The June Roller coaster

There have been many exciting changes in my life in the past six weeks or so in my personal life. It involves a new job for the boyfriend. As well as me moving in with him in the middle of the month. I’m still in the middle of unpacking/ trying to keep the chaos under control.  It wouldn’t be a roller coaster of a month without car troubles…as well as getting water in the car from the rain the other day.  And I am still reeling with (good) news I just received yesterday. So, hopefully life will be a little less chaotic as the summer goes on.  I hope to enjoy some sun filled days.

I’m just recovering from the stress and starting to write again this week. I went nearly two weeks without writing and it killed me. Not writing makes me so darn miserable. However, the stress kept me from being able to think straight enough to write. Oh well, I’m mostly over that stress hump now. Back to the writing.

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What a Rich Life Means to Me

Earlier this year, I had a profound realization, as a writer I’m not only an artist, but also a businesswoman. I’d never put two and two together. If I want to make a living as a writer, then I need to continue making that connection.

So, one of the first steps I took is to build myself a writing tracker, and make writing goals. I wrote a novel in 84.75 hours over three months, which is pretty fast considering all my other obligations and responsibilities. If I were writing full-time, I probably would have been able to write that novel in 4-5 weeks instead of 12-15 weeks.

However, now, I am only writing part-time, and I am happy with my progress. The novel I’m working on now is being a bit annoying to me. But, in drips and drabs, I am writing it. That piece of the puzzle is the part I love the most.

Another piece of the puzzle is money.

I’m working on a loose plan of trying to get my trilogy finished and polished so that I can indie publish it mid-2014. I’m not sure that is entirely realistic. However, that is why the plan is loose and I’m trying to keep it flexible.

Considering my need for control, that is a feat in and of itself. However, the plan to publish in the next 12-18 months brings me to other questions, like money. The idea that my novels will need to slow build is one that I can mentally handle. It would also give me the ability to take things slowly.

But, what happens if for whatever reason, the novel took off? This led me down the path of financial self-education. The need to understand and to be able to come to the table prepared has led me down this path.

So far, I’ve read: The Top 10 Differences Between Employees and Employees by Keith Cameron Smith and Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett: The Winning Strategy to Help Achieve Your Financial Life Goals by Larry E. Swedroe. I need to reread Swedroe’s book because there is some information on risk diversification that I haven’t fully integrated into my mind. I still don’t 100% understand it. Luckily for me, it is a short book.

I have also just started to read Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny by Suze Orman. I’m not sure how useful the book is going to be overall, I’m only a couple of chapters into reading it. But, in those few chapters, Suze Orman has been making me think.

She tells the story of a woman who defined what rich meant to her. And so, now, here I am trying to think about what rich means to me. In some ways, this feels sort of cheesy to me, but in other ways it makes sense. If I can envision it, then I can make it happen.

What a rich life means to me:

The ability to write what I want, when I want to, and to publish it or not as I see fit. Writing is what makes life worth living for me. Telling people stories and hopefully entertaining them.

I love my friends and family. I want to enjoy them as much as possible. However, I am a happier and more fulfilled person when I am writing. This makes me a better partner, friend, sister, and daughter.

Everything else is incidental. If I can’t write, then who am I? For me, a rich life includes writing – and plenty of time in which to write.

Some things that I might want along with time to write include being able to pay all my bills. Having time and money to travel. I love seeing new places and experiencing history firsthand. I would go back to Europe every year if I could. My one good friend wants to go to Australia for 2 weeks in 2015. We’ll see if that happens. I would love to see Machu Pichu. Asia, Africa, where in the world wouldn’t I want to go?

It would be great to have some money to buy a camera. Mine died four years ago, and I just haven’t had the money to buy a new one. Rent and tuition bills kept getting in the way of that – silly responsibility. I would love to have time to invest in new creative outlets. I’m learning how to knit now. I’m almost done with my first scarf.

I have a ton of scrap-booking and jewelry making stuff in storage, but I also don’t have a lot of time to pursue those hobbies. So mostly, my free time now goes to writing and reading.

So how can I synthesize all of this together? What does a rich life mean to me?

For me, a rich life is having the time to write, play, and enjoy the company of those I love.

And for that life, I am learning how to manage theoretical money that may or may not happen.

© K. Klein 2013

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Rape in Fiction

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

Sex is a loaded topic in American Culture. There is always someone with an opinion on it. That makes sexual violence, such as rape/ childhood sexual abuse/ sexual assault, also a loaded topic. However, the reality is that one out of every six women will either experience an attempted or completed rape in their life time.

Sexual violence is the skeleton hidden in the closet of this country. No one wants to talk about it. Not even me. But, part of being a writer is exposing those things that no one wants to talk about or think about. Dorothy Allison, who wrote an incredible novel called Bastard Out of Carolina, advises writers to write toward the fear. Right now, in talking about sexual violence in a public way, I am definitely writing towards my fear.

So, with that preface, I bring forth my topic. Is rape appropriate in fiction? Obviously, there is no easy answer to this question. However, I am talking about it because silence keeps rape and sexual violence hidden. Rape culture thrives on that silence.

I’ve seen some scathing reviews of the recent Lara Croft game and the sexualized violence within. Furthermore, there are a variety of television tropes about rape and sexual violence in our culture. And the assumption that rape equals automatic drama. These are ways in which rape are used to superficially deepen a character, add tension to a story, or support the rape culture in which we live in.

Rape culture is an insidious thing. It wants to keep women shamed and self-blaming when they’ve been violated. Rape culture wants to keep a monolithic view of its victims – white and often young – and supposed to act a certain way and dress a certain way. If this woman wore the wrong clothes, went to the wrong neighborhood, etc, then it is her fault and the culture begins to blame her. Or if she is the wrong color – think of the eleven year old girl in Texas who was gang raped and was called a slut. Would she have been shamed this way if she were a white little girl? I highly doubt it.

In any case, rape culture, wants to keep survivors silent – in order to keep survivors victims. Furthermore, even if many women have not been raped, almost every woman I know has been harassed in one way or another at least once. And it pains me when I hear that harassment being characterized as “not that bad.” Because, women like men, should have bodily autonomy as a right and not as a privilege.

So then, the question I started with comes up again, is it appropriate to talk about rape in fiction? My answer is a tentative yes. As with all serious topics, it needs to be handled with care and not used as just another trope or device. It is all a matter about how you treat the topic.

As a survivor myself, sexual violence is a topic that keeps coming back to me in many of the novels and short stories that I write. Many of my short stories are of a gritty nature than my novels, which I write primarily in the fantasy genre. However, as with most of my art, sexual violence comes up in one way or another.

I often write about sexual violence as a way to try to make sense of my own experiences. These pieces are often intense and explore the depth of emotion, personal reaction, and experience. Mostly, I explore this from the survivor’s side of the story, and not the perpetrator’s side of the story.

In my mind, nothing makes rape or sexual violence excusable. However, rapists don’t see women as people with their own bodily autonomy. Rapists see women as objects from which they can take.

Furthermore, my story is different from other stories. There is no right way to be a survivor. There is no right way to react to having your boundaries ripped apart. Often our culture expects a certain narrative for the survivor. However, survivors are people too, and that means that reactions are as varied as the people who are taken advantage of.

Overall, I think that rape is a loaded topic in our culture. But, if we refuse to examine the way in which the culture silences and diminishes survivors/ thrivers then we are allowing rape culture to win.

© K. Klein 2013

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The Middle

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.

– Jimmy Eats World, lyrics from the Middle

So, since I finished my last novel, I went back to my NaNoWriMo2012 novel. Last November, I hit my 50k words. However, near the end of the month, I caught a gnarly sinus infection that stopped me in my tracks.

Then December hit. I have a love-hate relationship with that month. It is fun to celebrate, but it is so busy. It has both my birthday and my boyfriend’s birthday on top of Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Usually relatives come in from out-of-town. There is a ton of socializing.

I can’t do all that socializing and write. I would not be a happy camper and would probably burn out. So, I typically take December off of writing. When I started writing again this year, in late January, I wanted to write the sequel to a novel I finished last year.

So, with all that in mind, I am now in the middle of writing the middle of my NaNoWriMo2012. I really hate writing this part because at this point all the momentum from the beginning is lost. And I’m not close enough to the climax/ dénouement to have the energy of the end. It can be a slog to work through that part of the novel.

On the other hand, I really love this novel. My characters are awesome and they’re so different from my other novels’ characters and this world is a departure from things I’ve done before. I really think it has come alive for me. I hope that my alpha reader likes it when it comes time for him to read it.

© K. Klein 2013

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Finished the novel, finally

The end of this novel decided it wanted to drag out. And I finally wrote the last chapter. The entire thing came out to 104, 456 words. My goal was 100k. I’m glad to be about on target. I tend to write a bit thin. When I go back to take a look at it, it will probably get another 20-30k of descriptions/ details added into it. It will get a couple of months to rest before I bother to look at it again.

Later this week, I’m going to go back to my NaNoWriMo2012 novel and finish it. I hit 52k in November, but then got sick with a sinus infection and hit a wall. I finished the word count goal, but not the novel. The goal now is to add another 40-50k to finish the plot line.  Exciting stuff.

©K. Klein 2013

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Some thoughts on violence

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. ~Khalil Gibran

I don’t often comment on events in the U.S. on my blog, but the recent events in Boston have been making me think. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I hope that the city of Boston is able to recover and move forward.

What worries me is the ongoing blame of Muslim people. I wish everyone could find a way to get along. Racism, classism, sexism and intolerance of religion divide us when we’re all so gloriously human. These divisions keep us from being the best of humanity. To the Muslim Americans out there, stay safe, and I hope you’re ok. And to Muslims across the world, not all Americans are afraid/ hateful of your religion.

Another worry and frustration I have is the casual idea that mental illness inherently causes violence. When in reality “mental illness” is a broad umbrella that includes diverse issues from anxiety to depression and bi-polar to schizophrenia. Have you ever seen the diagnostic manual that therapists/ psychiatrists use? It is huge and for good reason, there are many ways that the human brain can deviate from normal.

Most people with mental illness are not violent. Most people with normal brain chemistry are not violent. For example, people with schizophrenia are more likely to commit suicide than they are to commit violence with others. Here is some information from NIMH:

Are people with schizophrenia violent?

People with schizophrenia are not usually violent. In fact, most violent crimes are not committed by people with schizophrenia.7 However, some symptoms are associated with violence, such as delusions of persecution. Substance abuse may also increase the chance a person will become violent.8 If a person with schizophrenia becomes violent, the violence is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.

The risk of violence among people with schizophrenia is small. But people with the illness attempt suicide much more often than others. About 10 percent (especially young adult males) die by suicide.9,10 It is hard to predict which people with schizophrenia are prone to suicide. If you know someone who talks about or attempts suicide, help him or her find professional help right away.

People with schizophrenia are not usually violent.

I don’t have specific studies to back me up, but I am going to extrapolate here and say that most people with mental illness are not violent. And I would also venture to say that it is wrong to say that because one person in a group does something wrong to say that all people in a group are that way.

For example, I do not believe, that all Muslims are terrorists. Because that is a ridiculous assumption. Muslims are all human. There are good people and bad people as well as people in the middle. In any group of humans, there are violent people, kind people, and mediocre people. In the end we’re all just human.

Why do we feel the need to demonize one group or another when violence happens? That violence was created by the choices of the people who committed that act. It was not committed by an entire group of people at once.

I hope we can all follow Mr. Rogers’s excellent advice and look for the helpers. The people who stepped up and made a difference when atrocity shook us all.

© K. Klein 2013

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Patience & Story

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

For a writer, I have remarkably little patience.  Often in my life – patience is a virtue that I do not possess. At the moment, I’m near the end of the novel I’m drafting. I have another 10-15k to write, but I’ve been hovering. Not writing. Waiting.

I’m starting to get impatient with myself. I need to be setting words to paper, now, or so it feels like to me. However, at the same time, I’m awed by the possibilities that are in front of me as I near the end of this novel. And largely, I write intuitively, letting the story take me on the journey – me following where it leads.

So, when something doesn’t feel right or ready it is difficult to surmount that feeling because my subconscious is telling me to wait. Be patient. However, when does this stuck feeling become inertia? I’m still trying to learn the balance between moving forward for motions sake versus slowing down and feeling the story.

Writers write every day. I hear this continually. I’m practicing, but even in my best weeks, I’m writing 5-6 days week. Not seven days a week. Does that make me less of a writer? I don’t know. Probably not. I’m still practicing writing. Hell, even in the weeks that I only write 2-3 days that week, I’m still thinking about the novel. Or dreaming about it. The story is on my mind.

I also must admit, I’m at the stage in the story where I’m dreaming about a new novel. Characters from other stories and worlds are seductively dancing through my head. Write me – they cry at me. I have to ignore them, for now, so that I can finish the mad dash of this novel. I know the ending is in me. It is just taking its time gestating. And hopefully it will come out sooner rather than later.

© K. Klein 2013

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