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The Electronic Soapbox

I’m going to use this space, my space, to address something.

If you know me in real life, you know I’m not a shrinking violet. You also know that I think the current President is a “disastuh,” to use one of his favorite words, and I genuinely believe the United States of America may have actually passed from democracy to oligarchy. This angers and grieves me no end. Prior to this administration, my political activity was voting and running my mouth, in person and on social media. The picture here is something I first saw in an American History textbook I still have from my second semester at UVM (1980. You do the math). I think it fits our current situation.

Do you not see what's coming?

Do you not see what’s coming?

Since the 2016 election, I have joined the ACLU (not as an attorney), EMILY’s List, Brand New Congress, and other organizations loosely known as “The Resistance.” If you’re a regular reader of this blog, we’ve covered this territory.

However,

I participated in a Facebook comment thread the other day on another author’s page. The topic was about readers unfollowing authors because they’ve become too political. (Notice that I didn’t put that in quotes. I’m not repeating that sarcastically or ironically. It’s someone else’s view). One of the comments said that books are an escape from real life and the person who posted the comment didn’t want her experience with books to be polluted by real life (well, she phrased it differently, but you get the idea. I don’t remember how she phrased it). Please note, I am not disagreeing with or judging or deriding her.

I can see that viewpoint. It’s a valid one. Sometimes, our psychic (not ESP, but mental) barrier between the imaginary worlds that are an escape and the real world from which we want the escape are delicate. If the real world intrudes just once, the barrier may be destroyed forever and that lovely oasis lost. I get that.

On the other hand…

Novels like “Animal Farm” and “1984,” the two biggies, have been influential in changing thought (and with the current Administration, we have our Napoleon, our Squealer, and you can make the novel fit). Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle,” while not a political book, helped lead to slaughterhouse reform and “cleaner” food.

One of my heroes is Dorothy Parker, founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, aka “The Vicious Circle,” and an icon of hit and run snark.

She' still the gold standard

She’ still the gold standard

Any politics (other than gender politics) in Dottie’s writing are coded. However, she was not afraid to take a stand and put her money where her wit was and protest injustice, whether it was Sacco and Vanzetti (2 innocent men convicted and executed for a murder because they were belonged to an anarchist movement)

Dorothy protesting for Sacco and Vanzetti

Dorothy protesting for Sacco and Vanzetti

or against HUAC (the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Joe McCarthy. Red plague, Commies, all that jazz. His buddy, Roy Cohn, a deeply closeted gay man who used his influence to ruin the lives of other gay men, wrote President #45’s pre-nuptial agreement for his first marriage. The one that #45 weaseled out of. Schmuck).

They didn't keep quiet

They didn’t keep quiet

We are in a different time from the 1920s, 1950s. Duh. I can tell you that the lines are blurred on social media (for me, anyway) between personal and “professional” as an author. I have one Twitter account that I use for both. And this blog. If I tweet or retweet something political, it’s going to show up on my Facebook feed (because those are the settings I established before President # 45 even declared his candidacy). People will approve, be disgusted, unfollow me (What the hell, two of my siblings have BLOCKED me on Facebook. One I used to worship, then that person did a bunch of shit that felt like I was just someone to be taken advantage of, the other one has hated me from Day 1. Destroyed anything of mine that I left unguarded (collectibles, dresses, pictures) while telling me “You’re lucky I’m so forgiving.” No, Sweetie, I forgive you because your shit will bite you in the ass. But I digress)

I will make an effort to keep my personal out of the professional (not that I have a shit ton of followers in the first place), although I have notes, notes, notes, and an unfinished manuscript for a political farce (and how that has resurfaced is a whooooole other blog post). I had a separate email address for my authorship activities, but that has been “abandoned” so long, Google can’t verify my ownership and I can’t retrieve what’s there (offers to sell my stories for millions of dollars, praise from Oprah Winfrey and Cher, a lucrative publishing deal). However, I encourage, exhort, urge (and I have a bigger vocab than #45. I have a lot more words. I have even better words than your tired, overused “best words.”) my fellow Americans to get involved in politics beyond just voting (and if you agree with #45, but you didn’t even vote, I don’t care. Get off your butt and get involved NOW. Democracy doesn’t run on autopilot).

In the near future, I will use this space to announce new Twitter handles (maybe) and a new email address for “author stuff.” Until then, go buy my books. It’ll keep me busy and quiet.

This Blog Ain’t Gonna Write Itself

People are amazed and impressed when you write a book.

“Oh, my God!,” they say, “ You must LOVE to write.” They see us author types as constantly, happily bent over a keyboard madly pounding away in a frenzy of verbs, nouns, maybe with a little sex (“Sullivan’s Travels” reference. Great movie and you’ll see lots of nods to it in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) , emerging from solitude happy, exhausted, disheveled, malodorous (because we’re so busy creating that we forget to bathe) clutching pages and pages of glorious word art. “I could never do that.”

Well, between you and me, based on emails and Facebook, the basics of English composition and grammar plumb evaded them. “Lie” is fast fading as the correct verb for putting oneself into a horizontal position; the bastard “lay” is usurping the throne. YOU LIE DOWN. THE DOG LIES DOWN. I LIE DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE A POUNDING HEADACHE FROM ABUSE OF THE WORD “LAY.” There is a reason, People, that the phrase is “get laid,” because the seducer is laying you (putting you horizontally) down on a bed. (And all you smartasses who want to snigger and post comments about various positions – don’t even thi…well, wait a minute. If they’re good comments and get some attention…NO! EXTREMISM IN THE PURSUIT OF GOOD WRITING IS NO VICE.

It may be a losing cause, but I’ll continue to fight a rear-guard action like the Spartans at Thermopylae.

Woo.

Woo.

Where was I? Ah yes, writing.

quote-i-hate-writing-i-love-having-written-dorothy-parker-302545

I do not happily pound a keyboard. Years of pounding keyboards for a living plus being enough of a klutz to have fractured the navicular bone in both wrists have made the actual typing of writing somewhat uncomfortable and stirs up carpal tunnel-like symptoms. Y’all can imagine how much fun that is.

I do write during the weekday. I make terse, yet helpful comments on mortgage loan files. I write short, clipped sentences about homeowner’s insurance, disclosures, and whatever else I spot. No, “Hortense pondered what to write on her application. Would they believe she could afford a $500,000 house on a McDonalds part-time salary which her mom was actually buying as an investment?” (No. I can read.
And I have common sense)

It has been three and half years since I published my books and I have fragments of other stories and notes for still more on various hard drives, scribbled in what appears to be a lost alphabet of Middle Earth in fifty-cent composition books and sheaves of paper locked in a small filing cabinet 3,000 miles from me. See me rushing to retrieve it so I can continue my work?

quote-Douglas-Adams-i-love-deadlines-i-like-the-whooshing-2980

After his death, Douglas Adams’ computers (he had several) were searched and a host of story fragments, imaginary interviews and other intriguing tidbits were found. I can relate.

I’m not lazy so much as I excel at procrastinating. And it’s fun. Suddenly, sorting through beads, completing my tax return, playing endless games of Spider Solitaire (although that’s how I do my thinking for writing. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Alternative fact), doing laundry, all become absorbing and fascinating when the alternative is to transfer thoughts out of one’s head and into a medium where other people can see it. Unless those other people are psychics and I’ll just sit still and let them read the story in my head because my “process” (Ewww, how hipster and arty) is that I “watch a movie” of the story in my mind’s eye, then try to retell it to the reader. That’s the sucky part right there.

Blogging is procrastination. And I even procrastinate that.

“Drinking,” you say. “The great writers drank.” Yes, and died of cirrhosis, suicide, cancer, being totally broke and homeless because they drank all their royalties or an ex-spouse got them in one of your divorces (Glenda? Theresa? Charles? I can’t remember)

“Well, how about one of those voice to text softwares?” Yeeeah. Right. Until I get a story rolling, I feel disconnected* (“disconnect is a verb. Not a noun. Another losing battle for me) from what I’m doing. I have to start in longhand until things establish themselves. I shit you not. It’s like putting a standard transmission in first gear and rolling down hit until you hit 5 to 10 MPH then you pop the clutch. With the voice to text dictation, you have to also include the punctuation as you dictate. Doesn’t make for the greatest flow, “Jerry slid his warm [comma] long[dash]fingered hand down Luella[apostrophe s] silken thigh [period][quotation marks] [capital M]y darling[‘comma] {quotation marks] he whispered[comma][quotation marks] I want to put my [laughable euphemism for genitals]

You get the idea.

However, if I do not write all these “movies” I have inside me, I will kick myself. Hard. Very hard. I think they’re good. I think you’ll like them. However, there is a pregnancy and labor of undetermined duration to undergo before they emerge, covered in goo and screaming for attention, into the world. (And then it’s time for the Amazon reviews to show up. Oy)

Or as is more often the case, it’s like passing a kidney stone.

book in you

Time to procrastinate.

Got Those Steadily Depressin’ Low Down Mind Messin’ January Blues

(With apologies to Jim Croce)

I’m hearing, from friends in real life and friends on Facebook, a lot of people experiencing lows in the first month of January. Emotional exhaustion, outright depression, crankiness (my department. I’m really, really good at it right now), the desire to hibernate until April – I’ve heard them all this month.

January sucks. Apologies to those with January birthdays. You are the few bright spots in a month that otherwise sucks ass. I speak from many many years of sub-zero temperatures, early darkness, nasty slips and falls that have left me with permanent back issues, and frozen boogers.

calvin frozen boogers

Not fun.

It doesn’t lend itself to motivation, to be sure. I’m essentially grabbing myself by the scruff of the neck to get to work here.

cobweb keyboard

Except for writing comments in a mortgage file and the New York Times crossword puzzle, I’ve not written much.

However, nothing is going to get done unless I make myself get up and do it. When you are comfortably wedged in a rut, it’s difficult to dig yourself out. It’s familiar, no effort required, and now with all the different series you can binge watch, time is easily wasted. “Wake me up when the Patriots are on.” (It’s January. 13 out of the last 14 years, they’re still playing in January)

Time, however, is something you don’t get back. And you never know how much you have left to you (unless you’re Steven Wright. “I know when I’m gonna die because my birth certificate has an expiration date.”)

So, if you’re lying (NOT LAYING. LYING) there in your fuzzy jammies, or stretched-out yoga pants and thinking of the fifteen different things you could be doing, pick one. Do it. Get out of the rut.

Don’t let suck-ass January win.

Shake It Off

I have not posted anything to this website (other than upcoming signing appearances) since August 2015. Quite remiss of me. I need to engage my audience or they will leave the theater.

I can make excuses: demands on my time exceeding my available time. They do, but I still found it in me to sit on my ass and watch TV or sleep on the couch in front of the TV (dozing off, noisily, runs in my family. Unfortunately, I have more in common with the men than the women in that regard).

I piss and moan how “I suck at marketing” yet make only a half-hearted attempt to engage.

I have a stack of books from other authors that I have set myself the task of reading and reviewing (in this space. Hey! Blog posts!) in the hopes that they will reciprocate. And a small part of me that feels like the world is tearing me to pieces for its own use and my wants and needs don’t matter just wants to be left the fuck alone. Those authors won’t review my books. The others promised and didn’t (says the small part).

Right now, the TV set is off. Yeah, I know: THOSE THINGS ACTUALLY DO HAVE AN OFF SWITCH! They don’t have to be on all the time! I don’t have the radio going, CDs, MP3s, Pandora, nothing. Just quiet (except for the soft whir of the ceiling fan. I may fall asleep shortly. That’s my white noise for sleeping). Don’t be afraid of quiet. Yes, you are there with your own thoughts, but you may as well process them and send them on their merry ways. Better during the day than lying (NOT LAYING. LAYING IS INCORRECT. OKAY? WHEN YOU PLANT YOURSELF IN A HORIZONTAL POSITION, YOU ARE LYING DOWN) awake when you need to sleep and having them pester you. Got decisions to make? Pen, paper, make a list of pros and cons. Worry? Fuggedaboutit: worry accomplishes nothing and robs you any joy you may find in the moment. Or just…be. That’s meditation. Sit and focus on breathing, or a ray of sunlight, or watch your dog sleep. It’s beneficial.

However, I digress.

I want books sales in the thousands of units, but as I am a one-woman show, marketing is up to me. Therefore, I will be engaging with readers (like giveaways! Ooh!), firing up a newsletter, more on Facebook, Twitter (when I am not ranting about politics. May need a new Twitter handle because for the next four years, I’ll be frothing at the mouth online unless I get jailed as a political prisoner. Oh, it can happen).

I know I can make this happen. I can manifest this if I get off my ass. I wrote books. I have a Facebook page called Medieval Merriment (and this is to make a point, not promote that page, so no link here) that I started as a goof with no expectations. That was August 2014. Today, it has 21,250 followers. That’s a lot of people. None of them buy my damned books, but that’s a lot of people. I made this happen, too:

Susan and George

I have had a couple of people tell me I should have a video podcast and/or Youtube channel. Oy. I have a face for radio and a voice for silent movies, but I’m funny. I’m smart. I know stuff. Maybe. (Catalina? Whitney? Let’s talk)

So, for the 2 or 3 people who read this and the thousands of spam comments about goose down parkas (I shit you not), let’s shake off the rust and do this. Mondays and Thursdays. Right here.

 

And now, Miss Taylor Swift.