Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Internal Conflict of Every Writer - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 18

Welp, I did it!

I submitted Insignia to Angry Robot's open door publishing event. This event was for people who don't have an agent or who aren't published already. I can still submit it to other things but if I get accepted somewhere else, or get an agent, then I'd have to withdraw I think.

I really feel like there should be fireworks or a dancing bear at this point, so I am putting one in below.

Image result for fireworks and dancing bears

Now on to the hard stuff. I'm feeling pretty apprehensive that terrified that it's going to get automatically rejected b/c of the teenage character since they said they don't want YA stories. However, I don't really feel like my novel is YA because it doesn't have many of the elements of YA. Like: No love triangles and no sparkly vampires. In all seriousness's grittier and fouler than a lot of YA novels that I've read and there are other main adult characters plus an overarching theme of revolution and terrorism which is probably more adult than teens can handle? On the other hand, the biggest theme is the growth and development of the main character who is a teenager and his teenage friends.

Anyway, this blog post wasn't specifically about whether Insignia is young adult or not...that may be the subject of a further post after I do extensive research.
The main point of this post was: "YAY! I submitted a thing!" and "OH shit! I might get published but PROBABLY will just get a rejection letter, so don't get your hopes up, Lyndsie." Yeah, you're probably right....this will just be the first submission for this novel and I will have to try again and again.

That being said, I have learned a lot in this process and I thought I'd share some of it here. It will likely be interspersed with my insecurities and doubts, put-downs, and agony over how I'm still not good enough at writing to claim to be a writer. Which seems like a good place to start.....

Insignia - The Saga 

I began writing this novel for NANOWRIMO 2012 after reading Neuromancer and becoming frustrated that the world was so cool, but the characters were lacking. Case was a whiny, drugged-out hacker lowlife who was neither likable nor especially unlikable.  Molly Millions was a razorgirl, who should have been an undeniably badass cyborg chick that would slice the shit out of anyone who crossed her, but ended up getting in trouble in essentially her first job in the book and needing to be rescued by that burnout, Case.

I wanted more. I wanted to learn more about these people - the guy who was addicted to drugs who could hook his brain into a computer, the chick who had her eyes replaced with mirrored lenses and razorblades under her fingernails. I also wanted a slightly more relatedable world. Some of the technology was almost too obscure or inexplicable for me to follow (Which I find is the case with many 70s/80s sci-fi).

However, I liked the gritty, dirty world. The criminal- and assassin- main characters. I liked the odd juxtaposition of 80s tech with futuristic tech. The depiction of file folders manifested in a physical form. The idea that your brain could go somewhere that your body couldn' I wrote Insignia, focusing a bit more on character development and at the same time adding social commentary about the evils of consumerism and the hope revolution brings (think Star Wars!).

Then, life happened at the beginning of 2013. My marriage exploded, I moved out, got divorced, lost my job...and while I had *won* NANOWRIMO by writing the requisite 50k words, I hadn't finished the novel. It would take me another year+ to actually complete it. "Winning" NANOWRIMO 2013 again with another 50k. Novel still was not finished. NANOWRIMO 2014 was the year when I actually completed the novel, which sat around 103k at that time.

It took me yet another year, NANOWRIMO 2015, to edit that sucker, adding another 14k of content in the process, re-writing the prologue, brutally hacking it apart, only to rebuild it from its ashes better, stronger. Then...I left it to sit for two years.

I did this for a variety of reasons. The one I would tell people is that I was busy with my job, the SCA, home-ownership...but the one I didn't admit, even to myself, for the longest time was that I was self-conscious. I didn't think my writing was worth anything. I thought that only non-writers liked my stuff because they couldn't see all the holes and flaws in it that I could see. That publishers would see. That would cause me to never get published.

I let my novel linger in "near-finalized limbo" for so long. I could tell myself, "Yeah! I am a writer! I wrote a novel! I edited that novel! I did what many, many writers can't do! Go me!" I could ride that wave of perceived success for.....eternity. Except for the fact that what I wanted, what I really, really wanted, was for people to read it. For people to love it, as I loved it.

That wasn't ever going to happen if I didn't do something with it. In 2015, a good friend put my novel on one of those sites where you can buy an informal-yet-physical copy of something. Seeing it in this fake-published state made me think "You know, maybe I can do this."  Yet I still did nothing. I polished it up more. Thought about self-publishing. But still, did nothing.

Then, in October of this year, my friend Dana Wodke, a massage therapist and life coach, invited me to this writer's group. The goal of the group is to go from zero to book in a year. Very shortly after that I saw a post on Facebook from Carrie Vaughn, a friend and author, calling out this publishing event. Finally, Finally, I said to myself, "I. AM. GOING. TO. DO. THIS!"

So, I invested money in Scribophile, where you can get feedback from other authors. I perfected my first 2 chapters. I wrote and rewrote my 2-page summary. I thought critically about where the holes were and how I would fill them. I probably neglected James by staying up way too late on a school night writing and perfecting. I submitted the novel @ 6:30PM on 12/30/17. I got a confirmation email that it had been received. I had done it.

One thing that Scribophile taught me is that editing is endless. I could get critique on a piece of writing, fix it according to the critique, and then get critique that essentially wanted it to go back to the way it was. "Does this mean that my work will never be good enough?" I ask myself.  Maybe. Though I've been really trying to ignore that voice. I can't please everyone.

I am probably not the next J.K. Rowling.

But, as long as some people like it. As long as I have an audience, whether that audience is hardcore sci-fi lovers or teen YA readers, then I will consider myself successful.

At this point, I am trying very hard to remain positive about this whole thing. It's very unlikely that I will get an acceptance this time. I mean, it's the very first time I've ever submitted anything. EVER. And I am not that lucky. I mean, even J.K. Rowling was rejected something like 100 times before getting picked up. However, I have taken the first step. And, to quote every obnoxious motivational meme:

Image result for great journey starts with one step

So that was my first step.

Here's to 999 more!

Note: I have posted some resources for writers on the page of the same name within this blog. Feel free to visit it if you want to see what I have found helpful! Also, if you have any other good resources, let me know and I will add them!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Insignia - Novel Summary - SPOILER ALERT

I am posting this summary here in case anyone wants to give me feedback on the summary.

Please keep in mind that, as this is something that will be going to a publisher, it is the full story of the novel condensed to 2 pages (minus subplots). If you want to read my full novel and don't want to know the ending, then go ahead and skip this one :) However, if you would like to provide feedback on the summary, I would love to know the following:

1. Is it interesting?
2. Does it make you want to pick up the book?
3. Does it have intriguing characters?
4. Is the world vivid enough?
5. Can you tell that it's a near-future, dystopian, sci-fi?
6. Anything else...?

Thanks and happy reading!

SUMMARY - Rev. 3 (realized it was bigger than 2 pages. So I had to trim it).

It is the year 2267, less than 100 years since WWIII destroyed democracy and many parts of the continental United States. The TRIUMVIRATE, the reigning corporate oligarchy, controls the population with dangerous cybernetic implants. Those who deny these implants are forced to live in slum cities infested with drug use and crime.
SAMSON, a teenage hacker living on the streets, has dreamed of escaping the corporations and living a life free from the ever-present pressure of consumerism and greed. When he is hired by a mysterious stranger to hack into a secure network and steal video footage, he catches the attention of an assassin. Sam escapes the assassin with the help of MARA, a genetically modified human known as a savant, but not before the assassin seriously injures him.
Mara brings Sam, now an amputee, to her headquarters where he becomes part of The Company, a group of contract killers. Sam shares the data with Mara and they discover that it contains proof of terrorist attacks performed by other savants rebelling against the corporations.
Sam meets the other members of The Company which consists almost entirely of savants: the Captain and his non-savant brother, a teenage pilot, a former assassin, a doctor. He also discovers his savant Skill: to see several seconds into the future.
The Company is hired to assassinate a prominent member of the Triumvirate in mega-city of New York. Before they can complete the job, they are exposed to the Memory Code by the rebels, a genetic implant in all savants that allows them to experience the memories of their ancestors. During the job, Mara learns that their mark was an undercover rebel agent, rather than a corporate goon, but not before she accidentally kills him. Their job bungled, the group fractures, barely escaping from the security forces of the Triumvirate.
Armed with the Memories of their ancestors, Sam, Mara, and TRENT, the pilot, flee the city in search of these revolutionaries who are calling themselves the Starkill Army. The ordeal in New York has taken a toll on Sam and Mara, physically and emotionally. Sam’s amputated leg is rejecting the prosthetic and he fights blood poisoning. Mara wrestles with her conscience over killing a man who didn’t deserve to die. 
Once at the rebel’s compound, the trio meets the general and his contingent of soldiers. They also reconnect with the doctor and the former assassin from their former Company.  Here they learn that the rebels have set up an attack on the Great Sea Wall of California with the intention of kick-starting a revolutionary war.
Mara and Sam join the others in planting bombs in the Sea Wall and televising the event to the world. However, the rebels are betrayed by the former assassin and suffer heavy casualties even though the destruction of the Sea Wall is successful. California floods. Sam assists in the rescue mission while Mara flees the encroaching water, meeting back up with the Captain and Aiden.
Sam is able to save Trent, though the latter is critically wounded. Mara and the Captain never return to the rebel compound but the Captain’s brother relays this information to Sam who assumes, much to his anguish, that Mara is dead. The Starkill Army slowly begins rebuilding their forces with new recruits drawn by media attention of the attack.

While Sam grapples with the loss of his mentor and friend, another member of the Starkill Army, a former savant-turned-mech named HAWK has come upon a miraculous discovery. He found that when all of his cybernetic modifications were forcibly removed during the attack, his savant Skill to read auras returned. He understands this phenomenon as the return of his humanity. This belief is taken up by the Starkill Army as a mantra. It becomes the reason why the savants and those downtrodden by the corporations will continue to fight against the totalitarian rule of the Triumvirate.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Anamnesis - Chapter 1 - Consider It Done

Ok. I have edited, re-edited, re-re-edited, & re-re-re-edited this chapter but I need to stop because this process could be never ending. SO...Here it is. Any final feedback is good, though unless it's show-stopping, might not be heeded :-)


- 1 -

Three hundred years ago, human bodies were merely functional. Adequate. They were just as nature designed them. Boring. Then we came in with technology and made them remarkable.

Memoirs of A. St. Claire

The man with the handlebar moustache and plush burgundy waistcoat stood in the doorway of the cyber cafe.

What does he want? Samson thought, cocking an eyebrow in half-hearted interest, his mind more focused on the man’s fast-food bag. He was so hungry.

Life on the dirt-smeared streets of the slum city had been more difficult than the teenager had anticipated. While he was free from his mother’s heavy hand, this freedom was accompanied by the sharp knife of hunger that constantly sliced beneath his ribs. Newly-found independence tasted like the squalor of the abandoned warehouse where he sheltered with other homeless children. In the midst of these disenfranchised youths, no sense of solidarity arose, no kindred spirits. The bitter winter left them shivering, fighting over the meager scraps of food or combustible material.

He never imagined that hunger would stalk him like a predator. The upset of a grumbling stomach was an all-too-familiar feeling.

A year on his own had made him lean, gaunt, and desperate. His meals mostly came from dumpsters: greasy, overcooked protein from the one-star Asian restaurant, soggy sandwiches that were barely edible when fresh, and half-rotten fruit crawling with insects he couldn’t even identify; it was nourishment that stank with the rancid fumes of yesterday’s garbage.

Some days, no matter how hungry he was, he just couldn’t stomach it. Sadly, begging for the mildly stale remnants of a stranger’s half-eaten hoagie or the occasional mystery-meat kabob was barely better than the refuse. At least that stuff didn’t smell rotten…

No. You are smart, he told himself, You are better than garbage.

Sam had always had a talent with data: computer navigation was like a sixth sense to him. Most of his free time had been spent in dingy cyber cafés. A haven where he escaped the world: crouched over an ancient typepad, hunched in a cheap fiberglass chair, with eyes straining at a dimly lit LED.
He was slowly filling a fraudulent banking shell with real money – money that could only be spent outside of the city walls. Traveling in the security networks of big corporations, he stalked through the underground tunnels of their cybernet space. Worming his way into firewalls and secure shields like a cockroach made of bytes, he scrounged for scraps of cred that he put into in the virtual market. Win. Lose. Win. The CORPs never caught him. He couldn’t risk getting caught.

He snagged only bytes at a time. A little here. A little there. Keep a low profile. Don’t get noticed. Can’t get caught. The teenager didn’t fancy spending the rest of his short life on the inside of a CORP prison, serving time for a severely punished transgression.

He had too much to lose. Had to make money, not for food, or clothing, or mech mods. It wasn’t for him but for Charley; to get his sister out of this hate-filled shitthole of a city. To a real city. East, west, north – he didn’t care. All of them had promises, potential. A real life.

The man, who had, in their first encounters only observed him, began to speak. The cybercafé was empty, even the proprietor had gone for a smoke break. “You are not an easy kid to track down,” he said.

“What do you want from me?” The teen asked, tones of curiosity vying with hostility.

The man took a drag of a long, mud-colored cigarette and handed Sam a data chip. “I need you to hack a shopping mall’s security system and snatch the locked files. Payment is ten-thou.”

“Hack a system?” The teen asked incredulously, eyes bulging at the offer, “That’s it? You followed me around for months just to ask me to hack something?”

“I needed to see if you could do it. It’s not as easy as you might think, kid. And trust me, you weren’t my first choice for the job…” The man trailed off. His business-like demeanor returned quickly. He explained, “It’s an AI security system. Makes what you’ve been crawling through look like a toddler’s game. This takes Skill.

“Oh, I got skills,” the boy responded arrogantly, a strong desire to comply with this man’s request suddenly smoldering in the hollow of his abdomen even though he only had the vaguest idea what an AI system was.

The man barely smirked and cocked his head. Nonetheless, he tapped a metal plate on the chip. There was one line of text:

JR. Avenue 5. Independence Plaza.

“This is where you can find me to deliver the goods. Payment upon delivery,” he said, nodding.
“I haven’t given you an answer yet!” The teenager called after the gentleman who was striding purposefully away.

He paused, looked over his shoulder and said, “You didn’t have to.” His smile was arrogant. Knowing. “Your face said enough.”

* * * * *

The mall’s computer was ancient. The teenager made a face. If the ones in the Internet café were 2220 models, this one must be from the mid-2000s. The server room hummed gently, the warm air heavy with sonic vibrations carrying waves of data. Colored LEDs blinked ominously, like so many eyes, watching him.

*tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap*

Skills indeed, the teenager thought angrily, still fuming at the man’s smug smile from a few days ago, This bastard’s complicated as shit. He scowled at the screen.

Maybe he had gotten in over his head. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and his t-shirt was becoming damp under his arms. No, he thought, it didn’t really matter. The money was too good, enough to get him and Charley out of the slums. To get to freedom.

*tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap*

The lines of code taunted him. Flashing their glaring green deep into his strained retinas. His stomach growled. It’s just a shopping mall! He railed to himself silently. What could be on here?

*tap* *tap* *tap* *tap* *tap*

An AI system, the man had said. What was an AI system? It couldn’t be a new software because the boy knew all the security systems. However, he’d never heard the term before. Maybe it was an old word? An antiquated security system? Maybe that’s why it was so hard to crack?

*tap* *tap* *ta—

He was in, he stared wide-eyed. The files suddenly were zipping themselves onto the storage device. Bits flashed by in a whirr: zeroes and ones. Replicating with the precision of high-speed data, submitting to his hand, no longer taunting him, but almost screaming.

Screaming... Red lights flashing. Something had triggered an alarm. How, though? He had been so careful!

Shooting to his feet, he yanked the chip out of the mainframe just as a boring-looking man strode almost casually into the office. The man’s eyes, however, were not boring. They were dark, and angry. And they were looking straight at him.

Fuck! He ran like hell.

* * * * *

The mall was a hub of activity at this time of night. In the center of it all, sat a woman in her early thirties, with the chestnut brown hair and olive skin of a mediteranneo, nursing a dark brown beer. She was wrapped in black leather pants the shade of an octogenarian’s favorite easy chair, worn in just the right places, and a dingy white tank top under an equally loved leather vest.

The electrical humming of cold fluorescent lights could almost make her forget that the sun had long since set and all sensible people were in their homes, their Virtua-visions blaring some obnoxious live broadcast. Garishly colored storefronts looked out into the atrium, silently hawking their wares of manufactured diamonds and cheap plastic toys. On one side, nothing but top-of-the-line sex toys, the cylindrical outlines of countless male members shivering a welcome to all who were brave enough to cross the threshold of their inhibitions. And on the other, a front of a more sinister nature, where tatted rat boys hunched over too-white operating tables offering up the newest in body mod trends.

Here, some juiceheads sat at a table bristling with folds of muscle so large that they barely looked human. And over there, fashion sisters, their frozen smiles and stretch-tight skin the result of too many trips to the laser salon. A schizo trolled the floor in faded hospital gowns, begging for credits or junk or whatever you had on you, deftly weaving between the tables too fluidly. A pair of security guards rolled slowly back and forth on one-wheeled scooters, their lurid uniforms thinly disguising the mods encompassing their limbs that pulsed with the synthetic rhythm of black motor oil.

The woman carried no weapons here, as was the rule of all serious establishments. Not that it would matter, she thought, moving her dark glasses over to the juiceheads. Many were themselves weapons these days. However, it still felt strange, Mara thought, to be away for so long from her anlace – a rapier that was part robot and rarely ever left her side, though she carried it more for comfort than safety. She glanced coolly around the room, trying to project the demeanor of the stoic calm that she could barely hold on to.

The twins had told her that he would be here, on this night, getting into more trouble than he’d ever bargained for. She trusted the twins, they weren’t programmed to lie and even if they’d tried, she had other ways of keeping an honest cyborg honest. They lived in the alleys and had enough street cred to be in the know for just about every interesting pair of feet that crossed their patch of asphalt. But Mara had more street cred, and she’d pulled some strings and flexed a few muscles – the right muscles – to lead her to this frozen heart of commerce in the Sink.

The boy was only fourteen and much too young to be pulling off a heist of this magnitude. Mara could only guess how he’d planned it, how long it had taken him to devise a strategy that would actually lead him to this very spot on this very night. And she wondered even harder how he had expected to escape...unless he wasn’t aware of the danger he was in. That’s where she would come in. Clenching her teeth, she forced herself to trust that the right opportunity would present itself.

A commotion arose on the second floor balcony. Mara looked up through the tacky indoor skylight to see an achromatized pipe banister quiver in response to the sound of slapping feet. Her vantage point was such that, across the cafeteria, she could only see a corner of the long hallway with its custard-yellow walls scratched and faded from years of apathy. An adolescent with shaggy hair the color of sand was barreling toward the banister, heedless of bodily harm, eyes wild and breath pounding in and out like a bass drum. Following behind, almost unhurriedly, was a rotund, balding man in an obnoxious band T-Shirt from a decades-forgotten rock group. He wore an expression of boredom as if to indicate that he had already seen the attraction and had found it lacking.

Mara stood up and downed the last of her lukewarm ale in one frenzied swig, gagging as the grainy dregs slid down her throat. She looked up and froze. The kid had made it to the banister and reached out to it with one desperate hand, vaulting over as if he were at a track and field event. Scuffed boots with frayed laces kicked wildly. He seemed to hang in midair, his left leg tucked under him, his right thrust out, grabbing at an ethereal purchase that only he could see. The man held out his hand where Mara could see a shiny metallic square on the inside of his wrist. He flipped that wrist toward the sandy haired acrobat and one rectangle broke off and flew with unnerving speed.

* * * * *

Samson was frozen, literally frozen. No, he hastily corrected himself, not frozen. He was in the air, floating…or falling incredibly slow. His boot had scraped off a layer of paint from the banister and it puffed out behind him in a small cloud. Below was a glass “skylight” – one of those tacky creations that had been popular during the decade before he was born. Even though it had never been subjected to the elements, years of smoke, dust, and dead insects had crusted its edges, giving Sam a blurred, cinematic view of the first floor cafeteria.

The patrons paid little attention to him, too wrapped up in their coffees, booze, or the undoubtedly witty conversation with their modded-up, super model dates. There was one exception, dressed in all black, she stared openly at him with a startled frown, lifting her dark glasses away from her eyes. A heavy beer stein was clutched in her white-knuckled fist. Sam’s confused expression met hers and held her within the trance.

Sharp stinging on his knee was the only indication that he had crashed through the bug-smeared skylight. He barely felt even that pain as glass fragments gently twirled around his face, falling like weightless snowflakes toward the yellowing linoleum. A hair-like wire glittered at the corner of his vision, lazily undulating like a serpent. What was that thing?

The dark woman had moved. Arm arched behind her back, she launched the mug in his direction. It gracefully slid past his ear as the aroma of spoiled barley assaulted his nose. Closer to the ground now, he felt his left leg tucked sharply into his chest, and his right leg…he wasn’t sure.
Something was on the floor below him, it looked like a limb. A leg. His leg? He shook his head. He was in shock, he told himself, gazing at the eerily-familiar boot toe, resting in a pool of blood. His blood?

Everything is too clear, he rationalized, I’m fine. Red droplets surrounded him, mimicking large jewels or small marbles. He could see the surface of each one dimple and shift as the circular shapes became amorphous. There was too much red around him, he thought, as the metallic tang shot through his taste buds. His chest fluttered as he forced himself to breathe.
His left leg was tucked underneath him, but his right…the floor reached him.

* * * * *

The boy’s face changed from an impetuous grimace of rebellion to a frantic O of surprise as his right leg plummeted to the floor. The rest of him followed in a pallid heap of shock and fear. The silver rectangle recoiled into itself and a faint iridescent thread shimmered in the artificial light. Razorwire. Mara had chucked her mug at the assassin with a force disproportionate to her size. It crossed the linoleum desert of the food court, and shot straight through the broken window into the man’s face, shattering into a hundred unforgiving shards of glass. The assassin clutched at his eyes, but slowed only a little.

Digging into her pocket, Mara pulled out another item. It was the size of a strawberry and gunmetal grey. Rolling it between her fingers, she held her hand out flat and the little ball floated imperceptibly over her palm. Pulling her arm back, she whipped it at the assassin with blinding speed. It flew true, past the falling boy, through the hole in the shattered skylight, and directly into the assassin’s chest.
An explosion followed: noxious green-yellow gas blossoming from the rift between the two halves. The gas enveloped the assassin in a clinging, stinking cloud more tangible than ethereal. He roared out in rage, his flailing, ducking figure obscured by the squall. That should keep him busy for a while…She thought.

She rushed over to Samson, who was curled up on the floor in a convulsing heap, blood pooling around him. Ripping off a piece of her shirt, she tied a tourniquet around Samson’s leg, the crimson spreading over it so quickly you’d think it animate. Then she flung the now-unconscious adolescent over her shoulder, and barreled out of the modish jungle. Juiceheads, fashion sisters, rats, schizos and security guards looked on with only mild curiosity as if a young vagabond being maimed by a highly trained, but innocuous-looking, assassin happened every day.

Mara pounded through the streets, carrying the teenager as if he were a sack of rice, before flinging him into the back of a low-flying, rusted transport.

“Where to?” A slight voice echoed quietly from the front.

“Back,” Mara replied tersely, climbing into the passenger seat.

The young pilot’s eyes grew wide as he saw Mara’s blood-spattered appearance.

“That bad, huh?” He grimaced and began to turn around.

“Don’t…” Mara put a hand on his shoulder, “Don’t turn around. Just fly.”

As the transport rose into the air, the pilot’s voice was heavy, “Back it is.”

Mara really hated violence.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Anamnesis - Prologue - FINAL!!

I know that I haven't posted in a while. A lot has been going on since Battlemoor ended and I have been trying to focus on my sci-fi novel. There is a publishing  event that ends on December 31 so I    am trying to get all the stuff together for that. In doing so, I have rewritten the prologue of Anamnesis for the 3rd time. Please take a look below. Any feedback is appreciated.

Cheers! (And sorry about the formatting...Blogger does weird things with copy/paste).


Anamnesis [an-am-nee-sis] (n): the recollection of the Ideas, which the soul had known in a previous existence, especially by means of reasoning.
-          Platonism

In its heyday the Sink had been a bustling metropolis full of life and all that technology could offer. These days, it was just another scrap city, albeit a large one, made of trash and reused concrete. Metal was precariously crusted onto the skeletons of formerly respectable buildings that had been retrofitted with a combination of modern conveniences and vintage tech. It was ruled by undesirables: crime lords and drug cartels. The corporations only had tenuous control here, but it was enough.
The assassin arrived home bleeding, sick, and seeing double. His front door was ajar. His place, a mess. The city was simultaneously loud and silent around him: bustling with the hum of traffic but his house sounded dead. No one was home. He checked every room just to be sure, gingerly stepping over pieces of broken furniture, garbage, and strewn-about clothing. But still, no one was home.
Then, it started coming back to him, slowly blinking in his memory like an ancient film reel. Hot blood ran down his hands.
* * * * *
His next target. A woman. A scientist. A brilliant scientist working with the XCGen Corporation.
“We have confirmed that this woman is conducting secret genetic research outside of the company. She has been threatened to desist, yet she denies involvement. However, we cannot take any chances,” the security commander told him.
“Okay,” the assassin replied, forcing a calm demeanor, “Who is this woman?” He had a sinking feeling in his heart. He knew very well who this woman was, but needed to hear his commander say it.
“Bella Kinney.”
The most beautiful woman in the world. His wife.
“You have no choice,” his commander explained, “Your contract states that you cannot say no.”
“Well I’m saying…no.” The assassin said, punctuating each word.
The commander gave him an impassive look.
“You will be decommissioned. Someone else will take your place.”
The assassin glared but continued his even tone, face impassive. “Then let them.”
The commander just shrugged.
“But first,” the assassin continued with slow deliberateness,  “You will have to catch us.” He gripped the small metal tube implanted into his left forearm and tugged, fingernails digging into the dark skin around it. Pain, he thought, but it was only a shadow in the very back of his mind. His greatest fear was in the forefront: losing Bella.
The air in the room became thicker, charged. The commander’s hair began to float away from his head as energy overtook the small office. Sharp pops echoed just at the edge of hearing. The assassin dug his fingernails deeper into his arm, howling as he ripped the tube free, tossing it aside.  At the same time, he sank his consciousness deep into his core, into the very center of his self and pulled the sparks. It took almost all his breath to force his aura out in an ever-widening circle, crackling.
The commander sat, half on his desk, stunned. He stared at the assassin, who had begun to work on removing the second tube, with watery eyes. More pain, the assassin thought, feeling his heart flutter. He gasped and swallowed hard as his forearms were coated in a hot, sticky fluid. Blood. He ignored it. The second time he reached into himself to grasp at the energy, it came easier. Flowing through his veins, his muscles, and then his limbs. Bursting outward with visible blue flashes, electrons flowed freely around him. He could almost see them dancing and rejoicing at their freedom.
With a definitive, primal roar, the assassin sent the electrons flying in all directions as he finished excavating the last bit of metal from his arm. The electro-magnetic pulse radiated around the room, passing violently through the commander, knocking him off the desk. He crumpled to the floor like a doll.       
The room went dark. The dull chortle of machinery had been suddenly silenced. The air, so thick and heavy only moments ago, was still. Almost light.
The assassin fled.

He wasn’t fast enough. That had never been a problem before so his mind was struggling to wrap itself around the possibility. He had always been fast. However, something had changed. He was no longer himself. Or, rather, he was again himself – the self that he was before the mods. Before the razorwire and fiops cables that had run through his nervous system like parasites.  
The assassin was as he used to be – human. No longer mech. And not fast enough.
They must have come for her. For Bella. He knew how it would have all played out: burly mechs with shiny limbs, clamoring like armored elephants through the house. Taking Bella. Was she alive? He had no reason to believe that the company would let her live. However…
If they had killed her, wouldn’t there be blood? A body?
He checked through the house twice, feeling his heart, his insides, twisted by barbed wire. There was no blood. No body.
Was she alive? He didn’t know.
She was…just…gone.  He raced out the door, hoping to see her arriving home. Nothing but the cold eyes of the dark skyscrapers greeted him. Gone.
The assassin screamed, face upturned toward the starless sky: a raving, crazed animal trapped and yet motivated by fear. “I will find you!”
If anyone heard him, they didn’t answer. The city bustled around him.
These days, crime was just another part of life. If you wanted to stay alive, you didn’t get into anyone else’s business. If you were determined enough to mess with the CORPs, then you’d best be prepared to defend yourself. The sociopathic citizenry would not even blink when you disappeared.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

What defines "Family"? (Battlemoor Recap Part 2) - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 17

If you missed my first post about Battlemoor VIII, you can find it here.

I've been trying to finish this post for near a month now, having been derailed when I first wrote it. I have decided that tonight, September 30th, I am going to make my last edits and publish it. It may not be perfect, but this is something I have really wanted to talk about (to everyone) and it is making me sad to hold this post hostage.

During Battlemoor,  I officially joined a new family...

(For those of you wondering, yes I still have my Vandale family. They are great, and I still love them all!)

This is a bit different, however. I joined this new family by becoming a cadet (for the 2nd time) to a Don Antoine de Vallier. This man is a don, the captain of the mercenary company Mourning Glory (who happens to own a ship) and a member of the Order of the True Sword.*

This is a lot of people. I mean it. In fact, at this point I am not even sure that I understand the extent of the family. Though I think it's larger even than my biological extended family (which is quite big).

However, before I elaborate on this large family part, I would like to go into a bit of my past as a cadet. Initially, I felt ashamed to share this, but let's be honest - This is always going to be a part of my SCA history and it played a huge role in helping me develop into who I am today.

I asked to be a cadet when I was 18. By that point, I had been learning from the don I chose for 3 years. He was the one who that welcomed me to my 1st fighter practice, and put the rapier (epee at the time) into my hand. He'd also been involved in some of my early garb and fencing jacket creations, had physically gotten me to practices and events, had fed me countless meals, had introduced me to the weirdest movies you can imagine, and had introduced me to scores of people.  There was no question that he was the one I wanted to cadet to.

Note: I have seen this go both ways - some cadets know who they want to work with and ask that person, but conversely, dons can see a promising student and offer to cadet them. 

When I cadetted, sure, I did want to be a doña, but that possibility seemed so far off in the way future that it wasn't actually my goal. I wanted to learn to fence, obviously, but I also wanted more. I wanted to learn "to SCA".  And there was so much to learn.

My don seemed to know everyone and had held all manner of officer positions in the SCA. He had been responsible for some great developments for the betterment of the game. He had some freaking awesome stories of badassery and mischief. And I wanted to be a part of all of those things: garb-making, meeting people, fencing, games, service, arts stuff, impactful happenings, event-going, badass stories...everything!

In my mind, he was more than just a fencing teacher, he was a mentor and an influence for an impressionable teenager. (Notice that I didn't say "good influence" as he was quite fond of mischief, punk rock, and fire, but...ya know...). ;-)

For a bit over 10 years, I was his cadet - through college, grad school, marriage, and divorce.  There were several breaks in there from 6 mos to 3 years but the intention was always to return. However, when I began playing after my longest break, at 27, just after getting engaged, I found the culture of the SCA changing. Evolving.  Since the game has been around for ~50 years, I feel like every 10-ish years or so, it is likely to go through a shift in mindset, structure, and rules. As the game grew in popularity, different types of people started joining. Different ideas.

In my observation, this time of change was spurred by one very significant factor - population change. The median age was getting older, younger people were not sticking around and now, many of the long-timers stopped playing or moved away.

I was different as well when I came back in 2011. I was no longer a shy, naive teenager who has no idea what she's doing half the time.  I was an adult, with a master's degree, who was married and then was going through a damaging divorce. (And still had no idea what I was doing half the time!) In essence though, I had leveled up.  In addition, the fencing family I had been part of had also become different - lives changed, careers changed, priorities changed. After 10+ years, this is only natural.

My don and I decided, mutually, to end our don-cadet relationship officially in 2014. We were now set upon different paths. And because of all the changes in the society and the population, I was not actually sure which way I was going.
Hammy the Squirrel is my spirit animal! 
This decision was, by no means, easy. It took much deliberation but ultimately, it was necessary. I have learned so much from my don and his family.  So much of what I am (in the SCA and outside of it) is built onto the foundation that he provided to me. That is something that I will always value.

I debated ever cadetting again, thinking that I had failed my don by not becoming a white scarf. By not doing more. Being better. Diving in with both feet even though I had no life vest or floaty ring. Was I even desirable anymore? What was I looking for?

For a while, I just thought I would muddle my way through without a don and just, kind of, become badass on my own. However, I began to learn that it was really hard to get noticed if you don't have that red (or white) piece of cloth on your arm. I was still able to get teaching from all the fabu teachers that I had surrounded myself with, but I didn't exactly have that one person in my corner who could give me unsolicited advice or that little edge of confidence needed when going into a tourney. I decided that having someone looking out for me in that way was a valuable part of the SCA.

So with Antoine, I was looking for someone who:

1. Attended many of the events that I attended but was also outside of my geographical circle (the Boulder/Denver area). I needed motivation, in a sense, to attend stuff but I also wanted distance to be able to do my own thing. I have worked super hard over the years to be me, so I want space to be able to continue that. With many things, I can (mostly) do just fine. ;-)

2. Was very knowledgeable in rapier combat and could give me unsolicitated advice and commentatry on my fencing. I also was interested in both old-school, new-old school, and new-school perspectives.

3. (and I hate to admit this one) Would help me navigate the turbulent and shark-infested political waters of the SCA - in general and in rapier-combat specifically. I have always thought that I would be happier in the long run if I stayed out of SCA politics. However, I've learned that it depends on what you want to do. If advancement is one of the things - then unfortunately, playing some politics is kind of unavoidable. Additionally, if you want to make a positive impact and changes on the community, having some political clout is incredibly helpful.**

4. Could help me really learn what it means to be a don/doña and help me work toward that goal. Because, let's be honest, very few people cadet without the hope of one day, putting that white scarf on their shoulder. ***

Ugh...I can feel a "part 3" coming on because I'm soooo sleepy. So, without further ado...


* For those of you that don't do SCA, let me explain. Essentially, this means that I have become "apprenticed" to a respected teacher in the SCA fencing community (a "don" or "doña") This type of bond is usually more than just a teacher-student relationship but a mentor-mentee relationship. In taking on this role, I have become a part his large SCA family. This includes his "real-life"family (his wife and 2 biological children), his lineage (his doña, her don), his legacy (his other cadets - a "brother" and 3 "sisters").  I have also become a part of Mourning Glory (which is like a household) - the members of his crew as well as all those with whom his crew has "allied".*

**For some people, playing the political game is easy. These people are charismatic as fuck, just the right combination of brazen and arrogant, probably a bit crazy, and maybe a little stupid. They can walk right into a room or party and just own it. Those people are not me. For all my sociability, I am internally shy and unsure (still working on this). Which is why, if I'm going to attempt to make an impact, I need it to be teamwork. Therefore, having a family, household, or allies that have your back is pretty crucial.

*** I know we now have the Order of Defense as well which is technically a step up from the Order of the White Scarf. However, that's a peer-level award and I understand it even less. So I will not talk about that one here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

That One Person.... -The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 16

As we drove home from Battlemoor VIII, I began thinking of the "Battlemoor was great!" post that I was going to make on Facebook like I do every year. but this event was too complicated for a mere Facebook status. There has been a lot to process, both positive and, unfortunately negative.  In the realization that this blog post on Battlemoore could become the longest post I've ever written, I have decided to do it in segments.

And, as I was trying to write sequentially, two negatives surfaced first because they occurred on Thursday. One involved fencing which will be touched on in a different blog post, and one involved people. As I have done for many posts before this, I have debated posting anything about this which has delayed my recap of Battlemoor as a whole. However, I have decided that I should post because...

This type of thing should not be minimized or kept silent.  

It is silence that allows these things to occur repeatedly. It is silence that really breeds the fear and anxiousness. Knowledge is power, and this power is potent. It is a power that the whole community needs to have so we can protect each other. 

On Thursday night, at a crowded, bustling party, someone roofied a woman. She stopped breathing. 

Thankfully, there were several medical professionals nearby and she was able to get help. She is doing alright, physically. (I will not presume to speak of her mental state as it was not me in this situation). 

Unfortunately, the SCA no longer feels as safe as it used to. I mean, I have always been wary at larger events like Pennsic, or even Estrella - events that draw people to them from outside the SCA who may not hold onto our ideals of chivalry and honor. Even at these larger events, I felt confident enough in my strength and independence that I am have not been afraid or too wary of strangers.

And, at an event like Battlemoor, which is a mere ~1000 people strong, it never really worried me. I was never afraid of walking around alone in the dark, or setting my drink down to go to the bathroom. Now, while I still will defiantly assert that I'm able to take care of myself, I give the side eye to unknown people. I guard my drinks more carefully, and I may or may not have walked clutching my knife, alone in the dark.

That someone would do this to a person makes me sad, and very, very angry. I don't want my girlfriends to be afraid...not in mundane life, or at an SCA event, or ever. I don't want to see the already fragile bond of trust shattered, yet again, by another sleezy man (which, sadly as it is assumed). I don't want us to have to grip our belongings so tightly that it seems like we are desperately holding on to whatever dignity we feel that we have left. Dignity and self-respect should be a right, not a conditional reward for "staying safe" or protecting ourselves. I don't want women to feel that if they make that one mistake, set their drink down, look away for a second, maybe even make a poor choice in friends, that it is their fault and they are no longer "strong" or "independent" or "respectable" or "smart".

I have been there, continually asking myself, "What if I had just done something differently?" or "Why did I do the stupid thing that all my women mentors always warned me about?" Each discretion, mistake, oversight or piece of misguided trust that I have made over the years comes back to haunt me in a series of ever growing questions. I knew the "rules", I was told how to protect myself. Keep myself "safe". And yet I "broke" them, over and over, sometimes even unknowingly. I've been told, "well if you had don't X, Y, & Z, that wouldn't have happened."

What about the other person involoved? What if they'd been taught to be a decent human being? That it was not "natural" or "normal" to do what they did for revenge, pleasure, or some extremely misplaced sense of "what's right"? There are two people - TWO PEOPLE - at least, involved in any interaction. Why is it that the women are always the ones being held accountable?

Now, I understand that there are lines. There are certain situations that are clearer than others. For instance, going for a run at 3AM in an area known for predators. Or accepting a drink from a total stranger at a frat party from a college that was notorious for sleezeballs. But hanging out in a place where you know the majority of the people, where it's loud, yet crowded and well lit, and where you're surrounded by your friends? Excuse me if I let my guard down a little and trust in the people around me.

Sadly, now, many won't. At least not for a while. Hell, I had a friend refuse a sip of the cider that I had clearly been drinking out of myself which was in its labelled bottle. This type of fear is nothing to dismiss or minimize. It is very, very real. And that fucking sucks.

Additionally, shit like this also affects those of the male persuasion. I feel like this is going to be very controversial, but I think it's worth noting. Guys, who are good people, are now being forced to live under the shadow of awful people's actions. Their trust, and their sense of self-worth may also be damaged because now they feel that they not only have to prove themselves, but stand up for their gender. They question their friends as well. And they may feel that they are not doing enough to prevent these things from happening. Maybe, in a way, that is good. Everyone SHOULD be more diligent, more aware, more cognizant that the world - even our small SCA corner - does contain shitheads.

Those shitheads can just go fuck right off. Let's hope I never find out who you are or find myself in your vicinity. And yes, that was a threat.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why I Fence - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 15

Tonight after some discussion with several people and a slightly misguided tourney in the rain, I realized that I may have AN answer to why I keep fencing, even through negative experiences, self-loathing periods, and pointed douchebaggery from a few past members.

I also faced a philosophical discussion that could have delved deep into my feelings of the SCA in general. The discussion never got that far, which I'm sort of glad about because there are cans of worms that you don't want to open and soapboxes that I, personally, don't feel like jumping on to right now. However, a lot of those potential paths of discussion have been playing over in my head and I have come to one, striking realization.

I was really looking forward to Mikey's tourney because the format was sword and buckler, which is my favorite form to fight. Due to the rain, the tourney was being rushed through and those not insane enough to put metal on their heads and wave around their lightning rods, didn't really want to hang around. I don't blame was wet!

However, at one point, there stood a choice for me - I could either continue my discussion or I could fight my bout in the tourney.  I had seconds to make this choice, and I chose to fight. This choice may have been a detriment to me and probably made me appear rude. And, while I do feel sorry for cutting the conversation short, I also do not regret my choice.

My opponent in the tourney, I had never met before and he was wearing loaner armor which led me to conclude that he was either new or a transplant. The person I was talking to was important, had titles and influence. I chose the underdog - the newbie - the person whom I didn't know. Because this person and those like him, are the future of our community. They are the ones who will carry innovation and enthusiasm with them into the game, and that is what I want to encourage. (To cement in my mind that my decision was right, after the fight, the new fencer came up to me and was like, "That was my first tourney. Thank you!" which made me smile).

Sure, it would be nice to win tourneys. And I definitely would not be unhappy to do so, but there has to be something else that I'm riding on. Of all the tourneys, only one person can win - out of everyone - so even if I'm really, really good, my chance of winning is slim because there are many fencers that are really, really good.

1. I want to be the fencer who is a joy to fight. I want to share my love of the game with others - and I want other people to actually understand how much the game means to me. The SCA cannot live without a community behind it - without new people with ambition to pick up the torches where the seasoned veterans leave them laying. There is always something new and unexpected to experience in this game, whether it is your first year or your fiftieth, because there will always be new people. And that is the joy. So, I want to make sure that those new people are encouraged to come back. I don't want new people to show up once or twice and think, "oh that girl in the purple looks like she knows her shit, but didn't give me the time of day so they are clearly a bunch of assholes."

2. I want to get better, improve my skill, yes, but also a a person. I want to build the type of relationships that encourage me to grow on many levels. The better I feel socially, the more confident I am, the better my fencing gets. Community and the game go together. That feeling of being a part of something, something bigger. So, even if I don't win everything, or become the best fencer in the Known World, I can still feel satisfied that I am learning and growing every time I come around. And I want other people to feel that way to. I want them to feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

3. My History. I have spent a lot of time in this game and have had a lot of experiences. Not all of them have been good, some were fairly negative. However, I have powered through those and have been able to find the joy even still. Each negative experience has helped me understand how to see the positives. I can now no longer count my blessings because they are so many. I have been influenced by some very great people, that I love dearly, and even if relationships change and grow apart, the affect they have had on me will remain. If I quit SCA and leave forever, then I am not properly honoring the lessons they've taught me.

4. Fun. Fencing is fun. Stabbing my friends (and even getting stabbed) is fun when you have great interchanges and one of you does a really cool move. I feel like a badass bitch and it's been something I've been doing for so long that it does feel *right*. And, it does feel great when you notice your skill improving. When you actually achieve something that you were trying to do and not all of your hits were just slop. When you see a move and successfully counter and you hear your opponent grumble. THAT is fun.

 This game that we play is a game that transcends just one person - me or a knight or even a king. It cannot work on the backs of a few alone, so I want to be one of the people to draw others in. I want to teach those new people to draw other new people in. Because, honestly, the more people I have to play with, the more friends I make, make this game feel more like a giant party with swords and funny clothes. And to that end, if I had to choose between the community as a whole and my own personal advancement, I would choose the community. Since, without members, none of the other stuff would even exist.

Say It to My Face - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 14

As I write this post, I feel I need to have a disclaimer: I am not trying to talk badly about anybody who chooses to use an anonymous messaging service. I mean, whenever you want to do is your prerogative. If you are my friend, I love you regardless. But, I wanted to give my opinion, b cause, that's what the internet is for...rite? 

It seems that there has been a lot of controversy over this new anonymous messaging service and I've been thinking a lot about it. It's called Sarahah and I think it started somewhere in the Middle East and spread through Europe. It's messaging service where you can sign up as a user and put a link out there and your friends or the general public can comment to you anonymously. 

As I understand it, originally it was created as a way for employers to receive feedback from their employees anonymously. I get why this would be a thing. I mean, I'm not always 100% comfortable about telling my boss exactly how I feel about some things. My company, or at least my boss, is fairly open and I do feel that I can provide my opinion on the big things, but when it comes to stuff like promotions or if I really really hate something, I don't want to sound too negative because I don't want it to sound like I'm not motivated in the job or that I want to quit. Even recently, I have seen how a certain employee could be very open with their negative  feelings about the company as a whole and yet they still don't get fired on the spot. However, I know that most companies aren't like this, and some employees fear too much for their jobs that even say anything remotely critical could compromise their position. 

Therefore, I can see how a service like this for a company could be really useful. It could gauge employee happiness, it could note where there are improvements to be made  or it could be ensure you that you're not doing such a bad job with your company after all. 

Recently, Sarahah has gotten new life in social media for people that are not in an employee/employer relationship. You an even old get feedback from people you don't even know like, if you say, write a blog for instance. And honestly, in that case, it might be nice because I feel like my friends may not want to come out super negatively on my Facebook, and maybe even here on Blogger it they disagree with something that I'm writing. I mean, I don't really care if you say negative shit because one of my big goals of this blog is to get a convo going so if civility can reign, I'm totally ok with it. If you're going to throw that out the window and just be a troll, then you will just get your comment deleted and I may reconsider my respect for you. 

Now, let's talk socially. I'm a fairly frank and upfront person (wait...really?). If you're being a little punk and it's enough that I feel that it will affect me, I will say something to you. And if I disagree with you, I will find a way to politely let you know how I feel IF I want to talk about it. If I'm not willing to talk, I will just shut the fuck up.  

If you are just bothering me, I weigh the benefits of saying anything or just letting it go. Usually the criteria consist of one of two things:

 1. Will my saying something really help this person or improve my relationship with this person? 
2. Does it really need to be said or will it just cause more trouble if I speak up? 

Generally the first one would be, for instance, if someone gets a really bad haircut or if their perfume is overpowering. And even in these cases, I would weigh my feedback with their feelings. Do they seem on the fence about their haircut and my feedback will help them determine if they're going to do it again? Then yes, I may say that it's not their best haircut. But...Are they super in love with it and just fucking adore it? Then no, I'm not going to shit on their dreams. 

For the second bullet point, I generally only do those things if I may not be too worried about the friendship with being retained because a person has crossed so far into my no bullshit on that I just don't care anymore or b. If they are being directly ticket to me. If someone is being a cunt to me I will tell them that they're being a cunt. And a third a bonus point, I have something good to say to you, then I'm going to tell you. Even if the thing is that I'm super jelly because you are so much more beautiful and successful than me and I kind of hate you sometimes. Because, honestly, my friend to know me should know that's a compliment. And my friend to get too sensitive? Maybe I should rethink having them as friends.

And for myself, I should really hope that if you have something to say to me that you say it… To me… Or, make sure I never hear it. If you want to talk shit about me that's your prerogative but I can't stop you but if you don't have the lady balls to come up and say it to my face, then I don't want you to say it to me anonymously. Anonymity gives people A false sense of security that, I really don't think they should be allowed to have in a friendship. In a job or professional relationship, I get it. You have jobs you don't love because you need the money because you need to health benefits and that's what people do. But you have friendships directly to enrich your life's so if you're friends with toxic people that feel the need to complain to you anonymously about yourself and can't even own up to their own feelings, I'm not people that are really going to enrich your life anyway. They may just be hangers on my friends with you because you do something for them, because they think they can get influence in being your friend. And that, is a super shitty friendship and not worth the two fucks that I have to give to it. 

So, I have to say, I will not be doing Serata because it's the trendy thing to do right now. I will say, that if you want to talk to me I am open. If you want to say bad shit about me, that's fine, just know that if you do it to my face you would get a better response if you can approach it in a polite and logical way. If you just want to spew vitriol, I hear there's probably a website for that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

No Knight in Shining Armor - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 13

Unlucky number 13 - a fitting number for the unlucky life event that I am about to relate.

This is a story that many of you probably don't want to hear. Hell, even I don't want to hear it and I am the one writing it! I had never intended to tell this story to most people in my lives, much less the entirety of Facebook and the internet. This story calls attention to my weaknesses and express a vulnerability that will make a lot of folks uncomfortable. So, I have two disclaimers:

1. If you are the type who wants to live in blissful ignorance or doesn't want to know this much about me, I would say that you should turn back now.

2. I'm not looking for pity or attention. (And the whole fact that I even have to make this second disclaimer points to just how fucked up our society really is.

Now, for the story. Sit back. Relax. Put your seat belts on. It's going to get rough.

When I was growing up, I can say that I was sheltered though not from any direct intervention from my parents or my community. Ok, I did go to a Catholic school, but if you knew my friends (and some of you do know them...or are them) that didn't really mean much as to how you did or didn't develop socially, romantically, and sexually. At least, not if you went to a Catholic school in Boulder.  However, for reasons that I will never know, I didn't really join my friends' interest in boys and dating as early as they did. Sure, I kind of played along because I didn't want to feel left out, but until sometime in middle school, I focused my energy on creative pastimes, intellectual pastimes, and fantastical adventures. (Please note, I'm not asserting any opinion that an interest in the opposite sex and dating was inferior in any way, just that it wasn't where my head was at when I was 11, 12, or 13). Romantically, I had these completely unrealistic standards only found in Disney movies and people in real life were, well, immature and underwhelming. There were way more exciting things at that point than dating.

My first kinda-sorta-boyfriend was when I was in 7th grade and he was in 6th. Chubz was the brother of my friend's boyfriend and she kind of set me up. I was so super clueless about boys and dating and about myself being a sexual object in any way. I was also painfully shy. I only dated Chubz through notes. When my dad wouldn't let me go on a double date with Chubz, my friend and her BF, I decided that dating was stupid and broke up with him. On the day of the Valentine's dance. Over the phone. Through my friend.

In high school, my first sorta-boyfriend was a senior when I was a junior. We dated for two months all he could talk about was how he and his previous girlfriend would have sex all the time, but I wouldn't fuck him. Sexy, right? After about 2 1/2 months, he broke up with me right before spring break to fuck date my friend. Once he fucked her, he broke up with her. Super classy.

After him, I dated a guy in my friend circle for a bit...not because I was particularly interested in him (or even really in dating) but because he was there. I was still oblivious to the fact that I was at all pretty or desirable. Honestly, aside from a brief mourning period over the one trick pony guy, I didn't feel strongly either way in terms of my desirability to men. And I didn't fucking care. I was me, right? That was what my parents had always taught me. That no one else was going to be me, so I had to be. And screw the rest! (But not literally).

Then, my first serious boyfriend happened. I met him as I had always imagined I would:

Across a green field, she saw a man. He was standing with his profile facing her, hands stretching up toward the sky, reaching for the sparkling sun. His blonde hair reflected every ray - a dance of oranges and yellows - and his smile was a radiant white. His eyes were some magical color, but striking nonetheless. And he was holding..a boffer.

He could be my prince, my knight, my king on a golden stallion. He would live in a rich castle in some far-off land and would only ever treat me to the finest things, the most flavorful food, and the highest chivalry and honor manageable in the human race. I was 17. He, 19. (Yes, I met him in the SCA).

However, reality was hardly that. He drove a beat-up Datsun T-top, that was broken more often than it was working. He lived in his friend's garage: dim light, malfunctioning heater, a filthy thin layer of carpet on the floor. He had a decrepit waterbed and a blue collar job. He'd never finished high school. And he raped me.

Yes. You read that right.

We dated for two years and in that time, he stole my already tentative teenage ideas of self worth and replaced it with feelings of inadequacy, outsiderness, and doubt. And that is how I remember me.

Before this moment in time, I don't really remember how I thought of myself as a person. I'm sure if you asked my mom she'd say something like, "She was precocious, tenacious, fierce, emotional, and brave." Or my dad may say that I was smart, unruly, tomboyish, and difficult.  But downtrodden? Insecure? Uncertain? I would guess no more so than your average hormonal teenager.

No, not before...but after.

When you're a teenager, you already struggle with who you are. With here you belong in life.  Things that you thought you knew about yourself come crashing down as you transition from a child to an adult. What? I can't play with dolls anymore? Why the FUCK am I bleeding from my lady parts?  Why did god have to curse me with the Y chromosone?  What do you mean I "will someday want children even if I don't right now?" Who the HELL are you (all adults in the world) to tell me who I am?

I was so intent at rebelling against the adults in my life, that I didn't see what was happening right in front of my face with the young adult closest to me. I was told things to make me feel worthless: "Good thing you have me. No one else would want you.", "You're not that pretty, but you'll do for me. Good thing I have low standards." "A person like you generally can't find a boyfriend." And oh, my very favorite one:

"You turned me on because you chose to sleep without pajama pants, so now you have to get me off."

Somehow two years of this crap went on before I got asked out by a guy in my Italian class. Wait...what? Someone else is attracted to me? Well what am I waiting for? Then it was over...this man was over...I was 19 when we broke up.  I left the physical thing behind.

I don't remember much of our "relationship" except a few words and the feelings. Emotionally, though, it shaped my everything. I had decided to hide my past sex life from everyone including myself.  I re-virginized myself until I was 21. I dated only superficially, not wanting to get close.

**Before I continue, I think it's worth noting that at this point, in 2002, I did not think that what had happened was rape. I legitimately believed that it was my responsibility to pleasure my boyfriend and that it was OK for him to expect it because that's what guys did. Also, I didn't want to say anything about it to anyone because I didn't want to be "that girl" who says she's raped just to get attention. I didn't want to accidentally ruin a man's life with the accusation, even though he essentially ruined mine. I also didn't think anyone else would take my trauma seriously me because we were dating and exclusive etc. Namely, however, I didn't want my feelings diminished, or for anyone to stand up for him (or to him). I didn't want pity or for anyone to think of me as being damaged or broken...though I was.**

OK...back to it...At 21, I began feeling like a complete and utter failure for not wanting sex or having it. I then decided one night that the first cute guy I saw, who was interested in me, I would take home and just get it over with. As if my re-virginity was something that needed to be ripped away, like a bandaid.  It happened as I had planned, except for one horrible thing - he didn't use a condom. That was terrifying. I felt betrayed, again, and ashamed that I was so careless.

However, after that, I started dating normally-ish. Sex, was still something to just get through. Something I did because it was what was expected of me...and because I wanted to like it. I wanted to understand what was so great about it. But I didn't. That fear, that feeling of inadequacy, was always there in the back of my mind. I could never enjoy or relax during intimacy so I probably faked 99% of my orgasms...for the next 8 years.

There was then the rock climber boy. Also handsome. Also met in a fairytale way.

Another boy who had issues of his own (of which I could write a book about some other time) who then also got me, and all my baggage. All of my sadness, my shame and my silence made me an awful romantic partner. It made me a terrible adult too - so much uncertainty. Downplaying anything I could have been worth. Then when I finally opened up to the rock climber, he took my past and turned it back around onto me. Part 2 of "Lyndsie isn't good enough for anyone else" which evolved into "Lyndsie is completely used up and will never be of any use to any other guy, so it's good that I'm here so she can get something."

Lyndsie isn't worth anything.

Lyndsie isn't worth anything.

Lyndsie is only worth what her body can give.

And even that had been taken away from her a long time ago.

Lyndsie isn't worth anything.

Again I realized way too late, that that relationship needed to end.  Eventually it did and I tried to get back on track again. This time, my approach was different. I wasn't ever going to talk about my past to my next partner. Nothing. Not ever.

I met my ex-husband at 24, and did just that. Refusing to acknowledge my history out loud was an attempt to move forward. To create myself anew as the person that I wanted to be. As me. As someone who was worth something.  What was it to him, anyway, that I'd had bad experiences in the past? That I had dated and lived with some super shitty guys that ruined me for sex and love? I would just play it the sex game...the love game...fake the was he going to know anyway? I remember lying in bed one night just thinking to myself..."If I never had sex ever again in my life, that would be fine. I can take care of myself and that's all I need.

However, even he, too, began guilting me for not fucking him often enough. Not, "wanting" it enough. It was always such a to do for me and i really had to psyche myself up for it didn't happen often. But somehow, me not wanting sex with him every night, or every other night, was a failing of him. His precious ego was damaged because I had my own concerns.

Again, I was worth nothing if not for my pussy. And my pussy was responsible for shepherding his ego. Sex was for him, for validation. Not for me. It wasn't for my pleasure....he didn't care that I loved to cuddle or watch The Office or eat steak. He cared that I didn't fuck him enough.

Why did it have to be about him not being arousing enough? Why did I have to comfort him constantly and say "No, it's not you. It's me. I'm just not that horny tonight." Or "Trust me, if there was something that you could do right now to make me want it, I'd tell you. I promise."  Stupid, insecure about you talk more about your feelings when it DOESN'T involve your penis? For once? Just this once? Pretty please?

Again, my past - ~10 years backward..was haunting me. Even though my ex-husband didn't know anything about him. It was still ruining my life. Those old fears, the insecurities, began creeping up again out of the deep cavern that they had been banished to. I wasn't good enough to please my husband. What good was I then? What other positive qualities could I POSSIBLY have if I can't even satisfy a basic male need given to him by nature?

I wasn't worth anything.

I was a pussy, a vagina, a womb. Breasts, a pair of legs, hips, an ass. Lips, hands, and tongue would also do just fine. I was my hair. The only inside of me that mattered was the one that was tight, hot, and wet. All of the other things that contributed to my failed relationships were small bills to the one the fundamental building block.

This was the part of me that came crawling in when the lights were off and the world was silent. When the day had been worn away, and all that was left was the night. And even being one of two people, laid bare before each other in that simple biblical state, I had nothing left to give the other.

All of it had been taken from me, and I was nothing.

--To Be Continued --

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mansplaining 'Splained - The Saga of Lyndsie - Part 12

Mansplaining - lately this term has been quickly growing as a trendy buzzword in the feminist and gender-equality movements. Initially, people (especially men)  may get defensive or think that this is just an incidence of man-hating lesbians being overly dramatic. And then there will be the "not all men" excuse that surely most men aren't like this.

Since I have heard this term circulating with ever more frequency, I have been reaching into my past and spreading my senses out in the present to see, if this stuff really does happen in real life. I mean, surely my friends are more enlightened than that and don't participate in this type of gender division. However, they actually do and I will illustrate 3 examples below.

Now, it is worth noting, that some of these things are likely so ingrained in society, in ourselves, that we don't realize what a negative impact we are having on our friends; on the people around us for whom we care the most.

The "official" definition of mansplaining is below:

(of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.aa

Also interesting are the Urban Dictionary definitions, none of which I can take seriously, but they do in a way show the defensiveness that I have just noted:

1. Showing superiority/knowledge 

Recently, inspired by the Wonder Woman movie, one of my friends on Facebook asked people to list out other women actions heroes in Blockbuster movies. Some of the examples were Katniss from The Hunger Games, Leeloo from The Fifth Elemet, Alice from Resident Evil, the Bride in Kill Bill (and the female villains as well), Red Sonja, Lara Croft, Kate Beckinsale's character from Underworld (sorry it's early and I'm tired) etc. (Side note: I also looked up to many of these characters. They have definitely inspired me to be stronger, more badass and more martial in my own life).

While most people of both genders were providing example, on man went on to note: "I don't really think many of these women are heroes because they are motivated by revenge, anger or selfishness whereas Wonder Woman is the true hero because she's motivated by righteousness." Um...excuse me? Should I begin to list out all the awesome male action heroes that aren't motivated by righteousness, yet are still admired? Oh wait....I don't have that much time this morning. 'Splained like a true man...

2. Taking credit for other's accomplishments in the form of words

I'm sure if I polled women, many of them would come back with experiences like this next one: You're telling a story of something crazy, scary, awesome that happened to you and a man keeps talking over you to explain the same story. This includes your opinions, feelings or even words of the story when you told it before. This is one of the most frustrating things that I experience. I am telling a story, trying to get to the big reveal, and someone keeps talking over me and ruins it or gives away the reveal before I get there.*

Now, on some levels, I get this - if you share an experience with someone you both want to talk about it. But I have had times where I  did something cool and as I was trying to explain that to someone, a guy would totally butt in and explain the cool thing that I did. Way to steal my thunder.

This is also relating to women in the professional field who have had their research, articles, proposals, or accomplishments explained back to them. There are some great articles online like this one that lists examples of these.

*Note: This is not just exclusive to men, however, I have found that guys do it more. Especially past boyfriends.

3. Explaining your feelings to you

This last one is probably the most personal AND the most insinuating. It happens primarily in relationships, but also possibly in mentor-student relationships or elder-younger ones (parenting), and again, is not exclusive to men. However, in my past relationship experiences, I have seen this happen A LOT and it took me a long time to realize what was happening.

This is when a partner tells you how you should/need to or shouldn't/needn't feel.  I say that this is very characteristic of men because when a heterosexal couple argues it frequently goes something like this:

Woman: "I feel X. I need X." or sometimes (not the best strategy but) "You make me feel like X".

"You don't need me to validate your opinion."
"You should not have to be told you're beautiful to believe it."
"You need to feel more OK with yourself."
"You shouldn't need to hear 'I love you' to know I love you."

The more I was told this stuff in my early relationship life, the more I internalized it. Then, the more internalized it got, the worse I began to feel about myself.  When I finally realized what was happening, it took me a looooooong time to crawl out of the hole I dug and admit to myself, "you know what? I have needs and these are what they are...."

Yep, I was lying to myself. For years. As it turns out that I do need validation. I need you to tell me that I am beautiful and to be excited for me when I have a good idea. Even if you don't care. A good partner will understand that and a bad partner will tell me that I am overreacting.  This is now my test. (And yes, in case you are wondering, James passed.) :-)

Funny thing, as I was writing this, I started to wonder if I was womansplaining this whole issue (is that really a thing?) but then I realized that I don't care.  This is something that needs to be said because, as I said in the beginning, I firmly believe that not a lot of people really realize they are doing it.

So, pay more attention - if you are a woman and see this happening, call it out! If you are a dude and see this happening, call it out! And if, as a guy, you catch yourself doing these things, just stop. Apologize. And move on...while not doing it again.

PSA over.

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