Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why I Write - Blogfest

This blog is part of a blogfest at Kayleen's Creation Corner
Please go visit some of the other posts!
Hello! My name is Debbie Beverly, and this is my first attempt at explaining why I write. Okay, it's not my first time, but I'm nervous anyway, and excited at the same time.  Wheee!  [fanning self]

So, I'm just going to start writing about why I write, and hope you like it!

Okay. Let's see. I am... nervous, did I say I was nervous?  Okay.

I.  Love. 

Writing!

I love every kind of writing.

I love writing on the computer, and writing with colored ink rollerball pens in journals, and writing on steno pads with the pens they give you at the hair salon which are really cheap and don't half work but they're free, so what the hell - and I love writing on big yellow legal pads with itty bitty golf scorekeeping pencils that barely have a point.

[tearing up]

I'm sorry. I just...I just really love writing.

[wiping eyes]

And...and I just want to write everything, because I love writing so much!  I want to write novels and screenplays and essays and dictionaries and blogs and leave comments on every single blog there is, because I love writing but I can't 'cuz that's crazy I can't write on every blog. BUT I WANT TO. You know? I WANT TO WRITE ON EVERY BLOG.

If you think I sound ditzier than usual, you are one of the four people on the interwebs who hasn't seen Debbie yet.  Check her out at CakeWrecks.  [Go ahead.  I'll wait.]

Now back to our regularly scheduled Voice.

Photo via Maggie Smith at Flickr
Actually, those sentiments aren't far from my own.  I do love writing, and books.  I love old hardcover books with their slightly musty smell, and thick mass market paperbacks, and brand new Kindle downloads, and...  Oops. Channeling "Debbie" again, and a little Debbie goes a long way.

I've always been a geeky reader, and began writing as a teenager.  Somehow, either nobody told me, or, more likely, I was Not Paying Attention, because it never percolated into my brainpan that writing was about REwriting.  So, up till my late twenties, I would write and then throw it all away because I would reread it and think it was crap.  (Of course, it was crap, but some of it might have been passably readable, 17 rewrites later.)

In all seriousness, I write because I'd like to change the world for the better.  Which sounds grandiose and pompous and like I'm more than a little full of myself, but still.  I believe that writing and reading open doors to empathy and imagination.  Doesn't matter if the writing is in the form of a novel, poem, television script, or blog, it does change the world.  Writing helps people imagine themselves in the skin of someone else - whether that person is Anne of Green Gables or Malcolm X or ET.  Maybe not all the way into that skin - but partway.  To see that the "other" isn't so other after all.

Sometimes writing simply helps people escape their problems and worries for a little while - and isn't that worth something?

I believe, and have been told by a few others (so I'm not totally delusional) that I have a distinct writing Voice.  Certainly not the biggest, strongest, clearest Voice on the planet (just ask V.S. No-something or other), but I have one, and I'm working hard to make it better.  Can I tell any story that hasn't been told a thousand times before?  Of course not, but nobody can tell a story the way I can, with my Voice.  And perhaps someone may hear my Voice, who didn't hear those thousand others, and be changed.  For Good.

Doesn't that line just make you want to break into song?

I guess that was just me. Oh well.

Maybe my writing can make somebody giggle while reading a blog post on their lunch break.  Maybe it can make someone cry when reading a chapter in my novel (Though usually, the person weeping is me, in utter frustration.)  Maybe my writing can inspire someone to think more deeply about racism, or slut-shaming, or mental illness.  All these things have value.  While I would certainly like to have my writing become my day job 4realz, if it never does, I am okay with that.

Just don't ask me to shut up.  (You can ask, but I won't.)  Haters gonna hate, writers gonna write.

If you missed getting in on Kayleen's Blogfest, leave a few breadcrumbs here.
Why do you write?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Does Your Protagonist Protag?

Yes, I know that's not a word.  I made it up so you would click into my post and scold me.

Here's a line you might have heard a time or thirty: The Hero must be Heroic.

But what does it mean?

from Wikimedia Commons  These sailors may both have
invaluable roles to play, but who's most active in this scene?
It means that your Protagonist must be active - in speech, in actions, and in internal thought.  If anybody else "onscreen" has a bigger role than s/he does over the course of the story... that's bad storytelling.

There can be scenes where another character takes the lead, but if your Main Character is always in the back seat or being moved around like a Barbie doll... bor-ing!

DC Fontana drilled into my head, many moons ago, "A STORY is about a CHARACTER with a PROBLEM."  Doesn't even have to be a human character - ET and The Little Engine That Could come to mind.

Getting To Know You
First, we want to know who the character is.  Maybe we like him, her or it, maybe we don't, but at the very least, we must find the MC compelling and interesting.  Then we want to know what the problem is.  If you're skillful enough to weave those together in the first paragraph, even the first line, kudos for you!  Examples of Character + Problem:

Scarlett O'Hara, a spoiled Southern belle, is in love with Ashley Wilkes, but she hears a rumor he's about to announce his engagement to Melanie Hamilton. (Gone With The Wind)

ET, a visitor from another planet, has been stranded on Earth, when its spaceship left. (ET, the Extra-Terrestrial)

Winston, a lonely propagandist, is sick of Big Brother, and enamored with Julia. (1984)

Troy has fallen, but Odysseus, A Greek ship's captain, can't seem to get home. (The Odyssey )

Next we want to see our MC try to solve his problem by his own efforts.  Scarlett arranges to waylay Ashley and declare her love for him.  ET finds allies and gathers parts to build a communicator.  Winston finds a room to let without Big Brother's camera in it.  Odysseus sails towards home and battles monsters and sorceresses along the way.

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again
Does the first effort succeed?  Almost always NOT (or they think it has, but it hasn't.)  Their efforts may even make things worse.  The point is, they are trying, they are defeated, then they try something else.



The Protagonist/MC is the one who's making things happen.  You can have the story told by another character - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as told by Dr. Watson.  Watson is not the main character, because he's the one taking notes; Holmes is the one in the driver's seat.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara via Wikimedia Commons
Protagonists don't sit around, working on a crossword puzzle while waiting for the plumber to come.  They're not hanging around, hoping an outside party will accidentally drop a clue.

If somebody else is talking, they are churning the information in their minds (which we should see, through internal thought or body language).  We should see them redirecting the conversation or beginning some action - a kiss, a tossed vase, a shocking red dress, something - to bring control of the situation back into their own hands (or claws, or whatever grasping appendages they possess.)

Again - their efforts may not work - but protagonists cannot be passive. We the reader (or viewer, in case of TV or movies) need to see the MC doing his, her, or its best to solve the problem. 

In Conclusion
For a story to feel truly satisfying, the ending must come about because of the efforts of the protagonist(s).  When deus ex machina is employed to bring the story to a conclusion, the ending usually feels like there's something missing.   Example: War of the Worlds.  The hero and other Earthlings try everything to defeat the Tripods.  Every time it looks like there might be success, the invaders come back, bigger and badder than ever.  So far, so good, the tension is building.  Then, just when it seems that all is lost... the baddies catch cold and die.  The End.

Yes, it's very nice that Earth is saved and all that, and yes, the film was a commercial success, but if you're not H.G. Wells or Steven Spielberg, you need to rethink those kinds of endings.

If it's a James Bond movie, we expect James Bond to do something that foils the bad guy.  We might let a Bond girl help, but she had better not be the one that kills the villain or defuses the bomb while James is off getting a mani-pedi.

If it's a mystery, nobody should pinpoint the killer before the MC.  In a romance, we want the hero or heroine racing to catch the ferry, stop the plane, or at the very least, sending a text that says "I love you."

The outcome may be different from what s/he had hoped, in which case there must be an epiphany, and the MC realizes it's okay s/he didn't get what s/he originally wanted.  (My Best Friend's Wedding.) This "sunbeam through the clouds" moment still must happens in the heart/mind of the protagonist, and nobody else.

I've had stories that didn't work because my Protagonist was too passive, or she didn't solve her own problems in the end.  How about you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers - Love Hurts

 For the rest of the RFW stories, a really great collection this week, go here.

For this Romantic Friday Writers Challenge, I've written a backstory scene for my character Lexy from my WIP, CLOSE KNIT.  I needed to work out for my own purposes why she's been  resistant to the idea of having a long-term boyfriend, but had no problem with a string of booty call lovers, and this prompt helped me tremendously.

Denise & Francine, thank you so very much for starting this group and giving us such interesting prompts.

Trigger Alert - This is a very dark story and features sexual molestation and rape of a minor.  If you have any doubts about how this might make you feel, please don't read any further.

Word Count: 400

 ***

Papa Teddy’s secret touching started when Allie was 10.  She felt tingly good, special and sexy, like he whispered.

Later, it hurt so much and he wouldn’t stop, even when she was crying and begging he just put his hand over her mouth and said Quiet you little Bitch and kept on until she was all slimy and bloody. 

“If you tell, they won’t believe you.  It’ll ruin your life, your mother’s life.  Is that really what you want?” her stepdad demanded.

Teddy was right.  When it went to trial, Allie’s name wasn’t in the papers, she was only 14, but everybody knew. Two years later, still “Little Whore,” and nasty laughs in the cafeteria.  No girlfriends; parents didn’t want their daughters contaminated.

Boys pretended to be friends.  Mostly they wanted to stick their tongues in Allie’s mouth and rub themselves against her till they came.  Being wanted felt powerful.  Sometimes she liked the grinding, if not the hickeys, bruises and names.

At least books didn’t call her a tramp.

Ian from chemistry class was super nice.  Whenever he gave a look, people shut up.  He walked her home and said he planned to study engineering.  Allie wanted to be a journalist.  They dated.  Just kissing.  No more hook-ups with other boys.

Genie seemed pleased when Allie consulted her about the pill.  ”Sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault, the-“

“Mom, I know,” Allie said.  “You’ve told me eight billion times.”

“Alexandra, as long as you still take pleasure in being a woman.  You’re entitled to that.  We all are.”

One night, Allie and Ian kissed for hours, then made love on an old knitted afghan made by Genie’s mother.  So sweet, so good, silver electric sparkles behind tightly closed eyes.

“I love you, Ian.”

Instead of, “I love you too,” he jumped up and left.

All weekend, Ian wouldn’t answer his cell.  In the hall, somebody pushed her, laughing as her books went flying. “On your knees, slut!”  In chem class, the ugly whispers were louder than ever.  Why wasn’t Ian sticking up for her?  Why wasn’t he even looking at her?
                               
Finally she realized; Ian had been using her all along.

She’d show him.  He might be the first, but he wasn’t going to be the last.  Why not? She’d be Sexy Lexy, and it would be the boys down on their knees.

“No more love,” Lexy vowed.  Love hurts.  

***

This started out much longer - it was excruciating to cut to 400 words.  I envision Teddy as having married Genie when Allie was 4 or 5, so there was a huge violation of trust involved when the molestation began.  I also see him as being from a wealthy and influential family who backed him and did everything in their power to smear and shame Allie (as she was then) and her mother, even to making it difficult for Genie to find a job in the small town.  While Teddy does go to jail, he doesn't stay long, and even remarries after his release.

Lexy may be an imaginary person, but her story has happened over and over again, with minor variations.   None of the girls, boys, men or women who have been raped "deserved it."  If this story triggered you - if you have a story of assault or rape to tell, one place where you can safely share is: Violence Unsilenced.

Do not despair for Lexy - she does have a bright future (and love) ahead of her.  (That is, if she can allow herself to accept it.)


***

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.


Your thoughts?





Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everything You Wanted To Know About The Zombie Apocalypse
(But Were Afraid to Ask)

If you're like me, a zillion years old and late to the whole blogging Twitterverse, you've undoubtedly seen all kinds of references to the Zombie Apocalypse.

Yet, because you didn't want to seem uncool, you didn't want to ask, WTF?  (You probably wouldn't have put it quite that way, either.  More like, "Prithee, my good fellow, what meaneth this "zombie apocalypse" speech amongst the good people of yon fair village?")

It's okay.  I will be uncool for you.  I was born uncool, and remain proudly and defiantly uncool to this day.  (You doubt?  See my fearlessness in using adverbs.)

Besides, the other day, somebody saved me from having to ask what the hell "steampunk" is.  So I have that favor to pay forward.

Zombie Apocalypse is everywhere.  Check Twitter - #zombieapocalypse and you'll see thousands of Tweets. Google "Zombie Apocalypse" and you'll find millions of hits.  Serious.

Okay, so what is a zombie, anyway?

Traditionally, a zombie is the reanimated corpse of a dead person.  Dead, buried, then just play some Michael Jackson tunes and it's brain-eatin' time.  (After some fancy dancin', of course.)

Zombies have been legendary in African and Caribbean voodoo oral traditions.  Then along came pop fiction and Hollywood (from Wikipedia): 
The founding work of the genre was Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954), which featured a lone survivor named Robert Neville waging a war against a human population transformed into vampires.[1] The novel has been adapted into several screenplays, including The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston. George A. Romero borrowed the idea for his apocalyptic feature Night of the Living Dead (1968) but substituted vampires with shuffling zombies.[2]

PopSci explains how scientists could, theoretically, create a "zombie virus" that kills off some brain cells and leaves others intact.  Good to know they're not wasting time on that curing cancer thing or defeating diabetes.

The "apocalypse" generally relates to the end of the world.  A zombie apocalypse is the End of the World (as we know it) brought about by the zombification of the population.  Whether that's viral, brought about by one zombie biting a "regular" human being (will the vampires sue for copyright infringement?) or by the eating of brains, is something yet to be disclosed. 

I did not realize that even the CDC (Center for Disease Control) had a zombie plan:

At the same breath the CDC recommends how to avoid hungry zombies and how to escape natural disasters:
Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won't stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don't have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.[3]

If you want to analyze whether you could survive said zombie apocalypse, there are many online quizzes. Here's one, and here's another.  (Disclaimer: Survival rating per linked tests implies no liability or responsibility on part of blog author re: actual survival rates during certified zombie apocalypse.  Just sayin'.)

For some years, rumors have percolated that the Mayan calendar predicted 2012 as the end of the world.  (Apparently, even if this isn't total BS, which modern Mayans say it is, we've misplaced a decimal point or something.)  In 2009, yet another Hollywood movie was released with this premise, because the only thing Hollywood likes better than blowing shit up, is a disaster flick where they can blow shit up.


Then yet another fruitcake, Harold Camping, predicted the Christian Rapture/End of the World on May 21, 2011. If you're reading this, you'll realize that God got the date mixed up in his DayPlanner.  According to Camping, it's now been rescheduled for October 21, 2011.


So, here's the thing: old apocalypse legends have been conflated with old zombie legends, and so we have - ta-da!  the end of the world courtesy of zombie apocalypse.

It's a joke, ladies and gentlemen.

Now, is the end of the world truly coming?  Via global climate change, nuclear war, asteroids, swine flu, or some other really bad thing?

Perhaps.  In any event, if a major tornado or earthquake drops a house on you, it'll be the end of the world - for you.  (Meaning no disrespect for those who have lost a loved one to any natural or unnatural disaster in this century or the previous one.)

Take what precautions you can, be good to the people who love you, and get your writing done today.  Because you never know, tomorrow could be the zombie apocalypse.

Your thoughts?  Fears?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fathers' Day Card - FAIL

For those of you who spent a warm and fuzzy Fathers' Day, with or in contact with your fathers, or the fathers of your children (hopefully, not too many of those - not judgin', just sayin') or with someone who was "like a father to you," I'm happy for you.  Truly. Only a teeny bit jealous.

This video is for you.


But for someone like me, who has about 7-8 good memories of Daddy Dearest, and many more not-so-good ones, picking out a Fathers' Day card each year can be problematic.

There are so many cards that simply aren't appropriate:

from nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos
To the Father who always cheered me on... FAIL

To the Father who taught me everything I needed to succeed in life... FAIL

To the Dad I could always depend on... FAIL

Dad, whenever I think of all the special times we spent together... FAIL

On this Fathers' Day, hope you enjoy all the things you love to do...  FAIL

He never played golf, he could not have cared less about classic cars or fishing, so most of the generic vanilla cards are inappropriate.  Sometimes a humorous card works, but even those are sometimes too "oh how wonderful you are!" and make me gag.


My alcoholic, narcissistic father was not the biggest, most flaming @sswipe of fathers on the planet, this I know.  He never molested me, he wasn't (often) physically abusive, but during my childhood and teen years, though there were sporadic bursts of attention from him, he was mostly off doing his own "thing." 

For many years as an adult, I tried to renegotiate a new relationship with him, frequently writing, sending cards and pictures, etc., efforts that were seldom reciprocated, and then usually by my stepmother, rather than by him.  Finally, I decided enough was enough, and gave up hope. 

So while I've grieved for the father I didn't get to have, I have other family members, who are loving and wonderful.  I'm blessed with a large network of supportive and fabulous friends.  Over time, Daddy Dearest moved further and further down the list of people with whom I feel (or want to feel) a close emotional connection.  Right now I don't think he's even in my top twenty.  Probably not even in my top forty.

Photo via Ambro on FreeDigitalPhotos
In the last few years, after my stepmother passed away... he's gotten bored.  He's elderly now, and has spent many hours  calling my oldest sister, as many as four or five times a day about such nonsense as his "defective toilet paper," I kid you not.  (What he expected her to do about his defective toilet paper, we don't know.)

And for a little while, he wanted to reconnect with me.  Not to apologize or to rebuild bridges, but simply because he was bored, and wanted even more attention than he was getting from my sister.  I considered it, but decided I'd had enough of being picked up like a new toy, fussed over, and then dropped when something shiny caught his eye.

(As I write this, he has now stopped calling my sister altogether  and in fact instructed her not to call him, as he's busy and having a good time.  So, not just me being cynical.)

I decided that what works best for me is not speaking to him on the phone or visiting (luckily he's on the other side of the country).  To occasionally send him a letter, and yes, mail him token cards at Christmas and Father's Day.  If I keep my distance, I can better remember the good times, and forgive him for the not-so-good times.

Hence my Hallmark dilemma.  And while everyone's situation is unique, I know there are others out there who also don't have those heartwarming, misty-eyed relationships with their fathers, either.


I think we need our own line of Fathers' Day cards.  
  • Dad - thanks for spawning me.  
      
  • Father... Some of my childhood memories are actually pleasant.  Thanks for those.  
      
  • You were almost like a Father to me.  Better luck next time.  
      
  • Remembering you on Fathers' Day with this token card.

Too bitter? 


How about something more ambiguous:

  • On Fathers' Day, I always think of you.  May this day bring you everything you deserve.
     
  • Dad... I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect Fathers' Day card for you.  Couldn't find any, so you'll have to settle for this one.
     
  • Dad, when I look back on my childhood, I think of all I learned from you. 

  • Here's a Fathers' Day card without a golf or automobile motif, because I know you never touched a golf club or checked your oil in your life.

  • Thinking of you on Fathers' Day.
     

If you, too, have a less than ideal fatherly situation,
want to suggest some non-smarmy Fathers' Day sentiments?


Friday, June 17, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers - Up, Up and Away
Lexy and Gavin from CLOSE KNIT



For this Romantic Friday Writers Challenge, I've taken two characters from my Work-in-Progress, CLOSE KNIT, and written them a brand new scene that takes place after CLOSE KNIT ends.  For the rest of the RFW stories, go here.

Word Count: 399


***

Lexy’d thought it would be Wizard-of-Ozlike, hopping over the edge, but no.  She and Gavin were the first through the hinged door into the surprisingly sturdy basket.  Besides the two of them and the pilot, was a Japanese family who bowed, smiled, and apparently spoke six words of English.  Cumulatively.

Lexy had often fantasized about taking a hot air balloon ride with her main man, face conveniently blank.  Still blank, since they were in the friggin’ dark.  Her fantasies hadn’t been informed as to chilly dawn launches.

The brightly colored balloon lurched, rising a few feet into the sky.  Lexy clutched Gavin’s hand.

“You okay?” he asked.

His handsome face visible now in the February dawn, she nodded.  As the balloon rose, he looked exhilarated.  Lexy reminded herself that she was not afraid of heights, the landscape was stunning, and Gavin would think she was a total wuss if she kept on with the death-grip.
                      
His mom had won the Balloon Adventure in a raffle, including champagne breakfast and accommodations at a nearby winery.  You couldn’t turn around in this part of SoCal without squashing a grape or scoring free wine-tasting tickets.

Since Pamela had been 12-Steppin’ for ten years, she passed the tickets on to her son and his new girlfriend.  Their first official "vaca" as a couple.
from Jay 0110 at Flickr

Another slight lurch, and as Lexy rebalanced, she enjoyed the sweet after-ache between her legs.  After enduring evil traffic from LA, they’d relaxed with great food, then a shared bath that left more soapy water on the floor than in the big Jacuzzi tub.

Lexy squelched a yip as a gust of desert wind nudged the balloon westward.

Gavin pulled her into his arms, and Lexy nestled there, spoon fashion.  Much better.  Sheltered inside his strong arms, she inhaled his familiar, delicious scent, feeling the beat of his heart and the rumble of his voice, penetrating her bones.

“This really freaks you out, doesn’t it?”

“No, no...”

“Lexy...?”

“Okay, a little,”  Lexy admitted.  “But I feel much safer now.”  She began to truly appreciate the glorious gold-and-pink sunrise, the countryside with vineyards and ranch houses, mini-matchbox cars speeding along ribbons of empty road.  Weird, but the higher up the balloon went, the less scary it felt.

Lexy felt Gavin press a gentle kiss into her hair, and melted with tenderness. 1500 feet up and she’d come home.


***

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.


Your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Spy - How A TV Show Changed the World
Book Interview with Marc Cushman


Hyberbole?  Perhaps a little.  (Can one have only a little hyperbole?)

But I have to say I was surprised in reading and discussing I Spy: A History and Episode Guide to the Groundbreaking Television Series with its author, Marc Cushman, about how many ways in which this little ol' TV show was truly groundbreaking.

Marc delved into three main points:

1) The truly groundbreaking effect on Civil Rights in the USA. At a time when whites and black were not even sharing drinking fountains in some parts of the country, I Spy put a black man and a white man into the same hotel room. Sharing a bathroom.

Sheldon Leonard, the producer, and Robert Culp, the established star, held the line about keeping Bill Cosby on the show, even though there had never been a black actor in a starring role in a network show.

Bill Cosby, in his first starring role as an actor, was truly surprised and pleased he would not be expected to hold the coats or hide in the bushes...



2) The invention of the Buddy Genre. Prior to this, if there were two men or women who shared starring roles, they were pitted as enemies, not friends, or one was subservient to the other. In fact, Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were friends offscreen as well as on, and despite what one would think would be difficult circumstances - Culp vs. Cosby for an Emmy every year, Culp was thrilled when Cosby won.



3) The book goes into why this show was important technically.  Tech talk generally makes me start  nodding off, but I found it fascinating how much this little series impacted movies and television that followed it, the devices that were invented, like the wireless microphone, the CinemaMobile,and let us not forget the sweatbox...

How does one film a project, in so many exotic locations, anyway?  What if there are problems, like, oh, a military coup in Greece?





Marc also discussed his next project, Star Trek....



Yes, Marc's a friend. Of course we always want to support our friends, but even if he wasn't a friend - this is an excellent book.

If you care about the buddy genre, film technology, the history of civil rights and television, or the personalities involved: Sheldon Leonard, Robert Culp, and Bill Cosby - or if you just like some nice juicy stories about Hollywood in the sixties, you need to get a copy of this book.  Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick, Call Nancy Drew!

looks like our girl Nance is in trouble herself
from Mystery at Lilac Inn via Flash News

I've been kidnaped! (The spelling of which word never looks right to me, btw.  I always want to add a second "p" - don't you?)

Actually, I'm guest blogging today over at Jackie Vick's site, A Writer's Jumble.  Sisters in Crime member Jacqueline Vick is the author of Logical Larry, Special Delivery, and The Mystery of the White Revelation, as well as short stories published in "The Best of Every Day Fiction" and other online & print magazines.

Why an erotica writer on a mystery site?  And what can I possibly be blogging about?

Well, there are elephants.  And trapezes.  And... well, follow the clues (aka links,) and you'll find out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Slut vs. Nigger - Can Offensive Terms Be Reclaimed?

Both words have a history of being used in a way that is highly derogatory, insulting and hurtful. Both words have been used for hundreds of years. (Dictionary.com shows "slut" originating around 1375-1425 A.D.) Both words have lately been subject to much discussion about whether it is right to reclaim the words and "own" them, or whether they should be abandoned altogether by people of all races and genders.

So, as a writer, and a human being, how do I decide the right way to go, both for for my characters, and myself?

Kevin Cato writes eloquently on the "N" word debate, as does April Rose Schneider.

Melanie Klein blogged about the "slut" controversy, and how her views of "reclaiming" words has evolved over the years, but in the end, she stands with SlutWalks.

So why am I comfortable using the word "slut," when I would never, ever, except in a discussion of this nature, use the "N" word?  (I really dislike hearing it, too, even in popular music.  And I had a very hard time getting through my last reread of Huckleberrry Finn, where it plays such a large part.)


Two brilliant, much missed men had something to say about the "N" word and context being everything:




One thing about which pretty much everyone agrees with Chris Rock, is that white people are not supposed to use the "N" word. (Whether it's acceptable for Hispanic, Asian, or Native Americans to do so - I'm not quite sure what their "code" is, according to Chris Rock. I'm thinking, probably not a good idea.)



To my way of thinking it's the idea that some people can use it in any context, while others had damn well better not, that makes the difference. This makes the "N" word reclamation FAIL. If this word still has power to hurt and offend, in any context... then it still has power.

Whereas, frankly, I don't care if you call me a slut. I don't care if it comes from a man, woman or child, from the President of the United States or the homeless guy asking for a buck next to Seven-Eleven.  You can shout it at me from a pulpit or whisper it in my ear, same difference.

I might take offense at your tone, but the word itself?  Doesn't bother me.

Slut slut slut slut slut. I have decided that this label has nothing to do with who I am as a person, but everything to do with the perceptions (or misperceptions) of the person using the word. It has no power over me whatsoever.

As "slut" is being used by SlutWalk, it is in the context that nobody - not even a "slut" - deserves to be sexually assaulted.  And if assaulted, no victim deserves to be blamed for the attack. 

The fact that the word slut helps draw people's attention, offers some shock value, is a bonus. It brings extra attention to a cause that nobody (except a rapist) can possibly dispute is important, a cause that we want people to sit up and notice.


How do you feel about these words?
Is okay, even necessary, to use the "N" word in a novel set back a hundred years, or...?
How about using it as part of dialogue for an urban rapper? 
Is that too contrived if you do, or too artificial an omission if you don't?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ten Things Not To Do As A Reader (in a Feedback Group)

From Emily at The Berry

This was originally linked to a guest post on a site that's since been taken down.  So I'm republishing on my own blog, the companion piece, Ten Things Not To Do As A Writer (in a Feedback Group)


(Isn't the first time a writer chased her own tail, is it?)



Ten Things Not To Do as a Reader in a Feedback Group

1) When arriving late, don’t look around to see if critique is already in session.  If it is, don’t mumble, “Sorry, traffic,” and do the Walk-of-Shame slink to your seat.  Always make a big, dramatic entrance and chat everyone up until you feel ready to settle in to work.

2) Make sure to let everyone know how inferior any other genre is to the one you write.  Refuse to make more than minimal comment on work in any genres that are beneath your notice.  Sit there Tweeting your friends until the group gets to something worthy of your attention.

3) Don’t quietly note punctuation or spelling corrections on the pages, but endlessly belabor them out loud.  No writer worth his/her salt will ever make a typo or misuse a semi-colon, right?

4) Make lots of vague negative comments, like, “I’ve never liked stories about boys and their dogs.”  Don't offer any ideas about how what you don’t like might be fixed

5) Scribble notes for the author in hieroglyphics they won’t possibly be able to decipher.

6) When someone brings work that is of a controversial political or religious nature, forget about helping them to express their own (deluded) viewpoint more clearly.  No matter what it takes, it is now your mission to bring them to the light and save them from themselves.

7) Forget about the author’s vision and voice.  Do your best to rewrite the story the way it should be told according to your own (superior) style.

8) Make lots of personal assumptions about the author based on his or her work.  An erotica author must be a kinky pervert, and a mystery writer is obviously a closeted serial killer.

9) Dominate the meeting with your invaluable comments, even if it leaves little time for others to speak, because no one else there can possibly voice the same brilliant insights.

10) Rarely find anything good to say about another author’s work or their possibility of success.  They need to feel down deep in their bones how very tough it is to be a writer, not leave feeling happy and excited about doing a rewrite. 

What, writers make mistakes too? 
Click over to to read Ten Things Not To Do as a Writer
 in a Feedback Group.

(As a side note - speaking of Walk-of-Shame, I have probably committed all these sins myself at one time or another.  Both as a writer and as a reader.  So you're in good - or bad- company.) 

Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Message from SlutWalk LA
Slut Means We Choose

Slutwalk is reclaiming the word slut, which was always a subjective judgment anyway, from a derogatory association to a positive affirmation.

Slutwalk is not demanding, or even suggesting that women "should" wear scanty clothing, or modest clothing and headscarves, but affirming our right as human beings to make that choice for ourselves.
We choose what we will wear.  We choose what we will eat.  We choose whether we say yes to many, few, or none.  We choose when, or if, we will bear children.

Slutwalk is rejecting the blame that we are raped because we have “failed” in some way.  We have dressed too sexily; we have failed to constantly guard our drink; we dared have car trouble in the wrong place; we have mistakenly trusted someone who was a long-time friend.  (Message being, trust no one?  Ever?)


Slutwalk is calling bullshit on the LIE that the victim is responsible for being sexually assaulted.  The person responsible for rape is the rapist.

Southern California Leatherwoman Serene & me

I was proud to have had a minor role in Slutwalk LA and as a volunteer, possessor of one of the much-coveted T-shirts.  (Note to organizers of Slutwalk LA 2012 - order a gross of T-shirts, everybody will buy one.)  The organizers did a wonderful job, although the majority of them were young college students, juggling this tremendous project along with their studies, finals, and other responsibilities.










I was delighted by the rainbow of people participating, and I’m not just talking about the ones with the day-glo hair.


Sponsors helped with costs and set up information booths, including Sex Worker's Outreach Project LA; The Pleasure Chest, Hollaback, Butch Voices Los Angeles, NOW South Bay Chapter, National Sexual Assault Hotline, Planned Parenthood, CA National Organization for WomenMs. Magazine, Peace Over Violence, and grrrlVirus.  There were many young people,  old <ahem> not-quite-as-young people there, people of color, moms and moms to be, women and men dressed like sluts - or not.
Sorry about cutting off your head, dad-to-be. 
Good for you standing up for your wife and daughter-to-be.




Permits and official security was required,
but this guy could've handled it.



Being dressed as a "slut" (or a nun) is beside the point.  One organizer, Hugo Schwyzer of the Good Men Project, talked about how angry he feels about the myth of male weakness - that men “just can’t help themselves” from raping women (or other men.)  He insists - as did the many men present, who are participating in the SlutWalk movement nationwide - that men aren’t that weak.  That consent is sexy.

   
 As so eloquently verbalized by roofie drug rape victims Sara Barrett and Alana Evans, most rapes are planned.  When somebody buys a drug, or a knife, or a gun with the intent of using it to coerce someone to have sex with him (or her), that’s a choice.  When somebody uses that tool - or pure size, physical force, or intimidation - that another choice.  When someone targets a minor for sexual activity, that's a choice.  
If men or women really can't help themselves, maybe they should use the BUDDY SYSTEM, and ask a friend to stay with them in public to keep them from assaulting people. 

One of several wonderful guest speakers

I’ve already posted about many of the myths about sexual assault.  Here’s more facts that were included in the handout passed out to Slutwalk LA attendees:                
  • 1 out of every 3 American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 10 men in raped in his lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 women will be raped by her husband.
  • 1 in 15 rape victims will become pregnant as a result of being raped.
  • Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, with 60% still being unreported.
  • 15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.
  • Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
  • 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
  • 15% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 12.
  • 44% are under age 18.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
I found it interesting that Slutwalk LA was happening just as I am reading Azar Nafisi's memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, about the shift from a secular Iran to one in which women were now required by law to wear the chador in public: 
...now that I could not wear what I would normally wear, walk in the streets to the beat of my own body, shout if I wanted to or pat a male colleague on the back on the spur of the moment, now that all this was illegal, I felt light and fictional...
No disrespect meant here to our sisters who choose to wear hijab.  Nafisi also writes lovingly of her grandmother who wore chador by personal religious choice, and felt violated when laws were passed to prohibit it.  It's having someone else's standards thrust down our throats, not by our own choice, that is so dehumanizing.


 My point being, that 1) perception of what modesty is shifts over time and cultures, and 2) the idea that modest dress, or a culture that is religious and promotes "feminine modesty" will protect a woman from rape or molestation is a lie.  Often it simply means that "women" as young as 13, or 10, are married to much older men and regularly raped as wives.  Women in chador and burqas get raped too.



 Men (and women) who want to sexually assault others will find a way, and will do their best to get their culture to agree with them that what they are doing isn't really rape. Slutwalk is about changing the culture mindset from blaming the victim, to blaming the attacker.


Every human being should have automony over his/her own body, and be free from sexual assault.  Whether one is a p0rn star or an altar boy, a college co-ed or serving in the US military, whether one has flirted, has had a few drinks, is dressed like a "slut," or all of the above, no one deserves be to sexually assaulted, and no one should be blamed or made to feel ashamed for being assaulted.


Men (and women) who sexually assault others aren't as weak as they'd like to make us think.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Not Really Rape If... Busting the Myths

Britney Spears via Wikimedia Commons
Is Britney a "slut"? Or a healthy young woman,
secure in her own sexuality?
Yep, this is a blog about writing, and one form of writing is writing for social change.  There are few causes as close to my heart as freedom and equality and fair treatment for men and women alike.  So, today's post is going to be about rape and sexual assault, and busting the myths that lock men and women into an unhealthy dynamic.

So shut up, lay back and enjoy it, as they used to say.

One of the enduring myths about rape is that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.  This myth is so pervasive and widespread that members of the Toronto Police, among others, have voiced it as "truth," because they believe it is the truth.

The facts?  Do rape victims provoke the attack by wearing "provocative clothing" or otherwise "asking for it"? 
  • Wanting attention, even wanting consensual sex, is not the same thing as wanting to be forced, coerced, or drugged into unconsenting sex.  As Caitlyn put it in comments to the original article that stirred up the SlutWalks movement (more on that later) "Blaming the woman for wanting to look attractive is like blaming a store owner for having such nice and expensive things in his store, after the store is subject to an armed robbery.  Clearly the owner should cover up and hide all the nice things so no one wants to steal them."

  • A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part of the victim, and most of this consisted of nothing more than dressing or walking in a way that is socially defined as attractive.  In murder cases 22% involved provocative behavior (as simple as a glance.)

  • Assault victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties.  (I never thought of Onesies or flannel nighties as "slutty," did you?)

  • Women who live in countries with conservative dress, or who wear it in Western countries, such as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Mennonite, LDS - also experience rape.

  • Women, children and men who have limited mental capacity are often sexually assaulted.

  • Women in the US Armed Forces are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat.  Men in the US Armed Forces are also experiencing sexual assault in record numbers by "straight" soldiers, often by a group of them.  Both male and female assault victims are typically young, low-ranking and vulnerable.  The dynamics are similar to prison rape.  It's all about exerting Power Over another human being.

  • Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.

There are a lot of people who pay lip service to "Rape is not about sex, rape is about violence," but they don't truly believe it.  Deep down, they believe men rape because they are desperate for sex, their wives are frigid or they can't get a girlfriend. 
Men rape because they want power and control over someone weaker than themselves. They use their penis as a weapon to control and humiliate their victim. They rape because their own lives are inadequate and unfulfilled. They do not rape for sexual satisfaction. Most rapists do not enjoy the sex, they say things like "I didn't enjoy the sex, just the fear in her eyes."  Rapists often don't ejaculate.
Rapists may also have problems achieving or maintaining an erection.  Many assaults are committed with foreign objects forced into a man or woman's body.

Many women and men in Canada and the United States  and other countries are getting fed up with victim-blaming, along with the myths and misconceptions that still - still! linger about rape and sexual assault.  Therefore, grassroots organizations - different in every area  - have sprung up to hold SlutWalks to help educate the public about the sad realities of what rape is, and what it isn't. 
Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim. 
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

<snip> We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come. Any gender-identification, any age. Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends. Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us. This has become a global movement, with Satellites happening all over the world. See if there’s one in your city.

I'm joining SlutWallks LA on June 4 - that's tomorrow!  There will be some fabulous guest speakers and wonderful volunteers, including co-organizer Hugo Schwyzer of the Good Men Project, who wrote a wonderful editorial on Why Men Should Join SlutWalk, including some very poignant hopes and wishes for his own daughter.  If you can, please join us.

If you can't attend, please consider donating, because there are large and scary expenses for permit fees, etc. You can make a straight donation via PayPal, or buy items through merchants who are donating items.

Why does it matter if many men and women believe things about sexual assault which are simply not true?

From WSCAP:
Rape myths are not just a set of harmless beliefs. Rape and rape myths are destructive forces. They do not fall on deaf ears, nor are they said in a vacuum. Although some people may think they are just “saying words” or holding on to innocuous beliefs, rape myths have profound impacts. They hurt. They hurt individuals, they hurt survivors, they hurt families and they hurt communities. They encourage silence, shame and pain. They shift blame away from the perpetrator, and, ultimately, keep us believing that sexual violence is natural and normal. And, most assuredly, perpetrators count on us believing them in order to continue perpetrating sexual violence.
People who believe rape myths sit on juries.  They serve on police forces, in D.A.'s offices, they act as judges.  They write our laws.  They make it possible for a culture of victim-blaming - and raping - to continue.

Rape myths lead to otherwise intelligent men like Ben Stein reasoning that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was unlikely to be a rapist because he could not think of any economists who had been convicted of violent sex crimes.  Unfortunately for BS (hey, those are his initials, blame his mama,) The Daily Show has a research team.  They shortly proved, by the same line of "reasoning," that economists are actually "the rape-iest profession going."

Myth: Rapists are 7 feet tall, and covered with rank hair.  (Or, perhaps not that exactly, but obviously creepy and menacing, like Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear.) 
Rapists look just like anybody else.  They are often married or have a steady girlfriend, even those who assault other men.  They come from all walks of life, all economic levels, all races, and all ages.


Myth: Rapes are spur of the moment. 
Actually, 90% of group rapes and 60% of single assailant rapes are planned.

Myth: If s/he doesn't say no, that means yes. 
Not in the case of minors, people with limited or diminished mental capacity, people who have been drugged or have given alcohol to the point of unconsciousness, or who are otherwise not able to give their consent.  Know what means yes?  Yes means yes.

Myth: It's not really rape, if you've had sex together before. 
Yes, it is. Even if this person is your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend.  No means no.

Myth: If they enjoy other sex acts with you, even though they've always said they don't want to participate in anal sex, it's okay to insert a penis or other object into their anus when they're deeply asleep.  
No, that's still rape.  And an excuse of "Gee, I missed, I didn't realize I was in the wrong place" is especially lame if you are a prominent gynecologist.

Myth: women don't need abortion coverage for rape, because they should always be prepared.  Like keeping a spare tire in the trunk. 
However you feel about abortion rights, that has to go down as one of the most brain-dead things anyone has ever said.

What other myths have you heard about rape?  
It's not really rape if...


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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Post: Are You A Blogger Who Writes,
or a Writer Who Blogs? by Dafeenah

I "met" Dafeenah during the A-Z Blogging Challenge, and was intrigued and inspired by her style, her wide variety of cultural experiences, and her unique writer's voice.

She introduced me to the concept of Qawwali & Qasida.  (This clip is a form of Qawwali, and has haunted me so much since I heard it I had to have it on my blog, too.)




Like me, she's a fairly new blogger, and a member of SheWrites.  I can't fully describe the Dafeenah Experience, only that it's delightful.

Here, now, in her own words:

photo via graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos
Are you a blogger who writes or a writer who blogs? This is a question that I see on a lot of the blogs I visit. I see many bloggers/writers wondering if it's ok to call themselves a "writer."  When I first started blogging, there was no way I would have dared to label myself a writer. Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Anne Rice, they were writers. Me? A writer? No way, but then a funny thing happened; the more I wrote on my blog, I realized I am a writer. I may not be a published writer. Definitely not a great writer. Some days not even a good writer, but no matter what adjective I chose to put before it, the noun remained the same. I am a writer and a successful one at that.

My success isn't measured in dollar signs. Although that would be nice. I mean wouldn't it be nice to earn a little cha-ching from what you love doing most?

At the moment though, I am content with the success I have found. The words I have written on my blog have touched lives and changed the views of others. The words I have read on others' blogs have changed the way I see the world as well. To me, this is a success. So I may never be the next Stephen King and I may never see my name in lights, but I am sharing the bits and pieces of my story, one blog post at a time. Someday I might string those posts together bound in a shiny cover, but until that day comes, I am content knowing that for today I am simply a writer. I will decide what the adjective is tomorrow.

Thank you Beverly for having me here!! Everyone is invited for chocolate at my place, Finding The Hidden Treasure Within.



Please let Dafeenah know in the comments, here, 
that you found her words helpful & inspiring.
And go follow up on that chocolate!