Just a Few More Hours to Fill

•April 1, 2014 • 8 Comments

20140401-193932.jpgThis piece is darkly existential. It was written as thoughts meant to become a short story, but that won’t happen anytime soon. After my crappy day, I decided just to post it as-is.

May you find peace in the hours you fill.

-_Q

Let’s not pretend we’re here for any other reason than to pass the hours until we die. I pass the hours by writing. You pass the hours by reading.

There are few certainties in life. Love is not one of them. Feigned love isn’t either, but it’s more likely. Peace and safety, not guaranteed. Death. Yep. That’s about the only thing that is inevitable, except for maybe betrayal. Lies and deception, that’s rather inevitable, too.

So. Death. That big scary country from whose borne no traveler returns, unless you believe in ghosts or reincarnation or some such thing. Both of those things scare me even more than death. Honestly. To be trapped here for all eternity! Imprisoned on this plane watching everyone around you make the same stupid mistakes.

Lie. Cheat. Steal.

Selfishly run from death at such a high velocity they don’t notice they’re living. Horrifying. Perhaps reincarnation is the only thing even more frightening than haunting the living. Having to do this bullshit over and over again. Caught up in the hell of samsara, doomed to suffer again and again without memory of the time before. Without any conscious realization of perspective. Maddening.

Death is not the worst thing than can happen to a person. No.

Yet, everyone runs around trying to stay young and cheat death. They kill others to cheat death. They poison their bodies with toxic pharmaceuticals and let narcissistic doctors cut them up with invasive surgeries so they can exist a few more years, so they can put off death for a few more years.

All those years they save are filled with more sorrow, more betrayal, and yes, more joy and love, too.

They fill the hours with grocery shopping and reality shows, with soccer practice and PTA meetings and day jobs they hate, all for a few hours of peace on the weekends when they must catch up with laundry and cleaning and pay bills and ship packages and buy gas for a car they can’t afford unless they go back to work the next Monday and do it all over again. They pop pills not to feel, read books to be more “positive,” forever sprinting away from sorrow and pain and death. Racing against the inevitable.

I pass a mutilated corpse of a cat on the highway and I envy it. The bird that just flew into the window flaps on the floor with its dying breath. I pick it up and cradle it in my hands, its downy feathers caress my skin. I watch it gasp, its head lolls from side to side. Neck broken. Then, stillness, and I say, “You’re at peace now. You no longer have to struggle to find food. You’ll never be cold again. You won’t feel any more pain. It’s over.”

And I envy it. I bury it next to my dog in the backyard then go inside and turn on Netflix. Log my calories for another day, struggling to stay thin for some reason or another. Not sure why. I watch Buffy for this twenty-seventh time. My husband is in his phone, thumbing through StumbleUpon comics. I’m in my phone updating Facebook. Buffy quips and stakes and pouts in the background. My new dog snores. My old cat purrs. Another day is done, and I hope I fall asleep soon because that is close to death. A few hours of peace, of not feeling hungry, of not reading another rejection, of not dealing with the aftermath of rape, of not planning my entire day around the few morsels of food I can eat.

I hear about an attempted suicide and how everyone rushed to their aid and caught them just in time. Saved them from death. For a few more years, anyway. This person was in so much pain and felt so completely alone, they were willing to face the thing that terrifies us all. It doesn’t matter what’s over there because it has to be better than what’s over here. It has to be. But they’re not even allowed to die. “What about your family,” others say. “Suicide is so selfish,” more say. “You’ll be glad you lived. You’ll see.”

Then they disappear. All those people who were so terrified of death themselves they had to stop another from facing death on his own terms, revoking his choice and his control over his own life, his own body, his own soul. All those people disappear and the saved suicidal chap is left not only with his misery and feelings of pointlessness, but now he has mounting hospital bills and the stigma of mental illness, suicide survivor. They all disappear because they don’t want to hear his pain. “Be more positive,” they say. “Look on the bright side,” others say. “Life is a gift,” more say. “Choose to be happy.”

And he’s alone.
And you’re alone.
And I’m alone.

In life. In death. Alone.

Death is inevitable. The readiness is all, someone once said.

I sit here typing this out to you: Editor. Reader. Mother of two. Sad man in dead-end job. Abandoned woman who doesn’t know where your husband is, who wonders where it all went wrong. Coward cheating on your partner. Liar saying anything to get laid, masturbating alone to internet porn. To all you passing the time, covering the pain.

I sit here and type to pass the hours until I can sleep. Until another day. Another 1300-1500-1800 calories, depending on the current theory based on yet another article or diet plan or book. On special days I go to Starbucks and rape recovery therapy, but most days I type this out to you, or I think write another story few will read…or I weed my garden or take a nap.

Showers help. Long, hot showers. That will kill fifteen or twenty minutes if the hot water tank holds out. I feel warm and safe in the shower. For a few fleeting moments, I don’t think about death. I just feel the water pelt my flesh and roll down my arms and back and breasts in streams of peace.

Evening comes. Dinner. Calories. Buffy. Facebook. Just before sunset my boxer coaxes me out of bed, and I pause Buffy mid-slay. Together we sit in the field on the mountainside next to our home overlooking a peaceful lake. Together we feel the wind tickle the hairs on our face. Together we watch the sun set and the birds swirl overhead. I put my arm around him and feel his warmth, and I feel safe again. In this moment, too, there is peace. This moment both he and I look forward to every day, for in this moment, we are alive. We are safe. We share the wonder that is life together. In this fleeting moment.

Another day over. Another 1300-1500-1800 calories eaten. Another night to sleep the hours away.

So, yes, let’s not pretend we’re here for any other reason than to pass the hours until we die. Peace is found in passing the hours if you’re quiet long enough to see it peeking through your dog’s whiskers or in the whisper of a bird’s wing. The love in your partner’s eyes, in the softness of a single touch. A moment here. A moment there. Peace. Safety. Warmth.

Shhhhh. Listen. It’s there. Just behind the clacking of the keyboard. Underneath the din of traffic. It’s there. A moment here. A moment there. Stringing together some semblance of sanity as we pass the hours until death. That peace that waits for each of us. That silence that beckons us. No matter how much noise we make or how fast we run away, it’s there behind it all. Just a few more hours to fill, and it will embrace us, protect us, release us.

Just a few more hours to fill.

Crossroads

•March 30, 2014 • 11 Comments

I’m feeling a mixture of resignation and sadness tonight, vacillating between the desire to be completely invisible and renewed inspiration with hope for the future.

Hope. Such a dangerous thing.

I’m on the cusp, really. For awhile now I’ve been thinking that I really had no more stories to tell, especially at the moment.

Since the rape, I can no longer write romance or erotica without the stories being tinged with assault or exploitation, as my world-view has been forever altered. Sex, even over two years later, is not something I can think about, let alone write or do.

I read “The Handy Man” tonight, and I find that I’m no longer comfortable even reading my old erotic stories, especially in public. I was nervous, and I’m rarely nervous at a reading. Although I frequently have the problem of wondering if the audience is enjoying it or if they’d rather be doing something else…or wondering if the story is too long or at all interesting. This time, especially.

I found myself truncating the sex scenes, skipping over parts that were too explicit and descriptive…wanting just to get through it. Get it over with.

On one hand, I’ve met fans and readers who were excited to see me and buy the new titles, I’ve sold out of three of my five titles already, but on the other hand, I think I’m done with this part of my life. I certainly won’t be writing erotica/steamy romance anymore. After writing three novels last year and another six short stories, my creative energy is spent.

I’m thrilled to be at AnomalyCon, and I’m ever so grateful that Kronda wanted to bring me back. I’ve had a wonderful time here, and it feels really good to be working again. Similarly, the wonderful, supportive people who do Steampunk World’s Fair are trying to bring me out to be part of their Consent and Safety Track, and I would be beyond honored to be a part of that.

All this gives me renewed confidence in my work, both fiction and nonfiction. It gives me the (dangerous) hope of a possible renewal of my writing career, too, after its trajectory was halted by assault and recovery.

But, I’m a different person now. I will either find a new voice, new stories to tell and ways to tell them, or my writing days are over. Perhaps I’m just at a place where my creative energy is sapped and I need time to recover.

After all, it’s been a rough few years. I’ve written eleven books and two-dozen short stories in the past six years. We also lost our three beloved dogs and adopted a new treasured canine family member. I’ve survived several assaults at the hand of my (former) best friend, (former) trusted colleague, and (former) beloved boyfriend. I quit my job and moved across the country to feel safe again after my communities shunned me and embraced the assailants. I’ve struggled with dissociative episodes and chronic illness through the trauma recovery. My husband had a near-fatal accident that kept him from walking for a few months and robbed him of nearly an entire year of work, not to mention our entire savings.

Maybe I just need time to recover…but it feels like I’m standing at a crossroad. I’m not sure which road to take, so I’ll just listen to Bach, meditate, and try to sleep tonight.

It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds.

AnomalyCon 2014: Time’s Running Out!!

•March 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

20140307-200136.jpgLater this month, I’ll be appearing at AnomalyCon in Denver, CO. This will be my first convention appearance in nearly two years! I’m so excited to return to AnomalyCon this year…and with TWO new titles!

Not only will I be on some great panels (see the programming guide here), but I will also be hosting the Tea Party on Sunday afternoon. I’ll be reading a new short story and running a game of charades. All this, AND you get to hear a special performance by the fabulous Unwoman.

Saturday, March 8th (TODAY!!) is the last day to pre-register. A pre-registration ticket is only $30, and you get a lot for that price. From their website:

Preregistration for AnomalyCon 4, March 28-30, 2014. Preregistration is for ALL activities for the entire weekend except for The Afternoon Tea, which must be purchased separately. Preregistration includes BOTH the Friday and Saturday concerts. Preregistered attendees will receive a reusable swag bag and lots of cool goodies.

The last day to preregistrer for AnomalyCon will be March 8th, 2014. Day passes will be available for purchase during the convention itself.

They have contests, like best moustache, most creative balcony, best hovercraft, and LEGO building. They also have a super cool science fair for kids. Top all that off with amazing musical guests, talented artists, distinguished authors, AND a Murder Mystery and Killer Breakfast, and you have a pretty remarkable convention.

Extra special for this year, each attendee will get a stack of cards in their goodie bag. These cards will have original artwork (like the one shown above) on one side and a piece of flash fiction on the other. All the cards will be the same artist/author pair, so you have to socialize to collect the others!

And, yes, I contributed a flash fiction piece called “The Last Revolution” for this great game.

Go pre-register today! Quickly! Before it’s too late.

See you soon!

20140307-202554.jpg

…and yet another

•March 5, 2014 • 5 Comments

Two weeks ago, one of my dearest friends called me to tell me this article was coming out the following week. I listened with compassion and solidarity as he told me that he was DONE. No more. Finit. Enough of this sexual harassment/assault bullshit in our convention spaces. This time the target was a close friend of his, and the (alleged) assailant, the husband of his cherished colleague.

Here’s an excerpt:

AnachroCon 2014, held February 14-16, at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, announced last week via Facebook that one of its founding members and co-chairmen William MacLeod would be leaving the con. In his original message (dated Tuesday February 18th) he stated, “The Army finally took its toll on me…. After 6 years as Chairman of AnachroCon, I (William MacLeod) am stepping down and turning convention operations over to my beloved co-chair Cindy so that I may focus on medical issues that have begun to plague me even more over the years.”

However, in the two days leading up to William MacLeod’s announcement, accusations surfaced that a member of the con staff allegedly received inappropriate and unwanted verbal and physical advances from the co-chairman. The staffer, who asked not to be named publically but was interviewed at length by a member of the Steampunk Chronicle staff, states that William MacLeod made repeated offers of sex over the weekend and fondled her at the most recent convention. According to the staffer, this was not the first time he had inappropriately touched her, and she alleges a pattern of such behavior going back several years.

A Troubled History

SpC has uncovered a string of allegations against William MacLeod, including a related sexual harassment allegation in the resignation letter of a former AnachroCon Senior Director of Promotions, Dan Carroll, who cited MacLeod’s behavior toward female members of Carroll’s staff. Carroll stated this week, “I resigned from AnachroCon because of the completely inappropriate treatment of women by the Chairman. All of the women who worked under me at the convention had asked me to address the issue. He did not seem to take these concerns seriously. It was my understanding he had taken steps to seek treatment and was working on the problem.” Carroll resigned in 2011. According to Cindy MacLeod, at the time of Dan Carroll’s resignation, AnachroCon, was not as well organized and they were still running it as a “private party.” There was no formal investigation.

A more recent departure was that of Megan Maude, director of the Fashion Track. She alleges that the problem of harassment has been pervasive at the con for a number years.  In a statement to Steampunk Chronicle, she said, “Predatory behavior was being tolerated and even encouraged by the chairman and his friends… I explained my many concerns about the safety of women at the con to Strobel [Charles Strobel, the Director of Programing and Anachrocon LLC Board of Directors member]… There was even talk of having a woman on staff whose only job would be to handle sexual harassment reports…[but nothing changed]… I genuinely don’t feel that I can safely invite any of my younger girlfriends to the con. I don’t want to tell a bunch of girls in their early to mid 20s to come to an event where I’m genuinely afraid they will be sexually assaulted.”

MacLeod has a long (alleged) history of harassing and assaulting women at his convention. Unfortunate for each of his subsequent targets over the years, no one did a thing about it before now.

Additionally, this man MacLeod supposedly spoke quite loudly for the “Cosplay is not Consent” campaign, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. As I’ve said countless times on this blog, offenders have no moral qualms about hiding in feminist ranks–just as they hide in other places like spiritual and sex-positive communities.

Enough.

Enough.

Enough.

I’m so proud of my dear friend for making a stand on this topic. This is what it takes. Every time another person stands up and says NO MORE or I’M DONE and takes action, the space in which these predators and rapists can operate becomes smaller and smaller. Standing up and saying NO MORE, no matter who is accused, and revoking their social license to operate will stop these predators from operating in our spaces.

Let’s make our convention spaces and communities safe for everyone, except those who perpetrate violence, especially sexualized violence. A good start for conventions is to have a response policy in place and posted publicly on its website, distributed in its literature, and announced at opening ceremonies. Join John Scalzi in boycotting events that do not take sexual harassment and assault seriously enough to have an action plan in place.

Join me in boycotting these events and events who continue to schedule known rapists as their musical guest and Guest of Honor (SteamCon & Wild Wild West Con, specifically), and let them know why you won’t go.

Support conventions who refuse to book known assailants like The Steampunk World’s Fair and AnomalyCon.

Read the entire fascinating article on MacLeod and the AnachroCon Controversy in The Steampunk Chronicle.

The Dark Side of Love

•February 14, 2014 • 9 Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day….or not.

Today is a happy day when you’re in love. Every shop has heart-shaped chocolate boxes and silly plush animals holding “I luv u” hearts. Jewelry stores have specials on diamonds and rings. Couples choose this day to get married or propose. My husband proposed on Valentine’s Day 14 years ago.

It’s all so very romantic…if you’re in love.

If you’re heartbroken or you’re alone or, worse, you’re recovering from intimate partner violence, nothing can seem more cruel than Valentine’s Day because cupid’s arrow has fractured your very soul.

Many of you follow my blog because of my extensive writings on relationships, trauma, and recovery, and for that, I thank you. Each time you comment, I feel less alone. However, I make my living writing dark fiction, so please, if you haven’t yet, try one of my stories.

ValentinesDayOMG

They’re not sappy romance.

Start with a short story for under $2.00, some less than $1,00! That’s less than a good cup of coffee (or any cup of coffee, really).

  • Clockwork Heart,” only $1.49 on Kindle, tells a story about a man who went to horrific lengths to keep his love alive. Written in the Victorian style of H. G. Wells.
  • Heart of Stone, Flesh of Ice,” only $1.49 on Kindle, is based in Japanese Mythology about a supernatural creature who punishes those who exploit, disrespect, and deceive women.
  • The Handy Man,” only $1.99 on Kindle, is an erotic Steampunk story about a man who goes into the business of pleasing women.
  • A Kiss in the Rain,” only $0.99 on Kindle, is an erotic Gothic love story about a man who couldn’t let go of his wife, even after death.
  • Of Aether and Aeon,” only $0.99 on Kindle, is the first short story I wrote. It’s a tragic tale of a woman trapped in a time loop of falling in love and watching her lover die.
  • Zeppelin Dreams,” only $0.99 on Kindle, tells the tragic story of a woman waiting for her phantom lover.

If you want to take a bigger leap, or if you already know you love my writing, please support my work by buying one of my novels:

  • Avalon Revisited. My first novel, and the Amazon.com Gothic Romance bestseller, not to mention Steampunk Chronicles Best Novel for 2012. Available in paperback, Kindle, and other eBook versions. $9.62 paperback; $5.99 Kindle.
  • Avalon Revamped, its sequel, of sorts. This horror steampunk novel follows Constance, a succubus who punishes men that hurt women. Perhaps Arthur is next. $11.66 paperback; $5.99 Kindle (or borrow for FREE with Amazon Prime)
  • The Zombies of Mesmer, the first Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter novel. Teen Steampunk Romance. $11.66 paperback; $3.99 Kindle.
  • The Ghosts of Southwark, its sequel. $11.28 paperback; $5.99 Kindle.

Additionally, more of my work can be found in anthologies and magazines on my Amazon Author Page.

A few dollars for you is my living. Give us both a gift this Valentine’s Day.

Thank you for your support.

May you find peace.

Tables Turned

•February 7, 2014 • 6 Comments

Powerful video.

Brilliant, really.

“Oppressed majority” takes place in an alternate reality where women jog half naked and work while the men take care of the kids and endure daily sexual harassment….The short film, in French and directed by Éléonore Pourriat, shows a father taking his kid to kindergarten and going through the rest of his day facing catcalls, sexist remarks, sexual assault, and contempt. (Source)

From the experience on the street to the way the father was treated by the police and his partner…it’s all extremely accurate to how women are treated daily. By flipping the gender to men, we start to see just how damaging such behavior is and the absurdity in putting up with it (and perpetuating it).

Pay attention to what comes up in your thoughts as you watch it. You’ll see how deeply ingrained rape culture truly is in all of us.

May you find peace.

Then He Wins

•January 31, 2014 • 10 Comments

nakedEarlier today, I saw this meme making its way around Facebook, and I reposted it to my O. M. Grey page with the words “Never again, I’m afraid.”

Two people comment after the first 30 minutes. Both comments pissed me off. The second was from some guy I don’t recognized telling me that I can’t “block out the entire world because one guy turned out to be a jerk.”

Um. Understate much?

Number one, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my life, especially if you’re a man. That will earn you an immediate block. Number two, don’t comment on sensitive topics if you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. This man quite obviously knows little to nothing about me or what I’ve endured. Saying “one guy” proves that alone.

Fuck off.

Enough time wasted on him. He’s been blocked.

The first response was much more painful and severely triggering because it came from a fellow survivor. She said this: “Then he wins.”

Little makes me more angry than suggesting my rapist(s) win because of a choice *I* made to care for and protect myself. This isn’t a game or a race or anything of the sort.

This is my life. My heart. My soul.

If you can’t respect the decisions I make for myself, because no one has to live in my skin with my experiences but me, then fuck off. You are one more person that doesn’t deserve to be in my life, and you certainly don’t deserve access to my heart and soul.

Rapists “win” when people stay silent.
Rapists “win” when accepted into communities that know they’ve been accused of rape.
Rapists “win” when people renew their Social License to Operate by excusing their behavior, blaming their victims, and spouting inane platitudes such as this.
Rapists “win” the moment people start repeating The Great Derailers.
Rapists “win” with every rape joke.
Rapists “win” when they get more community support than their victims.

One of the many reasons this particular platitude infuriates me is because it’s a reminder that, as a woman and a survivor, I simply cannot “win” no matter what I do.

  1. If I try to explain why I came to this decision, I’m accused of “playing the victim” or I hear “Okay! Okay! You’re a victim. I get it!”
  2. If I “get back on that horse” and try to love and trust again (like I did after rapist 1, 2, and 3**) and I’m sexually assaulted or raped again, I get victim blamed. “Didn’t you learn from the last time?” — “When will you learn?” — “Again? Are you sure it’s rape?” — “That’s a very serious accusation! Do you have any proof?”
  3. Or, let’s take it out of the realm of sexuality and romance, if I open my heart and soul to “friends,” I hear, “You’re always so fragile” — “You need to toughen up.” — “Isn’t it time you take responsibility for your part in this? I mean, you are the common denominator here.”
  4. If I pay a therapist to support me in my healing I get,
    • “You’re only upset about being raped because you think rape is a bad thing. The problem is with your ego. Have some compassion! (for your rapist)” (I reported her to the State Board)
    • The therapist offers me sanctuary in their place of business/community only to change his mind and welcome my rapist into his office/home.
    • The most recent and most damaging, the therapist builds a long-term, intimate therapeutic relationship with me and encourages me to open up and trust him, and when I  finally open up all the way and show him the depths of my heart and soul, he emotionally abandons me, makes excuses for all the men who have done that in the past, and makes 180-degree shift in personality, reinforcing the pattern of The Rapist (3). Then disappears without any word or effort to repair the broken trust, reinforcing the patterns of all and more. (Yes, I reported him to the State Board for that and for violating professional confidence.)
  5. If I take the hint, after being ostracized by four different communities and deceived/judged/betrayed by every. single. person. I trusted, and decide to just protect myself and remain isolated until (if ever) I can deal with being a part of society again without being (so obviously) vulnerable, I’m accused of “giving up,” “being too cynical,” “jaded,” or “*letting* him win.”

Yes, I’m angry. If you can’t deal with my anger, then NEWS FLASH — you don’t have to read my updates. You don’t have to read my blog…and you really, really don’t have to fucking comment.

Great that you’re oh-so-positive-and-spiritual (just like R3, btw, and 2 of the communities who embraced him, not to mention the “HAVE SOME COMPASSION” therapist) and you “forgive” your rapists and live in a world of rainbows and bunnies and love. I’m not there, and your judgments won’t help me get there any faster.

In fact, they’re keeping me away and reinforcing my decision to remain isolated.

As a survivor, one would think you would know this, but, as I’ve said before, I can’t even pretend to be surprised anymore.

-_Q
**for the purposes of my writings in this blog, Rapist 1 is The Writer, Rapist 2 is The Musician, and Rapist 3 is The Rapist, aka Austin Poly Rapist. There have been many other sexual assaults, severe sexual abuse or harassment, and rapes over the past thirty years, as I’ve mentioned before, about 1/3 of my lovers and some who weren’t lovers. I mainly talk about these three as they were the ones that were so traumatizing over the past four years and sent me into a tailspin from which I’ve only recently recovered. But there was a digital rape after The Rapist (3) that I don’t often talk about because I wasn’t further traumatized by it. The guy owned it, more or less, apologized for it, and made amends. The only thing I’ve ever asked of Rapist 1, 2, or 3. The assaults before 1,2,&3, as well as ones during, I don’t talk about because it really borders on the absurd the sheer number of times, especially because it wasn’t until months after Rapist 3 (and the subsequent digital rape) that I realized they were rape. Boiling Frog phenomenon. I’ll write about that in another post. This and this, though, are great reads on the subject.
 
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