Chicago Blizzard

Hmmm……Chicago has the cold but not the snow, is the difference I’ve been giving between Chicago and Denver. Not so this week. Now, we’ve got both. It was amazing- we were told it would start at 3pm on Tuesday, and on the dot, it began. Weather people were right! But really maybe shouldn’t be cheering. It was a wicked storm. Denver’s blizzards have been so pretty and silent, usually falling during the night with huge fluffy flakes, straight down, no wind. Sunny and clear one day, wake up the next to four feet of snow. But in Chicago, the wind is just pissed off. Windy city, haha. Driving home there was no visibility. You drive in and out of walls of fierce torrets of snow. Street lights were out. You could barely see the front tip of your car. You held on for dear life every time you passed between tall buildings, as the wind charged through every break in the otherwise saving fortress of apartments and businesses.

But, unlike during the blizzards in Denver, the plows were out immediately. Busses were actually running. My drive home was smooth, and even faster than a normal day.  I didn’t get an early release from work like the majority of the city did, and I did have to return on Wednesday (which became a nightmare in regards to parking). But having been through three consecutive four foot Denver blizzards before this one, I have to say that Chicago handled it amazingly. There is never a perfect scenario, there’s never a way for anyone to plot out and prevent every single thing that could possibly go wrong. There was no way for city officials to foresee what happened on Lake Shore Drive (at least five seperate accidents blocking one direction of travel), and for people who’ve never been trapped in a blizzard like this, there was no way for them to know that they should have completely avoided that route, especially due to the proximity of the lake. Should this ever happen again, people will know.

Denver just gave up trying at the second year’s blizzard. Main roads don’t get plowed for a week. People with plows attached to their rusty old trucks take care of their block- sometimes. I financed a car and now have a payment for the first time ever because I needed a four wheel drive after getting stuck in blizzard number two and walking home- 6 miles in four feet of snow at 6pm is never recommended. Blizzards number one, three, and four weren’t any fun, either. Or the mini blizzard the year before number one.

Kudos to my city of birth! You handled it very well! Just figure out where the snow from the alleys are going to go.

Ok, here I go again……

Ok, here I go again!

Query time, round two. I’ve made more edits, more changes. My most major edit was two weeks ago. I’ve always known I had to begin with an event that happens in the center of the book, because before then, you really didn’t want to read more. However, I liked the chronological flow, and I thought you really, as a reader, needed to know the back story to understand the rest of the book. I’d tried before to begin at this particular spot, but couldn’t rearrange the first 14 chapters (exactly, 14) to my liking. And it’s irked me greatly all these years. But I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

I sat down a couple of weeks ago after reading though those mainly informational beginning chapters and decided, once I reached that event again, that I had to chop it up. No excuses, no other way. Also, chronologically, it’s just not working. So I hashed it up out-of-order this time and I love it! I’m so thrilled. I wish I’d been able to accept that before. Hashing it up, I knew exactly where each piece was meant to be, and I like that it changes things now into being more of a mystery, and that as you read, you understand more, which I thought readers really needed right up front. Very wrong.

It’s beautiful. Have I mentioned that I’m thrilled with the change? So happy.

Now, however, I’m back to the dreaded query. Why, why, why is one letter so monstrously terrifying and difficult? Do all authors struggle with it or is it because I’ve written her story with so many layers and no mainstream category to explain it? How do showcase it?

It’s not a romance, but there is a strong love story playing at the fringes. I know that technically, an urban fantasy must take place on Earth, with the fantasy part bleeding into normal life. Her back story, all those informational chapters, take place in Chicago, and the books that will follow this one will sometimes deal more with the US than Home. Not so much urban fantasy even then, but, dual residency fantasy?

I flip through fantasy books and read their hooks on the back and typically put them right back down. They sound the same. The protagonist must do something drastic to save the world from a great evil, and as I’ve none of that, can I then not call it fantasy? But her mother was raised by dragons, she’s taken hostage by a unicorn, and she’s in a different world (though I hate calling it a world, and stick with country. Downplay.)  Fantasy writing allows you some wonderful liberties, liberties I employed greatly as the mainstay of Lira’s story could be called fictional drama worthy of Jodi Picoult.

Because, honestly, how can you ever heal and continue with your life after your child is violently kidnapped from you if not through the support and love and protection of a dragon and a unicorn? I follow the news of missing children and look at my own and then look at those mothers and wonder, how? How are you not howling in a corner rocking violently back and forth?

That’s the important part. As broken and shattered as she is, she is not a damsel in distress still waiting for her prince.  She is the daughter of warriors after all. She may not have their type of strength, but her ferocity is there nonetheless.

Anyway, as juvenile as those two creatures may make my story seem, I guarantee that it isn’t.

So there’s the main theme. Everything in her life has come horrifyingly undone but the world(s) won’t let her fade. Even so, how do you bring yourself to the decision that you can’t wither and fade away when the pain is too great, how do you hang onto and strengthen that tiny thread of hope? How do you love and raise your other children? How do you accomplish something completely different when that tragedy is always there in your mind?

Yet, reading those other hooks makes me tingly: what if I’ve ventured into a new genre all together? What if I truly have written something no one’s seen or read before, and it is exactly what everyone’s searching for? Because the other main theme is the story of the incredible bond between mothers and daughters. There’s not much in the way of that, I think. Look at Disney, our children’s big role model. Where are the mothers? If they’re alive, they’re relatively inconsequential (think Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and even Tangled). Otherwise, they’re raised by idyllic single fathers (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid) and if they have a mother figure, she’s an evil stepmother (Snow White, Cinderella). If no stepmothers and no mothers, the villain is then a woman (Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Tangled). Then there’s Bambi, whose mother was murdered, and don’t get me started on what they did to Dumbo’s mother.

What really spurred me to write within that theme is Braveheart, the movie. It was all about the bonds between different fathers and sons, whether supportive or tyrannical or political. That absolutely fascinated me. Also, powerful, short-lived romance that stayed at the edges of the rest of the story.

There are many ways we become mothers, yet even when our children don’t come from our bodies, or share in our species, we love them just as ferociously. If that bond is tampered with, it doesn’t disintegrate and go away. And even if the bond we’ve forged is not loving and protective, it’s a bond that remains and still produces an effect.

(Big sigh)

Yes, I’m stalling and whining. There’s that simple little letter that still has to get written first.

Can I re-query an agent after two years? I really wanted those particular houses.

Reminiscing

It’s rough starting over again. New group of people, new job, new city. You start off thinking, great, I’m starting over again! These people know nothing about me! None of the crap I’ve gone through, the trauma, the drama, the angst. They know none of the extremely stupidly embarrassing mistakes and bad calls, none of the struggles. But then, I’m showing some pictures of Colorado to my new coworkers, and I realize they know nothing of the beauty of my life, none of the things I’ve seen, the air I’ve smelled, the trails I’ve walked- and I mean that figuratively as much as realistically.

I showed them benign pictures of a camping trip, which didn’t include the maiden camping trip I’d done solo the weekend before that one. And, of course, it sent me back.

The boys were with their dad, so I took a 2 hour drive to Larkspur, Colorado, for the Renaissance fair. It was pretty unexciting. Spent no money, and absolutely did not want to go home. I wanted to go anywhere but home. So instead of heading east onto the road that would bring me back to the highway, I went west, and drove, and drove, and drove. In Colorado, driving was therapeutic. The act of driving, the journey, and the endpoint. I ended up who knows where in the mountains, on a steep, downward sloping, extremely curvy gravel road with only a 1/4 tank of gas.  Did I mention I did not want to go home? But, on a 1/4 tank of gas with no cell phone signal, it was unfortunately the responsible, intelligent thing to do. Reluctantly, I turned around and headed back. On the way back, I spotted a sign for a campground. Did I mention…….? I turned down the road and headed in. Long gravel road, nobody around. It was sunday evening, so by then, the campground was empty. I started at the back, figuring that would be the larger, more secluded sites. Walked around, dejected because the sites were fairly crappy. Homeward bound, it was. But then I parked at the 2nd site of the campground, somewhat near the host’s site, and walked up a narrow foot path into the trees and stopped atop a bit of a treed plateau overlooking where I’d parked. I was filled with that ‘need to make a quick decision’ tingle. I walked back down and walked into an open valley and the view of the national forest around me was all it took. I was sleeping there that night.

I raced back to Lakewood (took all of 30 minutes, it turned out), stopped at a grocery store for some quick supplies, raced home and grabbed the dog, packed the car (as it so happens, I had all my camping stuff sorted, packed, and ready to go- not for just such a situation), and raced back. By then it was 8pm. Got my brand new never used yet tent hitched and outfitted with no problem by 9, just as the last of the light was gone. Cooked and ate dinner in pure, nearly pitch black dark except for the gorgeous, comforting full moon behind me.

I think the foxes woke us at first light. But I stepped out of my tent at 6am or something, and everything was covered in fog. It was astoundingly beautiful. Haunting. Perfect. You know that stillness so many people try to detail? That was it, and I basked in it, soaked it all in.

My poor dog- her first time camping, sleeping somewhat outside all night. It was cold, and she got eaten alive by mosquitoes. (Now, though, she sees me packing the car and goes wild- even drove to South Dakota with the boys and me to see Mt. Rushmore in July).

I tend to tangent off. Sorry. But look how cute! She has her own sleeping bag and gear.

I ate breakfast and we took a long hike. Saw a deer and her fawn. Saw the rear end of a mountain lion as it leaped off the trail 10 feet ahead of us as it was probably stalking said fawn and mother. On the rest of that hike (4-6 miles, I think?), the geography kept changing. It was like every step took me somewhere else. Sometimes I was in the shadow of a thick forest, then I’d be on the very top of open mountain, then in the center of a thatch of wild roses- with the smell so intoxicatingly thick it stunned me still. Evergreens to birch to aspen to nothing. Again, I kept wanting to go on and on and on. That was the best overnight and a day.

I was talking about one-dimensional things and showing my coworkers other pictures, when all I wanted was to tell them about that day, that meandering drive in the middle of the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, where I was able to find a place to throw my tent together and sleep outside.

Tonight, I dug up those pictures and had to write. It’s my only way to go back. And now I’m torn. I’m back to my beginning, back to the city of my birth, and I’m now, finally, lamenting Colorado. Why couldn’t my years there have all been as perfect as that day? Why did everything have to become so wrong?

Query, attempt 1000

Is love enough to bring two people back together after abandonment, after the loss of a child, after so many other wounds were given the opportunity to occur?

L wakes up on the blaring Hills of her exiled mother’s homeland and doesn’t care if love has the power to take away the pain and torment of the last few years. She fights every pull, every arguement of reason that tells her to find Him, the man she’d fallen in love with on a beach worlds away, the man who’d fulfilled his promise years too late and brought her here. In so doing, she sets off on a journey that binds her closer to her parents’ home, to the people and land they loved, to the dragons that had raised her mother as their own. Who will she turn to, though, when the reason her mother was exiled finds and attacks her, and brings all her traumas to light?

Rage

I just finished reading Rage, by Julie Peters. My co-worker gave it to me, as Julie is a friend of a friend, in a way. I attempted to attend her book signing a couple weeks ago, but got so ridiculously, embarrassingly lost, I pretty much missed it. I entirely missed it.

Rage was a difficult read; however, seeing the internal attraction of a lesbian relationship, was interesting and somewhat enlightening, like a big “Oh. Ok.” But I kinda disliked the main character and her absolute desperation and neediness- though the psychological reasons were perfectly plausible. It was just really hard to follow her into this abusive, destructive relationship while the warning signs screaming and strobe-lighting all around her seem so blatantly obvious. I told my co-worker I wanted to slap her- in a Dear God, wake the hell up! sort of way.

But, it’s a young adult novel, and therefore the main character’s portrayal is necessary. I’ve certainly had several friends in high school that allowed or did whatever their boyfriends demanded or wanted, and I have a stepdaughter I worry about.

And yet……

It struck a personal chord. A very personal chord.

It is disturbingly easy to sacrifice yourself and all you respect and cherish about yourself for the sake of someone else. All the excuses I had made for him- six plus years of excuses. He’s depressed. His dad just died. He’s upset. We just moved. Just had a baby. Left the state. He misses his kids. We just moved back. It’s just a phase. A mid-life crisis. I’m doing something wrong. If I allow this, if I do this, if I change this, if I move here, stop doing this, if I if I if I if I……then he’ll be happy again and it’ll all be fine. We can work through it.

Six years of derision, insults, accusations, embarrassment, fear. I never knew which personality I’d walk home to, or wake up to, or fall asleep beside. At his worst, I was too afraid to sleep. I’d wait until he left for work. Am I a cold-hearted bitch or the love of his life today? Am I sleeping with my boss, my boss’ husband? Is the new job with only female employees a front for prostitution, have I connived total strangers to cover for me, or no, I’m gay as I have to be having an affair with someone?

Is it safe to go to the grocery store, the flea market, a drive, anywhere, or is he going to walk up to complete unknowns again and start telling them how awful it is to be married to me, how I’ve made his life miserable and how no man should ever get married and endure the suffering he has- after which he’ll come running back to me, absolutely beaming, and wrap his arms around me, suddenly affectionate as though he’d told them something completely different.

On my way out the door to go to work- on the days he was too angry to remind me not to bring anyone home later- he’d tell my boys how I’d prefer to be at work rather than spend time with them.

Everything was a threat to him. Putting on makeup. Fixing my hair. Changing my radio station. Understanding and using a computer. Reading a book. Writing a book. Playing with my boys. Talking to co-workers. Hiking with friends. Volunteering at a reptile rescue- especially if I wore camouflage pants and tattered converses……Needing and then buying clothes. There was never any rhyme or reason to it.

I wished that he would hit me. That’s easy to acknowledge as unacceptable. Easy to explain: I left because he hit me. Everyone would understand that. How do you explain, I left because my inner voice told me to? I left because he says mean hurtful things? I remember standing in my Wisconsin house holding my infant second son and knowing I shouldn’t follow him back here, that things were going to get bad, but not having anywhere to go, not having any reason to rationalize my instincts, not having anyone who’d assist me. And it did get bad. It got very, un-anticipatedly bad. How do you explain emotional warfare?

And I was raised in that.

I was so absolutely determined not to uphold the statement that all women marry their fathers- for good or bad. I was raised in that, and yet it took me six years to go, OMG, this is emotional abuse. That’s what’s wrong. It’s not a phase, not a mid-life crisis, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can’t fix it, it’ll never stop, and it’s never going to get any better.

It was my book, which was my sanity and escape, that finally set off the ‘enough’ decision. I was writing about my character’s love interest and suddenly sat back and wondered, given the (good) way I see and portray men and how a true relationship works, why am I living this way? Why am I condemning myself to this?

For a few weeks after I told him I wanted a divorce, I use to sit at the top of the stairs after he went to bed, terrified he would do something to the kids because his mental state was always so scrambled, and even more so then. We went out for ice cream once. As we all had to live together, and for the sake of the boys, I was trying to prove we could do it civilly. And he aimed the van straight at a light pole- well, aimed it so the passenger side, where I was sitting, would have made a fatal collision- when I said that there was absolutely no way I was giving him another chance. He swerved at the last moment, and I never got in the car with him again. Though he then totaled two cars with the boys inside and was furious with me that I was more concerned about them than him.

I lost so much weight in those months. His hostility amplified and I became so depressed. I had no support system, no one to help me through it and encourage me. He went through the house and removed any picture that had me in it (there wasn’t many, as he would never take a picture of me). He told me I ruined his life and he wished he’d never married me, then beg and plead for me to give him another chance because he loved me so much. Then threaten me that if I left him, I’d be alone forever because no one would treat me as good as he did. Then tell me it’s all his fault and he accepts full responsibility, and not to worry because he explained everything to my stepchildren (his kids). Who now no longer talk to me.

That hurts so much, because I’d tried to leave him early on, but the thought of not having them in my life, of them not caring, kept me from doing so.

In a couple weeks, it’ll be my one year anniversary of freedom, and it’s been a year of deep, self-inflicted psychotherapy. I was horrified to realize how much I’d sacrificed, how much of myself I’d chipped away- the parts of me I was the most proud of . It’s been an entirely different emotional warfare- trying to piece myself back together. The one thing I didn’t want was to be stuck in the single mother trap- the two jobs and the lack of time. The one thing that continues to hammer away at me every time I drop the kids off at school and pick them up late at night, six days a week, is him telling them how I’d rather be at work than with them. If I die, if something happens to me today, is that the only thing they’ll remember? Who’s around to tell them different?

I’ve started dating again and it’s so, so hard. I want to run away from the attempt, just close up and say it’s not worth it, afraid of what I’ll get myself into. The same? Worse? My history’s not so good. My father. I dated once in high school, until it quickly became a controlling/obsessive/soon-to-be abusive situation. Then nothing till I met my ex. I am so scared that I’ll find that I’m doomed to this. Everyone around me is in a supportive, loving relationship, but what if I never know what it’s like. If I am only allowed to write about it.

A year without him and I’m still on guard. He’s been on his good personality lately, but it never lasts. It always, always cycles. The accusations still come out at the tiniest thing. He can’t accuse me of cheating anymore (though I wish to all things holy that I was the type of person who could cheat, as it would have made those hellish years so much more tolerable). But I’m still accused of being part of a conspiracy to ‘get him’, to take his kids away, to rob him of all his money, and other such things.

I closed Rage and set it down and this all  just started pouring out. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to put it all into words and it was so, so difficult to relive and remember. I debated whether or not to blog it. Maybe it’s therapy. Maybe it’s a step forward and up. I sat in the dark and cried. I worried about who’d read it and what they’d think of me.

It’s 3:36am and I need to get up for work in a couple hours.

This is how you know a book is good. You may not like the characters, the story,  but if it makes you think, then it’s done its job. It it prevents someone from falling into that trap you’re warning about, then it’s even saved a life.

L. Nahay's Blog

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