Spa Queen For a Day

So, this last Saturday was Spa Day for me.  This is something I decided on about a month ago and had scheduled three weeks ago.  I need a little time to myself as well is a bit of a Christmas present, so I thought why not do something I’ve never done before?  And that’s something was a day at the spa.

The place I visited is Polished Salon, Spa & Wellness, over on the East Shore of the Susquehanna River in Lemoyne.  I’d gone there but a month ago to get a Mani/Pedi and sort of slowly fell in love with the locale, the setup, and the attentiveness.  I’ve always wanted to try a day spa, but never did because, well, I do felt strange going in before my transition.  I now, however, I’m fully relaxed with who I am as a woman, and one of the things a woman should have at lease once in her life is a few hours of pampering.

Ergo, it was time to hit the spot.

The package I’d pick was pretty much top-of-the-line.  There was another one I could’ve went with where I would’ve gotten a mud wrap and I may save that one for my birthday.  As it was, with this package I got a body lotion rubdown on my arms, legs, and back, then a one hour full body massage, then a full facial, then lunch, then a Mani/Pedi.  Altogether I was told it would take five and a half to six hours to complete, which was fine by me: it was like I had anything else planned Saturday.  That said, I scheduled for as early as possible–nine in the morning–and showed up at eight forty-five so I could fill out paperwork.

Little did I know I was about to fall down the rabbit hole.

First, let me describe how this place is laid out.  When you come in there’s a check-in desk.  To the right of the check-in desk is the area where the hair salon is located in the nails are done.  This area is sort of open because all of these things are kind of sociable: when you do your hair doing her nails you want to talk and carry on a little.  I like getting a Mani/Pedi because of the social interaction, and for the longest time it was the only social interaction I had with people.

To the left of the check-in desk there is a door, and the store leads back to the area where you get your brows plucked, your facials applied, and your massages given.  Everything back here is in small, individual rooms, because each of these things is really something you want to do by yourself in relative peace and quiet while someone works on.  Also, everything back here is kept in subdued lighting to make you feel comfortable and relaxed.  As I told Sharon, the woman who did my facial, being back in this area is sort of like being a completely different world.

But before you get to any of that other stuff, you are led to… The Quiet Room.

And it is quiet.

And it is quiet.

Four plush chairs and two chaise lounge chair.  Where you see the paperwork sitting is where I sat, where I reclined and watched the fire place and listen to the soft music constantly being played while I decided what I needed from a facial, what I expected from a massage, and what I wanted for lunch.

And I had to get a picture of my view as well.

And I had to get a picture of my view as well.

By the way, that’s a pitcher of lemon and cucumber water in the middle of the picture and let me tell you, that shit rocked.  But I came back here for lunch I drink like five glasses of that stuff because–well, I’ll get to that.

After filling out all the paperwork I was led to a small changing room with four lockers.  I was told to undress and for all my stuff in the lockers and I could put on the robe and a pair of sandals so I’d have something to wear while back in this area.  The only item of my street clothes that I left on were my panties, because I had a massage coming and who’s going to wear a bra for that?

Once changed it was time to go back to The Quiet Room and wait for the first item on the list, which was the body robe and massage.  I was no sooner getting comfortable when Christine, the massage therapist, showed up to lead me back to our room.

At this point my heart was beating pretty fast and it must’ve been obvious that I was anxious, because Christine picked up on that.  She asked me if this was the first time I’d ever had a massage and once I told her was, she told me sweetly to just relax and enjoy the experience.  She stepped out for a moment so I could get out of my robe and sandals and get under the towel lying on the massage table.

Of course I got a picture before I stripped.

Of course I got a picture before I stripped.

The body lotion was applied mainly to the extremities: both arms and both legs.  There was a little bit of salt mixed in with the lotion to act as a exfoliant and I really felt great having that rubbed into your skin as you lay on your back with your eyes half closed in a semi-darkened room with soft music playing and candles burning.  Just the sort of thing you needed to get you in the mood for what was coming next: the massage.

Now, I’ve been given massages by people. I’ve even given a massage or two in my time.  But I have never had a professional massage, and let me tell you getting massage from your friend and then getting massage from someone who knows what they’re doing is sort of like comparing driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 70 miles an hour/112 km an hour to hopping in a Ferrari 488 GTE competition car and driving at full speed around the Le Mans circuit for twelve hours.  In short, there is no comparison.

I lay on my back and got my arms and legs worked out.  I could feel myself drifting off on a couple of occasions because it was so relaxing, and I was so zoned at one point that when Christine was preparing for me to roll over on my stomach I hadn’t even realized the towel had slipped down my torso and my breasts were exposed.  She fixed it right up because before I rolled over on my stomach she threw a sheet over me and followed it up with a fleece throw blanket.  Then she got the little attachment in place for me to stick my face through.  So while she held on to one side of the sheet/blanket combo, I rolled over and got my face in the whole, repairing for the back rub.

One thing I should point out is whenever Christine would massage my extremities she would try to keep as much of the rest of my body covered while she worked on just that part of my body.  So while she was working on my left leg, that was the only part of my body exposed: the rest stayed swaddled, nice and warm, under the fleece blanket.  Needless to say all the while this was happening–which included having hot towels wrapped around my feet and applied over lotion on my back–I was zoning out hard.  I didn’t fall asleep, but there were definite moments when I felt almost as if I was hallucinating, like I was seeing and sensing things that were almost dreamlike even though I was aware I was lying on a table getting a rubdown.

It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had and I couldn’t believe it was over when Christine told me it was time for me to get up and get dressed.  Of course she said for me to take my time getting off the table, getting dressed, and returning to The Quiet Room, and there’s a good reason for that: I was wrung out.  The moment I raised my head I started feeling lightheaded; the moment I tried rolling on my side and flipping off the cover I felt as if my body wouldn’t respond.  Really, at that point I probably could’ve laid back and taken a nap for an hour, I was that relaxed.  It was actually a chore to get up on my feet, get dressed, and headed down to wait for the next appointment.  Christine was waiting for me and I told her I felt thirsty: she told me that wasn’t an unusual feeling and I should drink as much fluid as I like.  So I had my first two glasses of lemon and cucumber water and sat waiting for my facial.

It really was all I could do to get the phone out and snap a photo.

It really was all I could do to get the phone out and snap a photo.

I didn’t have to wait long.  Sharon showed up and took me to the room where my facial would be performed.  I lay back on the table and she got a bright light in my face that she can examine everything.  Now, when I filled out the facial for and was asked to describe my skin, I said it was “rough” and “dry”.  After couple minutes of examining Sharon told me that my skin was wonderful and in excellent shape.  She asked me if I spent a lot of time outside in the sun and I told her no, I was a computer programmer and writer, so most of my time was spent indoors, and that even as a child I preferred sitting in my room reading then going outside to play.  She said a lack of sunlight had actually helped my skin considerably and also, considering I had a slight amount of Cherokee Indian heritage–I’m 1/32 because of a great-great-grandmother–that meant my body probably had slightly more melange than other Caucasians.

She was extremely surprised, however, by how smooth my skin was, so I had to reveal my dirty little secret: being transgender I’m on hormone replacement therapy and that estrogen is putting me through a second puberty which leads to smooth skin.  That not only made complete sense to her, but she told me that she had done laser facial hair removal treatment on several transwomen in the area.  So we not only talk a little about that, but we also discussed things about why my skin was good due to the fact that I likely had a weird and unusual puberty as a child.

Either way, I got steam blown on to my chest to help open the pores after which I had a mask applied all over my face and to the upper triangle of my chest from my neck down to a point between my breast.  This last kinda confused me and then I realized that as women we expose more of our upper chest due to some of the outfits we wear, and you want to keep that area looking just as nice as your face.  See the things you learn?

The only picture I managed to snap after my mask was applied, making me look a little like i'm wearing lemon custard.

The only picture I managed to snap after my mask was applied, making me look a little like I’m wearing lemon custard.

After the facial it was time for lunch, so it’s back to The Quiet Room for more lemon and cucumber water–

Here looking even more relaxed and glowing.

Here looking even more relaxed and glowing.

–and my lunch, a tuna fish sandwich and a salad with feta cheese.  But I didn’t get just a sandwich: it was more like a sub and there was a whole lot of salad.

As you can see here.

As you can see here.

With all these things behind me it was time to get dressed and head out to get my nails done.  First up was the pedicure in this was being done by Donna, whom I not only remembered from my first visit but with whom we had discussed our love of old movies.  So while she did my pedi we once again talked old movies while I kicked back and relaxed–

With a glass of wine because why not?

With a glass of wine because why not?

The last person to work on me was Stevie, who did my manicure.  The first thing she did was strip off all my polish and it was during this time that she told me she was eager to work on my nails–had been, actually, since I came in the first time.  See, it the last place I went to for my nails, the woman there put an acrylic overlay on all my nails to strengthen them.  Unfortunately, she put on so much that I actually looked like I had bubbles on my nails and this was something that Stevie couldn’t stand.

So she got the stripping off the old polish, then sanding down as much of the old acrylic overlay she could.  The last thing she did was repair my left thumbnail, which it ripped off while I was at work Thursday afternoon.  After all this was done it was time to get the polish applied.  I was actually using two different gel polishes.  The first to go on was Girls Love Pearls, which was used as a base.  Over that was the clearer, more sparkly Champagne For Breakfast.  The end result gave my nails, both on my hands and feet, a nice luster with a glitter finish.

As you can see here in good light.

As you can see here in good light.

With everything done I settled up the bill and tipped everyone who work on me twenty-five dollars.  I said, this was my Christmas present, so I didn’t mind spending the money.  It’s also one of the reasons you only want to do something like this once every six months or so, because it is a luxury and should be treated as such.  Though I’m already missing the sensation I had after that massage…

I was there for exactly six hours and got everything as advertised, and it all exceeded my expectations.  When I got home I was actually afraid to sit down, and the moment I did I started feeling drowsy: the aftermath of the massage.  I went out to get something to eat and when I came back I still felt that relaxed feeling for the rest of the night–in fact, the moment I started watching television I found myself dozing off, and when I finally did get to bed I fell asleep right away.

Though I wonder what part those extra two glasses of wine played?

Though I wonder what part those extra two glasses of wine played?

So take my advice: if you ever start feeling stressed out and you have a few hundred dollars burning a hole in your purse, find a nice day spa that has a good reputation and excellent reviews and go get yourself pampered.  It might be something you only do once in your life, but just like that trip to Europe that all of us want to take, this is something that you should do.  As I was told so many of my women friends over the last couple of years, we need Me Time and this is a great way to get that time.

‘Cause really, it is little things like this that help get your mind back in a good space.

The Characters That Are In My Life

Last night was just a bit boring.  I worked on a project at Panera, but I didn’t get real far with it before my head wasn’t in the right spot.  It was slow going.  Perhaps tonight will be better, with the right mind set and a nice dinner and some coffee here, because I have stuff to do.  You know . . . things.

I did make another map, though.  What does it look like?

Looks kinda . . . mappy.

Looks kinda . . . mappy.

It’s amazing where my imagination takes me when I let it.  And there is a scene associated with this map that, when I get around to writing it, will melt your hearts.  Well, at least mine.  It melted mine last night.  And it’s another of those that needs a drawing, but . . . it sorta has one already

But today I thought I’d answer a reader’s question.  So, for the first question to answer, I turn to a read who has enlightens and frustrated me to no ends at times, just because.  I’m smiling when I say that, because there have been some great conversations around my characters.  So take it away for the first question!


Renxkyoko Iglesias
I’d like to know who the characters are that you most relate to. You can also talk about the characters that you like most, besides Annie and Kerry.


First off, this is a bit of a trick question, because when it comes to relating to characters, Kerry is number one with a bullet.  As I’ve mentioned before, Kerry came about original from a role playing game, and if you know anything about role playing, you’ll know it’s not all that difficult to throw a bit of yourself into the mix when you’re throwing numbers down on the page.  More than a few of the things that have happened to his so far in the story happened to me, and I’ve drawn on that hurt a lot when I needed him to hurt.

I would not be lying if I said I’ve Mary Sued him just a bit, and I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with it, and at the same time I’m a bit hurt by it as well, because when you’re writing about characters who are somewhat stylized versions of yourself, you try not to make them too good, or give them too many nice things.  Kerry has a lot of flaws, not the least of which are his fears of being abandoned and of going through life not having anyone.  Now, the “not having anyone” fear isn’t as much any more, not since he returned completely to his Annie, but the fact that he freak out in the first place thinking she was leaving him is pretty much the proof in the one hundred and twelve ounce can of pudding that he isn’t completely free of his doubts, and that will come back to haunt him from time-to-time.

Kerry has something at his age that I didn’t have, and that’s love.  He feels it from Annie, and he loves her back tremendously.  That’s the thing when you write about characters who possess extensions of your own essence:  you can give them thing you desire, and he has that with Annie.  Kerry would move a mountain for that girl, and . . . well, you’ll see.  One day.  If I ever get around to writing that particular novel.

Now, what about characters I like the most.  That’s easy.  They are, with their birthday’s included:

Erywin Sladen (10/23/1967), Helena Lovecraft (03/29/1968), Deanna Arrakis (06/26/1985), and Wednesday Douglas (06/11/1986).

Of all of these characters, Helena was created first, and she’s went through the most changes.  I’ve admitted that she was based upon Lucy Lawless, in particular the character she played in Battlestar Galatica.  But as I started putting this world together I didn’t like that she was just another Basic White Girl, and I started thinking:  what if her mother’s line were still witches, but they were native to New Zealand?  What if they were Māori?  What if Helena’s grandmother was the first Māori to go to Salem, and ended up becoming Head Sorceress for a while?  What if Helena’s father–also a witch–married her mother against the wishes of his family?  What if . . ?

And that’s how Helena changed into the dark haired, black eyed, tattoo markings, take no nonsense woman she is today.  And, I believe, a far more interesting one that I first developed.  Others went through similar changes, but Helena pretty much changed the most.

Deanna is an Iraqi woman.  She was born there but her parents left in 1989 and moved to France.  Mother is a doctor, father is a manager of procurement for a shipping company.  Her family is Muslim, but pretty moderate in their practice.  Deanna used to wear a hijab when she first attended Salem–it was her own choice, not that of her parents–but after the Scouring she began to wear it less often, and by the time she was an E Level she’d stopped the practice, though she still tends to favor long skirts and slacks and jeans, sweaters in the winter and lovely, colorful tunics in the fall, spring, and summer.

We know Wednesday also played a part in the Scouring, and Isis and she pretty much did something that saved the school.  We also know that Wednesday’s father was a former Russian spy, was relocated to Arizona, and eventually wound up in Austria working for a pharmaceutical company.  Wednesday got her name because that’s the day on which she was born–look up the date if you don’t believe me.  Of all the instructors Wednesday is the most easy going, and the one who seems to relate to her students on a person level–though we know she’s not the only one.

Last but not least there’s Erywin, who is probably my favorite character of the whole bunch.  She’s a witch, a Wiccan, and a lesbian, and I’d always developed her that way.  I’ve also developed her with a relationship with Helena in mind, too, and she’s always been forward and outspoken–mostly because as a kid she put up with a huge amount of crap.  She relates to Kerry the most–as Helena relates to Annie–because she sees a lot of herself in the lad, with a few interesting parallels in their lives, too.

It’s interesting to see them lined up in my head.  Erywin has always been style conscious, and it shows in the way she dresses.  Helena is pretty casual and not a bit scary with her black slacks and thick heels booties, her dark pullover and her long, leather jacket.  Deanna is colorful and modest, and the most demure of the women, and Wednesday is just like the students she teaches:  open, friendly, and not a bit wild.  I can see them in my mind’s eye, looking a little like Disney characters . . .

An interesting thing about them, though.  Erywin and Helena are lesbians, and Wednesday–even though she’s in a relationship with Isis–considers herself bisexual.  Deanna is straight, and someone has her in his sights–she knows that Trevor Parkman finds her “interesting”.  Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

And they are only a year apart from the person next to them.  Erywin is a year older than Helena, and Deanna is a year older than Wednesday.  Also, Erywin is a coven leader, as is Deanna–must be the age thing.  Because witches age slower, Erywin and Helena can pass for their early to mid-thirties, Deanna looks college age, and Wednesday could, with the right outfits, pass for a teenager.

There you go.  I hope that answered most everything.

Welcome to My Trans World

I’m doing things a little different today, mostly because I promised some people that I was going to answer some questions for them, and this is how I handle that particular request.

As everyone–or just about everyone knows–I’m a transwoman.  I’ve been out online and with friends for about two years now, and in March of this year I began living publicly as a woman.  I started on hormone treatment back in July, and I’ve just passed three months on hormone replacement therapy.

You can imagine that not many people know the ins and outs of what I’m going through.  It’s rare that people other than close friends know anyone trans, and until recently trans people in media were either played for laughs or we were psychos who usually committed the murder in whatever drama was bring presented.  In other words, the majority of people who we might encounter in real life don’t know much about us.

This all came about a few weeks ago because there were people in one of my Facebook groups asking me about the stuff I do concerning my hormone injections.  I was getting other questions asked as well, and it made me realize that, yes, people are curious, and not in a morbid way:  they really want to know about these things that are happening in my life.

Since yesterday was my shot day I decided to put together a few videos that show the steps I go through for my injections, and also answer a few questions that have come up from time-to-time.  So, if you’ll step this way . . .


This is a video going over the stuff I need for my injections, and I actually take you thought the process.  You never see the injection, and I give you fair warning it’s happening in case you want to look away.  As I say you don’t see anything, so safe all around.

The next two videos answer questions about hormones and injections, and–particularly with the second video–I get into the good and bad parts of going through hormone treatments.  I give warning in the second video that discussions may get a little graphic, but only because I’m talking about naughty bits.

Okay, now we get to the one video that’s probably Not Save For Work or Kids.  I get into a rather frank explanation of physical sexual responses, and how mine are changing.  It’s pretty interesting, but as I said, it’s frank, so let me warn you once more:  Sexy Talk Ahead!  That’s even the name of the video.  Click at your own risk.

And last but not least, a video that answers a question that I’ve been asked more than a few time:  why are you doing this?  For me, the answer isn’t surprising.

There it is:  a part of my world as it currently exists.  I hope it’s informative, and that it leads to more questions in the future that I can take time to answer.  Because, believe me, the more people know about the sort of things that led up to my decision, and the aftermath of said decision, the more the stereotypes can be cast aside.

Like I say in one of the videos, once you get to know me I’m really a nice person–

No different than you.

Space Testing

The movie Gravity is coming, like tomorrow, the 4th of October, which also happened to be the anniversary of the launching of Sputnik I.  Funny how that works out, right?  This is something I’ve wanted to see since I’ve heard about the concept, and after seeing the trailer–which, once again, give away a few too many plot point, particularly if you know your space suits and hardware like me; thank you for nothing, Hollywood–I’m considering seeing it in 3d, as it looks stunning as hell.

What more could you want?  It’s Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and space–or should I say, “SPAAAAAACCCCCCCEEEEEE”?  Throw in Alfonso Cuaron on the screenplay and directing, and it’s a winner.

But I know some of my friends won’t see it.  Not because it’s about space (no, Space Core, I won’t say it), but because it won’t pass The Bechdel Test.

I’ve discussed The Bechdel Test before.  The criteria is simple:


1.  Are there two women in the movie?
2.  Do to speak with each other?
3.  Do they speak about something other than a man?


It’s meant to give some indication as to the amount of gender bias in a flick, as in, “Do the women play an important part in the movie, or is the flick a total bro fest?”  And lets face it, the majority of movies are a total bro fest, with dudes totally saving the day and shit being blown up left and right, while the ladies are little more than lampshade meant to get all hot and bothered over Bro One’s flexing.

The problem is, a smart writer or director can game this easily.  Just slip in a scene with two women talking about something other than a guy, and suddenly you hit the criteria.  Here, let me show you:


Scene:  in the middle of monsters tearing up (name of city here, but probably New York, because screw that place), Main Female Character runs into a bathroom to wash the blood from her face.  There’s a commotion in a stall behind her:

Female voice OC:  “Oh, dammit!”
MFC:  “What?”
(Woman steps out of the stall)  “I’m having my period and I don’t have any tampons.”
MFC:  (reaching into breast pocket of her combat overalls to remove a tampon)  “Here, take one.”
SFC:  “Wow!  You’re a lifesaver!”
MFC:  “Yeah, well . . . the last thing I want when I’m kicking some monster’s ass is to have blood flowing from my uterus–”
SFC:  “Nasty!”
MFC:  “You know it.  So I always carry spares.”  (Looks into the mirror)  “Okay, time to save the world!”
SFC:  “Go get ’em!”

End Scene.


Yes, that was a cheap way to do it, but it’s one of the ways a flick like GI Joe: Retaliation and Sharknado can make the list, but Anna Karenina, Bullet to the Head, and Chernobyl Diaries can’t.  And the odds are Gravity won’t make the list, either, though I could be wrong since it appears there is a female captain in the movie, and she may give a few orders to Sandra before something horrible happens.

The Hollywood idea that women can’t carry a movie is crap.  The idea that if I don’t throw some bros into a flick I’m going to alienate my public and a flick will lose money is crazy.  Take a look at the movies out in 2013:  of the ones that crashed and burned, how many of them were strictly a couple, or more, dudes on the screen?  (I’m lookin’ hard at you, Lone Ranger.)  Woman can’t carry a flick?  The majority of movies with men in them aren’t making cash.  I believe this is known in many scientific circles as, “Your hypothesis is bullshit!”, and Hollywood should take note when they’re not handing Micheal Bay a half-billion dollars to blow up stuff with toy robots.

I don’t see a lot of movies in a year; if I’m lucky, maybe two or three.  So far I’ve seen one this year, and that was Pacific Rim, which I loved.  I’ll go see Gravity and probably dig the hell out of it.  And then I’ll likely be through for the year, and wait to see what next year brings.

In the meantime I’m gotta write about these two woman about to unleash Hell . . .

Frolic Through the Fantasic

This morning I realized something:  at times I have trouble remembering my dreams because I don’t know if I was dreaming, or if my ideas were intruding and becoming manifest.

Let me explain:

Yesterday was an all around good day to dream.  I started about laying out a new plan for a school grounds that would, should, could end up in a story, and it was a bit o’ work, because I’m working off an area that’s real, and I needed to try and get my measurements correct.  I’m nutty that way, needing to see what’s available in the real world, and then going to work so I can get the fantasy as real as possible.

Some people call it too much work; I call it part of the job.

I know there are adjustments in one of the buildings I created.  for one, the space is far too large, and I need to scale it down just a bit.  I’ll do that this morning, after I finish this post.  Maybe I’ll add a few buildings.  Maybe I’ll start giving them names, and start in on instructors . . .

Then it was off to Fantasies in Harmonie.  I didn’t get into the story until around nine-forty PM, which is late by anyone’s measure, but I was so enthralled by my grounds work that I didn’t notice the passage of time.  When you get into your groove and you’re overtaken by the world you’re creating, you can find yourself getting lost easily.

There was writing, though, and it went smoothly.  It was time to describe the various transformations, and though I’d done one and went part ways through another, there was room to discuss what had happened to my characters, and for one person, that involved a lot of self-discovery which, in turn, required a bit of wordage to show what she was doing.

I once again found myself in my groove, because I’d finish a paragraph, then think, “Keep going; you need to finish what she’s feeling.”  It’s late, I’m tired, my eyes are starting to hurt–but I needed to finish.  That’s a feeling I haven’t had in a while when it comes to my writing.  You take a couple of months off to edit your work, to get your stories ready for publishing, and you get out of that mood of writing because you need to get something said.

By the time I finished with the line that I’d been waiting to write for a while–lets just say it’s something Ariel should have said after she washed up on shore–I’d put eleven hundred words behind me, and I’d done that in one hour.  I was even impressed, because I haven’t cranked out something like that in a while.  But the fantasy was there, and it demanded I give it my energy–and I did.

I had to write.

This is why I have trouble remembering my dreams some mornings:  I don’t always know what’s a dream and what’s left over from my imagination.  They are both one and the same–and it’s my job to get them out for others to see.


Fatalistic Offerings

Friday night is becoming a bit of Recharge Night:  the time when I need to shut down the brain because of all the week’s work activity and try to get back into something akin to a grove.  I’d almost fallen asleep at the wheel driving home yesterday, and spent a few miles with driver’s window down so the cold air could wash over my face and wake me the hell up before I plowed into a bridge pillar at sixty miles per hour.  If I’m like that at five in the afternoon, then I know anything I write at eight PM is gonna be crap.

So I relaxed and talked.  I helped out one friend with the naming of her newest crocheting patterns, and learned that the first chain mail showed up in 3 BCE.  Research, suckers:  it gets you when you least expect.  Then I played some games online, which are a good way to kill time as long as you don’t kill too much time . . . and then I set the keynote for the evening.  I ran across a friend online–someone I know who writes but also games, which means she’s very special in my book–and asked her the most damning gaming question of all:  “Have you ever heard of F.A.T.A.L.?”

Since I know the majority of you reading this have no idea what FATAL is (I’m disposing of the periods at this point, because that’s how I roll), allow me to explain.  If you’ve ever played a table top RPG (think D&D and you’ll know what I’m discussing) then you’ve run across some good games, some mediocre, some bad . . . and some that defy description because their incredible awfulness has burnt out a significance portion of your temporal lobe.  FATAL goes beyond that last, for a thousand years from now, where our cities are dust and the 21st Century is but a memory, people will find a pdf of FATAL, read it, and say, “The fuck was wrong with these people?”

There is a trilogy of games that are considered the worst ever developed–a term I use loosely here–and FATAL sits atop this festering heap, beating out a game written by a possible schizophrenic and one written for white supremacists.  It is a game that has been immortalized by the famous (some say infamous) S&M Review of Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin upon a decade ago, where they ripped the game apart with a long, profane, scree that was on the money.

It is a game that will make you die a little inside when you read it, because you’ll so understand that someone actually sat down and thought, “You know what a role playing game needs?  A way to measure how tough a virgin’s hymen is so my character will know how much pressure to use when I rape her.”  If you think I just made that line up, wrong:  that’s a statistic for female characters in this game.  It’s a game where no matter wherever you go in the world, everything looks like Medieval Europe during the dark ages, and anyone who isn’t white isn’t right.  It’s a game where there are no rules for dating, but there are rules for raping, and your male characters can even go on “rape quests”.  It’s a game where if you’re playing a female characters, you can work in a bar, or be a whore–and the chances are good if you work in a bar, you’re still a whore, because it seems like all women are good for his in game is having sex.

It’s also a game that, when there were many a forum flame war over it’s dubious merits, there were scores of gamers who stood up and said, “What are you saying?  This is totally like the best Game EVAR!”

I’ve been a gamer most of my life.  One of the reasons I got into games was to allow my imagination to stretch, and that helped me become a writer.  I loved immersing myself into a world and creating something that might, just might, become something I could look back upon with pride, for I wasn’t just having fun, I was creating a story.

But, as I told my gaming friend last night, it seems that for every great gamer I’ve ever met, I’ve met three who were juvenile assholes.  And juvenile is being kind, because I’ve also encountered my fair share of gamers who were such childish, racist, misogynistic, homophobic losers that  I wanted to toss all my games in the nearest bin and deny I’d ever played one session of Cyberpunk or Vampire:  the Masquerade.  And I’m talking about teenagers here:  I’m talking people in their thirties and forties, people who should know better, but have sadly decided that it’s far cooling to be massive dicks if they can’t get their way, and that calling every character their run into a “fag” or a “whore” is the way to have fun.

I only mention this because this trend isn’t just found among gamers–or as Our Valued Customers points out, people who come into comic book stores–it’s everywhere.  Every day I seem to find posts on Facebook where someone is decrying how “bitches” are preventing them from acting as sexist as they’d like, or how gays getting married is going to destroy the world, or even how voting is a racial entitlement–yeah, Justice Tony, if the asshole robe fits, you wear it.  There been groups on Facebook that were pulled for supporting gay marriage  but where groups about raping slowly a woman while she sleeps is okay, because we don’t want to step on anyone’s rights.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that games like FATAL exist, and that it’s highly likely that something very similar will reappear from time to time.  The attitude that it’s okay to be an ass seems prevalent these days, particularly in my home country.  It’s all about having the right to act like a dick, and I’m cool with that, because if there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s infringe upon your freedom of speech.

Just don’t get shocked when I call you out on your mulling dickishness, because pointing out how wrong you are is always gonna be my right.

Love in the Shrunken Universe

Since getting into the development of Elektra’s life within Chapter Thirteen of Suggestive Amusements, I feel like I’m learning more about the state of New Mexico than I’d ever imagined I would.  When I put her together I created her home town on the fly, making her a Southwest Desert Girl from the go, so living in Las Vegas wasn’t going to be a huge climate change for her.

Culturally, though, I’ve got her growing in ways I wouldn’t imagine the rest of us would ever experience.  Then again, we don’t live in novels.  Or do we?

It seemed to take hours to write my eleven hundred words last night, mostly because I not only did my research, but I was doing my nails, too.  Hey, nothing wrong with a little base coat drying as you type away, right?  But for an hour or so I did a lot of set up, and then, when I was down to the last six hundred words, I imagined her visiting these different areas of the state, and before you knew it I had her hooking up with . . . Izzy.

Don’t laugh, but that’s her nickname for another person in her past who led her onto the Road of Kink.  Believe it or not, I took the name from a character that grew up in New Mexico, and I even mention that other character by name.  (I don’t need to tell any of you who it is, because I have very bright readers.)  So she and Elektra met, get to know each other, have dinner, get to know each other better, and before you know it, they’re meeting on a regular basis.

That’s how good relationships should begin.  Find your interests, get to know each other, and eventually end up on a side road near Roswell laying on the hood of a Jeep, staring up at the sky and holding hands while looking for UFOs.  That was how I left Elektra and Izzy last night, thinking it was a good place to jump out and gather my thoughts–and get ready for bed–because I needed the time to see where I’m taking this . . .

If you asked, “Straight into the gutter?” you’d likely be correct.

I like this chapter, and I like what I’m doing with Elektra.  All this, “What I did before I met you” stuff is giving her dimensionality, it’s turning her into a real–albeit kinky–person.  This is what we, as writers, strive to do with every character:  we want them fleshed out so when they turn sideways to us, we don’t watch them vanish.  Sometimes a writer doesn’t care if their character is two-dimensional, because the story is driving the character, not the other way around, but for this story, I’d like the characters to have a bit of thickness to them.

The question I have now is:  does Elektra think about some of the experiences she had with Izzy, and do I get into the fantasies she never got to experience with her?  I know the answer to both side, so it’s a no-brainer for me.  I believe the second part of that question should be shown in Chapter Fourteen, because that’s what we’re always being told:  “Show, don’t tell.”

Okay, I’ll do that.  I wouldn’t want to upset any writing instructors . . .

Life to Mars

NaNo grinds on.  I’m over fifty-five thousand words, and to say I’m going to his sixty-five thousand is a forgone conclusion.  With ten thousand words to go–or there about–I can finish up by Sunday.  I felt good about the writing last night, with the chapter flowing very nicely.  I was also using the Document Target function in Scrivener to hit my goals, and to push myself a little–as in, once I hit my goal, I see the counter for another hundred words, then I hit that and set it for another two hundred words . . . Yes, those programs can help you move along, and get to those word counts that you want to hit.

There was something else that happened to me–in my dreams, of course.  It wasn’t triggered by the news that something “Earthshaking” is coming from Curiosity, or the vision that Elon Musk has for getting to Mars . . . but I think it was Mars that called to me–

Or to one of my characters.

It was just a quick vision, not a real dream, one of those things that comes to you in the hinterlands between sleep and awake.  The things that came to me . . . well, it was food for the story mill.

It was a woman, walking through a desert.  She was in a long coat, and her face was wrapped to keep the dust out of her face, and goggles to keep her eyes clear.  The sky was dark, the sand red, and in the distance there was a city, rising up beyond the rim of something–maybe a ravine, maybe a crater.  The woman stopped to take in the vista, then unwrapped her face–and smiled.

That was all I got before I woke up.

Some time back I had a dream about a woman who was also a mecha pilot, and probably a Muslim as well.  It was an interesting dream, because there were things happening in the dream I didn’t expect.  Since that dream, I get something like a little nudge about the story, but not much beyond that.

The vision that came to me, however–it was related to this story, and to the character.

For some reason I’ve thought of Mars these days, probably because I’ve always found the place interesting.  And with Curiosity now there, more is going to come to light about the Red Planet.  I still have my copy of the Arthur C. Clarke novel, The Sands of Mars, with the famously now-wrong-after-all-these-decades line, “There are no mountains on Mars,” because we know a lot better these days.  The Mars I know these days is not Barsoom, though someone has taken the opportunity to place Barsoom on today’s Mars, which is a very cool thing–though I’m damned if I can find the link right now.  Woe is me.

Perhaps this is the direction my next story is suppose to take:  a tale of struggle upon a Mars that looks slightly terraformed, or maybe with people who have become transhuman, and for whom walking upon the surface without breathing apparatus isn’t that big of a deal.  It’s possible it’s both.  I don’t know at this point–

Because I haven’t started building my world.

Our Lips Aren’t Sealed

First, lets give credit where credit is very much due:  the idea for this came from a post on Ink Out Loud, another great blog about writing and how it makes us, the writers, feel.  Go check it out, and follow.

As for the post in question, I found it waiting for me this morning, a short discussion of The Bechdel Test, and whether your current WiP passes.  If you are somewhat remiss in having not heard about The Bechdel Test, you can find a primer here.  When you’re finished there, you can go check out the movies that don’t pass.  Go ahead, look:  I’ll be right here . . .

All done?  Great.  Let’s move on.

The Test came about because, lets face it, most novels and movies end up being sausage fests.  Look at some of the books that don’t pass The Test:  Lord of the Ring trilogy, eighty percent of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond stories, a lot of the Golden Age science fiction I have on my book shelves, damn hear all of the Dirk Pitt stories . . . and on and on.

When you get into movies:  forget about it.  The original Star Wars trilogy fails like a boss.  Fight Club–are you kidding?  Since the LotR novels failed, it’s a given the movies failed.  And when you’re speaking of the most popular movie of the summer of 2012, you have to put a big “F” on The Avengers because when did you ever see the named women speaking to each other?  (Though I have to laugh when it’s pointed out that Hawkeye has the least screen time, gets brainwashed by the Big Bad and is in need of rescuing, shows the most skin–evening doing a butt and boobs pose in official promo material–and runs like hell when shit is about to get serious–therefore making him the Strong Female Character of the movie.)

Well, then . . . what about the stories you’re working on?

Reading the above post today started me thinking about my current NaNo Novel, Kolor Ijo.  Actually it got me thinking about all my work, but since I’m cranking away on this novel at the moment, it came to mind.  I began looking at the story, and the characters, started thinking about who says what, and came to the conclusion–

It fails.

Why does it fail?  Well, lets look.  One, I do have more than one named female character.  Two, there is a conversation between two of the women–in fact, the entire chapter I worked on last night was all about Indri and Sari having a conversation.

However, when I get to Number Three, that’s where things get shaky.  See, the conversation is about a murderous spirit, and the why for these murders goes back to something one of the women’s father did when they were in the military twenty years before.  Since they are marginally speaking about a man, it sort of fails.

Then again, they were speaking about killing ghosts and the whatnot as well, so I can score a plus–yeah?

I’m not worried about it, because given the places this story goes–and considering the characters–the few times I can get a couple of women together to discuss something besides the XY’s they know isn’t easy.  Then again, I seem to do pretty well on my stories:

When I look back at what I’ve written in the last year–or twenty–I’ve been very good about having female characters in my stories.  Transporting have seven named female character and two male, and the women talk about things like saving a planet, making love in a sub-dimension of reality, and showing a person what their planet looks like from orbit while Rocket Man plays in the background.

Echoes and Diners at the Memory’s End use many of the same characters from Transporting–as well at a couple of added ones, all women–and their discussions tend to be about things other than women.  In Echoes, in fact, you have something along the reverse of The Bechdel Test, where I have two men talking for a long time about a woman.

What of the others?  Couples Dance almost fails until the very end.  Captivate and Control fails, only because there are two characters in the story, a man an a woman–and they’re talking about some stuff that you may not think of as romance, but whatever works, right?

Her Demonic Majesty:  six named women, three named men, several secondary characters of both genders–and at one point I have four women talking about gargoyles and how to blow up a building.  Yeah, that sucker passes by with eyes straight.  And when there is a discussion going on about relationship, it’s between two of the women about their relationship.  No boys allowed, ’cause it’s icky.

And two shorter stories I wrote for the Storytime Trysts blog are very female-centric.  Gotta love those ladies.

Some people may wonder if something like the The Bechdel Test is needed.  If I look at my current story Kolor Ijo, and then got back to the story that first featured these characters, Kuntilanak, I see that The Test is pretty much dead.  Does that make either stories bad?  No.  And if I want to push it, Kuntilanak did have more than one named character, and in a way two of those characters did speak about something other than guys, so–there win there.

But I’ll tell you why something like this needs to be looked at.  It’s because you still have pantie stains like Frank Parlato, Jr., an editor for the Niagara Falls Reporter, who told his film critic Michael Calleri of his feelings for being a manly man, and how he wouldn’t have ever let his sons see any movie that had Strong Vagina as a lead.  (By the way, when I create a band, I’m calling it Strong Vagina.  Taken.)  It’s because you still have people who believe that movie goers won’t watch a film unless it had “two white male leads”.  It’s because there are a lot of people around who think Don Draper is the man because he’s a true believer of “Two C’s in a K“.

It’s because it’s the second decade of the 21st Century, and a writer reduces women to a stereotype in their stories at their own risk.

As for me?  I just write what I know.  And I know women are amazing.

Just ask.  We’re more than willing to tell you.

But I Liked It

Oh, you miserable day.  Why does thou torment me so much?

Actually, it’s not this day; this day is just getting started, and who knows what it’s got lying in wait for me?  No, no:  I’m talking about yesterday.  Well, not just yesterday–last night.

My dreams.  You killed me with such strangeness.

Don’t ask me how I was back in college without actually taking any college courses, because that’s the way dreams work.  They aren’t suppose to always make sense, but here I was, hanging with friends, driving at breakneck speeds down a country road–like that have here in Indiana by the butt-loads–the windows rolled down, the radio cranked up, the wind whipping everywhere.

And like that–it all went to hell.

Somehow we drove up a huge ramp and launched out into empty space–as in, we were flying over everything.  Then the ground dropped away, and there was about a two hundred foot fall for us to enjoy in what seemed like very slow motion.  You know, you’re falling, but the fall is taking forever.  I even expected my life to flash before whatever was functioning as eyes, but apparently it’s too boring for even a quick death scroll.

Then, we hit bottom . . . and everything was fine.  Seriously.  It was as if we’d just suffered a minor fender bender; the car wasn’t even damaged that badly.  We just stumbled out of the car in shock and collapse wherever we though was a good spot.

That’s when it happened . . .

One of the passengers in this flying death machine was a pretty cute redhead, and as she grew near me, I reached out and gave her a kiss.  Not just a kiss, but one of those, “We survived death; lets make babies!” kiss.  I felt everything:  the touch, the warmth, the tenderness, the excitement . . . I don’t normally feel things in a dream, save for terror or sadness, but this was so nice, so wonderful–

Of course, that meant it also had to go to hell.

Once we all found our way back to whatever crazy ass campus where we stayed–which was so cool it had an indoor baseball field–and no sooner we were back in a library, one where we were the only people there, the girl I kissed came up to me, all pissed to hell and screaming, telling me that I didn’t mean it, that I’d only kissed her because–and here she waves a paper at me–it was all for an assignment!  Apparently there was something on the paper about finding life affirmations and stuff like that, but that’s not important:  the woman I’d kiss was totally burned with me ’cause, when I kissed her after surviving freakin’ death, I didn’t mean it!

Which mean I wasn’t getting any others.

The dream went into a tailspin quickly after that, mostly because I really did want another kiss.  It’s been a long time since I’ve kissed in real life, and the dream one was beautiful.  So to be told that I didn’t mean it, no chance you’re getting another one, loser, really burned me hard.  Not only that, but I lost my car in the snow–which popped up overnight during the summer–and then I couldn’t find my shoes . . .

Man, when things go to hell in my dreams, they go to hell.

Oh, I’ll edit today and put things behind me.  Forget the cute girl who said I didn’t mean my kiss when I totally did.  Forget I cheated death again.

I wonder what the hell I’m gonna get thrown at me tonight?

Write Like a Girl

This may come across as a bit of a rant–which it is, in its own way.  It’s Saturday morning, I’ve been cleaning junk off my computer for two hours, and coffee isn’t helping.  Not to mention, this idea has been bouncing about in my head since lunch time yesterday.

Time to let it out so it can smack down a few items along the way.

Yesterday I was reading a story, one that was intended to be erotica.  It didn’t start off bad; it was written so that it appeared to be an entry in a woman’s diary, and it opened in such a way that you wanted to know more–

That is, until I reached the point where the character described herself as having “B cup boobs”–and just like that, my suspension of disbelief collapsed faster than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Maybe I’m being too harsh.  Maybe the writer’s character like referring to her breasts as “boobs”.  Maybe she really does like her boss’ “nice D’s”.  Maybe she’s really focused on cup size when she thinks about breasts.

Or . . . maybe it’s a guy doing the writing, and he has no other way of getting across the idea that one woman has normal-sized breasts, and the other is slightly larger, and figured, “I’ll just have her write about their cup sizes, that’s gonna do the trick!”

I read a few more paragraphs after that, and stopped.  It wasn’t that the writing was bad, but the writer was doing a really crappy job telling the tale from his female character’s perspective.  She didn’t come across as a woman, but more like a guy with a bad idea of how a woman might talk about the sexy.

If you know me through this blog, you know I write a lot of female characters.  I’m not always perfect, but I feel I do a very good job creating characters that are three-dimensional, and fairly realistic.  I was even complemented by one writer, who said my characters were so good, she thought I was a woman.

I take a lot of pride in my characters, because I feel that stories need to be character driven, and if you have crappy characters, you’re going to have a crappy story.  In particular, I like my female characters to come across as intelligent and realistic–mostly because so many stories don’t do the same.  Even when I was writing fetish fiction, I tried to make the women in my stories real, as opposed to just objects for one to wank over.

I understand that finding a woman’s voice is not always easy.  I don’t always find it easy myself, and I’ve worked hard at it over the years.  It’s hard finding a voice for any characters, male or female, but female characters seem to get the short shrift most of the time.  It’s easy to go for the stereotype, to reduce her to some background noise that’s more of a notion of how a woman should act.  And way too many people go that way, because–hey, why not?  Writing is hard, didn’t you know that?

Writers are supposed to be observant; the Watchers of the Watchmen, so to speak.  When it comes to women, though, it seem like all a majority of writers–aka, men–see are B and Bs, and it ends up coming across in their stories.  And if your female character sees herself the same way, you’re not going to get any love from me–or any further reading of your stories.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh.  Perhaps I’m nitpicking over another writer’s style, and my feelings for his characters arise more out of a general dislike for his work.  Maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing–

Perhaps, though, I’m hitting the nail on the head, because he’s not the only one guilty of doing this.

Know your characters.  Because taking the easy way makes you a hack.  Who wants to be a hack?

Not this girl . . .