This is hard for me to write. I’m sick, but I don’t look sick. Most of my symptoms are cognitive. Failures of concentration, recall, and communication. On good days, I can force out a few emails. Navigate simple conversations. read a bit. On bad days, my hands shake too much to type or control a mouse. My attention span isn’t long enough to bridge a commercial break. I lose time. I can barely sleep, but when I do, it’s restlessly. Yet, I can’t always wake up without help.
Then there’s all the weird sensory shit. I try to keep myself covered up most of the time because I can’t stand the movement of air across my skin. Every touch – even the absence of touch – is a torment of signal noise. Numbness, tingles, chills, the tickling of imaginary hairs. I can’t trust that what I feel is real.
Because I have PTSD. Apparently.
This diagnosis is new, but it probably isn’t news to anyone who knows me well. Given my history… Well. I’ll just say that life has been too interesting for my own good.
When the workload at my dayjob began to snowball, I asked for help dealing with it. I was told there would be no help for me. I worked so much that I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. I asked for help and accommodation, and was told that, instead of lightening my load, I was expected to take on more. Work during my commutes. Take work home. Type more, not less.
It seemed like I had to choose between protecting my health and keeping my job. I felt trapped. Something had to give, and unfortunately, my mind said, “I QUIT!”
Medical leave started Monday. I have three months to recover from this breakdown. I don’t know if that’s long enough, but I have good meds, a good therapist, and good friends to help me.
Meanwhile, it took me four hours to write this short post. If you comment or email and don’t hear back from me soon, please don’t feel slighted. My mind moves in slow motion, right now. I can’t even keep up with the outpouring of support.
One of my favorite writers tagged me to post something for this blog-hop. I had to steal many moments to make it so, but I’ll do a lot of things for writers who can turn me on and scare the pants off me in the same short story.
Now, the Q&A.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
2.Where did the idea come from for the book?
Originally, the idea was to write a murder mystery in which a bestselling cookbook author leaves his fortune to his small town’s least favorite pariah. However, as I developed the idea, I realized that I didn’t care for anything about the book except the main character and the setting. I have an unhappy time writing stuff I don’t love, so I kept tearing it down and rebuilding from different foundations and with different scraps from my personal graveyard of stories. Now I have something much more fun.
3.What genre does your book fall under?
It’s an adventure, but this novel shelves under what I call “Unadorned Literature.” It’s mainstream fiction within a contemporary setting; no magic, no starships or dystopias, no serial killers or zombies, no gunslingers, no gumshoes, and no ripped bodices.
4.What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Argh! I have a terrible time answering this sort of question because I barely watch any TV or movies. Neither of the main characters are 20-something blonde misses, so… How about Elena Campbell-Martinez to play the posh, bisexual chef and Elizabeth Peña the dauntless, arts-and-scientist?
5.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When two minor celebrities take their internet shows on tour, they clash with rivals, confront IRL trolls, and find they’ve both been keeping secrets.
6.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll query agents and publishers first – traditional and idie – but if it never sells that way, I’ll either self-publish it or cannibalize it for future fiction.
7.How long did/will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Now that I have the plot outlined, the scenes sketched, and the characters fleshed, I’ve given myself until my next birthday to finish the zero draft. That’s about 100 days, which is longer than I’d like, but I’m so busy with my pays-the-bills work that I can’t finish any sooner unless I eschew sleep. With my beta readers’ feedback, my goal is to polish it and have it ready for submission by New Year’s Day, 2014. They’re busy people, too.
8.What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I want to, but I can’t directly compare this book to any other I’ve read. It’s certainly influenced by the ‘American Road Trip’ subgenre as a whole, including On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, among others. But while Gathering Meanders is an adult book as compared to most contemporary road trip titles, which seem to be written for a YA audience, it’s probably lighter-yet-soberer fare than the classics that paved the way for fiction in this vein.
Of course, books aren’t the only media influences for this book. There’s a little Thelma and Louise in Gathering Meanders, too.
9.Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The same things that usually inspire me to write anything: I hate boredom, and I love writing.
10.What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Gathering Meanders is a story of two grown women having the time of their lives, with all the intense turns and slapstick detours that entails.
Tag other writers…
Sabrina tagged me and Shay Darrach for this blog hop at the same time, which I think is perfect because they both write complicated fiction that stirs me and holds me in that unsettled state for days.
Part of the fun of this project, though, is tagging writers we enjoy who haven’t already posted something for the Next Big Thing blog hop. I have an abundance of enjoyable writers in my life, but this wealth can make it a little difficult to choose only two. So I chose four.
I’ve worked with scores of writers to edit their short fiction for publication. It’s challenging, but usually fun. Recently, I had the extreme good fortune to edit novellas with four playful, canny writers who made my job delightful. I will happily work and play with them again in future, but for now, I recommend to you the authors of Winter Well.
Kelly Jennings, a friend and a wit, has also joined the Next Big Thing blog hop. In the not very distant past, she edited Menial with Shay Darrach and wrote Broken Slate. Kelly also has a story in The Other Half of the Sky.
Anthony Cardno, a rising writer and indie music lover, joined the blog hop on Thursday, May 23rd.
Day Al-Mohamed, history buff and charmer, posted on June 1st.
Lately, I’ve been writing for myself. Bending to the need.
These prosy little trespassers from my brain may remind some readers of the Sandy!Plex, and my pirate life. Appropriately, because this writing is perpetrated during moments brazenly embezzled from passionless hours.
Never mind backstory: May these dribs impel us, friends. To write!
Plastic bags hissing fury from their tree-finger snares.
The scrape of fresh winter salt under worn shoe heels.
Children trudge gleefully, as if snowboots were soled with sandpaper and the sidewalk was an unfinished prop from a silver screen western.
Woodsmoke smells aggressively cozy.
Boring and frustrating; yesterday was as weak as those adjectives.
Mirth, art, and a salad wrought by a beauty with violent potential.
I dislike Thanksgiving for a number of reasons – some principled and some personal – but for the people I love in spite of tradition, I usually abstain from speaking my mind during the holiday. Most holidays, in fact, but especially Thanksgiving. Novelly, I’m breaking my ‘tradition of buttoning it’, this year.
My opinion is that gratitude shouldn’t be ritualized. It’s absurd that, in a culture as obsessed as ours is with acquisition and ownership, we devote only one day a year to grace. And never mind that we dilute our One Thanks Day with a Black Friday chaser. Well, I say it’s absurd, but it makes sense given how we feel about stuff. I emphasize those words because they are unimportant.
There’s no point in my haranguing around the internet about this – whose behavior but mine can I affect, after all? Instead, I will buy into the New Year’s Resolution-esque tradition of broadcasting what I’m thankful for. It’s a bit, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ I suppose, but not without twisting the ritual knife.
This year – as every year – I am thankful for what I don’t have. I’m lucky, now, to have few cruel people or ongoing catastrophes in my everyday life. Not all my friends can say the same, and I am especially grateful to them for putting up with my curmudgeonliness in the face of good fortune.
Now, in the spirit of good-natured subversion, please enjoy ViHart’s delicious One Thanks Day math videos.
Tomorrow is Monday all over again, but I can hardly wait. Tomorrow is INK day!
This book climbed right inside my heart and held it tight until the end. This book kept me awake nights back when it was just an early draft, even before I knew we’d get to publish it. Readers, rest up. INK releases tomorrow.
“In Ink, Vourvoulias masterfully weaves an increasingly complex parallel universe at once fantastical and eerily familiar: a not-so-farfetched future world where myth and legend cohabit with population control schemes, media cover-ups, and subcutaneous GPS trackers. She takes us on a whirlwind, goose-bump-inducing exploration of the dualities of life and death, the light and darkness of the human spirit, the indelibility of ink as both marker and recorder of our lives and the shape-shifting, vile nature of colonialism and bigotry. By the time you reach the novel’s bittersweet ending, you will know: this story is as immortal as the souls of the nahuales of our ancestors’ lore, and perhaps just as powerful.” – Elianne Ramos, vice-chair of Latinos in Social Media (LATISM)
“A chilling tale of American apartheid, and the power of love, myth and community.” - Reforma
“Readers who allow themselves to be drawn into the fantasy will find Sabrina Vourvoulias’ story both depressing and constantly arresting, enjoying several surprises along the route. In the end comes an inkling of hopefulness for disbanding the tea bagger hold on liberty, but that’s not certain. Vourvoulias won’t let you off that easy.” - La Bloga
“[Ink] is a politically- and socially-charged book, and overall a pretty good read.” - Escape Pod
“[Ink] ranges over time, space and magic in a story by turns horrifying, heart-breaking, beautiful, hopeful, frustrating and terribly believable. Vourvoilias’s writing is effortless and effective, uncannily capturing the voices of her disparate protagonists and narrators; not uniformly sympathetic, certainly not always nice, but lucid, convincing and consistent.” – The Future Fire
“Readers will be moved by this call for justice in the future and the present.” - Publisher’s Weekly
I tore my shirt sleeve this morning, but I was already at work so I couldn’t just change. Because my cubicle is a veritable ice box, I’d already been planning to bundle up with the black jacket that I keep on the back of my cubicle chair, but still. I started my workday annoyed.
But it could have been worse. A long-awaited check arrived and made me look good to my boss, there was a birthday party with cake, and I made progress on a handful of projects in spite of being distracted by a worrying message I received. (Without apology: It’s someone else’s personal business, so I won’t detail it here.)
During my commute, I’m always torn between reading stories and sleeping. Most days, seating is the deciding factor: If I get a seat, I sleep. If not, I read. Today was split: Sleep in the morning, reading in the afternoon.
Speaking of sleep, I need to do more of that. I’m going to try to go to bed early tonight. Meanwhile, I’ve a guest blog to polish, the bones of a short story to flesh, aaand probably some other stuff. I expect it’ll come to me just as I’m nodding off…
Once upon a time, I used to blog regularly.
That’s not right…
I blog all the time.
That’s what if feels like, anyway, but this is truer:
As the end of calendar month approaches, I marathon blog. Six or seven posts in six or seven days. Reading, editing, and writing fiction happens during weekday commutes, for the most part. Sundays are for saxophone and Spanish study, plus writing groups (plural), and housework. IRL socialization, if there’s time. Dayjobbery happens during the average hours of the average days.
Saturdays are for love. <3
Maybe this month I’ll start marathon blogging a week early… Then I can keep all my Saturdays free for adventures with my family. If the weather is warm enough, apple picking and/or ice cream may be involved.
I spent the first half of my life covering my head (sometimes literally) and waiting for cruelty to wind back down to ambient disdain. Now that nobody’s routinely putting gun barrels in my face because I refuse to use racial epithets, or because I won’t confine myself to ‘women’s work,’ I am finally free to speak.
That sometimes bothers people, and I assume it’s because I don’t have only nice, pleasant things to say. I’ve incurred disapproval for being playful or snarky or downright angry in my speech. “Kay, why are you so disagreeable?” “Why can’t you be normal?”
Just like everybody, I pretend a lot of things. But normal isn’t one of them. I have the capacity, but it sickens me. Bigotry is normal. It should be unacceptable, but it’s normal. Racism is the status quo, but it’s embarrassing at best, and devastating to civilization at the scale of the mainstream. Misogyny is so pervasive, so normal, that women – WOMEN! – treat the word ‘feminism’ like profanity. They cringe from the very idea that we should have equal status with men. They won’t even accept that nobody’s choices should ever matter more than ours when it comes to our own bodies. That’s normal. Agreeable gets what normal promises.
And it’s awful. I will never go back. Not even if wing-nuts start shooting at me again. I lost count of how often my life was accidentally spared by a lousy shot, you know? What’s a few more rounds between the mutually disagreeable? The difference is that I fire only words. If you make me choose, I’ll take the First Amendment over the Second, every day of my life.
Because even when I disagree with you vehemently, even when I RAISE MY VOICE!! I would still rather listen to your bullshit than put a bullet in you. That’s the difference between the Liberal I am and the Conservative I was raised to be.
Which is good news for everybody involved because I am a dead shot.
Work, work, work. I love working. Free time is good, too, because I have a lot of projects to labor on at home, but I find industrious leisure even more satisfying when it’s married to steady, paid employment. And if a job is less than dreamy? Well. At least it’s fodder for my fiction.
Or, it was, anyway.
I was laid off from my old job two months and two days ago. As soon as the shock wore off – and it was indeed shocking to have survived the Great Recession with my job intact only to have that meager security yoinked from our grasp the minute it looked like we might emerge from economic meltdown relatively unscathed – I dusted off my resume and started applying to new job listings.
A week and a half later, I was called to interview for the second position to which I had applied. Once there, the second person who interviewed me said they were “appalled” I had applied for the job. I managed not to burst into tears, even though I was being paid the job-hunter’s most terrifying compliment: They thought I was overqualified.
Still, the three people who interviewed me were otherwise very kind and seemed genuinely impressed with my skills. I left with the impression that if they didn’t pick me for the job I’d applied for, maybe I had a shot the next time they posted a job listing in my area of expertise: Paper-pushing (for science).
While I waited for their decision, I applied to many… many more jobs. In desperation, I signed on with a few staffing firms. During my last job search, headhunters had done the opposite of helping – one even insulted me, the jerk – but what the hell. I needed work ASAP. Without a dayjob, I was scrubbing and organizing our apartment to the brink of obsession, and counterproductively disrupting the remains of my family’s routines in the process.
Two weeks later, I got the bad news: Rejection… With an asterisk. They asked me to come back in another two weeks to interview for a different job. A better one.
(!@#%?! That never happens!!)
I managed not to burst into cheers.
And I kept applying to new job listings. Because I am exactly as hopeful as experience and realism allow; those who know me understand that I grew up without an allowance. So to speak. Even at my optimistic best, I wouldn’t say I was confident they’d hire me. But at least I had another interview to look forward to. In a pinch, patience is a worthy substitute for hope.
The interview came and went, and tension earned a merit badge for tying my major muscle groups in knots. I started climbing the walls. Literally: I took up indoor rock climbing as a hobby. It was either that, or parkour, and I’m about as much an ‘urban ninja’ as I am an optimist.
Meanwhile, our favorite ‘extracurricular’ activity was slowly dying. Crossed Genres Publications. Our family business – and all the exquisite science and magic that comes with publishing fine fiction – was doomed. Even before I was laid off, we’d talked about holding another Kickstarter fund-drive to keep our poor beast alive. Just one more year. Then maybe it’d survive on its own and finally stop draining our resources. And then I lost my job and we had no resources left to drain.
I may not be hopeful by nature, but I am stubborn. And in good company. Our ship was sinking, but were we rats or were we pirates? When the time came, we didn’t shout, “ARR!” Instead, we raised our colors and cried, “Are you with us?!”
With CG-Peoples’ overwhelming support, our Kickstarter passed $4,000 in less than 24 hours. Then $1,500 more to raise our beloved magazine from the grave! And still the economic display of affection goes on. Who knows what literary shenanigans we’ll get up to if people continue to put their money where our business is? Hell, if the Kickstarter brings in enough money, we might even be able to pay our writers and artists pro-rates. (I won’t get my hopes up, but we do have a plan for that, just in case.)
But wait, there’s more.
I got hired.
It’s a better job than the one I lost. The pay and benefits are a little better. The office-culture is far-and-away-better. The work itself if more interesting, too. Yes, it’s paper-pushing, but it’s for science.
Between my new job and Crossed Genres’ new lease on life… Well, to stretch the metaphor: We may be treading water, but at least our boat’s still rocking. That’s better than we could say before I was laid off.
In all seriousness, thank you, friends. You kept our spirits high and dry the past couple of foul-weather months, and you boosted our signal farther and wider than we dared hope. We wouldn’t be afloat without you, and we know it.