Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Onna-Bugeisha


When we talk about Japanese women the image of the delicate, elaborately dressed geisha often springs to mind. But did you know that a group of female warriors in Japan dates all the way back to at least 100 AD?

Onna-bugeisha were female members of the bushi (samurai) class in Japan. Their origins and the members of their ranks are somewhat misty - some of the most famous examples of their class (Empress Jingu and Tomoe Gozen) may not even have existed.

Make no mistake though, onna-bugeisha were real: This is
Nakano Takeko, who died battling the
Imperial Japanese Army during the Boshin War.
What we do know is that onna-bugeisha were upper-class women trained to defend their homes when the men of the house were away at war... and occasionally to defend their country beside samurai on the battlefield. 

It isn't precisely accurate to say that onna-bugeisha were female samuria. The truth is more complicated than that. The image of genteel docility was very important at that time, so the sight of women in battle wasn't exactly common, and the weapons that women used were different. 

Different - but no less deadly. The main weapon of the onna-bugeisha was a naginata, a long rod with a curved blade at the end, sort of like a spear. This gave women the ability to attack from a distance against men with swords. It was also useful for tackling warriors on horseback. Onna-bugeisha also often trained in the kaiken (dagger), knives, and archery. 

The end of the onna-bugeisha came with the rise of Neo-Confucianism, which dictated that men were inherently good and needed to be obeyed in order to lead their family correctly. While men were required to display filial piety towards their parents, a woman was required to obey not only her husband and father, but also her uncles, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, and her own sons. It was a little like the White House - if one person kicks the bucket, there's always someone waiting in the wings to order you around.

"Clean the house your own damn self."
In this more restrictive atmosphere, the idea of warrior women was deemed unacceptable. But the onna-bugeisha live on in myth and legend and history, where they continue to inspire people today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Surviving the (Romantic) Suspense #2: Why you never want to defend yourself

As a romantic suspense author, I spend a lot of time writing about ladies in peril. And by that token, I have to get them back out of it. So I'm going to use one day a week to talk about self defense and protecting yourself in various ways.

You never want to need to defend yourself.

If you're ever at the point where you actually need to fight an attacker, you are working at a severe disadvantage. Your opponent has a plan - you don't. Your opponent has the advantage of surprise - you're working several steps behind them. Your opponent has probably struck first and may have weapons, and even if for some reason you were carrying a weapon, it's unlikely you'll have the time to get it out.

There are a lot of self-defense classes out there that offer training in mostly martial arts. While I'm not saying these are a bad idea, they're a lot more useful in terms of cardiovascular fitness than they will be to you should you ever be attacked.

A class situation, operating under rules and limits, is completely different than an attack that takes you by surprise. And your own capabilities are different during this kind of fight - your adrenaline will kick up past the point where it's useful, you'll probably develop hyperfocus, and you won't be able to think with the same logic that you normally use. The chemical cocktail that affects you during a fight will make each person act slightly differently under its influence. Some common side affects include loss of peripheral vision, degradation of fine motor skills, and an obsession with irrelevant thoughts.

The only way to reliably overcome these disadvantages is through training (and even then, there's no magic bullet, so to speak). Presumably you aren't getting training for special ops, or you wouldn't be reading this blog right now, you'd be out there throwing boats around and ripping trees up from the ground. That means that your best bet is to avoid situations where you have to defend yourself.

If a situation looks strange to you, leave. Don't worry about hurting people's feelings or acting odd - have you ever heard stories about soldiers who come home and hit the deck when loud noises go off, like books dropping off a desk? They've learned the hard way that it's better to be safe than sorry. Follow that example, not often nonsensical social rules. Trust your instincts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gretchen, stop trying to make Scroogled happen! It's not going to happen!

Something you should know about me is that I don't watch a lot of TV. It's mostly a function of not having much time, a short attention span, and a low tolerance for boredom. Every so often something truly awesome (like Sherlock) will cross my path and I won't sleep until I finish, but for the most part I'm not too into TV.

On the other hand, I do like watching some stuff on the internet. Reviews of games, or nostalgic stuff, or books. And I like supporting people who make things I enjoy watching, so I don't install ad-blocking software.

But. This ad. Is driving. Me. CRAZY.


What even... Where do I start?

These are the most squeaky-clean people I have ever seen in the history of ever. What is he staring at when she's reading over his shoulder? Why is he lying across the ENTIRE DESK? Who does that? Why is his part GOUGED into the side of his skull so that he's got some kind of Justin Bieber hair bounce at the front? Why is she wearing a wig and why isn't it a better one? WHY DID HE FALL OFF HIS CHAIR? Are they trying to imply that he's fat? Because I didn't hear the chair break... I also didn't hear him hit the floor, so apparently he's levitating. Why does Wig Lady have Spiderman's ability to catch plates out of thin air?


Why does she take a four-centimeter-square piece of pie? Why is she eating with her teeth stretched out like this?


So many questions, but no answers. If I see this ad again I may be forced to commit bodily harm to my laptop screen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This is a post about... Hey! Look at that!

The distraction squirrels have attacked.

You know how people get plot bunnies? Well, I also have distraction squirrels. They steal my attention and dash off and bury it somewhere in the yard.

Here's what's distracting me lately...

Pinterest.


Sister Wives. I found it on Netflix, and I've been marathoning.



Twitterrrrrrrrrrrr.


Now that I'm pretty much done fiddling with DETECT ME, I feel like I'm allowed a bit of a lull before I really build up to working on the next project (which I'm really excited about, by the way. It's going to be awesome). But soon enough that niggling in the back of my head is going to kick into high gear and I'm going to have to push all this stuff aside to focus on the next book... which we'll call PM for now. Any guesses as to what it stands for? :)



Friday, February 22, 2013

One Size Fits None

Finish every manuscript you start. Set a word goal and meet it every single day. Show, don't tell. Don't use adverbs. Read everything in sight. Write what you know.

Any of that sound familiar? I'm pretty sure it does. These are respected tenets of the writing community. Their certainty is almost comforting, in a way.

Here's a nasty little secret - statistics mean nothing to the individual.

Most writing advice is well-meaning and comes from a good place. Obviously if you never finish a manuscript, it's at least 30% harder to sell your book. Reading a genre is unquestionably the best way to know what other readers are expecting.

But there are no absolutes. Not in writing, not in life.

Writers are passionate people and you will find folks all over the internet and the real world arguing vehemently for one side or the other on these and other issues. People will absolutely insist that vampire books are dead(heh), or self-publishing is a fool's game, or that you cannot use a prologue.

These people don't know you. These people don't know your book.

All too often I'll see writers asking for not just advice, but judgement - "Is this story idea a good one?" "Is it okay to talk about this topic?" "Is it alright to break genre convention in this instance?"

Folks, you are the pale moon and the golden sun of your writing world. Nobody else can tell you in certainty that a character or a plot or a book will or will not appeal to readers. If that were possible, we would all be bowing at the feet of Random Schuster Harper Disney and its one employee.

There's nothing wrong with taking advice. At least considering the advice of others is not just a good way to write, but a good way to live. There are limits, though. All things in moderation. The advice of other writers cannot write, edit, or save your book.

You are the master of your destiny. Accept no substitutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't let someone rob you, mmkay?

Well, clearly there's no possible way this can go wrong.

CAS (Copyright Alert System) is a [text="sarcasm font"]brilliant[/text] new system designed to cut down on illegal downloading and sharing. It operates on a six strikes you're out rule. If the system sees your IP downloading something popular using filesharing software, it will send you several warnings and then make you click "Agree" after quick-scrolling through several pages of educational material. Once it's warned you six times the warnings will stop, but you're liable to get sued on your next transgression.

Here's the thing. CAS isn't a law (though lord knows those aren't perfect either), it's a private agreement between five major Internet companies. They're establishing relatively arbitrary rules (six strikes? No less than five and no more than seven...) and enforcing them using their own dubious means. Even in its testing there have been such gems as the warning sent to Google for allowing HBO to stream on... HBO.com. Clearly this is an entirely foolproof system!

Remember how I said that CAS isn't a law? Like I mentioned, this means they can make whatever rules they want and enforce them however they want. One of the ways they enforce CAS is by slowing your internet to a crawl... Which they do without any trial or proof necessary. And CAS operates on a "don't let someone rob you mmkay" principle - if someone else uses your internet to download things illegally, guess what? You're the one who gets to deal with the sternly worded emails.

Although businesses are supposed to have different guidelines to operate under, it worries me for the future of public wi-fi. If businesses get spooked about the fact that they might wind up in court because hordes of people mysteriously show up to their internet cafes six days after CAS goes into effect, there's no good reason for them to keep paying for service.

It could be that this will be another ineffectual and poorly enforced effort. It's certainly easy enough to get around if you care to (I don't download illegally so I'm not going to tell you how; you can go download a guide yourself). But monopolies make me uneasy, and so do arbitrary restrictions like this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Surviving the (Romantic) Suspense

As a romantic suspense author, I spend a lot of time writing about ladies in peril. And by that token, I have to get them back out of it. So I'm going to use one day a week to talk about self defense and protecting yourself in various ways. Hopefully it will be useful; possibly it will even be amusing!

This week I'm going to highlight something pretty basic (read: boring) but very useful. Did you know that if you need the police but you're not in the middle of an emergency, there's other numbers you can call? This is important because it clears up traffic and backlog times for people who actually are experiencing emergencies.

311 is a non-emergency city services number that a lot of cities in the US and Canada have available. In addition, every city and town has their own particular non-emergency line that you can find using their website.

The rest of these you have to find for your individual city or town:
Anonymous Tip Line
Anonymous Text Tip Line
Child Abuse Hotline
Hate Crimes Hotline
Corruption Hotline
Crime Solvers Hotline

My favorite is the Crime Solvers Hotline. Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? Like you'll call up and turn into Encyclopedia Brown or something.

Make no mistake, this is serious business.

What's your type?

I was watching a video the other day that mentioned something I've thought about before - the fact that a lot of us date the same person over and over with slight variations.

Most people will immediately deny this. I used to be one of these people, actually. All of the men I've dated have been in very different fields, they've looked wildly different, and they've all been fairly normal... But then I realized, no, wait. I'm not a special snowflake after all. I've dated The Nice Guy over and over again, with varying shades of authenticity.

Why do we do this? Are we attracted to a certain type of person on a subconscious level, drawn to the kind of personality that can come the closest to fitting together with our jagged-edged puzzle pieces? Or do we simply never recover from our first bad breakup, and spend the rest of our dating lives trying to fix our mistakes? Maybe some of us are just stubborn.

I'm not sure, but I do know how this phenomenon tends to be represented in fiction. Over and over again I see stories about women who date the same "wrong for them" guys and then, when they meet The One, have to broaden their horizons and get over their "type". While this is always fun, I'd like to see a story or two about a woman who meets a man that transcends his type to become perfect to her, in spite of her worries about repeating her mistakes. Something to keep in mind for the future!

What about you? Do you date the same person over and over again, or do you think it's all ridiculous typecasting?

And here's the video, if you were curious. It's definitely worth a look.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Picture Inspiration!

I thought I'd share some of the images that were my inspiration for DETECT ME. Mark is a classic gentleman and though it's set in the modern era, there is a bit of an old Hollywood detective feel to the story. Think Cary Grant, Lauren Bacall, Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, and Humphrey Bogart.

Enjoy the pretty!








Don't forget to check out the sneak peeks from DETECT ME, coming March 2013!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A snip for Valentine's Day!

I'm late to Teaser Tuesday again, huh?

“I’ve never heard of that painting,” Mark said, though Nikki noticed that his body went very still with anticipation. “All the paintings stolen so far have been big ones; pieces everyone has heard of. Why would the thief take something unknown? 
Mark’s blue eyes watched her carefully. The two of them were still close; enough so that when he took a small step forward she thought she could feel his body heat again, stretching across the distance and making Nikki yearn for human contact in a way she hadn’t since she’d dumped Ben. She wanted to feel the touch of Mark’s skin so badly that it scared her.
Words bunched up inside her throat and Nikki talked as quickly as possible, trying to push away her demons with jumbled sentences that laid bare for Mark everything she knew.
“Because it’s not unknown. Not to anyone truly interested in art. It’s the partner of Starry Night. He painted it while he was institutionalized. Impressionism is all about light, and that’s what The Olive Trees is. It’s… important,” Nikki said, helpless to explain properly with her thoughts snarled and tangled and her body at war with her mind. Her body didn’t want to just talk to Mark. But her mind was screaming at her to run; warning Nikki that this kind of over-investment in such a short amount of time was horribly dangerous. 
She recognized that fire in Mark that had attracted her to other men in the past; that passion and drive. But brilliant, captivating men didn’t make good lovers. They made cold beds and quiet tears. 
“I see,” Mark said quietly, still staring at her. “It’s the light to the other painting’s darkness.” 
Something inside Nikki’s stomach tightened painfully. “Yes,” she whispered, feeling lost already.

DETECT ME is coming March 2013!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Selling Fanfiction is Weird Science

Putting aside moral and ethical quandaries, today I want to talk a little about the business aspect of pulled-to-publish, or P2P, fanfiction. All of what I'm saying here applies to self-publishing as well as trade publishing, but I'm going to talk about it in terms of trade publishing for ease of reference.

When publishers buy fanfiction and repackage it for the mainstream market, they're making two big assumptions:

1. This book has an appeal beyond its initial fanbase. 
2. This book's popularity in fandom says something about its potential popularity on the mainstream market.

And I’m not entirely sure those are good assumptions to make.

There is a very definite possibility that E.L. James was another Octomom; that she got big on notoriety rather than any real interest in her content. She wrote a story about something relatively taboo, and the way in which it was published was also (or at least it used to be) taboo. BDSM and intellectual property theft - turns out that the two of those things churn up enough interest to make you a bestseller.

This was the first time something this raunchy went mainstream. It got a lot of attention and started a movement. There's no doubt that E.L. kicked erotica into high gear and that a lot of other people have been successful in that field since. But I notice that all of the breakout successes since have been original fiction.

I think the forbidden unknown was the draw of E.L.'s work and the reason it succeeded. I do NOT think it succeeded because it was formerly a successful fanfic, and here's why: Fanfiction has already had an audience. Therefore, many of your potential fans have already read the story, and the rest of your potential fans know that they can find it online for free.

What you're doing when you re-publish a successful piece of fanfiction is putting it on the market and assuming that the same things that made it appeal to a fanbase will make it appeal to everybody. But fans of whatever it may be are a self-selecting group, and doesn't it seem likely that a lot of them will have already read the story?

Additionally, fanfiction and original fiction are not the same thing. Fanfiction relies on at least a passing knowledge of characters, themes, and setting. Fanfiction also tends to be written in a serial style with an emphasis on spending more time with your favorite characters v. tight plotting and action. It makes sense that different forms of storytelling would have different focuses, but one of these things is not like the other and there's no reason to assume this style will sell well on the mass market. (And no, Fifty Shades does not count as a reason - it is one example. That makes it an anomaly, not the norm.)

But wait! Authors say their P2P stories are reworked and edited so that they barely resemble their original forms. Okay, fine. I wonder how far you can take these stories from their original form without losing the very things that made them popular, but even if this is so...

What about legality?

Thus far, publishers have been acting under the "it's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission" principle. That's fine right up until it isn't. Stephenie Meyer may not be interested in suing anyone, but E.L. James herself has demanded fanfiction of her work be taken down, and many well-known authors like Anne McCaffrey have long stated that they don't allow fanfiction of their works in any form. Eventually, somebody is going to balk.

The courts may decide that P2P fanfiction is in fact legal. But publishers don't know that. They're walking on thin ice.

What it comes down to is just because something's salable doesn't make it legal, and just because something's legal doesn't make it salable. Either or both of these things may be true about pulled-to-publish fanfiction. But neither are proven. I don't think this is a good move by publishers, and I wonder what this says about their attitude toward the industry.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six easy ways to save on Valentine's Day

1. Your neighbor has a rosebush, right?

2. Actually, scratch that. No roses. They're too predictable and over-commercialized anyway, right? It's like dogs - you breed too many too fast and they start biting you. Or something. Get your special someone a bouquet that will really stand out from the crowd!

You trigger my prey selectivity, Valentine!

3. Anything in red packaging is going to be overpriced right now. Instead, go for the early bird special on Easter candy! When your sweetheart asks what the deal is and why you didn't buy them chalk hearts with more limited vocab than twitter, tell them, "It's because you make my heart hop, Valentine!"

4. Okay, so sending presents to someone's office is romantic. And so is serenading. Therefore, it only stands to reason that the most romantic thing in the world is showing up to someone's work and singing them love songs in front of their coworkers. BAM. Done.

5. There's always the sympathy vote. If you can't think of anything, pretend to break your leg. If your cupcake is particularly sharp on the uptake, really break your leg.

6. If all else fails, just dump them.


As you can probably tell, Valentine's Day for my fiance is one of mingled disbelief and horror - as it was always meant to be! I am usually the proud recipient of the "You Tried" award.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Poetry and Coffee

Sounds about right for a Monday morning. One of my favorite poems.

Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem
My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
is exactly what's happening,

it's what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of "Old Battersea Bridge."
I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I've never defiled or betrayed
anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
something in the womb

but couldn't hang on. One of those other worlds
or a life I felt
passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother's belly
she had to scream out.

Here when I say "I never want to be without you,"
somewhere else I am saying
"I never want to be without you again." And when I touch you
in each of the places we meet

in all of the lives we are, it's with hands that are dying
and resurrected.
When I don't touch you it's a mistake in any life,
in each place and forever. 
Bob Hicok, 1998

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snip from DETECT ME


This is a snip from when my two main characters, Nikki and Mark, meet. There's something of a misunderstanding. Enjoy!

“Hi, I’m here for my interview,” the woman said, sounding slightly breathless. She walked into his office with an air of easy, artless confidence and shut the door behind her.
Mark arched his eyebrows up in surprise and slowly rose from his desk. This was an odd turn of events.
On the other hand, it wasn’t like he was busy. And the lady was real easy on the eyes. 
“Very well,” he said. He strode across the room and extended a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, miss…” 
“Nikki. Nikki Reed.” Her skin was slightly damp when she shook his hand - no doubt from the rain outside - but her grip was firm without clutching at him or trying to prove anything. Mark allowed himself a small smile. 
“I”m Mark Harrison. Why don’t you sit down?” he invited. 
He went back behind his desk and watched Nikki follow him with only a slight hint of hesitation. Distracting, his mind pointed out. It was true - the woman had the kind of classic features that belonged in some movie poster from the 1920s, and the tailored suit she wore displayed just the right amount of curves.  
Mark shook his head a little to push those thoughts away. Been too long, if all it takes is a pretty woman in a nice suit to turn my head, he thought wryly. 
“So, what are your credentials, Ms. Reed?” he asked. 
“Call me Nikki,” she said with a flash of a smile that froze Mark in his seat. That - that was new. He hadn’t expected the upward curve of those full lips to draw his attention in like that; to make him stare at her face and notice the character there, the mischievous glint in her eyes that he suspected never really went away. 
 This was ridiculous. He needed to calm right the hell down.
“Right. Nikki, then. And you can call me Mark. What are your credentials?” 
She straightened up in her seat and reeled off a list of accomplishments, none of which particularly intrigued him. Mark liked her voice - it was musical, a pleasant pitch - so he tuned out most of what she was actually saying and listened to that. It wasn’t like it was really possible to be qualified for the job he would hire for, anyway. 
When she seemed to reach the end of her spiel he tuned back in to hear Nikki ask, “What qualifications are you looking for in an applicant?” 
Mark thought hard. “Well, I suppose I’d like an assistant to have a good handle on criminal psychology. Be quick on their feet. Not easily scared. Understanding police procedure is a must - it’s a hassle, but since we have to deal with it all the time, it’s necessary. Oh, and good filing skills always come in handy.” 
Nikki’s eyes got wider and wider and a line creased across her forehead as she frowned. Mark couldn’t understand it.
“Um,” the blonde said carefully when he was finished talking, “look, that’s, uh… Well, that’s something. But why does a marketing manager need an assistant like that?” 
Mark stared at her, completely baffled. 
“I’m not a marketing manager. I’m a detective.”

DETECT ME will be available March 2013!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A defense of GIRLS, by someone who has never actually seen it

I notice that GIRLS - written, directed and acted by women - is taking an awful lot of flak for its supposed narrow, self indulgent, and inconsequential content.

Know what's also airing on television right now? BIG BANG THEORY, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, and RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Given the dubious depth of these sitcoms, I find it really freaking suspect that a show which attempts to take the lives of twenty-something girls somewhat seriously rather than outright mocking and dismissing them is being torn apart like this.

The frenzied arm-flailing and outright venom I see directed toward this show, and particularly its creator, is astonishing. You're complaining about racism? Sorry, I must have missed all the racial diversity on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. You're complaining about nepotism? Sorry, you must have missed the last trillion Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine movies.

The truth is that this show is being held to the classic "have to work twice as hard to be half as good" minority principle. Because GIRLS is a show made by women for women, it is expected to transcend the norm of pop culture. And it apparently doesn't. Did you hold SCRUBS to the same standards? Or TWO AND A HALF MEN?

You might not like GIRLS, and that's fine. It doesn't sound like my cup of tea personally, so I haven't bothered to watch it. But if you're frothing at the mouth over the hollow mockery of a human being (believe it or not those are all separate links, and it took me basically five minutes to find them. Seriously) that is Lena Dunham... either admit that you're being a misogynistic jerk, or sit down and shut up.

Women in Horror Month: Kate Lockley

And now for a character that nobody will remember.

SAY MY NAME!

Kate Lockley was the hard-boiled police officer on season one of Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the beginning of the show she was styled as a sort of comrade-in-arms to Angel, working on the side of lawful good while Angel could only work from the shadows (literally. You know, vampire).

The great thing about Kate was that she was such a strong but also dynamic character. She wasn't a pillar of unrealistic strength; she had daddy issues and when he died at the hands of a vampire, she took her anger out on Angel. But at the same time, she wasn't a completely rigid and unyielding ball-buster who had to be taught to be gentle and feminine again. She was pretty and competent and strong and human.

Which is probably why she got written out of the show in one season.

I find Kate fascinating because her character was too good, too complete, to work in the context of the show being Angel's story. I was totally digging the budding romance between her and Angel, but I get why she had to move on. He just wasn't mature enough yet... maybe another 500 years or so would do it. Kate was a functional human being who didn't need to be saved. And guess what - Angel's freaking tagline is that he "helps the helpless".

In a way, I'm glad that they phased out Kate without dragging her further down into some swirling pit of doom to allow her to stay in the show (although I could have done without her last episode, quite frankly. Still, I won't call shenanigans given the extreme circumstances of her grief over both her father and her job). While I really wish that there were more strong, dynamic women like her on TV, I understand why she didn't work in Angel.

Because Kate Lockley is anything but helpless.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Only a hundred years ahead of her time



Recently the US military opened frontline combat positions to women.

In April 1898, sharpshooter Annie Oakley sent a letter to President McKinley asking for permission to create a team of 50 women sharpshooters (outfitted and trained at their - aka her - own expense) for use in the Spanish-American War.

When her offer was declined, she raised money for the Red Cross by holding sharpshooting demonstrations. And she offered again before World War I, but the answer was the same.

In her time, Annie was known for her conservative outfits compared to her more risque female entertainers - she wanted people to pay attention to her skill, not her body. She married a man that she met when she beat him in a shooting match. She donated huge amounts of money to charity, up to and including melting down her shooting medals and donating those.

That's a woman worth making proud, and I think Annie Oakley would be proud to see every step we take closer to true equality.

A picture of the letter, from this source


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My visit to the dentist

Me: Hi.

Dentist: Do you floss? You don't look like you floss. Here, sit in this chair and let me turn you upside down.

Me: I floss! ...Sometimes.

Dentist: Judge. Juuuuuuuuuudge. JUDGING YOU.

Me: Okay fine I don't floss.

Dentist: I could tell, plebe. Hmm look I think I see cavities! Allow me to attempt to pull your teeth through your gums... I mean, clean.

Me: Grnshrklz!

Dentist: Yep, cavities. We'll be seeing each other soon. Won't that be fun?

Me: ...

Dentist: Your teeth may look alright to the untrained eye, but I think they're kind of weird. Have you thought about braces?

Me: GOOD DAY SIR.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Richard III - not such a bad guy, I swear

This is a thing that happened, and it is awesome. If you miss the part about, you know, being buried underneath a car park. I can't imagine that's a restful place to be - fender benders and road rage churning above you for all those years. It's a wonder he didn't come back and go Casper on their butts.

Richard III gets a lot of flack (thanks Shakespeare), but what evidence exists doesn't depict a picture of a frothing villain. He appeared to be intensely loyal to King Edward IV, his elder brother, and to genuinely care for his wife, Anne of York - in fact they knew each other in childhood and Richard agreed to a pre-nup (seriously) in order to marry her. He also instituted a Court of Requests where poor people unable to afford legal representation could make their grievances heard, created bail in order to stop the imprisonment and seizing of assets of potential felons before their sentencing, did away with restrictions on printing and selling books, and before his kingship headed the Council of the North that improved conditions for the commoners in northern England.

Doesn't sound like so bad a guy, huh?

Of course, he lived in tumultuous times and all of his actions, including that pre-nup with Anne, could have had a number of motivations, good or bad. Richard is still under suspicion for the deaths of the two young princes in the tower. The circumstances of their disappearance has never been proved either way, so I like to think that Richard wasn't culpable. Only history knows.

The truth is that Richard III's legacy was a victim of the Tudor need to set themselves up as rightful kings. Henry VII defeated the Plantagenet Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field in a successful bid for the throne, but in the era of divine kingship, establishing themselves as the true and destined monarchs was incredibly important. And with scoliosis that resulted in a dramatically curved spine, Richard was an easy target.

But today, I like to think we're a little better than that. A medical condition didn't make Richard III a bad man, or a bad king, in spite of his short reign.

If you're interested in a compelling historical fiction read (with a good dollop of romance), check out The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy, told from the perspective of Anne of York.

Real life hero inspiration #1

Me: "Why would you tickle me back? That's horrible! You can't retaliate against me! That's not how this is supposed to work!"
B: "I didn't realize. All I know is that usually when I tickle you, you ram a knee somewhere in... uh... rightful and proper self-defense."

Sometimes the greatest romantic gesture of all is pretending that your loved one isn't totally ridiculous.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Say why do I like this so much?

One of the things that continues to baffle me is my complete addiction to TLC's Say Yes to the Dress.

It's joy and till-death-do-us-part all over the place here.

Tons of women get a kick out of anything wedding-related, that's no mystery. But I truly am not sure why I'm able to watch episode after episode of nothing but wedding dress appointments. I mean, after awhile, all the dresses start to look the same!

Except maybe this one.

But this show captivates me. I can watch an embarrassing number of hours of women picking out white dresses. I can totally buy into the whole "this is the only dress of your entire life that will matter" ideal and happily exclaim yay or nay from the sidelines.

What can I conclude about this? Heck if I know. But I'm not going to stop watching anytime soon.


Friday, February 1, 2013

On Kindness

I was going through old papers from my much loved and much missed Oma today, and I found an unsent letter written by her in 1964 that said this:

After we had been there a few days some of the gals started getting catty. When this would happen I would just head for the hills. No, they didn't "try me" as they said - they knew they would not get any reaction. I'll be damned if I can get the point. Two of them would say some cutting remark (under the guise of humor) then sit and wait for the victim to strike back. Then later they would come to me (you would have thought I was the house mother) and say Oh, we don't mean any harm, it's all done in fun. If that's fun, hunting people - I'm going to look in the dictionary for a new word. Gosh, I'm human, I enjoy a good gossip with close close friends but this stuff of hunting people - I don't go for.

The more things change,  the more they stay the same. I think it's good to remember in the age of internet and reality TV that people are just as capable of cruelty as they always were - but also just as capable of kindness and integrity.

Reality of life with a writer

Me: "This story started out pretty lighthearted, but it got darker."
B: "Uh-huh."
Me: "Yeah! Now I'm giving the hero a traumatic injury and a tortured backstory and all sorts of fun stuff! I need to figure out if there's any other ways I can mess him up."
B: "..."
Me: "..."
B: "Well, this was disturbing."