A new year

I didn’t write too much on this blog last year. I was writing and kind of obsessed with following the U.S. election. I don’t think it’ll be too much of a surprise to anybody whose read The Liars that I did not endorse, support, vote for or want anything to do with Donald Trump. He is everything that I find abhorrent. I suppose he might have a policy or two that I would agree with, but if this is true it’s lost in the rhetoric of hate and I can’t get past that.

I’m not generally a public person. It’s not my nature. Like many writers, I would rather not talk about politics at all. It’s definitely not a good way to attract readers. But I do follow the news, try to keep up to date and I have some strong opinions. I prefer to keep them to myself or a small group of friends. But I can’t do that anymore. I’ve twisted and turned it so many different ways, and it comes down to this–if I stand by and say nothing, then I am complicit. Sometimes that’s bearable for the comfort of not alienating friends, family or readers. But not this time. This time is different. This administration has thrown out the rule book and is creating a whole new set of rules, all of which I am, so far, absolutely opposed to.

So I’m going to try to keep up this blog more this year, and I will try for levity occasionally, for information on writing and information on world building, and the world I’ve created. But I am also going to have to express my opinion on this administration, on the lies and things they do. I’d rather lose readers than lose my own self respect.

Oh, and for anybody reading this who’s interested, I marched on 1/21/17. And there was no violence. That’s the first lie I won’t allow to stand. There was no violence.

 

Alzheimer’s Caregiving, and Writing

So my Mom’s got Alzheimer’s. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I don’t talk about it much here. She was diagnosed in 2011. At the time she was living at home with my stepfather, who was showing signs of dementia (vascular) at the time, although not nearly so advanced as my mother’s illness.

I’m not her primary caregiver. She and my stepfather moved into assisted living in 2012 and shortly afterward they had a full-time assistant living with them. When my stepfather passed in 2014, my mother moved to a memory care unit. In that respect, I have never been primary. However I am secondary. Is there a secondary caregiver? I’m taking the title though.

As a secondary caregiver I am the Driver. To appointment, which for a dementia patient is more than most because they have a difficult time talking about symptoms or caring for themselves. That means 4 times a year to the dentist, 4 times a year to her regular doc, with the 4 times a year of fasting blood test. Because of the dementia, my mother was also seeing a neurologist to keep up on her mental decline and proscribe drugs for that. That’s a lot of driving.

Then there’s the ER visits. Dementia patients fall. I am happy to say my mother’s never really hurt herself in a fall. However, every fall requires a visit to the ER for tests. The ER she goes to is always super crowded and can’t easily handle a lot of traffic. We’ve spent many hours in the hall. I guess I could let her stay there alone and talk to the docs over the phone, but neither my conscience nor heart can allow that, so there have been 6, 7, 9 hour stints there too.

ER visits often mean hospital stays. Obviously my mother’s safe there, but I’m her daughter. I have to visit. I have to visit her in the memory care unit too. I say “have to” like it’s all obligation and, to be clear, it’s not. I love her and we have had some good days together. Still, I am the only person in the area, so if I don’t visit, she gets no visitors.

It’s a lot of time. If that were all it was, writing and caring for my mother wouldn’t be so bad. But there is this huge emotional suck too. I have tried, many times, to write on days I visit her, but I only manage it about 30% of the time. It’s disturbing, exhausting, debilitating. Still, in the middle of all of this, I’ve published three romances, and wrote and published The Liars. It is possible. It’s just hard.

This summer’s been different though. This summer’s been much harder. My mother’s having a tough time walking, even with a walker, and when I almost dropped her after one appointment, I realized I cannot transport her anymore. That meant changing her doctors for the ones at her facility. Which meant contacting her guardian (which she has due to a family court battle, which I won’t discuss here), getting paperwork going, calls and finagling. That’s not easy for an introvert in the best times. When your heart hurts it’s much worse.

And it does hurt. A lot. I am freer now that it’s done. No more appointments. But it means letting go of caring for her. I’m used to letting go–I had to with two grown children–but this is different. It’s a sad letting go. It’s admitting that she is leaving me, bit by bit and it’s admitting that I have no say in that. It’s heartbreaking, and very difficult to concentrate on writing.

Add to that the fact that my mother’s sister died this year from complications to Alzheimer’s.  It has shown me that, as much as I’d like to ignore it, the clock is ticking. This week has finally seen Mom moving into a wheelchair. She can no longer command her legs to walk. This is a woman who hiked Mount Washington in NH three times. A woman with a master’s degree. A professor and a die-hard physical fitness enthusiast. What Alzheimer’s steals is breathtaking and heartbreaking.

And so it’s been a sad spring, a sad summer and I haven’t done nearly as much writing as I expected. I wish I were the kind of writer who could work through it all, but I just am not. I have no advice for writers going through this. All I can say is I try to make the moments with my mother good and memorable. I try to remember that I have years to write, but the good moments I have with my mother are quickly dwindling. I don’t want to look back and wish I spent more time with her. That’s the best I’ve got.

I believe that the worst of this last stage is over, at least emotionally. I believe I can get back into working pretty steadily. The second draft of Children of Liberty has been done for two months. I’m hoping the third will be finished in the next week.

 

 

Racism and The PostPlague Backdrop

First, before discussing this, I encourage everybody to watch this video. It’s powerful and fully explains how racism effects black boys growing up in the U.S.

 

I have not talked at all about the racial/racism aspects about this series. As a white woman who has lived her whole life in areas that have few People of Color, I don’t really feel like I have the authority or understanding to write about racism in the United States. However, in the light of the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile I feel like I have to. Please bear with me. This may be long, but the subject is too painful and divisive to be short.

First of all, I didn’t start this trilogy “willingly.” I had not been considering it for months or years like many of the books I’ve written. It was days. One moment I was obsessing about The Hunger Games, and wishing I had more background about the Capitol, and the next minute I had a book based on the premise, “What would happen if the person who had the key to saving our post-apocalyptic world was the person married to the tyrant-dictator?” And then, within three hours, characters were talking in my head and they wouldn’t shut up.

I didn’t want to write it; I didn’t have a choice. That’s how it is sometimes with writers. We have to put the words to paper (or screen, actually) in order to function like a normal human being. Since I couldn’t not write The Liars,  I decided that it would be MY book. I wouldn’t write it for other people and follow other peoples’ rules. I didn’t expect to sell much and I didn’t really care. I would therefore hit all my button-itmes and employ various obsessions in a book that quickly became an obsession in of itself. One of those buttons was the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

At the risk of being derided as crying white tears, the death of that child and young man affected me deeply. I didn’t respond to them as a white woman; I responded as a mother of sons. I do not know how the mothers of these boys (I know Michael Brown was not a boy, but this is how mothers think of their sons) get through each day. I just don’t know. Even  now,  I shake my head and feel the sadness deep inside. The fact that these deaths were murders, and the killers are free–I just don’t know. My future brother-in-law died many years ago in police custody. I won’t go into details here, other than to say, I’m not sure how my in-laws have gotten through it either.

I understand there’s a list of men being killed (those caught on camera and reported in the media) after that which includes Eric Garner. It leaves me with profound sadness, too. But it’s as a mother that I hurt most. I hurt for Garner’s children, and the picture of Sterling’s 15 year old son breaking down is haunting.

Back to the series.

In March of 2015, when this series came to me, I had recently googled some topics on racism and came across some vitriol in the comments’ sections  that left me breathless. I go through my life every day with a knowledge that racism exists. No thinking person following U.S. news can deny that. But I had the privilege of living in a reality in which I considered racism largely subconscious, something that needed to be rooted out in order to correct it. Reading those comments though–it’s overt, ugly, disgusting. And the hatred. . .  I don’t get it, but it’s there.

And so, when I created the plagues that ended the world in The PostPlague Trilogy, I made them about racism at its worst–murderous hatred. It’s the dark, terrible way I see the world moving in my most pessimistic moments. I’m not entirely certain I got the genetics right. To be safe, I could have canned the idea, just had terrible plagues kill the world and moved on with Neri’s story. But this is my book, my series, my place to lay out my concerns, so I decided to risk anger and backlash. I have points to make, and I made them.

After I created the plagues, I then had to follow up with the reactions survivors would have had once it was over. I could have gone several ways. I chose the knee-jerk reaction of attempting to eliminate race. I already knew I wanted to explore a religion based government, and I already knew it would start with a good, benevolent man, Braedon Rey, with a good, benevolent religion. It seemed to me that this would be his reaction. So I went with integration. Again, I could have played it safe and left it alone, but I’d already crossed a line, so going the step further seemed like the difference between drowning in water two feet  over my head or ten feet over my head. You’re dead just the same.

After that, in the series, racism per se, is over. No races, no racism. Still I wrote (and am still writing) about prejudice against people who don’t have “Temple brown” coloring because no matter what we do, human beings will always have prejudices. Labeling people and then hating them purely for that label is one of the terrible parts of human nature. Racism and all the other isms that lead to hate crimes are symptoms of that nature. As a society we have to fight those isms, particularly the racism that leads to the murders of black men by police officers, but all of us are singularly responsible to look into our hearts and root out a natural inclination toward prejudice. It’s societal, but as with all societal issues it starts at a personal level.

At any rate, I don’t know how people will take those aspects of the story. Some well, some very badly, I suspect. But today, when I, along with millions of others, are reeling from these latest murders, I am not sorry I wrote the story that way. We are surrounded by this hatred, and we are paying the price. The officers that were ambushed in Dallas died as a direct result of racism, and their deaths, along with Sterling’s and Castiles,’ will lead to riots and violence. We’ll have fights between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and I foresee a downward spiral. It’s tragic. And from a logical standpoint, it’s stupid because it makes no sense to hate someone of color. From a human standpoint it is heartbreaking. From the standpoint of The PostPlague Series, it’s the end of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from The Children of Liberty

Yes, I’ve changed the title of the next book. More about that at another time.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. (Wording for the final draft of the book could be changed slightly)

They’ve found me. . .

My fingers find a hook near the trigger, but I’m trembling so badly, I can’t flick it. God damn it, it’s stuck. I push and push. It won’t budge! Maybe I can use the gun like a club. Hit them. But they’ll shoot me first, and how much—

It moves. I breathe a sigh of relief. Now I can kill them. Another memory, this one of another gun firing and my guard’s head exploding. Leonides. Blood and brains spattering. I fight back tears and terror—I can’t. I can’t do it.

The door opens. A black robed Inquisitor steps in.

I pull the trigger.

He yells, but I have no time to acknowledge it because he’s raising his gun. I pull the trigger again and again. He falls to the ground before getting off a shot. Another Inquisitor rushes through the door and I shoot him too. Two, three, four times, while the first one writhes on the floor, moaning. The second one joins him, gurgling blood. They make awful, grating sounds, and I’m shaking, terrified they can still hurt me somehow, so I keep shooting until the noises stop.

Afterwards there’s silence. Eerie, accusing silence. I’ve killed two people. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. And now I’m all but hyperventilating, losing feeling in my limbs as a black fog threatens my vision. Oh God, their blood is spreading across the floor. I want to drop the gun and curl up in a ball on the bunk—

Was there a third voice?

Short Thoughts on World Building

I’m discovering that creating a world is much like creating a character. You start with parameters. As the story progresses, the world takes on a life of its own and “tells” the writer other parts. A character might suddenly say something about his/her past to another character, that you didn’t know before. . .in world building, a character suddenly says something about the world that you never knew before.

Example: In book two, Neri’s struggling with grief and rage. She considers how Reyism handles these things and tada. . .a ceremony I never knew of before! There it is, and of course that’s what they do. 7 billion people died of a plague created, basically through  hate. Braedon Rey would naturally create a forgiveness ceremony to help people cope.

This is one of the best parts of writing.