Saturday, December 31, 2005
For my birthday, the SO gave me a Gaggia espresso machine to replace my cheapo Krups. He's trying to make up for being out of town for my birthday three years in a row, even though he knows he doesn't have to. This is the way our relationship works: He has a job he loves, despite all the travel that puts him in places like Fargo in January and Hades in August. I miss him when he's gone, spoil him when he gets back, and never complain about him being gone for birthdays, Valentines, or other special days. He, in turn, tells me I'm wonderful and makes sure we have fun when we are together. It's a simple plan for domestic bliss, but it works for us.
The Gaggia is quite the step up in home espresso brewing technology from my Krups. I'll admit to being a little intimidated by a machine that came with an instructional CD. The short films on the art of a perfect 30 pound tamp, a perfect pull, a short pull and a long pull (so you could see how it looked when you screwed up) were narrated in terse, authoritarian tones. There was a short essay on the importance of a perfect grind for your coffee beans. If (the voice almost sighed) one were to resort to pre-ground beans, there were also rules for storage and handling.
The espresso gauntlet was thrown.
My first pull was declared better than the Krups machine produced, but not the almost syrupy brew I wanted. We set aside my pre-ground coffee (LavAzza espresso) and tried the sample of LavAzza in Blu sent with the machine.
Not only was it dark and intense, both in flavor and texture, but it sported that elusive sign of a perfect pull - a light brown froth of crema on top.
The only problem was that my regular coffee cups, which weren't outsized mugs, didn't fit under the two nozzles. Sticking my head directly under wasn't an option - if a cup wouldn't fit, neither would my head, and I didn't want to scald the inside of my mouth. Worse, it would be damn near impossible to count out the perfect twenty-one second pull while holding my mouth to the burning spigot.
So I went in search of true espresso cups. I thought they would be easy to find. Like Big Foot though, pictures may exist, but it's a little harder to put your hands on the actual thing. I went to Starbucks and Gloria Jeans, where I found a single demitasse that seemed ridiculously expensive. Macys had the right sized cup for a little less, and they had four, but the cups were delicate china rimmed in gold filigree. Apparently I'm a bit of a minimalist, because to me, that gold ruined the look of the cup. Besides, I'd have to wash them by hand, and treat them with kid gloves, and I'm not that kind of a girl.
I finally found my perfect plain cups in restaurant quality porcelain. They came with saucers. All demitasse cups come with saucers. Who uses saucers? Anyway, the new cups, as you can see from the picture above, fit perfectly under the nozzles.
They're too small for my spoons. I can't stir in sweetener. There may be muy papi (to mix my languages) Italian men who can gulp down a shot of espresso without adding sugar, but I can't. Yet, I can't bring myself to buy special spoons just for that.
I see this as the slippery slope to becoming a total girl.
First I buckle in and buy dainty demitasse spoons that fit my tiny espresso cups. Then I rearrange my cluttered silverware drawer so that I can find my tiny spoons in the morning. The next thing you know, I have hand towels in the bathrooms, scented candles through the house, and we end up replacing the kitchen appliances to match the stainless steel facade of my lovely new espresso machine.
I'm thinking about asking the SO to return my Gaggia machine to the store. We simply can't afford the lifestyle it demands.
Just let me pull one last shot.
Since I missed the big family Hanukkah party, and was still dragging from my cold all week, my chances to get a latke (potato pancake) were dwindling.
Oh sure, you can make latkes when it isn't Hanukkah, but they don't seem right any other time. Besides, holidays lose something when the unique parts of the celebration are made into everyday things. For example, pinatas used to be cool, specifically a part of Mexican culture and only for Christmas. Now you can go to a park in Ohio on a Saturday and see kids whacking their favorite TV character to death with a bat and then scrambling to grab and eat the spilled entrails. Somehow, that isn't the same.
The end of the year and my persistent cold were dragging me down into a serious case of the blues. The SO announced that, as usual, he'd be out of town on my birthday. I was exchanging e-mails with people I didn't like over matters that no longer interested me in arguments that had long devolved into absurdity. The worst part was the temptation to tell those people that they were no longer worth my attention - which is a lousy thing to say to another human being when you think about it. Yet, I truly wanted to unleash my Dorothy Parkerish nastiness on them and shred their egos.
Trying to rise above my worst self every day isn't an easy struggle.
Friday, I came home from work, collapsed on the bed for four hours of necessary napping, and then dragged myself into the kitchen. There, fortified with a double shot of espresso and some Airborne, I started my latkes. Honestly, I wouldn't have left the bed if I hadn't committed to making dinner for friends.
While the SO sliced the brisket and put in into the oven for its second cooking (the secret to any great brisket), I pulled out the food processor. Latke purist will tell you that hand shredded potatoes are the only way to go. They're right - but screw it, I was tired.
Some people prefer a hashbrown style latke, while others like a solid pancake. I'm between worlds.
I put the shredded russet potatoes on a paper towel to drain. Wax potatoes, to me, have a weird, rubbery consistency when shredded. Russets, however, are the essence of bland food. They don't have a flavor. So I grind Yukon gold potatoes with onions into a puree for the binding batter. Adding a few beaten eggs, some matzoh meal to soak up the moisture the potatoes exude, a couple cranks of the pepper mill, a toss of kosher salt, and I was ready to go.
Some people almost deep fat fry their latkes. That's gross. Some oil is needed because oil is, after all, one of the symbols of Hanukkah. (The other being light. The two are intertwined in a story that I tell poorly, so won't relate it here.) Besides, to make latkes with a crunchy exterior, you need some oil in the pan.
Some people top with applesauce, but we prefer a dollop of sour cream and mushrooms that have been sauteed in butter and wine. Occasionally, we'll be really swank and use some caviar, but it wasn't in the budget this year.
The rule of the house has always been, "He/She who can stand to eat the hottest food gets the most latkes." If it were just the SO and me, we'd stand in the kitchen eating latkes as soon as they came off the griddle. The brisket would be forgotten and used for sandwiches the next day. But with guests as witnesses, we had to pretend to have some class, so we piled the latkes on a plate and them brought them out to serve with the brisket.
Our place smelled of hot oil and brisket, and was filled with the laughter of friends playing cut-throat dreidle for gold foil covered chocolates that none of us would ever eat. Laughter is like light. It chases away dark moods and thoughts. We're always so busy, but holidays remind us to meet with friends, laugh together, and share what we have. So no matter how tempting it is to make latkes out of season, I think I can wait for next year. I like to keep them special.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Not my sexiest look.
Christmas morning the sore throat receded into the background, but I feared sneezing more than anything because the strafing left my throat so raw that I couldn't talk for several minutes afterwards. I went through the chills-overheated-chills cycle. My chest ached after coughing fits.
Even though I felt crappy, I almost went with the SO to the not-our-family-really-thank-goodness gathering. I'd been looking forward to the entertainment/ glimpse into lives I thankfully didn't have to live. More than that, following that party, the SO's true family was moving over to his mom's house for the first night of Hanukkah. The equation was pretty clear. Stay home = miss out on latkes, brisket, and kreplach soup. That was powerful incentive to drag my butt out of bed.
The SO was a little suspicious about the convenient timing of my illness. He knew how much I usually dreaded Christmas with the train-wreck family. He even tried a few experimental sniffles and coughs to see if he could get out of going. The lure of latkes proved too strong though, so he packed up the gifts for his nieces.
"If you're feeling up to it, I'll swing by and pick you up on the way to Mom's so you don't miss out on the fun part of the day. Call me," the SO said on his way out.
What a guy.
I felt worse through the evening, not better, so I never made the call. But as I looked at my assembled collection of pharmaceuticals to fight off this thing - airborne mega-vitamins, decongestant, pain reliever, NyQuil, throat lozenges, antihistamine, and Tylenol PM - it occurred to me that I finally got what I always wanted for Christmas. A chemistry set.
Friday, December 23, 2005
There is one day a year where this gets turned around on the SO. Christmas Day. We join the rest of his family at his sister-in-law's mother's house. Somehow, a couple years back, we made the guest list. Ever since, we've tried to figure out how to disinvite ourselves, but to no avail. If we don't do something fast it's going to be tradition. (We're seriously considering divorce for his brother and sister-in-law as an option. Sure they're happy, but at least we'd be freed from the Christmas Day onus.)
A streak of schadenfreude (meaning "damaged joy." It's a German word. Go figure that the Germans of all people would have a word in their language for deriving joy out the misery of others.) has mated with my gallows sense of humor and produced a bouncing baby spirit of Christmas gone terribly awry. I can't wait for Christmas morning this year. Picture Gomez Aadams watching his train set as the two locomotives hurl down the track, destined for collision, and you know the expression of manic glee on my face.
Here's the set up:
Don't worry about how these people are related to me, because they aren't, which is part of what makes it so fun. Now matter how many racist jokes they tell, or how many fights they have on the front lawn, I'm secure knowing they don't share DNA with me. The SO is only distantly related by marriage, but that's still too close for his comfort. The sister-in-law somehow transcended her upbringing to become a very nice, classy, intellegent person. We think she was a foundling, because there's no way she's related to those people either.
The sister-in-law has a sister who is a Jehova's Witness. I don't know much about her beliefs, except that she's against commercializing the birth of her lord and savior Jesus by giving Christmas gifts - a lecture she uses to explain why she doesn't bring gifts for anyone. She does, however, accept them. Even though we aren't related, she gives us the stink-eye for not bringing "love gifts" for her four demon spawn to rip open Christmas morning. She does the same thing for birthdays. She's managed to claim the haughty moral ground by taking gifts but never giving them in return. How does she do it? And is she really a Jehovah's Witness, or is she just a greedy bitch? If I could stand talking to her, I'd ask some probing questions- like does her faith have any doctrines other than gift scamming?
But wait, this family gets better. Last year, they gave each other boxes of bullets as gifts. AND liter sized bottles of Jack Daniels. What a combo! At the time, I remember whispering to the SO, "If anyone here runs out to their truck to grab their handgun for a little impromptu target practice using the empty beer can collection in the back yard, I'm leaving."
Now that I've had a whole year to think on it, I'm seized with curiosity. How can you top whiskey and bullets? What lethal gifts will they come up with this year? The imagination reels.
I'm betting heavily on the home version of a meth lab. Or a guest appearance on Cops.
Either way, it's the one day a year I get to smile smugly at the SO, cuddle close, tickle his earlobe with my lips, and purr quietly, "Want to spend next Christmas at my parent's house, baby?" and watch him struggle with the tempation to say, "Yes."
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Reads this for yourself, but I'll repeat the worst of it:
"So have the Canadians gotten a little too big for their britches" - Fox News host Neil Cavuto.
I realize that the current administration has zero respect for sovereign nations, but the host of a news show? Oh wait, he's on Fox. Scratch the 'news' part of my comment. If we believe (a big IF for the current administration) in the assertion that all men are created equal, then we should respect the governments that citizens of other countries choose, and we should respect the right of those governments to put the interests of their citizens ahead of US interests. What is good for American business is often very bad for the rest of the people living on this earth with us.
MSNBC host Tucker Carlson let loose the following pearls:
"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York." - Sorry, but no. People who give up and leave are usually the losers, not the winners in society. Not to say that perfectly nice, smart, great Canadians haven't emigrated, but chances are, if you were doing well in Canada, why the heck would you leave it for the United States, of all places?
"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." - Wow. Condescending to people in need and a country all in one swipe. That's talented, in a miserable excuse for a human being kind of way. Did Jesus say stuff like that too?
"It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?" - I'm sure that Canada has long regretted setting up house next door to the U.S., but who else would buy it now? They'd have to put up with Americans throwing their trash talk over the border.
"It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all." - And he's bragging about this? We should be deeply ashamed about our xenophobia, not reveling in it. And trust me pal, Canadians don't love us, except in that special, pitying way you save for your obnoxious, drunken, ignorant, crass family members when you see them on Thanksgiving.
If you're from Canada, please, there are Americans who hold your country in high esteem. You recognize that homosexuals are human beings. You try your hardest to make health care available to all (I realize your system has problems, but at least money isn't the deciding factor in the value of a human life for you). You have a vibrant art scene that nurtures budding artists. You have a culture that is distinct from the US, if only Americans bothered to find it and respect it.
And even though the Republicans and their paid mouth pieces have forgotten, I remember what Canada did for our embassy people in the 1980s in Iran.
We truly don't deserve you. And you never did anything to deserve us, either.
Monday, December 19, 2005
(Note the vat of boiling oil below, poised over the front door)
My parents are deeply suspicious of fun. They can't prove that the Bible forbids it, but as a precaution, they always make sure that any attempt to enjoy life is heavily counterbalanced by guilt and disapproval. That isn't to say that they aren't decent people. But if you're ever worried that your party may spin out of control as too many guests have too much unbridled fun, invite Pops over. Within an hour, everyone will be sitting quietly on the couch, clutching their hands together, and desperately eyeing the door.
Christmas morning was when their aversion to joy was really driven home. Five years in a row, the sole thing on my Christmas list was a chemistry set. My parents probably believed, quite rightly, that I'd blow up the house, but that was beside the point. It was the ONLY thing I asked for. Score? Brown and rust argyle socks- 5 for 5. Chemistry sets- 0.
Once, Mom bought a toboggan. It was the "big" gift that Christmas, meaning that we got stocking stuffers and nothing else but the toboggan, because it was something that we could all share. How very Brady Family Christmas of us. (Okay, so we were typical spoiled American brats. But come on, even desperately poor parents try to get one thing their kid wants.)
We packed into the car bright and early Christmas morning, because no one was ever allowed to sleep past 7AM, even on weekends, in Pops' army, er, house. My siblings and I sat in the back of the car in the complete stunned silence of kids who knew they'd been screwed over, and yet were condemned to fake gratitude.
The car tires crunched over snow as we pulled out of the driveway in our gold Plymouth stationwagon. We drove past a steep, icy hill half a block from our house. Other early risers slid down it on rubber tubes and flattened cardboard boxes. Their shrieks of laughter cut through the chilly air, mocking us.
As soon as we pulled onto the interstate headed for the mountains, my siblings groaned and schooched as far from me as they could. Put me on a winding mountain road, and I could puke up last week's lunch. I also showed a promising talent for respiratory ailments and hives. (I used to think I was allergic to the entire world. I have since narrowed the source of the irritation down to the old gold vinyl back seat of a station wagon coupled with the fourth rendition of the song *Black Socks* from Hee-Haw while the family dog's toenails dug into the meat of my upper thigh.)
Miraculously, I didn't get sick on that drive, but just to be safe, even before the car came to a complete stop, both sibs vaulted out of the car.
Pops got out and slapped his mittened hands together. "This is it."
You would have thought he'd brought us to the Olympic bobsled run. Instead, it as a pathetic wanna-be hill with a gentle slope that was covered in four feet of pristine Rocky Mountain powder.
Our dog crouched in the back corner of the car, barring her teeth, but Pops dragged her out into the snow anyway. She gave him a baleful 'what did I ever do to you' look and shivered.
Pops took the toboggan off the luggage rack plopped it down into the snow. "Take it on up."
My sibs and I grabbed part of the cord and began our uphill trudge through waist-high (on me) powder. A quarter of the way up, we stopped to pant. Even though we lived at altitude, the air at ten thousand feet was thin. I got woozy. As we gasped, puffs like dragon's breath curled out of our mouths. My big sister pretended to put a cigarette to her mouth.
"None of that! None of that!" Mom screeched.
Smoking, along with drinking, gambling, card playing, rock and roll, and make-up were contraband in my parent's house.
Daring, my sister rolled her eyes, getting a snicker from the rest of us, but she was wise enough to turn away from the parents before she did it.
My nose ran and my fingers were already stiff from the cold by the time we reached the top of the hill. Our parents followed us up. We got on the toboggan. The snow sounded like rubbing balloons under the sled.
I don't know who set the rules for packing a toboggan, but I, being the youngest, was up front. That's right- hurl a child face-first down a hill with the weight of her entire family plummeting behind her on a sled with no brakes. Even at seven years old, looking down the hill at a clump of trees, car, and a boulder covered in snow waiting at the bottom of the hill, I knew it was a bad, bad, bad idea. I struggled to rise as Pops shouted out, "Here we go!" He gave us a mighty push.
Thank goodness a four foot base of unpacked powder has all the surface friction of a cobblestone street. We moved maybe an inch. Soon Pops was huffing and struggling to get us moving. He suggested that we get start off in a downhill slant.
Right. As if. I might have packed a mogul under the front of the toboggan with the toe of my boot while no one was looking. Possibly. It hardly mattered though, because as we piled on, the toboggan sank lower into the powder. It wasn't going anywhere.
Never ones to give up easily, my parents kept us at it for several hours. They made us tamp down a route, then climb back up the hill to try, try again. They sent the sled down with just the kids, just the adults, and finally one by one. As darkness fell, we were finally allowed to admit defeat. Not once had one of us traveled from the top of the hill to the bottom on the sled. Cold, wet, and miserable, we packed back in to the car. The snow acumulated on the dog's fur melted. All that excitement and wet dog smell? Yep. I puked.
We had one more "fun" outing with that toboggan before it mercifully got put up in the rafters in the garage. We moved almost every summer, so we'd hold our collective breaths as the movers carried that thing past Mom and she'd get that certain gleam in her eye, but thankfully by Christmas she'd be on another family togetherness kick, usually involving matching sweaters.
Last time I visited the parents, I caught a glimpse of the toboggan in their garage. Mom saw me shivering and said, "Remember the good times we had out sledding? WE should do that again."
Frankly, Mom, I'd rather have another pair of brown and rust argyle socks.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Since then, with the exception of opossums, I've grown an aversion to looking at dead animals. I certainly wouldn't go poke one with a stick. If I'm driving, and there's carnage in the road, I squint my eyes real hard until I'm past it. It's not that I'm sqeemish. I remember walking into a neighbor's garage in Colorado when I was seven or eight and seeing a buck suspended from the rafters, dripping blood into a galvanized steel bucket, and not turning a hair. I just don't like the idea that someone probably loved the animal that died on the road and will never know it's fate. They might be wondering day after day if Fluffy is going to come home. I know that when my dog disappeared four years ago, it was several months before I stopped calling the pound, and eight months before I could part with his pillow. (I suspect the cats heavily in his disappearance. Skitters was way too nonchalant about the whole thing.)
Sometimes, though, roadkill is so compelling that I have to look. Case in point - this morning, on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Playa Del Rey around the Ballona Creek wetlands, there was a lobster in the median.
This was one of those times I wished I had a camera on me. Picture an asphalt road with a dusty median. Between the wide yellow lines, on it's back, with eight little feet up in the air, is a lobster. I have a fairly wild imagination, but I admit - I was stumped.
Thermadore the Lobster obviously did not crawl out of the Ballona Wetlands and meet his/her cruel fate. How do I know this? Well, for one, it was bright red, which meant it had been cooked. Cooked critters don't crawl. Second clue - Thermadore had a honking big claw, which was held shut by a thick blue rubberband. Pacific lobsters don't have claws. This guy was obviously an East Coast transplant.
So someone lost a fully cooked lobster. In the middle of a road. Several miles from the nearest grocery store, restaurant, house. I haven't checked lately, but I'm convinced that lobsters are fairly pricy. It's not likely that someone would put a full bushel of cooked lobsters in back of his truck, and as he bounced along the construction zone on PCH, one happened to fly out. But how else did it get there?
I may obsess on this for days.
I just hope that someone in Venice isn't dialing the pound right now, hoping against hope that their beloved pet lobster will be home for Christmas.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Me, being, well, me, sees a vat of boiling oil to be poured on invaders.
Does anyone know where I can get the full sized version of this? Not that I would ever think of actually using it.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I see a big hairy spider, they see a cat toy.
As if they aren't destructive and insane enough already.
I'm thinking NO on the tarantula and catnip.
But what do you get for the human who has everything? May I suggest a donation to:
NO/AIDS Task Force. Why do I give to this organization while I live in LA? It doesn't make sense, does it? Except that their two big fund raising events were wiped out this year. However, if you'd like to make up for my lack of local giving, give to the LA group.
GIRLS, Inc. If you follow news of hate groups in this country, you've seen that fundamentalists are calling for people to stop buying American Girls dolls for their daughters because the company donates money to GIRLS, Inc., which supports girls of every sexuality and urges them to be true to their hearts. The fundamentalists wants girls to be taught to deny anything but a rigid self-view. Make up the difference, support love.
Children of the Night. Gets teenage prostitutes off the streets of LA and gives them job training. These kids usually leave home because of sexual abuse. They'd rather have sex with strangers than be raped by family. The world is an ugly place. Make it better for the most vulnerable.
Give blood. Give time. Give a little of yourself.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I'm solidly in the middle on this one.
Most of the free stuff out there is worth what the reader pays for it. A lot of dreck is floating around the internet. Many people think that they can write, but few can write well. Some readers are content with the dreck. Some readers can't tell the dreck from the sublime. Some prefer the dreck. They aren't my audience, so I don't worry about them.
There are free sites with well-earned reputations for posting quality work. The Erotica Readers and Writer's Association and Velvet Mafia are great examples. Clean Sheets recently began paying for stories, but I'll include them in this group. Having a story on these sites is good exposure to the kind of reader I want. Quality site = quality audience. I'm proud to say I have stories on Clean Sheets. ERWA is the world's best community of writers, and when they ask for a story of mine, I'm thrilled to contribute. (Still working on VM. One of these days, the stars will align between VMs chosen theme and one of my stories, and I will finally have something worthy of submission.)
If a site charges to read my story, I damn well expect payment too. For some reason, there are sites that expect to get content for free but make a business out of distributing it. I don't make a living off my writing, but I expect recognition that what I produce has value. It truly pisses me off when they dare tell me that they pay in exposure. I can expose myself, thank you.
Many people want to write, and some are desperate to be published, so it's impossible to stop the flow of free stories. As long as there are free stories, it's going to be harder for writers to convince people to buy works. On the other hand, I believe that there are people who recognize that true talent is a rare thing in this world and it deserves to be rewarded. But I also doubt that they'll be looking for gems in the dungheap. So choose your markets carefully, and consider what you're getting in return if you decide to give away your work for free.
Then do what you want. It's your path, not mine.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I read Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J Dubner with geeky pleasure this summer. I love the way it proves most conventional wisdom is conventional foolishness. Pseudoscience and shouting headlines can lie, but numbers don't.
Fast forward to last weekend. I was having friends over for dinner, so I thought I'd spruce up the hovel a bit.
My mother hoped with all her heart that eventually I would turn out to be a girl after all. Two years of ballet, three of ballroom dance (no wonder I adore the movie Strictly Ballroom), cotillion, modeling courses, a stint as a cheerleader (first person to laugh finds out how lethal of a weapon a pompon can be), and one narrow escape from drill team (blue eyeshadow. Eek. To quote Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, "The horror! The horror.") failed to do the trick, and yet there I was, actually contemplating buying handtowels for the bathroom. As if mere handtowels had enough mojo to tip the scale for the rest of our place from neglected to fabulous.
Thankfully, I snapped out of it. My naturally miserly,er, debt-adverse ways, proved strong enough to overcome the pull of estrogen. As I regained my senses and got a good look at the crap women buy to decorate their homes, I had a moment of Freakonomics insight.
The entire world economy is based on parties.
Somewhere, there's a factory that exists only to create paper umbrellas for drinks. There's another that churns out holiday themed tchotchkas to serve as centerpieces. Hell, the Christmas light industry alone probably supports a small nation.
A woman throws a party, and she's supporting a family of four across the globe. She might spend fifty bucks on food, but another two hundred (easily) goes into candy dishes and napkins that match the paper plates.
Don't get me started on weddings. They truly are a travesty of good sense and taste. People put more thought into the chair covers than their future spouse. If anything threatens the sanctity of marriage as a pillar of civilization, it's the over the top, queen-for-a-day wedding syndrome. But at least all that lovely money gets spread around to florists, photographers, and cake stylists. And, back to my monetary theory class, the faster we divorce and remarry, ratcheting up the stakes of the celebration each time, the faster the velocity of money moving through our economy. God help us if the music ever stops and everyone sits tight with what they have in their wallets.
Thank goodness my friends aren't that swank. Either that, or they've learned to live with diminished expectations when they come over. They won't eat on china, handtowels are non-existent, and I don't have matching glasses, but at least the conversation will be priceless.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
I have a story. I love speculative fiction and enjoy writing in the genre. Beyond that, the sex explores two of my favorite senses - touch and smell - to the edge of fetish. Technically, I'm sure that the story is good.
I suppose this shows that I do have my artsy-fartsy side, because my problem with the story is that it feels as if it came from my fingertips, not my soul. ("Oh brother," you're allowed to sigh while rolling your eyes at me. ) When I read through that story, it leaves me cold. It bothers me that I feel no connection to my characters. The work lacks that certain unidentifiable something that makes a story special to me. If I could only inject it with that elusive quality, I'd gladly submit it. But I don't know where to begin to find it. Stories either seem to have it, or they don't. No amount of rewriting can fix it.
So even though I'm trying to build up a CV and I'd like to be in this anthology, I think I'll pass on submission. I'd rather have fewer pieces I was passionate about than a lot of souless stories published.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Famous Edward, my favorite chef in the whole world, works at a funky Japanese-French fusion wifi cafe that features an incredible bakery. I love Edward just for himself, but it doesn't hurt that he shows up on my doorstep with gifts of green tea cheesecake or real croissants.
This picture on their cake boxes has me baffled. Clearly, this is a dire warning. However, it isn't repeated in English anywhere on the box. Oh sure, I could ask someone what it says, but where's the fun in that? I'd rather guess.
WARNING: Cake platform is not to be used as a frisbee.
WARNING: You're uncoordinated. Any attempt to carry this cake into a room on one hand will only end in tragedy.
WARNING: Tossing cakes with lit candles can cause your guest with the outsized hand to emit obtuse golden triangles around an invisible convergence point.
WARNING: It's always fun until someone loses face.
Many people say, "Oh, I write, but I never let anyone see it." That‚'s fine. We all write for personal reasons. Publication isn't every writer's goal.
Submission is a huge leap. Some people never recover from that first experience because they make the decision not to. They decide that their ego is too fragile, or that they have too delicate of an artistic temperament to withstand the criticism.
Some rejections I handle better than others. I submitted three stories to one anthology because I wasn't sure what approach they wanted to the theme- subtle or overt. They took one story and rejected the other two. I did the dance of joy for the acceptance and shrugged off the rejections. Then I put the rejected stories in the mail to other editors. (One has been placed already. The other made the first round of cuts and I expect news back soon.)
Some rejections I know I deserved. I knew the story wasn't ready, but the deadline was looming, so I sent it anyway. Looking back, I'm grateful those stories didn't see the light of day as they were. The editor saved my reputation. I'm trying not to humiliate myself like that any more.
I'll admit that a few rejections get under my skin. I have yet to figure out why I get so down about some while others hardly affect me. For the ones that I take hard, I set a deadline to mope. Three days of the blues about does it.
Now I'm particular about editors I'll submit to. Since I'm picky about who I'll work with, I submit less, but my acceptance rate is much higher. Part of that is that I'm submitting better stories, but it's also because of the editors I submit to. If the editor is published, I read their writing. I read their other anthologies. I do my homework and check reputations.
Many writers obsessively study rejection letters. We try to find deeper meaning in every word of what is basically a form letter so that we'll understand the true reason why our story didn't make the cut. It doesn't work any better than reading tea leaves. (Your story's got the GRIM!)
So here's my checklist:
Writing is art, publishing is a business. Was my cover letter artsy-fartsy, or was it a professional business letter?
Did I follow the guidelines exactly?
Was my story the best it could be?
Did I fit the theme? (this one can be subjective)
If I pass all of those, I figure that my story didn't grab the editor, it was too similar in plot or style to something they already accepted, or it simply wasn't meant to be. Notice that there's no place on that list for "They don't understand my art," or, "Those talentless bastard hacks," or, "It's a conspiracy by the elitist New York establishment." If that's the way you handle rejection, then you aren't ready to submit. But if you never submit, you'll never know the satisfaction of your first Yes. So set aside your inner diva, get a professional attitude, find the right market for the right story, take a deep breath, and let your story go.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I'm telling you this so that January 2nd, when you watch the Rose Parade on TV and notice that it's 75 degrees in L.A, and the only snow to be seen is on the distant peak of Mt. Baldy, you aren't tempted to pack up and move here. As if I need another car in the lane in front of me.
But if you do, please remember that we do not suffer novice drivers here. The only unforgiveable sin in L.A. is fucking up traffic, but there are a few other bad habits you must break before you venture onto the mean streets here.
First off - don't use your horn. Only Westsiders use their horns, and that's because they're not from L.A. and don't belong here.
Second - merge means every other car goes in turn. Every other car. One from your lane, one from the lane next to you, then another from your lane. Got it? It ain't rocket science.
Third - learn appropriate Space Proxemics. One and a half car lengths is enough at any speed up to 45. Any faster, and you can give yourself several car lengths of cushion. No more. Here's a hint - if five cars jump in front of you every block, you're missing every light, and the driver behind you is getting increasingly aggressive, close up the damn gap! And BTW, the sensors for the traffic lights are embedded in the asphalt right near the crosswalk, (those are what those big circles on the ground are) so pull your damn car all the way up to the line. You do not need two car lengths between you and the intersection. If the lights have cycled three times, but you have not gotten a green, and the line of cars behind you stretches a mile, roll up over the sensor. Thank you.
Fourth - if you're Physics-ly challenged, here's a clue - I can not drive faster than the car in front of me. If I accelerate, traffic in front of me will not magically speed up too. So sitting on my rear bumper and throwing your hands in the air as we miss every light isn't going to do you any good. I'm stuck behind the person driving too slow, or we're all stuck in heavy traffic and no one is going anywhere fast. Grow up and live with it. Either that, or use the potty before you leave home.
Fifth - leave your Puritan morality behind. Oh I know - you're going to to teach us all a lesson. 55 is the upper limit of speed. You can go less than that speed if you want to, and to prove it, you're going to sit in the fast lane doing 50. Hah! King of the World! Those of us stuck in the lane behind you took a vote. You're the Grand Marshall of the next Prig Parade. Remember, when you wave, it's sweeping elbow, elbow, and then turn wrist, wrist, wrist. Go home and practice it right now.
Sixth - don't be Passer-Agressive. These are almost always men. Even though there is a mile of empty lane behind me, this guy always has to shoe-horn his way into the tiny space between me and the car ahead. Congratulations Sir, you are now one car-length closer to your goal of becoming a total dick.
The second type drives along at varying speeds. You can almost hear him singing "la-la-la" as he searches like the Flying Dutchman for some elusive address. After following behind him for five blocks, as his speed steadily decreases to 15mph, I give up and try to pass. This is evidently the final straw in his life. It's personal now. Passing him is a direct challenge to his ED manhood. So he hits the gas. Fine, if he'll drive that speed, I'll be happy behind him. I slow down. So does he. I speed up. So does he. Because I betrayed him, he will never, ever, allow me back into "his lane." Sir, this isn't personal. I just want to get to work. Sometime today would be nice.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
If you go, I promise to be insanely jealous of you for at least three months. And here's an offer you can hardly resist: write me back and tell me how incredibly nice Greg is, and how many great books you bought, and I'll add on another two months of pure green-eyed sulking.
With Ian Philip's permission, I cut this from the Suspect Thoughts newsletter:
Greg is going to New York City for the first weekend in December for the Independent and Small Press Book Fair. So if you're there, please stop by. No, I didn't say "buy." Honest, he'd love for any and all to hang out at the booth. Create a crowd. A scene. Make those hordes of usually queer-uncurious wonder what all the fuss is and stop by to buy. He'll be upstairs on the second floor, in one of the back rooms. I know, the publisher of Suspect Thoughts in a back room in New York--how shockingly pre-Giuliani of him!
Okay, here's 411 from Greg himself:
"San Francisco's fearless queer publisher Suspect Thoughts Press ("Best Brand-New, Badass, Superqueer Press" -- SF Bay Guardian) is coming to New York for The Eighteenth Independent and Small Press Book Fair. Along with piles of magnificent books specially priced for the Book Fair, Suspect Thoughts Press." New York authors Jennifer Natalya Fink, Thomas Woolley, and Emanuel Xavier will be appearing for meet and greet book signings.
Saturday, December 3, 3:00: Emanuel Xavier (Americano, Bullets & Butterflies)
Sunday, December 4, 2:00: Jennifer Natalya Fink (Burn)
Sunday, December 4, 2:00: Thomas Wooley (Toilet)
Since its inception in 1988, The Independent and Small Press Book Fair has served as a lively exploration into the world of independent publishing. Over the years, it has grown in size and ambition, but the core purpose remains the same: to draw greater attention to an essential sector of the publishing industry. The Book Fair will take place on Saturday, December 3 (10am to 6pm) and Sunday, December 4 (11am to 5pm) at the Small Press Center, The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, at 20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) in Manhattan. Admission to the Book Fair is free and open to the public.
Saturday, December 3 (10am to 6pm)
Sunday, December 4 (11am to 5pm)
The Independent and Small Press Book Fair
Small Press Center
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen
20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
So go, have fun, support small presses!
As a writer, I am very thankful for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It is, hands down, the finest writer's community on the internet. I belong to several lists for speculative fiction writers and queer writers, but they don't begin to offer what ERWA does.
The ERWA website alone is worth a visit, but the lists are its true strength. The writers list is an excellent source of information on everything from grammar questions to publishers. Storytime offers writers a chance to have their work critiqued. It is a workshop unlike any other I've been to. Writing can be isolating, so having access to the ERWA community is fantastic for me. There's nothing I like more than chatting with other writers.
There are many other things I'm thankful for that sound trite but aren't. I have a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food, and clean water. That puts me at a standard of living far above 90% of the other humans on this planet.
And I have love.
Everything else is simply icing on the cake. I'm thankful that I understand that.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a little sprinkle of salt is my contribution to the T-Day festivities tomorrow. Some years I make mushroom pie too, but I have diminishing expectations for the holidays this year, so the family will have to be content with the 500 other dishes on the buffet.
I went to Whole Foods early this AM, but it was already packed with power Moms and d-girls, which partially explains why, in the crush at the counter, things got weird.
After I got my three pounds of fresh green beans, I picked up a few other things that smelled good, including a bagette that was fresh from the oven. Steam rose in rosemary scented curls off the crunchy crust. How could I resist?
I didn't expect to buy so much, so I didn't have a basket. Everything was balanced precariously in my hands.
This is where the apology comes in.
Dear Sir in line in front of me at Whole Foods - I did not mean to sexually assault you with my bagette. It was an honest mistake. Of course, when I looked down and realized that it was pressing against your muy papi ass, which was plated up so nicely in those tight, faded jeans, I immediately pulled it away. As my face reached approximately the temperature of the sun, I mumbled an apology that probably sounded more like a really bad pick up line than a heartfelt mea culpa. So I'm sorry. Truly, deeply sorry.
Signed - the women wearing the black t-shirt and red face, who was holding an impressively long, thick, hot bagette.
BTW - how long was that thing rubbing your prostate before I noticed? I'm wondering, because you didn't say a word. Nor did you move. Nor did you glance back at me. Just sayin'.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
It’s a beautiful Southern California day today, and you decided to ruin it by forcing your religion on unsuspecting folk. The early morning hours were probably a tactical choice on your part – catch people while they’re still befuddled. But you came to my door.
Can anyone say Open Season?
Your local curmudgeon.
Normally, I pretend to be polite because it’s a great game I play with my heavily tainted karma. Not today, ladies.
There you were, dressed in gawd-awful floral print dresses, and the ugliest sensible shoes ever produced. I almost puked on you just for making my eyes bleed. Then you said Good Morning in a chirpy voice that shot through my brain like a brad from a nail gun. Your Bibles were clutched tight in your little talons, your fake pearl necklaces (are you even AWARE of what a pearl necklace means in my world?) tight around your throats.
I simply stared at you. No encouragement.
You quaked a little.
A touch of a smile quirked on the corner of my mouth. Maybe this was going to be fun after all.
Like any cheesy door-to-door salesman, you launched into your memorized spiel.
MISSIONARY: “I’m sure that the recent events here in the United States have saddened you – the hurricanes, and other tragedies. And maybe you’re feeling confused over what these events mean.”
ME: “I know exactly what they mean. God is punishing red states for perverting his word of love. God is punishing red states, especially Florida, for letting a Bush into office. And he’s going to keep doing it until you all repent for your hate sins.”
ME: *slamming door closed with no small amount of satisfaction.*
Sometimes you get random rewards in life for no apparent reason. I don’t need to look into it deeper than that. Life is good. Now, where was I in my story....
Friday, November 18, 2005
Churches and other hatemongers have done a great job of making this an issue of "extra rights" for gays, but anyone who thought about this for a moment would see that this is not extra rights. I have the right to marry my SO. Why shouldn't my theoretical next door neighbor be able to marry hers? That would be equal, correct?
The argument is always that homosexuality is a sin. Says so right there in the Bible. But that makes it a religious argument, doesn't it? Why should my next door neighbor be forced to practice your religion? This is America. Freedom of religion, correct?
Don't even start on that sanctity of marriage sham argument. The only threat to any marriage comes from inside. Abuse, infidelity, and emotional neglect are internal problems. If your hetero married neighbors don't affect your marriage, either will homosexual married neighbors. And if marriage is so key to a healthy society, shouldn't we be encouraging everyone to take part?
The problem here is that this is a logical approach, and most people don't want logic. They want gut level reaction. They want retribution.
So where does all this frenzy of hate come from? I think we can look back to the last big civil rights question America faced for the answer.
When schools were forced to integrate, some whites fled public schools to spare their child the trauma of sitting in class next to a child of color. The private schools available at that time were generally religious based, usually run by very conservative religions. They got their hooks into those young minds, and boy, did they plant some nasty seeds.
Of course, it's no longer fashionable to be publicly racist, even in many small towns, but being homophobic? Well, that's perfectly fine. The lower you feel your lot in life, the greater the need to hold someone lower. Think of the power. You can stop a person you don't know who lives miles away from you from getting married. Wow. What a rush. It's also petty and small minded, but it's government sanctioned pettiness, so that makes it perfectly okay.
So much fear is behind this. People who are strongly homophobic are either closeted, self-loathing, and fearful, or they were raised to think of homosexuality as a learned perversion.
Those who are afraid that their children will "turn" homosexual believe that if they make the castle walls strong enough, their kids will be protected. But even the most ignorant person out there has a creeping suspicion now that homosexuality is in the fundamental wiring of the brain. A God level trait. Something passed on in the genes. In the panic to comfort themselves, and deny any DNA level responsibility, people are lashing out at the homosexual community. If they drive homosexuality back underground, so the thinking seems to go, even if their child is homosexual, they will never act on it, because they will have learned to hide it.
This is like asking your blue-eyed child to wear contacts to make their eyes brown. It may hide those blue eyes from the world, but the child will know. And every morning as they face the mirror, they will know that their parent hates them for those blue eyes, even though the child can do nothing to change them and didn't choose to be blue eyed.
Parental rejection like that kills a human soul.
I can be optimistic and pray that these kinds of segregationist polices, based on sex rather than race, will never stand the ultimate test of the courts, and thus will force national acceptance of gay marriage in law (not at a societal level). I'd rather people abandon their hate, but I don't see that happening any time soon. Too bad. There's a kind of internal peace that comes with acceptance and love. Who taught that? A lot of religious leaders. Buddha comes to mind. But so does Jesus. I wonder if any of these Christians have heard of him?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
What kicked off this navel-gazing was a box on a form. I stared at the damn thing and tried, with all the powers of my rather wild imagination, to figure out why my gender mattered for a computer service. After a moment or two of furrowed brow, I blithely skipped the question. Unlike paper forms, computers can make sure you Xd every damn box though, so there was no moving forward without declaring the contents of my panties.
I checked Male just for the hell of it and hit enter.
Back not so long ago in the US, gender was an important category, because you had different rights depending on your sex. Females were an underclass, and they had to make sure that no women were sneaking through and getting male privileges (like decent pay, credit, voting, the right to own or sell land, etc.). Theoretically nowadays we’ve worked out that inequality issue, but the boxes remain. Why?
And why are there only two boxes? This country is obsessed with a Boolean model of the universe where everything is black or white, on or off, male or female, right or wrong. We have no tolerance for gray. We’re so obsessed with the idea that there are only two distinct genders that we manipulate the genitals of children who don’t fit the mold and force them in to category A or B. We never let them grow up as they are and leave the decision to them. Heaven forbid we let them exist in the zone of betweeness, even if it pleases them. And we make life miserable for adults brave enough to reclaim their personal gender identity if it exists outside those boxes.
Why isn’t there a box for “None of your damn business, Nosy Parker,” and another for “I’m too complex to fit into your narrow world view.” Hell, I’d settle for a box labeled “Other.”
I was at a writer’s conference where a published author stated that when she was done with her novel, she went through and arbitrarily changed the gender of her characters. I had two reactions to that – at opposite ends of the scale. At first I thought, “Wow, so she believes that people are people are people, and gender is irrelevant. Cool.” My next thought was, “Are her characters so one-dimensional that their gender has no bearing on their basic personal identity? Not cool.”
Regardless of sexual preferences, my characters are influenced down to their cores by their mental gender. Physical gender is also incredibly important to the definition of who those characters are. Maybe it’s because I write sex, and sex and gender are tangled together, but I can’t imagine arbitrarily changing the gender without it completely changing that character. We’ll see. After all, I checked the M box on that computer form. Somewhere, somehow, that must have deep consequences – the ramifications only becoming clear at the peak of some world-changing calamity.
Either that, or gender truly doesn't matter.
Friday, November 11, 2005
And a personal note to E.L.F in Iraq - We don't always see eye to eye politically, but you're still on top of my prayer list.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Thank you so very much for forcing, er, offering intelligent design instead of science to your students.
See, I have a niece who wants to be a doctor. She isn't world's greatest student. Normally, she wouldn't have a shot at medical school. Math and science aren't her best subjects. (Either is empathy. She laughs when her sister gets hurt.) Yet, thanks to your foresight and wisdom, at least she won't have to compete with anyone from Kansas for those coveted medical school slots.
No smart, kind-hearted, empathetic Kansas kid is going to get in my niece's way. Forget the cure for cancer coming out of Wichita. In fact, since critical thinking and science are the basis for most high paying jobs, even if my niece decides on another lucrative, challenging career, no Kansas child will be able to compete with her.
Don't feel bad. There are meat processing plants and mega stores that offer part time, no medical benefits, no retirement benefits, minimum wage careers for Kanasas kids to look forward to. They didn't really want to go to college, did they?
So thank you again, members of the Kansas Board of Education, for taking away the future of every child in Kansas. We salute you. Now go help Pat Robertson threaten those people in Pennsylvania who dared vote out their school board for bringing intelligent design into their schools. Our little niece is going to need all the head start she can get.
Monday, November 07, 2005
It's all true. Absolutely. No, really....
Okay, maybe not.
Writing erotica is no different from other writing - despite common perception that it takes no talent. Anyone who thinks erotica isn't quality isn't reading Mike Kimera, M. Christian, Alison Taylor, Lizabet Sarai, Gwen Masters, Kate Dominic, Ian Phillips, or any of the other incredible writers working in this genre today. Some of the best short stories being written now are erotic.
(Putting together a list is always painful. I could have twenty more names. Not all of Ian Phillips stories are erotic, and if I include him, how can I possibly leave off Greg Wharton, who wrote one of my all time favorite short stories? This isn't a definitive list by any means. The talent pool in erotica is deep.)
One aspect of erotica may be a little different from other writing though. The fan email. I haven't polled mystery, horror, and romance writers, so I don't know if they get this type of thing, but I do get some odd fan letters.
Most people who write to me are nice and generous with praise. I'm touched when they take time to tell me that they liked my work. Then there are the two who stand out in my mind....
The message I got two weeks ago was basically "I really liked your story Kells. Kobi was a great character, and I liked the scene up on the bridge with the two vampires. It was hot."
So far, so good.
Except that embedded was a picture of his (I presume) dick. I think I jumped back two feet from the computer when I scrolled down to that. Not that I needed the extra space to get it in focus. Whoa! I called the SO over.
ME: "What the fuck?"
SO: *laughing hysterically* "Maybe it's like a thumbs up."
ME: "But the note is so rational. No 'I'd like to meet you,' 'What are you wearing,' 'I'm stalking you.' Just a nice, normal note, and then this."
SO: "Is this the same guy who sent you the dick picture a year ago? At least the other one gave you the full frontal so that you knew what he looked like."
ME: "I didn't keep that, so no chance for comparisons." *peering closer at the screen* "Hey, he's not completely hard! What the hell? Is that some kind of editorial comment? *typing furiously*
SO: *stops laughing and looks concerned* "Um, what are you doing?"
ME: "Demanding to know why I didn't rate a full stiffy. He said he liked the story, but obviously, it didn't quite do it for him. I want to know why. I mean, if you're going to send someone a picture of your dick, have the courtesy to show it at it's best."
Everyone is a damn critic.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Last night, the SO and I went to a party. We showed up "late and unprepared" (which meant only one shoe on, pants down, shirts mis-buttoned, etc.) We were FEMA. (rimshot) Thank you- thank you very much.
The real horror of my day was preparing my MS for submission. Why oh why oh why can't there be one standard for anything in the publishing world? But no.
Take, for instance, the request by a certain publisher for a "chapter-by-chapter" outline. I already hate synopsis with a burning passion, but a chapter by chapter outline? I'd rather have salt in a papercut.
So I grab out my handy-dandy little book with samples of every submission, query, or manuscript format a screenwriter or freelance writer could ever want. It calls for a one page synopsis of each chapter. Can you hear me groaning from there?
Never content with one source of information, I went online. Surfing only muddied the waters. Now, I'll admit that I was searching for the answer I wanted to hear, but what I found were samples ranging from a couple words about the chapter to several paragraphs, to pages(!) about the chapter.
Damn. Now I'll have to ask.
I hate asking. Not because of pride, but because my sneaking suspicion that it immediately flags me as a high maintenance writer. I don't need to start off with a bad impression. *sigh* What's a girl to do? Ask anyway, and hope the diva cooties don't stick to my MS.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I walked into our place Friday night to find it infested with 8,9, and 10 year old girls.
ME: *Picture the Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Hands fluttering as I reel from side to side as if I'll go into a dead faint from sheer horror.* "Children! There are children here!"
SO: * Grinning sheepishly* "Oh yeah, my sister asked if we could watch the girls overnight."
ME: "Correct me if I'm wrong, but your sister has only two kids. There appear to be seven girls here."
SO: "Yeah, it's a sleepover."
ME: *Gaze sliding to smugly simpering manipulative niecelets* "Oh joy. Oh rapture. How long have WE known about this?"
SO: *turns away, mumbling something under his breath.* "I ordered pizza!"
GIRLS: *commence shrieking and jumping*
ME: *shudder* "If you need me, I'll be in the bottom of a martini."
SO: "What's the matter? Chicken?" *lifting one eyebrow*
Oh, he was so going down for that.
Let me just state for the record that I make a lousy girl. The day they taught girls to care about things like make-up, hair, clothes, shrieking, pink, fluffy things, stuffed animals, cuteness, babies, etc., I was apparently still out on the playground with the boys. Most women are a separate tribe from me that speaks a different language and practices strange customs. (One day I will write about the special hell that is the Baby Shower/Wedding Shower ritual. Three words: toilet paper brides. Do a Google image search if you don't believe me. There are stranger things, Horatio...)
The SO went on an indulgency binge in preparation for the sleepover. He takes his role as favorite Uncle very seriously. The girls had craft kits to make necklaces, little make-up kits full of sparkly stuff for them to spill on the furniture, hot chocolate with whipped cream (two sips, then set aside), chips (ground into the carpet), dip (also into the carpet), sodas (opened, left to get warm and flat, never actually drank), ring pops, several suitably girly movies (Princess Diaries, UpTown Girls....), a karaoke machine loaded with Britney Spears songs (for the love of humanity - make it STOP!), popcorn, cake, and ice cream.
We were lucky only one puked.
Those tiny little ballerina wanna-bes shoved our furniture to the far walls and spread out over the floor with their sleeping bags like pilgrims on their way to Barbie-Mecca. Everything was lurid pink and purple. Mercifully, they didn't get into the mean girl mode and make anyone cry. (Even the puker was remarkable sanguine about the experience. After cleaning up, she went right back to the party. I foresee Spring Break greatness in her future.) They were, however, bouncing off the walls. About 1 AM, the SO and I decided to lead by example and crawl into bed.
I have no idea why they call them sleepovers. There was no sleeping involved. The girls had sleeping bags. They had pajamas. They had stuffed animals. But at no time did any of them sleep.
Nor did we.
Over the next four hours, we took turns pleading, cajoling, threatening, and crying for mercy. The girls were on an estrogen high though, and they weren't going to come down. More than anything, it was the shrieking giggles that plucked every nerve up my spine. There was no escaping it. That sound could slice through solid lead like it was butter.
The cruel, long, slow, painful death of a thousand giggles.
About 5AM, another round of riotous laughter burst from the TV room.
SO: *shoving my shoulder* "Your turn."
ME: *shoving back* "Your effing blood relatives."
SO: "I'm too cute to go to prison."
ME: * reluctantly agreeing.* "You so owe me."
SO: *rolls over and puts pillow over head.*
I dragged out to the TV room. Every step down the hall, the giggles got louder. I looked into the room. The TV was on, playing a movie that they weren't watching. They had the pizza out again and were eating the cold leftovers from dinner the night before.
SO's younger niece put her hand to her chest. And then - she belched.
Dark haired girl: "Yeah, but can you do words?" *proceeds to belch part of the alphabet*
Blonde girl: "That's so Gross! You're supposed to do --." *Lifts up one buttcheek and farts.*
Older niece: "You should do that in class!"
Blonde girl: "Oh, totally!"
Chorus: *riotous laughter, giggles, forced burps, and more farts*
I tip-toed back down the hall and climbed into bed.
SO: "What was it this time?"
ME: "I think they were gossiping about movie stars."
I may not be much of a girl, but I know better than to give men a sneak peek behind the curtain. Oh sure, you can try to tell men, you can warn them, but they will insist on the feminine mystique. Sometimes, it's just better to let them have their dreams.
We survived the night. Every child was delivered back to her parents-- alive. Just before the designated pick-up time though, I let the girls spray cheap perfume in their hair, gave them full-sugared sodas to drink, and had them main-line pixie stix. By the time mini-vans pulled into the driveway, every girl was vibrating on sugar-induced highs. The puker looked a little green.
ME: *rubbing hands together* "Excellent."
That'll teach those parents to trust me with their kids ever again.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Anyway, a couple stories I read recently made me wonder if:
1) the writer was a (straight) guy, despite the female pen name, and
2) if you can tell that the writer gives seriously lousy head from reading their story.
Have you ever read erotica that turned you off or made you cringe (not squwick factor stuff like scat, just bad sex)?
Since I'm such a trooper, and will do anything to improve my writing, I'm thinking about handing the SO a post-coital questionnaire. Think Count Tyrone Rugen from the Princess Bride: "What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so... be honest. How did this make you feel?"
Friday, October 21, 2005
My stack of unread books now reaches up to my waist. It will topple and kill me some day, but I MUST write my novel synopsis before I'm allowed to open any of them.
To DH: the reason I asked is because I am insane enough to flirt with the idea of pitching an erotica anthology.
I may be a literary masochist after all. I know I don't care for Hemingway's style, but I'm forcing myself to slog through a collection of his short stories. Why? People think he's good. I want to improve my skills. So I read him. Ugh. Like taking bitter medicine. However, I am incredibly jealous of this sentence:
It [the Big Hearted River] stretched away, pebbly-bottomed with shallows and big boulders and a deep pool as it curved away from the foot of a bluff.
To answer StrangeDaze:
The reason why I don't post any of my stories is because -
1) rampant theft of material on the internet (Hey Google - maybe LIBRARIES said it was okay to scan their content and post it, but libraries don't own the copyrights to the books on their shelves, do they? BTW Google, can I take all your content and post it somewhere else? I asked my librarian. She shrugged and said "sure, whatever," so it must be okay.)
2) I don't want the US government to use erotica as an excuse to silence my political voice, and
3) Um, I'm trying to SELL it, dude.
That is all. Carry on.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Some of my favorite books are Dune, Left Hand of Darkness, the Vorkosigan saga, Frankenstein, Altered Carbon (Richard Morgan's new Takeshi Kovacs novel Woken Furies is out. Yay!), Fahrenheit 451, Dracula (forgive me, Judgja) and Ubik.
Many people dismiss science fiction as genre garbage, but science fiction reflects our society in its darkest light. Caves of Steel is about racism. War of the Worlds is about imperialism. The genre dares question who we are and where we're going. To me, that has a lot more merit than beautiful words strung across the page.
I spend a lot of time commuting, so I work on writing exercises that don't involve typing. Speculative fiction - encompassing science fiction and fantasy - lends itself to "what if" games, because the entire genre answers "what if?"
Taking an idea from current news, and some of my knowledge of the past, I spent my rainy commute yesterday wondering what will happen if bird flu becomes a pandemic like it did back in 1918. Thinking back to how slow travel was in 1918, it's amazing how that virus spread around the world. With our current rate of travel and open borders, it's possible that within a week, most major cities would have a Patient Zero moving among their population.
Okay. That's the set-up.
There are a million ways to run with this idea. The Action/Adventure Scientist as Savior story, the survivalist/ rebuilding society story, evolving utopia, evolving distopia, rise of tyrants, escape from earth, evolution of humans, rise of a new sentient earth species (my favorite being the Giant Squid theory) , Ways to Serve Man type alien invasion....
But I like near-future stories. So what I was thinking is how we might quick-adapt to the threat. My first thought is that it will be refelcted in fashion. Clothes? Absolutely. How about everyone wearing gloves, for a start? We know that viruses are spread mostly by hand. But how would that change things? Showing a naked palm could become a sign of ultimate trust, or aggression. (And it would most certainly become a fetish.)
Take it further. As we go to biometric scans to protect ourselves from identity theft, that would clash with the use of gloves. Stripping off a glove to spend money or prove identity could become a very private matter. Imagine stepping into a secluded booth to pay for your groceries. Filthy lucre, anyone?
What if we decided that covering our noses and mouths was a better way to protect against infection? Would we veil ourselves? If we draped our entire bodies for protection, what would that do to gender identifiers? Would gender become irrelevant, or would people dare spread out along the spectrum of the Kinsey scale to where they were comfortable? How frustrated would a cross-dresser be? How would dating work? How would manners change? What would become taboo, and what would be erotic?
Could it be that in their misogyny, men who insist on heavily veiling their women have saved those women from infection - but left themselves open to it? What would happen to a patriarchal society if a large percent of the men died off in a short span of time? (In reality, they'd go home, infect their wives and children, and drag the whole family into the grave too, but put that aside for now.)
Space proxemics, interpersonal relations, everything could be affected by our fear of death from that virus. Or - we could blithely go along with our same lives while people dropped dead around us. Those who died could be blamed for some sort of moral or genetic weakness, and the survivors could claim that their bio-cleanliness was next to godliness.
So take it, run with it, push it to the edge of the absurd, and then push it beyond. Speculate. Then write a damn fine story and let me read it.
Monday, October 17, 2005
or: getting back to work.
I coasted all last week on my Clean Sheets victory, but a rejection broke me out of my smug haze.
The story that got rejected had been sitting with that particular editor for 16 months. I was tempted several times to pull the submission because this editor has a poor reputation-- something I wish I'd known 16 months ago-- but I had no compelling reason to yank it other than a serious case of dislike. (For the record, even if my story had been accepted, it would be my last submission to that editor.)
No matter how I felt about the editor, a rejection always gets me blue. I give myself 24 hours to mope on my mental velvet fainting couch and then I have to get over it. Playing the Tragic Muse gets damn dull pretty quick.
The good side of that rejection is that I got a chance to dive back into a story that I wrote nearly two years ago, but armed with a better set of writing skills. Writing is a craft, and like any craft, you never stop learning how to do it better. I didn't find anything cringe-worthy, but I did cut redundant phrases and sharpen word choices.
Rewriting is the true art, I think.
I'd love to see my story in print. It is one of my favorites-- surreal and profane. I'll give the rewrite a week to ripen, re-read it to find errors, and then that story is going back in the mail to a different editor. That work ethic, more than anything else, makes me feel like a real writer.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
This time, I'm perfectly happy to be the bridesmaid instead of the bride.
I won second place in Clean Sheet's Rock Me Contest with my story Solace or Moonlight (Clair de Lune).
I'm having a good writing month, as my story Kells is on ERWA, and I was a panelist for the writer's workshop at Conjecture 4.
This isn't something that I like to talk about, because talking about donations I've made seems too much like bragging, but I want to encourage you to give a little bit too, so.... In my continuing effort to keep my porn karma in good balance, my winnings from Clean Sheets were donated to NO/AIDS Task Force in loving memory of Jim Sands, an ERWA lister who passed away a couple weeks ago. Check out NO/AIDS Task Force. It's a worthy cause, and they could sure use your help to reach a population our government wishes would simply disappear.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Sexual Orientation Tests for Authors (hint: if you're queer, no matter what you've written, it's offensive.)
Let me add a disclaimer on this one: I never read anything on this site. Some people claim it had underage character in erotica. I am COMPLETELY against non-consensual sex, and I don't think children can give informed consent. However, my objection here isn't based on content. It is based on plea that posters not make political statements on his site. Wow. Get accused of a crime and lose your 1st Amendment rights. Scared silent by the government. That's what bothers me.
"I Was Just Following Orders" in NO excuse. (Or: FBI agents: Did you swear to uphold the Constitution? People of conscience refuse to obey orders that violate rights, even if its legal to do so under unjust laws.)
Self-Censorship is a victory for the Foes of the Bill of Rights. (Or: Where the hell is our generation's Edward R. Murrow? Someone stop the witchhunt!)
Have You Gone to Bat for Your Librarian Today? (Or: Mild mannered? Think again. Librarians are the front-line warriors on the privacy battleground.)
Government Informers? Try Aisle 5. (Or: How much balls did it take for a government agent to terrify a kid? Here's a hint Mr. Agent Man: You look like a big dick now, but that isn't because of the size of your penis.)
And just so you realize what's at risk here:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This one might come in handy too:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Lest We Forget.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
It may be my imagination, but I think that the artist who came up with this idea for an observation deck over the Grand Canyon might have previously worked in industrial design. If he added sparklies, shells, and plastic fish, I'd so be there.
Or is it just me?
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Who, in his right mind, thinks that Joe Redstate needs to be protected from pictures of naked titties? Certainly not Joe Redstate. He probably thinks his right to read Hustler and Playboy is protected. He probably also thinks that his right to watch CSI is as safe as his wife's right to read a Harlequin Blaze romance novel. But they aren't safe. The government has declared open season on the Bill of Rights.
Joe Redstate-- according to the Bush administration, you don't need no stinkin' rights. An FBI agent could bust down your door and burn your vintage Playboy collection in order to keep you safe from those dangerous naked women. Think it won't happen? German citizens were kept safe from subversive thoughts and art in the late 1930s by their compassionate conservative government too.
Supposedly, an FBI memo on how best to subvert the rights of Americans is to attack anything that "includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior."
Having to listen to Senator Santorum talk is painful to me. Should any news media that prints words he says, or shows him on TV be censored to stop me from indulging in mashochistic behavior when I force myself to listen to him? Believe me, it isn't pleasant.
I can think of a CSI episode where a man enjoyed infatilism, including enemas and diapers. (King Baby, Feb, 2005) Other memorable, hot episodes have shown Mistress Heather's establishment. (Lady Heather's Box, Slaves of Las Vegas) I had a great deal of respect for the writers of those episodes for their ability to look deeper than the smirk factor to bring the human element to their stories.
I once saw an episode of I Love Lucy where Ricky put Lucy over his knee and smacked her ass. That was the first episode I remember ever seeing, and I watched the show fanatically for about a year waiting for another episode like it. I was sadly disappointed. Are I Love Lucy episodes endangered?
Probably not, because they never start with the big companies who have lawyers and money to fight. This will be very selective enforcement. Some companies are more equal than others. ABC, GE, Hustler, Harlequin - they're safe. This whole ridiculous game looks like a Bush Administration effort to shut down competition in the porn industry, protect big porn business, and kill the little provider. Given the complete lack of ethics in the current administration, I wouldn't be surprised.
According to Gellman's article, anything that depicts "Consenting Adults," and is marketed to "Consenting Adults," is fair game. Because they know how to be sneaky about this, at first they attack the small, obscure fetishes. Who is going to stand up for yiffing Furries? (Fur and Loathing, CSI, October 2003) Who is brave enough to stand in front of their community to defend the rights of enema aficionados? How about those women dressed as ponies pulling a chariot? (Hmmm, you might be thinking, I'd at least like to see a glimpse of that.) Would you be upset if every picture of two men kissing was destroyed? How about two women? How about a man and a woman? In some places, that's considered an obscenity. (Read the story about the couple arrested and fined for kissing at their wedding.) Where are you drawing the line? Don't assume that what you think is okay would pass the arbitrary test of obscenity. After all, performing oral sex on your spouse is sodomy, and was against the law in most states until recently. If Senator Santorum had his way, you could still be arrested for getting or giving a blowjob to your spouse. I don't know about you, but the idea of a bunch of white male Republicans monitoring what goes on in my bedroom seems sort of, well, unAmerican. And creepy. Mustn't forget creepy.
Eventually, your CSI TV show and your favorite girlie magazine will be targeted. Tyranny starts with silence and ends with fear. It's a slippery slope of arbitrary value judgments. Like a bully on a playground, they go after the ones that are perceived weakest first, but when no one steps in to make it stop, they get bolder and start going after YOU. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Redstate. And you too, Mrs. Redstate. (I know what you're doing in the tub while reading that smutty book. No one needs to soak that long, honey.) Say bye-bye to Rome and it's depiction of actual sex slaves. Say goodbye to Deadwood and the Sopranos too.
Now I'm asking you, are you man/woman enough to stand up and demand your right to ogle naked titties? If you're man/woman enough to buy it, you should have the decency to protect it.
Here, call your congressman and tell him/her you want the FBI out of your bedroom and internet. (While you're at it, protest 2257 as a bad law. Don't know about it? Wake up and smell the censorship, Joe. I'm not going to hand you everything. Do a little research and open your eyes to what your government is trying to do to you.) Trust me, you'll feel much better in the morning. A little rebellion looks good on you.
Find your misrepresentative here:
Tell them that you want FBI agents to work on something important, like real crimes. You know - Enron and other connected corporate criminals, drugs, child porn, no-bid government contracts, White House aides "buying" news, domestic and foreign terrorists, blowing the cover of CIA operatives, campaign finance law violations...
Oh wait, the Bush administration doesn't want authorities looking into those things. This is all a plot to distract law enforcement with pictures of naked women!
Well, now it all makes perfect sense.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
While we were devastated to come home and find Mara dead on our bed, it wasn't long before our gallows sense of humor overcame our grief. On the way to the veterinarian with the cat corpse, the SO and I remembered all those little quirks that made Mara a total pain in the ass.
Once, I tried to stop enabling Mara's cheetos addiction. Two days later I woke up to find bird parts on the bed at my feet. As soon as the cheetos supply flowed, the dead critter offerings stopped. Those events might not be related, but I'm just sayin'...
We had to pay the vet by the pound to dispose of Mara's body. You can only imagine the tasteless jokefest that inspired on the drive home. Or maybe you can't. Trust me, we're going to burn in hell, even if we were crying between the fits of giggles.
We sobered up later in the evening, but when we went to sleep, we found that our dear departed cat left us a little extra something to remember him by. In his last moments of life, he peed all over the bed. *sniffle* Mara, we'll never forget you-- mostly because the stink of your piss still lingers faintly, no matter what we do to get rid of it.
Since my cat Skitters was still alive, and finally getting a chance at the food bowl, I was in no hurry to add to more pets to the house. However, the SO decided recently it was time to take on a new kitten.
The conversation went something like this:
SO: "I've been looking into cats."
Me: "Like opening their mouths and peering down their throats?'Cause the other direction is just wrong."
SO: Giving me one of his looks. "Come here and see this website I found. Ossicats! They're spotted!"
Me: *groan* Scrolling down to the pertinent info. Price per Ossicat? Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-cha-ching! "Wow. That's great. Spotted cats. Can we have one bred just for us?"
SO: cautiously. "Sure."
Me: "Good. Have his spots arranged in a portrait of the Virgin Mary. The furball can earn his keep. We'll open up a little shrine and let the faithful purchase genuine Hail Mary hairballs that he cacks up. We'll make a fortune. I'll order Pope bobblehead dolls for the gift shop, and a glow-in-the-dark baby Jesus butt plug!"
SO: "For the store?"
Me: "Oh, yeah, right. For the store...."
Several weeks later, I knew he was exchanging illicit e-mails with cat breeders behind my back. It wasn't just ossicats. He was into bangles too. Spotted cats on the brain. I knew I had to act quick.
The PETsMART near us doesn't sell cats or dogs, but they allow the local shelters and pet adoption groups to set up in the store. I figured that if I got a kitten, any kitten, into the SO's hands, he'd be so smitten that he'd forget about spotted cats. If that failed, I had a back-up plan designed to appeal to his better nature. (Because, unlike me, he has one.)
I drove over to the store to scope it out. The local shelter had the prime space up front.
"Looking for a pet?" the shelter guy asked.
"Yeah. A cat."
He had older ones in cages, but I could see kittens near the back of the store, offered for adoption by another group, so I tried to get away. He held on. He nodded towards the woman running the cat adoptions in the back. "Don't just go up and say that you want a cat. Hang over in the next aisle and listen for a while. I've been here the past six weekends. I have yet to see her adopt out a kitten. She's a cat nazi."
I sauntered over to the chew toys. Cat Tyrant was in the next row. She was a little taller than me, honeyed hair clipped short, khaki shorts, and a teal polo shirt. Her white Keds were suspiciously pristine.
The first person to walk up to her was a nine year-old boy. He held an orange and white stripped kitten. The kitten was purring so loud I could hear it. The boy's mother walked behind him, seemingly hesitant. His face radiated pure joy.
Cat Tyrant snatched a clipboard away from the mother. She frowned before she even looked down at the application. "So, you live off the Esplanade." (This story comes off better if you read Cat Tyrant's lines with a fake German accent.)
Mother and boy nodded. The kitten rubbed his head against the boy's chin.
"Do you rent or own your home?"
Cat Tyrant raised her voice so that other shoppers could hear the humiliation. "How can you possibly make a commitment to a pet when you can't even commit to real estate?" She ripped the kitten from the boy's hands. "I don't think so." She shoved the piteously meowing kitten into a small cage with five others. "Next!"
The mom and boy slinked away.
No one said that there'd be a test! I was about to leave, but I saw the blue banner draped over the card table behind Cat Tyrant. Adoptions were $19.00. Hell, for a nineteen dollar cat, I'd play her stupid game.
I listened in on a few more unfortunates. That woman would sieze any excuse to turn down someone.
"I love animals. I own several," one poor deluded guy offered.
"Own?" Cat Tyrant shrieked. "Animals are not slaves!" She went off on a tirade, foaming at the corners of her lips, eyes glazed over.
I watched crazy Cat Tyrant for a couple hours. Crimes that made people unfit to adopt were: picking a cat for the color of its fur, never having a pet before, and having put an animal to sleep. Apparently, letting the cat suffer from a tumor was Cat Tyrant's idea of humane treatment.
I called the SO. "Okay," I whispered, "here's the deal. I have a line on a cat--."
I made a face at the phone. "It's just that this poor little fella was abandoned by his mother, and this lady has been raising him, but she can't keep him. He's really cute. But never mind that. If she gives him to the pound, it's probably the gas chamber for him, no matter how incredibly cute he his, poor little fella. But don't worry about that. I'm sure that the death will be painless. He's soooo cute. But don't let that keep you up nights, just because you let an innocent, cute little kitty be gassed. We'll have a kitten bred just for you. Never mind that there are a million unwanted pets being put to death every day, and their only crime is that--."
"All right! Enough. I give. Geeze."
"Okay - here's the deal. Wear canvas shoes. No belt. No leather. If you can come in eating tofu, you get extra points. You will absolutely not mention the following things to this lady. One..." I went through the entire list of disqualifiers.
"Is that all?" he sighed. "This better be one fucking amazing cat," he said before he hung up.
I rubbed my hands together in miserly glee. "Excellent."
Shelter Guy sauntered over to watch SO work his magic on Cat Tyrant. "I've never seen anyone make it this far in their quest," Shelter Guy said in obvious awe.
"The bullshit is strong with this one," I whispered.
Shelter Guy did Yoda ears with his thumbs. "Difficult, this test is. There is no try. There is only do. Hmmm."
We peered around the stacks of hamsterchow.
The questions were getting incredibly esoteric.
"What would you do if your cat clawed the furniture?"
"Did your other cat--."
"Mara," SO sniffled a little, working it.
Oh, bravo darling, good show! But I could see that he was about at the end of his temper with Cat Tyrant. His shoulders were taut and his answers were clipped.
"Did Mara ever claw the furniture?"
"Mara was declawed." SO stroked the kitten he held as it climbed up his denim jacket.
My heart sank.
"Declawed?" Cat Tyrant's face went white and then red. "Declawed? You mutilated a cat?"
"No, I adopted a cat that had been declawed by his previous pet parent. What was I supposed to do, reject him because he'd been declawed? Mara needed a home, I wanted a cat. Simple."
Cat Tyrant was so far gone in indignation that she didn't hear him. "Are you aware that it's illegal in seven countries to declaw a cat?" she screamed, spraying SO's face with spittle.
SO went oh so gently over the border from amused into totally pissed off mode. "Yeah, but it's legal to eat them in all the others."
Cat Tyrant sputtered. She lunged forward to grab at the kitten SO held. The kitten tried desperately to stay with SO. "You're a barbarian."
I came out of hiding. SO wasn't a violent person, but he had a mean tongue. I didn't want to protect Cat Tyrant though. I wanted to join in the lashing. Wonder Twin powers activate!
SO drew closer to Cat Tyrant, and his voice got real quiet. "You know, I could go across the street to the other petshop and buy a hundred dollar kitten right now. And if I told the clerk I was going to sacrifice it to Satan tonight, do you know what he'd say? Cash, or charge?"
Cat Tyrant clutched the kitten close to her flat chest. It yowled.
"How many kittens did you adopt out today?"
"None," I answered for her.
"You have seventeen animals here, and no one was good enough to adopt them? Is this some kind of cruel sick-fuck game you play with people?"
Cat Tyrant was speechless.
SO opened one of the cages stuffed with kittens, reached in, and took one out. "I'm taking this one home."
"You can't do that!"
"Why not? They're not your property. Animals shouldn't have owners, right?"
SO and I walked out with the cat.
Skitters - the gray one - is extremely happy with her new friend Loki. She sure as hell looks content, wouldn't you say?