Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Blogoversary to Me
What I've Learned In A Year of Blogging

Why would anyone want to listen to me?  Because - who better to give someone advice about avoiding stepping in poop than somebody who's stepped in a whole bunch of it?

I have learned...

 * there is no one GREAT commenting system to rule them all.  Blogger's built-in system sucks rocks for all non-Google peeps.  The Wordpress feature where you naively "subscribe to replies" because you want to see what other people say about your comment, and get ten bazillion e-mails that are the replies to all comments ain't any improvement, IMO.  So far, I'm liking mine (Intense Debate) and Disqus best. They all have drawbacks and technical challenges, and we all have to make adjustments.

 * There isn't enough time to work a day job, write & pretty-up my own blog posts, work on my novel, read all the cool blogs out there, and still have time to wipe myself after I... step in cow poop.  Just isn't.  Sacrifices must be made.

 * The blog police won't come and get me if I skip a post or several. Nor if I "settle" for less than the perfect picture.  (However, photos of hot, shirtless firefighters are always appropriate, regardless of blog subject matter.  They just are.)

* I enjoy blogging more than I ever thought I would.

 * Blogging helps prime the pump, sometimes, when I am stuck on my "real" writing.  It can also be an enticing distraction, like cheating on a spouse... I know I should be working on the novel, but I'm just gonna read a couple more blog posts...

* Readers like funny posts better than Serious Ones.  No problem, I'll just be funny all the time, right? Easy-peasy.  If only...

* My personal jury is still out on the usefulness of Zemanta for me.

 * Not all poetry on the Interwebs is laughably bad.  Some is truly amazing, and I mean, that without any double meanings.  Still, best not to read internet poetry on your lunch hour if you have a tendency to choke or spew liquids.

 * The posts where I worried I'd get the most hate mail/comments, have been generally very supportive.  It's a (very small) handful of other ones where some people went... strange on me.

 * Blogging Groups - where everyone posts on a weekly theme, then tries to visit and comment on everybody in  the group - can be very helpful.  They can also feel very overwhelming.  I learned not to beat myself up for joining several such groups, and later dropping out.

 * I've learned not to be a genre snob.  Some of the best writing advice and kindest support has come from peeps who don't write in "my" genre (smutty rom-com).

 * Comparisons are invidious and insidious and icky.  I'll look at my Follower count and compare to somebody else who started blogging around the same time I did, and get all smug and full of myself.  Then I'll see the astronomical Follower count of someone else who also started the same time I did, and feel like the last girl picked for the volleyball team (and dammit, I'm a good volleyball player).

It's much easier said than done, but I'm trying to get past the whole angst of competition for Google Followers.  There are many variables that influence a Follower count - contests, family followers, and yep, sometimes people just like that other blog better.  All I can do is the best I can do, in the time I can make available to do it, and trust that over time, this blog will "settle" at the right size.  Truly, it's not my goal to have the biggest number of blog followers anyway, it's to have the biggest number of readers buying my (not yet published) book.

Here's some of my actual F2F (Face 2 Face) fellow blogger meets.  They are all incredibly nice and write interesting and funny blogs and you should Follow or at least check 'em out because they are awesome (and they didn't even pay me to write that):
Carolyn West of This Talk Ain't Cheap
Sidney Patrick of My Mother in Law is Still Sitting Between Us... 
Arlee Bird of Tossing It Out who also runs the A-Z Challenge
Brenda Moguez of GrrlGuide

Oodles of Writing-related Goodness Found Here:
Author Roni Loren's Fiction Groupie
Agent Rachelle Gardner
Agent Janet Reid 
Agent turned Author Nathan Bransford
Agent Janice Hardy's The Other Side of the Story
Author Jody Hedlund
Mooderino's Funnily Enough
Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
Nina Badzin's A Mom in the Middle

Prompts & Groups I like, that you might like:
Liz Shaw's The Writing Reader
The Word Nerd Speaks aka Beth Grace, on FaceBook as GBE2
Romantic Friday Writers
Karen Wojcik Berner's Bibliophilic Blather.  She regularly offers a "home" to short stories, so if you're a flash fiction afficionado (trying saying that three times really fast!) stop by for some reading - or submitting pleasure.
Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
SoCalLadyBloggers - blog + FaceBook Group
Writer Unboxed - both a great blog by multiple contributors, and a FaceBook group.

These blogs I read because they make me laugh, cry, or both - in the best way:
Ruth Madison
Kiru Taye
J.L. Campbell's Snippets and Splashes
Amber West's A Day Without Sushi
Stacy Green
Deanna Fry's My One Woman Show
Kelly Hashway
Annie Boreson
TotsyMae Who'll be guesting here on Jan 11, woo-hoo!
Bella's One Sister's Rant
Such a Nice Guy, Phil Torcivea -
Single Dad Laughing
Cake Wrecks
The Bloggess

These blogs feed the Spirit and the Soul (yes, writers do so have a soul!):
Jodi Aman's Heal Now and Forever
Lori Deschene's Tiny Buddha - Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives
Brene Brown's Ordinary Courage
Louise Gallagher's Recover Your Joy
Kristen's The Spirit That Moves Me
Band Back Together

I do have, oh, a couple hundred more favorite blogs (probably yours.  I'm sorry I was too tired and lamebrained to include it, above, but will plug it, soon.)

I can't wait to find what another year or two of bloggy learning and friends will bring.

This will be my last post of 2011 - so tell me, in the comments below, how long have YOU been blogging?  If more than a year, what surprised you in Year Two as compared to Year One?  How about Year Three?  Beyond that...?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Digital Holidays!

Did you find this as hilarious as I did?

When it comes to social media, I'm still swimming in the shallow end of the pool.  I don't have a smartphone and I don't even Tweet every day (the horror!) - but I do have this blog, a FB fan page [batting my eyelashes at you, don't you want to Like it?] and I have texted from time to time.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseAt least I'm in the pool.  I have friends who look down their noses at social media - until they have a new book to sell or class they are teaching or in some other way they want to promote themselves.   They'll jump onto FaceBook, and Twitter, or send out a flurry of e-mails, but it's almost all one-sided.  And then, months of nothing.  These are the people who, when you visit their blog and leave a comment, never, ever return the courtesy.  You people are annoying as hell.  (I can say this freely, because they would have to read my blog to become offended.  Fat chance of that.)

However, those of you plugged in all the time... you can be annoying too. Once in a while, think about using that old fashioned Social Media, F2F (face to face).  Besides, sometimes you simply aren't as smart as your phone.

Don't broadcast that you are away from home.  Think twice about using Foursquare when you are out running errands.  You know in the scenario above, Melchior's kids had a big party and drank all the booze, Balthazar's brother-in-law borrowed the family camel and smashed a taillight, and Gaspar's stereo and computer got 'jacked.

Tweeting that you're headed to Cancun for two weeks, unless you have a big burly housesitter, is not a good plan.  Just Don't.  Save posting vaca pics until your return.  Talk to your kids and don't let them announce to their friends on FaceBook, "I'm home alone and the house is making all kinds of creepy noises, I'm so scared."  (As a niece of mine did, when she was 14.)  Look carefully at photos before you recklessly share them online - do they offer clues as to easy access to your home, where the security systems are, etc? 

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseBeing safe, during the holidays and at all times, is more important than sharing minutia about your life.  It just is.

And never, ever, text while driving.  It is just as dangerous as driving while drunk (which you should never do, either).  Let me also put in a plug for not texting/chatting while pushing a baby stroller and crossing the street.  (I'm talkin' to you, Sherman Oaks!)  Trust me, whatever you are texting or talking about can wait an entire ten seconds while you steer your baby out of the range of people (who may also be distracted by texting) driving potentially lethal vehicles.

I'm still trying to get up to speed on all the bright shiny electronic gadgets that prevent us from getting too close to one another by keeping in touch digitally.  I get it that, like it or not, social media is here to stay.  Mostly, I like it, but I don't want to be dumb about it, either.

What am I doing for the holiday weekend?  Probably just stay home, cleaning my guns and checking  my ammo.  How about you?

Are you in for the MLK blogfest?  If you've got time on your hands, you could start writing your post now.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Once You Go "E" You Won't Want To Go Back
Guest Post Karen Wojcik Berner

Thank you so much, Beverly, for inviting me to guest post on your wonderful blog.

It was an exciting time, back in March 2010, when I released A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) as an e-book. Electronic publishing was relatively young. Kindle sales were beginning to rise. The Nook was less than six months old. iPads were not on the market yet. The first indie superstar, Karen McQuestion, was generating some buzz. Amanda Hocking was just about to upload the first of her barrier-breaking novels.

My participation in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition convinced me my manuscript might have a chance in the marketplace. It had placed well enough and had garnered some good reviews, even from Publishers Weekly. It had been vetted by two English professors, several beta readers, and a professional editor. Even Peter Gabriel had given me consent to quote one of his songs in it. If it was good enough for the God of Music, as I like to refer to him, it was time to get this book out. I decided to release it first as an e-book to test the waters, to see if it would stick.

The first year A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) was available was like a master class in e-publishing. I hit every online forum. Read every article I could find. Scanned through Kindle Boards for hours on end to soak up as much information as possible. Sales went well enough each month to tease me along, despite the overwhelming information dump I was trying to digest.

Here is an example of what it felt like. About two weeks ago, I bought this top that is either the coolest, most artsy shirt ever or a goofy, multicolored thing that looks like a shortened choir robe. Great buy or folly? I do not know for sure. Mix that feeling with coordinating marketing plans, soliciting for reviews, purchasing ad space and social networking. Write a blog. Create a website. Join the online book forums. Be approachable. My insides churned rapidly on a daily basis.

Had I made the right choice? I really believed in this story, so I forged on.

About a year later, I started running into people around the neighborhood who told me they had wanted to read my book, but didn’t have e-readers. It was time to release a paperback to cover both audience bases.

Today, I still sell more e-books than physical, typically by a 7:1 ratio, so, needless to say, my decision-making anxiety has been banished. The learning never stops, of course, but now, at least the foundation has been laid. It will be much easier this spring, when I release the second novel of The Bibliophiles series about book club member Catherine Elbert’s journey bouncing from coast to coast in search of her true self.

Please leave Karen some love.  Because she's awesome and answered questions you really wanted to know, not simply because if you leave a comment, you could win an e-copy of A Whisper To A Scream!  (Oops, did I say that out loud?)  Or, you could buy a copy right now. And follow her blog, so you are the first to know when the next book comes out.

P.S.  Are you in for the MLK BlogFest?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are You Homonym-phobic? #Mancandy & Bear Traps

When I get a peek at a photo of a nearly naked
hottie, it usually piques my interest.  I may even
hum, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," thinking of a very
different kind of peak.  (Got dirty mind?)
English is full of bare bear traps to catch the unwary, and one of the ways a novel or blog post may bear bare an author's lack of English mastery, is misuse of homonyms.

Homonyms are those tricky words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.  Some are fairly easy to avoid - those tiny pests ruining your picnic and getting into the Cocoa Krispies are most likely ants, not aunts.  (Although I do like my picnics and Cocoa Krispies, and I am an aunt.)

Others I sea see all the time.  This is a website.  It may, in fact, be a terrible sight to see, but that's the risk you take on the interwebs.  On the other hand, if you like it, you may cite references from it, provided you give proper acknowledgement.

Spell-check alone will not help you with homonyms.  Spell-check is too easy when it comes to properly spelled words.  Easy like taking your drunken, slutty aunt to pick out a prom dress.  "That one's be-yoo-tiful.   Yes, your ladybits are hanging out, so what?   Oooh, I like that one, too.  No, not too lowcut; everybody likes a little nipple.  Let's score us mondo amounts of chocolate and scope out more mancandy for our Pinterest board."

Recently I read a (self-pubbed) book where, sadly, there was an indiscreet use of the word discretely, meaning individually, when the author meant discreetly, keeping it on the down low.   Simple transposition, could be a totally forgivable typo, except that by using it in several places, it was clear the author and her editor did not no know the difference.

Especially if you are planning to pedal peddle your own work via self-publishing, you need to appear as professional and polished as possible.  Don't assume a) if you don't know the difference, nobody else will, either, b) if someone does spot several of these, they'll be so enthralled by your brilliant writing they won't care, or c) your editor will catch it.  Paws Pause and take a few moments to review a list of homonyms.  Yule You'll know which ones give you trouble, and which don't.  Do a search in your document for the ones that you feel uncertain about, and make sure you are using these words correctly.   Oar Or you may turn some readers off entirely.

I will not say neigh nay, if you make a few mistakes, because I make a few myself, but anything that slaps the reader in the face and takes him/her out of the story is a bad idea.  If I'm in the middle of reading a hot sexy scene, I don't want to hear about the hero's mussels, okay?  (Even if he is a fisherman.)  If they're getting playful with food, I don't want to read that he dabbed chocolate moose on her noes.

Here's a fine example of muscles in the sea.

These are mussels from the sea.  See the difference?

Here's hoping this post incited you to gain a deeper insight as to the horror of homonyms. And that you await my next post with bated (not baited, see above, fisherman, yuck!) breath.

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Which homonyms drive you crazy when you "C" them?

P.S. - Coming on Monday - Karen Wojcnik Berner on Adventures in E-Publishing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love in An Elevator (How To Make a Great Elevator Pitch)

It's not fair.  It's hard enough to sit behind a monitor and come up with witty, pithy remarks for our characters, but we've got to pitch them, too?  In person?

I'm afraid so, Brad.

As a screenwriter or freelance writer, pitching is part of the job.  As a novelist, more and more that's also part of the publishing game.

As writers, we have to realize we are not simply selling a finished product, like a car, take it or leave it.  If it's a screenplay, we are selling our love for it, excitement, and the ability to think fast on our feet - because screenwriters must be ready and able to make changes and edits, as the project requires.

If it's a novel, we still must show that we can deal with questions, edits, changes.  That we'll be able to present our work at readings, radio interviews, and deal with the book-buying public, all without crumbling into a heap and crying.

It's not just about this particular project, but the five that follow it.  Are we presenting ourselves as someone this agent will want to work with, today, tomorrow, for years to come?

We are truly selling... ourselves.

(btw, the lovely and super-talented Rochelle Staab, who plays the agent here, is not only an actress but an author, with Who Do, Voodoo? a murder mystery currently burning up the charts.)

Here's another clip on "how to" create an elevator pitch, geared towards selling oneself as a job applicant.

Recently I heard a number of screenwriters practice their pitches, and one thing that struck me, is none of them seemed to "get" the concept of  "always leave them wanting more."  There should be enough detail to satisfy basic questions.  Is it actually a story?  Is it a clone of 20 other movies or books released last year?  Who's the protagonist?  What's unusual about this story? 

From agent Rachelle Gardner:
In the words of my friend the Query Shark (agent Janet Reid), your pitch needs to show:
1. Who is the protagonist?
2. What choice does s/he face?
3. What are the consequences of the choice?
Just to be safe, take a step back from your query. Make sure your book has a protagonist with a choice to face (a conflict), obstacles to overcome, a desired outcome, and consequences (the stakes) if the goal is not reached.
It is okay, in fact, it is good if after the 30 seconds or two minutes is over, the agent or producer to whom we are pitching wants to ask questions.  It is not good if they nod off in the middle, or the pitch is so muddied with the various subplots that nobody knows who's on first.

This may sound obvious, since you're a writer - but write it downWrite out a two minute pitch (2 double spaced pages = roughly two minutes) and a 30 second one (roughly 3/4 of one page, double-spaced.)   In that two page draft - what's there, what's missing?  Add the crucial elements, and get rid of the rest.  Do the same with the 30 second, elevator pitch (no matter how much it hurts).

Don't memorize, learn to tell it as a story.  It's okay if you change it from what's written down - that's only a guide to make sure you have all the important parts included, and is not running over.  Match the style of your work - if it's funny, make sure your pitch includes humor.  If your work is straight drama, don't write a slapstick pitch.

If you have enough time to know to whom you will be pitching, do your homework.  For example, if I was planning to pitch to, oh, let's say, story editor Chris Lockhart of WME, at the Alameda Writers Group meeting on January 7, I'd take the time to Google him.  Maybe even read his blog.

Not that I would pretend to be his new best friend, but it just might offer a way to make a connection.  Sometimes, of course, we run into an agent, publisher or producer without any prep time, but if you know you'll have a pitch opportunity, show some respect.  Despite rumors to the contrary agents and others in the industry do want to say yes, not no.

Got a good (or bad) pitch story?
Please share in the comments.
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Btw, are you in on the MLK blogfest? Details here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top Ten Lame Reasons You Broke It Off
Guest Post by Deanna Fry of MyOneWomanShow

Have you ever been at your wits end with a relationship and didn't know how to break it off? I've been there and I'm sure we all have.  You never want to break anyone's heart, no matter how much they suck.  So here are the excuses I've given my ex-boyfriends when I've wanted out of the relationship, but didn't know how to tell them.

There are good reasons to break up.

These are not them.

#10 It’s not you, it's me!
Translation: "Of course it’s you dumb ass! Why else would I be breaking it off?  You are getting on my damn nerves and I can't take it anymore.  You won't clean up after yourself, you don't take a bath every day and your nosey ass mama is always in our business."

#9 I need to focus on my career.
Translation: "At least a have a job you lazy bum! I know the economy is bad, but dag, you can't even go get a job at the mall or something? Plus your child support payments to your 4 kids with your 3 baby mamas are cutting into our finances and killing my Louis Vuitton fund."

#8  I am trying to get closer to Jesus!
Translation: "I know you won't be able to argue with me about my relationship with God.  So, just to avoid hearing your mouth about me leaving, I'm going to use the Lord and Savior as a way to make a gracious exit."

#7  I need to focus on my family, they really need me now.
Translation: "My family hates your guts! And my dad would write me out of the will if I married your loser ass!"

#6  We are moving in different directions.
Translation: "This relationship isn't going anywhere.  You won't ask me to marry you even though we've been dating for 10 years and I had your 3 kids.  Why in the hell are you still afraid of committing to me? It’s not like anyone else would put up with you!"

#5  You are too good for me.
Translation: "I'm the one that's too good for you.  I know I can do better.  I'm not sure what I was thinking when I got into the relationship in the first place. I guess you were just the rebound...the jump off!"

#4  I care about you too much to hold you back.
Translation: "I love me too much to keep dating you! You are totally on some other stuff I can't get with, so I'm just going to let you go, so you can fail on your own and not drag me down with you!"

#3  We have grown apart.
Translation: "I no longer find you attractive, but I can't say that because then I'll feel guilty. Oh, by the way, good riddance."

#2 We just aren't compatible.
Translation: "Sex with you is just horrible and I can't take faking another orgasm.  I've tried to give you hints but you won't listen. Even when I brought the vibrator to bed and excluded you from the still didn't get it!  Besides...I'm disgusted by the idea of you naked."

#1  My husband wouldn't approve of us dating.
Translation: "I want to get away from your crazy ass so badly I'm willing to lie about being married. Now that's a damn shame."


Guest blogger Deanna Fry is a TV news producer and magazine writer by day. At night, she is a single woman on the prowl for Mr. Right, using her good natured humor and stunning good looks to lure the perfect man (thus far she's been unsuccessful!) She's a fellow SheWriter and blogs at My One Woman Show (

[And... a little birdie told me it's her birthday today!  How cool is that, it's her birthday, and I get the present   Please join me below in thanking Deanna for a fabulous, funny post, and wish her a happy birthday already.  She writes damn well for someone who's clearly only 19, doesn't she?]
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Monday, December 5, 2011

I Have A Dream - MLK Blogfest
Let's Discuss Racism & Discrimination

I know.  It's the holidays.  People want to focus on the warm and fuzzy, and avoid that which makes us uncomfortable.

Taking about racism and discrimination; hell, even thinking about it, is not comfortable.  Yet whether we think or talk about it, or avoid the subject, it's still the big elephant in the living room.

I don't want to interrupt your holidays, whether you celebrate Chanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, New Year's, or Other Holiday Not Specified Here.  Go.  Get your holidays on.  I hope they are wonderful, and that your family, friends and activities are less dysfunctional and stressful than they normally are.

But I do want to plant a seed.  Sooner than we like to think, the holidays will be upon us, and then in the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 16, 2012) will be here.  I have often wanted to write a piece during that week, but have hesitated to do so because I didn't have time to carefully approach what I wanted to say, and it's an explosive subject.  I don't think I'm the only one with that problem.

I'm inviting you to join me for a serious (or lighthearted, if that suits your style and you can manage it) discussion on racism and discrimination, by posting about this subject on your blog on Monday, January 16.  I'll put up a Linky List on January 15, but am announcing now, so you have an opportunity to think about what you'd like to write.

There's an urban legend that scientists took a brown monkey, dyed it pink, and put it back into the cage with its mates who killed it for being wildly different.  I couldn't find any links to document such an experiment, but we accept it as true, probably 1) because we've been hearing it for a long time, and 2) because it makes sense to us.  Robert Heinlein (and probably others) have pointed out that in every culture and every language, there is some way to say, "He is a stranger, therefore a barbarian."  He's not one of us

Racism and discrimination isn't simply a black-and-white issue, at least in the USA.  We include people of all religions, skin tones, ethnic backgrounds, and abilities, and despite the fact that most of us get along fine most of the time, discrimination and the economic and social cost of past and current racism still exists.

No question, there are still too many bigots with white(r) skin who believe they are better than people with dark(er) skin, based purely on pigmentation.  There are also those within the Black/African-American community who favor those with lighter skin or straighter hair, or despise Latinos and Asians.  There are Cuban-Americans who take great pride in not being Puerto-Rican or Mexican-Americans, thank you very much!  There is nepotism and cronyism among some Jewish-Americans in the entertainment industry.

My son (on right) with one of his long-time best buddies.
Brian (who also calls me Mom) is Chinese-Korean,
and designs drop-dead gorgeous clothing for a line called In Vein.
(Yes, they're real tall: 6'6" & 6'4".)
Asian-Americans come in as many "flavors" as Latino peoples; they are Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and much more, not simply "Orientals," and there is racism within those communities too.  In Los Angeles, where I live, there is a large Armenian community.  Some have assimilated into American culture and customs, others not so well (or, perhaps, too well).   Technically Armenians are not a separate race, but the culture clash is very real and ongoing.

Not there's any one American culture.  I grew up in an interracial family.  I live, date, work, shop and socialize with Latinos, Blacks, Filipinos, Jews, LGBT, Middle Easterners, Native Americans, Asians, people in wheelchairs and many others not like me. My next-door neighbors are a friendly young married couple: he's from Brazil (where they speak Portuguese) but his first language is Italian; she's a dark-complexioned East Indian with awesome librarian-style glasses who talks like a Valley-Girl.  Like, OMG, totally.

Women face sexism and discrimination.  African-American men were granted the right to vote before American women of any color.  Barack Obama, the first President of the USA who wasn't a white male, wasn't female, either.  Women and girls all over the planet face gender-specific abortion, abandonment, forced child bride marriages, rape, beatings, mutilation, and poverty, just because they are female.  

People who are differently-abled battle a hostile environment simply to negotiate public buildings and transportation, let alone to date, get jobs, and be part of the larger community.  Just because their eyes, ears, or legs aren't fully functional, some people simply look at the differently-abled and dismiss them as lesser.

Those who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or otherwise clearly "different" in their expression of sexuality may be considered and treated as sexual deviants and outcasts.

And speaking of the elephant in the room, why is it that for many, it's always open season on fat people?  What about the social perception that overweight = disgusting/lazy/bad, while slender = attractive/active/good, and it's okay to ridicule and discriminate against people based on their size?

I don't think I can cover racism and discrimination, in its blatant or covert forms, in one blog post, or even a thousand.  But perhaps together we can shed some more light on the subject.

This speech always makes me cry, but not without hope. I truly share the dream that someday, we human beings can get past the BS and treat each other with fairness, dignity and respect.  

Tossing out some ideas on where to start (feel free to go off wherever the subject leads you):
  • Am I prejudiced/racist/sexist?  In what ways?
  • Am I aware of the ways in which my society grants (or denies) me privilege?
  • As a writer, do I seek to include characters who are "other" than my own groups?  If not, why not?  If I do, do I make great efforts to research and present them fairly, or do I go for the easy stereotypes because it saves time?
  • Do I bend over backwards to deny that some individuals do fit old tired stereotypes and insist that they should be excluded from any consideration of what white / Black / Hispanic / Asian / Jewish / Christian / fat / thin / differently-abled / homosexual people are really like because I find their behavior offensive?
  • Do I have friends who are different from me, or do I "stick to my own kind"?
  • If I have friends or co-workers who are "other," do I allow one or two to represent all "those people" in my mind, or do I recognize they are individuals?
  • If someone tells a racist or sexist joke or makes a bigoted remark in front of me, what do I do?  Does it make a difference in how I react if the person telling it is my boss, my mother-in-law, my preacher?  If I'm in a group of people, all laughing or agreeing?  Should it?
  • Is it possible to be a member of a minority group and still behave in a  racist manner towards other minorities, or towards those I perceive as being privileged?  Or should people in traditionally oppressed groups get a pass because they are rightfully angry?
  • Is it okay to "stick to my own kind" in dating?  Why or why not?
  • What if my dating preference is outside "my own kind?"  Am I creating a fetish of the "other," or is this as normal and acceptable as a preference for hair color, height, or shared religious values?
  • If I live outside the United States, what kinds of discrimination issues are there in my country or community?
  • What, if any, was the most hurtful discrimination I have personally experienced?
  • What was the most racist/insensitive thing I have done, either inadvertently, or deliberately?  If I had it to do it again, what would I do differently?
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. had his flaws (and affairs), as did many who have advanced human rights throughout the centuries.  Does this strengthen or detract from the impact of their message(s)?  Why can I look past this - or why can't I? 
  • Besides Rosa Parks, women in the civil rights movement are not generally recognized, although they were key figures.  Why does (or why doesn't) this bother me?
  • What do I see as the most pressing issue/concern regarding discrimination?  Is it more important to focus on one facet - racial discrimination, say, or discrimination against women or the handicapable?  Or  should we try to address all forms of discrimination together?
  • What seems better than it was ten or twenty years ago, and what seems worse?  Is it truly worse, or is that simply my perception because the bad incidents stick more in my mind?

If you'd like to join this blogfest, please leave your name & link in a comment, below, if you'd like a reminder or e-mail me at bevdiehl (at) gmail (dot) com.  (Or, you can jump in at the last minute, too - but I can only send reminders to the people I know about.)  

I may not be a little white girl, or from Alabama, but I'm reaching out my fat, white, (currently) able-bodied, female cisgendered hand to any and all who want to move beyond skin color and other superficiality, to valuing one another according to the content of our characters.
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P.S. Coming this Wednesday - Deanna from My One Woman Show is promising me something spicy and fun.  Please come back and check her out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bad Kissing 101 - Have You Taken This Class?

by Idea go at Free Digital Photos

I'm guesting today at Deanna Fry's One Woman Show, about my sadly extensive experience with bad kissers.  Come join the fun and share your own stories!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Can't Refuse A Challenge

Actually, I can, I told NaNo oh hell no.  But a reading challenge?  A challenge to read (and review) the books already in my TBR stack and queue?  Why not?

(That's a rhetorical question.  I don't really want your help here.  I can make up my own excuses answers just fine. )

The details and sign-up are at Vicky's blog, Books Biscuits and Tea

My TBR list of 11-20 for 2012 qualifies me for a Friendly Hug, so far (you're allowed to change, and move up a level, but no moving down):
Cover via AmazonThe Birthday of the World - Ursula LeGuin
Messalina: Devourer of Men - Zetta Brown
Uncut Diamonds - Karen Jones Gowan
On Writing - Stephen King
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Daisy Miller - Henry James
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie
Hot, Flat and Crowded - Thomas Friedman
Pleasure's Edge - Eve Berlin
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffeneger
Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Giving Up the Dream - J.L. Campbell
Watching Willow Watts - Talli Roland
Shifters' Storm - Vonna Harper
Automagically - Sommer Marsden
You Can Heal Your Life
- Louise Hay
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (yes, I know I am way late to the party.  Bite me!)  Little Black Dress - Susan McBride
Cover of Cover of The Hunger GamesTourist Trap - Sue Ann Bowling
1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber 
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Confessions of an Improper Bride
- Jennifer Haymore

War and Peace - uh, no.  Someday, but not as part of this challenge
Yes, I know there are more than 20 listed.  Thinking it's an eyes too big for my stomach here - if I can read and review even one book per month, while not slacking off on my day job and my own writing, my cat will be so proud of me.  If some months I can do two, cool.  But as far as committing - I'm only committing to 12.

In fact, this has got me so inspired I'm going to start in December, with these books:

A Whisper to a Scream - Karen Wojcik Berner (who will be guesting on this blog on December 19, woo-hoo!)
A Walk in the Snark - Rachel Thompson
It Happened One Christmas - Kaitlyn O'Riley
Even if you don't officially join the challenge, how about making a list of  12 books - one per month - to move off your TBR list in 2012? 
Are any of mine the same as yours?  
Want more info about how/why I chose the books I did? 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who's Your Favorite McCaffrey Heroine?
Gone Ahead, Gone Between Anne Inez McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey Books ~ ExploredImage by Theen ... via FlickrDid you cry, when you heard?  I cried.

Which surprised me.  Although Anne McCaffrey has long been one of my favorite authors, I was very conscious that she was getting to be an age (85) where, well, people die.

Oddnesses: A few weeks ago, I was inspired to post something on her GoodReads author page.  Which I have never done before, for any author.   Then a week ago, although I have a long list of books in my To Be Read queue, I felt like I needed to re-read her "Ship" series.

Only I couldn't actually pick up The Ship Who Sang.  I adore Helva, but for some reason, I knew the emotional punch of the story would rip my guts out and leave them lying on the floor.  In R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey (io9), she's quoted as saying how she still felt The Ship Who Who Sang was her best story, and how she would have her son (and co-author) Todd read the end, because she couldn't get through it without weeping.

Me neither.

I felt like she was my beloved sister/aunt/grandmother.  She was certainly the mother of some of my favorite female characters.  I learned from them and with them.  Passionate, bold, sometimes delightfully snarky, they controlled their own destinies.  They might be beautiful - or decidedly not - but besides maintaining personal hygiene, they aren't much fussing about their appearance.  They partnered with men who were also smart and interesting, strong enough to be unthreatened by women as equal partners.

As is expected of characters, terrible things happen to them.  They are beaten, raped, injured, plague-stricken; face mutiny, death, and planet-wide catastrophe.  It was rare that any McCaffrey female sat in the back of the room and made pot roast (though Pat Reeve in Decision on Doona was pretty much a 50's throwback).  They took action, they made mistakes.  Sometimes their actions even got them killed - and even then, I cheered, because however a story turned out, it always fit and made sense.

So, who was your favorite?

Lessa - dainty and imperious rider of Ramoth, from Ruatha Hold.  When Lessa entered a room, there were no other women in it, really.  We also see more of her timeline, from little girl to mature woman, than most of the others.

Sorka, rider of Faranth, the first queen.  An impetuous redheaded lass, curious and inquisitive, and also powerful and determined.

Brekke, rider of Wirenth - a lovely and loving, but tragic character.

Menolly, the gutsy harper girl going against tradition that harpers are only boys.

Moreta, rider of Orlith, in the prime of her life, seizing the opportunity for an out-of-the-Weyr affair with a younger man.

Leri, rider of Holth - the wise crone, brave, resourceful, self-sacrificing.

Cover of Cover of The Ship Who SanNerilka - independent thinking Holder's daughter, willing to risk her standing and security for love.

Helva, the Ship Who Sang - as far as I know, the first totally paralyzed action heroine.  Brains and guts, plus killer vocals. 

Kristin Bjornsen, from the Freedom series - tall, physically strong and sturdy, assertive without being aggressive, choosing a Catteni lover despite community backlash.

The Rowan, powerful, temperamental and lonely telekinetic, and her precocious daughter Damia.  And how about ancestors Rhyssa Owen and Tirla, barrio survivor bar none?  I always wanted to see what happened with Tirla when she grew up.

Sara, from Anne's first published novel, Restoree, literally reborn after a horrific experience that should have sent her out of her mind, yet resilient enough to find love again.  

Yanaba Maddock, in the Petaybee series, an injured military veteran, finding healing, family and love with a shapeshifting partner on an icebound, sentient planet .

Acorna, the Unicorn Girl, adopted daughter of space miners, rescuer of abused children, the key to the preservation of her entire race.  

Killashandra Ree, Crystal Singer, disappointed vocal artist, bold thrill seeker.

Varian and Lunzie, from Dinosaur Planet, both strong, smart and resourceful.  Sassinak, Lunzie's descendant, a pirate slave turned Fleet Captain and pirate hunter.

The one McCaffery female impossible to hook into in my recent re-read of Decision on Doona, was Pat Reeve.  If she came fluttering up to somebody, helpless and wanting to cook something one more time, I was ready to bitch-slap her.  Mrrva, the Hrruban mommy-scientist, was a much more interesting character, as were the male characters.  I found the character of six year old Todd charming and a super-handful, and wondered how much of that was based on Real Life with the Real Todd.  Somehow I doubt Anne McCaffrey was as passive with her actual children as fictional Todd's mother.

I always imagined Anne as Lessa.

The character I most relate to is confident, sexy Moreta, with Kristin B coming in a close second.  I loved the partnership Kristin forged with Zainal, after she kidnapped him.  I could easily picture myself in their skins, and though I loved Lessa to pieces, I wouldn't have wanted to be Lessa.

Which McCaffrey heroines did you love?
Which ones did you want to be, and why?
Which female characters did you love that I haven't included?

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Mike McQueary - Coward, Scapegoat or Imperfect Hero?

Mike McQueary coaching from the sidelineImage via Wikipedia 
Let’s interrupt the written and verbal crucifixion of Mike McQueary, just for a couple of minutes.  (You can get back to it later, if you must.)

I admit, I’m one of the people who read the Grand Jury presentment and asked, Why the fuck didn’t this big, strong guy stop the rape of a young boy?  Why the fuck did he leave this child with the perv who was raping him to go call his daddy?  Eleven different colors of steam came out of my ears.

I became even more angry at Daddy John McQueary.  If my shell-shocked offspring called me with such a story, I would have said:
Hang up the phone, and go rescue the child.  Make sure he is safe, and don’t let him go.  He needs medical attention.  I’m on my way; I’ll call the cops and the ambulance from the car.
Then I started thinking... are we certain that Grand Jury presentment most of us read (or could only stand to read partway) contained all the details the man testified to?  Is it possible it left some things out, focusing more on the revolting actions of the perpetrator than on the witnesses?

Maybe, according to what McQueary is now emailing to a few people, he did do more, it simply wasn't contained in the report that was released.

Let's say, for purposes of argument, there is no more to the story.  He saw, he fled, he called his daddy.  He may not have had the balls to do more, back in 2002, but although he wasn’t a kid, he was young, and in a position of very little power or authority.  McQueary had the weight of his entire upbringing, his father, his hero Joe Paterno, and the Penn State machine, leaning on him.  In many ways, it sounds similar to being brought up in a cult.  It's not easy to shake off that mindset in a split second.

We can all sit safely behind our monitors and say, oh yes, *I* would have rescued the child and stood up to everyone (and like everyone else, I'd like to believe I would), but do we really know?

During my Little League volunteer days, there was a coach who’d been quietly told, due to his egregious verbal abuse of every player, and the formal complaints from every set of parents on the team, that he would not be given a team in the next season.  But the league officials decided, in light of the man’s twenty-plus years of volunteer service, to “kick him upstairs” and give him a position as president of one of the minor leagues.  Where he would be overseeing a large group of coaches (and children).

I am the only one who openly protested.  I will never forget, my knees knocking, standing up in a room with 100+ coaches and volunteers, mostly good ol’ boys, and speaking out against the man being placed in that position.  The people who agreed with me that Somebody Should Say Something... conveniently, they all had scheduling conflicts that prevented their attendance.  Or they sat, stared at their hands, and said nothing.  Later, many people privately whispered that I was right, that I showed courage, but no one was willing to stand up with me and openly say, “This is wrong.”  Not even fathers and mothers who had personally told me about the experience their sons had, who were present in the room.

I was the one blackballed from the league as a volunteer, because of my unforgivable act of “embarrassing” said coach.  Washing the league’s dirty laundry in public.  I’m not ashamed of what I did, but whenever I remember that experience, my heart beats faster, my lips get dry, and my hands shake.  The influence and weight of public or community disapproval cannot be overstated.

And this was just Little League.  (Literally.)

Today, with greater maturity and experience, I’d approach that particular situation differently, though I still would take a firm stand against anyone who abuses children.  Verbal and emotional abuse that gives kids stomachaches and nightmares and makes them hate playing a game they used to love, may not be as terrible as raping them in a shower or bed, but it's not something anyone should excuse, either.

Most of the people blasting McQueary are only imagining what they would have done in his shoes.  I’m sharing my dumb little story because I know how very intimidating it can be to be the ONLY one standing up and saying the Coach has no clothes.  (dark humor, I know.)

Unlike in the fairy tale, the town does not rally around or thank you.  Because your words make them feel terrible, they want to find somebody (certainly not themselves) to blame, to erase their own guilt.

Much is made of the fact that McQueary was 28.  Not a teenager.  I think that probably made it harder.   An 18 or 20-year-old might have charged right into that shower.  At 28, he was much more likely to be aware, “If I take action, it’s my word against all of Penn State.  Maybe even against my own family.  Even if I produce a bleeding, crying child, The Powers That Be might make the evidence disappear and accuse me of lying.  They might even turn it around and accuse me of molesting him.”

It could be, McQueary had a moment of shock and froze, and before he snapped out of it, Sandusky had already fled with the child.  It could be, he was aware of previous rumors about Sandusky and didn't believe them.  It could be, he was aware about previous rumors about Sandusky and wondered how many other times the man had been caught, and seemingly, nothing was done, and was trying to figure out what to do to make it stick, this time.

Obviously, we don’t know what was going through his mind, or all the details.  Perhaps, before we judge him too harshly, we should wait until he's free to tell us.

As soon as it was in his power, McQueary talked to those who had the power at Penn State to do something.  Paterno.  Curley.  Schultz (also at least nominally the head of campus police).  Given the following years of inaction on the part of PSU, McQueary must have become slowly, painfully aware of  what the "official" position on Sandusky was. (As long as he's not doing it here...)

How did the Grand Jury Investigation even know about the 2002 (alleged) rape in the shower anyway? They heard rumors on the Internet, but was there anyone who would confirm them?  According to the NY Times, it was McQueary who told the story to investigators about a year ago.

McQueary didn't have to talk to the investigators.  He could have told them, and the Grand Jury, “You know, come to think of it, it was just a little horseplay.  It freaked me out, but I think I overreacted.  I was so upset, and confused, I might have told them Y, but I really meant X.”  He could have closed ranks with Penn State, along with Curley and Moe and the other Stooges who testified that they didn’t hear of anything serious.  Preserved Joepa’s reputation.  Saved the Uni from the potential of countless dollars in liability.

IMO, it took a lot of courage for McQueary to tell the truth, knowing it would bring a huge shitstorm down on his head.  He knew that he might be trashing his entire career, and that many people - people he lives and works with, people he loves - might judge him as disloyal to the program by coming forward.  He did it anyway.  I'm nervous about taking an unpopular stand with this post, and what, some people on the Internet I don't even know might post a mean comment?

Ironically, McQueary probably has more people hating his guts now than Sandusky.  Sandusky still has a number of people who believe his story that he didn’t do anything wrong, despite his own telephoned interview with Bob Costas stating that he isn’t, [creepy pause] sexually attracted to young boys.

Whereas McQueary is now despised by Penn State and... pretty much everybody, for telling the ugly truth as he remembers it.  Penn State may be unable to fire him, because of whistleblower laws, but I bet they’d love to.

Sandusky may be #1 in hoping McQueary crumbles, retracts his testimony or suffers a nervous breakdown, between now and whenever this sickening mess goes to trial, but the Penn State machine can’t be far behind in hoping his testimony doesn’t hold up.

Maybe we should think twice about helping with Sandusky's defense.

Maybe we should back off the vitriol toward McQueary and direct our energies towards changing the cultural mindset that makes it so difficult for victims of sexual abuse to come forward.  It’s not fair, but I understand why some young men would fear their identifies might be disclosed, and forever branded as having “being Sanduskied.”  [Note: in a future post, I will write about the fact that although sexual molestation is a terrible thing, being a victim does not mean one's life is "ruined forever."]  Although I read that many are determined to testify, and others may be coming forward.  Good for them!

Anyone with information on this case or who alleges abuse may call the Office of Attorney General at 814-863-1053 or Pennsylvania State Police at 814-470-2238.

Absolutely it would be best to intervene IMMEDIATELY, physically if possible, when a child is being hurt.  Call 9-1-1, and make sure the child gets medical attention.  We should blow the whistle loudly when we first see something wrong.  And keep blowing it, if the people in charge don't appear to be taking action.

But what if, through human frailty, blackmail, or whatever reason, we don’t do the best thing at the time?  If we do what we think is right, perhaps assume "the authorities" are taking care of it?

What’s the second best thing?  To be forever silent, and cover up our mistake?  Pretend we didn’t know, see, or hear, after all?  Or is it better to come forward and speak up, however many years it takes?

McQueary's Grand Jury testimony as shown in the presentment does not paint him as a hero, granted. In hindsight, could he, should he have done more?  Probably.  Does that mean he deserves to be vilified for coming forward now?

I think we need to reconsider the message we're sending as a society.  If we direct so much criticism towards everyone who witnesses a crime and seemingly, fails to do the right thing at the time, why would anyone risk coming forward with his/her story at a later date?

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Your thoughts? I know you'll have plenty.
I promise to approve as quickly as possibly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Could Care Less and Other Things That Literally Bug Me

I realize there are a lot of important things going on in the world, about which we all should care.  Sadly, one of the things about which I could care less (but don't), is the way people say "I could care less" when they mean "I couldn't care less."

Here's how it works, folks.

Graphic Stolen Borrowed from Fighting Darwin
So if I say I could care less about some attention whore's marriage that publicly dissolved after 72 days (I refuse to let certain names cross my keyboard, y'all know to whom I refer), that means, if I were to make a prioritized list of all the things about which I care , that would not be on the absolute bottom.

Which is actually, probably, true.

My List of Things About Which I Care

1. The Health and Well-being of My Offspring
2. World Peace
3. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
9. Reading Excellent Books
10. Writing Excellent Books
11.  Chocolate

99,972.  Whether or not the Post Office Delivers on Saturdays
99,973.  The Reproductive Cycle of Earthworms
99,974.  The Marriage and/or Divorce of a Reality TV "Star"

I take back what I said above.  Actually, I can not think of anything about which I care less.  The marriage and/or divorce of a reality TV personality would be on the bottom of my list.

How about I put it this way: every time "I could care less" is used incorrectly, an attention whore gets a reality TV show.


*small voice* Thank you for learning to use this correctly.

Here's a bonus vocab tip - Literally does not mean the same thing as Figuratively or Symbolically.

Literally Borrowed from The Oatmeal.  Whose Book You should Literally Buy
So far, no gayroller casualties have been reported, as a consequences of gay marriage becoming legalized in several of the United States.  There's been no correlated change in the marriage or divorce rate of heterosexuals in such states, as a result of the proximity of "gay" marriage.  No straight couples have reported feeling less married, since Adam & Steve tied the knot.

Yet while not all people can marry their life-partners, reality TV stars (and in some states, first cousins) can get married anytime they want. Could I care less?  On this subject, yes.  On my list, below world peace but way above the reproductive cycle of earthworms, is this crazy concept that every consenting adult should be allowed the opportunity to enter into a happy - or miserable - marriage.

If you couldn't care less about reality TV celebs and their faux marriages, please leave a comment.
Or simply if you could care less about this blog post.
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