Saturday, December 21, 2013

Victory Tastes like too Much Caffeine

A Novel Coming of Age Story

Today, I put the last words into the rough draft of Immortal Blood.

At last, it's finally finished.

This project has been especially important to me because I finally discovered an incarnation that would allow me to bring this universe into the world.

This is the fourth time I've tried to get the Chronicles of the Immortal Blood going.

The first incarnation was cursed with the lack of a strong climax. I'd started writing it back when I thought the characters would create the story, and I didn't need to be concerned with where I was going so long as I was going somewhere.

I learned from that mistake and began my second attempt to bring the universe of the Immortal Blood to life. Unfortunately, I fell into the trap of trying to tell too much too soon and created a story with two climaxes that mattered to two different characters...and managed to pen a full sequel before I recognized the flaw in my design.

After that failure, I pulled the two story lines apart, shelved the original setting, and tried to write something reminiscent of the Roman Gladiators with mutant powers, Gods that intervened in not so subtle ways, and technology that would have baffled the people of the time. I loved the premise. Words spilled out from the keyboard. I thought I'd found the path for which I'd been searching so hard. Then I hit reality. As cool as the setting and the idea might have seemed, the story I'd woven into my outline couldn't sustain itself for more than 50,000 words without being padded with useless fluff.

I felt like I'd hit a dead end.

All the hours I'd put into this world and nothing I did could bring it to life.

I put the Chronicles of the Immortal Blood on a shelf and drowned the sorrow of my failure in gun battles with Sven Nulis.

But as I toiled through two large rewrites of Sven's debut, ideas kept poking at the back of my brain. What if I combined the original setting with my idea for Gladiator-style battle? What if Zero was a bandit, a free agent not tied to the government? How about I pull the Gods further into the conflict? Could I get away with using personal philosophies to shape the reality of life in this universe? Wouldn't this be better if the terrible fathers had complex motives for their actions?

I started scribbling notes. And a new outline began to take shape.

A year and a half ago, I decided to give the Immortal Blood one more chance.

Today, I have a completed zero draft three months ahead of schedule. I feel like a zittery bundle of energy and a sleepy kitten all at the same time. I'm excited and exhausted, gearing up for the next phase of bringing Zero's story into the world.

And the joyous pride is a high I'd be happy to feel at the end of every draft.

I'd say all the hard work was worth it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Reality of Intent

I'm sure we've all heard, or said, or thought the words, "I didn't mean to." Some variations: "That wasn't what I meant," or "I didn't intend to," or "I didn't mean it that way," or "That wasn't my intention."

I know I have.

This reaction is a reflexive response meant to combat the guilt we feel for doing harm to another person because no one wants to feel like the villain.

So imagine my discomfort (indeed, the discomfort of many) when I first heard the phrase, "Intent isn't magick," and was thrust into a world where naming my intent didn't offer solace to the person I'd hurt. Where I learned that naming my intent often did more harm.

But then, opportunities for growth are rarely comfortable.

I've had time to think about intent, and I began to wonder what use it really had. If it could offer nothing to the people we hurt, what was the purpose of having intent?

At it's most simple, intent is just a contract we make with ourselves. It is a promise that, so long as we want something, we'll do what we can to bring that something into our lives.

Through this contract, our intent should drive our actions. Holding ourselves accountable for our side of the contract requires that we do things that would lead us toward attaining the thing we desire. Likewise, it requires us to avoid doing those things that lead us away from, or prevent us, from attaining our goal.

Sometimes the difference between the two isn't as clear as we'd like it to be. That's where learning and growth come into play. For just about every undertaking that exists, there is someone who can help guide us when we hit a snag. The difficult part is accepting the difficult teachings, the ones that require us to change.

And that brings me to the hardest lesson I've learned about intent.

Refusing to change a counterproductive habit means we didn't intend what we claim. For example, if someone says they want a deeper relationship with us, yet he or she refuses to respect our boundaries or shames us for having them, that someone didn't really want a relationship with us. They wanted to be able to boast having a connection with us without putting in the work. Or if we say we wish to be an ally to a marginalized group, yet we cling to an oppressive slur because it's "just a word" or we're so used to using it that changing our language would be "hard," we didn't really want to be an ally. We wanted to claim the label without putting forth any effort.

That, really, is the truth behind intent.

It's meaningless without effort.

A contract is meaningless without both parties being invested in keeping their parts of the agreement.

When it comes to intent, the only party invested is ourselves.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Apologies

For the second time since the regime change at the night job (that currently pays my bills), I find myself dealing with the kind of ridiculous treatment I'd only experienced through the words of feminist bloggers and childhood memories.

I'd convinced myself that no "professional man" would dare be so blatantly biased and dismissive of the accomplishments of an employee just because she wasn't six feet tall and composed of testosterone. I told myself this was a dying breed and males acting like entitled children when their errors were presented to them was the thing of elementary school and spoiled jocks. Somehow, despite all the evidence, I made myself believe that misogyny was becoming a rare thing, that the Boy's Only Club was losing members.

Unfortunately, those spoiled boys sometimes turn into entitled men. Men who can't stand to admit their mistakes, especially when those errors are presented by a woman. Men who can't work with independent, empowered women because they have no idea how to speak to women as equals. Men who reward sterotypical displays of masculinity even at the detriment of the social environment and the businesses to which they show loyalty.

One of those men dug through the professionally spoken interview he conducted with me and came to the conclusion that my experience, work ethic, and sparkling history could be ignored because I admitted to a habit of explaining concepts in more detail than was necessary. And by ignored, I mean treated as so insignificant that a man with none of my experience or skills was deemed a better candidate.

This experience shook me, caught me off guard. Despite everything I'd learned and read, I wasn't expecting the treatment.

I knew there were women all over the world dealing with this kind of treatment on a daily basis, but somehow thought myself immune. I now recognize this thinking, and the patterns of behavior around me that led to its formation, as a form of bias, and privilege, all its own.

Subconsciously, I held myself as too exceptional to be treated with the same indignity as the average woman.

And that was shitty of me.

To all the women everywhere, I apologize. I regret having internalized the Exceptional Woman trope to the point that I was mentally discriminating against the members of my gender who don't have the privilege of my skill set. I'm sorry. From this point forward, I'm going to check that internal gender bias and do better.

And I plan to start by using what privilege I have to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the aforementioned men to continue treating women the way they do. Even if the only recourse I have now is to demonstrate to them that "sometimes info-dumps on people" and "lacks communication skills" are not the same thing.