#SoCS: A skeezy wrestler, a skeezy pickup line… and me

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “coffee, tea, or me.” Find a flirty phrase of your own or use “coffee, tea, or me” in your post.

I’ve been lucky to not be on the receiving end of too many skeezy pickup lines, but one sticks out in my mind. Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I were living in northern Georgia, where we’d moved for my first job after I graduated from library school. He’d always dreamed of being a professional wrestler (hey, who am I to judge someone else’s dream?), and he found a local wrestling outfit that would train him and give him a shot. And so his wrestling career was born.

An aside: his first character was called the Seattle Storm. He wore a mask and spandex shorts with a storm cloud on the butt. His theme song was, “Smells Like Team Spirit” (we’d moved there from Seattle), and his shtick was to antagonize the local good ol’ boys like the invading Yankee he was. They hated him. It was hilarious.

Later, he became a good guy (a babyface for you wrestling aficionados) called Adrian Champagne, complete with sequins, rainbow feathers, and a mullet worthy of Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley’s dad for you young ‘uns).

Anyway, back to the pickup line theme. Every now and then, they’d have someone from a larger wrestling outfit wrestle there. Naturally they’d promote the event as though Hulk Hogan himself was descending upon Rossville, Georgia, for the evening. And some of the fans would act like the guy was a big star. Well, one night, I stepped outside between matches for some fresh air (summer… Georgia… small, stuffy building filled with screaming wrestling fans…), and the “big star” was out there too. We exchanged hellos, and start a conversation. And that’s when it happened, when I became the target of the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard:

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: Are you here with anyone?

Me: Yeah. Adrian Champagne is my husband [side note: that is not a sentence I ever imagined myself uttering]

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: If you ever get divorced, call me.

And there it is, folks, the story of the time a professional wrestler hit me with the ickiest pickup line I’ve ever received. “If you ever get divorced, call me.” Still makes my skin twitch.

p.s. to the skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: I’m still not divorced. Get lost.

#SoCS: When the only tool you have is a hammer…

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/. This week’s prompt: nail.

As I read the news and think about the protests going on right now, I’m often reminded of the old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That seems to be one of the fundamental problems with policing in the USA (systemic racism being another, bigger, problem). When use of force is the only tool in your toolbox, when it’s what you’re trained to do, it’s what you do. When you’re trained to fight crime, you see potential criminals. More broadly, you see what you look for. Combine that with systemic racism that causes many people–not just police–to see people of color as potential criminals, and you get an environment in which a white officer can murder a black man slowly in front of an audience. An environment in which scenes of indiscriminate police brutality play out across the country in video after sickening video.

I haven’t posted much, here or on social media, about these issues, because I need to shut up and listen. Many people, especially people of color, have a much deeper understanding of these issues than I do, so I’ll let the previous paragraph stand as my only commentary on the issue, at least for now. Instead, I’d like to encourage all of us to consider how our perspectives are limited. How the particular hammers we carry cause us to see only nails where we should see nuance.

We are humans, and humans are limited. We are shaped, both obviously and subtlely, by our identities, our upbringing, our culture, our religion, and our life experiences. And we are also limited by those things. They condition our views, our perspectives, our reactions. This is normal, but we don’t have to be ruled by, blinded by those limitations. We can read, educate ourselves, and most importantly, listen to those whose identities and culture and experiences are different from ours. Listen to their lived experiences. Learn from them. Approach situations with humility born of our limited perspectives rather than the false certainty born from our personal blinders. Use our new knowledge to develop tools other than hammers and to see more than nails.

#SoCS: Fandoms (with gratuitous concert pictures)

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-6-2020/. This week’s prompt: fan.

Some people hear, “fan,” and think of a cooling device. Or people with their faces painted in team colors, yelling from a stadium seat while swigging whisky (note: that described most of the adults at my high school’s football games. We teenagers had more dignity). Or maybe you think of fandoms, which has a definitely nerdy connotation: Star Wars fandom, Harry Potter fandom, etc.

For me, though, “fan” immediately makes me think of music. Music fandom, especially for women, has a different–and distinctly sexist–connotation that sports or movie or nerdy fandom does not. If I schedule my vacations around my favorite football team’s home games, I’m a fan. If I schedule my vacations around Def Leppard’s tour schedule, I’m a groupie. And “groupie” has a very different connotation from, “fan.” When you paint your face and haul your giant foam finger to a 49ers game, no one thinks you’re planning to bang the quarterback. Even if that quarterback is Joe Montana, and you’re a horny 16-year-old (Not that I’d know anything about that. Nope. Not me.)

My sports fan days are mostly behind me, because I have too many hobbies already, and I’m old and cynical enough to be disillusioned by so many aspects of big-time sports. But that’s a rant post for another day. I remain, however, a diehard fan of 80s rock, and I do still take vacation to see Def Leppard when they play nearby (and when I can afford it. $150 a ticket? Seriously, guys? Don’t you have enough money already?) For a couple of hours, I get to feel like a 16-year-old again, dancing and singing along and, yes, looking at the band members. I’m middle-aged, not dead.

Concerts are a shared, multi-sensory, visceral experience, a combination of the band, the music, the lights, and–especially–the audience. It’s a chance to be part of a mob that isn’t angry, that’s feeding off each other in a loud, wild, primitive celebration of musical joy. It’s a wild party with 10,000 of your closest friends.

Concerts are also a fun photographic challenge. I’m not even good enough to call myself an amateur photographer, but I’ve gotten a few good shots at shows. If you scroll through my albums on Flickr, you’ll find some decent concert shots. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Rick Savage of Def Leppard, Las Vegas, August 23, 2019
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Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Las Vegas, August 23, 2019
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Styx, Auburn, WA, September 26, 2007
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Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Ridgefield, WA, September 12, 2007

What are some of your fandoms, dear reader?

My secret: I don’t live up to my writing

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. Details and signup here. This month’s optional question is: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

I struggled to come up with an IWSG post this month. Usually I have one done by no later than Monday, and I’m usually pretty happy with it, but not this month. As much as I try to shut out the outside world and focus on my writing and my day job and my family, it’s been hard these last few days. So much pain and brutality.

It’s a bit ironic, I suppose, because I tend to write about pain and brutality. My first novel (still stuck in the hell of interminable revision) features a character who was brutalized by an abusive husband–and that dude is intent on brutalizing her again, right into a cemetery plot. My second novel (for which I have a messy first draft from last year’s NaNo) features a villain who rapes and murders kids. The main character of the short story I’m working on accidentally shoots a kid. And the short story I wrote last year that won an award features the meditations of a fed-up wife who… well, one day I’ll post the story online, and you can find out for yourself.

So what’s my secret? Am I a closet psychopath? Have I done time for murder one? Spent my youth working as an assassin for a foreign government? Nope, nope, and nope. My secret is this: I’m an almost stereotypical mild-mannered librarian. I read. I garden. I knit. And my heart breaks at accounts of real violence. There are news stories I don’t read, even though they would make good fodder for future stories. Videos I don’t watch. Movies I don’t watch. I used to love 80s slasher flicks–Jason and Freddie and Michael Myers mowing down teenagers with various sharp objects. Now that I’m not a teenager–and now that I’m a mom–I find myself actually sympathizing with… the teenagers. Sixteen-year-old me would be mortified.

And so, though I write about murder and mayhem with glorious abandon, I cannot abide the real thing. And that’s why I struggled to come up with a post and why I’ve struggled to write or concentrate these last few days. My heart breaks for the family of George Floyd, whose loved one was murdered–slowly–in front of an audience on a public street. My heart breaks for every person of color who has grown up in a racist culture, oppressed by racist systems that limit opportunity, damage bodies and souls, and sometimes kill. I am sickened by the actions of some of our police officers and the statements of some people I considered friends. And yet I am safe from the murder and mayhem. Safe to write about violence and brutality in my nice white lady world. Safe in my rural neighborhood. Safe in my white skin.

And that, my friends, is my secret. And more and more, I find it a shameful one.

#SoCS: chirurgie

This is my first time participating in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020. This week’s prompt: base a post on a word beginning with ch.

I contemplated a few ch words: child and chair immediately came to mind. Then, from nowhere came chirurgie, the French word for surgery. Do I speak French? Non. Not a word. Well, except for merde, because I’m full of it, and one ought to be able to describe oneself in at least two languages, am I right?

So why chirurgie, which I cannot spell without looking it up and am copying and pasting each time I use it in this post? Because it reminded me of the summer of 1991. I was home in Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the infinitely cooler Vancouver, BC) between years of library school and landed a job at Oregon Health & Science University doing two things: working the reference desk and cataloging books in the history of medicine collection. There were quite a few French books in that collection, many of which included some variation of chirurgie in the title. And for some reason, that word and its variants stuck in my mind, even though to this day I cannot pronounce it (but I can pronounce merde just fine – thanks to the wonderful Outlander audiobooks).

There was something magical about that summer, sitting in the musty History of Medicine Room, smelling decaying leather (and possibly decaying other things – I heard rumors that we had at least one book bound in human skin, though I was never able to verify that fact) and poring over title pages of books at least a century old–like this one:

L0005170 Title page”Traite des operations de chirurgie” Garengeot Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Amputation: 18th Century 18th Century Traite des operations de chirurgie Garengeot, R.J.C. de Published: 1731 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I remember lots of herbals–herbal medicine was big, especially in the days when medicine didn’t have much else to offer–and cringe-worthy gynecology texts from the 19th century. Let me tell you, people with female organs, if you ever want to feel grateful that you live in *this* time, take a look at a 19th century gynecology textbook. Or, worse, 19th century gynecological instruments. We had some of those too.

And I think I’ll leave this post with that happy thought. I love to reminisce about the past, but I also try to be thankful for the current moment, whatever and wherever it is. Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers, and keep safe.

My writing ritual (warning: it ain’t pretty)

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHappy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. Details and signup here. This month’s optional question is: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the zone?

I hope my fellow IWSG-ers have some great responses to this question. I need all the ideas I can get, because right now my ritual for getting in the zone is pretty simple: sit my butt down in front of my computer and get to work. I wrote about that process in a post last December.

Part of why I don’t employ much in the way of writing rituals is that I have so little time to write. There are tons of rituals that I think (and sometimes know) would help me:

  • Freewriting, like the morning pages Julia Cameron writes about in The Artist’s Way
  • Exercise. Aerobic exercise in particular tends to fuel my creativity.
  • Meditation, wonderful for clearing the mind and tapping into the subconscious.

In fact, my ideal writing ritual would go something like this:

  1. Get up around sunrise. Eat and caffeinate while writing morning pages.
  2. Go for a “run.” “Run” is in quotation marks, because I would be running for less than half the time. But some running is better than no running, right?
  3. Meditate for 5 or 10 minutes.
  4. Shower.
  5. Write.

My actual writing ritual looks more like this:

  1. Sleep later than I planned, because I stayed up too late. Again.
  2. Grab some cereal and a Diet Coke. Check my watch. Crap. Less than an hour till I have to start work (and before corona, it was, Crap. I have to leave for work in 15 minutes.)
  3. Sit down, shovel Frosted Mini-Wheats into my food hole, swig my magic elixir of caffeine and aspartame, and agonize about what to work on: the paid writing gig (boring but $$), the novel I’m editing, the novel I’m writing, the short story I’m editing, the short story I’m writing, or the blog post I’ve been putting off for a week and oh crap tomorrow is IWSG Day and what the hell am I going to say to a worldwide audience of fellow writers when I can’t even figure out a decent writing routine…
  4. Pick whichever one I think will most likely entice my muse (the drunken floozy) to put down the tequila bottle and grace me with her inebriated and slightly stinky presence.
  5. Write. Get into the zone. And realize it’s time to start my day job.

Yes, I could get my sh*t together, get up an hour earlier, and go through the ideal routine (and the once or twice in 6 years that I did it, it felt great). Or I can accept that I am the way I am and that any method that lets me get the work done is the right method for me.

How about y’all? Have you found a routine that works for you? Or is your “process” as messy as mine?

Celebrate the Small Things!

Celebrate blog hopI have just joined the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. The rules are simple: each Friday, post about something you want to celebrate achieving/doing that week.

This week I’m celebrating the fact that I submitted a short story to an online magazine. Big deal, right? But for me it is. Until about a year ago, I’d never shown anyone my fiction. Since then, I’ve joined a critique group, entered (and won!) a literary contest, and, just this year, submitted two pieces for publication. Will my two submissions get published? Maybe, maybe not. In both cases, I submitted to markets that are a little out of my league, but then I thought the literary contest was out of my league, too. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and see what happens.

Happy Friday!

Photo safari through a historic Flagstaff neighborhood

2020-04-24 12.10.15.jpgMy first novel, Vanishing, Inc., is set in a fictional mountain town in Arizona called Ponderosa. I live in Flagstaff, a not-so-fictional mountain town in Arizona that makes an appearance in my story, but since I’m writing a paranormal romance (a time travel romance, to be specific), I wanted the freedom of a fictional setting. I don’t want some overly-literal reader leaving me a one-star review because there are, in fact, no time portals in Flagstaff.

Hey, you know it could happen. I’m sure plenty of tourists have walked through standing stones in Scotland and become very grumpy because they did not immediately find themselves in the arms of a lusty Scottish outlaw. BTW, how cheap are airline tickets to Scotland these days? Asking for a friend…

But I digress.

Now, where were we? Oh, yeah–Ponderosa, Arizona, which exists only in my manuscript. But you’ll love it, I promise. Especially since it involves a lusty Arizona outlaw.

It also involves the unique landscape of the Northern Arizona mountains, which I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the last 6 years. Now that my world has shrunk to the size of my yard (thanks, Microbe that Must not be Named), my explorations have been a bit limited. But last week I got to take a trip! Go on a journey! Where did I go, you ask?

I took my husband to the dentist.

It’s a thrill a minute around here, I tell ya.

His dentist’s office is in one of Flagstaff’s historic neighborhoods, so I took myself on a mini photo safari while he got his tooth fixed. The primary setting in Vanishing, Inc. is a stone cottage built in 1890, so I paid particular attention to old stone houses. Like this one:

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I’ve been fascinated by stone houses since I was a kid. I suppose they remind me of the fairy tales I read over and over in elementary school. We have a lot of rocks around here, so old stone houses are fairly common,  but I still find them magical. Look at that texture! At the contrast of textures! And can’t you just picture that house with a time portal in the basement? C’mon, use your imagination…

Take away the modern windows and modern roof, and this one would make a great location for a time portal:

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I love how the stone makes the house fit into the landscape like it’s always been there.

Besides writing, I’m obsessed with gardening, so I took lots of pictures of plants and yards, especially where there were contrasting textures. Like this:

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And this:

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And my favorite picture of the day. Look at that wonderful old stone wall! and those red buds popping out of the shade! I can picture my main character stumbling over that wall in 1910, on her way to even more trouble.

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And it’s spring, so I couldn’t resist the flowers. Here’s forsythia:

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And sand cherry blossoms:

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trek into my world, both real and fictional. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful, magical place, but beauty and magic can be found anywhere. I hope you’ll take the time to find some of your own.

Q is for Quotes (#AtoZChallenge)

Back when I started this month-long challenge, I said the theme would be discovery, and I would write about the the things I’ve discovered during coronavirus lockdown. I’m always discovering stuff. When I was a kid, I did what most kids do: find random stuff and bring it home and hoard it like Blackbeard’s treasure. I don’t collect stuff now (unless we’re talking about plants…), but I do collect random bits of information and save it in my journal. One of my favorite things to save this way is quotes. I have pages and pages of quotes I’ve copied down. Each one spoke to me at the moment I found it, and many of them still speak to me each time I reread them. Here are a few of my favorites that I discovered this year:

“Endings are about emotion, and logic is emotion’s enemy. It’s the writer’s job to disarm the reader of his logic, to just make the reader feel”–Ethan Canin, “Rehearsals for Death” (published in  Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process)

“No matter what anybody tells you about writing, you can do whatever the fuck you want”–Neil Gaiman, “Random Joy” (published in Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process)

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life”–Laurence Kasdan (quoted in Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us)

“Saying no can be the ultimate self-care”–Claudia Black (quoted in The Artist’s Way)

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”–Anais Nin (quoted in The Artist’s Way)

How about y’all? What are some of your favorite quotes?

The Art of Writing an Epic Blog Post

The author of this post demonstrates the techniques he’s talking about… with this post. I love the clear, practical advice in an easily-digested format. Highly recommended.

Be honest. You often dream of writing an epic blog post, the kind that gets shared thousands of times, liked, tweeted, and pinned, commented on by …

The Art of Writing an Epic Blog Post