THE LAND OF NOD: You Might Hate This Book

 

 

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“She’d been subterranean for little more than an hour, and already was forgetting life on the outside….”

The Land of Nod is a psychedelic Roman a clef, a journey of magical realism, a dark children’s tale for adults. Recovered methadone baby Kassandra Bullet is on a quest for family, faith, and Self. Along her journey she meets a lively set of players: 78-year-old potato farmer Adelaide Wentworth, Bufo Alvarius rancher Toad Licker, former Illitch Chief Deputy John Losa, her doomed lover Raven Black, and even a mime who just might be Jesus Christ. Will this strange girl in a strange land stumble upon salvation, or descend into destruction?

                                                       THE LAND OF NOD

                                                           Nothing Is Real.

Surprise! I’m putting out a new book this week.

Pirates, be ye warned.

As the title of my post indicates, this here is a Preemptive Strike. Hi, Twitter! Lots of content warning and some ’splainin’ is in order for Vivacia K. Ahwen and Rachel Robbins’ new release, The Land of Nod. I’ll try to hit all points I can think of. Though I’ll surely be reminded if I forget something 😉

Let’s start with authors and genre, shall we? Vivacia K. Ahwen writes erotica, but has grown quite weary of it. Rachel Robbins writes some hot stuff, but it’s not the primary focus of the story. More magical realism, less wank. Since I (Rachel) haven’t published anything under my own name, I decided a good way to cross over into my lit fiction and still have some brand recognition was co-authoring with Vivacia. Also, let me be clear: The Land of Nod is a New Adult book, not a Young Adult. Rather than list all the potential “triggers” in the book, let me just say there’s a bunch of them. If you are easily offended by exploring upsetting issues, please read something else. The MC is only eighteen by the end of the book, which would scream YA, but there’s some seriously creeptastic stuff in Nod. It might be considered appropriate for the teen set back before we started infantilizing readers, but nowadays it’s not. There is physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The underground toad ranch is not a safe space. Also….

I started writing LON in 1992, and it was an on/off labor of love that kept me semi-sane through some dark years. The Land of Nod was my playground. Unfortunately, by the time I’d finished (2004), the novel was already irrelevant and outdated. For example, people are going to think of actress Sandra Bullock when they read “Kassandra Bullet.” I’d never heard of her until long after Miss Congeniality had come out, and since Kaybee’s name is integral to character, plot, setting, theme, etc. I can’t change it.

Twilight’s Jacob Black wouldn’t ride his motorcycle onto the pop-culture horizon for at least another year. Once he did, I was crushed, having not found a publisher for Land of Nod. You see, “Raven Black” (also from a fictional Indian Nation) is Kassandra’s love interest, and –once again—his name is part of the story. Oh, and THEN the Raven Cycle series came out. I read the first of them this year, and it seems there’s a similar magical realism thing going on with that. Raven Black is all connected with birds, ya see.

Which leads me to my next woe/worry: I’m so going to get nailed for cultural appropriation and stereotypes. Even though I was attempting to address problematic stereotypes and do some lit deconstruction with the Illitch tribe, that likely will be an issue for some readers. I can see people taking excerpts out of context, kicking up some internet outrage, and start a campaign of 1-starring without reading the book. Because of what I’m going for, that’s a risk I’ll have to take. Tina Fey got a major smackdown for doing something similar in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and she did it far better than I. So, there it is.

Mexico and France chapters may be considered “problematic,” due to my renegade use of Spanglish and Franglish, which was intended. Also, the characters they meet will be called out as stereotypical. Fair enough, but they were based on the old-school locals I met while I was staying in the area. Old school is what I wanted, and that’s how I wrote them.

While we’re talking  race/nationality, Kassandra Bullet’s is never clearly stated, which was also deliberate. Also-also, there are people with disabilities in the book, and some LGBTQ community, too. Even though I may be pressured to reveal my ability or lack thereof, or speak to strangers about my sexuality, it ain’t going to happen. I’ll write whatever I damn well please, and have watched one too many authors bend under pressure, feeling the need to share personal information so that they can prove themselves “qualified” to write marginalized characters. I’m not doing it.

Oh, and there’s no table of contents.

Think I covered my bases. Since I’m not doing a lotta promo, am negging the book in a public forum, and the fact that it’s around 600 pages, I don’t expect many people to read The Land of Nod. This post is primarily just to save me some time deflecting down the road. If you’ve read this far and still want to check it out, here is the Kindle Link, but the paperback –which will be available next week– is way cooler. Not only because the cover art looks even trippier, but it’s meant to be read as a page-turner, turn, rather than a scroll and slide. It just is.

FREE with Kindle Unlimited! $9.99 *cough* without:

Maybe you’ll love it.

Though I haven’t read LON in well over a decade, I do remember having a blast working on it. For the most part. Okay, I cried a few times, too. I hope you have a blast reading it and cry a few times as well. Embrace the weirdness. Listen To The Warm.

Above all, I just needed to get The Land of Nod out of the drawer so that I can close that chapter of my life, and focus on writing something new. There’s a ton of stuff in the works, and I’m cool with saying a final goodbye to Toad Licker.

Hugs,

RR + vka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Like Honey

Well, good morning, friends. Bear with me, ’cause the post your reading is going to be a little off, since I’m frustrated as heck and exhausted. So not only did I write/save a WP draft of this post, but (yes, for all you folks who say, “Did you have a backup document?”) also had a Word Doc which has also vanished. Since I believe The Universe Is Talking To Us, I took the cosmic hint and am rewriting. Clearly, the original was such bad stuff that it even was not meant for a blog no one reads where I do my navel gazing. It’s so far past bedtime. We’re talking 4:00 a.m., and I’m normally in bed by 10 because that’s how I roll. But now I have to do a rewrite, so I’m not tossing and turning and mad as a hornet.

For the last several hours I’ve been up reading this stained, sticky, torn up manuscript; highlighting, and making notes in margins as though they belonged to a student. Apropos, since I wrote it high school. They were fair comments…encouraging, but honest. More honest than when I graded term papers and Intro to Comp essays. For example, I never wrote “WTF…HAHAHA” on any student’s work. Get this: the last chapter is stuck together, so I’ve no idea how this draft ended. After a long, hard think, after a lot of sorting through memories Just Like Honey ignited, I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t know myself so well when I was sixteen years old. Or I did know, was scared to death of myself, lost as eff, and desperately needed someone to talk to.

So I wrote a book.

I remember reading every chapter to my high school girlfriends and then slowly my not-girlfriends from outside cliques who kind of joined us in whatever little corner of the hallway, library, top of a picnic table, wherever we were having story time. Boys were not allowed at these gatherings. Since it grabbed so many of us, something must have resonated with Bridget and Aaron to all of us. What if there was some kind of Troubled Hurting Guy who was so totally wicked mature and super hot. One who could make us feel wonderful, horrible, and beautiful? Here was a story to fill the void of our own unfulfilled fantasies. After all, we lost our collective virginity to the wrong people at the wrong time, and it was mostly a bummer. Sometimes problematic. Sometimes traumatic.

Because, let’s face it. I don’t know how things are with those crazy kids nowadays, but no guy when I grew up had heard of Astroglide, and –far as I can recall– any joy resulting from sexual intimacy was not because our boyfriends or random goons we hooked up with at parties had mad skillz, it was that we girls tried to make it somehow work for us. Otherwise, what was the big deal? Aaron was a wizard in bed. See, he was…well. I’ll stop. Think that was about to be a spoiler, and I haven’t pitched this thing to anyone yet.

In a previous blog, I mentioned how back in the 80s, for “sex ed,” there was lots of info about wet dreams and erections for the fellas. It was like adolescence was this awesome thing that would feel great, and well…just take care of it. What girls were taught about were periods, pregnancy, and birth control. Any physical, explorational happiness adolescent women experienced was something we figured out privately, then shared with each other, and tried to make it work. No biology teacher ever mentioned that girls could masturbate, how to get more relaxed, and quickly. So we had a hormonally brilliant, curious hive mind thing going on.

There were, of course, the Phoebe Cates from Fast Times at Ridgemont High type chicks who were a couple years older, all-knowing, already had A List, and tried to convince everyone they had some kind of cool thing we were missing out on. And yeah, there were a few who brought cucumbers to school to show us how to give a blow job. But, you know it and I know it. Nah. Those boys weren’t cucumbers. We didn’t have any kind of guidebook. Going back to seventh grade? Judy Blume’s Forever had some things wrong. Like It’s Cool To Have Sex Without A Condom. Or first time a girl has sex with a near-virginal guy, has a vaginal orgasm. I mean, come ON. So to speak.

Well, Fifty Shades of Grey confirms the virgin/vadg-gasm, so…anyway.

Okay, there was a copy of  The Story of O circulating, and also Anne Rice/Rampling was becoming a Thing.  Wait…yeah, I had some bodice-rippers (no apologies, fellow erotica writers) bought from used book stores with babysitting money. But none of this was real life any of us teens could relate to, though we tried. None of the sex slaves and ravished maidens were characters we could relate to. Sex was such a mysterious thing, even after you’d “gone all the way.” The fear, excitement, disappointment, confusion, hope, emptiness, and longing. We had to discuss amongst one another, trying to put it together. And hope, at some point, we wouldn’t have to keep explaining to some pimply-faced boy with dyed-black hair, “No, the left. No, the right. Jeez, never mind.” Then give up, because they all were somehow obsessed with “fingering.” Oh, and what to do with the boobs.

Hold on! Just remembered that I had a copy of The Sensuous Man which I started circulating for the boyfriends to pass around. You know, to give them a clue.

Back to the story.

No wonder I decided that writing erotica would be fun. Oh! I should’ve mentioned: the new novel is not erotica. That’s right! It’s NA or YA, depending on how much of The Sexy is in the final draft. Currently, most of the luvvin’ takes place offscreen. And there’s not an awful lot of profanity or hot ‘n dirty talk. Bridget Waters and Aaron D’Amour are no Lily Dewitt and Dorian Holder.

The story was originally called No Strings Attached. It was a gazillion [that’s ’80s teenagerspeak for 200 on a Brother Word Processor] pages long. Since everyone fell in love with the sordid tale of Bridget and Aaron, I decided to call it Bridget and Aaron. Because  girls kept saying, “Read more Bridget and Aaron. Write more Bridget and Aaron,” and I’ve always been a people-pleaser. But after rereading it two decades later, and seeing how prominently 1980s pop-culture fit into the story, I’m going song title-y. Come on, having the Boy You Liked give you a mix tape was the best thing, it would make your week.

Not sure HOW many things were described as being “honey,” but Aaron’s flowing locks, endless cups of coffee, and even kisses were bee-friendly. So Joy Division gave me a the title.

For now. But it might change.

So will this post. Like, tomorrow, because I don’t feel like going back and editing right now. Also, there’s a spoiler alert, which is so not a spoiler. Just don’t want to go into Aaron’s Big Seekrit right now. It’s just too darn PAINFUL. He is, after all, a New Adult Novel hero. Pretty sure this one can’t be YA, but we’ll leave that to whomever decides what genres are, these days. Oh, did I mention I need an agent so I don’t get into a FOURTH snafu with a publisher? Because I so do need one.

I’m so tired.

It’s so late.

Honey-Sweet Kisses,

vka