Friday, August 8, 2014

Virginity is like a piece of paper…

“…the more times you tear it, the easier it is to tear again.”

Yes, these were actual words, spoken in an actual classroom, in an actual Sex Education class. This was a class that yes, was at the Christian school that you all have heard so much about. It’s a story that to this day sticks out in my head.

We were learning about female anatomy and sexuality. In the process of that the teacher held up a piece of paper. She told us that this was representative of our virginity. She tore it in half. Then she tore that half in half again, again, and again until there were about 10 scraps of paper. She went on to tell us that each time we have sex it becomes easier and easier to have more sex, and in the end we are left with only a scrap of ourselves.

I sat there trying to pull into my mind any kind of retort to this logic, but my fifth grader mind couldn’t. So what did I do? I accepted it. I accepted that my virginity was sacred and that waiting until marriage was not only a good thing, but something you should brag about because you were still “whole.” This followed me through middle school and into high school: I would tell anyone who brought it up that I was waiting until marriage to have sex.

Then somewhere around when I was 16 I really started to think about that piece of paper. If I were to have sex why would it tear me in half? Was it because spiritually I was broken? Physically would it cause me harm? So I did what I do best: I researched. I researched statistics of virginity loss, of STDs, teen pregnancies and the like. I researched about protection and how to perform different sex acts in a safe manner. It struck me: why was I always told that sex was wrong? And when I wasn’t told it was wrong, I was told that it was between a married man and woman to make children.

It was around this time that I was questioning my sexuality so that threw an even bigger wrench into the works. Eventually I realized that I didn’t belong in Christianity anymore and my mind became clear to what sex really was. For me though I was paranoid; I was paranoid that it would hurt a lot, that I would get pregnant, that I would be scarred forever if I had sex. Then came college: where I was able to explore my sexuality with both men and women and did “everything but” as I used to put it. I remained solid in my decision to avoid actual sexual intercourse.

When I was 22 I lost my virginity; it hurt, sure but I didn’t really feel any different. I didn’t feel dirty like those Sex Ed classes made me think. I didn’t feel broken emotionally or otherwise. In fact I felt dare I say, good? Fast forward to now when I’m married and having the non-sinful kind of sex. Do I feel any different? No. Do I suddenly feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do? No.

Point of all of this is no matter what you go through, there are things that stick out in your mind. By teaching kids from a young age that sex is dirty, bad, and you’re going to go to hell for it, you’re scarring them for life. Even now in my adult, married brain who understands that sex is a pleasurable act that bonds two people together, I still flash back to the piece of paper being ripped up.

Monday, July 14, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Thanks to the always on-point J.P. Sloan, I was called out on his blog to join in on the #MyWritingProcess Blog Hop. J.P. is not only an awesome writer of Urban Fantasy, but also is Pagan, and an all-around awesome human being. So to appease him I decided to jump right in. It’s funny that just last week my Mom pointed out that since I had a lot more free-time now with the wedding over, house settled into, and a break from class, I would have more time to write. So what is my writing process? How do I get those thoughts crammed into my brain? Well I sought out to answer the four questions posed on this Blog Hop to explain my process.

1). What am I working on?
Oh how loaded this question is. Most of you know that I’m always working on something; no matter how inundated I am with all the other things in my life I always find time to write. The two big projects I’m working on however are the sequel to Summer’s Hollow (Return to Summer’s Hollow) and the follow-up to Dark Cell (Dark Hall). Beyond that I have my short story series Loose that I am also working on, but I don’t have plans yet to publish.

I’m about seven chapters into Return to Summer’s Hollow. I’ve touched it a little bit since the wedding but haven’t gotten much in way of progress; most of it has been filling in the gaps and cleaning up the plot/character development so far. Dark Hall I’m about halfway through. The outline is already set for that one; I just need to sit down and get to it. Once I start I’m sure I’ll finish it by the end of the summer.

2). How does my work differ from other in its genre?
Horror is a genre that can be all over the place; my horror focuses on the people and how they react to their environments around them. Whether it’s Rylie’s psychic connection with the spirit of a witch, Aer’s journey into becoming the ruthless temptress of a vampire, or Penn’s discovery that his powers can be used to unearth the truth, all my books focus on the horror within people. This horror within of course gets spurred on by magic, paranormal occurrences, and monsters.

My books are inspired by my studies of culture, biology, and artifacts. I love to delve into the minds of my characters and frankly, scare the living crap out of them in more ways than one. This translates to the reader; if you aren’t freaked out after reading my books then I haven’t done my job as a horror writer. The anxiety that I felt reading a Poe work or a Stephen King book is something that I want my reader’s to feel. I take a lot of the ideas I see in classic and modern horror and put my anthropological spin on it.

3). Why do I write what I do?
In all honesty I write for myself. I write to get all these crazy stories out of my head and onto paper. The fact that I get to share these stories with people around the world is just an awesome perk. I’m like a giddy little school girl anytime someone tells me they got creeped out while walking home, have had to sleep with the lights on, or will never look at a clock tower the same way.

4). How does my process work?
My process differs a lot from the way that other writers write. For me, I can’t force my process. When I get inspired though watch out; I’ve been known to write for a day straight. Sometimes I come up with jumbled ideas and have to go back and clean them up, while other times the plot and the characters just flow perfectly into a combination of pure terror and psychological curiosity. My characters are really the ones that determine where the story goes. I start with a basic story, a setting, and then let my characters run amok. It’s as if I’m watching them from above as they live their lives. Sometimes they take me on twists and turns that even I didn’t see coming. My short story series I’m working on (Loose) is the prime example of that.

Loose is not a horror story series. It is a story that follows the mind of a very troubled woman who uses her influence in her biker gang, her boxing skills, and her sexual promiscuity to survive in this life. She lands in jail multiple times, commits murder multiple times, and is the victim of sexual assault multiple times. Her story weaves through so many different avenues that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with her. Many times I have had to fight her on the direction her life is going. Sometimes I feel like a mother to her, scolding her on her choices. In the end though she will do what she wants. She has grown into much more than just a character in one of my stories. She is very real to me and because of that I have a hard time thinking about publishing her stories. Still, lately I find myself running back to writing more of her story, especially her backstory. Currently I have 45 short stories as part of the series.


As part of this blog hop I’ve been asked to call out some authors of my own but you know what, rules have never been my style. I want to know what all my readers’ process is for creating; doesn’t have to be a writing project but it can be. What are you working on, how does it differ from similar works, why do you create, and how does your process for creating work?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Realities of Rape Culture

For the past few months I’ve been struggling with the right way to write a blog post about this topic. I mused writing about the historical significance, about society’s views on rape, and even about writing my own experiences. Then yesterday I read four words that have made me more disgusted than perhaps anything I’ve ever read: “her rape went viral.” What kind of society do we live in that this would be even remotely okay? I’m referring to the events that surrounded 16 year old Jada who was not only raped and that rape posted all over the internet, but people turned that rape into a joke.

Rape is NEVER a joke. There is no part to any person’s violation that is funny. There is no variance, no grey area here; it is black and white: NOTHING about sexual assault is funny. If you think that it is then you are what’s wrong with society.

The amount of women in my life, including me, that have been sexually assaulted is staggering. These are women of every ethnicity, age, religion, and creed; all who have been victims of some version of sexual assault. As I said above though, there is no grey area; there is absolutely no scenario where sexual assault is justified. Yet we live in a society where a rape culture is alive and rampant. Remaining silent about rape culture, ignoring it because it makes us feel “uncomfortable” is doing a disservice to the women who have been assaulted. (That being said, I know a lot of women out there who don’t share their assaults for their own personal reasons and I respect that.)

There was a part of me that thought putting this on my anthropology heavy blog wasn’t the right avenue. The reality is rape culture has everything to do with anthropology which at its core is the study of people. If we teach boys from a young age that women’s bodies are not objects, that you can’t treat them like garbage then we can eliminate this rape culture. Yet here we are talking about a 16 year old who had her assault splayed out on the internet and instead of people taking it down or reporting it, they shared it and made fun of it.

Jada though didn’t ignore it, didn’t just retreat into herself (like I did), she stood up for herself and shared her story with the world. That’s when the movement started to #standwithJada. This young girl is braver at 16 than I am at 24. No more though; no more will I simply keep my mouth shut about what happened to me 5 years ago. No more will I allow my experiences to scare me into thinking that I did/am doing something wrong by talking about it. I will stand with Jada and all the other women/girls out there who have had to go through this.

Image part of the #jadacounterpose hashtag on twitter from user @taasa

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer's Hollow Dream Cast

Last night I had a dream that Return to Summer’s Hollow was made into a film (which is crazy since I’m only about one third of the way through it). The cast that played the characters in my dream was pretty spot on; my subconscious is pretty good at casting. Naturally, I thought it would be fun if I shared the cast with you. Some of these characters you’ll recognize if you’ve read the first installation in the Summer’s Hollow series and others will be new (images courtesy of imdb.com).


Rylie: Lyndsy Fonseca


Jake: Anthony Mackie



Andy: Oscar Isaac



Josh: Peter Mooney



Brian: Chris Pratt


Isabelle: Amy Acker


Mr. Bradford: John Schneider




Mary: Caitlin Stasey
 

Edward: Michiel Huisman


Judith: Katey Sagal


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Resurrection of Mr. Potter

Most of you know that my obsession with the Harry Potter books is pretty bad (like I wrote my own multiple, novel-length fanfic bad). So when J.K. Rowling wrote a follow-up piece to her famous series, I jumped for joy. As I dug up my Pottermore username and password from the catacombs, my heart thumped with both excitement and the hope that it wouldn’t disappoint. Thankfully, it didn’t.

The way that it is written actually is quite brilliant. Sure it is a stereotypical “Where Are They Now” that at times has some cheesiness to it, but nevertheless it satisfied my want for more of the wizarding world I escaped to as a kid/teenager/adult. It is written as a gossip article for the Daily Prophet; none other than Rita Skeeter was the pen on this piece. The “article” is about three pages long and highlights the “VIP” attendants at the Word Cup Finals. We get to hear about all the major players that we fell in love with and there are quite a few nods to the past, present, and even future.

So please follow this link to read the short story: http://www.pottermore.com/en-us/daily-prophet/qwc2014/2014-07-08/dumbledores-army-reunites. You will need to log into Pottermore in order to read the story.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What Defines You?

Monday I sat in the ninth circle of hell, waiting for my number to be called so I could get the process of changing my name on my license over with. When my number was called I was ready to deal with the stereotypical right to business, monotone worker. Instead, I was greeted by a bubbly college student with long braids and an infectious smile. I sat down, and we started to go through the rigmarole of the process.

Then we got to the part where I had to confirm my personal information, including my race. The girl asked what I was and the screen gave me a list of options. I chose white and she asked the next question to clarify: was I white, Latino, or other?

“Well I guess white applies most in this situation even though I’m a mixture of Norwegian and Irish,” I stated.

She replied with a comment that is forever ingrained in my head, “You know I like that answer. It actually makes me uncomfortable when people answer ‘just white.’ No one is ‘just white,’ you know? I’m not ‘just black,’ I’m Jamaican.”

We sat there for a few minutes discussing the concept of race in general and how in actuality the questions that were posed really have no merit. Turned out this girl was actually studying sociology and was working here over the summer for some extra cash. She went on to talk about how working here was actually a great way to understand more about people and how they interact with each other and how they define themselves. She turned what is normally a teeth grinding experience into a thought-provoking one. A few days later I got into a similar discussion about race and how it really has no weight is defining a person.

I’ve talked before about how in the anthropological world, the world “race” isn’t used. Ethnic backgrounds and regional boundaries are used instead to group people. The discussion the other day was about how the color of your skin defines who you are and what your future generations will become. This of course is not true. Grouping people by the color of their skin is purely a social construct, mostly used by western culture (and adopted in some other cultures as well). The only thing that the color of your skin dictates is where your ancestors came from, even then there are varying skin tones within each ethnicity. Facial and body features are the same way; it’s all adaptation (as shown in the image above). We humans are made to evolve and adapt to our environment. I use my ancestor’s example since I have that perspective.

My skin is pale because my ancestors come from Norway and Ireland; both places are far from the equator and don’t get a lot of direct sunlight year round. My nose is long and pointy because both places have lower temperatures. The long, pointy nose filters cold air better. Point is neither of these things define me as a person; they are biological traits that were used to adapt to my ancestor’s environment that I inherited.

Problem with this logic is many people in western society don’t see people this way. They see a person and put them into a category based on their skin color because that’s the first thing they see. It is unfair, and in reality illogical. Calling all people with dark skin “African American” makes no sense since there are many people that have darker skin who are from the Islands, or even South America.

What really defines people is their heritage and who they have become in the present, not simple make up of melatonin or lack thereof. Still, we see that racism is rampant still today which is appalling to me. Of course it’s hard for me to grasp what it really feels like because unfortunately the color of my skin has entitled me to privileges that someone with darker skin never had. It’s a sad but true fact that we as a society need to understand but also try to educate people to move past and focus on what we all are: human with different backgrounds, appearances, and qualities that define who we are as people, not race.

Image Courtesy of http://antidarwinism.com/images/scelatalvariation.jpg

Friday, June 13, 2014

Giveaway Winner and Return to Summer's Hollow Preview

Thank you all who entered the giveaway and/or spread the word about it around social media. The names of all who entered were put into a cup and one name was drawn. The winner of my “Horror Care Package” is…

CATE GLEASON!

Congratulations, Cate! The package will be mailed to you and since most of its contents are a surprise, I would love for you to take a picture of it when you receive it! Also, as promised, I have a little preview of the next part in the Summer’s Hollow series. Enjoy a taste of my current writing project: Return to Summer’s Hollow.

Sweat glistened on Rylie as she took the steps two at a time up to her apartment. It was times like this she wished they didn’t live on the fourth floor. After a three mile run the last thing she needed was more exercise. Still, she trekked along until she reached her apartment where she resisted the urge to collapse on the floor as soon as she got in the door. Instead, she stretched out her tense muscles and then journeyed into the bathroom to rinse off.


Jake would be home in less than an hour to pick her up and she was far from ready. She quickly peeled off her sweat soaked clothes and turned on the shower. While she waited for the water to warm up she looked into the mirror. The little make-up that she had one before running was smeared on her face so she splashed it with water and blindly reached for the washcloth. She patted her face dry and turned back to the mirror.

There was a cracking sound that echoed around the small bathroom. Her eyes drifted to the mirror to see a crack in the glass. Its edges started to grow like a spider’s web but with precision. The cracks continued fast and curled into what appeared to be letters of some sort.

The steam from the shower was causing the mirror to fog up so she no longer saw her face but still could see the cracks. She was frozen in fear as the cracks stopped and spelled out the phrase: NEVER FORGET. Terror gripped her body and she closed her eyes hard then snapped them back open. The words were no longer there.

“Not again, not again…” she said breathlessly as she started to back up from the mirror.

A stench then filled the room that caused her to clamp her hand over her nose as she now whimpered in fear. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest but was deafened by the shower pressure growing as well as the sink turning on. Both her pulse and her breathing quickened as she looked around incredulously at the scene. There was no way she was dealing with this again. She shut her eyes again, her hand still over her nose, opened them up but the scene was still going on.

Then all of it stopped. The shower curtain though then started to move. Her breathing stopped all together as she saw a hand curl around the edge of the curtain. Her heart was in her throat as she spun around and reached for the door. As soon as her hand touched the doorknob her flesh sizzled and she withdrew it from the hot metal. “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening,” she said over and over as she shut her eyes.

That’s when she was aware of a presence behind her. She felt cold breath on the back of her neck and she let out a blood curdling scream as she was pulled around to face her worst fear.

“No!” she screamed loudly as she snapped open her eyes.