Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Riding the Mental Tsunami - by guest author Dean La Douceur

I’m pleased to support the craft and talent of a fellow scribe. When Jennifer asked me to contribute a blog, I was delighted to do so. Let me share with you some ideas on writing and being a writer.

Calling yourself a writer is one of the most fascinating acts a person can do. Unlike a salesman, a dentist or a quarterback where someone hires you, licenses you or drafts you as such, you and you alone are the key to calling yourself a writer.

In this era of social media, blogs and highly self directed content, there are more opportunities to call yourself a writer. But the key is that you have to be comfortable with this before others will recognize you as such. I still recall the first time I was introduced by someone as a writer. My daughter’s godmother Carolyn was introducing me to some of her friends, when she first told them I was a writer. It was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me. Someone else recognized what I really wanted to be. In fact, it is still my favorite way to be introduced.

I have a friend who aspires to be a writer. He seems somewhat envious of me at times for being one. He is a well traveled man of great creativity and talent and would make a fine, thoughtful author. But despite all my best efforts, he is a still more of a media consumer. I know he loves movies and books. He professes that he buys a book or two a week. He is also great patron of the library. When we talk about the process, I have invoked several times the words of Ken Kelsey, who is best know for the book which became the popular movie, “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest.” When asked the hardest part of being a writer, he replied “Once in a while, you have to sit down and really write something.”

Alas, what he doesn’t understand about writing and what I want for you to know is that writing is solitary and small motor. Often, writing has moments that are isolating. You can’t write with a crowd. People when they find this out wonder how someone like myself, who is larger then life, gregarious to a fault and often the center of attention though no fault of my own can want to be a writer. The truth is that this time with thought and keyboard is often quite satisfying. It can nurture my soul in a way that nothing else does. I feel closer to the universe when I am in the flow of an idea. It is my bliss, my prayer and my zazen.

When it comes to writing, recognize this truth. Great ideas are like butterflies. Butterflies will float off never to return if you don’t do something to capture them. So too, great ideas will be quickly forgotten if you don’t capture them. I’m sure you have had this happen to you at least once. I also feel the mark of a real writer is how close they are to a pen at any given time. Have you ever noticed that great ideas don’t make appointments. When they hit, they can be a mental tsunami that drowns you in ideas, colors, shapes, thoughts, experiences and insight. You can almost always find something on which you can write it down, but you are totally screwed if you don’t have a pen.

Don’t confuse being an editor with being a writer, for they are very different jobs. A parrot can repeat the rules of spelling and punctuation. But it is a deep soul that paints the word pictures for all with eyes to see. You can always go back and spell check it.

Also, don’t ever confuse writing as a short cut to celebrity. The road of great writing is littered with broken dreams, unpublished manuscripts, tossed out screenplays and ideas that have been dragged across the desktop and into the recycling bin. If you want to be assured of being a celebrity, the best answer is for you to marry another celebrity.

I often seek inspiration from the words of Steven Spielberg, the famous director and producer. When asked how he could produce so many beloved and highly profitable movies, his response was “It all starts with the written word…” Any idea you wish to share is best explained, captured and presented when written. So, I challenge you if you are a blogger or haven’t written more then a grocery list since your last days of school. I want you to be willing to spill your spleen on paper. Share the things that mean something to you, especially if it is messy, uncertain or personal.

Now, get out there and write.

Dean La Douceur is a Southeastern Michigan-based promoter, consultant, publicist and author. He is founder of Roundtable Promotions & Publicity, an organization that sponsors business and networking that are as great as the people who attend them. Dean is also co-founder of Prosperous Artists Academy, a business development project which he co-founded with Rosh Sillars. Prosperous Artists Academy is the first business school developed for creative artists, such as photographers, artists, designers, writers and musicians.

Guest Authors Coming Soon!

You might look through your list of Facebook friends and Twitter followers and wonder where they all came from. You see school friends you'd once forgotten, found in a moment of curious weakness one late Sunday night when you couldn't sleep. You see colleagues from jobs you've definitely tried to forget, but something compelled you to look them up one day, perhaps because they were the one shining light that made a terrible job bearable. You see friends of friends who sent you an invite, who you thought might widen your circle, and with one click, you allowed them into your little world.

My Facebook and Twitter lists are certainly made from the same stuff as yours - friends, family, networkers, schoolmates, colleagues new and old, and friends of friends. But when I look at their names and profiles, I see possibility. I see a sampling of what makes up the real world away from our keyboards, which is true variety of thought and experience. I see married couples. And singles. I see gay friends and straight. I see white, black, brown and even orange (Yes, I see you, Self-tanners!). I see blue collar and white collar. Entrepreneurs. Struggling artists and struggling parents. Introverts and extroverts. I see political and religious views across the spectrum.

All of these friends have unique viewpoints. All of them have original thoughts to share. All of them are experts in some area of their lives, even if they don't know it.

How can I NOT share their experiences with you?

Over the next weeks, I will open my new blog to these friends. I hope that through me each guest writer will bring to you something unique, some little dribble from his or her mind that inpires you, angers you, informs you or even makes you laugh.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Excerpt from Diary of a Clock Stalker

It's been a while since I posted an excerpt from my current work in progress. (I often post excerpts as status updates on Facebook but haven't of late.) So here's a tidbit from Chapter 5 of Diary of a Clock Stalker:

I spotted my car and crunched through the fall leaves toward it. I was a few strides away when I realized there was something lying on the ground by the driver’s side door. I stopped short and tried to see whatever it was from where I stood. Moving closer, I realized whatever it was looked bloody. I started to freak out a little. Like a spider I knew I’d have to kill, I tried to brace myself for something repulsive. Peering closer, I saw that it was a rat with red smeared on it. I came up alongside my car, searching for a stick but not finding one. Wishing I had something to push it out of the way, so that I could jump in my car and drive far far away, did not make a stick materialize. I nudged the lump with my shoe. It felt strange. Bending down, I saw that it wasn’t a real rat. It was rubber. Whatever was on it might have been blood, or just something that was supposed to look like blood. Around its torso was a piece of wire. Threaded on the wire was a plastic sunflower. Sunflowers were my favorite flower. There was no note. Nothing to indicate that this sick offering was meant for me, but I knew it was.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Joys of a Road Trip - Secrets to keeping the love alive on the road

A road trip can kill a relationship. Some couples simply can’t travel together. It means giving each other undivided attention. It means talking about completely inane topics for much longer than usual. It means noticing each other’s worst habits, amplified tenfold by the confined space. It means sharing the same air and not being able to get away from each other for a minute. It means smelling your partner for hours on end.
I’m proud of the fact that my husband and I are good travelers together. In fact, we love road trips and prefer them to flying. This is partially a side-effect of our love of camping and canoeing, which requires us to bring lots of equipment with us that’s unsuitable for air travel. And it’s partially because I was afraid to fly until 2007. But it’s also because we’re simply good at it as a couple. We may do other things poorly, but we have a great travel rhythm that makes us feel more connected than during our day-to-day married life.
Our first few trips as a couple were relatively short – up to Northern areas of Michigan where we could camp or canoe. At most, our trips were around six hours one way, eight if you count when we drove to Pictured Rocks in the Upper Penninsula. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to know we could tolerate each other in the car. Eventually, we would cover most of the United States together.
On our honeymoon, we drove down to Key West, Florida. (Driving to Florida is no big deal – but driving through the keys at 35 miles an hour the whole way is something else altogether.) For our second anniversary, we drove from our home in Michigan to Maine, visiting most of the northern eastern coasts states in the same trip. Our third anniversary, we’ve drove to New Orleans, LA. Sometime between our fourth and sixth anniversaries, we also found time to drive to the east coast again, as well as to West Virginia. Last June, we both took a month long sabbatical from our jobs, flew to Las Vegas, NV, and then rented a car to drive home, enjoying as many states and landmarks as possible on the way. Together, we’ve visited 39 states!
Recently, I started to think about our travel relationship and what makes it so different from our usual life and why we seem to be so good at it. Here’s what I see as our road trip secrets:
  1. We avoid arguing. Seems simple, but both of us bite our tongues when it comes to a quick retort or a needling comment when on a road trip. At home, you can walk away and cool off, but there’s none of that in the car and we both respect that.
  2. We take turns. Sure, I’m a girl. But that doesn’t mean my husband has to drive all the time. We know too many older couples where the man is the master of the automobile! One tired driver and one hyper-awake passenger doesn’t make for a nice night in the hotel, so each morning, we figure out how long we’ll be driving that day and then figure out how many hours that means for each of us and how many shifts.
  3. We take turns OFTEN. We used to take longer driving shifts – four hours each before we traded off. We found that 4 hours of driving is simply too long. It’s too long for the driver to drive, and too long for the rider to sleep or be bored. Now we do 2 hour shifts. It does mean we stop more often, but it also means we are less cramped and sore when we finally reach our destination. Being somewhat refreshed and less achy means we can enjoy a little time when we arrive, rather than just collapsing at the hotel.
  4. We plan for each other's weaknesses. I don’t like to drive in the dark. My hubby doesn’t like to drive after lunch. (He gets sleepy and likes his nap.) I can’t drive over bridges. Knowing these things about each other, and planning for them as if they are given facts and nothing to debate, relieves unnecessary road stress. As a loose rule, I usually take the first morning shift. Hubby takes the second. We stop for lunch. Then it’s my turn while hubby naps. And then it’s his turn while I nap. If I take the first shift, it means I usually don’t end up being the last shift (i.e., driving at night). If we know a big bridge is in our future, we’ll swap shifts if necessary.
  5. We try not to overdo. It does depend on where we are going and how long we have to get there, but when possible, we try not to drive more than eight hours in a day. And if we’re doing eight hours, we make sure we have plenty of stops that involve a little walking. We love pretty rest stops with picnic tables and places to shake out our legs a little.
  6. We know our roles. The co-pilot is the driver’s bitch. It’s a rule. If we’re eating lunch while driving, the co-pilot unwraps the driver’s food, worries about handing napkins and drinks, adjusts the radio station to the driver’s liking (we LOVE satellite radio, especially in the mountains and rural areas), finds CDs the driver wants to listen to, reads maps, programs the GPS, finds points of interest in the little rest stop travel books and reads interesting tidbits to the driver, gives awkward shoulder massages and good hand massages, fetches sweatshirts for the driver when he or she gets cold, and whatever else necessary to keep the driver focused and pampered. The driver’s role is to not get lost, make stop decisions related to gas and potty breaks, and keeps an eye on the time. The only exceptions to these roles are during naptime. Naptime is necessary for a peaceful ride, and both passengers get one.
  7. We don't overplan. Sounds like we do, but we really don’t. We usually know where we are going and have a check-in time at a hotel for our final destination. So, if we’re driving to California, we have a check-in time and aim to get there by that date and time. But we usually don’t book hotels on the way there. And we don’t book hotels on the way back, unless we are taking a side trip on the way home and wish to stop somewhere special. For example, on the way home from Las Vegas, we knew we wanted to stay in Yellowstone, and so made arrangements at the Old Faithful Inn because accommodations in Yellowstone National Park fill up in advance. Generally, we try to enjoy as much as possible wherever we’re going, so we always stop at the Welcome Centers and tourist bureaus when we enter a new state and really depend on travel guides we pick up at them to find hotel coupons and points of interest.
  8. We don't underplan. We do have lives, and we have to return to them by a certain date. So we can’t be completely free-spirited when traveling. We have to allow enough time to get home so we’re not rushing and breaking rule #5. Also, if there are certain things we want to accomplish, we do plan for them. For example, in driving to Maine, we knew we wanted to take a side trip and spend a few days in Salem, MA for Halloween. So we did book hotels in ME and MA.
  9. We avoid road games. My hubby HATES road games, like “I Spy” and silly license plate games. He especially hates the “I’m going to the grocery store to buy…” game and the other one where you have to come up with a word that starts with the letter the last word ended with. For a long time, he played these games because I liked them and they passed the time. Eventually, I learned that I wasn’t doing myself any favors in the long run. I might have the momentary pleasure of the game, but he’d hold it against me for the rest of the trip.
  10. We bring food. We eat better on a road trip than at any other time. Road trips are not the time for dieting. At the same time, they’re not the time to load up on potato chips and soft drinks. So we plan ahead. We like to make our own homemade jerky and trail mixes. We often bring a cooler with us filled with bottled water, juice, and meats and cheeses. Sometimes, we wait until we get where we’re going and then do a little shopping to stock the car. Either way, we don’t rely on fast food places and restaurants. They are hard to find when you’re two-tracking without a map or when you’re driving through Alabama hoping for a gas station close to the highway.
  11. We avoid serious topics. The road trip is not the time to bring up something that has been bothering you or to point out something you hate about your partner that you’ve never noticed until just that moment. We avoid talking about our families or about our jobs. Vacation is all about us. We talk about the trip itself and keep ourselves in the moment.
  12. We are considerate. We watch each other for tiredness. We take turns picking what we’ll do that day. We’ll change things up if something isn’t working. For example, if I’m super tired one morning, hubby will go to the hotel’s continental breakfast and bring something back for me. He’s not one to insist that if I want breakfast, I’ll get my butt out of bed. If I feel like taking a swim in the lake or the hotel pool and hubby doesn’t feel like it, I’ll go by myself. Neither of us deny ourselves what we feel like doing and we don’t guilt the other person into doing our thing in the spirit of being on vacation.
  13. We know what we like. When camping, we know we like two-tracking. My hubby loves to find trails with the jeep and to kick it into 4-wheel drive whenever he can. He adores mud puddles. When staying at a hotel, we know a pool is one of my requirements! When we get where we’re going, we know we both like lighthouses and aquariums. Conversely, we also know what we don’t like. Hubby hates guided tours, especially the really touristy ones. (Salem, MA is full of these around Halloween). I hate campgrounds without outhouses. We both hate old hotels with radiators for heat, so avoid places that advertise themselves with words like “quaint”.
  14. We treat ourselves. If it’s an interesting place, or a place we’ve never been, we usually get souvenirs for family. But we always make sure to get something for ourselves to remember the trip. We consider souvenirs part of the trip’s expense, and plan to buy them. That way, there isn’t a lot of complaining about spending too much money on the actual trip. We also try not to get touristy crap. Touristy crap includes shot glasses, postcards, spoons, or random things that contain the visiting location’s name. We prefer random items that speak to us, that will remind us of the specific trip, and are something we’ll want to display. Favorite artifacts from our trips include the wall sconces from the roadside in Key Largo, the horse hair vase from Arizona, and seashells from each beach we’ve visited.
  15. We keep track. We don’t really keep track of expenses as we go, unless we’re on a tight budget. However, we do save receipts (as well as brochures and maps) to compile and calculate when we get home. As a result, we have a general idea of how much each road trip has cost us and know what places to avoid returning to in the future. (San Diego is a good example. We spent more there than any other destination, so if we ever return, we know now to set a budget before we go and stick to it!)
  16. We Recap. On the way home, we always talk about each place we've been on the trip and ask each other our favorite parts. Sometimes we use the brochures and travel guides we've collected to spark our memories. The recap helps us retain what we did and also helps us to plan future trips!

There you have it. Our road trip rules and secrets. Most of it is probably pretty self-explanatory and intuitive when on a road trip. And yet, somehow, I often hear friends tell me they don’t know how we do it and how they can’t stand being in the car with their spouses for longer than a trip out for dinner. So maybe these really are secrets. I hope the sharing will make your next road trip be that rhythmic, wonderful dance I know it can be!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Death by PowerPoint - A quick list of my favorite writer's resources

I'm not a big fan of PowerPoint presentations, especially when I'm the presenter. It's one thing if I'm giving a long speech and need slides to keep myself or the audience on track. And it's one thing if I have charts or graphs that enhance the presentation. But if I'm only giving a 10-15 minute talk, I think a PowerPoint can be more damaging than helpful, particularly if it's distracting to the audience and doesn't add value.

I'm giving a short talk this evening at University of Michigan Dearborn on my path to publication. I'm encouraged to bring a PowerPoint for the presentation, but given my reasons above, I prefer to give a handout after I'm done speaking and point audience members to this blog instead.

Publish Your Passion audience members: If you are reading this entry, thank you for your time this evening, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the following favorite webspots & resources:
  • www.writersmarket.com - This is a great resource for finding agents and publishers. Keep in mind, you should always do your own research on any agents and publishers you decide to contact. I learned the hard way with my own fraudulent agent, who I happened to find on this website. It's a great spring board, but you need to do the legwork yourself to verify the information found.
  • www.absolutewrite.com - This website has a great forum and is visited by other aspiring authors who are eager to exchange peer edits. There's a nice community atmosphere here. You'll also find a list of worst agents, which is a good place to start researching any agents who respond to your queries.
  • www.sfwa.org/beware - There's some valuable info on this website about getting started on your path to publishing and tips for finding legitimate agents and publishers.
  • www.freerice.com - Okay, this site has nothing to do with the topic of getting published, but it's my favorite website. It's a place to build your vocabulary while doing good for others.
  • www.writersdigest.com - Good professional development on this website and lots of contest information. Keep in mind, many of the self-publishing contests have to be entered within the first year of your book's publication, so stay on top of deadlines and requirements.
  • www.wordsru.com - My Australian editor! Just because I didn't sign with a traditional publisher for Mandolyn's Masquerade doesn't mean my work didn't need to be polished and professional. Too many self-published books read like self-published books! Remember, there's nothing wrong with a second pair of eyes, even if you have strong writing skills yourself. You will become very attached to your own work the longer you are with it and will begin to see what you want to see, not what's there. With a strong, polished book, you can recoup your expenses for editing in the first year of sales.
  • www.aar-online.org - The Association of Author's Representatives
  • www.groups.yahoo.com/group/mikeswritingworkshop - Good chat and even better peer editing. Some of the writers on this site really helped me with my queries and the first few chapters of my first book.
  • www.nwu.org - National Writers Union
  • www.pw.org - Poets & Writers (The nation's largest non-profit organization serving creative writers.)
  • www.dogearpublishing.net - My publisher for Mandolyn's Masquerade. DogEar is an on-demand publisher, which means you don't have to invest a lot of money purchasing an inventory of your own books that may or may not sell. I've heard no complaints that orders from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble aren't filled timely. They've recently implemented some author tools that help writers to keep better track of their sales, which have in turn helped me to determine what personal marketing efforts are working and not working for me.

If you haven't attended one of my speaking engagements, I hope you find the above websites useful out of context! If you have, I hope you appreciate this blog entry that you can come back to again and again as needed, versus a static, boring PowerPoint!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To Breed or Not To Breed

My grandmother has 8 great-grandchildren. All girls. Recently, she prophesized that I’m going to be the one to give the family their long-awaited boy child. It’s apparently my genetic destiny.

What my grandmother fails to understand is #1) I’m not having children, and #2) Lucky me, I’m not in possession of a y chromosome. Only my husband can make her dreams come true, and that’s highly unlikely, as he also subscribes to point #1.

I know it’s difficult for grandma to understand why I’m not having children. To her antiquated thinking, I’m not single. I’m not a lesbian. I’m not poor. In fact, I’m married. I’m healthy. I’m what she sees as “normal.” So what possible reasons could I have for not having children?

To save grandma a little time, and to clarify for friends and family in general, here’s a quick “Top Ten - Plus One” list of random thoughts about being childfree and what it means to me:

1. I like kids. I just don’t want children of my own. It’s nothing against your kids. I’m not a child-basher. I don’t call them names, like snotmonsters or ankle-biters, and I don’t refer to my female friends as “breeders”. I don’t have to hate children to not want them.

2. Not everyone has children. If everyone had them, the planet would be even more over-populated. You can do your part to populate the world, and I’ll do my part to maintain the balance.

3. Some of us like baby smell; some of us don’t. Others don’t even register a unique smell that is “baby”, which is pretty much where I fall.

4. I wasn’t much for playing with baby dolls as a child. How is changing diapers and singing to a crying plastic doll fun? I played with Barbie, and Barbie had an exciting life. I made her travel in the big Dream Van everywhere, and she had like 18 different boyfriends with different colored hair and the same face.

5. Some women feel born to be mothers. They feel complete with children. I know it’s hard to imagine, but I feel complete without being a mother.

6. I have very little patience, even with adults or with myself. I can road rage while driving the car alone on an empty highway if I’m in the right mood. Luckily, I know this about myself and realize that a marked lack of patience is not ideal when raising children. It’s not even ideal for being married. I have to work on it all the time.

7. Yes, I have doubts. I have them about as often as people with children have doubts or regrets about why they did have children, which is to say, sometimes, but not all the time, and only when I’m feeling vulnerable.

8. I believe there is a biological clock. It’s not that mine isn’t ticking, it’s more that I think I might have been born without one. At 32 years old, I seem to have less and less urges to contemplate parenthood, so if I do have a biological clock at all, it seems to be working in reverse.

9. I’m not selfish just because I don’t want kids. Selfish to me is having kids and then complaining to anyone who will listen about how tough your life is. We all have at least one friend who makes you wonder, “Why the heck did she have kids if she hates being a mom so much?” If I had kids, I guarantee I would be that person. Who wants that? (Disclaimer: The majority of my friends love having children, and I love that they love it. Someone has to make the world go round, and I’m glad they are doing it.)

10. My pet peeve: When I say I’m not having kids, people nod condescendingly and suggest that I don’t know my own mind or that I will change my mind. Many of my friends had their children in their mid-twenties. So they knew their minds when they decided to have kids at that age, but at 32, I don’t know my own mind yet? Pleeze.

11. If I express the slightest bit of doubt, regret or consideration about this topic in front of some friends who have children, even during a moment of weakness (read “intoxication” or “severe chocolate-deprivation”), they jump on it like a hungry shark on a paper cut. That’s why I always have to be so firm about this topic. And I have to say, it’s exhausting maintaining a “position” on this issue all the time.

There it is. If grandma reads blogs, then I’m all set. She did take a computer course last year, so I’m hopeful. If not, the above thoughts will undoubtedly be served at holiday dinners for years to come, in response to the usual questions like “Are you still not having kids?”, “What does your husband’s family think about this?”, “When are you going to change your mind?” and “If you don’t have the boy, who will?”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Lady With a Gun Has More Fun

When I married my husband in October 2003, I also married his firearms. For the first few months of cohabitation, I knew there was a pistol lurking in my husband’s bedside drawer, but I didn’t have a clue how to use it. It seemed strange that there was something in my bedroom which could actually kill someone, and I didn’t even know what it looked like.

It took a while, but I eventually decided that this was my home, and if there was going to be a weapon sharing my bedroom, I either needed to know how to use it or we had to get rid of it. What good was a pistol for “home protection” if I didn’t even know how to use it? If someone broke into our house while my husband was home, we were all set. But if I was caught home alone, there may as well have been a butter knife in that drawer.

Knowing my husband’s interest in guns (he had a Sig Sauer P239 in 9mm, a Marlin Camp 9 rifle, and a Remington 870 shotgun at the time), it didn’t seem fair for me to demand he get rid of them. I knew he liked target shooting when I met him and I really didn’t want to be one of “those wives”—who ritualistically start stripping their husbands of all their dirty pleasures only months after the honeymoon. I started to think about how “couples that play together stay together” (a saying which undoubtedly refers to other bedroom activities, but I decided could apply to that mysterious weapon hiding out in the nightstand). Maybe shooting could be something we enjoy together? Going to the range is certainly cheaper than other hobbies, like golfing.

I tossed around the idea of joining my husband at the range, and finally expressed interest in 2005. The first time we went to the range, I was a jumpy freakbag. I expected the ear protection to block out all sound and quickly learned I was mistaken. My husband went through a target pretty quickly while I cringed every three seconds from a safe distance. When he turned and motioned me over, my hands were all sweaty and I had almost changed my mind completely. I didn’t want to shoot. I didn’t want to play together. I didn’t want that thing in my house! However, knowing how disappointed he would be that I’d come all this way only to chicken out, I listened patiently to my husband explain how to load the clip, how to handle the gun safely, etc.—thinking in the back of my mind that I probably still wasn’t going to do it. Once he’d explained things a little, I figured I might as well just try it—I’d bothered to pick out the perfect “going to the range outfit” and everything. With some gentle prodding, we ended up going through about 20 rounds together, with his hands over mine. Toward the end, I shot some on my own, finishing the rest of the ammo in the box. The recoil wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated and I found a death grip wasn’t necessary to prevent me from losing control.

The next few times we went to the shooting range, we shared a lane. It didn’t take long for me to get bored with this arrangement. My husband had established from the beginning that I had to do everything on my own. He would give pointers and constructive criticism, but he wasn’t going to hand me a loaded gun and reload it when I was empty. As I became confident enough to handle the pistol and shoot on my own, I didn’t really want or need him looking over my shoulder, and I didn’t like waiting for my turn. Surprisingly, I had actually started to feel like a warrior. The looks I got from other men at the range made me feel sort of sexy. Some seemed surprised to see a young woman in their midst, and it made me feel strong…like I could handle my own...like I didn’t need anyone but myself for protection. My husband also made me feel good about it. He seemed proud that he had the kind of wife who he could take to the range (and who wouldn’t accidentally mow down the other patrons).

Like most things, when I get into them, I get into them. Buying my own gun followed quickly. What was the point of getting separate lanes if we still had to share a gun? I wanted my own gun, that fit in my smaller hand, that I could be comfortable with, that could live in my nightstand. My husband had bought himself a new gun, a Sig 225, and we learned after a few trips to the range that I was shooting better with it than he and that I was far more comfortable with it than the Sig 239. I got a permit to purchase and then transferred the pistol to my name right away. I bought a shooter bag and my own ear protection. Eventually, I bought some nice, rose-colored eye protection, too. I might be shooting the hell out of the head and crotch area of my unfortunate target, but I could still look like Paris Hilton doing it.

Buying a gun and knowing how to shoot it isn’t enough. If someone is going to have the responsibility of a weapon, the gun owner needs to assess pretty quickly if he or she is willing to use a gun for protection—fortunately, this was not a difficult leap for me. When I think about it now, I’m surprised I hadn’t looked into self-defense sooner. In college, a man was convicted of stalking me. Shortly after that, my parents were car-jacked at gunpoint while on vacation. Seems silly that I, of all people, had not considered personal protection! More recently, my sister/brother-in-laws’ home was broken into (luckily while they were not home), and while my father-in-law was cashing a check at his bank, a man brandishing a pistol robbed it.

Our family has had our share of bad luck, and those nights when my husband works late get pretty uncomfortable, despite our home alarm system. My husband has his CCW and it seems like a logical step for me toward ultimate self-protection. I recently mentioned that I had completed the CCW training course and only needed to finish the paperwork (required for concealed carry in Michigan) to my father-in-law, and he asked me why I would want to carry a gun. I mumbled something about self-protection and needing it when I travel for work, but I was privately wondering why he would ask me this. I wonder if he asked my husband that question when he started carrying? I suspect he did not. I suppose it’s more socially acceptable for a man to carry a gun. Maybe he couldn’t understand why a nice girl like me would want to go grocery shopping while she was packing? Maybe he thinks it’s an insult to my husband’s ability to protect me?

I’ve discussed my new interest in guns with a few of my girlfriends as well. Some of their husbands also have pistols for home protection, but none of the women know how to shoot. One friend doesn’t even know where her husband keeps his gun. Some home protection! She has a new baby, and I told her that she has a responsibility now to know where that gun is in her home and how to use it, if only to unload or secure it. Knowing how to handle the weapon doesn’t mean she ever has to use it. (I lightened our conversation by telling her about some funny incidents at the range, including the time when a hot shell went down my shirt and sent me into what probably looked like a frantic Mexican hat dance. Needless to say, I mostly wear turtle necks and long sleeves to the range now.) We also talked about the idea of actually using a gun to protect ourselves. My friend would never have thought of such things before, but now that she is a parent, she thinks she could shoot someone if it was to defend the life of her child. She now plans to learn to use her husband’s gun. Once she knows how to handle it, she will have to make her own decision about her willingness to use it.

Regardless of any social stigma, I don’t think it’s a silly idea to want to protect myself, and I don’t think I would have a problem using my gun if it came down to it. True, taking the heart out of a paper target is a far cry from pointing it at a stranger and pulling the trigger. But if it is a choice between losing my own life (or that of a loved one) and taking another’s life, I think I could make the decision to unload and live with it. I might not like the idea of shooting a real live bad guy in the chest, but it’s a lot more appealing than the idea of throwing that butter knife at him.