6 Things to Do When You’re Sick

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday.  Me, not so much.

Traditionally, I get a cold between Turkey Day and Christmas.  This year, it showed up two days before the holiday.  I spent the last four days wishing I had enough energy to clean the house and put up the tree.

But being sick doesn’t have to be miserable or boring.  Here are six things to do when you’re feeling puny.

#1

Update your computer

Don’t you hate those update balloons that pop up when you log in?  Or the numerous anti-virus, spyware and malware detector scans that take up so much time and memory?  Well, now’s the perfect time to get them going, since you’re too fuzzy to do any work on the thing anyway.  Just open them up and let them run while you take a nap!

#2

Watch cartoons

When you’re sick, your mind can’t comprehend things like reality shows or the news.  Watching fake-tanned idiots scream at each other or depressing economic stories will only tax your poor, befuddled brain.  Escape into the wonderful world of cartoons!  Spongebob’s colorful images, silly storylines and brainless comedy are all much better when you’re stoned on over-the-counter meds.

Daytime television is a great sleep aid if you’re too dizzy for the cartoons but need something to break the eerie silence that pervades your house on a weekday.  Soaps (who are those people and why are they hanging off a cliff?), court shows, and endless commercials for diploma mills and car insurance will knock you right out.

#3

Eat kid food

If you’re lucky enough to have someone taking care of you, they can make you easy-to-digest foods like chicken noodle soup, toast or grilled cheese sandwiches, the way your mother did.  If you’re on your own these are fast and easy to prepare, so you won’t have to stand up for too long.  Never mind the health regimen; you need comfort food!  Sip a little Coke or have a prepackaged Lunchable with the little crackers.  Pick them up on the way home from work, when you know you’re going to spend the next three days horizontal.

#4

Surf the Internet

Most people have laptops and wireless routers now.  You can get a tilt-table laptop cart at Walmart that will allow you to lie on the couch and use the computer.  Since you’re not at work, you can read all the sites your IT department blocks.

Alternatively, you could play video games if you’re up to it.  You can finally play uninterrupted while everyone else is gone, and you don’t have to hide Grand Theft Auto XI: Kill and Maim from the kids.

#5

Mess with people

If you’ve lost your voice, you can call your nerd buddies and pretend to be Gollum.  Ask them things like “What’s taters, precious?” and say “Stupid fat hobbit!” before hanging up.  They’ll think it’s funny, honest.

Call your boss and croak, “I feel better…I’ve only been to the bathroom six times in the last hour; are you SURE you don’t want me to come in?”

Rub your head with a dry towel and make your unwashed hair stand on end.  Wear your crappiest pajamas, an old tattered robe and if you’re a man, forget about shaving.  You probably won’t feel like it anyway.  Answer the door like this when you hear the mailman come, making sure to cough and sneeze violently.  Watch him fall off the step trying to get away from you.

#6

Do crafts

You’re too sick to work but not sick enough to sleep or you’ve been getting better and now you’re bored.  Make a sculpture from toothpicks and glue.   Steal your kid’s coloring books and crayons and create a masterpiece to hang on the refrigerator.  Carve animals out of soap.  Do origami.  Make paper airplanes and shoot them at the dog.  Spend an hour with a treat trying to get him out from under the bed and de-traumatized before your family gets home.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re sick?  Please share in the comments!

Is Writing Commercial Fiction a Sell-Out?

Nicola Morgan at Help! I Need a Publisher! inspired this post.  She had an older post about selling out and how it’s more difficult to get published now, because it’s all about sales and not so much writing anymore.

I went back and reread it recently.  Although Nicola is in the UK, her remarks are relevant in the US as well.

Nicola says in the comments, “Definition of commercial – simple: sells a lot. It doesn’t mean bad: it means popular. End of.”  She’s right.  Publishing is a business and these are business decisions.  A lot of writers think of what they do as art.  Many don’t consider commercial fiction art the way we think of it.  Art is Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and the like.

Here’s a wake-up call:  Shakespeare’s plays were commercial fiction.  In Elizabethan times, there were no movies.  People went to the theater.  The nobles got to sit in boxes, but the riff-raff had to stand downstairs.  Still, they went.  Everybody did.

Shakespeare cribbed story elements from other sources, the same way modern filmmakers do.  He mixed them up and presented them to a new audience in an entertaining way.  He invented new words and found common human elements in his stories that resonate with people even today.  That is why his works are classic.  They only seem literary to us because we don’t speak Elizabethan English.

What Shakespeare came up with sold in his time.  Dan Brown, Michael Palmer, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, countless romance authors, etc. are doing well because people buy their books.  This is what we like, people.  Art is subjective.

Writing my first novel (technically my third, but the first I’m actually trying to sell) and having to cut it back so much is teaching me a lot about commercial writing.  So is reading my favorite genre authors.  The next one I’m not even going to bother to flesh out as much.

Why?

  • It doesn’t need it.  I’m learning about making each word count, rather than trying to cover everything.  Show, don’t tell takes more time, but if I’m careful about details, I can show a lot in less space.  A shorter book is easier to sell.  At least that’s what I keep hearing.
  • It takes less time to write it.  If I have to keep working to survive even with books published and royalties coming in (don’t I wish!), I’ll have to make do with little bits of time the way I do now.  The luxury of full-time writing will never be mine unless I join the tiny ranks of million-dollar bestsellers.  Not bloody likely.

It’s not a sellout to choose popular fiction over literary fiction.  I don’t mind cranking them out as long as whatever I produce is entertaining and I’m happy with it.  I never saw popular fiction as a sell-out and I never will. That’s what I like to read, and that’s what I’ll write.  I don’t think I have a literary novel in me, and I like writing fight scenes too much.

In the comments on Nicola’s post, Bacchus replied, “I think it’s only selling out when you can no longer enjoy what your [sic]doing. Giving up your joy in a task is like giving up your very essence.”  She’s right too.   If that happens to you, the work becomes just work.  You’re marking time.

When you find yourself doing that, then it might be time to quit, or at least take a break until you find your joie de vivre again.  If I like the popular stuff and enjoy writing it, my chances are better because I’ll have an audience who already reads whatever it is, and my work will have spirit.

Apparently, then, getting published means find something that will sell, that you want to write, that is universally appealing and that you’re capable of doing justice to.  Not so hard!  We’ll see.

You can’t make it if you don’t try, that’s for sure.  Read posts like Nicola’s and take them for what they are, a gentle reminder to stay realistic in your pursuits.

Vocabulary – Fee Fi Fo Fum!

Today’s letter is brought to you by fire, fellowship, fraternizing and fiends.  The title words, spoken by a fiend in a fairy tale, fall under fighting words.

Farrier – a person who shoes horses.  Not to be confused with the blacksmith, who makes the horseshoes.  In olden times they often did both, and some still know how.  Modern farriers mostly stick with shoeing and caring for the horse’s feet by trimming the hooves and monitoring their health.

Faun – a mythical creature, part man and part goat.  Mr. Tumnus in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia is a faun.  Satyrs are similar but less pleasant.  Horror writer Brian Keene penned a deliciously perverted book called Dark Hollow about a satyr running amuck.

Tumnus: a friend, not a fiend.

Fecund (FEE-kund) – fertile, fruitful.  Scooby Doo’s girlfriend Scooby Dee proved fecund when six puppies arrived on Thursday.

Fealty (FEE uhl-tee) – fidelity, faithfulness, loyalty to the lord of the manor.  In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Pippin swears fealty to Boromir’s father Denethor, Steward of Gondor, as a partial atonement for Boromir dying while defending the hobbits from Uruk-Hai.

Finial – the decorative knob on top of a table lamp, which probably doesn’t give you enough light to write by.  It was Colonel Mustard in the writing room with the finial.

Fiction – the hardest kind of writing to make a living from.  Most novelists never get to quit their day jobs.  I won’t give up!

Fjord (feey-ORD) – you probably know this one.  A Norwegian word, it means a narrow inlet of the sea.  Here is a lovely picture of one.

Flashback – a scene that cuts into the middle of a narrative to inform the reader of something that took place before it began.  Sometimes writers put a flashback in a different tense to make it stand out.  It might be long enough for its own chapter, or just a short segue without any breaks.

Flagellum – the whippy, tail-like thing a protozoa uses to move around.  Sort of like rowing a boat with an eyelash.

Focaccia (fo-CAH-chuh) – a delicious Italian flatbread, sometimes baked with herbs and cheese and garlic and—and…mmmMMMhhhaaaaaa where did I put my napkin ‘cause now I’m drooooliiinnngg…

That’s a good-looking bread, that is.

Image by kochtopf / Flickr.com

Fontanel – the soft spot on the top of a baby’s head.  The skull bones of an infant have not yet ossified, and the resulting space is covered by membrane.  Handle with care.

Frame narrative – a larger story that encompasses a smaller narrative, and comes to a close at the end.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a frame narrative, with the bedraggled Victor Frankenstein telling his horrific tale to the ship’s Captain Walton, who has rescued him in the frozen North.

Friable – crumbly.  Usually used to describe asbestos, which when friable is dangerous because it releases fibers that can cause serious lung damage when inhaled.

Fugu (FOO-goo) – puffer fish, a Japanese delicacy.  Fugu must be meticulously prepared because it is poisonous.

Fumarole – vapor hole in a volcano.  “Stay away from that fumarole, Robin,” Batman warned, “the ground is friable there—GOOD GOD!  ROBIN!  He’s gone!”

FX – popular abbreviation for effects, or special effects, in film and television.

Fyke – a fish trap held open with hoops.  No, really.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy your new words!

Should Amazon Sell a Manual for Pedophiles?

UPDATE:

In response to overwhelming pressure to remove it, Amazon has taken down the offending book.   Good for them.  I’ll get into the problems with self-publishing in a later post and probably mention this ill-conceived, misspelled piece of garbage then.

See more about Amazon’s decision here.

Today I read something on MSN that I wasn’t quite sure how to take, but it involves censorship, a thorny issue for writers.

According to this article by Helen A.S. Popkin, Amazon is selling an e-book in its Kindle store about dealing with pedophila…from the pedophile’s point of view.

I won’t mention the title; you can find it in the article, and I don’t want to give the writer the attention, frankly.  The book apparently offers advice for people in adult/child sexual situations, to help make it safer for the pedos.

Amazon has defended its decision to sell this material by issuing a statement about why they refuse to take the book down.  It reads in part:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.  Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

There’s a problem inherent in this.  Having sex with kids IS a criminal act, in every state.  Pedophilia is a paraphilia, a psychosexual disorder marked by abnormal and intense urges toward persons or things that fall outside the norm of sexuality.  Since children are not able to make viable decisions in this area, sex with kids is illegal.

But removing the book is technically censorship.   And nonfiction books describing other criminal acts or advocating questionable activities, even for entertainment-–The Anarchist’s Cookbook, George Hayduke’s Revenge books come to mind—aren’t restricted.

Where does that leave writers with something controversial to say, even if it’s horrifying?  And where should booksellers draw the line?

Amazon doesn’t sell porn in the Kindle store.  Is this book porn?  Bnet’s Style Inc. blogger Lydia Dishman reports that because it has no pictures or illustrations,  it doesn’t even qualify as child porn.  Thus, it’s breaking no laws and Amazon can’t be charged for selling it.

Booksellers have a right to carry whatever material they like, if they think they can sell it and they’re not running afoul of the legal system.  They can sell adult pornography, graphic crime novels and other fictional works describing the sexual abuse of children.  We as consumers are free to avoid or boycott the store or the writer if we like.

In my opinion, maybe the law is too lax on this kind of material.  I’ve seen child pornography (in a Citizen’s Police Academy course).  If I had to name the worst scourges on this earth, it would be right up there with genocide, war and slavery.  I can’t imagine anything instructing pedophiles on how to conduct these activities as acceptable in any context.  I’ve heard sexual abuse described as “soul murder.”  That’s what it is, and that’s what it does to kids who go through it.

Is it okay to talk about it? Well, yes, we have to, in order to save children from it.  There are good tips here for preventing child sexual abuse.  Children whose parents or guardians don’t pay much attention to them are prime pickings for pedophiles.

Is it okay to write about it?  Authors can write about anything they want.  I’ve read well-written books both fiction and nonfiction that contain scenes of child rape.  Makes me sick, but in the context of the narrative, the scenes were necessary to establish character motivation and show the degradation of a person’s psyche.

So should this book be taken down?  Amazon isn’t going to remove it.  They won’t take down the Holocaust denial books they sell either, even though they are illegal in certain countries.  It’s still okay in the United States to say it never happened, even if it makes you look like an idiot.

Barring certain wartime situations or yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, one of our basic freedoms in the U. S. is the right to say or think whatever we want without fear of reprisal.  If we insist libraries, booksellers and authors restrict their content to that which is sanitary and uncontroversial, do we undermine that right?  I think we do.

As a writer, if you pen something questionable, remember we have this freedom.  But I would take this particular incident as an object lesson.  There are some subjects people feel extremely strongly about, and you must be prepared for a possible backlash if you choose to tackle them.

As a consumer, you control your money.  You can vote with your wallet.  You don’t have to buy the book or read it, and if you disagree with Amazon’s policy, you can walk away from them.  If you have knowledge of a crime committed against someone, you can report it (and please do).  Under the law, the fact that the book may be sick is not a crime.

I myself don’t plan to boycott Amazon because of this.  I won’t buy the book, I won’t mention the author’s name, I will exhort anyone not to buy it out of curiosity.  This twit might be able to publish it, but if it doesn’t sell, it will eventually vanish.

If you have an opinion about censorship in general, or about this particular issue with Amazon, feel free to share in the comments.  Please be respectful of others’ opinions. No personal attacks or your comments will be deleted.  It’s okay to disagree as long as we remember that we each have a right to do so.

Why Read It?

Note to Readers:  I’m fast approaching my 100th post, and searching for something special to mark the occasion.  If anyone has anything they’d like to see me do, let me know in comments.  And no, I will not dress up like a bumblebee and sing the Lumberjack Song on video, nor do you want to see me naked.

Why do we read certain things?  What draws us to the type of material we read or write?

Stephen King, in the foreword to his story collection Night Shift, said that our brains have filters in them, and what catches in his filter might not be what gets hung up in that of another writer.  He used the example of standing at the edge of a pond with a famous Western writer and both are struck with an idea.  The Western writer’s might be about water rights in a dry season, while his would probably involve a creature in the pond carrying off animals and finally people.

I think this is true of readers too.  Certain genres attract some and repel others.  I enjoy horror fiction, but I know people who won’t touch it.  And one of my friends in college was an avid romance reader.  I’ve read maybe eight; I would reread three.  Just not my thing.

Perhaps one of the most puzzling genres is crime fiction.  I remember being flabbergasted several years ago to find out that it’s read by mostly women.  And the more violent the better.  Why is that?  We know men like action, car chases and kicking ass in movies. Why do mostly women read crime fiction?

First, more women than men read, especially fiction.  Why? The linked article by Eric Weiner gives some reasons, like girls being more verbal than boys, more in tune with emotions, etc.  More nonfiction is read by men.

Then there’s me; I’m a horror fan who likes David Morrell, Michael Palmer and Preston/Child also.  I read a ton of nonfiction.  And yes, I was born (and happily remain) female.

I never liked the armchair cozy detective stories, the Jessica Fletcher amateur sleuth secret unraveling books.  Films, television—same thing.  I prefer the dark side.  Good thing I’m not a Jedi, isn’t it?  My first novel is a police procedural with high levels of sex and violence.  I like this type of fiction because it’s escapist yet edgy.  It’s as fun to write as it is to read.  I don’t always like the happy ending.

Men are the primary perpetrators of violent crime, especially against women.  I think female readers are drawn to these books because it’s a subject we think about.  The perpetrator is caught, the CSI wraps things up nicely—not always the case in real life.  As potential victims, it’s something we live with every day.

We’re also interested in people.  My criminology classes in college had a large proportion of women in them.  And women are pretty tough about gross things.  We have to be; we’re the ones who clean up the poo, the blood and the puke at home, and break up the fights.  Stands to reason that we can handle a little grue or violence from time to time.

Crime novels are also entertaining. Vicarious badness?  Perhaps.  I know in writing my book, I enjoyed thinking like a bank robber, how I would conceal myself and avoid getting caught.  It was FUN.

Someone who reads romances is often stereotyped as a lonely spinster.  The truth is most readers of this genre are in relationships.  Are they happy ones?  I don’t know.  I like to think so; those with an open heart should be loved as they deserve.  A romantic soul isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have.

Note:  Men, if your lady is like that, you’re lucky.  She’ll always look for the hero in you.  Best appreciate that, or someone else will.  Ladies, don’t dismiss his efforts, even if they’re clumsy.  A regular guy trying to be romantic is better than a chiseled Fabio staring aloof into the distance.  A man who will hold your head while you puke and still think you’re sexy (though not maybe at that particular moment) is worth his weight in platinum.

Regardless of your tastes, you should read or write what appeals to you.  I wrote a book I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it.  If it never gets published, fine.   Perhaps the next one will.  If my Detective Pierce becomes a series character, maybe I can make him do things we all want to do to the bad people of the world.  Or I can enjoy being them for a while.

What kind of books most appeal to you?  Which ones bore you to tears?  Please share in the comments.

Vocabulary: EZ as Pie

I apologize for the time between posts.  My stomach has decided to eat itself and sometimes feels like I’ve been gutshot.  Let’s hope I get in to see a GI doc pretty soon.  Ulcers are no fun.

We’ll be working with the letter E today.  Thanks to the SST people for their suggestions!

Early – a time when some absurdly dedicated and crazy people get up to write.  I’m lucky if I make it out of bed on the second snooze.
Ebullient – excited, high-spirited.

Echolalia – repetition of someone’s words. “I think he went in there,” Fred said.  “Rin rere?” Scooby said.  “Ry rould re ro in rere?”

Edifice – this one has two meanings.  1.  A large building, of imposing size, or 2. Any complex system or organization.  Both could apply in an adventure story.  Your hero could find himself dangling from an edifice while investigating an evil edifice.

Eerie – what you hope a horror story will be.

Effluvium – an offensive emanation or smell.  Joker’s lair gave off such a stale effluvium of garbage, unwashed clothing and blood that Batman nearly puked.

Egregious (eh GREE jus) – glaringly bad, astonishingly so.  The trumpets coupled with digeridoos in that anime soundtrack launched an egregious assault on my ears.

EH -  initials of Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.  Famous works by Hemingway include The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms. His work is characterized by extremely spare prose and strong imagery.

Eidetic (eye DEH tik) – having a photographic memory.

Ejectamenta – stuff that gets thrown out of a volcano.  Who knew it had a name?

Eke – stretch, make laboriously.  “Heh, we had to eke out a living on clamshells and rocks!” Grandpa Squarepants cackled to tiny Spongebob, who perched precariously on his knee.

Elderberry – the fruit of the elder tree, used in making wine and jelly.  Warning:  NEVER eat any wild plant, mushroom or berry unless you are absolutely certain you know that it is safe to eat!

What your father smelled of.

Image by olibac / Flickr.com

Emicate – to sparkle.  Edward emicated brightly in the sun, allowing Buffy to fire her crossbow directly at his heart.

Eon (or aeon) – an insanely long time; in geological time, several eras.  Both spellings are correct.

Epilogue – an extra scene at the end of a book or play.  Like a prologue, but in closing.

Equestrianism – pertaining to horseback riding.

The most expert of all dressage riders are those who train with the world-famous Lipizanner horses.  They have such exquisite control over the animals that they appear to work with one mind.   I have seen this fine spectacle, and I say it is worth the price of admission.

Pretty horsie and rider doing a cool trick!

Erotology – the description of erotic behavior in literature.  Sex scenes, people!

Espalier (es SPAL yey) – a lattice on which trees are trained to grow sideways.

Ethnocentrism – a high-handed belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture.  What this country is sadly moving toward more and more.

Eurythmic – having a pleasant or harmonious rhythm.

Evanescent – scarcely perceptible, fleeting.  Commissioner Gordon watched Batman’s cape melt into the shadows in an evanescent swirl.

Ewer – a pitcher with a wide spout, like the ones in Victorian washbasins.

Expiate – to amend one’s wrongs.  “I will expiate my sins!” shouted the errant warrior, seconds before he flung himself into the volcano.

Eyrie (AIR-ee) – the nest of a bird of prey.  Also aerie.

EZ – common abbreviation for “easy,” what this list certainly was not!

That’s all for today.  See you next time!