I was all set to go to bed, and then I read one too many things on Twitter after eating. I haven’t eaten all day, which is a new weird habit. I’ve been blaming it on one of my drugs, but I wonder if it isn’t more a post-election thing than anything else, and “post-election” for me is a basket catching a myriad of things we’ll gloss over in a second. The bottom line is, I’m supposed to go to bed, but I feel like I want to vomit, so I’m going to blog instead, and drink tea, and listen to the soundtrack to an anime which I have hobbled from YouTube videos partly because I want to listen to the songs but mostly because I am desperate to hold onto my sanity.
So it’s a weird thing to some people, I know, to blog your neuroses, to “air your dirty laundry.” Well, trust me, you’re not even seeing the underwear. You’re seeing socks at best. But it’s a technique I’ve used my whole life, because while there are more than two types of people in the world, there are as far as I can see two in this house: those who bury the things they don’t want to look at, and those who pin the monsters to the bulletin board and aim searchlights on them. I’m a searchlight gal.
I gotta lotta monsters up in here, some I’m not going to share with the entire Internet, thanks, but some are easier to roast with friends. And yeah, the fucking election is one, though it’s only one. I mean, it’s the nightmare that won’t end. And I mean that it won’t end as in every time you shift the glass of the world you get little shafts of light shining on how shit is going to reflect, possibly for a long time, and sometimes that freaks me out. Which gets us to my second and much more pressing issue, the sense that I can’t control any of it. I never could, and I’ve always been aware I’ve been wandering around a world full of injustice, but I feel like we just leveled up fifty levels without warning, or I became more aware of more levels or something, and I’m having a hard time there. Plus there’s the stuff from about six blog posts back, plus I’m worried for my kids, and you know. Sometimes you want to vomit.
Tomorrow morning is talk therapy–second session, which will be more of real one, because first time with a new person is always like first day of school. Second one honestly will not be much better. It takes more than a few minutes to get to the meat of stuff, and I’m spoiled because I had a great therapist for years and I haven’t forgotten her. But I’m excited to go, because I view therapy as throwing acid on the monsters’ faces, and I’m all about that. Sometimes it leaves you raw, yes, but then you get better, and I like getting better. I don’t mind introspection, and talking one-on-one has never been an issue for me, nor has sharing details about myself, even with strangers. Witness me taking to you right now.
In the meantime, though, there is this whole strange new relationship with food and the not eating of it. I mean, I ate Thanksgiving, I guess. And that was fine. I didn’t eat much, and I only had a smoothie and Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s not really unusual. But then there’s today, where I choked down a bowl of cereal (and I mean choked) in the morning then nibbled at a small piece of pie around noon and then didn’t eat anything until half an hour ago when I couldn’t stand it anymore. If you know me in real life you know this is nothing like me, this way I’m eating. It’s slightly freakish. I can tell I’m losing a little weight, but it’s also making my body unhappy at times. So I have to quit that. I’m going to start making myself drink smoothies and then eat dinner, whether I want it or not, even just a small dinner. God just the thought makes me want to hurl.
Yeah, nobody in this desk chair has any issues at all…
Anyway. That’s my problem, and I’m gonna fix it, somehow. In the meantime, I have my drug, and I’m administering it copiously. Sadly it’s not an antidepressant. I would totally go get myself on one, except I’ve learned through attempts to mitigate pain through antidepressants that they totally kill my ability to write. They don’t for everyone. They do for me. And when I say kill, I mean, there’s nobody home. I’m here, and I’m happy as hell, but I can’t write anything. Blog posts and recipes. No fiction. I can do a little, but it sucks. If you go back in my published career and see some weird lulls or where the work gets thin or maybe you even felt like it just wasn’t quite like you were used to? Drugs. Well, drugs and then sometimes also screaming pain, but that’s another story.
So I have to find other ways to get my brain through this speed bump, ergo the not passing go and directly moving into therapy. It’s not enough, though, and so there are other things. One is music. That’s always been there anyway, but I’ve cut out podcasts and news and started playing music instead. I mean, I still read Twitter and Facebook for news–I follow a bazillion news networks–but I don’t listen to NPR or any of my podcasts, though I miss them all the same. The other thing is I’m consuming story. Weirdly, though, it’s not coming the way it usually is. Usually I read when it comes to moments like this. Except this time I can’t.
I keep hoping this goes away. I can’t explain it and I don’t get it at all. Any second a book I really want to read will come out and that will break it, I hope, except I have about six books I really want to read on my kindle and they’re just sitting there. So who knows what’s going on there. Audio books have been okay, somehow, and I’ve been listening to favorites. I’m going to restart some Pratchett soon. But I can’t even read Pratchett yet, and that’s like a four alarm fire. I’ve wondered if maybe this is finally the moment for The Shepherd’s Crown, which I’ve been saving (still). But not quite yet, I don’t think. No reading, not yet.
Anime, though. Anime is all up in this house.
I was already watching anime with Anna as post-election therapy before the infamous Yuri on Ice infection began, but now I’m a habitual cruiser of Crunchyroll and Funimation and a subscriber of both. I also started a trial of a “learn Japanese” online thing because it was one afternoon’s wild hair and it was the kind of thing that seemed good to give my brain to chew on. Trying to figure out how to ask for directions from the train station I’m unlikely to ever get to seems more productive than making myself so ill from worry I can’t keep food down. Plus then I too could argue with the translators someday.
Mostly, though, my brain is stuck on one drug and one drug only right now. When it encounters something it doesn’t like, when it reads one too many tweets, when it thinks about too many horrible things that could happen, when the straps that hold everything in the world it thought it knew begin to come too loose for its comfort, something curls around my ears and whispers, “play the gay skaters again, okay?” Sometimes I feel like maybe it’s been a bit too many times, that we’re spoiling the show, and my brain is okay with this, because it knows about Tumblr. I’ve gone from someone who doesn’t really get that place to a manic dashboard refresher inside of a weekend.
Then there are the songs. I’ve had “History Maker” for some time now, but this isn’t enough. My brain will occasionally put out a call for a new song, and once it saw that translation for “Stammi Vicino” it had to have it, and today it got it. It’s a good thing I know how to capture audio. This would all be easier if everything were simply released for purchase, but never fear, I’ll be buying it all the second it is. At this point I owe these people a shrine stateside.
If I were younger, this obsession would be different. It would be hotter, whiter, more feverish. It would feel more close to my heart, more real and personal. I’ve been to enough rodeos to see this for what it is: a mix of professional wonder and a dash of mild psychosis, a brain seeking for something, anything to cling to in order to create order amidst chaos. I don’t see any harm in letting it have its gay skaters. At this point when the gay skater sign goes up I know it’s basically a bat signal, Little Heidi saying, “things are not okay in here, we need some comfort stat,” and so to Tumblr or the YOI playlist we go. I just hope it keeps working long enough for therapy lady to help me get some more adult sized tools or the country to get its shit together.
Yeah, I know. I’ll be working on those tools as fast as possible.
Anyway. If you’ve been wondering why we downshifted from “hey I’m kind of freaking out here” to LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THE GAY SKATERS, now you know. Kind of the same thing, just different sides of the freak out.
Still going to tell you all about the gay skaters. I could pretty much strap in every night and talk four three thousand words about them, honestly, and I’m definitely going to keep doing recaps and possibly the occasional “this is what I just thought about” posts. But starting tomorrow I’m back in the fiction word-making game, because I have my own boys to write about.
Brains are weird, man. I definitely have an octopus on mine right now. Kind of works out I’m writing about the guy who knows all about how to dance with one, I guess.
Anyway, thanks for letting me put a few pins in this part of the monster. Going to listen to these songs a few more times, cruise just a little bit of Tumblr, stay the hell off anything with news on it, then go to bed. And not gonna lie, I’m probably going to watch an episode.
Or two. Or as many as it takes until Little Heidi says it’s okay to go to sleep. I like her. She gets what she wants right now. And hey, I like the gay skaters too.
Whole post is one big spoiler for Yuri!!! On Ice episode eight. You’ve been warned. Get out of here if you don’t want to see stuff.
I thought I’d get the JJ thing off my chest if I put it in the title, but man, I fucking hate JJ. I hate his arrogance, I hate his subtle bullying, I hate the little ways he was trying to psych everyone out, I hate the way he bites his medals in the pictures, I hate his bubble butt boy shorts photos (even though I fully support Victor bubble butt boy short photos should he choose to take some), I hate his hair, I hate his wink, I hate his catch phrase, I hate the way he kisses the ice, I hate his song, I hate his outfit, I. Hate. JJ. I need to see this man go down.
It’s still not off my chest. I could talk for 5k and still not have it off my chest. Fucker.
Anyway. Recap. Read More
This is a spoiler post. I’m reminding you of that now, because we’re going to do a quick intro then shake your hand and get into the full on recap, and we’re jumping right on to the end of the episode because I’m not burying the lede. Because this really was the episode that broke fandom. It broke everybody. There literally are videos and GIFs and loops of people screaming as they watch it. A reader sent me images she snapped of her daughter watching The Moment. Because there was A Moment in episode seven. In episode seven, YOI made a bold leap forward, did something we’ve never seen, not quite like this–unless I’m missing something big in the anime world, in which case please educate the hell out of me.
Programming note: I managed to figure out a new way to do still images which is actually better in every regard, so there are no GIFS here. Twitter will still have GIFs aplenty, though, where you can turn off image preview and skip them if you want, and TADA we all win.
Anyway. Let’s get to this. Read More
I’m doing recaps five and six together because I feel like I can. I’m tempted to put seven in with it, but for Reasons, I can’t put seven in with anything. So five and six together it is.
Also, I’ve had requests come through that I not include GIFS in my posts for disability reasons. I had a billion reactions to that at once, shame that I didn’t think of that, disappointment because I love GIFS, then frustration because I know other people also love them and I want to try to make everyone happy, plus sometimes I can only find GIFs (and I’m lucky to get any images remotely close to the ones I want at all, since technically we’re all thieves here, but we’re in that grey area where the anime studio is quietly saying sure go ahead, give us free promo but not actually giving permission). So what I’m going to do is make two posts of these, one with GIFs and images and one with none. So if you want an image-free post, click this link and you’ll go to my website, where you will see this exact same stuff with no images. I’ll do this from now on, and when I get a moment I’ll go back and do that retroactively for the other posts. There’s only one GIF in this post, as it happens, the first image after the cut, just FYI.
Born to Make History, Continued Further Still: Yuri!!! On Ice episode 4 recap, Like Yourself… and Complete the Free Program!!!
Thanksgiving is over, and I’m back here to finish catching up with the recaps. Today I want to try to get through as many as possible, and I’m probably going to do the next few in a lump, but four needs its own post because it’s such an important episode. They tell you everything you need to know in the title.
Fourth Skate: Like Yourself… and Complete the Free Program!!
I dig these exclamation points, man.
Anyway. Yurio has gone back to Russia, and so here’s Yuri with Victor, VICTOR, his dream man, dream coach, dream everything, fucking living with him, coaching him, eating with him, taking walks on the fucking beach with him. This is his life now, and Yuri is both elated and freaked out. As the episode opens, he’s rushing to the rink because he’s overslept and kept Victor waiting. He’s so apologetic he performs the dogeza, which delights Victor more as a cultural show than any need to be appeased. Victor continues to be Victor, always landing somewhere between bored and mildly surprised.
A cat, basically. Victor is a cat. I have six. I know one when I see one, and Victor is about as feline as they come. Arrogant, proud in this distracted, uninterested way, amused by you and loyal in a complicated way only they understand, affectionate on their own terms, and in possession of an attention span that must be earned and maintained. Also can be bribed with food.
Victor is still somewhat human, however, and he points out to Yuri he should lower the difficulty of his jumps at this point since he keeps having trouble and then plan to raise them later as he improves. Yuri doesn’t like this at all, gets very frustrated because he feels like this whole task before him is more than he can do and he gets dejected. And thank goodness, because it leads to a lovely scene.
This whole conversation is taking place in the hot spring, and when Yuri resists Victor’s lecture, Victor pulls him out of the water–they are both naked–and first speaks passionately to him while holding his hands and then does this complicated stretching maneuver with him while he explains why he was drawn to Yuri, why he came to Japan. He says he was drawn to Yuri because of the music, that the way Yuri skates is like his body is creating music. He wants to create a high-difficulty program to maximize that, and he knows only he can do that. He says the short program validated his suspicions, and now he thinks Yuri should produce his own free program.
Yuri tries to object, saying his coach has always chosen his music–he’s having a hard time, though, because at this point he’s standing naked in front of Victor while Victor contorts his body into various poses. Victor is unmoved by his distress or his lack of faith. The only thing that stops him is realizing they’re giving a free show to men waiting to come use the hot springs.
They end up placing a call to Yuri’s old coach, Celestino, who tips Victor off that Yuri never had any confidence in himself before either, but also that he once presented him with a piece of music he’d commissioned for himself. Victor immediately asks to hear this, wanting to know why Yuri hasn’t told him about it.
Celestino also doesn’t miss a chance to remind Victor he’s not fit to be a coach, which Victor ignores, focusing instead on asking why Yuri’s old coach didn’t let him choose his own music, and Yuri seizes the chance to vow to his old coach he will make up for his loss last year by redeeming himself at the Grand Prix Final this year. So much character came down in that phone call. Celestino hints at truths about Victor and yet at the same time, Victor is doing the job he couldn’t do, or maybe more accurately is giving Yuri the space to do the job none of them seem to be able to get done: coach him.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Yurio is working on his own program, between stalking Yuri and Victor through updates from Yuri’s friend and social media updates. He’s been better about practice, fueled by his rivalry with Yuri, and he agrees to be mentored by a famous ballerina who promises to help him reinvent himself and become the best figure skater he can be.
Yuri doesn’t consider Yurio a rival, or at least isn’t worried about him per se–he’s too worried about how to produce his free program, since Victor had the same reaction to the music his old coach did. He wants to choreograph and produce his program like Victor always did–that’s always been his dream, but he doesn’t have the confidence. He ends up having a late night FaceTime with his friend Phichit, another skater, who encourages him to reconnect with the friend who wrote the song for him, to see if she could revisit it. He even offers to help Yuri reconnect with her since he admits the exchange ended awkwardly when he didn’t use the music after all.
Phichit is a great secondary character, one we’ll see more of in future episodes, and there’s a lot to love in him on his own and as Yuri’s friend. What he spurs here for Yuri too is important. He gets Yuri to think about why he produced that piece in the first place. He’d wanted it to express his career as a skater, but at that point it wasn’t much of a career. Yuri, taking a walk to the rink to skate out his feelings, admits this is likely why it wasn’t much of a song.
This kind of self-awareness, while bald and a bit grim, is so huge, because it takes this kind of moment, this kind of truth, to build up a real self. While Yuri is asking the composer to rewrite his music, while he’s rebuilding himself after admitting he has very quietly drifted to the bottom of himself, Yurio is being drilled by the ballerina and being told to reinvent himself he must throw himself away. And this is true. Because the part of you that is you, you can’t even throw out, so everything else you ditch is the stuff that shouldn’t have been there. Everything else truly is interchangeable. Malleable. Both Yuris are reforming themselves resolutely. Though Yuri is doing so out of love, and Yurio is born out of some kind of hate and revenge.
It takes Yuri a moment to get to this reach, though. He wallows in his indecision, not choosing any music at all, rejecting all Victor’s efforts to get him to relax, to get to know him, to help him find his inspiration for his program. Eventually Victor gets Yuri to sit with him on the beach, and they watch the gulls together with Victor’s dog Makkachin. Victor confesses he thinks of St. Petersburg every time he sees seagulls. He never noticed them before, but he never thought he’d leave St. Petersburg before.
So this is a man who has traveled for over ten years as a professional figure skater. He has left home a lot. What he means, then, is that he never thought he’d feel like somewhere else was home. Yes, he’s been in Japan for some time now, but he’s also spent this much time on the road before. Think of how Yuri said he hadn’t been home in five years. Yes, they would go home between competitions, I know. But what a statement this is. Mister super traveler, saying Hasetsu feels like home. Except I don’t think it’s the pork cutlet bowls calling to him. Or rather, it’s a specific one.
Anyway, we continue.
Victor has managed to get Yuri to open up. Yuri tells a story too, about a time when a girl had been pushy with him, had kept talking to him and he’d been rejecting her, then one day a teammate had been injured and he’d been so worried. She’d tried to comfort him and he’d been angry and had pushed her away, upset at her intrusion on his feelings. Victor is quietly blown away by this reaction. And justifiably so, since all he does is push on Yuri’s feelings. Yuri explains he hadn’t wanted to seem weak, but none of his friends or family here at home ever treated him that way. They always had faith he’d keep growing as a person, and they always gave him space to be himself.
Another pause here, this one point of privilege. Yuri taught me something here, because I am definitely that pushy girl. I have a hard time with letting people have that space. It’s not that I think people are weak, it’s that I hate seeing people in pain, and I want to take it away. Which is so odd, because I get really tetchy about people claiming my pain. I can relate to what he’s saying here, and I know I’m going to think of what he said the next time my kids are struggling and I want to swoop in but what I know deep down what they need is space to carry their own pain, to deal with it in their own time. I will probably still suck at it, but thank you for that, Yuri.
Victor, still staring at the ocean, quietly tells Yuri he is not weak. He says no one else thinks that, either. And then he asks Yuri what he wants Victor to be to him. This is a very Victor moment, because remember, Victor is a charmer. He’s not been able to be content here because he can’t figure out how to get Yuri into a place where he knows what to do with him. Yuri doesn’t worship him, not exactly, even though he had literally made his life a shrine to the man. He’d worshipped the ideal of Victor, and the real Victor he’s struggling with. So Victor is trying to find the way to get Yuri to behave how people usually do to him: smiles and obsequiousness. Or at least mild adoration. What’s it to be, he asks? Father figure? No, Yuri says. Brother, friend? Yuri has no answer.
Lover, then, Victor says, with a small sigh. He can try, he supposes, he says. But before he can finish the sentence Yuri freaks out, leaping into the air and all but screaming no no no no no at him.
“I want you to stay who you are, Victor! I’ve always looked up to you. I ignored you because I didn’t want you to see my shortcomings. I’ll make it up to you with my skating!”
“Okay. I won’t let you off easy then,” Victor says with a smile. “That’s my way of showing my love.”
Emphasis there is mine. What exactly we’re supposed to make of that, I don’t know. I’m assuming some of that is lost in translation, both language and culture. In any event, It’s pretty safe to say at this point Victor is more in love with Yuri than Yuri is with Victor. Or rather, Victor is ready for something but Yuri is still back at start, trying to get his skates on, and Victor is saying, “okay, I’ll be your coach instead, that’s okay with me, I can love you however it works out.”
Victor has decided he’ll be Yuri’s devoted coach. Yuri is pleased because Victor has met him where he is. That opening up has given him something real. This has been a huge lesson for him, in fact, both in sharing his feelings in general and that he can trust Victor, that Victor is on his side. Also the fact that so much time has passed at this point shows that this isn’t simply a whim anymore. Victor is committed to him, and regardless of anything else, this is love for Yuri, someone who will give his career this much attention.
It’s at this point he sends the email to the composer and gets the music altered. While they wait, Yuri insists Victor teach him all the jumps he can do, and Yuri practices them with a rigor and stamina which impresses and even surpasses Victor’s. When the music comes in, Victor is impressed, and they finalize the program, moving the jumps in the program around to fit it and maximize impact, even though some of the arrangement will challenge Yuri. When Victor asks what Yuri wants the theme of his program to be, Yuri says, “on my love.” He’s a little shy about it, but Victor only smiles and says it’s the best theme of all.
The assignments for the Grand Prix come in, and we learn the setup for the next few episodes: after competing in a local event, Yuri will go tot he Cup of China, then an event in Russia where he will face Yuri again, then on to the Grand Prix event itself. There’s some explanation of the setup of why he’s going where and when, and we pause to be reminded that this will be awkward because usually Victor goes as a competitor, not a coach, and won’t that be awkward for Yuri. But mostly we’re building up because it’s clear the next few episodes are going to be a big arc. And they are.
Before we get to that arc, though, we are still in this beautiful little cocoon of an episode. We are here at this point before it all starts, where Yuri learns to like himself, or begins to start. Where he understands the only place that can come from is love, and that the people who teach us how to do that are friends and family and teachers and lovers and complicated people who we aren’t sure who they are, like Victor. And in the meantime there is Yurio, Russian Yuri, who is sadly mostly showing us what happens when you try to learn this lesson without love at the center, with only a grain of dusty memory at the heart.
Jesus, remember that it’s Yuri dancing to eros. Yuri is dancing to eros, Yurio is dancing to agape. But Yuri is finding both agape and eros through his coaching with Victor, by refusing Victor’s offer of eros and insisting on turning it into agape. This fucking show. This fucking show, I love this fucking show.
The closing montage of this episode is everything. It gives you the first peek at Yuri’s free program, both the choreography and the music. It sets up Yurio’s conflict too, and reminds us what is at stake for everyone. That everyone in the story, hero and villain alike, has something to lose. That everyone, regardless of their motivation or worthiness–whoever is deciding that–wants to win, wants to succeed.
Victor asks Yuri as the episode ends what he’s going to name his music, since it hasn’t been titled yet, and Yuri names it “Yuri on Ice.” Victor declares it perfect. (He frequently declares much about Yuri perfect, in fact.) Yuri’s narration closes us out, reminding us that in September, his season with Victor will finally begin.
And we will continue that with a recap of the next episodes soon.
It’s 5:30AM on Thanksgiving morning now–too early to put a turkey in, but I’m up with a headache again, it’s too early to start on anything because I’ll wake everyone else up, and yes, I’m still eager to talk endlessly about this show.
If you want to see what I said about Yuri!!! on Ice in general and episodes 1-2, you can start on this page. If you’re just tuning in, I seriously suggest you pop back there because this post will make zero sense. If you read my craziness last night, carry on, this is the next installment.
There’s going to be spoilers now, so they will be behind the cut.
Let’s talk about that gorgeous theme song, eh?
“History Maker” by Dean Fujioka is performed in English, yo, though if you listen closely you can tell this isn’t quite the singer’s first language. It’s a kickass song, and I would love to thank YOI for not making it some guitar-jamming thing I can’t even hum to, which is what these themes usually are…but then to have it be in English? Selfishly I’m pleased as hell, because as I stated in the previous post, I do love singing along. It’s perfectly in my range, and I belt it like a motherfucker. I could possibly be persuaded to do some kind of karaoke for charity or something, even though I warn you I suck balls at actually singing these days. I don’t care though. I just love this song.
What history are they born to make, though? How far did they think this through? Normally with anime you’d write it off, you’d say, “Oh, it’s just a catchy song.” I don’t think for one second there’s anything but a hidden meaning in YOI’s theme.
IS THIS NOT THE MOST FUN THING EVER, THAT WE GET TO DIG LIKE THIS? God, even if this is all accidental, even if the creators are sitting in an apartment somewhere binge eating chips and wondering what the shit they started with us all because they just wanted to ship some dudes for fun, who the hell cares? Art, man. They started art. May the gods never take it away.
All right. I’ve been wanting to do a comprehensive Yuri!!! On Ice post for a week now, and naturally I’ve decided the time to do it is right as I’m in the deep throes of Thanksgiving preparation and nursing a minor head injury. It really is a minor head injury, but my body is a special snowflake, and anything sets it off, so basically, the bottom line is this is a dumb time to decide to write a big opus about an anime, complete with liner notes, links, and footnotes.
So let’s dive right in, shall we?
No spoilers yet: I’ll warn you when we get into recap and analysis, and as we progress through episodes I’ll warn you of each one unless I’m doing a general overview. We’re only going to get a few episodes into them on this first post, because I got way long, but we’re going to get started at least. But one hundred percent, I’ll give you full warning before I start spoiling. Okay? Okay.
Largely the point of this blog post is so that people who are trying to try for the Rafflecopter I just announced can enter the blog post version until some book bloggers get reviews/stops/what have you up. This will be a bit as I just gave them the books. They just got the books because an apocalypse was not in my plans for the week. If you too are a book blogger and you are thinking, gosh, I would like this Rafflecopter and press kit thing, here you go.
This is the Rafflecopter, though.
If you go here and fill out the usual Rafflecopter kind of things, you can enter to win the following:
Books 1-4 of the Minnesota Christmas series in paperback, signed (that’s Let it Snow, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, and the newest installment, Santa Baby); a paperback (not signed, alas) of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, two handkerchiefs (relevant if you’ve read Santa Baby), and a Santa hat.
You really do have to go to the Rafflecopter link to enter. If you simply comment on this blog post, that’s great, but it’s not a counted entry. You have to fill in the form and all that jazz or it’s just a lovely comment on the blog. HOWEVER, as part of the Rafflecopter entries, one of them is to leave a comment on a blog, except there were no blogs yet, which is why I made this one. I know, I just made your head hurt. Sorry. Click the link, really, and it’ll all be clear. Or just ignore it all and move on with your day. Both options are fine.
Now if you wonder why there’s a pic of most of the prizes and then the cover of Santa Baby off to the side, that’s because I don’t have the paperbacks of Santa Baby yet. They’re just about ready, and they’re going to be ADORABLE, but right now the consist of a draft flat in my inbox and a partially completed Ingram’s order. Soon, Virginia. Soon. I anticipate they’ll be orderable around US Thanksgiving or so, or by December 1 for sure. Patrons, you’ll get them sooner than everyone else. Yes, even you, foreign patrons.
So this week has sucked unholy ass, but it also has been great in unexpected ways. Namely I have received more letters and notes and DMs and what have you from readers in this one week than I have ever received in my entire career as an author. It’s frankly blown me away, and some days it’s taken me all day to get to the point where I could gather myself to respond even with a simple quick thank you. Some of it was in response to posts I’ve made here or online, but a lot of it came from people reading or listening to my work, saying thanks for helping them through this shit week. I think a lot of artists are getting this.
There’s a lot for artists to do right now, I think, for people in general to do, with this kindness. For sure we have real work to do in terms of activism and donation work and real shoe leather, and we’re going to do that. All week I felt like I wanted to run out the door and join an army, to do something, everything, to bleed action because maybe then things would change. Except I could sometimes barely get dressed, and I could rarely sleep. I can feel tonight about to be another one of those not-sleeping nights, which is going to be lovely. So while the spirit is willing, the body and brain are hella fucked up.
It’s been moving in ways I don’t know how to describe to have people drown me in comments saying that me simply doing my job is worth so much to them, that this alone is a good work. It reminds me too that my focus isn’t global, it’s local, with the groups I already work with, the committees I already stand on, the starfish I’m already throwing back into the ocean. I need to do what I can to keep the black tar of despair from claiming me so I can keep throwing starfish, so I can get stronger and smarter and throw more, work with smarter people who know how to do it bigger, better, faster, harder. Or who know that sometimes standing still and focusing on one starfish is indeed good work.
So Raffle away, Copters. I’m going to go see a man about some sheep, if I can, and then get back to the business of more stories tomorrow.
This was not the post I meant to make this morning.
In fact, I wasn’t sure I had a plan to make a post. If I did, it would have been the standard, “Hey, I have a new release,” though it would have come with a little explanation that this one was a surprise, unplanned, and unannounced. There was a tiny plan, I suppose. It happened that the formatter had the book ready last night, so I slid links to a new release out in the early hours of the evening as they came to me, as they went live at vendors.
At that point we were simply waiting for election returns. Everyone was nervous—hopeful, because we’d been told this was in the bag, but we needed to witness and make sure. A few people said, “Yay, a distraction!” and that’s about what I meant them to be. No big deal. The whole point of Santa Baby was to be a little holiday fun, a departure, low-stress for everyone. I had a press kit and a blogger letter ready to go, a plan laid out. I didn’t exactly mean to “release” on election night, but the Amazon link went live, so I posted it, and there we were.
And then the bottom fell out of the world, and now I am writing a very different post.
To say that the U.S. election has devastated me and my family is a mild understatement. I won’t explain how this affects other members of my family only to say that it does, each one of them, in varying ways with varying degrees of severity. And it affects us all to know that our “friends” and neighbors, colleagues, relatives, associates of all stripes saw such an openly racist, misogynistic, bigoted, cruel man, with no experience on the job, and they chose him over a woman more qualified, more steady, more kind, and more everything. That’s hard for everyone.
However, what I cried to sleep over, what I had to be drugged to stop crying over, what I had to be held by my husband over, and what I ultimately had to call a crisis hotline at 3AM over, was that after a month of denying (and writing through) old wounds, I could no longer contain my pain and panic over the truth that the country of my birth had just elected a man who bragged of sexual assault, was accused of it by so many, and who is accused of rape of a minor—that this man has been elected President. I could not bear this because I am a sexual assault survivor.
I have been barely able to stomach seeing and hearing him all month, but I got through it on the promise he would be vanquished. Foolishly I think I put my demons into the nominee, decided with his defeat I would be freed too. My abuser was never dealt with. I attempted several times to reach out, to name him, to call him out, but it never worked. Every attempt was twisted, turned against me. Sometimes those who tried to help became snared in his net too. When I discovered he’d gone after someone very close to me, I tried to be brave, to face him down, but I don’t know if it worked. I shook the whole time.
I want to say it ended? Perhaps? Perhaps I delude myself. I went to college. I could forget. If I came home, if I saw him even across a room, I trembled uncontrollably and had to leave. I couldn’t breathe. A boyfriend offered to beat him up; perhaps he did? I don’t know. I stopped coming home as often, but then I began having panic episodes at school at random moments that made no sense. Sometimes they did make sense—I’d be making out with a boy and his hand would move the wrong way and I’d beat him off as if he were mauling me. Or I’d go still like a stone. Another time I nearly was assaulted a second time by a boy who escorted me to my room after a night out. I don’t know how I got away, why he left.
A campus pastor counseled me, got me through. He heard my story, validated me, offered to help me prosecute my abuser. I couldn’t do it, part of me afraid he could be turned too, even though a greater part of me knew there was no way this man could, that he would be one hundred percent at my back no matter what my abuser said. But his conviction, his faith in me were what I needed. It healed me. It gave me strength. Over the years the pain of that episode of my life would ebb and flow, a ghost coming to visit me, but it never seized me. I wrote a book about it, A Private Gentleman, and I felt I was done. Survivor badge achieved.
And then it came up in Santa Baby, unexpected. I don’t know how to express to you how surreal it was to be writing what was meant to be a warm, rich, mostly light-hearted polyamorous romance and be sideswiped by a sexual assault subplot. To be writing that while on Twitter authors raged and fought over whether or not it was okay for another author to be writing a book where a young girl is groomed by an adult man as a romance happening while I wrote that scene was rough. But to be neck-deep in that when the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America appeared in a tape bragging about how easily he assaults women, then watch those debates and witness the parade of women come forward, hear him berate them and watch the press scarcely believe them either, have no comprehension how to treat assault survivors?
I could barely stand to see the man, could not hear his voice. My only solace was that he would go down. Everyone assured me he would. He would go down—and I wanted him to—by the hand of a woman. A woman who looks so much like my mother.
And now I must accept my country has lifted this abuser up instead.
I have fallen back, into some kind of intense relapse I never saw coming. I have discovered this was never a ghost. Or rather there was something more that went with it. Something I must wrestle with. Right now it manifests in that I literally cannot stand to see or hear the man I am supposed to call President. I cannot say or write his name. His voice makes me start crying. Suddenly I am twenty again, running from a bar because I saw my abuser’s head across the room, shaking and vomiting and not understanding why.
I’m going to take care of myself. I got myself into RAIIN last night when the body blow was too much, when I could barely breathe and all my running caught up with me. They helped me unpack, taught me the breathing thing, and I’ve got numbers for someone local to talk to. So I’ll be okay.
But as I said. My post about my casual, surprise release is a little different than I meant it to be.
Santa Baby is still a light distraction if you want it, a holiday surprise. I’m adding third party links as they go live to the web page, but a lot of the big ones are already there. The story does have a serious subplot, as all the Minnesota Christmas stories do. Yes, Arthur and Gabriel have an open relationship in this book, and it’s not a threesome, not exactly. It’s a full-on polyamorous romance, with calendars to set up who has what weekend and everything. And yes, there’s a character dealing with sexual assault. I worked hard with someone I trust on this subject to treat it not only with dignity but with care. I wanted it to be something someone who had assault or abuse in their past would find healing, and to be honest, I wanted to continue my own healing.
I admit, I’m sad to discover I couldn’t write off all my own pain, that I’m not firm in my survivor seat with Dale this morning. But I’ll get there. And if you’re having a hard time, be it because of assault, or fear for your rights, or even simple anxiety and fear for what the nation will become, you can come and sit with me. Find me on Facebook page or profile, or Twitter, or Patreon, or in my books. You can bet I will be writing a lot. I’m finding this morning I have a lot of things I need to work through, and story is the only way I know how to do that.
Several readers have sent messages or notes as Santa Baby went live or was sent to them as a patron gift, thanking me because my story was “just what they needed” at that dark moment. Each time it made me cry, because even though of course that’s what an artist hopes to hear, that their work lifts people up, to hear it in that moment, that your work is a light in someone’s darkness when you are feeling so dark—I don’t know. It’s an odd reminder that you still possess the light after all. Like feeling that you’re drowning and someone reminding you that air is all around.
I have been trying to be more positive, to stay out of bickering and fray, to spread love not hate, etc. I still want to do that. I thought I would be angry today, and I will in a hot second if someone threatens my kid, but mostly I want to work to help, to spread hope, to build things, to move forward. I am dismayed and disgusted with so many people, and I have the feeling there are some very awkward conversations ahead, but right now I am spent. I don’t begrudge anyone else their anger, but I don’t have any right now. This amazon is benched, I’m afraid.
My next book is a Carry the Ocean sequel, somewhat in the spirit of Short Stay. Emmet has been talking to me. Oh, how I could use some Emmet right now. And then I will let the girls of Love Lessons tell me all about their helpless rage, and we will see what we will see.
But right now, I have a little Christmas, right this very minute, if you’d like it. I’m sending out information to bloggers later today, and there will be an excerpt up at USA Today Happily Ever After later this week. In the meantime, go take care of yourself. Don’t dwell on things that make you upset and scared. Be with people you love. Do things that make you happy. Consume art. Make art. Love.
Be light. Darkness only wins if we let it consume us. And I have met you, readers, spoken to you, known you. You are rays of light, every single one. You tell me my work lifts you up? Well right back at you. Right back at you.
Off to some self care.
Today is release day for the second novel in my Dancing series, Enjoy the Dance, a follow up to my 2011 novel Dance With Me. When I re-released Dance With Me last year, I’d intended to write a quick short, or possibly a brief novella catching readers up on what had happened Ed and Laurie between when that novel had ended and 2015, because so much had happened. Enjoy the Dance quickly became one of those stories that got away from my original vision in ways that departed from everything I had intended it to be but took me on many wonderful, important journeys I do not regret taking. Thanks to a conversation with a friend this summer, I made the decision to not make this a continuation story but its own novel and to introduce a new couple, to make this a formal new series. The story is a romance, but it is more romantic fiction than a romance novel. It is definitely one of those stories that I needed to write for myself and for one particular person in my life. It was one of the more difficult stories I’ve written, but I don’t regret one word of it.
The one point that I wasn’t going to move from in the production of this story was that I would finish it. I had made a promise that part of the proceeds for the production of this book would raise money for an organization which has become very near to my heart: Avenues for Youth in Minneapolis. If you have read my Love Lessons series, you have heard me speak of this organization before. They raised money for it in Lonely Hearts, and it was vaguely referenced in Fever Pitch. I interviewed Ryan Berg from Avenues as part of my blog tour for Enjoy the Dance, and you can read that interview and its three parts here, here, and here, or you can read more about Avenues on their website. Especially with this book, where the themes of the story are so directly related to Avenues, I wanted to take an opportunity to raise money for them through my work. I wish I could tell you I had reached the point in my career where I could afford it to donate the entire proceeds of the novel even for a month or two, but unfortunately I am not there yet.
However. I do have a few opportunities for you to help me raise money for Avenues this week and this coming weekend.
Twin Cities Book Festival Sale: This coming Saturday, I will be attending the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds from 10 AM to 5 PM. I will be selling copies of Enjoy the Dance and Dance with Me for $20 a copy, and all proceeds will be donated to Avenues for Youth. Should you choose to donate more than $20 for your purchase, you will be entered in a raffle for a full signed set of all my Minnesota books in paperback, plus a signed copy of Ryan Berg’s book, No House to Call my Home. Or, if you choose not to make a purchase that day and simply donate $20 or more, you will also be entered in the raffle. If you are in the Twin Cities area, I hope you are able to come by and say hello and help me raise some money for a wonderful cause.
Online Donation Raffle: Not able to make it to Minneapolis this weekend? Wish you could get in on the raffle at the very least? Not to worry. You can! All you need to do is make a $20 donation or more to Avenues for Youth between today and Sunday, October 16 at noon CST for USD$20 or more, and then email the receipt or some sort of proof of donation to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will then be entered into the raffle, plus you will have helped raise money for a truly wonderful organization. You may begin entering now. You may continue to donate after the raffle ending time, but you will not be entered for the raffle prize.
First Print Run Error Copies: This is perhaps the strangest fundraiser I’ve ever done, but in the attempt to make lemons into lemonade, I’m going to run with it. The preparations for production of Enjoy the Dance had to be jostled with some vacation schedules of my contractors, most acutely important the month-long out of country absence of my cover artist. In our earnest attempts to work quickly, and by focusing on the front copy and back copy, and in my decision to do the proofreading myself instead of showing my husband who is so much more detail oriented than me… Well, the long story short is that mistakes were made. Or rather one specific item of the print copy was not changed until I had ordered 66 copies of the book…with the wrong title on the spine.
Some of my patrons have chosen to receive these error copies as gifts. A few have chosen to purchase them. You may do so as well, and again, the bulk of the proceeds will go to Avenues. (The reason it’s “bulk” and not “all” is because of postage and because my budget plans for the Twin Cities Festival fundraiser did not include mistakenly ordering 66 books with the wrong cover before I ordered the same number of books again with the correct cover, but rest assured Avenues will still get well over half of the money collected for the mistake books, inasmuch as I can possibly afford to give them.)
Cost for the error books is $20, which will cover domestic shipping; international shipping will run an additional $5-10, depending on where you are. Please fill out this form if you are interested.
I am now off to have an anniversary dinner with my husband, because yes, that’s today too! I hope you enjoy Enjoy the Dance, and I hope I get to see you in Minneapolis this weekend, or somewhere else very soon.