Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall


A rare, first edition, out-of-print book, The Phantom Prince, and also not the best picture of my copy. Pardon the reflection.  
Here's a must read for those interested in learning what sort of boyfriend/lover Ted Bundy was as revealed by his former girlfriend of seven years, Elizabeth Kendall, who was a single mom struggling to make ends meet in the late sixties and early seventies. Right away, Elizabeth refers to herself as a "failure" following her divorce. She leaves Utah for Washington in hopes of a new start for herself and her young daughter, Tina. Once settled in Seattle, Elizabeth admits her loneliness and throughout the book, like so many young women, continues to berate herself as ugly and stupid and so on. 

Heartbreaking and familiar. 

Enter Ted Bundy, handsome, intelligent, ambitious, attentive, sweet, charming, great with kids, and loves to cook. He's also the bomb in the sack, or so the author implies, although she's not forthcoming with details. Too bad. Yeah, I said it. Kendall had a sexual relationship with America's most notorious serial sex killer. I want details. Oh, well. The main thing is, Ted Bundy came off a Prince Charming, and if Kendall were writing a romance novel . . . well, she wasn't.

Prince Bundy was an illusion he fought hard to maintain even as he succumbed to his dark impulses and murdered young and beautiful women all over the country.

The Phantom Prince, courtesy of Jerry Gay Photos
Poor Elizabeth Kendall.

I mean that. Imagine you're in an emotionally abusive relationship then add finding out he's a serial killer. Yeah. He would have snowed me, too. That is what is so powerful about Kendall's story. I relate to her. That's what makes Ted Bundy so scary. I would have fallen for him, too. How emotionally and physically exhausting to try and keep up with Ted's infinite manipulations. He turned on the crocodile tears and overwrought sentiments of love over and over and over again.

What a mind fuck. How painful.

Did Ted love Elizabeth?

Probably not. I'm pretty sure Ted didn't experience emotions the way most of us experience emotions. I'm also pretty sure he wished he experienced emotions the way most of us do but was unable to because of wiring and biology. Ted admits to Elizabeth during a phone call from jail she was a touchstone for him, a reality check, the way in which he tried to feel and appear "normal."

One of the most powerful moments in Elizabeth Kendall's story happens when she drives to the mall where Ted attempted to abduct Carol DaRonch, the one who got away. Kendall asks herself if a handsome and well mannered stranger (Ted) approached her and said he was a police officer and asked her to come with him, would she? Her answer is probably, yes. Me, too. Especially in 1974. I wouldn't have seen him coming. That trick with the cast on his leg would have worked wonders on me. Here comes this handsome, wounded man asking for help then chatting me up. Yup. There's me walking to his car and carrying his books for him. Jesus.

XO.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Your English Professor But Were Afraid to Ask

How was your summer vacation?

Good, thanks.

What did you do? 

Decompressed. After that, I served on a jury, did a ride-along with a GJPD officer, read twenty books, conducted research for my latest novel, and wrote 89,000 words. I also did a lot of yard work.

Is one reason you became an English professor for the summer vacation?

No.

Really? Why did you become an English professor? 

When I was in college, I admired and respected my English professors. I like to read and write. I like that, as a professor, I don't have anyone breathing down my neck. I'm my own boss and create my own curriculum. Sure, the university and the department specify certain requirements for each course, but I choose how I build those requirements into my curriculum. I have a lot of leeway. Teaching provides plenty of room for innovation and creativity. I like taking risks. I like thinking outside the box and presenting English classes in ways some students wouldn't expect.

Like? 

Like teaching poetry to composition students. Like group projects.  Like giving students a chance to eat bugs.

Wait. What? Bugs? 

Yes, my students get a chance to eat edible insects and/or products made from insect flour.

So do most of your students actually eat the bugs?

Ninety percent. A few can't because they have a shellfish allergy, and it you're allergic to lobster, you're allergic to grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are lobsters that live on land.

You also mentioned group projects. Most students HATE group projects.

I know. That's the best reason to give them a chance to participate in group projects. When I get my evaluations back after a semester ends, the majority of my students rave about the group projects.

What do you enjoy most about being an English professor?

Watching students gain confidence and master life skills.

What do you find most difficult about being an English professor? 

Not taking apathy personally. Some students simply don't care. They don't want to have to DO anything in order to earn a grade. A few end up resentful and even hostile.

Hostile? 

Yes, a few students have said hateful things. One called me a "dumb bitch" because I wouldn't cut him any slack when it came to my attendance policy. He knew what the policy was and chose to ignore it anyway then showed up in my office the last day of class angry that he was going to fail because he'd missed too many classes then got even angrier when I wouldn't cut him any slack.

So you don't cut students any slack? 

Nope. In the long run, cutting a student slack does him or her more damage than good. It sends the wrong message about what it takes to succeed.  

I don't suppose every student arrives in your class excited about reading and writing. 

Nope.

Does it irk you that some of your students don't like to read and write?

It irks me that some of my students are lazy.

Does anything else irk you?

Yes, excuses. And lying.

Do students have to do a lot of reading and writing in your class?

Yes.

Why? 

Because my students will have to read and write for other classes, and chances are, they will also have to read and write as part of their chosen professions.

So do only students who read and write well earn a C or higher in your class? 

Plenty of great readers and writers fail my class.

That's weird. 

No, it isn't. You can read and write until the cows come home (forgive the cliche) but if you're not a proactive person, you will end up nowhere fast.

Would you explain what "proactive" means? 

Of course.

The word "active" means to do something. The prefix "pro" means "before." So a proactive student gets things done rather than waiting for something to happen to them. But that's linguistics.

Look at it this way.

  • Proactive students show up for class. 
  • Proactive students show up on time. 
  • Proactive students show up prepared. 
  • Proactive students contribute to class discussions.  
  • Proactive students follow instructions and ask for help. 
  • Proactive students turn their assignments in on time. 
  • Proactive students establish relationships with both me and their peers.  

Okay, but as an English professor don't you favor students who like to read and write?

I'm thrilled to learn a student enjoys reading and writing. I'm impressed by students who want to improve their reading and writing skills. Creative students who are willing to step out of their comfort zones are a welcome addition to any of my classes.

So what's the best way to impress an English professor?
  • Show up for class. 
  • Show up on time. 
  • Show up prepared. 
  • Contribute to class discussions. 
  • Follow instructions, ask for help, and turn your assignments in on time. 
  • Establish relationships with both me and your peers.

That sounds familiar. 

You're catching on.

Sure am. Were you a good student, you know, proactive and all that, in college? 

Not the first two times. 

The first two times? 

That's what I said. 

What happened? 

Parties happened the first time. The second time, I earned good grades but would stop and start, then stop and start again, and so on. The third time, I got serious. 

What changed? 

Two words, my son. 

So what kind of education does a person need to become an English professor? 

I earned a B.A in English from the Metropolitan State College of Denver and an M.F.A (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon.

Was that difficult, balancing college and motherhood?

Hardest thing I've ever done. But I was motivated. I was determined. And failure wasn't an option.

Was your education expensive? 

Yes. I owe over sixty thousand dollars in student loans.

Whoa! You must earn a lot as an English professor.

Last year, I earned twenty-three thousand dollars.

Umm, your income-to-debt ratio isn't very good. 

Actually, it's terrible.

Why don't you earn more? 

The short answer is our current culture doesn't value educators. It values administrators. And reality TV stars. Teachers are replacing fast food workers as the most overworked and underpaid people in the nation. Teachers receive little thanks and a whole lot of blame.

Have you had any other jobs? 

Paper delivery person, nanny, waitress, hostess, model, reporter, journalist, peer mentor, tutor, pool monitor, research assistant, administrative assistant, and a licensed insurance sales person and CSR.

So I guess since you're an English professor you're probably also a writer? 

Good guess.

What do you write? 

I've written and published one book called Dog Men. I've finished a second book called No Sugar Tonight. I'm currently working on a third.

If a student reads your book will you give him or her extra credit? 

Good try.

What if I bring you an apple?

Thank you.

Chocolate?

Thank you.

Well, do you respond to flattery of any kind?

Flattery, yes. Brown nosing, no, and I can tell the difference. What I respond to most are proactive students who truly desire to empower themselves and those around them.

What is the most impressive thing a student has ever done in one of your classes?

I've had the pleasure to teach a number of impressive students. I think the one thing that stands out most, probably because I didn't expect such a gesture from a college freshman, was when a young man approached me after the first day of class, looked me straight in the eye, smiled, offered me his hand, gave me a firm-but-not-too-firm handshake, and then introduced himself by name and said, "I look forward to learning everything I can from you this semester." WOW!

You might also try sitting toward the front and leaving your cell phone in your back pack.

XO. 


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Baby Blue


                                                                      Baby Blue
                                                               ©Alana Noël Voth 


Back in the day, the Colorado Social Club played hair bands on Tuesdays and sold pitchers of 3.2 beer for a quarter. The club called it Drown Night. Back in the day, Joel drove a 1982 Honda Civic he called Baby Blue. The car, like the club, had been wiped out, gone. Here was Joel, still standing, still driving. He pulled into a church parking lot then sat listening to an eighties rock station. Anytime he heard “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest, he didn’t feel the way he wanted. He wanted to feel excited, turned on, but got a big “what if?” instead. 
Back in the day, the church was the Colorado Social Club. Joel came here now and stared at a cross hung above the church door then reached under his seat for his emergency stash, although these days he may as well call it liquid annihilation.
            That night, in 1985, he left his apartment then climbed into Baby Blue. The car coughed when he turned the ignition. All the way to the club, Joel hoped Baby Blue made it. When Joel pulled the car into club parking lot, he hoped he’d make it, too. Inside, he felt alone in a place packed with people until his friend, Daphne, rushed him.  
“He looks like Peter Frampton!” she yelled about the bartender who’d been ignoring Joel.   
Frampton Comes Alive was one of Joel’s favorite albums. Daphne waved the bartender over then ordered two pitchers of beer. When Joel laid down a five-dollar tip, the bartender palmed it. He wore jeans as tight as Joel’s and a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show muscle. Daphne held her pitcher with two hands. “I’m going to blow that guy,” she said.
Joel’s spirits sank. “Something might be wrong with Baby Blue,” he said.
“I know a super foxy mechanic,” Daphne said with a smile. “He’s here now.”  
“Where?” Joel asked, hopeful. A guy wearing a leather vest and pants materialized from the crowd on the dance floor then went the other way.
They finished their pitchers, Joel's gut ached. Daphne looped her arm through his then propelled him forward through people. They stopped at a table where three guys sat. One had light eyes and long hair.
“Kris,” Daphne said, “This is Joel.”
The guy looked at Joel. “Hey, man.”
“Hey,” Joel said.
“His car is broken,” Daphne explained to Kris.   
“Right,” the guy said. “Sit, have a beer.” He motioned Joel into a seat beside him. Daphne went around the table and sat next to one of the other guys. “What’s wrong with your car?” Kris asked as he lifted a pitcher then poured.
“Not sure,” Joel said. “It sort of coughed when I started it earlier. Is that bad?”
 “Maybe not,” Kris said then passed Joel a mug. “Let’s finish these then take a look.”
“I don’t want to interrupt your night,” Joel said.
The guy lifted his mug then drank. After he wiped his mouth he said, “You’re not interrupting.” He stood then told his friends, “I’m going outside to look at this guy’s car.”
Daphne winked at Joel. Joel followed the mechanic out of the bar. When they reached Baby Blue, Kris went to the hood. “Pop her,” he said. Joel did then stood by while Kris used a pin light on his key chain to look. Joel let his eyes wander. Kris let the hood drop. Joel jumped.
“Let’s take it for a spin,” Kris said.
Inside the car, Joel turned the key in the ignition. The car started without a cough.
“Sounds alright,” Kris said.
“Yeah,” Joel agreed then started to sweat. He reached under the front seat for his emergency stash, a bottle of Seagram’s Seven, although he may as well call it liquid courage.
“Shit,” Kris said.
Joel opened the bottle then tilted back. “Want some?” he asked the guy, eyes burning, hope alight but receding like waves.  
“Nah,” Kris said. “Turn your engine off then start it again.” Joel did. Kris leaned over to peer at the dashboard; his long hair brushed Joel’s bare arm. “No red light,” he said. “If you’re engine light came on, that would be a real problem. Let’s go for a ride.”
Joel tilted the bottle back again. He might be drunk, but he might also demonstrate some nerve. He replaced the bottle then steered Baby Blue onto North Avenue.
“You alright to drive?” Kris asked.
“Sure,” Joel responded with a nod and kept his eyes on the road.  
“Turn that up,” Kris said, pointing at the cassette deck.
Joel did. The song was “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest. 


“I hear this guy is a fag,” Kris said. "The singer." 
“I don’t know,” Joel lied.
“Yeah, a real heavy duty leather faggot,” Kris continued. “You ever see that movie, Cruising, with Al Pacino?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” Joel lied again.
Kris laughed. “Nobody believed Pacino wanted to suck cock.”  
Joel shrugged.
“I mean, if you’re going to pretend you’re something you’re not, then you’ve got to be convincing, especially if you’re Pacino.”
“His character wasn’t actually a fag,” Joel said before he could stop himself. “He was a cop who was straight but undercover.”
“So you saw it,” Kris said. “Your car sounds fine, by the way.”
Joel gulped, careful to keep his eyes on the road. “Yeah. Maybe I overreacted. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Kris said. “You’re not dating that chick.”
“Who, you mean Daphne?” Joel shook his head. “No, I’m not dating her.”  
“That’s what I said.”  
Joel took his eyes off the road.
“Red light,” Kris said, smiling.
Joel looked up and yelled, “Shit!” before hitting the brake. Baby Blue idled in the middle of an intersection, right under the light.  
“What are you waiting for?” Kris asked.
Joel looked at the guy in the seat beside him and wasn’t sure but thought he held something in his hand, offering. Silver light appeared on Kris’s side of the car then filled the cab. 

Photo courtesy of Salvage Cars

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Have You Heard from Your Amygdala Today?

You're bombing a class. Rather than attend the class and risk more humility and frustration, you stay in bed and hide beneath the blankets. It's warm and safe in there.

Raise your hand if you can relate.

I do.  

Not once, not twice, but three times I found myself bombing college algebra. The instructor at the front of the room may as well have been speaking Greek all those semesters. I was too scared to raise my hand in class and ask for a translation. I was too scared to approach my instructor outside class and ask for help. I was too scared to join a study group. I was too scared to seek help from the math lab. So I bombed until I failed. Three times. True story. 

Millions of years ago, when we were Neanderthals and lived in constant danger of being eaten by saber tooth tigers, our brains developed something called an Amygdala, which assessed then responded to potential threats. "Run! Hide! Don't go out there!" 

Thanks to our Amygdalas, we avoided saber tooth tigers and other potential threats in order to evolve from the primitive Neanderthals we were once were to the shining beacons of the contemporary sophistication we are today. That doesn't mean we outgrew our Amygdalas. This portion of our brain remains with us as strong ever, right there at the base of our Hippocampus. 

The Amygdala is a part of the brain that screams at you when it perceives a threat and wants to protect you (Illustration courtesy of brainmadesimple.com

Yup. It's a tiny thing but fierce. Our Amygdalas are prehistoric. They're powerful. They save us.

My friend, Fran Morales, refers to the Amygdala as our "Lizard Brain." When we decide to stay in bed rather than risk another humiliating and frustrating hour in a class, we listen to our Lizard Brain. 

"Run! Hide! Don't go out there!" 

Sometimes, our Amygdala knows what it's talking about. Say you walk into a house party off campus and get a weird feeling. That's your Lizard Brain assessing then reacting to a perceived threat. You leave the party and probably avoid an uncomfortable or even dangerous situation. Good for you! Saved by your Lizard Brain again. On the other hand, your Amygdala screams just as loud when the threat is less external and more internal. What do I mean? Fear of failure. 

You show up for class. You don't get it. You start to fall behind. You start to feel intimidated then threatened then terrified. Your Lizard Brain screams, "Run! Hide! Don't go out there!" You stay in bed rather than go to class . . . class after class after class. You duck, dodge, and avoid the threat, failing the class, until you actually fail the class. Nice thing though, you didn't try; therefore, you aren't responsible for your failure. See, plenty of people fear trying then failing more than they fear anything else, public speaking, zombies, farting on a date, you name it. Fear of failure rules humankind because if we try and fail, we suck. If we don't try and fail, then it's not our fault. Handy, huh? It's that instructor's fault we failed. She insisted on speaking Greek. Never mind we didn't ask for help. Our Lizard Brian protects our ego and passes the buck. Nice. 

Egos, such fragile things. 

Except, how many times will you and your fragile ego crawl under a rock to avoid potential failure? Do you have that much time? Do you have that much money? I didn't. Finally, failing college algebra became too time consuming and demoralizing and expensive. I wanted to earn my degree and move onto graduate school so I could move onto teaching at the college level, but I couldn't do any of that until I passed college algebra. Damn. So I made a decision. 

I went to class every class period. I sat in front. I took notes. I raised my hand when I didn't understand one of those infernal formulas; or, I went to the instructor's office during his office hours and asked questions. I joined a study group. I went to the math lab. Yes, I did all of that and earned an A in college algebra. I tired of giving up and failing then blaming someone else for my failure. 

I had a sit down with my Amygdala and said, "Amygdala, you're prehistoric and powerful and have come in handy over the years, and for that, I'm grateful. Like the time I walked into an off-campus party and noted one too many shifty looking dudes there and left. Thank you for screaming, "Run! Hide! Get out of there!" You saved me from a sketchy or even dangerous situation. But this time, Amygdala, you need to pipe down. This is college algebra not a roomful of shifty looking dudes who have no business but trouble hanging out at a college party. I got this." 

XO. 






Monday, July 27, 2015

A Lesson on Point-of-View and Passive Voice with Ted Bundy

Have you heard of Ted Bundy?

He became famous for all the wrong reasons---identity theft, credit card fraud, burglary, grand theft auto, attempted kidnapping, rape, and capital murder. He was also a fugitive, twice, and appeared on the FBI's Most Wanted List in 1978. On January 24, 1989, the state of Florida executed Bundy in their electric chair, a.k.a "Old Sparky."

I'm reading my second book about Bundy.

The first was Ann Rule's book, The Stranger Beside Me, which resulted in a long and successful career for Rule writing true crime novels. Rule used to work a suicide hotline with Bundy in 1972.

A third book I'd like to read is The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall. A copy if this book runs between $80.00 and $300.00 on Amazon, depending on the seller. Kendall (a pseudonym) met Bundy in 1968. They lived together until 1974 when he fled Washington for Utah.

The book I'm currently reading is The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, a couple journalists who in the summer of 1980, spent hours upon hours upon hours inside a tiny room at the Florida State Prison listening to Ted Bundy. Apparently a person didn't speak with Bundy so much as listen to him ramble. The primary idea was that the journalists would get Bundy to open up, except the least effective thing a person could do was ask Bundy a direct question then expect him to answer in kind. With the help of a psychologist, Michaud and Aynesworth determined Bundy possessed the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old. He liked to play games. As a result, the journalists asked Bundy to "imagine" an individual who was a serial killer then try to "guess" what this individual thought and did. Bundy enjoyed the game a lot. He often cradled a tape recorder in his lap and spoke for hours while staring into space, never at the journalists. At one point in Michaud and Aynesworth's book, Bundy "speculates" on how this imaginary individual began to dabble in stalking neighborhoods and peeping in windows. "He began with interesting regularity to canvass, as it were, the community he lived in. He peeped in windows . . . He approached it almost like a project, throwing himself into it, literally for years . . . .  He gained at times, a great amount of satisfaction from it. And became increasingly adept at it, as anyone becomes adept at anything they do over and over and over again" (110).

According to Michaud, Bundy’s physical appearance changed whenever he chose to indulge the journalists with one of his long winded speculations. The first change Michaud noted was what he described as a “horizontal white line, like a welt . . . across (Bundy’s) right cheek” that “fascinated” the journalist because the strange indentation didn’t “follow the contours of (Bundy’s) face . . . as if an invisible finger were digging a nail into his skin” (20). The second change Michaud noted was to Bundy’s eyes, which were normally light blue. Anytime Bundy lost himself in one of his third-party speculations, his pupils shrank and his irises darkened (111). The journalist surmised these physical changes had everything to do with Bundy’s inner and outer selves, or “the man” versus the “hunchback” (12).

Bundy preferred to speak of himself in third person in order to avoid implicating himself. He, not me. Not "I." Speaking or writing in the third person isn't a sin. In fact, it's common and quite popular. I write in the third person point-of-view, "he, she, him, her, they," all the time (although not when referring to myself or trying to avoid self implication.) Third person is my preferred point-of-view when I write fictional stories involving characters. However, getting back to Bundy, let's say the guy was interested in confessing rather than playing a game. He would speak of himself in the first person point-of -view, "I, me, we." If he were interested in implicating the rest of us, his audience, he would use the second person point-of-view, "you.

Note the following examples of each point-of-view in a sentence. 

"He peeped in windows." (Third person)
"I peeped in windows." (First person)
"You peeped in windows." (Second person)


Hi, my name is Ted Bundy. I'm a serial killer. I speak of myself in third person and use the infernal passive voice. Photo courtesy of Haunted Bundy 

A few months ago, I read an article from a 1989 issue of The Orlando Sentinel by John C. Van Gieson, "Bundy Detailed Two Slayings 45 Minutes Before Execution," which recounts a discussion Bundy had with the superintendent of the Florida State Prison, Ted Barton, minutes before he died in the electric chair. By then, the gig was up. Bundy no longer imagined a third-person individual but fessed up to his crimes, although I'd like to point out he still spoke in the passive rather than active voice. In Gieson's article Bundy says, "The young woman's body would have been placed in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction. It was not buried'' (Gieson).

I talk to my writing students a lot about passive voice. When we write, or speak, passively, we remove ourselves or the subject of our sentence from the action. We are less responsible. Something is done to the subject rather than the subject doing anything. One way I've taught students to catch a passive sentence construction is to see if they can place "by zombies" at the end of it.

"The young woman's body would have been placed in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction by zombies. It was not buried by zombies."

Okay, let's continue blaming the zombies a minute. In order for the zombies to take responsibility for their actions and write in the active voice, they'd write this. "Zombies would have placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction."

"Would have" still feels wishy-washy and irks me. How about this? "Zombies placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction." 

Good.

But . . . 

We're still blaming the zombies, and they did not do this. 

Therefore, let's force Bundy to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions.  Active voice, and first person point-of-view, go. "I placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction. I didn't bury it."  

Now, we have an issue with "the body" and "it." We all probably agree Bundy was a psychopath who didn't experience empathy or remorse the way the rest of us do. We understand he didn't consider his victims as human beings but rather as objects and possessions, and he was certainly never interested in learning their names. Therefore, allow me to step in and fill in the blanks.

The young woman Bundy dumped in the Colorado River is Denise Lynn Oliverson. She was twenty-four and riding a yellow bike the day she disappeared near the Fifth Street Bridge in Grand Junction. She had just had a fight with her boyfriend. She was on her way to her parents' house probably to cool off and talk it over with mom. She wore her favorite Indian print shirt, jeans, and sandals. She was self-conscious about her acne. She had a birthmark on her right hand. When Denise encountered Ted Bundy somewhere between 1619 LaVeta Street and the bridge, she thought he looked like a young attorney or graduate student or her long-lost prom date rather than the man who would kill her. The only thing a search party ever found of Denise was her yellow ten-speed and her sandals.  

In order for Bundy to take the fullest responsibility for his actions, humanize rather than objectify his victim, and write the most active sentence possible, he would say, "I placed Denise Lynn Oliverson in the Colorado River five miles west of Grand Junction. I didn't bury her." 

Writers who resort to the passive voice do so for reasons similar to Bundy's reasons for speaking that way. To remove themselves from the action. To skirt responsibility. So the next time you write in the passive voice ask yourself these questions.

  1. What action do you wish to remove yourself or your characters from? 
  2. Why are you or your characters refusing to take responsibility for said action?  
  3. Does your passivity or the passivity of your characters signal separation or denial? 
  4. If you write in the passive voice, are you making a deliberate and conscious choice to do so? 
  5. If writing in the passive voice is a choice rather than an accident, can you articulate why? 

Avoid lackadaisical writing. Don't be a Bundy. 

XO. 


Works Cited

Gay, Jerry. Theodore Bundy. 1977. Jerry Gay Photos. Web. 27 July. 2015.

Michaud, Stephen G., and Aynesworth, Hugh. The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer, Ted Bundy. Irving. Authorlink Press. 1999. Print.

Van Gieson, John C. “Bundy Detailed Two Slayings 45 Minutes Before Execution.” The Orlando Sentinel. 27 Jan. 1989. Web. 27 July. 2015.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Write What You Know. Write What Breaks Your Heart. Write What Scares the Hell Out of You.

Courtesy of exposedemotiions.wordpress.com

I began writing my latest current WIP, a novel, March 04, 2015.

Working titles have included Six Seconds, Wolf, Blue-Eyed Baby Monster, Hey, Angel Face, and the latest, Angel Face Janx is Dead

Since March, I've written over eighty thousand words and cut thirty thousand then paste them in an "Extras File," mainly because I changed direction in June and eliminated a major character but plan to save her for later, another story. This morning, I'm at fifty-four thousand words.

The majority of the story takes place in a fictional town in Colorado.

I've had to do a lot of research for this project, much of it depressing, much of it frightening, and much of what I'm dealing with is outside my element and way past my comfort zone. (To date, I'v suffered a nightmare and an anxiety attack as a result of this project. I used to suffer anxiety attacks on a semi-regular basis in college and got hold on them via therapy and Zoloft in 2001. I loved my shrink and still miss her to this day. I went off Zoloft cold turkey in 2009 because I had no health insurance and couldn't afford the one hundred dollar a month prescription.

With the exception of dizziness and tingling in my legs, I did okay coming off the drug on my own, but I would never recommend anyone quit a prescription drug for anxiety and depression cold turkey like that without the advice and guidance of a doctor. This anxiety attack I had in June is the first in fourteen years. I was at my desk writing and thought, what the heck is wrong? My heart pounded. I felt short of breath. I felt this utter and overwhelming sense of doom. I thought I was about to die. Then I began to pace my house and massage my chest, a fall back response from before, and I knew what was going on and talked myself down and was okay then continued writing.)

The fact I'm writing outside my element, my own experience and realm of knowledge, begs the question, write what you know? Yeah but nah.

Write what you know. Write what breaks your heart. Write what scares the hell out of you. I know my characters. I understand them on a spiritual, emotional, and molecular level, which is one reason the story scares me. The rest, I can research. I have a friend who is a lawyer who is willing, because he is an amazing human being, to talk with me as I write and entertain my questions: he has also offered to read the book once I finish the first draft to help catch ridiculous but unintentional oversights, exaggerations, or errors. Thank you, Manual Ramos!

The current project centers around three young men. They each have their own song.

Cade's song is "Kiss on My List." It's his ringtone and gets him teased by the other grease monkeys.



Kyle's song  is "Psycho Killer," because he gets off watching Scott Weiland in this video.



Damon's song is "Kill With Me Tonight" because he is ready to pass the torch.


XO. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Underground (I Don't Hear You Over Him Down Here)

                                                                       Underground 
                                                                    ©Alana Noël Voth

We’re underground. Above, the bombs go off. Everyone down here is drunk. We know we won’t survive this. That isn't the point. A man doles out cyanide capsules then instructs us to bite them between our teeth when the time comes, and I try to focus on his instructions because it’s important. Don’t mess up. I had this uncle who used to rewrite all my school essays because I couldn’t stay focused. School wasn’t a means to an end. I wanted to be a model or an actress. Movie magazines and romance novels. They got me as a girl. All the glamour and living happily ever after. They set me up to believe if you’re not a star then glory by proxy. That was my destiny. He arrived in a suit and trench coat and smelled like pomade and chamomile tea. He wasn’t tall but tried to look it. Inhalation of breath. Lift of the shoulders. Raise the chin. He was also older than me, even old, and he wasn’t handsome either. The eyes though, careful. He nailed me. He could also lay down a lecture until I felt dizzy from it. In the early days, we lunched in this out-of-the-way café, and he talked about politics and his other passion, history, and he used big words, which I didn’t always understand, so to impress him, I looked them up in a dictionary. Love doesn’t always make sense. He was a total square. No cigarettes, no booze, and he couldn’t enjoy a good steak either. At dinner parties he ranted. Can anyone believe how poorly some animals are treated? He was in love with his dog. She did tricks for him and was obedient. He could show her off. Me, I was a secret. When I read that piece in a French magazine about how I was just another one of his girls, I shot myself. That was 1933. He came to the hospital and rushed to my bedside. Eva, don’t do this to me again. He was also worried about a press leak, which is why he decided to move me in with him, not to keep me happy so much as to keep me quiet. So I'd behave. Let me tell you. I was happy. My father never showed up at the hospital, the whole he’s not going to marry you he’s using you, Eva, blah-blah-blah thing. I was Mistress to the greatest man in Germany and my goddamn father climbed up on his morality high horse and never spoke to me again. Look, Daddy. Can you hear me? Down here. I didn’t care about morality the way I cared about love. Another thing, I never paid attention to politics. All talk, talk, talk. I’d come in a room where he was having a meeting with all these blowhard generals and he’d say, not now, Bumpkin, and dismiss me. You know what bumpkin means? Unsophisticated. How many dresses could I change into in one day? How many cigarettes could I smoke? I wasn’t as glamorous as some of those actresses that threw themselves at him, and I was never as pretty as my sisters. Still, I worked at it. On the terrace at Berghof, I displayed my Garbo flair and shimmied. I had records to play, dresses to wear, and great legs. My sister said he forced his way into Czechoslovakia. I was more like occupied France, a croissant falling apart on his tongue. His other favorite treat was chocolate. Did I mention the couch in the Chancellery? No, really. Right there. More than once. No kidding. I used to imagine dignitaries walking by and catching a whiff of me on the air—die Scheide. After Stalingrad, he lost control of his left arm and so pulled it inside his coat whenever he appeared in public. His worst nightmare come true. He was human. Worse, he was weakening. Think that didn’t yank my heart strings? Hard to comfort him from a separate bedroom. He insisted because he woke every night in a cold sweat, screaming. He also had gas that could kill the mood. We’re underground now. People are frantic and falling down drunk. We know we won’t survive this. That isn't the point. He’s already poisoned his dog and now sits slumped in the hallway outside our private bedroom, mourning. Further down the hall, Traudl reads stories to Magda’s children. Later, Magda will poison her brood and they’ll turn blue while sleeping. Magda’s marriage to Goebbels was a ruse. Everyone knew who she was really in love with. She got to be in all those pictures. I tried. I’d sneak up soon as I saw a camera. Click. Right there. I exist. He didn’t allow me to meet the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and on Party Day, 1934, the society ladies wanted me thrown out of the VIP box. That bitch, Magda, said I was sulky, and he told her, be nice to the secretaries. When he stopped bringing me flowers, he said it was because he couldn’t stand watching them die. Before we went underground, people started to leave him. The inner circle a half circle now. My cage door flew open. Eva, go. What? Magda was staying. To Hell with that. I stayed. And my reward? He finally married me. How much champagne did I drink? I feel loopy. Underground, in our private bunker, he sits in front of his favorite picture of Frederick the Great. I should have said goodbye to my sisters. I cup my cyanide capsule then let it roll in the cradle of my lap. No wedding night sex. No babies. Would you believe he gave me the gun and asked me to point it at his chest then pull the trigger? Would you believe he said, you should you have shot me a long time ago? Me neither. That wouldn’t have evened the score. Six million Jews? That wasn’t a loss I suffered. Dumb bitch. Nazi cunt. I don't hear you over him down here.  


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What You May

Inspired by "Are We There Yet?" by Alison Tyler, I offer the following rant.

We live in a world that loves the motto, "Do what you love." The idea being, if we all do what we love, then the act of doing is, in itself, a reward. Worth it. Fulfillment. Happiness. The idea being, if you do what you love, money isn't important. It would be nice. But it's not an end all.

We live in a world that assumes two things. 

1. Writers write because they love to write.

2. Teachers teach because they love to teach.

I've been a writer since I was nine. I wrote my first novel in 1982. When I don't write, I feel . . . depressed, adrift, pissed off. I feel as if I am not doing what I should do.

I've been a teacher since 2002, but it's been an on-again-off-again "career" mandated by money. Some years, I simply couldn't support my son and I teaching, and it was up to me to support us, so I scrambled and switched gears and left teaching more than once in order to survive. When I'm not in a classroom interacting with students, I feel like I am not doing what I should do.

From "Marcelle" by Alana Noel Voth

We live in a world that believes two things. 

1. Since writers write because they love to write, they should shut their mouths about making no money at it. Write for free. Offer stories online for no compensation, and hell, most the time, no thanks. Gift books all over the place. Just feel grateful anyone reads anything you write at all. 

2. Since teachers teach because they love to teach, they should shut their mouths about taking on astronomical work loads to earn enough to survive, working a second job, having no benefits, no job security, and hell, no respect. Just feel grateful you have a job at all. 

We live in a world that has little time, admiration, or respect for artists and teachers. We rank below reality TV stars in relevance and reverie. Although when something goes wrong, the world is quick to blame artists and teachers. The world is happy to blame but not compensate us.

There is this underlying pressure I grapple with daily, maybe because my son is an artist and at a crossroads. Does he pursue art? Or sacrifice his passion for something more practical? I know he looks to me and my own life experience as a road map and feels both a sense of respect and terror.

Someone I know has asked multiple times if I've made any money with my first book, Dog Men, yet. The first few times, this inquiry felt optimistic. Now, it feels like an accusation. You worked that long and hard at something that will reap no financial reward? 

Yes. Sure did. And I'm doing it again. Then again after that. For infinity, probably.

When I told a mentor I intended to become a teacher, she said I was in for a world of struggle. She tried to talk me out of it. I was a single mom with a lot at stake. She didn't talk me out of it.

Do with this what you may.

XO. 




Monday, July 20, 2015

I'm a Pussy

The other day, talking with my young friend, Milcah, who is a webcam performer, entrepreneur, and now publisher, I admitted I don't like writing from a female prospective because no matter what I do, I will do it wrong. I am screwed.

Courtesy of  Jenna Marbles and Typical Girl (Twitter) 
My story "Dog Men" from my book Dog Men was difficult to write and took two years to finish. Most the time I hated it. I hated my female narrator because she struck me as an idiot. She still does. I forced my way through the story believing I had something important to say: young women sacrifice their best friend, their own happiness, their sexual truths, for the patriarchy.

Milcah says "Dog Men" is her favorite story in Dog Men.

She also observed that whenever I write from the perspective of a female character, this character strikes her as "painfully vulnerable." Likewise, she said, this character appears to just wait "to be penetrated from all directions." Well, yes. As women, we are penetrated. I speak physically, of course, but this physical penetration lends itself to a deeper and more profound metaphor. The same could be said for gay men. They are penetrated. (In my story "Marcelle," the female character, Marcelle, tells her male lover, Ronan, "the man who lets me fuck him is the man for me," and subsequently she pegs him. She becomes the man. He becomes the woman. As a result, Ronan feels loved. I love Ronan. I also love all my gay narrators. I feel less vulnerable writing as a man, less screwed even when they are screwed. I don't always love my female narrators. I judge them harshly.

My friend Milcah says I'm a misogynist. I am a person who hates women. Deep down, I, as a woman, hate women. Is this possible? Why, yes. I would need more than two hands to count all the women I know who hate women. I would need an infinite number of hands.

I used to enjoy telling my own stories, you know sharing autobiographical bits online, probably because I wrote to a tiny and supportive audience. I felt safe. I felt accepted. When my audience increased threefold, I was flapping naked in the wind. The most painful thing a reader said to me was, and I paraphrase because I can't bare to go back and look at the comment and quote it verbatim, Your son is going to kill himself because you're such a stupid slut.

That shut me down. Sure it did.

I realize I gave that reader exactly what he wanted. Fear. Shame. Radio silence.

I'm a pussy.


XO.