Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lighten up, Will you?

Probably not. At least not for a bit. One of the things I’ve learned over time is that for me, creativity is a bit of a purge. If I’ve not had the opportunity to be creative for a while – that is consistently creating, (and body fat doesn’t count as creating something even though I’ve become quite adept at it) it’s like a faucet that hasn’t been used in a while. A lot of eew comes out before the water runs clear. And so right now I’m in sludge mode. It will abate and my blogs will be lemon scented and tear free should I continue to produce them but for now? Sludge. Soap scum. Maybe even an exoskeleton or two.
So I had the privilege of staying home yesterday since the thing in my throat morphed into “Woo hoo, Tam can’t EVEN talk” complete with a cigar smoker’s cough, and achy body and a rotten disposition. I texted in. Thank God I didn’t have to call in as I was only capable of intermittent squeaks. I’m not much better today but my co-peep has a half day off and I am still responsible enough that I do not wish to cause undue stress on my co-peeps.  I took advantage of the cootie imposed quiet time and continued editing Ephesus Offense which if I get it done may see publication sometime next year. That is if it polishes up enough. I have my concerns.
I also bore silent witness (because I couldn’t freakin’ talk) to my husband’s situation and there is a part of me that is deeply sad about it. There was the feeding of the matriarch, then the feeding and dressing of the toddler, then back to the dressing of the matriarch, then shuttling the matriarch, back to feeding and putting the toddler down for a nap, then preparing for the feeding of the masses whilst watching the toddler and back to pick up the matriarch who had issues at the senior center and doesn’t want to go back, then there’s the feeding of the matriarch along with explanations about everything from cars outside to why we don’t want the church bulletin to “yes I’m home because I’m sick. No you cannot help me. Thank you tho.” And in between my husband is doing dishes and laundry and yard work…and I felt a little guilty.
We came here with eyes open and the HOH is a strong man, committed to helping the matriarch. But for those of you who have experienced the thankless grind that is cooking and cleaning and caring for peeps only to have other peeps come home like locusts and level the place, as much as you love the peeps and the locusts – it ain’t easy. And when you’ve spent your entire life working a day job (or a night job) to slip on that apron is difficult.
Granted, the toddler is flippin’ awesome and he adores his grampa. But my day job – even though I’m the breadwinner doesn’t afford me any flex time to share that apron. I’m basically a locust, feeding off the efforts of my HOH. And as I said, it makes me sad. I’m better when I’m a giver but right now I’m just a consumer. And I’m full of sludge and exoskeletons.

Friday, May 17, 2019

On Toxic Positivity

I woke up this morning at 2:00 with a knot in my gut and a roaring headache. After slamming a glass of water and popping a couple of Bayer I flopped around in my bed until I was able to get myself in a position where the banging sensation in my skull would allow me to sleep just a little longer. It’s almost 12 hours and several aspirins later and still the monster in my cranium bangs away. God only knows what causes the little brain gremlins to rage as they do but they are much more frequent than when I was in the land of green chile and tumbleweeds. Could be stress. Could be pollen. (my car was literally yellow the past two days. Yellow and fuzzy.) Whatever it is, headaches make the commute almost intolerable and the work day a serious ordeal. I truly miss being 15 minutes away from an office with a window and green chile breakfast burritos en route.

I read this article the other day by a woman named June Andrews and she used the term “toxic positivity” which has stuck with me (much like the fat around my middle from all those burritos)  and I thought of the multiple days I’ve risen to prepare for my daily routine, asking only that I be afforded time and space void of banalities and chatter only deal with the matriarch as she knocks on the bathroom door, asks me where I work, stands exactly where I need to be to pack a lunch etc. Then there is the hour commute peppered with road construction and Nascar wannabes, the day at the office which is like no other office I’ve ever experienced, the hour commute home and the instant I get in the door – the matriarch goes on some type of loop. It sounds trivial. I know it does. But I am a private person. An only child. An introvert. And I have no control of my personal space and my time. Add dementia to the mix and often it is so difficult for me to put my hand over my mouth and walk away, especially when some well intended type tries to spin the reality of it all with trite isms like “it’s only a season” yada yada yada.

The hard truth of it is this: dementia takes the personality and the memory of the person you love and shreds it. One day your beloved is baking cookies and telling stories about her family and the next she’s trying to eat a napkin and swearing that the girl who sleeps with her wet the sheets. (sidebar: the sheets were dry and the matriarch sleeps alone) The hard truth is you either deal with it – and what it does to the person you love or you turn that person over to “the professionals” because you can’t deal with it. And you watch as any legacy that beloved person may have worked and sacrificed for YOU is eaten by the cost of professional care.

What I know in my heart is that we are slowly, inexorably saying goodbye to the matriarch. And she is slowly being robbed of the ability to deal with her own mortality, to say goodbye as well or even navigate her increasingly difficult world because we as her caregivers have to impose restrictions to protect her from herself and the shredder in her head. We don’t need a smile and an eight step plan. We need real knowledge. We need additional pairs of hands. We need access to professionals who won’t burden us further with medical bills. That is our reality.

I would never tell anyone going through the loss of a loved one that he or she just needed to be positive and that it was wrong to run a  gamut of emotions. I don’t expect those who know me to tell me that. Dementia is a wrecking ball colliding with a stained glass window…in….slow….motion. The pieces, even if the colors are still pretty – will never go back together. And the family shouldn’t be guilted into silence while witnessing the destruction. We aim to protect her dignity but to lie and say that our positive attitudes and our sunny dispositions are what keeps us moving forward is a lie. Life is brutal. Love is messy. And I? I am a warrior.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Phlegm....Just Phlegm

So here I am after an interminable hiatus and you’d think I’d come
back poignant, eloquent and gracious as my advancing age would
suggest. About that. If you ever read me you know that’s an
expectation too lofty for THIS page. Although, I do have a heart and
it’s been on said heart to post something, anything for several
months. I’m a writer. I’m never at a loss for words, but I am at a
giant deficit for time. Again, if you ever read me – specifically my
intermittent screams into the void since December 2015, you know a bit
about my situation. If you are blissfully unaware, and you return to
this humble page, you’ll learn quickly.

I started my morning at two a.m. today. I’m female, 54 and have had
two bundles of joy/terror/love and the bladder – while I believe in
her – is ornery and has been disrupting my beauty sleep (and it shows)
for a few years but now she is engaging other parts of my digestive
tract which resulted in me rifling through my grown son’s stash of
bathroom goodies in a hunt for the Imodium. If the steadfastness of
the containment field around those blue gels is any indicator of their
ability to wrangle what’s gurgling in my gut – the bladder will be a
solo act for days.

Why the overshare? Well, at a time in my life when I and the HOH
should be falling asleep at nine whilst binging on Netflix and
Traverse City cherry Ice c ream in our empty nest – we are in fact
displaced, relegated to one bedroom and sharing the only toilet in the
house that is not ours with our offspring and a spouse, a grand
toddler and a 90+ year old who is struggling with dementia. Toilet
time is a precious commodity and those of us who can control our
innards MUST control our innards in deference to those who can’t. Yes,
we volunteered to take on the care of our matriarch. We expected
sacrifices. Toilet time though, well? It’s complicated.

And so here I am, aching to discuss the deeper things of life, the
philosophies and idiosyncrasies and all the other ies that make up
this thing called human life and I am reduced to potty talk. I just
want a moment with a bowl, without a knock on the door. Without having
to wear hazmat gear and sterilize every surface before I go.  And a
burrito. I want a real burrito too. Not at the same time I’m indulging
in a bowl. I have my standards.

Anyway, I have determined that in order to preserve the last shred of
pre New Mexico expat me I must return to some form of regular writing
whether anyone reads or doesn’t. So here I am. There will be lots of
caveats and explanations over the next months and there probably won’t
be much brilliance but there will be truth. I’ve been largely silent
over the past years about dementia and what it really does to a soul –
to my detriment. Perhaps if I by my rambling help someone else – it
will ease the ache of knowing that while I’d love to be verbal elixir
– most days I’m just phlegm. Copious phlegm.


Friday, April 26, 2019

The Writers Zodiac Part Two

Let’s finish up.
Libra: With your keen desire for balance you are often the pinnacle of objectivity, able to see and understand differing facets of a situation. You enjoy diplomacy so much you’ll collaborate to the point of letting the other author do all the work because you loathe conflict. While you’d make a great editor because you are usually unbiased and fair, don’t relax into a lack of creativity when it comes to your own work. If you’re concerned about your written words becoming divisive, try flirting a little with your audience. That skill is in your wheelhouse as well.
Suggested Genre(s): non-fiction communication training manuals, plea bargains. Editing.
Scorpio: Let’s face it. You’re scary. If Stoker and King had a literary baby it would be you. You don’t actually write, you puncture the paper, injecting it with venom until it foams at the edges and bleeds out in convulsive horrific glory. You make children and old people cry with your words and you wear terror like a crown. Combine this persistence to the point of gutting anyone who gets in your way and the fact that horror sells, if you don’t lose your mind before you’re published, you may be quite successful. And I don’t just say this because I know a writer who is a Scorpio and I value my life.
Suggested Genre(s): horror, terror, with lots of mauling and pillaging.
Sagittarius: You are nothing if you are not optimistic, except maybe tactless. While you usually have a conversational style that makes you an easy read, and adept at dialogue heavy voluminous works, you’re not big on details. You’re also not good with differing opinions, so topics like politics and religion probably aren’t for you. Unless your target audience is full of like minds. Then by all means, go for it.
Suggested Genre(s): travel blogs, suspense, material for Sarah Silverman.
Capricorn: Ambitious and disciplined, whatever the topic, you’re all in and eyes on the prize. Success is not an option for you. It is an inevitability. Never collaborate though, because you’ll no doubt have to drag the inert body of your lessor-abled partner over the published writer finish line and that will cause you embarrassment. And you hate to be embarrassed. You’ll do it of course because you are unstoppable. And probably offended by this post, but unable to tell me because you really embarrass easy, don’t you?
Suggested Genre(s): anything you want. Just don’t ask me to collaborate with you. I hate being dragged.
Aquarius: Eccentric, eclectic and light years ahead of your time you can create worlds with your imagination and yet be astonished that the rest of us might want to inhabit them because your logic won’t allow you to buy into what you created. Unfortunately, you struggle writing much of anything because you are often incapable of inhabiting a point in time for more than a nanosecond. In your head it’s a novel, no wait a screen play with a soundtrack and a companion board game, but on paper….nothing. If you want to write, give yourself a little more time before you morph into the next persona. It will be worth it.
Suggested Genre(s): Fantasy, myths and legends, astrology posts.
Pisces: If you can dream it, you can write about it, and my fishy friend your head is simply full of beautiful writerly dreams. You have all the feels inside your squishy heart and can reproduce the human condition with truth and empathy but you need to grow some alligator skin and quit letting the humans you so love walk all over your delicate finny tail. Don’t grasp for a series or even a standalone novel because we all know how easily bored you get. Try a bit of flash fiction, or a poem so you get a taste for finishing things you start.
Suggested Genre(s): free verse, vignettes on the human condition, your own personal journals to be found after your untimely demise.

And now the truth: We are all gifted and inept as this thing we do. No matter when you were born, you have your own skill set and your own wonderful way of bringing your story to the page. Never stop being you. This world needs writers who are genuine, human and able to laugh a little at themselves.

As for me? Even though I put no stock in astrology, I’m a Taurus and yes, it is all about that bacon.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor Rad Writing

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Writers Zodiac Part One

Let’s have a little fun. I don’t believe in the zodiac any more than I believe in Santa Claus, but if I did… this is how I’d make a writer’s zodiac.

Aries: Aggressive and dominant by nature, you never back down from a challenge. Whatever you write, rest assured you’ll have readers or you’ll bludgeon them with your completed series of tomes. No is not in your vocabulary, nor is it allowed in the vocabulary of those around you, especially those whose opinions actually merit something, like your editor and your public relations manager.
Suggested genre(s): medical research books, tax law, assembly instructions for toys.
Taurus: Once you roll out of your 100-count Egyptian cotton sheets and polish off half a pound of bacon, you are always a ready, steady, and reliable writer. Unfortunately, because you rash up at the slightest discomfort you rarely step out of your groove and write something unpredictable. Step back from the line between determined and pigheaded and live a little, will you?
Suggested genre(s): food blogs, luxury vacation spot reviews, Amish romance.
Gemini: With your natural curiosity, your mad social skills, and your smarts, just think of the stuff you could write if you’d stop talking about it and grab a pen! A real Gemini does not know the feeling of writer’s block because the ideas never stop coming. If you really want to produce something read-worthy, hone in on things that keep you up at night, that make you stop and ponder. Don’t be a goldfish.
Suggested genre(s): science fantasy, fiction thrillers, fox news articles.
Cancer: It’s no secret that home and family life are important to you. You undoubtedly have a plethora of photos with paragraphs on the backs of them, newspaper clippings of family events and several volumes worth of dirt on everyone who shares a bit of DNA. I might even be able to find you with an ancestry.com membership, regularly posting on a discussion board. Which is why you haven’t written that historical fiction novel yet. When you’re finally ready to use your formidable perceptive skills to craft characters of your own instead of chasing leaves on your genealogy tree, you might pen a book. Or several.
Suggested genre(s): tabletop devotionals, historical fiction, scrapbooks.
Leo: Charismatic and attention seeking, if we aren’t immediately blown away by your brilliance, we’ll most definitely succumb to your prowess in chapter two because you are the epitome of performer. Most days you could write about pond scum and make us salivate for a bowl of it but unfortunately for you and your larger-than-life ego, not everyone likes you all the time. Chill out, will you? The pond scum is better scum for your efforts, and the majority of us who do love you are fat and happy. Really.
Suggested genre(s): Pirate novels. Slapstick comedy skits. Slam poetry.
Virgo: Precise and analytical, if you pen it your reader can believe it because you do your homework. You are a consummate fact checker and you’re never flippant about your efforts. You’re a unicorn where editors are concerned because you would rather dig out your eyes with a spoon than miss a deadline. There isn’t any style of writing you can’t tackle and we all know it so quit being so harsh on your fellow writers. You’re making us look bad.
Suggested genre(s): self help, sestinas, Speaking Mandarin for Dummies
We’ll finish up next week.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Dark Side

Contrary to sporadic outbreaks of facebook kitsche, the Dark side does not in fact have cookies.
Let me be clear. Hell is hell. It is a real place full of real monsters and it has a real presence in reality.
Bear with me, I’m not tying bottle rockets to my makeshift pulpit. I just want to give you something that transcends the chaos, dear artist. Because you, by your desire and gift to illuminate and magnify all that is what ever it is about the human condition—you are susceptible to joining the dark side and never coming back to the light.

What am I getting at? Well I’m gonna make you think for yourself here about your influences, your inspirations—musicians, artists, writers who resonate with you and even those things which you yourself pen or draw or choreograph.

There is a mindset that beauty born from pain is relevant, lasting, and deep. And those things which are lighthearted, bouncy, are perhaps vapid and destined to disappear like so much happy unicorn glitter. Ephemera evaporates. Blood congeals. And most humans are more prone to slow down and ogle a car accident than they are to contemplate a rainbow.

Unfortunately, for the artist, there is real danger in that.

You see, many of us with a creative bent actually lived the whole “beauty from pain” bit. We can and do write books about it. We lived with demons in parent skin or sibling skin or the skin of someone who should have nurtured us but instead destroyed parts of our lives with whatever horror available to them to mete out on us. And in order to purge what we couldn’t digest, we wrote the pain. We danced the anger, the loss. We drew the blood in dark ink. And we lived it again, and relived it. And it became a part of us until we too lived in the darkness. Absorbing the abuse, the neglect, until it became us. And we perpetuated the chaos we so desperately wanted to escape.
Why? Because in the very act of validation we so desperately crave we allow it to become our muse, and then our identity.

Dear artist, your gift is there so you can heal.

Your talent to write exists so you can purge the monster and move on. Your story should help others perhaps not so eloquent to understand that not only are they not alone, but that there is beauty and light and joy beyond the pain of broken, of abuse, of neglect, of addiction, of slavery. Expose the darkness—and then kill it. Allow your gift to heal you, and then use it to heal others.
This is where the real power of “artist” lies. When we dance in the light, when we pen the victory, when the palette reveals the rich tones of life, when we offer hope…
When I pass from this place, sure, there are a few things I’ve written that may make my family cringe a little. I’m a faulted human. But after generations of creative souls lost to the dark side, not only did I step into the light with my gift, but my grown children are taking their creativity further. That’s a win. That is what you deserve.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor Rad Writing

Friday, April 5, 2019

Dont Be ME

On the cusp of losing an hour of precious sleep due to some compendium of elected officials assuming they are smarter than the God who invented circadian rhythms and an unholy upwelling of snot from my lungs, I was a bit loopy this morning in the shower.
As I stood contemplating the condition of my razor and whether or not it was worth scraping errant bits of fuzz from my person with what looked like a prime delivery system for lockjaw, I found myself considering that which makes the gender specific me, a specific identifiable gender. Someone somewhere at some point in time determined that females should not sport lush growths of hair in certain places. Keeping it family friendly, this societal bent is causing my demented, aging mother-in-law significant frustration exacerbated by, well, dementia. Not only does she struggle with the concept of which personal hygiene items are hers and what regimen the hygiene product is for, when she does take a whack at scraping the lichen off the barn, she only succeeds in removing several layers of skin whilst the walrus whiskers on her chin remain stubbornly fixed. My exhortation of “Mom, no one is going to feel the stubble on your chin,” is of little solace.
Somewhere in her malaise an alarm is sounding, and those whiskers are the flashpoint in her quest for normality. And while in her case, she struggles with any level of cognition, her distress is not entirely foreign.
We humans love to label a thing and then hold the thing to the standards of the label—even if the label is inaccurate, irrelevant, or just plain stupid.

Just like my mother-in-law is innately female, no matter how swarthy her visage, something at her core eats at her, compelling her to acts of what are now self-destructive, because at that core she is insecure in who she is. And we writers, and creative types are prone to this behavior as well.

In our competitive, hyper-focused world of me me now now me me now identity isn’t just who you are, what you believe and what you do, there’s that viscous goo glommed on everything …. How successful are you at what you do?
The convo goes a little like this: “So what do you do?” “I’m a writer.” “Oh really? I wrote a novel. I should give it to you to read. Are you published?” “Yes but I’ve only sold a few books.” “So what do you do?”

Like we walk up to surgeons and say “What do you do?” “Oh I’m a surgeon.” “Really? I cut up a frog once. I should bring it in…” NO.

For all the bazillion of us who are creative, who identify ourselves as writer, artist, musician, dancer—just because we also hold down a soul-gutting day job and in our itty bitty hearts know we may never win a grammy or an emmy or any other meme, we are still who we are. It is society that has determined that in order to say you ARE something you have to put a dollar-per-hour tag on it.
You know this to be true even as that stomach acid inducing “So when are you gonna go get a real job” sentence rings in the ears of those of you who have actually stepped out in your chosen passion, and are on food stamps or living in your parents basement because of it.

Let me tell you something. I have a day job. And a family. And a mortgage and all those identifiers that deem me “normal” and inside, curled fetal, is a banshee.

Today, after a week of phlegm and obligations, the banshee is silent. But she won’t stay that way. She is my penance for attempting to conform. The only “day job” that will ever satisfy my inner screaming she-beast would be “novelist” or “editor” or “poet laureate of the known realm.” Accountant? That is a necessary evil in my life. Writer is who I am.

So here is my horrific warning. Don’t be me.

Don’t sell out. Don’t conform. And above all, don’t develop the myopia that tells you you are not successful if you’re not making money at the thing you love to do more than you love breathing. If you allow the world at large to define you, you may find yourself bitter, old, and crusty. Which is cool I suppose if you are a crouton. But if you are a creator of images and words and worlds, crusty won’t suffice.
I didn’t use that razor this morning, and guess what. No one questioned my girliness. My identity as a writer though? For now, it’s not common knowledge, even among those who think they know me. Don’t be me dear artist.
To thine own self….you know the rest.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor Rad Writing

Friday, March 29, 2019

And Action

Here I am again, the bane of your existence, oh Indie author extraordinaire.
I know it seems like I’m picking on the very souls who frequent the publishing entity to whom I am enslaved, but it’s not true. I only vilify your horrific habits because I love you and want nice things for you. Oh, and because everything I share with you isn’t fabricated whilst I’m hunched over a converted PC desk in the corner of a spider infested, cat haunted, frigid basement. It’s just me, gnawing on the bones of my very existence and sharing the marrow of my experiences with you.
I get it. You’ve spent at least ninety days developing this complicated shmuck, flawed but lovable, and you’re parading him—we’ll call him Jaxton for effect—through the vast and lofty verbal cornucopia that is your novel. Page after page of pitfall, tension, and ego-crunching experience. Perhaps he suffers from a skin condition that stifles his abilities to socialize so he’s lonely but brilliant due to a lifetime of ego-bruising—enough to squeeze some wine (or whine) out.
You’ve done your homework.
Dialogue, rounded characters, excerpts on your website, and you’ve built your fan base.
Your book should be leaping off your virtual shelves. But it isn’t.

All this work—a lifetime of trial for your protag, and no one cares enough to spend the $12.50 to see what happens next.

Why? Well, because you’re not Dickens and this isn’t the 1800’s.

In a world where your potential readers are bombarded by information and overwhelmed with choices, you and your book have to stand out amidst the chaos. And you, dear writer, only have seconds to set your book hook and land that new fan.

Pay attention: you have to grab your reader within the first page of your novel if you want them to read the second and subsequent.

That means, get to the action and get to it quickly. Jax loosed his white knuckled grip on the steering wheel as he fixed his gaze on the front door of Cheryl’s Chic Boutique. A manicured hand adorned with chunky rings appeared in the window. There it was. Cheryl flipped the “Closed” sign, finally. She’d be alone in the store now. A bead of sweat dripped from his temple, stinging his freshly treated cheek severely enough that his eyes watered. His foot hovered over the gas pedal. All the years of injections, painful chemical treatments, were nothing compared to the pain that constricted his chest every time he thought of Cheryl. He just wanted an end to the pain. Taking a deep breath, he slid the car into drive… BANG.
I know. You’re thinking—okay, but that was my climactic scene! On page 244! Don’t worry. Unless you’ve never watched CSI, or Bones, or pretty much any dramatic anything lately, you should recognize the thing I did just now. Yup. It’s called getting the action on the first page.
Now, you can continue with your story in “how did he get to this place” fashion and your reader will eagerly follow your twists and turns for 243 more pages because you gave him, her, it, something to be curious about. Your climactic moment is still safe because you’ve actually revealed nothing about the outcome—that car has not moved, yet. So you, writer, are free to build to the inevitable—does he kill himself? Does he kill her? Does a pug run across the road, foiling his endeavors again? I must now buy your book because I have to know.
And that is how you hook a reader.
Well, okay, my example was purposely kitschy, but give it a try if your plot is slow to simmer and your readers are comatose before the good stuff happens.

Doesn’t have to be a life and death scene, but it does have to be integral to your character’s story and it does have to pop off that page. That very first page.

Unless you’re Dickens. Then write on….and on….and on…
Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor Rad Writing

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Smut Card

So awhile back, I was reading this great little sci-fant bit with monsters and magic and a whole fantastical world. It was a real page turner by an indie author, fast paced and full of characters about whom I was incredibly curious.
There I was, halfway into the journey and boom. There it was, like fresh roadkill on an idyllic autumn drive and I didn’t have time enough to swerve out of the obstructed lane: a great steamy pile of porn complete with guttural noises, graphic descriptions of intimate parts and functions and lots and lots of body fluids.
We aren’t talking a pulse quickening smooch and squeeze or even a seductive slow dance and lingering touch. This was straight up pornographic writing so in your face that it made me—a married mom with two grown male children—incredibly squirmy while reading. And not in a good way, either.

The smut card had been played

Suffice it to say, I felt awkward with the storyline after the intrusive sex scene. And unfortunately for me, the writer dropped in another X rated escapade a few chapters later. Not only did the jarringly explicit dual scenes disturb me, but also the fact that the author made no attempt to warn readers regarding the lengthy narratives of mature content halfway through the book. Until the two scenes were dropped on my eyes like they were hot, the book itself would have been a prime read for adult or YA sci-fant fans. Unfortunately, the needless inclusion of gratuitous and over-the-top pornography garnered this otherwise solid story a brown paper cover and a spot in the naughty section of the bookstore. In the back. Where all the creepers hang out.
Seriously now. I’m a grown woman, and I like a little spice every now and then, but dumping the entire bottle of cayenne in the dish will not only ruin the flavor but it may scorch a body’s innards as well.

We owe our readers the integrity as writers to protect them from ingesting that which might damage them.

I get it. People meet, fall in love, and intimacy is a real part of life. In fact it is to be enjoyed. But there is a huge difference between creating a connection between characters who demonstrate intimacy and physical affection and/or attraction for one another and straight up smut.
If you as a writer choose with eyes open and conscience unmarred to write pornographic material, rest assured you will have an audience who hopefully will be as adult as you are. But if you are just wrapping your characters personal parts around each other and throwing in some blue language for effect to grab your reader, don’t.

Check your skill set as a writer first.

If you have to prostitute your characters to keep the attention of your reader, something is wrong with your characters, your storyline, or your writing itself.

Reread your work up to the point of your characters defrocking, and correct your story. Create some tension, add some danger, take a writing class, but don’t add an explicit sex scene just for shock and awe.
Here’s the deal:
That book I mentioned would have read stunningly without the sweaty, sticky, contortive side bar. It was obvious the protags were passionate about one another. And while a moment of procreative endeavors could have been alluded to or given a few sentences, the pages of porn did not advance the story one iota. In fact, they detracted from it, because they pulled the reader out of the amazing world the writer had so painstakingly created.
The two potentially offensive scenes took the characters from otherworldly to disappointingly boorish and, even more damaging, the scenes put constraints on the book in total: an otherwise stellar story now really requires a graphic content warning.
So, when gambling for your readers attention, don’t play the smut card. It’s constrictive to your reach as a writer, it cheapens your characters, and ultimately it’s a cop out—a cheat for a writer. If you need drama or tension, add a teenage girl or a mother-in-law. But don’t write something that makes your reader want to gouge his or her eyes out and soak them in disinfectant.
Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor Rad Writing

Friday, March 8, 2019

Good, Better, Chocolate

Or, Why you need an Editor

It’s a rather dreary Saturday on the third coast, as I write this. A rare day of sunshine yesterday made slush out of all the fluffy white snow and now the sky is overcast in the same shade as the dingy stuff that didn’t melt completely away when it had the rare chance to do so. I am desirous of a day without numbers, but responsibility is a cruel mistress, so this digression will be brief.
Having just received the draft of my hope-to-be-published-at-some-future-point novel from my editor, I am salivating to begin the process of rewriting. I truly believe that had I done my due diligence with my first novel and rewritten it oh, about a zillion times, I’d’ve sold maybe a hundred copies instead of fifty. But I did what a lot of “unrecognized talent” does. I thought I was better than that. It’s a humbling lesson some of us indie folk fail to learn. We get our little fan base, chat our butts off, get our egos fattened and think we’re the bestest. Then our hot messes don’t sell, so we shlep them off to a real editor, only to be incredibly insulted when our manuscripts are gutted and handed back to us in pieces. Yeah, well…

Contrary to what you may think, editors do not drink the blood of your poor literary children.

Nor do they delight in mauling your tome-y toddlers. They really want to drape your amorphous blob of a book in the finest silk, top it with a tiara and let it rule the world. But that won’t happen if your work still needs a teat instead of a shot glass. And no editor worth his or her salt is going to put your unruly literary child on display and call it a grown effort.
Editors are actually as vested as you are in your work. They want your success as much if not more as you do. So much so that they are willing to be honest about where you are on the spectrum of bird cage floor covering versus “oh Mylanta I couldn’t stop reading” because where you see your effort as good enough they see the potential within the words as completely amazing. Editors don’t destroy a potentially great work. They refine it. They trim the fat, tone the muscle, chisel and polish—whatever metaphor you consider—a good editor will take you from where you are to where you deserve to be.
It’s not easy. Even now, as I extol the necessity of an editor’s hand across your manuscript, I contemplate the comments made by mine. Potential paragraphs scrapped. A character culled. And a lot more words to write. But she loves the story. I see it where it is. She sees it where we can take it together. It’s not as much a punitive exercise by a necessary wielder of evil as it is a collaborative effort. A synergistic project that benefits both writer and editor, some next level stuff, if you will.
So when you are able to step away from your work for a bit and look at it objectively, you will grow exponentially as a wordsmith by allowing your raw brilliance to be tempered by the right editor. You won’t have to give up everything. If you truly MUST keep something, most editors are reasonable—but remember, they are not only editors but readers, writers, marketers, students, and teachers of this thing called writing. They are committed to your success.
You have to tear a muscle to build it. So it goes with writing well. Peace. I have to send a thank you note to my editor.
Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor