Sunday, October 20, 2013

We Need a New Women's Movement

It took 72 years after the official start of the women’s movement for women to get the vote. 72 years. For 72 years groups of women came together to fight for the rights of one another. Women were threatened, beaten, arrested, jailed, and force fed through hunger strikes, but they stuck together. It was important. They were women – sisters in a cause – and they fought to ensure those of us now would have rights that would make us equal citizens. We all attach the suffrage movement with the right to vote but, they were fighting for so much more than just a chance to join in at the polls. They saw the need for equal wages, better education and fair career opportunities for women. To wax poetic, they wanted to be able to live out their own dreams. And while the individual members of the movement changed through time, the heart of the movement remained the same for 72 years until they succeeded in gaining the vote.

We still had a long way to go after that. While we could vote, and some opportunities improved, I don’t know anyone who would say that women in 1920 suddenly became men’s equals. There was still plenty to fight for and women did indeed continue the fight. Women started running for office where they could, they went on to higher education, they went to work. Still, by 1960 women were only making 62 cents for every dollar made by a man in an equal position, prompting women to come together again for the Equal Pay Act in 1963. On a side note; women in the state of Utah made 72 cents for every dollar made by a man in an equal position in 2012 which was also the national average in 1992. In Louisiana it was 62 cents last year, so I would say we still have some fighting to do on this one. My point is that the women of that time were again coming together to try to make things better for one another.

They found more to fight for in the 70’s. Big issues like Roe v. Wade and little issues like whether or not public schools could require girls to wear dresses. It’s sad to me that a girls right to wear pants had to be decided by a court and even that didn’t happen until 1972. Did you know part of this fight in the 70’s also gave us the right to have a credit card? No one was required to give credit to women until 1974. Before that date the credit companies assumed if a woman needed a line of credit either her husband or her father would get it for her. No need to worry our pretty little heads over confusing things like credit accounts. Even though we could go to work, until 1978 you could be fired for getting pregnant and until 1977 the courts did not recognize sexual harassment as a real thing. Ladies – it was 1985 before all states recognized the need to grant “no fault” divorces so that women didn’t have to get permission from their husbands to get divorced. It wasn’t until 1993 that all 50 states recognized marital rape as a crime. I had almost graduated high school by then. Again, these were issues women came together to fight for.

I’m afraid that the women in my generation and younger have stopped fighting for one another and seem to be spending a lot more time fighting with one another. As women, there are things we face throughout life that our male counterparts do not and one would hope that these would bring us closer together as a diverse community of sisters. Instead, we keep finding ways to remain in the high school-esque world of “Us” and “Them”. Unfortunately, the “Them” is other women. We pick each other apart for everything from body size and clothing style, to mommyhood and work-life; the very things the suffragists of the 1900’s suffered through police beatings to ensure we would be able to strive for. Seriously, read some words from Alice Paul. It breaks my heart that we use the rights those women suffered for as cause to divide ourselves now. We should be working to see how much further we could take ourselves, our families, and our communities, if we came together again as sisters.

Part of me blames the World Wide Web for the divisive attitudes these days. We are able not only to share our opinions but we can judge and disparage and ridicule strangers we don’t agree with, all under the anonymity of a cute screen name. We separate ourselves into cliques: The Breast Feeding Moms, The Working Moms, The Stay at Home Moms, The Organic Moms, The Fast Food Moms, The Non-Moms, Married Women, Single Women, and at the end of the day we forget that one delightful thread we all have in common. We are all women. We are all picking our way through the world and each of us will experience joys and hardships and embarrassing moments, and thanks to some brave women that started a movement in 1848, we can do it all wearing our favorite jeans. We should be honoring them by sharing these experiences with one another, rather than judging how well each of us pulls it off. Let’s talk it out…

The first time I faced true divisiveness that put me in a Me and Them situation was at the age of 19. I was pregnant and stubborn; not because I was preggers but because I’ve always been hardheaded, and I was going to bottle feed my kid. For me the discussion ended there and immediately put me against “them”. There was more than one in the “them” camp that had to make sure I knew I was making the wrong choice. It was not ever presented that breast feeding was a “better” choice, just the only right choice and I wasn’t prone to agree. I had been bottle fed and not only survived but am completely attached to my mother, so none of the arguments they presented to me held much water. And the approach of attacking with “you’re doing it wrong” doesn’t usually get people far with me either.

This would be the first issue I would say – as women – we can back up a bit about. Women have been breast feeding since the beginning of time. I don’t think anyone alive doesn’t understand that reality. I truly applaud women who breast feed their children as I think most women do. I have no problem with women breast feeding in public or breast feeding when their kids are old enough to ask for it, the only problem I had was for myself. I couldn’t do it. I don’t blame it on age or maturity because I can say with all certainty that if I were pregnant right now the bottle would be my best friend and my kid would get a bottle too. I can also say that my kid grew up healthy and well fed and suffered no ill effects from being fed Similac or rice cereal or the Earl Grey tea that he loved so much in his Playtex "bah".  

There is no need for us to stand in different camps on this issue. Instead, all women with new babies to feed need to be supported with encouragement and understanding, regardless of how they chose to feed those new babies. They have new babies! Isn’t there already enough for them to worry about without being attacked for deciding the bottle is what works for them? Also all women should support the idea that those breast feeding mommies should not have to shuffle into a bathroom stall so that their new little one can have supper. That’s a toilet! Bottom line is that women should not be shamed for feeding their child whether it’s with their body or with a bottle and they shouldn’t be forced into the restaurant bathroom if their choice happens to be the first one listed. We should be able to agree to this, right?


In what some consider the good ol’ days, women were expected to stay home and take care of their children. It was just the assumption of all that all women wanted to be mothers and therefore, that would be enough for them. Part of the women’s movement was to get society to recognize that women were more than just mothers. Women were intelligent and curious creatures. The idea of women only being caretakers – too feeble minded to function outside of the home – was something they wanted to see abolished. There is so much to life and so much to being a woman that motherhood does not need to be the only thing that defines us all. For reasons as varied as our current hairstyles, there are women in our world who don’t want to tackle motherhood and all that comes with it. Their choice is decried by some as selfish, their lives are classified as “unfulfilled” and these admonishments are being handed out by other women.  

There is a sadder side to the world of women without children. Some women, for medical reasons completely out of their control, cannot have children. When I found out I was infertile years after I had my one and only biological child, the news was sad but a little less sad because we had no real intention of having any more kids. I can’t imagine what my heartache would have been had this news come before having my son. I did always want kids, as many women in this exact position did. I have watched a truly dear friend come to terms with this news; a friend who did not set out to be in the childless camp, and have been repeatedly outraged by some of the comments she’s had to deflect. I can tell you that as much as the questions of “When are you going to have kids?” and “You’re going to regret this decision later on” might annoy a woman who has made the choice; they are straight up painful for the woman who found herself in this group by chance.

It is time to embrace the fact that some women will enjoy a life that doesn’t include poopy diapers and the teen years. It doesn’t change their womanhood status, it doesn't make them less womanly, it doesn't make them selfish and it certainly doesn’t mean they hate children. It only means she doesn’t see kids as part of her life or that her biology made the choice for her.  So, here’s my proposal on this one; “When are you going to have kids?” should fall right in the taboo line with “When are you due?”. We all know not to ask that one, right? Just group them together. There are few subjects as personal as the decision of whether or not to become a mother, so let’s just agree to tread lightly here, and offer privacy and respect.

While we’re talking about mommyhood, let’s jump right to the big one. The one that makes my blood boil each and every time I see it in a headline. The one that since the inception of the “blogoshphere” has been in the forefront of internet discussions on a daily basis. This one subject has created a divide online and in the real world that is so big it can only be fixed if the comparison game is stopped all-together. The ridiculous argument I’m speaking of is working mom vs. stay at home mom. Growing up I had both – my mom was at home when we were little and worked as we got older. In my own life, while a young single mom and today as a married mom with teens, I have always worked. I can say I don’t remember the debate over who was better being so popular in years past. Now, it’s hard to click through the internet without coming across a few articles a day focused on the fight. Who has it better? Who does more work? Who ends up with better kids? Really? This is the level we want to bring ourselves to? This is what Alice Paul had raw eggs poured through her nose for?

Here’s the bottom line ladies, being a mom is fucking hard. There is absolutely no other way to put it. It doesn’t matter if you have perfectly behaved angels or if you’ll admit that “Junior” can be a little asshole sometimes, being a mom is hard. You get through the morning sickness and the stretch-marks and labor pains and delivery and end up with a tiny human being. That tiny human being is completely defenseless and needy and stays that way for years. And for years, you don’t sleep, you worry, you glow with pride, you laugh, you cry, you play and if you’re anything like me, occasionally you scream. Every mother has had that breathtaking moment when it sinks it that the survival of another human being is resting on your shoulders. And not just their survival either. We are responsible for everything from making sure they know how to use a toilet and hold a fork, to making sure they know how to accept a date and pick out flowers for a girl. There are so many lessons that you have to cram into their heads before someone on the outside does, that motherhood all by itself is a grueling, never-ending job.

In today’s world, women have decided that that alone isn’t enough stress. Oh no. Besides worrying about the science projects and dirty clothes piles that exist in every one of our homes, now we must also worry about who is doing it “better” and there is just no reason to add motherhood to our list of competitive sports. There has been this line drawn in the sand between mothers who work and mothers who don’t and it’s time to kick the dirt over that line for good. I can’t – because I’m a realist and a skeptic by nature – say that ALL moms are good moms. Sadly, not every mom is a good mom but, the actions that make them bad moms have nothing to do with whether they work outside of the home or if they are home with the kiddies all day every day.

The two biggest arguments in the WM vs. SAHM debate are who’s kids are better off and who works harder so let’s dispel both arguments together. For every study you can find and site that says kids do better when they are home with mom 24/7, someone can find a study that sites the benefits of early socialization in children when parents work away from home. I have friends who are great stay at home moms and I have friends who are great working moms. We all know people in both camps. And while the stay at home mom idea was never a real thought for me, I never thought of criticizing those who did it in my younger mom years. I didn’t get passionate about the debate until I started tripping over it on a regular basis. My first reaction was to yell and fight online. I started jumping to point out the cases of the most miserable SAHM I was too familiar with as an example for all, while women on the other side all but accused working moms of neglect. The rate of speed that the claws come out in some of those “discussion” boards can be frightening if you haven’t seen it for yourself. (Honestly, don’t look. They’re scary.)

If we all step back we should be able to see how ridiculous the argument is to begin with. A mom is a mom is a mom. We all have the responsibility of little humans resting on our heads and we’re all making our way through what it takes to see those tiny humans to adulthood, where we get to worry about them in a different degree and for different reasons. We all have the science projects, the dirty laundry, the menu planning and grocery shopping, counseling and refereeing that comes along with being a mother. Some of us do this with the help of a partner; some of us do this on our own. Some of us make this our “career” and some of us work in addition to mom duty. Some who work outside of the home do so by choice, some by necessity and the same can be said about those at home, but the hard fact at the end of the day is that we are all moms. We all understand how hard that job is, so why is it we want to tear another mom down when really what we need is encouragement, applause, and the occasional offer of a cocktail?

I hate that the finger pointing here is coming from other women. Instead of championing for a woman’s right to stay home or go to work, criticism is thrown out from both sides. This was one of the biggest fights those brave women who came before us took on. They fought for our right to make the choice of stepping out of the home or staying in, our own choice. Maybe that is part of the problem? The protests of 1913 happened so long ago, and the freedoms we have now have always been a part of our lives. We don’t remember when it wasn’t a choice to wear pants to school. We don’t remember when women weren’t considered sensible enough for higher education, or (gasp!) a credit card. It’s time to pick back up with the attitude of the women of our past. It’s time to start championing for womanhood and all that comes with it. We need to be celebrating with one another the choices we have in front of us and what it now means to be a woman. We can look around and see what they were able to accomplish, imagine what we could do today if we came together again.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If I Could Do A Casting Call...

In 1994 a little piece of my soul was crushed by a highly publicized announcement regarding movie casting. More than a few people were outraged. Some people were ecstatic at hearing the names Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas. Some saw it as guaranteed dollar signs. I saw it as guaranteed disaster. For one thing, Antonio Banderas could not pull off the role of a 17 year old Russian vampire king no matter how hard they tried to convince us – the readers of the book – that he could. Second; Tom Cruise? No. No. and No. Cruise in his day was hot, not going to deny that, but he was not Lestat. I should know, I had read the book about 13 times by the time they decided to make this film. Lestat was a real person in my head. I could picture him in an instant and never did he look like Tom Cruise. But it was more than just the looks. There is a very distinct attitude carried by Lestat. A cockiness that I didn’t think Cruise was ever going to be capable of bringing to the big screen. At this time in his career he was still known for his boy next door wholesomeness and that is SOOOOO not Lestat. No one wanted to be his neighbor.  I saw the movie with my college roommates in a small theatre in Cedar City and hated it every bit as much as I expected to even before they showed the jacked up ending that wasn’t even close to how it was supposed to go. Getting the characters just right really is important.
Lestat isn’t the only fictional character to have a Hollywood face in my head. As I read books and get attached to certain characters, I tend to cast their roles in my mind. I had a cast for Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series way before I knew they were going to make a movie. I hadn’t come up with any of the actors who ended up starring in the film. Still, I can’t say they did as bad with that one as Warner Bros. did with “Interview”.  After the film was released and comments started hitting the Internet there were Pinterest boards set up asking the question “Who Would You Have Cast”.  That idea got me thinking about my own book. The characters from “The Myth Maker” are real people in my brain – yes I know that makes me slightly crazy – but it’s true. I know what these people look like, how they act, how they walk. But, if looking at a book of head shots for a feature film, could I pick them out? I decided to try! If you’re one of the few who have read the book (Or if you haven’t, I don’t care.)play along. These are who I see and I would love to know what you think! I’ll start today with a few of the Langs…
I first paid attention to Cobie Smulders in a very small role in The Avengers. Something about her on screen presence made me think of my tough but still girly, female lead. And then I forgot all about it until someone suggested her as perfect for Stephanie Plum on Pinterest. Stephanie I didn’t see but when I flipped through the screen of images on Google, she did fit for Kat. Kat is pretty and feminine but still tough enough to handle her job as a police detective. She’s got a soft side, a casual side, but can glam it up when she needs to and she knows how to handle blood. Spiders not so much, but I don’t hold that against her. She can’t be played by a Tom Boy because Kat is not a Tom Boy. She can’t look too tough, but she has to convince people she could handle herself while chasing down a Spider Herder or going toe to toe with a killer. This is Cobie Smulders.

As important as the casting of Kat, is the casting of her twin brother, James. James is Kat’s rock. More than her lover or her partner, it has always been James who’s had Kat’s back. The first actor, Christopher Gorham, I think would be perfect – and he’s the right build! I love Gorham as Auggie on Covert Affairs and I think he could be James. The second guy was suggested by Sinnamon and I hadn't thought of him before she mentioned it but now that she has, I can see it! She said when she was reading the book she imagined him as Ian Somerhalder. The biggest difference for me is their height. James is tall, 6'3" and Ian...well....not so much. Still! We're pretending, right?

One that I have become certain of is the role of Meghan in my head. If someone said to me, go ahead and pick anyone, it would be Zoe Kazan. I can honestly say I’ve never seen her act but this is a shot of her, just out and about, that I found online. She IS Meghan. Meghan is the youngest Lang. She’s quirky and free-spirited and is still coming into her own through these stories. I can’t wait for readers to see where she is when the second book starts! Honestly, I love Meghan. She is that flake all of us want to be at times who just takes life as it comes. Everything is a journey with her and I think this girl could pull that off on screen.  She’s rocking lederhosen for hells sake!! I love her already.

I have a lot more characters to come up with. I've cast a few others in my head and I'll be sharing those later this week. Play along!

**Disclaimer** I do not own or pretend to own these photos which were all found using Google.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Post That Includes a Book Review

Ah, Sunday...The weekend has been a busy one. Friday night I got dinner and a movie with the hubby, I think to make up for the "Shit Bitch You Is Fine" Valentine's card he picked out. I thought dinner was good but later decided they'd poisoned me but, the movie was fun. We saw - my choice - A Good Day to Die Harder and I'll work a review for that one into another post. I've also spent some time this weekend compiling a list of book agents. That is the next step for "The Myth Maker" I got it in my head that I wanted to add a few more scenes I can't back down from that so I've been working on some tweaking first. I still have a deadline of March 5th, so we'll see how I do on being on time. There will be some blogs about that adventure coming soon. But first, Book Club Review!

Last week the lovely group of ladies that make up our book club got together to discuss "The Timekeeper" by Mitch Albom. I have to say it was a quick read and admit that I finished it on my lunch hour the day of our meeting, but I did finish the whole thing. The story is about the first tracker of time, Dor, and the punishment he's given for paying attention to time. Or at least that's how I took it. I have to say that, as the main character, I think Dor felt the least developed for me. Some ladies found the conflict that led to his punishment when they read and were able to take away that he had spent too much time trying to count time and not enough time enjoying what he had, but I never got that impression. I definitely read him as being a little OCD about finding new ways to count time and make measurements, but I also got that he loved his wife and children. I guess I was supposed to see them as neglected but I didn't. Because of that, his 6,000 year punishment seemed a little harsh to me.

As we read along with Dor making cave drawings during his punishment, we also get to know Victor and Sarah as well as Victor's wife, Grace and Sarah's mom who has a name I can't remember. It is with the introduction of these supporting characters that the problems in the story telling started to develop for me. Dor, as Father Time, was supposed to be my leading man but he was only being shown in choppy bits of sadness. I hadn't really gotten to know him yet before the others came in. In between Dor's choppy bits I was given equally choppy introductions to mean old man Victor, and typically pathetic and self loathing teenager, Sarah. Because we are fed their stories in such small amounts, all together on the same page, I never felt like enough was being offered for me as the reader to make any connection to the supporting cast either. That would be my biggest complaint of this book.

I never felt any type of concern for Victor who we know from the start of his story is dying from cancer. He's lived into his 80's and takes pride in his ruthlessness and incredible wealth. At no point does Albom give you any reason to care about Victor's survival, not even in his relationship with his younger wife who will soon be left alone. When you throw in the true-life sci-fi element of what his plans are to cheat time, you feel even less concerned for him. Sarah, on the other hand, is a character you want to scream at. Maybe simply because she is 17, and almost any of us can relate to the self-doubt that consumes her as she struggles to gain the attention of the popular boy who is just the player all the readers recognize him as. I read along with Sarah's anguish wanting to just shake her by the shoulders and tell her life is not high school but you don't get a chance because it moves so fast back and forth from her story.

I can't and won't say the book was a bad book - I can say that I think it could have been better and others who had read different stories by Mr. Albom agreed. I really think the message of appreciating the time we have (or are given, if that's the way your thinking goes...) could have been presented in at deeper, more personal level if we could have focused more on the plight of one of the characters in the story rather spread four people in four paragraphs over one page. I was intrigued by the idea of learning the story of Father Time, of getting to know him as a character, but in the end I feel his story fell a bit short. I think the emotional impact of the message would have hit harder had Dor been able to focus his energy on getting to know and save one character, and I would have picked Sarah's story if I had to pick just one supporting role. All in all, I would give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not In My Story!

So - I am just sitting here on a cold and snowy Saturday watching a terrible Lifetime Channel movie and reminding myself of all the kinds of things I never want to see happen in the stories I write. Not only is there absolutely no police involvement or concern over the kidnapped child that started the story, a woman just ran through several hallways of a hospital that apparently was empty because no one saw her or the man who was chasing her with a giant black handgun and silencer who had just shot another man in a hallway. After moving down a few floors they finally run past an orderly folding towels who watches the man with the gun run by in silence and no one calls for help! No one finds the dead guy in the hall or the knocked out cop until the scared nurse manages to kill the bad guy and his body is discovered at the bottom of a flight of stairs. But by the time that has happened she has already stolen his keys, gun and cell phone (left her phone at the scene), ran through a parking garage, frantic and crying with a gun in her hand!, clicking his remote until she manages to find his car and makes it out before they find the dead guy with the scalpel in his shoulder. Really?? 

Who has ever been to a hospital where hall after hall are empty, rooms are empty, nursing stations are empty? Who in a hospital wouldn't notice a nurse crying and running for her life while the bad guy chases behind her with gun drawn and not done something about it?? I get that you want your heroine to be the one to confront and take down the bad guy because you want to show she's strong and capable BUT COME ON! Oh, and of course the cop is the bad guy...Those are really the kind of things I try avoid when I write. I have no intention of writing True Crime, I know my stories are fiction and I know that I push the envelope of reality sometimes just like everyone else who writes fiction does, but I don't want to write thinking my readers or my characters are stupid. That's how I feel when I watch scenes like that. Like the writer thinks were to dumb to put together that none of that would ever happen. Ever.

So watching all of this unfold and telling myself that this not only reminded me that this is all stuff I never want to see happen in any of my police drama stories, it also reminded me that I needed to do a book club blog! I have decided to blog book reviews for the next year of book club. Last night was a different kind of book club for me because the book we read was the not-yet-published book called The Myth Maker, which was written by me. My mom hosted the evening and even though crazy snow fall cancelled the trip for a few of the ladies we had a good turn out and one out-of-stater who Skyped in. I was a little more than giddy about the idea of getting feedback from a group of actual readers - even if I was related to half of them. If you haven't read the book you might not want to continue because whether or not any spoilers will be typed out is unknown yet.

It took me forever to write the small synopsis for the back of the book copy I had created for the ladies of the book club, so I'm going to use it here..."After eight years with the Metro Police Department, Kathryn Lang is enjoying her role as the new girl on the Violent Crimes Unit. Kat has almost mastered balancing life as a detective, the craziness of her close knit family and the growing expectations of her long-time boyfriend Nicky. But when a carefree dance teacher is murdered in her own home, Portland's newest detective is assigned to the biggest case of her career. Working with her partner and close friend, Bryan Ramirez, Kat finds herself with unwanted suspects, a growing body count, and clues that seem to only compound the mystery. After the case takes an urgent turn, can Kat and her team put together the pieces before it's too late?"

My goal was to make a police story with characters you wanted to read about, female leads who were comfortable being women and also with their career choices and men who were comfortable with them as women. I wanted to write a story that could portray an investigation in a real enough way without losing sight of the idea that it was still a story of fiction. I wanted people to not just like, but care about the people they were reading about. And I wanted to do all of this without any of the regular cliches that tend to be worked in over and over again from one detective novel to the next. I think I succeeded at least in that last bit by the fact that more than one person was surprised by the fact that SPOILER ALERT, neither the partner or the boyfriend were the bad guy and ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT, the little sister doesn't end up targeted as a victim. I figured long ago that that had been done enough.

People had some good recommendations on how to improve on the story - different things they think they would have liked to see - and some of those are definitely going to be added before I declare this first story done. I got an idea of where it worked and where things might be a little slow. I was elated to hear that at least some of the readers found themselves emotionally invested in the people they were reading about and were concerned about where the plot was taking them. Most importantly, people wanted to read more, which makes me more determined than ever to finish the second story.

I know that doesn't count too much as a "review" of the book - I don't know it's possible for me to actually write a review about what I've written. The next reviews will be more along those lines, starting with February's book - The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom. Gotta love Book Club!