Seven days ago, Missouri Republican Todd Akin made a comment about rape. He said that woman who are raped can't get pregnant because their bodies shut down.
He was using this pseudo science to argue against abortion but instead ended up creating a firestorm of bad press. Shuana Pruitt responded with a very strongly worded open letter. Obama and Mitt Romney both asked Akin to withdraw from the election. And some very angry grannies made a song.
An acquaintance told me a story about the time she was raped only she didn't call it rape. It was just a bad experience with sex. The story she told, the details she gave cut me to the bone. It wasn't a story like you'd see on Law and Order special victims or that long drown out violent seen in The Last House on the Left. It was messy, filled with strange choices and she never tried to escape. Part of it was, she didn't know this is what rape looked like. Books, movies, TV have a tendancy to portray one kind of rape, the violent kind. Since her experience did not fit any the scenarios she associated with rape, she, herself, did not connect her experience with that word. After listening to her story, I wanted to change that. But what can I do, I thought. What can I really do? I felt impotent and then I realized I could write.
I decided to write a story based loosely on her experience where the rape is not black or white. I wanted to write a story for young woman in their late teens and early twenties so that they would have another picture of what rape is. To know what it is because knowledge is power.
I wrote Boys as Nice as John. The working title was Misty and after I wrote it I was so embarrassed, I put it away. I put it away for six months. Then one day while I was messing around with our computer-- I had hers and she had mine and we were going through each others files. My friend suddenly said, "What's this?"
I leaned over and to my horror she had located my ideas file and inside that file she had zeroed in on the sub file called "Trash Stories."
"A lot of these are trash, but this one isn't. You need to publish this. You really do." There was a tear in her eye. "My experience wasn't exactly like this, but, gosh I've never seen anything like this in fiction. I just haven't. I wish I'd read stuff like this so I'd know what was happening."
This was a much closer friend the first. Her response cut me to the bone in a different way. Here I was sitting on this story that had the power to do what I had intended; create a dialogue that asks the question. "What does rape look like?" j
I submitted the story for critique and I got the most responses I've ever gotten on any story. Overall, the response to the topic was positive. Obviously it need polishing and stuff. And yet, I was still shocked by some of the comments. One review wrote that the MC shouldn't have gone to bed with boys so easily. In the story Misty has had sex three times prior to being raped. Once with her high-school sweetheart and twice with a college boyfriend.
Another person said this story horrified him, that as a man this was the kind of thing he feared and to see on paper like this made him uncomfortable. After critique, I sent Boys as Nice as John out to dozens of magazines. The form rejections started rolling in and one magazine said they just couldn't publish a story with this content.
Finally, I settled on publishing the story in Midday Musings which to date has sold zero copies. Though, to be fair I also made zero effort to promote said book and I recently pulled the book from publication.
As Stephen King once wrote, the most important things to say, are hardest things to say. Of all the things I've written this story was the hardest and it still isn't exactly what I wanted. At it's best, it's a reflection of an idea. But even for what it is, it might be the most important thing I've every written and it's still gathering dust. So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to post it here for free and make a free e-book to night after work. I ask you to share it. I ask you to send it to all your friends and family and start asking the question, "What does rape look like?"
Boys as Nice as John
For the last couple of years the publishing houses have been duking it out between each other and the heavy weight of all things e-commerce Amazon.
Before the Kindle, there really wasn't much of an eBook pie to divide. Amazon that there never would be an e-Book market without an easy way to consume the content.
(There really wasn't much internet shopping going on before Amazon taught people to shop online so this is an old party trick of Amazon's.)
None of the publishers and few book sellers thought that e-Books would ever have a market, but once there was one, the gold rush was on.
A few years later and six of the big houses publishing houses are under investigation by the DOJ for price fixing along with Apple. Each of these companies are giant's in their own rights, but they claim to be victims of "predatory pricing," which is a euphemism for free trade.
The author's guild has thrown their hat into the ring, choosing to focus on Amazon who is NOT part of the DOJ lawsuit. Their most recent attempt to tar and feather the internet retail giant named Publish America as one of Amazon's victims.
If you don't keep up with these things, Publish America is currently involved in a class action lawsuit for defrauding authors. The result has been that many authors have serious questions as to whether the Author's Guild is serving writers, especially their members who have been encouraged to partake in a program to publish their back lists to royalty rate of 15%. Smashwords for example, gives author's a royalty rate of 70%.
Is the Author's Guild acting on behalf of authors are has it become a modern day Captain Ahab in pursuit of the white whale? What do you think?
Not the TV show, sheesh. You'd think I wrote a lot about TV or something.
No, I'm talking about the gawky, knock-kneed post fledgling stage in a writer's life. You've written just enough and been through critique groups just enough to feel like your stories are ready for submission. So you submit and get so many form rejections you could paper your office with them.
At the same time, things that you were previously given praise for (perhaps just last week) has suddenly been the thing your critique group is now suggesting needs revision. If you're like me, you howl at your computer screen. Your indignation is then replaced with the your self deprecating head voice.
"You'll never be a writer," it whispers.
Well, here's little insight (and perhaps you can take heart in knowing) about what's going on. First, let's state the obvious. The critique experience is imperfect. It's imperfect because people know you can't take the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Writer's know better than anyone else how a writer feels when people give feedback on their story. So, what writers do is not compare your story to say Ray Bradbury, but to itself. For the story, as it is, what needs the most work. Then writers pick on that thing. And because the story is being judged against itself, when a writer compliments you on this thing you did, it's often true only when the story is judged against itself. Later, as you grow the things you once got compliments will eventually become the things people critique.
Growth is painful and frustrating. But this is also a kind of milestone. It means you're writing has progressed to such an extent in other areas, that writers don't need to comment on them any more. The better you get, the more nit picky your critique group should be. So set your ego aside, make like a Chia Pet and grow.
As regular blog readers will know, I replaced a buy ridden LG Ultrabook with the Samsung Serious 9. As you can see from the photo it's sleek and thin. You can read the technical specs from any number of sites but what I want to talk about is what it's like to write on.
For years, I've felt that manufacturers neglect writers when they design laptops. So first, the Samsung gets really high marks for being comfortable to type on... for hours. The the keyboard is spacious and very responsive. It's also back lit for those who like that kind of thing. But the best feature about the keyboard is that it sits slightly lower than the palm rest. You'll find that your hands rest in a way that prevents most unintentional bumping of the track pad.
Samsung took it a step futher. The track pad itself is slightly recessed, too. Combined it's nearly impossible to bump the pad by accident. But if you do bump it, the track pad isn't slippery. I've hated all the track pads on every laptop I've owned over the years. I hated how they'd highlight text while I was typing but I especially loathed the LG because it would highlight, delete the entire passage, open several programs and on a few occasions close out the word processor. But even though I'd take a sticky track pad over a slippery one, the Samsung has balance. Gone or the frantic searches in my bag for the portable mouse. With my fingers on the keys, I flick my thumb and scroll around my manuscripts with now fear of anthing being deleted.
The final feature that every writer will love is the anti-glare screen. It's not just a fancy word for matte finish. Writing is pretty seditary, but it's not an issue with this laptop. I tuck my Samsung 9 in my backpack along with a few snacks, and hit the trail instead of the local coffee shop. The screen looks great inside our out, just adjust the brightness levels to suit. This is the first notebook that has trully let me be a writer on the go.
The Samsung 9 is also supper light at 1.16 kilos and I was told it has about 6 hours battery life. But just using it to type, I find I get between 7 and 8 hours. And whether you're writing or downloading music and movies, or all of the above with 4 gigs of RAM and 128 gigs of SSD there's pleanty of power under the hood.
This computer won't come cheap. Stateside I think it sells for 1499.99 but you can make up some fo the price by going to the park instead of the coffee shop. Plus there's no compisees with this machine, making it well worth every penny.
The Onion Cutter: Part 1
Every day after work Soo Min seated herself on the floor of her small apartment in front of the fan. She was fifty-three and short, with gray hair and a bent back. Getting up and down was something of ordeal and she always sighed with relief to be off her feet. They were scarred feet, marked by old and new blisters earned from walking miles collecting cardboard. She piled her cart high and towed it to the recycling center where she earned twenty thousand won, or a little less than twenty dollars, depending the exchange rate. She would rub out the soreness of her shoulders until her husband came home. Then she'd make a simple dinner of rice and kimchi and they ate in silence.
But in 1990 her husband passed away and it was 1994 now. The world was moving so fast Soo Min could hardly keep up with it. She had been nine years old when Japan attacked Korea and twelve when the war ended. But after the war things were worse in some ways. Yes they were free of Japan, but in three years the country had been stripped down to the last blade of grass. She remember eating roots and walking barefoot because there wasn't enough rubber to make enough shoes for all the people in South Korean. In 1957 Korea had a lower GPD than Ghana. But in 1960 South Korea opened its to the west and in what seemed like a blink of an eye, there came roads, cars, computers, subways, trains, airplanes, jeans and t-shirts, and above all shoes. So many shoes. Sneakers, boots, sandals and heel. They came in book and block, and glitter with little bows.
Sneakers were practical, but Soo Min liked pretty shoes and even though they gave her awful blisters and made her back hurt. Her clothes were faded and threadbare but she wore her pretty shoes with pride. This had become even more true since her husband had died. Her favorite were a red pair of flats with a glittery bow. But as she sat and rubbed at her back, she was thinking about a pair of pink pumps she'd seen at a store while she was collecting. They cost $40,000 won or two whole days of work. But she had rent and utilities to pay, and groceries to buy. It would take her two or three months to set that much aside. By then her red shoes would be falling apart and the pink shoes sold. She knew, of course, that she would find many other pairs of shoes that she liked. And there would be many other pairs of shoes she could not buy.
These were her thoughts when someone knocked on the door. Soo Min heaved herself up and walked bent to answer the door. It was her neighbor.
"You have a phone call. It's your sister."
Soo Min didn't have a phone so her neighbor always took her calls. She thanked her neighbor and slipped on her red shoes before shuffling up the stairs. She wondered what her sister might be calling about. Hyun Bin had married well and lived in one of those tall apartment buildings. Genetics were of huge importance and the marriage had been positively scandalous. Hyun Bin had compromised by for the most part, pretending she didn't have a sister or brother. She didn't kneel or leave offerings at her parent's grave Chuseok, only her husband's. Soon Min didn't mind being forgotten but she drew the line at disrespecting her ancestors.
"Yoboseyo," she said tartly into the receiver.
"I saw you today," Hyun Bin said. "Outside of Shinsegae. You were towing the box cart piled so high I wandered how you could pull it. I saw your red shoes they were cute."
Soo Min smiled. "I love my shoes."
"Yes you do," Hyun Bin agreed. "But I was so embarrassed for my sister to doing such a low job. I forbid you to do it."
"And how should I put food on the table?" Soo Min replied. "Who will pay my rent?"
"Surely you can get a better job," Hyun Bin said.
"It is law that everybody must retire at 50. I’m 53 and this is the only work there is for me."
"No there isn't. I found you a job. My husband has been put in charge of hiring for that new American store, Cost-co. You are hired to work in the kitchen."
"Well I don’t want to work there."
"It pays 12,000 won--"
"I make 20,000 a day now." Soo Min cut her sister off.
"An hour," Hyun Bin said dryly. " That's 96,000 won a day."
"I can count."Soo Min snapped. But she was thinking of the pink shoes. "When do I start?"
Gender and Writers
There's been a buzz created amongst writers by the Atlantic's recently article about woman dominating YA. What people are noticing is the disparity in female to male writers of almost every other genre.
It's a well documented fact that the differences between men and women go beyond our physical bodies. Here are some states:
Women still 30% less than men.
Women still are responsible fore 97% of child care with men contributing approximately 3%. (This is up from the longstanding 1%)
Men are more likely to have a good job (52%) than woman (37%).
There are many ways more to compare, but I want to keep this short. There's a plethora of information on the internet to satiate those who want more, because this is a long way to say I use my initials instead of my first name because of the genres I write most in.