Writing: PACT (Introduction)

Ana's Note: Cross-posted from here

Planned Pitch *

750,000 teens in the United States become pregnant every year. There’s nothing especially different about these four girls, except for the legal battle and media firestorm that follows after a school expulsion immediately prior to the girls’ graduation. Faced with a lack of support from their family, their friends, and the fathers of their children, these young women will have to help each other while withstanding national contempt for their crime of being Pregnant.

* Like many book pitches, this is deliberately simplified. There will be helpful family and friends as this is not the story of four super-humans rising above society with nothing more than bootstraps. Indeed, a strong subtext (of what I hope will be this ultimately hopeful series) will be that of Privilege and Marginalization intersectionality: these young women will have privileges even as they are marginalized, and I want to work through how those issues work for and against real people in real life. There are also fewer spoilers than you might think here as the book features girls from two different high schools. Misdirection!

** Note: I don't like "for their crime" in the statement above, because there's a chance someone could read that as a futuristic dysotipia, but I'm not sure what to replace it with.


750,000 teens in the United States of America become pregnant every year. The U.S.A. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country in the world.

In the 2007-2008 school year, high school officials in Gloucester, Massachusetts counted 18 pregnancies among high school aged girls. This rate of pregnancies in a single year was not higher than surrounding areas in Massachusetts, nor was it unusual in Gloucester on a historical timeline — twenty years before, there had been 14 pregnancies among the teenaged community body at the same school. However, the 18 pregnancies noted in the ‘07-’08 school year represented a rate that was four times higher than had been observed in the previous school year, and questions were raised regarding the reasons behind the rise in teen pregnancies.

The real reasons behind these teen pregnancies were complex and varied across each individual case. Most of the teenagers became pregnant based on a lack of information or a lack of resources: either they didn’t know how to properly use contraceptives, or they didn’t have access to birth control when they needed it. Many of them had been misinformed about how to avoid pregnancy, and about what methods could be followed to prevent it. Quite a few of them simply didn’t believe it could happen to them. Some of them used contraceptives only to have the contraceptives fail unexpectedly. And some of the teenagers may have been pressured or even forced into unprotected sex and then denied the necessary medical intervention to prevent the resulting pregnancy from progressing further. Only about one-third of the eighteen young women chose to terminate their pregnancy and had the resources available to do so; the rest of the teenagers delivered and for the most part choose to keep their children rather than offer them for adoption.

When the news media — first the local media, then the national media, and finally the global media — questioned school officials about these pregnancies and whether better education or access to birth control could have prevented them, the school principal argued that there was nothing the school could have done differently to prevent these pregnancies because they had been deliberately planned: eighteen girls, of varying ages and in different social groups and with different friends and few ties between them, had supposedly come together as a group to preemptively make a “pact” to become pregnant. The media was delighted with the idea and before long, news crews were camped out on the doorstep of every pregnant young woman that could be found in Gloucester.

Today, there are very few people who still believe in the “pact” theory. The young women themselves have denied forming a pact to deliberately become pregnant; most of them were trying to be sexually active without getting pregnant, but were given little information and even fewer resources. But what is fascinating, from a feminist point of view, is how quickly the “pact” story spread like wildfire across the world. 750,000 teenagers become pregnant in the United States every year and that isn’t considered newsworthy, nor is the fact that the U.S.A. teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest rates in the world, but when eighteen girls in Massachusetts might have become pregnant not by chance or as a punishment for their sexuality, but by choice — with forethought and agency and without shame — then this was something that people could not wait to express outrage over. News pundits were scandalized, talk shows argued passionately, Lifetime movies were made, police dramas frothed. The fact that most everyone involved on the commentary side was working with little-to-no real information seemed a feature, not a bug.

When the news broke in 2008, I and others on a feminist discussion board watched with fascination. We seriously doubted that there had ever been a pact between these teenagers to deliberately get pregnant, but openly wondered if all this “pact” business wasn’t something that came after the fact, as an evolving support network between girls who knew that they were going to need help from sister-souls in the coming months and years. And, indeed, this may have been the case: in the documentary “The Gloucester 18”, school nurse Kim Daly states:

When these girls became pregnant they found each other and they did develop a support system. They weren't necessarily friends beforehand but they became friends. And I think that makes sense. Kids with common interests are going to find one another. — Kim Daly

One of the eighteen Gloucester teens, Alyssa Silva, confirmed Daly’s account:

The only pact that I heard about was the girls that were already pregnant, they were going to stick together and help each other. And make sure they got through school, watched each other's kids, do homework together. — Alyssa Silva

The concept of women — especially young women — helping other women in a society that is deeply hostile to them is a concept which is inherently feminist and strongly subversive. I knew, from the moment I first heard about the so-called pregnancy “pact”, that I wanted to write a fictional story about young teenage women getting into pregnancy situations that they hadn’t planned and didn’t want, situations in which society would be eager to judge but loathe to help, and these women deciding to help each other out when no one else could be counted on to understand their situation or o aid them in their time of need. I wanted to write a story of four young women being caught up in a media firestorm that they didn’t want, based on a misunderstanding that no one would allow them to clarify, and steeped in our social obsession with teenage bodies and female sexuality.

The “Pact” series I am currently writing is that story.

Miscellaneous Themes and Thoughts

  • When I realized I had enough material for a four-part series instead of a single book, I decided to call the series "Pact". The books are tentatively titled "Pregnant", "Agent", "Clamant", and "Trenchant". Each of these words holds a key to the theme of the book, and of course they spell P.A.C.T. (Yes, yes, very clever. But I like acronyms.)
  • I wanted to write a novel that included a wanted abortion where things actually got better as a result, as frequently happens in real life. I also wanted to write a novel where abortions can be difficult to procure (because of conservative obstacles placed in the way) and where the hurdles of teen pregnancy termination are realistically depicted. This series will handle both. 
  • I wanted to write a novel with a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-sexual cast working together toward a common goal. This series will feature a white Protestant, a Jewish atheist, a Chinese-American Wiccan, and an agnostic African-American. I'm probably going to need a lot of help on the character studies. (As if writing a book about pregnancy wasn't ambitious enough for me.) 
  • This series, being such a large project, will probably be written in conjunction with multiple other projects in order to maintain momentum. Which will make statements like "my next book will feature ...." necessarily confusing.

Open thread below. Thoughts welcome on everything above, or I encourage you to post what your Work In Progress is. Barring that, I provide this challenge -- create a book pitch based on the following random elements (Freytag Pyramiding optional):  

  1. One Way Street
  2. Gasoline Station
  3. State Fair (candy store + circus tent + ferris wheel)
  4. Dog
  5. Mountains


chris the cynic said...

For the record, when I first saw the title of this post I thought that it was "Writing Pact" without a colon, and thus assumed that we here were going to form a writing pact.

depizan said...

That's all right. I had the same misreading. Clearly the colon keeps hiding from people.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha, sorry about that - it wasn't clear. Today is one of those "Ana selfishly talks about her own projects because the surgery left her falling behind on Twilights" posts. I'm basically in bed all day today, but it's alright - just resting, not sick.

I like your story though. :)

chris the cynic said...

Ha, sorry about that - it wasn't clear.

It's clear enough when one reads the punctuation.


I like your story though. :)

Thank you. Glad you like it.

It's actually a classic case of "chris doesn't read things in order," that it came into existence at all. I was off and writing before I got to the "create a book pitch" part. At which point I hastily added a, "No. I'm not going to do that," disclaimer, and returned to writing a story.

depizan said...

Could also be wishful thinking, at least in my case. Since I'm having trouble making fanfic short story number two coalesce into a story. I think I'm overthinking things. I'm not sure why I think I need to write stories that make more sense than the game I'm writing fanfic for or, well, anything else in that universe. (As long as my plotting and characterization make more sense than the Prequel Trilogy, it should be good, right? Or at least not bad.)

Loquat said...

My current work in progress:

- Trying to come up with a coherent plot for merfolk story. Thinking mer-culture-conflict over consumption of land products should play important role - especially land foods since food is such an important part of who we are. Reactionary movement claims it's unnatural for merpeople to eat cooked food, since cooking is impossible underwater, and extols virtues of lost past when all merfolk ate raw seafood. May also have a lunatic fringe that blames modern-day lack of functional magic on consumption of land products, and promises restoration of magic if all merfolk reject land products and return to The Old Ways.

- Noticed you listed possible anthology of ghost stories. Immediately thought of ghost demanding new occupants of its house pay rent. Leaning towards having ghost be hard-working old New Englander lady who was genuinely a witch, and bound herself to her property because in her opinion nobody else was competent enough to take proper care of it. New occupants, liberal Wiccan granola types, baffled by her disinterest in their attempts to help her pass on to the other side (if that's the right way of putting it). Will need to do more research on Wicca for this.

Aidan Bird said...

I would love to read that series when you're done, Ana. I tend toward sci-fi and fantasy for books, but your pitch really got me wondering about their stories. For if there's one thing that fascinates me - character development is definitely one of them.

My current project is ambitious. I am working on two novels that are tied together in a way.

The Netori Chronicles: Three alien species (Elivan, Cirtearian, and Magneri) work together to create several exploratory robots known as the Netori Project; these robots will seek out new solar systems that are capable of supporting life. One of the scientists die in an accident, and his homeworld of Elivera finds out weeks after his death, when one of his update messages was noted as containing the wrong musical codes. An investigation is undertaken, and it's discovered that the other two scientists have gone rogue with the project. Back on Elivera, the daughter of the main investigator experiences an extreme bout of pain and discovers that she is being compelled to travel to the scientific station creating the exploratory robot. She, and a few friends, steal aboard a Cirtearian ship, only to discover that the crew has also been contaminated. The link between them is that all of them have been visited by one of the scientists from the Netori project has visited all of them.

The story is pretty broad in scope and I am probably going to have to cut it up into two to three books. The two plotlines I've displayed above eventually converge into a single resolution, but the road there isn't going to be pretty. I've also planned unnerving discoveries for the characters to find as they try to unravel the mystery of what is actually happening with the Netori Project and these contamination of people's minds, and these clues will not only help explain why the two scientists went rogue, but also give a few glimpses into the Elivera people's past.

Eventually, there will be a discovery that will require a book of its own to develop. It's this discovery that will be tied directly into the events of a book I wrote that took place a good eight thousand years in Elivera's past: The Dragon Twins.

The Dragon Twins books is told by two slightly unreliable narrators who are very young. This story unveils the start of the Elivera race of humans, why Earth fades from history, and explains a fourth alien race - the Dragios - who have directly influenced humanity's future, as well as the future of several other races. They also disappear from history, which results their existence being viewed as mythical eight thousand years in the future since very little was left behind by the Dragios people. In the Dragon Twins book, you're given a glimpse as to why they disappear.

The discovery in the Netori Chronicles will be the evidence for the Dragios existence - evidence the reader will directly experience in the Dragon Twins book.

It's pretty ambitious, and highly complex since I'm spanning a good eight thousand years here, and I don't want to spoil the books too much. I'm still editing the timeline, making sure the events and the repercussions of events are probably scrutinized to make sure I don't have any consistency errors anywhere.

chris the cynic said...

Does work in progress include work on hold, because if it does I've got a ton. But for the moment, mostly ignoring past stuff, I'd like to write for the anthologies. Many ideas, very little committed to paper or computer.


So I've got this thing (scroll down a tiny bit) that I think might fit into the dystopia one but don't know how to expand it into an actual story (or, when I try, it ends up seeming like it ought to be novel length.)


I want to write the chaos of a debate for the True Neutral Party's nomination for the sorcery and secretaries one, and also something about a candidate saving someone from a dragon only to be told he doesn't have her vote and being schooled on the tax code before an aide ushers the candidate away.


I've had no less than three ideas in the past 24 hours for ghost stories (probably not in order)
1) An AI is spontaneously generated by the internet. Hours later the NSA shuts it down, effectively killing it. It becomes a ghost. A ghost that has no idea what to do with its afterlife given that it only got a few hours to get used to life before it was shoved into the afterlife.

2) Another computer ghost story, someone dies while playing a game, discovers that when a game is quit or ended it essentially dies, which produces entire ghost game-worlds. Given that there tends to be a lot more games ending (dying) in failure than success, the afterlife is full of evil empires that triumphed and epic quests that need to be completed, and generally speaking a lot of wrongs that need to be set right. Newly minted ghost begins his new job as fixer of the afterlife.

3) An author dies. All of the author's characters become ghosts with the passing. The author moves on to the next life, the characters are left hanging around trying to figure out what to do.


Transgender Mermaid story:

As a child a boy sees mermaids, who promise him that, if he still wants to in ten years, they'll turn him into a mermaid. Child definitely wants to be a merperson, but even more hopes that they were using correct terminology when they said they'd turn him into a mermaid. (He's a she, body just didn't get the message) most of the story takes place in the ten years later wait, transformation, and possibly recruiting best friend afterward. Not sure.

And if it isn't clear, the person who becomes a mermaid was right about genderswap, in the story mermaids are exclusively female, anyone can become one, but they'll be female bodied afterward. (Mermaids give warning of this fact.)


I may even have thoughts on the other two books. I want a fairy-tale where the princess refuses to marry the prince because she doesn't love him, but at the end of the story marries his sister instead because they really hit it off. (Thus preserving the alliance and allowing everyone to live happily ever after.) No detail beyond that.

I've got some zombie stuff I could dust off, but it's more in the aborted novel variety than anything else.

depizan said...

2) Another computer ghost story, someone dies while playing a game, discovers that when a game is quit or ended it essentially dies, which produces entire ghost game-worlds. Given that there tends to be a lot more games ending (dying) in failure than success, the afterlife is full of evil empires that triumphed and epic quests that need to be completed, and generally speaking a lot of wrongs that need to be set right. Newly minted ghost begins his new job as fixer of the afterlife.

That is awesome with awesome sauce. :D I want!

chris the cynic said...

So I was thinking it would begin something like this:


So, I died. One moment I was sitting at my computer playing a game, the next moment I was dead. I think it was something in my brain or other, but I don't really know, medicine has never been my strong suit, the point is I died and I became a ghost.

Now you might think that as a ghost I'd spend my time going around helping my friends and family get over the loss, or something like that. You might think that I'd look on in horror as the discovered my pornography collection and I tried to explain, “No, I'm not actually into that, I just have this thing about collecting whole sets and it had one thing that I liked so I felt compelled to get that even though I never...” you'd be wrong.

You're overlooking an important point. I died at the computer while playing a game. My head hit the keyboard before my body slid off the chair and hit the floor, and after that there was no more input. Which means that my character suddenly had no one guiding him. He just stood there, until he was gunned down. Which meant that the game was over. A little bit of “game over” animation and then the session ended. It stopped. It ceased. It died.

I died, my character died, then the game died. And what happens when something dies? It creates a ghost. And the ghost of that game was one in which my character, already a ghost before the game itself died, no longer played a role. Without the character the ghost world was hurtling towards chaos and evil and really bad things.

And it wasn't alone. You see when people win a game they tend to consider that the end of it, they stop playing. So any given person usually only creates one ghostworld in which things went right, but every stop along the way, every game over, every time they abandoned a session in favor of a save, those are all ghosts too.

The victories, the saved kingdoms, the thwarted apocalypses, the averted dooms, the driven out invasions, those are all in the extreme minority. Much more common are the triumphant armies of darkness, the ascendant evil, the cataclysm that did occur, the … well the bad stuff. The unhappy endings.

And, upon my death, that's the world I was initiated into. With a blow to the back of the head, for some reason. I think a handshake and a PowerPoint presentation would have been a better introduction.


But no idea where I would go from there. And that last paragraph is a saving throw to prevent the exposition from taking over completely as it did here and here.

graylor said...

I knit and crochet: my living room is covered in 'works in progress'. New projects as of yesterday are a cowl (my very first circular knitting needle project, squee!) and a renaissance beauty afhgan in royal blue. It's never too early to think about Christmas. I just finished a handkerchief skirt (think Tinkerbell) and a drop stitch scarf.

In writing... I'm working on this... thing. Zombie pigs are involved. I'm not sure if it's a short story or part of a novel (because the novel will involve people being subjected to the same zombification process by my 'heroine' who is about to dive off into the black hole of anti-heroism at that point. For reasons, but still. Don't piss off the nice analytical witchy ones.

The larger story *insert movie guy siriusmovieissirus voiceover* Civilization as we know is gone, wiped away in the plague known as 'Blue Sky'. A few straggling survivors meet. Some die. Some thrive. All of them have a secret, though some are ignorant of it even as they rebuild their lives. Then the radios they have painstakingly built begin to go silent. What is happening to the other survivors? And what is coming for these out of the wastes? Will their secret be their salvation... or their doom? *end voiceover* Only with bonus added southern gothicness, snark, asshole fey, and giant albino slugs!

depizan said...

I just imagine the most epic (yet not entirely serious) TV show, book or short story series, or comic book series coming from that concept. As the hero has adventures fixing the bad ghost worlds, accompanied by game characters, other people who died at their games, or a mixture of both. And there would also be people who died at their games who then took over bad ghost worlds, getting the respect (or rather fear, people do mix those up) they never had in life.

chris the cynic said...

There would definitely be a wide range of seriousness. Consider that Monkey Island's ghost world has to coexist with GrimDarkHorrorGame's ghostworld. Part of the problem of doing such a thing would be constantly trying not to step on copyright.

You can get away with saying, "I can't even count how many invasions I had to fight off because of all the people who lost Stellar 7," but if you actually have a game character show up for an episode then you've crossed a line. So then you'd either have to have all of these interesting characters forced to be off-screen when the setting implies otherwise, or you'd have to start doing the fake-[Well Known Character] thing, which always annoys me to hell.

depizan said...

That is a problem. Which is too bad, because it's an amazing idea.

chris the cynic said...

Also problematic if I want to make a short story for the anthology because I have to have an entire world in which I can't use anything's true name for fear of copyright unless it's incidental. Unimportant things can have names, important ones cannot. Weird hurdle to try to clear.

Lonespark said...

I want a fairy-tale where the princess refuses to marry the prince because she doesn't love him, but at the end of the story marries his sister instead because they really hit it off. (Thus preserving the alliance and allowing everyone to live happily ever after.)

I have had an outline for something like that floating around for years. Maybe decades? The alliance is between fay and hobbit-like creatures, in a world where magic is corrupted and will eventually be cut off to save the world, thereby locking the gates to the underground fay realm forever...Sexy times and angst and reluctant warrior-queens and fay brother sperm donation... This is to say, I heartily approve of related efforts

Lonespark said...

And also the transgender mermaid thing is just really fascinating and I want it yesterday.

Lonespark said...

something about a candidate saving someone from a dragon only to be told he doesn't have her vote and being schooled on the tax code before an aide ushers the candidate away.

Hell yes. Sorcerers and Secretaries is eagerly awaited around here.

Cupcakedoll said...

+1 wants to read Ana's story. Hurry up and write it!

Work in progress: The same fairy school story I've been at for nearly a year now, at least I'm approaching the end. I look forward to posting the final word count here and gloating!

What I want to be writing but can't make work: Futuristic society is able to record memories, and thus replace people with clones that have most of the memories of the originals. A girl from a high society family wakes up after an accident and slowly realizes she is actually a clone. While dealing with how her resurrection effects her relationships with her family and boyfriend she begins to wonder if her family, who tried to keep her from realizing she's a clone, could be hiding anything else about the 'accident' that killed her. Basically, she must solve her own murder.

This could be the greatest story ever except I cannot figure out a good scenario for who would've killed her and why, no matter how much I rubix-cube the worldbuilding and minor characters it will not click.

chris the cynic said...

Maybe no one did and it's like that story of an entire town trying to cover up what each thinks is their own accidental killing of beloved something (court jester maybe) when he actually died of natural causes.

Thus the original crime never happened, but the really sinister things are all in the cover ups.

So in the end it's something like, "There was no murder, but you're still going to jail for all of the crap you pulled to try to cover up the imagined murder."

That... actually sounds like an incredibly disappointing and annoying ending, probably best not to use it.

Sorry I couldn't be helpful.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, one more thing before I forget. I actually have read anthologies with "stories" that start and stop like you write. No beginnings or ends. It's not a style that's for everyone, but I enjoy everything you write and I know I'm not the only one. Since the point of these anthologies is to let people know how you write -- and where to read more -- you're welcome to submit stuff like this as far as I'm concerned. And I'm the Grand High Poobah, after all.

My two cents, and only if you're interested. No pressure intended. :)

Loquat said...

Hmmm... high society girl discovered evidence of some major crime her family's involved in? Or minor crime that the person she walked in on overreacted to? Embezzlement, political corruption, etc?

Ana Mardoll said...

Loquat, I love your ghost story idea. My personal preference would be that the modern Wiccans not be "crunchy granola types" so much as just a VERY different philosophy and a little unwilling (like ya do) to realize that other people have different beliefs, even within the supposedly same "religion". (Here I'm thinking of the culture shock that often results in Hell Christians and Non Hell Christians meeting one another.)

But that's just my two cents, based on the feeling that "crunchy granola Wiccan meets REAL witch" is actually kind of overdone in the paranormal short story world. (I have a HUGE anthology of witch stories, like 100, and that "Wiccan gets comeuppance" is done multiple times.)

Modern Wiccans don't have a set belief in the afterlife, but you'd be more than safe, I think, going with Summerland, which is a kind of heaven for everyone. (I personally envision it as a huge stretch of land that encompasses every possible natural setting and weather there is. People who like winter are more than accommodated in Summerland.) Some Wiccans, myself included, believe that reincarnation from Summerland is possible, but you wouldn't have to include that -- it seems perfectly natural for me that a modern Wiccan would assume a ghost would want to "move on" to their blessed afterlife; we've been strongly influenced by Christianity that way.

Ana Mardoll said...

And darnit, I hope that last comment sounded appropriately "my two cents" and not "here's a Real Wiccan Opinion". *sheepish* I've not had my coffee yet and am worried that my tone didn't come through the way I wanted. I think it's a great idea and I'd love to see what you come up with -- I'm also deeply fascinated by your mer-folk story and the idea of manufactured foods. A foodie mermaid story! I don't think it's been done before!

Ana Mardoll said...

I have to squee because I love slightly unreliable narrators. It's such a hard trick to pull off, but so beautiful when done well. I tried to do that a little with my novel, with each viewpoint character describing things the way THEY see them, but I'm not sure it always came across.

Ana Mardoll said...

Words cannot express how much I love all these ideas. Especially the trans-gender / trans-species one. Wow.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm in awe. I used to give out quilts for Christmas before the ol' back didn't take to the sitting at the machine, and I know how much time that takes. That afhgan is amazing!!

Zombie PIGS? Oh-my-god, *want*. Have you read Oryx and Crake where the pigs become even MORE sentient than they already are? That's where my brain went. *shivers*

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Violence

I love this idea *so* much. What first came to my mind was that they're saying it was a solo accident (She slipped) in order to cover up accidental manslaughter (He accidentally pushed her) but she finds out that it was REALLY deliberate murder (He pushed her on purpose). The idea being that the family tried to cover up an accident and ended up covering a real murder.

A nice twist would be if she'd seen something that day AFTER her morning neurological backup (which happens during sleep cycle? can't be too careful!), and BEFORE her murder and she has to find out what that was and why it was so important to make dear ol' Uncle Billy push her into the combine harvester.

Ana Mardoll said...

and somewhat because I've so far been intimidated from starting a forum thread on them

Oh, please don't be! There's nothing worse than an empty forum and I would love to see ideas like these being batted around. So much easier to come back to, too, instead of trying to remember "what post was that conversation in...?" :)

JonathanPelikan said...

Fair enough. :D

Aidan Bird said...

I do hope I can pull it off. You'll get three different viewpoints, and each viewpoint will overlap on some events - allowing you to see the same event through three different eyes. There will be differences in the same event, but a few similarities. I've seen this technique used well in several of my favorite books, so I hope I can pull it off in this one as well.

It's definitely a fun challenge!

By the way, out of the narrators in your novel I found the eldest step sister to be the most reliable and the father as the most unreliable.

graylor said...

Quilting has always intimidated me, so kudos for quilting while your back could take it. The afghan's turning out well so far, though I think it may be a washing machine killer once it's finished, ;-p.

Lol, maybe I'll share one of these days. I haven't read Oryx and Crake, but my pigs are unfortunately on a farm next to a Pet Sematary-esque area in the 1940s. The farmer slaughters them, takes the hams and more expensive cuts of meat, buries the rest in the field, and then they dig their way out on the full moon, all butchered bits having regenerated. The first couple times this goes well enough, but then the pigs start becoming larger, smarter, and remembering what happened before. So the farmer calls in some of his cousins. Then some more of his cousins and tells them to load up like they're hunting bear. And then, of course, you get the news clippings from poor neighborhoods the next county over, where he sells the meat, which draw the wrong sort of attention entirely.

Ana Mardoll said...

By the way, out of the narrators in your novel I found the eldest step sister to be the most reliable and the father as the most unreliable.

Ha, you're in my brain then, because that's how I see them too. Nice.

Charles Matthew Smit said...

Warning: I am bad at summaries. My current novel-in-progress is called The Hellion Prince.

The kingdom of Antarion belongs to humankind, but only provisionally -- the mage-lords who rule it leased it from Faerie, hoping to prevent a war like the one they had just lost. Hundreds of years later, the country is insular, divided against itself, and coming far too close to voiding its lease. When Damarhis, the sole heir to the second most powerful family in the kingdom, plays the wrong kind of practical joke, he finds himself suddenly the center of a web of intrigue spanning kingdoms and generations. An ancient immortal, a faerie Princess, the traditions of his family, the crown prince of his kingdom, a shy girl from a backwater barony -- who is he really loyal to? Who does he think his friends are? And as a frivolous, sharp-tongued teenager at the fulcrum of what seems like every secret plot in the kingdom, is there really any chance that he won't come out of this looking like a villain?

Smilodon said...

Can I give a hearty "What the Bleep?" to a situation where that many girls get pregenant (not to mention, both genders probably getting sexually transmitted infections) because no one teaches them how to actually be safe. It's occasionally controversial in Ontario how young kids are taught sex ed, but there is no question that kids should have a health class teaching them how to be safe, once a year, from when they are "a little too young to start having sex" until 14 or 15 years old. (When the government lowered the age where people started to learn about sex, a ton of parents said "that's WAY too young to be a bit younger than sexually active" and then health care professionals arrived with STATISTICS.) The health classes I attended always included the line "of course, the only 100% way to prevent x is abstanince", but that was said after "Here's six 98% effective ways to prevent x. Look at how much the effectiveness goes down when you use them wrong!". And when I was older, we had to write out lists of questions we'd ask a partner before sex, and volunteers from the class would role-play senarios about sex and dating, with the goal of normalizing safe sex (and healthy relationships). I hated every minute of it, of course. But it was probably a good thing.

Aidan Bird said...

Content Note: Discussion of an awful show that depicted rape, pregnancy, assault, drugs badly

To be frankly honest, the high school I went to eight years ago didn't really have a sex ed class - although I lived right on the edge of the city, we were on the wrong side of the school lines, and my parents really couldn't afford the extra fee for all the kids, so we ended up in the small town school rather than the city high school. The small town school believed in abstinence only: they separated us out gender-wise. Taught us the general name for the parts and showed us a diagram borrowed from the biology teacher. I think one day a nurse came in and used a meter stick to trace the route the sperm would go, how pregnancy is only safe in marriage, and the names of sexually transmitted diseases; she didn't really explain how to avoid them. Most days we watched this 70s show called Degrassi Junior High and discussed it - that show covered everything that could go wrong: drugs, pregnancy, violence, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, ect... It was actually a pretty awful show and everyone hated it equally; even trying to make fun of it just didn't really help much. LGBTQ people, of course, didn't exist to them, even when someone asked about them; they sidestepped it, avoiding all details. They told us abstinence only was best, and we learned of no other safe technique. Is it any wonder that a good six kids in my class (there was a total of 86 of us in my graduating class), were pregnant not long after? Your sex ed is what I dream will happen all over the US. Sadly, due to a particular nasty breed of politicians, that hasn't happened.

I don't know what will wake up this country, but it's pretty despicable that all my knowledge of sex came from peers, from reading books, and from my Dad taking me on a walk warning me against ever allowing a boy near my special parts, else I get hurt or worse. A book depicting how insane that way of thinking is would be awesome and really needed. I don't know if it'd wake up the idiots in this country of mine, but heavens knows we desperately need a sex ed class, like the one you had, Smiledon. It may have sucked, but at least you were taught the basics.

Side Note: I worked in a library as a Page/Clerk for quite awhile, and my specialty was shelving and taking care of SF/Fantasy, Westerns, Mystery, a few non fiction sections, and the Young Adult section. It was the Young Adult section I paid the most attention to since teenagers loved to sit up on that balcony area, explore the books, and just leave them lying around. One day I decided to try to read all the Young Adult novels in that balcony. I started with the A's and got to the E's before I had to take a break. I then started up in the M's and went through the O's, and stopped again. After that I decided to just read through all the new books - skipping over all books by Patterson since I couldn't stand his writing. I discovered that, although half of what I read was highly disappointing and just kinda a young adult version of Halequin - which I have no qualms with, just not really interested in romance much - the other half was fully of innovation and creativity. Those young adult authors were really pushing bounds in a lot of areas, especially in regards to what that nasty breed of politicians would have called "controversial." I wrote down some of the books I read - doing reviews on them until I just lost interest in reviewing them, just was too many of them, but there's a couple that stood out in my mind that tackled the topic of why sex ed is really important. I don't recall their names, so I'd have to go look it up, but they were bleak books but also really informative. In a way, they provided a bit of an education that the kids may not have gotten in their schools.

Smilodon said...

I hated it, but I hated lots of things that happened in school that were important. Like spelling lessons.

A lot of topics weren't covered in health class (sexual orientation wasn't, IIRC, but it might be now), but there were always anonymous question boxes that you were supposed to write questions and have them answered by the public health nurse, and things could come up then. A schoolteacher I know is in charge of teaching kids in their first year of health class - I think it's around age 9 now? She teaches just the girls (she's in favour of separating by gender at that point, since she says it makes the kids less shy about it.) And she starts by promising not to teach them anything "gross", and she spends the lesson on day one glossing over all the anatomy. By day two, her question box is full of questions about how things actually work, and she tells the kids "I wasn't going to tell you this, but since you asked..." (She's handled questions about threesomes, so they clearly have conquered shyness by the end of the week.)

Aidan Bird said...

That's a cool way to handle it. I like that. Too bad my school didn't offer something like that.

Smilodon said...

Yea, I am boggled by the idea that the health care professionals with their statistics could be overridden by parents and politicians with agendas. But I am easily confounded by people.

One more sex ed story - again, which was cringe-inducing at the time, but which I really appriciate now. When we had to write questions we'd ask before sex, we all knew we were supposed to write "Do you have a condom? Have you been tested?" and so forth. A bunch of the cool guys wrote questions like "Do you prefer top or bottom?", certain they were beng very risque. The teacher read the questions, and told us how great their questions were, and how important it was to ask your partner about their preferences.

I think that I went to a unique school, even for Ontario.

Will Wildman said...

Works in progress? Hm.

There's my unfinished 2011 NaNo, which I very much want to finish but have continued to find confounding at its current point and have not had any luck trying to jump ahead. It will need plenty of editing afterwards, but it's overall in a good place.

There's my unfinished nanocamp work from last month, which is in a worse place in that the cast is amazing and the story parts are mostly present but I don't think I've stuck them together right at all. And improving the story flow for one protagonist seems to require messing things up for the other one. It requires substantially more architecture work.

The actual writing work on which I'm progressing is editing a friend's completed NaNovel from last month, meddling with sentence structures and punctuation and filling the margins with comments about whether a character is expressing themselves the way the author wanted them to, or what needs more description, or why a thing is not happening when I would expect it to. It's surprisingly fun to do and makes me wish I had looked into editing as a career, although I'm told the profession itself is ridiculously competitive and lacking in remuneration, plus I would not always be reading stories in which a couple of side characters pop up to give a presentation (with flip charts and visual aids) on combating sothothic monsters.

I'm trying to decide what to do for August nanocamp. I could again just aim for 50K words in a new novel, but I've done that twice and it feels like setting a low bar for myself now, yet I don't think a higher wordcount would be all that enriching either. I kind of think my goal needs to be to finish a story. Options include adding a total of 50K between my two previous NaNos and seeing if that finishes off one or both, or starting something new with the specific goal to finish it by/at 50K, or writing a series of short stories. If I did that, any of them might be material that could be polished until it made for a good Sorcerers & Secretaries entry. (Yes, one of them would be Undercover Barbarian.)

Ice said...

2 things:

1. I've looked at the title of this post several times, and EVERY TIME I read it as "Writing Pact: An Introduction" instead of "Writing: Pact - An Introduction". I won't lie, I kept putting off reading this because I wasn't sure I was ready to make a writing pact...

2. Re: "for their crime of being pregnant" - could you replace that with "for daring to get pregnant"? Similar connotation, less legalistic, hopefully...

Ok, back to read the rest of the post!

Base Delta Zero said...

** Note: I don't like "for their crime" in the statement above, because there's a chance someone could read that as a futuristic dysotipia, but I'm not sure what to replace it with.

"... contempt for their 'crime'..." perhaps? That way it makes it more clear that isn't literally illegal...

1) An AI is spontaneously generated by the internet. Hours later the NSA shuts it down, effectively killing it. It becomes a ghost. A ghost that has no idea what to do with its afterlife given that it only got a few hours to get used to life before it was shoved into the afterlife.

I've actually had a sorta related idea before, perhaps (?) in the context of the discussion in Left Behind of how if blastocysts et al are actually 'human beings' then Heaven must be mostly 'people' that have never been born... well, I pretty obviously don't believe in the former... but Heaven must have an awful lot of AIs that only exist for a few seconds, as the result of people who don't really understand what they're doing messing around...

Johnathan Pelikan

#1: Sorta the opposite of Pegasus, then?

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, now that is a very interesting idea. The people don't even have to not know what they're doing; if you're actively trying to get pregnant, for example, you're pretty much GOING to burn through blastocysts. (This is a point raised against the rhetoric of the no-birth-control-Quiverfull movement.)

TW: Infertility

Sigh. I have about 30 that burned out across 2 IVF experiences, myself. Each of them didn't last even five days in a petri dish.

Smilodon said...

Maybe: For their "sin" of getting pregnant? Or: For the audacity to get pregnant?

Also, unrelated, but I'm curious what is being taught in American health/life classes, apart from "bad sex-ed". Are they getting the rest of the ciriculum right, and just failing in that one area, or is it mostly just a mess?
In Ontario, I learned (among other things that I don't remember right now):
Stranger Danger (Hey kids, the world is a scary, scary place!)
Drugs are Bad and Illegal (and this what what they do to your body from a medical perspective)
Alcohol isn't that Great, but will be Legal at 19. (Some medical advice on how to stay safe - e.g. the recovery position, how much of each kind of alcohol is "one drink" - but not much on social advice for staying safe, like not refilling your glass until it's empty if you're trying to count your drinks).
Healthy Body Image is Good (Mostly just in terms of unhealthy images to avoid, not a lot of positive messaging)
This is What Puberty Is Like

Is that the same basic list as the rest of the world learns?

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