National Novel Writing Month begins at midnight tonight… November 1, 2019. I did NaNo last year and wrote around 30,000 words. Not the 50,000 word goal, but not bad.
Yes, 50,000 words in a month. That’s the purpose of NaNo. That is 1667 words a day. If I am being prolific, I can do around 700 a day, sometimes up to 1000. But consistently? Not so much.
I have 4 Works in Progress… 3 Memoirs and 1 Psychological Thriller. The one I am working on for NaNo is (working title) In the Bushes: Gay Life before AIDS. I spent a lot of time in the gay community from 1978-1982 and have fabulous stories to share about those crazy times before my friends started to die around me. I’ve already begun, have just over 7000 words so far, and the book is unfolding beautifully. My goal for November is to write those 50,000 words.
The NaNoWriMo community is amazingly supportive. Tons of forums… many serious, others completely frivolous. I closed my Facebook for the month, but must stay out of the NaNo forums until my daily numbers are met.
After getting off to a blazing start, I petered out a little past mid-month… which, it seems, is pretty common. Instead of the 50,000 word goal, I ended up with 35,111 words, which is, admittedly, about 35,000 more words than I have written in the last 6 months. My goal was not a novel, since I do not write novels, but to do a slew of posts for here. Hey, I did that! I still have 8-10 in drafts, waiting for pictures before popping out whole.
However, around Day 6, a fiction story started pouring out of my fingers. Huh? Where did that come from? I have no idea, but sharing it with my audience of one (another besides myself), it seems to be coming out as a pretty decent story.
Not having written complete fiction before, I knew I was making horrendous mistakes, including with dialogue. A group in Second Life (My NaNoWriMos!) suggested several books and I quickly acquired those. Poring through those, I am able to write more clearly than the earlier pages.
My writer friends also suggested Scrivener, a program specifically for writers.
I loooooovvvvveeeeeScrivener. I did not start learning it until after midnight on December 1, but, so far, it has helped me so so much with my organization and being able to put things down on paper that I am usually carrying around in my head.
This is the synopsis of what I am writing.
Witness Mistress Lara’s training of Esmé , a natural submissive, to her eventual collaring by her new Owner, Master John. The path is not without its obstacles, Esmé requiring not only gentle guidance, but sometimes harsh punishments… neither of which are what they might seem at first blush. Everyone, from Dominants to submissives, learn what it means to maintain their roles and when it might be necessary to cross the lines.
(Title of Book [still unknown]) exposes the intertwined connections between BDSM, sex and love.
How far would you go to prove your innate worthiness to someone you desire?
Dang, I can write a decent synopsis! Hopefully the book is as yummy.
Re-reading it, I can already see the changes I have made because I learned I needed a Villain or three. A Villain?! Really? So I found her (the first?) and am doing her backstory. She seems so tender and was so hurt in her youth, you can hardly help but care for her. Oooo, until she does naughty things to Esmé.
I’m really having fun watching this story unfold. I have some idea of where it is going, but am much more a Seat-of-the-Pants kind of writer… not much of a planner it seems. I can’t wait to see what, if anything, ends up with what I have written. For all I know, it could be a short story instead of a novel.
It was decades before I realized that when I said, “My dad works on B-52’s,” that that really meant he flew missions over Vietnam and bombed the country to smithereens. Men, women, children, babies, dogs, goats, high-rise buildings, houses, generations of lives… gone because of my father “working on B-52’s.”
I never talked to him about it. He did not discuss his missions. Instead, he sent us pictures of himself in lush Guam or Okinawa, lovely girls by his side. Or he and his friends with flowers behind their ears, drinking beer as they grilled a pig outside on the sand. He sent souvenirs back from Iceland, the pelt of an Icelandic sheep, the wool many inches long and a very white white.
He died before I could ask his feelings about bombing a country that would be forever scarred because of his actions.
I wonder what he thought as he watched the rain of bombs falling from the enormous plane, seeing them from above, not below where they exploded and killed so, so much life.
I wonder if he ever had any regrets or was The Mission the most important part. Was his need to follow so great he never even had one nightmare about what he was doing?
My dad was 19 when he went into the Air Force. 19 years old. That is such a baby age! At 19, I was still dancing in the disco, had barely had sex for the first time, was still years from marriage and having kids. And there he was, killing whole villages with one sweep of the carpet.
Perhaps my dad never talked about these things because he was better able to compartmentalize pain than I. Maybe it really didn’t bother him at all. Maybe he just didn’t think about it once the mission was over and he was back in the barracks playing poker with his buddies. Maybe they didn’t even talk about what they were doing amongst themselves.
If my dad was still here today, on this Veteran’s Day, I know I would still not bring the topic up. His never speaking of missions gave the clear message that the topic was verboten.
I wonder if I were to bring it up, could I have unleashed a gushing onslaught of hidden pain and anguish? Would I have realized, too late, that this should not be discussed outside of a professional’s therapy room? Might I have alienated my father forever? That I did not and allowed our relationship to stay calm and even is something I am glad about.
And even as I am happy things turned out the way they did with my father, that I never spoke about my growing understanding of the Vietnam War and his role in it, I am comforted only in regards to my dad.
When it comes to the country of Vietnam or the Vietnamese people, I can never erase the shame or hide the sorrow for what my father did to obliterate their lives.
When I first went to jail in Orlando, I was freaked out and so very alone. I got to talk to my former partner Zack and my other former partner (we were in a triad at the time), but those calls were limited and I spent the majority of time bawling my head off.
I needed to write about my pain. In the worst way.
I did not know how to get pencil and paper yet (through the commissary) and when I did, I ordered it right away. Still, it took a couple more days before I laid hands on writing utensils.
In the meantime, I came up with a creative way to “talk” to my friends and lovers.
I typed on the computer to them. Not a real computer, of course, but a keyboard hovering in the air in front of me. And I typed. A lot.
I was put in my own cell for a few days, which was heaven because I could pee and poop in a tad of privacy except for the one wall made of bulletproof glass.
Once in a cell with other women, the peeing and pooping was entertainment for them and I did everything in my power to wait until they were gone from the room; not always possible. Being extremely fat, it remains one of the most embarrassing experiences in my life, this doing bodily functions in a room with 3 other women.
But, at first, I was still by myself. No one to talk to except the tearfully short conversations to my partners.
So, as I said, I wrote on an invisible computer.
I poured out my fears, sadness, confusion and concern that I would never leave jail ever ever. (Which was ridiculous, but I could not be convinced I would not die an old woman in there.) I wrote to my Disney newsgroup friends, telling them how, as I tried to go to sleep, I would “ride” It’s a Small World or even the WEDWay PeopleMover, rides I knew by heart. I told them how I could hear the music, the announcers, feel the PeopleMover slowing at the right spots or flew over Captain Hook on the Peter Pan ride.
I wrote about how I laid on the flat mattress with no sheet or pillow and only a wafer-thin blanket in this freezing place, singing songs from a myriad of Disney movies. Over and over in my head, I would pull Disney memories and walk or rode or sang them to myself. And I told my friends this as I typed the soundless clickity clack of invisible keyboard keys.
I was absorbed in my “discussions” with my friends. Sometimes in non-existent chatrooms, all of us sharing stories of what we were doing that day or where we would go on our next Disney outing.
So when I heard knocking on the window and looked up, I was rather surprised to see 5 faces watching me. I did not stop typing, my fingers mid-air, moving continuously.
“What the fuck is she doing?”
“That bitch is crazy!”
“They better not put her in with me.”
I glanced up again to see a couple rolling their eyes at me as the all turned away to do something else in the Day Room.
And I smiled that they could really have thought I was crazy… and might just leave me alone to my writing.
I went to jail for Welfare Fraud, accepting Food Stamps and AFDC while also working at Planned Parenthood in San Diego.
I justified it at the time saying I could buy food and pay rent in the same month for the first time in what seemed to be forever.
But it was wrong and I got caught, forgetting that I even had done something illegal. My former husband turned me in after finding me on a website saying there was a warrant for my arrest.
But, as I said, I was guilty so it was time to pay up.
The first time I was in jail was in Orlando, for 6 days.
After I posted bail, I hired a lawyer in Orlando and one in San Diego. Then I waited to see what I needed to do next. It was decided for me when neither lawyer realized I had to appear in San Diego’s courtroom on a certain date that I missed and the police came and arrested me again on a Governor’s warrant. At the time, I had no idea that meant extradition, but yes, indeed it did. (My lawyers sucked at giving me information. The inmates had better legal advice than the guys I hired to do so.)
This second time, I was in for 12 days before being taken to San Diego’s jail where I stayed 3 days before being released.
The second time I was in the Orlando jail, I had the system down pretty well. I bartered for paper and pencil on day 1. I also bartered for a Chapstick, albeit used, promising candy when the commissary food was delivered. Thank goodness those who loved me put money on my books so the moment they took the commissary order, I was able to do so to pay women back for their kindness and generosity.
In jail, I had no idea how long I was going to be in there and what was going to happen until I was awakened one morning at 3am and taken down, strip searched, allowed to put on my clothes, shackled by my ankles with a chain around my waist and handcuffs on my wrists that kept my arms in front of me at all times. A female and male US Marshal had flown from San Diego to Orlando to pick me up and escort me back to San Diego.
At Orlando International Airport, I walked… hobbled… chains rattling, people staring wide-eyed at this fat lady in cuffs until we got to our gate where I sat with a Marshal on either side of me. Guns in their holsters at the ready; I reassured them I was not going anywhere.
I was put on the plane first and we sat in the last row of the plane, one of them on either side of me. I know I’ve said I was fat, but I mean really fat… spilling over the seats in the airplane fat. They both had to keep the arms of their seats up to fit me in with them. When I had to pee mid-flight, the female Marshall came and stood outside the door waiting for me. You’ve not had fun until you are a very fat person, in shackles, using an airplane bathroom. It was a treat for sure.
When we got to San Diego, I was the last to get off the plane, still having to walk by all the people waiting to get on the plane we just left. Chains clanking on the floor, my wrists still in front of me, I am sure I was a pretty sight. I cried the whole trip so know my face had to have been red and my eyes puffy. I was so filled with shame.
Here’s the retrospective caveat: I deserved every second of shame. I know that. I know I asked for it. I know it was right for me to feel the shame, embarrassment and humiliation. I know. In the moment, which is how this is being written, memories of a certain time, my deserving it was far from my awareness.
Outside, the Marshalls gave San Diego Police custody of me, their signing off on Chain of Custody before wishing me well and turning to go. I was put in the squad car and we drove off, going east to Las Colinas jail.
My then-partner, Zack, who was presenting as female at the time, not having come out trans yet, worked at Las Colinas as a Deputy Sheriff. (I will use male pronouns as is appropriate, but it can be confusing at times, just remember I knew him as a woman and he presented as a woman, not coming out until many years later.) He knew ahead of time I was destined for arrival any day and had prepared me, telling me he would be there to watch over me when I got there. We’d devised a signal, tugging on the ear (like Carol Burnett) to say “I love you.”
After intake, I was put in a room with windows all around and could see Zack walking around, tugging on his ear.
I was in a triad relationship with my Sheriff partner and another woman living in the DC area. The DC lover helped get me out of jail in Orlando; I was now in Zack’s jurisdiction.
The door opened and woman after woman was called out and never came back. Then it was my turn and who was there to escort me, but Zack. I was flooded with shame about being there and his having to see me. He was very kind, but brusque as he needed to be. If they’d known we knew each other, they would have sent me 50 miles away to another jail. This way, he could really make sure I was being taken care of.
He took me to a large room and told me to strip. Fuck, he was going to do my strip search. I was humiliated. Over the years, as I have told this story, people think, “Oh, how sexy! Every woman’s dream to be in jail with a lover who is a Sheriff” or, the more common one, “Aren’t you glad it was him and not someone else?” No. I would have given anything for it to be someone else. Bending over, spreading one’s fat ass cheeks, then squatting and coughing are not remotely sexy, I promise.
I learned later that he was assigned to one of the back barracks of women, but they were short-handed and was randomly assigned me to take care of. He could not have asked to take me, they would have known there was something amiss, but the universe took care of it and assigned me to Zack for that night.
After I was in a uniform (a man’s large again), I was given my toothpaste, toothbrush and other things I do not remember… soap I think. (Looking for pics, I see it is called an Admission Kit.)
Then I was led by my love through the halls and then outside, surrounded by tall fences with barbed wire, to a barracks-like building.
It was the middle of the night and the 40 or so women inside were sleeping. My partner took me into his office on the side and this is where he flicked me his Chapstick, which I put on copiously, feeling very loved in that moment.
Then we went into the room with the sleeping women and he woke one who was on a bottom bunk and told her to get on the top one, giving me the bottom bunk closest to his office door that was always open.
I am sure there are cameras everywhere now, there have to be. Back then, no cameras… crazy, right?
I fell asleep quickly and that was the last time I saw Zack during my time at Las Colinas. Later, he told me he was watching out for me, making sure I was safe and not being abused.
I spent the rest of my 3 days in there crying and trying to sleep. I got to use the phone more often, though it was surely terribly expensive, my calling collect and at inmate rates. I didn’t think of such things, though. I thought about having comfort given.
In San Diego, they took my diabetes seriously, checking my blood glucose 3 times a day and making sure I had snacks inbetween meals. The fat girl welcomed more frequent eating. Before bed, I was given milk and graham crackers. I was happy.
The day I was released… well, the night, actually, my sister-in-law picked me up, handing me a Blistex Medicated lip balm as I got in the car. I asked her to roll all the windows down and let the cool night air whoosh over my body.
I have always loved brownies. My mom made amazing brownies. Later, I learned they were from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, one she gave me when I got married.
Deliciously chewy, not cakey (too dry), when I made them, I underbaked the treat so they were even a tad wet inside.
I also doubled the batch and put them in a 9×12 pan; that helped the middle of the pan’s batter to be gooshier than the edges, which were never burnt because I took them out right when they smelled ready.
Yes, smelled ready.
I have a weird skill of being able to smell when baked goods are done cooking. Early, when I was learning to cook, I was meticulous with the time the recipe said to do. Then, as I got more relaxed, I realized that I could smell when things were done.
I remember baking brownies so often when the kids were little, I no longer needed the recipe. We always kept a decent stash of unsweetened chocolate squares, plenty of sugar and flour and, of course, butter!
In Germany, when I was with my new lesbian love (he was really transgender, but had not come out yet), I made brownies at least twice a week. Between brownies and snickerdoodles, I was nearly a specialty bakery. This was when I was baking bread, too. The years when we were isolated in Germany with very little to do but BE with each other remain some of my favorite memories of my life. The kids were hilarious, Zack and I were always nursing one or the other of the babies and I attended lots and lots of births.
Zack loves nuts, but I am allergic to them, so I would sometimes make the 8×8 pan recipe with nuts for him.
When my youngest was living with Zack and me in San Diego, it became clear that brownies were her PMS food of choice. The day before she started her period, she would break out a box of brownie mix, crying while she stirred it all together, and bake a batch that she alone would eat over the next 2 to 3 days. None of us ever asked for one; we knew better.
(I just asked her permission to add this information in my piece and she said she had no idea she did that, that she ate brownies all the time. I smiled into the phone and told her it was like clockwork, her brownie-baking-while-crying session.)
I rarely eat brownies anymore and I never make them. If I partake, someone has made them, always from a box.
The memories of mine are much sweeter.
My Brownie Recipe (really, Better Homes & Gardens’ recipe)
I’ve written since I was about 8-years old, journaled since I got my first diary on my 8th birthday. You know, the kind with the tiny lock on it?
When I was 11, I let Suzette read my diary. Stupidest thing I ever did. In there, I wrote that I’d tried smoking and she went and told my mom who let me know if she ever caught me, I would be eating a pack in front of the family.
I stopped writing in a journal for a couple of years, but when I was 15, an older friend said I had a lot to say and gave me a lovely hard and cloth-covered journal with no lines in it and an amazing Japanese-inspired cover.
I wrote in it a lot, wrote about my boyfriends, my gay boyfriend (when I was 16-years old), going to the gay bar (when I was 17-years old) and sleeping with my first girlfriend Kelly (at 18-years old). By then, that one book had turned into 2 and then into 3.
My dad had a new girlfriend and, when I was 17-years old, I came home from school one day and my Japanese journal was laying on the dining room table. I was horrified. She had gone into my room, snooped to find my journal and then read it aloud to my dad. Their excuse was they were worried about my going out all the time and didn’t like my friends.
I felt incredibly violated.
I hysterically called my mom who came and got me. I gathered all my journals and put them in a box and carried them with me, getting into mom’s car and going to see La Cage aux Folles with her and her boyfriend. It is one of the funniest movies ever, but I sobbed through the whole thing, my mom wrapping an arm protectively around my shoulder as she laughed and laughed.
I grew up in a house where words were sacred. Privacy was maintained. None of us would have considered reading another’s words/letters/journals without being given specific permission. To have my father be a party to that betrayal was horrific. It was the first moment I hated the woman he eventually married. (She betrayed me and my siblings many more times after that.)
Mom kept all my old journals (I knew she would never even take a peek inside any of them) and I carried my Japanese one and the one I was writing in with me everywhere. I never left anything home for them to see or read.
Once I moved out, I felt relief in having my words back with me.
Many years later, after I married and had 3 kids, I came out as a lesbian with my (now) former partner of 28 years. My first husband was crazy mad (as one might expect) and went into our storage unit and found all my old journals and those funly-folded notes from junior high school and tossed them in the Dumpster by our house. It wasn’t until I was packing to move that I learned he had stolen my words and threw them away as trash.
That time, I was heartbroken.
And when the Love of My Life, my partner of 28 years, sent me from Germany to San Diego to live with his mom (me and the 4 kidlets), I wrote him every day. He, someone who has never written a letter he wasn’t forced to, wrote me about once a week or so. I cherished those letters, knowing how rare they were. I kept them neatly in a shoebox under my bed.
When he broke up with me a couple of months later, I took the beloved shoebox and put it on the headboard of my bed, touching it and crying often. All those words of love and honoring our commitment to each other… all just memories.
A year later, I finally got up the nerve to read the precious words he’d written to me. I’d mourned the entire year, face on the carpet listening to Melissa Etheridge sing her pain-filled songs directly to me, endless tears soaking the fibers on the floor as well as throughout my body.
I took the shoebox one night after the kids were asleep, sat on the floor and began opening the envelopes.
Inside the first one was a blank piece of paper. Confused, I opened the next one. Two pieces of paper, folded exactly how my love’s letters had been. Realization began to set in as I began opening more and more of the envelopes, finding blank pages inside. Every single letter, gone… replaced with blank sheets of papers.
I called the person I still loved so very much and asked who would do such a thing?! He said he would call me right back.
It was his mother.
She told him she did it because she thought I might publish the letters one day and they would ruin his life if people knew he was gay (he was presenting as a woman then).
As badly as my heart was broken when he left the kids and I, I was 1000 times more hurt with his words being burned in the fireplace. He knew how important words were to me, having held me as I recounted the stories of others reading and then stealing and dumping my words. Regarding his mother, he apologized dozens of times, but there was no fixing it. (Tears are falling even as I write this.)
When we got back together a few years after that, the first thing I insisted on was his mother apologizing to me. She did. It did not remove one iota of the pain that still lived inside of me.
When I have told this story, people point out: but you blog! I have considered this truth and even worked on it in therapy.
I am thinking that I blog because I get to choose what comes out to the world. I get to share my thoughts. I have control over the experience of who reads my journals.
I do not censor much, my thoughts fall out of my fingers without much planning. So it isn’t like I am not sharing deep, intimate details with you all; I am. But, I feel empowered that it is me who hits the Publish button and not someone who has no right to my thoughts, feelings or words.