January 24, 2018

When the Wolf Whistles Stop

I admit, when the wolf whistles stopped, it made me a little sad.

Even though I knew that being whistled at by some passing guy wasn’t anywhere near the measure of my worth, I had been brainwashed by society and maybe my upbringing to think it was important that my appearance draw positive attention.

Dudes – we need to stop this culture. It makes me so sad when I see Facebook friends post pictures of their pre-teen or teenage daughters and the responses say things like, “She’s beautiful. She’ll be trouble.” Why does a pleasing arrangement of features automatically equal rebellion, trickery or seduction to some people? What if that daughter is raised with conservative values and has a whole hell of a lot of common sense? What if she has morals? Just because she’s beautiful doesn’t mean she will say yes to lecherous men, but your comment will certainly encourage those lechers to lech.

It is so counter productive to the current women’s movement. We can’t expect men to stop wanting to grab us by the pussy if WE are commenting that beautiful young girls are gonna be trouble. Women – no, ALL people, should be making a conscious effort to change the way they respond to an attractive person. All I ask is that you don’t make their appearance the focal point. Comment on how much they’ve grown up. If you know them personally and they have a favorite trait, highlight that. “And a wicked sense of humor to boot!” Or just say, “Lovely.”

One thing you should know about me is that I’m pretty obsessive about ‘checking my work’ to make sure the things I claim are actually the way I represent myself in the world. So I just texted my daughter and asked (randomly, out of the blue for her) “If you had to guess, what traits would you think I admire most about you?” The poor confused young woman replied, “Uhhhh my independence?” To which I made matters worse by confirming, “Good. So just to be clear, you didn’t first think I valued your beauty above all else.” I can only imagine her shaking her head and laughing at this point. “Haha, uh no?” So, just to be absolutely sure I asked, “And do you know that I think you’re beautiful?” And her response was, “Yes. But I wouldn’t think that would be the first thing that comes to your mind when describing me.” –So, yay! I passed that test. And also, phew! I didn’t start this parenting journey with the intent on making sure my children didn’t focus on their appearance. It might have developed after the wolf whistling stopped, I don’t know. I just know that it was well into the journey that I thought, “Wait. I don’t want them to get to my age and battle the same demons I’m battling. Why should they have to spend any energy teaching themselves later in life that what they look like isn’t among their most important traits?” And see how it wasn’t too late to impart that knowledge on my daughter?

Of course this holds true for our sons, nephews, husbands, fathers, etc, also. “Isn’t he a heartbreaker?” “Those good looks will sure open doors.” How about his skill at crafting metal or solving problems? What about his intellegence? All the years he invested in an education? Why don’t we highlight those instead of his high cheekbones and ability to make girls swoon?

Compliments are fun. They make us feel good. I’m not suggesting we don’t appreciate an attractive person. All I’m asking is that we think about the message we send by our appreciation and that we lean toward highlighting personality traits and intellegence before beauty. And that we NEVER, ever give that beauty power over others, or give others power over that beauty. That is no longer acceptable.

January 17, 2018

Why Race Anyway?

As my son wraps up his AA he’s taking a Race, Class, and Gender class. He’s the third child of mine to take the class. Apparently, this teacher requires a weekly wrap up because the past two Wednesday mornings I’ve found a paper on my seat to read. This son likes for me to proof his work, though he hardly needs it.

I have got to take this class! As I read through his paper this morning I was getting all riled up about how (and who) we’ve classified race for census purposes. I wasn’t fully aware that Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race – so now I better understand why it has changed over the years as they cry out for better recognition.

But mostly, reading through my son’s recap of the week in Race, Class, and Gender class, made me think about how we’ve done this to ourselves. From the beginning we’ve singled out our differences. Originally, we defined our differences by our religion before changing it to race. Which does at least show some progress over the years. There has been mention of changing the designation to national origin instead of race, since people relate more to where they or their ancestors came from more than their race. I would love to take the focus off of the color of our skin.

My main thought as I read through the paper, was that our forefathers made mistakes and who’s to say we aren’t still making them? They came up with the idea to take a census to find out how many residents in our country were Jewish or Christian. Then they must have realized that our country promised freedom of religion, so they changed it to counting how many of us were Native American or Asian or African American. Now that there is big money in the race classification, because corporations target marketing based on race, we’ll probably never get away from it, but would national origin unite us? Or would it just create a new set of prejudices?

Who is to say that what we are fighting for now is right any more than what we are fighting against was thought to be right when it was designated? Why the hell do we have to classify our populous anyway? In my utopia it doesn’t give a lick what color your skin is or where your great, great, great grandpa was born. In my utopia if you want an opportunity (school, job, housing,) and you’ve worked hard and proven you’re capable you should have an equal chance at obtaining it as ANY other American. In my utopia if you’re struggling and prove that you’re capabilities are permanently or temporarily dimished (mental health, injury, poor health,) you should have an equal opportunity to qualify for assistance as ANY other American.
I know it isn’t ever as simple as it that. There is rarely a straight line between right and wrong. But it seems we’ve made much more of a jumble of it than we needed to and I really, really wish we could have a do over. It’s all so unneccessary. Prejudice was started out of ignorance, fueled by fear, and perpetuated by apathy. Let’s wipe the slate clean and have one single classification.

The human race.

January 10, 2018

Christmas Harvest - A Worm With A View

We moved to central Oregon in the year 2000. We've been going out into the National Forest to cut our own Christmas tree since we moved here. We've only missed (maybe) two years. It's a fun, family experience. We get the tree cutting permit, complete with a guide to the types of trees we will find in the forest. The kids always liked to run around identifying the trees. Now they like brandishing the saw.

Some years there's more snow in the forest than other years. I had back surgery in July of 2001, and wouldn't you know it, that was a year with more snow fall. Even by December of that year, my back hadn't healed enough for me to be able to trudge through knee deep snow. But, of course, we didn't find that out until we'd already trekked out, found and cut down the tree, and were heading back to the car. Yeah...my poor, poor husband. I was literally worried that I was not going to be able to make it back to the car on my own...but we also had our four young kids with us; ages 8, 7, 3 and 2. Those of you familiar with both knee deep snow and toddlers will know - they don't mix. That poor husband of mine had to put one toddler on his shoulders and piggy back the other, plus he'd trussed the tree up with a rope, tied it around his waist, and dragged it behind him. I'm pretty sure the 7 year old was carrying the saw. Not my best parenting moment, but we all made it back to the car, tree in tow, and with all of our fingers and toes.

There have been years we had to put the tree into the tree stand and set it atop a pile of drop clothes for a day or two while it literally thawed out. You don't want your tree dripping on the lights, after all.

The forest service gives us clear guidelines about the tree we can harvest. The one thing I remember each year is the tree can't be taller than twelve feet. We have a vaulted ceiling in our living room, so the generous height constraint isn't an issue. As a matter of fact, we tease my husband that twelve feet gets taller each year. As we stood in the forest this December, my husband pointed and asked, "How about that one?"

My son and I both responded, "You mean the twenty foot tall one?"

We were barely able to restrict him to twelve feet, yet we managed. As we drove home with our freshly cut tree hanging over both the front and back of the car, I joked that at least we didn't have a root ball on our tree, referring to the Griswald family Christmas tree from the movie, Christmas Vacation. But we ended up with another beautiful tree just how I like them, with plenty of space between the branches to show off all of our unique ornaments. See? Beautiful. Ginormous, but lovely.

However, even after 17 years, we are still running into unusual situations. This year was indeed a first. We got the tree home. It wasn't frozen solid, so we could decorate it right away. We kept it watered. Everything was great.

Then the cats started to sit under it and stare at it...for an hour at a time. Just stare up at the trunk. I stalked around, peering at the trunk to see if I could spot what captured their attention, but nope. Nothing. Until about two weeks after we brought it home. When the cats started to stand on their back feet to reach toward something on the trunk. Even then it took me awhile to figure it out.

Caterpillars. Fricking caterpillars. We found two that night and a couple more over the next couple of weeks. But how many DIDN'T we find? I tried to cross reference what kind of caterpillar it was so that I'll know what to expect to fly around my house in spring! But the closest cross reference is a Fritillary butterfly, though its caterpillar appears to have furry spines and my caterpillars had knobby spines. So...who knows.

At least it wasn't a squirrel.

Do you have any tree harvesting stories to share? I'd love to know I'm not alone in this!

January 3, 2018

2018 - A Year For Change

Welcome to 2018 - A new year. A new writer me.

Every year I re-invent my writing self, based on how the year before played out. Last year was a rebirth for me and my career. Throughout 2017 I concentrated on my LA Dragoni persona by rebranding Ghost Touch, (self) publishing Guardian’s Touch and then releasing Again, For Love (Torrid Press). I carefully followed marketing plans I learned from successful marketers. I worked hard to build my platform so that my release would hit fans on several fronts. The rebranding of Ghost Touch and pre-release of Guardian’s Touch gave positive results and I felt encouraged.

Yet, in the end it all came to absolutely nothing. Sales of both GT’s stalled after the release of Guardian’s Touch and Again, For Love (my favorite book so far) went absolutely nowhere. I’ve been publishing for over seven years, so I know building a following doesn’t happen overnight. But over those seven years I’ve also worked dang hard to stay current with my marketing techniques in order to keep my work in front of readers and I’ve learned a few things.

1      It’s fricking hard to keep up with the changes in marketing.
2      It can be expensive.
3      It is more and more difficult to get your work in front of readers because of the sheer volume of books being published.
4      If a book doesn’t take off at first, it isn’t likely to later.
5      I’m tired.

On the Kai Strand side of things, I struggled over what to work on next. I had a YA contemporary out on submission that was being considered by a publisher. I sent a YA mythology to my crit buddies that I want to self-publish. I asked my talented son to make a cover for a contemporary middle grade that I got my rights back on a while ago. The first cover he did was adorable, but not in the right format and we don’t have the correct tools to convert it. My crit buddies are just too busy with life to work on my mythology and I don’t have back-up critters that I know well and am comfortable with. And I finally got a rejection from that publisher.

So, all in all it was a really discouraging year. This industry has changed so much in the twelve years I’ve been writing. It went from authors having few choices, to having lots of choices, to having too many choices that just create white noise for readers. Please remember, this post is about my career. I just can’t get traction with my writing. I have some wonderful, loyal readers, who I am so, so thankful for, but beyond that I can’t seem to resonate.

And because I’ve worked so very hard over the years and it has only gotten more difficult instead of easier (there are other factors that I’m not detailing here, which add to the overall struggle) I’ve made a big decision for 2018. I will continue to write, because that’s what I do. And I will continue to publish – because I truly value my loyal readers and I really do love sharing my stories with the world. But I will do it on my own. At my own pace. No frills. No whistles. No bells. I’ll announce new books when they are available through my newsletters and on my Facebook pages/Twitter, but that will be it. If you truly want to know when I have a new book out, I suggest you make sure you’ve subscribed to my newsletter or follow me on Amazon (or both, if you need two emails to make sure you see things.)

Kai Strand contact info: Mailing List| Facebook| TwitterAmazon|

LA Dragoni contact info: Newsletter| Facebook| Twitter |Amazon

It is super uncomfortable for me to say this out loud. There are so many reasons why I hate to put this in writing, on my blog, for all to see. But I really want to make sure my readers know.

I plan to re-release Save the Lemmings this month. My son made a new cover. See how ADORABLE it is! I’m just waiting for the full wrap for the print version. I’ve spruced up the book a bit, too.

I will also be publishing my YA contemporary soon. It’s a fricking great book, dang it. I don’t understand why it wasn’t picked up. I just have to come up with a cover and that isn’t as easy as I want it to be. Dang I wish I could do it all! Or more accurately, I wish I had the money to just make it happen the way I want. Ha ha.

Beyond that, I don’t have specific plans. I want to publish the 3rd Touched by Afterlife book, just don’t know when. The original February date was sidelined when sales tanked for that pseudonym. Can’t pay for a cover if I’m not making money.

The YA mythology is another mystery to me. Do I take the time/chance to work with critique partners I don’t know? Do I go it alone? I really wanted input on this one and I’m kind of frozen without it. I’m about halfway through writing the second book in the series and wanted the first book more solidified before I continued.

Can you see how writing is a bit like playing Tetris? You have all of these moving pieces that are different sizes and shapes and somehow you have to figure out how to fit them together before it all implodes. Okay, imploding might have been a bit dramatic. Though, it does feel that way sometimes.

I see many people stating their ‘word for the year.’ I can’t come up with one. By removing my self-induced deadlines and chucking the marketing aspect of writing, I’m simplifying my life. But that doesn’t really incorporate all I’m going through. Because this (for a lack of a better word) failure in my career has spurned me to focus on my life. Spend more time with friends, improve the quality of my family time. I want to volunteer more too, just don’t know where or how. So, my word could also be engage. Is there a single word that portrays both simplify and engage?

I’m actually excited about it. Though I always wanted my books to be my main source of income, now that I’ve decided that I’m done struggling to make that happen, I’m excited about the possibilities of what I can do with my reclaimed time and brain power. Maybe my house will be cleaner. Maybe I’ll lose some weight. Maybe I’ll become President, though I won’t be tweeting much anymore, so…

The possibilities are wide open for me again. AND I’ll still be writing and publishing. That’s pretty cool! But, if you’re one of those few who care about my books, you’ll have to work a little harder to know about them. Sorry about that.  

Cheers to a simpler yet more rich writing life in 2018. Let’s see what it leads me to next year.