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Blow me down, and pick me up!

Half the 'taboo' stuff I'm not allowed to write about in the ghostwriting job is stuff I either read or write on my own time (that's how you know it's a job). My friend literally gave me 5 Korean bucks to base the whole story off "A Whale of a Tale" from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so I did it. All the chicks are changed to dudes, and I'm not allowed to plagiarize, so I just used it as a plot structure frame (a lot). That's just a dirty secret between me and my friend and everyone who reads this blog now. Teehee!

Favorite student was in my class by accident today--one last time to see his precious, earnest little face on the day I started using his name in my ghostwriting story (I'm pretty sure I summoned him with witch magic somehow). I got to give him a Sherlock Holmes word search since he loves both Sherlock Holmes and puzzles (much like Sherlock Holmes). Here's your abstruse cryptogram, my tiny sleuth! You're an odd little treasure.

Anyway: smut story's on fire, I look forward to having that job as long as it'll have me. And speaking of money, I've been able to sell off some of the appliances and furniture in the apartment to the other Westerners in the building, and the rest can stick around for my replacement since she'll need something nice in her life.

Head Teacher caught me up with a few things I needed to input from the Saturday class on Monday, and then asked me how my doctor's appointment was. fun? ...totally worth getting fired for keeping that appointment? ...fuck off with your meaningless pleasantries? I just said, "Fine," and closed a door between us while she was all surprised and saying "...okay." It's funny to me that other people aren't used to being hated to their face. I've had a lot of practice with it, I'm stronger than the normis now.

Speaking of jobs, I still (STILL) get rejections from that post-MFA job application cycle. SHUT UP NOW. Reject me again after my PhD, goddammit. It was addressed "Dear {$customtext1}" because fuck me and everyone applying for a part-time Creative Writing gig I guess. What dumbshits we are, when there's filth to write online! It was in Florida too... this rejection is a blessing on all fronts, except for the fact that when I went to cross it off the list, I went to my fiction submission list instead of my job application list. Where's my list I keep to record all my failures? WHICH ONE LOL, be more specific, self!

Because of these windfalls, I'm feeling more confident about Dallas. A cab is no problem, a fee for having someone bring me internet the first day is no problem, I have no problems. I need to feel that, soak in it, try to enjoy it.


My latest paid erotica is going to be a five part series about a sailor. The dirty words and pun capabilities in that arena are rich and intriguing. "Scuttlebutt" is the least of it, there's already more filthy sailing words in my story at a mere 3,000 words than there are in all of Moby Dick, and the title of that is already Big Penis, and there's actual sperm in it too! I'm a professional.

I'm preparing for my Chicago friend's visit (washing up some laundry, making up some food I need help eating anyway, displaying all the stuff I haven't packed on the spiral stairs so my friend can go free-shopping. Two nice weekends left here, then the final one that'll be mostly bank and pension office visits, cabs and planes and all that setting up again.

My dad lives near Atlanta and is going to try and meet me during my layover, so the American side of that weekend will have a lot going for it. Haven't seen my dad in over three years, time to reset that clock.

I've been doing a little online shopping for my arrival in Dallas (just putting stuff in an Amazon cart) like a mattress, a bed platform, a basic tool kit, a dresser, etc. I want a trunk like the one I had before, but with inset wheels, but that can't happen at the moment because the cheapest deals are all the wrong colors (Slytherin green and silver corners or nothing, I'm serious).

Speaking of Harry Potter, my favorite student is reading the 6th book right now. He's still undecided on Snape, but when I asked him today if he'd rather explore the ocean or space, he said space (because he can already go look at the ocean), and he'd want to meet cute aliens instead of scary ones, because there's a better chance that the cute ones will be kind. FAVORITE, YOU RULE. I'm using all of the names I know you by in my other job writing smut, and if you grow up to have very weird tastes in reading (you're on your way; I got into fanfiction with Harry Potter, it's a slippery slope), you're in for a happy surprise.

My apartment's clear of mostly everything but the furniture that was here when I arrived, I've done my last bill transfers (the rest will be paid by the job with my last paycheck before they transfer it to me a day after I leave; that might be a pain in the ass when it comes to closing out my account).

Two weeks and one day left, happier every day.

At the crossroads a second time.

- 14 days left of a job that gives me an anxiety spike squirm-heart feeling every time I think of it. The students are way less shitty most days than the adults and the machine they power. One kid actually corrected my pronunciation of the word "mobile" today--we were saying it with a long "I" before I lapsed once into saying it 'Merican-style, and he didn't let it slide. That was a first! Another kid who's newish to his class was alone and ostracized and humming the Harry Potter theme during word search time; the other kids kept asking him to stop and be quiet, I showed some support by whistling the theme myself after he caved in to peer pressure. The other kids were surprised that the song was suddenly coming from me, and that I knew it in the first place [insert 'I've been into Harry Potter since before you were born' bemused facial expression], and then the loner kid started humming it again. NEVER STOP BEING WEIRD, KID. I'm a fabulous teacher when left to my own devices, supportive and encouraging a broader worldview without having to lecture or browbeat, what!?! I've got the magic teacher's touch, I know it.

- I got approved all on my own for the apartment complex in Dallas. Who's an adult who doesn't need a co-signer? I am! I had a choice between a July 7 place or a smaller August 14 place (for 70 dollars less a month, which would more than cover the water/gas/trash removal bill that comes with the complex). I wanted the August apartment, but it's my sister's call since she's who I'd be staying with in the meantime. Sister has decided she doesn't want me around that long, so I'm headed to Dallas within a month, to the more expensive place. FYI it turns out my original flight plan would have needed to be changed anyway (just the cost of doing business regardless of when and how I'm leaving my job).

- July 7th is when Repression might be coming out--my fifth published book, not a big deal (literally; I spend a lot of time around people who think small press books must happen just because I know a guy with a printer).

- I've got some of my own old erotica up on Kindle self publish, and will set up another book under my fakesies name later this week probably. Right now I'm spending a lot of my remaining youth on remembering how to create and hyperlink a TOC in MS Word. This is a skill I'll probably use a bunch in grad school but I sure don't miss it from that undergrad thesis.

- I've sold the rights to my latest story in the erotica area (the buyer gets the characters and the scenarios, which is fine by me because it's so not my wheelhouse)--he runs those through spell check and plagiarism stuff and then the money comes to me. I have a commission for a 12K project that I have a month to complete (because I don't want to over-promise on timelines), but the faster I can finish it, the happier me and the buyer are, and the more work I can get. I've got two ideas for serials now, and have already taken an offer from a friend to sneak references into this stuff (that's an extra five bucks right there!). I think I'm going to knock together a Querelle meets 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea mess for this next story. I've paused on my own Compulsion right now, but I'm still interested in using sea-themes and ship-words.

- One big suitcase is packed, the second one will be done by Wednesday, then those cases go to my sister's, and I start listing leftover stuff to sell to the building or the Westerner's Korean Craigslist. My Chicago friend will be here this weekend (for real I regret nothing about not shifting my plans for this day) and he can go stuff-shopping through whatever I haven't packed.
- My blood results are clean and perfect: no disease, nothing dangerous lurking, normal cholesterol and liver and kidney function. Thanks body!

- I had some extra teeth cleaning done yesterday, and have more to do next week on that Saturday that I was supposed to totally reschedule or else get let go early.

- Definitely my sister's no big fan of my situation. Depending on when and which apartment I can lock in, she's okay with me staying at her place for up to a month (that's when an ideal and affordable-on-a-grad-stipend apartment opens up). She worries about my behavior, she wants me to adjust some of it if I'm going to be in her house for that long on my own doing, and that I'm agreeable to. I like her, she's doing me a solid out of familial obligation (and so is her husband), I'll bathe and dress and go outside each day like a normi to make myself the least annoying sister I can be. I'll do my reading and writing quotas on a schedule at a coffee shop, I'll be that person for a month, whatever.

- I still can compute no sense of shame or wrong-doing. Is it right to do the job you've got while you've got it? Sure, assuming it's not one of those murdering/pilfering sort of jobs. Do you have to pretend to like licking boots? I say no, but what I consider honesty and a stern moral code could also just be my own slant on arrogance and stubbornness. Certainly it depends on who you ask.

- Question: is it arrogant to wonder, "If a job decides to fire you after you give notice, does that count as anything other than a total bitch move?"

- One thing that is not something I'm sorry about, it's just a quality I have to be aware of: I don't lie well, I can't deal with social nicety lies I'm not meant to believe but just accept, I don't know how to read faces when someone's trying to warn me that I'm not getting something everyone else in the room understands about the pretend time we're having, and I have a severe inability to 'play ball.' There is a chance that, unchecked and untreated, this personality will put me alone in a cabin with nothing but my conspiracy theories someday, complaining to a dead cat that was squashed by whatever Cabin Lauren has decided to hoard.

- I've finished that paid erotica story and am excited to submit it a week early. I've already asked for another assignment. I already have two ideas for 12K dirty novellas for this buyer if he likes the first story. I dearly love the idea of supporting myself with smut money while getting a PhD, that's so old school Life of the Writer. I'm not even phoning this smut in, I'm actually doing research (hint at the genre: I looked up wolf genitalia, wolf mating, and if men had uteri where would be the most logical placement, because omg girl, they so don't have the hips for it). The trick to this work: don't stop to look at porn, maintain the tension, write through the tension. Tell me I'm not capable of real work! Not everyone can do this.

- Now that I'm ghostwriting, I think I'm going to self-pub some older stuff online under a pseudonym. I can't trick anyone else into publishing some of this stuff, but it could make some money. I'm pretty sure I'm on record as being against pseudonyms, but hey: life seems to be about selling off your ideals sometimes, it's part of growing up, so just embrace it! I've already come up with a cutesy play on my actual name, let's talk about it when it's L.A. Fields' biography time.

- I'm hugging my cat a lot because I'm feeling needy and unmoored. Like my sister, she loves me, she gets that I'm weird, but she also really wishes I'd understand social interaction better and get out of her immediate personal bubble.

- I've put a picture of some Texas desert nothing on my computer's background. I'm excited to go to TEXAS in AUGUST for YEARS, that's how uncomfortable I am with this job. Bring me school in a wasteland! Favorite thing for me, I love that!

Good Work

Hagwon work is scheduling a make-up day for a Saturday when I have a clinic appointment and a friend to host who moved to Korea after me and only has a maximum three weekends to come hang out with me between now and when I'm done with this job. I'm so not fucking coming to work on a make-up Saturday for a useless MERS panic closure. I was told on return to work Wednesday that I had to wear a face mask, but not over my mouth if I didn't want to, just on my head somewhere so it looks like I'm making an effort on camera. THIS JOB IS STRAIGHT OUT OF 1984! Why don't I wear the mask on the top of my head like a fucking Amish prayer cap? Is that what you mean? Oh, fake and lie a different way, okay. Scum.

Because of that, and the glare head teacher gave me when I told her immediately that I would not be coming in on any Saturday (she said, "I have shit to do that day too, just reschedule. Um, yes they can schedule you for a Saturday."), I started looking into online editing/SEO writing to make some extra bucks going forward with the PhD. All they can do is keep money from me, and there are better ways to make money. Plus, nothing feels better than tossing dirty money back in someone's face--it is literally the feeling of being priceless.

Perfect example: I landed my first application to a gay erotica posting online, so now I've got a start-up gig that could turn into regular work assuming I get the niche right (because of course it's weird and specific and I only saw it once in my own fanfiction days before moving on to greener pastures). I just... I just love the internet and freedom and the fact that my old fanfiction, and my brief stint storifying porns, got me a real job. I love it all so much! Here's hoping I don't get carpal tunnel with the work I'm setting for myself right now, but come on. I'm getting paid to write smut, and the more I produce with good grammar (a given for me), the more regular money I can make--there's way more dignity in that than the lying exploitive relentless babysitting job I have now. I'd rather say I paid off my student loans as a pornographer than an English presenter anyway--what true storyteller wouldn't?

Bonus to the smut job: it's ghostwriting, so my name isn't attached to it, which means all the puns and cliches and dirty jokes I work so hard to regulate in my own art? I can just let fly with those! I'm blessed with so many talents!

Even with the school closure, my own book's still on schedule, I got at least 50 pages of reading done in between work crap, and I've already knocked out half of my commissioned story. Today's a great day.

What Forever Feels Like

Favorite student talked to me about Holmes and Moriarty today (so on my level this kid), and I wrote about someone kissing their cousin for at least an hour (fiction is fun). These are the only two good things that happened at 7 hours of work. Everything was cool right to the end of the day when I got up to start calling students, then came back to my desk when I was done and found a message all fucking uptight like, "Have you started calling the kids yet? You have to start earlier and talk 4-5 minutes with each one." Um, I was literally calling the kids when I got this, and I only talk to them for three minutes, fuck you guys. I come up with a new question every week just because those kids haven't done anything to make me hate them yet, and I'm trying to save us both a few minutes of agony. That's actually a good way to make them think and talk in English, but in case I forget, I'm always reminded: this is not a school, it's a business. Parents pay for 4-5 minutes of phone call because they've been duped into thinking answering the same skull-numbing questions once a week will make English happen to their kid. It won't! I'm doing my best to get out of this nasty system, a lot of other people I've met are doing the same thing, but every day I walk into work and deal with people who've been at this job for years, by choice. I question your morals, and I spend all my free time thinking about sex and violence. You are beneath that.

More MERS cases keep popping up in Korea, because like with psychiatric problems, a lot of people here dismiss serious shit as something that will go away on its own (nope!). Why not give them some Valium, maybe that will chill them out enough to fight that respiratory virus! MUST RESIST. Resist all stupidity and germs, fight the good fight.

Training week friend is almost done reading the Leopold-Loeb novel. If you've ever been to Chicago, you'll be tickled, lots of locations and trivia in there, you're welcome. Compulsion is doing well, I'm through the intro material now and can start fucking shit up, that'll help keep my sanity in my head. I'm listening to all this Marilyn Manson music even harder as the weeks dwindle down, I'm feeling exactly as outsider-y as I did starting high school. My sister's of the opinion that they like me less now, so they assume the worst motivation of everything I do, and think nagging and nitpicking is the way to fix that (it so isn't; the two Westerners who are at that branch long term are Christian-raised, middle-American, third borns of four children--that's a very specific kind of person who's used to taking orders, I am the opposite of that whole list).

But: just like high school again, the one thing that always stops me from flipping a table over and calling everybody what they are is the knowledge that I'm not like them. The worst thing I can wish upon some of the people I'm working with is that they continue to live the lives they have right now.


Oh, the body-cramming, paper-flinging, and crotch-thrust-dancing I have to put up with as an English presenter... I had a couple of nice interactions with kids yesterday--one boy said he liked getting shots at the doctor's because it means a whole day off school (like physical pain is nothing to him compared to enduring classes, I love his honesty), and one girl who is often touchy got bold enough as we were standing in a crowd to pull my arm across her chest over and over, and then hugged me in a way that nestled her head on a boob (that's pretty bold--with all the emergency-evacuation-style crowding and shoving the kids do, everyone still manages to keep off the boobs). Those kids had flare and personality, they helped aleviate the day's frustrations.

My worst students were standing near me at the water cooler while I held an open coffee mug of scalding water--everyone please reward me for the personal restraint I had in not 'accidentally' spilling any on them. They are shovers, it could really be an accident... one day. Also, teachers and kids all share the same bathroom; the floor is always wet because some unsecured drainage tube gets kicked around, the kids obviously never restock the toilet paper, and yesterday someone left a nice shit heap in one of the toilets, and that pretty much sums up the dignity of this place.

I've finally met Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues, and I like his style; I also want a submarine with a bunch of little projects and collections and catalogues to make, no extra people invited, no dry land touched again! Aronnax got it too, "I understand the life of this man; he has made a world apart for himself, in which he treasures all his greatest wonders." He and Aronnax are already being total nerd boyfriends about science and stuff, it's cute. I no longer want an all-female den house cult thing (the locals would just come burn us as witches anyway), now I want to scare up a Nautilus, train my friends in engineering or plumbing or whatever runs it, and go live like that forever.

Speaking of friends, the best one I have is about to drive all her stuff into the Salt Lake City area. Her husband's got a job, she's got a dissertation year coming up (she'll be studying Isherwood's old stuff in California when I move to Dallas, then teaching back in Austin so that for one semester we'll almost be in sync) and then it's Utah indefinitely going forward for her. We got her an audio version of John Waters' Carsick for the drive (perfect or too perfect?) but it's about eight hours long and she's been on the road for more like twenty, so it's been a slog. Even so, when she passed through Moriarty, NM, she took a picture of hotel billboards that say, "Moriarty... stay the night." That's now my phone's background image because (1) best friend, trying to spiritually share in that journey, (2) sounds like something my version of Sherlock Holmes might say, amirite?!?!?, and (3) it's time to take the Franks mausoleum off the phone and refocus towards the book I'm on--the Disorder Series books always start and end with road trips of some sort, and I really like looking at pictures of American highways, that's a thing of mine.

Last night my inner ear felt like it was hiccuping. Come on, little buddy, you can do this! Let's hear again!

Compliant Complaints

Whatever hotel wifi I've been using for the past few months has disappeared, and now to get on the internet I pay for, I have to log into the (all Korean) wireless router settings to change its frequency channel every few days. The router defaults to 13, my mac only deals with 1-12. But at least the internet is super slow and frustrating during peak times! There are a lot of peak times.

I bought a big handle-bucket of mayonnaise at CostCo a while back and for some reason inside of the container all the mayo is in a plastic bag (like if you wanted to decorate a cake with mayonnaise maybe?). Now I've dragged the bag out and put it in a smaller container. I don't know how much of that container is condiment and how much is slick folded mayo bag.

Writing quota made, I now have writing quotas every day to make myself get up and go to work. I continue to make petty acquisitions from the break and storage rooms to deal with my feelings. There's a scene in Gone Girl where Amy's realizing she's in a house with a ton of camera surveillance and starts taking stock of which rooms are watched and which corners are private. I have made note of which places are recorded at work, and where the blind angles are, and I take as much advantage of that as I can. Motherfuckers were critical of me for rolling my eyes after the kids leave, when I should be alone with my own feelings. I now make faces only when I'm turned to the white board because I don't wanna fucking hear about it.

My ear still feels weird and moves around deep behind the ear drum. I feel more and more vibrations at odd intervals, each new thing feels like when you have pool water in your ear and it finally falls out--sort of dizzying, destabilizing. Just so long as it's still doing something, I'm happy, I assume it's getting better.

I have caught up on all the TV, I've seen two movies (the internet was right, Pitch Perfect 2 didn't happen, but Mad Max: Fury Road did), my writing quota's on point, and I tried a different configuration for my bed/living room but didn't like it and put it back. I got a lot done today with two hours to spare for drinking some sojuice (I've mixed soju and orange juice there, and in my tummy). Six and a half weeks left of work, two more to hang out with my sister, then the move to Dallas. I've found the apartment complex I want to live in if I don't get campus housing. It's got internet, air conditioning, washer/dryers, it's near the DART trains (that would mean train to campus shuttle bus to class, nothing hard after all that CTA navigation in Chicago), and easy access to downtown Dallas should I ever want to go there. Pets are cool, rent is affordable even before the student discount, and the name of the complex sounds like a Star Trek episode, so with that place in mind I'm no longer worried about my arrival. By the time I get there I'm going to be all interesting, covered in degrees and travel and accomplishments and shit, it's a promising future.

The Briar Patch I Hail From

Stuff that happened on Sunday:
- Felt a lot of anxiety knowing the weekend was just going to end and work would come at me again.
- Hot glued some pillow fluff into a little satin fabric tube to stuff under my fridge so that cat doesn't lose her sparkle ball under there anymore.
- Fell short of finishing Chapter 2 on time (I'm trying to do one a week but 5,000 words is taking some getting used to after the old 2,000 quota). I've already made it up while trapped at my soul-sucking job.
- I managed to say to my friend, "If you believe in God, the whole world is a panopticon." That's who I am now, that's how I talk because this butt-ass job is bringing out the over-educated passive eye-roller at my core.
- Every night one mosquito comes into my apartment and pisses me off until I finally fall asleep. If I manage to kill one another comes in for the feast. I've killed four tonight already! At least these four have been relatively empty--the ones I kill in the morning are fat with my own blood.

Some good things about work:
- I had time to look up spaghettios and the legal myths about what constitutes a brothel for my book. Having a job I hate really does make the writing easy and right. I enjoy my life in my apartment too much to concentrate, but at work? SO FOCUSED.
- I called a kid at home because that's still my job (sucks) and asked her what she would buy if she found one hundred dollars. She said a cat, either a blue one or a white one, and when I asked her what she would name it, and suggested snowball if it's white like snow, she burst out, "Blueball!" YES. Correct, awesome name for a boy cat, not at all a problem.
- I got a new student who was introduced to my method of completing the lesson in only as much time as it needs and handing them word searches for the rest of class. That student likes the shit out of me. I'm not a bullshitter, even the kids can appreciate that.

Some crap things about work:
- Holy shit if I do anything imperfectly they think I'm going rogue. Today they had us teaching a portion of the Korean teacher's lessons, I didn't realize I had to make the students fill out some workbook page, I got a message from one teacher like, "Lauren, what happened, you have to do this it's so important, it's in the print-out I left you," and then got a personal visit from Head Teacher to say all those things again. You guys treat me like I'm an idiot, why does it surprise you so much if I act like one? That should make sense to you. P.S. those workbook pages are the least important things in the whole world.
- I actually ran out of time to flip through the print-out guide because two students have English presentations to do at their real school, and wanted me to record the presentations for them so they could practice. We attempted this last week, but one student deleted the recording off his phone, and the Korean co-teacher doesn't know how to compress a file for email, so I got to do both again during breaks between classes on surprise dumbfuck test day where I'm meant to cram forty minutes of stuff into twenty (actually pretty easy since there is never enough material and you're expected to clown it up to make it stretch). I was actually busy doing helpful native English speaker stuff over and above my duties, but I'm glad that the 'why' never matters to the machine. It detects irregularity, it squawks at irregularity, until the irregularity looks normal. Cool system!
- Did I forget to tell you that when I told the boss I left my classroom once for a minute to puke in the break room she said, "When Head Teacher feels sick she tells me, you need to ask me if you're feeling sick what you can do, if it's okay to sit." Did this country never form any worker's unions? Or is this just some shit people do to the foreign rubes everywhere? Either way I'm dealing with some totally inhuman cog-people, and having them run up to me like the lessons matter when I've been told explicitly that what I do isn't actually about education...

The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release:
That shit in my reality is why the fiction's coming along so well. Trouble's finally brewing in Compulsion, I've latched onto sea-words for this one, a hold-over habit from the Leopold/Loeb book, and I just so happen to be reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, having finished A Separate Peace. I was recommended that one by someone who had to read it in high school (and unrecommended it by my BFF who had also read it in high school). First of all, it wasn't gay enough. Second, if you want to whine about boys in the upper grades feeling weirdly homosocial about war, go to the Brits and stay there. There's no ruined country idyll in America compare to England, don't forget how America started--too many of us like war, it's always been a national pastime, especially in the country. That's where people go to shoot stuff!

For the record:
To use a particularly country phrase, to bring us back to the subject of work, and to use an old sailing term: these idiots don't realize they've thrown me into the briar patch where I hail from. Seven years--middle through high school--were nothing but petty antagonism and manipulation, and confronted with that shit again, I return to my old ways. It is at least satisfying that I make people more uncomfortable than they can make me. Ask me any question and I'll be able to answer you with some horrible fact about whatever murder I'm currently thinking of, or I'll ignore and dismiss you so completely that you'll wonder if I heard you at all, or if you even spoke out loud, or if you truly exist. Anything pleasant I've ever done was an on-purpose courtesy to make people like me. I no longer want these people to like me, so I've regressed to my natural state. It is the only revenge I can take and I relish it.


L.A. Fields
L.A. Fields
L.A. Fields is the author of The Disorder Series, the short story collection Countrycide, and My Dear Watson, a queer Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Her work has appeared in anthologies of horror, erotica, and academia.

She has a BA in English Literature from the New College of Florida, and an MFA in Creative Writing - Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. She currently teaches English in South Korea.


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