Saturday, March 31, 2012

In Defense of Pedicures

I’ve decided to take up a very controversial subject this time - pedicures. Red and I love them and we’ll defend our right to have them to the death.

Red: Hey, wait a minute! None of this ‘until death’ stuff.

Kathy: (outraged) What? You would let some yahoo prevent you from having pedicures?

Red: (exasperated) I really don’t think there’s any danger of that. In fact, I think you’re going to find that this subject isn’t controversial at all.

Kathy: (deflated) Oh…

Red: Yeah, so slow your roll, Chiquita!

Kathy: Damn! I’ve always wanted to gird my loins.

Red: So what makes you so passionate about pedicures anyway?

Kathy: Oh, come on. I don’t have to explain it to the many women, and a few men, out there who’ve experienced one. It’s pure heaven.

Red: I do dig those massaging chairs and the warm water.

Kathy: And the foot and leg rubs. Oh, Lordy. And there’s nothing like pretty feet. Whether you’re having your toes painted or just buffed up like the guy who’s regularly at my salon, your feet look so much better.

Red: That’s true. My favorite color is Rousing Red but you usually get that pinky-purple color. What’s it called.

Kathy: Purple Passion.

Red: Figures – you certainly are the passionate one.

Kathy: Yep, gets me in trouble sometimes.

Red: Don’t I know it! Hey, I’m down to ice cubes here (holding out her empty tumbler)

Kathy: Oh, sorry – let me make you a fresh Bloody Mary, oh royal one.

Red: (laughing) I like that title. I may just have to keep it. Royal Red. Sounds good.

Kathy: One more Bloody Mary, then it’s off to the salon for pedicures.

Red: Oh, goodie. Girl’s Day Out!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Here's the Thing

Today, I reacted like many bloggers would and felt so badly that a good friend of mine felt attacked, that I nearly caved. I nearly took my post down. That would have been a very bad thing.

I forgot where I came from and what I know. I let my feelings get into the game. Some of you know I’m a former journalist and newspaper editor. What I’ve not said online yet, is that I’ve won awards for both my investigative journalism and my editorials, from the Arizona Newspaper Association and the Arizona Chapter of the National Press Women. Why is that important? Here’s why:

I wrote a blog post – Wait, Wait, Wait, - in exactly the correct editorial format. Unlike other forms of journalism, which require complete impartiality and no usage of slanted words or expression of opinion – an editorial is supposed to present a point of view, elicit emotions, and hopefully sway opinions. It is also supposed to state facts and provide references for the reader.

When I presented the blog posts of Rob Guthrie (someone I consider a friend and I highly respect), and the comments made on them by others, as a starting point for my post (editorial) he took that personally. It wasn’t intended that way, and frankly, if I’d started out with “some people think” I wouldn’t have been effective or correct.

In my summation, which referred to a possible assessment team for the worth of writers before they could be published on Amazon, I was attempting to elicit emotions and sway opinions, very definitely. Not, however, in the way it turned out. This was not a reference to Rob, as a person or member of the Indie author community.

Why did I feel a need to come back to this? For two reasons, the first being to regain my self-respect and secondly, to clarify what this was all about.

It is very tough to write about important things. You must develop a thick skin and be willing to ward off personal attacks, because they will come. I know from experience. I’ve lost my edge, obviously, and have actually chosen not to write about controversial subjects, because having my motives questioned and assaulted for two years wore me out. I also prefer to live in the light – enjoying the happy times – writing stories I hope will encourage, inspire and make people laugh.

Because, I don’t want to return to this subject over and over, I’m going to go into one more aspect of this whole argument over whether Indie writers should be subjected to a review of some sort. Let me say here, that I do not consider myself a great writer. At best, I’m decent and a fairly good storyteller (a different question, altogether). I could very well be one of the people not to make it past such a review.

I have read comments in favor of instituting a process like this from writers, who would themselves suffer from such an inspection. I don’t think anyone has honestly addressed this. One very adamant proponent wrote one of the first books I ever bought for my Kindle. It was so atrocious I couldn’t get past the first five pages. A prominent writer, who has wisely stayed out of the fray, suffered from bad formatting until someone pointed it out to her. So did I, until a very kind Twitter friend, gave me the heads up.

This whole thing is still a learning process. It really is. I’m still having trouble navigating it, aren’t you? If you’ve got it completely licked, I salute you.

That’s it. No more diatribes from me, and it will probably be a long time before I test the toughness of my hide again. I don’t like it here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wait, Wait, Wait...

Independent author Rob Guthrie touched off a huge heated debate a little while ago on his blog, suggesting that Amazon charge a fee for publishing online, then fired the passions of primarily Indie authors again with two subsequent posts, Does Everyone Have a Novel in Them? and Does Talent Exist?

I’ve been reading his posts and those of others, either in agreement or with opposing viewpoints. There were many good points in both Rob's original posts and the comments and fallout. I’m sincere in my desire to be respectful of everyone’s thoughts on the subject of whether or not untalented (or perhaps unskilled at present) writers should be allowed to publish their books, and charge the public money to read them, because I know they are heartfelt.

However, in all the hashing and rehashing of the subject, one very simple fact seems to have been lost. There have always been crappy books published, way before online publishing was even a germinating thought, and lots of money made on them. I can go to a used book sale and pull them off the shelves by the hundreds. Yet, someone originally bought the wretched things and they appear to have been read.

The same is true of movies (case in point John Carter), paintings, plays, and then lots of everyday products we all consume regularly. For instance, nearly all the fast food factories (restaurants, technically) we are surrounded by offer less than acceptable fare to a gourmand. Still, even the regulatory agencies, like the FDA, are only charged with making sure what we consume won’t harm us, not that it’s good for us.

I'm not a free market freak but this country generally speaking supports it and why should that not extend to online books? If someone wants to buy a book that others consider poorly written, who are we to impede their desire? We don’t try to put a stop to erotica, or porn, and those areas are certainly "quality writing" challenged.

Simply put, I don’t think there should be either a judging system put in place nor a tariff (publishing fee) imposed to stop the “bad writing” from hitting the marketplace, because it would be, in effect, censorship.

One more quick thought; I believe the reason this has been such an ardently followed subject is that it hits a little too close to home. Most of us, Indie authors, have struggled for years to get published, and in that cause have had to believe in ourselves against all odds. Now, to be told we may not be good enough again, well…

(Published on In The Writing Groove as well)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Character Driven - Red Speaks

Hi, this is Red. Kathy’s off on some other plane of existence, finishing my long-awaited sequel, at last. Rumor has it she’s only about twenty pages from the end. So, I told her I’d take on this post. The only thing she said was, “Be nice.” I don’t know why she says stuff like that. I’m always nice, except when I not…which really isn’t very often.

Anyway, I decided I want to speak for my fellow characters, as well as myself, for a moment. It’s seldom that one of us gets to ‘tell it like it is’ without someone’s hand up our dress – as a puppeteer, I mean.

First let’s talk about villains. The general opinion in our Universe is that they don’t get enough respect. After all, if it weren’t for villains, what kind of namby-pamby story would you have? So, I’ve been asked to pass along a sincere request from the bad guy contingent for a bit more reverence.

Children, in books and stories, feel they are being patronized. Seriously. One little girl, who was abducted in her book, said she felt the lines she was being made to say were way out of date, “like I grew up in the fifties, or something.” Authors, please, be aware that your characters aren’t necessarily you. They speak differently nowadays. Kids want to be cool.

The men and women of erotica had one unified complaint, put into words by a busty blonde, “Please let us use our brains more! Our body parts are getting worn out!”

I can see from the terrified faces out there in your world (yes, we can see you, too) that most of you didn’t realize that we characters have organized meetings. Yes…yes, we do. Why just last week, Elizabeth Bennet, I mean Mrs. Darcy, spoke to our local chapter. It was wonderful hearing from such a respected and long-standing member of the Characters Alliance.

Anyway, not to belabor the point, but all those of us who carry your stories to the readers really want is to be treated like you would want to be treated. I mean, if we’re evil, then let us be spectacularly evil; if good, not so much that we bore even a bona fide bookworm to death. We are people, too, after all. Well, except those of us that aren’t – ghosts, hungry sharks, cantankerous bears, etc. Still…

Oh, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts, if we’ve been given one, for creating us.

Kathy returns next week. (I heard that!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Never Piss Off a Writer

Okay, so "piss off" isn’t the most lady-like phrase to headline a post with, but I’m sorry - P.O. just didn’t work.

Recently, I was trying to remember who had said that one of the best things about being a writer is that we get to change the way the story ends; in other words, when we “rewrite” the way something happened in real life we can have it end anyway we want. This launched a whole Bloody-Marys-on-the-Veranda discussion with Red.

Kathy: Well, whoever said that writers get to change the way things turn out was brilliant. I wish I could remember where I heard it – Oprah, maybe?

Red: It’s true. Absolutely. I’ve watched you take something terrible that happened to you and make it turn out alright in a story.

Kathy: Until I heard it put that way, I never realized how healing writing fiction can be.

Red: Well, duh! You can write a character exactly like someone who’s a bad guy in real life and then kill him off. Must make you feel powerful!

Kathy: (grinning widely) Yes…yes it does. I have a whole list of weenies, pervs and mean girls I’m working my way down.

Red: At least I know I’m safe!

Kathy: Well, since you never do anything I don’t make you do, you’ll definitely never be a mean girl. Although…

Red: Come on! Don’t make me be a weenie!

Kathy: Maybe just for a few minutes …

Red: No! What have I done to piss you off?

Kathy: (laughter could not be contained) Nothing. I’m just messing with you.

Red: (relief evident on her face) Geez, I’m glad you’re the only writer I know!

Kathy: I told you – never piss off a writer, fiction or not, because every writer I know stands a little taller when they hear the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Red: (smiling as she took a sip of her Bloody Mary) Something to remember. Definitely, something to remember.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Celebrating Women

I learn so much from tweets. If I hadn’t been on Twitter this morning, I wouldn’t have known it’s International Women’s Day and I would have missed out on writing a celebratory post.

The first women to come to mind, for me, as great ones are those who took what was conceived to be a man’s world and turned it to their own use, like:

Katharine Hepburn – who bent the old Studio system to her will.

Amelia Earhart – who had the cojones to adventure into the air and push the limits

Oprah Winfrey – the only woman to own her own network, I believe

Then there are the women entertainers who were outrageous, doing it their way and often re-inventing themselves: Lucille Ball, Cher, Madonna, Bette Midler and Cyndi Lauper. There are several younger ones who will inherit these slots and I’m anxiously watching them. I love and value the quality of having no fear to just “be.”

Many truly wonderful women have given themselves to the world, with kindness and grace:

Eleanor Roosevelt – who cared deeply for the under-privileged

Roslyn Carter – a rod of steel behind a gentle exterior

Oprah Winfrey – Another nod here for her incredible degree of philanthropy

Maya Angelou – intelligence with humility personified

I wish I had the intellectual wherewithal to speak of women from other countries with some conviction. Unfortunately, I know they are out there by the millions, but I haven’t followed any closely enough to comment.

The women who deserve the highest of honors though will go unmentioned today, for the most part, as they are the everyday women; who struggle to provide as single mothers, who reach for the cancer cure somewhere in a lab, who bring our meal to a diner table, who stretch their budgets to include giving to charities, who stop to help a stranger, who cuddle their children when they need it even though there are a million things to be done, who build a family out of nothing but sheer love, who struggle to overcome biases and still have an open heart and give constantly of themselves without tangible reward. They are everywhere; in every part of the world. Aren’t we lucky to be among them?

These things and so much more make me proud to be a woman.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Hour & The Big Lebowski

Last night, I went to happy hour with some of my pals from work. It was a farewell happy hour actually, as my last day was Wednesday. Combine this fact with my recent viewing of the Coen brother’s film, The Big Lebowski, and there was fodder for a discussion between Red and I.

Red: How many Bloody Marys did you have last night? (I was suffering from a bit of a hangover)

Kathy: Just one.

Red: Impossible. No one feels this bad after one Bloody Mary.

Kathy: (trying to avoid Red’s eye) Well…

Red: Come on! You can tell me. After all, whom am I going to tell?

Kathy: (shrugging) Well, the one Bloody Mary gave me the idea to salute The Dude! (Jeff Bridges’ character in the movie drinks White Russians)

Red: Seriously? You mixed drinks? Haven’t you learned anything from your _ _ _ ty years on this planet?

Kathy: I only drank two White Russians. Three drinks total.

Red: Two White Russians?! You’re the lightweight drinker here. I can’t believe it. I shouldn’t have let you go by yourself.

Kathy: I hate to point this out, but even though my co-workers know I wrote a book called Red Mojo Mama, most don’t know I talk to you! They might have suspected I had too much to drink if you had come along.

Red: Excuse me. You DID have too much to drink!

Kathy: I just had a little headache this morning.

Red: You’ve taken three naps and it’s now 1 p.m.

Kathy: Geez, you’re harsh.

Red: And besides, I can understand having a little more than normal on a special occasion but switching to White Russians? Bloody Marys are our drink. It’s like you were cheating on me!

Kathy: Yeah, but it was with Jeff Bridges.

Red: (Thoughtful for a minute) Okay, you’re forgiven. I did watch the movie with you, you know. Wasn’t he just the coolest guy? Loved the hair.

Kathy: See? I had to do tribute to The Dude.

Red: I understand. I really do.

Red handed me a medicinal Bloody Mary. Within minutes, I felt much more like myself. I think I will survive the remainder of the Saturday after happy hour.