Copernican Kids

The other day, a friend posted an article on Facebook which defended parents who *GASP* dared to use their smartphones while their kids were playing nearby. Apparently, if you’re a parent, the expectation is that you will devote 100% of your attention, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to everything your children do.

To which I say, Um, nope.

Here’s the thing: Love ’em to death, children are not the center of the universe.

*dodges rotten fruit, rocks, parenting manuals that admonish you for telling your kid no*

Children are an important part of the universe, to be sure. Raising them is an important job, one that requires a great deal of time, patience, and willingness not to apprentice them to the next chimney sweep who knocks on the door. I love my kids. I would do anything for my kids. I will do my best to set a positive example for them. But what I will not do is give up who I am simply because I am a parent.

Being a parent is one facet of a greater whole, that greater whole being me the individual. My individuality is enhanced by parenthood, not diminished. I did not lose my identity when I had kids. In fact, I’d argue the opposite is true. I wanted to be a writer for a long time, but didn’t actually write my first book until about six months after my first daughter was born. Before kids I had time to waste, and essentially was under no pressure to do anything.

But now? Now I’ve got kids. And let’s be honest: kids are time-sucks. They are adorable, but they are demanding little turds. Because they require so much attention and care, they force you to prioritize and buckle down when it comes to ensuring you maintain some semblance of your own self. Only, I think a lot of people believe a parent’s sense of self should be cryogenically frozen until some indeterminate point in time when the kids are done being raised.

I am a parent, but I am still a person. Walking around regretting all the crap I want to do but feel guilty about doing so I wind up not doing it is only going to make me feel worse, which in turn will make me cranky, which in turn mucks up my ability to parent well.

(Here’s the part where I finally start tying all this rambling to smartphones.)

The longer I stay home with the girls, the harder it gets to do things like play Barbies, color, do crafts, watch cartoons, and take trips to the park. Partly it’s because I’m a grownup, and want to do grownup things. But mostly it’s because all the Barbies, crafts, coloring books, cartoons, and trips to the park are 24/7 of the same thing we’ve been doing year in, year out. Everything my kids do does not have to be recorded, remarked upon, or otherwise acknowledged. Sometimes, it’s okay for me just to be there in case they need something. Sometimes, daddy needs a break.

(Okay, lots of times daddy needs a break.)

So, I turn to my phone or iPad. I don’t play games. I don’t watch shows. When I’m tapping away, apparently ignoring my kids, I’m usually on Facebook, twitter, or refreshing my email 300,000 times a day. What am I doing on all those sites? I talk to friends who live in the states. (Most of my friends here work, so most of my day is spent interacting solely with children.) I talk to other writers and beef up my online profile, because like it or not, a social media presence is a requirement for anyone who wants to break into, let alone make it in, the publishing world. I also try to squeeze in moments of writing, because I’m a writer, and that’s what I need to do to feel like a complete, productive human being.

I chose to have kids. I did not choose to lose my identity. Do things I want get back-burnered? All the time. Does that drive me crazy? All. The. Freaking. Time. But that’s life. You figure out how to fit in what you need for one very simple reason:

It makes you a better, happier person, and, by extension, a better, happier parent.

This Mini-Post Brought to You by MY 2-YEAR-OLD’S BEEN UP SINCE 2 A.M.

So we’re on the plane, flying back to Germany, and I need to use the facilities. We’ve been starting to potty train our 2-year-old, so I took her with me, airplane bathrooms being spacious enough for a 6’5″ dad and his toddler. She does her thing, I get the diaper back on her, then tell her to stand behind me while I go. Next thing I know, there’s this curly little head shoving its way between my knees and a high-pitched voice says, “Wow!”

What I’m trying to say is, forget the NSA: Kids are the real threat to privacy.

What It’s Like Inside My Head, or #MyWritingProcess

I was tagged in the #MyWritingProcess meme by Eva Gibson, a writer friend who’s currently shopping her YA coming-of-age novel THE NATURE OF ECHOES. I’ve read it, and let me tell you, it’s one giant sucker punch to the tear ducts. Check out her blog, Mama Muzzle, if you’re so inclined.

But back to me. So basically, this is pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about my writing process. If you want even more (and let’s be honest *runs hands up and down torso* who wouldn’t want more of this?), there’s also the interview I did a while back for my buddy Grandpa Hank. So without further adieu:

1. What I’m working on

At the moment, I’m shopping my YA novel, a contemporary fantasy set in Prague called The Watchmaker. It’s got spies, mercenaries, a bit of romance, and a watch that, among other even crazier things, dumps someone else’s memories of World War II into my main character Aaron’s head.

*pauses for you to soak in all the awesomeness*

I know, right?

It made the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award quarterfinals this year, which was great, but has since amassed agent rejections into the double digits. I’ve had two nibbles of interest, though, so fingers crossed. Other than that, I’m trying to get a handle on an as yet untitled YA fantasy thriller something or other. I mostly have a first chapter, but I have no idea where it’s going. I also plan on writing a follow-up to The Watchmaker at some point. And I’ve apparently started another short story, because I had a freaky dream the other night and thought, Hey, short story! Only instead of helicopters crashing, let’s channel China Miéville and go with something super weird. Oh, and there’s also my contribution to Return to Elgin, the collaborative urban fantasy I’m writing with Jill Corddry and August Niehaus. I should have a new chapter up by week’s end.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

To be honest, I’m not sure how to answer this question. If you go in for stereotypes, I’m not a fan of the YA love triangle, or the oh my god let’s get all hotpants for the bad boy because he’s so dreamy and he’s super mean and douchy because he’s complicated and I can save him. I’m more a beta male character kind of guy, which I’m sure is a complete surprise to everyone who just read this sentence.

As you can see by the answer to this question, I’m terrible at marketing myself.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. I spent some time in college–let’s call them my Douchy Book years–thinking only literary novels were worth reading. This translated into thinking the only writing worth writing was literary, by which I mean plotless character studies. Not that all literary novels qualify as such, that’s just how I saw my writing at the time. Thankfully, I quickly rediscovered my love of fantasy, because let me tell you, my writing SUCKED back then. The fantasy I like now isn’t so much your standard sword and sorcery and dragons, but runs the gamut of, hell, I don’t know, anything “off the wall,” as my father-in-law would describe it. Basically, I write fantasy because it’s what I love to read, and because every idea I have comes laden with some amount of it.

4. How does my writing process work?

Imagine my 2-year-old’s diaper after a big steamy one. Now imagine the first draft of a book I just finished writing.

They look the same, don’t they?

My first drafts are really convoluted, and the writing is beyond bloated. I’m not a planner or outliner; I’m most successful when I stop trying to think about what I’m writing and simply let the words flow. As such, I’m never entirely sure where a story’s headed. But I know I won’t know unless I write it. Which also means I write chronologically, so there’s no, Oh, let’s write this scene for part 3 even though part 1 isn’t done. For me, writing the way I do lets my characters and the plot grow organically, which provides me with plenty of surprising twists and turns. The real, readable story gets carved out in subsequent edits. Once I’m happy with a draft, I get my beta buddies Eva and Jill to read it. My books and stories would not be what they are without them. Then I edit, and have a couple other people read them. Then I edit again, and again, and *counts to infinity edits*

5. Speaking of my awesome writer friends …

Since Eva tagged me, I won’t re-tag her. But there’s Jill, who writes urban fantasy. Since I’m new to blogging, I won’t pester other writers I know who have blogs, because I’m sure they’ve been tagged a quadrillion times.

Anyway. There you have it. My life as a writer. Or, as I like to call it, next summer’s record-breaking Hollywood blockbuster.