What a difference a day makes…

So.  I took care of my sister-in-law for a couple of days.  Today was my brother’s hearing, where the judge refused to let him go without bail, and refused to lower the bail to $500.  So, with my wife’s support, and knowing it’s going to hurt us, I bailed him out.  It cost a lot, in both money and spousal currency.    

This means I’m not going to be able to go to Viable Paradise even if I get accepted; between this and the unexpectedly-large amount I owe in state taxes (fuck you too, California), I just can’t afford it.  But that’s a small price compared to the fact that I am sitting in my hotel room with my brother, talking video games, family history, life, and Just Stuff.  (He’s on the phone right now, so I can type).  And I’m still going to write.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get in next year and be able to do it.  If not… well, that’s life.  Keep moving forward; there’s no going back. 

This blog seems to be growing in readership; we’ll see how long before you all decide I’m boring as hell and run away.  

I promise, my next post will be more about writing.  

 

Life is messy.

So my brother got arrested.  Let’s not worry over why; suffice to say it’s an administrative issue and one we’ll say no more about.  However, when I heard what was going on, and that his wife, who is already dealing with a newborn (and an 18 month old), was all alone and had no real clue what to do, I arranged my affairs at home and, with my wife’s blessing, jumped in the car and drove to Oregon.

For those unfamiliar with US West Coast measurements, that’s about 440 miles, or a 7.5 hour drive.  I left Sacramento at 3:30, got into Oregon around 9, hit my brother’s town at 11:20.  It’s now midnight, or just after.  What a day.

First thing I did when I got in was let my sister in law know I’m here.  Then I started hitting the websites of the county offices.  OH MY FREAKING GODS.  These people don’t make anything easy.  I look up visiting at the county jail, and you have to call between 9am and 11am the day BEFORE you want to visit.  I didn’t even know this had happened until well after that.  And all visitors have to be on an “approved” list–but how am I going to be on this list if my brother doesn’t even know I’m in the state?  So tomorrow morning I’m going to call the jail and see if I can’t sweet-talk someone, but I don’t hold out much hope.

And good luck finding the Public Defender’s office.  I might have found it, but who knows?  And the information was NOT easy to find; it may even be out of date.  So I’ll call the courthouse tomorrow.

All I know right now is that I can’t afford his bail, or I’d be down there getting him out RIGHT FUCKING NOW–except that I probably couldn’t even if I had the full amount, because everything in this state seems to close at 9.  At home Bail Bonds are open 24 hours; I see no sign of that here.  And no, I’ve never had reason to use a Bail Bondsman; I used to work in the legal field and have a tiny bit of knowledge on those things.

And of course, I’m also here to help his wife, who is freaking out, probably from a combination of post-partum hormonal imbalance (she JUST gave birth, and I know that can mess with things like crisis management) and having zero help with her kids while facing the possibility her husband could end up in jail for a while.

Anyway.  So I want to talk to the PD and see if there’s anything we can do to help my brother’s case, because he has a 1.5 year old and a newborn to take care of, let alone his wife, and also he’s my brother and I want to help him.  His wife told me today that the hearing is Thursday, but what will happen is up in the air right now.

Spring Break, my ass. But it’s family.  And Family is Family, even if you’ve only known them for an incredibly short time.  And yes, there is a tiny part of my wondering if I am doing the right thing by coming up here when I had planned to spend this week with my own daughter, who was very brave, but also very sad, when I explained there was an emergency and her auntie needed my help.

Yeah. My life, right?  On the plus side, some of this brother stuff–not the arrest so much as the having a brother part–has been percolating into my writing, and has improved a fantasy story I’ve been tooling with on the back burner.

 

A New Life

My brother and his wife had their second child last night; she’s adorable.  They named her Skye.

It’s very strange to have one’s family grow by four in just two weeks.  The more I talk with Jason, the more we realize how alike we are, from favorite foods and reading material, to video games, to personalities.  When we first saw each other on video chat, we lost any remaining doubts–we are so very definitely brothers.

 

Life, she just keeps getting weirder

So.  I’m 41 years old.  And yesterday my paradigm totally shifted.  This is not about writing. This is about family, and yearnings that go back nearly 40 years. But first, some background:

I was born in 1971.  My parents divorced shortly after I was born, though they maintained some kind of relationship.  The last time I saw my dad was in 1973.  I have no memory of him at all.  I grew up knowing his name, and that was it.

My mother died in 1977.  I was adopted by friends of the family.  Those people did their best, but their best wasn’t much.  They divorced in 1982, and she sank, due to an illness that eventually killed her, into abusive behaviors.  I grew up being yelled at, beaten, and told that I was worthless.  I was told my mother had been a prostitute who dropped me on a street corner and called my adopted mom to come take me.  I was told she died of a drug overdose.  I was told my father was a murderer.  All lies, as I discovered when the State removed me from that home and gave me into the care of my mother’s sister again when I was fifteen.

I know my real mom wasn’t a saint.  She was a pothead, and a bad mother.  I spent most of my first five years living with my grandmother and aunt and, after grandma died too young in 1975, with those “friends of the family.”  But she was no prostitute.  She didn’t throw me away; she loved me fiercely, which is why she allowed me to live with those others–she knew what she was.  And she didn’t die of an overdose; she died of a heart attack from morbid obesity and the same heart condition that killed my grandmother–a heart condition I seem to have escaped, if my cardiologist is right.

And my father was no murderer.  But he was a meth addict, and I never saw him again.  He died in 1993, just as he was cleaning his life up, victim of a stupid vehicle vs. pedestrian accident in which he was the pedestrian.

I grew up desperately wanting a family that didn’t seem to hate me.  And I got one in my aunt, her husband, and their kids, born when I was 19-22, who regard me as their big brother, and whom I love very much.  But I always wondered if there were more out there, abandoned by my father like I had been.

In searching for more information about the father I never knew, I found my uncle, and reference to a wife.  Sadly, my Uncle had never found her.  I tracked her down a few weeks ago, and she gave me the news that shifted my reality.  She said my father had had another son.

At first I thought she must be mistaken; I have a half-sister on my mother’s side, but there was no evidence of other children of my father.  But she had a name to give me, and a city of birth.  She gave me those yesterday, and I put the Google-Fu to work.

And six hours later, I found my brother.

Let me say that again, because it’s important: I found my brother.

He lives in Oregon, though he was born in San Francisco.  He’s twelve years younger than I am; I’ll turn 42 just a few weeks before he turns 30 this summer.  He has a wife, as I do.  He has a daughter, as I do.  And unlike me, he’s having another kid in just a few weeks.

And like me, he’s always wanted a brother, and missed having one.

I don’t think either of us is dumb enough to think that we’re going to have a magical relationship as if we’d grown up together.  But we have a chance to build an adult relationship.  And we’re both as excited as hell about it.

What is going on in American culture?

And I specify American culture because while I have a bunch of head-knowledge about other nations, I’ve only visited Mexico so far (You’re next, UK!), and I would hesitate to say I knew a lot about that culture after only two weeks there.  

Anyway, what’s bugging me was brought on by comments on an article on a local website.  A gay couple was kicked out of a local mall for holding hands and kissing.  The security guard kicked them out, claiming it was policy no matter if it was a heterosexual couple or a homosexual one.   The local news station went undercover, and witnessed many straight couples doing the same things the gay men had been doing–and nobody said a word.  The mall manager refused comment. 

That’s all pathetic enough, but the comment section is when my blood pressure really took off.  I’m used to the sort of “OMG GAY PEOPLE KISSING THAT’S SO GROSS” nonsense that populates this kind of thread; let’s set them aside.  Time will deal with those morons. 

No, what bothered me was the plethora of comments saying something like “Good! Nobody should be doing that in front of children, not even straight couples!”

Seriously, WTF? Since when is it harmful for kids to see a man kiss his wife?  Or girlfriend?  We’re not talking “tonsil dueling,” here, we’re talking about a quick kiss.  And there are people there who think that’s too much for children to see.  

Back when The Matrix Reloaded came out, my younger sister, then 12, asked me to take her to see it.  I asked her mom what she thought, and she asked if it was “inappropriate.”  I admitted that yes, there was rather a lot of violence, including people getting shot, dying on-camera, “bad” language, etc.  She said “Oh, I don’t care about that stuff!  I just don’t want her to see a sex scene!”

Say WHAT?  Watching two characters who are lovers show that love is worse than watching something like 40 people dying on screen, and many more off-screen?  Really?  

This isn’t just my family, either.  I’ve seen parents at the game store, warned by an employee that the game they are about to buy their elementary-school kid is rated “M,” meaning it’s meant for adults, scoff at the violence warning and ask “Is there sex in it?”  One woman refused to buy her kid Mass Effect, one of the best-written games in the last few years, because the employee admitted there’s a love scene in which you see a part of a woman’s thigh.  

Now, it’s not like I think kids should be watching porn, or even less-explicit love scenes.  But there is something wrong with a society that thinks it’s more important a kid not see a nude human making love than that they not see a man get his head blown off.  

George Carlin was right: “When you’re born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.”

 

The Best Writing Advice EVER

Novelist Myke Cole, author of the Shadow Ops series, linked via twitter to this blog post by novelist Chuck Wendig.  Now, I haven’t read anything Wendig has written other than this post, but based only on this, I’m going to have to check his stuff out.  Because it’s the best advice ever.

In a nutshell, and phrased FAR less entertainingly than Wendig does, the advice essentially says “Write 350 words a day.”  That’s it.  He points out that at 350/day, assuming you write 5 days a week, you’ll have a 91,000-word novel in one year.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.  I’ve been working on it, and so far there are only a couple of days I haven’t managed it.  But on the days I did?  My word count grew by 2000 words.  One day I did not just 350, but 900.  Not bad.

I’m challenging myself to continue to write 350 words a day.  And I pass that challenge on to you.

No bullshit.  No “I have fifty things to do.”  EVERYONE has fifty things to do.

No “my kids need me.” Write when they go to bed.  Write when you realize you’re watching reality TV and there are better things to do.  Write before you go to bed. Write when you first wake up.  Write when the world is quiet but your brain won’t shut up and the moon is laughing at you.  Write when the storm rages outside.  Write on the deck when the world is being kind, write in your bed when the world is being cruel.

WRITE.

I am.  Are you?