Fearing people

I tend to alienate people. Okay, ‘alienate’ is probably the wrong word. The truth is: I tend to piss off people. I know it’s my fault, yet I still wish human interaction was easier for me.

Of course, part of it is that I’m an extreme introvert. People freak me out. Not friends. Friends and family are okay and of the former I have surprisingly many – considering my lack of social interaction. The strange part is that, as an observer, I understand people. Really, I do. Give me a minute of staring at you and I’ll figure out what drives you, what do you love and what do you fear. I’ll know how one needs to talk to you to manipulate you into doing anything. It’s as easy as x+y=z. Then, when I’m confident of my observation, I’ll approach you and suddenly the equation looks more like: x + the whiskers of a bald eagle x the blood of a jellyfish – the sum of every second since eternity was born.

This social ineptitude could have lead to me doubting myself and becoming the clichéd school geek without friends and an opinion of self that rivals that of the chick in the Twilight-saga. Nope. I’m severely opinionated and I will stand by it even when hell freezes over. My brother-in-law has the ability to diplomatically tell someone he’s being a complete moron. I, on the other hand, will probably just tell you I think you’re a moron. I’ll also – free of charge – include a complete explanation of why you’re being dumb and will probably suggest a few places where you can go look up the truth. As an example I would like to present The Case of the Lay-Buy Bitch.

In a previous post I mentioned my frustration with ‘lay-buy.’ Too often people get it wrong and we’re gifted with phrases like ‘lay-bye,’ ‘lay-by’ and once even ‘lay-bay.’ Still not kidding you about the last one. So when hubby and I walked past a shop with ‘lay-bye’ written in chalk on one of those standy-boards by the front door, I just couldn’t help but lean over and rub out the tail of the y in ‘bye.’ I know, it doesn’t solve the spelling, but somehow it made me feel better. I also loudly mentioned to hubby that at least it doesn’t say ‘lay-see you later’ anymore. I think the shop owner must have heard me, for a week later, when I passed by the shop, the sign has very definitely been changed to ‘lay-buy.’

Really, I get why people don’t like me. What I don’t get is why I have friends. In fact, my entire fandom consist out of 3 people (and in no particular order): hubby, Santie and Gog. Or Gog, hubby and Santie. Santie, Gog and hubby. And my mom, so it’s a fandom of 4. They’ll probably be the 4 people I’ll dedicate my first book to. In fact, Gog binge-read my blog the other night and promptly reminded me that the whole ‘screw it, let’s do it’ thing belongs to Richard Branson. Well, he made countless billions with that motto, so I feel I can’t go wrong by adding it to my life. Now I just need to work on my social skills!

Bunny love

50 Shades of Nah…

Nah, it’s not that bad. It’s so non-bad I don’t even care enough to get worked up about it. I’ll read something that angers me. Of course, I’ll read anything that fascinates me, intrigues me, makes me feel happy or sad or romantic…basically, anything that evokes any kind of emotion in me. 50 Shades of Grey just bored the hell out of me. As the writer of Revelation put it: So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth (3:16).

Just to be honest here: I only read 50 pages. But then again, I gave it 50 pages, which seems fair as most literary agents have turned down my book with far less pages.

Am I jealous, then? Maybe. I know my book is good. It has well developed characters and a great storyline and still at least a dozen agents have turned me down. One even sent me an e-book with tips on how to be a better writer. I have to admit, the gesture was nice and at least I got something out of the deal, but do they really think I’m that bad? Seriously, is my work worse than 50 Shades of Grey? Some agent somewhere actually looked at that book and thought it was good enough to publish, but my book just get tossed in the out-box? So, yes, I’m jealous. But I’m also slightly disheartened. If I believe my book is good and 50 Shades of Grey isn’t, and that books gets published and mine not, then I’m definitely missing something here. Something important. It’s like the picture my mother-in-law sent to the family on whatsapp last night. It’s a picture of Jacob Zuma being given a Springbok rugby blazer and a caption about balls. I know it’s supposed to be funny and I can even guess at what they were talking about, but I just didn’t get it. I still don’t and hubby explained it to me!

Okay, enough whining and getting back to the book I took upon myself to read. It’s bad. It’s boring. It took me two weeks to convince myself to start it and 50 pages to realise I just don’t care about finishing it. Ever. At all. I took a gander at it, and ended up feeling ‘nah’ about it. Now I know it hurts whenever someone disses something you’ve spent a long time on, and a very large part of the world has been dissing ms. James. I’m truly sorry for her. But then again: she did make a lot of money from it, so I suppose that softens the blows somewhat.

Bunny love

Oh, just as a last note: I see the fanfiction title for the book was Master of the Universe. Has someone told the woman that’s He-Man, not Twilight? But I have to admit that her inline name is awesome!

Daily Challenge: 50 Shades of Grey

So, I’ve realised I have opinions about the 50 Shades-series, but I’ve never read any of the books and I’ve sure as Hades never seen the movie. I have seen that seriously creepy mash-up with the trailer and Frozen and I feel scarred for life. I’ll post a link to it and you can watch it and be scarred as well.

So I’ve decided, just to be fair, I’ll give it a go. This weekend I nicked the book from my mother-in-law (if she reads this: I’ll give it back later) and I will attempt to read it as soon as I can. I would love to go on second-hand knowledge of the book, but even I realise that’s cheating. I would love to cheat on this, but I cheated once and I still feel like a worm because of it. Someone trusted me and I betrayed that trust and because of years-old guilt I’m going to read a book about a dude that stalks a girl and then has her become his sex slave. The worst part is that usually my moral compass doesn’t even point true north, but I’ve convinced myself of this. I’m my own worst enemy.

 

A Writer’s Journey: Sex and Death

We are never more naked than during sex or death. Okay, we’re extremely vulnerable during sickness as well, but we still somehow manage to write about it with dignity. Unfortunately we don’t have any respect for death or sex anymore. Ever read the original Ian Flemming Casino Royale? The movie tries to make a big deal of Vesper’s death, but in the book, after Bond finds her body and the note telling of her duplicity, his only reaction to her suicide is: “The bitch is dead.”

And then of course there’s the entire ‘romance’ genre.  Maybe you could argue that the entire genre is about the romance and the sex and the happily-ever-after. But even here the thin gravy of ‘romance’ and ‘true love’ isn’t enough to hide the taste of the truth: it’s about the sex. Years ago I read a romance (for a certain quantity of ‘romancery’) where the pirate prince captures the luscious and beautiful girl, keeps her in his room and rapes her every night. But it’s okay, because he’s starting to care for her and she’ll learn to love it and later on she does, so, no matter the Stockholming or the fact that he’s been raping her for months, it is true love. Actually, compared to that story, 50 shades of grey isn’t all that shocking.

But how did we reach a point where death is something that can be met with a snappy one-liner and it is considered normal to go to a bar or club or something with the sole reason to have sex that night with a random stranger? To a point where a 21 year old woman is mocked for her virginity (yeah, I’m looking at you, 50 shades).

I have no answer, but here are my thoughts on how I believe it ought to be:

We ought to be naked during sex. Not just without clothes, but emotionally naked to another. Sex should be the expression of love and of safety, not just the scratching of an itch. Has anyone read Susan Kay’s Phantom? It is perhaps one of the most powerfully sad and stunningly beautiful stories I’ve ever had the privilege to read. In fact, a lady borrowed it from me and told me afterwards: “I read the story and then I cried until my tissues were finished. Then I went back and re-read the book.”

Phantom is an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, but much closer to Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s version than Gaston le Roux’s. It is the story of a child that grows up to be a man shunned and only once in his life did he find someone he loved more than life itself. For one moment he knew love. The entire book is built up to that moment when Eric and Christine kisses (if you’ve seen the stage play, you’ll know how beautiful it is), and it is beautifully done. One kiss can bring me to tears for a week in its beauty. It is done with dignity and tenderness and because of that much more powerful than any explicit sex scene in a romance or erotica book.

John Donne wrote:

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Whereas we are naked to another during sex, we are completely naked to ourselves during death. Perhaps it is because all our hopes of the future has ended and all the worry about the past has no meaning anymore. We are stripped of all pretentions. And when we witness another’s death, we instinctively know this. In fact, we respect deathbed confessions enough that it can be admissible in court (well, at least US law and according to Wikipedia). Again I would like to use Phantom as example.

SPOILER ALERT

Every death in the book is done with dignity, with an acknowledgement of how one never goes untouched by death, even if the death is that of an enemy. And of course, the death of Christine is so very bitter-sweet as she finally joins Eric. As Raoul remarks: “When it (Christine’s funeral) was done I had a strange feeling of peace, as though I had completed the final act of some lifetime quest. I had held her in trust for seventeen years until death chose to reunite her with the one to whom she truly belonged.” Both Eric and Christine’s deaths are poignant and terrible and beautiful. One cannot be untouched by them. They are done with dignity.

I wish we could reclaim that sense of dignity and beauty in every death and in every sex scene. I know sometimes a story is about the perversion of sex and death, as with the Stieg Larsson books, but even then it can be done with the acknowledgement that it isn’t just something random, but exactly that: the perversion of something that should have been beautiful.

I know that we’ll probably never again find dignity in death and sex in stories. With every ‘yippee ki-yay’ and ‘hasta la vista’ we strip death of it’s impact and with every sitcom where the characters find their self-worth in the amount of sex they can have we deny that sex can be and must be about ‘making love.’ Many of you will probably disagree with me, but I know that I’ll always attempt to write death and sex with dignity. Both are powerful and beautiful and I’ll never try and diminish that. This is my pledge: I will write death and sex with dignity.

 

A Writer’s Frustration

As a writer there are many frustrations. Chief among those would be the frustration of knowing what you want to write, but somehow not getting the words right. That would be the time when I write a paragraph or two, delete it and try all over. And over. And over. Ever saw Twix? That was one of the most confusing movies ever, but that scene where Val Kilmer sits all night and only types the first sentence is exactly how I feel at times. Well, except for the drinking part. I don’t end up drinking when I’m frustrated like that, I end up playing DotA 2. Gaming can really put a dent in one’s concentration.

Of course another frustration is when you can’t figure out what to write next. Sometimes, no matter how you try, about the only thing your characters can do is to go to bed: “And they slept happily ever after. The end.”

I suppose one could say that would be the perfect time to just relax, take a break, drink some tea and try again later. That doesn’t really work for me, though. I’m one of those people that end up going over and over my inability to write and end up in a puddle in the bed and Hubby bringing me more coffee than is legal. So instead I go out. Not ‘out’ as in clubbing or going to a bar or something. For a start, I live in a little hick-town. Secondly, clubbing isn’t really part of our culture; not beyond your university years, that is.

So I go into town. Just, go where there are shops and walk around. I don’t buy anything and I don’t do it to relax. I do it to get myself all worked up.

This sounds counter-productive, I know. But hear me out. I do this, for I usually end up getting angry at all the mistakes in signs. Mine isn’t an English-speaking country. In fact, we have 11 (yes, eleven) official languages, with English being the one we default to in public. But very few of us speak English as a first language. And it shows. You know what is one of the things almost nobody gets right? The concept of ‘lay-buy.’ Oh, they know how it works, but nobody seemed to have paid attention to what it is. I’ve seen it written as:

  • Lay-bye (this sounds almost kinky, and is the most common mistake)
  • Lay-bey (yup, I kid you not)
  • Lay-bay (probably where ships go to die)

And these are often signs printed for large companies! And of course the difference between ‘accept’ and ‘except.’ And that ‘these premises’ notice:

These premises is protected by 24hr CCTV security.

Urgh! Urgh! Aaaargh! We also have one that reads: These valuable property for hire. Didn’t anyone take the time to just check their work before painting it on a 2m high wall? And why do we have a security services company that proudly proclaims: Fire armed response!? Didn’t those guys ever watch The X-Files? Play DotA? The Last Airbender? I know what they’re trying to say, but it came out wrong.

The best sign I’ve ever seen, and got the writing-juices flowing, wasn’t even local. It was in the Netherlands and I used to cycle past it at least once a week. It read:

Live cooking.

Just that, nothing more. Live cooking. As opposed to what? Dead cooking? Does it mean the chef is alive? What do you call a dead cooking chef then? Zombie cooking? Or does it mean the food is alive? Is there a cow just standing around, waiting to have a steak cut out of its ass? Why would they do that to a cow? Or maybe stuff has gone bad and the food has started to grow green and blue fungus and it is alive and therefore you get ‘live cooking?’

See, right now I’m worked up. I have so many questions and opinions that I really need to write down that my fingers are flying and I feel inspired to re-write War and Peace. Okay, not really War and Peace. But it worked. I got my brain into third gear again and I’m ready to try again at writing. It might still come out wrong, but at least I have the motivation to try again, and sometimes that is all one can hope for when faced with writer’s frustration.

Acting my age

Being an adult isn’t for the fainthearted. It’s hard work and responsibility and I’m really not sure I’m up to the challenge.

Too bad my body doesn’t always agree. A week or so ago I developed the woozies. It’s not exactly the same as feeling faint. I tried to explain it to Hubby as something like that moment when you know you’ve had enough wine, but you also realize you’ve already had another glass before your body got the message. Of course that didn’t work, seeing as he doesn’t drink any alcohol and it really didn’t feel that way at all. Not that I’m really a big drinker (Hemmingway would be disappointed, but then I’ve always been disappointed in his views on women), but I was a student and stuff happened.

Then I realised Hubby was as big a sci-fi geek as I was (that really was the reason I first started dating him), so I told him what the woozies really felt like: it feels like my mind is slightly out of phase with the rest of the world.

Of course this freaked him out and I was packed off to the doctor. She didn’t really get the out-of-phase thing, but she obliged me with an exam and an EKG – my first ever. Do you know how many wires they stick on you? They also stuck one on each of my breasts, just above the bra-line. This was obviously the closest part to my heart, but this really fascinated me: are those stickery-wires sensitive enough to hear your heart through all that booby? What if the woman had some really impressive breasts, would that affect the readings?

The nurse informed me breasts did not impede the function of the thingies. Fake breasts also had no effect on them.

A few minutes later I was back in the doctor’s office, hearing the results. Well, apparently Johnny and I wouldn’t have been able to follow my heartbeat and dance the cha-cha. Or whatever he and Baby danced. I’m a very bad dancer either way and my heart was giving an extra beat every now and then. I love Dirty Dancing, but that really is as far as my dancing career goes.

Sitting there, hearing about my errant heart, I was feeling slightly sorry for myself. And hungry. I was very hungry. For some really incomprehensible reason I hadn’t eaten that day and my belly was rumbling. So I found myself staring at the jar of lollipops on the doctor’s desk instead of listening to an explanation of why my heart was behaving so badly. Would she give me a lollipop if I told her I was hungry? I know the bobble of sugar won’t really help and I know she would know, but they were starting to look very appetizing. Maybe if I asked her nicely? But I’m a few days short of my 35th birthday and I’m way past that age where I could pretend to be cute and younger than I really am. Besides, it’s written there in the file right in front of her: I’m too old for lollipops.

Like I explained earlier: being an adult is difficult. It’s not that I couldn’t buy my own lollipop afterwards, it’s the principle of the thing. I hate having to act like I’m all grown up. Chronologically I might be 35, but my mind didn’t get the message.

So I decided: screw it. Actually, this seems to be a recurring theme in my life. It’s getting me into a lot of trouble. But I got my lollipop. The blue one that stained my tongue for half an hour. Also, I’m not dying. My heart is fine. All in all, a successful day.

 

Khalef. Chapter 2

“Dear Protector, show me one that is worthy. No, not worthy. I beg you, show me one creature that is worth all this pain and suffering. I’ve searched ten thousand runs and I’ll search ten thousand more, but I don’t think I believe I will find someone.

“I know you’ve created us all in your image: dragon and human alike, but we’ve fallen so far from your grace. You created us to protect one another, as You protect us, but I see only greed and fear and pain. I fly over villages and cities; I visit palaces and sties alike, but I don’t see your face in any of your creatures. Dragon and human have become so self-righteous and petty, that I feel I’d rather see the world end than have them live in it.

“I’m so tired. It seems like a thousand seasons since I left the den and still there is no end in sight. I can feel the energy draining form the earth. I feel diminished.  Every beat of my wings is a battle. Once I felt such joy in flight, but now I wish to curl up in my den and sleep. To sleep the eternal sleep.

“Yet I’ve been tasked with this: to find one creature worth  the greatest gift we can give. I cannot rest until it is done. Therefor I beg You, Great One, show me your face! Show me your beauty! Show me one creature that lives in your way; that follows your path. Show me…

“Show me an end to this suffering. I’m so lost. I’m so tired.”

Khalef – a story. Chapter 1

Lef knew he made a bad slave. He wasn’t sure why, for he had been born into slavery. It wasn’t his parents’ fault either, for they, too, had been born into slavery. His greatparents as well. His was a long unproud heritage of slavery.

“You have to stop that, before the mistress hears you,” Mana scolded.

Lef looked at his mother after she had interrupted his speech. Next to her sat his younger sister, Mee. She was crying.

“I don’t care, mama. Let her hear. I’d rather she killed me for treason than send me off to fight in their stupid war!”

“Don’t die too, Leffy,” Mee softly cried.

“It is our war too, son,” Mana told him. her tired eyes seemed even mire tired. She was of the same age as the mistress, but looked many years older.

“What do I care about Kisholore and their dragon king? Defeating the Dragon of the Mount won’t give me my freedom!”

“Enough! This is the last time I want to hear about freedom! Now go to bed!”

Lef thought he might burst with rage and indignity and passion and the frustration that all of that emotion had no vent. He might feel the need to be free, but aside from running away and taking his chances in the desert, he knew he would never taste freedom. And now his own mother would not listen! In fact, she still treated him like a child!

“I’ve lived over a hundred seasons, mama! I’m not a child anymore! When the master comes back, he’ll probably take me to die in that dumb war.”

“It’s our war too, Leffy.”

Mee never raised her voice. She was the perfect female and the perfect little slave. Even now, after their father had been sent to die in the war, she still didn’t question anything.

“It’s not our war and I won’t die in it!”

“Lef, stop it. You’re upsetting Mee and she’s already had a hard day.” Though her words were sharp, that tiredness has returned to Mana’s eyes.

“What? Why? What happened?” he demanded as he looked at his crying little sister. She was no more than a child, but she seemed to be carrying a heavy burden on her shoulders that night.

Suddenly it dawned on him that she wasn’t crying for him. She was crying for herself. Something had happened to her that day.

A second realisation struck him in the silence where either his mother or Mee should’ve answered him.

“He summoned you,” he softly accused, making Mee cry even more. “You’re a child, but he summoned you anyway.”

“It is her duty,” Mana told Lef, but her words were meant to comfort Mee. “As it is your duty to follow the master into war. Now go to bed.”

A writer’s journey: Screw it, let’s do it!

‘Screw it, let’s do it!’ That used to be a slogan or something a while back, but by the Protector I can’t remember when or where or even why. Yet that is exactly the attitude I take these days.

(Oh, right now I’m looking around to see if there’s a button for PG13 on this site. I don’t always use kiddie-rated language, though I never stoop so low as to use utter vulgarities. I’m more like the cream puff of bad words user, as opposed to the heavy stuff, like dwarven bread (see Pratchett). A cream puff swearer.)

But back to the – slightly – rude comment: sometimes you just have to close your eyes and do something. Well, obviously this attitude doesn’t apply to everything in life, as there are some times when this will only lead to some extremely embarrassing situations. Like skinny-dipping. I’ve never seen that go down without a hitch.

In an earlier post I wrote about self-doubt. In fact, I actually wanted to do a whole series on the stuff I, and I suppose many writers, have to face on a daily basis. I wanted to write about fear and the way this world can be disheartening and tiresome, but in the end I just decided to skip all that. That’s actually exactly what I did concerning this endeavour. I wanted to be scared – and I was for a time – and I went though all the other emotions as well. But then one morning I just decided to screw all these other stuff and do it. By ‘do it’ I mean I went online and started e-mailing as many agents as I could find. I started this page, because most of the agents want you to ad a link to your website. I thought writing was all about telling a story and then telling another story and another story until you die. After all, there’s always another story to be told and often it feels like I’ll burst if I don’t tell it. I usually have at least 4 stories going at all times. That’s probably not a good thing, but, as I said, there are just so many stories I need to tell.

I know it’s never easy to ignore the negative answers and the setbacks. I know that fear and doubt can be crippling. I know that sitting in front of that screen and seeing all the requirements for a good story and for finding an agent to publish that story is daunting. It is incredibly daunting. It’s the freezing cold, bottomless deep end of the pool and there’s nobody to help you swim. It also seems as if there’s nothing waiting on the other side. Screw it! Just jump in. Get wet. Swallow a few litres of icy water. And then go Dory on everything: just keep swimming!