Journey Toward Self Publishing

One of my favorite books series is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It isn’t because of the hot Scot sex scenes. I love the story about time travel and as a closet Cosplay/Renaissance Faire nerd, I delight in the details about clothing, food, warfare and other period accurate information.

In my teens, I loved The Clan of the Cave Bear series. Sure, there was a substantial amount of “Pleasures” being taken in those novels. More compelling for me, however, are the stories about Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon social societies, crafts, hunting techniques, and medicine. In fact, both book series star a female medicine woman and later, physician.

You could say I came for the surgery and stayed for the sex.

Those passages often made me cringey, however, and I even skipped them some of the time. I think I wrote a whole blog post mocking Jean M. Auel’s mammoth sex scene, by which I mean NOT a very grand sex scene, but one involving actual mammoths. I doubt her intention was laughter through tears.

My own fiction story, which I see myself publishing as serialized episodes, is not “erotica,” so much as it is a story about characters who are sexually active. I’m inspired by numerous novels I’ve read over that past few years, including the Outlander series but also The Alchemist, The Sookie Stackhouse series, Mating in Captivity, Cutting Teeth, Adultery, Unbecoming, The Strain Trilogy, The King’s Curse, The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, The Old Man and the Sea, A Separate Peace, Oryx and Crake (The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam also), Sharp Objects, On Becoming Fearless, and Has Anyone Seen my Pants?

Conversations with my friend Ash (Argus, Slayer of Hypocrites) about 2001, The Matrix, as well as politics and philosophy have assisted in developing my ideas for fiction. The popularity of novels that feature women having sex has influenced what is marketable. While I want to write because it’s my art, I don’t see art as separate from making money. I don’t have a problem with an artist in any medium producing work for commercial purposes and letting the marketplace influence or even dictate the product. If sex sells, then I will write sex scenes because I want to make money.

Still, those scenes keep coming up in my story. My characters’ sexuality is part of them, like it is most of us. The relationships they have with each other are complex and problematic and also very sexy. At least, I hope so. I’m working on it. I’m reading books on story craft and how to self publish on Kindle. Honestly, I need to spend more time reading student work than I’m currently spending. I have a few college application personal statements to read and comment on this evening. I always tell students “yes” when they ask me to read them, and I always end up wishing I’d said “no.”


Now that I know for sure Glenn Rhee is alive, I have freed up brain space to think. Mostly about how those crazy kids working at SUR need to grow up and listen to the wisdom of Lisa Vanderpump.

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I Cringe Back

In an interview for I Smile Back, comedian (and now dramatic actress) Sarah Silverman explains that comedy comes from a place of pain. It’s not a ground-breaking examination of The Human Condition, but it landed with me emotionally this morning when I got out of bed at 3 a.m. unable to sleep.

It’s partly some haunting images from Mockingjay Part 2 that have me out of bed before the sun. Just a dash of recently all night soothing Pringles through an ear infection. Add a swirl of the obsessive mind, and voila, up before dawn.

I chuckled yesterday with the pediatrician about how time flies, but the dark part of my mind screams, “We’re barreling towards death!” Six and a half years ago, my dad made me cringe the way only a dad can by commenting on how “hot” my pediatrician was. Odie had to work when Viva was just a few days old, and so my own father escorted me to appointments to monitor Viva’s jaundice. Now, nearly seven years later, he’d probably see just another mom in the white coat and stethoscope, struggling through her own cold, grinding through her workday with the promise of Thanksgiving on the horizon.

My blonde daughter, her big brown eyes at half-mast from exhaustion, sat on the exam table dangling her long legs, looking simultaneously grown up and impossibly small and fragile. It’s so painful to love her so much. Silverman’s character in the film shares the sentiment. I haven’t seen it, but the trailer resonates deeply. You hear so much about the “joys” of motherhood. Almost daily, people admonish threaten remind you to “enjoy every second of it.” What you discover for yourself almost immediately after giving birth is that along with the joy is constant terror. Wrapped up in my love for my children, braided so thoroughly with the strands of joy and pride and love, are my own fears of failure, my own childhood hurts, the complexities of my relationship with their father and mine.

Out of the pain comes the comedy. I’m never more aware of my need for group laughter than when a joke doesn’t land. I became a teacher for myriad reasons, only one of which is my need to correct people. I require an audience. Attention. Some days, some periods, 30-40 people listening to me (my smallest class is 35, but let’s be real: they’re never all listening). I have one class that hangs on my every word, mostly because they’re serious students and have been trained to respect the instructor, but partly because I’ve established a classroom rapport where the first 5-10 minutes they have to listen.

It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m a middle child. I had many choices when it came time to clamor for attention. Misbehavior, excellence, illness, all were on the table. One sister took misbehavior out of contention, and the other took illness. Excellence was expected, not rewarded. I learned that a surefire way to get people to look at me and smile is to be funny.

But even the most successful comedians tell jokes that don’t work, see the humor in a situation and fail to communicate that perspective to others, or find an audience unreceptive to laughing at that time or about that subject. Silverman was asked about the relationship between depression and comedy and I believe the intersection is right here. How do we feel when our quips are followed by groans or silence? Do we move on and forget it? Do we wake up at 3 a.m. unable to shake it off? Shake it off? Yes, the song is in my head now too. You’re welcome.

It’s the difference between “the joke failed” and “I failed.” The latter is quickly followed by, “nobody loves me, I’m terrible, I’m so embarrassed, what am I doing here?” Whether it’s nature, nurture, or a winning combination of the two, my brain spirals into shame and self-blame and it can be really hard to climb back up that spiral staircase.

I have self-awareness and coping mechanisms, not to mention resources. The trailer for I Smile Back shows the character coping by snorting coke, getting drunk, and having extra-marital sex. Seeing these alternative ways of dealing with the anxiety and the self-loathing, I can’t help but compare my own life to the character and think, Damn.

She’s so lucky.


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Neurotically in the Direction of my Dreams

I’ve decided I’m going to write and self publish some books. Possibly some serialized fiction, definitely with some “erotica” in it. Before you barf, hear me out. I don’t know if it’s because I’m 43 or because I started working out 7 months ago, but I feel very connected to a sensual part of myself. Over the summer, several of my posts here wandered into sexytimes territory, but I never went all the way because it seemed an unfair thing to spring on my readers. You come here expecting some wry observations about teaching, parenting, marriage, and blogging only to be hit in the face with a load of middle-age lady porn. It just isn’t polite.

Work is overwhelming, as always. Odie and I have our ups and downs like all married couples. I love him so much and sometimes I find myself full of angst, worrying if he still loves me. My insecurities are all up in my face the past 10 months to a year. Aging is a big part of it. Meeting new people and thinking of them as my peers only to discover that they see me as part of an “older generation” is part of it. Who the fuck knows is part of it.

I have a friend who is insanely confident. Some might say unjustifiably so, but I didn’t say it. To a male friend, I said, “If you took X’s bewildering self-regard and combined it with my crippling insecurity, you might have a completely normal person.” He replied, “What the heck are you insecure about?” I think it was the sweetest thing he’s ever said to me. Or maybe anyone’s ever said to me. I may have cried a little bit. I’m soft like that.

I always want to be a better teacher, but I hate the part of teaching where you have to grade papers and maintain a gradebook and report grades. Unfortunately, that’s the only part of the teaching/learning scenario students and parents care about (with exceptions of course), thus I’m always struggling to please students and parents.

They never say, “What an amazing learning experience you gave me today, Mrs. Odie! I was completely aware of how I made meaning out of the text and what I did when I came across a stumbling block! I was then able to articulate those thoughts to my reading partner, and we had an engaging and enlightening discussion about our reading and the text!”

Oh, what a fantasy! Nope. It goes like this: “Did you grade our papers? What’s my grade? How can I get a better grade?” Grade, grade, grade. I’m so sick of this obsession with grade. I honestly think the “online gradebook” phenomenon has made it worse and there’s no end in sight.

After 8 years of marriage, I’ve almost convinced Odie that we’re never going to be the kind of people who keep a neat, orderly household. In consequence, I’m working on getting him to admit we need a housekeeper. His argument is “While we haven’t managed to save enough money to get through the summer, it seems ridiculous to pay someone else to do what we should be doing ourselves.”

Should, should, should. There he goes shoulding all over me again. Whether or not we “should” scrub out our bathtubs and vacuum the carpet, the fact is that we don’t do it. I guess his belief that we will somehow become “cleaning people” is the triumph of hope over experience.

As for the writing, I plan to sell it on the cheap. I’ll let you know when it’s available. It will be on Amazon on the Kindle platform. I will also be writing some “bloggish” stuff. I have some “Mrs. Odie origin stories” I’ve never written because even though it’s under a pseudonym, it’s the kind of thing I don’t want on the internet. I also can’t write about my teaching as much as I’d like, so I will do that too. I’m not going to stop blogging and I’m not going to spend all of my blog time pushing my for sale stuff. Promise.

But I will be honest with you. I want to make some money. I love to write. I am grateful for the success I’ve had and for the readers I’ve acquired. I love those emails I get from you guys telling me you miss me and you wish I’d write something. The ones with penis pictures I could live without.

Totally kidding. Thank God.

My Sister the Therapist and I were talking after our exercise class today, and we agreed that young people need their parents to be excited about their dreams. We need them to want that for us. I dreamed of writing books all of my life. My grandmother told me my stories were stupid. I loved her, and I know that she didn’t intentionally crush me, but she told me, “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Where the hell did you get that idea?” I was only 10. It probably was a stupid idea. But I think my writing career would be far more successful and satisfying if she’d just lied and said, “You’re a beautiful writer, Mo. I can’t wait to read more.”

Dad wasn’t mean. He was just discouraging under the guise of being realistic. “So, you want to be a writer? Guess what? So does everybody. You’d be competing with the whole world. Better to find a job that pays the bills. Something you can stand to do.” I did that. And it never made me happy.

Every day, I write. I write in my journal with my favorite pen. I scribble a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, grocery lists, exercise plans, lesson plans, and prayers. I always do it with a tiny bit of fear of rejection.

That’s bullshit. I do it with a crushing fear of rejection. But I’ll tell you something, and I think this happens to all mothers of daughters. I’m watching them grow up and become beautiful little girls. My oldest, Viva is long-limbed and skinny with thick, wild, lustrous hair. She is going to be striking. My youngest, Pringles, is blonde, big-eyed, and pretty. They will replace me. I will go places with them when they are young teenagers and then women in their twenties and no one will be able to see me anymore. In a very Oedipal way, they will murder me and take my place. My time is short, and I’ve pissed it away for years worrying and fretting over the insecurities that were accidentally put in place by adults who didn’t know any better. I can keep doing that. Maybe I will keep doing that. But now that I’ve made it conscious, if I don’t write my books and offer them for sale, it’s a choice I made to be fearful instead of brave. To be lazy instead of committed. To lie down and die without ever really living.

I have a friend who insists that his pseudonym be “Argus, Slayer of Hypocrites.” I’ll call him Ash. I had a fight with Ash about Thoreau. I read Walden and thought Henry-D was kind of a dick. The bastard can turn a phrase, though. Ash would pack up for Walden and go live Thoreau’s life tonight, and didn’t appreciate the New Yorker article denigrating his hero. My Sister the Therapist (MST = Mist = Misty), Misty said that the article made a lot of good points about HDT, but she found something to defend.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That one is definitely a keeper, she said.

And she’s absolutely right.

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