Thursday, June 30, 2016

I'm Back!

No, I didn't actually go anywhere, but I had to take a two week break from writing due to moving (not even to a different state--thank goodness). Packing boxes and then unpacking them is a lot of work, especially when you have chronic pain. It's also a terrible realization to find that you can't do nearly half the things you used to be able to do. I had to take a lot more breaks then I'd planned, and I was a lot more exhausted then I have been after previous moves. 

And then there's the part where I had to take a writing break. I hate not writing. I don't even like to take writing breaks when I'm doing something fun, let alone something that isn't fun. I was starting to go insane. Seriously. Writers are insane when we're writing. When we're not writing--well, let's just say that it isn't good. I was missing my stories so much that I couldn't stop thinking about them. Okay, I'm pretty much like that anyway, but if felt way more obsessive. I was starting to lose sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about them. More sleep than usual. 

My new apartment finally looks like an apartment, my cat is starting to calm down and get over the fact that he spent an entire day in a carrier (actually, it was only about 4 hours), the dining room table is no longer on the balcony, and I'm ready to start writing again. City of Secrets will be released on JukePop serials sometime in mid-July. I will have an exact date very soon. I just need to figure out all the little things I still need to get together and get some more chapters ready before I start putting them up. I did make a Facebook author page, which happened about a month ago, I just didn't make an official blog announcement about it yet. If you could hop on over there and like it, that would be really awesome. There's not a whole lot on it yet, but it will get more interesting once City of Secrets is out, because I'll have lots of fun extras to share. 

So, now that I live in a different city I have a big project ahead of me. A year and a half ago, I lost my job due to no longer being able to perform it due to an injury. I needed to get out of the house, so when I was feeling up to it, I started vetting all the Boulder coffee shops. There are about 30 of them, not including Starbucks (I only go to Starbucks under extreme circumstances, like "Hey, Becky, I'll give you a million bucks if you go to Starbucks!"). No, 30 is not an exaggeration. I actually may have low-balled it. Not only does Boulder have this many coffee shops, but they are all always busy, all the time. So, I checked out nearly all these places, determining which ones had the best WiFi, prices, coffee quality, seating, interesting customers (yes, really--for inspirational purposes, not to actually talk to them), nicest baristas, best bathrooms, cool signs about vampires (yes, really), and anything else positive or negative. So, I've got my work cut out for me. 

Right now I'm at a locally owned place (+ points) that has neat lighting in round glass globes (+). The coffee is excellent (+), but expensive (-). The seats aren't great (-), but the wifi is free and you don't have to ask for a password (+), it's a nuisance to have to ask for the password. Plus, the color scheme is cool (+). Hmm, the coffee might be worth the price. Oh, and they have neat-shaped mugs (+). 

So, I'm back! More news about City of Secrets coming soon!

Don't forget to like my Facebook page! Pretty please! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

All The Other Things . . .

. . .  And there are a lot of them. Sometimes I stop and think, "Wow, I'm really doing a lot."

The majority of my recent posts have been related to my novel, City of Secrets, which will be released on JukePop Serials in early July, in case I haven't mentioned that. It's a bit of a big deal, so of course that's what I've been talking about, but there's been a lot of other non-writing stuff going on, most of it stressful, that I figured I'd get off my chest.

First, I'll be moving in two weeks. This is really nothing new for me. I've moved a lot over my adult life, but mostly in the same general area, so that's nice. I've only been living in my current apartment for a year and a half.

My rent is being increased by $300 a month. Yeah. That's the price, literally, of living in Boulder, or Colorado, really. It just keeps getting more and more expensive. It's insane. Studio apartments go for about $1100. It upsets me, because not only am I a Colorado native, but I'm a Boulder native. I'm here because this is my home. I'm not here because an article told me to come here, or I want to buy into some fad, or pretend that I'm outdoorsy by driving into the mountains five times a year.

All right, I'm risking going off on a rant, so I'll stop now. The point is, I have a move coming up. Good news: I'm moving closer to my family and a number of my friends. Bad news: I will soon be doing lots of packing, though not any of the actual moving. We're hiring people for that. My cat is already just as stressed about it as I am. He can sense it. But at least the moving part is temporary and once it's over it will be over. Until the next move.

And of course (I hate that I have to even write "of course") there's my ongoing worker's comp injury that started in July of 2014. I've mentioned this before, though not often or recently because I don't really like to talk about it. I fell and hurt my ankle at work and got a diagnosis of a minor ankle sprain. When it didn't get better after two weeks I was sent to an orthopedist and diagnosed with a high ankle sprain (which is more severe) and given physical therapy. When this didn't work I had surgery in October of 2014 to repair a torn ligament and a torn tendon.

After one month in a cast I went back to physical therapy and was put in a walking boot. After about three months I was regaining strength and starting to do better when the pain and swelling returned. I was sent to a podiatrist and had another MRI. It was discovered that one of the tendons had had a bad reaction to the internal suture from the surgery and that another tendon was torn. So I had surgery again in June of 2015.

Again I was in a cast for a month. Again I went back to physical therapy. After several months, I regained much of my strength and range of motion, but my pain was much more several than it should've been, and it was constant. So I was sent to a pain specialist. I was starting to develop nerve pain, which is rare but can happen after surgery. I may have a condition call Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) which is nerve pain in a limb. This nerve pain can spread to the entire limb and even to the other limb, which is called mirror pain. This is what has happened to me, and it really is awful. I'm in pain all the time, and it's horrible, hot, burning, smashing pain that's down in my foot and up my leg and into my good leg. It's sensitive to touch, which means it's often difficult to find a comfortable position to lie in. It also hurts to wear socks, leggings, and tight jeans. Thank goodness it's summer.

Nerve pain needs a good balance of rest and walking. I started doing more around the house and getting out of the house, which really felt good--physically and mentally. I gradually started walking more, by slowly increasing my amount each day and doing more chores. Unfortunately, I slowly realized that I was feeling more pain in my left ankle: the site of my original injury. It's possible that because I started walking more, I may have torn another tendon or ligament--it's very common to re-injure soft tissue. Right now, I'm just trying to scale back the walking--which makes the nerve pain worse. So, it's quite a conundrum. The solution to one issue is the opposite solution to the other.

So, throughout all of this ongoing pain I'm trying to prepare for the move, continue to get CoS ready for release, work on my blog, deal with my doctors, and probably do some other things that I can't quite think of right now. Oh yeah, by the end of June I have to write an essay so I can apply to go to a writer's conference in September. There's a lot to do. Hopefully I won't implode.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Research for one novel turned into research for another

     Today was a strange day. It didn't quite go as planned, but ended up being productive all the same. In a previous post--Seeing Things as a Writer--I talked about my trip up to Nederland, (a long, tedious, 30 minute drive), a small mountain town in Colorado. I'd been up there several times but wanted to take a look at it as a writer so I could get a better feel for small mountain towns and what Caribou Canyon--the setting in City of Secrets--is like. Not that I didn't already have an idea of what Caribou Canyon is like, I just wanted to further solidify the setting for the next draft. I definitely plan to paint a picture for readers, but I want to find that fine line between describing the setting and not describing it. I want readers to get their own sense of the town based on their experiences. From the comments I got on that post, that's what was already happening.

For the sake of ambience, I want to do some of the writing in the mountains, and visit a few more towns that are around the same size (population wise) of Caribou Canyon. Today I decided it was time to visit Idaho Springs, another small town that's a bit further up, but still a reasonable driving distance. I've actually only been there once before, because really, there isn't a whole lot to do there, other than the fact that it's the site of the original Beau Jo's pizza. Now, that's pretty cool, but it's not really worth a drive up to the mountains for, considering that there's a Beau Jo's here in Boulder.

Beau Jo's is authentic mountain style pizza, meaning it has a huge thick crust (I think someone just decided that's what constitutes mountain pizza) and lots of grease (of course). So, if you're a die hard lover of New York style pizza you will not be happy, but I think it's pretty good. I don't discriminate against my pizza. Actually, the point of Idaho Springs is to have a place to stop to go to the bathroom and maybe have lunch (at Beau Jo's) on your way up to Caribou Canyon, I mean Aspen.

I just realized that last paragraph sounded a lot like a brochure. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean for it to.

So, back to my trip. The first thing I did was stop at the visitor's center and get a map. It's now tucked away next to my map of Nederland. I also bought a little book about Colorado wildflowers, which is going to be extremely helpful for my next draft. "Can't you just look those up on the Internet," you ask? I could, but that didn't go so well when I tried it for the first draft. Those who read it might remember, and might be laughing right now. By the end of that draft I was just typing "that stupid trail of flowers." I now possess the tools to solve the problem. I also grabbed a brochure about living with bears, because for some reason I just grabbed it. I hope there isn't a bear in my future.

Unfortunately, since my legs and foot hurt, I couldn't walk around too much, so I had to drive. Idaho Springs did not give me the Caribou Canyon vibe that Nederland did. I'm not sure why, it just didn't. I won't be going back up there, at least not for CoS related things.

My next plan was to stop at a coffee shop and write, but all of the coffee shops were on main street, I mean Miner Street. Miner Street was packed with people and there was absolutely nowhere to park, close or far.

I was not thwarted. I came up with a new plan. Guess what cities are not too far from Idaho Springs? Central City and Black Hawk. Guess who needed to do some research for an entirely different novel in one or both of those cities? That's right. Me.

I pushed City of Secrets to the back of my mind and called New Year's Revolution to the forefront again. First thing I needed to know was just how close to Idaho Springs Central City is. Yes, a map could answer this for me, but I needed to know if a nightly walk or bike ride would be conceivable. The answer: it's possible, but why put my MC through the torture, considering what I'm already putting her through? So the cabin outside Idaho Springs will have to be relocated.

More importantly, I needed to check out the hotel/casinos in Central City and Black Hawk to find one that would be suitable for my characters to claim. Sure, I could make one up, but I want to use a real one. I already had one in mind, the Ameristar, but the only reason I had it in mind was because it's the only one I've stayed at several times. I didn't want to pick it just because I've been there. I knew a research trip was necessary, and soon, because I'm almost to that part of the book. So, it's weird that today worked out the way it did.

Central City and Black Hawk are technically two separate cities, but they practically aren't. They're very small and one basically just runs right into the other. Surrounding them is nothing but mountains and trees and creek, and then, boom: casino town, and boom: another casino town. Whichever one you hit first depends on which direction you're coming from. I wanted to pick a hotel and casino that would be big enough to hold a lot of people (it's post apocalypse) and one with enough floors so they could get a view of the streets at night for  surveillance (so they can stay inside, safe from the vampires).

I hit Central City first, and there was nothing even close to big enough for my needs, so I headed toward Black Hawk. As I was driving, I saw one building towering over all the others, and I thought, "That's it! That's the one I want!" I get into Black Hawk, and guess which casino the building is? It's the Ameristar, the one I had in mind all along! I hadn't recognized it at first because I'm usually coming from the opposite direction. So, I didn't even need to go inside and check it out, since I already knew what it looked like.

So, I didn't get done the writing I'd wanted to get done today, but I managed to do research for two different books, and I now know which casino I'll be using. I feel accomplished and excited about both City of Secrets and New Year's Revolution.

Remember, City of Secrets is coming out on Jukepop serials in early July! (I will probably remind you once or twice more before then.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Expressing my outrage over Brock Turner's joke of a sentence

     Over the past few weeks, I've been working very hard to get City of Secrets ready for release. I've been more excited than I can probably convey, and because of that, I've had a bit of a one-track mind about it. I've been buzzing like a bee working on the outline, blurb, chapters, and blog posts, and it all feels like such a big deal to me that I fell into the mindset that this story is the entire world, that what's important to me is the entire world. I'm sure this is something that we all do from time to time. We're all focused on the things that are important to us, and sometimes it's easy to forget about everything else.

     There's a lot going on in the world right now--there always is, really, but over the past couple days some things have gotten my attention that I can't get off my mind. The one I'd like to talk about right now is the case of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer convicted of several sexual assault felonies. The case has been all over the news and social media over the past several days, so it's likely that you've heard about it. If you haven't, here is an article about it: because I don't have it in me to write out the details, I just want to talk about it, or more accurately, rant about it.

     Sure, lots of people have been talking and ranting and raving about it. So, why should I? Well, because I don't think enough can be said about this, or the injustice here. We can't be silent. We need to speak up, and keep speaking up, and speaking up some more, and then some more until things like this stop happening, until rapists are properly punished, until victims are unafraid to come forward, until rape stops happening, until victims are no longer blamed because of alcohol, clothing, flirting, or whatever stupid reason someone wants to come up with to blame the victim, until white people (or anyone) who had promising futures are not given lenient sentences, until athletes (or anyone) are not given lenient sentences, until rape and sexual assault on college campuses stops, and the list goes on. And on. So, anyone who is outraged and who has a voice or a computer or a phone or a tablet to type with should say something or share something that someone else has said or let it be known in some way that this isn't right, that this is wrong and that this is not going to be stood for anymore.

     This is not going to be one of my usual eloquent posts and it is probably not going to be as shiny and polished as usual. I'm angry. I've been angry. I'm tired of being angry. Every time I see Turner's picture across social media it makes my insides twists. There's been some controversy over his mugshot. Apparently it was kept hidden for awhile, and the assumption going around was that it was to protect his pretty little white boy athlete image, and that sending that "sweet" smiling photo of him was to keep protecting that image. Well, for a lot of people that probably worked and it's just yet another load of bullshit in this whole stupid case. But for me, it didn't work. That smiling picture makes me even more sick than the one where he isn't smiling. I guess it's because I know he isn't that nice, innocent person.

     The prosecutor in the case asked for a six year sentence. The judge gave Turner six months, stating something along the lines of: Turner had a promising future and it would be a shame to further ruin that (that was not a direct quote. I took that from my memory of the articles that I'd read). Now, the judge was within his rights to assign a lesser sentence. It's his job. But to go from the six years asked to six months? That is ridiculously extreme. Yes, he was taking into account that Turner had no priors, but it was still an insane extreme and it sends a detrimental message and only serves to further promote rape culture. Thanks, Persky Great job.

     It isn't just Turner who is getting off with a slap on the wrist. Rape is a huge problem, bigger than statistics show, because many victims never report that they were raped. Rape on college campuses and at college parties is a huge problem, one that people are trying to put an end to. Men are marching around college campuses chanting "No means yes, yes means anal" and here comes this judge with an opportunity to show these men (and women) that sexual assault will not be tolerated. What does he do? He gives the guy the most lenient sentence he could've possibly given. What message does that send? That sexual assault isn't really that big a deal, and sure, you'll get in trouble, but not that much trouble.

     How else is this sentence detrimental? It tells victims that they aren't going to be taken seriously. That the pain and suffering of a trial might not get them anywhere. They've suffered enough with their assault, going through the pain of a trial would be bad enough even with the guarantee that their rapist would go punished, but not having that guarantee? Many of them might decide it isn't worth it, especially considering that just reporting the rape and going through the exam is so traumatizing it's like being raped all over again. Read it. It's in the article I linked above and it sounds horrifying.

     The letter the victim wrote to the judge is powerful and emotional. If Judge Persky had even a modicum of understanding of what she went through that night, of what she continued to go through, of what she is going through right now, and what is will continue to go through for years, he would not have handed out the sentence that he did. He just wouldn't have. She will never get over it. She will never be the same.

      The lack of punishment is absolutely disgusting and I'm outraged.

     I know that the victim is hurting, and that she's suffered, and that she continues to suffer in ways I know and in ways I don't know, in ways I can imagine and in ways I can't begin to imagine. But I want her to know that she's not alone. Many people are supporting her. I know it doesn't change anything, but I hope it's at least something. She's not at fault, she didn't do anything wrong, and even though it might not feel like it right now, it will get better.

     I want to end this on a positive note by praising Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two men who caught Turner in the act, chased him, and held him down until police arrived.

Apparently, at first it looked like two drunk people messing around. They didn't realize at first the victim was unconscious. They didn't have to check on her, but they did. They didn't have to go after Turner--he could've been dangerous--but they did. Sometimes the world just feels like a shitty place that I don't want to live in, especially with people like Brock Turner in it, and people like Judge Persky who let people like Turner get away with things. But then people like Arndt and Jonsson come along, and I'm reminded that there are good people in the world, and that's what helps me survive.