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Archive for November, 2012

A lightbulb came on for me in a conversation I was having with Mike Duran about sex zoos in Germany. Now, I’m not linking to the original article because I really don’t want to dwell on the fact that there are sex zoos in Germany where people can pay a horse pimp to let them have sex with the horse. But there are. And the Libertarians at Pajamas Media (I guess that’s still around, huh…) said that this “presents a perplexing situation for Libertarians.”

I am libertarian. I am not perplexed. Sex zoos are wrong. Anything that exploits another being is wrong. Anything that abuses a being without agency is clearly wrong under the Rule Of Law that Libertarians sign on for. But I’m ahead of myself.

Lately, since the last election, I’ve seen Libertarians getting more guff. This is good because it means we’re becoming a force to be reckoned with, but it’s also bad because it means people out there think we support NAMBLA and…sex zoos in Germany.

So I need to clear some stuff up for you folks. Most of this was already posted on Mike’s Facebook Status so I’m sorry for repeating myself. It’s just that I put it so well that first time…

1. The thing that makes a Libertarian a _libertarian_ is our core belief in limited government interference in private lives. So when it comes to politics you will hear any libertarian say things like “prostitution should be legal”; “gay state-sanctioned marriage should be legal”; “pot should be legal”.

2. We all have PERSONAL ETHICAL BELIEFS that differ wildly, even from other libertarians. When we say something should be “legal” we do not mean that we think it is okay or right or healthy. We merely mean that philosophically our belief in adults being allowed to make their own mistakes dictates that the law shouldn’t be interfering. So I will say that prostitution should be legal. I also think prostitution is wrong and exploits women and profanes sexuality. But those are my Christian beliefs and as a Christian I work to make changes in people’s lives individually through grace to make sure that prostitution really goes away and isn’t just hidden as it is when it is “illegal”.

3. As a libertarian my grounds for opposing things LEGALLY (as opposed to morally) are that they harm another individual. Libertarians agree that law is necessary when society is protecting an individual from harm. So you have libertarians and we think that prostitution should be legal but that child pornography and child-adult sex should not be legal. We all believe strongly the government is not the arbiter of morals. So we’re libertarians.

4. There is a split in the libertarian camp between anti-abortion libertarians and pro-abortion libertarians. The split is along the issue of whether or not the fetus is a life and a being in need of protection from society or whether it is a part of the woman’s body over which the state has no legal right to interfere. Not all libertarians support abortion. Many, like myself, object to abortion but seek to address the societal problem of unwanted children through means other than legislation.

5. Respect for others is a key part of libertarianism. That man who wrote the thing about all Democrats being dead to him*…as far as I’m concerned he isn’t a libertarian. He’s a reactionary right-wing person who has seized the mantle of libertarianism because it is new and hip and sounds less controversial in some circles than “Republican”. We’re getting a lot more of these reactionary types in the libertarian camp, especially after this last election. I’m not happy about it, but they’re free to call themselves libertarians. I’m free to explain why they aren’t wanted in the libertarian camp.

In answer to the animal sex thing: No, my personal objection is that it is sinful and gross and disgusting and wrong. But my objection as a libertarian, when it comes to internal consistency about the laws, is that I can assert the relevance of the rule of law because the animals are harmed.

*I’m not linking to this fellow either. He doesn’t need any more traffic and I don’t like his nil siochain cluttering up my life.

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“But you wouldn’t want a wife who wrote books, would you?”
“But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people.”
–Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey; Strong Poison; Dorothy L. Sayers

*

I got to thinking after yesterday’s post–and several of the comments–about how it is to be a writer, whether you’re published or not. All those quirky things that go into a writing persona. Over the years I’ve sworn that being a writer and being an author are two different things. With a lot of folks there’s an overlap, but not all authors are writers and not all writers are authors.

Authors, to me, are people with published books.

Writers, well….writers are writers.

Writers are people who will spend whole meals with their husbands talking about this character or that one and the dilemma of getting them from one sticky wicket through to the post. Writers have scraps of paper lying around with names, ideas and lists. Writers talk back to the tv when a plot point is too thin and are able to predict who the guilty party is in a police procedural by the way the show’s writers structured the scenes.

Writers love to read. There are people who author published works who don’t like to read and don’t read very much. We used to call them “hacks”. I suppose we still do, only we do it more quietly and in a more polite way. But if you don’t like to read and you don’t read, you are not a WRITER. The two go hand in hand. Because…well…I’ll just be really honest here. Writing is magic. And I don’t say that in a loopy unicorn way. I mean it seriously. Writing is a practical craft wherein one can conjure the ephemeral into permanence. One creates whole worlds and whole people when one writes. If you are a writer you are one of the people who looks at the alphabet and sees not letters but TOOLS. You see tools with infinite combinations and permutations that can be used for so many things.

Wally Campbell (a college acquaintance and general provacateur) last night on Facebook said that some people are “linguistic masturbators” and needed to “go rot”. I was going to comment on that but then I thought “no. He just doesn’t understand. I’ll try to explain it tomorrow.” So here tomorrow is and here I am trying to explain. Those of us who know that writing is magic and that language are the tools of that literacraft know that grammar and language are important in the same way that a chef knows which pan and spatula are the best ones for a perfect omelet. Sure you can use any pan and make the egg cook. But it takes a special pan at the right temperature to make it all come out so deliciously perfect and correctly formed. We aren’t pleasuring ourselves with our slavish devotion to literacraft; we are wanting to ensure that others are as pleasured by our tools as possible.

If you don’t like to read, you’re incapable of understanding the finer points of the craft of storytelling. You can get a book published and be an author but I don’t think at all you can be a writer. And I think if you’re a writer you always know it the way people always know strange secrets about their essential differentness from the rest of the world.

Some call us weird. Some call us masturbators or Those People. But the truly wonderful know that we are so much more interesting indeed.

—-
*I should clarify that I just loved this quote even though I do think that every person is legitimately interesting in their own right. What storyteller wouldn’t?

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Don’t ask me how I got started on this rabbit trail, but last night I found myself reading posts on Stop The GR Bullies; that’s a website dedicated to bullying people who bullied them first, it would seem. Anyway, while skimming the posts on there I saw a couple of self-published authors make a derisive comment about a stranger.

I know none of these folks, but the derision hit home for me in a very real, painful way.

“Is she one of those people who is always writing a book that nobody has ever seen?” (I’m paraphrasing and cleaning it up a lot. There were more colourful adjectives stuck in the original.)

I am one of those people. I’m always writing books, but nobody ever sees them. Okay, my husband has. My sister has. Ivy Hogan has. People who read this blog have on the very rarest of occasions seen a sentence or a paragraph–which inevitably gets chopped. Carole McDonnell saw the first draft of pages from a book that is now binned. But other than that…yeah. Nobody has seen my books.

Why? Do they suck? I don’t think so. But I think I suck. And I think that I don’t deserve to have my work encroach upon other people’s time.

No, nasty people on Stop The GR Bullies, it’s not because I’m afraid of criticism; I live in criticism. The toughest critics that ever walked the earth are inside my own head, thank you. Nothing you say to me, ladled liberally with the bitter invective you polish off for your worst enemies, is going to be harsher than what I say to myself.

I recently learned a very stunning, startling, deep truth about myself. Knowing this truth, the roots of this self-flagellation, is freeing in a way because it allows me to step back and say “the perfect is the enemy of the good and the tyranny of your inner voice is the devil as taskmaster.” It’s helping me realise that I will never ever be good enough so I may as well carry on with being as good as I can be at the moment.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be One Of Those People. I don’t know if I’ll finish a book and shop it or polish it up and self-publish it. I just don’t know. I hope to not be One Of Those People forever. But I have to admit that even though I firmly believe all that I just said about perfectionism and self-doubt I also don’t want to be One Of Those People who puts out substandard garbage, slopping over the puke from my brain into the slush pile of self-published books. Not all self-published and small press books are bad. Only a fraction of them are bad. But those that are bad seem to be written by people who don’t care how bad they are, who just want to say they have a Published Book and to lord that fact over those of us Other Ones Of Those People.

So I guess now I’m trying to decide who is the bigger bully; my own head or the nasty people who think people like me are a joke.

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On Being A Whore

It is entirely possible to do something because you are helping another person. It’s completely acceptable to take action out of a desire to see someone you like succeed at something they like to do.

Earlier today, author Mike Duran posted a very good write-up on the things that readers can do to help authors and books they enjoy. His 10 Things You Can Do To Promote Authors You Like includes a very helpful list, with some stuff I had never even thought of doing.

The problem with liking and boosting authors comes from the authors’ desire to motivate fans and turn them into “street teams”(*)

(*I think this is the single stupidest term for authors to use in the history of writing. It makes me want to burn writers in effigy when they talk about their work as though it needs a pack of vigilante superheroes to boost it. I want to never again read a book by any author who talks about “street teams”. I want to make those authors eat burnt pencils.)

Authors took the idea of this grassroots marketing strategy from rock bands, and are so in love with the hipster cred of the whole thing they don’t seem to understand just how much the pervasive Street Team strategy is undermining the power of Word Of Mouth in the literary community.

Books sell via Word of Mouth. They get read via Word of Mouth. A book is such a personal experience and such an investment of time that most people aren’t going to trust their own instincts as much as they will the word of a fellow who has gone before them into that unknown country. So when the Word Of Mouth is bought and paid for, it makes it less honourable. In fact, I’d argue that paid-for testimony can no longer be trusted as pure word of mouth.

I know they say you have to spend money to make money. For years authors in the Romance genre have held giveaways (Erica Spindler and Susan Wiggs both come to mind), but those were never in direct exchange for promotional consideration. You got a fridge magnet because you enjoyed their books and it was a fun trinket. Susan Wiggs sent me a signed copy of Just Breathe and a tin of tea because I won a random drawing for commenting on her site. There was never any expectation of my then going to the library and harrassing librarians to shelve copies of Wiggs’ books. (That’s just one of the duties of a Street Team.)

I don’t trust paid book reviews. Ever.

Authors, just build relationships with your readers and trust that they will act of their own accord. People like what they like, and their genuine enthusiasm is infectious. Hold on to your $25 Visa Giftcards and let things happen naturally.

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Tell Me A Story

I just finished reading a pleasant surprise of a book this morning, and I’m wanting to share the joy with as many people as possible. So that’d be your lucky day, I guess.

I hesitate to talk about specific books too much because people who talk in great detail about the things they love can lose the thread after awhile. I discovered this reading another author go on and on about wine. Why anyone wants to taste something that combines cherries, mahogany, cinnamon, and leather I do not know. Chew on a desk blotter. Whatever.

This book, though, not only came as a surprise–Christian speculative fiction–but as an eye opener. Allow me to further elaborate.

First I suppose I should tell you what the book is actually called–it’s not officially called “this book”–so that you can read it. But I’ll tell you on one condition. Do NOT judge it by the cover. I am emphatically not in love with this particular cover art; the art itself is very well done and it makes sense when you read the book, but glancing at it in a sea of covers it makes a non-impression at best.

This wonderful book is called Star Of Justice. And it has helped me figure out what’s been wrong with a lot of the Fantasy and SciFi I’ve tried to read the past couple of years.

I like answers. Blame my parents for buying me Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories when I was eight. Or blame my physician grandmother for explaining to me why people throw up when I was four. I do love interesting questions but even more than that I love answers.

The Spec Fic I first fell in love with was A Canticle For Leibowitz, and in my mind that still stands as the perfect example of the best things about speculating in fiction.

Huh. Now that I think about it, Star Of Justice has an awful lot in common with A Canticle For Leibowitz. It takes you to a world, shows you interesting questions and then gives you mind-blowing answers. And then gives you more answers that take your already-blown mind, throws the pieces up in the air and blows them again. I just realised the commonality with Canticle, though. That’s how blown my mind was. I wasn’t reading it going “oh, this is just like that part in Leibowitz when…”

Plus, the story was fun. And it ended in one book. I do not have to wait for subsequent books to give me partial non-answers. And there’s no shipping team for me to be on. Hallelujah. Freaking. Finally. A book that TELLS A STORY, not “establishes a brand”. A book that’s a book, instead of an industry.

I realised while reading this that most of the Epic Fantasy I’ve been reading this year (except Rothfuss, Anthony Ryan and the Martin rereads) have all been video-games and D&D matches. I’m tired of watching a farm boy with a secret heritage try to assemble all the pieces of the amulet. That stuff doesn’t speculate. I want to Spec U Frigging Late, thank you.

One other thing before I go…about the Christian stuff… Man, is that deftly handled. If you are not a Christian I doubt you’ll notice it as anything other than the particular mythos of the book’s world. It’s no more heavy-handed than the psuedo-Roman Catholic pantheons in other great fantasy (Bujold’s five gods of Chalion, Martin’s Seven-fold deity of Westeros) and serves the story without bashing you in the face with a Come To Jesus bromidery common to most Christian fiction. Yes, I’m a Christian. But I’ve got the Bible, thanks. I don’t need you to rewrite the gospels. I need you to tell me a story.

Robynn Tolbert did tell me a story, and she did so very well. If you’ve got three bucks and a couple of days, I’d encourage you to let her tell you that same awesome tale.

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I so can’t focus on one topic right now. So we’re doing one of these multi-topic ramblethons.

TOPIC A–> After reading Jessica Thomas’ blog entry this morning I was all set to qwerty out my own opinions on this new trend in the Complimentarian sphere of Christianity. Now it seems we’re using sex to sell people on the virtues of Christian Marriage a la Ephesians. But honestly, I don’t have 500 words to say about that, because everything I have to say can be boiled down to this: Magic Unicorn Sex is an unfair expectation to place on any person or relationship. Yes, the husband/wife relationship in Christian marriage is symbolic of the Christ/Church relationship. But husbands and wives aren’t perfect, so while the Christ/Church relationship is one of transcendent magnificence, its human counterpart is merely a shadow of that. So all of this faffing about how a Real Marriage will have profound and firework-generating sex is really not so helpful. The only gauge a Christian should use to measure her relationship with God should be her…relationship with God. Using other things like your sex life or your health or your wealth as fleece to measure the dewy love of God is both heretical and profoundly lacking in that crucial thing called faith.

TOPIC B–> On Friday when the news of the Hostess Chapter 22 came out, everyone was mourning the loss of a food they haven’t eaten in 15 years, scapegoating the unions or both. I’m really discouraged at the way everyone views this complex issue through the lens of subliterate partisan politics. If you are at the place where you are reducing this charlie foxtrot of a business muddle to “Unions Are Wrongbad” then you have abandoned reason for bromides. Yes, the unions are somewhat at fault. So are the banks, the SEC, the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, Ben Bernacke, the consumers, the vegetarian health lobby, the culture. I could go on for days about how the doom of Hostess happened. And I hate like fire to be put in a position where I’m even partially defending unions because most of them are as top-heavy and outmoded as the Hostess company itself. In fact, watching the death of Hostess over the last three years has been not unlike watching two dinosaurs box each other with their too-short arms while they stay mired in the tar pit that will eventually consume them.

TOPIC C–> My cousins, who have two adopted daughters (to their credit they refer to them simply as “our daughters”) are pregnant. I’m happy for them, truly. But I’m remembering another cousin who had a similar situation a couple of decades ago. Those cousins adopted a child from (?I think) South Korea, and then almost immediately upon that boy’s arrival found themselves pregnant. Tad and Tamara (not their real names) grew up side by side, but far from equal. Tad was the “oriental boy” and Tamara was the golden Child Of Our Bodies. Tamara’s college was paid in full, Tad was essentially kicked to the curb when he turned 18. This is what bothers me about adoption, and why I am very vocal in my belief that couples who adopt children need to get that adoption is a serious thing. An adopted baby isn’t the can of Turtle Wax that the loser gets as a parting gift. Adoption isn’t for every couple who can’t have biological children. It is its own calling. I was born the daughter of an adopted man, who himself had a brother that was the biological child of his mother. My cousins were very clear from the get go that Grandma Doc was not “really [my] grandmother” because my father was “not really her son”. If that’s your attitude, you best get yourself a ferret. You can’t even handle dogs and cats. On second thought, maybe just get a picture of a ferret.

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Don’t worry. This is not going to be an ode to all the things for which I am thankful. Nor is it going to be one of those exercises like I’ve done in the past where I explain why I’m thankful for the seemingly-bad things in my life.

This is an ode to food. Pure and simple.

I love food, but I don’t have the patience to be a food blogger like the ones who are so popular now. I might have considered food-blogging awhile back but a scathing comment about me in a public forum was once made by a popular food blogger and so I pretty much decided that was a social circle I didn’t really want to enter. Besides which, for me writing about food is like writing about sex, music, the colour purple. There are some things I just love for themselves and I don’t want to put them through the wringer of the magic of words because they have a magic all their own for me. Writing about them, conjuring them into this space, seems like gilding the lily.

But Thanksgiving is my holiday for food. Before you go down that road let me explain that one can love food without being a glutton, just as one can enjoy sex without being promiscuous. It’s a common misconception in our weight-obsessed society that loving food is a bad thing. Since I know it isn’t, I love Thanksgiving, with all its celebration of not only the deliciousness of food but also the seeming bounty.

Thanksgiving dinner is my favourite food; it’s what I’d ask for at my last meal were I to be executed. Not that I’m planning to BE executed. (That’s why I avoid that food blogger. I find there is less danger of my facing lethal injection if I don’t kill somebody else.) Since it IS my favourite meal, I like it straightforward and traditional. Turkey, oven-roasted golden brown, with mushroom stuffing. Cranberry sauce that slides from the can with the gloppy kiss of suction removed. Potatoes mashed with cream and butter and salt and black pepper, so thick from the cream, so golden from the butter that they stand stalwart on the plate, ready to hold a reservoir of my perfect, oft-requested turkey gravy.

One of my pet peeves is the way that the food networks and cooking shows decide that they’re going to tart up a perfect meal with all sorts of spin. “This year, do a turkey braised with Apricot Brandy and stuffed with Chestnuts, pine nuts and Rosemary! Add to that my perfect Sweet Potato Quinoa Tart, riced Yukon Gold potatoes with mango bacon butter and gluten free cranberry scones* for the meal they’ll talk about all year!” Yes. They will talk about your hipster-trendoid nightmare all year because they expected the traditional meal everyone loves and instead got some sort of whack experiment that would get you kicked off Top Chef in the third episode.

There is a time for fancy fiddling around in the kitchen. It’s called February. Take one of those blustery shut in weekends and do yourself up a Cooking Light feast. It’ll give you something to do, it’ll be a welcome treat for your audience and it WILL NOT MASSIVELY SCREW UP THE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR GOOFERY.

Tomorrow I go to Kroger for my annual feast shopping and I look forward to that as much as I do Christmas Day. It’s odd to realise that about oneself, but I say, hey. Go with it. Be thankful.

* I made all of these dishes up. Do not ask me for the recipe. But I bet five dollars if you google them you’ll find actual recipes somewhere. There are only so many trendoid permutations of food out there.

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It’s not that I have nothing to write about.

The Oatmeal guy posted a big long ode to Creative Employment and in it he said that he’s a firm believer in not writing if you have nothing to say. Well, I agree with that. Perhaps the absence of content looks like I have nothing to say, but really it’s that I don’t want to focus on my anger and frustrations long enough to turn them into long-lived written pieces with correct grammar and punctuation.

I have been astonished, heart-broken, lost, found, bored and just plain tired over the last week. I don’t want to look in the review mirror right now. I want to focus on happiness, on the horizon. Thanksgiving is coming up; in our family that’s traditionally become a time where we huddle together and enjoy delicious repasts of food and togetherness. Holiday, Introvert Style. It’s my favourite time of year, Christmas Time Of Year, starting with Thanksgiving Eve and going through New Year’s Day. I’m sorry but I just don’t want to go into that with grudges and sludge. I’m getting older. Time grows more precious.

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Useless Men

Last week during the discussion on my re-read thoughts of Harry Potter, author D.M. Dutcher raised a valid complaint and observation about the series. (It’s valid because I mostly agree with him.)

every single male adult seemed dangerous, incompetent, flawed, or dead.[emphasis mine] James Potter picked on Snape, Snape hated Potter, Hagrid is an idiot who almost got them killed with the spiders, Sirius Black also kind of failed I think comparing Harry to his dad, and then dying. Lupin is dangerous, and it kept going on enough to see a pattern.

It really culminated in Dumbledore …he came across as making bad decisions that led to kids fighting his battles for him.

…There’s always been this uneasy tension in kidlit about empowering kids by having them solve adult problems, or fight adult battles. You have to have the kids act themselves, and not have magical adults come in to save the day, but there is also the reverse where you start to ask why the heck are adults letting kids and young teens risk their lives fighting what is increasingly becoming full on war.

Now that I’m well into Order Of The Phoenix I’m back to the place where I start getting really annoyed with Dumbledore. Once you re-read the series with the head-knowledge of the eventual outcomes and the backstories of all the characters it is almost impossible not to be a little furious with the man who seemed–at first–to be a kindly grandfather sort of fellow.

I know that Rowling has had a lot of issues with her father, and really probably has no paradigm for the idea of a competent, loving father figure. We’re lucky that we got Mr. Weasley, even though he’s hampered with a characterisation as an eccentric goofball.

The Vanishing Adult is trope wildly exploited in Young Adult Fiction; as a writer I think that’s probably because it’s an easy way to give your character an unassailable motive while also avoiding the ordinary roadbloacks of parental interference. To be fair, Rowling actually does a pretty good job of giving Harry interested adults who love him and take pains to insure his well-being. Unfortunately, all those adults are women. The feminist in me truly loves the idea of powerful women standing their ground and conquering villains. But the woman in me who loves the men in her life and has been truly blessed to know very many wonderful men is concerned at how few male role-models are available in popular literature. Yes, Harry is the hero of the stories, but he spends long stretches of the tale fumbling about, trying to figure out when, where and how to act.

I suppose this dearth of strong male characters is one of the reasons I’ve become so adamantly fond of Lois McMaster Bujold. She is a female author who had a good relationship with her world-famous father and imbues her stories with excellent male role models. I want to spend all my time with Aral Vorkosigan and Lupe de Cazaril, and I hope boys and men find their way to works like hers, where they can see men worth emulating.

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A Little Blurb

I’m so ill at the thought of people petitioning to secede that I am on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. I don’t want to write any more about it because more than a few of my friends have signed their names to the farrago and I do not wish to lose their valued company.

I honestly cannot believe that this is going on.

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