Sunday, October 31, 2010

Free Halloween Stories

I'm driving the bus over at Torquere Social today, on LiveJournal. I'll be posting throughout the day, and for every one of my posts you comment on between now and noon (Pacific) tomorrow (to allow for folks in other timezones), I'll throw a slip with your name on it into a bowl. The drawing is for a bundle of my Halloween stories -- three short stories, all set in the Hidden Magic universe, plus my ghost story "A Spirit of Vengeance," which is a novelette. Two of the shorts, "Chasing Fear" and "Candy Courage" are from years past, but "Reach Out and Touch" is brand new, just released yesterday.

I have two posts up now, and will be posting more later on. Come over, hang out, chat, and enter to win free fiction. :)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Wonderful Play on Language

How I Met My Wife -- This is today's Jumbo Joke, but it's not really a joke per se. It's a wonderful play on language, originally published in the New Yorker, according to a note on the site. It begins:

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

Definitely read the rest. :)


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Free Cornwall!

I have to share this 'cause it's too much fun to keep to myself. Chris Dolley blogs at the Book View Cafe -- a collective of SF/F authors both blogging and publishing together, worth reading -- and for the last month has been relating the story of how he, as a university student, conspired with a number of his fellows to stage a revolution to free Cornwall from the shackles of the English. No, really! :)

It was a prank to raise money for charity, but it's something that never would've gone over in the hyper-paranoid atmosphere today. It's a great story, though, and well worth reading. Check it out. The link goes to Part Five, but Parts One through Four are linked in the first paragraph.

Today he posted about what they did the following year, which was bury a body in a flowerbed for charity. It's not quite as giggle-worthy as the Cornish Revolution, but it's short and fun and definitely worth reading.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Is How it Happens

Harriet Jacobs at Fugitivus made this pretty awesome post about how most women in our society are socialized, how we're taught to behave and relate to others in social situations, and how that leads to a culture where way too many women end up getting raped and then blamed for it. I'm going to quote the core list, because it really needs to be spread around, but I encourage you to read her whole post. I had to stop myself from just going on and on and on with the copy hilighting, because it's all true and it's all important.

If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

* it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
* it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
* it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
* it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
* it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
* it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
* it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
* it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Most of that crap never took with me. I've always been loud and agressive and out there, even as a kid. Most of the times I got punished, it was for something I said rather than something I did. If I didn't like someone, or what someone was saying or doing, I made it really clear. That made for a lot of awkward social situations. I've never been The Popular Girl, never had a lot of boyfriends, never really fit in perfectly with the people around me. But you know what? I've never been raped, I've never felt unsafe out in public with strangers, even late at night on lonely streets. I know where to draw lines, I know how to say no, I know how to make it clear from the start that I'm not interested in talking to someone. Polite women are the ones who get raped, and I never have been; I can't regret that. :/

Ironically enough, the only time I've ever felt unsafe in that way was at a party at my mom's house. I was in the kitchen doing dishes and a sort of second-tier family friend (Gusto? I think that was his name) was drunk and insisted on getting close and touching me. He was feeling "friendly" or whatever, and wanted to hug me and press against me. I gritted my teeth and let him have one hug, but he wanted to keep on hugging and after the first one I wasn't having any. He was sort of a friend, though, and I didn't want to make a fuss. (Don't get loud. Don't set boundaries. Don't be mean to someone who's just being friendly.) I was saying no and backing off, but I ended up cornered against the counter with a big wooden meat platter with spikes on it between me and him like a shield, spikes out. He was kind of confused for a minute or three, like he was trying to figure out how to get to me around it, but he finally got a fucking clue and wandered away.

You know, I knew nothing "serious" was going to happen. There were like a dozen people around and I knew I wasn't actually going to get raped or anything. But it was frightening anyway, and I can't even really explain why except that this guy I had no interest in whatsoever, even as a friend because he was frankly a creep from pretty much all angles, was trying to touch me and get way more in my space and way more intimate than I wanted to, and I didn't know how to make him stop without making more of a fuss than would've been socially acceptable. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to be groped, but what do you do about it when it's someone's friend and you're right there and there are people around and no one else seems to think anything is wrong? It's exactly like the paragraph in the post above about the woman at the bus stop who's being hit on by a guy. My brother Sean was right there and didn't do anything, didn't say anything to Gusto, even though he was his friend (I think he was; I know he was the friend of someone in the family, and it wasn't Mom or me; maybe he started out as a friend of a friend, but he came to our house a few times over the years) and afterward, after Gusto staggered off, when I expressed that that'd been upsetting and kind of scary, Sean was very eyerolly and dismissive. He said that if anything had "really" happened he'd have stopped it, but nothing happened and there was nothing to be upset about. It was just a hug after all, nothing to make a fuss about. He sounded kind of angry, just a little, that I'd even vaguely imply that Gusto might've done anything wrong, even though Sean was there pretty much the whole time I was being stalked around the kitchen and trying to fend the guy off with no luck.

But that's the problem -- unless it's some stranger jumping out from behind a bush to drag a woman into a dark alley and rape her, it doesn't count. Nothing less than that is worth making a fuss about. And if a woman does make a fuss about something not worth making a fuss about, then you're back to "Mean bitch," and "Crazy bitch" and "Stuck-up bitch" etc., all that social pressure to be Nice and to be Polite and to be Ladylike and to not upset anyone, to just put up and deal and smile and pretend it's all okay, because you're the woman and that's your job. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that if Gusto had tried to stick a hand into my bra or down my pants, Sean would've been right there to haul him away and maybe smack him around a bit. But just wanting to hug me, to touch me in a way I didn't want -- that doesn't count and I had to be pressured into agreeing that it was no big deal. So I'm supposed to be nice and polite and go along when some drunken creep wants to touch me against my will. Keep doing that and eventually you do get raped, and everyone around you is saying, "But you didn't protest when he groped you!"

And this was ME. Loud, aggressive, social-bull-in-a-china-shop Angie, who (usually) takes no shit from anyone, and still I ended up in a situation where I felt pretty strongly the social pressure to go along, be polite, not cause a fuss in a crowd when some creep was trying to touch me. My fear of the social consequences with my friends and family if I'd shoved him away or cussed him out or raised my voice at him took away effective options, made me seriously afraid because I couldn't think what to do, and reduced me to a passive defensive action behind a spiked cutting board until the guy trying to grope me gave up and went away. What kind of a chance do normal women have, the ones who've actually been successfully socialized in all the nice, polite, ladylike behavior, when some determined, smiling guy wants more than a drunken hug and grope? Not much.

This is why rape happens as often as it does, and this is why so many people jump in to deny that it was "really" rape, because the woman didn't yell, didn't punch or kick, didn't tell him to leave her the fuck alone, didn't even protest too much when he first groped her. This is how it happens, and this is how it's dismissed.

Angie, who's very glad all that quiet-polite-ladylike stuff never really took

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anthology Markets

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Outrageous Sentencing

So a fifteen-year-old girl named Ashley falsifies a police report -- lying about not knowing who attacked her on her way to school one day -- and she gets twelve months. Tony Simmons, the forty-two-year-old juvenile counselor who has charge of her -- the one shuffling her around in handcuffs in the courthouse -- makes a detour to the basement on their way to the courtroom and rapes her, which we find is something he's done with some unknown number of juvenile girls assigned to him over the years, and when it all finally comes out, he gets probation.

No, really.

And we expect our teenagers to have faith in the justice system? To trust the people given power over them? To be good, cooperative kids because the people in authority have their best interests at heart?

Sure. That's going to happen any time now.

I'll just sit here and wait for it....


Friday, October 1, 2010

September Stuff

Still in the writing rut. :/

2 submissions = 2 pts.
3654 words written = 0 pts. [hides under keyboard]
12,800 words edited = 2 pts.
TOTAL = 4 pts. which is extremely disappointing

If one of the subbed stories had been 2200 words longer, I'd have gotten another point for the pre-sub clean-up edit -- I need to write longer. :P Of course if I'd written more, I'd have gotten some writing points too, so....

Koala Challenge 4

I got an acceptance on one of the stories I subbed in August, though, so that's cool. It was for Torquere's Halloween Sip Blitz (short Halloween stories released in a bunch, sort of like an anthology only not all in one book). It's another Cal-and-Aubrey story, the characters who starred in "Unfinished Business" and were supporting characters in A Hidden Magic. They're great guys and their character dynamic together is a hoot; I love writing about them. :)

Earlier in September, my husband and I went on a late-anniversary trip (the rates were better a couple of weeks after the actual anniversary, and I'm not sentimental enough to insist on spending more money for the same trip just because of the date) to San Francisco. I'd planned on blogging about it at the time, or shortly after getting home, like I did last year, but the first four or five days were a total disaster. My, umm, natural cycles hit about ten minutes after we checked into our room, and it was a killer. I haven't had that bad a time since I was on the depakote, which messed with me something awful -- known possible side effect, and I hit the side effect jackpot with that particular prescription. Then just as that was slowing down to the point where I could consider maybe leaving the hotel the next day, my husband (who'd been going out by himself, bringing food back periodically, and generally leaving me alone to cuss and wish for menopause) came back with some wrap sandwiches from this little Mediterranean place. He got me a chicken wrap, and the chicken was a bit dry, but I didn't think much of it. About five hours later I had a case of raging food poisoning. :(

That took another couple of days of vacation time.

Once I was a few minutes' walk from death's door, we went out and had a some fun. We went to the same dim sum place we went to last year, and the food was just as good. Then we walked up to the Museum of the African Diaspora, which is small but has some cool exhibits. We watched a film about Celia Cruz, the Cuban salsa singer. I'm not really into music much, so I'd never heard of her, but the film was very good, interesting even if it's not one's style of music. They had some computerized displays with touch-screen monitors in the walls, about different kinds of foods from Africa, and another set about personal adornment, showing native styles of clothing, jewelry, makeup, hairdos, piercings, pretty much anything, and each style morphed into a style you see today in the modern West, to show descent. I hadn't thought about that, specifically, matching up modern American styles with traditional African influences, so that was interesting too.

We rode the trolley up to Castro and went to A Different Light. I got a bunch of books, and a couple were even on sale -- half off, yay! I like e-books, but I really miss being able to just look and browse. Some of the e-book vendors have done a fair job duplicating the experience (and others need to put a lot more work into it) but there's nothing like browsing actual books on shelves, you know? I'm not one for buying a lot of gew-gaws or souvenirs on vacation -- I don't hit all the fashion boutiques or the big department stores either -- but I'll usually drop some serious cash in bookstores, so I guess that makes up for it.

After the bookstore, we walked up a few blocks to a little cafe Jim had found online. The food was wonderful -- I had a really excellent macaroni and cheese -- but the chairs were horrible. They were the kind with the bars coming down from the back, diagonally to attach about a third of the way up either side of the seat. I'm sure that's a fine style if you're skinny, but if you're fat it's torture, and I'm not even kidding. It's amazing how many restaurants have chairs like this; for places that sell food, and that make more money if their customers eat more, you'd think they'd want to encourage people to come and eat, and people who eat a lot to come often. Sorry, I was in serious pain well before we were finished, and I'm not going back there no matter how great the food was. :(

We took a formal tour on our second-to-last day there; the brochure advertised a bus tour of the city, lunch in Sausalito, and then a trip up to Muir Woods where we could walk around for a while. My Great-Aunt Angie took me on what sounded like almost the exact same bus tour (no Sausalito lunch stop) thirty-some years ago, and the woods had been beautiful, so I was enthusiastic about going again. Jim agreed, so we went. Turned out this one was different. On the tour I took with Aunty, we just drove around the city while the guide did his patter, which was interesting and enjoyable, and then we went to the woods. This time there were nine stops on the tour, seven of them in SF, and it seemed sometimes like we were stopping to get out every three blocks or so. Which would've been fine except it started early in the morning and it was cool and dewy (as San Francisco is) and the first stop let us out in a neighborhood street a few blocks from the top of Lombard Street, where we were going to walk down. Getting there, I brushed against some shrubs or something hanging out into the narrow sidewalks, and my leather sandal got wet. So, wet leather strap, swells a bit and roughens, then a long walk down a steep hill with the skin at the top of my foot rubbing against the edge of the wet, rough leather strap with every step. :( By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, I was way past blister -- I had an open sore with a couple shreds of skin hanging off, and of course my sandal rubbed on it every time I took a step.

I really wanted to be able to walk around the woods, though, so I skipped about half the remaining stops -- just stayed on the bus. It actually wasn't bad; some of the stops, like Chinatown, were in places I'd been through just a year ago. And as a bonus, once we found a place to park, the driver -- who'd been basically silent the whole trip so far -- chatted with us and told us a bunch of stuff about Chinatown, which was where he'd grown up. That was pretty cool.

The Palace of Fine Arts is gorgeous, but you mostly go look at it for the outside architecture, and I could see that fine through the bus window. I got out at Grace Cathedral, because it's beautiful and I haven't been there since I was in college (I went with a couple of classmates for an art history project), and I looked at the sculpture garden outside the new DeYoung Museum, which was very, umm, modern, and I probably could've skipped that too without missing much. Lunch in Sausalito was nice, although we chose a place the tour guide recommended primarily for its speedy service, because you do not want to miss the bus on these tours. :) Then most of the tour folks caught the ferry back to San Francisco with our original guide, while the dozen or so of us going on to Muir Woods got into a smaller bus with a new guide.

If you've never been to Muir Woods, I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance because it's gorgeous. Quiet and dim, huge redwoods, laurels, a little creek running down the middle of the valley... and we saw deer! :) I know that's kind of a boring, everyday thing for some folks who read this, but it was pretty darned cool for us. The paths are fenced -- low, wooden railings on either side -- and you're not supposed to go off the paths. The deer come amazingly close to the paths to feed; it seems like they've figured out that so long as they don't get too close to the path, all the two-legged critters that walk up and down it won't bother them. The first one, a large doe, was about ten yards or so away. The second, a really small deer our pamphlet said was full-grown, just small, was within about three yards of the path, perched on a big, fallen log and reaching up for leaves over its head. You couldn't quite have bent over the railing and touched it, but it was pretty close to it. That was pretty amazing. :D

The valley is narrow, and the path runs on either side of the creek, with a series of numbered bridges. Our guide said that up to bridge three, over to the other side and back was about a mile loop. Up to bridge four and back was two miles. Usually I'd have gone for bridge four, cane and all, but with my foot still torn up I thought bridge three was the more prudent walk, and that one worked fine. We didn't hurry, and we still got back with plenty of time to spare before leaving; we sat on the railing in the middle of bridge one and just hung out in the quiet, listening to the water for a bit.

The bus took us back to Sausalito, where we took the ferry back to SF. The tour started and ended at the Ferry Terminal building, which is like a three minute walk from the front entrance of our hotel, so that was convenient both ways. At that point I just wanted to collapse and sleep, but I'd made arrangements to see a friend that night, so I took off my sandals and just sort of dozed for a bit.

I've known Karen since seventh grade homeroom. She took BART from Livermore, where she lives, to the Embarcadero stop which is about thirty seconds' walk from our hotel. (It was worth delaying the trip a bit to get back into this hotel -- great location. :) ) Karen isn't a mass transit person, so it was something new for her, but everything went well, both coming over and going home later that evening. I put on my sneakers (lucky I packed two pairs of shoes!) and we went up to the Stinking Rose -- the garlic restaurant we went up to last year) taking a cab instead of walking. The prime rib is just as big, and the garlic-cream swiss chard is just as awesome. We had something yummy for dessert, I don't even remember what, then cabbed back to the hotel. Karen stuck around a bit to talk, then went home; Jim walked her down to the BART station, not only because it was late at night, but to make sure she got on the right train okay, and that all went fine.

The next day, we came home. We got to the airport, checked our baggage, and my pants split. [facepalm] Not the classic up-the-back, luckily, but just the fabric on one side high on the inner thigh. You know, where the fabric gets worn if you're fat? It was uncomfortable but Jim assured me it didn't show, so I just ignored it as best I could and we went on. The flight was uneventful, but I lost my pedometer in the cab on the way home from the airport. [headdesk] It's like Murphy needed a couple of last pokes to remind me he was still on duty after a few good days. :P

Between this and our last cruise, where I also got sick and sprained my foot, the universe owes us about a dozen completely perfect vacations, seriously, LOL! I'd have had a hard time writing about this in a story and making it sound believable, with one thing piling on top of another, on top of another, on top of another. I don't think I'll ever be that good a writer. :) Here's to October being better. [crossed fingers]


Bullies and Other Predators

Cindy Potts over on LiveJournal posted this, and I felt a great need to ask permission to repost, rather than just linking as I usually would. I love Cindy's fiction, but her blog is really awesome. This post rings with TRUTH in a way that's very rare to read. I wish I could round up all the people who think that bullying is "just kids being kids" or that it's "only words, just ignore it" or that "if you ignore the bullies, they'll get bored and go away" and tie them to chairs and read this aloud to them, until they get it.


A Note on Personal Responsibility

And so, it is said to me, you can't really bully someone to death. You can certainly make them miserable, but that choice, that ultimate final choice to end it all, to leap from the bridge, to borrow Daddy's gun, that's out of your hands. That's beyond your power, beyond your responsibility, beyond anything you could conceivably be held accountable for. The blame in suicide lays always upon the person who kills themselves, for they always have another choice.

A fatal reclamation of personal power, as it were.

I read all these stories of freshly dead children and I say bullshit on that.

Around here, there are what are called (by me, at least) coy dogs. A mix of coyote and good dogs gone bad, feral creatures, they live on the fringes of society, not wholly wild, not nearly tame. No one cares for them. They are self-sufficient, or they die.

Coy dogs are generally small and scraggly. They stand perhaps two feet tall at the shoulder - a few bigger, some very few smaller. They're perpetually thin. On their own, they'll get by. There's garbage, there's house cats, there are slow bunnies and roadkill and dinner snatched secondhand from pampered pet's dishes.

When they work together, though, they can feast. A pack of coy dogs will go after larger prey - goats, sheep, llamas, calves, ponies, deer. It's here, in the hunt, that the coy dogs are at their most primal. You don't see even vague vestiges of the creatures that would once happily follow people around, begging for scraps. Here, it's speed and pursuit -- chasing, chasing, chasing. And coy dogs bark when they hunt -- not like wolves, who mostly keep silent. Coy dogs keep up a constant cacophony of death, announcing imminent demise with every stride. One coy dog will keep in close pursuit, the others hanging back and resting, preserving their strength until it's their turn to take point, to present some fresh new horror, to add another element of terror to the chase. They all take a turn.

They don't actually bite the prey all that much. A nip at the heels, a few ambitious leaps to worry shoulders, haunches, beefy necks. They don't have to. Once the blood starts running, all they have to do is keep the prey moving, moving, moving, until exhaustion and fear do their magic. It doesn't take long. The point will come where the prey doesn't have the strength to fight anymore. The hooves that should kick away, flinty hooves that can crush a skull, if the strength is there, do not have the strength. It's over, the coy dogs have won, and the end of the game is as much surrender as capture -- even fighting to the last, the prey's been run too hard, too long, to win.

That is what bullying is. Pure and simple, what we're seeing is humanity taking on that coy dog aspect. No one person has to do that much -- what's a comment? what's a shove? what's possessions trashed, families threatened, rumors started, video shared? It is the aggregate effect that kills, the preponderance of hate, delivered daily, hourly, inescapably. Animalistic behavior, the basics of human decency abandoned for the thrill of the chase, the toxic exhilaration of pursuit -- and above all, the embrace of the group, the knowledge that you have a place in the pack. You don't have to do so much, really. Take a turn in point position, if you've the stomach for it, but that's not even truly necessary. All you have to do is hiss little comments. Or laugh. Or look away and do nothing.

And at the end of it all, is there blood on your hands? You can look in the mirror, examine your muzzle, look for the flint-scented evidence that yours was the hate that mattered the most. Will you see it? I guess it depends on the light you choose to stand under.

But deer don't run themselves to death.

Funny thing, that.


Note that it's worth reading the comments too, particularly this thread.