Archive for August, 2013

My Blog Scare

on August 25, 2013 in Misc 8 Comments »

So has this ever happened to you?

Yesterday (Saturday) my blog was gone.  I mean it was off the Internet.  I couldn’t bring up my login-dashboard page or Becoming Layla through Google – nothing!  All I got was a blank white screen with the big word FORBIDDEN and a warning about a server.

So I emailed my friend and tech buddy Alonzo and he managed to fix my blog but what he had to tell me was kinda scary.  Becoming Layla, he said, had been “surgically fucked with.”  Not hacked into because hackers just try to do damage and can be clumsy.  Instead, key components in my blog had been “surgically” altered so that my blog could be shut down and FORBIDDEN.

Why did I get this techie attack?  Well, Alonzo pointed out that my last week’s posting had “about twenty key words” in it that make intelligence snoopers pay attention.  Personally, I find it hard to believe that someone like those assholes at the NSA would bother with something as trivial and irrelevant as my obscure blog, especially since my post was about the WEATHER!  On the other hand, I remember that when I wrote a eulogy for my friend’s mother who had been in slave labor under the Nazis, I got pretty much no spam for days.  Seems the word “Nazi” and related expressions serve as flashing warning signs for spammers.

So maybe now is not the time to mention that in The Compass Master I wrote about (among other things) the Council for National Policy, that shadowy, hush-hush group that’s been called the Who’s Who of the extreme right wing.  YOU HEAR THAT ONE, NSA?

So seriously, my fellow writers, have you ever had your blog messed with by a stranger?

On a completely different note, I’d like to end this post with an encouraging anecdote I read in June’s Vanity Fair about that master writer for the big and little screen, J.J. Abrams.

It seems that when he was growing up Abrams thought of himself as “not a very successful kid” because he was chubby, unathletic, and the object of concern by his teachers.  They suspected he was an oddball and a peculiar voyeur because he loved to watch his fellow pupils with one eye covered as if seeing them through a viewfinder.  What I especially like about this story is that it makes me feel like I wasn’t the only little nutcase on the playground.

And for all you other writers with peculiar habits: Embrace your eccentricities because maybe they’re a sign of future greatness!

Have a wonderful week.

So you know how it is—sometimes as a fiction writer you come across an extraordinary real-life event that sounds way too paranormal.  Or like an over-the-top fantasy that doesn’t even belong in a science fiction tale.

Like, say….  mind over weather….

Years ago I read the autobiography of the award-winning journalist Georgie Ann Geyer, Catching the Night Flight.   In her chapter on terrorism she describes being in Cairo in 1973 and receiving news that terrorists in Khartoum, Sudan, had taken a group of male diplomats hostage, including two Americans, at the Saudi embassy.  She and other journalists flew to Khartoum that night.  All the next day she and others waited anxiously as negotiations went back and forth.  Desperation and dread set in among everyone.


“Then suddenly the terrorists grew more violent and more impatient.  They set a deadline of 8:00 p.m. for killing the men” unless their demands were met.

“A new mood seized us.  It was as though the horror were palpable, as though it were sitting there, in black robes, with its eye sockets empty and staring at us.  By 7:30 p.m., as a strange hooded sun was dropping over the spectral villas of Khartoum, we stood on the upstairs balcony staring at the stark silence of the Saudi embassy.”

“And then, at eight o’clock, something so incredible happened that… I thought perhaps I was going quite mad.

“Before my eyes at precisely 8:00 p.m. there passed a perfect vertical wave of sand…”

Khartoum was suddenly in the middle of one of the worst blinding sandstorms it had ever known.

The Sudanese sent in tanks and soldiers.  Peoples’ dread and fear and desperation deepened.  And the terrorists killed the two American hostages.

“The weirdness of the night outside, as the storm continued to bombard the hapless city, paralleled the weirdness of the night within.  Nothing in the world will ever convince me that the two events were not linked, or that we were not linked in some metaphysical whirlpool in which nature took upon itself to symbolize the horrors of men.”

I read that scene years ago and have never forgotten its power.

I’d love to give you one more example of such a “metaphysical” weather/ atmosphere phenomenon, but it’s kinda lengthy so I’ll just tell you that Mark Twain – that very unmetaphysical, unmystical, hard-headed man – describes an eerie scene in his memoir, Roughing It. 

On pages 405-407 Twain describes a scene in the sky of July 1863 that was so extraordinary everyone in the Nevada town where he was living came out to stare because it seemed “so like a supernatural visitor…  a mysterious messenger… a mystic courier.”   Sure enough, the phenomenon coincided with the fall of Vicksburg and the end of the Battle of Gettysburg a couple thousand miles away.

Of course if Twain had inserted such a scene in one of his novels, no one would have believed it.

So how about you?  Have you ever come across real-life stories of a emotional-cum-meteorological strangeness?  Witnessed one yourself?

Jock Snobs

on August 11, 2013 in Misc 10 Comments »

On Friday, I received yet another mild taunt from a coworker because I don’t walk to and from work.

See, I live less than two miles away and take the bus with the free pass my job provides. I like to read on the bus because it’s quiet time for my brain.

But my part-time (two days a week) co-worker lives five miles away and usually runs in or rides her bike.  Therefore she is superior to me.  Especially because she also runs half marathons.  As do a couple other people in the office, who also assume I can’t be in great shape because I’m not a runner or a serious cyclist like them.

Take another co-worker (a cyclist).  When I mention what stretches helps my now healing left hip and leg, he told me I should strengthen my abs and lower back muscles.  I tried to tell him that my muscles are a hell of a lot stronger than he thinks, but it’s clear he doesn’t believe me.

Then in fencing a guy who’s kinda chubby thought that maybe I should “put some meat on those bones.”  I joked that the meat always goes to the wrong bones, and didn’t say a word about his extra poundage because his body was none of my business, and it would be rude and unkind.

Do you ever get the feeling that you could (as a woman) have a body like Kate Beckinsale or (if you’re a man) Bruce Lee, and some jock snobs would still act as if you’re not up to snuff?

Y’all know that when I launched this blog one of my goals was to become more like my heroine Layla, which meant getting in really good shape and doing all kinds of stuff like paragliding, sky diving, wall climbing, parkour.  Granted, I told no one at work any of this, and they don’t even know about The Compass Master because I’ve learned the hard way to keep my private life and my job very separate.

But come on! Where the hell does anyone get off “teasing” me that my body isn’t as good as theirs?  The fact is, I’m 5’7” and weigh 125, and that’s pretty damn good.  I don’t have the super lean, sinewy (and sexless) body of a long distance runner, nor do I look like a Soviet-era East German allegedly female bodybuilder.  But I do have a good figure and I’m in good condition.  I put in an average of an hour a day a week working out, either on my own or with fencing.  I’d do more if I had the time.

But for some body snobs this isn’t good enough.  What they don’t say is that because my body isn’t as muscle bound as theirs, and because I don’t have their extreme level of endurance, they consider me to be their physical inferior.   Jock snobs really are that arrogant.

So from now on I’ve decided to tell people that I’m just fine with my body, and if they don’t have anything kind to say about it, they can shut up.

And on that hostile note…

I’d love to hear and sympathize with you about your own body bullies.  Whatever your shape, I just know you’ve had the put downs and criticisms.   Go ahead and vent!

You pretty much know that this is my last year for writing.  In fact all I’m doing this year is editing and polishing two manuscripts.  At the rate I’m going the publishing process will stretch into the beginning of next year.  Drats.  But once I get them into print I shall declare myself FREE of the literary disease.  Unless the bestseller fairy comes along and whacks my books with her wand, but we know what the odds are for that ever happening.

Anyway, there’s an article by writer Sean Beaudoin in Salon that makes me feel relieved about getting off the publishing treadmill.  It’s wisely titled Hell is self-promotion

OMG, I can so relate to the painful stuff Beaudoin talks about, and I don’t even do a fraction of the social networking and marketing he subjects himself to.  Also unlike me, Beaudoin is traditionally published by a major company, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  Yet he still has to go out and spend so much time flogging his books that, as he says: “If I could have back every minute I’ve spent on social media and apply it to churning out actual prose, I would probably have finished at least one bestselling swords-and-incest fantasy trilogy instead. Maybe even two.”

And then there’s this: “The great white hope of writing is to reach the point where you no longer have to pimp yourself at all, where you tap into a weird alchemy in which you suddenly have enough name recognition and sales that word-of-mouth and momentum do all the work for you.”

Of course my problem is (and I have so many problems) that I really don’t promote myself or market my books.  I am not only the all-time worst author when it comes to marketing, but when I even think about self-promotion I want to run away from my own brain.  I mean, I write LONG novels that wear me out, and I have the nasty habit of stuffing them full of history.  My two current manuscripts, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar and Charity MacCay and Holy Relations are set in America of 1867-1869, and they required so much back-breaking research that the very idea of now turning myself into a whirligig of advertising just makes me want to… Well, give up.

That said, I cannot express how much I admire the way so many of you write your novels, get them out there by traditional or indie publishing, network and promote your books and other writers’ books, and make gobs of online friends and readers.  Really truly, you are all gifted in more ways than you know.  More power and success to you.

Me, I may start a blog called The Fun Wild Stuff I Have Time to Do Now ‘Cause I Gave Up Writing.