Monday, December 17, 2012

This Is What It's Like Now

It took me two days to tell my 10 year old about the shootings. Two days of starts and stops. Two days of unexplained tears and irrational anger and quite honestly, bad parenting. I'm supposed to have modeled calm. That did not happen. I did not tell either of my sons. My 5 year old wouldn't understand and my 8 year old...I just couldn't. I couldn't do it more than once.

This is what it's like now.

At Sunday school, a door that usually has a stopper didn't have one and kept slamming when each new kid entered. It was a loud bang. A week ago, I would have joked about it. Now, my heart hurt every time that I heard the sound until my co-leader Bruce saw my face and found something to stop the banging.

This is what it's like now.

My family used to love The Voice. Today we changed the channel quickly the moment we saw anything that might show the horrifying and devastating loss. My family used to love listening to the Christmas music on the radio. Now my hand hovers over the power button between every song in case they go to the news and I need to quickly turn it off.

This is what it's like now.

My 10 year old is touching her face. Constantly. This is how she manifests anxiety. She worries a lot anyway. Now worry has become paralysis. She talks to us about it. She says she knows she's being paranoid. She says she understands that she's blowing things out of proportion. This doesn't matter. I have no real way of telling her that she's safe. That has been taken from me.

This is what it's like now.

Everything hurts. Every part of me hurts. I crawl into bed and cry and hope with everything that I have that my children do not come in to see me like this. Because I'm supposed to be the secure one. It is one of the few things that we as parents are absolutely required to give our children in my opinion, and I cannot do it. I no longer can honestly say, "You are safe and loved." Now, all I have is "You are loved and I will do my very best to protect you." This does not seem to hold the same comfort as "You are safe."

This is what it's like now.

I have spent a good deal of my life making sure that my children were safe and free of violence. J and I have had very few babysitters who weren't family members. We have never been on a vacation away from our children together. The three nights that our kids were sleeping over at their grandparent's or uncle's house were three nights that we could have gotten to them in 30 minutes or less. But at the end of the day, it doesn't fucking matter. Children are taken from you no matter what kind of bubble you create and there is nothing that can be done.

This is what it's like now.

We can all talk about actionable things that will stop the next massacre. We should do that. But right now, today, that holds very little consolation for me and even less for any of those parents in Connecticut. We have taken safety out of the vocabulary of childhood. And I frankly don't really know where to go from here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On being a dude...and what to do about rape

So a few things happened this week that are inspiring this post.

First, the ridiculousness of Alyssa Royse's Nice Guys Rape article. I will not be writing a full rebuttal of that noise because frankly, Jill over at FEMINISTE covered it really nicely. Read those articles when you have some time. Jill's is more important and she covers the highlights of Royse's.

Second, I got a terrifying phone call in the middle of the night. Not my story to tell and it's all okay, but it was scary. And after this phone call, I had a discussion with Julio and he said something that struck me so much: "You know, as a black man, there are situations that I don't want to get into. Situations that I avoid because it either isn't safe or it isn't worth the headache of dealing with. But I will never possibly know what it's like for a woman to navigate so much of her life with that fear. I can't imagine what it's like having to conduct your daily activities with the hairs on the back of your neck always standing up."

Third, I went to a mother-daughter potluck and we started talking about what it's like to be a girl and how we can help our own girls survive and be strong. And when one of them mentioned my book, I explained why I wanted to write in a boy POV and why I want boys to read it. How boys are so frequently vilified in rape books and I wanted to show the other side. And one of the moms asked me, "How old were you when you first experienced a sexual act that you didn't consent to?" and I answered, "Five or six." And the hardest part was that there probably wasn't a woman in that room that could answer, "Oh, I've never experienced that." Because in one way or another, almost every woman I know has experienced that. Which sucks.

And finally, I had this amazing meeting with these guys who are all really jazzed about doing something really important in changing the landscape of violence against women. And one of the guys there said, "You know, most guys really care about this issue, they just don't know what to do to help."

So now I'm going to give you some very tangible things to do (if you are a dude or a parent of a dude or just someone who cares and would like to do something).

  • I think you all have this one covered. Don't rape people. If someone consents when she is conscious and is later unconscious or only slightly conscious, don't have sex with her. We KNOW this. This is not a gray area. Sex with someone who isn't conscious is rape. 
But honestly, that's not where people are floundering and inadvertently perpetuating a rape culture. It is not enough NOT to rape.

You've seen this floating around the internet, yes?

It's pretty awesome. However, I don't think most dudes need to be told not to rape. I like giving dudes the benefit of the doubt on this one. Because most of them aren't rapists. So let's dig deeper.

This is what I would want for my boys and for the education of all boys (and girls too!):

  • Be responsible for your people. You are at a party and something looks dodgy. Bust up that situation. Do not think that the wasted girl is going to be fine because her wasted friend is with her. Take them home or find a way to get them to a safe place. This goes for anyone. This is the "it takes a village" mentality. Inactivity is what gets people hurt. Side with safety. Even if she says it's fine and she's fine. Watch your people and make sure they're safe. You may be the buzz kill, but you may also have prevented rape. Be the guy who is willing to be the buzz kill to keep people safe. If we have enough of those guys in the world, then chances are there will be a bunch of you at that party looking out for each other. (PLEASE NOTE: I'm not making any bold statements about the role of alcohol in rape or the like. This is an example)
  • Don't laugh at the rape joke. Don't laugh at the sexist joke. You don't have to be the "hey now, cut that shit out" guy (although I would adore you if you were), but you can be the guy who doesn't laugh. Your silence can be a powerful weapon. If enough people echo your silence, you'll see that the jokes stop. And frankly, this shouldn't be that hard because those jokes aren't that funny.
  • Make yourself a safe haven. Make yourself someone that your friends can talk to if they were raped. Be the dude who at least can say, "I'm sorry" and "I believe you" instead of "what were you doing out that late?" and "how come you went with that guy when I told you he was a d-bag?" These aren't helpful things to say. "I'm sorry" and "I believe you" are. They could change the landscape for a rape victim. If you've got nothing else, say those two things and then ask if they need help. RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE will give you any further guidance you might need. You don't need to solve any problems or fix things. You need to listen and be supportive.
  • Educate yourself. Think before you speak. If you're about to call a tank top a "wifebeater", think about what that means and how that can normalize violence against women. Stop listening to Chris Brown music. I don't give a shit if his music sounds good. He's an asshole. Don't support assholes. There's other good music out there. There are video games that don't involve beating up prostitutes. Choose those. Yeah, I get that it's entertainment, but as long as we keep consuming it, general assholery will keep happening because it becomes ingrained. Sure, you could be a "responsible consumer" of assholery and not act on any of these things, but you have no way of saying that everyone is going to be a "responsible consumer". You can't live your life in a bubble, but you can choose things that don't perpetuate violence against women.

I wrote this for dudes because so many people have asked me what they can do as a dude or how they can teach their sons. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a start. And it's honestly not that hard. I promise. Your lifestyle will be changed for the good. And also, this is NOT a dude-exclusive list. It's for all of us. We can all work on this. And it's fairly easy to execute immediately in your little circle. You don't have to change the world, but if enough people just change their own spheres, BIG things are possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Using Track Changes: Long but hopefully helpful post

So I have now been editing long enough to realize that many, many authors do not know how to format MS submissions, nor do they know how to use track changes. I'm going to try to address some of the more common things that come up in track changes so that you can put these to good use if you're editing or CPing a manuscript of a friend. Or if you're a first time writer and you've received an edited MS back and now don't know what to do.

Track changes can save your life because you get to see EVERYTHING you've done. I highly, highly recommend using it when you're doing revision. At the very least, you should know how to use it because we're moving toward all MSs being edited this way, so you should be familiar with it.
PLEASE NOTE: I'm doing this for Mac users of Word only. Sorry PC people, but I don't use a PC so I don't feel like I can speak to that as well. Also, if you want to know how to format your MS so it is ready to send out to an agent or editor, please READ this post by Vickie Motter. Everything she says is correct. Do NOT use tabs. Do NOT use two spaces in between your period and your next sentence.

Now, some 101 with Track Changes. First thing you need to do is to make sure that your track changes is on. Go to Tools<Track Changes<Highlight Changes and check "Track changes while editing". Now everything you add or delete will be marked. Second, once you've checked that box go to Options and you'll get a handy dandy little box:

Now you can see all the different options available to you while you edit. Decide on these things. How do you want your deleted text to look? Do you want it to be shown as crossed off or do you want it to go away all together? What about stuff that you insert? I recommend checking the "Use balloons to display changes" box because then everything you do will be on the margin and it'll be easier to accept or reject later on.

The other essential part of tracking changes (esp if you are working on a CP's MS) is inserting comments. Comments are INVALUABLE.

Say, for example, you're reading through a friend's MS and you've been deleting commas or correcting spelling and everything you've done so far has shown up in the MS in a different color because you have Track Changes on, but you get to a section that is totally wonky and you want to say something about it? DO NOT TYPE into the body of their MS. Instead "Insert a comment". Go to Insert<Comment and this little bubble will pop up in the margin and you can start typing. You can also leave comments like I do with Jo that say things like, "Did you write this or did I? Because it's awesome." :)

Part Two: what do you do when you get a MS back and it is all full of changes and comments? Well, now is the time to accept/reject. Even if you totally trust your editor/CP, do NOT accept all. They can make mistakes too. And maybe they change all your spelling to the British version (centre and colour) and if you blanketly accept all, you'll later have to go back through and change everything. That being said, "Accept All" is handy if you're going through and changing every "Bob" in your MS to "Ted". If it's the only change that was made, you can click the "Accept All" button that you'll see in the below box. How to get that box? Go to Tools<Track Changes<Accept or Reject Changes and this will come up:

Click on View "Changes with highlighting" (bc, of course, your editor/CP will have clicked on "track changes while editing" when they started so all their changes WILL be highlighted). Then click on that little "Find" button and the first change in your MS will pop up and you can "accept" or "reject" and then you press the "Find" button again and the next change will come up. And so on and so on. You can and should do this for every change.

PLEASE NOTE: Your MS is not yet ready. Because "accepting" changes doesn't do anything to all the comments that your CP or editor has made. You must go through and address the comment (if your editor says you should do something) or respond to the comment. If my comments are little love notes to my authors, I am fine if they don't respond to those and instead just ex out the box. (You can ex out the box by clicking the ex on the left). For me, if I've asked for something to be done and my authors don't want to do it, I ask them to leave my comment as is and insert one of their own explaining why they aren't dealing with mine. If they do deal with mine, and it's evident because their changes have been highlighted, then they can ex out my comment. (This is a preference for me only, not all editors want comments that have been addressed to be ex'd out).

For example:

So my author can either go back through the MS and fix it, then ex out my comment because it's been dealt with or insert her own comment beneath mine:

Again, my preference is for my authors not to leave my comments in their MS that have been dealt with. Because then I have to go ex them all out. I know some editors want the comments left in because they want a memory trigger of what they asked for. Ask your editor their preference. If this is a CP and they won't see your MS again, then ex out their comments. You do NOT want to submit a MS to an agent or editor with comments in there.

Okay, that's my quick tutorial for the day. If you have questions, hit me with them and I'll try to answer. If I wasn't thorough enough, give me specifics and I'll do a follow-up post.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cover Reveal: FAULT LINE

So this one time, I got this email from my editor with an idea for my cover and I freaked out. Because it was amazing and fearless and ALL the things. And I kept all my fingers crossed that they would be able to convince the marketing and sales people at Simon Pulse to take a risk with this cover. And they totally did. Thank you awesome designers at SP. Thank you, Liesa and staff of SP for being willing to go all out with this one. I love the hell out of it.

And here's the blurb:

Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.