Friday, April 29, 2011

Okay. Super.

So, I'm moving to WordPress. You can find me here from now on:

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Blogspot/Blogger. I know a lot of people who use it and are perfectly happy. In fact, I'm happy here, too, but I think I might be happier at WordPress. It seems to be a little more flexible with design and doesn't seem to have as many ads so I guess that's it.

Thanks, all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Free speech, hatred and the Patriot Guard

I think we can all agree that Fred Phelps and his church members are some of the most vile people on earth, certainly some of the more disgusting American citizens there are. They do not spread the love of Christ, they spread only hatred. Their actions make me ill and embarrass me as a Christian.

Where we might disagree is over today's Supreme Court ruling that they are, in fact, afforded the right to free speech and can continue their protests at military funerals. Yes, that's right. I agree with the ruling. I wish the Court had imposed some sort of restriction regarding the distance they must keep from the mourners and the volume at which they might hold their protests and the size of their idiotic signs, but it is what it is.

That said, I would encourage you all to head on over to the Patriot Guard website, sign yourself up and get the contact information for your state's captain. You don't need a bike. You don't have to hold any particular political affiliation. You don't have to be a Vet to stand with these men and women in shielding the families and friends of our fallen soldiers from the hatred of Westboro as they lay their loved ones to rest.

Perhaps not all of you are biker-friendly. My experience with them has been limited, though my dad was a proud member of the Ant Hill Mob of Northern Wisconsin. In my experience, the vast majority of bikers are good people who love their families, their country and their bikes, pretty much in that order.

State captains:

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm writing.

It's been a month and a half since I lost my job. In that time, I've sent out scores of resumes, done easily a ton of laundry, reconnected with some old friends I hadn't seen in an age and I've been writing.

That's the exciting part. Writing.

I hear myself say it like a grand announcement. Like other people say, "I'm getting married!" or "I just won the lottery!" I say, "I'm writing!"

Some people take it as just that, the announcement they've been waiting for years for me to shout out. Others, mostly those who haven't known me for decades or don't know me as well, don't seem to get the importance of this statement.

"I have something to tell you."
"What is it? Are you getting married?"
"Are you pregnant?"
"Still no."
"Ahh. You're a lesbian!"
"Wrong again. I'm writing."

I completed the short story for the competition and, once it was accepted by those folks, posted it on Smashwords. I'm working on another short and, when that's done, I'll work on a follow-up to the first one since the people who've already bought it are asking about what happens next.

The novel is still on my plate. It seems to have taken on a life of its own and I'm just along for the ride. The main characters seem to be doing things I didn't anticipate so that's turning into a bit of an adventure. It might be a series of novellas so heads up for those.

I'm writing.

The blank page is every writer's greatest adversary. We complain about not having a place to write, or time, or peace and quiet so we can think. We use these things as excuses not to write. "Oh, I've got tons of errands to run, dirty dishes in the sink, we're almost out of dog food, the back yard needs to be raked...."

But, when it comes right down to it, we're just scared of that blank page.

Here's the next part none of us will admit: when we do actually manage to get the words on the page, we're terrified that they're not good enough. That you won't read them. That the effort we put into getting them there in the right order won't matter.

Lemme tell you, I'm reading a book right now that's an okay book. Interesting premise, easy to read. Not great. Won about a gazillion awards. And, as amused and entertained as I am by said book, I can't help but thinking, "I could TOTALLY have written that."

So, I'm going to. Not that particular one, but another one. A better one.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NYC Midnight

As previously stated, I'm currently unencumbered by gainful employment. It was sudden, unexpected and now, here I am. I went from working 40+ hours a week and carrying a full load of college courses to being an out-of-work college grad in about twelve seconds.

What's that mean? Lots of spare time, hardly any money.

So, I posted on Facebook, jokingly suggesting that one of my wealthier (read: employed) friends might want to consider sponsoring my entrance fee for a short story contest that was coming up. Key word there was "jokingly". But my friends never cease to surprise me and I got a couple offers and, after considering the reality of it for about another twelve seconds, I took the cash.

I feel slightly guilty about taking money from friends, but my contest sponsor and I have a little bit of backstory that made me stop feeling guilty and start feeling flattered: he wrote for me back when I was going to be a journalist and was on the editorial board of my college paper. He's a phenomenal writer and, nearly twenty years after the last time he read anything I've written, to have him say,"Yeah, I think you're good enough to win this thing"...well, that means a lot to me.

So, cash changed hands and we shared a chocolate chip cookie at the Lucky Lab and I signed up for my first post-college writing competition.

I was assigned a genre (fantasy) and a kicking-off point (home improvement) last weekend and set off to write a short (2,500 words) story to be submitted no later than yesterday. I don't think I've written a short story since high school. Of course, I also haven't finished anything I've written since then, either, so this at least limited the damage I could do on the page.

I wrote. I avoided talking animals by morphing a dog into a minor Norse goddess. There's a wise old man who's lost his power and a young boy setting out to claim his birthright. There's a magic hammer. There are dwarves. I was well outside of my comfort zone.

The one thing it didn't have before I hit "send"? An ending. I'm assured by other writers in the competition that this is not the biggest fault a story can have. One of my fellow writers, when asked the premise of his story, answered with,"Four words: squirrel with a shotgun." You kind of get the picture of what the quality might be for some of the submissions.

No offense meant to the guy with the squirrel. I kinda want to read that one.

Now we all wait. The next round isn't until April, at which point, those of us who advance to that round will be assigned a new combination of genre/topic and will get something like 48 hours to write our next masterpiece. Should be interesting. I'd like to have the novel mostly done by then and I'm thinking about doing ScriptFrenzy (screenwriting along the lines of NaNoWriMo) in April, too.

I did about 800 words on the novel yesterday and spent today with a new pile of library books and haven't opened a Word file all day. Woke up thinking I need to get the idea for the Other Book sketched out, but I don't want my writing to wind up like my knitting: lots of stuff on needles, but no scarves to wear when it's cold out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

November and beyond...

November dawned and I started a new adventure. Or I revisited an old adventure. No matter.

I started writing again. Not that you'd know from looking at the blog.

I took up the challenge of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. See, this group of folks from San Francisco that call themselves the Office of Letters and Light expect that writers actually write. Furthermore, they expect writers (even poor writers like myself) to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

Fifty. Thousand. Words.

As many of you are aware of my adoration for the month of October, I have an equal distaste for November. Dark and dreary, we take our Halloween costumes off and wait for Thanksgiving to hurry along so we can brighten our world with Christmas lights. But that in-between time, November, is awful.

But this past November turned out to be different for me. I picked up my pen.

I drank gallons of coffee, found myself in a half dozen coffee shops I'd never been in before, I learned to sort out the wifi capabilities of my laptop in pretty much every corner of Portlandia.

And I wrote 50,000 words. Actually, I wrote a few extra, just in case.

Then December dawned and I stopped. I had such great momentum, but I ran headlong into my last set of finals before finally attaining my bachelors degree. And then the holidays hit. And then I had a few dental issues of which we will not speak. And then I lost my job. And then I had more dental work.

It wasn't until about two weeks ago that I settled down and read what I'd written in November. It's not terrible. I started to clean up what's there and add to it. I sent it to a friend of mine who does a little editing on the side. She kinda likes it, too.

So, with all the free time in the world, I'm setting about the task of actually writing a novel. Admittedly, it's got a mind of its own. It seems that I almost have to wrestle the characters onto the page. I have to force them to speak. But if I don't, who will?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 31, 2010

Halloween will be here in a few short minutes. It's about 11:40 as I write this and I'm incredibly disappointed in my television viewing choices for this evening. Watched Hilary Swank in "Amelia". One of my other options was "Titanic" for the umpteenth time. Where are the scary or semi-scary movies?

Where are all the Draculas and their daughters? Where are the Frankensteins and their brides?Where are Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price and Christopher Plummer and Lon Chaney? Where is Hitchcock? Where is Murnau? Where ARE they?

They, my friends, have been replaced by brooding Bella Swan and her sparkling vampires. Incredibly, not even they are on t.v. tonight. The only vaguely-Halloween thing on is something starring Bette Midler. Seriously. And the scariest things I've seen for weeks have been campaign commercials.

Now, I know there's yet another installment of the Saw franchise out there, in 3D no less, but that's not what we want, is it? We want suspense. We want fear. We want something that isn't just gross for the sake of being gross.

Wasn't that the appeal of "Blair Witch"? We never actually saw the witch. We just saw a bunch of kids in the woods who'd gotten the crap scared out of them. And the classics like "Dracula's Daughter" relied not on gore but on long pauses and deep shadows to set the viewer on edge. Hollywood, are you listening? We're not all 14-year old boys. Nor are we all 14-year old girls. Keep your sparkly vampires and your crazy clown things to yourself.

Unless it's Pennywise from "It". We'll keep him. But we'll read the book instead of trying to stay awake through the four-hour miniseries with John Boy from the Waltons and a kid I went to high school with. I wonder if they still get residuals.


This has turned out to be a fairly complete October. I acquired some fresh cider from a local producer, went to a pumpkin patch, decorated a pumpkin, wore an awesome costume for almost an entire day, ate a big pile of caramel and have had the opportunity to reconnect with some friends I haven't chatted with since last October. I've even managed to spend a little time with a Druid and a couple pagans and got myself invited to a Samhain ritual. I know, right? Shocking to some of you. Not sure if I'll go, but the invitation included info about a vegan/vegetarian potluck. I do like a good potluck, but what does one wear to such a thing?

I was reminded over and over of things from my childhood: Elvira and Vincent Price, the voices of Halloween, of the Frankenstein coatrack that I avoided for years, of a series of orange plastic pumpkins used to tote trick-or-treat candy home. I was reminded of costumes of years past, mine and those of my friends and family, including my mom's collection of witch costumes over the years. I was reminded that we were gluing plastic spiders to our faces long before Martha ever considered doing such a thing.

And I'm reminded of the magic and mystery that surrounds Halloween. It's been said a million times that this is when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, when the profane becomes the mundane, when we may be offered a glimpse at what came before and, quite possibly, what lies ahead.

Thanks for coming along on another October journey. You're all what makes October well, October for me.


Friday, October 29, 2010

October 30, 2010

I sent most of the day wearing a green wig and night elf ears. And purple fuzzy boots and tiger-striped leggings and a red tabbard and a purple cape.

I had a good time with it, those silly ears and that silly wig and the spectacular costume my mom worked so hard on, feathered shoulder pieces and all. But it wore me out. I'm exhausted. My real ears hurt. My real hair is a hot mess. I'm still wearing the boots mainly because it seems like so much trouble to try to take them off. I'm just not good at costuming.

I am, however, very good at eating candy and decorating pumpkins. I'm not sure where these talents came from. Other people can play the violin or carve things from deer antlers or run really fast. I can decorate a pumpkin like nobody's business.


I had a conversation yesterday with someone I don't particularly care for. He's a vendor at the hotel and I see him nearly everyday. And nearly everyday, I find some reason that would justify my strangling him with my bare hands. But yesterday, in the inclusive spirit of October, I had an actual conversation with him.

And he told me, in not so many words, that he's a sort of medium. He can read people. He can easily identify other mediums and reach out to them with his mind. If he'd told me this in, say, April, it would have confirmed what I've believed for nearly a dozen years: he's a real whack-job.

But he didn't tell me in April. He told me in October. Somehow, this makes it more believable. So, yes, I believe him. He told me he didn't grow up with this gift, but after a near-death experience when he was in the military, he realized something was different.

Well, of course he did. He came near to the borderlands between the worlds. He was close to crossing over. That changes people. He came back with a gift. I'm not sure how useful it is to him, but it's still a gift.

He told me a story of going to a psychic fair with some friends of his who wanted to test him out. He knew immediately which of the psychics there was most powerful and focused on her. She was in the middle of a reading with someone else, he wasn't even near her. But when he focused on her, her head popped up and she nearly knocked her chair over getting to her feet. She marched over to him. "You!," she pointed a finger at him. "You have a gift and you're not using it properly!"

Regardless of what our talents are, we should all ask ourselves if she would call us out the same way. Are we using our talents properly? Are we even able to identify what our talents are?