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Sunday, January 30, 2011

February 6, 2010

February's only a handful of hours away. In previous years, this wouldn't have felt like an ominous thing. It's my hope future years will see me feeling the same. This year, though? As February nears, my mind is locked in on how rapidly February 6 is approaching.

In the early days of February last year, my siblings and I knew our mom was dying. It was an abstract knowledge not tied to any particular timeframe.

On February 6, my sister wrote:
She really is dying.

Thus my siblings and I began the sorrowful four-week march that led to my mom's final breaths, in my sisters' arms, in the bedroom where a younger version of me once realized her mom wouldn't live forever.

Recently I've begun to remember my mom with laughter. I don't have that weighty sense of OMGwhywasherlifesosadandhard-ness that I did for several months immediately following her death. I'm feeling echoes of that now, though, remembering what I was doing and how I was feeling this time last year. I was totally oblivious about what was just around the corner.

Sharing some of this with a friend via email got me thinking about a couple of random docs stored on my hard drive. Looking for one in particular, I found the following:

On December 8, 1990, I received a diary from a friend. I wrote my first entry that same day to mark the occasion, making note of how the journal had come to me and who I had crushes on.

Since then, I’ve filled a couple dozen journals. These journals are jammed into a purple plastic box in my eight-month-old son’s nursery closet. I see them every morning when I decide what my son is going to wear that day. Some days I don’t even notice the box. Many days I wonder at how copiously I’ve documented my life given that, until recently, I had no desire whatsoever to read a single page’s reflections on bygone days. Other days, it’s easier to recall that I didn’t keep journals as a record of my life but rather as an outlet for thoughts and fears that otherwise would have found no expression.

It is only in the wake of my mom’s death that I have found myself wondering what otherwise forgotten memories might be buried in those pages. Thus have I found the incentive I need to finally overcome mortification at teenaged angst immortalized therein and dive in, understanding that some of what I find will be poignant whereas some will be scathing. Entries from my early teenage years are indeed full of hate and anger.

As I begin to delve into these journals, I’m surprised to find it’s not the embarrassing entries that depress me. It’s all the years I didn’t have a journal that inspire chagrin, for it is in those years my mom was my wholly my mom, not the mental illness that would slowly devour her colorful spirit. It is in those years for which there’s no documentation I could have found memories that captured my mom, first-hand, before she was beaten down – if never fully broken – by illness and abuse.

I remember only fragments of the moments I shared with my mom in my younger days. In California, on several different occasions, she made holiday-themed treats and brought them to my first-grade class. This class, I recall, was the second class I sat in for first grade; my mom expelled me from the first because she couldn’t bear the cruelty I was being subjected to there.

I remember her holding my hand in the sunset at the Monterrey shore that same year. Together we shielded our eyes from the sun and watched my dad’s figure shrink into the ocean until it was no longer visible. When I expressed fear he might not come back, my mom squeezed my hand and reassured me he would always return.

He did come back, that time. In the end, though, it was my mom who could always be counted on to come back. No matter how many ice cream cones my dad bought me on his rare visits following my parents’ divorce, it was my mom’s perseverance that taught me true commitment. If she didn’t always make the right choice, she always tried. That was worth far more than any Thrillville trip or sugary treat.

My mom would always be there to light the way as best she could. I knew this from an early age, and knew it no less truly for the abuse I endured in childhood. Even as a child, it was easy to see how hard my mom had it. It was just as easy to see how determined she was that, in the end, her children would have the tools they needed to make better lives for themselves.

Through this dearth of memories, my heart sings its truer recollection of my mother’s spirit. I don’t need to recall each individual memory to remember the feeling of being enveloped in her love.

She will never hold my hand again, but this memory is imprinted in my heart, where it will remain no matter how many individual memories are recalled or lost.

These words may not bring my mom back, but they're a helluva thing to hold close to my heart as February 6, 2011 nears.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I constantly battled depression as a teenager. Over time, recognizing there was nothing powerful or important about depression, I taught myself techniques to extract myself from the numbing fog it wrapped around my brain. It's now a fairly rare experience for me to go through spells of depression, but it does happen.

Art Alexakis sang that being neurotic and depressed "doesn't mean that you are sad." For me, depression seldom manifests itself as sadness. Instead, it steals my energy from me, leaving me an automaton going through the bigger motions of my daily life ... and totally skipping those smaller motions I just can't muster up the energy for.

I'm normally a huge fan of my twice-daily walks with my dog. When I'm not suffering plantar fasciitis (about that, >!@#!@#!#@$!), I love running. Right now, due to my injury, I have to settle for walking. Except that, the last couple of weeks, each 5-minute walk has seemed like an earth-shatteringly ginormous monstrosity of energy-suckingness. Whereas I usually spring from bed with a smile each morning, I've recently had a hard time pulling myself from bed no matter how wakeful I am. Little things like showering and flossing feel like enormous expenditures of energy.

Frankly speaking, my pattern recognition skills suck. If all the clues are there, though, there are occasionally times where I look at them and go, "Hey! I get it!" This is one of those times.

I'm depressed right now. This is very different from being sad, although it may sometimes involve a measure of sadness. Part of this is due to a very stressful experience very recently concluded. Another, my S.O. rightly suggests, is due to the fact I've poured a huge part of myself into The Monster's Daughter. Now that's done, and I'm left with a big question mark in response to the question, "What to do now?" I have projects I'm working on, but none of them are all-encompassing projects the way The Monster's Daughter has been, especially the last couple of months.

I'll find my footing again. I've done it a dozen times before. In the meantime, I guess I'll enjoy the feeling of having seen something very difficult through its conclusion. = The Monster's Daughter, print = The Monster's Daughter, Kindle
Coming soon to Amazon & the Nook!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My book became available on Kindle a few hours ago. The formatting was askew in places, so I had to manually correct the errors in HTML and upload the corrected document. I assumed this meant my book would be unavailable for purchase, an assumption that Nathan--to whom you were introduced in my first entry--decimated with this picture.

It feels all kinds of appropriate and awesome that Nathan, who was there when I concluded telling Ginny's tale, should be the first to purchase the book that began it.

Such an amazing rush to see this! I'm so glad I decided to go for it, no matter how long it took me to muster up the courage.

(Translation, in debbrainese:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Journals, online and off

In 1990, I started my first print journal.

For the first year or two, I mostly wrote entries when I was aggravated with my siblings. About half of my entries thus read, roughly: "[sibling] did [x]. [sibling] is stupid. I hate [sibling]. At least [sibling] will have to suffer being stupid [his/her] whole life whereas I will be rich and famous and awesome and married to Edward Scissorhands. Haha." The other half of my entries? Those were about my future marriage to Edward Scissorhands.

Pretty please do me a favor and avoid calculating my age based on the above? Let's just all agree I was about eight years old and move right along.

Over the next couple of years, my entries started gaining a little nuance. I won't say I didn't obsess about crushes or rant about my siblings and/or mom. I surely did. Those entries simply slowly gave way to more earnest, seeking entries. I began using my journal as a place to reflect on my life and future absent the cacophony surrounding me day-to-day. Many of the entries were negative, which is funny since I was such a cheerful youth (you don't seriously believe that, do you?), but occasionally I'd bust out neutral or even joyful sentiments. Sometimes, happily, I took the time to say kind or thoughtful things about (ever-changing factions among) my family:

I love three people: me, Rachael, and Mom. (Unlike Rachael!) How could I not love mom? I couldn’t not love her. I can not even say how much. And I respect her very much. I like the stickers Mom got us. Being poor is so hard on her. Especially since we always want more than we can have. That’s just how it is, though. --2/14/1993

In 1995, I started a "public journal" comprised of txt files broken down by month and year. With a few short exceptions, I kept that journal online till I started law school in 2001. That "public journal" saw me through the summer following my high school graduation, college, Orcalab, a few months in Korea and a move--via Greyhound--to Los Angeles, where I'd be attending law school despite the absolute fiscal nonsense of it. When I deleted my public journals, I swore I was done with electronic journals. But wait, what's this? LiveJournal? Well, I suppose I could try it. Just this once.

Over the years, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words online and off. Writing these words helped me to find both my voice and my ability to reason. If there was something I couldn't work out anywhere else, I'd write myself through it. Writing was the process by which I tuned out all the rest of the world and honed in on a single point, allowing myself to work that point through to its conclusion so that, for a little while, I'd feel like there was some order and predictability to the world.

After a while, writing in my journal wasn't something I thought about. It was just something I did. I didn't ever figure I'd go back through my old entries. In fact, the writing was about the process, and hoooooo-boy! Were there ever processes I didn't intend ever to revisit!

Then, a few months ago, I decided it was time to pore through every single entry I'd ever written, anywhere. I did this after it hit me that I'd never make another new memory with my mom ever again. I wondered if I might find in the pages of my journals memories that I'd forgotten, so that in reading about them I'd feel like they were new.

This was indeed the case. Over the course of several weeks, I rediscovered many joyful memories not only of my mom, but also of my siblings, old friends and a handful of people I don't think I'd be able to identify properly if I were given a line-up of two totally dissimilar people to choose from. As I read through those entries, I thought about what a loss it would have been to never have recorded these moments in the first place. This is so whether they were recorded in my own handwriting or digitally.

15 or 16 years ago, a stranger commented to me that he never thought he'd see something so human as my public journal come out of a machine. But as I read through all my old entries, I felt a sense of loss at how my handwritten entries were slowly being replaced by typed ones. I can type more quickly than I can write, to be certain. Yet I wonder, am I saying as much? Or am I simply saying more? I'm inclined to believe the latter. Half my life ago, through the slow, tedious act of writing by hand, I was forced to seriously consider my every word before marking it down. Each word I selected was specific and precise, or at least more apt to be than a word in an electronic entry. When I started shifting toward typing, I could get a whole lot more out in a whole lot less time, and it showed.

It's time for me to get back to my roots, so to speak. I'm committed to filling another print journal. Then another. And another.

As I type this, my toddler son is alternately coughing and singing in his sleep. As he does, I find myself thinking of how there's so, so much left to say. For me, for him, for posterity. I'd rather it be offline, when possible. Like when I was 16, there's just so much noise in my life now. I need that time writing it all out by hand to slowly and fastidiously find my way back to my heart.

Does that mean I'm gonna keep it all offline? You decide for yourself, given the medium of this entry.

I trust you'll realize you'll never see me online again!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Further awesomesauce

You wanna know what's not awesome? Being sick.

You wanna know what is awesome? Receiving a printed copy of your book and discovering it's even prettier in three dimensions than it was in two.

The book pictured here is just a proof. I've uploaded two separate replacements since receiving the proof pictured here late yesterday. (Yes, I readily admit my enthusiasm exceeds my patience right now!) It'll be a few days yet till I get that real-final proof and publish The Monster's Daughter. In the meantime, you'll find me curled up in bed, feverish but delighted to see my book on my nightstand.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On writing books & golden stars

In early November 2004, a couple of friends urged me to write an autobiography for National Novel Writing Month. I wasn't super keen on the thought, but I was bored, broke and without regular internet access in the middle of rural Japan.

On November 3, 2004, I began writing my autobiography. I figured I'd write 20 or 30 pages before losing interest. Instead, I wrote a couple thousand words a day until November 14. That day, I broke both the 40,000- and 50,000-word marks.

Five days later, I triumphantly pounded out the last words of my 70,000-word rough draft. Sure, I'd written five pages of academic drivel for every sentence worth keeping, but I'd just written a book! WIN! I'd spent zero dollars keeping myself busy for countless hours! DOUBLE-WIN!

On November 23, I looked at a calendar posted at the supermarket and thought, There's a lot of days left in this month. I walked the couple miles back home and wondered if I could get really crazy and write a second book, this time in a week. Maybe I could try finishing that book I'd started when I was a high school freshman? Yeah, that halp-my-dad's-a-vampire one. As I'd done with my autobiography, I figured it couldn't hurt to hunker down in front of my hyaku-en milk-crate "desk" and give the project a few hours.

Once I started typing, I was hooked on the discovery process involved in telling a fictional tale. In a mad dash to learn what happened to the people in this tale, I skipped sleep and typed furiously for several days.

With barely more than one day left in November, I posted the following to my journal via phone:
“Six days and 67,000 words later, I've written a novel, and I'm now going to sleep for 19 years. Good night.”

Phew. Written out!

Or maybe...

Yep, you guessed it. I had another book in me. Or, more precisely, I had two more books in me. Right around Christmas, in the wee hours of the morning, I knocked off my fourth book. My friend Nathan was visiting at this time, and describes his visit to this day with: "type type type type type type." It's not that I didn't spend any time socializing with him. It was just that, when we were hanging out around my studio, I didn't see any reason I couldn't write and chat simultaneously. In retrospect, I'm sure this visit was just fabulous for Nathan...

After I wrapped up the fourth book, I decided the second book--then titled Genevieve: A Dark Winter's Tale--was sooooo fabulous it would be publishable nearly as-is. I sent it to a few volunteer readers. I was so pained by their implications the book wasn't absolutely perfect as written that I buried all my books in my closet and vowed never to think of them again.

Occasionally they'd pop up in my mind, and I'd wonder if my books were really that bad. I'd feel profoundly anxious at the thought of facing my own inadequacy--not writing a single perfect book the first time around? for shame!--and swiftly move on to thinking about less stressful things.

When my house was burglarized some months after I returned from Japan, I lost my laptop. I believed I'd also lost my stories, which felt both depressing and liberating. Free! I was free! I could pretend I'd never written them and get my fifth book perfect on the first try.

Eventually I found the discs on which I'd saved my books. I was glad I hadn't left them in Japan, but I still wasn't ready to face their content.

Now, more than six years after my furious burst of NaNoWriMo-inspired writing, I can say I've finally edited one of those four books. Revising The Monster's Daughter was a long, slow process, and many times I found myself frustrated that changing a word here and there didn't make the book significantly better. Indeed, I'd completed three full revisions before I realized I could delete entire paragraphs. Entire pages and chapters, even! I deleted the first 3.5 chapters and was heartened to find the book instantly improved. From there, it got easier, if not exactly easy.

After multiple revisions, it's safe to say the book's not perfect. At a certain point, though, I realized I could keep editing the book till I'm 83 and still not get it perfect. (Had I ever really believed a book could just come out that way on the first try? No flippin' way I would ever have been so naive!)

In the next couple of weeks, I'll thus be self-publishing The Monster's Daughter. Mostly I wanted to rid myself of the guilty knowledge I'd written a bunch of books and just sat on them. In the wake of my mom's death, that seemed a lot like hiding the talent my mom was so proud to see in all of her children. Secondarily, I wanted to free Ginny Connors from the confines of my hard drive, in case anybody else could come to love her the way I do. For the kind of closure I wanted, I didn't feel I needed an agent or a publishing company or anything extravagant. A printed book to show for all my efforts would do fine.

I asked my friend Mackenzie ( if she wouldn't mind throwing together a cover. When I emailed Mack, I wasn't especially excited about publishing The Monster's Daughter. I just wanted to be done with it, thank you very much.

Mack's cover was so fabulous, my enthusiasm for The Monster's Daughter instantly quadrupled. If I sell exactly one copy, my enthusiasm won't be diminished. That glorious cover has my name on it! That's not only because my friends are talented, but because I wrote a book!

Thus I find myself back where I started:
Holy cow, I wrote a book! A few of them, even!

Just, please. I'm begging you, don't make me look at those other ones...