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 of 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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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why I'm Still Pro-Choice,
Even After Our Family Lost A Baby

Recently, my daughter-in-law lost the fetus she was carrying, at five months along.  To her, it wasn't a fetus, it was a baby.  To my son, it was a baby.  To me... it was my grandchild-to-be and I am very, very sad.  I had visions of holding him in my lap in a rocking chair, reading Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  Of hiking the hills at the zoo to show him the elephants and the giraffes.  My dreams for this child died when he did, three months ago.

My DIL had his hand and footprints tattooed onto her wrist.  They are small, and amazing.  He even had a crooked thumb from thumbsucking, or perhaps simply a family trait he got from his father.  I've seen pictures of him, and he was perfect and beautiful, for his stage of development.  I am still weeping sometimes, three months later, and I too had his initials dyed into my skin.  I will never forget James Mychal, and not just because of the tattoo.

So don't let anyone accuse me of not understanding the pain of losing a pregnancy, or of being "pro-abortion."  The reality is, this baby-to-be never drew breath.  Was he a human being?  Legally, no.  Morally, emotionally?  Yes, as far as his parents are concerned, as far as many people are concerned.  Did he have a soul?  Some religions would say yes, others no.

I... can honestly say that I don't know if he was really a human being, if he had a soul.  I know that I loved him, and I miss him, and feel so helpless that there was nothing I could do to help him live.  I would have done anything.  But was he a "person"?

This is where the abortion debate gets hairy.  To me, a fertilized embryo is a potential human being.  Of which, science tells us something like 1 in 4, possibly even 1 in 3, in the course of nature, never attains three months of prenatal development.  Yes, it has DNA, and a heartbeat (after a certain stage of development) - just as there is in a person who is clinically brain dead, whose heart is kept beating and lungs filled with oxygen via artificial means.  Could either survive independently?  No.  Are those clusters of DNA inhabited by a soul?  My take is, probably not, but I can't prove they are not. (Nor can I prove that the cluster of DNA currently filling out my jeans is inhabited by a soul, for that matter).

Sometimes, choices have to be made, and often they're emotion, not fact-based.  If I could carry only one person from a burning building, I would choose a three year old child, over a 33 year old genius scientist in a wheelchair.  Would I choose a cluster of eight cells, whether frozen in a vial or implanted in a uterus, or even an eight-and-a-half months fetus over a living, breathing woman?   No.  If my DIL had progressed further in her pregnancy, and a choice had to be made, her life or the baby's, no question I would have chosen her.

Pregnancies are surgically and chemically ended for all kinds of reasons.  If she had not been able to deliver her baby, my DIL would have required a surgical abortion, to remove the dead fetus lest it kill her.  Similar reasons necessitate almost all of the very, very small fraction of surgical abortions done mid or late term in pregnancy.  The number of doctors qualified to perform these procedures is even smaller.  Recently I read of a woman from Maryland who had to travel to Colorado for a late term abortion that saved her life and preserved her hope of having more children.

There are those who stalk, threaten, harass, and even attempt to kill doctors, nurses, and support personnel who perform these procedures, hoping to prevent them from continuing to do so.  Others seek to pass laws prohibiting these procedures, even to save the life of the mother.  Thankfully, in the latest attempt Mississippi said, "Oh hell no!"  My blogfriend TotsyMae put up a great and provocative post on the subject.

I think that some, if not all, of the domestic terrorists truly believe they are "saving babies."  Yet what they are doing is endangering women - and any babies they might bear, in the future.  Note - I fully support the right of all Americans to peacefully protest and state opinions that differ from mine.  It crosses over into terrorism when people attempt to physically intimidate others from lawfully accessing a health care clinic, send threatening letters or make such phone calls, when they post websites marking others as gunsite targets, when they plant bombs or use weapons  to assassinate doctors and medical and support staff.

Am I comfortable with abortion-as-birth-control?  No.  I have known some women who have used abortion-as-birth-control, and it makes me want to retch.  Do I recognize that contraceptive failures, rape, and medical complications happen?  Yes.  (Been there, done that, got an entire collection of T-shirts.)

I believe there is room to honestly discuss how we can continue to reduce the number of early elective abortions.  Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term is reinstituing a form of slavery. We have the bloody coat hangers to prove that prohibiting abortion by law doesn't "save" women or babies.  I personally know women who endured illegal abortions - and the stories are horrifying.

The flip side of the anti-abortion coin is that a government which has the power to prohibit abortion - either altogether, or in specific circumstances, also has the power to mandate them.  Do we truly want the government to be the one saying, "If you already have XX number of children (as they do in China), or the embryo or fetus has these or these abnormalities, you must have an abortion"?

Women who choose abortion, and doctors who provide them, are often (not always) doing the best they can for their families.  I have known many women and read stories where they agonized over this decision.  It was not made lightly, and haunts them to this day.

I have also read stories where women use adoption in lieu of birth control, and that's not a happy solution, either.  Recently I read a story by a woman who, with her husband, adopted a baby boy.  Eighteen months later, they adopted his new baby brother (by the same birth mother).  They dearly love their sons, but the boys have serious and expensive health issues, and these are not wealthy people.  So when birth mom prepared to pop out yet another child to be adopted, they endured terrible guilt, feeling like they "should" adopt their sons' baby sister, but not being capable, financially or emotionally, of doing so.

I am very much pro-adoption, especially of older children, and know that there are many stories of adoption that bring great joy to all parties involved.  If it was up to me, everyone who already had two biological children and wanted a bigger family would adopt until they reached their desired family size. 

However, there are other adoption stories that don't have happy endings.  In the United States, it may be easy to place a healthy white newborn, but what if the child is mixed race, fetal alcohol syndrome, physically deformed?  What if the mother was persuaded not to abort, then at birth decided she couldn't bear to give him up for adoption?  Kept the baby for six months, sixteen months, six years, and severely abused the child before deciding to give him up for adoption - or had the child taken away from her?  What if the child is in and out of foster homes until he turns 18, and then gets aged out of the system - no college, no family?

It's overly simplistic to say the only or best answer to an unplanned pregnancy is "just give the baby up for adoption."  I don't believe 9-year old incest victims should have to put their lives on the line to deliver their abuser's twins.

It's very easy to invest all our own hopes and dreams into a baby, a fetus, or even a "barely there" pregnancy of five weeks.  I get that, I understand the whole appeal of the "innocent and untouched." I got to hold a week-old baby just yesterday.  I will never tire of the magic of a newborn baby, the little rosebud mouth, the velvety skin...

But after all the passionate arguments and emotional stories, I still believe the person best qualified to decide whether a woman should carry a pregnancy to term is not me, or her neighbors.  It's not her church, and it sure as hell ain't some jackhole legislator, the government or the courts.

I believe in the woman.  I'm fully and proudly pro-choice.  How about you?

Note:  I welcome all comments, especially those expressing an opposing viewpoint.
All comments using respectful language will be published.  
Any comments using abusive language or personal attacks will be deleted.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Coulda Spent My Extra Hour at BlogWorld

Her theme song is Stinky food, Stinky food! 
Feed the cat, excellent!

BlogWorld, BlogWorld!  [I heard it in my head like "Wayne's World, Wayne's World! Partytime, Excellent!]

Saturday, after the big mancandy adventures in Santa Barbara, I woke up not too late, all a-twitter about BlogWorld.   Fed the cat (like she would ever let that go) did yoga, took a shower, admiring my bicycling bruises (such lovely shapes and colors) and checked the clock.  Plenty of time - and I hadn't even set my watch back yet.

Woo-hoo, an extra hour!  I love falling back.  Did the happy dance, was ready to re-set my watch, when I realized...

Daylight Savings Time ended on Sunday, not Saturday.  I did not have the extra hour after all.

After the usual LA freeway adventures, I proceeded to get semi-lost.  There's a huge new complex downtown, that encompasses the Convention Center, Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, the Grammy museum...  It's clean, it's shiny, it's impressive, it's... confusing.  Last time I'd been there, a fair number of parking lots and buildings were under construction, so it looked very different.  Many block circles later, I found the correct parking lot, made my way in, oohing and aahing like Dorothy in the Emerald City.
Lotta windows, at the LA Convention Center. 
Which I am heartily thankful it's not my job to clean.

Progress!  BlogWorld, BlogWorld!  I must be in the right place.

As it turns out, BlogWorld was interesting... but fairly small.  Convenient for me, since it had been going on since Thursday, and I was arriving midday on the last day.  Reps were almost too exhausted to beckon me towards their booths.
Doesn't this guy at the keyboard look like Michael, the nephew from the Sopranos?

As is typical at most conventions, a lot of the stuff for sale is geared towards the other vendors. 
One of whom did in fact, have green and purple hair.

Many people were recording podcasts in the different booths.
Being the techno-savvy kind of person I am, I immediately recognized that instead of flowers,
each table had a centerpiece of one of these electrical thing-ama-hoosies.

Place for people to sit down and catch up. 
Either with their electronic devices, or with new friends.
Sat down at a table and visited with Arlee Bird, long-time blogger at Tossing It Out, and creator of the popular A-Z April Blogging Challenge.  Being new to blogging, in 2011 I jumped in with both feet and almost drowned.

The idea is to write a blogpost for every day of the month for April, on subjects from A to Z, taking Sundays off.  Also visiting and commenting on as many other blogs as possible (there were over 1,000 participants) as well.

Now, experienced bloggers, who'd participated before, or who knew about the challenge ahead of time, had some of their posts written ahead of time.  Me, I was a total virgin, finding out about it as I visited one of my favorite blogs on April 1.  I still did it - and finished it - but it almost finished me.

I'll be doing it again, but in 2012 I will have at least some of my posts written ahead of time.

Anyway, we batted around ideas about A-Z, about ways to monetize blogs, about Yahoo and Zemanta (which I'm trying out) and other BlogWorld booths we found intriguing (I took Lee's advice and signed up as a Yahoo contributor).  Talked to the guy at HubPages and may do some articles for them in the future.  (Or, possibly not.  They are very mysterious about how ranking & follow links are calculated, so it's possible that an author could write a whole lot of material for them with little to no payback.)

I stopped in to the Blogger booth and chatted with Sabine Borsay of Google - lovely young German woman living in Dublin now.  They are aggressively pitching their new dynamic views options; however, those options totally will not play nice with outside plug-ins.

Lee's got a much bigger and better write-up here on Tossing It Out. And here on the A to Z blog.

I have no clue what arcade basketball has to do with anything blog or media-related,
but these guys were having fun with it.

WordPress definitely pwned a bigger and better location than Blogger.  (Or Yahoo or eBay, for that matter.) 
Don't know if they were making a statement... or overcompensating.
I'm glad I went to BlogWorld, learned about some new toys that may be helpful to me, and am super-glad I met Lee Bird, in person - what a nice guy!  But, my take-away is that this kind of convention is most helpful to those serious about their blogs.

For me, my "real" writing is #1, and the blog is #2.  I blog to connect with readers, and other writers.  But I'm a novelist at heart.  I am still neck-deep in edits, which take priority.

There are some bloggers who blog because they love it - and I do enjoy it, very much, but I am not looking, as many are, to make a living as a blogger.  My goal is not to have a string of blogs making me money  (if that is your goal, a fabulous resource is How To Make Money with Your Writer's Blog 101 by E.T. Barton) but to have a string of great books making me money.

Which means... back to my edits.  Slice, dice, rewrite!

Did you go to BlogWorld?  What did you think?
How about BlogHer or other blog conferences?
What conferences, if any, have you found most helpful?
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Fabulous Friday and #ManCandyMonday

I may constantly bitch remark wistfully, upon rare occasion, how dreamy it would be not to have a day job, but be able to devote myself to writing full time.  That's still my eventual goal.

However, because I'm not there yet, I have to admit that I am extremely blessed in my day job.  I love and enjoy the company of my warm, friendly and entertaining co-workers, and My Three Bosses. (Like My Three Sons, only without the laugh track.  Not that I'm old enough to remember My Three Sons; I swear I saw some reruns on Nick at Nite or something.)

Anyway, My Three Bosses, who are gracious and delightful and extremely generous (and I would say that even if annual reviews were not pending)  make sure to close the office periodically for a day of company fun and bonding.  We're like family, only with less dysfunction.

Friday we started with a train ride from Van Nuys, ending in historic Santa Barbara.

Next up was bike riding along the beach.  I happily chose a blue Schwinn, just like I had when I was a little girl, except the one I had then was purple.  Which is prolly the last time I rode a bike.

They say it's like sex, right, once you learn it always comes right back to you, no matter how long it's been?  Mostly, it did. though I had no clue how to shift gears.  Or how to brake.

Steering was also an issue.  Besides those minor points, I did fine.

See the pictures of me wobbling on the bike?  No you don't, and no you won't.  I feel very proud that I only ate it once, on the pier, and it was really the wind's fault.  Not the fact that I was going too fast for my skillset and I forgot how to brake and that wobbling thing again.  (Let's keep this between us, okay?  Since nobody from work actually got to see my faceplant.)

Next up, wine-tasting!  Nothing like getting snockered enjoying some fine wine in the company of one's co-workers and bosses.  Who insured we could do so safely.

A generous application of wine does minimize the pain of fresh bruises. Taken internally.

The wine country scenery was spectacular. I simply couldn't take my eyes off it. 
Eric O'Donnell & Adam Sachs, our fabulous drivers 
They also do kayaking, horseback riding, paddleboarding... incredibly versatile
And they prepared our lunch.
I could have enjoyed the scenery for much longer than one short day, couldn't you?

Speaking of scenery, there were landscapes, too.

Lincourt's windmill

Did I mention we were drinking wine?

Our lunch was on a large covered gazebo with this view.

The sky was amazing.  We had some light rain, even a rainbow.
Vista from the Firestone wine tasting room.
I love the P.S. on this sign.  And you do look nice today!  That's not the wine speaking; you do.

For those with a sweet tooth, the last stop combined wine and cupcake tasting.  Who doesn't savor a tasty little cupcake?

Eric is a bird-watcher.  Along with sharing the history of the area and the vineyards we visited,
he pointed out to us a peregrine falcon and some black & white birds that only live in that valley
(their name escapes me, but I'd already had quite a bit of wine).

I mean savoring these cupcakes.

At Saarloos, we drank wine, while tasting cupcakes specifically created to complement each wine's flavor.
 Six of them, from a lemon-cranberry to a chocolate maple that was To Die For.

Our wonderful drivers were kind enough to share some interesting stories about their tour guide experiences.  (Naming no names, of course.)  I found much inspiration and ideas for my WIP, and perhaps even the next one.

Adam spotted me taking pictures of the famous fig tree as he was driving out, 
and shared my delight is its utter amazingness.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree - THE largest Ficus macrophylla in the entire U.S
The branches, the size, and the root system are simply breathtaking in person. 
Look at the bicycle in the foreground for perspective.

All good things, even a day in Santa Barbara drinking wine and enjoying mancandy cupcakes must come to an end.

Sunset over the water, seen from the train window.
So while, technically, it was a "wasted" day - no work done at my day job, no editing done at night because I came home, fed the cat, and headed straight to bed, it was a tremendously productive day.

I feel refreshed, renewed, and filled with ideas for all kinds of smutty stories.

How about you?  Have you taken a day off from writing that helped you write?
Or have any of these pictures given you ideas or inspiration?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Na-Oh-Hells-No-Wri-Mo for Me
On Popularity #GBE2

My own badge! 
As designed by the lovely and talented
Paula Johnson, Marketing & Communications Wiz
I don't want to rain pee on the NaNoWriMo parade.  I know all kinds of fabulous writers who are participating, and they're bubbly and excited and joining 15 kajillion support groups each (where they will find time to write, what with visiting all the support groups, is another issue, and Not My Problem).

I'm happy for everybody, truly.

But I'm feeling left out, like the last person picked for the basketball team.  *wiping away a plaintive tear*

I don't feel popular.

And it's not like I'm bailing on NaNoWriMo to go make holiday angels out of tampons.

I have a purpose for bailing, not an excuse.

Since I finished my last novel, about six weeks ago, even though there's no deadline, per se, I feel compelled to finish editing it and get it to my agent before she dies of old age.  Or before I die of old age. (This would make it harder to finish editing.)  Therefore, I am utilizing NaNo November for editing, rather than writing something new.

I have made a pass (okay 2-3 passes) over my manuscript, and feel very upbeat about the many changes I made, but I know much more needs to be done.  I'm working closely with Donald Maass (okay, with his workbook) to supercharge this puppy.  Plus running chapters past my amazing, magickal unicorn of a crit group.

And, as I've blogged before, everything else in my life is taking a back seat - blogging, commenting, dating, scampering through fields of flowers with my hair streaming behind me like in a shampoo commercial.

I've never actually done that, but I've imagined doing it.  Hasn't everyone?

Okay, just a few other detours.  The amazing and generous Arlee Bird from Tossing It Out made it possible for me to score a pass to BlogWorld this Saturday, so the pass is in my hand, and I intend to blog a bit about what I am sure I will learn, sometime next week. Looks like a bright shiny interesting party.  If you are planning to attend, drop me a note, Tweet, or smoke signal, let's try to connect.

Even if it is by my own choice, it feels weird not to be doing what the popular kids are doing.  And NaNoWriMo is so very, very popular.  Seems like every time I read a Tweet or catch a blog headline it's something about NaNo.  Even all over TV...

Wait, that's Na Nu?

Anyway, popularity.  I think it's great that people are doing NaNoWriMo.  And I think it's great that some people, like me, are not doing NaNoWriMo, if we have decided another path better fits our needs this November.  Being in the middle of something that's popular isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not necessarily a good thing, either.

(Be grateful, instead of the M & M clip, I could have included somebody's awful rendition of "I Gotta Be Me."  Worse yet, my own.)

What do you think about NaNoWriMo?  Are you playing along, or sitting it out?
(If you're editing instead, like me, feel free to copy the badge, no link-backs or strings attached.)
What do you feel about Popularity?