Stop Buying E.L. James a Yacht!

E.L. James (author of the Fifty Shades of Grey blight) is publishing a guide for writers, and it’s all our fault.

Can we just take a moment to sit down and think, though?  Cause I need a breather before I get into this.  And maybe a stiff drink.  (I said drink, cool it!)

It’s been four hours; do I need to call someone about this?

Personally, I feel sick to my stomach and I’m not sure I even recognize reality right now.  I look at my face in the mirror, and all I see is this disgusted look of bemusement, and I can’t get my eyebrows to stop doing that thing.

Why, Universe?  Why MORE Fifty Shades of Grey buzz?  Y U DO DIS??

I’ve been upset for a while, as many of you may know, about everything even tangentially related to Fifty Shades (including, but not limited to, the loss of the phrase “it’s all just shades of grey”), but just I can’t live in the negative space necessary to be the kind of upset Fifty Shades deserves. I actually have to step away from the topic entirely to de-stress and forget, for a minute, that Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more copies than the entire Harry Potter series, that E.L. James is now considered one of the highest paid authors in the world, and that she’s about to publish a guide to help other writers be [sarcasm] as talented and successful as she is[/sarcasm].

My mind is reeling from that last statement.

First I experienced Disbelief.  “Oh my god,” I said to my little dog, who was fast asleep, and also didn’t care, “E.L. James thinks she has valid advice to give.  Which, of course she does, because she’s the Messiah of Writing, now.  Have you not seen her bank money?”

Following the Stages of Grief, I experienced the briefest flare of Anger.  “This is going to ruin writing (and therefore, all life,) forever,” I thought, with no trace of hyperbole.

Then I skipped on to Acceptance, because ain’t no one got time for this, and thought “I have to share this,” because suffering is more bearable when shared.

But . . . how?

How do I share this with the people I know?  Even if they don’t think Fifty Shades is Abuse, they can at least see the objectively terrible prose for what it is.  How do I share this without feeding the negativity spiral and have us all chanting Satanic spells in the hopes one of them puts an end to this, the Darkest Timeline?

 

My Darkest Timeline survival kit.

And then I remembered the only line of thought that allowed me to fall asleep the last time I was so upset by the series; change the conversation.

Instead of calling Time of Death on quality in literature as we know it, we need stop bad literature from winning.

Now, our first instinct in this situation is to be appalled at the very notion that a writer with as little appreciable talent as James could even begin to instruct other writers in the craft.  This is considered a native instinct, up there with “fight or flight” and knowing it’s only a matter of time before Justin Bieber becomes his own religion.

 

Clearly, this has already happened.

 This serves two purposes: 1) To prove you have a brain, and 2) that it’s still working.

Working brain intact, we are right to be appalled by this news, because new, impressionable writers may look at James’ success and think “Writing sounded hard when I talked to those masochists typing on finger nubs and drinking way too much coffee.  To hell with that noise!”, and the next thing you know the stuff the internet was ashamed to show you becomes the next best sellers on all the shelves, because E.L. James is to literature what “reality” is to TV.

At least, that’s the fear.

This is, of course, ridiculous, because as long as there are writers with passion, there will be quality in literature.  The bigger (and by far, scarier) question lurking within that fear, though, is “After this, will quality writing even matter?”

I say “Yes.  But only if you make it matter.”

If you want to see quality published, you have to put effort into quality writing.  No brainer, right?

But here’s a problem.  The majority of writers seeking publication face a real uphill battle far beyond applying every trick, tip, and hard-won skill they ever paid a workshop to learn; writers are looking to craft the best, most engaging story they can manage without killing themselves (please), but publishers are looking for something they can sell.  If the two happen to coincide, so much the better, but what the writer pours into their craft often isn’t what the publisher is looking for when they turn the first page.

And that’s all before E.L. James publishes the lazy self-help version of a writer’s guide. (It has blank lined pages at the end for writers to “set down their own ideas, or ‘inner goddess'”, as all good lazy self-help books do, not because fluffing out pages, but because people interested in writing never keep paper or, say, computers around to facilitate “setting down” their ideas, so it’s really considerate of James to make sure space is provided for them, and not lazy at all.)

But, it’s not like writers have been unaware just how screwed over they are when they plight their troth with an established publisher — those authors who are successful were at least somewhat aware of the flaming hoops they’d be forced to hump in order to see their manuscript polished and shipped to bookshelves across the . . . well, county, probably — country if the publisher thought they could push it.

  
SPOILER ALERT: Publishers haven’t softened over the years.

If anything, they’ve figured out how to squeeze even more money out of every venture with the least amount of effort or risk on their part.  The writer does all the writing, and most of their own marketing, and almost all of their own promotion and public event managing until the publisher feels they’re enough of a safe bet to offer more.  If the author is really, really good at this, and makes enough money for the publisher, the author might catch some breaks for the future, and even see a cozy profit themselves.  I’m not saying they could live comfortably off that profit, but they could celebrate with a reasonably priced meal out on the town, and an off-brand bottle of champagne, if they used a coupon.

And I’m not pulling this out of my ass, either.  Search for articles around the internet designed to help writers, and once you get past the craft itself, it’s all about how to promote yourself.  Building a solid audience before you approach a publisher, for instance, illustrates to the publisher that you have the ability to market yourself (one less thing they have to worry about, then), and increases the odds your book will sell if they publish it. [relevant links attached – find them*]  That makes you a safer bet than an unknown author with no following and no internet presence.

Being an author isn’t glamorous.  Authors like J.K. Rowling are the exceptions to this publishing house sideshow, not the rule, and it’s still not without monumental effort that they succeeded.  But, her success is the fairytale we tell ourselves when we’re wallowing in writer’s block and too much mescal.  Rowling is the bedtime story we whisper before falling asleep, because picturing ourselves doing a talkshow circuit to give the breathless public insight into the mysteries of our process makes it easier to keep plugging away at the keyboard to just finish the damn manuscript.

I know, I know.  All of this sounds really depressing, which is probably because it is really depressing.

That was the conversation.  This is why we’re changing it.

Until recent years, it was both difficult and not terribly profitable to self publish — even if you did it, it could actually cost you a lot, and you were unlikely to reach much of an audience — but, thanks to glory of the internet, now it’s as easy as hitting the upload button and spamming every community you’ve ever joined until someone reads it. (It’s like success . . . .)  You could also go through outfits like Smashwords and Amazon, and get yourself free ISBN numbers, or take a more hands-on approach to make physical copies through CreateSpace, and similar, to distribute yourself.  (Pros and cons are a completely separate topic.  Stop it.)  The point is, it’s not a choice between printing in your basement, or bending over for the Rod of Publishment, anymore.
 

Pictured: Please don’t search for “rod” and “punishment” in the same keyword string.

 

We have options; we shouldn’t be afraid to use them.

If the publishers don’t want to take the risk on good prose, and you’re expected to do your own promotion, anyway, why not check out the indie scene?

But there is a second component to all of this; the reading public.  If everyone today loved War and Peace, E.L. James would have been sacrificed before Justin Bieber on the day of his birth, and writers would be rewarded for investing the time, effort, patience, and bouts of screaming insanity it takes to do what we do.  But we are not fortunate enough to live in that reality.

There is something we can do about it, though: Starve the publishers of the kind of public grateful for a series of books as thematically complex as a holiday dinner at Honey Boo-Boo’s. (Logan, shut up.)
 

Pictured: Character Development

 

The only reason publishers can get away with printing books barely edited to prevent copyright infringement is because people keep buying them.  I know you probably don’t personally know three-hundred-million people whom you can convince to not buy something, but that shouldn’t stop you from talking to those you do know.  I mean, it’s probably too late for all those grown-ups you know, all approaching thirty for the last twenty years, and watching their bodies slow down to die, but the young people can still be reached.  Teach kids to appreciate complexity, critical thinking and facing new challenges, and you’re going to have a generation of readers who aren’t looking for a book so simplistic in its execution it’s actually easier to read by repeatedly slamming it against your head.

I know this isn’t a perfect world — not everyone is going to automatically leap for Nietzsche and Dostoyevski (holy butts, I spelled both of those correctly on the first try!)–, but it’s only this far gone because we let it happen.

So, here’s the conversation: If you don’t like the idea of new writers giving in to the inner idiot we all have screaming obscenities at us, keep being better.  Stop buying idiot books written by idiots.  Discourage others from buying idiot books written by idiots.  You know how idiots get published?  The idiot public makes it profitable for idiot publishers (same thing?) to support bad prose, because it will sell better than a complex story written well by an author who cares.

—-
Adalind Monroe is a writer from a depressingly sunny part of Southern Oregon,  and hasn’t eaten since breakfast, so she’s really, really hungry now.
*I didn’t find them. :( I was too hungry.  I have failed you.

[seppuku][/seppuku]

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Introverts are the Deepest, Most Socially Awkward, Anxiety-Riddled Geniuses You Know

It's a metaphor.  I'm not explaining it.

This is a metaphor. I’m not explaining it.

I hate Buzzfeed, because I keep getting suckered into looking at their “articles”, which inevitably have some title that makes it sound relevant to my life, but they’re terrible and almost never applicable.  In an unrelated matter, the title of this post is a lie.

Sorry.

Example of Buzzfeed’s Please Stop Thinking You Contribute to Society, gif-laden attempts at listicling, I give you this little gem.  I know people who consider themselves introverts who identify with a strange majority of these Things, and some of them maybe don’t hit me as hard because I get a lot of my alone time, but others are just like “Are you sure that’s not just social anxiety and being shy?”  Because being an introvert doesn’t make you socially awkward and uncomfortable with people, and it doesn’t make you hate interacting.  It can make it harder to sustain interaction over long periods, and large groups can drain us faster, but being introverted isn’t what makes someone hate groups and the people who comprise them.  Those groups misunderstanding and placing a lot of expectation and pressure on an introvert to be more like them can result in an introvert hating people, but it’s not introversion itself that is to blame.

Looking at something like “pretending to text during awkward alone moments at parties”, I don’t see introversion here.  I see discomfort from social anxiety.  As an introvert, I can say there are times I really enjoy being at a party and feeling totally isolated.  It’s like a magic bubble, where people and conversations swirl all around me, but none of them require my energy to maintain.  I can just drift and watch.  Feeling awkward when alone at a party is feeling like there’s some expectation of you to participate, and if you don’t participate, by golly you’d better have a good reason for it!  That’s not a symptom of introversion, that’s a symptom of social anxiety.

So too with “shopping alone”‘s added text, “Because shopping with friends is SO stressful. (They make you more inclined to buy things you don’t need; you’re always worried about who’s bored and who’s having fun; you have to try on everything in front of them.)”  Fixating on who’s bored and who’s having fun, or the pressure to buy and try things on is not a symptom of introversion.  Feeling drained, exhausted, and withdrawn while shopping with friends because it contributes to feeling overexposed is more symptomatic of introversion, and you may feel more susceptible to your anxieties, but that anxiety comes from something that isn’t, itself, introversion.

Now, things like “when you can email or IM a company for customer service instead of calling”, “recharging after a long stretch of socializing”, “writing (because it’s so much easier for you to process your thoughts by writing them down than by speaking them)”, and “cherishing your small group of close friends, as opposed to trying to maintain a huge circle of acquaintances”, these are things that run pretty universally throughout the introvert community (we don’t get together often if it requires leaving the house), and I can much more easily say they’re the result of the introversion, and not more likely some other problem.

For some introverts, it can feel like they really do hate people and socializing (and they’re all thinking silent, but very angry thoughts at me for saying they don’t), and being in public, or at parties, or out shopping is a genuine source of anxiety, because they know the people involved will only want to make them interact in ways that cause them to lose the most energy and take them furthest from their comfort zones, but the anxiety isn’t the introversion.  The anxiety is the reaction you have to the way others treat you through their lack of understanding or care for things you can’t really control.  Do I therefore think the people who experience these moments aren’t true introverts?  No, of course not, because you can be an introvert and still have high social anxiety, or be an introvert who is also very shy, or be an introvert with heaps of OCD, but proclaiming to the world that feeling socially awkward and worried about what people are thinking of you is part of being an introvert is like claiming that touching a light switch exactly thirty-two times every time you leave or enter a room is part of it as well, just because you’re an introvert who happens to have OCD.  If you feel these things, you may b an introvert who happens to suffer from social anxiety.

There are enough bite-sized articles disseminating misinformation about introversion as it is — since apparently it’s single-handedly responsible for all deep thought in the universe*–; don’t help it along by confusing social anxiety/shyness with being an introvert.  They can go hand in hand, but one is not the other, and they aren’t a package deal.  The terms introvert and extrovert really only refer to how you get your energy, or how you recharge when drained.  Extroverts recharge by being in group settings, and pull from those around them.  Introverts recharge by being alone, or with very little interaction from others.  So, while that list may have some things introverts (and, honestly, pretty much everyone else on the planet) like, some of the specifics assume traits that are completely inconsistent with the actual meaning of Introvert.

Here’s a thing for your short attention span, Internet.

Next Time: How to Apply Common Sense to Every Day Situations

Next Time: How to Apply Common Sense to Everyday Situations

If you want some less-than-bite-sized articles that actually do address introversion intelligently, and positively, here are a few I’ve found.  If you only read one article about introversion today (this blog doesn’t count), make it the first link; you won’t be sorry (assuming you want an understanding of what introversion and extroversion actually mean, and not some validation that you’re a deep, intelligent person, with thoughts far beyond the comprehension of more shallow, “extroverted” commoners, because if that’s what you’re looking for you, you can just walk off the tallest cliff right now).

The Introvert Fetish – Cyborgology

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?  What It Means for Your Career – Fast Company

The Internet’s Love Affair with Introverts – Slate

Are Introverts Smarter Than Extroverts? – Huffington Post

Oh, and this guy’s a dick.  Introverts are In! – Bob Goldman, Townhall Finance

*”Do you have a penchant for philosophical conversations and a love of thought-provoking books and movies? If so, you’re a textbook introvert.” —

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Ben Affleck is Batman, and Your Angst is the Worst.

There are only so many ways you can hear or read “You know, I feel very strongly that Ben Affleck is the wrong choice for the new Batman movie, chief among the reasons being the fact that I believe he is very untalented and will not do the role justice.” When that opinion is phrased in any variation of “OMG, BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN IS THE WORST! /WRIST!” it makes it that much harder not to want to set you on fire and 300 kick you into a pit of spikes.

I get we’re all pretty sure Ben Affleck is going to murder the role, and everyone who wants to emphasize giving him a chance will cite our previous uncertainty about Heath Leger giving way to more support and appreciation than not, but the internet and social media are so magical that within an hour of the announcement, it became old news. All news is old news on the internet, as anyone who has come across a funny picture on reddit three hours before it appears on FB will leap to tell you as condescendingly as possible, but this becomes extra true when it involves negative opinions about anything. These negative opinions quickly devolve from “This displeases me” into a group tantrum contest where I can only assume the winner is the person who manages to sound the most personally victimized by the decisions made by people who don’t know them, regarding the fate of things they love, or vaguely enjoy on occasion, but in a really specific way that will be completely destroyed forever by whatever just happened.

So, from this point forward, you’re whining. You’re a whiny, obnoxious, self-centered child-being who can’t let go of something over which you have no control, but which somehow dictates the rest of your entire life and ability to enjoy anything ever again. At least, that’s the impression I get from how vocal you are about the travesty that is, I guess, hiring Ben Affleck for anything, but especially letting him dress up as Batman.

But, you know, I guess it is WAY more important to have a fit over Ben Affleck and Batman than it is to be socially aware of literally anything else happening on this planet. No, you go ahead. The world’s problems will wait till you’re done.

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Journey to the Dark Crystal: A Writer’s Tale – Chapter 1

The internet is fairly buzzing with the news that the Jim Henson company and an imprint of Random House are looking for a new writer to pen the next book in the Dark Crystal legacy.  I may have seen the Author Quest page the day it was posted, I may have not, but it wasn’t long after starting that it was shuffled my way via Facebook.  My heart flipped a little with the excitement of what could be done, and sank with the emptiness where a story could have sat, but didn’t yet exist.  The truth is, I had fan fiction ideas for Labyrinth before I was tempted by any other material.  Maybe it was David Bowie dancing in tight pants, or the dialogue between Sarah and the four guards in the (buh-buh-buh-BUM!) Certain Death riddle (OooOooOooo!), but it resonated with me in away I could cling to more easily, I think.  However, as much as I consciously thought I loved Labyrinth more, Dark Crystal had already taken up a deeper residence in my psyche, biasing me toward the unlimited possibilities of that hazy realm between fantasy and sci fi it so effortlessly embodied.

One of the things I remember the most from my childhood and watching Dark Crystal was the Gelfling Wall of Destiny.  There was so much timelessness buried in the carvings, this knowledge that a thousand years ago the wall had been carved by hands that knew the written word, by minds that understood the importance of recording history, it impressed on me the weight of ages and the fathomless passage of time marked occasionally by moments preserved in stone and prophecy.  A monument against time and the transience of memory, a glimpse into the minds of the ancestors and a promise of what was to come, the Wall of Destiny was the single most important aspect of the Dark Crystal to me, and became the seed of everything I’ve poured into Eleasia, Prince of Darkness, and nearly every other project I’ve held most dear.

When I was old enough to really analyze what Jim Henson and Brian Froud had done with their team to develop Dark Crystal, I realized I wasn’t merely watching a good movie, I was experiencing everything behind the movie.  To be specific, I could feel the influence of that special brand of fantastical sci-fi that was held over from the 1970’s; I felt the implied history of an ageless world with more whispered of off screen than could be expressed on; and, most recently, I felt the the sense of compulsory motion behind the actions of both the urRu and the Skeksis, which intrigued me most of all.

The opulent costumes of the Skeksis spoke of an almost vulgar level of flamboyance, each trying to outdo the others, but the faded lace and frayed hems spoke of a passage of time so great that all the posturing became a matter of course, happening by rote, not passion.  They had the same arguments, the same shifting alliances repeating over and over as their pool of comrades dwindled to eight, and the dull-edged blade of madness crept into the isolation of their reality.

The urRu do not appear exempt from this decay, though their activities do seem more benign, as they made their sand paintings with an air of meditative repetition rather than guided intent, and tracked the movements of the stars, and recorded their thoughts in the fabric of their coats.

For both, life is an imitation of living, a compulsory existence of movement and action punctuated occasionally by moments of lucidity.  They have spent so much time in their separate forms that the urRu and Skeksis have essentially reached a state of entropy, where memory of their origins and the why behind their actions has decayed to a point of equilibrium against the necessity to continue acting, because anything less would be to die, and I think enough of an urSkek spark remained to keep them clinging to routine so they could one day be made whole again.

I don’t have a plot just yet, and tonight I begin the adventure of The World of Dark Crystal, but I can tell you what will guide my hand throughout the writing process; paying homage to a man who never let the limitations of what others thought could be done define what he knew was possible.  I write this for you, Jim.  Thank you for never being anything other than who you were.  You are, and always will be, my greatest hero.

I was too young when I fell in love with the Dark Crystal to have a life established enough on any course to have it changed when I was exposed to his work, so I can’t say he changed my life.  What he did impart, or rather, what I took from his work, was the essence of what would help me define the shape I would want my life to take.  Without his vision and passion available to me at the time, I don’t believe I’d be where I am today, passionate about my art, dedicated to writing more than a well-told sequence of events, and reading up every extent Dark Crystal book I could get my hands on to deepen my affinity for the vividly painted and desperately ancient world of Thra.

Yes, I am throwing my hat in the ring for the Dark Crystal’s Author Quest, and I encourage all of you to do the same, because without our adoration of this work it could not continue surviving and thriving thirty years later, and I firmly believe the world in which we let the Dark Crystal die is a hollow word of less wonder, magic, and beauty than our own.

I’m terrible about chronicling progress on anything, but this is one of those projects that sings deep inside me, like an urSkek song of surpassing beauty, sorrow, longing, and joy in need of expressing, but not entirely native to my senses, and if I can help anyone else discover the unique and earnest wonder of The Dark Crystal, and of Thra, and of Aughra, of the intrepid Gelfling, the tragic Skeksis, and the lonely urRu through my own exploration and self-discovery, then it will be all the more worthwhile in the end.  With any luck, and maybe a little less procrastination, I’ll keep you apprised of the journey I take as I become a part of the world of The Dark Crystal, and the magic of Thra.

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The Teapot

The kids didn’t come ’round anymore. No one really came ’round anymore.

The teapot looked out from the china cabinet at an empty dining room, the table and chairs long since covered in sheets to protect against the dust. Wan, yellow light occasionally spilled from between the drapes hung across the windows to the back porch. It remembered warm summer days and tea with the children, their laughter echoing through its steaming interior, dampened only slightly by the tea cozy She would wrap around it. Those were the happy days.

All too soon it seemed its adventures beyond the china cupboard became rare and infrequent, only seeing the occasional tea cup when the nurses served Her in the cool shadows of the bedroom. Eventually, even the nurses stopped bringing it out, even to keep it free of dust and ready for Her need.

The lights went out, and the furniture was shrouded. The nurses left, and the house become still.

Then the lights came back, but She was not with them. People, people it had never seen milled about the house, touching chairs, moving paintings, and rummaging through drawers. The teapot was taken from the cupboard and turned every which-way. So many hands, so many faces.

Finally, a warm pair of hands, hands it knew had touched a life-time, held it close. These hands felt right. They weren’t Her hands, but they were like Her hands.

She spoke to a man and gave him something. The teapot wore newspaper as it had worn the cozy She had knit for it before. Nestled in its newspaper bed, it dreamed. It dreamed of new children, new laughter to hold in its belly on summer afternoons. It dreamed of new teas, teas it had never before brewed. It dreamed of a new kitchen and a new Her to whom it could belong and serve faithfully.

It dreamed. And when it woke, it was upon a new shelf, with new cups and chinaware. Light poured in through open windows with sheer, airy curtains spread wide to welcome it in. It woke to the feeling of home, and a new sense of purpose.

She looked at it, and it looked at Her, and She smiled.

It was home.

—–

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]

Came across a Tweet from TheWritePractice.com — I guess it’s a month old, but I only noticed that after writing my story.  The concept is still solid and fun, so I decided to go ahead and post it, since they’re the ones who Tweeted the page again.  Anyway, it was a fifteen minute challenge to write a story from the perspective of an inanimate object.  As soon as I thought “teapot watching life from a kitchen” I had the story.

I wrote it and edited it in the fifteen minute allotted time, and once my alarm went off I made no additional changes, so this is the result of the warm-up as is.  I hope you enjoyed it.

– Adalind Monroe

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Such Sweet Sorrow

She hated her handwriting. The letters collided with one another in an awkward script that was neither cursive nor print, but she supposed it would have to do; the words had needed to be written. Her chest ached a little as she read them over, again and again. The realization they spelled out was one she’d left buried beneath so many years and too much distance, but it burned now with a decade’s stored energy of denial, and filled her with an ineffable longing that welcomed detached numbness’ slow tide.

Each word was chosen with care, written as though she spoke to him, but intended for herself. He would never read it, of course – no one would. She could claim she wanted to avoid disrupting his life with unpleasant memories or complicated emotions, but the truth was she feared what he would say in the astronomically unlikely event of his response; even no response was better than knowing he felt the same. At least in ignorance she could hide in the warm glow of what was without any distress over what still could be.

The box was prepared, simple, but durable, with a sturdy clasp at the front just big enough for an equally sturdy lock. She couldn’t bring herself to burn the words she’d taken such pains to find, but there were no other eyes qualified to read them, so the only logical conclusion she could reach was to lock them away and bury their prison. It wasn’t so different from what she’d done with the emotions before they brought the words, but now the words were out and it was no longer in her own heart they’d be trapped. That was enough, that was all she needed to carry on. It had to be.

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly with the gravity of her secret. As soon as it was locked away, she could allow herself to forget, and by forgetting perhaps even heal. For the last time, she read the inelegant script of her own hand, and poured her aching heart into each word.

“I don’t know why, but I thought of you. And I don’t know what difference it would have made at the time to have understood my own feelings when we were still oceans apart . . . but it’s clear today that what I felt was love.

“You disappeared, and that was fair given I did the same, and I still don’t know if it was something I said, or something you decided on your own, but if there ever comes a day in some distant future where you look back and smile and wonder where I’ve gone, you know where to find me. My door is always open.

“I could spend the rest of my life waiting for you, but that wouldn’t be fair to anyone. So, instead I wish you well. I wish you happiness and love, and the greatest possible future life has to offer. I wish you laughter and smiles and the fulfillment of all your heart’s desires. I’ll look back on our time with a smile and not regret what never was or never will be.

“I know now it was love, but I suppose all things have their end.”

Signed with a quote and nothing more, addressed to no one with no date, the anonymous confession was delicately folded and placed inside the simple, but durable, box, through which sturdy clasp was latched an equally sturdy lock, all of which was gently nestled in the moist earth of a hole freshly dug. She knew the tree beneath which her words would always sleep, and offered it her thanks for the silent watch it would keep as the knot around her heart finally loosed its grip.

As each shovelful of dark soil fell upon the growing mound of her last regret, the missive’s final words echoed through her mind, an unfinished mantra and invitation to a future that would never be.

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall bid you good night . . . .

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An Open Letter to DirecTV Guy

#RealityCheck – I’m sorry, you’re right, @DirecTVService Representative on the phone.  I must have completely imagined the attractive technician who came out here and installed the fresh-out-of-the-box receiver in the guest room.  No, no.  Your records showing it was mailed out as a replacement for the unit that stopped working in my grandmother’s room, which I guess I imagined you replacing more than a year ago, but which we never bothered to activate, is totally exactly what’s going on here.  Thank you for clarifying that despite my having seen the man hook up and activate the receiver in the guest room, it’s actually never been used, and is, as stated, the replacement you mailed out.  So, yes, I’ve also imagined every show I never watched through it, being as it was never activated ever.

What’s that?  I can toss out the unusable unit myself with no obligation to ship it back to you?  Your generosity knows no bounds.

Oh, and yes.  I asked if you send replacement remotes because I’m not using the remote from the living room, I’m using the remote that came with the unit that wasn’t installed by a technician when my friend Brian wasn’t boarding here last year.  You have all the answers, DirecTV guy.  You are my guru.  I should bake you a cake.  Oh, wait, do I even know how to bake a cake?  What if I only imagined having baked in the past, and in fact have no idea what a cake is!  Come back, DirecTV guy!  Do I know how to bake a cake?!

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When did __________ become _________er than _________?: A Rant.

Propaganda you think is hilariously insightful and appropriate to your life right now.

If you came here today expecting or hoping to find a post related to writing and/or MadLIBS, I’m very sorry to disappoint you, but an issue has come up.  And that issue is how we as women seem so happy to attack each other based on appearance.  Yes, there’s definitely a certain amount contributed to this issue by men, but I’m not talking about men.  I’m talking about how women all over the internet, Facebook especially, though probably also Tumblr and Twitter (though I don’t know those sites well enough to say for sure), will link the above picture and chortle with all their male and female friends about how curves are what define a woman as real, and no skinny woman in that picture is attractive in the least, and “Look at how malnourished they are!”, and “Oh, I can’t date skinny women; I’m too afraid I’ll snap their little chicken bones!”, and “C’mon!  Eat a burger!  Amirite?!”

They’re also perfectly justified in having the opinion that curves are beautiful, so don’t think I’m angrily turning around and saying “You’re all wrong, and shut up!”  There are just as many curvy women I find unappealing as skinny, because I have opinions like anyone else, and we’re all welcome to share them.  It’s when opinion starts crossing over into personal attack territory that I really start to protest.

When did it become okay for us to attack each other based on how much fat we do or don’t have? Why is this the last frontier in the fight for protection against discrimination?  And why is it women doing it to other women?  (Note: I don’t accept “cattiness” as an answer.  It is an excuse to allow bad behavior to continue, rather than taking responsibility for being petty.)

I would like to believe that this meme is not intentionally breeding pettiness in women, but how many times have you seen responses to this picture praising “real women” for having curves, or outright insulting women who don’t have “enough”?  This is a problem, people!  ALL women are REAL women, regardless of how anorexic or overweight they appear to someone else, and the more time we as women spend degrading each other over something as trivial as the virtues of pronounced hips vs. pronounced ribs, the less time we spend supporting each other. Don’t try to tell me that this isn’t degrading, either, because by using terms like “real women” and “when did X become sexier than X” you rob the subject in question of something intrinsic, something you have no place to say they lack. To make this more personal, though, since phrases like “the subject in question” sounds so clinical and distant; what you’re doing is personally telling another woman “You’re not a real woman.  Period.”  When you say that, you rob them of the value you appoint to “real women”, placing them lower in your opinion for no better reason than you dislike how they look. You rob them, in your own opinion, of the ability to appeal to someone sexually, judging and criticizing them for falling short of your preferences.  Sound familiar to anyone?

There’s a link to vintage ads floating around, all of which claimed at the time to help women put on weight because that’s how you “get dates”. (There’s even one in there for men.)  This has been spread (at times) in the same spirit as the picture above, to re-establish and support the idea that bigger doesn’t mean less beautiful, a message that in and of itself is not the problem, because there is a need to teach our women, young and old, that beauty isn’t the number you wear, and that’s good.  The problem with the vintage ads is that they were written by mad men playing on the socially accepted idea at the time that a woman’s goals should be to get married and support her husband from the home, so don’t drive away those eager young men, Olive Oil; get some meat on those bones!  Putting a positive interpretation on scare tactics used to manipulate women into fitting this ideal dictated by a small portion of society (not to say that only a small portion shared this view, but that a small portion was in control of what was said about it to the public) doesn’t change the fact that the original sentiment was wrong.

This picture may not come from the same male-centric standpoint, but that makes it far worse, because this actually could have been put together by a woman, a woman with more curves than the classic beauties portrayed (and let us also remember that a size 14 in Marilyn’s day was closer to a modern 10, which, by today’s standards is considered small.  Yes, clothing stores will call them “medium”, and when feeling surly “large”, but when your size 10 friend tells you she’s too fat, you quickly reassure her in your most “I’m fighting the urge to hurl your skinny ass out the window” voice that she is, indeed, quite thin.).  But, a woman may have sat at her computer, snatching up pictures of skinny women she felt embodied the modern interpretation of “skinny is beautiful” while emphasizing how malnourished they look (which is unfair as well, since many women now judged for being “too skinny” are at the target weight for their frames and body types), and then compared them to women from a different era that she felt embodied her personal beauty aesthetic to claim that her version of beauty was better.  Now, really, there are only two options as to the gender of the person who originally put this together, and when you break it down it’s the presentation of the opinion that’s the real problem, but just the knowledge that there’s a 50% chance a woman began disseminating this breaks my heart a little.

I don’t argue against spreading images that build you up – we all need a little lesson in self love now and then -, but there are ways to do it that don’t disparage another individual or group of individuals.  Most of us seem to think this is okay because “big girls” had to put up with this, so now it’s their turn to have a say.  The same attacks larger women, some of whom can’t lose the weight, have faced for not being what modern magazines tell us is the height of beauty (just as vintage magazines told us skinny was then what plus size is now) are perpetrated against smaller women, some of whom can’t -GAIN- the weight, often by the very same women who suffered similar attacks in the first place, and many people nod their heads and say “Well, it’s about time.”  But what I think really needs to be asked is “How does disparaging the appearance of other women fix what’s wrong with society’s image of beauty?”  It’s not the fault of the skinny women pictured that the shift in aesthetic happened, so why are you targeting them?

(Spoiler: I do not think that word means what you think it means.)

If you can’t make out everything in the image there, it’s a different set of thin women and the same set of pin-up girls, only this time it’s a Demotivational Poster that says “LETS BE FAIR.” (Which needs an apostrophe in “let’s”, but that’s unimportant.)  And below that:  “It didn’t.”  But that isn’t really fair, either, is it?  The better argument isn’t that skinny never replaced curvaceous as beautiful.  There is no improving an argument that can be reduced, at its most fundamental level, to “Skinny isn’t hot, curvy is.”  You’re fighting a battle of opinions, and lashing out at women who have done you absolutely no harm.  You don’t even know these women, but you’re willing to point the finger and say “No, I’m pretty, not you.”  This sounds an awful lot like playground bullying, to me.

See, we don’t approve of domestic violence and abuse for obvious reasons, but in addition to the physical, mental, and emotional damage it causes to the victims, it can also create new abusers; that (usually correct) theory about bullies in the schools lashing out because of abusive home lives?  Yeah, that one.  Are we no better than school yard bullies with alcoholic parents? This “skinny women vs. curvy women” debate divides us. You can look at it from any angle you want and try to reason away how the debate is not a bad thing, but the fact is that it divides us as women and fosters an environment of judgement. Is that really what we need to do to each other?

Prithee, councilor! Recount to me the time wherein THIS did attain more praise for that most delicious of sinful delights, which may only be bespoke away from the delicate blooms which do so vex us, than that appearance which even now wouldst fair cause my heart and loin to stir as one? In faith! Was it so long ago?

No, ribald gentleman of the past, t’were not so long ago.

How often have you, or someone you know, complained that the “Reubinesque” figure was the height of beauty and never should have been changed? I bet few also address the fact that it was the height of beauty at a time where a more generous figure was proof of wealth and good health, of the luxury of life that meant they weren’t slaving away, just scraping by to get enough food to survive the next week, and sometimes just the next day. Given what modern Western society provides, that same generous figure is now usually evidence of someone just scraping by to get enough food to survive the next week, because the cheapest food is also the least healthy.  Many people also perceive a lethargy and lack of personal care that is decidedly unappealing, regardless of how true it is.

The opinions regarding beauty change with the society sharing them for a reason, and even though we face a lot of grief and struggle against the fashion industry with their Twiggy-esque models, and magazines telling us to lose all the weight, I think you’ll find that the overwhelming majority find healthy to be height of beauty.  It’s healthy,  in whatever form that takes for the individual, that appeals.

Even if that form is factory standard and comes with Cyclopes-style visor eyes, or Unsettlingly Similar To Your High School Ex-girlfriend face.

I think what upsets me the most about the original image is that so many women glom onto it and wave it like a victory flag while they shout from the rooftops “Yes!  Yes!  Curvy is better than what Hollywood tells us is beautiful!  When will you all learn that this is what REAL women look like?!”

But what about this?

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Let me type that out for you again.  “Real women are curvy.  Real women are also slender, muscular, chubby, skinny, voluptuous, gangly, and shapely.  We’re all real.  We’re all women.  Deal with it!”

Instead of waving your validation banner around, why don’t you grab onto THIS image and make IT viral.  At least then you’ll be helping your fellow woman realize that fitting just one imposed ideal of beauty isn’t what defines her as a woman, and it isn’t what makes her beautiful.

This is my friend, Rachel.

Pictured: A beautiful, strong woman.

Rachel is beautiful.  She is the perfect illustration of a beautiful woman being beautiful in herself, not because she’s curvy, not because she’s skinny, but because she’s strong.  I think this speaks louder than any picture I could have searched for, and if anything THIS should be a banner around which we as women rally.  We CAN do it.  Whatever “it” is, we can do it, but we need our sisters to keep us strong.

Support each other, because we are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our grandmothers, our nieces, our aunts, and our cousins.  We are every woman who has come before us, and every woman who will come after us.  And that should mean something.  Make it mean something.

And I’m spent. I want Kahlua in my coffee and a big ol’ Amy snuggle.  Y’all bitches be trippin’.

We’ll return you to your regularly scheduled literature lesson sprinkled liberally with humor on Wednesday.  Or maybe Wednesday will be a MadLIB to make up for today.  WHO KNOWS!  (I bet it’s a MadLIB.)

—–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adalnd Monroe is not a militant femi-nazi, but she does get tired of seeing visual and verbal attacks against a woman’s appearance or physique hidden behind the intention of raising the self-esteem of another group, especially when it’s another group of women.  She would like all of her sisters to please at least TRY to remember that ALL women ARE REAL women, regardless of your visual preferences, and that you don’t get to decide what does or doesn’t qualify them as being “real”.

When she’s not rant-paging about sisterhood, you can find her a-tick-a-typing away on genre fiction, or blog posts about the process of writing, and probably bunnies.

Read “Don’t Let Her In”.  It’s creepy and free.

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No Shave November (or Why I Can’t Grow a Beard)

[SPOILER: It has nothing to do with gender.]

Legally I’m not allowed to grow a beard. The last time I did the beard grew in with such glory that most of those who looked at it directly were stricken blind, and inevitably fated to descend slowly into madness. Those lucky few who managed to avoid losing their sight gouged out their own eyes to preserve the memory of my beard without interference from everyday visual stimuli.  A blind cult evolved to worship my beard, where lesser beards were sacrificed on an altar of mustache paraffin and beard combs. Panic spread through the bearded community for no beard was safe so long as the cult existed, and with new members joining daily from exposure to my beard, it was quickly becoming a matter of national security; the cult had turned its sightless gaze to President Garfield’s mighty visage.

James A. Garfield’s Beard (pictured with James A. Garfield)



Approached by the president himself, who, having heard the legends and the warnings, swathed himself in black cheese cloth to diminish the devastatingly high levels of glory radiating from each follicle, I was asked to remove all traces of facial hair for the good of the people. I’ve never heard a man speak with more sorrow in his voice than when I heard President Garfield force himself to ask for the destruction of what he called “The Messiah of Beards”; even through the cheese cloth, he could see enough to be profoundly changed by it.

It was a quiet affair, The Shaving. In a cottage stashed in the great Virginia wilderness, I shaved off every last trace of facial hair, gathered it into a basket of wild flowers and ivory combs, and gave it a proper viking funeral on the sweeping currents of the Potomac river. Returning to D.C., the cabinet was sworn to secrecy, and I signed a document swearing never to grow any sort of facial hair again, for the good of the people, and the good of the country. President Garfield wept the silent tears of a man witnessing the death of true beauty.

That document is still kept under lock and key and 24 hour guard in a vault seven miles below D.C. so that even natural disaster and zombie apocalypse has no chance of destroying evidence of my agreement, and testimony of my sacrifice from one of the greatest bearded presidents this country has ever seen.  No pictures exist of my glorious beard, and all texts describing it directly have been burned.  The only record that even acknowledges that it once was is that single parchment long buried in D.C., and the odds of anyone ever finding it are laughable.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you some epic beard to appreciate, so here you go.

Pictured: Not My Beard (but it’s as close as any mortal beard could ever hope to come).

—–

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR’S BEARD]

Her name was Sally, and it’s said she glistened in the sunlight “as if spun of gold, bronze, copper, and the laughter of children”.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR]

Adalind Monroe is a time-travelling lady maverick who daily says a prayer for her beard in the ancient tongue of the Nords.  When she’s not sighing wistfully from a window seat on overcast days, just like the day she shaved for the first and final time, she writes genre fiction in the fantasy and horror flavors.  If you want to read more by Adalind, check out the Short Story and Flash Fiction sections of the site.  Or, if you want to read LONGER things by Adalind, then just hold onto your breeches: “Prince of Darkness”, an Eleasian novel, is already in the works, and you’re going to love it.

Here’s to you, Sally. I miss you.

—–

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Grandpa Miler Reviews “The Last Tower” by Adalind Monroe

The Last Tower

Writer M.A. Weeden recently shared The Last Tower with his grandfather, an editor for the fledgling indie publisher Frowzy Books, and a man so well-read that terminal bibliophiles look like weekend enthusiasts with no ambition by comparison.  When asked for his opinion on the surrealist sci-fi end-of-days short, Grandpa Miler had quite a lot to say.  I should warn you now, though, that the man probably has fewer filters in place than M.A. Weeden himself, which is to say none.  He has no filters in place.  But that means that peppered in with what is unquestionably inappropriate turns-of-phrase (the best kind) is the kind of unregulated honesty authors need to hear the most, for better or worse.

“Well, he read it twice,” M.A. said as he related his grandfather’s experience with the tale, “because he said he read it the first time with ‘disbelief’.  The second go, he attempted to find a grammatical error, thought he had found a mistake but then when he looked at it further, he discovered that it was SO correct that it appeared wrong in one location.  He said, ‘No one knows that rule anymore’. Though, he could not remember where that was specifically.”

[If you have difficulty thinking of grandfathers and the elderly as people, I suggest you look away at this point, as things are about to get flatteringly inappropriate.]

“I asked him for one sentence,” M.A. continued, “and this was him, verbatim: ‘Flawlessly written, eloquently put, and maddeningly brief.  If she doesn’t write a book soon enough I’m going to call her up myself and bitch her out.  This little story was excellent . . . if I want a constant cock-tease.  Tell her I want payoff dammit!  Write a damn book!'”

Regarding what could easily be mistaken as an amusing amount of ire from Grandpa Miler, M.A. hastened to add “He’s old school, so when he ‘settles in’ for a read, he’s expecting something that will last.  I failed to warn him of its brevity so I took the blame.”  This is not the first time The Last Tower has been called out on its length, though this may be the only mark against it.  Still, it is something to definitely keep in mind while searching for a good read; long The Last Tower is not.

The Last Tower is a foray into the hazy world of the post-apocalyptic with details and colors drawn from dreams and the subconscious machinations of the mind.  Buried beneath the elegant prose and hidden behind the obvious imagery are the things that speak to everyone in unique, and often unpredictable, ways.  There’s something for everyone to discover about themselves as they read, analyze, and enjoy this most recent short story by Adalind Monroe.

—–

[ABOUT THE STUFF]

Adalind Monroe is a writer and part-time Magistrate of Impossibility.  When she’s not up to her eyeballs in world-building, writing, or magistrating all the Impossible Things, she likes to while away the hours conferring with the flowers as an alchemist in Skyrim.

And for those of you who feel your inner Hulks threatening to overwhelm in the face of such excellent writing available only in short form, worry not; the whispers have begun and a novel is in the works.  Stay tuned for periodic updates on “Prince of Darkness”, the first Eleasian Tale by infuriatingly talented Adalind Monroe.

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