Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Are You? Who Who, Who Who?

If you've been on Social Media for a while, you have profiles ALL OVER the place.

Or, if you're like me, you have half-finished Social Media profiles all over the place.


So, Who Cares?


Possibly, nobody. If you are on Social Media just to piddle around, if you are not looking to establish yourself as a brand (author, blogger, book reviewer, essayist, musician), then it really doesn't matter.

If you are looking to establish yourself as a brand, if you want people to remember your name, even if it'll be a year or three before there's even a glimmer of a book appearing, then you want:
  • Consistent Message
  • Consistent Image
  • Links and easy ways for people to find your website, blog, book reviews, tweets.
If you are looking to establish a pen name, then that's what you should use.

My last name is difficult for people to remember and spell, and though I do use it (for now), I may eventually choose a different last name for writing. Or, not. So my handle for a lot of things is easy to remember: writerbeverly. That's me at Twitter, on my FaceBook fanpage, at Pinterest, and in many other places.

Always use your name, in some permutation if possible. quirkygirl sounds cute, for example, but who will connect that with Xaviera Holliday? (I'm making those names up; apologies if either belongs to you). Obviously, sometimes it won't be possible to "get" your name: if your name is James Brown or Ellen DeGeneres, it just might already be taken. But avoid being cutesy or locking yourself in to one book or blogtype.


Anyway, one of my bits of Social Media housekeeping was to straighten up my profiles. Making sure I used the same photo (hence I needed to get a new headshot - thanks to all of you for weighing on on that!) and language and links in each of them.


The Impossible Dream


If you are tearing your hair out over trying to cram your entire life into 140 characters or less - give it up. Just like your photo, your bio can only be a tiny thumbnail, and there will be things left out.

I decided to go with a very brief sketch of my writing & reading, plus some (not all) organizations I belong to.


Here's my Intense Debate profile.





 
Here's my Gravatar profile, that integrates with and lets me interact with WordPress sites, even though I don't have a WordPress blog.




Here's Disqus.



Why Have A Profile Everywhere?


Obviously, you don't have to have a profile (and links) everywhere. But one thing I have found out so far about Social Media, is people don't tend to use ALL of it, all the time. They tend to use one or two of their favorites: FaceBook, Twitter, WordPress blogs, Blogger blogs.

You don't have to (and can't unless you give up eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom) be equally active on all Social Media platforms. But what you can do is have a updated profile on each one, so that when you pop into it, and leave a comment, or whatever, if someone wants to Follow you back and find you, they don't have to do too much work.  Otherwise, you are forfeiting almost all potential fans/followers from that platform. Let's face it, only Nancy Drew really enjoys playing detective.


Other sites you might have - or want - a profile:
  • G+
  • Pinterest
  • Livefyre
  • Huffington Post
  • GoodReads
  • Amazon
  • Bloglovin'
  • Feedly - If there is a place to put or update a profile, I couldn't find it.
Once you make the list of all places you have a Social Media presence, and decide on what you want your profile to be, it only takes 30 minutes- 1 hour, tops, to quickly update all of them. Copy-and-Paste is awesome. This could be something you do/check twice a year, when resetting the clocks for Daylight Savings and you check your smoke detector batteries.


The Tweet's the thing


For Twitter, for good or ill, I have decided to more frequently update my profile than I do my other platforms. Part of what I consider when I Follow someone on Twitter is her/his profile and Tweetstream. If the profile is: "Author of The Best Book in the World, coming out in December 2011!" and the bulk of the Tweetstream is: "Buy the Best Book in the World, available now! I generally don't Follow that person."

Twitter turn-offs: Automatic messages. When I Follow somebody and get an automatic message that says, "I'm so glad we've connected, now visit my website/FaceBook page," I almost always UNFollow. When the auto message is, "BUY MY BOOK" I *do* UnFollow.

At the very least, make sure your Twitter profile is not promoting as "upcoming" a book that was released two years ago.


What about LinkedIn?


Ye-ah, LinkedIn... kind of depends on what your day job is. Mine is with an accounting firm, and my profile there goes along with that line of work. While I do mention my writing life in passing, it's not my day job, nor do I (mostly) want to promote my blog on LinkedIn. (Considering that I blog about Sluts and vibrators and all that. Not that financial industry professionals can't have a keen interest in such subjects.) I have yet to hear about anybody really "working" a blog or book following using LinkedIn as their primary source, but perhaps I'm not listening hard enough. If you have or know of a different experiences, please share in the comments.

If writing/blogging is your day job, by all means have your LinkedIn profile reflect that.


HTML Happiness


I never thought I would learn anything about HTML (Hyper Tex Markup Language); frankly, I didn't want to learn. But there's one little bit all bloggers need to know, and that's the HTML to Open This Link in a New Window.

What this means: Links within the body of your text to other sites are great, but not if, when the reader clicks on them, they shoot straight to that link and away from our pages. People have different reading styles. The methodical types will attentively read the entire post or an article all the way through, and then read it again, only then clicking on links they deem interesting.

The less focused types will read once and want to click on any interesting links as they are skimming the text. For readers who do this (I'm one of them), unless the link opens in a new window, they may not find their way back to our pages and finish reading our posts, never mind leaving a comment.

In Blogger (and probably in WordPress) you can set the default when adding links to Open This Link in a New Window, or you can easily check and correct from the Compose window.

But you can also look at it in the HTML window, and what a link should look like is this (without all the colors):
<a href="http://writinginflow.blogspot.com" target="_blank">Writing in Flow</a>
On screen to a reader, it appears like this: Writing in Flow.

This part: "http://writinginflow.blogspot.com" is the link.
This part: Writing in Flow is the text that will appear on the page when someone is reading.
This part :  <a href=something > something </a> is the code that says here's a link, and here's what should appear on the page.

This part: target="_blank" that appears after the link info, before the > and the text info, is the code that signals Open Link in a New Window.

Eyes crossed yet?

And here now, something related to both identity, and HTML (because HTML always makes me swear) for your audio pleasure, The Who.


What SM platforms did I miss mentioning?
Got more tips for writing a brief profile?
Please share in the comments (and always put your blog addy in for CommentLuv!).


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Author... Are You Smoking Crack? On #GoodReads & #bookreviews

When it comes to GoodReads, I'm easy. (Okay, I'm easy about more than GoodReads, but that's another post.)

via Pinterest
If somebody says, Be My Friend on GoodReads, I generally say yes. Love books, love discussing reading, let's you & me have us a gloriously passionate literary affair. <insert kissy-face noises here>

So earlier this week, I get a GoodReads Friend request.

I accept.

I note, in passing, that this person has collected quite a few friends, but only listed 22 books. So, okay, maybe he's a GoodReads newbie - we all gotta start somewhere, right?

Besides, judging by his posted picture, he's kind of cute.

(Yes, I'm more vulnerable to attractive men. Don't judge.)

Not six hours later, I get this message:

Thanks for adding me. If you get time, I would be honored if you check out my book. I'm a brand new author with no reviews yet. =)
No shit, Sherlock, you got no reviews yet. The info on your books says it was self-published by you, like, yesterday.

You also joined GoodReads, just a few months prior, and prolly friended as many people as would accept you and composed this polite, slightly pitiful message to try to guilt your new Friends into reading and reviewing your book.

You are not even offering free review copies.  *eyeroll*


Clearly, This Newbie Author does Not Understand How Social Media Works.


It's like walking directly up to a woman (or man) in a bar and asking them to come give you a blow job in an alley without offering to buy 'em a drink first.

Or even saying hello. Chatting about something, anything. "How about those <insert sport teams of your choice, here>?" "Hot enough for you?"  "Come here often?"

You and I, Dear Author, have no relationship yet. None, zero, zippo.

For all I know, your book might have Serious Cooties.  As a reader, and especially as a reviewer, I have many, many other choices. Why do I want to be involved with you?

Social Media is about establishing relationships, not advertising at people.


This is where Traditional Publishing has an Advantage over Self-Publishing.


You, the author, probably have zero relationship with 99.9999% of the book-buying public. But your publisher has sales reps and bookstores that trust the general saleability of their merchandise. Even if they have to take a book that howls like a dog from time to time, your publisher throws in enough cash cows to make it worthwhile.

It's like they've already bought rounds for the house.

A book traditionally published will be in trade magazines, will get out to reputable magazines and bloggers that do book reviews. There will be giveaways, promotions, possibly even book readings and signings (although more and more, authors take on quite a bit of the promotion themselves).

If you are a self-pubbed author who has not yet interacted on GoodReads, on Twitter, or in the blogosphere... you'd best prepare yourself to start buying drinks.

Well drinks, with the premium liquor.



I "Get" The Whole Mad Thrill of Finishing a Book


via Jody Hedlund
I do. It is awesome, like fabulous sex, except you feel free to brag about it to your grandma and the cashier in the grocery store. It is exhilarating and intoxicating and sparkly delicious. (I should let/make myself experience the "finishing a book" feeling more often.) So many, many people give lip service to the dream of, "I should write a book someday," so few actually follow through and do it.

You should be proud.  Anybody who finishes a book should be proud of that accomplishment.

And when I finish a book, I know my baby is beautiful, pristine, flawless.

I know that the minute I put it out there, she's going to be the Next Big Thing.

And then I take a step back - a few steps back - and do my best to take off the beer goggles.

If you have experience, or an agent, or good critique partners, or an excellent editor, you will realize - I have realized - that your just-completed manuscript is not all that and a bag of chips.


But some authors are afflicted with Premature Publish Syndrome. 


The numerous rejections they get from agents and publishers are taken as a sign of their incredible genius - wasn't Harry Potter rejected numerous times? They decide to self-publish, letting those foolish agents and publisher eat crow when they are confronted by the wads of cash this book will make.

While I felt crushed and heartbroken by all the rejections I got on early novels, I know now... I was not ready for Prime Time. I feel like I am close, now... but am no longer in such a rush.

I know I will get there, when the time is right. And I am grateful my early efforts aren't "out there," because it would be as embarrassing as putting my middle school paintings up next to a Van Gogh.


That author will probably get some reviews. 


Because many women (and men) cannot say, "No," to a direct request.

And he's semi-cute.

So possibly he will even get some favorable reviews, from people who want to be nice. Hell, I want to be nice. I even cued up a sample chapter on my Kindle, before realizing I would rather spend what little time I have for reading, on work I might enjoy.

But by the blurb itself - you know, that bazillion-times polished gem we put out there to sell our books - I could tell this author is Not Ready for Prime Time.

I've read some terrific blurbs... and then gone on to be horribly disappointed in the work itself. I have never read a poorly written blurb and gone on to be delighted by a book.  And his blurb... was one of the worst I have ever read. Because I am nice, I am not quoting it here.

I could read the book, or the first chapter, but why? It's like expecting a guy who can't kiss to be scream-worthy at oral sex. Sure, it's within the realm of possibility, just like winning the lottery, but what's the likelihood?


The Ratings Racket


via digitalart
at FreeDigitalPhotos
Also? Don't rate your own book as five stars. Obviously you think it's perfect, or you wouldn't have put it out there. Don't rate your own book at all. I always think a little less of an author who rates his/her own book, especially a self-pubbed one. (That said, I did review and rate the anthology I've got a story in, with a disclaimer, because I wanted to give a shout-out to the other authors.) 

Some writers are mature enough to welcome unfavorable ratings and reviews. Let's face it, a book with six five-star reviews looks like only your mother and your besties have reviewed it. Many readers will skip right past the five-star reviews and look for the four-star and lower reviews, as more likely to be honest and not all fan-girly. Controversy over your book - lots of 4/5 star ratings and lots of 1/2 star ratings - can drive sales higher, as many readers will read it for themselves.

As a sidenote, if/when you do get critical reviews or ratings as an author, DO NOT argue, comment, or email the reviewer. (See train wreck, here.) Accept the fact that not every reader will like every book. Millions thought Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the best things since sliced bagels - *I* couldn't get past page 75.

When the stinging wears off, examine honestly if there is merit to the criticism, and do better on your next book. Be aware that some book reviewers report being creeped out by any author attention to their reviews, even a thank you. (I'm not one of them, you can thank me if you like.)  A "Like" to the review is probably as far as you should go. Some reviewers may appreciate your thanks, other reviewers will never, ever, review another book by you.


I Feel Bad for that Author - and a Little Bit Pissed Off, at the Same Time.


He may well come out of this with his dream crushed, with his heart broken. I don't want to see anyone hurt or disappointed.

But at the same time, this author has not done his due diligence or his homework. He feels arrogant to me, and he's not the only one out there with this kind of attitude. I have been working very hard at many aspects of the craft for a couple of decades now. Writing in general, character development, plot, editing, creating a web presence, building support networks, reading agent and publisher blogs and Tweets about what is and isn't good writing, doing workshops, gathering a Twitter family, posting reviews on GoodReads... 

This guy really thinks he's going to self-pub a crappy book and the world will immediately fall at his feet?

Have you been advertised at?
Have a Social Media nightmare to share?
Am I simply being bitchy? Your thoughts?

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Monday, July 22, 2013

I Am Trayvon Martin's... Mother #100CityTrayvon

I'm not, of course. I am blessed and lucky in that my son, who was also a tall, lanky kid at 17, survived his adolescence, and is still alive.

I am white, and my son, for all his rich summer suntans and sprinkling of Native American blood, is also considered white.

Right now among all the talk about the Zimmerman trial, I've heard a lot of outrage from white people that "they" are being racially divisive. That "they" are stirring things up. That "they" should simply accept that this is the way justice works, and suck it up.

So here's my question to all of you, who think that "they" should "get over it,"

Why Should Anyone Accept Injustice?


My sign for #100CityTrayvon
If you are white, live in a predominately white neighborhood, and believe American Justice is colorblind, you need to stop arguing and start listening. You may not know it, but yes, you and I are privileged, in ways we don't even realize.
 
We can (and I do) argue about whether justice was served in the (eventual) arrest and trial of George Zimmerman, the white-and-Peruvian 28-year-old who followed, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was just past his 17th birthday.

As a mother or father, how would you feel if you found out your child had been killed walking home from 7-11 at 7:00 in the evening, and the person who shot him was questioned by police and released only five hours later? When it was still dark, when no full investigation could possibly have been concluded? When there was no arrest in sight, even though there were large discrepancies in the shooter's story? "He said it was self-defense, and nobody's alive to contradict him, so... sucks to be you."

How about if your teenager was trying to pay for an orange juice, and was grabbed and mauled by the storekeeper? After striking the storekeeper to free herself, Latasha Harlins was shot in the back of her head. The shooter, Soon Ja Du, claimed self-defense and was convicted of manslaughter, but her sentence was reduced to a fine, probation, and community service. Because, well, unfortunate misunderstanding, and why should somebody who meant well go to jail over a dead (black) teenager?

How about 13-year old Darius Simmons, shot in the chest by his angry neighbor "to teach him a lesson?" While the jury in that case did find the child killer guilty, and not insane, consider how the police treated his mother after she had watched her elderly neighbor threaten, then shoot her child. After she had to hold her child as he died in her arms, Patricia Larry was apparently forced to sit in a squad car for two hours of questioning, and her home searched for the stolen shotguns the killer blamed on her child. (Note: no shotguns nor evidence of same in her house.)



For American people of color, there is the feeling, based on continuing insults and experiences, large and small, that when a person of color is the victim, our system of justice rarely brings its "A" game. Police accept the stories of self-defense, fail to properly collect evidence, and in general, just phone it in, when the victim is black, especially if the perpetrator is white. Police don't respond as quickly to 9-1-1 calls in "troubled" neighborhoods as they do in wealthier ones.


Men of color frequently experience Driving when Black - being stopped for "broken" tail lights and issued tickets for speeding, even when neither circumstance is true. Women of color are shadowed by store clerks to make sure they don't steal something. All these things add up to hurt and pain and calls for justice from those who are "stirring things up."

Just having dark skin and being "in the wrong place" makes someone "the suspect." as Zimmerman called Trayvon. Don't "they all look alike"?




You know what's really sad? You don't even need to watch the above video to know what's going to happen.  Sleeping while black = getting ready to rob someplace? Really?


When privileged white people tell others to "get over it," or ask "What about the black so-and-so's who shot a white person?" the question is, what about it? Did the police fail to investigate? Did they look for and arrest the perpetrators?  Were the murderers brought to justice?

Is there a regular and systemic pattern of Justice failing people with white skin and/or money?



We have to recognize that some people hold a false perception that a woman who is dressed a certain way, drinking, or flirting is "asking" to be raped, and that some people believe that when an African-American person is shot and killed that s/he must also have been "asking for it." Why are we blaming the victim?


I Wanted to be Present, as a Witness and Ally, at #100CityTrayvon


I also had 101 reasons not to go. It was going to be hot. I had many other things to do. Getting to downtown LA would be very inconvenient. I'm not even sure whether the cause, asking the Department of Justice to indict George Zimmerman on civil rights charges, is a good solution for the current injustice. And yet, a piece of why I didn't want to go was my own racism.

I was afraid. See, I bought into the propaganda that these rallies would all be filled with angry African-American people and incendiary, hate-filled speeches. What if somebody blamed me, said something nasty to me? What if somebody beat up on me, either there, or on the Metro going or coming?

I am ashamed of having had those thoughts and feelings, but I'm putting the truth out there. Yes, I was afraid that in a group of majority African-Americans, something bad would happen to me because I was a white woman by myself.

And when I realized I was having those kinds of thoughts and feelings, I knew if I didn't go, if I let myself chicken out because I believed the propaganda, I wasn't all that different from the men and women silently profiling and judging African-American and Hispanic people as "the suspects."


Love the slogan on this sign.
Yep, lots of media present.
I'm glad I went.

Nobody beat me up. Nobody said anything nasty to me, or even shot me a dirty look.

There was a lot more praying from the guest speakers than I was personally comfortable with, but it didn't hurt me.

There were many beautiful people there, much love and sorrow, but no hate or violence.


Shared a ride on the Metro with these hoodied "gangstas," Shay and Keesha.


Most signs were homemade, though some were produced in bulk.

Los Angeles Federal Courthouse. It was impossible to SEE the speakers, from the back of the crowds.



LAPD and other 'copters keeping an eye on the very orderly crowd.

The crowd was a rainbow of people: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native Americans young, old, in powerchairs...

And in strollers. Isn't he beautiful?

The overwhelming thing that struck me about the crowd was how extremely polite everyone was.  "May I take a picture of your sign?" people would ask one another. "Excuse me's" were abundant if people bumped into one another, or wanted to pass through.

I didn't meet any angry people. I met people who expressed hurt, frustration, fear for their children, and despair, and yet, were still hopeful. Hopeful that although it seems the justice system had yet again failed, if we gathered together like this, our voices would be heard. That the killing of Trayvon Martin would not be allowed to be just another dead young black swept under the mat and forgotten.

Amazing Native American drumming and dancing
The march following the rally wound its way through downtown LA and then headed west on Wilshire. You don't realize how hilly downtown LA is, 'til you are walking it on a sunny day with the temperature in the 90's. Despite the heat, some chose to wear hoodies anyway (I was not among the brave/masochistic ones).


There was a police presence, both at the rally, and on the march, that was unobtrusive and supportive of our right to assemble and march.  Construction and hotel workers stopped work or came out and offered support. Drivers on the freeway and streets honked in support.

If you're a grandparent, don't you want justice, if someone takes the life of your grandchild?

After about 3 1/2 miles, a handful of marchers wanted to press on, to the Federal Building (about another 10 miles), and as far as I know, they did so. Most of the marchers, and my blisters, called it quits not far after this oddly appropriate theatre.


You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
Imagine, for a moment, being the mother of African-American or dark-skinned children (if you're not already). You've already had The Talk - probably, many talks - about being super-polite to the police, about having manners, and yes, about stranger-danger. These are talks that every parent, regardless of skin color or ethnicity, probably has with their kids, along with talks about drugs, about sex, and many other things.

But now you have to have The Talk about racism. About how there will be people, not just the police, but others: bitter old men with guns, paranoid shopkeepers, doped up neighborhood watch volunteers who shouldn't even be carrying guns but are, anyway. Any of whom who may decide your kids "fit the profile" or look like somebody who has robbed them, and may confront them aggressively.

WTF do you tell your kids? What advice do you give to keep them safe? Do you want your kids to stand there politely when somebody who hasn't identified himself challenges them? What if somebody, possibly a child molester, grabs them? Should they not fight to get away, because that gives their attacker grounds to shoot or stab them and claim self-defense? Should they try to run, and pray they don't get shot in the back of the head or Tasered? And yet, you want to somehow give your children the confidence to succeed in life and not walk in fear every day.

If you don't have to have that Talk with your children, then you are privileged whether you knew it or not. That is one terribly heavy burden you don't have to carry.

Please, really listen to what your friends of color are saying about how they feel, what their personal and family experiences have been. Listen to what Melissa Harris-Perry, Joy-Ann Reid and others have to say about raising black children in current American culture.

I watched this mom, below, marching with her two young sons. Like any mother of any color, she wants to keep her children safe. Though it doesn't look possible, she periodically drew them even closer to her, her body language speaking volumes.

Imagine walking a mile in her shoes.

Remember that moment, in To Kill A Mockingbird, when Scout knows that the jury has no other option but to release the black man falsely accused of rape?

And then, the verdict. If you cried with Scout then, as I did, you can understand a little bit of what families that include black young men are going through.

I know, to my deep shame, I still have racist fears and attitudes, but I am working on it. Let's all take a stand against injustice, even if - or especially when - it happens to people who don't look like us or share our privileges.

Did you participate in #100CityTrayvon, or other rallies or marches?
What surprised you?
Your thoughts?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kinky Drinks & Grown-Up Toys #NSFW

If you're going to have a Passion Party, what better way to start than to get Kinky?

WARNING: Some photos are NSFW. Please also skip this post if you are:

  • Under 18 years old. 
  • Under legal drinking age for your state/country.
  • Totally uptight about drinking and sexplay, and determined to stay that way.



Kinky is a yummy vodka fusion liqueur including mango, blood orange, and passion fruit juices. (There's also a blue version which I have yet to try.)

I did not host the party, but I did bring the fixin's and made these extremely simple yet tasty cocktails:
  1. Rim the glasses with lime flavored cocktail sugar. Note: It did a really crappy job sticking to the plastic cups.
  2. Add ice to each glass.
  3. Add about 1/3 Kinky Liqueur (measuring is for wimps!)
  4. Fill to top with Cactus Cooler (orange-pineapple soda) or Seven-Up.
  5. Garnish with the little cocktail parasols (you know you want to) and colored napkins.

Enjoy!


There were also delicious snacks provided by the hostess with the mostest, Who Shall Not Be Named, and contributed by the other attendees, Who Also Shall Not Be Named. But it was loads of fun and it cracked me up, the intense competition for the title of Biggest Ho.

Once we were fed and drunken, the fabulous Hillary Lozano, Passion Parties Exec Director from the OC, started off us easy, with enticing-scented lotions and scrubs, edible concoctions, like Nibblers that plump up your lips or nips, and taste good, pheromones, and lube.


All Lubes Are Not Created Equal


While alcohol can be a very effective lubricant in terms of breaking down inhibitions (most of us have worn Beer Goggles at one time or another), alcohol isn't so friendly when it comes to sensitive tissues and Accessories that touch sensitive tissues. So whenever possible, avoid using personal lubricants that contain high levels of alcohol.

It's also important, when choosing flavored lubes and panties, etc., to beware of sugar and high fructose anything that'll be introduced into the vagina. Else you may later need to introduce yeast infection cures into the same vagina.


This Is Not Your Grandmother's Vibrator


If you're like me, your first (and possibly only) vibrator was about 9-11" long, made of hard plastic, cream or chocolate colored, extremely noisy, and not particularly lifelike.




Besides the possible embarrassment of having Old Faithful put on display at a family dinner, there was always the issue of the batteries crapping out just when you needed them most .

On the plus side, back in the day when those were the go-to vibrators, there were probably also flashlights around you could cannibalize to get you through the night.

I believe Old Faithful is still around, but there are many, many more choices. Even for somebody like me who writes erotic fiction, it is kind of mind-blowing to see them all laid out on a coffee table.

Ready to #GetLeid?


But that's one advantage to being a guest at a Passion Party; in an an adults only shop you might feel self-conscious staring "too long" at various items, or asking "dumb" questions. There were no dumb questions, and Hillary offered many important tips like staying away from phthalates, which many sex products used to include (some still do).

Being able to touch and feel the toys (above the waist only, ladies!), as they were vibrating and rotating and flashing away was another bonus.

Yes, I said flashing.

One in particular, a hot pink pickle-looking thing with a round handle had built in flashing LED's that reminded me of blinking construction signs:
G-Spot
Up Ahead

Well, some people (*cough* *men* *cough*) do need but resist getting directions.

200 px
200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There was another fascinating gizmo I dubbed the Buzz Lightyear, though its official name was OMG (Oh My Gosh). It was clear and translucent turquoise (exactly matched my shirt, as someone kindly pointed out) with deeper blue accents  Eight levels of rotation, eight speeds of vibration. Rotating internal beads and lights and built-in thingamajiggies to simultaneously stimulate a woman front, back, and center.

To Orgasm, and Beyond!

Seriously, I could so see an offspring getting hold of that thing and re-enacting the Parenthood scene, only with a "Can I play with this toy, Mommy?"

There were friendly toys, like the Sili Rabbit (oh, the twitching ears, so cute!), and things shaped very much like penises (penii?) and eggs and gadgets with remote controls and things that were (kind of) C-shaped, almost like deformed dentures.

I ordered one of those, a We Vibe 3 after being assured it could be used for both solo and couple play. Plus it has a remote control!

And it came as part of the Summer Greetings package, with a selection of lube and magic potions to "enhance pleasure" for both partners.

One of the things I really like about these products is they don't contain dyes or fragrances.

Make It Last


Hillary also shared that while yes, adult playthings do need regular washing, this should NOT be done with alcohol or antibacterial soap (which contains a lot of alcohol), but regular soap and water in most cases.  Many toys will last longer if cleaned with certain products (which Passion Parties conveniently sell).

Always check the specific care instructions that come with any product (for intimate play or not). If it says don't use on freshly shaved skin, or that it's not fully immersible, or whatever, don't do that thing.


It's All Research, I Tell Ya


Because these parties are so popular, you may want to have one or more of your fictional characters attend or host one.  You probably need to attend one in person, yourself, because it's very important to get the details right. <wink wink> Or your character may have her (or his) own "Parenthood" moment with a personal plaything revealing itself at an awkward time.

Of course, I've already blogged about the benefits of masturbation, for both singles and those in a relationship. Which is another thing you might want to include in your fiction. Or your life.

One last thing... I was much impressed with the knowledge and fun style presented by Hillary, as well as the delivery time.  Ordered Saturday afternoon, delivered Tuesday afternoon.Talk about wham-bang-thank-you-ma'am!

Gotta go, I need to go do some more... research.

Do you have a Kinky cocktail recipe?
Another good cocktail for a Passion Party?
Have you ever attended this kind of party - what did you think?


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Saturday, July 13, 2013

On #Racism, Fat-Hating, and the #Zimmerman Trial

I am horrified and heartbroken. For some unknown reason, those six women let a child-killer go free.

Shame, shame, shame on them. I hope they come to regret it as bitterly as the OJ Simpson jury, which also turned a killer loose.

My son, age 17/18

On Sports vs. Age


One of the arguments the Zimpathizers came up with is that Trayvon Martin was this young, strong, fit MMA fighter, while George Zimmerman was portrayed as barely able to bend over and tie his own shoes.

Actually, Zimmerman was the one taking MMA classes, for well over a year, three times a week, two hours per session. If he was as helpless and defenseless as his buddy the gym owner testified, then said gym owner should be considered a cruel fraud for taking his money so long and pointlessly.

Let me share a couple basketball stories.

My son went to a high school that was big on basketball. Four boys' basketball teams: Varsity, Junior Varsity, Sophomore, and Freshman. The teams did tryouts in June, participated in a summer league, playing or practicing through most of the summer. In the fall, when school started, then it got serious. Practice for 2-3 hours every day, and on Saturday.

At Thanksgiving, the official basketball season kicked out with a fun and fund-raising exhibition game: Varsity vs. Alumni. Varsity being these young, fit, tall strong young men aged 17/18, like my son, above, who had the further advantage of having been playing together as a unit for the last six months.

The Alumni were from multi-generations of "star" basketball players. A few were in the twenties, and still fairly fit. Others limped onto the court wearing knee braces. Balding heads and spare tires were common. Possibly one or two of them had played together (besides prior Alumni games). Many of them were playing a position on the court they'd never played before.

The first game I attended, I felt embarrassed for the geezers as they were introduced. These young, fit young men were going to school the old guys.

Instead, they had their asses handed to them.

I believe out of the five Varsity vs. Alumni games I watched, Varsity might have won once. Most of the time, a heavier, older person (especially one with formal training in martial arts) is going to "take" a teenager. especially if the teen is lighter. When they separate classes in boxing, they do so by weight, not height or arm reach.

Does this mean that Trayvon Martin couldn't have been beating up on George Zimmerman? No; but all we have is Zimmerman's (ever-changing) story, and the physical evidence.  While, yes, some teenagers are violent, and people, teens or not, tend to exhibit more viciousness in groups, we need to put aside the idea that a single teenager is automatically dangerous to an older person.

And on Trayvon Martin being a tatted-up badass?

From HLN:
Fulton [Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother] is asked about Martin's tattoos. She confirms he had two: praying hands on right upper shoulder with his grandmother and great-grandmother's name and Sybrina's name on his left wrist.
Does that sound real "gangsta" to anyone?

My son has two tats. My daughter-in-law wears ink all over. *I* have a tattoo, and trust me, I am not a badass (well, I am, just not fight-wise). Tattoos are not just for sailors, bikers and gang members anymore, and anybody who infers otherwise needs to join the 21st Century.



On Sports & Race


So, here's another couple basketball stories. My son's high school, and community, was fairly whitebread. He played with a couple biracial black kids on his team, several Asians (my other son, love you BK!), Hispanics, and Armenians (considered white/Caucasian, officially, but a very different culture). In the surrounding high schools that his school played, there were other racial concentrations, I'll call it, for lack of a better word. One school was predominantly Armenian, another predominantly Hispanic, and a couple predominantly African-American.

Know what? Sometimes things got heated between the teams and/or players, but not because of race. More because one player or another thought another played dirty. The biggest beef I had as a protective mom in the bleachers was about a player on the predominantly Armenian team who seemed to have a bad habit of accidentally(?) elbowing the opposing players in the temple.

When we took a trip back East during school break, we took with us a deflated basketball, a pump, and refill needles, so my jock son could keep up with bball practice.

The high school I went to there was pretty "mixed." About 45% white, 40% black, the rest Puerto Rican and a handful of Vietnamese. Sometimes there were racial tensions, and in the years before I attended, one person had actually been stabbed to death. Basically, there were a few assholes, in all colors, who might pick a fight based on race, but most of us just got along.

The small Pennsylvania town itself though, at the time I lived there, and when we visited, was not "mixed." Black people lived here and here. White people lived there and there. The interracial couples like my father and stepmother lived in the narrow strips of neighborhood in between.

So I have left my then 15-year old son in the care of my family and went to run an errand. I come back to discover that my father has taken him to the nearest set of basketball courts, about eight blocks away, which happened to be in the middle of not only a "black" section of town, but the black housing projects (there were "white" projects too). My father simply dropped off my skinny California white boy into the poor black section of town; no cellphone, no pockets with change for a payphone no clue even as to how to get back to his place. Just, "Here's you go, I'll be back to pick you up in three hours."

You can imagine what happened.

My son related, "As soon as I began dribbling and bouncing the ball on the macadam, all kinds of doors popped open."

Seven or eight other teens and young men approached him on the playground... and they all played a few pickup games of basketball together.

I never asked my son what color the kids were, and he never volunteered. He told me that some of them were really good, and that everybody was cool with him. Over the three hours, some of the kids who originally came out left, and others joined them.Since he was wearing his school bball shorts, there were some questions about where he was from, but not hostile ones.

I still feel ashamed that I got so internally freaked out, though I would not suggest to any parent to drop her/his teenager alone in an ethnically different neighborhood with no cellphone and then take off.

But we don't have to be haters. We don't have to assume that because somebody is dark or light or tall or fat or tattooed or speaks a different language or is wearing a hoodie, that he or she is "up to no good."


In Some Ways, I Felt Sorry For George Zimmerman


I could be wrong, but I get the impression he was the kind of pimply-faced fat kid who got picked on a lot in school. People have been bagging on him for clearly gaining a large amount of weight since he killed Trayvon. Let me just say, to all the fat-bashers out there, whether you are criticizing George Zimmerman or Rachael Jenteal or Kim Kardashian, when you make those kind of comments you reveal yourself to be a pathetically small person, in mind and heart. Zimmerman's weight gain could be a result of stress, less exercise, medication side effects...

However, I do know that according to what he volunteered to the EMT, he was on several prescription drugs that are a lot more likely to cause paranoia than marijuana traces in the bloodstream. How much they influenced his decisions that night, or whether he was "on" anything else, we'll never know, because Sanford P.D. never tested his blood, urine, or breath.

We don't know what personality or other mental disorders Zimmerman had/has, but obviously he is being treated for something. The story is he and his wife both needed guns to protect themselves from potentially vicious dogs because that's what an Animal Control officer advised them to do, shoot a dog if threatened.  SMH.

It was disingenuous at best for Zimmerman's defense team to argue, oh, he didn't want to be a cop because he didn't want the toy car and imitation uniform. Zimmerman applied to the police department, he went to school for law-enforcement classes, he went on ride-alongs and told other police officers that he did want to be a cop. Police officers are a vital part of our society; there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a police officer.  There is something very wrong with thinking it is your job to catch, question, or detain "the suspect" when you are not trained or authorized by law to do so.

If George Zimmerman had simply stayed in his car until the official P.D. arrived, Trayvon Martin would still be alive. Forget his BS about getting out to check a street sign. Four year-resident Zimmerman knew exactly on which of the three streets he was on, if not exactly where Trayvon had gone.  The question begs, if Trayvon had had a friend or two walking with him, everybody hoodie'd up, would Zimmerman have felt brave enough to get out of his car to check for a street sign, or would he have rolled up his windows and sat tight till the police got there?

I Believe George Zimmerman Lied - and Told the Truth


To a certain extent, everybody does. When you trip, don't you sometimes laugh, look around, and say, "I meant to do that"? Zimmerman's lies are important, however, because they somehow have excused him from criminal penalties for taking the life of a boy not three weeks past his 17th birthday.

Like most sociopaths, he tells stories that make him look brave/like a hero/forced to take Trayvon's life in self defense.




That the altercation started on the top part of the T was crucial, because otherwise, Zimmerman was not headed back to the car, he is still following, and Trayvon was on the path to his dad's.

Did Trayvon throw the first punch? Perhaps (and perhaps not). But if on a dark, rainy night, a stranger has been following you in his car, pursues you on foot, approaches you, challenges you, and fails to identify himself, and then fumbles in his pocket (according to Zimmerman's own statement), are you going to wait for the gun, Taser, or chloroform to come out, or hope you can outrun it/him?

As the person who made the video comments, if Trayvon punched Zimmerman on the T, now Zimmerman has to explain somehow getting around to the other side of the small tree and over to where Trayvon's body was found. Based on the animation the defense itself created, their bodies were not oriented for Zimmerman to fall/stagger in that direction from a left-handed punch (which it has to be based on the only abrasion, a tiny one on Trayvon's left hand, never mind that the kid was right-handed).

So many lies - and a teenager is dead.


When I listen to that final 911 tape, I hear a teen voice screaming for help. If, according to Zimmerman on his reenactment, he believed Trayvon was alive and still dangerous, why would the screaming stop exactly when the gun is fired? Why wouldn't Zimmerman, if he had been the one screaming for help, keep screaming?

Because it was Trayvon.

Since Zimmerman, not being deaf, knew or suspected Trayvon's cries for help might have been heard, he invented the story of himself being the one screaming. I think that Zimmerman had hold of Trayvon's hand - maybe trapped in the other armpit - or his sweatshirt, and Trayvon was trying desperately to get away.  I believe in the last few moments on the 911 tape, when the cries became super-desperate, Trayvon had a gun pressed up against his ribs, and if anyone said "You're going to die tonight, mother-fucker," it was Zimmerman. (Really, WTF with the B-movie script he was spewing? "Ow, you got me"?)
 
I found it very disturbing that according to the initial witness report [begin on page 89] by Jane Surdyka, who made one of the 911 calls (not the call that captured the screaming), she was certain the call for help came from a boy or a child, and not by the loud, angry voice she had heard earlier which made her go to her window and then call 911 in the first place. Yet she was told  and seemingly pressured by the police to accept that the person calling for help was not the person who died.

Listen to the tape yourself. If you have a teen son, or remember those years as vividly as I do, I bet you'll recognize the "youth" in that voice. And even if you don't, what is the plausible explanation that a screaming Zimmerman stopped exactly at the moment the gun fired when he still believed himself to be in peril of his life?



Beating Up on Rachel Jeantel


Like Jane Surdyka, Rachel Jeantel didn't want to be on the witness stand. Unlike Jane Surdyka, Rachel is not a poised, mature, slender white woman.

So while both women were subject to having their testimony questioned, not only the defense team, but commentators, have felt free to viciously attack Ms. Jeantel. She's got "an attitude." She's got problems with literacy; maybe because it's cursive, maybe because she has problems with English literacy, period.

As I understand it, Ms. Jeantel is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and English is not her second language. It is her third.



On Fat-Hating



Jeantel's worst sin, however, seemed to be not looking like a "sexy black teenager" is supposed to look. Somehow it is supposed to be to Trayvon Martin's detriment that he was friends (perhaps eff-buddies, who knows?) with a young woman who does not fit American society's definition of "hot."

You see, attractive black women are "supposed to" look like Halle Berry or Michelle Obama, or, perhaps, Oprah.

The amount of vitriol heaped upon Jeantel that's I've seen illustrates why a young woman like Rachel wouldn't race forward to put herself in the spotlight.

Fat-bashing seems to be the last acceptable prejudice.

OBVIOUSLY, if a person is overweight (to visual appraisal), s/he is not worthy of a relationship, or a friendship, or a job, or being believed in court.

But worse, of course that how any of the witnesses were treated was what just happened to Justice. 


And Trayvon.

Shame, Shame on you Florida. I am battling really hard not to wish that all the lawyers, legal assistants, and jurors who just let a child-killer go free should experience similar pain. I don't want to wish ill on anyone, and I certainly won't become violent against anyone.

But if karma decides to balance things out, if bad things (not violent things) happen to them, I won't need too many tissues.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thrill Me, Chill Me, Just Don't Kill Me

If I was left in a locked room with a murder mystery and nothing else to read for the rest of my life, I'd probably do myself in. I've never been much for thrillers or romantic suspense, either. Maybe it's function of having led a dramatic life.  When I escape into a book, I don't need or want more of the same.

Or, not, since I've had (still have) great sex, and still enjoy reading about that. <insert naughty smile here.> Perhaps it's just a matter of personal taste.

Still, I used to watch Scooby Doo for endless hours, and eventually I figured out the villain is almost always going to be the friendly caretaker, or the maid, or... somebody we've met, and would never, ever, suspect.

But I'm trying not to be a book snob, and lately I've read quite a few, and some true crime as well. Some because they were written by friends and some because I got 'em for free last year at the RWA National Conference and some because I was following the herd or intrigued by the headlines.

Here now my reviews:



COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery (#5)COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery by Kassandra Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars. I won a free copy of this book, and was asked (not required) to give an honest review, if possible. I was inclined to gag, as I don't LIKE murder mysteries, and most thrillers leave me less than thrilled.

I really enjoyed this book, the first I've read by Kassandra Lamb. The set-up was believable, the action fast-paced, the actions of Dr. Kate and her P.I. spouse and inner circle believable. There were love scenes between Kate & Skip, but the "heat level" was mild/spicy, rather than extremely steamy. If those scenes are what you're looking for, you may be disappointed, but I thought this story worked great without them.

I got bogged down a bit in the middle; there were so many people helping and guarding and taking on a contributory role it was hard for me to tell who was on first base. Kate herself seemed to fade into the background, the only action she took - cleaning. (Ugh!) In fact, I would say that the real heroine in this book (character role that would get the most screen time, if this was a movie) was probably Rose - but I liked Rose, so that wasn't an issue for me.

I did figure out early on who the baddie must logically be (another reason I generally don't like this genre much), but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Despite being the fifth book in the series, it worked well as a stand alone, a sign of good writing. I'll definitely read more by this author.


First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love snark and sarcasm, but not, I discovered, for 300+ pages, in first person.

Or maybe it's just that I don't personally care for mystery, as an adult. I can always see The Big Reveal coming from miles away, and this book was no different, though I wanted it to be.

The writing is excellent, and oh-so-clever, but it felt like too much. Like a hot-dog-eating contest - how much can we cram in here?

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). For me, while I mostly enjoyed it, I have zero interest in reading the rest of the series.



Into the DarkInto the Dark by Stacy Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the kind of book I usually like. However, I found myself turning page after page, and burned through it in one weekend.

Mostly, I liked the heroine, Emilie. I didn't feel the romance between her and Nathan heated up fast enough, and then it went a little too fast for my taste. Also, the villain (The Taker) was borderline more interesting than either Emilie or Nathan.

The stories and visual (and olfactory) tour of the tunnels of Las Vegas were fascinating. Given the title, and the heroine's fear of the dark, I would have preferred for the climactic scenes to end there. Even so, it moved well, ended well, and I will definitely be reading more by this author.



Caught in the ActCaught in the Act by Jill Sorenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Kari Strauss is a good girl doing bad things for good reasons. She smuggles a young Mexican woman, Maria, across the border. She agrees to smuggle drugs, in an attempt to rescue her drug addict sister from the clutches of the bad guys.

Border Patrol Officer Adam Cortez is a good guy, as well. He suspects Kari of being up to no good, and tells himself that’s why he’s keeping an eye on her. These two are on opposite sides of the law, if not opposite sides of the sheets..

What I really liked about this book:
• The explicitly steamy romance between both the A couple, Kari and Adam, and the more tender romance between Maria and Ian.
• The fast-paced action, and unexpected twists and turns.
• The way the bad guy was not cartoonishly bad, but had his good points.
• The humor interlaced with the suspense, especially the date at Adam’s house that gets crashed by his babysitting gig.
• The way the author isn’t afraid to put her heroine through the emotional wringer.

What bugged me about this book:
• It took a little bit too long for Kari and Adam to trust each other.
• Kari’s business seems too convenient; it’s thriving, though she doesn’t have any sales clerks or other help, and only rarely does it seem there is more than one person in her store.
• The engagement ring at the end.

Yes, danger, adrenaline and hormones does inspire healthy young people to jump in the sack together. But I hate when couples are “in love” and ready to marry when they’ve known each other less than a month. Be a couple, boink each others’ brains out, sure, but don’t start shopping rings and talking marriage until you’ve known each other at least six months or more.

*steps down off soapbox*




Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read this in a weekend. Certainly a page-turner. Well-written in some ways, badly written in others. Seemed to me that Nick and Amy had the same "voice," there was no distinction except for the chapter headings as to who was speaking. There were many clever observations and turns of phrases, but they BOTH made them, and they're often recycled.

"the Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishing world - throw some kibble at it, watch it dance on its little leash, oh quite cute, it definitely won't kill us in the night." (Nick)

"we sometimes laugh, laugh out loud, at the horrible things women make their husbands do to prove their love. The pointless tasks, the myriad surrenders. We call these men the dancing monkeys." (Amy)

As a villain, Amy was much too Superheroic. Every time she got into trouble, she managed to squirm (or stab) her way out of it, without paying too dear a price. And then the ending - 39 year old, coming from a mother with a history of miscarriage can easily get preggers from a couple vials of frozen sperm and possibly hubs' jerk-off Kleenexes? I ain't buying it.

Nick was just as devious as Amy was, he simply wasn't as good at it.

I ended up disliking both characters intensely, and the further I've gotten from finishing the novel, the more I feel it is very clever, on the surface, but not particularly deep. Some books, they haunt after I finish them; this one, the farther I've gotten from it, the less I like it.



The Ruth Valley MissingThe Ruth Valley Missing by Amber West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a mystery fan you will probably enjoy this a lot. A real page turner that moves fast and repeatedly puts the heroine in danger.

Jameson is a very likable character - loved her voice - but there was not enough background given as to WHY she would basically throw a dart at the map and end up in Ruth Valley. Did she have a history of impulse relocations? I was not sure given her close relationship with the doctor at the hospital if she was really a volunteer, or a mental patient. Her family background could/should have given her more impetus, and while her father gets dragged into it, then he simply isn't a factor any longer. That's a loose end that should have been tied up.

Father Mike was the best kind of creepy priest, and kudos for leaving me hanging till the last minute discovering who (some) of the bad guys were. Some of it seemed obvious, and I figured out why we didn't want any of the barbecue early on.

I'm still not sold on the mystery genre, but I enjoyed this very much anyway.


Shattered InnocenceShattered Innocence by Robert Scott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the three Ohio women were released from their captivity, I was reminded of another woman who had grown up as a prisoner and forced to bear her captor's children, Jaycee Dugard. This book is subtitled "The Untold Story," but that simply isn't true. It is almost entirely gleaned from newspapers, print magazines, and court documents, and almost all of it is about the Garridos, NOT Jaycee. If the author managed to score a personal interview with anyone involved, it was impossible to discern.

There is much value in this material - who WERE Phillip and Nancy Garrido? Why was this convicted kidnapper and rapist free to harm another human being (was going to say another woman, but at 11, Jaycee was scarcely that)? How did he morph from a seemingly normal young man into a MONSTER - and what is the story with the zombie wife, who married him while he was in Leavenworth and has been kicked-dog-loyal to him ever since? This book addresses some, if not all of those issues. However, in some places it becomes tedious and info-dump-y in the extreme.

And of what most people want to know - what was JAYCEE thinking, feeling - at the time she was abducted, during her years in that backyard, and since that time? Well, she's written her own autobiography, and she tells her story exceedingly well. THIS is not that book.



This is that book.


A Stolen LifeA Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jaycee Dugard is one of my sheroes. She exhibits an inner strength and courage that is not found in many people, of any age, and she had to develop that strength when she was so heartbreakingly young.

Everyone knows the basic details of Jaycee's story - she was kidnapped by a convicted rapist and his wife, brutally raped and abused for years, kept in a backyard compound where she bore two children and lived for 18 years, before some alert college campus cops figured out something was "off" about the two young girls that Phillip Garrido had brought with him to pitch his ?book? ?presentation?

This is her sharing from the inside, as best she could remember, in many places with scraps of her own journals. What she felt, what she remembers, how she felt about it, later, after she recovered her name and life.

It's raw, and very little editing was done. So for some people, that's a stumbling point. Knowing that Jaycee's education stopped at fifth grade, I think she did an amazing job.

As she did with her daughters, who clearly she loves very much. There's an innate conflict there, because no matter how she feels about him, her rapist and kidnapper is their father. Someday (if they haven't already), her daughters may read what she had to say about him, about them and their life in that tented "compound."

18 years - I am not sure I would be still alive or sane after 18 years. She could so easily have taken her own life, or done/said the wrong thing and "made" that madman kill her, but she survived, and found pleasure in small things, in pets and her daughters and she fought fiercely for their education, looking up lessons on the Internet and printing out worksheets.

And if you wonder why she (or anyone) in a situation of domestic violence or captivity didn't run on the rare occasions she was allowed out in public, didn't try to send a message through the Internet, this memoir will help you understand.

Emotionally it's a very difficult read in many places, but inspiring, too. If nothing else, I urge you to buy a copy to support Jaycee, whether you ever read it or not.

***

Even though I'm pretty sure I will never love mystery-thriller-suspense-true crime as much as I do historical fiction and contemporary romance, I'm trying to pry my mind open and taste other genres.

On my TBR list in similar genres:

  • Who Do, VooDoo? - Rochelle Staab
  • The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan
  • Dangerously Close - Dee J. Adams
  • In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson

Have you read any of the above books? 
What do you recommend?


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Monday, July 1, 2013

Slut of the Month: "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"

Margaret Tobin Brown
via Wikimedia Commons
Happy birthday, Maggie! July 18 was the birthday of Margaret Tobin Brown, now historically famous as, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." In her lifetime, however, she was Margaret Tobin or Mrs. J.J. Brown (Maggie to close friends), and never called Molly until after her death in 1932.

Your Fake Name Will Go Down in Posterity


Broadway composer/playwright Meredith Wilson apparently decided that "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" was easier to sing  than "Maggie Brown," so that's how the musical play opened, in 1960. It ran for 532 performances, and was adapted into a 1964 movie starring Debbie Reynolds.

The play and movie were fun, the character was true to life in that she was extremely lively, funny, and likable, BUT... quite a bit was adapted, changed, and fictionalized in the (unnecessary) name of making a better story.




Margaret Tobin Brown' was reported to be an excellent dancer, 
but almost certainly not so acrobatic.

Maggie is responsible for the "unsinkable" part of her reputation, though. She acquired that part of her famous nickname after delivering a sly quote to reporters soon after the Titanic disaster: “Typical Brown luck. We’re unsinkable.” (Titanic Universe)


From The History Chicks:
Imagine that you followed your heart to live an honest life doing what you felt was right: working hard, marrying for love, aiding others, traveling and always, always learning. You were a wife, a mother, a socialite, an activist, a suffragist, and a citizen of the world. You were adored by many, inspired more and lived life in the fullest, kindest way that you could imagine.  And, when you died, your impressive life story was altered to one that was almost beyond recognition. Often for the worse!

Mind you, Mrs. J.J. Brown wasn't above spinning a bit of legend about herself:
I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had determined to stay single until a man presented himself who could give to the tired old man the things I longed for him. Jim was as poor as we were, and had no better chance in life. I struggled hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I'd be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown. (via Wikipedia)

 

Just The Facts, Ma'am


Birth: July 18, 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri (also birthplace of Mark Twain), a middle child to Irish immigrants John Tobin and Johanna Collins, each of whom had been previously married and widowed with a couple of kids.

Family of Origin: Frugal, but not dirt-poor, either. Her mother insisted she get an eighth grade education (3 years more than the average for a woman of that era, and in those days, families had to pay tuition to send a child to school). Her father was once an abolitionist involved with the Underground Railroad.

Moved to Leadville, Colorado at age 18: To keep house for her brother? Work in a department store sewing curtains and carpets? Catch a husband? Different stories give different reasons for her relocation, but in fact, she did all three.

James Joseph Brown
James Joseph Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Isn't there something delightedly approachable
about this man? AND he liked to raise organic chickens, once he hit it rich.
The Hubs: James Joseph Brown, better known as J.J. Twelve years older than Maggie, he was not a rank-and-file miner, but was considered an engineer and was a mine supervisor, if not yet wealthy. So, J.J. was clearly an up-and-comer, as opposed to Maggie's rags-to-riches tale that he "had no better chance in life." They married September 1, 1886, when Maggie was just 19.

The Kids: Lawrence (Larry) born in August 1887, and Catherine Ellen (called Helen) born in July 1889. Since the Browns were Catholic (met at a church picnic), the kids were born closely together not long after the wedding, and the Browns' Denver house boasted separate bedrooms for the Browns, we can make an educated guess as to the level of physical intimacy later in their marriage. Maggie also raised her three nieces, after her brother's wife died in a mining camp.


The Money: Leadville was originally a silver mining town. The Browns were considered middle class, not poor. While they did start in a two-room cabin, they moved to a house in Leadville shortly after Larry's birth. They had enough money to hire domestic help and tutors. While in Leadville, Mrs. J.J. Brown was part of the Colorado Chapter of the National American Women's Suffrage Association, as well as working in local soup kitchen to assist families of Leadville miners, who suffered horribly (90% unemployment) when the silver market crashed.

After the crash, J.J. devised a method of shoring up sand that allowed deeper mining than had been previously possible - and the Little Johnny Mine struck gold. He was granted substantial stock in the Ibex Mining Company and the Browns became (relatively) rich. In 1894 the Browns purchased a posh house in Denver that is a museum today, and Margaret became a founding member of the Denver Women's Club and socialite.

Love of learning: As stated, both Browns loved to learn. JJ had gone from the Dakotas to several sites in Colorado to study mining techniques prior to moving to Leadville; Margaret would go on to attend the Carnegie Institute in New York where she studied literature, language, and drama. In Denver, Maggie worked with tutors for three hours each day. In Switzerland, she hired a master yodeler to teach her to yodel; in Spain she learned classic guitar. At the time of the Titanic sinking, she spoke five languages including French, German, and Russian.

Love of travel: Together Maggie and J.J. went on a world tour that included Ireland, France, Russia, and India. But eventually J.J. gave up on traveling, while Maggie was still gung-ho (and also wrote travel articles during her trips). The Browns also decided that separate bedrooms were not far enough apart, and legally separated (though they did not divorce) in 1909. Mrs. J.J. Brown kept the posh Denver house plus a generous monthly allowance.


Titanically Troubled Trip


In 1912, Maggie and her daughter Helen had been traveling in Europe and North Africa, and were in Cairo with the John Jacob Astor party (in Kristen Iversen's book there's a wonderful picture of Margaret and Helen, camelback, in front of the pyramids), when Mrs. Brown received a telegram that her young grandson was seriously ill. She booked last-minute passage on the very next ship leaving, Titanic, for a quick trip back to the States. (Thus her name was not included on the passenger lists, though she was most definitely aboard.) Helen decided at the last moment to stay in London. Mrs. Brown and the Astors boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France.


deleted scene from James Cameron's Titanic


While there was a contemporary story that circulated after the wreck about a male passenger jokingly calling for ice after the ship hit the iceberg, it wasn't Mrs. J.J. Brown. And there is no evidence that she was ever snubbed by the American or European social elite as a parvenu. She was frequently listed in the Denver Social Registry; in fact, she dominated it. Also, according to her account at the time, at the time of the iceberg collision, Mrs. Brown was reading (which will not surprise anyone), not drinking.

However, IMO Titanic (and Kathy Bates) did an excellent job of portraying Mrs. Brown's robust personality, leadership skills, and clear-headed actions. She did organize passengers and helped them to board the lifeboats. She did encourage the passengers in lifeboat #6 to return to take on more passengers, and to row their boat to keep warm. Once on board the rescue ship Carpathia, she organized a Survivors' Committee, served as its chair, and shook down solicited donations from the wealthier survivors for the benefit of the destitute ones, to the tune of almost $10,000.00. (That's $10k in 1912 money, folks.) She remained on board the Carpathia until all Titanic survivors had been met by family, friends, or were otherwise assisted off the ship, and was royally ticked off that, as a woman, she was not invited/allowed to testify at the US Senate Titanic hearings.

If there had been a "Jack Dawson" on board Titanic, it's easy to imagine that the kind-hearted and generous Maggie Brown would have taken him under her wing, loaned him clothing she'd bought for her son, and offered a bit of etiquette coaching.

Maggie also had a wonderful sense of humor, sending a wire to her Denver attorney which read:
"Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry."
When someone tried to enlist her in catty sniping at another woman, pointing out that it was not considered appropriate to wear diamonds in the daytime, Mrs. J.J. Brown replied, "I didn't think so either, until I had some."


Yes, They Did Wear Hats That Could Double As Beach Umbrellas


Mrs. J.J. Brown, Titanic survivor, presents a trophy cup
to Captain Arthur Roston, of the Carpathia
via Wikimedia Commons
I'd always thought the hats as depicted in the Cameron movie Titanic were a trifle exaggerated, but no. They actually wore those things. Check out this picture of Mrs. J.J. Brown presenting this thank you token to the Captain of the Carpathia.

She also made sure that every single crewman on the Carpathia got a token of appreciation, later dubbed "Molly Brown medals."



If The Spotlight's On, Make Use of It

Margaret Tobin Brown was one of the first women in the United States to run for political office (before women were even permitted to vote!). She ran for the Colorado state senate in 1901, the U.S. Senate in 1909 and 1914, but she abandoned her (longshot) 1914 run with the start of The Great War (WWI), to focus on other causes.

via Encyclopedia Titanica:
Margaret used her new fame as a platform to talk about issues that deeply concerned her: labor rights, women's rights, education and literacy for children, and historic preservation. During World War I, she worked the the American Committee for Devastated France to help rebuild devastated areas behind the front line, and worked with wounded French and American soldiers (the Chateau of Bierancout, a French-American museum outside of Paris, has a commemorative plaque which bears her name). In 1932 she was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her "overall good citizenship" which included helping organize the Alliance Francais, her ongoing work in raising funds for Titanic victims and crew, her work with Judge Ben Lindsey of the Juvenile Court of Denver, and her relief efforts during World War I.

She Cared About Miners and Minors


Besides her early efforts in the Leadville soup kitchen, she was a prominent figure following the Ludlow Massacre in April 1914. She publicly pressured John D. Rockefeller Jr. to resolve the mine dispute, and sent supplies and nurses to Ludlow. She walked picket lines with the United Mine Workers and the United Garment Workers.

In Denver, she founded the Denver Dumb Friends League (one of the first US humane societies), and raised money for St. Joseph's Hospital, as well as the local Catholic Cathedral.

Working with Judge Ben Lindsey, Margaret Tobin Brown pioneered a system of punishment and rehabilitation for child offenders (instead of simply locking them up with adult prisoners) that is still the basic blueprint of the US Juvenile Court system.

Final Curtain Call


In her sixties, Maggie returned to her love of drama. Why not? She studied acting in Paris in the Sarah Bernhardt style, and taught it in New York. She also performed in Paris and New York, even reprising a Bernhardt role in L'Aiglon.


After her death of a brain tumor in 1932, aged 64, Margaret Tobin Brown was buried next to J.J., who predeceased her by ten years, in Long Island's Holy Rood Cemetery. Although separated, they had remained friendly, with her stating at the time of his death, "I've never met a finer, bigger, more worthwhile man than J.J. Brown." They share a headstone to this day.

I don't know that Margaret Tobin Brown was ever specifically called a slut, but I wager, in the course of her amazing and vibrant life, she got called many insulting names (if never to her face).

Can you tell I have a serious girl-crush on this woman?

For further reading:


http://blogs.denverpost.com/titanic/2012/04/19/molly-brown-unsinkable-unforgettable/

http://www.chasingmolly-mytmcjourney.blogspot.com/





Past Sluts of the Month:

Future Slut of the Month Candidates:
  • Mae West
  • Joan of Kent
  • Cleopatra
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia 
  • Dr. Joycelyne Elders
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Kassandra of Troy
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Rhiannon
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Sarah Bernhardt
  • Matilda of Tuscany
  • Cher
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian) 
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Hwang Jin-i
  • Coco Chanel 
  • Isadora Duncan
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent 
  • Dorothy Dandridge
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Natalie Wood
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Lady Gaga
  • Malala Yousafzai

What do you think of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and her life?
Don't you wish you could have known her in real life?
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