, mirroring her muscles with my hands and my mind as an extension of my hands, allowing the session to become an alpha-wave dance, an exercise of maintaining a porous, translucent sense of self through which my client's energy could flow.

As I moved, in my altered state I seemed to notice another presence in the room. It felt like a coolness, a vibration of curiosity in the room, almost a hunger. I did not feel threatened, perhaps because I didn't have the space to do so--I had to maintain a bubble of safety for my client. So I told it that it was welcome to observe, but not to participate. It seemed to acquiesce, although the hairs on the back of my neck lifted as I thought I felt--or was it my imagination?--the brush of fingers over the tip of my right ear.

"You can turn over now," I told my client, lifting the sheet so she could roll over onto her back. I sat behind her to work on her neck.

This time there was no doubt that I was being touched. Something cold poked at my own neck, in a caricature of what I was doing to my client. Those fingers--or were they teeth? tickled along my collarbone, over the hard knots of my trapezius, and then in an impossible march down my spine--for it felt as if the fingers were touching me inside my skin, burning me with cold to the bone. I stood and began to work on my client's arms, and I felt the cold stroking my arms, lingering about my fingers even as I pulled the warm human ones in my grasp.

I was nervous by the time I got to the legs--but then the fingers stopped, and the cold seemed to go away. I finished the session feeling confused, but somewhat reassured that whatever had been with me, it had lost interest.

My client left, and I cleaned up the linens before my lunch break. I sat down on the table and pulled out my breast pump. My breasts were already engorged, almost hard to the touch, so full of milk that even as I removed my bra I saw drops of milk well up on the tips of my nipples.

I placed the suction cup on my right breast and squeezed, the milk letting go almost right away, squirting in a thin stream into the bottle. I sighed in relief.

And then, I felt a sudden cold grip my hand and the pump squeezed on its own.

Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! It pumped inexorably. I tried to stop it--but the suction had grabbed onto my breast and was stuck. I pulled, I tugged at the thing, but it seemed to be frozen onto my breast, ectoplasm a surer glue than I ever would have guessed. "Stop it! Stop it!" I yelled, panic tinging my voice, not wanting to disturb the massage rooms on either side of me but hoping desperately, at the same time, for intervention. The suction was so strong my breast was resembling a pointy cone, and it was really starting to hurt.

The milk had stopped releasing...but then I felt something else, it was like teeth latching onto my nipple, except this was no baby. And I saw fluid flow into the bottle in a wet stream of red.


I screamed. I stumbled to my feet and somehow tripped over the hydraulic mechanism of the table and I saw the ground shooting toward my face.

Then I knew no more.


Heh. Heh heh. Okay, so that was pretty bad. But if you actually read to the end, then it means I kept your interest, right? And so that's how you make stories about breast pumping interesting. It can be done with any of those 14 subjects, baby's fontanelles included.