Monday, 29 December 2008
Recently a new group formed to combat e book piracy. I joined a few days ago and began reading through posts.
On the surface it seemed like a wonderful effort. And it still could be. However, I don't see that happening. I'd expected to see a group working together and setting goals, taking first steps to make the problem of piracy known on a more intimate level to authors and readers. To educate the public about the legalities and explain why sharing e books is just plain wrong.
Unfortunately, that's not happening.
I've only been in this business a couple of years and to some I'm still considered a newbie. I suppose there are those out there who will always look down on me like the red-headed step child, and that's fine. I may not be knowledgeable about everything that goes on in e pub land, but I am at least knowledgeable enough to know that thwarting every suggestion and wallowing in past failures is not going to fix the problem of piracy.
It doesn't make any difference if you are a publisher or an author, whether you have a hundred books out there or one, each of us has a stake in this. But for some odd reason, this group fails to see that.
At first I thought it was just growing pains. That the group was just trying to find its way. Not so. This group vehemently opposes anything that is positive. Opposes any thing that is suggested. I watched a few posters, myself included, make suggestions, voice their opinion in support of something, just to be "shouted down".
It made no sense. I finally stopped posting and set to digest. I know of one other member who simply unsubscribed.
In order for us to make a dent in e book piracy we're going to have to come together. I don't see it happening with any new organization for sure. Maybe through EPIC. Oh, they even argued about which "writer's organizations" were the best. I'm still WOWED by it. At any rate, I don't see anything happening with piracy until authors come down off their high horses and realize that there are more than just a few of us out there. And that some of us are even willing to put a little effort into it.
Any organization that fights e piracy must have a large umbrella and welcome all authors to come under its protection. Which organization will that be? Well, it will end up being the one whose pockets are hit. Maybe these organizations should stop spending our money on these huge once a year parties and start doing something that actually benefits an author. Will they? No.
Do I have a defeatist attitude? Well, I didn't until I joined that group. But now I guess I do. If you want all your hopes and dreams to go up in flames, if you want to see nothing but doom and gloom for the future of e books. Then join this new group. Trust me, they bring new meaning to the term negativity.
Will I post the link to join? Nope. I'm doing you a favor.
Monday, 22 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Though it took around five hours, the final bits of Christmas shopping wasn’t too bad yesterday. The crowds and queues weren’t as heavy as in previous years, and people seemed less frantic, moody. Maybe the credit crunch has something to do with that. Mind you, we went to the next town over. We still have a couple of small bits to do today in our own town, so I suspect that trip will be a different matter entirely, as a lot of people live here, but there are fewer shops.
I’m not particularly looking forward to the supermarket part. Frustrating that I only need a couple of things in there—boring stuff like bread and cat litter (never tried a cat litter sandwich? Really? You must!)—and the queues will, I suspect, be ridiculous. Ridiculous, as in, if you have frozen food in your trolley/cart, it’ll be defrosted by the time you place it on the conveyor belt.
The Christmas spirit hasn’t hit me yet. I kind of forgot Christmas was next week anyway, so when one of my kids mentioned last week that there were only 9 days to go, I shit myself a little. Still, no worries, I use good washing powder.
Please excuse my humour. It usually revolves around the toilet.
Anyway, I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, that the kids are older, that Christmas just isn’t the same, or whether the hype has got to ridiculous levels the past few years, where all it seems to be about is how much money you’ve spent on each person, what you bought, and how good it makes you look. A shame if that’s the case, isn’t it?
I remember as a kid not getting silly amounts of presents that cost the earth, yet it seemed more magical back then, more exciting. Then again, I’m basing those thoughts on being a child, and to a child Christmas is exciting no matter what gifts you receive. Or so I’d like to think.
I’m writing this with a hair dye on, hoping the grey actually gets covered this time around. And, I wonder, when will I give in and go natural? Maybe when I’m 60 or so? Will Christmas be even more tedious by then?
Yes, very Bah Humbug, me.
Let’s hope the spirit reaches me by next week! Any tips on how to get it? Or are there any shops that sell it in a bottle that I've yet to hear about?
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Personally I am FOR gay marriage and abortion.
It needs to be said that some factions in this country still just don't get it. Obama did not run for President as a black man. He didn't run for President as a liberal or conservative. He didn't run for President as anti this, anti that. Pro this, pro that. He ran as an American who wanted to give all he has to this country. To find solutions to the problems we are facing.
The world is energized by this President-Elect. Our country is hopeful because of this President-Elect. Obama's cabinet picks aren't about political right, left, or middle of the road. They're about getting the job done. It's about embracing all opinions, seeking out those on both sides of the aisle. The one single message Obama constantly hammered away at during his campaign was INCLUSION. He's not leaving anyone out, as evidenced by a Republican cabinet pick just yesterday for Secretary of Transportation.
It's been years since I attended a presidential inauguration, and I would love to attend this one. Unfortunately, I won't get that chance. However, I will be watching this man, our hope for the future of all Americans as he lays his hand on the Bible and swears his oath of service. And when I hear the invocation delivered by Pastor Warren, I won't hear his personal political views, or worry about his presence influencing law. Instead, I'll hear a man ask God to give our newly elected President Obama the strength to meet the challenges he faces and for our country to have the patience it takes to see those challenges met with success.
God bless President-Elect Obama.
God bless America and all those countless Americans with their many and varied opinions. Without them, our country would not stand.
Monday, 15 December 2008
I hate e-books!
I hate reading at my computer!
I want a print book in my hands if I’m going to read a book!
e-Books will never catch on!
Grr! Such comments irk me to no end, but part of the reason that readers have the above opinions is due to the price of electronic readers. What normal Joe can buy an e-reader at the current prices?
As publishing changes, so do the formats of books. Over the years, publishers have gone from the smeared ink of typesetting the old-fashioned leather-bound volumes to tiny print, giant print, mass-market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, audio books, and now the e-book.
The trouble is that people are creatures of habit—ones who guard their purse strings and credit cards with a vengeance. Ones who make ticked-off Pit Bull Terriers seem like Care Bears. Well, they should, especially in today’s economy crunch.
I want an e-reader, but I also want a nice one, one that will last for several years. If I’m going to plunk down good money, then it better be worth the exorbitant price tag. I’m an editor and an author, so I spend too many hours in front of a pc monitor or with my laptop. The last thing I want to read an e-book on is my Palm Pilot with its 2-inch screen. By the time I finish one paragraph of an e-novel, my eyes are crossing and my head starts pounding. And for those of you who read e-books in this manner, I commend you; you obviously eat tons of carrots.
Other than people hollering about wanting a print book in their hands when they read, the other huge complaint I hear about e-books is the price of the gadgets used to read them. I have to concur with this complaint. I’ve been saving for one for quite some time now. I’m at the halfway point to buy one, but the other day a different model caught my eye. However, I nearly choked to death on my coffee when I noticed the price tag; one to the tune of $599.00.
Most of us work for a living and have two or more children to support. Many people are on fixed incomes. And those of us who do live above the average American income often have bills out the wazoo. The one thing I hear the most from readers who are also authors is this: I would love to own an e-reader, but I can’t afford one.
So where do manufacturers get off attaching price tags to electronics that would make a hooker flinch?
Well, I guess everything is expensive nowadays, but if the price of electronic readers would come down so that they’re affordable—and I’m talking the ones of quality that are worth slapping money down for—then the e-book industry would see a serious boom in profits. Going green is of the utmost importance, and many avid readers are running out of room for print editions anyway. I have books boxed in the upstairs cubbyhole because I don’t have room for them in my home; I ran out of shelf space a long time ago. Even my husband, who’s not much of a reader, says that in the next ten to fifteen years, a hardback will only be accessible in a library, e-books will be the only books, and the best-selling titles will be the only novels available as trade paperbacks.
Sure, there are those who will argue with this view, but I agree with my husband. He might not be a big reader, but he pays attention to advertisements in publishing, listens to what I have to say about my work, and watches the electronics industry. Changes are coming. Technology moves at lightning speed, and we’re oblivious to just how fast it moves until we’re faced with something new and unexpected.
Honey? Where’s the ON button on this thing?
Oh, for God’s sake. Click the big, glowing blue thing, would you?
So, how do you buy a quality e-reader if you have bills out the hoohaw, kids constantly in need of everything, or live on a fixed income?
A change jar.
A Christmas club.
A rainy day sock under the mattress.
Yeah, sounds too easy and stupid, doesn’t it? Well, it works. Every coin or greenback I find in the wash goes into my rainy day fund. When I empty my purse of change and dump out the contents in its bottom, all the coins go into that fund. If I find a stray dollar in my coat pocket, it goes in there too. When relatives ask what I want for my birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, I ask them to donate to whatever I’m saving up for. Many of my author/editor royalty checks go into that fund too.
The key, however, is not to spend that fund on anything else! No, don’t dip into it to buy Aunt DiDi a wedding present for her fifth marriage (besides, that dude’s wiggy looking and he picks his nose). No, don’t succumb to those nifty, sparkly 4-inch heels in the store window that you know you won’t wear (and don’t even look at the rhinestone bullwhip that comes with them!). And if you’re a guy, leave the heated camouflage tushy cushion for your tree stand at the sportsmen’s store. If your butt’s that cold, then stuff some of those newfangled heated rocks in your underwear (they’re much cheaper anyway).
And there’s always Tax Refund Season. Why not treat yourself to one nice thing such as that e-reader you’ve been salivating for?
I may have to go with my second choice soon (my eyes are tired), but determination and hiding my rainy day fund from my kids has worked wonders!
So what are my top choices?
#1 is the iRex Iliad. http://www.engadget.com/2008/05/07/irex-launches-new-iliad-book-edition-e-book-reader/ This puppy sells to the tune of $599.00 for the base book model; this is the one I mentioned earlier that had me choking. One thing that really convinces me on this model is that I can write on it; it comes with a stylus and a nice program to convert my stories, thoughts, ideas, etc.
#2 is the Astak reader. Note: it’s not available yet in all models. I’d like the larger version for this gal’s eyes, but the large-screened reader isn’t due to hit the market until February of 09. It has a ton of cool features such as MP3s, touch screen, and easy battery replacement. http://www.astak.com/6Ebook_EZ_Reader.html The price of this one starts at $300.00.
Then #3 is the Sony e-Reader. You can find this at the Sony site or amazon.com, but if you go to amazon.com you’ll find many mixed reviews. I’m not saying I wouldn’t accept one of these if it was given to me, and I may buy one if I can’t buy one of the above two models, but the consensus is that the first version is better than the latest model. http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921665562069 And the price? You’re looking at $399.00 for this baby. However, if you go through a different retailer, you might be able to get it a few bucks cheaper, but don’t forget that the consumer always gets socked with a lovely shipping charge.
This brings me to the Kindle from amazon.com. I’ve heard many people talk about the Kindle. Those who have one like them for the most part. However, to me, it’s one of the ugliest gadgets I’ve ever seen. And the price isn’t that great either to the tune of $359.00, not to mention the long waiting list. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FI73MA/ref=amb_link_7808822_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=165H3CJR1S36KR0ACMRK&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=464711251&pf_rd_i=507846 However, I’ve been told that a fee is employed in order to access blogs and newspapers with a Kindle. I haven’t verified this, though.
If you’re a writer, imagine what would happen if quality e-readers were made affordable. Oh, the implications! The royalty checks! e-Publishers would smile from ear to ear!
But the price of quality? Ouch!
So, start saving! I have!
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Friday, 12 December 2008
Our Mam loves aubergines. She’s bought them ever since I was a kid. I remember the first time I saw one. Thought it was a pear—a different variety to our usual Conference—albeit purple with a big ol’ belly. I liken food to people or their body parts. See human traits in many a Golden Delicious, a Jaffa. Mam reckons I’m an odd soul. She said so, see?
“You’re an odd soul, our David.” She bustled over to the kitchen counter, transparent bag of aubergines in one hand, six-pint flagon of milk in the other. Placing them down beside the kettle, she turned back to face me. “What do I resemble, then?”
I regarded her. The way she appeared, she reminded me of a raisin. You know, all wrinkled and dried out. Only I couldn’t tell her that. Mam’s always been vain. Couple that trait with a fiery temper and her tendency to be outspoken, and you’d understand why I answered as I did. “A peach.”
Mam’s brow furrowed, her lips pursed, and red splotches sprung up on her cheeks. “What, so you mean to say my face is covered in fuzz, David?” She passed her palm over her chin. “Have I got a beard or moustache growing? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
I swallowed. Heat bloomed on my cheeks. “No, Mam! I meant your complexion is like a peach, you know, the colour. And your skin is soft.”
Her lips morphed from their pursed state to a slack pair of lines. Spittle dribbled from one corner. “That’s all right then,” she said and cuffed the drool. She turned and busied herself, to make our cups of tea. “Want one?”
“Yes, please,” I said and tried to think of something else to say. Something that would relax her shoulders. “What do you think I resemble?”
Mam sighed, placed tea bags into two cups, added sugar. “A great big cauliflower,” she said.
“A what?” Confused, I glanced skywards, as if looking at the artex on the ceiling would answer my silent questions. Why a cauliflower?
“You heard me. A great big cauliflower. The florets remind me of your skin, all puckered. And the size of a cauliflower compared to the peach that I am, is immense. You do understand what I’m trying to say, don’t you, David?”
Hurt ran amok, skittered through my body on spiders’ legs. That she of all people would become like them, those people out in the street, who mocked me. “You’re saying I’m fat?”
Mam sloshed boiling water into our cups, jabbed a teaspoon into each one, and squeezed the teabags against the sides. “I’m saying that maybe, if you ate more fruit and vegetables instead of burgers and fries, you’d be a little slimmer, yes.” She slapped the teabags onto a saucer placed next to the kettle for just that purpose. Steam rose from them and curled into the air. “Why don’t you try a bit of aubergine for your tea?”
I considered it for mere seconds. “No, thanks.”
Mam picked up my cup, brought it over to the small kitchen table, and plonked it down before me. Tea spilled onto the polished wood. “See? You’ve never wanted to try anything different. That’s why you’re still living here at forty-three years old. Life’s passing you by, David, and you don’t even seem to care.”
As Mam walked away, I envisaged her tripping on the curl of the large floor rug. Saw her fling forward and bang her head on the cooker edge. Slump down in an aged, broken heap beside the pine cabinet. I blinked. My gaze rested on the back of her head while she picked up a knife and peeled an aubergine.
“If you weren’t so large, I’d lay you over my knee and tan your arse,” she said, stripping off the vegetable’s skin with jerky movements. “But you’d crush me, wouldn’t you? I’d also make you sit at that table and eat whatever I put in front of you. Instead, I watch you push the food I cook for you around on your plate, knowing you’ll go out an hour later and bring back a take-away. Sit and stuff your blubbery mouth with greasy food cooked by uncaring hands. But that’s all right. Don’t you go worrying about my feelings.”
Mam’s a weird one. If I spoke to her like that she’d clip me round the ear. Yet, there she was, nattering on at me as if she had the right to upset me like that.
It must be difficult for her to have an embarrassment for a son—she’s told me that often enough. Her being slim, still possessing the air of grace she’s always had, the refinement from her youth. And then there’s me, a…well….
As predicted, I left the table after dinner—and no, I didn’t try any aubergine, despite it being on my plate, despite Mam’s glare resting heavily on my bald pate—and strolled to the row of shops on our estate. Good job they’re close to our house, as breathlessness assailed me halfway there, and I had to stop, regulate my breathing. The Min-Wah Chinese take-away and Kibble’s Kebab Shop lured me, and I stood outside on the pavement. The aromas from inside urged my stomach to rumble. What did I fancy? Unable to make up my mind, I chose something from both their menus.
The walk home always seemed quicker than the journey there. Maybe the thought of eating spurred me on, nudged my feet to take longer strides. I reached our street, saliva pooling beneath my tongue in anticipation of the tastes to come. I’d eat, surrounded by the sounds of Mam tsking, the news on high volume, the clock ticking on the wall.
“Each tick lets us know what was once the present is now the past,” Mam said after I’d settled myself down on the couch, a tray balanced on my knees. “That the chance to remedy your unsavoury eating habits, get healthy, make something of yourself, has once again skipped off into the time of ‘I’ll do it one day.’ Every night it’s the same damn thing, our David. And look at you, ketchup from that stinky lamb kebab dribbling down your chin. Really!”
Regardless of her rant, I munched. Ketchup plopped onto my shirtfront. I knew that with each mouthful, my arteries would harder further, my gut would gain another inch, and my heart would gain a more erratic beat.
Mam’s voice droned on in the distance, as if she spoke from the other side of the meadow I imagined myself in. High grasses swished in the breeze, rustled like scrunched paper, whispered: She’s dragging you down, David. Don’t listen. It’s your life to do with what you please….
“It’s my life, Mam.” Startled, I heard the words; didn’t realise I had spoken them out loud.
“Yes, it is your life, David. One I gave you, remember that.”
The sun beat down on my head in that meadow, warmed my face, made me smile.
“Are you smirking at me, David?” Mam asked. The incredulity in her voice jarred my nerves. Kebab finished, I started on the crispy duck. “And as for eating duck. I can’t believe how you can do that when we’ve visited the ducks on the lake ever since you were small. We’ll visit them tomorrow, it being Sunday, and as you toss bits of bread to the mallards, one of their kin will still reside in your overblown gut. Have you no shame, David?”
She’s annoying, isn’t she, David? The grass, the grass whispered that.
“You’re annoying, Mam.”
She stood from her chair on the other side of the meadow, strode over to me, and snatched away my food tray. Pain barked in my head, the tray’s contact sudden, unexpected. The polystyrene kebab container bounced onto my shoulder before coming to rest beside me on the couch. Extra plain noodles became the hair I’d lost many years ago. The duck’s carcass sat on my lap. Plum sauce soaked through my trousers, burned the skin on my thighs.
Conscious thought fled. My body rose from its previous sitting position before I knew it, the duck crammed into Mam’s mouth, wedged in by my meaty palm.
The long grass whispered: Yeeeessss, let her taste it, David.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Place: THE MALL
Characters: My Sis and Me
So we rolled up into the mall parking lot at the stroke of ten, dreading the onslaught of holiday shoppers. "It's a dirty job," my Sis said to me, "but someone's got to do it." And so began our foray into the midst of snotty-nosed kids, frazzled parents with depleted bank accounts, rude sales clerks, long lines at the cash registers, and just generally clueless individuals who don't know how to act in public.
Before we left home, the rest of the family and some of the neighbors placed bets on who would lose their temper first, me or Sis, with both of us vowing not to be the first to blow. Another dirty job, but someone would have to do it.
We entered through the JC Penny's doors and melted into the crush. Now I'm not a fan of Penny's in general, but Sis is, and besides they were supposedly having a big "Door Buster" sale (yeah, right).She insisted on buying a few things for my little boy so we took off to the men's dept. Yep, he is a big boy. Tall, very husky.
Anyway, we're holding up various shirts and judging them for size and each time I'd take the shirt and look at the label and discard it. She'd say, "But I liked that shirt." To which I'd reply, "Oh, hell no. Not buying a damn thing made in freaking Pakistan." She rolled her eyes. By the time the day was finished, I was surprised they hadn't rolled right out of their sockets.
We continued to search and eliminate several South American countries due to the drug trafficking problems and finally land on good ole China. Well, what the hell, we haven't had to kill anyone over there yet. We idle up to the register and stand there for two or three minutes to find the line formed back at lingerie. So what did I say? "Oh, hell no."
Now to some of you, it might seem as though I had already lost the bet. Nope, that is just considered general disgruntlement. Trust me, it ain't even a fizz.
Next stop, Jimmy Jazzy's. My boy specifically requested a pair of jeans from there. I walked in and realized we were in a hip hop fashion store. My Sis is shaking her head and rolling those eyes. Damn, I looked across the floor expecting to chase those big blue balls across the white tile, but so far, they were still intact.
Every pair of jeans I picked up, got a "Oh hell, no" from Sis. I looked upward, "Give me strength." I had a choice, please the kid, or alienate Sis. I chose Sis. Sorry Little Man, but hip hop is not going to be part of your post-Christmas fashion show when you return to school after the holidays. Secretly, I was happy with my decision, but I planned to blame it on Sis.
From there we meandered the corridor toward the mall hub, dodging strollers, teenagers, and people who think the center of the aisle is a rest stop. By now I'm thirsty and in desperate need of a diet coke. I yell across to my Sis who just dodged a couple who thought it was ok, to stop and smooch, "Let's get something to drink." She nods and we head to the cookie kiosk.
As soon as we belly up to the counter, a little girl, about five years old, cute as a button, pushes Sis and me to the side. What the hell? I looked down at her and over at her mom, who was beaming at her daughter's initiative. SCREW THAT!I was here first. So I caught the eye of the cookie clerk and quickly ordered a drink for Sis and me, to which the little girl cries out, "Hey, that's not fair." To which I countered with, "That's life." She began to stomp her feet and her mummy pulled her away from my reach. Yep, mom may not have a handle on that kid, but she knew better than to mess with a woman who had the phrase, "piss off, kid" perched on the tip of her tongue.
Sis told me she would find us a bench by the fountain and save me a seat. I waited for the drinks and found her. Awww, it felt so good to sit down. I wore flats, but my back was still killing me. My Sis was in agony too, and pulled out the Tylenol from her purse and we both popped 2K mgs each. Yep, bigger dose than what we should have taken, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
We sat for a while and recuperated from the morning assault. It was now shortly after high noon. I could see the little girl across the way, scarfing down her purple iced cupcake and giving me the evil eye. I narrowed my eyes and crinkled up my nose. She did a one eighty and held tight to her mom's leg. All that purple icing just covered mom's khaki pants. I suddenly got a second wind, payback can do that to a person.
Back to high footing it for Christmas bounty, we hit the American Eagle store. Oh,it was so cool inside there. Everywhere else had been a roasting pit. Three of the four registers were open, the store was playing some ass kickin' music, and the clientele seemed to be enjoying the experience. I was encouraged.
Now we all know that all clothes are pretty much equal. You pay for the brand names out the ying yang though. So I sift through the racks and find a few things I like, just to discover the AE Brand is not emblazoned on the garment for all to see. "Oh, hell no," I said to Sis. "What," she asks. I placed my hand on my hip and waved the shirt in front of her. "If I'm going to pay for a brand name, then I want everyone to see the damn brand, otherwise, why buy it?" She agreed. We finally found a few things, and then got stuck in line.
A woman in front of us had her three children with her who were picking out their Christmas presents to make sure they would all fit and then they went under the tree. Smart mom, she cut out the after Christmas exchange stop. But for me, I'll just stick to that look of surprise on Christmas morning.
Anyway, mom checks out. Sis and I are chomping at the bits for her to move on, and then her daughter runs up and slaps another shirt on the counter. Check out girl rings her up again, and then realizes she failed to ask mom if she wanted to apply for an AE credit card and get ten percent off. Then mom of course squeaks, "What about the two hundred I just spent?" Here we go. The other lines are even longer than the one we are in, so Sis and I exchange a look and settle in.
Now onto Aeropostle, and then to Belks and Macy's. It's three p.m. now, and we are both ready to get the hell out of dodge and have that long lunch we promised ourselves. We are on the opposite end of the mall from where we parked, so the long trek began.
Just after we passed the hub, a woman from one the kiosks jumps out at me with a tube of hand cream and asks if I'd like to try it. I'm a sucker for hand lotion and thought ok. With no intention of purchasing, of course. We stop, both Sis and me happy to be on our way out instead of in, our mood on the upswing for sure.
So I rub on the lotion, tell the sales woman how much I like it, thank her and take a step forward. The crazy woman grabbed my hand and pulled me back. Of course, I thought it was a take-down and grabbed my purse. Don't mess with a paranoid southern gal. It's dangerous.
I soon realized there was more to her little show 'n tell. Oh God, what have I done? Patience, patience. So not to be rude I went through the whole hand washing thing with dead sea salt straight from Israel and had her squirt me with the water and the whole nine yards. All the while she is talking a mile a minute in an accent so thick I understood maybe one word out of ten. But, I did understand $69.95 per jar. "Oh, hell no." I exclaimed. She said, "No worry, sale today, just for you." For me???? ROFLMAO.
BOGO! Now usually, I'm all for buy one get one free, but it's got to be something a bit more practical than salt from a desert. Sorry. I thanked the woman and TRIED to walk away. The woman grabbed my arm. My Sis walked down the corridor a ways so she wouldn't be in the line of fire, of course. Yep, you guessed it. I lost the bet. I owe Marshall across the street ten bucks, Mrs.Evans, two doors down, five and the crab apples from my tree come late spring. My Sis gets a deuce and my little boy a homemade pot of chilli, his fave. My 17 year old gets unlimited texting on her cell now.
God I needed a drink. Not to worry, I'm winding up the shopping saga. lol We load up our shopping bags and head to Chilli's. I love their margaritas, so we request the bar and order two specialty margs on the rocks, and buffalo bites with fries.
To make a long story short, we had three of those margs each, at seven bucks each. They were indeed delicious, and in case you don't know, not the average size drink either.lol We flipped for who was driving. I lost. Again. And, of course, I woke up at midnight that night with my head throbbing like hell.
We got the hell out of the city proper without injury to anyone, me at the helm, feeling quite satisfied that we had set our goals and met them. It's going to be a good Christmas. I truly needed one.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Animal Control Officer Rebecah Pearsall hates working the night shift, especially in the run-up to Christmas. With a full moon rising over Seattle, even more crazy people than usual roaming the streets, and an on-off romance with her boss to contend with, Rebecah just doesn’t need any more complications.
But an encounter behind the local pizzeria with the strangest dog she’s ever seen brings Gabe into her life, and he’s not your run-of-the-mill, black-leather-clad hottie. The question is, what does he want with Rebecah?
What connects an Animal Control Officer, a hound with bright red ears, and an elf dressed in black leathers? Rebecah Pearsall is about to find out, and it has nothing to do with Santa’s workshop.
This Christmas, Rebecah has to make a choice that shouldn’t even exist. Trouble is, it could be the most important decision of her life.
It’s Christmas in the Scottish Highlands, but Andy, an employee of the Glenmuir Estate, is feeling far from festive. What is the connection between him and Nicky Glennister, the young laird of Glenmuir, and what of the strange creature that legend says roams the land?
Somewhere in Asia, God help him if he ever tried to go back there again, Jonathan Daily had found the love of his life. Afraid that taking his beautiful lover home to England might not be such a good thing for him, Jonathan accepted a position as a teacher in the school attached to the British Embassy in Beijing. They've settled in. Life is good, but with Christmas coming they might find the only thing worse than mortal in-laws could be elemental in-laws that can never really approve….
For the past few years, Bill has struggled with the loss of his life partner, Kevin, and his attraction to Kevin's twin, Trevor. Is it Trevor he really wants, or does he just want his life back? Two days before Christmas, when Trevor appears at his door, he knows it's time to finally decide if he can live again.
He and his partner Devon—tied down by work and family commitments—have just a few short days to themselves, but it seems Devon’s got something on his mind. Can Ryan thaw out enough to find out what, or is it going to be a winter of discontent?
But where did the demon come from? And how did the summoner make it appear? Cassie must determine whether she believes an incredulous tale and if she can up sticks and move abroad.
Monday, 1 December 2008
Jokes for the holiday season.
Why There is an Angel on Top of the Christmas Tree
One year Santa was having a very bad day. His wife didn’t give him any, he had a hangover from the night before, none of the elves were on schedule, the kids were all bitching and whining and unappreciative. He went to have a drink, but all the liquor was gone. Everyone demanded that he do something. The house was a mess and he stubbed his toe on a broken toy and so he started to cuss. He was really pissed off. Just then the doorbell rang and it was an Angel with a beautiful new Christmas tree. Upon seeing Santa she asked, "Where should I put this Santa?"
The Male POV on Christmas
In all my years, there is one thing I’ve learned about the Christmas holidays.
LIQUOR WORKS BETTER THAN MISTLETOE...
Little Johnny, Such a Blasphemous Lad
Little Johnny planned on getting lots of presents for Christmas. He knew that God had a connection to the North Pole, so he stood up and started to pray.
"God, i have been a child of perfection this year. I think i should get lots of preasents... no that won’t work."
He got on his knees.
"God, I haven’t been the best child since last December. I still deserve lots of presents for my efforts... no that can’t work either!"
He laid face flat on the floor.
"God, I have been a complete devil this year. But i can change, I promise! No, there's no way he'll believe that!"
As a last resort, he walked over to the manger scene where Jesus
was born in the stable that his mother had placed on a table.
Little Johnny reached in and pulled out the virgin Mary. He went into his room, wrapped Mary in a sock, and placed her in his drawer.
"God, if you ever want to see Mary again...."
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
This happened last night. It scared me silly, but my husband laughed his ass off when I told him about it.
Last October, my father-in-law, Charlie, passed away. He was one of those odd souls who didn’t like to clean or have much to take care of, so he chose to live in a small camper. He had his TV, his DVD player, VHS player, and a radio; everything you could fit into an efficiency apartment was in that camper.
Well, this summer, my husband finally moved the camper to the house, and the girls and I turned it into my get-away office. Now some of you might have read a blog that I wrote about Charlie and the mysterious coffee cup that he used. Well, Charlie was also the most mischievous old fart you can imagine....
Last night, the snow fell hard, the wind blew hard, and by dark, a couple of inches of the white stuff coated the ground. Matthew turned the heat on in the camper, and later, I made my way out there to work on revisions for a paranormal romance I’ve finished. The wind blew so fiercely that the camper swayed and vibrated.
The scene that I was working on involved a scary moment for my protagonist. A big rat enters a public restroom and turns into this vaporous she-monster. Something began knocking behind me where I always sit. At first it startled me, and I jumped. It kept rapping, so I thought maybe the window wasn’t secured, but after checking it, I discovered that it was. Rap. Rap. Thonk. Bang. Frowning, I thought maybe it was tree limb because the camper sits under a big maple with low branches, or it might have been that the wind had torn the under penning loose.
The black rat thing in the novel’s scene transformed and attacked the heroine. The heroine escaped its claws and trapped it in a toilet stall.
A gust of wind slammed into the camper. Rap. Thonk. Bang!
The rat transformed into the vaporous yet half-solid monster, and the heroine beat it with her purse until the restaurant manager walked into the bathroom. The she-thing disappeared into a puff of smoke. The heroine told the manager a story about a big rat that jumped into the toilet and crawled down the hole.
Something rattled next to me—on the damn table.
I glanced over at my elbow. A long, dark tail slipped by and hid under the mirrored Faith shelf you see in that photo.
I leaped out of the bench seat and stood in my oh-so-big 24″ x 24″ living area and screamed some more.
Now, mind you, I don’t do girly-girl screams. Nope. Not me. I’m an Appalachian gal. I let out war whoops that can clear a football stadium and put the fear of God into my kids. Even my husband will vacate the premises when I’m startled or scared. Why? Because scaring me pisses me off. (Thank you psycho ex-husband!)
“You li’l son of a bitch!” I performed a jig in my oh-so-big living area.
The “huge” rodent ran out from under the shelf on the table, up over my big pillow, over the top of the books in the corner (there are several in that corner behind the red dictionary), and across the long shelf behind the bench seat. The li’l snot jumped up on the stovetop and stopped. It stopped! It sat up on its hind legs and looked at me! Looked at me!
“You li’l bastard! Get! Get out o’ here! You’re not welcome!”
I swear, its beady, black eyes appeared as if they were going to explode from its head. (I imagine mine did too, but that’s beside the point.) The rodent ran along the back wall, around the covered sink and the jam box playing Hotel California (how ironic is that???), down to the furnace, and jumped from it to the floor.
“Get lost, you furry son of a bitch! You’re not welcome here! Out!”
It disappeared through the crack in the bathroom door.
Exhausted, I stood there for a moment, then decided to go to the garage where my husband was sitting by the pot-bellied stove. I told him my story.
“And if your dad came back as a mouse,” I ranted, “he’s now in the bathroom shitting a brick!” I finished my story, and my husband howled with laughter.
No, it wasn’t a rat that whizzed by my arm on the table, but seeing that frickin’ li’l black tail after tweaking a scene in a paranormal romance that involves a rat really wigged me out.
Later, when I went back to the camper, the mouse came out from under the bunk. I realized that he was a determined li’l bastard; there was something he wanted. Then it occurred to me. Snow, cold, and hunger. My oldest boy had left a bag of sunflower seeds in the camper, so I sprinkled some on the floor. Mr. FIL in Mouse Form slipped out, snatched a seed, and scurried under the bed where I heard him munching away.
And Charlie? Well, I truly believe his presence is in that camper. Too many odd things happen out there in that writer’s get-away. And since he delighted in reading my fiction and teasing me to pieces, I’m not surprised that he was reading over my shoulder again.
If he came back in mouse form, he better behave from now on. I don’t mind sharing the space and yes, I’m a soft touch...but just don’t startle me while I’m revising scary scenes.
Saturday, 22 November 2008
This morning I was looking to see if I had uploaded a book cover to Wild Child and found an old picture of me in costume surrounded by ghosts. It's creepy, and if you look closely enough, you can see faces (and not just human faces) in the fog around me.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Anyway, this book has a great plot, but if I hadn't spent eight bucks on it, I'd have thrown the damn thing in the trash even if it does. I'd never read this author before and liked the title, so I took a chance and picked it up. I won't take another chance like that. No more buying without having read the author before.
Unless, of course, I get a really good recommendation.
I mentioned this book a couple of days ago on the Avoid Writers Hell group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/avoid_writers_hell in regard to head hopping. I was only three chaps into the book then, but now I am over half way. This author has taken head hopping to new and dizzying heights. She doesn't just hop from hero head to heroine head and back again. This author hops through the heads of several characters--all within a couple of paragraphs. I swear to God, one scene that took place during a Thanksgiving dinner party had to be read four times to figure out what the hell was going on.
With that said, the passivity of it is just as bad. It's glaring. Truly glaring. I have gotten to the point that I am only reading the book so I can edit the damn thing as I read and reassure myself there is hope that some day I'll hit the NYTBS LIST.
Because if this author can make it, I damn sure can. Worst editing and writing job I've ever seen. I am so in awe of just how bad it is that I googled the author and discovered she is quite old and has written a slew of books. I had never heard of her. I am hoping that since this is the most recent book, the problems have something to do with her advanced years. However, I can't excuse her editor or her publisher. The punctuation and grammar are fine, but head hopping and passive voice ruined this book for me.
I'm one of those readers who can handle an occasional pov change from one character to another as long as I think it works (easily understandable) and as long as the author doesn't hop back to the other character, but in this book there was absolutely no restraint. As a result, the book has been difficult to read and understand. In the end this book does have one redeeming quality. It's a classic example of why we have editors and so many rules within the mechanics of writing.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
No, I didn't say imagination. I said mind. My mind will NOT shut off. I've often been asked about my muse. Is it male or female? What does she look like? Is she bossy? Lazy? Nagging?
She. Is. A. Bitch.
I dubbed her Lady Muse a.k.a. The Bitch. I don't mean just bitch. Oh, no...not this chickie. She wears black leather, high-heeled thigh-high boots, carries a bullwhip--and the wench uses it too! She cracks the whip while I wash dishes or clothes. Lady Muse cracks it whenever I'm at the desk or pick up my laptop. She screams at me as I drive to the library or the grocery store. And God help me if I want to just read or laze and watch TV.
"You are on my last nerve." I try to shove her into the dark part of my mind.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.
-- Kristen, age 10
WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
-- Camille, age 10
HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
-- Derrick, age 8
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?
Both don't want any more kids.
-- Lori, age 8
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
-- Lynnette, age 8
On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
-- Martin, age 10
WHAT WOULD YOU DO ON A FIRST DATE THAT WAS TURNING SOUR?
I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. -- Craig, age 9
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
When they're rich.
-- Pam, age 7
The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.
- - Curt, age 7
The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.
-- Howard, age 8
IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
-- Anita, age 9
HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN'T GET MARRIED? There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
-- Kelvin, age 8
And the #1 Favourite is........
HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.
-- Ricky, age 10
I lay in bed last night so nervous that my heart kept skipping beats. To the point it scared me. Deep breaths, girl, stop being so silly. It’s only an hour of your time each week. How hard can it be?
Upon waking, it all crashed back into my mind. Where I had to be at 11.30. What I had to do. Nerves slapped me once again. I hadn’t made any notes. Didn’t know what the first session would even be about. Oh, Lord. Could I do this?
11 a.m. rolled round. Pooping one’s pants—not literally, thank goodness—I scurried to the school. Signed in, took a visitor’s sticker, walked to the IT room where my class would take place. A little early, I busied myself sorting out the children’s ‘Author’s Toolbox’, a clear plastic wallet with different coloured paper inside for each section of the course. The story outline, the character’s traits, cool words, and notes on what we’d discuss each week.
The children, all girls, walked in, and one asked, “Are you Mrs. Ellis?”
“Oh, hi!” I said. “Yes, that’s me.”
And they sat at the table with me. And I told them the news that Marci had kindly agreed that if they wrote stories and we compiled a book of well over 50K that she would print it.
Their faces! The gasps! Made my day. Hell, my entire week, month, and year. (Thank you, Marci! You made a difference over here to those girls.)
I read one of the girl’s tales. Oh my. She is good—and I mean good. For an 11 year old, well, she’s got some talent. Amazing. She writes like an adult.
So, I’ll be working with these girls every Friday morning at the school, teaching them how to expand, tighten, hone their craft and stories, and then, when we’re as close to the best they can get them after weeks of revision, I’ll work with them via email on edits.
These girls are wonderful, determined, clever young ladies. And they’ve given me a new lease of life—a focus. To have made them so excited they grabbed at one another, to know they will be in a published print book, really touched my heart. I’d made a difference, let them know that writing stories isn’t just about writing stories. That it’s an outlet for their emotions as well, and that they can do this. Hopefully this experience will inspire them to become our authors of the future.
The school has a Gifted and Talented thing going on, where everyone is gifted and talented in something, no matter how small. Makes the kids feel special. So I have the T&Gs that write, and I’ve asked that the T&Gs in art each create a stunning picture (and man, these kids can draw) to be chosen as the cover art for the book.
From the sample I read, I’m betting this book will be astounding when it’s finished. I’m so excited I could squee!
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors, and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!
So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads:
Floor 1: These Men Have Jobs.
She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:
Floor 2: These Men Have Jobs and Love Kids.
“That’s nice,” she thinks, “but I want more.”
So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:
Floor 3: These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.
“Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.
She goes to the fourth floor, and the sign reads:
Floor 4: These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help with Housework.
“Oh, mercy me!” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it!”
Still, she goes to the fifth floor, and the sign reads:
Floor 5: These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.
She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:
Floor 6: You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.
To avoid gender bias charges, the store’s owner opened a New Wives store just across the street.
The first floor has wives that love sex.
The second floor has wives that love sex, have money, and like beer.
The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors have never been visited.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
- Nicole Kidman's daughter Sunday Roast*
- Michael Jackson's son Blanket (yes, that's the one he dangled off the balcony with a blanket on its head)
- Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter Apple
- Nicolas Cage's son Kal-el -- the real name of Superman
- Jason Lee's child Pilot Inspektor
- Big Boi (of Outcast) has a child named Bamboo
- Demi Moore and Bruce Willis's daughter Rumer ("I Heard a Rumor")
- Shithead (pronounced shu-theed) Imagine the poor teacher who had to pronounce that name for the first time and think of the poor child who had to bear that name...at least until she could change it;
- Immaculata Concepcion -- um, yeah. We believe it;
- Placenta -- Imagine what happened when she reached sex education class or all of the times older kids who knew what that meant giggled whenever she was around;
- Cherry -- not so bad? Ever heard the phrase "popped the cherry?" Think again;
- Jack Goff --say it aloud. My father went to school with him;
- Dick Goff -- yes, they were brothers;
- Celestial Star -- this person changed her name to this. I can't blame it on her parents.
A chicken and an egg are lying in bed…
The chicken is leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.
The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over, and says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question."
Monday, 10 November 2008
Our blogging sisterhood posted on groups for letters from people with problems. We don’t really care what the problem is—we’re up for any type of discussion. Since everyone knows we’re involved in the publishing industry, I suppose it makes sense our very first letter would be about writing.
I saw the offer of writing this letter on a group. I would bring it up on the group, but my problem may offend someone on there and make me look bad. It involves beta reading and critiquing.
I can’t bring myself to tell the truth when critiquing because first I’m afraid of hurting the writer’s feelings, and second because it would make me sound bad. I wouldn’t want to upset the writers because they have become my friends, but at the same time I think the writers need to be told certain things.
I’m a writer also, and while I don’t know everything, I know enough to gain an acceptance, though I am learning a lot through professional edits. I’m able to give advice on grammar etc. and be comfortable in what I’ve said, knowing I haven’t given the wrong advice. My problem is that I’m seeing mistakes that I feel I can’t comment on because they involve more than just me mentioning the basics.
How do I tell someone who has worked hard on their book that it needs too much work for it to be submitted in its present form? I worry that they’d think I’d gone weird since getting professional edits. It’s not just the basics, but bad writing. I read some things that are so bad that I know the writer will be rejected, but how do I tell them that without sounding horrible or that I think I’m better than them? The problem is also that the writers are getting rejections, and then I feel bad because if I’d said something and they could fix their errors, maybe they would have gotten an acceptance. Is keeping my mouth shut causing more hurt than me opening it?
I would never be downright nasty, but have yet to figure a way of making my criticism sound constructive rather than spiteful. However I try and word it, it sounds just wrong to me, so I delete what I’ve written and concentrate on punctuation and small plot holes.
I also feel bad because some people in my critique group just shouldn’t be writing, period. I keep those opinions to myself, but as I’m growing in the craft, I’m getting tired of reading things that have so much wrong with them. I’m in the situation where if I say I don’t want to beta read them anymore, I’ll have no one to beta read me. Then I feel bad for thinking on selfish terms.
I’ve stopped going to my critique group as often because every time I read something I think it’s awful. Am I just being a big head? I feel bad because I don’t want to waste my time and effort trying to explain what’s wrong for me to be ignored anyway, plus me coming off as a know-it-all bitch. I don’t know it all, I don’t pretend to. Sometimes I want to scream at them to try another hobby, because clearly they aren’t taking writing seriously. Even that sounded mean.
First of all, your problem is something a great many writers discuss. You’re not alone. We all feel that way sometimes. I agree you should not bring this up on group. I don’t suppose there is any perfect forum for this problem. However, it does deserve discussion and hopefully together we can find a solution or as close to one as possible. I’m sure the readers of this blog have many good ideas to help.
Personally, I think bringing it out in the open is a good way to start. You’ve expressed how you’d really like to help with constructive criticism. I applaud that. Where your critique group is concerned, it sounds as though you may have surpassed their level of expertise or understanding of the writing craft. It’s possible it’s time for you move on for the sake of your own career. It does no good by continuing with the group unless YOU get something from it. That may sound hard-nosed as hell, but it’s the truth.
The other thing you could do is to buy everyone in your critique group a wonderful Christmas gift. I highly recommend my bud, Faith Bicknell Brown’s series on How to Avoid Writer’s Hell. Yep, that’s a shameless promo for her, but!!! Big but here, lol, the books are worth it. They are written in such a way that no one will be bored and impart easy to understand lessons on writing—everything from grammar and punctuation to how to write a query. The publishing industry in general is discussed quite thoroughly. Your friends would definitely pick up some knowledge from reading these books. There are four of them available from Wild Child Publishing.
All at these books are very affordable at $3.25 each. Not too bad for the wealth of information Faith has shared. Now that is a practical solution. The books certainly won’t bestow talent on someone who doesn’t have it, but will indeed sharpen writing skills in general.
Another thing you could try is to speak privately with the writer/writers in question. Of course, you’d have to feel very comfortable with that person to do this and you are the only one who can judge that relationship. You seem to truly care about your critique group. I know for a fact that you can become quite close to your critique partners. I’m not sure I could do it, but it’s certainly worth consideration.
I’d also like to address this a bit further. First, are these authors published anywhere? I saw that you mentioned they kept getting rejections. If they are published, well, you have to remember something—not all publishing houses are equal. And I don’t mean that in a demeaning way. Whether you are working in the print world or the e pub world, edits are different. Some of that has to do with the editors themselves and just how savvy they are. A lot has to do with house style. Too often, I don’t think authors consider house style when submitting their work. It’s up to the writer to know the product each publisher sells. Some publishing houses have a more relaxed editing style than others. It’s a matter of determining where your work fits. Maybe your friends need to shop around and not target the same houses.
Second, and this may sound, again, hard-nosed as hell, but if your friends are getting nothing but rejections and are not published, sooner or later they will figure it out and dissolve into the scenery. Sad, but true.
You asked, “How do I tell someone who has worked hard on their book that it needs too much work for it to be submitted in its present form?” The answer to that question is quite simple. YOU DON’T. That is not your job. It’s the job of an acquisitions editor to do that. Your job as a critique partner/beta reader is to offer an overall opinion of the work. To help with minor grammar and punctuation. Maybe even point out a time line problem or a glaring plot hole, but not to decide if the work is worthy of publishing. When you do that, you step into the shoes of an editor.
I hope this discussion has helped put things into perspective for you. And I invite all the readers of this blog to please post your own concerns regarding this issue and any solutions you might have for it.
Keep the letters coming! We want to hear from everyone.
‘Til next time,
Sunday, 9 November 2008
M.E: Whey hey! Hiya, MJ, me old mucker. How are you this wet, horrible day? Is it even wet in your corner of the UK?
MJ: Helloooo me old china! [China plate = mate. Speakers of US English may find the subtitled version of this broadcast helpful.] I’m well, thanks, and thank you for having me here today. It is indeed cold and wet in Cornwall, though it’s hard to tell, as our natural weather for about nine months of the year is mizzle: not quite mist, but not quite drizzle. It’s all very atmospheric.
M.E: LMAO @ subtitled version. Mizzle—nice word. Almost like if you combine piddle and sozzled and, when you pee yourself when out drunk, you can say, “Eeee by gum, I’ve just pizzled myself!” Or not. Ahem.
MJ: You could indeed. Or, in my local, which is frequented by dairy farmers in flat caps and other odd folk, you could say, “Oo-arrgh m’snarrf hic, varrrghhh!” You can’t move in Cornish villages of a Saturday night for tipsy rural types being taken home in wheelbarrows. And to think we Brits have a dodgy reputation for booze.
M.E: LOL @ other odd folk.
This question is one I’ve always wanted to ask m/m authors but never had the balls, so to speak. (I’m glad I haven’t got balls literally because they’d hang down and chafe, I’m sure. How do men put up with them there?) Anyway, the question is, why do you write about man love? What is it that makes a woman choose m/m as their genre?
MJ: It’s things like sitting down and riding bicycles I’ve always wondered about. I mean, I think it’s why men can’t multi-task. A little part of them is always worried about making sure the happy sacks aren’t in immediate danger of being crushed, chafed or…. Ahem.
M.E: Indeed. Imaging getting those little ball bags pinched in something. Like your zip. Or, what if you were a house-proud male and you decided to do the housework in the noddy (nude)? With our UK front-loading washing machines, you could have quite an accident.
MJ: Yeeowch! I do know a bloke who tried to cook a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast for his significant other, neglected to put a pinny on and, um, burned his sausage. Such are the tribulations of manhood, I suppose. It’s enough to put you off fry-ups for life.
MJ: Um. Where were we? Oh, yes. Speaking of sausages. Why do I write m/m? The most basic answer, and the truest one in the case of Breaking Faith, is that’s just how the characters turned out. Rather like life, really. I write across a range of genres, and my characters always start out in my head as three-dimensional people (I do have other friends. Honest!), so their orientation is a key part of them, but not always something that defines them. In a book like Breaking Faith, where the love story is central to the plot, there’s scope for the developing romance between the characters to reveal so much more: Brett’s self-discovery of his identity as a gay man, Tommy’s acceptance of Brett’s love and the way they deal with their relationship in the face of the circumstances that unfold.
As to the issue of women writers in general dealing with m/m romance and erotica, it’s a can o’ worms, but an interesting one. I think there’s often an element of the same attitude that sees male audiences very eager to consume lipstick lesbian encounters—double the fun, with none of the comparing yourself to the man/woman in the scene and coming up short. There’s also the plain and basic fact that the male body, and masculinity, are beautiful. And two men will often express that better in writing than a female point of view.
However, for me, there’s also the fact that I love writing from different viewpoints and, maybe because I’m a bit of a geezer-bird, I often favour a male perspective in characters. [Hawks and spits her chewing tobacco and adjusts the straps of her denim dungarees.]
M.E: Aaaaaaaaaahahahahahha! I’m a geezer bird too. No wonder we get along so well. [Farts loudly.]
As you know, your novel, Breaking Faith converted me from one who shied away from reading m/m into one who would consider reading it again if it wasn’t overpowered by explicit sex scenes. I loved BF so much that I still think about it every so often. What I enjoy most about your work is that you always put ‘hidden’ things in there that mean so much more than the actual words and are linked to the scene they appear in. Do you plan where you will insert those wonderful lines, or do they just occur as you write?
MJ: A-ha-haaaa…you’re so converted. There’s a funny handshake you have to learn next, you know. It goes like…this…where’s the Crisco?
Seriously, I’m so flattered. I have to go through doors sideways now.
Uhm…hard question. I think probably they happen as I write, because I get involved in the scene, how it’s all coming together and how the characters react. I know if I’m feeling particularly down, or particularly good, I’ll notice different things about my environment, or simple everyday things will take on an additional layer of meaning. Who hasn’t noticed that it’s raining when they feel really crap and decided it’s thoroughly appropriate? I find it’s also a really good way of avoiding info dumps in a story—if I can build the atmosphere and draw the reader in to the point where they experience it with me and my characters, I’ve succeeded.
Hey, it’s my world. But you’re all invited.
M.E: It’s now confession time. Whose willies appear in your books, and do they know their manparts are used in such a manner?
MJ: Ohhhhh dear…! I never kiss and tell. Well, not much. And besides, if I told them their old chaps would turn up in a novel, d’you think they’d let me take the Polaroids, much less sign the waivers? Ahem. I mean…. My characters are entirely fictitious and bear no similarity to any person living or dead.
No, really. If they’re based on anyone, they’re amalgams of different people. I think all writers do this. It’s why people avoid our company…they’re scared of seeing what we do to them on the page.
M.E: I agree. Now I’m picturing the different parts of different men’s willies all made into one winkle. This is seriously disturbing my chaka khan.
What other genres are you interested in exploring?
MJ: I never say no a potential idea when it turns up at three in the morning with a bindle on a stick and unpacks itself into my brain. Some of the projects I’m working on at the moment include paranormal and fairly high fantasy elements. Fantasy’s always something I’ve wanted to try, since reading Tolkien as a child, and I love the open-ended possibilities of sci-fi. I’d also like to try my hand at crime, which would be really interesting. I’m a big fan of those kinds of puzzles, and I’m not averse to the odd murder either, so….
Um. Writing crime. Yes. That’s it. Writing about it. Not anything else.
M.E: Yes. Quite…. [Sidles away from M.K. with the tune I Feel For You in her head. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan….]
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
MJ: Ugh. Quite probably forgetting the name of a poem I’d written while doing a live radio interview about it. Oh, the shame! I like to think I covered well, and I was prompted during commercial. Phew!
M.E: Ooooh! Good job it was on the radio. No one can see your blushes then!
What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? Come on, make me heave!
MJ: The gross things I encounter are usually to do with animals. I fostered a litter of emaciated feral puppies a couple of years ago. They had the worst infestation of tapeworm I’ve ever seen. After dosing them with wormer, I went out to do poopy patrol with my trusty scooper, picked up a turd and—I kid you not—a tapeworm thicker than a pencil waved at me from the poo. I swear it was smiling. And still alive. I screamed like a girl.
So, either that, or the time the neighbour’s brain-damaged tabby cat I was looking after ate a vole and threw it back up in my hair. The Barnet [Barnet Fair = hair] is long, naturally very curly and extremely thick…. Let’s just say I decided it was time for a trim.
M.E: OMG, I can’t breathe for laughing here. You poor woman!
Have you ever been so scared you thought you’d poop your Gok Gwon knickers? Assuming you wear Granny Pants at all! If you don’t wear them, you are forced to admit what your underwear preference is as well as answering the question. I have a lightsaber and I’m not afraid to use it!
MJ: Eek! Get that thing away from me! I need both hands to type! Bend to the Dark Side I will not. Neither are you my father. Probably.
I do indeed wear Granny Pants. I thought everyone did, though this doesn’t explain why I recently saw an advert for sanitary towels that will fit into thongs. Surely this is just asking for trouble.
Aaaanyway, the answer to this one is probably when I was fifteen, being arrested on a school trip to Germany. I was (falsely, I hasten to add) accused of shoplifting a lipstick in a department store and—having been chased down the street by two German store detectives in leather jackets screaming “Lipstick! Lipstick!”, to which I initially replied “Get your own” before realising what they wanted—was remanded, with a group of friends from the same school party, to a dark, windowless basement office.
MJ: After the first couple of hours, we realised our high school German (“Where is the swimming pool? My hair is brown” etc) was woefully inadequate, when what we needed to say was “I am innocent. Take me to the British Embassy.” We got out by sheer luck. A friend saw us being carted off and ran to fetch our German teacher from the local bier keller. After a few minutes’ of conversation, he ascertained that not only had the detectives NOT seen us take anything on the security cameras, the store didn’t actually HAVE security cameras. Believe me, learning to swear in a foreign language is always an advantage. But not as much of one as learning important key phrases concerning your embassy and the need for a lawyer.
M.E: I have a neighbour who grew up in Germany. She said Pimmlekopf or something is a rude word.
MJ: It is indeed, kopf being “head” and pimmel being “willy”.
M.E: Giggles at willy head.
MJ: Other useful things I discovered in Germany include the fact that it was really hard for German teenagers to pronounce the word “arse”, and that there really is a family—famous in the automobile trade—who have a four letter surname beginning with F and ending in K, and emblazoned it down the side of their factory in massive red letters. Heh. I also discovered cranberry-flavoured vodka at two marks a bottle. But that’s another story.
M.E: What’s your favourite sandwich filling?
MJ: I’m a sucker for the illicit pleasure of a bacon butty [A particular type of sandwich which must, by UK law, be made with thick white bread, huge slices of fried bacon and lashings of HP sauce, a historic spicy English condiment] in my normally fairly vegetarian diet, but failing that chicken mayo and toasted cheese can duke it out, preferably with some of that knobbly French mustard and some crisp lettuce. Yum.
M.E: You know what mine is—2 pieces of toast, 1 with peanut butter, the other with chocolate spread, squashed together. Lovely!
MJ: Fake Snickers toast! Whee! I have to confess, chocolate spread in this house only ever leaves the jar on a spoon. (Burp.)
M.E: What’s your worst habit? If you tell me yours, I’ll tell you all mine. Yeah, I have many. All gross.
MJ: Me? Bad habits? Aside from burping and farting contests, gurning while I’m thinking and singing the Marseilles in my sleep? (Don’t even ask about this one. No one knows why it happens.) Never. I’m the very pinnacle of ladylike behaviour; a veritable English Rose.
’Scuse me. Um. I’ll get me coat.
M.E: Oh, I knew we were kindred spirits. I also fart. That’s an awful confession. I’ve been known to drink Dr. Pepper (makes the loudest burps, don’t you know?) and belch swear words. I pick my nose. I’m terribly sorry. I’ll get my coat too. Oh, by the way…thank you so much for taking part today. My ribs hurt now.