I Have to Bleed to Say This

I am not one to think about spoons. Though I do have anxiety and have had moments of depression, I am usually not debilitated by these things to the point of “suffering from” them. Not only do I not think about how many spoons I have, I also don’t think much about my happiness in general. I observe the world and try to make sense of it and try to make it better. I do not think about how to make myself happy or content, and actually just typing that makes me uncomfortable. No one cares about my internal *feelings* and my *feelings* aren’t going to make the world a better place. Feelings are only useful for guiding me in understanding what is out there. I am self-aware enough to know my outlook is sad and other people should not adopt it. But, here I am, being this way nonetheless.

I can discuss anything. I do not shy away from topics of religion or politics. I do not shy away from hard conversations with people about their own harmful behavior, nor do I shy away from (perhaps overly) sharing my own experiences to help connect with others so the conversation might be fruitful for us both. I will talk about *anything* in great depth for hours. I am almost always left exhilarated and looking forward to the next conversation I will have. In other words, conversations usually give me more spoons.

But there is one area of discussion that is my Achilles heel. I won’t scare you, or myself, by describing the just how badly the end result can be. Most who understand the metaphorical meaning of having and losing spoons already know. So, yes, there is this Achilles heel of a discussion that comes up now and again and yet I continue to participate in it. That may seem like I’m asking for trouble, but it’s not so simple. No one else is saying what needs to be said, so I have to say it, even if I have to bleed to do it.

The topic is statutory rape and the responsibility that society heaps onto young girls (though boys are also victimized, usually by other boys). There are certain circles where I can discuss this and not lose spoons. But I usually only discuss it on social media when there is a frenzy of accusation and condemnation for victims of statutory rape. One post about how a 13 year old girl “spread her legs” will always bring others to form a mob with axes and pitch forks to take the “slut” down. The vitriol will continue and escalate until someone accuses the child of preying on older men to intentionally and joyfully ruin men’s lives.

Despite the fact that I do not think I can convince the mob otherwise, I speak up. I point out that the girl, at age 13, is a child. I point out that adult men should, at bare minimum, know whether or not the girl they are having sex with is a child. I point out that one of the signs of childhood sexual abuse is promiscuity and early sexual activity and that young girls may seek out sex because they are suffering. Just because a child is trying to do something they shouldn’t does not mean adults can encourage and participate in it or to take advantage of the situation without consequences.

But it seems my attempts at reason, compassion, and human decency only fuel the hatred for the young girl. The attacks on her become more vulgar and outlandish, accusing her of dressing wrong, “putting it in front of him”, asking for it, lying to get it… all of this to the point you’d think this child was a sex monster devouring innocent men with her vagina. And again… no evidence pertaining to this girl was ever presented other than the mother of the boy claiming in a comment that the girl lied about her age. From that we get magical vagina monster.

People say, “Well, the guy did bad but she should have her butt whooped for what she did.” (Bad grammar used for authenticity.) Even when a 40 year old, previously convicted sexual predator used an app to convince a fourteen year old girl to run away from home, the facebook brigade were livid with the young girl. They were foaming at the mouth screaming for her punishment while the man was a side note barely mentioned. “She knew what she was doing. She chose to steal that car. She spread her legs willingly.”

What is it about girls spreading their legs? Seriously, this is an important clue to the heart of the problem. Because where it is absolutely expected that if a boy is presented with the possibility of sex, he will act; women are forbidden from even “making” men think about sex. The assumption is that boys and men *can not* help but act on their arousal. They are powerless to the leg spreading of women everywhere. This is such a commonly held belief that it gets spewed all across social media without a second thought. Even when I point out how incredibly insulting to *good* men this ideology is, no one wants to think of it that way. Our society gives a free pass to men to fuck whatever makes their penis hard. “Go ahead guys, we know you can’t help it”. But women and even very young girls better never, ever do anything that might have an effect on a penis because we’ll all know she was asking for it. And if she’s ever had sex before, it doesn’t matter if it was abuse or rape, she’s no angel and knows what she was getting into.

This disgusting, nauseating, spoon-stealing dialog is one of the biggest reasons why victims of abuse, assault, and rape do not come forward. This vilification of girls gets in the head of girls and women (as seen from the fact that most commenters vilifying girls are female) and makes them question their own responsibility in abusive situations. It also makes them question their self-worth once they are no longer “pure”. It is toxic to women, poisoning many in such a way that they perpetuate the sickness, pass it down like a moth-eaten heirloom that smells so bad of mildew that it won’t wash off once it touches you.

There is almost a fear of critical thinking on this issue, as if the most terrifying thing imaginable is that if people don’t condemn women’s sexual independence then sluts will rise up from the cradle and eat their husbands alive.

I am angry, as I cannot help but be after having such futile discussions. But I am also bleeding from wounds I can’t seem to heal. Being furious requires an immense amount of energy, but I’m like a speedboat going toward my target with the hull ripped open. I need to speak up for all girls everywhere. I need to add my voice to offset the damage. I need to speak up to support the girls and women silently reading and feeling shame that should not be theirs to feel. I need to keep speaking. I need to. I need to. But, I am nearly drowning now.

I have written a series of books about childhood sexual abuse and recovery. I have said in those books what I can not say in a facebook post, what I can not even say in a blog post. I have told a number of stories about how abuse can happen in different ways with different effects. I have written about a character who became promiscuous after her abuse. I wrote those books to help bring insight into what it is like psychologically to have to deal with the physical aspect of abuse while also the hurtful assumptions of our society holds for women. The pain and circumstances portrayed in Winter Seedlings were based on real life experiences of young girls (myself included), though the plot was not precisely the same. I have never said publicly that Winter Seedlings contained my own story, but it is true. And that was my final spoon. I can say no more about it.

I’m a fool who believes that the truth matters. Honesty and compassion will change the world. But now I am out of spoons and have to step out of the ring until I get more. I need someone to call me and talk about anything but this. Tell me you agree if you want, but then let’s talk about kittens and the universe. Help me get back to shore.

I hope this helps someone else. I hope that it is enough that *I* do not think you are a whore. *I* do not think you made him rape you. *I* know our system is more broken than you will ever be. Whatever power is in a single person’s understanding, take it from me and try to be good to yourself. ❤

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Happy Ending or Die in a Fire

Romance is a popular book genre. Romance novels follow a predictable pace toward a predictable happy ending. They are light reads which leave the reader feeling optimistic in the end. I have read many romance novels in my life and enjoy them when I do, so I get the draw. I understand why they are important. I understand why, now that e-readers make reading more private, many men are beginning to read them.

But my books are not romance novels. I love romance *a lot* and so I typically include lovers in my stories. I write about relationships, but not with the intention of leaving you on cloud nine in the end.

I’m taking some time to write this blog post now because I often see people complaining about books which do not have a “Happily Ever After”. I see people complaining about characters dying because they are targeted for their race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc as if the author is actually the murderer just for having written such a storyline.

And this brings me to a conclusion I feel I need to proclaim: I do not write books to make readers feel good. (Though you will sometimes)

Additionally: I do not write books *solely* so you can see yourself in the pages. (Though you will sometimes). I aim, mostly, to make the reader see how not to be the villain.

When I set out to write Winter Seedlings, Jute and Allie were meant to move off to Illinois and open a little bookstore on the corner of some downtown street. That’s what I wanted to happen. Two girls in love finding a happily ever after. But Winter Seedlings was never a F/F romance novel. From the very beginning, Winter Seedlings was about childhood sexual abuse and how challenging it is to define love because of it. Jute withdrew herself entirely from intimacy while Allie did the opposite; she believed her only value was in how well she pleased others sexually. I wanted to explore what would happen when those opposite forces collided together. In the end, Winter Seedlings was meant to give those who have never experienced the trauma of abuse a glimpse into the psychological effects it sometimes causes.

I wrote Winter Seedlings for people who did NOT already know what it’s like to be abused.

And maybe I’m wrong for having approached it that way. Maybe I should have created it in a way that was light and fluffy and left everyone feeling warm inside.

But honestly, I was pretty upset about the issue. I didn’t want people to read it and walk away feeling like they hadn’t a care in the world. I wanted them to walk away feeling very, very thoughtful. I wanted them to care about what happened to those characters in a way that would stay with them in the real world where they could make a difference in real lives.

The same was true for Silencer. I tackled a lot of tough issues in that novella. Race, police brutality, mental illness, grief. Silencer is the kind of book that is meant to get inside you and twist you up, make you feel what you don’t want to feel so you’ll walk away with a lot more empathy when it’s over. It’s not written to make you feel good. And it’s absolutely not written because *I* as an author want bad things to happen to minorities or the mentally ill.

Not everyone can read books like I write them. Not everyone wants to dig so deep and work so hard emotionally. I don’t blame them. If you’ve lived your life with a certain pain, the thoughts of rehashing it through fiction can seem like torture. I do make an effort to avoid minimizing the bad things that happen in my books as if those bad things are easy to get over, and I make an effort to write from the victim’s POV and not the abuser’s. I avoid sensationalizing trauma for those who feed off hurting people. But I know my efforts can still, at times, not be enough. I respect anyone who says to me “I couldn’t read your book because it was too triggering”.

I have pulled my books out of LGBT fiction categories because most booksellers market that category like romance. Initially, I don’t think I had a clear understanding of where my books fit in. I still don’t. But, I have gained a better understanding of *why* readers read certain genres, and that has helped me know where my books do *not* belong. If a bookseller has a Psychological Fiction category, that’s usually a safe place for me to set up residence.

So, what have you learned from reading this? Hopefully, you don’t read it and think I object to your reading preferences, or your need for a HEA (happily ever after). I think you should be able to reliably find the books you are seeking and shouldn’t have to read books that upset you.

BUT, I also think that you shouldn’t complain about the existence of books which do not have a HEA. Complain if the author categorizes such books as romance, yes. Complain if the trauma is sensationalist and the storyline lacks empathy, but don’t complain just because someone dared to write a tragedy.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually been knocked for one of my books ending in a way that was “too tidy”. I don’t know what readers want from me. 😉

If you are an author, cherish every reader who “gets you”. Because there will always be plenty of others who would only use your book as a doorstop, or perhaps as a projectile aimed for your head.

My final thought: Let’s all try to see the best in each other.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

Click the books, buy the books, read the books, review the books. Thanks!

Three Day Quote Challenge: Day One

I was nominated for the Three Day Quote Challenge by A Willful Woman. I don’t often get nominated for such things, and I really appreciate this one. I need a nudge to update my blog and get back into the habit of posting more often. I hope the bloggers I nominate will find this challenge equally helpful.

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quote on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

Quote number 1 comes from my book Winter Suns. It’s from a scene near the end where Jute is reflecting on her relationship with Allie (a relationship that evolves in Winter Seedlings). I really like this scene because I agree with Jute about fate and how true love is built and doesn’t just fall from the sky.

“I loved her more than I will ever love anyone. But all of that is true because of the choices she and I made along the way, how we chose to treat each other and see the world around us. So many little things built up what we eventually shared, like twigs in a nest. I hate to say this because hindsight makes it feel like blasphemy, but there is a chance I could have loved someone else just as much as I had loved her.”

(Now for the most difficult part: deciding whom to nominate. I have two more days to go, so if anyone is interested in being nominated next, please let me know.)

Today I’m nominating:

S.D. Duncan – He has interesting things to say and I’d like to nudge him into writing a new blog post.

Two Paise Poems – I’d love to see which quotes have inspired the writing of poetry.

Joshua Lavender – His blog is full of great poems, songs, and lyrics.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

Published – Year One

My debut novel, Winter Seedlings, went live on Amazon one year ago today. Today is my 1st Author Birthday!

I look back at the past year and I am overwhelmed with what looks like amazing accomplishments. I published two novels and two novellas (one as only e-book format).

The amount of hours spent on getting those books to publication well exceeds what I would have worked at a “regular” job, not to mention that I invested my own money at every turn. Did I make enough money to warrant all that? Hell no.

Want to be an indie author? You better have another source of income.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives. It’s a celebration! My title of Author is now officially one year old! Winter Seedlings is also one year old! (And if you haven’t read it yet, you can get it at a discounted price until Friday because it’s a celebration!)

I reflect back on how far I have come (or not), and think it might be useful to make a list of what I have learned and the changes which have occurred. I’m curious to see how this list grows and changes next year.

  1. I no longer believe that writing a good book will = having a lot of sales.
  2. Diversity in books is a great movement, but not necessarily a financially profitable one for authors (<— not saying it isn’t worth it for other reasons.)
  3. Stories set in Appalachia very much appeal to readers in Appalachia, not so much everywhere else.
  4. It’s important to have a high quality book cover that reflects the tone of the story, but you’ll be lucky to earn back the money you spent to pay for it.
  5. Being honest and vulnerable when telling a story may mean the story becomes something other than mainstream. Do it anyway. Accessing painful truths is what takes one’s writing from tinkering to art.
  6. Straight people can read and enjoy, with empathy, stories about LGBTQIA characters. Even in Appalachia.
  7. When someone takes the time to tell you they loved your words, whether on a blog post, a poem, or a published work; value them endlessly. Don’t be creepy; but seriously, do not take them for granted.
  8. Know why you write. Type your reason. Print it out. Tape it to the wall so you see it every single day. Without keeping focus on *your* reason, you risk being swept up in other people’s reasons. You’ll start to compare yourself with Stephen King when you don’t even like horror. Stop.
  9. Edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, seriously edit. Edit in every single room of the house, on every different device you own, even hang upside down to try to see it differently and then edit the damn thing one more time.
  10. This journey is not about what you get out of it. This journey is about what you give the world. If it’s not saying something new, pushing a little harder than is usually pushed, or offering a better understanding of something often misunderstood… why do it at all?

And with that, I’m going to end this blog post and get back to writing my *next* novel. Look for it in early 2016. Until then, consider buying my other books:

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

Now Available: Hold This Close: A Winter Seedlings Prequel

Hold This Close: A Winter Seedlings Prequel is now available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and soon OpenBooks. The storyline spans a 12 hour period in 1989 and follows Allie as she struggles to come to terms with her past abuse and what lies ahead for her. The novella is 24,000 words but has the first four chapters of Winter Seedlings tacked onto the end which makes it 34,000 words total. The book opens with this poem which I wrote over a decade ago. It fit well with Allie’s story:

Suffuse

Some bled to the next
On to the one over
And again.
Pieces parted
Then the patchwork.
Black line art
Against vibrant reds.
I stared at it for a dream hour.
You were there with me
In a silent corner
Fingering the dust on the window.
“I like it,” I said.
“Finally,” you said.
But I didn’t tell you about the past
Coming among us now.
I wait for you to look away
Then turn
Something in my hand
Pulls.
And I separate from the reflection.
I’m leaving this all
To you.

Hold This Close Cover

Cover Reveal: Hold This Close

I have written a novella as a prequel to Winter Seedlings. The purpose of this novella is to give Allie’s point of view and to provide a free (or near-free) introduction to the series. In Winter Seedlings, Jute has a lot of thoughts about why Allie behaves the way she does. Jute also makes clear how she feels about Allie.

But, how accurate are Jute’s assumptions? And how does Allie feel about Jute?

The prequel novella is titled Hold This Close and is approximately 24,000 words. It takes place in Maryville, Tennessee in May 1989. Winter Seedlings will pick up in January 1990.

Some of Allie’s story is revealed in Winter Seedlings. Revelations of what happened to her play an important part of the story, so I wanted to be careful not to spoil those moments. This is why, in Hold This Close, I focus less on the actual events and more on the psychological aftermath. She is trying to figure out how she fits in with her peers when none of them have gone through what she has.

There are two important aspects to Allie’s story. There is the world she moves through and the world that moves within her. In her mind, those two worlds cannot coexist, so she neglects one of them to focus on feeling at peace in the other.

Hold This Close will be out by the first of July. I will announce the date as soon as I know it. For now, I’ll share with you the cover reveal.

This amazing photograph was taken by Nunzia Passaro. Click here to see her work and other photos from this set.

Cover Design by Mr. Brown

Hold This Close Cover

I’m Writing a Prequel to Winter Seedlings

I am writing, right now (relatively speaking), a prequel to my Winter Seedlings book series.

The main reason I am doing this is because I want to offer a permanently free novella (e-book only) to introduce the Winter Seedlings characters and get new readers familiar with my writing.

My second reason for writing a prequel is to give Allie her own voice. If you are familiar with Winter Seedlings, you know Allie is the best friend and love interest of my main character. She makes a lot of mistakes and they are not little mistakes. Allie makes huge, irreversible mistakes. But most readers have pointed out that even though these things happen, they understand why Allie does what she does. So, I don’t know that Allie *needs* her own book.

But then, yes, she does. In Winter Seedlings, Jute tells the reader what Allie is like. The reader witnesses Allie doing exactly what Jute predicts she will do. But does Jute know all there is to know about Allie? No, she doesn’t.

So, my readers are pretty excited to read from Allie’s POV and I am excited to write it. Actually, I already have. In a single week I cranked out over 20,000 words (it’s a novella, remember). I have only the finishing touches to filling in some scenes and a ton of editing before it’s ready to publish.

The tricky thing, though, which I realize as I edit, is how to satisfy my readers who are wanting “more Winter Seedlings” and avoid spoilers for new readers. Much of what is revealed about Allie in Winter Seedlings happens over time in the book and it wouldn’t be the same if the reader is already aware of the specifics of her life. But those specifics exist and I can’t pretend they don’t.

Jute thinks Allie is desperate for men’s approval. We see Allie play out this role again and again. But maybe there is a twist which will not negate Jute’s POV. Maybe Jute is right about what Allie wants, but wrong about her reasons for wanting it.

Keeping this balance is a real challenge. But I love challenges and I love these characters. So, look for this novella to be out before the end of summer. If you want to know more about Jute and Allie before then, you can always read Winter Seedlings in the meantime.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe