Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Love My FaceBook Fan Page
And a Little #Mancandy

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseIf you're at all like me, the minute somebody says to you, "You should <blog, Tweet, create a FaceBook fan page, eat more salad> the first thought that crosses your mind is that the well-meaning "Should-er" should STFU.

But... they're right.

If I have only one fan who follows me through FaceBook, who loves my book, and shares it via her FaceBook account...

This is how word of mouth spreads, boys and girls.  Don't you want every possible fan to know about your work?

See, I have friends and family who are all over FaceBook.  Baby pictures, jokes, comments about sports...  Some of 'em never met a stupid game they didn't like. And while they would hate me if I was sending them blurbs about my writing on a regular basis, they will be happy to plug my book(s) when published.

I also love my writer friends, who are only interested in sharing writing stuff and hearing tidbits about my work, or perhaps a shared mancandy picture.

Having a FaceBook fan page allows me to separate these groups.  If I want to see who's pregnant, engaged, or furious that their team just lost a play-off game - personal FB page.

If I want to see what's happening in my LARA RWA group, or the multitude of blogs I follow via Networked Blogs and syndicate to my FaceBook fan page (more on that in a future post), I just toggle to my FaceBook writer fan page.  I see that ooh, there's a new post from Writer Unboxed.  And Lisa Hendrix has posted a great mancandy photo like the one below, yum!

Alessio Romero via Wikipedia Commons

Okay.  Eyes back on the text now.  Focus, breathe...

FaceBook.  Fan Page.  Why was that again?   Besides quick and easy access to mancandy photos?

Simply having that handy little division between the personal side and the writer side makes me feel so much more organized.  More organized/less confusion = more energy for writing!  (In theory, anyway.)

Good thing about liking a fan page from your fan page, rather than your personal page:  You avoid boring the crap out of your friends and family who are patiently waiting for you to get over that silly little writing hobby.  (Until such time as you make it big, in which case they will brag to everyone they knew it all along.  And hit you up for money.)  Updates and posts only go to people interested in you and your writer's journey.  Presumably, the "stuff" that's updated is useful content, because what you Like as a writer/author will be stuff like World Book Night.

It also keeps those peeps who are only interested in me as a writer from being bored by my comments about people's baby pictures, status updates, and relationships.

Post once, share twice.  I have linked my FB fan page to Twitter (which is sadly neglected, poor thing.)  So let's say I come across a great blog post, a cool article, etc.  When I post that link to my FB fan page, or Share a post that's already there, it automatically goes to my FB fans, and my Twitter followers, who aren't necessarily the same people.  This saves me time and energy, which I can then use for writing (or Pinterest, depending on my mood).

You can synch in both directions, but if you are an avid Tweeter, I would advise, not.  Keep in mind, they are different types of social media. The people who follow you on FaceBook probably don't want 8 billion updates.  However, if you have more than one FaceBook fan page, and more than one Twitter account, you can link each FaceBook fan page to a different Twitter account.  (More on why you might want more than one, below.)

Bad thing about Liking a fan page from another fan page: Likes by other fan pages aren't currently included in the tally of how many people Like a Page.  (Why not?  I. Don't. Know.  Why do ye FaceBook gods do half the stuff they do, like introduce the Timeline thingie that I have yet to learn how to use?)  So you might click on a fan page like mine, see that a pitiful number of individual people are Following, and think, what a loser!  But in actuality, I might have zillions of secret Followers.  It only looks like I'm a loser.

(Is that argument working for you?  Or, have I guilted you into Liking me out of pity?  Then my job is done. )

When the day comes and we hit the bestseller lists (which I seriously intend to do), we will want to have all ducks in a row (even if some of them are facing backwards).  Website.  Blog.  FaceBook presence. Twitter account(s).  But at that time, we're going to be too damn busy giving interviews and writing the next bestseller to begin setting up all this Social Media stuff.  Better to have it in place, even in a weak sauce form, ready to be turbo-charged.  

Can't you pay somebody to do it for you? IMO, not really.  Once you have established a presence, and made a personal connection with a number of your followers, sure, you could farm out some of the posts and updating, say, to your personal assistant.  But nobody else is you, has your flavor, knows which posts or Tweets which make you eager to share, or make you roll your eyes and reply something snarky. 

Done in tiny bits, it's really easy.  (I'm not a techie,so if could do it...)

More on the ins and outs of Social Media here on Financially InKleined, which is a great site if you don't want to be broke all your life.

Creating your fan page:  While logged into FaceBook, click here.  It'll bring up a screen that looks like this:

If you're a writer, you're an "Artist, Band, or Public figure."  Then follow the yellow brick road to finish creating - it's easy-peasy.  Don't worry at this stage, if you select the wrong thing.  For instance, you may call yourself a Writer, and later decide to call yourself an Author.  Or vice versa.  Do be discreet about how much personal information to put "out there," like addresses, phone numbers, etc.  All your fans may not be nice or sane people.

Once you have 25 "Likes" for your page, you can (and should) create a distinct username.  Most branding experts suggest always going with your own name - but yours may be Bob Jones, and that may not be available.  I had already assigned my name (beverlydiehl) to my personal facebook page, so it wasn't available for my fan page.

Besides, I'm not sure I won't adopt a pen name at some point.  And people always have trouble with my last name.  So for Twitter, Pinterest, and now, my FaceBook fan page, my handle is "WriterBeverly", instead of the long string of numbers.  ( If you can't or don't choose to brand with your own name, do be consistent, and be VERY, VERY careful when selecting that username, because that is the one thing that can't be changed.  If you choose SarahsSexyShits instead of Shirts, this could be Unfortunate.

This circles back to why you want a FaceBook fan page now - you cannot reserve a username for your FaceBook fan page until after you create a FaceBook fan page (and get 25 fans.  This is where you do hit up for friends and family to fan you for at least a couple weeks, so you can grab your username.  Promise them they can unfan you later if they like.)

If you lag, it is entirely possible that some crazed stalker person might set up a fan page and grab your  best username.  Then when you do get around to setting it up, she's got, filled with pictures of dogs relieving themselves, and you've got to settle for BrilliantAuthorBooks.  And a lot of e-mails asking why you like posting rather strange pictures of dogs.

Also, consider this.  You can have multiple fan pages - for different pen names, or books/series.  You easily administer them all through logging into your personal FaceBook account.  You can post new items as yourself, or log into the fan page as an administrator (two clicks) if you are keeping your identity secret.  So you can have one fan page for your sweet bonnet romances, and a totally different one for your M/M erotica persona.

I have my writer fan page, and I have started a new fan page for a non-profit organization that brings reading & story experiences to young children, Words on Wheels.  (Btw, WOW could use some more Likes.  Just sayin'.)

You can also have a custom designed FaceBook landing page for your fan page, so that when somebody who has not yet Liked your page goes there, they see a different presentation than your regular followers.  If you go in that direction, I suggest you hire a professional (some are actually fairly inexpensive) so you maintain a consistent look among website, blog, and your FaceBook page. 

Are you ready to take the plunge, or do you already have a FaceBook fan page?
If you've learned anything useful, please share this post.
If you have other good tips, please share those, too, in the comments.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Time? What's That? Who's Got Any Extra Time? #GBE2

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a writer in possession of a fabulous idea must be in want of the time in which to write.  (Borrowing liberally from Her Awesomeness Jane A.)

Or perhaps, writers are required, by secret non-union contract, to bitch about lack of time.  Compared to when we were in grade school and our lives consisted of playing freeze tag and blowing dandelion fluff and staring out the window.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you....  

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines...
David GilmourI
And then the lyrics go on to cheerful subjects like being short of breath and closer to death.  I can't help but wonder how much less pleasure David Gilmour takes in singing them these days, now that he's a geezer more mature.  As opposed to when he was in his 20's/30's and could be all deep and philosophical-like about growing old.

Reality is, no writer has any "extra" time. We all have things that take as much time as they take - eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom.  As for the rest of our time - some of us have "normal" day jobs, some don't. (Bitches!  Sorry, a little envy slipped out there.)  I do realize, in the moments I'm not all catty and jealous, that most of those who "don't work" are freelance writing, taking care of kids and/or elderly parents, probably for as many hours a day (or more) than those of us with day jobs.

We make choices for the rest of our time.  I choose to watch very little TV, in order to get maximum writing and reading time.  Which means I feel left out, not seeing all the cool new series people are buzzing about, I have no idea which celebs are married or divorced or preggers, and if on pain of death I had to give a count as to how many Republicans are currently running for President, I would be in big trouble.

Another person may sacrifice sleep, or salon pedicures, or crafting time to make space for writing. Nobody has the Time Fairy sprinkling a little extra love on his/her head at night.

Yet no matter how fast we spin and shave off bits of time here and there, even if we haven't watched TV since the moon landing, if we're slamming coffee to get by on four hours sleep a night, and let our toenails grow out till they're making a clicking sound on the linoleum, there's not still enough to do everything we want to do.

Just like we can't eat all the food in the world at one time, we can't do everything we might like to do, write everything we'd like to write.  Not in an hour, not in a day, not in a lifetime.  All we can do is try to find balance, to fit in a little of everything: the things we must do, like eating and bathroom breaks, the things we "should" do, like nail-clipping, and the things we want to to, like socialize, write, read, and watch TV.

It doesn't have to be perfect.  We don't have to compete with another writer who's more prolific (but never dates) or a hostess who hand-peels grapes or whatever (can you tell my idea of fine hospitality is having two kinds of chips plus a veggie tray?) or kick ourselves because we wanted to get X,Y and Z done today, but we only got X done.

We don't have to compete with anybody, even ourselves. Let's be Zen.  Live in and enjoy the moment we have now, today; use it the way feels best for us.

Maybe that's writing, maybe that's taking a nap, maybe it's watching TV while our car is being serviced.  We can love the moment, or stress ourselves out about it.

I'd rather be happy, and have a balloon, either a real or virtual one.

How about you?  
Are you learning to let go of self-imposed time stresses?
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Monday, January 23, 2012

THRIVING After Childhood Sexual Abuse
One Size Doesn't Fit All

Teri HatcherTeri Hatcher (Image via Goods? I don't think so.

In the wake of the death of Joe Paterno, and the scandal that overwhelmed his legacy in recent months, I want to bring up a new angle on the whole issue of sexual abuse of children.

I won't ever argue that childhood sexual abuse is a good thing.  I think we can pretty much all agree, it's a horrible thing.

BUT... at the same time, I am concerned that the outcry over the (alleged) Penn State scenario  - kids seduced and/or forcibly raped by a powerful pedophile over the course of many years, while those in a position to stop it (like Joe Paterno) knew and did little to end it - actually goes a little too far.

"These boys' lives are ruined forever!"  "These kids will never be able to live a normal life!" "They should <insert horrible torture here> to that man because nothing is as bad as what he did!"  We keep the names of a rape or assault victim hidden in news reports to "protect" her (or him).

Outrage and anger is much better than turning a blind eye or condoning abuse, yet...  Along with the outrage, we are sending the message that being a victim is something shameful, something from which no one ever really recovers, that once you are raped or assaulted, you are damaged goods forever.

I'm not suggesting that childhood (or adult) sexual abuse ain't no big thing, or that those who experienced it should just "stop whining and get over it."  However, from the victims' perspective, there are many different layers of hurt and recovery.  I know from personal experience.

I have been molested (boyfriend's dad, age 12), date-raped (17) and stranger raped at knifepoint (19).  The experiences have impacted my life, absolutely.  Even substantially changed the direction it might have taken.  Still, they did not ruin my life, my sexual expression, or my future.  I refuse to feel ashamed of violence directed at me by some a$$clown.

What happened to me isn't a big secret, though I don't put it on my job resume, or out front upon meeting new people, "Hi, I'm Beverly, I write rom-com novels and I've been raped and molested a couple times.  Nice to meet you."  Really, how would somebody respond to that?  "Nice to meet you, have you tried the cocktail weinies?"'

I have met and become friends with many people who have experienced childhood sexual assault in various forms; to themselves, to their spouses and stepchildren, and sadly, to their own children.

I do support anonymity for victims of assault who prefer not to be assaulted a second time by the press trying to obtain a scoop.  (When I was raped at 19, the local paper listed my age, the street I lived on, the "hundreds" block, and my place of employment.  So anybody I worked with, or my neighbors, reading the local paper, wouldn't have had much trouble putting the pieces together.)  These days, it wouldn't surprise me to find reporters actually walking into my house if I left the door unlocked, or hacking my e-mail.

Still, I also support those who do come forward, names and all.  Because getting assaulted or raped, at any age, is no more the victim's fault than having a plane fall on you.

Abuse and assault is part of my life history and experience - it doesn't define who I am.  I'm even a little repelled by the term victim, because it feels like there's something a bit condescending and smugly complacent in its usage - we always feel sorry for the poor victims, whether of sexual assault or hurricanes, don't we?  (Not that I have a better alternative word.)  I don't care for "survivor," either, because that conjures up an image of a plane crash, filthy clothes, and someone barely clinging to life.  In the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, surviving as a goal isn't enough, we want (and deserve) to THRIVE.

I'm well aware that one size doesn't fit all - not in clothing, not in experiences or attitudes. Although my childhood was majorly screwed up in a variety of ways, I was also blessed with a healthy sexual education and was taught to believe that sex was a normal, desirable, and rather fun part of life, not something dirty or nasty of which I should be ashamed.  I've experienced slut-shaming (and unwelcome sexual advances) by men who would've liked to have made me feel bad about being a sexual person, but it only swayed me for a little while.

I'm not suggesting if you or someone you love, have experienced childhood (or adult) sexual assault, that my life or attitudes are the way you/they "should" feel.  I do want to encourage you that not only surviving, but thriving is possible.

Damage and recovery is impacted by who the abuser was; who, if anyone, ignored, condoned, or supported the abuse; if the abuse was one incident or many over a long period of time; how old the child was; his or her personality; what her/his experience was when s/he disclosed the abuse, and the support s/he did or did not receive.

Tyler PerryTyler Perry (Image via fourteen-year-old who gets flashed by a stranger in a parking lot will probably not be as traumatized as the child who is molested every other weekend by Grandpa beginning when s/he is eight and going on till s/he is eleven or twelve.

Still, rather than constantly dwelling on the terrible damage inflicted on childhood victims of sexual assault, I think we should spend as much or more time talking about the recovery, the possibilities for growth and bright futures, even for those who've been abused.

Reality: even those who have experienced horrific assaults upon their bodies have usually recovered and gone on to live successful  and productive lives.

Oprah WinfreyTyler PerryJaycee DugardTeri HatcherElizabeth SmartThis brave young woman, going by the name of Gypsy. Elisabeth Fritzl.

As one friend who was sexually molested by a neighbor beginning she was about eight, continuing for about a year, discussed with me, when somebody is in a car accident and it's reported in the news, usually there's also an accounting of the victim's condition.  "So-and-so is in serious but stable condition at This-and-That Hospital.  She is expected to make a full recovery."  There's an implied social expectation that most people, even if severely injured, will recover from physical injuries.

Absolutely, psychological wounds can be deeper and harder to predict.  Recovery can take a very long time - and there can be relapses, and dark times when the most "recovered" person struggles to get through the day, week, or even year.  Sadly, some who experienced childhood sexual abuse do become depressed, and even commit suicide, but that isn't the way the story has to end.

We all have the power to write a happy ending to our story. No matter how horrific the experience, no matter how terrible our internal demons may be, we still have the strength to defeat them.  If we believe recovery is unlikely/impossible - it will be.  Part of why people learn to believe that is because of lies told by our abusers - that we deserved it, that's we're unworthy, that no one will want/respect us if people know what they did to us.  And part of it is because society sometimes reinforces those lies, by making sexual abuse something that nice people don't talk/think about.  By engaging in language that is victim-blaming, rather than empowering.

Which is where everyone can help.

If you are not living in a cave, but have friends and family, you know people who were sexually abused as children.  Even if you don't know you know them, because they have never talked about it to you.

Create a safe space for children and adults by:

If I didn't know (now) this was Ted Bundy, serial rapist
and murderer, I would think he was hot.
  • Dropping the "rapists/child molesters are creepy-looking, easy to spot" mythos.  Actually, they look just like everybody else.  The press often feeds into this by posting the scariest-looking, most unflattering photos of those arrested or accused of sexual assault they can find.  The unspoken message that is delivered to victims when people talk about how gruesome a rapist looks is, "You should have recognized that s/he was a pervert, and stayed away."
  • Teaching children they have autonomy over their own bodies.  No tickling (unless they ask to be tickled, some kids do love it), no having to kiss Aunt Gertrude or sit in Santa's lap if they don't want to.
  • Educating yourself about sexual assault and rape.  While it's good to educate children about "Stranger Danger," most child molesters are not random strangers, but a family member, family friend, teacher, coach, or neighbor, who has groomed the child by befriending him/her and building trust for a long time. Be aware of signs that a child seems uncomfortable around an adult, especially if this is someone who's been a best-buddy until recently.  No matter who in the family it may be, do not dismiss the idea of sexual assault being possible, because your sister/husband/cousin would never do such a thing.
  • Teaching children proper terminology for body parts.  Penises, vaginas, vulvas, nipples.  Do your best not to impart shame to children about the way genital stimulation feels good, if they remark upon it during normal bathing processes.  Or at other times.  "Yes, Billy, it does feel good when you touch your penis, but it's not polite to do it when we're watching movies together as a family.  If you want to share the popcorn, you need to go wash your hands now."
  • Being approachable.  If a child begins to speak to you and tells you, "I don't like when we go to Uncle Jack's house," don't either shut them down and tell them they're silly, or launch into a white-light interrogation.  Tease out, if you can, why the child doesn't like Uncle Jack's house.  Maybe it's because Uncle Jack always yells when they change the TV channel, or they don't like Uncle Jack's grouchy parrot, or maybe it's something more serious.  If there is something troubling going on, a child may or may not tell you right away.
  • Talking with other adults; admit how frightening you find the subject.  Talk about your own experiences, being mindful about creating a conversational place where a victim would feel safe to share.  Be conscious of whether what you have to share is in any way victim-blaming, "Why didn't those kids say something?" or "How could the parents not know?"  
  • Avoiding the chest-thumping, self-aggrandizing statements, "I would have charged in there and kicked some a$$."  Unless you have already behaved so in a similar situation, you don't know that.  And even if that's true - so what?  You didn't save those kids in that situation, but you want people to give you a medal or pat you on the back for being a potential hero?  How does such a statement serve anything but your ego?

If a child confides a sexual assault to you:
  1. Believe him/her.
  2. Ensure the child's immediate safety.  Better to "embarrass" a friend or family member over a false alarm than endanger a child.
  3. Contact the authorities.
  4. Give the child verbal, and if desired by the child, physical reassurance via hugs, etc., that s/he did nothing wrong.  That s/he is brave and wonderful in your eyes.
  5. Tell him/her that you are so glad and proud s/he told you, not "Why didn't you tell me before?"
  6. Save your fury and wild grief and other extreme emotions for a time when you can safely vent, away from the child.  S/he may have hesitated to tell you, because s/he feared you would react dramatically.
What other tips do you have about making it safe for a child, or an adult victim of rape or childhood sexual assault, to speak out?  Are there any myths you'd like to see busted?  Do you have a story you feel safe to share?

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Got Racism? Discrimination? MLK BlogFest on these Issues

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

It may not be "nice," or "polite," or easy to talk about these things.  But when we avoid discussion of them... they don't magically go away.

People didn't stop acting mean or stupid, just because we pretended the elephant wasn't there.  Simply because now we don't say "the N word" in polite company doesn't mean the future is brighter for the average Black kid born into poverty.

As mentioned in my original post, discrimination isn't simply a Black-or-White issue.  The bloggers below, and YOU, if you care to join in, are invited to discuss discrimination in all shapes, sizes and colors, from sexism to racism to prejudice against the differently-abled.  What have your experiences been?  How have you experienced discrimination?  What are your thoughts and feelings on this subject?

MLK Memorial via Wikimedia Commons

We are all on this planet together, more of us every day.  Perhaps we should figure out how to get along with each other a little better.  IMO, that starts with listening to one another.

Please copy and paste the link to your specific blog post, not just your blog.

Looking forward to a thoughtful and civil discourse on the subject from all kinds of voices.
Thank you for participating.
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Don't Know What To Call You People
MLK Day Blogfest

Katherine & Harvey.  They dressed like this a lot
- coordinating colors, mirrored.  My (un)favorite was
the yellow top with olive green slacks for Green Bay
- and vice versa.  Not sure whether they thought it was cute,
or it was their way of saying F-you to the haters.
Yeah, I know.  Just somebody saying "you people" is offensive.  But I still have a language problem, and I'd like to get that issue out of the way, first.

As she related in a phone conversation, my stepmother Katherine was born a Negro in 1922.  (She was also sometimes labeled a mulatto, as her father was white.)  Later, she became a colored person, and in the 1960's, she was black and beautiful. (The ignorant and bigoted, of course, would use the N-word in the most degrading tone possible.)  "Now I'm supposed to call myself African-American," she said to me and my sister, somewhat plaintively.  "I wish they'd make up their minds."

For a long-time, I've been using the term African-American, but lately I've noticed in blogs I follow by POC/People of Color, the term Black (capitalized) seems to be the most popular term.  What to say/write?  I've heard, for example, that some people who used to be called (physically) handicapped prefer the term handi-capable, and others find that appallingly cutesy and they prefer disabled.  Others like differently-abled.

Those periodically or permanently disabled by mental illness would prefer we don't call them crazies, wackos, or nutjobs.

Hispanic or Latino?  I think right now, Latino is the preferred designation.  (Yes?  No? Both?)
English: White Hispanic and Latino AmericansWhite Hispanic & Latino-Americans Image via Wikipedia

I'm not asking you to break out the hankies for me.  I'm certain that all people who've experienced discrimination and oppression worldwide would be thrilled if their biggest dilemma was one of vocabulary, akin to choosing the proper salad fork.

I am asking you to grant me (and other poor, dumb, well-meaning people) the benefit of the doubt if occasionally I use a term which was the Politically Correct term to use, 10 years ago.  Or even last week.  By all means, bring me up to speed, but please understand I'm not deliberately trying to hurt others.

In fact, that is kind of the break I am asking you to give me, in all matters regarding racism and discrimination.

I "get" it.  I have not lived in your skin.  I have not been in a car while my boyfriend got his third DWB (Driving While Black) traffic stop in a week.  I have not been followed around by a store owner with a hairy eyeball who assumed I was a thief based on my ethnicity.  I have not been denied jobs, housing, or educational opportunities based on the color of my skin, my accent, my sexual orientation, or my physical inability to walk up a flight of steps.  I can only imagine how hurtful and soul-scarring such treatment must be.  I know that simply being born with white(r) skin, in America, has given me many privileges I'm aware of, and countless others I'm not.

On the other hand... I was born female.  From the day I was born, I've been deemed "lesser" by some.  I remember being passed over in school when I had my hand raised, and having teachers who actually said, when I led the class in an independent science study program, "You boys aren't going to let a girl beat you, are you?"  I've been paid less than a man for doing the same work. I've been molested, raped, and beaten.

I've lived in a multi-racial household at a time when hardly anyone did, and gotten into fistfights over it. I've been the only white girl in a Black neighborhood, on the receiving end of a lot of hairy eyeballs, hoots and hollers.  I've been mocked for not knowing how to plait hair or dance.  At times when I've dated Black, I've gotten plenty of ugly comments, not just from whites, but from Black girls and women who deeply resent "some white bitch stealing our men."

So when somebody says to me, "You don't know what it's like to be treated as if you're a lesser being, or to be hated just for the color of your skin," I tend to bristle a little.

I think as human beings, we all have pain.  Don't assume, because you see a happy smiling Caucasian face on my About Me page, or even in person, that I'm some airhead who thinks her shit don't stink and is oblivious to the pain and suffering of others.  I don't know your pain, you're absolutely right, but I'm willing to listen.  Explain it to me.  Don't blow me off with "Somebody like you wouldn't understand."  I might just understand some parts better than you think.

I "get" that you are probably real tired of having to explain the same shit, over and over again.  But I would like us to be allies, not enemies.  That means, I'm sorry to say, if you want me (and people like me) to care, you have to continue to educate me.  I'm not going to be your enemy, regardless of how rude you might be to me, but if you continually insult me, I'm not going to make your cause a priority, either.

If I want someone to cease sexist behavior, I have to educate him as to what he's doing that is sexist, and why it's hurtful to me.  Throwing up my hands and saying, "You're an asshole and you just don't get it," might be momentarily satisfying, but it doesn't accomplish the larger goal of achieving a change in attitude.

I do deeply want to get closer to a place where all human beings are indeed, valued for the content of their characters.  I think it sucks that economic class and certain externals grant privilege to some and create disadvantages for others.

I ask myself all the time if I am being racist - and sometimes I get lost.  For example, all Asian people do not look the same to me.  My "adopted" Korean-Chinese son introduced a new girlfriend once, and wanted me to guess her ethnicity.  I got it right - Chinese, and he was so proud of me.  Generally I don't mix up Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese people.  I see beautiful differences in the faces, hear it in the language (even if I can't understand it.) When I went to a co-worker's (mostly) Filipino wedding, I enjoyed the diversity in the different faces - some look Korean, some Latino, some Native American, and some could "pass" for Caucasian.  Much like the United States, there isn't one Filipino "look."

Is it bad of me that I tend to look at people as individuals?  That I think our differences are what make us beautiful and interesting?

While not every Black person has a "Black" voice, many have a distinct, warm, richness to their voices that simply isn't duplicated in Caucasian or Hispanic or Asian voices, no matter how vocally talented they may be.  James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou and Barack Obama; Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Ludicris are just a few who come to mind.  Is it racist of me to notice and appreciate this gift?

I want to respect those people who strong identify with a group, whether that identity is by birth, such as being Native American or deaf, or by choice, such as being a member of the Sierra Club.  (None of which may be apparent at first glance.)  Yet I don't want to treat people as if they are only a member of said group, either. And I tend to push back when one person claims to express the way "people who are XX think," without support to back up that statement.

Among Dr. Cornell West, Herman Cain, and 50 Cent, which gentleman represents "the way real Black men think"?  All?  None?  The racial and cultural experience of Tennessee-born Henry Cho, above, is very different from that of his own father.  Marc Rubio, politician, Floridian son of Cuban emigrés, has a life-story vastly unlike that of my Los Angeles-born co-worker of Mexican parents, or her undocumented alien Guatemalan husband, or that their two young children will have.

I don't think it's racist to tell someone, "I think you may represent the way some of the people in your group think or feel.  I appreciate and respect your point of view.  But I don't agree with it, nor am I yet convinced that the majority of people in 'your group' think that way, or 'should' think that way."

I'm also more than a little resistant to the pressure to feel some kind of cultural white guilt.  My ancestors did not own slaves or displace Native Americans.  Several fought in the Civil War for the Union side.

Which means... nothing.  I don't feel I am entitled to either credit or blame for what my many times greats might have done.  I'm sure that my ancestors, and your ancestors, and everybody's ancestors, behaved badly to somebody.  There has to be some point where we stop squabbling about who first hurt who, like two little kids.  "Mo-om, Cain pushed me."  "Yeah, but Abel pushed me first!"  "Well, Dad likes me best so there!"  Remember how well that story turned out?

As far as assuming guilt for what other people did to Blacks, or Jews during the Holocaust, or the Armenian genocide, or that Helen Keller had a real rough time before Annie Sullivan came along...  no, not buying it for my own personal use.  The only load of guilt or shame I am willing to carry on my soul is what I have earned by my own stupid or thoughtless mistakes.

Frankly I find the idea of assigning blame/guilt to be needlessly divisive and a time-waster.

IMO, it would much more helpful to look at problem areas, all of us together, and see how they can be addressed.  Have people within certain groups been disadvantaged to due to generations of prejudice and discrimination?  Absolutely.  Are some people still disadvantaged?  Absolutely.  How do we fix that?

I don't see racism and discrimination as something only whites do or that only Blacks suffer from. As I posted originally, a lot of people, including women, the differently-abled (crossing my fingers that's okay to say), Latinos, Asian-Americans, LGBT and countless other people who are "different" suffer from being judged by what they look like on the surface.  By those outside their groups, and sometimes, by those inside it.

Children living in poverty - that's a big problem, one about which Dr. King was deeply concerned. How do we get them out?  How do we reduce the numbers of children from being born into poverty?

I'm volunteering now, in my spare time, in a newly formed organization aimed at bringing reading and storytelling experiences to the youngest children in facilities generally overlooked, like homeless and battered women's shelters, and leaving each child with his/her own book.  If we can introduce a love of story and an interest in reading from a very young age, it won't solve the problem, but perhaps it'll chip away at it a little bit.  (You can Like it on FaceBook here; website is in the process of being designed.)

Rape, sexual assault, class warfare... all the ways in which people with power take unfair advantage of those who have less, these are issues about which we could all work together.

I think this would be the greatest tribute we could do for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and all those who have worked to advance civil rights and against poverty and oppression.

Want to join this blogfest?  Post your link HERE.
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Your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Sir/Madam Political Correctness, I've Got A Small Bone to Pick
Guest Post by TotsyMae

Original Art by TotsyMae
Let's address this thing right here and now. I don't know if men folk are born to be tossing pom poms in the air or not. Neither do I know if women folk are born to be running a 50-yard dash, wearing a helmet and trying to score a touchdown. I think I know plenty but that one, I can't give a succinct answer to save my little life. I'm no scientist, biblical theologian or God, so like some of you folk out there, I've stopped scratching my head on the matter 'cause folk are coming out the closet like roaches with the Orkin man behind them, ain't they? I ain't trying to be funny or nothing but we need to put the truth out there the way it is and stop pussy-footing around the bush about it.

And maybe what I just said about the pom poms and touchdowns was insensitive or politically incorrect. I don't know. There are so very many correct ways of being politically incorrect, I suppose I'd best watch out before I get slapped with the homophobic badge.

Actually, I've become quite confused by what's politically correct or incorrect. I'm telling you, I'm  watching my back now as I write this here article 'cause I may get billy clubbed by the Political Correctness Cop, which, by the way, is one for every ethnic group and movement America has ever birthed. There's the Disability Cop, African American Cop, Gay/Lesbian Cop, Feminist Cop, Immigrant Cop, and should I even say this? The Overweight Cop? You get my drift, right?

Though, am I wrong for saying Overweight Cop or is there a more appropriate title? I dare not say obese 'cause that sounds bigger than overweight. It would be cruel even though obese is still a word that represents folk who, well, have more than their fair share at the dinner table. And just so you'll feel better about my less sensitive frame of reference, I have tilted the scale a time or two myself.  It's a bitch I know about which, I think, qualifies my use of the term.

In thinking about all of what may be politically correct or incorrect, I can't help being reminded on just how intrusive that is on my 1st Amendment rights. Am I wrong in believing there's something kinda messed up in revamping Mark Twain's classic, Huckleberry Finn? I suppose the folk on the Board of Political Correctness feels like in this "We Are the World" setting, the N word was just a bit much for the digital learners who are, well, not exactly reading Mark Twain, but dammit, his extravagant and over-usage of the word was too hard on the ear. So, there. Rewrite a classic and it'll discourage other folk from thinking it's okay.

And how pliant of some African Americans, in their creative and rich culture of language and euphemisms, to redefine the N word to mean love toward their fellow African American sister, brother, mother, grandfather, child...well, I know you get my drift. However, for those who don't understand the code of who should or should not say it, well, just do and you'll discover how politically incorrect you are.  All that silly talk about using it to take its power away is one of the worst lies black folk ever told themselves 'cause soon as a nonblack folk raise up to say it, there's the power. Dare I spell the (ahem) N word, at the risk of the African American Cop shutting my computer down from the Cyber Office of African American Dos and You Better Hell Nots?


Confounded Heterosexual African American Female Who Has an Affinity to Incessant Blabbing Off at Any Given Hour and Trying to Figure Out Where the Hell the Exit Door is Before She Ends Up Walking within Endangered Territories of All the Folk She Just Wrote About in this Here Blog Post 'Cause the Only Weapons She Carries Are the Words Laced on Her Tongue.

Excuse me Officer, but I was just hit by a tornado, or bus, name of TotsyMae.  My fellow SheWriter and blogger has this to say about her amazing self:  
I'm a writer, reader, visual artist, graphic designer, somebody’s momma and other stuff that’s good and not so good. I’m frank but shy, sensitive, and have the dry humor of a cynic but I’m positive, empathetic, judgmental, oppositional just because and working on all of the above. I’m a southern girl who’s adaptable, welcoming, stand-offish and curious.
Please join me in giving some  love to Totsy for saying things most of us have thought from time to time, but were too afraid of the PC police to say out out.  

And please consider joining me and lots of other writers, here, with a blogfest on MLK Day (Jan 16) on the subject of discrimination, racism, sexism, and other ways that people mistreat one another, because they have the power to do so.  Follow the link FMI and for ideas on where to start, if you're not already chock full of good ones.
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Reads - Steamy, Funny, and Hated It
TBR Challenge

This is only a semi-NY resolution, not the full "thang," but I am whittling down my To Be Read List.

I also impulse-bought a couple other books, won some others (free always fits my budget), so I have a mixed bag to report upon.

The holiday goodies:

It Happened One Christmas - Kaitlin O'Riley - full length novel one hero and heroine.  My review:

Sweet and tasty holiday treat. I loved the heroine, Lisette, and thought the author did a very skillful job of showcasing five sisters, alike yet different, not an easy job. It also really reminded me how delicious and hot it can be JUST to be kissed, thoroughly and well. (Though there is full consummation at the end.)

The subplot with Tom the street urchin felt a little distracting and repetitive in spots. Although I didn't know how, I knew he would be rescued in the end, so it was hard to feel fully vested in his peril. I very much liked how the romantic rivals for Lisette and Quinton were in and of themselves likeable characters, making that conflict much more intense.

Read it, you'll enjoy it!


Once Upon a Winter's Eve - Tessa Dare.  I won this novella through posting a comment on The Dashing Duchesses.  As noted, free always accommodates my budget nicely, I haven't read a Regency setting novel in ages, and I've wanted to sample Tessa's work for a long time.  My review:

I didn't know what to expect.  A little too busy re: number of characters, and I thought Violet was a bit too forgiving.  Also - Violet Winterbottom? Really?  It just sounds like a joke.  The hero (whose name escapes me, but he's got 2-3, so it's not really my fault) recovers from his injuries and is ready to party, so to speak, a little earlier than is realistic, IMO.

However, the chemistry between the too characters is fun, the lovemaking is nice and juicy, and it ends with a Happily for Now. For a novella, that's pretty good, and I would certainly read other works by this author.


I'll Be Home for Christmas - Linda Lael Miller, Catherine Mulvany, Julie Leto, Roxanne St. Claire

This one was fun.  Four stories of about 100 pages each.  There was a bittersweet poignancy to Linda Lael Miller's Christmas of the Red Chiefs.  The one jarring note in that story was the idea that a woman who hasn't sung at all in years could deliver a flawless soprano solo for a local TV crew on the spur of the moment.  Uh, no, I'm not a singer and even I know that's not possible.  But I liked the character and her love interest was perfect.

Catherine Mulvany's tale, Once Upon a Christmas, was beautifully layered, with that magical/mystical quality that makes a holiday tale that much more special.  Loved loved loved the hero and heroine.

Meltdown by Julie Leto, brought some Latina flava to the collection, as well as a magical/paranormal element, though one rarely (ever?) sees Santa Claus and Mayans on the same page.  Loved the story, and the tension between the hero and heroine made their consummation even hotter.

The heroine of Roxanne St. Claire's You Can Count on Me kicks ass, and not just in the figurative sense. It's tricky weaving a child into the plot without reducing heat, but she does a fine job. I want to go for a limo drive with a hot Russian former double-agent and some really fine vodka!

Great little book, I highly recommend  I'll Be Home for Christmas to anyone looking for some spicy holiday romance.


The Perfect Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Cover of "The Perfect Christmas"Macomber's been on my TBR list for a long time, and when I saw this, I picked it up, figuring, holidays, famous and prolific author, what could go wrong?

The heroine is too needy, and too conveniently dumb in some places and smart in others.  The hero is the classic Mr. Unavailable.  Apparently Ms. Macomber is not a fan of Baggage Reclaim, which is all about how women (and men) shouldn't chase after somebody who keeps pushing them away.  The B storyline, a romance between the heroine's brother and her best friend - too obvious to everyone except the heroine.

There's a funny scene where the heroine is wearing an elf-costume and being dropped to her "gig" as Santa's helper, when her too-tight tights roll down, and the kids comment on seeing the elf's underpants.  But, come on, all the other costume parts fit, but not the tights, and our fairly confident heroine doesn't ask the woman who's outfitting her for another pair, that actually do fit?

Channeling Men on Film, hated it.  (and I know, one is never, ever supposed to diss another author - but I don't think I am going to destroy Debbie's career with one honest review.  Besides...)

1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber (A Cedar Cove Novel)
When I picked this up, from whence it had been languishing in my TBR file, I was scared I'd hate this one, too, but I thought it was a great book.  A little hard in the beginning, to sort out who all the people were, but the love stories were believable, the characters and their problems were realistic and not too easily solved.  (Except for the one, Leonard, who's never admitted he was wrong in 30 years of marriage, one family intervention and he's ready to be more open?  Not gonna happen - or if it does magically happen, not gonna last.  Macomber needs to do her research on OCPD and find out what true misery it causes those who live with Mr. or Ms. "Always Right.")

I really enjoyed the fact that Rachel and Bruce, with whom the story opens, don't magically solve their problems. They have problems at the beginning of the book, and are still struggling, if making progress, at the end. I felt the love in each storyline, and liked how sometimes love was enough to bring people together, but that it wasn't a magic wand.

I also read (hey, I was in bed with a bad head cold for all of NY weekend):

Jean Auel's The Land of Painted Caves because once I start something, I like to finish it, and I'd read all the others, really enjoyed most of them.  Sadly, there really isn't a good story here.  Not much conflict, until the very end of the book (825+ pages, mind you) and a lot a lot a lot of repetition.  (Did I mention there was a lot of repetition?) Detailed description of the various interiors of painted caves, which is about as fascinating as watching the slides of your neighbor's European vacation - except, oops, the slide projector is broken, so he's going to tell you about each slide.  And in this cave, the mammoths are facing each other - but in that one, they're facing the same direction.... For 15-20 locations.  Nobody actually seems to want anything, but simply behave as Barbie dolls, being dressed and moved around.  It was very disappointing.

Dee J. Adams' Dangerous Race.  I tiptoed up on this book with mixed feelings.  I've met Dee J. Adams through my local RWA chapter, and a sweeter, bubblier, more supportive writer doesn't exist.  So I wanted to like her debut novel.  Personal baggage - my crazypants ex loved his NASCAR, and if I never hear or see another checkered flag...  It was challenging for me to even read a book with an auto-racing theme.

At the photo-finish, I would give this 4.5 out of five stars.  Despite my loathing slight distaste for the world of auto-racing, Dangerous Race wrapped me up in it.  She made me smell the ethanol and like it. I believed in the lead character, Trace, and her bumpy romance with her new crew chief.  The only quibble I had was I thought the villain was too obvious, and there should have been more politicking behind the scenes re: said villain's personal goals.  A pit crew is big - we should have seen more of the others being manipulated and taking sides, perhaps being used as unwitting stooges.  However, the romance(s) and sex scenes were deliciously steamy, and the "feel" was right.  Buy it, read it, you'll love it!

So, where am I on my personal TBR Challenge?:

It Happened One Christmas - Kaitlin O'Riley
The 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
Little Black Dress - Susan McBride
Tourist Trap - Sue Ann Bowling
1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber 
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Confessions of an Improper Bride
- Jennifer Haymore

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

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?

Coming this Wednesday - 
Guest Blogger TotsyMae has a bone or two to pick with Political Correctness. 

Coming here this Monday - BlogFest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about racism, sexism, and discrimination.  Please join in!
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

#TomJones, Panty-Throwing, and Wild Dreams

photo via

Am I the only one who has weird, almost psychedelic dreams when coming down with a cold?

So the other morning, I'm in that twilight sleep stage, no longer asleep, not fully awake, and my sickly brain is obsessing over Welsh singing legend Tom Jones.  Specifically, Tom Jones and the stories of women in the audience throwing their panties at him as he performs.  My mind is full of questions...

Is it something that truly happens, or is it urban legend and PR?  Why Tom Jones - and not, say, 50 Cent or Aerosmyth? Do women actually remove the underwear they are currently wearing and throw them at him, or do they bring clean ones from home (perhaps in a smaller size and sexier style)?  What's the protocol when women from behind you are throwing their panties and they don't make the stage, perhaps land in your lap, or even your hair?  [eeewwwh]  Are you supposed to throw them forward, like batting a beach ball in the stands of a baseball game?

What happens to the panties after the show - is there a hazmat stage crew that gathers them up with latex gloves?  Do they get washed and donated to charity, or just trashed?  All these thoughts and more, churned in my sick brain, until I could crawl out of bed and do some research.

Luckily, the Interwebs are full of answers:

During a 1968 engagement at the Copacabana Club in New York, the air conditioning was not working well and Jones, as always giving every song everything he had, was drenched in his own perspiration. Between numbers, several women in the audience offered him their cocktail napkins to wipe his face. But one woman lifted her dress, removed her underwear, and handed that to Jones on stage. He says he was flabbergasted, but he wiped his face with it, and handed the woman her underwear back. A gossip columnist was present, and after the incident was mentioned in the next day's newspaper, throwing panties onto the stage became the thing to do at Jones's concerts.

from tomjones

So, that's how it got started, and became his "thing," although at this point, he's pretty much done with it.  (I can see how it would become a tiresome distraction at this point.)  In some venues, security will now prevent would-be panty-flingers from approaching the stage near enough to launch lace.  Or the other bitches women in the pit do.

Few women actually wear and remove their underwear anymore.  (Lazy sluts!)  A handful of men are chucking their boxers these days.  In some venues, it seems that the women themselves approach the stage after the shows to collect their knickers, ideally after The Voice has deigned to touch them or mop his brow with them.

A few things struck me, as I was satisfying my brain fogged curiosity.

First - the guy really does have an amazing voice.  Many men don't still have a powerful voice as they age - he does.  He sings a variety of material in all kinds of different styles and does it well.  Yes, there are back-up singers and so forth, but that voice isn't overdubbed or "helped," it's all him.

TJ looks damn good for an old man.  Now, rumor has it this is not all good genes and healthy living, but he's had plenty of "work done."  Still.

Incredible stage presence.  When Tom Jones takes the stage, he takes the stage.  I could see myself giving him the panties I was wearing, or Any Thing Else He Wanted, whether we're talking young Tom or old Tom.  I watched lots of clips, read lots of reviews, and nobody said in any review that he was ever  "phoning it in."  For a guy who's done as many shows as he has, that says a lot.  Everybody who's seen a Tom Jones show ended up a fan, whether they started out one or not.

Plus I loved the way he poked fun at himself with his cameo in Mars Attacks!  Or the way in some shows he'll joke that a piece of thong underwear is an eyepatch.

Now... how can I work this into a novel somewhere?  I'd love to catch a Tom Jones show and write it off as a business expense!

Do you have weird wild dreams when you're under the weather, too?  Are you a TJ fan, past or present?  Got a panty-tossing experience you care to share?

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