Say Hello, Too, My Little Friend

Hey! You! With the face! So, this week my blog traffic has been through the roof. There are comments and stuff on a couple of entries to prove it. A few of you have started following me on Twitter and a brave number have actually gone to my contact page and sent me an email. I've even watched the follower tally down there and to the right tick up by one! I have to say, too. The comments I've gotten, specifically the private emails, this past week have touched me. Seriously, woman, you made me cry and I find you to be a stellar person. Basically, I like knowing that something I've said meant a damn to someone outside of my head. And that doesn't mean that you liked it, but if you disagreed, meant something.

But the thing is, love... well, I'm the only one who knows that. My stats counter shows me that you've stopped by and that's fantastic. I'm glad we've had this time together. But, I'd like to take our relationship to the next level.

What I'm trying to say, dear readers, is that you're too quiet.

This blog isn't just me yelling into a hole, it's a place where we can have a conversation. All of us. Bounce ideas around, have a laugh or two. Unlike some other websites out there, this isn't meant to be a one-way thing.    I know there are some of you that are regular readers but you don't "follow" the blog officially with that little tab to the right. I know some of you are lurkers or family and friends from real life. And that's awesome, but why not talk a bit? Say hello!

You! The user in Australia who's been hanging around this week? What's your name? What brought you here? You! The brave soul using Internet Explorer. Friends from the UK and frequent fliers from Russia. You sick puppies in the states searching for me by my full name... say hello! Let's talk.

So here's what we're going to do. If you're a regular reader (or even if you're not and you've just come across this post) SAY HELLO! Pop down to the comments and introduce yourself. Where are you from? What brings you by? What keeps you lurking? Can I stalk you back?

The fact of the matter is that sometimes when I'm posting randomness and waxing poetical about strange accents, I get a nod or a comment or a random email that lets me know I'm not alone here on this series of tubes. That means a lot to me. I'd like to thank you properly. I'd like to return the favor sometime.

It's Friday. Let's turn my comments section into something resembling a mosh-pit only with a lot more laughter and love. And fewer spiked collars. (I don't judge, I'm just sayin' they hurt when you bounce around.) IF you're one of those people who's a bit shy and would rather not dive right into the comments, go on up to "contact" and shoot me an email, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

Let's have some fun. Together.



Words. Words. Words.

Nerdmaste and happy Friday to you all, my lovely readers.

Today I bring you a rant about something near and dear to my heart: Words. This week I've seen multiple conversations talking about language. Chuck Wendig, Tommy Pluck and others were having a debate on Twitter about profanity in writing, particularly crime fiction. It's been fun, enlightening and has opened up new possibilities in the world of four-letter-words. Not long after this, a post on Facebook made me cringe at someone's use of a euphemism. And thus, a rant formed and now I am sharing with you my personal thoughts on language.

Buckle up.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that, as a writer, I am fascinated by words. At the heart of my interest is rhythm. Poetry, prose, all flows. Our words create their own rhythms and even the most mundane comments when spoken aloud can ring with authority and grace simply because the right words were used in the right order. I love the way an accent can change the rhythm, the pronunciation or even the word choice. It's mesmerizing. Beyond this, though, is meaning. We try to pack centuries of human experience into tiny letters and then expect those definitions to stand up to an ever-changing landscape. When 7 billion people live and experience the world in their billions of ways, words will take on new shapes and meanings not just from epoch to epoch, culture to culture but from person to person. Hell, even a day can change the way a single word impacts you. For example, one day you're walking across campus without a care. The next you're in a hospital shivering after a sexual assault and from that moment forward you have a visceral reaction to the word, "rape". Words are slippery chameleons with their own emotions charged into them for every person who uses them.

Words have baggage. Some words are reviled and avoided due to the genetic/societal memory of how they were once used to objectify, enslave and dehumanize. Slurs and epithets carry wars and atrocities in their little letters. Some words are seen as "bad" due to notions of propriety. What is illegal on television is acceptable in some movies and music. You wouldn't tell a nun you've had a shitty day but you might say it to a friend, teacher or a waitress.

Words have a time and a place. In writing, word choice can tell you a lot about a character. Do they use taboo slurs? Do they curse? Do they consistently misuse big words or abuse grammar? Do they use contractions or drop the g's off of the ends of -ing words? By the way a person talks, you get a sense of who they are and what their experiences have been like. The words can show us more than the character tells us.

So when someone tells me that I say, "Fuck" too much or that "goatfucker" isn't acceptable when referring to my satyr character, I'm going to pick a fight. Look, I spent 7 years in a drumline with some of the most foul-mouthed, disrespectful budding misogynists you could find. If I spoke a second language fluently it would be "Fuck". Is it base humor? Does it pander to the crass? Possibly, but it's a word! Crass or no, it has value. It's rhythm. It's more than just a euphemism/slang for fornication, it's a percussive sound that can punctuate anger, frustration. It can add gravity to a statement. It can act as any part of speech and it can be modified in so many luscious ways.

I am an acolyte of George Carlin, Mr. 7 Dirty Words himself. He says it better than I could ever hope to in his book Last Words, but the gist is that language is so rich and diverse! It's amazing how squeamish people get when you say "cock", "cunt" or "piss" instead of tamer synonyms like "penis, "vagina" or "urine". You might think that Carlin didn't respect the English language because of how much he chose to inhabit its darker corners, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Carlin, like me, loves language and words. He, too, was fascinated by not just words and their rhythms or meanings, but also the reactions words incite!

Profanity has its place in the world and it's not just at the back of the class room or in the poor neighborhoods. Profanity can be glorious! (Profanity can also be used to try to mask poor writing. Do. Not. Do. This.) Look at Christopher Moore's books. He takes Shakespear's King Lear, tells it from the Fool's perspective and gives us "Fuckstockings!"** It's beautiful! (If you haven't read Fool, read it now. I'll wait.)

On the flip side of this is a trend to avoid perfectly "normal" words. Yes, there's "political correctness" and I think that's bullshit, but what I'm talking about is more subtle and annoying. Euphemisms have their place. As a friend said, "You wouldn't say, 'I'm going to the lavatory to defecate.'" There are so many ways you can communicate that thought and unless you're a cyborg you're not going to be that clinical about it. You don't have to go vulgar and say you're going to "take a shit"...there are perfectly good alternatives that are socially acceptable.

However...the one that really pisses me off and makes me shudder every. damn. time I see/hear it used:

Why the fuck do people do this? Seriously? Why is this a thing? No, I don't expect everyone to say, "menstruating", but what is wrong with just saying "period". It's something anyone with a 5th grade education should know about: Every 28 days or so a female who has been through puberty will shed her uterine lining (blood) unless a fetus has implanted there. A woman has a period. Period! Why the fuck can't we just say it that way?
Look, I know it can be an uncomfortable subject, especially for men. (Trust me, it's more uncomfortable for us than it is for you. Sack up.) When I was a teenager, my dad would get a little squicked out by me just mentioning it. Well, how do my dad and I deal with discomfiting things? Humor. I then referred to my period as "a visit from Stephen King" (or just Stephen King). This made light of the ick factor and was a way that a teenaged girl and her bachelor dad could talk about an awkward subject. I get that.
Also, I know there are other terms used as more of an insult.  "What's wrong with her?" "Oh, she must be on the rag." In Clueless, "riding the crimson wave" was kinda funny. But "aunt flo", "monthly bill", "visitor" all that shit? Come on. Don't pussyfoot around it. The word you're looking for is period.

Words have power. And I think this is why shit like the above bothers me so much. By taking a very acceptable word for something that is a natural, biological process and stuffing stupid euphemisms in its place, we belittle the process itself. Because we feel shame and discomfort at the word, we feel shame and discomfort at the act. Call me a bitch (and I better deserve it) and you're insulting me. Refer to all women as bitches and you're saying something about yourself right there. This goes for racial slurs as well as labels like "faggot". You're disrespecting an entire group of humans.

So often we like to think words have black and white meanings to match the text on the page. They don't, though. And they never will. Words are constantly evolving like the societies that use them. Words are malleable and conform to the needs of the time. You never just "read" a book. You imbibe a series of ideas and experiences because these words flow with their own life. Words are astounding. Use them freely because they are yours. Remember to also use them wisely.

** sells "Fucksox" with the Christopher Moore font. It is Fucksox Friday! All proceeds go to MS research. Just sayin'. 

Random Happenings

So, I know I've been remiss in keeping this blog updated lately. My husband's work schedule changed and while that's good in some ways, it sucks in others. We're all getting used to a new routine. This comes on the heels of getting back into the swing of things after Christmas break which shifted our lives after another previous shift and so on and so forth. Routine? What's that?Anyway, I don't have anything profound for you today. No rants or pieces of masterful flash fiction. However, I do have a tiny tidbit of news.

As you may know, yesterday Rob Lowe went on Twitter and proclaimed that he had it on Good Authority (*coughIRSAYcough*) that my second husband Peyton Manning would be retiring by day's end. Well, this is not acceptable to me, and I tweeted as such. Then, I posted a similar, but longer version of the tweet to my Facebook page. Both essentially say that Rob Lowe is full of shit and that I give him the benefit of the doubt. He's just providing an example of what happens in a world where SOPA takes away one's ability to find corroborating evidence on the Internet. So, flash forward to the nighttime. My daughter is sound asleep, the cats are prowling about and waiting for snuggles, the husband is killing zombies. And I? I'm scrolling through the Huffington Post. And there is an article about Rob Lowe's sports reporting. Woot! So I read it and see a slideshow of tweets about the whole thing. As I'm scrolling through said tweets, I notice a field of blue sunflowers and go, "Hey! That's my background!" My eyes tracked up and then, "Hey! That's my name!" Among the tweets they counted as some of the funnier responses to the "news", they included one from yours truly. Woot! Any day now I expect Colbert, Stewart and my girlfriend Rachel Maddow to call and ask me to be on their show for my incredible wit. /snarkasm.

Soooo what else is happening, readers? I know there was something I was going to tell you about my daughter but for the life of me my sleep-depraved (yes, I just made up that word) brain can't remember at this point. Just imagine it was hilarious and moving and made your uterus tweak with longing to procreate.

OH! This was fun... the other day I got a bill from Chase. Now, a few months ago this would not have been anything out of the ordinary, but (!) in December I closed the account. That's right. I paid off my credit card and said, "Fuck off, Chase! We're through! Occupy my wallet no more!" and there was much rejoicing. (yay) Well, as I said, I got a bill from them the other day. They wanted a paltry $1.50 on an account that had been paid off and closed.

Hrm. Odd.

At first, I wondered if this was that awkward attempt at reconnection after a breakup. I know, Chase, you had some good times with my interest payments. But it's over. I think we both need to live separate lives. It's better this way.

So, yesterday I called just to make sure this message was received. I was informed that this was just a standard interest payment on the $0.00 balance on my account. I reminded the nice Indian lady at the call center that there shouldn't even be an account to draw interest. She then told me that I paid off the account and then closed it three days later. The interest is what built up in those 3 days of not using the card. Seriously? Fucking seriously? I voiced my displeasure and let her know that this was ridiculous and she kindly cancelled the charge. Dear Indian Lady, I'm sorry if I was snippy, but sometimes you just have to get harsh with an ex otherwise they just keep coming back. Like cockroaches, Keith Richards or fashion mistakes.

AND, speaking of fashion... it has come to my attention that a Shreveport, Louisana parish commissioner wants to ban pajama pants in public. As my devoted readers know, I am the High Priestess of the Cult of Jammy Pants. Seeing this... I am upset, nay! appalled! This is outrageous and against my religious beliefs in comfort and flannel for all. So, mortal enemy, you make yourself known. My crusade begins.

Oh, last weekend I went with my good friend and had my hand squeezed to a pulp while she got a tattoo on her foot. She got a peacock-colored koi in memory of our Nicki. I'm getting my memorial ink next month. You'll see. :)

That's about all that's going on here at the moment. Still shopping Technical Difficulties (Book 1 in my Etudes in C# series). Book 2 is. I'm stuck at chapter 4 but that's only because I'm not sure how to handle Chapter 9 and beyond. Weird, I know, but I need to have a clear vision of what's ahead to keep going. So, I'm outlining and trying to pull together what happens after a specific DUN DUN DUNNNNN moment. Book 3 is an attention whore. It keeps telling me all these awesome things that can happen and showing me scenes. A companion short that takes place during the events of Book 3 is an even bigger whore. So I've written most of that one. The later books are congealing more and more. Book 6 (the last one) is being all ominous and "muahahaha".

Yeah. Other than the above, that's about it. Oh, and I've developed an obsession with the British show Q.I. Here's a clip. I defy you to not giggle.  (Also includes David Tennant.)

And with that, I'm out, kids. Be excellent to each other.

Blue Socks

Happy 2012 and Nerdmaste to you all! We're 4 pages into the daily calendar and already there have been victories and losses. Life. It happens.
Just before 2011 made its way into history, it set off one last volley at me. I came home from running errands on Saturday to find a package waiting for me. I opened it to find 2 pairs of awesome socks from Sock Dreams. The invoice said, "Blue Bee Socks for the Best Blue Bee Ever! You are loved and adored. Nerdmaste, my friend." Around this little message, drawings of blue bees swirled about hearts. at the bottom, someone had drawn a ginormous blue bumblebee wearing little blue socks.
Sent by "Anonymous Gifter! :) ".
I admit it... I cried. (meet me after the jump.)

The sentiment of the note was nice, of course, and the socks are freaking wonderful. The drawings were such an awesome touch, too! But it was the act itself that really got me. Just a random act of kindness that someone did anonymously to tell me they cared and to help keep my chilly feet warm with amazing blue stripey socks. (And socks with monkeys! MONKEYS, people!) Someone who didn't have to took a moment for me. And that means so much to me.
Now, my brain can't just let a puzzle sit there. I did guess who my secret Sock Fairy was and I did shower said Sock Fairy with love and gratitude. Sock Fairy asked me, though, if the Sock People followed any instructions... I sent Sock Fairy this picture.
Sock Fairy let out a squee because the people at Sock Dreams went above and beyond the requested drawing. I posted about it on Twitter and actually got a message from the person who drew the bee on the invoice. That drawing of a a bumblebee rocking its own blue socks is so freaking stellar I can't get rid of this piece of paper. My Sock Fairy did something awesome, but so did the Sock Dreams employee.
I can't put into words just how heartening it is to see. Like I said, the socks are cool and the note is sweet... but it's the kindness behind both socks and drawing.
2011 was a difficult year...especially toward the end.  This, though... this redeemed one year and set the tone for another.

As some of you know, I spend every New Year's Eve with my Ohana. Have done so for 7 years with one exception due to illness. One reason I go to this party every year is that this party is where Sean and I decided to take a chance on one another and become an US. So at midnight every year, we kiss and celebrate our anniversary as a couple. Another reason I go is because the people there are my home. There's no better way to spend the first hours of a year than gaming, laughing and enjoying good food amongst them, my family of choice. We have a couple of cool traditions, too. The Year In Review is a favorite. Seven years ago, this rather pessimistic bastard had come to the fireside and complained that nothing good happened in 2004. Brian, the host of the party and my soul friend, pointed at some random partygoer and said, "YOU! Name something good that happened this year." This went on for a while.... we were able to come up with many good things for each month of the year. Now, we do it every year and we have to start earlier in the night every year. We start with January, go around the circle and spend the last minutes of a year counting our many blessings rather than dwelling on the bad stuff.

This year was no exception. However, there was mention of one bad... we lost a member of our family and we couldn't ignore that. I cried like a fucking baby and for those that were present, I'm sorry if my squeaking held up the line. But, we spent 90 minutes coming up with positive things that happened in 2011. New people joined the circle this year, too. That's pretty damn cool in and of itself.
Anyway, that's our end of year tradition. The start of the year has one, too. It's a silly thing, but Brian will usually wake up the next morning and head out to the smoldering fire for a cigarette and a donut or something. As he shambles out, like a grumbling bear from his cave, Brian proclaims the name of the year. We have, in the past, had the year of Dropping Trou, Gay Chicken, and The Fruit Bat. Last year was named after a new friend... the Year of the Laughing Giorgos. Apparently, this year tradition shifted just slightly and Brian named the year just after midnight. (I wasn't by the fire at that point... I was in the house reading a Captain Underpants book to my daughter.)
2012 is ... aw hell let me just have him say it. This is from his Facebook:

And so ends 2011: The Year of the Laughing Giorgos. Thus too begins 2012: The Year of Behaving Admirably. You are invited to do good things, noble things, kind things, things that your loved ones would tearfully hug you for. Not for recognition, but because you are far better than you think you are, and the world needs you mroe than ever. Happy New Year!

The Year of Behaving Admirably.
So you... fellow museslave, wandering reader and demented soul... you have a mission. Do good things. Put people first rather than corporations. Let go of grudges and say hi to someone you've lost touch with. Cook dinner for your friends. Have a potluck picnic. If you miss someone, call them. Talk to people. Take time to be kind. Keep behaving admirably... even if it's just buying a friend some blue socks.

Why I Write

Today, Twitter is full of writers telling us all why they do what they do. Some of the answers are golden, some are spectacularly witty and some are simple. My reasons fit somewhere on that spectrum:
  • If I didn't, they'd commit me for being a schizophrenic who plays with her imaginary friends and believes in fairies.
  • I feed on the tortured screams of my beta readers when I fuck with their heads. *score!*
  • IT'S FUN!!
So, that's why I write. Pretty simple. But, there's more than that, isn't there?
I don't just write... I drive myself crazy with edits and revisions. I work on putting query materials together--query letters and dreaded synopses. I research agents and publishers and get them organized into a nifty spreadsheet. Then, I do the unthinkable and  *send* these query letters to publishing professionals. I put my writing out there to be rejected time and time again. Why? Because I want to get published. I want to see my book on a shelf. I want to realize that dream and finish what I started. It's not enough to just write anymore. Oh, no, I passed the "hobby" part of writing years ago. I'm in too deep, kids. I have to get this brass ring. It's a passion and compulsion.
What seems to confuse people is that I outright refuse to self-publish. Now, for some people this is not only a viable option, it's a perfect fit for their goals. More power to those people. However, traditional publishing is the way for *me* to meet *my* personal goals. Is it harder? More frustrating?
I could just go on Amazon or Smashwords or any other site and put my book up on the web and hope my friends and family buy it...maybe a stranger or four. And I could say, "Look, I'm published." But it would be hollow. That's not me. That's not what I'm after
For me, going the route of self-publishing (at this time) would be akin to giving up. And I don't do that.
I have a lot of friends and family members who are supportive of this strange need I have to write about people who don't exist. I'm blessed in that regard. Every day I get an email or link on some site or other telling me how many times JK Rowling or the lady who wrote The Help got rejected. Inevitably, I also get the emails telling me how self-publishing has worked for this or that person. How I should "stop wasting my time" on legacy/traditional publishing and join the throngs of people "succeeding" with self/vanity publishers. Please understand that I appreciate your concerns, but that's not something I want.
Lit. Agent Rachelle Gardner posted a terrific blog about publishing in the technological age we inhabit. It's a terrific reality check for writers. Go read it. The part that really stuck out to me was this:

...publishers bring is a sense of history, a sense of tradition and permanence. Many authors still want to be a part of that. It’s about great stories and important thoughts. It’s about legacy. It’s about a dream. People in publishing still see this dream as worth it. They’re willing to swim against the tide because publishing isn’t just a business, it’s a life, it’s a calling, it’s a passion.

That's it. That's why I do what I do the way I do it.

Crazy? Well, we already knew that was true. Masochistic? Perhaps. But doing things "the hard way" seems to work out for the best.

Keep moving forward, writers. Follow your passion in whichever direction(s) it leads you. The dream is worth the effort.