Marriage Equality and the Power of Words

I had some thoughts while I was vacuuming the house today, an activity that usually stimulates extreme mind wandering (once I had a whole thing about being a crew member on the Enterprise NCC-1701).

Today, my thoughts were less pleasant.  This morning, I was reading online about the pending Supreme Court actions, one of which may hopefully be to strike DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) off the books.

I tried to imagine how we got to the point where we let such a blatantly unconstitutional law become a thing. No matter how I tried to justify it, to see the other side, it just completely baffled me.

Not unlike my face at that moment.

Not unlike my face at that moment.

Image:  stockimage/

It bothered me so much that I sent the Supreme Court a message on their website—which they probably won’t see, but it made me feel better.  How could my words persuade them?  What power do they have?

What would I say if any of my elderly or younger relatives asked me to explain this to them?  What words would I choose?  Maybe it would go something like this:

You see, gay people exist.  It’s nature.  Has to be, because it shows up in animals.  To nature, we’re not that special; we’re just big, bald primates.  Other animals (sharks, bears, worms, etc.) can eat us.  Some religious people (not all) think that gay people should not exist, that they’re choosing to be sinners and should not be allowed to get married.  They think being gay is against God.

Regardless of how you feel about God, Jesus, Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, DOMA is unconstitutional.  The reasons are very simple.

  1.  The U.S. Constitution says that Congress cannot enact a law that is based on one religion.  Doesn’t matter what the majority religion is; we all have the right to worship as we please.  To push a law through that is based on religion steps on the rights of free worship.  Why?  Because in a society where we are all free to worship as we please, many people will not believe what the law says.
  2. The ONLY objection to marriage equality is a religious one.  DOMA is based on a Christian belief—that of marriage being solely between a man and a woman.  Problem with their belief is, it’s not entirely historically accurate, nor does it apply to every citizen of the U.S.  Plenty of citizens are not Christian.  Plenty of Christians do not believe this.
  3. Therefore, following the logic of the first point, DOMA is unconstitutional.
  4. Marriage equality has nothing to do with church anyway.  It’s about going to the courthouse and getting a marriage license.  You don’t have to belong to any religion to do that.  You don’t have to set foot in a church either; but if you want to be legally married, you DO have to get a marriage license.

If you are not legally married, you do not have the legal rights that a married couple has—property, inheritance rights, etc.  You are not considered family and cannot visit a critically-ill or dying partner in many hospitals.  This can be true whether you are gay, or straight and living with your partner.

What about children? Well, plenty of people have babies without benefit of marriage, and plenty of married heterosexuals are either unable to have kids, or choose not to.

All gay people want is the right to go to the courthouse, like any other adult, taxpaying, U.S. citizen, and get a marriage license with the person they love.  That’s it.  No one cares what religion anyone belongs to.

PatioCat How come can get married

Photograph by Elizabeth West

PatioCat has a point here.  Hypothetical situation time:  let’s say I decided to become a Satanist.

I’m now worshiping Satan.  I go to Black Mass regularly.  Hey, I’m saying “Hail Satan.”  The Devil.  The Bad Guy.  Fire and brimstone, baby.

While I’m at my little Ritual of Not-God, I meet a man—let’s call him Anton.  We date for a while and then decide we want to get married.  Yippee.

Let’s now visit my very real high school friend (I’ll call her Zoe).  Zoe is a Christian.  She plays the piano (beautifully!) at her church.  Zoe is gay, and she has a partner I’ll call Bella.  They have been together for 17-odd years or so and have legally adopted eight (or maybe it’s nine—I’m not sure) special needs and hard-to-place kids. They are the epitome of what it means to be Christian—they care for others, they give back to their church and community, they love animals, and they are extremely nice people.

Now why is it okay for Anton and me to go to the courthouse and get a marriage license if we don’t even worship God, but it’s not okay for Zoe and Bella, merely because they aren’t heterosexual?

That makes absolutely no sense.  Why is this so stupid?  Because it’s wrong to use your personal beliefs—which are, as the name implies, personal—to control somebody else’s life?

Even a cat can see that.  I sincerely hope the Supreme Court can, as well as the rest of the people in this country.  DOMA has to go.  I had to write this post today, for my friends and loved ones who are affected by this backward, unlawful edict.

We should all use the power of our words to poke holes in fallacies, to educate and enlighten.  We need to do this, not only to help our gay fellows gain the rights they should have, but to keep our own freedoms strong.

Don’t be afraid of knowledge.  It is power:  not to control, but to stop someone else’s ignorance and bigotry from controlling you.  You may think you’re right, but you may actually be wrong.  And that’s okay—it leaves you free to learn.  That’s why God gave us brains, isn’t it?

The Adventures of Psycho Kitty

Photographs in this post by Elizabeth West

I took Psycho Kitty to the vet this morning—it was time for a couple of her shots.  Plus, she’s had trouble with her mouth.  She needs a tooth pulled.  It’s going to cost $150, plus all the soft food I have to feed her until then.  Stupid cat.

I’ve posted her here before.  You may also recognize her as Patio Cat, to whom I like to randomly attribute quotes now and then.

PatioCat INternet famousI didn’t really want a kitty.  She belonged to my former neighbors across the street, whose mama cat hid her as a kitten, so she didn’t get socialized to people.  The two of them hung out at my house a lot because my yard is fenced (and safe).  I took care of them during the ice storm in 2007, after which Mama Cat ran off and Psycho Kitty did not.

The following summer, my neighbor’s nephew knocked on my door.  When I answered, he handed me a letter from their vet stating it was time for her shots, and said “Congratulations, you have a cat!” Thanks a lot.

Those neighbors have since moved.  Their former home became Meth House, and now it’s generally known as Shithole.

Post 3:00 a.m meth bust.  It doesn’t look much better now.

Post 3:00 a.m meth bust. It doesn’t look much better now.

I managed to tame Psycho Kitty down somewhat, but she is still terrified of everyone but me and my next-door neighbor, who feeds her when I am out of town.  She is an outside cat.  I fixed her up with a little plastic doghouse, which gets stuffed with fleece blankets and insulated in the winter.

If she would just come inside, all her troubles would be over, but she HATES it.  She’ll come in the garage, but if you shut the door, she freaks.  I have to feed her inside a large cardboard box in the winter so she is out of the wind.  She also has an old pillow bed in my storage shed.

She likes to hide in the culvert pipe out front when it’s extremely hot (and when someone is mowing).  Sometimes, I’ll come home and she’ll be sprawled on the ornamental gravel next to the front door, where it’s shady and cool.

Psycho Kitty isn’t engaging all the time like Maru.  I’m lucky to catch her doing anything cute. She does have a few toys.  If I try to play with her, she’ll stare at the toy and at me as if we’re both from Mars.  Once in a while, I can get some action out of her.

Here is a video of her playing.  Sadly, she lost that ball last winter—I think she really liked it.

She’s such a scared, confused kitty.  If you move anything around outside, she freaks.  If I wear any shoes outside except the Crocs I run around the yard in, she freaks.  If I bend over her with my hair hanging loose, she freaks.  I swear, this cat is the biggest chicken on earth.

For her, a good day is a delicious kibble breakfast at 6:00 am. (or whenever Mom gets up on the weekend), then lounging around until I either get home from work or am done farking around at 5:30 or 6:00 pm.  Then dinner, preferably Blue Buffalo canned cat food or Fancy Feast Restaurant-style entrees.  Then running around the yard all night, perhaps into the neighbor’s yard, or hunting bugs on the patio.

Once in a while, she’ll kill a bird or a mouse.  I find these offerings discarded on the patio.  She rarely eats them, although one day a couple of weeks ago I caught her devouring a bird.  The other day, she left me an entire mole.  How she got that one, I’ll never know; it was huge.

Despite her foibles, she’s a pretty good kitty.  Having a pet hasn’t turned out too badly for either of us.

Remember to spay and neuter your pets.  You don’t want another Me running around, although I AM fabulous.

Remember to spay and neuter your pets. You don’t want another Me running around, although I AM fabulous.



Writing the Novel Synopsis, or I’m Supposed to Tell You How it Ends!?


I got my little car back!  And he’s all well!  He looks as if nothing even happened!

He’s gone from this:

5-28-13 Oliver accident


To this:



Today I did this to him:

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers.  Also, I control him.  Muwahaha!

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers. Also, I control him. Muwahaha!

Photographs by Elizabeth West

In other news, I have completed another pass through Tunerville, completed a chapter-by-chapter outline, and now I’ve started working on the synopses.   Why am I using the plural?  And what is a synopsis, anyway?

Simply put, it’s a summary of your novel.  Agents and publishers ask for them in manuscript submissions and sometimes in query guidelines.  They tend to ask for something short, in my experience, between one and three pages.  And yes, you have to tell them how it ends.

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

 Image:  David Castillo Dominici /

Relax, grasshopper; you can do it.  Start by thinking about your story.  What is it about?  Who are the main characters? What happens in the story?  You don’t need huge amounts of detail; just the gist of it will do.

The synopsis should be written in third person, present tense, no matter how your book is written.  Below, I’ve posted the first two paragraphs from the Rose’s Hostage one I sent to Brian.

Bored office worker LIBBY ANN MARSHALL never dreamed a man like JOSHUA ROSE would come into her life.  He is confident, sexy, and adventurous.  He is also the Black Bandit, a former gang member and armed bank robber in the (fictional) city of Ralston, IL who, one hot July day, kidnaps her during a heist. 

The crime inflames harried city police detective STEPHEN PIERCE and the FBI.  Pierce must divide his energy with another major case, prostitute killer JOHN COOK JR., known only as The Motel Shooter.  Cook is furious with Joshua for stealing all his press and launches his own search for the Bandit.  

Capitalize the names of the characters the first time you write them.  (I left out ages in parentheses because I couldn’t fit the whole thing on one page.)

For Rose’s Hostage, I have one, two, four, and seven-page synopses.  I’ve sent the one and two-page ones out.  One-pagers are probably the one you’ll use the most, so work really hard on those.

In addition to this, you should also have an elevator pitch—a short, two or three-sentence summary, sans ending—worked up and memorized, in case anyone asks you what your book is about.


Speaking of Rose’s Hostage, I haven’t received my critique from Brian Keene yet.  He should be finished soon.  Either he was too busy to get to it until today, was waiting for someone to get back to him on it, or it stunk so bad he has to practically rewrite it.  I can just imagine…”Cut this…this sucks…good God, what did you do here…auuughgg!”

  Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.

Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.

Image:  Theeradech Sanin /

You know I have more work to do on Tunerville, so why am I writing synopses now?  Well, the damn things are helpful to me.  Doing a huge outline—going through every chapter and summarizing it—gives me little bits I can use in my synopses.  It also helps me see where I need to add stuff, and I’ve already used the outline to split a very long chapter.

The synopses will change as the rewrites progress.  I’ll do the short one, so I don’t have much to edit if I move things around.  When I’m ready to submit, I won’t have to cobble one together at the last minute.

If you are finished with your book and you need some advice on writing synopses, check out the following links to start.

Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents editor, writer, and columnist) gives five tips for writing a synopsis.

Robert J. Sawyer, award-winning science fiction writer, shares his outlines and synopses with us on his website (please, Robert, hire someone to update it!).

Anne Mini’s blog, Author! Author! is a dense read, but worth it.  I learned so much here it’s not even funny.  Check out her Synopsispalooza series of posts.


Star Trek: Into Darkness–J.J. Abrams’ New Romp is a Must-See


Image:  Wikipedia

I just got back from watching Star Trek: Into Darkness, where I learned three things:

  1. When you have good characters and you stay true to them, you can do almost anything.
  2. Roddenberry’s universe just does not get old, even in repetition.
  3. Never, ever, ever, EVER piss off a Vulcan.
A boiling cauldron of seething rage.

A boiling cauldron of seething rage.


I don’t know what I expected as a follow-up to the first reboot film, which I did enjoy.  For years, sequels followed a pattern of sucking madly, never quite reaching the pinnacle of the first film.  They get rushed out to make a buck; it still happens.

But Terminator 2: Judgment Day set  a new bar, that of a carefully crafted, separate movie that continues the first story and yet stands on its own, of taking time to do a follow-up that actually works.

Into Darkness does not disappoint.

I found it predictable in spots.  As a longtime Trek fan, I know these characters.  I know how they react to things, how they should react.  I know their personalities and the way they think.  Because of this, I have to turn off a tendency to look ahead and see if I can figure out what’s coming.

At times, I saw things before the characters did, but only just.  Audiences are more sophisticated these days.  We can see plants a mile away.  And if you know a universe well, it’s not hard to guess what might happen next.

Kirk (Chris Pine) is as cocky and headstrong as ever.  I like the whole Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) thing, carried over from the first film.  It lends a bit of emotional depth to the characters in a new way, and gives Quinto, a delightful actor in any role he does, a chance to really touch on Spock’s half-human side.

The plot starts out running.  The setup is super easy to spot, as Kirk gets in deep doo-doo for breaking the good old Prime Directive to save a crew member during an observation-only mission gone wonky (big surprise there).  Conveniently, his mentor’s faith in him restores him to first officer on the Enterprise, and when an even more convenient and transparent tragedy occurs, guess who gets another chance?

Soon, the Enterprise crew, minus one hotheaded (and rightly cautious) member, gets embroiled in a secretive, classified mission that of course, Kirk will improvise his way through again.  It all seems very straightforward–shoot these mysterious missiles at the scary Starfleet rogue terrorist and rid the world of his menace.  Straightforward, that is, until they are headed home with their dangerous target actually aboard instead of dead.  But since when did Kirk EVER follow any rules?

Which brings me to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Director J.J. Abrams and the marketers have been busting their asses to keep Into Darkness’s villain a secret.  I have been busting my ass to avoid any spoilers.  It was worth the effort—my face nearly cracked in the dark from my huge grin.  And I am NOT going to tell you who it is; you have to go see it for yourself.

Nope, not gonna.

Nope, not gonna.


Cumberbatch seems in imminent danger of being typecast as a complete sociopath.  His acerbic portrayal of a modernized BBC Holmes in Sherlock pissed me off royally at first, but by the time I made it to the damn cliffhanger at the end of Series 2, he had wormed his antisocial way into my heart.  As awful as his Into Darkness character is, there comes a moment when you drop your guard, where a tiny mote of sympathy tries to misdirect you.

All the best villains are great for one reason:  they care about something.  They have motivation more complex than just a desire to create chaos.  Even if we don’t find out what is actually driving them, we sense that there is something underneath.  That is why Heath Ledger’s Joker was so amazing instead of just a directionless asshole.

Cumberbatch’s [still not gonna tell you] cares about a thing.  Cares so much, in fact, that he will do literally anything to get what he wants.  He’s a master of manipulation, but Kirk, even with the world’s easiest buttons to push, isn’t stupid.  His decisions aren’t always terrific, but they get the job done, and that’s why we love his crazy butt.

The last third of the movie is all action, but because we aren’t quite sure where loyalties lie, a nice tension flows through it.  Overall, it has good emotional range and stays true to the Star Trek universe despite the updates.  Much has been made of its dark, 9/11 influence, but you can ignore that and still enjoy it.

My only nitpicks are relatively minor:  the predictable plot turns, and a woefully brief scene with Klingons (who look FANTASTIC), perhaps a plant for a future film.    And I really don’t think Uhura needs any help to be awesome, do you?  I really would like to see Abrams do more with Star Trek’s female characters.  Finally, a bit where science officer Carol Wallace (Alice Eve) gets to be the token underwear model seems forced and obvious.

Oh, but thanks for the shirtless Kirk thing, there.  Whee!

Oh, but thanks for the shirtless Kirk thing, there. Whee!


Things I enjoyed:

  • Special effects.  Fantastic, as expected, but because the story rocked, they didn’t overshadow anything.
  • You’ll need an extra snack bar napkin for a climactic scene with Kirk and Spock.
  • Cumberbatch.  Did I mention how fabulous he was? I think I might actually love this guy.  I’m dying for more Sherlock, although his and Martin Freeman’s burgeoning popularity and BBC’s insistence on quality episodes might make that wait quite long.
  • All the lovely little bits sprinkled throughout that could lead to more stories.  Klingons, crew stuff, and [nope, still not gonna tell you] at the end.

Go see Star Trek: Into Darkness before it leaves theaters.  You’ll be glad you did.