Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Dumbass, Volume 1

So yeah... dumbass  me decided to take a week off social media. 

Funny how we always underestimate our addictions, isn't it? 

Here's why. Bear with me, this explanation goes in a million different directions.

First off, professionally. 

Lately, I've been catching myself paying more attention to my BREAKS from work (i.e. Twitter) than my actual work. You folks know I have a ridiculous, stupid, self-inflicted publication schedule this year and that's just under my own name. Not counting the pen names. Sixteen books just under my real name. 

That's Dumbass, Volume 0. 

Obviously, in order to get that many books out you've got to have discipline. Usually discipline's not an issue for me. I don't watch a lot of TV, I have no social life, and I'm far more entertained finishing off stories on my head/on paper than I am anything else. But now that I'm four books into my publication year, I'm starting to drag. Last night, I finished Book Eleven of Harlequinade and started Book Twelve which means I finally worked through the transition snag that was stalling me before the grand denouement. 

Also means I'm two books behind on my ridiculous, stupid, self-inflicted writing schedule. 

Discipline means not sitting around and waiting for a Muse to float into the room in a chariot pulled by rainbow glitter-barfing winged unicorns and bringing a writer inspiration. (Sorry, granddaughter #2--I just can't bring myself to like your favorite decorating staple.) To be a professional writer who turns out a lot of volume, you must have discipline. That's why I don't write while the TV is on, why I don't have my desk facing my butthead neighbors' yard, why I don't listen to modern music and use playlists of classical, preferably without lyrics to set the moods I need to write certain scenes. 

Now if you had just one perfect book in you--like Margaret Mitchell--and don't have to deal with being found on Amazon, then sure. Wait for the Muse. I'd rather see one outstanding work of fiction than yet another porn-disguised-as-romance series from Dougie Ze Tool. But if you're building a platform, like I am under my real name, you need volume. And if you're fundamentally incapable of writing a first draft under 120,000 words, like I am, in order to get that volume you have to have discipline. 

And discipline doesn't mix with Twitter. So a week off from social media will get me back on track. Some of you are thinking, "A week? You won't get much done in a week."

And quite a few of you are thinking, "Oh, she's going to whip out that first draft in seven days again just to piss me off."

We'll check in throughout the week to see who's right.

Second off, I'm allergic to stupid.

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I hear some voices on the other end of the phone when I answer it and literally break out in hives. Used to be that only happened if it was my mom, but over the past couple of years my stupid allergy has cruised way past anything an antihistamine can solve.

And there's so much stupidity online right now.

I avoid politics online for that reason. I've worked as a speechwriter, platform writer, and editor in politics for way too long to tolerate idiocy lightly. Probably ought to mention here that a background in collegiate debate means that I can come up with pros and cons for just about any candidate, any social issue, any platform. I *never* restricted myself to one party's candidates or one ideology. The same old, same old involved in party politics has never interested me at all. I'm only interested in what's different or unusual about each candidate, and I've managed to find that difference in every client whose work I've taken on--something to focus the voters on other than pachyderms and equine half-breeds.

But, the past few years politics has taken on a vitriolic sameness that nauseates me. There are no longer political ideologues who can absorb the best of both parties. Instead, there are only extremists, and their social media seems to be all about supporting "their" candidate or office-holder and running down the other guy.

Let's be honest: over the past decade, we haven't been blessed with outstanding elected government. More often than not, political discourse has devolved into opposing biases without any efforts made to understand the other point-of-view. That, in turn, has led to rampant racism, homophobia, misogyny, sizeism, ageism disguised as politics--and all that serves is a negative purpose. Far-right and far-left are about are far apart on the political spectrum as socialism and fascism--although one's considered left and the other right when you take a look at them they're basically the same damn thing.

I'm been called a snowflake for not supporting Donald Trump, a racist for not supporting Barack Obama, a sexist for not supporting Hillary Clinton. I had the last election blamed on me (and people like me who think for themselves) because in the United States anyone who doesn't vote for your candidate that loses the election "gave" the election to the enemy.

No, I didn't. Clinton and Trump both sucked. And as a result of that one campaign, look where we are now. Not all conservatives are racists...but racists are almost always conservative. The media has a liberal bias--because obviously any criticism of the president has to do with all the libtards who work for CNN. Freedom of speech means you can say anything you want without any consequences whatsoever, even though your racist tweets on Twitter are not a protected form of speech, Roseanne.

People don't understand the Constitution they quote chapter and verse, like the Bible.

Oh, and my personal favorite--new gun control laws mean I'm trying to take your second amendment right to own guns away.

Uh...nope. The second amendment was in specific response to British measures designed to suppress the colonists' rights. "Well-armed militia" refers to exactly that--militia. And seeing as those rights were guaranteed for Brown Besses and single-shot rifles, people can own as many of those as they want. That's fine. But if you're not capable of separating gun safety from gun ownership, then all you're doing is regurgitating the platform points designed by a special interest group. Don't come crying to me when your kid is the one who's shot in school...or does the shooting with your own legally obtained firearms that you weren't smart enough to store safely.

Let's be for real--the Third Amendment of the Constitution means that the government can't force you to house soldiers in your house and pay their expenses while they're there.

Doesn't mean I'm trying to take your guests away.

As with any almost three-century old law of the land, some of the measures are dated and no longer have any real impact upon our day to day lives. Applying laws designed for the technology of the eighteenth century to the technology of the twenty-first is ridiculous. But if it's not, I'll let the government know. How many soldiers can you afford to house/cook/clean for again? We can close all the military bases and balance the budget in a matter of weeks. Good job.


Third, and finally, social media is mental torture for someone who's in the midst of editing. Every typo makes my eyes bleed, every homonym error makes my ears bleed. I'm nowhere close to being OCD--as the state of my living room currently attests--but damn, people. do your friendly neighborhood editor a favor and learn to spell single-syllable words correctly at least. The first time I see you mess up they're/their/there, I assume it's a typo and overlook it.

The fifteenth time, I start to question the legitimacy of your education.

And no--I'm not talking about people who finished high school and went into careers that didn't involve higher education. I know truck drivers who spell perfectly in every Tweet, and high-priced executives, public servants, and educators who look like a passel of ridge-runnin' morons. The FOIA document dump at the University of Tennessee is a great example of that. There were members of the Board of Trustees--people who were making all the policy decisions for a major university--who wouldn't pass a second-grade spelling test despite their multiple degrees.

Are. You. Kidding. Me...

And lest anyone bring this up thinking I'm going to gloss over it, that goes doubly for writers and triply for editors. Everyone makes typos. I do thousand words or so. Might be a higher number if I didn't automatically proof everything I say online. I'll delete a typo off Twitter so fast I get nosebleeds.

But I see authors with book advertisements on Twitters with spelling errors. A couple of months ago, I ran into a book with a spelling error in the title. Sure, everyone makes mistakes but good God almighty, people, you're trying to convince people to read YOUR words but you're so careless or arrogant that you don't check your advertising for mistakes?

I had a typographical error in a quote for one of my book covers a few months ago. Teensy print, but what the heck--was my fault for not catching it. Unfortunately, my cover artist was out of town. Took MUCH longer than it should have to get an apostrophe moved to the right place. Not her fault.

Mine. For not double checking it.

So what do you think I did? Damn skippy--I set all my promotions back by two weeks, took down every post with that book cover on it, stopped mentioning the book altogether until she came home to fix one itty bitty piece of punctuation. I had nightmares over that apostrophe. Even now, I find a typo or glitch in one of my books and I cringe until I'm about to throw up.

My fault. I didn't pay attention to the proof, and I paid for it. Cost me significant money in the end, but I'd rather live with the expense than a typo on my book cover.

So just imagine the horror I feel on Twitter and Facebook every day. It's torture.

At any rate, Dumbass, Volume 1 is underway and we'll see how my social media-free week works. If nothing else, it'll get me back to blogging. But blog-time for the day is over.

Time to get back to work.

Monday, May 21, 2018

PBS Should Be Ashamed For Trying To "Improve" Classic Literature

I never thought I'd be in the position of criticizing PBS. 

I love PBS. I love Masterpiece Theater, and the way PBS keeps modern interest in the classics alive. The production values of PBS shows is amazing, and everything is done to the best of the production teams' abilities. To be honest, I don't think I've ever criticized any PBS show. 


Until today. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is one of my lifelong favorite books. As a matter of fact, I own early first editions of both Little Women and Good Wives, back when the story was divided into two separate books. So when I learned the PBS was going to do a production of the book, I was thrilled. I knew that what would result would be a glorious, beautiful film version of a story I know so well I can recite large sections of it. 

And then I watched it tonight.

For some ungodly reason, PBS decided to "improve" Little Women

Are you kidding me? You can't improve Little Women. There's nothing to improve. This is one of the great American classics, a story that has endured in public affection and interest for almost a century and a half. what in the hell is there to improve in the first place? 

What? Is the story of four sisters growing into adulthood during the tumultuous years of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath somehow not enough? Does the story suck somehow? If it does, then that suckitude was so subtle that neither me nor millions of readers who love this book and its characters never noticed? No one needs to make everything different when Mr. March falls ill in Washington and the girls are left on their own. 

There's no way that Meg would have left her sisters alone and gone to the Moffats and get drunk on champagne at a ball while her father is lying dangerously ill in a hospital in DC. 

There's no way that Amy would have been able to get the money for pickled limes while her mother's away nursing her father. 

There's no way that Jo would make the unilateral decision to remove Amy from her school while both her parents are occupied with Mr. March's illness. 

There's no way that Jo and Laurie would be kissing in the attic while Beth lies at death's door on the floor underneath. 

What in the hell are you people thinking? 

Let's be honest--we've all seen this. We've all wondered why Hollywood feels the need to "improve" the storylines of classic literature but the fact of the matter is simple for anyone outside a film production company to see. 

There's a reason why classic literature is regarded as classic and that's because there's nothing TO improve in those beloved stories. Nothing. They're classic because they're beloved just as they are. They don't need new creative over a century after they were written! What possible value does a modern screenwriter bring to a story that's part of the Americana that makes up the literature and mythology nurtured in a fledgling country desperately seeking to find its own identity in the words and stories of the people who lived during that era? 


So--shame on you, PBS. Shame! You've managed to ruin one of the best American classics ever written and for what? Pissing off people like me, who find a way to squeeze money out of their tight monthly budgets to keep you afloat. I've never been as disappointed in any PBS production as I am right now. Absolutely revolted. 

This PBS version of Little Women? Don't bother, folks. If you see this adored story butchered the way it's been in this production, you will also find yourself wanting to throw things at the TV. 

For shame.