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Thursday Things: Life on the western high plains

thursday thingsI love to travel, and one of my favorite places is western North America. Stretching from Alberta and the western Dakotas to the eastern edge of the Rockies, the sweeping plains and buttes are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. I lived in Bismarck, North Dakota, for a year, and while the eastern half of the state is in the Midwest, the western half has a different feel to it. You’ve left behind the corn and soy fields and the gently rolling hills, trading them for dry grass and scrub and herds of grazing cattle. There’s no line to mark the Midwest from the West, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Glacier National Park

near Glacier National Park, Montana

In the summer of 2017, my dad, son, and I vacationed in that direction. We drove west from Illinois, across Nebraska to Denver, then up to Portland and Seattle, Banff, back down to Glacier National Park, then Winnipeg (my favorite Canadian city) before returning home. 4500 miles in two weeks, camping the whole way? Yes, please!

Summer 2017 map

Even though it seems there are houses and towns everywhere you look, there’s still a sense of wilderness and isolation. Maybe it’s the big open sky, so different somehow from even the Midwest’s prairies. The wide open spaces, the dryness of the landscape. I don’t know.

Glacier National Park

near Glacier National Park, Montana

I used this isolation in my latest short story, “Empty,” which is set in southern Idaho (not on the eastern edge of the Rockies, I know, but it has similar landscape). It’s part of my short story collection After All, a bunch of stories about the apocalypse and its aftermath. This story is about Jess, a rancher, and her new hired hand, Clive, who’s more than he seems. When disaster strikes, they learn to set aside their mutual distrust and work together in order to survive.

Yellowstone

Near Yellowstone National Park, Montana

I imagine the story taking place on a homestead like the ones above: a small house, a dirt road leading to a small town, and no one close enough to save you when the end times come.

You can get this story tomorrow if you support me on Patreon; at the lowest level, Flash Fiction, which is just $1/month, you’ll get access to a new short story every month. If you’re not a supporter, you’ll be able to read “Empty” when the collection comes out, hopefully some time late this year.

If you’ve traveled in the US and Canada, where are your favorite spots? Any thoughts on Montana and the West?

Friday Five: YA sci-fi author Adelaide Thorne

Today’s Friday Five focus is Adelaide Thorne, author of YA sci-fi novels.

After her stick figure comic series “The Adventures of The Unstoppable” failed to garner any fans, Adelaide Thorne accepted that drawing would never be her superpower. She also accepted that she was not, after all, The Unstoppable. Twelve-year-old Adelaide never forgot the thrill of adventure, however, and the mystery of heroes, powers, and a bad guy who maybe is only bad because he feels stuck. Or maybe he’s just bad, and that’s interesting, too.

Adelaide’s writing has taken her around the worlds of her brain, and also around a lot of restaurants. After years of being the pickiest eater in the south, she somehow got a stint as a city blogger and food columnist, which taught her that people are too obsessed with queso and not excited enough about chicken noodle soup. She’s since said goodbye to journalistic writing and hello to creative writing, which is, after all, what she’s always done.

She currently lives in Florida, where she complains about the humidity but never makes any plans to move. Adelaide and her husband have two cats (only two), who are excellent sounding boards for ideas.

The Trace, the first book in her sci-fi, young adult Whitewashed trilogy, follows Ella Kepler, a nascent metahuman whose strength and speed is matched only by the enemies set against her. The Integer, the second book of the series, follows Ella as she unravels the truth about the Metahuman Training Academy and what binds her to it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Adelaide Thorne1. Where do your inspiration and ideas for your stories come from?

My head. :) I do daydream a lot. For instance, today I was thinking about what it would be like to find out that your real father was a serial killer. Creepy, eh? Sometimes, my ideas come from the bits of dream I remember, but often times they’re spontaneously generated.

2. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Sheesh, hadn’t ever thought about that. Probably “Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt” which translates to “I am all yours, and all I have is yours.” That’ll be beneath “Wife & Mother.” I’m pretty boring. :)

3. What’s your current writing project and what are your writing plans for the near future?

I’m currently wrapping up my Whitewashed trilogy – or trying to! After I finish this trilogy, I have a few other bookish ideas. One delves into fantasy, which I’m excited to try out!

4. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

You have no idea how often I think about this. It’d likely be flying. I’m kinda scared of heights, but I’d love to float above the earth and see things I’ve never seen before. Plus, it’d make traveling much more enjoyable.

5. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?

I’m not great at fighting scenes, because I like to be very specific and detailed, yet it’s really boring to read “He lifted his left hand thirty degrees, formed a fist, and knocked that fist directly into the right side of his opponent’s jaw…” My solution, odd as it may seem, is to act the scenes out with my husband (I promise no one gets hurt!). He’s trained in Wing Chun and always brings me back down to earth – ’cause I like to imagine the craziest, most unrealistic fighting scenes.

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The Trace and The Integer are both currently available at Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

New release!! Going in Circles Vol 1: 10 Very Short Stories

Going in Circles vol 1 coverI’ve been posting a lot of stuff on Medium over the past year or so, from short stories to preview chapters of a novel I’m working on. A lot of the stuff I’ve posted has been members-only (since I like getting paid for what I write).

I know a lot of people aren’t paying Medium members, so I’ve put together a short collection of some of my related stories for nonmembers to read.

Going in Circles Vol 1: 10 Very Short Stories is about 6 connected people:

  • Reggie, who is the son of Carly and Mark from Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (bet you didn’t see that one coming!) and will be one of the main protagonists, opposite Aida and Zoe, whenever I get around to writing its sequel
  • Stella, Reggie’s girlfriend
  • Curtis, Reggie’s best friend
  • Rana, Curtis’s sister
  • Big Ed, Rana’s boyfriend
  • The Fox, the villain of my current WIP novel, Waylaid on the Road to Nowhere

So yes, that means that Yours to Keep or Throw Aside and Waylaid on the Road to Nowhere are set in the same universe, although they’re both standalone novels and only connected by these short stories.

Anyways, if you haven’t already read these stories on Medium, please check out this compilation. It also has the first chapter of Waylaid (which you can also read on Medium, if you have a membership, along with several other chapters of the book).

And go ahead and read Yours to Keep or Throw Aside, too, if you haven’t already.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about crossovers and shared universes, and whether you have any predictions about that sequel.

Media Monday: Yarnsworld by Benedict Patrick and The Cure

Media MondayThe books: The Yarnsworld series by Benedict Patrick

The song: “Burn” by The Cure

Today’s books are the four novels that (so far) make up Yarnsworld, a series of mostly standalone stories set in a weird world of dark fairy tales and vengeful protector spirits.

Each book follows the same format: A main chapter about a central character, followed by a legend or tale from the main characters’ people, that relates in some way to the central plot at that moment. It’s a great way to provide worldbuilding without bogging readers down in infodumps, but it also requires readers to be intelligent and read between the lines to make connections between the tale, the characters, and the plot.

These are not fluff books, and based on reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. It also seems that the people who read the first book and loved it, also read and loved the rest of the series.

The first book, They Mostly Come Out at Night, introduces us to the Corvae, a forest-dwelling people who are protected from the terrible creatures in the woods by the Magpie King. Except the Magpie King isn’t as present as the people need him to be. A young villager, Lonan, dreams of the Magpie King, and realizes he needs to step up to become the protector his people need, despite the horrible price he will have to pay.

The second book, Where the Waters Turn Black, tells the story of Kaimana, an ocarina player who lives on the islands of the Crescent Atoll. When she befriends a taniwha, a huge monster, she at first does so as a way to write an epic song that will bring her fame. But when she has to seek help from her capricious gods to save her new friend, she must decide what really matters to her.

The third book, Those Brave, Foolish Souls From the City of Swords, takes us to the lands of the Muridae as we meet Arturo, a young man who wants to be a Bravadori: a brave, respected swordsman who helps those in need. But when he realizes that the Bravadori aren’t who he thought they were, he embarks on a journey with two disgraced Bravadori to rediscover the original meaning of the Bravadori.

The fourth book, From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court, takes us back to the forests of the Corvae, where court servant Nascha has fled after a nobleman threatens to kill her for bastard royal blood. She’s aided by Vippon, a Gentleman Fox who isn’t who he seems to be, and Bradan, a young man desperate to get out of his father’s shadow.

Each of these books is dark, full of murder and violence and betrayal. They’re also filled with old, dark magic that requires blood sacrifice in order to appease the Spirits, who don’t really care one way or the other about their human subjects, as long as they’re worshiped sufficiently.

And the characters themselves aren’t full of rainbow and sunshine either. The main characters especially are seflish, each questing for power and fame, even at the expense of those around them. But in each book, there’s a definite arc for the characters, as they come to realize that there’s a greater good out there, and that they have to do what’s best for their world and their people, despite the cost to themselves.

And dear lord but is there a cost. Not to give too many spoilers, but these books don’t have happy endings. They do, however, have endings that are appropriate for the story and the world, and that’s one of the things I liked about these books. Not many authors are willing to give their stories an unhappy ending, even when that’s the only ending there can be.

The song that I paired with this is “Burn” by The Cure. Yes, I know there’s the obvious connection between the movie this was in, The Crow, and magpies, but it’s also a song about what lurks in the shadows, about losing someone you care about and then trying in vain to recover what you’ve lost. Especially for the first and fourth books, this song is a great companion. And it’s one of my favorite Cure songs.

 

Friday Five: Beth Hudson

Today’s Friday Five focus is Beth Hudson, author of fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels.

Beth Hudson determined to become a writer while still in grade school. For years she worked on her writing, producing numerous short stories, and even completing two (unpublished) novels while in high school and college. Since deciding to focus on her writing, she has published a number of fantasy short stories in various magazines and anthologies. The Herd Lord, a novella about a war among centaurs, was published in 2011; her first full-length novel, Etched in Fire, was released in 2015; and her short story anthology, Seeing Green, came out in July 2017.

Swan maidens and assassins, selkies and disgruntled house spirits walk the pages of Beth Hudson’s short fiction anthology, Seeing Green. A player troupe is attacked by dark enchantment; a man seeks to uncover the mystery of a sealed box; a woman desperately searches for her heart’s desire. Fifteen spellbinding tales open a gateway to other worlds full of love, betrayal, and the cost of magic.

Because sometimes, when you seek magic, you get your wish.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Beth Hudson1. What was your attitude towards reading when you were a kid?

I read constantly. I fell asleep in class because I stayed up half the night reading. I would panic if I didn’t have a spare book (and still do). Books were my best friends.

2. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?

My favorite character is in my current work in progress. Traedis has courage that I would love to have. I also love the main character of Etched in Fire, Maelen, who will do anything necessary to protect innocents.

3. What are three things on your bucket list?

I’ve studied Welsh, but learning to full-out speak it.
Going to Alaska.
Doing a book tour.

4. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that you think they need to know?

We’re not necessarily writing escapist fluff. In any writing there must be something that makes a connection with the reader, and good fantasy is not about the differences of the world, but the humanity of the people.

5. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

My audience is people who want to read about hard issues in a context of wonder. I write about survivors of abuse and trauma, and also explore what it means to be a woman. But I hope people from outside those experiences will find good things in my works as well.

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Seeing Green is currently available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

2018 book roundup

2018 goodreads challengeMy goal every year is to read 100 books. This year, I read 81 – I think it’s the best I’ve done so far.

This list only includes books I finished. There are dozens that I started but didn’t finish (often not even the first chapter) either because they were poorly edited or didn’t hold my interest. I also didn’t include textbooks or journals that I read for school.

Here’s a breakdown of what I read:

  • 16 (20%) were either kids or young adult; the rest were adult. Of the kids books, 5 (6%) were the Dark is Rising series, which I’d read as a kid and was rereading.
  • 2 (2%) were nonfiction and the rest were fiction. One of those nonfiction was a memoir, and the other was a study guide for the MSW licensing exam.
  • 24 (30%) were single short stories, and 6 (7%) were short story anthologies.
  • I know the authors of 50 (62%) of the books. 6 (7%) share my publisher and 1 was by someone in my in-person writing group.
  • 46 (57%) were in a series. Only 2 were ones where I just read the first book and didn’t read the rest or want to read the rest when they’re released.
  • 8 (10%) were from Amazon’s first read program, where they offer a free ebook to Prime members.
  • 1 (1%) was translated from another language or from a non-Western country.
  • 30 (37%) were books I didn’t like enough to rate at least 4 stars or above.
  • 72 (89%) were ebooks.

Best books I read in 2018:

  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone. The story of a black teenager in Atlanta whose best friend is shot and killed, and how he tries to channel MLK to deal with the aftermath.
  • The Green Princess trilogy by H.L. Burke. A teenage girl and her prince boyfriend belong to rival magic factions in the midst of a civil war, and have to overcome tons of obstacles to try to be together.
  • Crazy Quilt: a collection of short stories by Alice Woodrome. As the title says, a great collection of short stories on a range of topics.
  • Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King. A woman returns to her hometown after her mother’s death and tries to balance caring for her aging father, raising her teen daughter, dating, and solving a family mystery.

If you challenged yourself to read a set number of books in 2018, how did you end up doing?  What were your favorites?  Anything you particularly disliked?

Resolutions: 2018 review and 2019 goals

cat

Random cat having an adventure in Kuala Lumpur’s train station.

It’s that time of year: looking back on my goals for the previous year and then setting goals for the new year.

2018 goals

First, let me preface this by saying that 2018 was mostly a good year. I went to India in January, Iceland in March, and Thailand and southeast Asia in June. I started a job that I love, with coworkers that I’ve really connected with because they have the same passion for the job that I do.

But then, starting in about August, some sucky stuff happened. Other people’s personal problems because my personal problems, causing me to have to take a pause to rethink my life plans. I’m still rethinking them, three months later.

Here’s how all that came together with my 2018 goals.

1. Better time management.

For the whole year, I’ve tracked my daily activities. Not as detailed as Vikings QB Kirk Cousins who apparently uses spreadsheets to track his day in 10 minute increments (which I totally understand; I think in spreadsheets), but enough to know what I spend my time on and what I need to work harder on for next year.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I published 27 stories on Medium in 2018, plus two lists of related stories. Of those, I think only three had previously appeared elsewhere. A lot of the stories I posted were microfiction (less than 350 words), but still, I’m proud of myself for getting so much out there – even if I haven’t posted anything new since September.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

I did not do this. However, I did finish a novella! I’m currently editing it and hope to get it off to my publisher in the next month or so. I’ve already started on the second in this series, and with the push I’m getting from my writing group to finish these, I hope to crank several more out soon.

4. Grow my reader base by at least double.

Facebook goal: 600. Actual: 309.
Twitter goal: 1500. Actual: 860.
Medium goal: 200. Actual: 302!
Mailing list goal: 3000. Actual: 1760.

Maybe if I actually posted more to social media, or came out with more books, or sent out my mailing list more than every couple years, I’d get more followers?

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

I was doing well with this until I wasn’t.

6. Read 100 books.

I ended the year with 81 read. I didn’t really have time to read at all during the past couple months, due to being swamped with Etsy orders. But 81 is still pretty damn good.

Overall in 2018

Nothing much to say. Just like every year, I set my goals too high. But whatever. I was still pretty productive.

2019 goals

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly. There’s really no excuse for not writing at least one 300-word microfiction short every week. Plus one of my Patreon rewards is a new short story each month, which I can then publish to Medium the following month. Assuming I ever get any patrons, I need to be able to meet this reward.
  2. Finish my novella series. As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on this over the past few months and getting feedback from my writing group, who love the characters and plot. I love the story too, which helps motivate me to write it (as well as the urging of my group). I plan on having 7 books total, which is doable if I make myself hit a word count every day or week.
  3. Increase my networking. Whether by commenting on more people’s blogs, interacting more on social media, or whatever. Maybe if I’m more visible or supportive, I’ll get more followers of my own.
  4. Read 100 books. And of those 100, I want a sizeable percentage to be nonfiction.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing. People in education are really receptive to this concept, and I have a lot of information to share in a way that non-academic people appreciate.
  6. Have more adventures. They’ll probably happen through travel (most of mine do, like that time I was detained by Canadian immigration, or last summer when Visa froze my debit card and I had to ask a random German family on the Thai/Malay border for money to get to Kuala Lumpur), but they definitely won’t happen if I don’t give them the opportunity.

Like most years, I probably won’t meet most of this goals, but I definitely won’t meet them if I don’t try.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

#NaNoWriMo 2018

crocheted dinosaursJust like every year, I started out the month of November with the best of intentions. For the first time since 2012, I’m not in grad school so I’d have plenty of time to write this year! I work full time but don’t generally bring stuff home with me, which would leave me 7-8 hours to write every night. I only needed 1666 words per day, which would be simple to write in just a few hours. How could I lose?

Well, it seems I could lose the same way I lose every year – life got in the way. I only managed about 10,000 words.

This year, however, it wasn’t homework or work or just pure procrastination. No, this year Etsy was my downfall.

I have a lot of interests, and one of them is crochet. I like to make my own unique creations as a way to relieve stress, and since I don’t really need a dozen octupi or aye-ayes or whatever else I’ve just made, I sell it all on Etsy. Based on past years’ experience, I know that November/December is when I’ll see most of my annual sales. I had planned to make lots of stuff year-round so I wouldn’t get swamped at the holidays, but just like with writing, life got in the way.

And whoa boy, did I get swamped this year. I have a new item, baby dinos in eggs, and they’re pretty popular. Which means all my time is going towards making them, rather than writing, because I’m kinda broke and need the immediate money from Etsy rather than the not-so-immediate money I get from writing.

The good news is, everything should calm down in a couple more weeks, and then I can get back to writing. I’ve just finished the first draft of Captive and the Cursed, Book 1 of a new series of retold fairy tales-sans magic-avec Vikings that my writing group loves, and I’m super excited to get it edited and off to my publisher, hopefully to be released this spring. I’m also super excited to get started on Sleeping Shaman, book 2, as soon as edits are done on book 1. I have two whole weeks off for Christmas break and zero plans, so maybe I’ll be able to get some writing done. Even when life gets in the way.

Fall 2018 goal review

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Better time management.
    I’m still tracking my activity, and while I’m getting more done most days, it’s not necessarily things I need to be doing. I started a new job this school year, and while I absolutely love it, it’s very mentally draining. Combine that with some family drama, and my focus the past couple months has been more on unwinding/self-care.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
    I was doing really well with this until I wasn’t. I’ve published 27 stories so far this year, which is about 10 less than I should have to meet a goal of about one per week. However, I’ve been writing a lot – almost every day!! – and not just flash pieces, which is a lot of what I published on Medium. Still a doable goal.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
    Part of the reason for not publishing on Medium as much is that I’ve been writing a lot on the first story in a seven-novella series. I only have about 5 chapters left in it, at which point I’ll polish it up and hopefully have it out by Christmas. My writing group is loving the story and pushing me to finish it, which is helping keep up my momentum. I’m about one story short of a collection – that should be out in the next few weeks. As much as I’d like to space everything out, I might do an end-of-year holiday rush. We’ll see.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.Stupid Facebook keeps taking away my followers (or they’re unfollowing me). I’m at 310 for Facebook, still about 860-865 on Twitter, and way short on my mailing list subscribers. But on Medium, I’m at 276 which is great!
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
    My blog has been pretty neglected lately. I’m writing a bunch of scheduled posts, so I should be able to meet this goal. I’m looking for a social media manager program that’s free to help promote my posts; I used to use HootSuite but now you have to pay for a lot of the features. Any suggestions?
  6. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 72 for the year, which is 4 behind. And also way more on target than I’ve ever been at this point in the year.

Overall

I’m not doing great but I’m not doing too poorly. Which is okay, because as Armando Perez once said, “Reach for the stars. And if you don’t grab ’em, at least you’ll fall on top of the world.”

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Media Monday: Edith Wharton, feminism, and the #MeToo movement

Media MondayThe books: The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The music: “Ísjaki” by Sigur Rós and “Intro” by The XX

The books

The Age of Innocence has been one of my favorite books since I first read it 15+ years ago. I’ve been slowly working my way through Wharton’s stories and novels, and last spring I went on a Wharton binge (I stayed at a little cabin I had to hike half a mile to, right on Lake Superior, and spent several days lying on a bunk next to a wood-burning stove just reading. It was heaven) that included Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. Unrelated to this post, why does everyone hate Ethan Frome? It has such a wonderfully tragic ending.

Anyways. Lily Bart became one of my favorite characters, because her story is so tragic as well.

If you don’t know the plot of either of them, The Age of Innocence is about Newland Archer, who’s engaged to deceptively naive May Welland. He meets her cousin Ellen Olenska, who is *gasp* separated from her husband! This is late 19th century New York high society and that kind of thing isn’t done. Ellen doesn’t care and does what she wants, much to the horror of her family and social circle. Newland realizes that high society is stupid and vapid and that he doesn’t particularly care for them either. He falls for Ellen in part because her DGAF attitude is such a contrast to May’s sincere desire to fulfill the role society tells her she should have. He’s prepared to dump May for Ellen, but May suspects this and tells Ellen she’s pregnant. Ellen runs away to Europe, and Newland lets her go in order to be the husband society wants him to be, even though he’s emotionally dead inside.

The book/film opens with them watching Faust, which is my third favorite opera, after Carmen and Evgeny Onegin.

The House of Mirth is similar. It’s about Lily Bart, a destitute late 19th century socialite who relies on the charity of her aunt. Lily is in her twenties and therefore practically ancient, so she’s getting a lot of pressure to marry the first guy she can snag. But all the guys are boring and stupid, except for her friend Lawrence Selden. Selden kinda strings her along as she muddles her way through friendships and semi-courtships. Her love for luxury leads her to a platonic financial relationship with a married guy, whose wife gets pissed and ruins Lily’s reputation. All Lily’s high society friends abandon her, and as she sinks through the ranks she eventually finds happiness as a lowly seamstress. Selden rushes to her apartment when he realizes just how bad off she is and what a jerk friend he’s been, except she accidentally OD’ed on sleep medication.

Lily is a combination of both May and Ellen. May knows how to play the game to get what she wants, and what she wants is exactly what society tells her she should have – a wealthy husband to pop out babies with, never concerning herself with anything more than managing her household and family. Ellen, in contrast, wants to do whatever she wants, and society is holding her back with her expectations. Lily tries to be like May, pretending to want a house to manage and a family to raise, when really she’s more like Ellen in that she wants to do what she wants regardless of what society dictates. The constrast, however, is that Ellen’s rich grandmother also thinks society is stupid and gives her enough money that she can live however she wants, without a husband to depend on. Lily, unfortunately, doesn’t have this, and so she has to make her own way in the world. Lily realizes that she can either be rich or have freedom, and as the story progresses, she goes from holding on to riches at all costs, to finding pleasure in simplicity and poverty. And then she dies.

Feminism

The role of feminism is obvious. Ellen would be okay in our modern era, because she’d be able to divorce her worthless husband and become a senator or lawyer or travel writer or something. Lily, born into a gilded life, would nonetheless have been able to get an education that would allow her to support herself without relying on her worthless husband. But because of society’s restrictions, being on their own isn’t a realistic option, unless they’re willing to face the stigma that comes with it. Ellen is, and so she’s rewarded – her grandma sees how happy she is when she DGAF and gives her money to live off of. Lily, however, refuses to take the plunge by telling everyone to F off, and she ends up poor. Perhaps if she had told them to F off sooner, she would’ve gotten a happy ending like Ellen’s. Instead, it’s only when she accepts that society is stupid and she’s better off without it that she finds peace. But then it’s too late, and she dies.

#MeToo

While Lily Bart has grown to become probably my favorite Wharton character after Newland (I really despised her when I first started reading the book, and it’s only in hindsight that I realized how awesomely done her complexity was), I’m not a fan of Lawrence Selden at all. I have to wonder, how complicit was he in her death? She wasn’t sexually assaulted, but her name was dragged through the mud when she was accused of having an affair with a married guy. None of her friends stood up for her, Selden included. He was removed a bit from society, in that he went to the parties but wasn’t really part of a high society family. As such, he had a lot more freedom to DGAF than most of the other characters, yet he still had clout with them. Kinda like the cool loner kid. Yet he didn’t speak up for Lily, even though they had feelings for each other. As I’m writing this I’m trying my hardest to avoid news about Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and sexual assault testimonies, and I can’t help but draw a parallel between Lily’s situation and his. Lily was accused of having an affair. No one spoke up to defend her innocence, even her closer friend, and she suffered because of this. Dr. Ford has spoken up about Kavanaugh’s sexual assault of her and however many other women have accused him, and no Republicans are defending her, and she and the whole damn country are suffering because of this. Maybe then Sen. Flake is the equivalent of Selden; he claims to be a champion of women’s rights, but he goes along with the status quo.

Which again comes back to the question: how complicit is Selden in Lily’s death? When we see injustices – whether it’s misogyny or bullying or maybe a coworker behaving in a harmful way – what obligation do we have to speak up? I know what my response is, but what happens when society is telling you to sit down and shut up, or you’re going to lose your status? Do you still expend your social capital, maybe risk friendships and relationships and your job, to speak out? I know what my answer is, and sadly I know what most people’s answers are. I know what Selden’s answer was, and it cost Lily her life.

The music

As you may have deduced from my rant above, the #MeToo movement, and especially every misogynist thing the current administration is doing, is a bit triggering for me. Yeah, I said triggering. The truth of the matter is, women are still at the mercy of a patriarchal society, and when we go against or speak against their norms there can be emotional consequences for it. So, the two songs for today are two that I use to calm down.

The first is by Sigur Ros, and the lyrics don’t even matter so much as the music. The chimes are great for deep breathing exercises; I’ve used them with clients as well as with myself.

The second is by The XX, a band YouTube suggested I listen to. This song is just very calming, and since it’s only 6-ish minutes long someone nicely made it into a 4 hour loop so you can listen to it forever to destress. You’re welcome.

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