Guilt and the High Cost of Annoyance

Okay, kiddies, I’m going off the rails this morning and I’m riding the crazy train straight into Rantville, so you may wanna jump off as soon as possible.  Why?  ‘Cause things will be said, and there will be . . . language.  I usually leave something for those who jump in and see the warning, and decided they don’t want to go on, so here:  read about how Natasha Kerensky helped The Motherland during the 1917 Revolution.  You’re welcome.

For the rest–onward.

The election hasn’t turned me into an old, nasty person who’s opening my door every few minutes to get you damn kids to get off my lawn, but find there are fewer things these days that prevent me from getting pissed off.  As I told someone the other day, “I don’t have a temper, just a low tolerance for bullshit,” and said tolerance is growing lower by the day.

For example, there is social media, and what happens when you discover your friends think you should like what they like.

I was keyed up over the election, and I breathed a sigh of relief when they finished late last Tuesday night.  I even got in a few digs at the losers, which I have to admit wasn’t nice, but I was in a “Don’t give a shit” mood, and that’s never pleasant.

Then I went to bed, and woke up the next day to a barrage of petitions.

Most of the time I ignore petitions.  If I want to get on something I’m there, but for the most part I’m passionate about those things that touch me.  But the petitions were coming:  Tell Harry Reid That We Want Elizabeth Warren on the Banking Committee.  Tell The President to Have the DoJ Decriminalize Marijuana and Let the States Decide.  Draft Rachel Maddow to Run For Senate–

Hold on there, people.  You’re serious about this?  You’re saying, right now, a couple of days after the 2012 Election is through, you want me to get on a petition draft to get Rachel Maddow to run for the Senate?

Now, I like Rachel.  She’s likely one of the smartest individuals on television, and knows a great deal about how public policy and government works . . . but I’m thinking she’s not the sort of person who’s gonna wake up one morning, log onto Facebook, and go, “Hey!  16,000 people signed a petition to tell me I need to run for the Senate!  I’m on this shit!”

In other words, not going to happen.

Then I got the word that I needed to hop onto a Cause, which is more important than any silly ‘ol petition, because . . . it’s a Cause, and that makes it the Eleven of Petitions.

Most of the time I ignore these as well, because as with petitions, I get on what I want to get on, and most of my feelings do not follow yours, just as yours don’t follow mine.  But when I get a Cause sent to me, where we just have to nominate Malala Yousufzai for the Nobel Peace Prize . . . I don’t want to bang my head on a desk; I want to find the person who started the cause and slam dance their noggin.

Not to take anything away from Malala Yousufzai, because any person who stands up to religious extremists who are so pants-shitting scared of anything that doesn’t fit their limited world view that they will try to kill young girls who are flippin’ them off with a book needs all the support they can get . . . but if by now you aren’t aware that you can’t nominate anyone for a Nobel Peace Prize, you need to get some schoolin’ as well.

This happens every year.  People get together and say, “Hey, you know who’s done a lot to promote world peace?  Glenn Beck!  He needs a Peace Prize:  let nominate him!”  And then three thousand yahoos send off their “Nominating petition” and sit back all fat and happy that they’ve done something good.

Then the others come:  Rush Limbaugh!  Harry Reid!  Sarah Pallin!  Morning Joe!  Dr. Oz!  Tony Stark!  Natalia Romanova!  Nick Fury–no, not the black one, the other one.  It comes every year–

And every year the Nobel people say, “You’re wasting your time; we don’t take nominations, because . . . damn.”

But, hey:  better to take that shot that your Cause might just be the one that gets read, than not take any shot at all.  After all, it’s the Internet:  what’s the harm?

Though this is just small change in a world of Big Internet Money.  For if there is one thing that drives me even nuttier that the few items listed above, it’s getting hit upside the head with following:

Abused animals and military personnel.

I have never abused an animal.  Never.  Been pissed off at them from time to time, and have been annoyed at the neighbor’s dog barking its ass off at 2 AM, but I’ve never abused an animal.  I love cats, and it hurts me greatly to even to think of anyone being able to hurt, torture, or even kill such as creature.

That said, I really enjoy logging onto Facebook at 6:40 in the morning and discovering that one of my friends has decided I need to know that there are all sorts of scumbags out there who hurt animals, so here’s a picture of a dog that was tortured to the edge of death, send some money to keep this from happening again–you’re welcome!

Over the years I have donated money to shelters and organizations to fight against this sort of thing.  For a while I owned five cats, and four of them were rescued from shelters.  So the history is there, and I feel that I’ve done what I can to help animals short of becoming a Crazy Cat Lady.

Then the following happened, and I don’t believe I can sum up my feelings, in words, any better than this:

I love you, Sarah, and I love your music–but it used to be when I’d hear that song, and see those pictures, I either changed the channel, or left the room.  ‘Cause as nice a person as you likely are, I knew you were going to show me why I should help this cause–and if it was necessary to guilt trip my ass into forking over the cash, so be it.

And it went on for years.  It’s still going on, but with a different actress, and different animals, because lets be real:  a couple of years after the first, “I’m Sarah McLachlan,” ad went out, the animals you were seeing in that ad were, in all likelihood, dead.  Probably because you–yes, you!–didn’t send money.  Probably because you changed the channel . . .

But now we move over to the world view of military people on social media–and I feel the need to place a little personal information here . . .

I grew up during some of the worst parts of the Cold War, and during the height of the Vietnam War.  The majority of the people in my family were pro-military, and supported the Vietnam War–though I’m not sure if it was because they felt we needed to prevent the Domino Theory from becoming a reality; or, as my grandfather put it, “We need to show those gooks who’s in charge.”  I tend to think it was more of the later than the former, but that’s another story.

When I was eleven I joined the local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol.  The CAP was not just a paramilitary organization for kids then:  it was considered part of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary.  I was, from eleven until just after I turned fourteen, in the Air Force, more or less.  I wore a uniform for meetings, I went off to a few Air Force bases in my time, and I did my share of saluting people who were of a higher rank than me–which was most everyone.

But I also learned first aid; I watched a child birthing movie twelve; I figured out how to navigate an airplane–and I was the go-to kid when you needed to know the effects of a near-by nuclear detonation (in other words, it didn’t kill you right away), because I was about the only one who knew how to use the circular, handy-dandy, nuclear bomb calculator.  Yep, if you needed to know when you were about to get dosed with lethal fallout, I had it down.

I could have even attended the Air Force Academy and graduated in 1980, and if I’d put in my thirty years I’d have gotten out two years ago, probably around a Major or a Lieutenant Colonel, or maybe even a Full Bird, and found out, for sure, if that broom closet at NORAD was really a utility closet, or if the back was another door that only looked like a wall, and that was the real entrance to the SGC.  But that didn’t happen, and there are reasons for it–most of which I really don’t have time to go into right now . . .

That said, every time I get a post from someone on Facebook saying I have to Like this picture of our people in uniform, ’cause if I don’t I’m not supporting the troops, I want to find the person that sent the picture, and stick a heel from one of the boots I’m now wearing up their ass.

Back in the early 70’s, Harlan Ellison used to call it “Flag Waving Patriotism”.  It’s the attitude that the mere fact of  hanging a flag in front of your house, and talking up a good game about how we need to “kill commies”, you were supporting your country and your troops.  In today’s vernacular, it was my earliest exposure to the “America!  Fuck Yeah!” syndrome, which one can find all over the Internet–and you don’t even have to try looking.  It’s right there.  Trust me.

So I get pictures saying that I need to like them if I support our troops; that I have to like them if I defend those who fight for my freedom; that I better like them, otherwise I support the terrorists, and I probably shouldn’t even be living here–

Stop right there.  You do not get to tell me I’m some kind of terrorist because I don’t like your picture.  Ever.  Because I’m not buying your arguments . . .

See, when was the last time the troops really fought for our freedom?  As in, “You’re protecting my state from the Big Bad.”  Invasion of Grenada, 1983?  Don’t think so.  The peacekeeping forces in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, in 82′ and 83′?  Not really.  NATO intervention in the Kosovo War in 98′ and 99′?  As noble as that effort was, I’d have to say we’re very selective in which ethnic cleansing we try to stop, which raises another set of questions . . .

We have lots of people still in Europe, South Korea, and Japan.  The European forces were meant to stop the Soviet Union, but unless you’re Mitt Romney, the U.S.S.R. ain’t been rattling many sabers of late.  The troops are in South Korea because there’s still a war going on there–really–and there are crazy assholes running the North . . . but the reality there is, North Korea has about a half-million artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, and if they wanted to reduce that city to rubble, about the only way we could stop them would be to invade, or light them up with napalm, but still–not protecting anyone here.  And the forces in Japan were originally put there to keep Japan from attacking anyone else.  These days, it’s more like the Japanese are worried about service personal attacking their daughters . . .

Then there’s Iraq . . . yes, we got rid of a bad dictator, a guy who killed, what?  Killed four hundred thousand of his own people?  Yeah, that is bad . . . ‘cept Saddam would have been the first guy to tell you that the Kurds weren’t his people, just as Suharto, the second President of Indonesia, would tell you those six hundred thousand people that died after the September Revolution in 1966 weren’t really his people; they were Chinese, and more than likely members of the PKI (the then Communist origination in Indonesia), which made them even worst . . . and the million or so people he killed while he was in power, using  weapons we supplied, and done with the training we gave to many of the officers in charge of the military at that time–hey, you know, shit just happens, ‘kay?

But, I will argue, at no time was Iraq ever a threat to us.  We got Saddam, but we also got a trillion bucks run up on the credit card, and we ended up with four thousand dead–which, if not given the state of body armor used these days, would have been about five times that number–and we now have thousands who are in need of physical and mental health treatment . . . only, that’s something that’s really kinda hard to pay for these days, it would seem . . .

And just as a bit of a head’s up:  if you’re going to remove a bad dictator who kills four hundred thousand of the people living in the country they run, try not to kill six hundred and fifty thousand of the same civilians you say you’re saving.  Kinda bad PR, in case you weren’t paying attention . . .

When it comes to supporting the troops, I do this:  I try to support people in the government, or who want to get into government  who aren’t going to send those the troops off to some conflict that’s gonna run up another trillion, and maybe another five or ten thousand dead, on a war that isn’t needed.  Like, say, a country that might have one nuclear device in a few years, who don’t really have a delivery system for said device, who could be turned into a sea of glass in thirty minutes time due to the numerous SLBM boats slinking about in the Indian Ocean–but which is sending a lot of politicians, and other crazy-ass Amurcans, into a pants-pissing frenzy because this is the end of the world as we know it, and it needs to be stopped now!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard this shit for fifty years, and I’ll probably hear it for another thirty if I live that long.

You want to do something, get off your butt and do something.  You wanna send me pictures of tortured animals and suffering troops–

I’m all full up with taking care of crazy shit this week.  Come back next week–

You know where to find me.

Down in the Konro

Oi.  The horror, the horror . . . the horror of word count!  Well, it’s not that much of a horror, but sometimes it just drives you crazy enough that you want to go, “Hummmm . . . why am I doing this again?  I could be doing something worth while like cooking meth.  Or selling myself an S&M club.  Or hanging on Facebook making fun of people–oh, wait:  I do that now.”

You get the point.  Sometimes even the best person who’s doing this work wonders why they bother.  ‘Cause lets face it, if you ain’t a writer, you are mystified by this thing called, “Story Tellin’,” and it tends to bend your little mind.  (Notice I didn’t say, “Bendy Wendy,” because there’s no timey whimey involved.  Straight up cause and effect, ya understand?)

Unless you’re a “name author”, you’re toiling in obscurity.  And I do mean that:  friends almost never ask me what I’m working on, co-worker give less than a single shit about my stories, and even here at home, the family unit doesn’t ask about about anything beyond, “Are you still writing?”, or “How is your writing?”

To be honest, I get it easy on the family front.  A lot of people I know talk about how the Other Halves are in their shit a lot, arguing that they’re wasting their time with something that isn’t bringing in money, that they should be working on something worthwhile.  It’s always that little dig at the end that puts the cherry on the top of the You’re Disappointing Sundae, because if you aren’t living up the expectations of others, why then, you must be screwing around.

I got two words for these people, and they aren’t “Happy Birthday.”

Yes, what I do with this writing this involves doing something that isn’t bringing in money on the spot; it takes time that means I’m often away doing something that prevents me from doing something else; and it will involve being alone and misunderstood, because if you have months to spend putting words into a computer, and then fixing those words, and then fixing them some more before you send them off without any expectation of getting paid–then why can’t you do something useful?

Oh, piss on it:  Fuck You.  Got it?  Or as Pete Townsend told Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock, “Fuck off my fucking stage!”  Now, I’m not gonna hit anyone in the back of the head with a guitar, but you get the point.  You’re in my world now, Susie Sunshine, and tread carefully, because I will throw your ass in a story where your character is emasculated by insanely vicious chihuahuas, and I’ll love every second of the ongoing groin chewing.

Yes, I’m not generating money with my writing.  Yes, I might not ever generate any money with my writing, and the time will come when I’ll say, “The hell with it,” and stop.  And, yes:  this writing thing mean that I won’t have time for whatever stuff you–and you know who you are–think I should be doing.

I’ve been writing through issues that should block me.  I’ve had headaches that have been blinding enough to make it impossible to think.  I’ve heard bullshit from people that has set my teeth on edge to the point that I think my head is on sideways.

I’m still here; I’m still writing.

No, the payoff isn’t always Sunshine and Unicorns and Lady Fans who want to take us to their boudoirs so they can make us writhe like we’re possessed by demons.  Sometimes you make zip.  Sometimes you make a little, just enough to keep teasing you back to the computer.  If you do make bank on your work, you might clear $50 thousand after your expenses.  Might.

Chuck Wendig has laid out the smack for NaNo, not once but twice.  He talks about prep; he talks about number; he talks about doing it every damn day, ’cause that’s the only way you’re gonna get better.  But he lays out this little gem, and it’s worth repeating in its entity because it is too damn awesome (From 25 Motivational Thoughts for Writers, by Chuck Wendig, from Terrible Minds):

20.  How To Image The Haters

If there is one thing we have learned upon this old Internet of ours, it is: haters gonna hate. You will ever have disbelievers among your ranks, those who pop up like scowling gophers, boring holes through your well-being, your hopes, your dreams. It is very important not to prove the haters right. It is very important to know where to place the haters in rank of importance, which is to say, below telemarketers, below any television show on TLC, below crotch fungus and garbage fires and anal cankers. Imagine the haters herded into a pen. Eaten by the tigers of your own awesomeness. Then digested. Shat out. And burned with flamethrowers. The only power you should afford the haters is the power to eat curb.

 

I’m working on a story that requires a lot of work, a lot of research.  Last night I finished a chapter that wasn’t easy to write, because I found it hard to get into writing.  I ended the chapter, which involved my character being questioned with a police officer, with one of my characters saying she could stand a little more konro, which is a beef rib soup dish one finds in Makassar.

I screwed up that word “konro” maybe six or seven times, and only today got around to fixing it.  This after having looked it up maybe four or five times since Monday.  But I finally got it right because–I’m a writer.  And I’m writing.  This is what I do.

So word to the haters:  get off my tits.  I am me, you are you, and I’m not asking you to pen a novel.  I’m decided to do this insanity on my own, and if, per chance, you find it strange that I’m not down with what you think I should do, tough.

‘Cause if you’re not careful, one of my characters is gonna get dressed in her finest Lolita outfit, dig out those platform goth boots she loves so much, buckle them on, then find you and curb stomp your ass into the nearest hospital.

Only because, you know, I’m totally into non-violence.

But my characters aren’t.

Into the Haze of Life

This is one of those days that I know will redefine one.

The last few days have been sorta crazy.  I don’t mean crazy as in, “Oh, wow.  Wild stuff going on; better get goin’ on this.”  No, it’s more like, “I’m totally losing it; I should see about getting checked into the facility.”  As in, I’m really on my last good thread, and if it’s cut, I’ve got serious stuff to deal with in a major way.

Last night I tried writing.  My heart didn’t feel as if it were in it.  I did my best, but these things that are happening, it’s eating me alive.  Maybe I’ll get more done later, because even when I’m feeling as if I’m going to have a heart attack at any moment, I need to do something towards my craft.

For if I don’t have my craft, then I have nothing.  There is nothing else waiting for me.  Give up my writing, and I might as well start looking for a nice place to rest for the last time.

I know that sounds extreme, but there really isn’t anything else at this point.  The Undisclosed Location has become less of a place to crash between trips to the job site, and more of a prison of them mind.  At this moment, I’m not there, I’m at The Real Home, though a return to TUL is likely tonight.  Maybe.  Possibly.  It all depends on what transpires during this morning.

There are things to do today.  I’m dealing with things the best I can.  I’ve got support on this end, and I’ve been getting support from other people as well.  I’m not completely alone at this point–which is something that I do feel when I’m at The Undisclosed Location.  It’s nothing but alone there.  It’s the feeling of nothingness, of being isolated from everything but the local Wal Mart down the street, that’s one of the things putting a lot of strain upon me.  It’s helped to be a great writing local, but it’s not helping with anything else.

So many things to deal with:  the job, loneliness, isolation, fear, the feeling that I’m screwing up everything . . . oh, and one other thing.  Something that’s really defining me at the moment.  But nothing I’m ready to speak of yet.  That time is coming, but it’s not yet.  Just like all the events that are surrounding this little episode, I have to leave it for another place and time.

I have to conclude that one of the reasons this current work in progress is taking so long is because I’ve got entirely too much shit on my mind.  My plate is full, and I can’t seem to clear it these days.  There is more calling for my attention, and I don’t have the means to fit it in right now.

Bouncing off the walls, I am.  It’s not quite gotten to where I feel like I’m about to do something totally stupid, but it’s feeling very close.  Objects in the rear view mirror are always closer than they appear, and this one has been tailgating me for a few weeks.

Okay, I’m off.  Even with everything swirling about my head like mad, I can still write.  At least I write here.

See?  Everything’s okay.  Really.  It is.

Writing for the Taxman

Okay, this is gonna be one of those rants, so you’ve gotten your warning upfront.  Things might get nasty, and they will very likely get blue.  You can read on, you can go do something else, or your can watch this video of Yamamura Sadako–aka, the original version of Samara Morgan–throw the first pitch at a baseball game.  Watch it, and die seven days later.  You’re welcome.

Also, there is a particular reason for the title, and that reason has very little to do with taxation.  It’s a metaphor, more or less, and I’m more interested in writing that discussing the evils of taxation.  Just so you know:  I’ve read my Milton Friedman (as well as John Kenneth Galbraith), I’ve read For a New Liberty, and I’ve been a member of The Libertarian Party.  Take notice of the past tense declarations in that last sentence, and keep in mind I’m just like Liz Ten:  “I’m the bloody queen, mate.  Basically, I rule.”  I will lop off heads.

 

That said, onward.

 

I love reading Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds.  He’s funny; he’s rude; he’s sometimes very profane, but in a funny way; he’s right when he says the people at Fox News simply make shit up.  The thing I like about him most, however, are his “25 Things” lists that he offers up to other aspiring penmonkeys who want to be writers, opining upon what he’s learned over the years.  When you read those lists, you know he’s been there.  You know he’s suffered, even if the way he says he’s suffered somehow involved tequila and a $10 hooker while he was trying to make a deadline, but the suffering is still there on the blog.

One of the things Chuck goes on about, at length, is the fact that you gotta have a hell of a lot of discipline to write.  And there’s a reason for that, but I’m not ready to go there, not yet.  I know of what he says, because I’ve worked on that very same issue.  A year ago at this time I was a mess.  I talked about writing, but I was doing jack-little of it.  Lots of talk; very little of putting the characters on the screen sort of thing.

Now, a quick divergence here . . .

While I may have a lot of opinions, I’m pretty much not about getting into people’s faces and casting those opinions their way.  Part of the reason is I can go on for hours about something, ’cause I don’t do soundbites very well.  If I have something to say, I’ll say it, and I’ll get into all the various reasons for saying it.

I try not to be a bad guy about things:  a lot of times I’ll hear something that’ll make me cringe and I’ll not say anything, either in person or online, but in my head I’m banging my head upon the desk, search for sharp objects to ram into my eyes.  I mean, if I responded to every comment I came across that I didn’t like, I’d be on the Internet all day long.  Oh, wait . . .

Anyway, I’m not about confrontation–unless my bullshit meter gets pegged.  Then I’ll usually say something.

The other day I was speaking to someone, another writer, about–well, writing, what else?  Said writer struggles with a busy life, as do many of us.  I get that part, and I generally don’t get up on my dead horse about that.

No, it was the other things they were saying that was making me grind my teeth into dust.

See, when I was discussion how important it was to get into certain habits with writing, every so often there would be this comeback:  “I’m not very big on that.”  Fine and dandy.  Only a few days before there was another discussion about something I do in writing, and the comment was, “I don’t handle that well.”  Or, a few days before that, the answer to one of my suggestions was, “I don’t do that.”

In fact, during one conversation a week before, I was hit with variations of those comment four times in the course of about forty-five minutes.  That led not only to a great deal of headbanging, but to a conversation with My Muse over why some writers are that way.

Let me be clear:  I have sat in that same seat.  I have thrown out every excuse there is about why I’m not writing.  I’ve run them many a time on other people, and I’d done so for decades.  And I continued to call myself a writer while, as I mumbled out of the other side of my mouth, I was mentioning why I wasn’t actually, you know, writing.  And I’ve paid for that inaction.  Truly, I have paid.

But I’ve also learned, and I’ve taken those lessons to heart.  Because I have those lessons in my heart, it bothers me to see others fall into the same pit I’ve crawled out of–like a mule, if you believe one of my fans.

So, being as tactfully as possible, I told them they were spending an awful lot of time bitching about not being able to write, while at the same time complaining about how some of the things they could do to help them write, they just didn’t, you know, “handle well”.  And that they need to do something about that later thing.

I didn’t say it to hurt; I said it to help.

I have my disciplines these days.  I get up and blog first thing in the morning.  Right now it’s 7:30 in the morning on Saturday, but I started this sucker about 45 minutes ago, and it’s taken me this long to come up with something short of one thousand words because of “distractions”.  During the week, I rip off my post before I go to work, which means I usually start between 5:00 and 5:30 AM, and crank out a minimum of 500 words in thirty to forty minutes.

I do that because I have gotten into the habit of writing.  I do this blogging thing because, to take a partial quote from Neil Gaiman, “(Y)ou’re still putting one damn word after another and learning as a writer.”  Being creative at anything is a process of learning, and the more you learn, the better you get.

Like it or not, if you want to learn these truths, you need to take the freakin’ time to do so.  That often means finding a way to fit some time into your schedule, and while it’s not always an easy thing, it can be done.  Talk last night for me:  I get home from the Job, return to The Undisclosed Location, packed up the computer, drove for about two hours and forty minutes back to the Real Home, had something to eat, unpacked the computer, unwound a little, watched Real Time on HBO–then, at 10:00 PM, I started editing the last chapter of Couples Dance.  I was tired, because I was up at 4:15 AM CST yesterday, and nine hours at work followed by a one hundred and fifty mile drive does very little to help you get on top of your game.

But that last chapter wasn’t going to edit itself, so I slipped on my big girl boy shorts and got to work.  It wasn’t a long chapter–about 1,500 words, but when I was finished I’d cleaned it up nicely, and even added another 315 words to the story.  And I was done, finished, fin.  Then I saved the story, then saved all that off to an external drive, then posted my status on Facebook–because I am all about promoting myself when it comes to writing–and then I went to bed, just a little past 11:00 PM.

And I was up once more at 5:30 AM today, once more here at the computer, ready to go again.  Writing, as I am now, a few hours later.

You wanna learn, you gotta take the time.  Time equals you gotta sit at the goddamn computer and tap away at keys in order to get those pretty words to appear on the screen in a way that makes sense, and that means you gotta do it every day if you want to get better at the craft.

Every day.

Oh, sure:  take time off on your birthday and Christmas like Stephen King does, while remembering that he spends the rest of the year in his office writing a few thousand words every day–and at one time his office was a furnace/laundry room in a trailer, and his desk was a board he laid across his knees so he’d have a place to set his manual typewriter.  Yeah, good times.  But you gotta tap those keys, or put a writing tool to paper.  You gotta do it.

You have to teach yourself to sit and write.  You have to develop the discipline to do this every day.  You have to, you have to, you freakin’ have to!  And it’s not just teaching yourself to write.  You want to teach yourself character development; you want to teach yourself how to plot a story; you want to each yourself how to edit; you want to teach yourself the fine art of taking your story and format it correctly so when you turn it into an ebook someone with a Nook or Kindle will be able to read it when they buy it off the Internet.

You wanna call yourself a writer?  Anyone can do that.  There’s hundreds of people all over the ‘net that are saying, “Oh, I’m a writer.  I did something . . . well, that was thirty years ago, and I’ve been working on my last novel for fifteen years now–yeah, I’m a writer.”  That was me last year.  I wuz uh rightur.  I’d done a few things, and I’d posted them to the Internet, and I’d been working on my novel for twenty years–

Right.

Then I started writing.

I started writing in little spurts, but I did it every day.  I set goals.  I gave myself daily word counts to meet.  I got encouragement from people I knew.  I let others read what I was producing.  I got tools to help with my craft.  I learned.  I started blogging every day because it gave me a chance to work my imagination in a way that would help me develop my writing chops–hey, trying coming up with a new title every day.  Don’t think that’s hard?  Give it a try.

When it came time to self publish, I read up on how to format an ebook so it’ll can be accepted for distribution to Nook and Kindle.  That took a little work, but I figured out how to do it.  I didn’t go, “I CAN’T DO THIS, IT’S TOO HARD!”  I got in there and spent a couple of days playing and working.  First time in, the Smashwords meatgrinder ate my 24,000 word book–and accepted it two minutes later.  A few days later I was in Premium acceptance, no errors.

It can be done.

I know it’s easy to say, “I don’t do that very well.”  Hell, I’ve done it a great deal myself.  And it very easy to do with writing.  But there’s one thing you should always keep in mind when you’re writing:

Are you write for the hell of it?  Or are you writing because this is what you want to do for the rest of your life?

Because if you’re doing it for the rest of your life, then it becomes your job.  And jobs are not always easy.  I’ve programmed computers for 25 years, and I understand how hard that can be, and how intimidating it seems to others.  But anyone can do it.

You just have to learn.

So what is my ultimate goal?  It’s the title.

One day–maybe next year, maybe the year after–I’m gonna be filling out my 1040.  I’m going to put down all the pertinent information about who I am and what I do.  And when it comes to that section of the tax form that says, “Occupation,” I want to enter the following word:

Writer“.

Nothing else, just that.  I want to be able to say, “Ya see that number down there, the one that say how much I made this last year?  I did all that writing.”

I shouldn’t say it’s my only goal, but ultimately, it’s one of the things I want to do.  Correction:  it’s one of the things I will do.

How about you?

I’ve said plenty: about 2,125 words so far.  I hope it’s helped and not pissed off too many people.  Writers tend to do both, you know.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to spend some time looking for publishers.

These stories won’t publish themselves.

New Rules For an Old Profession

The return to The Real Home went without a hitch, which is to say no one died.  Yes, there were moments along I-65 that I wanted to turn my trusty vehicle into The Last of the V-8 Death Machines, but it didn’t happen.  Not this time . . .

As I said I would, I got into the writing, though it wasn’t until after 10 PM my time–and with a glass of wine at my side.  The words came, but slowly, because there’s a feeling I’m reaching for this in scene, and finding it was difficult.  Not impossible, but I had to look into what one of the main characters wanted to feel, and I needed to decide if their feelings were real.  See, my characters don’t own me; they are my plaything.  I slap them around and make them do as I like.  Oh, sure:  I’ll ask first if they want something a particular way, because I am, if nothing else, a compassionate mistress, but I’m paying for this band, so they better dance to my tune.

Before I trundled off to bed, Transporting was 865 words richer, and the final word count was centimeters from 280,200 words.  That’s a hefty chunk of wordage, no getting around that.  But here I am, almost half way through Chapter 45, the penultimate chapter, and I’ve maybe three thousand or so word left to finish this sucker . . . yeah, 285,000 words sounds like a good stopping point.

Which brings me to something that I need to mention . . .

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that, once in a while, something will happen to me, I’ll try not to let it be a big deal–and it usually isn’t.  Issue forgotten, so to speak.

Then I write about it.  Why?  Because I’m a pain in the ass, that’s why.  And I’m worst than an elephant, because I often never forget.

So there may be some harsh words said below.  If you don’t want to read them . . . here, watch a guinea pig break a world record!

That said, onward.

For the last month I’ve mostly blogged about my old novel.  Yeah, yeah; boring, I know.  Most of the feedback I’ve received has fallen into two categories:  “What you’re doing is fantastic!” or, “Are you out of your mind?”  Most of the first group come from people who are cheering me on to get something that’s been such a part of my life for some long finished.  The later group . . .

The later group seem to be from people who are “reminding me” that I’m producing a work that is pretty much unmarketable and unsaleable.  Or better yet, they have “advice” to help we with the things I’m doing wrong.  You know, like switching points of view from first person to third person omnipotent.  Or that I shouldn’t use italics that much.  Or, quite simply, the novel is just too damn big, and what am I gonna do to cut it down?

Now, normally, I might listen.  Might, I say, verily.  I mean, writers should support other writers.  I’ve even had my say here about things I think you should and shouldn’t do.  If you want to do them, groovy, go for it!  If you don’t, then don’t.  Never let it be said I’m gonna hold a pen to your head and jam it into your left temple if you don’t heed my advice.  Because what I’m offering are nothing more than observations, and not great wisdom from years of playing the publishing game.

For years I have taken advice from people in the game.  Ask a writer for their opinion on how you should market and edit your work, how you should deal with the people who are going to bring your baby into the light of day, and they’ll tell you all sorts of shit.  One of the things you instantly realize is that there are tons of horror stories out there about how a great deal of their work has been screwed up by publishing houses, and if they had to do it all over again, they’d likely have killed everyone involved and taken to selling drugs as a less stressful occupation.

Sure, I realize that people want to help.  I do the same with other writers.  But I will, at the least, try to offer up advice that isn’t . . . shall we say just a touch derisive?

“So how do you intend to sell a first novel that’s twice the size of what publishing houses usually want?  They’ll tell you people usually won’t read those.”  “You can’t change points of view like that; agents will tell you people don’t like that.”  “You can’t use italics like that, editors will tell you people don’t like that.”  Hum.  It would seem that there are a lot of things out there people don’t like.  And that probably is true; there likely are a lot of things out there that people don’t like . . .

Tough.

Yes, my work is long.  It’s very long.  I don’t deny that.  But in telling this story, this is what’s come out of me.  Sure, I could maybe cut out, say, thirty thousand words and it’d still make sense.  I might even be able to cut out fifty or sixty thousand words and it wouldn’t seem strange.  Even so, you’re still talking about a 200,000 word novel.  Cut out anymore than that and it’s gonna seem like a wounded creature.

Some cuts might make sense, and I’m certain when I start editing it, I’ll find parts that need to go.

But don’t tell me it shouldn’t be so long because people won’t read them.  That’s bullshit, and we know it.

The novel is written from two points of view: one is third person omnipotent, where you see what everyone is doing and thinking, and the other is in the form of a first person journal maintained by one of the main characters.  Point of view, when it does switch, happens at the chapter level–save for the last scene in Chapter 45, when I’ll have a few switches from first to third person, and back.  It doesn’t seem that big of a deal to me; otherwise, why would I have written it this way?  (Because it’s what my characters wanted?  Those pesky characters, telling me what they want again!)

So I might have an agent tell me, “Hey, you can’t point of view like  this; people don’t like it.”  Oh, really?  I’m sorry to hear that.  Now find a buyer for the goddamn book, ’cause that’s your job.  And if you can’t–hey, how many agents are there on the Internet?

My journal entries, as well as character’s inner thoughts, are italicized, something I’ve seen done time and again by other writers.  “Oh, but editors will tell you not to do that, people don’t like it.”  Damn, there’s those “people” again!  Why are they even reading if they don’t like so many things?

Sure, it might be a little thing that can be changed.  And maybe the editor will give me a good way to change that so it doesn’t come across as confusing.  If they can’t–sorry, bub.  I’m leaving it as is.  Don’t want to print it that way?  No problem.  Give me my manuscript back and I’ll look for the next house . . .

I’m not being a pain in the ass just to be one.  I do understand that I might be spitting in the face of people out there who are there to help.  But before I spit, I would like to hear reasons other than, “People don’t like that.”  ‘Cause I’m gonna say, “My readers are smarter than the average people.”

See, this is what comes of reading too many opinions from Harlan Ellison, who was always of the opinion that once you got your work out there to a house, you fought your ass off to print it as you wrote it.  And believe me, I’ve spent way too long on this piece, I’ve gone into far too many moments of despair, I’ve had too many moments when I was within moments of deleting this story from my computer, for someone to tell me, “Oh, you can’t do that because people won’t like it.”

You want me to change something, you better make damn good sense about why, or I’m gonna get my back up and fight like hell.  Because editors and agents and publishing houses ain’t always right.

As most of us know, the publishing world often knows jack about books.  Please, do I need to cite?  Okay, how about . . . 30 rejections for Stephen King’s Carrie?  “‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell,” stated one rejection letter.  King got so despondent that, at one point, he tossed the manuscript in the trash, only to have his wife dig it out and make him send it out again.

John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.  One house has this, and they couldn’t want to sell it off to another.  “You’re welcome to le Carré–he hasn’t got any future,” they said in a letter.  I think they meant after he died.

Chicken Soup for the Soul; 130 total rejections.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; 121 total rejections.  Gone With the Wind; 33 total rejections.  Dune, 23 total rejections.  And least you think I’m only talking about old stuff, how about some kid’s book about a wizard that was rejected by a dozen houses, and was about to get the kick from number thirteen when the guy who was about to do the kicking was told by his daughter, “I think you should print this.”  If I was J. K. Rowling, I’d put that girl through school.

And, of course, my two favorites:  “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”  That from an editor who rejected one of Kipling’s short stories.  Yeah, he really showed Kipling, didn’t he?  Then there is this from a publisher:  “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”  I wonder what Anne Frank thought of that rejection?  Oh, wait . . .

I am not saying my story will be among these stars.  But I am saying, the people in the publishing world don’t always know what they are talking about.  The best writers will always tell you about two things:  their best publishing experiences, and their worst.  Why does it seem the worst always outweigh the best?

One last thing:  when your advice to me is, “If you don’t do it like I’m saying, you won’t get published, LOL!”  I’m sorry:  “LOL”?  Are you laughing at me?  Do you think I’m funny?  Funny like a clown?  Do you find it amusing to chortle at the person who, you believe, is doomed to die the death of a thousand delete keys?  Do that again, and you will feel my virtual hand give you a virtual pimp slap.  With that LOL, you got put on the Pay No Mind List, and your chances of ever getting off it are very small, indeed.

I’m going to make a rule here.  This is Ray’s First Law of Getting Published, and I’m going to rip it off, pretty much as if, from Clarke’s First Law, because why try to reinvent perfection?

The law states:  “When someone in the publishing industry tells you something can be done, they are most likely right.  When they tell you what you are doing is, for the most part, impossible, they are most likely wrong.”

So what if I don’t publish my novel right away?  I can wait.  I’ve waited 25 years.  I can wait a little longer–

But I will get it published.  This much I know.

Suffer the Dreams of the World Gone Mad

With no Internet in the Undisclosed Location it’s a fall back to doing it all old school: listing to CDs on the computer and writing this post in Word.  This is why I should have held onto the modem; I could hack myself up a profile and run the Net wide open, as if I were Case.

If only.

So here I sit, munching on Cheez-its while I wash it all down with sips of cognac, and I’ve got REM’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi on the computer, and the reality is all is good, because I’ve been writing up a storm.

Well, a storm is relative.  Yesterday (Saturday), it was 2,500 words, and tonight it’s around 2,100 words, and considering I’d been doing maybe 800 to 1,200 words a day, it’s a considerable increase.  So it’s a little storm, but it’s better than what I’ve been doing.

This has all been going into one chapter, and that chapter is getting to be a really, really big one.  Before I even got to where I am today, I “chatted out” the scene over dinner, so I knew what I’d be saying, more or less, before I ever wrote a word.  It works for me, but when I was out at the mall today, talking to myself, I got a look from a woman that said, “Are you nuts or what?”

Hey, shit happens, love.  Welcome to my world.

There was a time when talking to myself used to get me into a lot of trouble.  My mother was always worried I was turning schizophrenic because I’d do this when I was like 8, 9 years old, and she figured I was seeing things that weren’t there.  Sure, when I told her I wasn’t talking to anything, and that I was just talking to myself, she’d yell, “Stop it, then!  You look crazy!” but that’s okay, because it was all done with love, right?

These days I often make light of my mental illness, because I understand it’s one of those things that’s always there, and you got to learn to deal with it.  Yes, there was a time when I took medication to battle my bi-polar condition, but there was a problem with taking that medication.  One, I wasn’t on one particular med, I was taking four: one to combat the depression, another to offset anxiety, another adjust my moods, and the forth . . . hell, I don’t remember why I was taking the forth.  Eventually I stopped taking it because it wasn’t doing me any good.

I was taking about 450mg of meds every day.  Yes, it helped, and it kept me focused, and it helped me deal with work . . . but I was lacking something.  I didn’t have anything I’d call a spark.  There was no inspiration.

I couldn’t find my voice.

With all that crazy feeling behind me I should have been able to write like a mother.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t get motivated, and when I did, I couldn’t find anything worth while writing about.  It was like my imagination, and the push I needed to get it into gear, had been vanquished along with my craziness.

As soon as I stopped taking medication—which was exactly around the time when I ran out of medical insurance—I started to get crazy again.  It happened slowly, but it came back.  All the fear, all the doubt, all the depression . . . yep, there it was again.

But I had something else, too.

I had the desire to write again.

I took an online class in November, 2010, then I started getting motivated in early 2011—well, I got that motivation with a little kick from my Muse—and then I started writing in real earnest in July of 2011.

The rest is, as they say, history.

I have a story out of Smashwords; I have a novel that’s getting edited; I’ve got a story that’s going to be published in May; I have another story I’ve finished and another that I’m about 14,000 worlds into.

I’m writing.  I’m doing it all the time.  And the moment I start selling this stuff on a regular basis, that’s when I quit the day job I’m about to start tomorrow and go back to being—as I told my daughter—“Second Mom”.

Yeah, I’m always going to be bi-polar.  I can’t do anything about that.  One of these days I’ll get back into therapy and I’ll talk about my issues, and maybe I’ll even take some meds to help with the really bad days that hit me.

But the real truth is that creative types tend to suffer from some kind of mental illness.  Sometimes it’s kicking their ass to the point where they can’t function most of the time.  Sometimes it takes them right out of the game.

Other times it gives them a push to keep on keeping.

So, here I am, kickin’ it old school, and the thing that bugs me the most these last couple of days?  The Poe Toaster is gone, through, finished.  No more three roses and a bottle of cognac.  I’ve had that in my life for a very long time, but it’s over.

Some things are meant to end in their own time.  When they do, take it stride and create something new.

Or better yet, just talk to yourself and see what comes of that conversation.

Blackout Days

Just to let you shiny people know, I may say some bad words in the text below.  So if you don’t want to see them, I’ve left you this video of a Skyrim mod where all the dragons have been changed into My Little Ponies.  Enjoy.

A lot of people doing the dark today, all on honor of kicking SOPA and PIPA in the ass with hob-nailed boots.  Both links are up, by the way, and for obvious reasons–namely, information needs to be free.  And if you aren’t educated, then you can’t make up your own mind.

Oh, sure.  We know why these are up here.  Because the Internet is rife with piracy.  Go out on YouTube any day and, horror of horrors, someone has put up a video of a song–that they don’t have permission to play!  Oh, my gawd, I can hear Mista Kurtz now:  the horror, the horror.  Or someone has put up a picture, and they didn’t get permission from the people who own the copyright on movie it was taken from!  Or, worst of all . . . you put up a video clip without the express written permission of Major League Baseball.

Now you’ve stepped into the shit, my friend.

Let’s face it: this isn’t about protecting the Internet from piracy.  Oh, sure, we’re told we need to stop the rip-offs that happen every day, that a lot of people are hurt by Internet pirates who just take and take and don’t give a shit if you’re hurt in the process.

No, what this is about . . . is money.  Big money from big players, who only want to get bigger.  And these players got some important people helping them out.  I mean, come on: SOPA is sponsored by Larmar Smith, a genuinely batshit insane douche if there ever was one, and PIPA is sponsored by Patrich Leahy, who, while usually something of a moderate, is way the hell off-base on this.

But if you really want to see how these players just shuffle people around, one only needs to look at the current head of the Motion Picture Association of America, one of the biggest players behind SOPA.  The chairman of MPAA is none other than former senator Chris Dodd, and boy, is he pissed that people are blacking out the Internet today.  He’s pretty much calling it a “gimmick”, and a “dangerous one” designed to “punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.”

Well, now!

Lets face it: there is a problem.  Stuff is being ripped off all the time through the Internet.  Or, I should say, it gets ripped off and then shared through the Internet.  I mean, did someone really rip off Transformers 3: We Still Ain’t Got a Freakin’ Script through an Internet download?  No.  They got it through other means and then . . . well, someone in their insanity decided people really wanted to see this, so they passed it around.  I know; it doesn’t make sense, but it happens.

It’s no surprise that a lot of piracy comes through Asia, in particular China, and that government doesn’t give much of a shit about piracy in any form.  I remember the days, back in the very late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, when, as the visiting IT guy, I’d catch someone in our China office loading software they’d picked up at “the night market”–the place where you bought all your pirated stuff–on to their computer.  Hell, I once caught one of the office managers installing the newest Microsoft op system, and sure enough–straight outta the black market that shit came.

China is, to put it bluntly, the World’s Knock Off Artists, and people there will pirate every damn thing they can while the government looks the other way.  How bad can it get?  How about 3 fake Apple stores in Kunming?  Oh, did I say 3?  Those are just the ones in Kunming that were shut down.  How about 22 total?  And the ones that were shut down were found to be “trading without a licence.”  Not that they were selling bootleg shit out of a bootleg store.  No.  They didn’t have their paperwork in order.

Of course I could say this is payback for Apple using Foxcomm to make their iPhone, and where the working conditions are so horrible that, recently, over 100 people said “give us our pay or we’re gonna kill ourselves.”  Amazon uses them to make the Kindle as well . . .

Of course, no one does much about China.  They bitch about it, yeah, but they don’t do anything.  Because, in the end, it’s all about money, and it’s easier to look the other way there and continue pandering to 1.3 billion consumers, while busting some 18 year old’s ass over an Adele video on YouTube.

And why would “liberal” Hollywood get behind these bills?  Please.  As I’ve pointed out before, while a fair number of actors and actresses are, by definition, liberal, the people running the studios are all about putting asses in the seats and coin in their pockets, and liberal isn’t something they get behind.  They want to fight the easy fight, and that means they’ve finally gotten tired of having their lawyers chase down some guy who’s set up a Deep Space 9 fan site and are currently threatening to lock their ass up for 20 years if they don’t pull down those pictures of Ben Sisko.  Naw.  Let the government do that for us.  And while they’re at it, just shut down the whole fucking Internet as well, ’cause we know the greatest threat to company profits are those illegal fansites dedicated to getting Kira Nerys and The Intendant together.

If you really want to see how SOPA and PIPA play to the big money players, just look at how lowly writers fair.  A day doesn’t go by when I don’t hear about how Amazon is guilty of allowing plagiarized, or just out-and-out ripped off, ebooks to be sold through their outlet.  And when this is brought to their attention, the attitude is sort of like, “Phuff!  Go away, kid, you’re bothering me.”  This happens a lot with other sites selling, or even giving away, pilfered ebooks, as well.

Sort of the same situation with pirated role playing games, like the ones sold through Drive ThruRPG.  I can find copies of just about every game somewhere on the Internet, and independent developers lose their asses because of this.

Is the government going to step in and shut down a couple of sites because Cubical 7 is getting ripped off?  Is the government going to shut down Amazon if I discover my ebook is being sold under another title by another writer who decided to rob my ass?

Yeah . . . you know the answer to those questions, too, don’t you?

In these times where the debate on corporate money in politics is coming to a head, it’s plainly obvious that SOPA and PIPA is just one more example of how that money is buying the people at the top what they want.  In the end this is about money, but it’s also about control.  It’s all about making more money for the people who already have it, and tightening the noose around everyone else’s neck if they decide to get out of line.

In the end, it’s all about seeing how much longer you’re going to swallow this fucking lie that you’re really free.

Midnight Creeping

Day 10 of the NaNo Novel Nuttiness, and while it’s not taking it toll, it’s probably part of the reason I’m irritated this morning.  Well, no, it’s not:  it’s more due to my computer acting like a spaz for 45 minutes after I brought it up the first time, when all it wanted to do is make the disk go spin, spin, spin, and my browser kept locking up, and finally I just smashed the sucked hard and brought it back up . . . and now it’s playing nice.

No, NaNo is being nice to me.  I’m going along as I should and averaging about 3500 words a day, and generally (believe it or not) having a good time.  I know that I’m around 16,000 words from “winning” NaNo, but I’m also aware that my novel is going to end up about 20,000 words beyond that, so the only “win” I’ll get is when I put “The End” on the sucker, do an edit, and get it published.  That’s the ultimate goal for NaNoWriMo: really write a novel in 30 days (or less), then put it out there for sale.

For me it’s not about running word counts or doing word wars with my buddies; it’s about creating something that not only makes me proud, but allows me to share that pride with others.

The one thing that NaNo does show me is that writing is work.  It’s a lot of work.  I might only spend a couple of hours doing actual writing, but research, thinking about characters, imaging the scenes . . . it’s a very intensive process.  And it’s a lot of work.  I’ve said before, whenever you tell someone you’re a writer, and they cop that “Oh, so you don’t work?” attitude, hit them between the eye and ask them if they’ve ever tried creating anything from their own imagination.  Tell them to try it, tell them to have it make sense . . . then have them come back to you when they’re done.  Chances are they’ll leave you alone.

Oh, an a bit of blog whoring here:  I’ve done a guest post over at Jennifer the Writer’s blog, and it’s NaNo related.  Give her some love and enjoy my writing.

Now, rant time.  You can leave now if you don’t wanna hear ranting this time of day.

Ready?  Let’s go.

A few days ago I wrote about some Hate Dumb pissing and moaning that left me none too happy.  I said at the time that I was going to write about something else in that conversation that didn’t set well with me, but I never got around to it because–well, I’ve been writing!  Funny how that happens.

Part of the argument revolved around the meme of what is a true vampire, and whether or not a certain writer could made vampires the way they did.  You wanna read about it, check that link up yonder: I talk about it.  It’s fun; it really is.

But there was someone else jumping into the Hate Dumb as well, and their scree was just as bad, if not worse.  You see, going back to the writing in question, one of the main characters just loves to play the Midnight Creeper, sneaking into a girl’s bedroom at night so he can watch her while she sleeps.  Oh, yeah.  It’s creepy, for sure.  He also watches her from bushes, and “fixes” her car so she can’t drive it . . . yeah, he’s a stalker.

Oh, did I mention he’s a vampire?  Sure, he oiled up her window frame so the damn thing wouldn’t squeak when he opened it, but he was also fighting the urge to leave an exsanguinated corpse behind when he left.  So, you know, when my daughter starts dating vampires, I’m damn sure gonna see to it that bastard ain’t doing the same thing.  I’m hip to your ways, dude.

Now, for the one person who was upset with this, they weren’t viewing it in the context that it happened, which was that of one fictional character who was stalking (and, yeah, like it or not, he was stalking) another fictional character.  It didn’t matter that he was a Stalker With a Crush, and that the whole thing was played as Stalking is Love.  For the person discussion this entire matter was, if I may adopt my Comic Book Guy voice, the Worst Thing EVAR!!!

Or as they said, “I don’t want to live in a Culture of Rape.”

Hey, now.

The first thing I want to say is, “Just this culture?”, ’cause lets face it, we’re not the first to hit this note.  Not by a long shot.

Go back far enough and you’re gonna find some crazy stuff that passed for entertainment.  Back in the 16th Century revenge tragedies were hugely popular; people couldn’t get enough of them.  Of course, there was this guy, Willie Shakespeare, saw what was getting produced, probably mumbled, “Fuck it; I can crank this noise to 11,” and proceded to write Titus Andronicus, without a doubt his most bloodiest and violent work.  Murder, rape, a bit of cannibalism thrown in to to keep the audience on their toes, and a hell of a lot of cutting off of hands, Titus was one of Shakespeare’s most popular works.

But surely, it got better?  Lets take a look.

Wanna talk crazy stalkers, how about these?  Eponine stalked Marius in Les Misérables.  Frollo and his feelings towards La Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame?  Stalking.  Henry Crawford tormented Fanny in Mansfield Park: stalking.  Erik in Phantom of the Opera . . . dude, please.  And Phantom pulls double duty, because Raoul has been obsessed with Christine since they were kids and gets pissed when she professes feeling for another.  Yeah, he hides outside her dressing room because he’s searching for the Phantom and wants to protect her, but he also like to sneak in there and smell her clothes.  Um, stalker anyone?

Let’s talk vampires.  Face it: by their very nature they’re stalkers.  They have to be.  So Dracula is totally a stalker, but . . . yeah, there was something there for Mina that wasn’t just about the blood.  But that’s those old style vamps, that wouldn’t happen today . . . yeah, but Angel did stalk Buffy, and she was turned off by it until she realized what a hot dude he was, slept with him and got him all evil.  And Spike?  Fifth season with him hanging ’round outside Buffy’s house, and the thing with the Buffy Bot?  “Um, yeah . . . it’s not what you think–”  My man, I’m thinking–stalker!

Harry Potter had himself a stalker of sorts–Romilda Vane.  And if you don’t think Snape wasn’t stalking Lily a bit, you need to adjust your rose colored glasses.  Trinity told Neo she used to watch him as he slept; at least she didn’t need to oil the windows.  The Borg Queen’s feeling for Jean Luc?  Stalkerific.  Mary of There’s Something About Mary fame had a lot of stalkers, but that’s okay ’cause it was played for laughs and most people didn’t care.

And songs:  Possession by Sarah McLachlan, about a real stalker.  Happy Together about a guy who obsesses over a girl he never speaks to.  Why Don’t You Write Me? by Simon & Garfunkel: high octane stalker fuel.  And that oldie by goodie, Every Breath You Take, which many people look at as a beautiful song about love, but which is about–you got it.  In fact, Sting has become so creeped out by couples who’ve said “We danced to this at our wedding!” that he’s wished he never wrote the damn thing.

Lets face it: this sort of thing has been a part of our culture for a very long time.  So are we a “Culture of Rape”?  Hardly, because if we are, then we’ve always been that way.  Yes, domestic violence and rape are huge issues.  But put the blame on politicians who don’t give a shit; put the blame on law enforcement who don’t want to get involved; put the blame on religions leaders who think if they look the other way, this stuff will go away.

But blaming any form of media for the ills of society is far easier.  Ted Bundy said, “I read comics, so that made me want to rape and murder women”.  John Hinckley loved him some Jodie Foster, so he had to shoot someone to get her attention.  Mark David Chapman read way too much The Catcher in the Rye and just had to kill John Lennon ’cause it’s what Holden Caulfield would have done.

Of course, David Berkowitz got his marching orders from his dog, and Ed Gein–not so much into stalking vampires, but, boy, did he love his mamma . . ..

Crazy bastards do things not because a Firefly marathon convinces them that someone is trying to Take the Sky From Them and they gotta do something about it, but because they are crazy bastards.  It’s like some members of the Manson Family saying they were conditioned to not give a shit about violence and killing because, well, it was all over TV and that’s all they watched . . . please.  I grew up in that era.  I cut my teeth on Three Stooges shorts starting about the age of 4.  I’ve seen more violence on TV and at the movies than you can shake at stick at.  When I was a tweener growing into a teenager I was pretty much obsessed with nuclear war, and read Alas, Babylon at least 30 times.  One of my favorite movies is Hard Boiled, aka Làshǒu Shéntàn, which has one of the highest one-on-one body counts of any movie (307, with something like 50 of them occurring during a long tracking shot in a hospital where two cops pretty much kill everyone they encounter), and that in of itself should make people think twice about speaking with me.

Oh, and I also own a ton of role playing games.  Talk about your red flags!

So why ain’t I out killing and raping?  ‘Cause I’m not a crazy bastard.  I know right and wrong.  And reading a book isn’t going to make me want to find someone on the Internet, hunt them down and stalk their butts, maybe kidnap them and rape them until they love me . . . no.  I don’t do that.  I’m–well, relatively sane.  But I’m not goin’ on a rampage.

And one last thing, and then I promise to shut up.  The world in question, the one that helps promote a “Culture of Rape”–um, there’s no, like, raping going on in it.  None.  Nope.  I checked with friends.  Absolutely, positively no rapage what so ever.  In fact, sex don’t happen for the main characters until after they’re married, so while there might be some creepy stalking shit ongoing during part of the story, they score a big zero on the Rape-o-Meter.

So, as a word of warning: when you hold up a work as fostering a “Culture of Rape,” next time, how about getting one that doesn’t have a girl holding onto her virginity until she’s married and actually pick one that has some, you know, rape?

Cause it’s always a pain in the butt when your false dichotomy is hanging out there for everyone to see.

Makin’ My Twenty With an Edge In My Mind

I hate Daylight Savings and the “Spring Ahead, Fall Behind” BS.  Enough.  I don’t need an hour of jet lag all day today.

Or maybe I’m because I have too many words going through my head.  NaNo Novel has me by the butt, and it made me crank out 4250 words yesterday, pushing my all-important word count to 20,000 and change–and I still haven’t finished the last chapter of Part One.  I will.  Today.  I promise.

It’s a lot of mind warping.  I have it all in my head and I’ve been writing at a (for me) white-hot pace.  And, I know this will piss off some of the NaNoers, but I’m editing as I go.  Yeah, I do that.  I can’t help it.  And I’m still rolling out 1000 to 1500 words and hour.  All that means is my real edit is going to go a lot faster.

So far it’s all been a lot of setup, action, and, need I say it, death?  And now I gotta shift gears, tone it down, bring in my last main character, do a lot of talking and set up, and then kick out the jams for what is going to be Hell for a lot of people in the story.  Somehow I didn’t realize I was writing something that was going to kick ass and take names through a lot of the story; when I originally put this idea together a year ago, but hey: I’ll take it.

I’m just along for the ride, you know.

Okay, that’s out of the way . . . so what’s next?  I gotta get something off my chest, and there’s gonna be nasty words said in the process, so if you don’t want to read further, thank you for stopping in!

 

That said, onward.

First off, let me give you a little of where I’m coming from.

I graduated from Hanover Central High School in Cedar Lake, Indiana, in 1975.  No big deal, right?  The next year the school board, following the lead of some ignorant dipshit in Texas, Norma Gabler, decided they needed to protect the fragile minds of the children and went ahead and banned a book from the school library.  And what was this heinous piece of literature?

The American Heritage Dictionary.

Objectionable words, you know?  The book’s full of them.  Like, “Bed: transitive verb: a place to have sex”.  Whoo, boy, ya got a barn burner there.

I helped fight against the insanity, but it did no good simply because the then-members of the school board were just as much ignorant dipshits as the person who got the ball rolling.  Sure, I managed to get a little satisfaction against one of the members of said board a few years ago, but that’s another story . . ..

What I’m saying here is I don’t like censorship.  I might not like certain works, and there are some of those works that I absolutely detest . . . but if you wanna enjoy them, have it, friend.  It’s pretty much a free world.

If you are a geek, like me, then you are aware of a certain set of remarks that were recently directed by one author toward another.  Hey, it happens all the time.  I’ve been reading for the better part of 45 years, and I’ve seen quite a number of scathing remarks lobed back and forth over the years.  And when you get the fans involved . . . hey, now, if you read this blog you know about my feelings on fan people pissing and moaning.  Life is too short, and in my case it’s getting shorter every day, and when it comes to a lot of the arguments in the geek community, my attitude is much along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but you’ve confused me with someone who gives a shit.”

Now, I was in a writing forum where these remarks were brought up, and the comments were . . . well, not surprising, at least at first.  Like any good fan service, there are certain works that are polarizing, and when you have that “Love it/Hate it” line drawn in the sand, you are on one side or another, and if you try to take the position in the middle of “Lets look at his logically,” you’re going to get blasted.

So I wasn’t really paying attention to what was being said; not giving a damn here, you know?  Only I have this friend . . . she’s a fan of the work that was being, shall we say, savaged, and offered the opinion that the writer who made the snide comments was being petty.   She wasn’t mean; she wasn’t condescending.  She spoke her peace and spoke it nicely.  And she got ripped because, well, she had the audacity to like said work.

Now, that’s also to be expected.  If you try to see reason with the haters, they’re gonna hate on you.  So, if you feel you’re right in your position, you ignore it and move on.

However . . ..

One of the individuals started in with, “So-and-so only does this for the money, they don’t do research, they shouldn’t ever be allowed to write–“.

Okay, right there . . . that last statement.  Let me slip on my U-Boat captain’s jacket, step out of the TARDIS, and allow me to put on my Doctor’s voice as I tell you, “And with that last statement you just lost the right to talk to me.”

No.  You don’t ever get to decide who gets to write and who doesn’t.  You don’t ever get to decide what is good and bad writing.  And you never, ever, get to tell me what I can and can’t read, ’cause your opinion means nothing.

You want to criticize the work based upon the writing, the story telling, go right ahead.  That is your right.  Hell, I do that a lot as well; in fact, I decided to try my hand at writing years ago because I was tired of bad story telling.

But if you call yourself a writer how can you say another person’s work should not only not be published, but that said author shouldn’t ever be allowed to write?  Look up the history of people who think the same way; they usually never come to a good end.  And, with that sort of small minded attitude concerning a fellow writer, why should I ever read anything you publish?

And when I think about it . . . the author in question is only in it for the money?  Yes, I agree with Stephen King’s adage that if you only write for the money you’re a monkey, but the last time I looked ol’ Stevie Boy owned roughly half of the state of Maine, and he didn’t buy all those goodies with tins of beans.

Yes, you invoked Hemingway’s name as a writer who sweated for his work.  Very true.  But look up The Torrents of Spring, his first long work.  It was a satirical work that was deliberately written to be so bad as to refused publication.  And, why, do you say?  Because Hemingway wanted to break his contract with Horace Liveright so he could move over to Scribner for–here it comes–a whole buttload of money.  Sure, he sweated for his work–but those trips around the world and that house in Key West weren’t paid for with food stamps.  He loved to write, but he also loved getting those checks.

And the research angle . . . I’ll let the cat out of the bag here, because the damn thing is clawing the hell out of it, and say the subject matter here is vampires.  And the argument seems to be that said author who shouldn’t ever write again made her vampires . . . yeah, you know where this is going: “Ooh, Shiny, Captain!”  And this is wrong because we all know vampires don’t walk around in the daytime–

Ah, yeah.  But they do in Being Human, where vampirism is treated as something akin to a disease, and while the vamps there don’t really like being out in the bright sunlight, they can do it.  I guess they didn’t do their research.

Oh, wait: in the novel I An Legend, which is the novel that first develops the idea that vampirism equals disease, the virus that turned people into vampires mutates and slowly but surely the bloodsuckers start walking around in the daytime.  Oops.  Guess Matheson should have stuck to shrinking people and gnomes on the wings of planes.

I guess that means no other vampires walk around in the daytime . . . oh, wait: here’s one jerk who didn’t get the memo.  And who is this loser?

Count Dracula.

Yeah, I went there.

Dracula–from the novel of the same name–is seen in moving about in broad daylight.  Like the vamps in Being Human he’s all bundled up, and he doesn’t really have all his mojo with him, but he’s awake and enjoying that probably-not-so-brilliant-English-daytime.  Likely not sparkling, but then who the hell knows what he’s got going on under that long coat?

The whole meme that vampires spontaneously combust when exposed to sunlight comes from Nosferatu, which was nothing but a retelling of Dracula with the names changed simply because they couldn’t get permission to film the original material.  Then needed an ending for the movie, so . . . sun comes up, vampire turns to dust, meme is born.

Well, at least Dracula got the whole “Religious symbols make a vampire turn away in fear!” thing right.  Although shouldn’t I say, “Crosses” instead of “Religious symbols”, because it does seem like it wasn’t until Being Human that a Star of David had any effect on a blood sucker.  No word on what seeing a Islamic crescent moon and star does to a vampire; probably nothing.  I mean, it’s not like there’s any sort of supernatural creatures in Islamic lore, right?  That last is sarcasm, in case you missed it.

Toby Whitehouse, what are you doing, man?  Didn’t you know you’re suppose to lampoon that stuff, as was done in Love at First Bite?  When a vampire sees a cross they are suppose to recoil in pants-crapping terror . . . ‘cept, in Interview With a Vampire, not only did Louie say crosses didn’t bother him, but that he liked looking at them.  Did someone not do their research here?

Vampire lore falls under the general classification of “Making Shit Up,” which is generally what the first guys writing about them did.  Don’t like something?  Don’t use it.  After all, garlic, running water, and not being able to come into your home uninvited–all co-opted from the Chinese, who had a completely different take on vampires than what the Europeans developed later.  Use it, don’t use it; hey, it’s your story.  Have fun with it.

Which is to say, like it or not, Bram Stoker was pulling crap from his butt and turning it into lore.  Or plagiarizing another writer’s work, if you roll that way, but that’s a tale for another time.

That’s enough ranting for now.  I have more to say because there was some other stuff being said that rubbed me the wrong way, but I’ll save that for later.  Probably tomorrow, after I’ve driven myself crazy with NaNo!

However, while writing this I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to do something with my vampire character that some would consider “different”.  I mean, she exists in a universe that isn’t ours, where the laws of physics are such that magic is possible . . . and if that be the case, why does my vampire need to adhere to the “rules” of this universe?

You know, that making up shit thing?  I’m doing it all over the place, so why not there?

And so she is changed.  She won’t glitter . . . but in her own way, she damn sure is gonna shine.

Smut, Porn, and Erotica Blogging

A phone call has made me wonder about who I really am.

Well, one did, and it wasn’t the one I had yesterday where a woman who constantly calls my mobile by mistake begin by saying, “All I’ve ever done is try to be nice to you–” and launched into a 2 minute tirade intended for someone who obviously wasn’t me.  I listened, and when it was over I replied, “That’s all well and good, but you’ve called the wrong goddamn number once again!” and hung up.  It was about as close to a Danny DeVito moment as I was ever going to get.

No, the phone call I’m talking about came the other day.  A friend I attended school with calls to see how I’m doing.  I was doing well; just getting ready to eat and all that.  And then he tells me he’s checking out my Facebook page and it looks like someone’s hacked it because there’s all these porn links on it . . . I thanked him, so after the phone call was over I went and checked my page, and it was the way it always was–which is to say, boring.

There were, however, links back to this blog.  And that made me wonder: was he checking out my blog?

I talked to a couple of people about this and they were like, yeah, maybe he read a couple of posts and thought I was running some kind of porn site, and by linking it to Facebook I was maybe doing something I shouldn’t?  After all, one of his concerns was that I should tell people my site had been hacked and I apologized that people were getting links to porn–

That would be well and good if I were doing porn.  Or linking to porn.  Or even writing about porn.

And I do none of that.

I never realized when I started this blog that I might actually write something or do something or say something that someone might find . . . different?  Objectionable?  Strange?  I mean, I am a strange dude, but pretty much harmless–sort of.  You had to know me in high school, I guess . . ..

I write, or at least I try to write.  I do some horror, I do some science fiction, and I have written erotic/fetish fiction.  More and more I don’t feel all that bad about the later; it was something I kept hidden for a very long time, as if it were a dirty little secret I had to keep to myself for fear of harming others.

However, I’ve been getting a lot more open about that.  I’ve blogged about my adventures in fetish writing, and commented on some of the individuals I’ve encountered over the years.  In the last few months I’ve made a number of friends in the erotica writing biz, and I find they had issues where people sort of freak out when they find out what they do, so I suppose I shouldn’t get too worried when someone does the same with me.

In fact, I should probably feel good about it, because it says that maybe I’m on the same track.

I don’t write smut or porn.  Both those, to me, are all about the sex.  It’s about the act.  It’s about getting off.  And that’s it.  I like to think I do the sort of stuff that Dan Fielding won’t like, because it’s got a plot.  It’s got characters.  It’s got something that you can get into besides sex and sex und zex!

Or, as Trusty Editortm told me the other night after they read one of my old fetish stories, “You were trying to create characters that people would care about.”

Guilty as charged.

That’s me.  That’s who I am and what I do, and I feel I’m really damn good at it.  And I like to think I’m in the same league as my other erotica friends who are publishing and making a living in this genre.  Maybe that won’t be my niche.  But I will do it from time to time.

And I will get it published.

So please don’t tell me I have porn links on my page–

I might have to make a phone call if you do.

Silk or Slime

Today is one of those strange days for me.  I awoke with the next scene of my erotic story fresh in my head, which is nothing unusual for me; quite often I come out of a half-sleep like state feeling as if I’m in a dream and during those times it’s as if I’m having a vision.  I’ve had this happen in ways that’s very lovely, and in other ways that leave me lying in bed moments later going, “What the hell just happened?”

My Trusty Editortm read over the first scene and was impressed.  It’s good to get the reaction you set out to get, and I wasn’t disappointed.  And it’s reactions of that nature that make me want to keep on writing.  That’s probably what today’s little vision in my brain meant to me: here it is, you need to take this and put it in your computer.  Or on your Seagate.  Or some damn place where electronic media is kept.

So today I should continue with the story . . . or will I?  That’s the strange part.  I’ve got all this stuff going on in my head, but the inclination to write–it keeps jumping away from me, just staying out of reach like a coy lover playing hard to get.  Oh, muse: why do you tease me so?  Why don’t you come sit in my lap and get comfortable?  Why not shower me with your sexiness?

Maybe my muse is waiting for me to burn some worthless asshole down . . ..

Just to warn people–I’m gonna rant.  So if you wanna bail, feel free to do so.

That said, onward–

If you read the thoughts that leak from my mind you’ll have gathered that I don’t deal very well with stupid people.  And by “stupid” I don’t necessarily mean people with meager intelligence, though they usually get on my nerves simply by showing their ignorance far too many times.

And in my time I’ve run into my share of these individuals.  Most of the time it’s a quick encounter and there’s little pain.  Other times shit drags on for far too long and the experience stays with me, festering like a batch of bad brew in your bathtub.

I’ve run into a few of these people while gaming.  The majority of gamers are great people, but I have encounters a fair share of bullies, liars and all-around assholes.  And every so often you run into someone who so completely fits the description of “complete psycho bitch” that you wonder why no one has ever published a paper on said person in a psychiatric journal.

I encountered one of the later a few months ago.  She ran a role playing board that I was on for a while, and when someone I knew left their board because said Complete Psycho Bitch (hereon known as CPB) went off on this person I knew one too many times, I left with them.  Because of this snubbing of said CPB we were both given the Ban Hammer of the Gods, which when all in life is considered isn’t that huge a deal.

Now, yes: I will cop to the fact that I have returned to their board every so often and acted the part of a pestering asshole.  Why?  Because CPB doesn’t understand that someone with 25+ years in IT knows how to spoof their Ban Hammers and set up various characters on their board under assumed names.  So every once in a while I’ll go in and poke the hornet’s nest just to see what flies out, and the last time I did that some of the players on the board wondered who I was and what I’d sort of character I’d had on the prior incarnation of their current board, which led to CPB going into a complete mental meltdown and ban access to her C-Box to all by those who were members–

So I have laid off poking the nest more because, hey, I had my fun.

But last night I decide to check out their C-Box because I can (old age and treachery beats CPBs all the time) and discovered a comment.  Rather than paraphrase it, I’ll just give you the full cut & paste version CPB thinks I can’t see:

 

15 Sep 11, 09:45 PM

Jill: Nothing he (this would be me) is saying is true plot info, he’s just trying to stir up crap because he’s friends with someone who isn’t smart enough to like me. :P

 

And this is where I get pissed off.

You see, “someone who isn’t smart enough to like me” is my friend who was treated like something sub-human and treated to rants that would make Child Services come and remove your kids if you had any.  Of course what CPB–and for the hell of it, lets call her Jill, shall we, since that is her name . . . what Psycho Jill forgets is that this “someone who isn’t smart enough to like me” ran three of her prior boards because Psycho Jill (or Jilly Beans, I just can’t figure out what to call her today) has all the impulse control and emotional stability of a 6 year old with ADHD who’s consumed an entire container of cake frosting, and dealing with anyone other than the voices in her head telling her that everyone is out to get her was just too damn hard.

I know you’ll never see this post, Psycho Jill, but then again maybe you will.  So let me ask you: did you ever pay back people who you’ve conned into buying you cosmetics and Facebook ads?  Did you ban someone because their boyfriend was an older guy and you just couldn’t deal with that, or were you pissed off because she simply stop kissing your ass and you cast her to the same dust bin you do everyone else who grows tired of eating your shit?

And as a GM with 20+ years, can I ask: why didn’t you want my help with your board?  Afraid I knew my shit just a little too well and I’d make you look bad?  I mean, I know your ego is made of rice paper, Psycho Jill, and the idea that someone knows more than you is just a little too hard to take . . . is that why, on your last board, you deleted my posts where I called your ass out on something and said you were wrong?  Or was it something more personal?  I mean, it’s not like I said you’re a petty gamer who only wants to RP with certain people and that you create new characters on a whim because you simply not bright enough to develop an old one properly, right?

What I will say, Psycho Jill, is that you’re a resident at the bottom of Sturgeon’s Revelation; I will say you are an oxygen thief; I will say you are a scummy little user who has totally bought into her own bullshit, who casts aside people as soon as you realize they are no longer into your game, who shows nothing but disrespect to those same people even as you drain them of everything (notice I didn’t say she was “disrespecting” people, because that’s not a real word and I don’t roll that way, motherfuckers).

And the person “who isn’t smart enough to like me”–  She’s was your friend, and when you realized she wasn’t playing your game anymore you shit all over her.  Only problem is–she’s also my friend, and when you turn on my friends, you turn on me–

And you never want to turn on me, Jilly Beans.

Jill, you are one of the Worst Individuals I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering.  And one day the Karma Train is gonna pull into your station and the day that happens is the day all Hell breaks loose in your cozy little corner of the world.

And I will sit back and laugh.

Oh, and I’ll likely write you into a few of my stories whenever I need a CPB.  Hope you don’t mind, ’cause I know I don’t.

Look, I know you’re never going to see this, Psycho Jill, but I don’t care.  I needed to vent, and venting is always good.

And I’m all about feeling good.

Back on the Bicycle

Writin’ erotica is hard!

There was a time when I could crank out kinky things without a problem, but with this new things I’m doing–eh, it’s not as easy as I once remember.  For me it’s all about mood; it’s all about getting the dynamic right.  Sure, the fantasy is that you get two (or more) people together and you get the sex goin’, proto.

That’s not me.

Last night Trusty Editortm was looking over one of my old stories from back in the days when I used to write kinky stuff for the sake of writing kinky stuff.  The discussion delved into things like, “Did you read this story after writing it?” because I didn’t remember a lot of the details of the 3rd story out of 4–yes, believe it or not, I once wrote a almost-novel length tale of kink and did it for free . . . anyway, I mentioned that I’d pretty much written the story as a first draft, did a little editing on it then sent it off–

And that was when I dovetailed into a story about the time I was banned from another author’s board for voicing my opinion (pretty much like I’m dovetailing now)–

See, there was a person who was doing the same kind of writing at the time, and he was pretty well known among those who were into Agalmatophilia.  He had someone who’d do photo manips of women being turned into mannequins and blow up dolls, and he’d do the stories around those pictures.

Normally that would be that, but this guy . . . he sort of considered himself a bit of an expert in this kind of writing, and the moment you put “expert” before you name–or let others do it for you–you have to be able to back up the hype.  And during a discussion on this sort of writing that was being held on a thread on his wetsite, I dropped the bomb: I told him that there wasn’t a lot of originality in his close to 100 or so stories, that they followed the same formula right down to the point where, when someone transformed, they pretty much said the same THING IN THE SAME CAPS FORMAT ALL THE TIME!

Needless to say, he took exception.

Short story: he came back with the, “Well, if I’m not that good, then why do so many people like them?”  My response:  “It’s not that they like them because of the story, they like them because they can jerk off to them.”

And that was when I got the Ban Hammer.

Trusty Editortm understood where I was coming from, because their comment after that long digression was, “You’re not trying to do that; you’re trying to tell a story; you’re making characters that you want people to care about.”

Yes, erotica is about the sex, or the sexual situation.  But, to me, it differs from what you might call “smut” because erotica is also about the characters.  With smut you put two or more people in a situation where they fuck and get off; with erotica it’s about the build, the tease, the interaction . . . then they do it and get off, but they do it in such a way that when climax is reached, you feel it in a very different way.  Yes, you want it to be hot; yes, you want it to be enjoyable.

And, to me, you also want it to be so real that you feel yourself there.

Writing a ghost story was easy compared to what I’m doing now.  This is just a little thing, but it’s also a personal thing, and I need it to be right.  Sure, you can say, “It’s just sex!  Get on with it and stop bitching!” but if this story were happening in real life, would you want it to be just about the sex and nothing else?

Don’t answer that.