I’m happy to announce that I’m going to have a signing at Inklings Bookstore in Yakima, Washington on the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th. I also landed an interview on KIMA TV news. I’ll have more info soon, and hopefully more dates! I hope to see you all there.
Today is release day for my magical realism novel, The Other Place! This is book two in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. It is the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia, who is trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. Basically, it’s a sort of coming-of-age story, but with a very unique character and more action than those sorts of books usually have. It’s not a dark book at all; it’s very different from The Hustle, though you do get to read about the further adventures of Arty and Liria.
The Other Place is based on my own experiences with psychosis, as well as the things I’ve witnessed and experienced while hanging out with my friend Phoenix, who has schizophrenia.
People with psychosis can live beautiful lives, but they deal with a great deal of discrimination, misunderstanding, and outright abuse by police and the general public.
I hope you check it out and enjoy it!
I wanted to give my thoughts on a subject that’s close to my heart: how people in our society view, and write about, domestic violence and other types of abuse.
I’ve participated in a lot of discussions, both online and in the real world, about what makes people stay in abusive relationships. The answers people often give are along the lines of, “They’re insecure.” Or, “They just don’t know anything different.” And, “They don’t see any way out.”
I have been in abusive relationships, and I’ll tell you what I hear when people give the answers above: “It’s your fault. You stayed with your abusers because you’re defective: weak, ignorant, and stupid.”
I’m not saying there isn’t a grain of truth in the fact that people living in abuse are insecure, sometimes lacking in objectivity with regard to their situation, and that they might have a hard time taking whatever steps they need to in order to leave their home and family. Do you know who else fits that description? Pretty much everyone else on the fucking planet.
Unfortunately, more than a few fiction authors portray abused women (the abused character is usually a woman, though that isn’t always the case in real life) as creatures we should both pity and cheer on as they inevitably overcome all their difficulties and reinvent themselves as strong, confident individuals.
Conversely, some readers of my novel The Hustle have expressed frustration with the main character, Liria, who goes through a string of ill-advised and abusive relationships throughout the course of the story (will she do better in The Other Place? I’m not telling 🙂 ). “I just don’t understand why Liria keeps getting involved with people who treat her so badly,” some people say. “It’s like she doesn’t want a better life.”
That’s another way of saying it’s the abused person’s fault for being abused. And yes, I know it is upon each and every one of us to take control of our lives and try to be the best we can be. However, suffering people’s ignorant judgment doesn’t help us to feel empowered. Nor does pity, because pity doesn’t really equal understanding…though it’s definitely better than sneering judgment.
When I was a teenager, I was in a relationship that was physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. After that, I was in a couple relationships that maybe weren’t exactly healthy, but were marred to a greater extent by addiction than abuse. Then, I met my current (ish) husband.
My husband is a Ph.D. professor of biophysics; a hard-working, incredibly intelligent guy who comes off in company as perhaps a little odd, but sweet and quiet and nerdy. I, on the other hand, have only an undergraduate degree and a history of incarceration and heroin addiction (that stuff is far in the past, but still). I felt sort of like I’d hit the jackpot when I landed my husband; not just because of his education and the fact he didn’t do needle drugs, but because he was unfailingly kind to me, never so much as looked at another woman, and was always reliable and safe. He had his frustrating weirdnesses, sure, but doesn’t everyone?
About three years ago we moved to California for his job. The dynamic of our relationship shifted, and his frustrating weirdnesses turned against me. I’d quit my job and started (compulsively) writing when we moved—we didn’t need a second income, and we’d discussed my being a stay-at-home mom when he got a tenure track job. But, for reasons I won’t go into again here, my husband ended up not liking this situation. He accused me of lying around all day and writing silly stories. He called me selfish, lazy, and immature. He said I was using him for money, and didn’t have the guts to leave him only because I didn’t want to get a job to support myself and my kid. Pretty mean stuff, right? But think about it: if you were lucky enough to get to stay home and write all day (and, you know, clean the house and cook and garden and all that), you might feel a little guilty about it, right? That’s pretty normal among others I’ve spoken to who are stay-at-home. So, when my husband said that stuff, I didn’t really think it was abuse: I thought he had a point, because he’d hit the bull’s-eye of my guilt.I mean, his words pissed me off and hurt me, sure, but this was a man I loved and had been married to awhile. I respected his feelings and opinions. Plus, he had never been so critical of me before, so I thought he’d get over it. I even tried to get a job to make him happy, because sometimes doing stuff to make your spouse happy is part of marriage. But we’d moved to the worst economy in the known universe so I didn’t get a single call back.
Some friends I cried to about this stuff told me he was being abusive. But I’d suffered real abuse, I thought, and it hadn’t really been the same. Other people thought I was overreacting. After all, my husband was the big fancy doctor with a sweet nature, and I was just some weird, emotional chick with a sordid past who thought she was a writer. This argument hit home with me, as well. All you writers out there probably know what it’s like to feel like a fraud and like you suck, especially when those rejections are rolling in.
Anyway, my husband moved on to saying he had lost all respect for me and was done with me. He told me he wasn’t interested in having sex with me ever again, and told me to get the fuck out of the house on various occasions.
Now, you think, any self-respecting woman would have packed up and got the fuck out of the house for sure at that point. And I actually did, many times. But I would always come back. I loved him, and I was worried about him. His behavior seemed erratic, and I was concerned for his mental health. I told him to go to a psychiatrist, which he did. We also went to marriage counseling. I still had hopes things would get better. And besides, I was a little selfish and immature: I just wanted to stay home and write, and I wouldn’t get to do much of that if I left to be a single mom. Plus, destroying a household and uprooting your kid never seems fun, under any circumstances.
My husband didn’t get better, though. He got worse, and I “dealt” with it by getting smashed-ass drunk several times a week and hanging out with another man. I can forgive myself for this a little bit now, because I was truly miserable and going off the deep end, but at the time I felt horrendously guilty and weak for not being able to change my behavior. I knew I had some mental health issues of my own, as well, and that I wasn’t really taking care of myself, which exacerbated all these problems. So when my husband yelled at me and berated me for all of this stuff too, it again didn’t feel like abuse: it hit home. I felt like it was mostly my fault our relationship had gotten so bad, and that I could fix things by being a better person.
It was true I needed to change in some ways, and I did, eventually: I cut down on drinking, etc. And, eventually, I took my kid and left. I went home to my parents’, where I renovated and built onto a cabin on their property. Now I lie around here all day writing, editing, gardening, playing with my kid, building cabinets and making homemade wine. I don’t know how long this situation will last, but I wanted to still live my life on my own terms for as long as I could. I didn’t want my husband to win, and force me into a miserable life that I don’t want.
Now, a lot of you who are still reading this (if anyone) might say that I stayed in my abusive relationships because I was insecure, because I didn’t know any better (having been in abusive relationships before), and that I didn’t see a way out (at least that allowed me to live the way I want). You’d be right, in a way. But what you might be wrong about is the fact that you would never act that way in my situation. Whenever I hear someone say they’ll never be with anyone who doesn’t treat them like a princess/prince, I usually roll my eyes inwardly. Because there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just a human being who has made decisions that made sense at the time. I’ve done the best I can do with what I’m given. I don’t always do the right thing, but if you think you always do the right thing there might be something wrong with you.
Anyone who has been lucky enough not to experience abuse is just that: lucky. They weren’t subjected to it at a young and impressionable age, and they didn’t get sucked into it slowly and insidiously like I did later, or any of the other things that can lead people into abusive relationships. Because I didn’t stay with my husband because I’m weak or dumb or ignorant: I stayed with him because I loved him, and I didn’t want to give up our life together: the same reasons people stay in healthier relationships.
What we need to do, both in life and in fiction, is see abused people as human beings—intelligent human beings with rich inner lives, just like anyone else—not as objects of pity and contempt.
Find The Hustle, my book that deals with abuse, here.
After a long and daunting struggle, release day for The Other Place is almost here. You can preorder the book in either Kindle or paperback format, and read the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia trying to find his place in the world.
It’s not easy being a person like Justin, but I think you’ll find a lot of beauty and wisdom in his life, and in the way his mind works.
I hope you read and enjoy this book.
I just wanted to swing on by here and tell y’all that I’ve officially signed contract addendums on the remaining installments in The Other Place Series. First will come a novella from Arty’s point of view entitled Love and War (yes, I know it’s a similar title to Love or Money, but it just fits so well.) The last part of the saga is a full-length novel from Justin’s point of view entitled Synchronicity. I don’t have release dates yet, but I’ll let you know.
The second book in the series, entitled The Other Place, comes out on July 5, in just a few days! This is a book from the point of view of Justin, the Kid in the Park in The Hustle. Justin is schizophrenic, so you might think this book would be darker than The Hustle, but actually it’s not. Not even close, really. Justin has his struggles, but he lives a beautiful life. The Other Place is a book for all ages, whereas The Hustle is for the 18+ crowd.
You don’t have to have read The Hustle in order to read The Other Place, but it does add depth to the story. You can read them in reverse order, as well.
I really hope you read and love these books. I put a lot into them.
“People say life is a beautiful gift, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.”
I sit with my back against the trunk of a Russian olive. The breeze rasps through the bunch grass and sage, kicking up spirals of dust. I’d come out into the middle of nowhere, because of how sometimes society and all the things people build start to jumble up in a mishmash of wrong shapes and smells.
Invisible Friend Jesus sits next to me, the hems of his white slacks fluttering around his bare ankles.
“The universe exploded out of nothing,” I say. “I mean, a point of infinite density. It’s the same thing as nothing, because of how infinity and nothingness are two sides of the same Mobius strip. So it exploded out of nothing and has been falling apart ever since.”
I pluck a stalk of yarrow and weave it between my fingers. “Life on earth arose because of molecular forces and the way chemistry has to work. Carbon chains put themselves together and had to keep putting themselves together more and more because that’s the way things react. Life arose out of the dust, an elaborate house of cards. Plants and animals and people are just complicated constructions of chemistry and entropy, eating themselves up in violent exothermic reactions and turning it all into heat until one day there will be nothingness again.”
Invisible Friend Jesus squints into the distance. The sun washes out the landscape like an overexposed photograph.
I strip a leaf from the yarrow plant, its limp, fleshy stem shredding to ribbons. “Chemistry put us together. It put our brains together. Brain chemistry dictates how we act, and how we in turn put the world together for ourselves. The way my brain functions makes it so that I don’t fit in other people’s construction of the world. They batter my world apart like bullies kicking over sand castles, but I still can’t rebuild my universe the way they want me to. I don’t fit in their machinations; that’s why I can’t affect the world. I’m like a cog without a machine. I can’t turn anything. I can barely control myself.”
I toss the yarrow into the sand. “But it doesn’t matter. We exploded out of nothing, and we’ll return to nothing again. Life is a faint flame flickering in the void. Consciousness and self-awareness are just dreams within a dream. Any sense or beauty we create dissolves into the ether, the way the entire cosmic firmament will eventually fizzle into oblivion, dying its heat death when the chemicals have done all the reacting they can do, energy spreads too thin, and gravity stretches space-time flat.”
I draw a circle in the ashy dirt, but it isn’t very round because the pebbles get in the way of my finger. “I try to believe in God, but it’s hard to believe in anything like that. God is a brick in the world people have built for themselves, because they feel like it will fall apart if He isn’t there. But that whole illusion could crumble and nothing would change, because it wasn’t real to begin with.”
I clutch the cross around my neck. The silver plate is rubbed off, showing the cheap brass beneath it. The chain is tarnished and all tangled up with my hair. I glance over.
I expect Invisible Friend Jesus to have disappeared, but he’s still there, squinting at me with his little smile.