Wilderness Years

I like to joke that my mental health was better before I was a writer.

Laughing is one way to deal with hard truths, right?

Though, to be frank, I’d probably be this tightly wound no matter what I was doing. Writing and submitting and querying has just provided me with a laser-point focus for it. If I had a different hobby I’m sure it would shoulder the brunt of the blame just as writing does.

I also like to say that I’m the most prolific writer you’ve never read. A part of me wants to claim an affinity with Kilgore Trout but I’m pretty sure those dudes I know with their stories in Playboy have more a right to that honor than I do. I like those people, but I’m also going to say they’re *s for taking that from me.

It’s a struggle to keep plugging away when success seems perpetually out of reach. That’s the problem with being friends with so many writers. All around me people are getting book deals and accolades and interviews while I spend 4AM to 7AM every morning, doing this thing the best I know how.

I have the files to prove it, too. It’d take two hands to count the full-length novels I’ve written. Probably a bucket of hands (if you can’t make your own at home, store bought is fine) to tally up my short stories. Multiple movie scripts. A ten-minute beat poem (no, seriously, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Other poems.

I like to joke that I’ve got all the hustle and none of the talent.

It’s at times disheartening, knowing you can churn out the words but also knowing they lack the quality for them to mean much of anything.

Sometimes I lean into the hill I’m climbing, sure if I just work hard enough, I’ll top it. That it’ll build my endurance for the next hill.

Sometimes I sit on my ass, stare down how little I’ve climbed and debate just packing it in and declaring that hills can go fuck themselves.

I never mean it. I don’t quit things. But not everything is sunshine and beard daisies and sleeping puppies. Plus, I know I’d feel worse if I quit, so eventually I get back up, dust my ass off, and start climbing again.

Anybody fighting to create something the world wants understands this dance. It is the best of endeavors, it is the worst of endeavors.

Let’s change directions a bit.

Recently, I listened to Eddie Izzard’s book Believe Me. Read by Eddie Izzard. That last fact is important. I have no idea how long Believe Me is in text but I’d wager it’s nearly twice as long as an audio book. I mean, he googled stuff during the recording and every glorious minute of it is in there.

At first, I wasn’t entirely on-board. It was entertaining, sure, but rambley, as you would expect from Izzard. It was fine but just not as engaging as I was looking for in an audio book.

Then he got to talking about his early performing years and managed to say every single thing I needed to hear at that exact moment.

Izzard uses the term “Wilderness Years,” coined to describe the years Winston Churchill spent without a government position, to talk about his own early struggles. He writes about the attempts, the failures, all the bad he sludged through before he found what he was good at.

How those years taught him how to deal with a crowd. How they showed him his strengths, taught him what he did and didn’t want to do. How he hustled tirelessly, taking his blows and pushing on regardless.

How ten years of struggling taught him perseverance, and showed him who he was.

And that it’s okay if you’re struggling. It’s okay if it’s not working, so long as you’re still pushing. That success taking time doesn’t mean you’re a failure, that you suck and should quit. You’re just in your own wilderness years. Learning. Growing. Finding who you are and mastering it.

It was what I needed to hear. It was the sign I was looking for to keep me leaning into that hill and fighting my way up. I don’t care if it sounds superficial or cliche, it was help when I needed it.

I am still learning. That was honestly the hardest thing for me to process in my writing, that you don’t come out farting glitter and shitting gold from the get-go. Sure, some people do, but those people are unicorns, rare and ethereal, and most of us are not. There are things I do well, and many more that I don’t yet. Internalizing that I can learn, that I can get better, has helped me drastically.

Now the mental language isn’t that I’m bad at what I’m doing but that I’m not as good as I will be if I keep working at it. Every critique, rejected story, every blow to my ego shows me where I can improve.

Every time I get on stage with a mic and people don’t laugh, well, I learned something about those jokes, didn’t I?

Izzard’s book helped me understand that I’m not wasting my time. I’m forming the base I’ll eventually stand on. I’m learning how to make the parts of me as good as they can be.

I’m learning to keep my eyes on the top of that hill and push until I get there.

I’ve got the drive, and the staying power.

These are my wilderness years. They are not a stumbling block, but a building block. I am going to enjoy them, and wring every lesson I can from them before I cast them behind me, withered and fully used up.

Perceived Familiarity and Conventions

Convention behavior has been a hot topic as of late and admittedly, I’m not a person with my finger as on-the-pulse as some. I’ve been mostly fortunate, and that is in no way a statement on the things that happen, usually to women. I believe that people are targeted, harassed, and assaulted at conventions. I also have been told that I look like I’m going to murder people most of the time, and I believe that’s helped me dodge some of the most egregious behaviors.

Not that it’s been a smooth road, and how shitty is that? I can look at my upsetting experiences and interactions and understand that they’re not a fraction of what some women have dealt with, that I’ve been fortunate. The goal should be no women going through any of this, not making sure women go through as little as I have experienced.

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A Cure For The Melanjollies

Christmas is a fraught time for me. I tend to say I don’t like it. I commonly find myself anxious and sad all through December, despite all my decorating, despite putting up multiple trees, despite enjoying the lights and songs and smells and excitement.

I’ve dubbed the condition of both enjoying the holidays and being made sad by them the melanjollies, a nice little portmanteau of melancholy and being jolly.

Can’t enjoy Christmas because you’re stressed about family? You might be melanjolly!

Terrified of the credit card bill once you’re done buying gifts for everyone and their cousins? You’re probably melanjolly, too!

So why do I get the melanjollies every year? Easy. I don’t like being told I need to buy things. I think it’s a season out of hand, and people have lost their god damn minds over it. It’s rabid consumerism and that rubs me all the wrong ways, not to mention stressing over the money outlay and making sure I remembered everyone under the sun. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure each gift is thoughtful and useful and something they’ll like.

My cure for the melanjollies used to be tying one on every Christmas eve—drinking a lot of whiskey, trying to get other people to drink with me, and doing things like falling up the stairs. Yeah, you read that right. I fell up the stairs. But now I can’t drink, and where does that leave me? Why, stewing in my own emotions, of course. One big ol’ pot of Gov’s Christmas Depression.

Fun.

This year, when I was griping I didn’t like Christmas, my husband called bullshit on me and he wasn’t wrong. There’s so much I do actually enjoy about the holiday. I like the lights. I love the trees, the foods, family. I love the anticipation leading up to Christmas day, and the excitement it holds. Most of all, I love that everybody stops, even if just for the day. Stands still. Feels joy and love together. There is truly is so much to enjoy about this holiday.

And looking back on ours this year, it was really nice. Simple and low-stress, exactly what I wanted.

So what gave?

This year, our goal was to limit the gifts and the spending. My siblings and I asked the families involved if we could not exchange gifts (save for the kid.) My husband and I got each other one thing. For my son, I painted him a picture, and his dad got him one gift.

It was amazing how much that lowered my stress instantly. Without having to buy dozens of presents, without feeling obligated to spend a ton of money, I felt more able to just sit back and enjoy all the things that make the season great. We didn’t go to the malls, we didn’t hit the stores, didn’t order boxes full of stuff from Amazon.

We watched movies together. Listened to to the kid butcher Christmas songs with reckless abandon. Drank tea and read books by the fire.

It really was everything I wanted for Christmas.

I’m hoping that we can continue this tradition going forward, remember that keeping things small is key to getting the most out of the holidays.

And if not, well, maybe one day I’ll be able to drink again.

The Problem of the Goddamn Barbara

When I started querying agents about two years ago, I made a huge mistake. In my excitement, I thought I’d want to be notified immediately if I received an answer because of course, agents would be falling over themselves to acquire my novels and shove stacks of money at me, right?

Right?!

(Dear Reader, I am still querying, fwiw)

But in my optimism and excitement, I did one thing terribly, terribly wrong—I changed the alert tone for my querying email address to one distinct from every other sound my phone makes. Something beautiful called “Salacia” to the rest of google’s “Default Notification Sound.”

Because I like giving myself heart attacks. I like jumping for my phone to see if I got another rejection, the truth of that ending still not enough to damp down the little itty bitty tiny hope that blossoms and dies with every zen-like chiming of Salacia.

You know what the real problem is, however? You don’t, so imma tell you. The real problem is one that has become known as The Goddamn Barbara.

Now a really smart person would have an email dedicated entirely to their writing endeavors. Me, though? Absolutely not. I also use that address for business emails, health insurance updates, and the true source of all my misery—my son’s school communications.

Yes, love, I hear that dreaded Salacia in my sleep now. Literally, if I leave the sound on my phone up. With every chime my heart races, my palms sweat, and I stop everything to grab my phone and see…

Was it one of the agents

Is it a rejection

A short story response

A FULL MS REQUEST?

Never. It’s almost never that. So what is it?

Ninety percent of the time, it’s the school. It’s picture day reminders and weekly newsletters and monthly newsletters and spelling words and updates and just saying hi emails.

Every damn day.

And for a time, ninety percent of that ninety percent came from one culprit. Barbara. Salacia would chime and I’d dive for my phone to see query responses but no, it’s not from any agent, it’s the goddamn Barbara reminding me that they’re selling hot chocolate before school tomorrow and it’s pizza day and it’s crazy sock day and did I remember the forms?!

Barbara isn’t even with the school anymore I don’t think but her name lives on in my realm and has become one of those things that has taken on a life of its own.

Salacia

Query Answer?

No! Health Insurance Payment Confirmation!

“It’s the goddamn Barbara!”

Salacia

IS IT ABOUT MY BOOK?

No! It’s the phone bill!

shakes fist at the punishing sky “I’ll get you, goddamn Barbara!”

And, dear friend, do you know the worst of it? Barbara is a grade-A human. She was wonderful and kind and a joy to see at the school every time.

But I swear, if I get one more email…

What about you? Who is your Goddamn Barbara?

GDBatman.jpg

Men Make Me Talk To Them, AKA: Pretend I'm A Cheetah In Your Car

I have a problem. Not that one. No, not that one either.

Okay Jesus stop guessing, just submit a list of my problems via email, dammit. Last time I take you into my confidence.

No, I have a different sort of problem. Picture this:

Me, walking back to my work vehicle at a rest area along the freeway.

Also me, seeing a man whose path I will intersect on the sidewalk.

Also also me, moving more out of the way and looking everywhere else. Fucking anywhere else. I looked into the distance at the temporarily green hills. I gazed upon the barren rice fields. I watched the starlings in the trees, fighting and singing and flitting about.

Me, giving every indication possible that I in no way wanted to have a conversation with the strange man at the rest area. And still.

“Nice that spring’s finally here, right?”

AYUP SIR YOU FORCED ME INTO THE TALKINGNESS DIDN’T YOU?

The fuck was the value of that conversation? But now we’re having it, ships passing in the night screaming about the weather at each other.

I think that’s how that saying goes. Anyways.

This is a pattern of behavior I’ve notices amongst, well, men. Sorry dudes. I’ll hear your protests but only submitted in hand-written triplicate on carbon copy paper that smells just right.

When I finally recognized it, it struck me as so odd. So entitled. So willfully ignorant of another human being’s body language.

But Gov! you say. How harmful could it be to remark on the loveliness of the weather with a fellow weather-enjoying human? Maybe you could see it for the kind gesture it is if you stopped being such a cold-hearted bitch!

First of all, I’ll never stop. Second, this clearly isn't about the weather. This is about a pattern of behavior that boils down to demanding acknowledgement from the opposite sex because... well, just because, as far as I can tell.

Picture this:

Me, putting a bag of soccer balls into my truck.

Also me, studiously ignoring the men working on the landscaping next door.

“Oh no, a soccer player!” I hear yelled over at me.

And what do I do?

What do you think I did? I ignore it because not only is it desperate, not only is it obnoxious, but also, what do you even say in response? “Ayup. You got me. These are in fact soccer balls, and I am stunned by your powers of observation.”

So long as I don’t respond, he can feel like an idiot and we can both pretend like I didn’t hear and I won’t be forced into an unwanted human interaction.

So he drops it and goes about his business and I HAHAHAHA who am I kidding?

“You guys are sure doing a lot of work to that house,” he shouts at my back next.

Sigh. And now it’s obvious Sir Brilliant Conversations isn’t going to just go back to his own damn business.

Again, a man has demanded I, merely a woman who should be thankful for his kindness and attention, talk to him.

Why even care? These are small incidents but they’re indicative of much greater, much deeper-rooted problems. It sounds petty. I know. I know it sounds petty. But this behavior can’t just be written off as being social or being kind. Dudes don’t do this to each other. Men do it to women, and it only spirals out from there.

Up close, it’s a small transgression. Harmless, if obnoxious. Men seeing women, women who are actively censoring their behavior to convey no interest or desire to interact, and putting them in a socially awkward position anyway. Society dictates I return a kindness, right? Answering “Nice weather, huh?” with a “Fuck off, shitstain” is a little bit frowned upon. Yet it takes a person who was trying to just go through their day uninterrupted and suddenly there’s this other person who has interjected themselves into that day, demanded they be acknowledged, and they’ve done so in such a way that they’re in the right. They were being polite and friendly.

But what men need to understand is that when you do that, not only are you being a dick, you’re forcing a woman to evaluate you as a threat.

I’ll say that again.

If I’m avoiding talking to you and you demand my attention, I am now eyeing you as a potential threat.

A trustworthy human reads body language and doesn’t start unnecessary and, to be frank, fucking idiotic conversations with strangers. A trustworthy man sees a woman alone and respects her avoidance of him.

Men who become problems start with this behavior. They start with friendly and I was just being polite. No. Polite is not doing this. Because the really bad ones? It ramps up from this point.

I ignored a man doing this in a gas station once. He put his arm around me when I tried to check out.

We ignore men and they hurl words like “What, you’re too good to talk to me, you ugly bitch?” at us.

They get in our space. They put their hands on us. Sometimes, they hurt women. Sometimes, they kill women.

Maybe the weather was nice, Rest Stop Dude, but now I have to look at you and wonder if you’re going to follow me back to my car.

Not to mention, maybe I just didn’t want to talk, yet apparently your desire to remark on the weather to a stranger supersedes that.

So now, The Mens reading this, you’re probably wondering: Have I done this? Willfully or not? And how do I avoid doing it in the future?

I can’t answer the first part, but I got you covered on the second. There was a video that popped up recently of a person on safari, in a Jeep, with a cheetah in the back seat. He doesn’t move, doesn’t make eye contact, and most definitely doesn’t interrupt that cheetah’s very good day with bullshit small talk about spring weather.

Women are the cheetah. Next time you pass by a woman who isn’t looking at you, who is finding every way possible to distract herself so she doesn’t slip up and make eye contact, remember this cheetah. Because we’ve had enough of this bullshit and are likely to start mauling people who force us to talk to them.

GovCrest out.

Announcing: Hotties and Bazingas Book 1!

I made a video talking about the release, and you can find it right here:

But! If you don't want to watch me talk excitedly for seven minutes, I'll sum it up:

I've written a novella! It's a satire police procedural with two very fine ladies who, uh...bang. They fight crime, sleep together, and fight crime by sleeping together.

Without further ado, I give you: Hotties and Bazingas and the Murder Cult Murders!

Detective Officer Alexus Hotties is a dedicated policewoman who works alone, with dedication. Yet her dedicated working-aloneness is quickly challenged when the FBI sends cybercrimes officer Major Porsche Bazingas to help solve a bizarre, bloodless murder, only reported after the video of which was uploaded to YouTube. Hotties is quickly impressed with Bazingas' body, and her FBI skills, as they uncover evidence that even worse is coming. Can they solve the murder and bring the killers to justice before they can kill again? Can Hotties open herself up to a partner again, both in her squad car and in her bed? And can Bazingas accept working with a partner who works alone? Find out in the inaugural adventure of Hotties and Bazingas!

Detective Officer Alexus Hotties is a dedicated policewoman who works alone, with dedication. Yet her dedicated working-aloneness is quickly challenged when the FBI sends cybercrimes officer Major Porsche Bazingas to help solve a bizarre, bloodless murder, only reported after the video of which was uploaded to YouTube. Hotties is quickly impressed with Bazingas' body, and her FBI skills, as they uncover evidence that even worse is coming. Can they solve the murder and bring the killers to justice before they can kill again? Can Hotties open herself up to a partner again, both in her squad car and in her bed? And can Bazingas accept working with a partner who works alone?
Find out in the inaugural adventure of Hotties and Bazingas!

Hotties and Bazingas will be out February 14th. Because I believe in love, and this is a love story, of two women who love. And solve a murder. Oh, and maybe there's a cult or something, and hi-jinks. For $0.99, how can you pass that up?

Pre-order your copy today at Amazon, or pick up your choice of formats from my web store on Valentine's Day for just a buck.

Early review are in and friends have had the following to say:

  • "I hate you." - Editor Brian White
  • "Jesus Christ. That was horrible, but that was enjoyable." - Tara Whittle
  • "You should be proud and ashamed." - Matthew Fredrickson

I am, Matt. Oh god, am I. 

If you enjoy a good laugh, make sure to pick up a copy. If you don't, well, you'll hate this and write me nasty emails and I'll have to mock you online. Either way, enjoy it or not, I think we're all going to have fun with this one. 

See you Valentine's Day. 

<3

 

Solstice Babies and Winter Birthdays

Trying to kick this blog off right, let's start with a birthday! 

I hear a lot, from other people with birthdays near Christmas, that it's the worst time to be born. The issue, it seems, is that family likes to roll your birthday and Christmas into the same event, and therefore you don't get a proper birthday. 

I'm waiting to hear that one from my son, who is 7 years old today, 4 days before Christmas.

Because he was due the 8th of December. This isn't my fault. 

But 7 years ago he arrived, disrupting everything like a rambunctious puppy that eats your home. That child didn't sleep through a night for, oh, somewhere between 13 and 18 months. He spent the first 6 months unable to sleep anywhere but on my chest, with me sitting up in bed. 

But once he could walk, his world changed. Our world changed. He became so happy, as if the first 9.5 months he'd just been held back from the world he wanted to see. No more 13 hours straight of crying. No more only resting when being bounced and walked around. 

Now, 7 years later, he's a phenomenal young kid. He can read. He's excellent at math. His favorite part of the day is having his dad read books to him. They've read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and they're almost through the 4th Harry Potter book. 

He tells stories, constantly. I make stabs at writing and although I do my best, I'm outpaced by this tiny, brilliant mind.

He wants to be a scientist. He wants to be an astronaut. He wants to be a cop.

He wants to be an Engineer Astronaut Cop. That's amazing. Now you want to be an Engineer Astronaut Cop too, admit it. 

As sad as it is to realize my little bundle of rage and fury, my tiny, bald baby, my happy, bumbling toddler, is gone forever, the little boy he's grown into is a delight. He makes us laugh every day, is always up for an adventure, and I never thought I'd have to beg one human so often to stop talking about Minecraft. I'm proud of who he's grown into, and can't wait to see the man he becomes. 

So happy birthday, bitty Trex. I promise to do everything I can to always make your birthday a separate event from Christmas and though you're not getting that god damn Hatchimal the TV told you to desire, I know you'll have a grand day anyway. 

And it could be worse, child-mine. You could have one of the rare February 29th birthdays. Gasp. 

Welcome, Friends!

It's looking pretty darn schnazzy around here, if I do say so myself. 

Welcome to the new home of Govneh.com! The launching of this site means a lot of things. It means that I finally admitted my lack of technical know-how and moved from Wordpress to Squarespace. It means I have a pretty decent site that functions how I want it. It means that I'm paying money to a completely different entity. 

But most importantly, it means I am launching new adventures and have access to a web store that supports digital downloads! I don't want to say anything YET, but I do have something I love very much in the works. I need to push a few more buttons, turn a couple more knobs, and hustle just a while longer before announcing it. Soon, my loves. Soon! 

In the meantime, poke around the site, make yourself comfy, and hopefully I'll have announcements for you soon. Not everything is quite polished up yet. The store isn't functional, and I don't have my stories loaded. BUT! Now you know I'm here, so when I finally announce things, you'll be able to say you were part of the Famclub before it was cool. 

Cheers!

-Govneh