GHOSTS! Ghosts of Procrastination in the Auto-Post!

To borrow a phrase from Tim Federle, “Open Question”: If a scheduled post about overcoming procrastination procrastinates about posting itself, do you consider that a fail or an epic win?

Nova scheduled her post about moving anxiety for 6am today. Spoiler: That post is about taking the plunge and doing the thing you’ve been terrified to do in the hopes that action will be better than inaction. And then the post moved backwards in time, actively attempting not to publish itself. 

I have a strange addiction to calendars, so I checked in yesterday to see when it was scheduled to post. It said noon of today. Puzzling over the change, we set it back to 6am. 

This morning, no post. A quick check at 7am said it was scheduled to post in an hour. 

At 8am, no post. Another check-in said it was scheduled to post in two hours. 

Now, Nova has lots of sympathy for procrastination. She operates on something we’ve playfully dubbed “social time” — she adjusts her sense of time depending on what’s going on around her. I…don’t. 

I mean, sure, I’ll wait for a friend to be ready before driving away. I’ll also bite my nails and tap my toes and note the passage of each and every minute. I’m that friend. 

So you can probably guess the end to this story. I pushed post, practically without stopping to ask Nova. Take that, auto-scheduler!

Nova swears she wasn’t procrastinating her procrastination post. I’m inclined to believe her. So what do you think, readers? Tech spasm? Cosmic warning? Or have the ghosts of procrastination crept into the WordPress technology, picking up on subliminal messages and preventing even the description of the stressful move to be depicted?

Personally, I’m going with #3. Anyone know any good exorcists?

Advertisements

Moving Anxiety: The Trials of an Introvert

I’m a (wannabe) writer, and one thing that I’ve learned from being around other writers is that we’re a bunch of introverted nuts. I mean, my passion in life is to gossip about imaginary people, and, let’s face it, you have to be just a little bit crazy to find that pastime enjoyable.

But I digress. I’m a horrendous introvert, and I just moved cities. What prompted the move was a work situation that was leaky fishtank bad, a social situation that was closer to a lesson on flying solo, and a general feeling of learned helplessness from being in a place where it was difficult to get anywhere.

Of all of these, the most dangerous was the learned helplessness. With some work I could have found a new job, and with a bit of strategy I could have changed the friend situation; however, being in a situation that encouraged me over time that nothing can be done to improve my outlook … well, that’s not the point of the blog post, but it is the meat behind the move.

So I’m sitting in my new room for the first time completely surrounded by boxes, and my cat is wandering around checking out all potential nap spots and debating whether or not she’s forgiven me enough to cuddle yet. I’m listening to the air conditioner blast on full, and all I can think is…

What the fuck am I doing here???!!!

I feel this way after every big move, so the stomach churning of having made a terrible mistake and the overwhelming voice that said I should have stayed at home, hid under the covers, and talked with internet friends for the rest of my life hasn’t revealed itself to be wrong yet. Then the voice says that maybe it’s a dream and I’ll wake up with my cat on my chest and this boxing and driving was some kind of fever dream. Or that I should have stayed at the old job. I mean, I was miserable, sure. I had no meaningful work left, yes. It had driven me to getting therapy, absolutely, but it was stable and secure and my unhappiness was at least comfortable.

My unhappiness was comfortable.

What kind of life is that supposed to make?

Once that thought crossed my mind I got up and fished in my backpack for a pocket-sized book my best friend gave me after we created a business model for my author platform. The cover of the book reads, “And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom.” ~ Anaiss Nim

In my moment of anxiety I clung tight to this quote. I made this move to get more time to write. I made this move to be with an old friend so we could meet people together. To figure out how to find new friends after college, and hopefully get past both of our hang ups about relationships. It seems less daunting to try when you know you have a friend to go get ice cream with after a bad/awkward/strange/questionable date. As an introvert, finding a way to make my excursions in getting to know others easier makes all the difference in the world.

And, I stress again, more time for writing. I want to make my living writing novels, so I better, you know, write freaking novels!

My anxiety tells me I’m on the cusp of a massive change. All I can hope now is that the change is for the better. If it isn’t, then I call this move a…

…. PLOT TWIST!

Battle Scars

Vivere was wonderful and did her introduction first. Thank you Vivere! I might have suggested this blog, but actually putting down my dating issues onto the general internets is effing scary. Like sitting, baseball flying at your face when you have no bat and are surrounded by angry mother grizzly bears scary.

But hey, I figure if there is any appropriate place to share such hangups (besides with a therapist), then it’s on a blog about writing erotica under a shameless pseudonym.

Right? Right. Here goes, internets.

When I was in high school I played sports, and one of these sports gave me all kinds of bumps, scrapes, and bruises. Specifically the skin on my shins would get torn and bloody frequent enough that I acquired a good number of scars. In this world of photoshopped beauty, I found I loved my torn-up shins; they proved that I could take a hit, come back, and win state and national championships. See these scars? They belong to a girl who didn’t back down from a challenge. These scars belong to a boss-ass bitch who shed literal blood, sweat, and tears to sing “We Are the Champions” with a gold medal around her neck.

They’re my battle scars.

I’d like to say that my attitudes towards my shin scars trickle over to the rest of my life, but in recent years I’ve realized that I’m less of a boss-ass bitch and more of the girl who throws in the towel. Truth be told I’m not sure if that means I’m wiser, tired, or just simply more cowardly, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. You might not be able to physically see those scars when I wear short-shorts, but they’re there.

I don’t have an issue with physical intimacy, but I DO have a very serious issue with emotional intimacy. Funnily enough, this means that I don’t date very often, because with dating comes feelings. Ain’t nobody got time for FEELINGS!

Unlike Vivere, I don’t have the excuse of having incredible mental control over my body and denying my attractions for any reason. I knew I was attracted to men since I was five and rooting for Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, followed by Captain Chang from Mulan, followed by Worf on Star Trek the Next Generation. I love men, manly men. To me there is nothing more erotic than kissing a man with his fingers through my hair or laying on his chest after headboard-rattling sex.

My first boyfriend taught me all of this. He also taught me what it felt like when the man I loved cheated (with at least five different women) while calling me every night to tell me he loved me.

And I’m a rape survivor.

My brain eviscerates me daily by telling me I’m a “fucking idiot, always have been, always will be” and that I have a difficult personality that makes me difficult to be matched with.

My brain’s a jerk, and unfortunately (see above issues with men) there is enough life evidence to give that voice weight.

Long story short, the issue I deal with most in dating is merely accepting the fact that a man could both want to sleep with me AND love me. I can believe that a man wants to sleep with me. I believe that a man can love me.

Can a man do both at the same time? FUCK NO! DANGER! RED ALERT! RUN AWAY!

The cake is a lie!

My previous relations with men have left me bloody and scarred, like my shins. In college I had sex with a guy friend with no intentions of pursuing a relationship. When we had finished he asked me to stay the night, because he enjoyed sleeping with the girl he was sleeping with. (Man that’s confusing.) We’d fallen asleep together before and we’d had sex before, but we’d never done both on the same night.

I agreed, hesitantly, and cuddled with him for perhaps five minutes, trying desperately to keep my breathing under control. My heart was pounding in my ears, and I felt like I wanted to claw my way out of my skin and bolt.

Several years prior I had woken up to the man who raped me touching my hip, looking down at the floor to find my clothes, finding my spare condom gone, and having only a few seconds worth of memory of what happened. The man touching me was someone I had once called friend.

What I hate the most about him was that, years later, he made me so afraid of falling asleep next to someone I really did trust that I couldn’t even rest five minutes with him before saying, “I’m so sorry. I can’t stay.”

It’s a little hard to date when your knee jerk reaction is that male friends will abuse you and lovers will lie about loving you. If that’s the case, what’s the point of even trying?

Not trying to date is a really great way of not getting hurt again.

It’s not so great if you actually WANT a relationship.

I checked myself into a psychology office this past year and asked for both therapy and an antidepressant. I was really lucky to find a wonderful psych (I don’t like either shrink or therapist) that pinpointed my issues of self-talk (remember how my brain is a jerk?), and introduced me to both cognitive and meditative-based therapies. The difference this combination of things makes in my life is phenomenal. Full stop.

After the meds and many long conversations with Vivere, I was listening to some of the women at my work talking about Tinder. Everyone LOVED hearing weird Tinder stories, and two of them talked about why they were even on the app to begin with. Both were divorced, one with kids, and despite horrible stories husbands leaving after five years they were still getting back out into the dating world.

And enjoying it – the weirdos!

I sat back in my chair and was struck by a thought. Other women have had horrible pasts with men, and other women have had much worse to deal with than I have. If these women can still find it in themselves to go out and date despite all their heartaches, maybe it’s time I need to take a lesson from my championship battle scars and reacquaint myself with my inner boss-ass bitch.

Armed with meds, treatment, and a friend to get ice cream with when things go haywire (thanks Vivere!), I want to try dating again.

I see this blog as those office tinder stories, of having a place to sit down and share triumphs and broken hearts alike. My hope is that sharing this emotionally raw journey might help someone else out there feel less alone when dealing with what Vivere and I are tackling. Vivere is the dog-loving lesbian who’s figuring out what attraction really means, and I, Nova, am the cat-loving straight girl who’s convincing herself she can be loved because of her scars, not despite them.

Scars are beautiful. They prove you’re the kind of person that survives.

Welcome to the Dating Diaries.

Of 12-Year-Olds and Burping Contests: When Successful Self-Talk is a Bad Thing

When I was just starting junior high school, the boys, and even a few of the girls, in my class were utterly obsessed with burping contests.

Does anybody know why burping contests are a piece of growing up? Is there anyone out there who hasn’t come across the burping-contest pre-teens sometime during their development? If that’s you, I’d like to shake your hand. You fulfill a long-cherished dream of mine, though I’m not convinced you exist.

My classmates would sit at the round tables in our school cafeteria, never far enough away from mine, and go around the table, competing to see who could burp the longest or the loudest. As a shy, introverted perfectionist, I was utterly revolted.

Convinced I would never be like them, I decided, at the strong and mature age of 12, that I would never burp again. And here’s the thing: I succeeded.

I’m 23 now. I’ve come close to allowing myself to burp, especially when I can tell that I need to and I try to talk myself through the process, but I have not actually burped since that moment in the cafeteria, sitting disgusted and furious, trying to concentrate on the book I’d brought with me to lunch but unable to tear my ears away from the bubbling soft sounds of the monster-burps behind me and smelling the rotten air of someone else’s half-digested food drift above my cafeteria macaroni. I quite seriously un-taught myself how to burp. And as it turns out, burping serves an important biological purpose.

For the next couple of summers, I would find myself with “bubbles” of trapped air or gas in my upper abdomen if I drank liquids too quickly on a hot day, especially if I drank a lot of something sugary or carbonated and then walked or ran around a lot outside. Given that I spent my summers as a waitress in an outdoor restaurant, I spent a lot of time walking or running around outside on hot days. I learned, after some scary days of dry-retching into the sink after my shift, that I needed to drink liquids in small, controlled sips with lots of time between them or not at all. I’m pretty sure I wrecked my hydration habits those summers. And all because I had un-taught my body how to release trapped air from my abdomen, because I had un-learned how to burp.

From this story, you can probably see that my mental control over my body is pretty strong. The scary part is, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I sat back, a few years later, and reflected on the patterns to try to figure out their source. I used self-talk and determination to convince my mind that a certain biological action was unnecessary for me, and then, as a physical person interacting in this world, I reaped the consequences.

Unfortunately, burping was not the only thing I convinced myself I was above and beyond during my angry, introverted middle school years. I also watched the burgeoning romances in my teensy-tiny middle school, wrinkled my nose at them, and told myself I would never be involved in something so distracting, icky, and trivial.
In retrospect, I kind of want to smack my middle school self, right after I salute her in respect for her mental strength. She laid the groundwork for a highly successful academic career, because I was never distracted by romance or relationships. She also led to some pretty deep repression and emotional inhibition.

A few weeks ago, I asked Nova, “What does it feel like to be attracted to someone?” I honestly had to ask that question. I’d been on four formal dates, with three different men. I’d been kissed once on the mouth, and three times on the hand, in an adorable habit by the one gentleman that I actually went out twice with. Each date had felt stilted, uncomfortable, and, in the unintentionally harsh words I used to explain why I didn’t want to go on a second date with the poor male friend who was my first date: “I feel like I’m starring in a bad fanfiction.” I knew what fanfiction romance looked like. I knew when I should take someone else’s hand or shift the tone conversationally. But I didn’t feel like I was actually experiencing romance, and up through my teens and into my early twenties, I honestly didn’t know what attraction felt like, in a physical sense. I had told myself that I wasn’t interested in feeling it — and my body complied.

When I asked her about attraction, blushing and glad to be driving for the excuse not to make eye contact, Nova told me a story from her high school sex ed class (which was apparently way more liberal and progressive than mine — not what I’d have expected from a Catholic high school in the American Midwest!). One of her professors, a priest, for goodness’ sake, had told the class, “Every generation, our youth stumbles through the process of sexual awakening on their own. And every year, we fail to figure out the proper words to tell the next generation about it.” And then they went on to take personality tests and attraction assessments and all sorts of cool things. My school was learning how to jerry-rig the Baby-Think-It-Overs so the dolls stopped crying and demanding to be ‘fed’ (read: have a key turned in their backs, because that’s totally how babies eat). I think she got the more useful side of the equation.

Nova was wonderful and brought the feelings of attraction down to purely physical phenomena, the ‘symptoms’ of a crush: A twisting, warm feeling in the lower stomach. A jittery feeling in the hands. The literal sensation of — sorry, this is an erotica blog — the clitoris pulsing when engaged in particular thoughts. And I realized, to my surprise, that I had experienced some of those feelings, albeit in a sort of muted way. I had just, in my typical self-effacing way, ignored them.

Later that day, I took half a nap. I laid back in the sun, closed my eyes, and imagined. I forced myself to think of hazy people — men, women, mostly just ghost images, but partially formed of the images of people I knew. I focused on their bodies, and I tried to imagine which ones might prompt the feelings Nova had described.
The answer was unilateral, immediate, and practically tangible. I was attracted, with the ‘symptoms’ of attraction Nova had described, to women — and not at all to men. That explained, partially, why my dates with men had felt so strange. But the fact that I hadn’t acknowledged my feelings of attraction to women… That was more the fault of my own repression and my not knowing what I was looking for, pushing any hints of those feelings aside because they didn’t mesh with my understanding of ‘normal.’ I’d never allowed myself to learn what attraction felt like, and as a result, I hadn’t felt it.

But during that nap, and then later, as I opened my eyes and forced myself to think and feel and remember, I started realizing what I’d been avoiding. And Nova was right, with all the ‘symptoms.’ I experienced all of them, to varying degrees. And in a conversation with a friend, as I came out to him — both as a lesbian and as finally figuring out what in the heck I am — I unintentionally articulated the words that felt right to me to define a moment of actual attraction in my mind:

“Wow, she’s beautiful. I’d like to hold her.”

Up until age 23, I had never really felt that feeling. I’m sure part of that was just late development — another pattern for me — but part of it, given how quickly and deeply those feelings surfaced once I listened for them, was almost certainly my self-talk. I had self-talked myself into believing I wasn’t attracted to anyone; and so I hadn’t been.

I’m not sorry for the time I spent not dating. I have lived, and continue to live, a full and fulfilling life, and I enjoy lots of parts of it. Between work, and school, and goals, and projects, I spend lots of time dashing from piece to piece, and I enjoy pretty much all of it. (If I don’t enjoy it, like grad school — ugh — I make a pretty concerted effort to either finish it or get rid of it as soon as possible.) And in some ways, I’m grateful for the time I spent figuring out myself, because if nothing else, I know who I am. I’m independent. I can stand contentedly on my own (with my dog) and run my own life, and I don’t need to depend on anyone else for my happiness, my sense of self-sufficiency, or my ability to live and to grow.

However, I’m also grateful to Nova, and to life and to time, for helping me figure out my sexuality and acknowledge what I’m looking for in life. I think I needed the time I took to get to where I am, but now I’m here, and I’m excited to explore this side of myself. I finally understand why, although I’ve wanted most of my life and have been fascinated by the process of pregnancy since my mother allowed me to buy a How Your Baby is Born book when I was 5, I’ve never really cared where the guy was in the pregnancy equation. I know a bit more about me.

To be clear, I haven’t put that knowledge into action yet. I haven’t kissed a girl. I haven’t held a woman’s hand. I haven’t put my arm around a woman’s waist, even though the body part I’m most attracted to, in the hazy images I play with in my mind, is a curvy hip.

But I know that I want to. For me, that’s a milestone all its own. And I’ve found LGBT gatherings and groups and places to be, and in my conservative little town, I’m wearing a rainbow bracelet. So who knows? Maybe it won’t be too long.

What I am certain of is, the roller coaster has taken a turn. I’ve learned something new about myself. And I am not going to ignore it any more.

Bring it on, world. Bring it on.

Kink in Progress: I HAVE A SPOOC!

That title probably needs an explanation.

Scratch that. That title definitely needs an explanation.

I’ve been writing/editing my first novel, Oblivion Veil, and am bound and determined to actually finish it. Earlier I posted that I had finished draft one. (YAY!) Now in the revision process I’ve been using Deborah Chester’s The Fantasy Fiction Formula as a baseline for the editing process.

As a side note, this is not a promotion for the book, I just found it when I was scrolling through Jim Butcher’s Twitter feed. Butcher (author of The Dresden Files, The Codex Alera, and The Cinder Spires) is my idol, and he Tweeted how Chester is the woman who taught him everything he knows and that she wrote a book about writing novels.

Uh. Hi Amazon. Shut up and take my money!

I won’t do a full review of the book, but I’ll talk about the first chapter, which is all about testing the thesis of your novel before you ever start writing. As the proud owner of a bachelors in English, this obviously makes sense. A thesis for any academic writing is the central mast of any paper, so it stands to reason that novels might have a similar framework. Everything in a paper must support the thesis in some way, otherwise it has no purpose. Likewise everything in a novel must support the plot in some way, otherwise it ends up on the cutting room floor.

Ssshhhiii-! I wrote my novel without testing the thesis. No wonder the first draft fell apart!

Chester calls this test a SPOOC (acronym for Structure, Protagonist, Objective, Opponent, and Climax) and when done right it’s the foundations on which you build a great plot. I first read this and thought, “Cool, let me just sit down and write a SPOOC for Oblivion Veil… why isn’t this working?!”

As it turns out, my plot didn’t hold up to the SPOOC test in draft one, and it took me longer than I care to admit to fix that. You see, I was having troubles connecting the Objective and the Climax together in a compelling way. Today, though, was the day I conquered the beast – IE, sat in a Starbucks drinking passion tea (what else for an erotica author?) and staring at my notebook and technicolored pens determined once and for all to either create a viable SPOOC or abandon the project.

Spoiler alert, I connected them and made the SPOOC. VICTORY!

You know what I did wrong?

I didn’t make the love interest in an erotica novel important enough. (Pardon me while I smack myself upside the head.)

Take note of your genre, gentle readers!

Let the Dating Diaries begin!

Two girls, one house, and too many relationship issues to count: Welcome to the Dating Diaries! It’s like a reality TV show, except better, because the television is all words and you have to accept everything we say as the gospel truth. See? So much more pliable than actual, filmed real life.

Seriously, though. The goal here is to be as truthful and accurate as possible, while still humorous — because who doesn’t like watching people fall on their faces? — as Nova and I challenge ourselves to actually tackle the miasma that is known as Dating in the Modern Age. Don’t worry; we’re horrible at it. If there’s a mistake to be made, we’ll make it. Which means reading this blog could be educational! Or just entertaining, which is what we’re actually going for. If we inspire you to be entertained by your own dating drama, then — wow. That would be something. But if we only make you laugh — at us or with us, both are fine — then we’ll have achieved our goals.

To start, a brief introduction. I’ll let Nova introduce herself in this context, though you already know her as the fantasy romance writer who started this blog. We’re both writers, and we both have lots of experience with the short story, although Nova is doing the awesome writer thing and expanding her talents to the novel while working to make her words support her, while I’m keeping writing in the hobby realm and teaching high schoolers to put food on the table. (My high schoolers are awesome. I love it.) We met in college, courtesy of a mutual friend, and are currently sharing a dwelling while we experiment with how much Adulting is required to succeed in life. (The answer: Too much. Way, way too much.)

And me? I’m an honest-to-goodness 23-year-old who has never had a serious relationship, can count the number of dates she’s had on one hand, and has recently come out to herself as not only a lesbian — although there’s that — but also as someone who is, gasp, possibly interested in actually having a relationship. As a perfectionist who likes pretending that she has everything put together, the idea of being vulnerable around someone else and taking a chance on something that might not succeed makes me feel like my stomach has been replaced by a bag of claustrophobic kittens. But all of my experiences, educational and otherwise, tell me that you don’t get anywhere without taking a chance, so with Nova’s prompting, I’m working on taking that chance this year, online dating profile and enhanced self-knowledge in hand. I look forward to telling y’all all about it.

Oh, and you should know: I’m a pseudonym. I teach 9th and 10th graders. They do not need to know all about my relationship struggles when they google my name. But rest assured that all the rest of the details are as truthful as my dedication to fancy words and poetic expression will allow. After all, you’re the anonymous internet, and I’m just a pen name. I can actually be truthful here in a way that is sometimes stymied by the social pressures of real life. So look out, all. Painful truths and unreserved reflections ahead.

In this series, you can expect to see melodrama. Expect questions. Expect worries, and experiments, and triumphs, and failure. (Who am I kidding? Expect massive, monumental failure.) Expect humor, tragedy, and tragicomedy together as we work to figure out Dating, Adulting, and Life. Enjoy, as you come along for the ride!

Let the Dating Diaries begin.

(Is that too Hunger Games to be our tagline? Oh, dear. Wish us luck! I think we’re going to need it.)

Kink in Progress: Oblivion Veil Draft 1

Hey, I did a thing! Draft one for Oblivion Veil is DONE! Like, 100% complete. Done.

And it’s shite.

Okay, not complete shite. Just mostly shite. I knew from the start that my very first completed manuscript wasn’t even going to be fab like emoji poop, so I’m not upsets in the least. I meant Oblivion Veil to be my learning manuscript where I sat down and wrote until the book was done, and then once I finished draft one I had material to edit and reorganize and redo until it was something that wouldn’t make my reader’s quite in five pages. It was as much to write a story as to discover my novel writing process. Oh there was discovery all right.

I discovered I’m NOT a pantser.

For the most part I’ve written predominantly in short stories, and in those I wrote by the seat of my pants, hyped up on coffee, and well into the night. You know, less then 24 hours before the draft was due in my college course.

With short stories it’s easy to pants.

I treated this manuscript like I treated NaNoWriMo in that I sat down and wrote several thousand words no matter if my creative mood was on-point or being dragged along like a cat on a leash that said, “Walk? NOPE!” Pantsing a novel like this was really wonderful for world-building. As someone who likes smashing both the fantasy and erotica genres together, building a magical world for the romantic characters to play in is an integral part of the story. The spontaneity of pantsing offered me the chance to explore the map of my world and discover details that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Hummingbird constructs, creatures breaking through the veil, descriptions of the Veil Core, and a wonderful bedding ceremony for our romantic leads followed by an epic battle to save their city all came out of the first draft.

The first draft was not good for character development. Or story structure.

For draft two I’m sitting down and writing character dossiers and a plot outline. Once that’s done I’m going to be trying this whole thing again. In the meantime the temptation is to print out draft one just so I can throw it over my shoulder and start again is very great. Imagine all of those pages of work blowing around this room. It’s summer so the fan is on full blast. Only that would waste too many trees.

Let’s hope draft 2 is slightly better shite!