So I Saw the Total Eclipse, Y’all

You may recall that last Monday, the U.S. had a total solar eclipse.

Eclipses occur quite frequently around the world, but this one got a lot of hype because many more people than usual were within traveling distance of totality. Including me. I’ve seen many partial eclipses, but I’ve heard from tons of people who said you must, simply must, experience the ultimate photobomb at least once in your lifetime.

Image:  awkwardyeti.com

My mum happens to live in a city in Missouri located in the band of totality that stretched across the continental United States. So, as is my wont, I vastly overpacked for three days and drove over on Saturday.

Mum’s brother decided to drive over too, on his own. I prefer not to carpool in case my travel anxiety dictates an urgent need to leave; a fortuitous habit, as it turned out.  Mum put me downstairs in the finished basement. I didn’t mind this, but I had to sleep on a slowly deflating air mattress, and I might as well have been on the floor. Oof.

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: Alex Rotas / positivenews

S. and A., chat room friends from Europe, were traveling in the States for a concert and other visits, and they messaged me that they were coming to St. Louis for the eclipse and wanted to meet up. Mum was fine with them coming down to watch with us, so they did.

My uncle plays the guitar like a goddamn virtuoso and he really impressed them. We had an outstanding visit. I rarely get to see S. and A., because 1) they’re in the Netherlands and Poland, respectively, and 2) I can’t travel as much as they do.

The total eclipse absolutely amazed me. Anyone who saw a partial just cannot understand how mind-bendingly weird it is. The strange silvery light–like twilight but not, that no camera can capture. The crescent shadows (partials will make those, so you saw them if you were in any of it).

Crescent shadows on uncle’s car.

Image: Elizabeth West

As the day slowly darkened, the birds settled down as if it were night. We have cicadas this year, and they began to buzz the way they do at dusk. The temperature dropped. The day had grown butt-melting hot, so we appreciated that more than you could know. A breeze started to blow. The diamond ring appeared as the eclipse neared its peak, and we could see Bailey’s beads.

Then, totality.

I always thought when the moon obscured the sun, it would slide slowly over it and the sun would gradually fade out, but it wasn’t like that at all.  When totality comes, the moon sort of slams into place over the sun like a manhole cover, and the corona explodes into view.  It’s not the least bit subtle! And then you take off your glasses and see this big black hole in the sky.

A HOLE IN THE SKY Y’ALL

Okay, so I may have freaked out a little bit.

I forgot to upload this, I think. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Elizabeth West (@dame_writesalot) on

Video: Elizabeth West

Of course it’s bigger than the camera shows, because cameras suck and I don’t have a zoom lens (but I will next time, dammit). It resembled those pictures of black holes where artists have rendered a glowing event horizon around the edges. If you look at this picture and squint to obscure the stars, you can get a rough idea of how it looked.

Image: M. Weiss / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / newsdesk.si.edu

Totality lasted a little over two minutes–the shortest two minutes of my entire life. It felt more like thirty seconds. All too soon, the diamond ring reappeared and we put our glasses back on.

We didn’t stay outside for the rest of it. Instead, we went inside for a delicious lunch of chicken tenders with herbs and apricot sauce and roasted smashed potatoes (my mum could easily take Martha Stewart’s crown right off her smug little head).

Even the potatoes did the crescent thing. This was totally accidental, btw.

Image: Elizabeth West

My uncle ran a quick errand, and unfortunately, his car decided to throw a rod or something. He had to stay over another night to have it fixed. Which meant another night on the floor for me, so I decided to go home.

S. and A. left to drive back to St. Louis for the night; they spent the next two days driving to Chicago to visit a couple of other chat friends. I’d planned to hang out with them in Krakow this past May at the Fans of Film Music festival, but as you know, I lost my damn job. But with luck, I’ll see them again soon.

The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of totality lies further east. If I were you, I’d start planning now.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that your discontented ass needs to see.

Not In My America, Assholes

Suzanne Lucas (Evil HR Lady) recently posted an article about whether employers should or can fire the white supremacists (neo-Nazis) who participated in the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend.

I’m going to repost my comment from Evil HR Lady’s blog post (and Inc. article) about this here.

Here’s a link to her article (somebody may have already beat me to this): Should You Fire the Charlottesville Protestors?

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I also posted this thread.

My comment on Suzanne’s blog:

This is tricky legal territory. I agree with Suzanne; employers should be really careful to make sure they’re not firing someone unlawfully.

You can be fired if your employer deems your presence disruptive and all the legal conditions are satisfied. If you work with clients, they could decide it’s too much risk–what if one of them recognizes you and they lose customers because nobody wants to contribute to your livelihood?

And she’s right that mob identification can often result in a mistake–recently in London, a jogger randomly pushed a woman in front of a bus. Quick action by the driver kept her from being killed. The police picked up [edit] someone who was not even in the country at the time of the incident because he looked like the jogger in the CCTV video (they still haven’t found him). Luckily, they realized their error quickly and the man was cleared. If the cops can mess up, then anyone can. So do your due diligence.

I think people need to remember that our right to free speech only applies to government interference with that speech. This means the US government can’t prevent you from airing your opinion on Twitter, or marching to protest an injustice, or even staging a detestable display such as this group did, as long as you’re not breaking any other laws.

But it does NOT protect you against the consequences of that speech. When you’re out in public, you have NO expectation of privacy. You should know that attending public events might mean your face ends up on TV. People might be able to identify you. Social media makes it very easy to figure out who someone is. And yes, it may affect your employment.

On the other hand, DO NOT DOX PEOPLE. Identification is one thing. But putting people’s personal information (addresses, employers, Social Security numbers, etc.) on the internet is NOT okay. That gets into some very murky moral territory, because it’s usually done to facilitate harassment.

Just don’t be that person. If I were an employer and I found out you were doxxing people, regardless of whether they were Nazis or not, I would really rethink my decision to hire you.
———-

Hate speech has absolutely no history of or evidence backing it up as being in any way constructive. It exists merely to harass, intimidate, and terrorize people who are different from the person saying it. It can be (though not always is) inciting, which is not covered by the First Amendment, according to Brandenburg. v. Ohio When designed for this purpose, hate speech can incite terrorism.

The neo-Nazis want ONE thing–the complete destruction of anyone they view as “other.” That means anyone who is not white, or anyone who opposes them. They are pushing a false narrative of oppression to justify this agenda.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to entertain this kind of thing. I think we’ve (almost) reached a point where you’re either a Nazi sympathizer or you’re not. There is no “many sides.” There is no longer any nuance.

We fought a worldwide war to rid ourselves of this. Do we have to do it again? Are we going to have a war on American soil, and will troops from other countries come here to fight with us? I highly doubt it; they’ll probably just watch us tear ourselves apart from the inside.

Then someone will take advantage of the chaos and step in and take over. Guess who that could be? Might rhyme with tootin’.

If we don’t call it out immediately, it will only get worse. Trump’s waffling and refusal to do so has literally excited them. They think he supports them–he probably does, for the votes, at least until he sees that there is no way in almighty Hell he’ll be re-elected. We have to make SURE of that.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

–Call your Congressional representatives (please be polite to the staffers) and tell them how you feel. Demand the removal of Nazi sympathizers Bannon, Gorka, and Miller (and for good measure, known racist Jeff Sessions) from the Trump administration. Tell your representatives that you support their efforts to combat domestic terrorism perpetrated by right-wing factions.
Contact information and scripts here: 5calls.org

–Donate to organizations that combat hate and discrimination.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are working hard against it. You can also report hate incidents at SPLC’s Hatewatch page.

–Report hate crimes in your community to local law enforcement.

–Don’t forget to vote in local elections as well as national ones.  If someone needs a ride to the polls, give them one.  Vote against discriminatory candidates, and against voter ID laws, which target poor and minority voters who are more likely to vote for progressive candidates. Election schedules can be found at the My Time To Vote website. 

–If you want to counter protest, stay safe and do it lawfully. This article from Self magazine has tips on safety, what to bring, etc. and useful links at the end:

21 Things To Know About Your Right To Protest And How To Do It Safely

BEFORE YOU COMMENT:

Please visit my comment policy page. I will remove you, block you, and report you if you post any hateful rhetoric here or threaten me or any other commenters.

I Missed Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 So I’m Doing My Own

So I’ve been busy/not busy.

You might know (or not) that I’m still not working at the moment. Most of my time has been spent job hunting, and while that’s not entirely a full-time job, it does occupy a lot of head space.

Assuming your head is this big.

Image: superheroes.wikia.com

July is a Camp NaNoWriMo month (also April), the summer version of NaNoWriMo. Since I’ve been scouring job listings and writing cover letters until my face bleeds, I missed it. My intention was to use it for something, but that did not happen. I tend to actually work better when I have something else going on. Like you know, a job.

I’ve got five queries out for Tunerville at the moment. A couple of them don’t look like they’ll garner any results, but you never know. The period for a no reply = no isn’t up quite yet. Should someone decide they want to represent me, one of the first questions they’ll ask is “What else are you working on?”

I realized I have no answer for that question.

Secret Book is finished, but it’s such a hot mess that it could take me years to work it out. Not only would I have to do a ton of research I’m not ready to do, but I screwed up so badly that it requires an extensive rewrite. That’s okay; it happens. The book failed in its first iteration, but even if I can’t salvage it as a whole, it contains a ton of well-written prose I can cannibalize for something else.

That’s how you learn, grasshopper.

Image: imdb.com

Rose’s Hostage is so old I don’t know if I can even sell it. I’d like to, but it probably needs another edit. I don’t have time for it right now.

Tunerville’s first full manuscript was rejected in September and I was so disappointed, but I received a (rare!) critique. I’ve done some revision and I’m editing it now to reduce the word count again and clean it up a little more. I thought it could be a stand-alone or the start of a trilogy.

In keeping with the great maestro Ludwig van Beethoven, I thought of a really cool way to carry the trilogy idea forward while on a daily walk. Beethoven was big on taking long walks, but of course he had the Vienna Woods for that. I get to walk among discarded liquor shots and condemned houses.

That’s the only thing we have in common, as Ludwig was a genius and I am decidedly not. (Confession time–I used to have an ENORMOUS crush on the guy.)

You know what they say about musicians.  ;)

Image: allmusic.com

The entire month of August, I will be writing. In between job hunting, interviews, studying, and a total eclipse of the sun for which I have a front-row seat, Book Two is going to blast out of my computer. First drafts suck, I hate writing them, and sustained torture seems to be the only way I can do so.

Should I bother? I don’t know if anyone will ever publish Tunerville. People have told me they’d like to read it.  People who have read it liked it. Industry folks have said I’m very close. Either way, I’m a writer and that’s what I do. I won’t get any better at it if I sit on my arse and click hearts underneath pictures of cats on Twitter all day.

So I’m gonna sit on my arse and write. I’ll try to stay up-to-date on social media (I have to, as a member of the #Resistance) and keep you informed here as much as I can. Don’t expect any word count posts. I’ve placed a widget on the main page, at the top right. I’m shooting for 80,000 words or until I’m finished, whatever comes first.

Do expect eclipse photos and video, assuming it’s not cloudy that day. If you need anything, follow me on Twitter at @DameWritesalot; that’s the best place to catch me.

*sigh*
*deep breath*

And here we go.

You Asked for This Vaccine Opinion; Here It Is.

Recently, a friend posted one of those articles on Facebook. I’m sure you can guess by the title of this post what the subject was. She asked for opinions, so here’s mine. If you see a link, click on it–you might learn something.

I take issue with this whole vaccines-cause-autism thing, for the following reasons:

1.  Vaccination has over 100 years of research behind it. It’s safe for most people. Someone not believing a fact that is backed up with direct, observable data doesn’t automatically make it untrue.

2.  Clinging stubbornly to a discredited study by a guy who faked most of it because of special interests (re: money) is the height of ignorance and willful stupidity, and it bugs me to see it coming from otherwise intelligent people. It’s a mark of gullibility, pure and simple, as well as a frightening symptom of the lack of critical thinking skills in our society as a whole.

Scientists were rightly alarmed by Wakefield’s claims, and so they checked his data. It was bad. It was wrong, and they found no evidence to back it up. Because that’s what good science does–it checks.

3.  Nobody is quite sure what causes autism; it seems to be geneticSpending time and money constantly debunking this crap takes valuable resources away from someday pinning down that cause and / or finding new treatments.

4.  Being autistic is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. I have a friend who has two children, both of them autistic, and they are doing very well, in part because we’ve gotten better at diagnosis and understanding how earlier intervention benefits autistic kids.

Being autistic isn’t fatal. But whooping cough (pertussis) can and does absolutely kill infants and children. So does measles and other diseases vaccinations prevent. So does flu, when people don’t get their shots. In fact, one of the worst epidemics ever was the Spanish flu in 1918-1919. Scientists think they’ve figured out why it was so deadly. But if it ever comes back in a form we’re not prepared for and people are not inoculated, the public health costs could be unimaginable.

Herd immunity protects most people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons–but ONLY if everyone who can gets vaccinated.  And while it’s not a perfect defense for all diseases, it can reduce the incidence and severity of them.

Do you want these diseases back? I don’t. VACCINATE YOUR KIDS. Either that, or move to an island somewhere, because I don’t want to be around you or them.

This ridiculousness makes me seriously angry.  I want to be a mum more than anything right now, and I would far rather have an autistic child than a dead one.  

You asked.

Cheers!

The Destruction of the Arkansas Ten Commandments Monument was Unlawful; But Christian Monuments on Government Property are Unconstitutional

You’ve probably heard that somebody rammed a car into the Ten Commandments monument erected on government property in Arkansas.

Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument destroyed by vehicle 

I don’t condone destruction of property, not at all. What Mr. Reed did was wrong. But that monument should never have been there in the first place.

The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is clear–you cannot pass laws that allow an establishment of any particular religion. And a law that allows display of one religion’s monument on government property but restricts any other (i.e. a non-Christian one), IS an official endorsement of that religion, because it prioritizes it above the others.

From the Legal Information Institute website at Cornell University:

“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.”

The clause exists to preserve your religious freedom, not threaten it. You have a right to worship any way you choose, but you cannot put that into law, because then everyone is subject to it.

If you allow a religion to dictate legal matters according to its rules, then you no longer have religious freedom. You have opened the door to a takeover of whatever belief system happens to be the majority, and it may not always remain yours. I’m thinking in particular of Scientology, which has a lot of money and a lot of influence. What if Scientologists bought Congress and forced their beliefs into law? Would you like it if you were required to follow its tenets and pay for its e-meters and classes? No? I didn’t think so.

Religious freedom in the U.S. is not majority rule, and that was never its intent. The only way to be fair to everyone is to keep it separate, including prohibiting symbols of faith on government installations.

If you’re tempted to start Muslim bashing and scream about preventing Sharia law in the U.S., then perhaps you don’t know what it is. It refers to the scriptural guidelines in the Muslim religion, basically their rules for going to heaven. It’s the same thing as the Bible guidelines in Christianity.

In Muslim countries that follow a classical Sharia system, Sharia law is also the law of the country. Religious, not secular, rules dominate. Everyone has to follow them whether they like it or not. This is the system in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban also enforces it. The Islamic State takes it to extremist status, but neither they nor the classical system are the primary one. Whether it can exist in conjunction with democracy is a bone of contention in the Muslim world.

In our America, it’s fine for your church to buy land and build a sanctuary and erect a cross there, or a big stone representation of the Ten Commandments. Or a giant flowerbed in the shape of Noah’s Ark. Or a Nativity scene. That’s private property; they can do what they want with it.  It’s also fine for Muslims to do the same, and Jews, and Buddhists. Its fine for anyone else who wants to have a church. The only thing they would have to worry about is zoning laws.

But religions are constitutionally restricted from interfering in government. We have separation of church and state because making your religion the law of the land is exactly the same thing Saudi Arabia does. And we don’t want that here. The Founding Fathers didn’t want that here. That’s why the Establishment Clause exists, folks. It’s why this rule should remain intact, and why we cannot permit any religious monuments on government property.

If a Buddhist, Muslim, Satanic, or Hindu statue does not belong on your courthouse lawn, then your cross or commandments can’t go there either.

How to Drive Editors Crazy

It happens from time to time in communication.  We all have the occasional typo.  But if you write professionally, you need to make sure you use the proper word.  This means PROOFREADING.  Spellcheck doesn’t know everything.  It will skip over words spelled correctly.

And if you use Autocorrect in either your word processor or your tablet, you must beware of substitutions. We ALL know that one.

Image: damnyouautocorrect.com

Behold, in two parts, I list for thee some common mistakes that make editors gnash their teeth.  Many of them come from mispronunciation of words or homophone confusion.

I can just about guarantee I made a mistake in this post and someone will point it out to me.

Part I: Getting it Wrong

Vise versa

Um…no.

I’m a vice!  No wait; I’m a vise.  I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit.  Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

I’m a vice! No wait; I’m a vise. I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit. Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

Image: Glenn McKechnie / Wikimedia Commons

Then vs than 

I might have done this already.  It bears repeating.  Then refers to a specific time.  Use than to make a comparison.

Cut and dry

It’s cut and dried.  As in, the fish is caught, cut, dried, and now we’re done.  No more work needed.

Perq

It’s perk.  I know it’s short for perquisite, but the word is spelled perk.

Bait in switch

It’s bait and switch. You dangle the bait AND then you switch it.

Stop using quotes for anything except direct quotes!

Scare quotes (or the gesture, air quotes) have come to denote irony, which means that you’re probably saying the opposite of what you actually mean.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Image:  submitted by Mary / unnecessaryquotes.com

Irrespective (see what I did there) of what you might have heard, irregardless is a double negative and cancels itself out.  Say regardless instead.  A manager at an old job used the incorrect form all the time, and I used to laugh at him secretly.  He was a tremendous bully and customers hated him, so I don’t feel badly about it.  You may laugh at him too.

Half-hazard

Try haphazard.

Jewlery

This isn’t even a word.  It appears more often in spoken discourse, but I’ve seen it written too.  It’s jewelry. Spelled jewellery, if you’re British or learned British English.

That vs. who

That refers to objects, groups, or animals; who refers to people.  That doesn’t technically violate grammar rules, but since people aren’t objects, who is the correct form.   Example:

“I know the culprits that trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

As a proper Englishman and a learned fellow, he would never say this.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

Image:  fanpop.com

Part II: Know Your Homophones

Balling vs. bawling

You ball your girlfriend or boyfriend.  You bawl your eyes out.  If you say, “That film was so sad I was balling all over the cinema!” I’m going to look at you funny.

Cue vs. queue

Since these words have multiple meanings and some are confusing, I’m going to use them in a couple of sentences.

Cue

The pool player arrived with his cue [stick] in a special case.

An actor waits in the wings for her cue [signal].

            Tell the DJ to cue up [put next in line] a disco track.

Queue

English people love to queue [verb: line up].  They’re good at it.

Officer, the man who jumped the queue [noun: line] wore a queue [braid] down the back of his neck.    

Breaks vs. brakes 

We all got breaks when we found jobs after a long period of unemployment.

When the rabbit ran out in front of me, I hit the brakes.

Peddling vs. pedaling

You pedal a bike.

You peddle your geek junk on eBay

They see me rollin; they hatin….

Mantle vs mantel

A mantle is a cloak.  It’s also used colloquially–someone can assume the mantle of command (they put on the cloak of power).

You put things on your fireplace mantel.

Roll vs. role

One’s a verb; the other is a noun.  Bartholomew will roll the cheese down the hill.  An older actor typically plays the role of King Lear.

Hoard vs horde

This is a hoard.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Image:  David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery / Wikimedia Commons

This is a horde.

375-horde

Image:  newsbiscuit.com

Pour vs. pore

Both verbs, but they do very different things.

Imma pour you a drink, man.  We’ll talk.

Deep in the library at Orthanc, Gandalf began to pore over the scrolls. 

Flare vs. flair

A flare is a Roman candle you put on the road when you’ve broken down.  Flair is about how you show your sassy self!

Palate vs. palette

The first one refers to your sense of taste, or the roof of your mouth.  The other is the thing on which Bob Ross mixes his little roll of paint.

Wean vs. ween

If you mess this one up, I will laugh like this:  HAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAA!  Because deep inside, I’m a dirty-minded sixth-grader.

To wean is to extract yourself gradually from a dependence on something.  You wean yourself off that daily latte. You wean your little babby off formula/breast milk and onto solid food.

Ween is a very old word meaning to think or expect something.  It’s also short for wiener, which is slang for your big old willy.  Willy is slang for your penis, bro.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Image:  goonies.wikia.com

Grizzly or grizzliest vs. grisly

I see this one a lot.  Grizzly as an adjective means flecked with grey, as in an old dog’s muzzle.  As a noun, it’s a species of bear.

Grisly means something that causes disgust or horror, like blood and guts.  So a grizzly grizzly can do grisly things to your sad little meat body.

Finally, one I saw just today:

Wrap vs. rap

A bad wrap–this is what you get when you let your cat assist you with the Christmas presents.  A bad rap means somebody’s dissing you.

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

Image:  MoreFlippyCat / YouTube

Remember, Autocorrect and Spellcheck are great tools, but neither is a substitute for editing.  If you can, ask someone else to look at your article.  Or set it aside for a while and go back to it.  Print it out and look at it on paper–your eye doesn’t see the same thing on screen in the same way.

Now go forth and edit!

No, I Do Not Have to Accept Bullshit – Stop Telling Me to Welcome Trump

This will be my last post about the election on this blog.  Barring discussions of censorship, anything politics-related from now on will appear on either my Tumblr or Twitter feeds.  We’ll go back to our hopefully more regularly scheduled posts on writing, art, etc.  I don’t have time to blog about the Evil Pumpkin and his sidekick the Ruthless Ghost; I have a job to find and a book to revise / query and another to write.

If I don’t have any book news to share, we’ll just have fun instead.

If I don’t have any book news to share, we’ll just have fun instead.

Image:  stockimage / freedigitalphotos.net

A Facebook friend shared this Seth Millstein article from Bustle today– What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now.  In the wake of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, a vast worldwide protest of historic significance, I find it doubly important.  I’ve seen this rebuke in comments dozens of times now–“Get over it!  He’s your president! Suck it up! Accept it!”–and quite frankly, it’s getting old.

Let me make this absolutely clear.

I will continue to be a law-abiding citizen as I have always done.  I will exercise my rights and fight within current legal guidelines to dismantle any attempt to curtail them.  In the event those rights are revoked, I will use any tools available to continue that battle.

I am under no obligation to accept racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, abuse, gaslighting, lying, or the interference of a foreign power in the machinations of my government.  I do not have to bow down to anyone.  This is not a monarchy.  It will not be a dictatorship because we will not allow it.

I do not have to use the title of president when referring to the person who holds that title.  Calling him Trump, or Mr. Trump if I’m ever unfortunate enough to be in the same room with him, is perfectly acceptable.

I will support artists and writers’ efforts to speak out, to represent marginalized and underrepresented citizens, to expose lies and propaganda and misdirection.  I will do everything I can to ensure we aren’t silenced.

I will support programs that seek to fund artistic endeavors of all kinds.  Art provides escape and succor and peace, spurs us to action, and helps us see the exquisite beauty of our world.  It’s a reflection of our society.  It shows us where we’re going and where we’ve been.  It stimulates our collective imagination as to what we could become.

Understand that I’m also fighting for YOU.  What hurts me also hurts you, and vice versa.  Whether we agree or not isn’t the point.  By looking at facts, I try to see things clearly rather than through a fog of rhetoric.  You can depend on me to continue.  I will try my best to be respectful of your views so we can discuss them, and all I ask is the same from you.  If you’re not capable of that, or if my anger or frustration hinders polite discourse, I will step away from you and direct my efforts elsewhere.

For what it’s worth, I believe we’re moving toward a more progressive society and not a lesser one.  It may hurt to excise this abscess of hate, but once it’s gone, things will be better for everybody.

I care about this country and the world.  I care about you.  Let’s fix these problems together.

Always Team Cap; never Team Hydra. 

Always Team Cap; never Team Hydra.

Links:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – National non-partisan non-profit that works to defend the rights of persons in the United States

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – Non-profit fighting hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation. Monitors hate groups.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – Works to fight institutionalized racism in America

Lambda Legal – Organization working to ensure rights of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people through education and policy

Human Rights Campaign – Action organization dedicated to LGBTQ rights

Planned Parenthood – Provides sexual and reproductive health care (STD testing, prenatal care, birth control, cancer screenings, abortion referral) and education to low-income women.  Planned Parenthood also provides sexual and reproductive health services to men.  

More links to organizations you can help support or volunteer for in this HuffPo article:

These Organizations Will Critically Need Support During Trump’s Presidency

A Farewell to Harm – Fuck off, 2016

Boy, this has been one epic toilet of a year, hasn’t it?  Let us count the ways.

A large number of celebrity deaths

Lots of people, notable and not, died during the year.  But we lost some of our most revered legends, more than usual, and some of them were grossly unexpected, like David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and Prince.

It's okay to have a sad.

It’s okay to have a sad.

Image: Macro / publicdomainpictures.net

One of the most contentious and insane presidential elections ever

I’m not going to post the Pumpkin’s New Year tweet here; if you’re so inclined, you can go view it on Twitter.  But this response from Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow made me laugh the hardest:

I love James–and you should check out his music, seriously.

I really don’t have much more to say about the election, other than to remind everyone that we can fight back in many ways.  Help each other out, even those you disagree with.  In the next few years, that kindness will make bank, because a ton of voters are already regretting their choice.  If you cannot, do what you must to keep yourself safe and know that many of us, myself included, will step up for you.

AND GET YOUR ARSE OUT AND VOTE IN THE MID-TERMS IN 2018.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

Vast amounts of really shitty personal crap

Okay, I asked the universe earlier in the year to challenge me, not with disaster, but by giving me everything I want all at the same time.  “I can handle it!” I cried.

What I forgot was that in order for new stuff to slide in, first the old stuff has to vacate the space.

Oh yeah...right.

Oh yeah…right.

Image:  cw-c.tumbler.com

The universe has been methodically removing things from my life.  Losing my job two days after the election felt like the final blow, though silver linings do exist. There is one more possible crushing and horrible disappointment that I don’t want to talk about. But maybe it’s not a disaster just yet.  We’ll see.

I’m far from the only person who has had a ton of what-the-actual-hell land on them this year.  It does seem like a great big pile-on. When you’re down, there’s nowhere to go but up.  A friend of mine said that sometimes chaos signals deep change.  So all the crazy stuff we’ve been experiencing could be the last desperate death throes of the things that keep us from evolving, both in societal and personal ways.

Here’s to a happier, safer, and better 2017!

goodbye-2016

I made dis.  Feel free to pass it around, haha.

And see this shitty year get a performance review courtesy of Chris Bucholz at Cracked.

Have A Seat 2016, It’s Time For Annual Performance Reviews

Screw You in the Ass with a Cactus, 2016

You really are clawing at everybody on your way out, aren’t you, 2016?

Carrie Fisher, actor best known for Star Wars (Princess Leia, General Organa!) / writer (Postcards from the Edge and other books) / mental health and women’s rights advocate, at 60 (WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I have no words.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x) Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary 54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO's Documentary 'Bright Lights', USA - 10 Oct 2016

Photo by Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock (6196713x)
Carrie Fisher with Dog Gary
54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO’s Documentary ‘Bright Lights’, USA – 10 Oct 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image:  tvline.com

Ricky Harris, comedian / actor (Everybody Hates Chris)at 54 (also WAY too young), of a heart attack.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Ricky’s, but I liked him on the show and I didn’t want to forget him here.

Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Ricky Harris in 2011. Photo: Jerod Harris / Getty Images, file

Image: nbcnews.com

George Michael, musician (formerly of the 1980s pop duo Wham!) / secret philanthropist, at 53 (okay, now this is getting stupid) of heart failure–quietly in his sleep, apparently.  I know a story about George where he doesn’t come off so well, but anyone can have a shitty day.  I liked his music.

Image: tvline.com

Richard Adams, writer (Watership Down–the bunny book) at 96, which is kind of old (but awesome).  He also wrote The Plague Dogs–it’s a very hard read because after you finish it, you want to kill anyone who experiments on dogs.

richard-adams-2016

Image: rte.ie

Liz Smith, actor, Royle Family and The Vicar of Dibley, at 95, also of being old (but still awesome).  I loved her as the dim-witted Letitia Cropley on Vicar.

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Nooo not Mrs. Cropley!

Image: BBC / theguardian.com

RIP, folks, and party hearty with those who have gone before you.  Our only consolation is that this bastard tire fire of a year from Planet Hell has only four more days left.

To end on a lighter note, read this tweet.  It made me laugh out loud, which I think Carrie Fisher would have liked.  And everybody please take good care of your hearts.

My First Writer’s Conference! ShowMe Writers Masterclass

I’ve tried to write this post a couple of times in the last two weeks, but with a big rejection, the election, and losing my job a couple of days afterward, it’s been a little tense around here.

I suspect the Q Continuum may be involved.

I suspect the Q Continuum may be involved.

Image:  Rex Features / telegraph.co.uk

So, the weekend of November 5 and 6, I went to my first writing conference ever, the ShowMe Writers MasterClass.  Put on by the Columbia chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild and Mizzou Publishing, it took place at the University of Missouri.

It wasn’t Worldcon or anything, but I live within driving distance, so I went for it.  (And got lost — thank the universe I allowed extra travel time!)

The conference attendees ranged from college-aged folks all the way through senior citizens (for some reason, I noticed a LOT of seniors).  Some were published, either self or small press; many were not.  Everyone I spoke to was very nice–each of us had the same goal, to improve our work and get it published.

The dream.

The dream.

Image:  blurppy.com

About the Masterclass

Featured speakers included Chuck Sambuchino, freelance editor, the editor of Guide to Literary Agents and the blog of the same name, and author of the humor book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will).  Chuck spoke on various topics including social media marketing, getting an agent, and publishing itself.

Chuck is funny, knowledgeable, and confident.  He knows how to keep a Q&A session moving.  If he doesn’t know the answer to a question, he doesn’t bullshit you; he says so.  You got it wrong?  He’ll let you know bluntly but respectfully.  He talks very fast, so you have to pay attention.  And trust me, you don’t want to miss a thing.

He’ll probably kill me for posting this, but he also moves fast, so it was hard to catch a better pic of him.

chuck-s-at-writers-masterclass

Like shooting wildlife.  BAM!

Photo: Elizabeth West

Listening to Chuck talk about traditional publishing, I realized I’m on track to get there eventually (I hope).  That was a good feeling.

Mary Buckham, a fantasy author who also has a couple of books out on writing, gave a talk and taught some craft sessions on setting and hooks.  She is hilarious and cool and I loved her.  I bought her book A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings.  I’m considering taking Tunerville’s characters a little bit out of their time and space.   Judging by all the great information she presented in that session, I felt it would be a worthwhile investment.   I haven’t read any of her fiction.  This must be remedied ASAP.

Mary is also a delightful person and she loves helping other writers. She peppered her talks and lessons with a sharp humor; we laughed as much as we learned.

I know she looks serious here, but trust me.

I know she looks serious here, but trust me.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Recently, an agent I queried re Tunerville requested a full manuscript and sadly, they rejected it.  BUT–I received a critique, which is the gold standard of rejections.  Agents have so much to read they rarely bother to tell you why you were rejected, but this one was very specific regarding what worked and what didn’t.  It was so nice and kind that I sent a thank-you email.

Mary told me that if I’m getting those kinds of rejections, I’m very close to publication.  I hope she’s right; I don’t want to give up on Tunerville just yet.  It pains me to move on from a book when I have expansive plans for sequels, etc.

However, we writers know it’s best to keep working.  When that call comes, the question will arise:  “What else are you working on?” And we need to have an answer ready!

Oh, a little of this, a little of that…

Oh, a little of this, a little of that…

Image:  mhpbooks.com

The conference broke writers into tracks inspired by famous Missouri writers:

  • Mark Twain (fiction)
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (creative non-fiction)
  • Maya Angelou (poetry)
  • Tennessee Williams (play/screenplay writing)

Each track had sessions pertaining to marketing, craft, and mentoring so we got the most relevant information for our categories.  As much as it pained me to miss the screenwriting stuff (a thing in which I have interest), limited time and concurrent scheduling kept me from it.

I also would have liked to attend the visual storytelling session, led by presenter Cole Closser, a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award nominee whose art has a really cool 1940s vintage vibe.  Because a story is a story–but again, I had to pick between him and something else.  Eeny meeny miney mo.

Ain't nobody catching ME by the toe.

Ain’t nobody catching ME by the toe.

Image:  Brian Gratwicke / Wikimedia Commons

The mentoring sessions with some of their featured experts were set up as either one-on-one, which cost extra, or in small groups of the first six people to arrive.  During the character building session, which comprised an analysis of character elements in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I think I hit on ways to fix Tunerville.  That was probably one of the most valuable bits of the conference for me.  Thanks to Gordon Sauer for lending his expertise.

You can also use these gatherings to network with other writers or even agents.  ShowMe Writers Masterclass also offered a pitchfest, which is an activity where writers can actually spend a few minutes with a real, live agent and tell him/her about their book (pitching it–this is like a mini-query, but in person).  See the link for more information.

This also cost extra, and none of the featured agents represented my work, so I skipped it.  But I did get to chat a bit with one of them at their table and took the agency’s business card, because who knows?

Things I Learned from the Masterclass

Aside from the craft and marketing stuff.

  1. You should know your preferred category of writing before you go. You should really know your category anyway.
  1. The website said to dress with comfort in mind, but don’t be a slob. If you’re meeting with an agent during a pitchfest, you’ll need to convey a professional image–no ratty shirts and holey jeans.  You will cover some ground during these things, so WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES.
  1. Take notes! Lots of them!  Don’t rely on your memory.  Our programs had a space for this–I used the handouts and a notebook.  I intended to use my computer, but lugging it around the first day sucked, so I just wrote them.
  1. Register early, as you can often get a discount on lodging through the conference. I had to wait to book a hotel and ended up at Howard Johnson’s, which wasn’t too bad and economical.
  1. Don’t be afraid to engage with presenters and instructors. Talk to them at their tables.  Give them some love!  Ask lots of questions–your purpose here is to learn as much as you can.

I had a great weekend, despite the driving.  Bonus; a chat room friend lives close by, so we got together for dinner and went to see Doctor Strange with her friends and her husband (it was awesome! Go see it!).

If you’ve never attended a event like this, I highly recommend it.  Google writing conferences in your area; you’re bound to find some.  Get out of your cave and mix and mingle.