Dating Books

A little bit of a rant at the end of this blustery weekend. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I love books. Love to read them. Love to smell them. Love to write them. Love to roll around naked on them… Kidding. They are pokey and angular. Yet that smell…

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There are so many choices too. Great titles. Seducing covers. Billions of stories further supplemented by the influx of self published authors. So why is it so hard to find a good book then?

In a word (or two) I blame self publishing. Wait, wait, I know that’s harsh. Bear with me here.

For me, when I’m looking for a new book, I have a certain superficial process, much like assessing someone for dating. It goes a little like this: Book Cover, Title, Author, Book Description on Back Page, First Few Pages.

But the part that’s killing me now is that a good portion of the self published folks don’t even try to polish their work before they put it out for mass consumption. When I’m at Half Price books looking for a good read, I make it to the back cover of very few books. Same with Amazon, actually. At least at the Barnes and Nobles brick and mortar I feel more confident about my book choices but it’s still not 100% guaranteed I’ll find something. Now with Amazon bringing brick and mortar to the market I feel this is going to get even worse.

There are literally millions of books out there that probably had the potential to be amazing but who ever wrote them decided it was ready NOW. They didn’t take the next steps to make sure it was ready. Would you go on a first date after putting organic mulch out in your garden all day? No, no you wouldn’t. You’d be all stinky and sweaty. Nothing a little showering and grooming won’t fix – but you wouldn’t be ready to meet a potential mate fresh out of the garden. So why would you do that with a book? Put it out in all of its stinky glory for everyone to potentially date?

Now, let’s move on to social media and its role in this dilemma.

Twitter can be a beautiful thing. I love following all of my friends, readers, writers, people I’m fan-girling over, folks from the music and comedy industry, agents, editors and publishers. Its too much fun seeing tweets from some of my favorite political activists who are dead-on my kind of people. But  then there’s everyone else.

The re-tweeters. The marketers. The folks trying to sell their novels by inundating me with bad lines and not well thought out covers from their self published pieces.

If you are telling me *every single book* you tweet about is Awesome! Or Amazing! Or a Five star read! How likely am I to believe it’s a good book? Come on folks, someone paid them to say that. Even if it was just in a copy of their book. Don’t get me started on the New York Times Bestseller list and how they’ve messed up the system… So now we have been inundated with books that people are being paid to review and market. How many of those folks hired the necessary editors to bring their little darlings up to par for publication? Put it through its paces first?

What I want, what I NEED as a reader, is a rating system for books. Perhaps an organization for writers of self published books to join. It would have tight rules. Like, they’d have different levels of certification kind of like what WHOLE Foods has for its meat.

Level 1: Has no editing at all, outside of the writer or their loved ones. (I don’t care if you’ve gotten your masters in English. Editing your own writing very rarely works.) Level 2: Has Beta Readers & Critique Partners. Level 3: Same as levels 2 but has been through a developmental edit. Level 4: Same as levels 2 & 3 but has been through a line edit & hired a professional to do the cover. Level 5: Same as levels 2 – 4 but has been traditionally published & is now a free agent.

These numbers would be clearly printed on the cover for all to see. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to find good books? The thought gives me the shivers. That said, I’m not positive the same idea would work for dating. But hey, who am I to make assumptions? Tinder might just be doing it that way and we can’t see it.

I think you can tell from my previous statement that I’d be a Level 3 – 5 kind of gal. Yes, you might call me a snob. But seriously. I’ve spent most of my life reading, years of my life writing, and only a little less time than that editing manuscripts. After a bit, you get to know what makes a good book. It becomes natural. All of those how to write classes and novels help a lot too, but even before then there was instinct.

Anyhow!

I’ll end today’s soap box rant with a thought for the entrepreneur out there who wants to take on the above mentioned idea and run with it:

Please, for the love of all that’s sacred, please do this? Take my idea, it’s yours. For free. Just tell me you’ve done it so I can see my idea baby grow.

I need this. WE need this.

The End.

And hope you had a great weekend!

Books & Fro-Yo

The other day on a whim The Husband, Bunny Wabbit and I went to Barnes and Noble. I was overwhelmed, as I always am, with all of that paper deliciousness around me. The urge to shove the piles of books on the floor and roll on them was great.

There were a few dilemmas that night. One was which genre do I delve into? My Goodreads list is quite long and mostly horror and thriller, with a science fiction thrown in for grins. No significance there,  just what folks are recommending to me. That said I wasn’t in the mood for any of the books on my list that night. Looking back I think I wanted what they deem Upmarket Fiction, or Book Club Fiction. Books about the human condition and/or soul searching (sometimes crushing) stories that either inspire or drag you down to the deepest darkest places in your mind. Light stuff, you know?

Ha.

When I couldn’t find what I was craving from my list of To Read, I decided on GIRL ON A TRAIN. There lay problem two: Do I buy a hardcover knowing it’s bound to come out in paperback sometime in the future, or do I scour every single shelf to find a paperback worth reading? I started with the latter. Of course, this is one of my favorite things to do, so no pain there.

My problem with hardcovers in this scenario is that for the price they were charging I felt like I was married to the book. I have to read it no matter how good it is. With paperback and digital it’s always easier to set it down.

After a twenty minute search I chose the hardcover. As it turns out Barnes and Noble gave me an amazing discount and the price wasn’t that bad. So there’s that. I’ll let you know what I think of the book after I finish up AT THE WATER’S EDGE. Incidentally one of my friends gave me WATER’S EDGE as a recommendation, and another friend is listening to it on audiobook. It’s kinda fun, reading books with friends; a nod to our old book club. Miss that part of my life.

The fam and I finished up our bookstore adventure with frozen yogurt. Mine was watermelon sorbet with marshmallow cream, and lots of boba. Mmm. Can’t think of a better way to spend an evening:-).

Now I’m off to the hairdresser to turn my hair cotton candy pink. While reading ofcourse.  ‘Cause sometimes you have to get in touch with your inner Bubble Gum Goddess.

Jealous?

 

Have a Nice Poop

You’re going to think I’m crazy for saying this. I’m totally excited for what comes next, whatever it is. I’m one of those annoying people. Even with all of the things that are dragging me down. Even with the presidential debates going on. Even then.

Bunny Wabbit texted me from the gender neutral bathroom at his college. They repainted the bathroom to cover up the anti-trans and antigay slurs written on the walls all over campus. That statement in itself gives me the shivers. There are still young adults in this day in age who feel inclined to debase public property to hurt others? Come on parents. Step up and do a better job raising your children.

Sorry. Soap box moment. Kinda like Tourettes. Happens every now and again.

Oh wait… it’s not over.

We live in Washington, where we’re supportive of our LGBTQ community. Until we’re not. It seems some of our Representatives and a smattering of Assholes out there are pushing them away. The Representatives are choosing to make it their business to say no to our trans friends when it comes to going to the bathroom in a safe environment, one that aligns to the gender they associate with. How is that okay?

Going to the bathroom isn’t generally something you “choose” to do. Have you ever thought, I could go to the bathroom right now, but, its ONLY ten hours from now until I get home, that would work too. Decisions decisions. No. You haven’t. Usually, it’s more along the lines of, I have to go right now or else. It’s a part of how our bodies’ function, and we have to do it whether we want to or not.

Can’t we just make it a safe thing to do for everybody? Why is that hard for folks to wrap their brains around? I mean seriously. Meanwhile the Assholes think it’s okay to harass our friends and loved ones, defacing public (and probably private) property to get their hate agenda across. Oh how I want to give their parents a talk’n to.

A quick break for a Ted Talk on the topic:


Anyhow!

NOW I’ll crawl off of that soap box that was really pretty tall this time.

So yeah, despite all of this bullshit, I’m a happy person. Excited for what tomorrow brings. Gawds know why. So when Bunny Wabbit sent me this picture of the only graffiti that they didn’t paint over in the gender neutral bathroom, I was thoroughly pleased.

HaveaNicePoop

Now that is graffiti I can get behind. He he.

I’m also excited that Little Bear made me homemade cookies with icing and pink sprinkles. ‘Cause you know, SPRINKLES!! They fix everything.

Just Start

Kind of a strange week.

I’ve been gearing up to submit a few stories to the PNWA’s Literary contest. In the way back of my mind I have a list of things that need to be accomplished. I’ve been overwhelmed by the writing thing and unable to concentrate on some really important stuff. Bad mommy. Don’t ask me why, but I’m inwardly cringing thinking about sharing this serious topic with y’all.

Let’s just do a quick reminder here, for the sake of all things internet I refer to my oldest child as Bunny Wabbit, who identifies as a trans male, and the youngest as Little Bear.

So here goes. I have to find a new therapist for the kiddo. And an LGBTQ support group for him. Oh yeah, and me too. The support group part. Pretty important stuff that’s getting overshadowed by my hobby that accidentally on purpose is turning into a job. Again, bad mommy.

Bunny Wabbit has been seeing his current therapist for a year and a half – ever since the revelation that he was deeply depressed. We saw much success over the first year, but it seems to have plateaued. This is daunting, as the kiddling is approaching his eighteenth birthday and we’ve yet to succeed in getting him to get his driver’s license, nor leave the house for anything but school and family outings. But, hey, school! That’s a success, right? At least he goes, and does his homework, albeit at the last minute.

I called our local community center because they were advertising on their marquee that they have an LGBTQ support group. I got really excited and finally gave them a call. First they transferred me to the senior center. This probably should have alarmed me but back in the day they just used that location like any other and held classes and such there for anybody. Guess what? The support group is for folks 50 and over. So Yay! THEY HAVE AN LGBTQ SUPPORT GROUP FOR FOLKS 50 AND OVER!! And boo hiss I still have to drive pretty far to get to one for someone his age… and mine. 

When I brought this up to my good friend as we were out and about, she got excited. She too is a trans parent. And she too got bummed out at the age restriction. So I’m thinking just as soon as I get my act together, (When will that happen? Anyone? Anyone?) I’ll contact the community center and see about creating a support group for youth as well as their parents here. We sorely need one.

Which bring us to this meme I saw today.

Made me think. If my kid hadn’t opened up to me about his problems, we’d never have started this crazy journey to healing. We’d still be stuck in the angry mess we were in. So yeah, this is more than a little beautiful.

I did manage to submit my entries this evening. Now I’m a ball of panic that there are a million things wrong with my entries and that I’m totally wasting my time. But I have to keep starting. Because if I stop every time its scary, every time my hands shake, then I’ll never get anywhere.

Sometimes, the internet speaks my soul.

 

Hey! Guess What? I’m Not Dead!

Surprise!

I think some of you might have noticed that I all but disappeared about a year and a half ago. I went ahead and blogged about our trip to Europe, which was fun. But that was where it ended. You may have followed me over to the new blog or you may have been relieved I stopped filling up your inbox:-). Either way, its about time I put my big girl panties on and explain.

There was a pretty huge reason or ninety that I stopped writing here. Its kind of funny because this format, the way I’m sharing what kept me away, reminds me of those essays that teachers assign at the beginning of the school year: Class, please write me an essay on what you did this summer. Ha ha. So yeah, here’s what I did last summer. And the entire year before that.:-)

In a nut shell, my excuses embody erotica, of all things, and my children.

Erotica made me do it: I started writing women’s fiction many years ago, and was surprised that when I finally figured out the formula for writing sex scenes, they just poured out. I was able to write manuscripts with very sexy scenes. This disturbed me in some ways. I actually went and deleted a ton of those scenes, they were so, um, detailed? One of which I was lucky enough to have published in an anthology. Go figure. It was clear to me that I didn’t want my children sidled with embarrassment and guilt because of what their mamma wrote. So I created Audrey Valiant and off went my stories in that direction. I decided it was time to keep my writing journey separate from this blog.

Or maybe it was the kids: A few months before the creation of Audrey Valiant, my then sixteen-year-old shared that he is transgender, and very depressed. I don’t know about you but when my child is in distress I totally shut down. He’s still living in that head space, but we have him in therapy and we’re a happy tight little family so its going to be okay.

So what’s different now? What is making it okay for me to tell you that Audrey Valiant and Jennifer Douwes are different brands of the same person? The kids are older now. They’ve known all along about my achievements. Before, hiding behind a different name was more because I didn’t want their friend’s parents knowing what I sometimes write. They’d have to work hard to figure out it was me all along behind the pen name. I’ve come to accept that we are, at our core, sexual beings. If the parents can’t deal with that, then I guess good riddance.

What’s different is that in all of that healing my kid is going through, he’s learning who he is. I find myself saying, “Be who you are. Embrace your amazing self. Fuck societal norms. You don’t have to conform to gender stereotypes.* We love you for who you are and that will never change.” So who am I to not do the same when I’m representing myself? What kind of role model is that?

Why am I back? There are a few reasons.

I really want to help others going through the same things I am. When I started this journey as a trans parent a year and a half ago, it was very surreal. Still is at some turns in the road. One of my best buds is quite educated on raising trans teens and guided me through it for a bit. After that I didn’t really feel like I needed any help. Turns out I was dead wrong. So I enrolled the help of my friends and family, and we’re slowly getting through this. The thing is, I know there are more people out there like myself.

Social Media is killing me. I’ll admit it, I look at Facebook and Twitter. There are so many ill-informed, fear mongering people out there that its driving me a bit crazy. I’ve held my tongue long enough. Okay, well, I did delete a few people off of Facebook for their ignorance after spewing information that probably made no sense to them. If there is any chance I can help these same people who make me want to scream understand some issues that I had to take the long way around to make sense of, that would be pretty great.

Especially when we live in a society that embraces hyper femininity, rape culture, and let’s face it, the over sexualization of women. I kind of figure that if it’s so difficult for me to wrap my brain around, I probably can help others who are battling the same issues. Kind of like a math teacher with dyscalculia. They are probably going to teach it better than a math teacher who it made sense to from the get go.

So beware, along with the normal stuff I talk about: wine, happy hour and the merit of wearing slippers to the grocery store, I’ll be lamenting about life with my trans teen and my daring diva – who really is a tomboy in a tiara, if there ever was one. ‘Cause this shit is hard.  I vow to *try* and stop editing what I want to say to you guys. It might be controversial. It might make you want to plug your ears (or cover your eyes.) Or maybe even flat out not like me. But its time, I guess, to just be who I am. If I’ve learned anything from having kids its that.

For the record, my other blog is still active, as I’m having new stories published now and again. But the rest of my writing will be under my real name. Because I’m not hiding anymore.

It might be a slow start as I get used to being transparent about the crazy life we lead. But haven’t you ever sat back and watched the kids screaming and rolling around on the floor while the dog barks madly, with the TV blaring ’cause grandma can’t hear it over their laughter while she waters the green carpet with her oxygen on, cigarette hanging from her free hand, and the only thing you can do is sit back and laugh?** Cause life is never neat and perfect. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. And kind of fucked up sometimes.

Its time to embrace my terrible beautiful fucked up self and get on with it.

See you around!

* Conformity is a touchy subject. Though I am a rule follower and conformist by heart, there is a very large part of me that can see all sides. If all sides don’t agree, then its time for some new rules. If no one is going to make new rules that make sense, then conformity is no longer advantageous and must be abandoned for better pursuits. If you can be a non-conformist with respect, then you’ve nailed what I’m talking about.

** Taking some creative license here, all of these things happened to someone I love, but not at the same time. But you get the picture.