Reading From The List

I’ve made it to part 9/10 of the Sandman Comics. Progress is slow, at least in part because everybody is naked, so I can’t take the thing to work to read. (I want to quit, not get fired.)  I’m also squeezing in little chunks of my read all the Hugo AND Nebula–the ones who won both prizes– winners project, which you’d think would go a little faster.

There’s something about choosing reading materials off a list that more or less guarantees that 1.) You will broaden your horizons and 2.) You will have to force yourself through at least some of the material.

It’s not necessarily that I dislike the stuff I’m reading. Maybe it’s more a matter of my enthusiasm wearing off before I ever pick up the book. That initial… that sounds cool… is long gone from having been waiting around on a list for so long, and it’s replaced with something more like… well, what next?

And in some cases, Oh, look! A comic book!

I don’t remember that sense of trudging through a list when I as in school. Maybe the introduction to the book, and the actual reading of the book were too close together for that effect. Enough–hey, that does sound cool–excitement to carry you through.

So, I ordered Ringworld in paperback. It’s one of the ones that isn’t available on my e-reader, yet. Not in it’s original form, at any rate. There is a graphic novel version, which… well, I almost did buy a copy of. I mean… that counts, right?

And then, I wound up finding an e-book bargain for Dune. $1.99, and it’s even on the list.

And this month’s free book from the Tor book club is Old Man’s War (which isn’t on the list, but I am finishing up my last distraction book.) It’s available HERE until the 21st of June. if you want to read it, too.

In related project news, I’m pretty behind on my 52 stories in 52 weeks project. I’ll have to get a move on there.

Wind Turbines Gone Wild

The other day, in a cornfield near me, a wind turbine collapsed.

So, naturally, I had to go out and track down the cornfield, and the wind turbine, and get a picture.

Yup. That is one very collapsed wind turbine. They don’t know why it collapsed, but they do know it went off line at about 5 o’clock in the morning. A rather peeved farmer comments that you wouldn’t want to be out in your field when that happened. A different rather peeved local was muttering about how people don’t have much of a choice about leasing their property to the company. I don’t know about that, but there are definitely fairly solid campaigns against these things whenever they even think about putting them in.

In case the (very not local) company that runs them missed it, people are pissed off.

There’s no question about what this would do to someone, if they happened to be working under it when it fell. And considering the electrical element… And the irrigation in that field… they might not even have to get hit to get dead.

“Wouldn’t wanna be spraying when it happened?”

I don’t even know what that translates to in city people.

Probably getting out a tire iron and beating the shit out of the other guy’s city-people Mercedes to drive. home. the. point. YOU. DROPPED. A. WINDMILL. WHERE. MY. KID. WAS. ABOUT. TO. GO. SPRAY. THWACK.

DO. YOU. KNOW. WHAT. THAT. DOES. TO. A. KID? THWACK.

(probably about the same thing a tire-iron does to a windshield.)THWACK.

You can’t do that in Nebraska.

Well, you could… but after you render the Mercedes undrivable, you’re probably going to have to get out the winch and tow the damn thing back to town (’cause nobody else is going to.) And anyway, there’s a lot of Mennonite blood around here. (TRUE FACT: Mennonites can’t swing a tire iron worth shit.)

For people who are missing the point… I took that picture while I was standing on the section road south of the Turbine.  That Turbine is about half way up the section, which means that it is no less than a quarter mile from where I’m standing, and probably half a mile away. If you look very closely at the still-upright portion of the windmill toward the left, you’ll see a dark-arch shaped thing. That would be a full-sized **door.** And by the way… it is at the top of a staircase that you can’t see. So… it’s a full sized door, that is already six to ten feet off the ground.

We are not amused.

Chivalry is a Drunken Contortionist

Men and doors are just plain awkward.

Don’t get me wrong. Opening doors for women is sweet, and when the guy manages to do it right, it’s adorable.

But more often than not, it’s an old-fashioned gesture that turns into a train wreck.

I’m evenly divided between putting up a series of YouTube instructionals: How to Hold a Revolving Door for Three Ladies and a Guide Dog; You’re My Date, Not a Doorman; And How NOT to Look Like a Serial Killer While Waiting for a Pretty Girl to Cross the Dark Parking Lot So You Can Hold the Door For Her Like a Fucking Gentleman.

And just campaigning for the whole world to install those swish-swish doors like on Star Trek.

I was leaving the copy shop yesterday, along with my mother.  Well, maybe a little behind my mother. I do get distracted in copy shops. And when I get to the double glass doors, she’s trying to take the second door from a delivery guy who is trying to hold the door open with one hand while maneuvering a hand truck with the other. He’s more or less spread-eagled across the sidewalk, with his hand truck trailing.

She’d have to climb over him or his hand truck, or both to get out that door, and her obvious assumption was that he was trying to get into the copy shop, not out of it.

So, now…

He’s trying to hold the door for her, she’s trying to hold it for him, and I’m trying to get the second door in the set so that he can just keep right on going, once he gets through the first one.

There are people behind me–who clearly see the situation the way I do–getting out of the way so he can get by, and people queued up behind him, waiting for him to go in the building. (Because, as I may have mentioned… arms and legs and hand-trucks thrown all over the sidewalk.)

I don’t know what finally tipped him off. Maybe my mother said something. You know, “I’ve got it. Come on in.” (Slightly surprised not to hear her say anything about air conditioning the great outdoors.) Or maybe it just finally clicked, but the guy suddenly goes, “No, I’m going the other way.”

And traffic starts moving again.

None of the women can look at each other for fear of laughing out loud.

Because this is a thing. If four men are carrying a load of bricks… through a thunderstorm… in the dark…. on a deadline… One of those men will still decide that he needs to stop and hold the door for the woman who’s dancing in the rain.

Say what you want about chivalry, but… Most women do recognize a Freight Exception.

The Contract

He caught up with her after lunch, outside the restaurant where they’d had their first date. He’d scraped together a little cash–enough for a drink or two–but he was relieved when he didn’t have to spend it. His last job had been a while.

“Well?” he asked.

Kathy shifted her weight. “Well, what?” she said.

“Well, I heard…” He tried not to look at her, not to give her that prying, downward glance that he associated with gossip and old women. “Are you pregnant?”

“About three months.”

“Congratulations.”

He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and maybe that was the right thing. Maybe it wasn’t. There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm in it. And in other circumstances–in the olden days–people might be congratulating him.

Kathy looped her arm through his, and smiled a little. Cautious. “I’m going to ask Will and Patrick to be the fathers,” she said, as if giving the contract to someone else were nothing. “They’re good with kids.”

“Do you  think they’ll do it?” he asked.

“Probably.” From the tone of her voice, he suspected the thing was done, that the contract was signed, and that Will and Patrick already were the fathers. “They’ve been together for five years. Their careers are going well. Their mothers want grandchildren.”

Responsible and stable. Reliable. A good choice, by any standard. They didn’t smoke, and Patrick didn’t even drink.

He absorbed the information with all the dignity he’d practiced. “What about me?”

Kathy tensed. “You’re not father material.”

“Yeah. I know. But…” He wished he had a cigarette, or maybe something stronger. “It’s my kid.”

“No.” She dug in. “It’s my kid. I’m the one who’s knocked up. I’m making the choices.”

“I know that.”

“I’m not offering you a contract. That was never on the table.” She pulled her hand back, and folded her arms across her stomach. “You’re not going to be a father.”

The way she said it pissed him off, even though he already knew. Maybe she would have told him, before, if she’d had a chance. He’d stood her up twice in the last month. The first time, he was hung over, and the second… he was playing drums in a dive bar for cash under the table. A contract? No.

He didn’t have any qualifications.

And the houseplant she’d given him had been dead for months.

“I like babies,” he said.

“Everyone likes babies.”

“And kids.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’ll get a job,” he said.

Kathy nodded, but he could tell she didn’t believe him anymore.

“Will and Patrick are a great choice,” he said, after there wasn’t anything left to say.  They kept walking, and eventually, they got back to her office building.

“I’ll need your medical history.”

“Fine.”

Kathy looked at her watch. “I have to go back,” she said. She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. “You should stop by, sometime. Maybe take the kid to a carnival, or something. Throw some balls. You’d be a pretty good fun uncle.”

He nodded. “I’ll do that.”

He didn’t know when, but he would. It sounded like fun, and maybe the kid would look like him.

And If The Genders Were Reversed?

Some days, I think I might as well just haul out my soap box and go stand in the park lecturing, because I’m turning into an 8th grade sex-ed teacher, anyway.

Remedial sex-ed.

So, let me present my **echoes** Screenshot of Horror. **/echoes**

Uhm… who? What? Sets what record straight?

Who is even asking him to explain this, and for the continued sleep of the Elder Gods… why are they asking him to explain it?

She asked for permission to touch him, and he said no, and he had every right to say no. It really doesn’t matter if she was Kesha, or Stephan Hawking, or the Pope. And it really doesn’t matter that he’s a public figure, or that she is, too.

So, he didn’t want to be touched, and he said no, and that should have been the end of it.

No explanation necessary.

And reasons? There doesn’t have to be a reason.

The problem here is that he said no, and she kept pushing.

Once should have been enough.

The thing that made this “awkward” (My choice of words would be “creepy”) is that someone didn’t take “no” for an answer, and someone else had to repeat himself to get the message through.

I’m not as polite as Jerry Seinfeld, or maybe I don’t have as much riding on a likeable image as he does. I’m only going to say no politely once.

If this were a man pushing a woman for a hug, instead of the other way around? I don’t think it would be the person saying no who has to explain, and I don’t think “awkward” would be the word.

If the genders were reversed, the conversation would be about rape culture, and why someone has to say no three times before it sticks.

If the genders were reversed, there’d be no explain away the “awkward” session with the press. No one would ask a woman why she didn’t want to hug a man she didn’t know. Or… to be quite honest… one that she did know.

No means no, when a woman says it. At least, when she says it on the red carpet, in front of dozens of cameras.

But a man?

Well, he’s asked to explain. It’s a viral video. Why don’t you want to hug her (you freak)? Why don’t you do it to make Uncle Kesha happy? If you knew who she was, you’d want to hug her. It’s awkward, and the awkwardness is all on him.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the video from Kesha explaining why she didn’t back off and take no for an answer the first time.

‘Cause It’s Just My Week to Talk About Names

A co-worker called me “sweetheart” the other day. More in that small-town diner waitress kind of way than anything else. He is not a diner waitress.

He also does not fall into any of the categories of people who might be able to get away with this.

I like being called by my damn name.

I’m not saying I like my name, but by golly, you should be calling me something different than every other woman in the department.

So… the first time I ran into this–or noticed it, I was in fifth grade. Let’s see…. that’s about eleven, for those of you not in the American school system. I had a male gym teacher. And the guy was creepy as fuck. I don’t know why none of the adults noticed it, but… ewww. He called the boys by their last names, and the girls… well, the girls were sweetie, or peaches, or some other damn thing.

I distinctly remember telling him my name was not “peaches.” (What can I say? I was born a bitch.)

And I distinctly remember him kneeling on the pavement with his hand on another girl’s ass, after she’d twisted her ankle.

I despise one-size fits all nicknames.

You can mean it as well as you want, but in the end, what calling me something other than my name says–both to me, and to the people around me– is that my name is not worth learning.

It’s a statement that has ripple effects. You don’t use my name, so that other person doesn’t know my name, so I wind up a whole lot less connected than… well, that guy over there, who you wouldn’t dream of calling “sweetheart.” You probably call him “Mike” or “Steve” or “Hoefling”… enough to differentiate him from the people around him.

It’s very simple. Nobody’s ever going to ask you what “Sweetheart” in department M’s name really is. Nobody’s going to stand up in a meeting and say… “You know who would be perfect for this promotion? Sweetheart.”

Intentional, or not, it’s an act of erasure.

And it so happens that my name is worth learning.

I think it is, anyway.

And when he called me “sweetheart”–for no good reason, and to no benefit of mine–I looked at him and said, “What did you call me?”

For a second, it didn’t register that I was angry.

“Sweetheart,” he says… as if he really did believe that I hadn’t heard him right.

And one of the women tries to smooth it over. He calls everybody that.

“Please, don’t.”

He apologized later in the afternoon. He didn’t mean it “like that,” he says. But of course, since I just told him not to, he has no particular way of knowing how I thought he meant it.

I didn’t think he was hitting on me.

I didn’t think he particularly likes or dislikes me.

And maybe he really hasn’t bothered to learn my name.

Just Exactly What IS In a Name?

I ran into one of THOSE names the other day. You know the kind. Close enough to a New York Times Bestselling Author that Google just goes right ahead and corrects it, when you type it in the box. Close enough that the proud owner of said name will probably never be able to dig out from under all the mentions for the other author.

Well, you’ve gotta cringe.

I have a name that makes Booksellers ask, “So, what are you using for your pen name?” and it’s still not as close as that. You type my real, what-grade-school-teachers called me name into Google, and you get a sex therapist, but if you go into a bookstore, and say the same name, you probably walk out the door with a lesser NYT Bestsellers’ paranormal romance du jour.

I am not a sex therapist. I care deeply about your pelvic floor muscles, but… well, you know… no offense…  from a distance.

I can’t afford the dot.com, the dot.net is the sex therapist. There’s an herbalist a couple slots down, and even if I could… I’d still have to fight my way to the forefront of Booksellers’ minds.

A pen name is in order. And I may or may not have settled on the one I’m using. I don’t have that domain name, either.

Names are strange and complicated things. There’s the friend who registered his domain name years ago, decades ago… and you wind up with a picture of David Tennant when you google his name.

I don’t know how much that matters, if you’re not dealing directly with the public. I’m sure the correct link is on all of his literature. It is a really nice picture of David Tennant.

Naming yourself isn’t all that easy. I’m still running around thinking about well… what if I used initials. What if I… And I’ve heard it should be something somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Preferably close–but not too close–not close enough to be easily be mistaken–to someone who writes similar things. And I’d like it to be a name I might–plausibly–turn around to, if someone said it in public. gee, I hope somebody says my pen name in public, someday.

In an I don’t have to make up my mind if I don’t want to move, I wound up deciding that the domain name I wanted–at least for the time being–was ReprobateTypewriter.com and that it could be promoted more or less like a magazine, until I do come up with a pen name I like and am willing to stick with. It also leaves room to bring other people into the picture, which doesn’t sound entirely like a bad idea, although honestly, I’m not sure where I would put them.

And you? If you’re writing under a pen name, how did you choose it? If you’re not… why not?

This Whole Post is A Subtweet

There are moments on social media when you just know it’s time to shut up. Moments when the response is too complicated for Twitter, or when you don’t really know that person well enough to know if they’re capable of a calm discussion, or… let’s face it… that moment on Facebook when a friend offers you her left-over sperm-bank sperm, and there’s just no good way of saying “Your kids are the reason I don’t want kids. Also, Grandma, Grampa, and Aunt Bea-elzabub, I don’t want kids.”

Moments when you actually agreed with someone, and they are complaining about it.

Wait a minute… you did get that I was agreeing with you?

Oh, yes, it is time to shut up.

If you can annoy someone by agreeing with them in 140 characters or less, it is definitely time to shut up.

So, in the back of my mind, I’m still trying to think of the correct 14o character response for a complete stranger. It’s been one of those days where there’s burned-on stuff in my brain.

There’s no way any of it should matter. It’s not even a close Twitter friend.

So, the question becomes… how do you prevent–if not their irrational response–your own knee-jerk reaction to it in the future. I’m not going to remember which screen name it was. I’ve actually already forgotten. Which means there’s a fairly good chance that I might wander into the same trap all over again.

My solution–which may not be a one-size fits all–is to mute the person so they don’t appear in my Twitter timeline. I can still see them in their profile, and they can still talk to me directly, if they choose, but I don’t get the temptation to join conversations from their soapbox.

There are all kinds of things out there. You can find conversations, or lectures, or sermons… And then, there are those moments when you can sense that someone’s about to go into a full-on tailspin rant, and maybe they even hope you’ll be there so their internet mob can pile on, after.

Back off.

That’s really it. Don’t take a pounding just to add another comment, after you know you’re in a no-win situation. I like muting. It’s discrete. The other person doesn’t know you’ve done it, and it doesn’t interfere with you-specific messages.

The other option you have–a little more drastic–is blocking. The person isn’t allowed to see your tweets or your profile, and they aren’t allowed to contact you. But when they try to look at your profile, they get a statement telling them that they have been blocked, so it’s a little more… assertive.

I really don’t care whether this particular person knows where I eat my sandwich today, so I won’t wind up blocking. Just muting.

Chihuly Sanctuary in Omaha

One of my all-time favorite artists is Dale Chihuly, who creates large-scale, blown-glass installations which are light, and colorful, and soaring, hopeful things. Even if you haven’t heard the name, I’m sure you’ve seen the work.

And last week, the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center opened in Omaha, bringing with it the Chihuly Sanctuary and the Chihuly Atrium. I’ve been waiting for this for a couple of years. I’ve been waiting for this since I first heard there was going to be a Chihuly installation, and since I first saw bulldozers leveling the ground for the building.

Because, of course, when you hear there’s going to be a new blown-glass installation, you have to go watch the bulldozers. It’s just one of those things. So, I did that.

I didn’t take any pictures of the bulldozers, but I did take pictures of the Chihuly art. Today, they let me inside the building.

Honest, I am capable of taking a better picture than this, but this  first one was through a plate glass window.

It’s a little hard to be sure, but I think these are about two storeys tall. You can see the tops about even with fourth floor, and I took these pictures on second floor.

The comment from the nurse we happened to run into on the elevator? “I like the picture of the cows. That one’s really my favorite.”  (I did not take a picture of the picture of the cows.)

It could be that I’m in the middle of writing a query letter, and a lot of my friends are out there querying or facing some other form of rejection, but that seems relevant, somehow.

Rejection: You can be a world renown artist, making $11.2 million dollars worth of blown glass in a building that was designed for it, and some days… well, the nurse just likes the picture of the cows.

I did take a picture of my sandwich, though. Just in case you happen to be hungry or something. Different kind of art here.

That’s a real-live King Kong gyro, or at least, it was, until it met its untimely demise in my stomach. King Kong is a local business that was started by a Greek immigrant (probably before I was born) and they hire mostly other immigrants (not just Greeks) I think as a matter of principle. So, you get your sandwich, you get your salad, you get your fresh baklava… and you get the sheer joy of watching the nice Georgian (The Georgia in Europe, BTW) boy ask your somewhat squeamish mother if she wants her steak “wit blud.”

He means rare, of course, and as it turns out, she does. King Kong apparently makes a very good, very, very rare steak. **keeps eyes on fully cooked gyro.**

IWSG: Did You Ever Just Quit?

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG will be JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

So, this month’s question is Did you ever just say “I quit” to writing? If so, what made you come back?

I’m not sure I ever quit quit. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another, and writing regularly. There are highs and lows, of course, and there are moments when I think I should just make writing my secret hobby, and go sell insurance for a living, but quitting?

No. For me, the problem isn’t quitting, so much as starting.

I’ve always written. I don’t remember not writing. I have stacks of old journals in the basement, and files and files of hand-written, spiral bound stories. I entertain myself that way. Sometimes, I understand myself that way.

The problem for me, is getting to the point where I believe in my abilities enough to make this more than a hobby. Enough to do the heavy lifting that gets you from writing for your own amusement in the back of the classroom to writing professionally, with the intention of supporting yourself.

The trick isn’t–as far as I can tell–to keep writing. It’s to keep writing for others. Others who may not be cheering you on, yet, and who are definitely going to see that plot hole, and who are definitely not going to take “Well, it exists in my head” for an answer.

I’m getting there in baby steps.

There’s the first novel you write. And that revision nearly killed me. I kept going around in circles, and you know… since I’d only written ONE novel, and since I was having massive trouble getting it revised, and I was… probably having more fun writing for myself than working on this insurmountable, clean and polish until other people can read and enjoy it thing.

I’m not really to the place where I believe that I can revise quickly and efficiently, and not want to sell insurance. The write for others for a living thing just seems soooo far away.

But my version of quit would probably be start writing whatever suits my whim, without any professional intent, rather than actually giving up writing entirely.