Monthly Archives: July 2011

Can Writers Be Rockstars?

Rock stars and movie stars and known for their blowouts, the drug and alcohol abuse, their indiscretions mostly because they’re so rich and famous they’re always in the limelight. Over at Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig argues/pokes fun at the image and says we need writers to be rock stars. But have we ever had them, those memorable characters known more for their antics with drugs, alcohol and sex than for their writing (almost), or those with personalities that would have them locked up if it weren’t for their mad genius?

Wendig names Oscar Wilde, Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway as characters in the past that had that crazed star image. William Burroughs would also enter that arena. Phillip K. Dick and Thomas Disch had a legendary hate on of each other. Dick, paranoid and spaced out on some substance hated Disch who was gay and reported him to the FBI (or maybe it was the CIA). I only learned this though reading Disch’s last book The Word of God. Disch got his last digs in at Dick in the stories (part fictional/part autobiographical) in the end. But these guys are all dead guys so they don’t count.

writers, rockstars, movie stars, assholes, prima donas, drugs, sex, bad boys

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

Who are our living writing rock stars, the bad boys and girls of the literary world, the ones whose pens drip a venom that pales to their verbal vitriol, their nasty antics, their crazed abuses of the body? Someone pointed out that perhaps it’s because rock stars are younger and writers older when famous that age tempers these antics, but what can we say about Keith Richards then, though the Janis Joplins and Amy Winehouses definitely fall early in the realm of substance abuse. Perhaps it’s because we don’t look at authors whereas we watch movie stars and listen and watch rock stars, that makes a difference. Writers create characters and your imagination takes over. Who wants to find out they’re an elderly housewife of three or that they’re old and fat and greying? Just doesn’t live up to the glamor, does it?

Wendigs subcategories are: Erratic Author Appearances, Intensely Weird Drug Habits, …Making Rock Star Demands, Insane Hobbies on Display, Jack Up Our Books With Rockstar Juice, Groupies+Entourage=Awesome, …Writer Cribs, …Hookers, …Public Urination. Hmm, granted this piece is high on irony, I guess this might be considered a primer for the famous on what not to do. For writers, maybe we live out all that through our characters so we’re less likely to act it out. The TV show Californication  probably comes closes to the fantasy of a rockstar writer. Of course it’s Hollywood so everything is skewed there.

So who is alive who might be considered a writing rock star for wacky habits? Harlan Ellison is definitely one. Not that he’s defecated in anyone’s mailbox (that we know of) but he’s more than spoken his mind, trounced people verbally and on the page and been known to do a few “rumored” deeds such as signing a woman’s breast or leaving the garden slug dessert (search my posts for more on this). Samuel Delaney was known for his erratic author appearances. Neil Gaiman is mentioned as someone who should be a bad boy but is relatively tame. Wendig did miss that Gaiman has an entourage. If you’ve seen if at a convention there is usually a contrail of black-clad gothettes following him about. Sadly, I cannot think of any bad girl writers.

I tried once to tell the writers group I belonged to that we needed to hang out in bars and perpetuate a lifestyle that could be more infamous than our writing. No one went for it though. Maybe I’d be better known if I had. 🙂 But the piece is right; overall we’re not the same prima donas as rock and movie stars. Check out Wendig’s article, and If you can think of a living writer known for strange, bad, erratic or aberrant behavior, post here so we can start a list.

 

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Filed under Culture, drugs, entertainment, humor, music, people, Writing

New Look

I’m changing up the blog after three years of the same theme. All the pictures in the header are by me. Let me know what you think and if there are aspects you like or dislike. I can change the order and look of the sidebars and add a few other features (if I can figure them out). So if you’d like to see something else, let me know.

I see some of the formatting on the other pages has gone to crap so I’ll have to revamp those in the days to come. It is what it is. There are many other themes but I wanted one that’s still clear and still gives an image at the top. Change is sometimes good and sometimes painful. Hopefully this will be fresh and exciting! 🙂

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The massacre in Norway is in some ways not new. Unfortunately, it’s a common enough scenario; yet another example of the endemic problem of judgment, racism or bigotry that infects this planet. Granted, there are people of unstable or extreme personality types such as narcissists who believe only they matter, or sociopaths who don’t really care about anything but their own gratification. I don’t know the statistics but I’m betting half of all massacres, multiple murders and suicide pacts are from unstable personalities. Religious temperament is probably responsible for the other half.

peace, war, fighting, getting along, coexisting, bigotry, racism

Creative Commons: co_exist_by_c3b4

If we rule out that all religious beliefs make you a little crazy or that racism is only practiced by nutjobs, then we have to believe that people have extreme views and sane minds. But what’s at the basis of all the bigotry and hate crimes?

It’s a belief that someone is “other.” I am green and you are purple. Therefore you are different, not like me, maybe an alien and I can’t trust you. Or: You believe the flying spaghetti monster is god and I believe in Cthulhu. Therefore you are evil and should be shot down for spreading spaghetti monster worship, which is wrong. This I believe.

These examples are all about judgment and belief. A belief that I am better, my way of seeing the world is right and yours is wrong for some reason. I believe I am more favored by god but somehow you’re not or bringing in the wrong god. But what does it offend? Our sensibilities?

I may not like you walking around and showing your plumber’s crack. I may believe your religion of wearing orange cones on your head is goofy. I might see you eating cucumbers as a sign of true evil or that when you sing you are opening a hole to the world of darkness. But no matter what I BELIEVE, what really matters is, are you hurting me?

I mean tangible hurt, not some imagined slight to your soul or psyche. To me this is what it all gets down to and what we should remember. I might not like it, but is it hurting me or do I still have my freedom of movement and thought? I believe, like or worship this. Does it hurt anyone? No. Then I can do it. I can marry the rock in my garden, make sweet love to a chocolate croissant or worship the almighty slug. I might be seen as deranged but I’m not dangerous.

So everyone needs to take a deep breath and in that moment of judgment and hate boiling up in your guts, just step back and ask: Is he/she hurting anyone? If not. Then leave them alone to live their lives as they please. After all, it’s what you would want people to give you.

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The Coddled Society

playgrounds, overprotective, children, safety,coddling, protection

Creative Commons: Los Angeles CB Grant

Hundreds of years ago a child was only a child for so long. When they got big enough to walk and carry, that’s what they did. When they got big enough to hold a sword, they learned how to use one. When they could ride a horse, shear a sheep, seed the ground or chop food, they did. There was no waiting until you were of driving age, drinking age, voting age. There was no waiting, sitting and playing while mom and dad prepared things for you. Childhood probably lasted until about the age of five and then you were put to work. Even if you were noble, you were learning the ways of society and ruling at an early age.

Anyone who’s lived on a farm knows this lifestyle. Farm kids don’t sit and watch TV before or after school. They feed chickens, milk cows, bale hay, muck out pens and do a myriad of chores to keep the farm running. Third world countries have higher populations and larger families because, in their poverty, the more hands that can work then the more money and food they can bring in, even if there are more mouths to feed. I don’t just say this. Studies show that populations slow and stabilize the more a country moves towards a good economy.

As a child I learned to cook and bake by the time I was eight,with my mother guiding. I helped stir bowls of batter, added eggs and made hamburger patties, basted turkeys. I was cooking on my own by the age of ten. I had to pick up after myself, vacuum, wash dishes, polish and dust. My siblings of both genders had to do the same. We walked to school, a good mile distant, from grades 1-12. We walked in sun, and in rain, in hail and in snow. I remember the big snowsuit in grade one and so much snow that I was late every day for a week. But I walked, by myself.

My mother told us to go outside and play. If we said we were bored you can bet she’d give us chores. Sure we had to check in or tell her where we were going and I remember getting in hot water because I went off and played in the alley with my sister and her friend at the age of four, and didn’t tell my mother. But I did it, without constant adult supervision.

My hand wasn’t held as I slid down the slide, I wasn’t told I was too young to bake. We learned and we grew self-sufficient. I could cook and drive when I moved out on my own and in with my boyfriend. And so could he. I’ve met men (more than women) who couldn’t cook because mommy had done everything for their sons or only children. I’ve met people who couldn’t iron and lived in pigsties because they were never taught to clean up. And I meet people who think children have to be protected 24/7.

Many threats to children haven’t increased over the years, but media coverage of kidnappings and perverts have. I drive by a school where the parents are lined up to drop off their children. I’ve read about a school that was going to raze a low hill because the children might fall down it. I’ve read and seen playground slides lowered, guards put up, safety nets added so that children can’t bump or scrape or get a few of life’s bruises.

And what do studies show, out of Norway and the US? That people who are coddled so much grow up with more anxieties, are less likely to take any risks and find all of the world a big scary place. In essence, they become victims of parenting. Never has there been an age where children were padded, wrapped, helmeted, swaddled and overly protected from the daily aspects of living. Sure, don’t leave toxic chemicals in the reach of a baby but teach your children how to be cautious yet adventuresome, and how to apply thought and learning. We never would have hit the age of exploration if all those searfaring adventurers had been raised as coddled children. Let your children live a little.

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Foster Homes: Better the Hell You Know

foster parents, foster homes, children, family services, child abuse

Universal's Despicable Me is a film where fostering goes right

Yet again one of Canada’s ministries of children’s welfare is in the news because a child in their care died under questionable circumstances. This one’s in Alberta and after taking a four-month old baby from the mother the child died within a week of removal. The ministry, or department, seems to keep itself steeped in secrecy and obscuring the facts. These ministries were set up to rescue children from terrible situations in their families lives and give them a chance at a normal and healthy life.

It is even the stuff of movies and books; the child removed from the abuse at home and put into a foster home. The foster home becomes one jumping off point after another, because of neglect or a host of abuses. The child grows to be a teen, often on drugs, into prostitution and on the street. The teen grows to be a criminal adult. Those fictions and tropes are unfortunately built on fact. The movie Despicable Me is about a villain who takes on foster children as a cover. The results are hilarious and fun and with a turnabout that gives the children a good home. It’s a fantasy in many ways, but a good foster home is not something all children get.

There are good foster parents who do give a child a loving and stable home in their life. There was a case in Alberta a few years back of a foster mother who lost her right to foster, not because she was bad (in fact she had fostered many children well) but because she was a lesbian. Yet ministries in various provinces have time and again placed children in homes where the people were abusive (physically or sexually), alcoholics or drug users.  And of course the worst cases are where the children lost their lives due to being placed in a home possibly more horrific than the one they were in.

Imagine the nightmare of being a child and thinking you are saved to find the situation worse, or to be torn from the dysfunctional beings that you still love and placed with monsters who care nothing for your well-being. Sad and unfortunately no exaggeration for some. For Alberta last year, six children died and five of those were Aboriginal. Makes you wonder where the ministry is placing these children.

I know of someone whose mother was a foster parent. This woman, an only child, was placed in foster care at times by her own mother, because the mother could make more money raising other people’s children than her own. Eye witnesses report that this mother would be quite verbally abusive to a child she was caring for. I also know of a couple who rescued their relation from an abusive sibling. The sibling was unfit for several reasons to be a parent and they are giving that child a stable and loving relationship that he would not have recieved from his own parent.

There are good and bad foster homes but the governments who oversee these services need to screen the foster homes far better than they do, and get their facts straight. They need to charge the people who are killing the children and they need to clean up their own acts so that they can truly rescue children from a dire situation and put them in a safe environment. I guess I’m lucky that I only had my own dysfunctional family to deal with and didn’t have to face a foster parent as well.

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Writing Update

writing, publishing, stories, novels, fantasy, editing

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Hello, world. Well two reviews have come out for Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies which has my story “It’s Only Words” as the opening story. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but Des Lewis seems to have delivered another intriguing anthology. The reviews are quite favorable to my story so check them out here: Matthew Fryer’s  and Karim Ghahwagi’s.

I am also now working steadily (finally!) on my novel with the working title of Lyranda. It’s the name of the world but will not do for the title at all. It’s medieval style on a different world, with three races. I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet but after watching the first season I was inspired, thinking yes, my novel could be this good.

I tossed out about half of the first 30,000 words and was working on writing through one of the three story arcs, so I had something like chapters 2, 7, 12, 14, etc. done. But I finally got to a point where I needed to go back and familiarize where one of my other characters is going, since the three are on separate arcs till they all meet up halfway through. So now I’m going back and rewriting some of the original chapters. Procrastination is a powerful thing and I think I beat it down, finally. I’m going to try to keep up the impetus there.

“A Book By Its Cover” has just gone through edits and will soon be going to press in the Mirror Shards anthology, edited by Tom Carpenter. Witches and Pagans #23 should be arriving any day and has my poem “Shadow Realms” in it.

I’m working through slush still for CZP and reading a medieval style fantasy right now. That author has also inspired me to get on with my own story. I won’t know whether I’ll send that on to Sandra yet but it’s reading very well (after I asked for some rewrites) and I’m kept intrigued so we’ll see.

A discussion came up recently on our SF Canada list (and seems to be resurfacing): should one comment on a review of their work, especially if the reviewer got something wrong or didn’t read through the full story? The overall consensus is not to comment as it could just get ugly. But it’s okay to say thank you, or in some cases clarify info, but one must tread carefully. To get embroiled in the merits of a review is just not going to go well no matter what. There are even some infamous cases out there of authors going ballistic all up and down a reviewer (Anne Rice) for one and it just does not help. What do you think?

That’s it for now. A bit too busy to write much for the blog but I’m sure that won’t stop me. 😀

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The Benefits of Courtesy

kindness, courtesy, politeness, good feelings

Creative Commons: Nicole Ellis, Sunshine's Reflections http://sunshinereflections.wordpress.com

It’s amazing how self-centered we’ve become, worrying about our finances, getting the kids here or there, keeping our jobs, getting a better job, finding time for fun, rushing to or from the supermarket, the game, the meeting, the mall, the party. It goes on so that we’re caught up in a whirlwind of activity and sometimes barely notice the world around us.

That world isn’t all strife, war and trauma as the news likes to focus upon but also full of beauty, ingenuity and intelligence. We get so caught up at times that we forget that there are thinking and caring humans all around us. Their lives are as important as your or mine. And some days, we just have bad days.

So would it hurt any of us to try to be a bit nicer, to try some courtesy? I have found that often this can go farther than being grouchy and boy, do I have my cranky pants days. I’ve taken to telling random strangers that I like their hair, or dress or shoes if I do. It doesn’t hurt me to say it and makes their day a bit shiny. I know when some stranger has paid me a compliment that it gives me a bit of a glow.

I try to think about others when I’m shopping so I don’t stop with my cart in the middle of the aisle but pull it over so it’s out of the way. I don’t stand in front of the mushrooms blocking it for all others to reaching in but try to stand a bit to one side so that others can share. I say thank you when someone holds a door open for me and likewise hold doors for others. I wave when someone lets me change lanes while driving and try to let people in. It’s especially hard while driving to stay in a good mood because people feel they’re losing a race if they let anyone in. But there is someone always ahead of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I have pretty big crankypants and get really irate when I think people aren’t being fair. But I try to reciprocate kindness with kindness. Sometimes I’ve been in line with groceries with two items and someone will let me in, in front of them. Suddenly we’ll chat a bit and become human to each other, not just another stranger whose in our way. It makes that waiting in line pass faster and you get to know something about another person.

Just imagine how pleasant we could all be if we did a small kindness for someone else, said something nice? Giving a gift of courtesy could be the biggest reward and put some sunshine in everyone’s day. Here’s hoping we can all just be nicer to each other and find the world transformed without us trying to transform others or ignore them.

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Why We Need Gods, Queens and Rock Stars

rock stars, gods, fame, idols, movie stars, queens, kings, royalty, adoration

creative commons: by crymz http://crymz.deviantart.com/

Not everyone wants to be famous but of those who would like to be few become famous. Some people, like the tyrants and murderers of the world, become infamous, famed not for the adoration of the masses but reviled. Not everyone wants to lead and not all those who lead want fame and glory but it often comes with the territory.

Many people want their independence, to work well within their expertise and live comfortably but they may not have the knowledge, vision, verve, ability, charisma, want or other traits that it takes to be a leader. We are often content to walk in our grooves, do what we do and hope that a few people (friends, family) might consider us great, or at least special. It is the way of human nature.

Likewise it is the way of humans to follow leaders, as history can attest to again and again. Once, it was not just enough to lead and know your fellow humans cemented you firmly on a pedestal as one worthy. It was even better to marry oneself to a god through belief or in actual ritualized marriages. After all, if you were god blessed or ruled by divine authority, what man or woman could nay-say you? Thus it’s been since human beings started congregating into groups and villages until they created cities, fiefdoms, kingdoms and empires.

As the religious fervor has waned over time (in some countries because we see a resurgence time and again) we have needed other beings to admire, adore, raise up on pedestals and idolize. Why? Because they epitomize the best and give us hopes and dreams that we too can be great. Greek mythology is a prime example of this. You had your gods but they tended to have sex with humans from time to time and make demigods. Sometimes a hero, like Herakles, started out as human but then achieved some divine status. Look, you too can become godlike!

So, what is godlike in terms of our modern world: beauty, riches, talent. Oddly we don’t tend to raise up the rocket scientists and neurosurgeons the same way that we do the rock stars and movie stars. They get to play act instead of saving the world and yet they shine brighter in our esteem. Because we all want to be beautiful, talented, rich. Oh and what’s next to god, above even those rock and movie stars? Royalty.

Perhaps this renewed idolizing of Prince William and Kate has captured the mundane population’s heart and sense of romance. But consider this. Any of you can become a surgeon, a politician, a leader, a musician, an actor (whether you’re beautiful or not) with the right training and perseverance. You can gain riches and some fame. But very few if any of you will ever be royalty. You can’t train for it, you can’t be elected to it, you can work your way into the position. Royalty is inherited. You’re born to the right parents or you’re not. You great granddaddy was the grand poobah so you get to be (but only if you’re the eldest and only if you’re a boy first; girls still come second). You don’t have to be beautiful, smart, talented or a good leader. You just have to have the right blood, which is just like anyone else’s. It’s one thing to be born to a millionaire and inherit the business; it’s another thing altogether to inherit a country and riches paid to the coffers from the pockets of the common person without having to prove your worth.

So consider this the next time you idolize the shallow trappings of beauty and money. There is often far more worth in your neighbor than someone born to a privilege fabricated from beliefs of their blood being better than yours. The other thing about placing people on pedestals; sooner or later someone wants to pull them down, especially if their flaws show. And guess what; we’re all flawed.

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Insensitivity to Living Things Hits a New Low

I know that we’ve had little sun in Vancouver this year and that with the last week finally revealing summerlike temperatures, people were awestruck. But I wonder if the following incidents are because people didn’t realize what sun could do or because they’re just exhibiting an ignorance and negligence which is, in fact, criminal.

On July 4th an Alberta mother left her four-month-old baby alone in the car in Kelowna. The exterior temperature was 30 degrees Celsisus (86 Fahrenheit), so the interior would have been even hotter. When the RCMP broke the window to get the baby out the mother returned and proclaimed the baby was okay. Seriously, she may as well have left her baby amongst containers of toxic chemicals as well. In a half hour a car sitting in temperatures of 90 degrees F can reach 124F, hotter than most of us could stand. Babies can’t regulate their temperature.

Another incident yesterday had a mother leaving her three-year-old child unattended and locked in a hot car while she went into a nearby house. The exterior temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. It’s not just that it’s dangerous to leave any living thing in a hot car, it’s also highly irresponsible and against the law to leave a child that young unattended at all.

The third in a week was an RCMP officer leaving his young police dog locked in a car while he went fishing for three hours. Imagine how hot that car would get. And another puppy died because it was left in a car for three hours where the temperatures reached 68 degrees Celsius. That’s four incidences in one week, and one death.

I’d like to say that the RCMP officer should have known better, but really, everyone should. Just as we must have a license to drive or to marry I think it would not be a bad idea to have a license to parent or to own a pet. We’re dealing with lives here. Granted that half of the population has an intelligence below average (okay, it’s a sliding scale with many at the “average” range) but this isn’t intelligence; it’s common sense.

Besides never leaving a living being locked in a hot metal box for more than a few minutes, parents should not be leaving children alone, period. There are a range of dire events that could affect unattended children in homes or cars. Here are just a few:

  • heat exposure
  • cold exposure
  • suffocation
  • kidnapping
  • car being hit or brakes being disengaged
  • fire
  • choking
  • falling

These are not cautionary myths to scare children. These are real, and animals and children die from the negligence. All this while RCMP are still investigating the death of an 18-month-old child left alone in a house while the parents went for a walk at 1:30 am. Their heat had been cut off so they were heating the place by keeping the oven going. Still, the child should not have been left alone. Don’t people understand that the word “parent” means that you’re in charge and the caregiver? If a living being is left in your care you are responsible for its well being. Use your brains and think about the consequences of leaving them alone, or in a hot car, or in a swimming pool.

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Guest Blogging: Confessions of a Technophobe

writing, blogging, editor, stories, being busy, busyness

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Today, I’m a guest blogger at Steve Lockley’s blog: Confessions of a Technophobe.

You will notice that yesterday’s post and today’s start on similar topics and then veer. That’s because as I was writing about busyness yesterday I took off on a tangent. Then I tried to pull it back together for Steve’s blog. Steve is a writer of speculative fiction and lives in England. Cross-pollination happens through conventions and of course social media.

I’ll be attending Britain’s Fantasycon this fall in Brighton and look forward to meeting more compatriots of writing.

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