Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I let my kids watch The Walking Dead.....

I'm a terrible mom.

It's time I face the facts, I guess. All of you mom-shamers out there have finally made your point. I'm awful for allowing my kids to watch The Walking Dead.

No, that's not right. I don't feel bad at all for sharing this show with my kiddos. And here's why:

1. Zombies are cool. Just as Freddy, Michael, and Jason were *totally awesome* when I was a kid, zombies are the new cool. The zombie myth has been warped and twisted and stretched into almost every age range in every medium possible (Plants vs. Zombies, Monster High, Alice in Zombieland...need I go on??). At school they talk about zombies, draw zombies, and write about zombies. Bottom line, my kids are into zombies and they are going to find a way to access all things zombie so why not be a part of their discovery?

My daughter getting her zombie on as "Zombie Sophia"

2. TWD is about more than zombies. There are some incredible story lines that have led to interesting, in depth moral discussions with my kids. It's kind of like disguising vegetables so the kids will eat them....hiding lessons in TWD, who woulda thunk it? I'm not saying TWD is this generation's After School Special but we've addressed issues about defending yourself/your family, how far you'd go to survive, first crushes, and the importance of being honest. I never know what I'm going to get out of them after an episode but I look forward to it.

My son impersonating "Carl."

3. The fandom is incredible. We've attended a few events now - just a few, lol - and with this fandom, you can expect a lot of entertainment. My kids are no exception and have taken on their own "characters" to join the excitement. They've met some of the actors and I have to say that for the most part, TWD has some of the nicest celebs we've encountered.

My kiddos acting up at Horrorhound

4. It is just fun. The kids and I make a huge deal of our Walking Dead time. We like to get wings, special drinks and cool snacks - a la Gilmore Girls. Everything is set out before we even start the show and settle in so nobody misses anything.

So, I'm going to argue that I'm a great mom. My kiddos and I bond over the The Walking Dead and the best part of that statement is "bond." How many of my wanna-be-shamers can say the same thing?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

More than just the opening quotes of one of my favorite films, these lines begin a British folk verse telling the tale of Guy Fawkes. It seems appropriate that on this day, the 5th of November, I pay homage to the man, the legend and because I can, the film.

First, the man. Guy Fawkes is most famously related to November the 5th even though he was not actually the lead conspirator (according to most of the accounts I've read). What I've managed to find has been interesting but I will just pull out a few links for your brief enjoyment:

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night gives a very basic breakdown of the whole affair.

Guy Fawkes - this is probably my favorite because who doesn't love the BBC???

Here is the full Fifth of November Verse as well. If you are interested...

So, as it seems, Guy Fawkes was a pretty impressive man recruited for his know how and martyred to his groups cause after a significant bout of torture. Poor guy. All because he wanted to topple an oppressive government.

It is with this spirit that the film V for Vendetta burst onto the Hollywood scene. A stunning if not thought-provoking masterpiece by the Wachowksi siblings, V pushes the ideals of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators.

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people."

This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie and delivered at a poignant moment as V (portrayed by the ever impressive Hugo Weaving) explains to Evey (the lovely and talented Natalie Portman) why he is pushing forward with his shocking plans to tear down their current government. I won't give away the plot for those who have not watched V for Vendetta yet, but know that it is well worth your time to be reminded of what many Americans seem to have forgotten. Governments are meant to work for their people, not the other way around. I am posting political now but only to say that we are at a breaking point as our government is failing because the parties are so at odds fighting over issues that should not even be on the table when people are dying of diseases that should be curable, wars are being fought on foreign soil, our fellow Americans are starving and impoverished and utterly uneducated. Frankly, I don't know that it matters anymore who sits in the White House so long as our nation remains so divided and focused on issues that function as little more than smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real issues at hand. I hope America comes to her senses before Idiocracy becomes our reality....

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.