Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

New Years is a time of resolutions and reflection.I fall victim to such folly as much as anyone.

What will I change this year?

This one question quickly devolves into a mess as I break down what I want to change versus what I can reasonably change. It then takes me down a path of reflection that occasionally goes to bad places, those places I would rather let be. It becomes difficult to move forward when things from your past reach out to drag you down, to pull you back into an ugly place that you wish to escape. We've seen it time and again, Tony wants to leave the Jets, Michael Corleone hopes to legitimize the family business he never wanted a part of, Veronica Mars is oh-so-close to a life as a high powered attorney before being sucked back in to Neptune.

Okay, so all of these characters are fictional. But there are hundreds of thousands of examples in every day life. It is no wonder we see the same stories in our fiction. Some see it as addiction, some as inability to leave the comforts of the known, and some see it as others pulling us back to where they want us.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying some things and exaggerating others but in the end, this is what I think. These are the peculiarities that roll through my mind this time of year.

In the end, I look at what I want to change. My dream list of where I'd like to be by the end of the next year. I ignore the things that could pull me back, drag me down, or tempt me in another direction. I #postpositive as much as possible. That's how my year starts, in fighter's stance with a plan to attack and achieve those things on my dream list. I don't score on all of them, but if I make progress I am pleased.

So what are YOUR resolutions and do you think you can stick with them?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why I let my kids watch The Walking Dead.....

I'm a terrible mom.

It's time I face the facts, I guess. All of you mom-shamers out there have finally made your point. I'm awful for allowing my kids to watch The Walking Dead.

No, that's not right. I don't feel bad at all for sharing this show with my kiddos. And here's why:

1. Zombies are cool. Just as Freddy, Michael, and Jason were *totally awesome* when I was a kid, zombies are the new cool. The zombie myth has been warped and twisted and stretched into almost every age range in every medium possible (Plants vs. Zombies, Monster High, Alice in Zombieland...need I go on??). At school they talk about zombies, draw zombies, and write about zombies. Bottom line, my kids are into zombies and they are going to find a way to access all things zombie so why not be a part of their discovery?

My daughter getting her zombie on as "Zombie Sophia"

2. TWD is about more than zombies. There are some incredible story lines that have led to interesting, in depth moral discussions with my kids. It's kind of like disguising vegetables so the kids will eat them....hiding lessons in TWD, who woulda thunk it? I'm not saying TWD is this generation's After School Special but we've addressed issues about defending yourself/your family, how far you'd go to survive, first crushes, and the importance of being honest. I never know what I'm going to get out of them after an episode but I look forward to it.

My son impersonating "Carl."

3. The fandom is incredible. We've attended a few events now - just a few, lol - and with this fandom, you can expect a lot of entertainment. My kids are no exception and have taken on their own "characters" to join the excitement. They've met some of the actors and I have to say that for the most part, TWD has some of the nicest celebs we've encountered.

My kiddos acting up at Horrorhound

4. It is just fun. The kids and I make a huge deal of our Walking Dead time. We like to get wings, special drinks and cool snacks - a la Gilmore Girls. Everything is set out before we even start the show and settle in so nobody misses anything.

So, I'm going to argue that I'm a great mom. My kiddos and I bond over the The Walking Dead and the best part of that statement is "bond." How many of my wanna-be-shamers can say the same thing?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

More than just the opening quotes of one of my favorite films, these lines begin a British folk verse telling the tale of Guy Fawkes. It seems appropriate that on this day, the 5th of November, I pay homage to the man, the legend and because I can, the film.

First, the man. Guy Fawkes is most famously related to November the 5th even though he was not actually the lead conspirator (according to most of the accounts I've read). What I've managed to find has been interesting but I will just pull out a few links for your brief enjoyment:

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night gives a very basic breakdown of the whole affair.

Guy Fawkes - this is probably my favorite because who doesn't love the BBC???

Here is the full Fifth of November Verse as well. If you are interested...

So, as it seems, Guy Fawkes was a pretty impressive man recruited for his know how and martyred to his groups cause after a significant bout of torture. Poor guy. All because he wanted to topple an oppressive government.

It is with this spirit that the film V for Vendetta burst onto the Hollywood scene. A stunning if not thought-provoking masterpiece by the Wachowksi siblings, V pushes the ideals of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators.

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people."

This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie and delivered at a poignant moment as V (portrayed by the ever impressive Hugo Weaving) explains to Evey (the lovely and talented Natalie Portman) why he is pushing forward with his shocking plans to tear down their current government. I won't give away the plot for those who have not watched V for Vendetta yet, but know that it is well worth your time to be reminded of what many Americans seem to have forgotten. Governments are meant to work for their people, not the other way around. I am posting political now but only to say that we are at a breaking point as our government is failing because the parties are so at odds fighting over issues that should not even be on the table when people are dying of diseases that should be curable, wars are being fought on foreign soil, our fellow Americans are starving and impoverished and utterly uneducated. Frankly, I don't know that it matters anymore who sits in the White House so long as our nation remains so divided and focused on issues that function as little more than smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real issues at hand. I hope America comes to her senses before Idiocracy becomes our reality....

Friday, September 18, 2015

Three ring circus featuring purple elephants in top hats....

Okay, I pretty much never post political because my personal beliefs are just that - personal. I have friends who run the gambit from extreme conservative to extreme liberal because I choose to generally not discuss politics with them. I ignore their political posts whether I agree or not because I don't want my friendships to be based on common political beliefs. But now, in light of the current political climate I feel the need to make some observations.

Over the years I have witnessed a lot of beautiful and terrible things, injustices and the perfection of karma coming through appropriately. To that end, I have learned that our world is not black or white. I don't think it ever was. It doesn't matter what your belief system, good people do bad and bad people do good things and above all, everybody has something. Until you've walked in somebody else's shoes you don't really have a right to tell them what to do or how to handle a situation because nobody has the exact same life experience.

Personal example? I'm divorced. I didn't want to be. I wanted the life I was promised. But that didn't happen. I've done the best I could with what I have left. People disagree with some choices. That's fine. But do you know the worst part? People look down on me for not making my marriage work. Divorcee is a dirty word to more people than you would guess. These people have no idea what happened or why my marriage is over. Yet they still weigh in. It's a good thing I'm confident in myself and their condescension doesn't get to me.

Anyway, I'm looking at a variety of other issues on the table and what I would really like people to think about is how a particular issue affects them on a personal level. I mean, really, setting aside all personal objections, moral arguments and so on, how are YOU as an individual affected? Does something offend your personal belief system? Why should that matter to Joe Schmo?

Just for Shits and Giggles example? Joe Schmo likes purple elephants with tiny top hats to dance at all of his birthday parties but his neighbor from two doors down, Cindy Lou, thinks purple elephants are an affront to God. Cindy Lou petitions to have purple elephants outlawed because they infringe on her personal beliefs and must not be tolerated. Joe Schmo wonders why Cindy Lou even cares about his purple elephants because she only sees them being led from the truck to Joe's back yard and then back into the truck after the party. Cindy Lou does not have to pick up the purple elephant turds or scratch behind the elephant's ears or provide a barrel of peanuts or even pay for the elephant's services.
Thanks Purple Elephant Clip Art for this cutie!

So what do you say about the purple elephants in top hats? Does Cindy Lou have a claim? Does it matter if Joe Schmo likes to have purple elephants for entertainment in the privacy of his own back yard? What if he wants to parade them around the block?

Obviously, I like purple elephants and I would REALLY like them in top hats, but that's not why I use this silly example. Again, I'm not addressing my personal political beliefs here, I am simply asking people to take a step back and look at the big picture. Before getting pissed off about an issue and rallying against something, step back and think "does this affect me on a personal level in my day to day life?" If the answer is "no" then why not let it go. If the answer is "yes" then figure out how it affects you, how significant an impact it actually has on you. Does it just offend your moral code? Not that that's something to be taken lightly, but I would caution that our country was built on the idea of separation of church and state with freedom of religion being protected. That does not give anybody license to force their personal religious beliefs on another person. When was that forgotten? Disregarded? Blatantly ignored?

I guess what I'm saying is, frankly, I don't give a damn what your personal beliefs are. My own personal beliefs don't matter either. What matters on every issue is what those most affected believe. I think somehow we've lost sight of what's important somewhere along the line. If everybody believed the same thing our world would not only be a boring place we would have no progress - ever. Nothing good can come of what's currently happening in our country. Nothing good at all.

Please, stop the insanity and let purple elephants rock their little top hats!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What I learned at Imaginarium 2015....

First and foremost, I learned that I do have some incredible friends who make me laugh, wipe my tears and will generally kick somebody in the A$$ if they mess with me or mine. Just a general warning to those who think they can take me, I've got some tougha$$ friends. 

Smack talk aside, I do have awesome friends and I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with them this past weekend as I slipped from panel to book signing to panel and occasionally to the ladies room. The post con blues hit me harder than usual because I didn't feel I had enough time with the people I cared for the most. My daughter observed how much happier I was surrounded by people who "get me" and support the insanity of my writing because they too are plagued with writer's brains complete with scandalous search histories.  Now, we are back to our separate corners of the universe relegated to internet-based communications as we attempt to find common time and space to reunite - a feat that grows increasingly difficult with families, work and about a dozen other time vacuums. 

Am I the only person wishing for a teleporter and another day in the week?

Anyway, I miss my friends, you all get that message loud and clear. Still, in the days since Imaginarium 2015 I have made a list of all the other lessons I learned. 

1. I am a bitch. No, not just a regular bitch, I am Pantser Bitch. I cause trouble wherever I go. Sadly, my cape and matching leotard did not arrive in time for me to wear them this weekend. I'm thinking something purple and black will arrive soon. 

2. Cosplay is acceptable (and in fact encouraged) even if you are one of two or three people participating. Trust me, Autumn and I had a blast this weekend and neither of us minded the weird looks. 

Steampunk TARDIS and the 4th Doctor :)

3. Some people should never be on a panel no matter how much experience they have in an industry. There is a difference between being frank and being blatantly rude. Also, if you start your panel with something along the lines of "I don't know why I'm on this panel" then you really should not do a panel - ever. Even if you don't know what you're talking about, wing it. You are a writer for crying out loud, make it up as you go! As a side note here, if you are looking for a stellar panel moderator,  the stunning Mysti Parker is your gal. She is AWESOME!!

4. Plan ahead and make sure your room has a fridge AND that you bring plenty of beer/wine with a tool to open your adult beverages. Not only are adult beverages tasty but they help you cope with unsavory encounters (and for those who struggle with public speaking they soothe your nerves). I would also suggest a cool mug of some sort to disguise what you are really drinking.... not like this....

5. There are two distinct types of writers. Seriously, we can argue genre, style (plotter/pantser for example), publishing platform and so on but in the end it comes down to whether you want to grow as a writer/author or whether you are happy with the status quo. This would be the old "big fish small pond" story. I am definitely looking to pond hop but guess what, not everybody is! 

6. As much as women are considered lesser writers in many speculative fiction genres we can see the tables turned on men who write romance and I find that disturbing. I am going to reiterate one of my favorite mantras - F#@& Genre! Once again, for all that is good in this world, write what comes to you. True writers will never purge every character/story from their heads before they die so just write what you can get out and worry about genre later. Yeesh. 

Perhaps I'd better stop there some of the other lessons are less than savory and some quite personal. Of course, I could do an entire blog on the panels I participated in. Maybe I will just for $h!t$ and giggles but not tonight. It's late and I have to work tomorrow...and attend a baseball game.....and factor in some real solid writing time. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Because it's my birthday....

This post is several months in the making but it seems appropriate to share it today. I haven't been writing much lately, at least not anything novel length or even short story length if I'm being honest. Other than several lengthy journal entries and a plethora of prompts, my writing has been stagnate and it troubles me. Sure I've created other things in the interim (from multimedia canvas work to costumes to repurposed clothing and just about everything in between) but I haven't been writing like I want to which means I have some serious idea constipation and it is most unpleasant. 

I need a creative enema or something of the sort. I keep thinking it will come, just the right nudge or combination of relaxation and inspiration to get things moving again. I've tried to be patient. I've tried to be aggressive. I've tried to change my habits. I've tried beer (and good beer, believe you me). This blockage just does NOT seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.


Today I realized something though. In this digital age with all of the hand held equipment and multiple ways to reach somebody you never get a break. You never get a true day off anymore and that just ain't right. And yes, I used "ain't" and I know it is NOT a word but work with me here.  The only aspect in my life that I am mentally, physically and emotionally able to be available 24/7 is as a Mom. I don't take time off from that gig because it's the most important one I have and I know it. My kids are great and I share a lot of interests with both so I'm pretty lucky. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who seem to feel I need to be available to them 24/7 and they do not deal with me not responding instantaneously to whatever they need. I'm not sure when this happened or why but everybody needs a little time away (don't believe me? Ask Chicago). 

My point is that I think my creative constipation stems from my inability to have true time to myself to write and create without interruption. I couldn't even get a day off for my birthday because people have my cell phone number and they feel it is more than acceptable to text me whenever and as much as they please. I guess I feel like there should be boundaries and that once set those boundaries should be honored. 

For example,  if I say "Hey, I'm taking a day off for my birthday to spend with my kids and do some fun stuff since they are going back to school on Wednesday. If you contact me I'm not going to answer." I would hope that people would respect this and NOT contact me, but no, apparently I was mistaken. The correct response is texting me SIX TIMES. Did I just miss the memo on this issue? Are we truly supposed to be available to people twenty four hours a day, seven days a week? Am I supposed to drop everything like, I don't know, coaching my kid's softball game to take a phone call for work? When on vacation am I supposed to seek out whatever wifi hotspots I can find IN THE MOUNTAINS to check my email regularly just to make sure I'm available to people? 

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this stress is not causing my creative constipation but it sure ain't helping things a lick. What do you all think? Are boundaries a thing of the past? Are we supposed to open ourselves and sacrifice our sanity for the sake of work? I'm genuinely curious here so let the answers roll.....

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I participated, where's my.....

I wasn't going to weigh in on this issue since I've addressed it to some extent before. However, I find myself unable to escape the discussion. It is everywhere. Seriously. I was at work and forced to listen to Ryan Seacrest (don't get me started) discuss his opinion on participation trophies. He clearly had no idea who James Harrison was other than "a football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers." Still, he felt the need to weigh in and "jokingly" berate Mr. Harrison for attacking participation trophies. I'm not going to reiterate this story, you can catch up on it all here and about a hundred more places.

Let me say that I feel it is extremely important for kids to participate in extracurriculars. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. They should be applauded for this participation and supported by their family and friends. I am increasingly disappointed in the lack of parental involvement at extracurricular activities but that is a whole different discussion.

Back on point, participation trophies/medals/awards have come under fire once again and the comment sections of each article reveal a massive debate. Incidentally, those comments are cringeworthy for the spelling and grammar alone (participation "metals" anyone?). I digress again.

Basically, I believe we need to teach our kids to participate for the fun of or for the love of an activity.  But I also believe they need to be taught to compete in healthy ways. Everybody is good at something, we all have our own special talents and all that jazz, right? Our kids need to be taught that lesson because let's be honest, just because I wrote a bunch of books doesn't mean I've got my multimillion dollar contract, movie deal or even the ability to make a living off my books at this point. Those athletes making millions of dollars a year on contracts (whether you believe they are overpaid or not) do not sit around eating junk food and playing video games. They work hard for many years and have to keep their bodies in great shape to continue competing.

In fact, in every aspect of our adult world we see competition for employment. Sure, there are arguably some jobs that give you a paycheck just for showing up - not sure where they are but how do I get one?? - yet more often than not potential employees are in a competition with others for a limited number of positions. Once you get that job there will be competitions for bonuses, raises and promotions.

So again, I will raise the question why would we teach our kids to believe that everybody gets something just for showing up when that is just not how the world works? For those who disagree...where's my multimillion dollar book deal because I participated.....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

In search of....

Wanted: Scathing, honest critiques of my writing. Don't hold back. Tell me what doesn't work as much as what does.

Would you respond to this "want" ad? Would you follow through?

I've been pondering this for quite some time. I've participated in several panels and forum discussions about reviews. I think that we've sufficiently throttled the poor dead horse named Review but here I am discussing it again. I guess I figured it's high time I explain my unusual take on reviews/critiques and why I crave some one and two star shred-fests.

What do negative reviews do for authors (or any artists for that matter)? I'm not talking about blatant, personal attacks so please do not misunderstand me. The reviews I'm referring to are the constructive critiques of creative works.

It is important to know what resonates with people, what speaks to your audience and what doesn't. Critiques/reviews provide this feedback and every creative needs to know what works and what doesn't. Negative reviews are as helpful in this matter as positive reviews. What do we learn from only receiving glowing feedback? Not much and let's be honest, nothing good comes of excessive ego-stroking. Even my favorite novels have extremely negative reviews - just roll over to goodreads, type in "The Hobbit" and check out the one star reviews. Granted, only 2% of the reviews on "The Hobbit" are 1 star crappers but 2% of more than 17,000 means there a sizable number of Hobbit-haters.

Is it too much to ask for some of that hate? Somebody to go through and shred everything I write, to point out all of the glaring errors and wretched holes in my work?

Apparently the answer is yes.

Is it fear of hurting my feelings? The fallout of too many artists losing it over negative feedback? I'm still trying to sort out the why of it but I know I'm not the only one. So here I am, on behalf of myself and some of the most solid creatives I know, asking all of you who value what we do to let it all out, to give us the brutal truth we need.

Maybe then we can weed out the crap that's flooding the world, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Just sayin.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

For my beautiful, talented, headstrong daughter....

It is no secret that I have a daughter. She's beautiful and talented and headstrong and I love her. Maybe that's just me being a proud Mom but I will let you decide.

She plays softball. This was her first season and she fell in love from the get go. She was fortunate to be placed on this incredible team where the girls got along from day one. At their first tournament game on Thursday they sang and danced and goofed off as a team. Nobody sits alone - EVER. They cheer for each other so loud that it echoes across all of the fields. They rallied and won in extra innings.

But, we live in the Midwest and as most Americans know, this summer has been one of the wettest I can remember. There have been a lot of rain outs. A LOT. This weekend (July 16th-19th) was set at the beginning of the season to be the alternate date for tournaments so, as a sports-friendly family, we purchased her plane tickets to visit my parents for July 20th. Unfortunately, the league now wants to play the championship game on Monday evening meaning that my daughter, and at least a few other girls, will miss the biggest game of their season because the league has opted to give deference to supplemental league play in which only a handful of the girls are participating. My kiddo was initially in tears but it did not last long. Today as she sits here waiting to play her next tournament game, knowing that if her team advances she will not be able to advance with them as the schedule stands now, she is working on alternate ideas. This is her plan:

1. Write a letter to the league to give to the league official prior to the tournament game tonight:

Dear DYA,

Hello my name is ****** and I have been given permission to write this letter and am doing so willingly. I am very upset about the tournaments and that the championship will be on Monday instead of being today or tomorrow.
I am a one of the softball players and have been there every game. I have been working hard and having fun this season and I was really looking forward to tournaments. In the beginning of the season everything said the season would be done by mid-July. The rain dates were listed as the 16th-19th so my family purchased our plane tickets for the 20th so I wouldn’t miss anything. Now that the championship is on Monday I won’t get to play if my team makes it. I am not the only girl who did so. I don’t think it’s right for girls who want to play softball and have played all season to miss out on the biggest game of the season.
            What I think we should do instead is push the Allstar league back because it is only a supplemental league so it should come after our league not before our league.
 I would also like to say something about fall softball in this letter. I have signed up for fall baseball since there is no fall softball. It is so sad that boys get a fall baseball league if we don’t get a fall softball league. There are not enough fall sports for girls. Why?



Not bad for a ten year old, eh? Did I mention that there is fall baseball in this league but no fall softball?? She's fighting that too.

2. Arrive at the field early for her game and speak with the girls from the four teams left in the tournament to have them sign a petition to attach with the letter, one to have the games played this weekend and the other to create a fall softball league.

My kiddo knows that her actions may not change things but she wants her voice heard and she's not going to leave for vacation without knowing that she tried. I'm supporting her. Will you?

Friday, July 10, 2015

When life gives you lemons....

...sell them to the highest bidder and buy a six pack of your favorite craft beer.

Sometimes I have so much to say that I can't get the words out. It's been a bit of a hell week (or hell weeks, plural?!) for me and I've written plenty, just not publicly for fear of repercussions that could be harmful to my family. My journals are overflowing with rants to expel the frustrations so they would not seep over into real time where my kids would feel them.

It didn't work. My kids felt it anyway. And they responded in those incredible way.

Let me back up a bit. It's not a secret that I'm divorced but I don't broadcast it out of respect for my kids who are still struggling with the breakup of their family. They've been through a lot and I did not want to pile on more. It seems that divorce still carries a stigma.

In most ways, I am MUCH better off since my divorce. Our marriage was no longer healthy for so many reasons. I am not going to get into the blame game but needless to say, I lost custody of most of my friends in the divorce and I've been left with some serious trust issues. Not that I don't have some incredible friends around here, I do, but they all have their own lives and I do not like to impede those lives. Some would call it "trouble asking for help." I would rather save my "help me" card for something truly dire - say auto wreck by the side of the road - because I have no immediate family in the area.

I'm getting off track again. This was not supposed to be the point of this post. The point is that I had a rough week and I have been dealing with it as best I could in the circumstances and my incredible kids have not complained one bit about not having our usual Wednesday excursion because Mommy's car broke down and needed some serious repairs. They have not complained that I have been preoccupied with getting my car fixed and doing some other un-fun things to try to improve our situation leaving little time to help my daughter sew her Walking Dead messenger bag or teach my son some new painting skills. Not only did they not complain, last night when we parted ways so that they could go with their Dad for the night, I returned home to the most delightful surprise.

Not only was my house clean - and I mean "Mommy clean" not "Kid clean" - I came home to the cutest little arrangement on my bed. How awesome are my kids?

So you know what, bring on those lemons. I'll hock 'em and buy ice cream to share with my kids. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

If I had a million dollars.....

Every time somebody asks me what I would do with a million dollars I can't help but mentally sing the awesome Barenaked Ladies song. Don't know it? You can catch it here. It's a neat little ditty. And it makes me think. What would I do?

A million dollars is a lot of money to me. I've struggled financially for a long time now, never seem to catch up, you know, the whole single mom and starving artist thing do not gel. So, yeah, I daydream a bit about having a million dollars.

So, what would I do?

Obviously I'd pay off my debt. I'd like a house in Seattle, Washington. One with a huge kitchen, a giant library with three walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves and A LOT of windows with an incredible, inspiring view. The kids and I don't need anything intense but we need those three things.

Then I'd help my family, naturally. My parents have been there for me and I really want to make sure they can retire and do what they love for their second careers. Then there's my supremely talented sis and bro-in-law who are chefs (YUMMMMY) who should be sharing their talents on their terms. I do so love watching them cook together, it's entertaining and rewarding. My brother and soon to be sis-in-law could use some love too, just a bit to get them going in the direction they choose.

What about some friends? Those incredible people who actually DID stick with me. You know who you are and I am grateful for you all.

Once they are all covered, I will have lots of money left in that million to do good things. I want to help other people like us, people who work hard their whole lives and just need a little help to get going. I surround myself with talented people who just need a break because we help each other, we push each other and we support each other when it seems that we will never make a life doing what we want to do. There are other people out there like us. And I want to help. I want to level the playing field.

A little too Shiny Happy People for you?

Too bad. I just cannot understand the need to accumulate fortunes that you could never hope to spend in a lifetime when there are people out there struggling to make ends meet, going without food to make certain their kids don't, and drowning in debt working at jobs that make them crazy. There is not enough art or intelligent literature in this world to make it a better place. There is so much money out there just sitting, just fading and collecting layer upon layer of dust when it could be going to better places.

So, what would I do with a million dollars? I'd do my damnedest to change the world.

Friday, June 12, 2015

It's all about the sideboob....or is it?

Sideboob: noun, informal; The side part of a woman's breast, as exposed by a revealing item of clothing. (

Pull up your friendly neighborhood Google search, select "images" and type in "side boob" for the search. You will find a lovely and often amusing selection of images, mostly celebrities and all women. I'm not here to post pictures of these examples but feel free to check them out.

I recently heard that sideboob will rule the world one day. At first glance I can see how it could be true but then I dig deeper and realize that sideboob's predecessors (cleavage, knees, ankles, etc) have all fallen by the wayside when replaced with something more risqué and none of them have brought about gender equality let alone the advancement of the "fairer sex."

I'm going to argue that sideboob is nothing special or exciting and if a little fatty flesh is enough to cause such a ruckus then women have a tougher road to gender equality than I thought. I get that the female form tends to be more attractive than the male body and things like sideboob can garner attention across the media - especially social media - but is it the type of attention we want as a gender?

Backing up just a bit, I'm not saying well all need to be covered head to toe at all times - I live in the Midwest and that would make summers awfully uncomfortable - but I am saying that letting it all hang out to get attention is not perhaps the best way to accomplish our goals. Some women have worked very hard to gain respect and recognition in male dominated fields and they did so without sideboob. Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Madeline Albright, JK Rowling and Oprah come to mind.

On topic, I wonder what Madame Curie would say in response to Nobel Prize winner, Tim Hunt's recent comments about female scientists? Makes me wonder what Mr. Hunt's thought on sideboob would be? My favorite article on this debacle can be read here

Marie Curie....look out Mr. Hunt she's a distraction with her mold and all. Good thing there's no sideboob involved.
How much could Marie Curie have accomplished if she'd only taken advantage of her sideboob abilities!? Or...not.
Still, my friend insists it's all about the sideboob. The claim is that some female authors, artists and other performers are getting extra attention (and profits) by showing some sideboob. I examined this by doing some research online and found, as noted above, that there is A LOT of attention given to sideboob. So I wonder again if my friend is right. Maybe he is, maybe a little sideboob would help me realize my dream....but then I think, if it works, will I feel good about it? No, I won't. I know I won't.
I'm going to argue that it's not all about the sideboob, at least not for me or, I'm guessing, Marie Curie either.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Please give a warm Emerald Seer welcome to Tim McWhorter

Even though he is extremely busy with a new release, Tim took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for me. Enjoy!

VP: What is your inspiration? What helps you get through writer's block?
Tim: The thing that helps me most with writer's block is the fact that I always have more than one project going at a time. It's the one good thing about having so many balls in the air. If I get stuck on a scene or storyline in my novel, I set it aside for a couple days and work on a short story or another novel entirely. Then, by the time I come back to my main project, my mind's pallet has been cleansed, and the solution I had been beating my head against the wall over usually comes to me like it had been there all along. Sometimes concentrating too hard becomes its own roadblock, and it just takes a clear mind to get over it.

VP: Do you listen to music when you write? Have a completely silent space?
Tim: I definitely listen to music when I write and edit. I have to. I'm high maintenance that way. With a full-time job that likes to come home with me at times, and four teenagers who are all involved in activities, my mind is a chaotic place more often than not just trying to keep up with it all. So when I finally get time to sit down and create, I listen to a lot of film scores and instrumental music. I often need the calming sounds to quiet my mind enough to focus on the task at hand. ANything with lyrics is too distracting. Besides, there's no more perfect inspiration for the type of dark thrillers I write than a deep, melancholy piece of music. Fire up the cellos!

VP: Who inspires you? What authors do you look up to? Why?
Tim: Amazing writing inspires me. Whether that's literature, film or even music, when I come across great writing, it makes me want to grab a pen and do the same.

VP: When did you first start writing? What genre do you prefer?
Tim: Other than some really cheesy song lyrics in high school, I didn't start writing until late in life. I've been an avid reader since I was still wiping snot on my sleeve, and always dreamed of doing what all those authors did. Even as I grew up, I simply never thought I could. You have to know someone to be published, right?  Don't you have to live in NYC to get noticed? It wasn't until I was in my mid 30s that I realized that train of thought was complete bullshit. Not only do those things not have to be true in order to get published, but you don't even have to be published just to write. In fact, that's probably the worst reason to pick up a pen and put it to paper. There are so many better reasons to create art.

VP: If you had to choose another genre to write, what would it be? Why?
Tim: This is going to sound like a put on, especially for those who have read my horrifically tinged suspense thrillers, but another genre I like to explore is family/romantic drama. I love books, film, music, etc that affect emotion, particularly sadness. I feel that sadness is the emotion that stays with a reader longer than any other, and is the most profound that can be drawn upon from a reader/viewer/listener. I have written a few short stories and a screenplay that deal with couples and families forced to wade through the crap that life sometimes throws at us, and affecting the reader's emotions brings me a considerable amount of satisfaction. The author that most people would recognize, that closest resembles what I like to explore, is Nicholas Sparks, whose books go much deeper into the human psyche and how it deals with life than just the romantic aspect that the public seems to focus on. I am simply drawn to raw human emotion in all facets.

VP: Do you have another job and if so what is it?
Tim: My Clark Kent persona is a tooling engineer for an industrial ceramic company. I design molds and dies to manufacture ceramic components for steel foundries and the investment cast industry. Trust me, it's not as exciting as it sounds.

VP: Tell about your first book and how long it took you to write the first draft?
Tim: My first book was a novella titled, Shadows Remain. It was an idea I played with off and on for about a year and a half. Once I finally got serious about doing it, the first draft was completed in about six or seven months. That was back when I had no idea what I was doing, or that a successful writer needs to have an actual routine for writing. I was just squeezing in time here or there, which is not the best, nor the most efficient way to complete a project.

VP:  List all of your titles with a one sentence synopsis of each.
Tim:    Swallowing the Worm and Other Stories - A collection of old and new short stories that deals with life in all its glory, from love to loss and all aspects in between.
            Shadows Remain (novella) - A creepy ghost story that deals with what happens when things are left unresolved between people, regardless of age or time.
            Bone White (novel) - A story of missing teenage girls and the two young men who inadvertently stumble upon the answers to the mystery with devastating consequences.
            Blackened (novel) - A continuation of the Bone White story that deals with the aftermath of the events, including whether or not being a good Samaritan is ultimately worth the cost.

VP: Who is your favorite character? Why?
Tim:  Both of my favorite characters are from the supporting cast; one from Bone White and one from Blackened. Besides the young girl that I will talk about a few questions from now, my other favorite character is Dallas Tipsword from Blackened. He's the owner of the auto repair shop where Luke works, but he becomes more than simply a boss. He's a smart ass Vietnam vet who loves cars and is in many ways still stuck in the 60s (an era I am also enamored with). He's fond of tie-dye, his long beard and a handgun he's appropriately named, Prudence. I was so sad to see him go when Blackened wrapped up, that I decided he may have to make a return visit somewhere, possibly with his own short story or novella. The world needs more Dallas Tipsword.

VP: Which character was most difficult to write?
Tim: I think the character that was most difficult to write was the antagonist of both Bone White and Blackened, Mr. Corwin Barnes. It was most difficult to maintain that balance between giving the reader enough about him to understand his motives, while still maintaining a considerable amount of mystery about him. That was important for me, and the balancing act teetered both ways before all was said and done.

VP: What scenes are most difficult to write?
Tim: This may surprise most readers, but the scenes I found most difficult to write were the disturbing scenes. Trust me, if the reader cringes when they read the more disturbing and graphic scenes in either Bone White or Blackened, they can be rest assured that I cringed while writing them. I'm actually not as comfortable with that aspect of the books as one might think. It disturbs me as well, and I don't necessarily like to live in that world. But on the other hand, those scenes are necessary to the story, and I would never consider not including them.

VP: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Tim: Since the characters of both Luke and Garrett from Bone White and Blackened are based on myself and my high school friend, I absolutely see a little of myself in both.

VP: Indie pub or trad pub?
Tim: Currently, I am an indie author. I've chosen this route for two reasons. First, if you look up the term control freak in the dictionary, you'd see my mug staring back at you from the page, or more currently, the screen. I take a considerable amount of pride in my writing/books, and couldn't imagine not being happy with the end product simply because a particular decision was taken out of my hands. From the storyline content, to the cover design, right down to the font being used for the blurb on the back, I like to make those decisions. It's a sickness, I know, but I'm not sure there is a 12-step program for control issues.
            The second reason I self-publish is because I'm not a fan of how many publishing houses operate and treat their authors. Too many of them seem to have forgotten that the only reason they have a product to sell is because of the authors.

VP: What is your favorite scene? Why?
Tim: Such a difficult question. Whenever a question asks for an absolute, it proves nearly impossible for me to answer in the same manner. But, I would say that ONE of my favorite scenes in Bone White is when we are introduced to one young girl in particular. She is so creepy and subtly disturbing, that even though the reader is already on edge by the time we meet her, that scene still has enough oomph to make the reader ask, 'what the @#$%??' in disbelief. And what author doesn't love creating those moments?

VP: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tim: Another excellent, yet difficult question. I think if I could meet anyone, I would want to meet John Lennon. There are only a handful of musicians that I consider 'true artists,' and he's at the top of the list. Very few musicians/songwriters at his level of fame continued to write straight from the heart, regardless whether it would sell. Even though they weren't popular topics, he wrote about everything from the war and corrupt governmental policy to his mother, children and wife, personal songs that everyone could relate to despite the fact he wrote them for no one but those involved. I'm sure he was told time and time again that a particular song or album wasn't what the fans wanted, but he didn't care. That is a true artist in my mind, and that's what has always drawn me to his music.
            The next person I would want to go back in time and meet would be Mark David Chapman. One way or another, I would make sure he never got on that plane to New York.

VP: If you could take the place of one of your characters, which one would you choose and why?
Tim:  I throw way too much crap at my characters to ever want to be one of them!

VP: If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?
Tim:  That's tough. I absolutely love to travel, so my bucket list is quite extensive. One of the places I would most like to go would be Tuscany. The scenery I see on television and photos looks so serene. The rolling hills. The vineyards. The tiny villas and cottages. If I ever get to the point where I can live off my writing, I will without a doubt take a couple weeks and travel all through the Tuscan countryside, writing, drinking wine and visiting every quaint village I can. I can't imagine how inspirational a trip like that would be.

VP: What is your favorite TV show/movie from your childhood?  What is it now?
Tim: I think, like most children of the 1970s, my favorite TV shows back then were the usual: Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Alice, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three's Company, Leave It To Beaver. Same with cartoons: Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Speed Racer. As a kid, I pretty much went with what was popular, and didn't stray too far from the norm.
            Of all the great movies that came out of the 70s/80s, the only one that I would consider an actual 'favorite' from my childhood would be Jaws. Loved it then, still love it now. Easily in my top five films of all time. Rounding out the top five would be Legends of the Fall, A River Runs Through It, This Is Where I Leave You and The Hangover. (notice 3 out of the 5 are highly dramatic...hmmm)

Connect with Tim

Monday, May 18, 2015

A GUEST POST by the spectacular C. Bryan Brown

Why I Need Strong Women

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about diversity in storytelling. There’s not enough LGBT characters, non-white characters, or strong female characters in our fiction. For that reason I’m quite nervous. My newest novel, “They Are Among Us,” features a strong, female protagonist.

Now, I’m not going to go all Melvin Udall and say that strong women make me want to be a better man. Instead, I’m going to take it a step further and tell you strong women make me a better man just by being who they are. They make me think more, react differently, and best of all, see the world with different eyes. Strong women elevate me, not by bending their backs so I can step on or over them, but by taking my hand and leading me on a multitude of journeys I’d otherwise never make.

But I’m not a strong woman.

In fact, I’m an extra-large, corn-fed Midwestern man. Still, writing about a strong woman only seemed natural to me. This wasn’t done by any conscious decision on my part (the first draft of this book was written years ago, before the gender gap in fiction became a thing), but because I’ve always been surrounded, and shaped by, these strong women from my grandmothers to my mom, my aunts, my sister and my wife, down to my women friends. I don’t always agree with them, and we often have robust (sometimes even rancorous) discussions, but that’s par for the course. I’m like that with anyone I respect.

I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll speak for myself and admit that I need these strong women. Not only in my life, but in my fiction. Fiction is supposed to challenge our perceptions, show us people and places and situations we might not normally encounter; fiction creates empathy for others, and expands a reader’s emotional base. I’m quite proud to join the ranks of authors who’ve written strong women, and hope that anyone who reads “They Are Among Us” finds inspiration and education from Alexandria.

But that doesn’t stop my aforementioned nerves from rattling.

Why? Because I want the women in my life to be proud of how I’ve portrayed them in my novel. I want them to say that Alexandria Maxell is a good example of how women should be written in fiction. I want them to give my book to their daughters (age appropriately, of course) and say, “You can be anything you want, including an F.B.I. agent that helps shape the world.”

Women don’t have to be perfect, no one is. And it’s those imperfections that make people stronger, more so women than men, because they have to fight for what’s right and humane, instead of having it handed to them over a penis. Since there’s an obvious disparity in how women are portrayed in current fiction, writing strong, determined, and kick ass females is empowering, not only for the author, but for women. The more writers that illuminate women in engaging, thoughtful, frightening, and dramatic roles, will continue help bridge this gap between women and men in our society, until finally, they’re where they belong, which is side by side with every man. I know my side is where I want the women in my life to be. Holding my hand, guiding me, helping me, and letting me do the very same thing for them.

Women deserve that, and so much more, from any author that writes them into a book.

About the Author

C. Bryan Brown has been hit in the face with a dirty plunger, run over with his own car, and even lived in a haunted house. Now he's in corporate America with debt up to his ears and he's happy to be living the dream with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He writes to avoid going to jail and keep his sanity, though he'd love for you to add to his paranoia and stalk him at

His latest novel, They Are Among Us, was released on April 14th by Post Mortem Press. You can purchase a paperback or Kindle copy by clicking here!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PLEASE! Stop destroying my childhood!

It was bad enough that they remade (and destroyed) Footloose and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but Hollywood does not seem to be stopping there. The new trailer for Jem and the Holograms has sparked more backlash and outrage than I could have imagined. Rumors have surfaced that there are plans to remake The Craft, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Drop Dead Fred, Soapdish, and Neverending Story, just to name a few. Such attempts are truly outrageous - and not in the good way.

The new trailer for Jem and the Holograms - see it here: JEM and the HOLOGRAMS trailer - is a travesty at best. For anybody who watched the series there are so many red flags I don't even know where to start my diatribe! I suppose I will have to manage so, in no particular order, my initial complaints with the Jem trailer. Oh, and I'm going to use some awesome pics from the show to illustrate my point....I do not own these images, all of the rights belong to the amazingly awesome people who created Jem and brought her to TV for all of us 80s kids to enjoy.

1. NO MISFITS! How can you have a Jem and the Holograms movie sans the Misfits? Who is the villain? Who drives Jerrica to become Jem in the first place?

2. NO SYNERGY! Seriously? One little nod to the holographic entity does not bring her to life, does not do justice to Synergy. Not in the slightest. Who didn't love seeing Jerrica say "It's showtime Synergy" and transform into the pink-haired wonder, Jem????

3. This brings me to my next point. Where is Jem's signature pink hair? The purple star earrings Jerrica uses to contact Synergy? Jem's iconic look has been dumbed down and washed out in a pathetic attempt to modernize it. Part of the draw of a live action Jem SHOULD HAVE been the awesome 80s rock/punk style.

4. Rio. Yes, this cute little actor is likely to make young teens giggle and blush, he does not have purple hair or any real style at all. He may as well be another studio exec in a suit. BORING.

5. How come Jerrica does not own Starlight? Isn't that the point? She inherited it from her father and has to fight Eric Raymond for control.

6. NO JEM THEME SONG!!! Really? A One Direction song? How can they not even be using the Jem theme song for JEM?!?!?!

There are sure to be more issues as more information is released but even my 9 year old daughter is outraged at the ridiculously watered down version of Jem we are being shown. I remember the first time we watched an episode of Jem and the Holograms with my sister (who incidentally named her bike Synergy in tribute to our love of the show) and how excited my daughter was. We've been planning to see it together since we heard it would be made into a live action film. I don't think my kiddo could be more disappointed. I know I couldn't be. And sadly, it does not seem that Hollywood intends to stop with Jem and the Holograms. Must they warp and destroy every character from my childhood?

I'm not saying all reboots are fodder but the track record is not good. The new Turtles barely resemble amphibians. The updated Clash of the Titans could have been incredible - if they had stuck with the original story line. Every time I get excited for a reboot I find myself incredibly disappointed by the tripe that makes its way to the big screen.

So again, I say, PLEASE stop destroying my childhood.