Friday, September 18, 2015

Three ring circus featuring purple elephants in top hats....

Okay, I pretty much never post political because my personal beliefs are just that - personal. I have friends who run the gambit from extreme conservative to extreme liberal because I choose to generally not discuss politics with them. I ignore their political posts whether I agree or not because I don't want my friendships to be based on common political beliefs. But now, in light of the current political climate I feel the need to make some observations.

Over the years I have witnessed a lot of beautiful and terrible things, injustices and the perfection of karma coming through appropriately. To that end, I have learned that our world is not black or white. I don't think it ever was. It doesn't matter what your belief system, good people do bad and bad people do good things and above all, everybody has something. Until you've walked in somebody else's shoes you don't really have a right to tell them what to do or how to handle a situation because nobody has the exact same life experience.

Personal example? I'm divorced. I didn't want to be. I wanted the life I was promised. But that didn't happen. I've done the best I could with what I have left. People disagree with some choices. That's fine. But do you know the worst part? People look down on me for not making my marriage work. Divorcee is a dirty word to more people than you would guess. These people have no idea what happened or why my marriage is over. Yet they still weigh in. It's a good thing I'm confident in myself and their condescension doesn't get to me.

Anyway, I'm looking at a variety of other issues on the table and what I would really like people to think about is how a particular issue affects them on a personal level. I mean, really, setting aside all personal objections, moral arguments and so on, how are YOU as an individual affected? Does something offend your personal belief system? Why should that matter to Joe Schmo?

Just for Shits and Giggles example? Joe Schmo likes purple elephants with tiny top hats to dance at all of his birthday parties but his neighbor from two doors down, Cindy Lou, thinks purple elephants are an affront to God. Cindy Lou petitions to have purple elephants outlawed because they infringe on her personal beliefs and must not be tolerated. Joe Schmo wonders why Cindy Lou even cares about his purple elephants because she only sees them being led from the truck to Joe's back yard and then back into the truck after the party. Cindy Lou does not have to pick up the purple elephant turds or scratch behind the elephant's ears or provide a barrel of peanuts or even pay for the elephant's services.
Thanks Purple Elephant Clip Art for this cutie!

So what do you say about the purple elephants in top hats? Does Cindy Lou have a claim? Does it matter if Joe Schmo likes to have purple elephants for entertainment in the privacy of his own back yard? What if he wants to parade them around the block?

Obviously, I like purple elephants and I would REALLY like them in top hats, but that's not why I use this silly example. Again, I'm not addressing my personal political beliefs here, I am simply asking people to take a step back and look at the big picture. Before getting pissed off about an issue and rallying against something, step back and think "does this affect me on a personal level in my day to day life?" If the answer is "no" then why not let it go. If the answer is "yes" then figure out how it affects you, how significant an impact it actually has on you. Does it just offend your moral code? Not that that's something to be taken lightly, but I would caution that our country was built on the idea of separation of church and state with freedom of religion being protected. That does not give anybody license to force their personal religious beliefs on another person. When was that forgotten? Disregarded? Blatantly ignored?

I guess what I'm saying is, frankly, I don't give a damn what your personal beliefs are. My own personal beliefs don't matter either. What matters on every issue is what those most affected believe. I think somehow we've lost sight of what's important somewhere along the line. If everybody believed the same thing our world would not only be a boring place we would have no progress - ever. Nothing good can come of what's currently happening in our country. Nothing good at all.

Please, stop the insanity and let purple elephants rock their little top hats!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What I learned at Imaginarium 2015....

First and foremost, I learned that I do have some incredible friends who make me laugh, wipe my tears and will generally kick somebody in the A$$ if they mess with me or mine. Just a general warning to those who think they can take me, I've got some tougha$$ friends. 

Smack talk aside, I do have awesome friends and I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with them this past weekend as I slipped from panel to book signing to panel and occasionally to the ladies room. The post con blues hit me harder than usual because I didn't feel I had enough time with the people I cared for the most. My daughter observed how much happier I was surrounded by people who "get me" and support the insanity of my writing because they too are plagued with writer's brains complete with scandalous search histories.  Now, we are back to our separate corners of the universe relegated to internet-based communications as we attempt to find common time and space to reunite - a feat that grows increasingly difficult with families, work and about a dozen other time vacuums. 

Am I the only person wishing for a teleporter and another day in the week?

Anyway, I miss my friends, you all get that message loud and clear. Still, in the days since Imaginarium 2015 I have made a list of all the other lessons I learned. 

1. I am a bitch. No, not just a regular bitch, I am Pantser Bitch. I cause trouble wherever I go. Sadly, my cape and matching leotard did not arrive in time for me to wear them this weekend. I'm thinking something purple and black will arrive soon. 

2. Cosplay is acceptable (and in fact encouraged) even if you are one of two or three people participating. Trust me, Autumn and I had a blast this weekend and neither of us minded the weird looks. 

Steampunk TARDIS and the 4th Doctor :)

3. Some people should never be on a panel no matter how much experience they have in an industry. There is a difference between being frank and being blatantly rude. Also, if you start your panel with something along the lines of "I don't know why I'm on this panel" then you really should not do a panel - ever. Even if you don't know what you're talking about, wing it. You are a writer for crying out loud, make it up as you go! As a side note here, if you are looking for a stellar panel moderator,  the stunning Mysti Parker is your gal. She is AWESOME!!

4. Plan ahead and make sure your room has a fridge AND that you bring plenty of beer/wine with a tool to open your adult beverages. Not only are adult beverages tasty but they help you cope with unsavory encounters (and for those who struggle with public speaking they soothe your nerves). I would also suggest a cool mug of some sort to disguise what you are really drinking.... not like this....

5. There are two distinct types of writers. Seriously, we can argue genre, style (plotter/pantser for example), publishing platform and so on but in the end it comes down to whether you want to grow as a writer/author or whether you are happy with the status quo. This would be the old "big fish small pond" story. I am definitely looking to pond hop but guess what, not everybody is! 

6. As much as women are considered lesser writers in many speculative fiction genres we can see the tables turned on men who write romance and I find that disturbing. I am going to reiterate one of my favorite mantras - F#@& Genre! Once again, for all that is good in this world, write what comes to you. True writers will never purge every character/story from their heads before they die so just write what you can get out and worry about genre later. Yeesh. 

Perhaps I'd better stop there some of the other lessons are less than savory and some quite personal. Of course, I could do an entire blog on the panels I participated in. Maybe I will just for $h!t$ and giggles but not tonight. It's late and I have to work tomorrow...and attend a baseball game.....and factor in some real solid writing time. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Because it's my birthday....

This post is several months in the making but it seems appropriate to share it today. I haven't been writing much lately, at least not anything novel length or even short story length if I'm being honest. Other than several lengthy journal entries and a plethora of prompts, my writing has been stagnate and it troubles me. Sure I've created other things in the interim (from multimedia canvas work to costumes to repurposed clothing and just about everything in between) but I haven't been writing like I want to which means I have some serious idea constipation and it is most unpleasant. 

I need a creative enema or something of the sort. I keep thinking it will come, just the right nudge or combination of relaxation and inspiration to get things moving again. I've tried to be patient. I've tried to be aggressive. I've tried to change my habits. I've tried beer (and good beer, believe you me). This blockage just does NOT seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.


Today I realized something though. In this digital age with all of the hand held equipment and multiple ways to reach somebody you never get a break. You never get a true day off anymore and that just ain't right. And yes, I used "ain't" and I know it is NOT a word but work with me here.  The only aspect in my life that I am mentally, physically and emotionally able to be available 24/7 is as a Mom. I don't take time off from that gig because it's the most important one I have and I know it. My kids are great and I share a lot of interests with both so I'm pretty lucky. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who seem to feel I need to be available to them 24/7 and they do not deal with me not responding instantaneously to whatever they need. I'm not sure when this happened or why but everybody needs a little time away (don't believe me? Ask Chicago). 

My point is that I think my creative constipation stems from my inability to have true time to myself to write and create without interruption. I couldn't even get a day off for my birthday because people have my cell phone number and they feel it is more than acceptable to text me whenever and as much as they please. I guess I feel like there should be boundaries and that once set those boundaries should be honored. 

For example,  if I say "Hey, I'm taking a day off for my birthday to spend with my kids and do some fun stuff since they are going back to school on Wednesday. If you contact me I'm not going to answer." I would hope that people would respect this and NOT contact me, but no, apparently I was mistaken. The correct response is texting me SIX TIMES. Did I just miss the memo on this issue? Are we truly supposed to be available to people twenty four hours a day, seven days a week? Am I supposed to drop everything like, I don't know, coaching my kid's softball game to take a phone call for work? When on vacation am I supposed to seek out whatever wifi hotspots I can find IN THE MOUNTAINS to check my email regularly just to make sure I'm available to people? 

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this stress is not causing my creative constipation but it sure ain't helping things a lick. What do you all think? Are boundaries a thing of the past? Are we supposed to open ourselves and sacrifice our sanity for the sake of work? I'm genuinely curious here so let the answers roll.....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I participated, where's my.....

I wasn't going to weigh in on this issue since I've addressed it to some extent before. However, I find myself unable to escape the discussion. It is everywhere. Seriously. I was at work and forced to listen to Ryan Seacrest (don't get me started) discuss his opinion on participation trophies. He clearly had no idea who James Harrison was other than "a football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers." Still, he felt the need to weigh in and "jokingly" berate Mr. Harrison for attacking participation trophies. I'm not going to reiterate this story, you can catch up on it all here and about a hundred more places.

Let me say that I feel it is extremely important for kids to participate in extracurriculars. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. They should be applauded for this participation and supported by their family and friends. I am increasingly disappointed in the lack of parental involvement at extracurricular activities but that is a whole different discussion.

Back on point, participation trophies/medals/awards have come under fire once again and the comment sections of each article reveal a massive debate. Incidentally, those comments are cringeworthy for the spelling and grammar alone (participation "metals" anyone?). I digress again.

Basically, I believe we need to teach our kids to participate for the fun of or for the love of an activity.  But I also believe they need to be taught to compete in healthy ways. Everybody is good at something, we all have our own special talents and all that jazz, right? Our kids need to be taught that lesson because let's be honest, just because I wrote a bunch of books doesn't mean I've got my multimillion dollar contract, movie deal or even the ability to make a living off my books at this point. Those athletes making millions of dollars a year on contracts (whether you believe they are overpaid or not) do not sit around eating junk food and playing video games. They work hard for many years and have to keep their bodies in great shape to continue competing.

In fact, in every aspect of our adult world we see competition for employment. Sure, there are arguably some jobs that give you a paycheck just for showing up - not sure where they are but how do I get one?? - yet more often than not potential employees are in a competition with others for a limited number of positions. Once you get that job there will be competitions for bonuses, raises and promotions.

So again, I will raise the question why would we teach our kids to believe that everybody gets something just for showing up when that is just not how the world works? For those who disagree...where's my multimillion dollar book deal because I participated.....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

In search of....

Wanted: Scathing, honest critiques of my writing. Don't hold back. Tell me what doesn't work as much as what does.

Would you respond to this "want" ad? Would you follow through?

I've been pondering this for quite some time. I've participated in several panels and forum discussions about reviews. I think that we've sufficiently throttled the poor dead horse named Review but here I am discussing it again. I guess I figured it's high time I explain my unusual take on reviews/critiques and why I crave some one and two star shred-fests.

What do negative reviews do for authors (or any artists for that matter)? I'm not talking about blatant, personal attacks so please do not misunderstand me. The reviews I'm referring to are the constructive critiques of creative works.

It is important to know what resonates with people, what speaks to your audience and what doesn't. Critiques/reviews provide this feedback and every creative needs to know what works and what doesn't. Negative reviews are as helpful in this matter as positive reviews. What do we learn from only receiving glowing feedback? Not much and let's be honest, nothing good comes of excessive ego-stroking. Even my favorite novels have extremely negative reviews - just roll over to goodreads, type in "The Hobbit" and check out the one star reviews. Granted, only 2% of the reviews on "The Hobbit" are 1 star crappers but 2% of more than 17,000 means there a sizable number of Hobbit-haters.

Is it too much to ask for some of that hate? Somebody to go through and shred everything I write, to point out all of the glaring errors and wretched holes in my work?

Apparently the answer is yes.

Is it fear of hurting my feelings? The fallout of too many artists losing it over negative feedback? I'm still trying to sort out the why of it but I know I'm not the only one. So here I am, on behalf of myself and some of the most solid creatives I know, asking all of you who value what we do to let it all out, to give us the brutal truth we need.

Maybe then we can weed out the crap that's flooding the world, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Just sayin.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

For my beautiful, talented, headstrong daughter....

It is no secret that I have a daughter. She's beautiful and talented and headstrong and I love her. Maybe that's just me being a proud Mom but I will let you decide.

She plays softball. This was her first season and she fell in love from the get go. She was fortunate to be placed on this incredible team where the girls got along from day one. At their first tournament game on Thursday they sang and danced and goofed off as a team. Nobody sits alone - EVER. They cheer for each other so loud that it echoes across all of the fields. They rallied and won in extra innings.

But, we live in the Midwest and as most Americans know, this summer has been one of the wettest I can remember. There have been a lot of rain outs. A LOT. This weekend (July 16th-19th) was set at the beginning of the season to be the alternate date for tournaments so, as a sports-friendly family, we purchased her plane tickets to visit my parents for July 20th. Unfortunately, the league now wants to play the championship game on Monday evening meaning that my daughter, and at least a few other girls, will miss the biggest game of their season because the league has opted to give deference to supplemental league play in which only a handful of the girls are participating. My kiddo was initially in tears but it did not last long. Today as she sits here waiting to play her next tournament game, knowing that if her team advances she will not be able to advance with them as the schedule stands now, she is working on alternate ideas. This is her plan:

1. Write a letter to the league to give to the league official prior to the tournament game tonight:

Dear DYA,

Hello my name is ****** and I have been given permission to write this letter and am doing so willingly. I am very upset about the tournaments and that the championship will be on Monday instead of being today or tomorrow.
I am a one of the softball players and have been there every game. I have been working hard and having fun this season and I was really looking forward to tournaments. In the beginning of the season everything said the season would be done by mid-July. The rain dates were listed as the 16th-19th so my family purchased our plane tickets for the 20th so I wouldn’t miss anything. Now that the championship is on Monday I won’t get to play if my team makes it. I am not the only girl who did so. I don’t think it’s right for girls who want to play softball and have played all season to miss out on the biggest game of the season.
            What I think we should do instead is push the Allstar league back because it is only a supplemental league so it should come after our league not before our league.
 I would also like to say something about fall softball in this letter. I have signed up for fall baseball since there is no fall softball. It is so sad that boys get a fall baseball league if we don’t get a fall softball league. There are not enough fall sports for girls. Why?



Not bad for a ten year old, eh? Did I mention that there is fall baseball in this league but no fall softball?? She's fighting that too.

2. Arrive at the field early for her game and speak with the girls from the four teams left in the tournament to have them sign a petition to attach with the letter, one to have the games played this weekend and the other to create a fall softball league.

My kiddo knows that her actions may not change things but she wants her voice heard and she's not going to leave for vacation without knowing that she tried. I'm supporting her. Will you?

Friday, July 10, 2015

When life gives you lemons....

...sell them to the highest bidder and buy a six pack of your favorite craft beer.

Sometimes I have so much to say that I can't get the words out. It's been a bit of a hell week (or hell weeks, plural?!) for me and I've written plenty, just not publicly for fear of repercussions that could be harmful to my family. My journals are overflowing with rants to expel the frustrations so they would not seep over into real time where my kids would feel them.

It didn't work. My kids felt it anyway. And they responded in those incredible way.

Let me back up a bit. It's not a secret that I'm divorced but I don't broadcast it out of respect for my kids who are still struggling with the breakup of their family. They've been through a lot and I did not want to pile on more. It seems that divorce still carries a stigma.

In most ways, I am MUCH better off since my divorce. Our marriage was no longer healthy for so many reasons. I am not going to get into the blame game but needless to say, I lost custody of most of my friends in the divorce and I've been left with some serious trust issues. Not that I don't have some incredible friends around here, I do, but they all have their own lives and I do not like to impede those lives. Some would call it "trouble asking for help." I would rather save my "help me" card for something truly dire - say auto wreck by the side of the road - because I have no immediate family in the area.

I'm getting off track again. This was not supposed to be the point of this post. The point is that I had a rough week and I have been dealing with it as best I could in the circumstances and my incredible kids have not complained one bit about not having our usual Wednesday excursion because Mommy's car broke down and needed some serious repairs. They have not complained that I have been preoccupied with getting my car fixed and doing some other un-fun things to try to improve our situation leaving little time to help my daughter sew her Walking Dead messenger bag or teach my son some new painting skills. Not only did they not complain, last night when we parted ways so that they could go with their Dad for the night, I returned home to the most delightful surprise.

Not only was my house clean - and I mean "Mommy clean" not "Kid clean" - I came home to the cutest little arrangement on my bed. How awesome are my kids?

So you know what, bring on those lemons. I'll hock 'em and buy ice cream to share with my kids.