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Writing amid Household Problems

25 Jul

July 22:

Well… last night I read yet another rejection letter for a gothic novel that I consider my best novel so far. Guess it doesn’t matter how much I revise and edit it. Anyway, I meant to query magazines/ journals today… and discovered that my WiFi decided to say, “Fuck you! So what if you pay Comcast way too much? You don’t get to have WiFi!” Restarting my laptop… unplugging and unplugging my modem… pushing the button on top of my modem… nothing worked. The instructions on my computer screen mentioned connecting the modem and the laptop with an Ethernet cable–but I don’t have a spare.

Did I not pay my overpriced Comcast/Xfinity bill? Maybe I need to dig through snail mail and check…. And maybe I need to take a look at the surge protector somewhere under my tv cabinet.

And then there’s the bathtub full of dirty water. Well, about three inches, that is. It has something to do with my hair clogging the drain. The plunger has brought up a lot but not solved the problem. So my last shower was in the back bathroom (which requires stepping on a stool to climb in). I do pull Cousin It out of the drain from time to time, but apparently Cousin It finally succeeded in committing suicide.

I need to call a plumber… but first I’m gradually cleaning and tidying rooms that the plumber would see. That’s the living room, the hallway, and the bathroom. (I can close doors down the hallway.)

I say gradually because I’m doing this at cooler times, when I’m less likely to pour with sweat. I intend to do a bunch this evening, or basically… night.

Nice thing about all this craziness–plus my obsessive “This is what fascism looks like” news reading/watching, I’m scarcely brooding about toxic people. Barely, though it slips in from time to time.

Reading Mexican Gothic has inspired me to steep “Theater Patron” in more gothic atmosphere. It admittedly increases the word count, but it’s all for the best. Something to keep in mind in many of the Margot/Roland/Vincent stories. (“Theater Patron” is one of many, and I’ve been revising it for publication.)

July 23:

My main focus today is house cleaning (yuck) because I intend to call both the plumber and Comcast tomorrow.

The standing water has mostly drained, but there’s still some–and that’s after days, maybe a week. I’ve lost track.

The WiFi is still nonexistent—pretending as though my network doesn’t exist—it isn’t even a choice. No, I’m not trying to use a neighbor’s WiFi–I want my own back! It’s frustrating. I wanted to submit stories to magazines/journals yesterday, but I couldn’t use the internet on my laptop. The only internet is on my phone.

Brooding about certain toxic people… I think one narcissist showering me with verbal abuse, projecting, and pathetically trying to gaslight me right before Oregon began officially socially distancing… is triggering in part because of a certain narcissistic sociopath who used all the same techniques… but was far more skilled at manipulation. That’s a motivation to resume working on the novel inspired by said narcissistic sociopath. It’s better to do that earlier in the day, not in the evening. I don’t wish to go to bed in a rage.

I took a break from housecleaning. I had dinner while streaming Trevor Noah and resumed working on a fun, humorous fantasy novel—changing the novel from past tense to present tense. This has been a gradual process, of course, since it’s over 92,000 words.

I still need to take some things out to the trash and recycling and sweep the floor of the living room, hallway, and bathroom. The bathroom floor might also need some scrubbing.

It’s pathetic that all this is happening at once—the clogged bathtub drain, the shower curtain rod falling down repeatedly, the WiFi not working. Plus I still need to get on with putting up that curtain rod in the library and making library curtains and cleaning the mildew from the wall in the back apartment and painting over that with anti-mold primer…..

Meanwhile, I have memories of a narcissistic sociopath in my head, accusing me of being incapable of functioning—a variation on how my narcissist mother made me feel incompetent starting when I was four years old and helped paint the living room. The accusation of incompetence is tied in with my need for respect and acceptance.

July 24:

I’m revising an old story to submit online and have several internet folders open to magazines/literary journals. I’d like to submit more than one story today, but I’m compelled to edit/revise stories before submitting them, especially if it’s been a while since I worked on them.

I called about the WiFi, and it’s working: Comcast needed to reset the modem. How random. I called the plumbing company, and they have someone coming Monday afternoon. Such a relief to have all that taken care of—also a relief that I have two bathtubs.

Coronavirus Journal

13 Jul

A successful author—I don’t remember who because I suck at names and haven’t read her work—but a successful author, maybe from South America, stated that writers need to write about this pandemic. My reaction was: that makes perfect sense. But how on earth am I going to write about this pandemic?

Fiction that I especially enjoy writing is fantasy fiction, historical fantasy fiction, historical fiction, dark fantasy. Fiction that I end up writing with rather less enjoyment is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical fiction. Writing about this particular pandemic… how could I do that?

I decided the only way I knew to write about it, at least for the time being, would be to write a journal. Write about my afflictive emotions and confused thoughts and trying to process and not really processing properly.

Upon a little more thought, it occurred to me that I could set fiction during this pandemic… but show it in a low-key way. Whenever the protagonist goes outside, everyone is wearing a mask. People are keeping their distance, yellow Caution tape is all around playgrounds, people only go to restaurants to pick up orders, or they wait at home for the restaurant food to be delivered. The protagonist, at the beginning of the story, hasn’t left her house in a month. I have no idea how to incorporate plot into something like that, but it could always be “literary” fiction that I submit to literary journals.

And another possibility, especially since I plan to write fiction about suffragist witches, is to include the 1918 flu pandemic in historical fiction about suffragists.

During the 1918 flu pandemic, people generally didn’t do that. There just aren’t many books about it, aside from historians and writers of historical fiction who nowadays write about it as a historic event. But people who lived through it… didn’t process it, apparently. They were traumatized and glad it was over and just wanted to shove it away, push it out of their thoughts once it was over. They didn’t warn younger generations. They didn’t confide in younger generations. So there’s this whole generation that blocked out a major world event that came toward the end of the first world war, which was also a traumatic world events. Two traumatic world events coming together.

But I rather think writing about it will help process. I mean writing about this pandemic, that is.

The pandemic reached the U. S. in late February 2020. At least, according to the news, the pandemic first appeared in Washington state (only one state away!) on February 28. But it could have been in the U. S., for instance in New York City, a little before that. Maybe a month before. After all, it sometimes needs time for symptoms to appear, and sometimes people are asymptomatic—like Typhoid Mary.

It would suck to be Typhoid Mary.

The last time I went to see a play—and I know I’m coming from a place of economic privilege when I put it like this, but—the last time I attended a live play (as opposed to watching a Shakespearean play on YouTube) was a Saturday in the middle of March, a couple days before social distancing became official per Governor Kate Brown’s orders in Oregon. The play was A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, and it was beautiful (especially the costumes!) and made me realize that I’d forgotten quite a bit of it from reading it in college in the early 1990s.

Ah, the 1990s. It was before 9/11. It was before fascist Repugnantcans started proving they don’t need to win the popular vote in order to move into the White House. They just have to rely on cheaters and voter suppression. The late twentieth century seems like such an innocent time compared to this. Back then I wasn’t even disillusioned with relatives who have personality disorders.

So… I created a new document and started writing. I cut and pasted all the journal entries I’ve written since social distancing started in Oregon, and those are all in the  new document. At the moment, that’s thirty-five pages.

 

Camp Nanowrimo and… Summer is Coming

20 Apr

I’m definitely behind in my Nanowrimo novel. It’s open in front of me right now and I’m adding a tension-filled sort of dialogue scene right now (Vita distracted me and now this). Hopefully I’ll make more progress tonight–maybe even get ahead again–but just catching up would be good.

I feel like procrastinating on things, including that novel. Like just reading this novel and using the bicycle desk and maybe binge watching something … when I need to be so much more productive.

Mind on home improvement stuff and house cleaning and organizing—but I don’t want to do it when it’s warm, and it would make sense to wait until next month, since I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo now… but of course I need to get the house ready for summer. I just ordered some fans and cooling stuff.

#

I moved a chair across the hallway from the sewing room to the bedroom, and Gabriel is delighted–rolling around on the chair, playing with its back. He’s acting like he’s never seen it before.

For two summers, I’ve used a portable air conditioner in the upstairs bedroom. But the window won’t open, for whatever reason. I’ll try again—I don’t need to turn on the AC for a while yet—but I’m going to rearrange the sewing room so I can set up the AC there.

I just ordered three fans online–getting ready for summer, climate change and pandemic style.

“I was just thinking: Frankenstein!”

10 Feb

Last week I attended a wonderful talk/ book discussion, “Reading like a Writer: Frankenstein,” which conjured Mary Shelley et al telling spooky stories around a fireplace on a rainy night in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1816. It must be the most famous party in literary history. (Conveniently, during our discussion, it was raining heavily, and we met at a haunted Victorian mansion.)

I just watched the latest episode of Doctor Who, at the end of which the Doctor said, “I was just thinking: Frankenstein!” My first thought: “Are they going to Geneva in 1816?!” After the credits, there was a brief preview, and it indeed looks like the Doctor and her friends are going to visit Lord Byron’s villa in Geneva on the night that Mary Shelley first started writing Frankenstein! If I had a TARDIS, that would be high on my list of times/places to visit.

Also, next month I’m going to see Manuel Cinema’s mixed media production of Frankenstein; it involves puppets and video and whatnot. It’s going to be amazing.

Maybe this year I’ll read some more books by and about Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. I’m feeling so inclined….

The Nerve of me, interacting on social media like anyone else

14 Nov

It’s National Novel Writing Month, and tonight I reached the month’s official word count goal of 50,000 words. I posted not only to my Twitter account and my Facebook account the fact that I’d reached 50,450 words, but because I’d seen other people do it, I posted it to the NaNoWriMo Facebook group page.

This is what I posted:

“I just reached 50,450 words!

So… tomorrow I’m definitely going to wash the dishes and clean the living room. But I’m aiming for 90,000 words by the end of the month, since that’s standard novel length.”

That’s all I wrote. Nothing more. So what happens? A perpetual playground bully (PPB) commented: “50,000 is standard novel word count.”

I stared at that comment and was utterly flabbergasted. I had simply stated a fact, and here was a bully—like so many before—contracting my statement. I didn’t even post an opinion or a question about word count. So I went to the Writer’s Digest website and found an excellent article (I’ve read it before) by Chuck Sambuchino about standard word count, and I copied and pasted the url as a comment under my post.

Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

Then I replied to the PPB: “That’s only the bare minimum.”

The PPB bizarrely acused me of saying that 90,000 is the minimum, even though that obviously was not what I wrote, as anyone could easily see by looking at my post. She added, “and that’s not true.”

I replied, “No, I didn’t write that it’s the minimum. I wrote that 90,000 is standard word count, which IS true.” Then I blocked the parasite… and started considering dropping out of the group, as I’ve done with quite a number of Facebook groups where I encountered drama thanks to PPBs.

Here are three things that push my buttons… and they also happen to be narcissist/sociopath red flags:

  1. Contradicting me—in particular, contradicting me when I state a fact, not even an opinion.
  2. False accusations.
  3. Attempts to gaslight me.
  4. Lies.

This perpetual playground bully whipped all these out in just a couple of comments! I include “attempts to gaslight me” is because this PPB accused me of claiming that 90,000 is the minimum, despite the obvious fact that I clearly stated that it is the standard. Her accusing me of that is a false accusation, a lie, AND an attempt to gaslight me, all rolled into one.

Yeah, I’m going to name a narcissist or sociopath Kerri in one of my stories, for certain. Coming to think of it, I could probably access a list of every bully I’ve blocked on Nazibook… that’s like a ready-made list of names for villains. If you’re a bully and you know I’m a writer, you’ve automatically given me permission to base a character on you.

The nerve of me, interacting on social media just the way other people interact on social media without being under attack. Am I shivering from cold, or am I shivering from shock? Hmmm. You’d think that a fact about word count would be one thing I can post on social media without being under attack, but… nope. There is absolutely nothing I can post on social media without being under attack from someone who has a shortage of empathy and should go back to the playground.

Anti-Feminist Bullshit Day

22 Oct

Oh. My. Goddess. When the bar is only 1/8 of an inch above the floor, you should be able to get right over it. It’s not asking too much.

In a writers’ group this morning, one member, a white cisgender male in his sixties or seventies, shared a piece he’d written that listed off bullshit stereotypical descriptions of feminists. No, feminism is about dismantling patriarchy, rape culture, and systemic oppression such as misogyny and racism and gender binary. It’s not about hating men and wanting to have “test tube” babies. Patriarchal males are so narcissistic that even their made-up version of feminism is about them. (Since the 2016 election, I’ve repeatedly noticed patriarchal/misogynistic males wave narcissist red flags.)

As for bra-burners?! That was a misnomer invented by patriarchal mainstream media. Atlanta had a city ordinance against burning trash. Therefore the feminist protestors in question tossed oppressive, sexist things such as girdles and Ladie’s Home Journal into a trash can without actually burning them. Stop repeating a lie that has been repeatedly disproved… and read feminist books and blogs.

Later, I logged onto Facebook and visited a group that I usually enjoy. It’s for participants in National Novel Writing Month. But a female posted, asking if she must have “strong female characters” in her novel (because of something someone, maybe a friend, said) and if this is some “feminist agenda” or a requirement. She said she has a male protagonist and no “strong female characters.” Really? Not one single character in your entire novel can be described as a “strong female character”? She seems to think that because it’s medieval historical fiction, that she shouldn’t have to include strong female characters. This presumably means that her novel will have no major, three-dimensional female characters.

I was utterly flabbergasted, twice in one day (and I don’t even work in customer service anymore–heck, I’m somewhat reclusive nowadays). And I’m not going to read anything by her. Even Joss Whedon has no trouble creating strong female characters. It’s such a low bar. No doubt if she learned about the Bechtel Test, she’d have a heart attack or piss her pants or post about this “feminist agenda.”

Both situations reminded me of what a friend recently said in a feminist discussion: that people really hate us feminists. She’d dropped out of an atheist organization for this very reason. I’ve repeatedly observed that the only people with whom I enjoy socializing are feminists.

Yeah, and I’ll keep writing unabashedly feminist fiction. The funny thing is, this was a NaNoWriMo group, and my NaNoWriMo novel for this year is Feed Misogynists to Dragons, a novel so feminist that the title indicates it. I mean, it’s in your face. I’m going to soooooo wallow in the feminism of this novel and my “feminist agenda.”

A Use for Trolls

27 Feb

I’m not sure if this will be small parts of a larger work—probably—but I could put trolls into fiction, with tiny roles. Bit parts. Bit parts…with little bits. Here’s an example, using today’s troll:

The enormous green troll grabbed by the ankles a smug and arrogant white boy, a ninth grader who skipped class that day. He’d been known by his classmates to harass girls since kindergarten and often wore a red baseball cap with white letters saying, “Make America Great Again.” The troll lifted this boy up into the air and swung him around. The boy’s head kept thumping against the ground, and he became unconscious, his smug smirk fading.

Chinese Authorities and Underwear

27 Feb

I’m scrolling through a travel journal and reformatting it. It’s from my trip to India, Nepal, and Tibet in 2008. I came across this:

 

I recall reading that, for whatever reason, China doesn’t allow you to bring more than twenty changes of underwear. When I read about that, I imagined what it could be like when a Chinese authority looks through my suitcase.

“You have too much underwear! You are a member of a splittist faction!”

“No, that’s just a rip in the seam.”

“Why you have Dalai Lama pictures in your underwear?”

“I figured of all the places that would least likely get looked at carefully…”

This is so crazy—I’m in Tibet for real! I’d like to take a picture of a yeti, but I won’t be out in the wild, and I doubt a yeti would be circumambulating the Jokhang Temple.

 

Quandary about Querying

22 Feb

I should have gone back over Hauntings of Claverton Castle and The Vanquished and the Surviving and drastically cut down the word count after only about ten literary agent rejections, rather than after about thirty such rejections. Looking at information about literary agents, I find that they’ve already rejected one or both of those manuscripts, or at least that someone from their agency has, which is close enough (because if one agent of a specific agency rejects a manuscript, it’s normal for them to pass it on to other agents in the same office).

I had fooled myself that surely since some books, such as Twilight, were published despite their long word count, surely it was okay for each of these novels to be over 110,000 words. But no, I finally decided (while reading a book by a literary agent that reminded me of word count limits) that I should play it safe and cut down these two books. Each has at least one less chapter and quite a few removed scenes. I suspect that the word count was why some agents rejected them.

Today, after only a few hours of researching agents, I’m considering putting aside those two novels and waiting until an agent accepts another novel before I make another stab at Claverton Castle and Vanquished. After all, if you already have an agent, naturally that agent will be interested in some of your other work. True, if you jump around different genres like I do, you might need more than one agent…but that’s not an immediate issue for me. What’s immediate in my situation is this: do I go ahead and continue searching for agents for these two novels, or one of them, or do I set them aside for now and instead wait to contact an agent after my critique group has gone over the entirety of the WIP that I’m sharing with them? Or do I revise a certain novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month that I think has a lot of publishing potential, and query agents about that novel (although I’d better share it with my critique group before I do that).

I think I’ll do this: continue revising a couple of WIPs, including the one I’m currently sharing with my critique group…and continue researching literary agents and pick out agents whom I haven’t queried yet about Claverton Castle or Vanquished, because surely there are still a few agents out there I haven’t queried but who are into supernatural and gothic historic fantasy. Or queer and supernatural gothic fiction. Surely I haven’t queried every such agent yet.

A Scene I Cut out of a Gothic Novel

29 Dec

Editing my queer and supernatural gothic novel, The Hauntings of Claverton Castle, I cut down the word count by 21,000 words. I figured my chances of getting an agent and getting the novel accepted by a publisher would be better if the novel wasn’t, um, about 127,000 words.

Below is a portion I removed from the novel.

*

After assessing the needs of the pantry and creating a shopping list, Charis Dunn, the housekeeper, took off her pinafore and prepared to head to town to purchase supplies. She reached into a canister in the pantry and pulled out money set aside for the household, and she tucked it into the reticule she kept in the same canister. She headed back to the servants’ hall and took her black, beribboned bonnet off a peg. As she tied it under her chin, she headed out the back door, the same door she thought an orphan like Miss Ponsonby should use.

In the village of Midsommer Norton, Charis walked down a muddy road. She passed shops in two-story stone structures on her left and the River Somer on her right. The mud sucked at her boots with a distasteful squishing sound, and often she had to pull her feet up forcefully to remove them from the mud. She would have taken the compact and lightweight Prendregast brougham, but Mr. Reginald was using it to call on friends, and she did not have the authority to take the barouche. Glancing up at a dark gray hovering cloud, she recalled Miss Ponsonby’s intrusive questions and grudgingly recalled her youthful beauty.

Charis had been alive more than long enough to know the contrast between how people—especially males—treated attractive girls of Miss Ponsonby’s age and how they treated women of her own advanced years. Before she had reached the age of forty, Charis had observed that those around her treated her with a strikingly different attitude than they had when she was young and comparatively pretty. At the thought of Miss Ponsonby, Charis smiled ruefully and acknowledged that compared to this striking golden-haired beauty her own prettiness had been nothing.

However, Charis’s youthful prettiness had been sufficient for her to attract the admiring eye of young men—and even older men—in the village, not to mention comments that she did not wish to hear. Some of those men and boys were so forward! They certainly, she thought, believed they were entitled to comment on her appearance as though she cared a fig what they thought of her. Knitting her brow, Charis remembered feeling ashamed of herself because, in a way, she did care what they thought; but she only cared in that she wished to be respected as much as any lady. They would not dare behave that way to a genteel girl like Miss Ponsonby.

Sometimes during her youth, when she went to the village of Midsomer Norton to purchase items for the kitchen as she was doing now, or to enjoy her day off, Charis walked past the shops and the pedestrians with her head bowed and wished she were invisible. If she were invisible, she thought, men would not have made unwelcome comments such as, “Oy, buxom hussy!” or, “Love, meet me at the Primrose Tavern for a drink.”

By her late thirties, content with her unmarried state, Charis walked past the store fronts on her day off and received no comments. Two youths passed her and looked straight through her; directly behind her, she knew, were two slender girls approximately the same age as the boys, who grinned and lifted their hats to the girls. This incident conjured memories of when young men treated her the same way and discomfited her. In her youth, she wished to be invisible, and now she was. As though to confirm her thoughts, a man in a cap and overalls pushed past her with a wheelbarrow full of coal and did not so much as glance her way.

Thoughts of her youth brought Charis back to when she was a lowly scullery maid at Claverton Castle. Charis pressed her lips tightly together. Sixteen-year-old Charis had most certainly not sat in the drawing room and entertained guests at the pianoforte. No, in the kitchen and the servants’ hall, she had fetched and carried and scrubbed pans and swept the ashes in the fireplaces. She wasn’t so much as a housemaid, like that girl, Jane, until she was over the age of twenty. But like Miss Ponsonby, she had been an orphan. Charis narrowed her eyes toward a shop window displaying fashion illustrations; they were a far cry from her sober black frock.

When the youthful Charis was not receiving impertinent remarks from men in the village, she was scrubbing away and working her fingers to the bone. A Sensitive who had the ability to levitate objects could have done the same work with a great deal of ease. As a young scullery maid, Charis had sometimes fantasized about having such a skill. She imagined being able to merely think of scrubbing the pots, and to immediately see a brush scrubbing them, faster than she scrubbed away, roughing up her hands. She had often feared a Sensitive joining Claverton Castle’s staff and ultimately acquiring her position. Then Charis would have been out on the streets.

With this thought, she yanked her right foot out of the mud with a loud squelch. She never lost her position, more than anything because the scullery maid had such a lowly position that it was scarcely heard of for one to be a Sensitive. Charis had always been struck by the irony: one of the most grueling and undesirable jobs that would have been nearly effortless with Sensitive powers was also one of the servant positions rarely held by a Sensitive.

Fortunately, Charis gradually progressed from scullery maid to the highest station she could reach, that of housekeeper. Years ago, she had the distinction of catching the eye of the lady, Mrs. Prendregast, and becoming the lady’s maid. The lady of the house enjoyed having Charis as her personal servant, helping her dress and style her hair. “Dunn, you have quite a talent for this kind of work. Who would have thought—you were wasted in the kitchen.”

“Well, Ma’am, I’m here now, so it’s nothing I care to fuss about,” Charis replied.

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Prendregast said. “You’re so happy with your lot. That strikes me as an unusual trait.”

“Unusual, ma’am? It shouldn’t be, if you ask me.” The lady chuckled; Charis knit her brow, wondering what amused her. Mrs. Prendregast chuckled frequently, a trait she passed on to Master Reginald.

Charis worked as lady’s maid for Mrs. Prendregast for nearly ten twelvemonths, until the housekeeper died of heart failure. Mrs. Prendregast easily convinced Mr. Prendregast that Charis Dunn could do the job, at least in the interim. By then, Charis had witnessed the lady not chuckling as frequently, and staring into space as though lost in thought. She watched the ceiling a great deal and often lapsed into frowning silence and sighs. It was not long after Charis became housekeeper that Mrs. Prendregast died. Angry with grief, Mr. Prendregast demanded that servants refrain from talking about his wife or her sudden death.

Now Charis entered a dry goods shop and approached burlap sacks of flour. She selected a bag and exchanged glances with an apron-clad shopkeeper, who nodded and clomped across the floor toward her. Charis reflected that she could have done worse with her life, never mind that she was not genteel like Miss Ponsonby.

Charis sniffed at the thought of that girl, interrogating her about family secrets. Prying into such things was hardly a way to demonstrate gratitude to her entirely too hospitable host. Pampered and admired as that girl was, she was no real princess.

“Do you see that cab?” Charis nodded toward the large front shop window. The shopkeeper replied in the affirmative. “I need the flour in there. I’m not carrying it all the way back to Claverton Castle.”

“Yes, ma’am.” the shopkeeper handed back her change. Charis slipped it into her reticule and showed her back. Next, she must go to the street market for cheese and milk.