Alphabet Blogs, Humor

Good Gravy, A little Help Here?

I hate shopping.  I particularly hate shopping for clothes. This is because the fashion industry has joined ranks with the diet industry and, through the insidious use of media, has waged a secret, evil war on my self confidence.

Before you start fitting me for a nice jacket that buckles in the back–I say “fitting” because, depending on the brand, I could be anywhere from a Medium to a Women’s XXXL– please be so kind as to indulge me in a little game.  All you have to do is match the shirt I’m wearing in the following pictures to the size listed on the label.  Easy, right?

One of these shirt is a Large, one is an XL, and one is a XXL.  Which is which?

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No makeup…
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No photoshop…
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All woman, baby.

Here are the tags in the same order that I am wearing them.

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Tightest.
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Best fit.
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Loosest.

How is it, you may ask, that the tightest frikkin’ shirt is also the one listed as the largest size?!  I know why.  Because it is a “ladies” 2XL.  It is not a shirt for a man.  It is not a shirt for a woman.  It is a shirt designed solely to fit some fictitious “lady,” who, it seems, is now under the false assumption that she is much larger than she thinks she is and should probably eat nothing but rice cakes and water until she’s beautiful again.

Still think I’ve got my tinfoil hat on too tight?  Take a look at the quality of women’s clothing in comparison with men’s clothing.  That Ladies XXL up there is made of thinner, less sturdy material than the other two shirts.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go to any clothing store and compare sizes, workmanship, and materials for yourself.

Then, compare the prices.  It seems insane to me that while women are still paid less than men for the same work, we are charged more for inferior clothing, health care, and even something as innocuous as a haircut.  In 2015.

While you ponder that, I’ll be over here eating my daily allotment of rice cakes, brushing up on my curtsies, and plotting the downfall of the fashion/diet juggernaut of evil.  M’lord.

Alphabet Blogs

Dragons, Excitement, and Fortune

Yes, I am fully aware that I am cheating by catching up with my A to Z Blogging Challenge by throwing three letters together like a shame omelette.  As I have not officially signed up to take the challenge, I’m going to give myself a pass this time.  And probably next time.  And the time after that, I’m not gonna lie.

Just how do the words dragons, excitement, and fortune go together, you may ask?  Like this:  I will be signing my books (dragons), all of which will be available for purchase (fortune), this May at Anime Central (ACen) in Chicago (excitement)!

When Darkling Drake was released, I had the incredible experience of having my first book signing at Wizard World aka Chicago ComicCon.  I expect this one is going to be just as much fun now that I have three titles to offer, including my latest release, Dragon Defender: A Pirate Princess Adventure.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and visit with me in Artist’s Alley.  I promise I don’t bite.  Well, not hard anyway.

Alphabet Blogs

Censorship

I got into an internet argument today about censorship.  Well, originally it was about the Clean Reader app that blocks “offensive” words in books and replaces them with a “cleaner” version but it suddenly devolved into a discussion of the merits of trigger warnings.

This gentleman’s opinion, if I’m interpreting it correctly, appears to be that trigger warnings are a form of censorship because they force an author to censor their own work in the event that a stray word would make someone feel “slightly uncomfortable.”  His used the example  of college professors being mandated to use trigger warnings for certain classes.  My opinion is that a warning of potentially harmful material is not the same thing as a product that actively alters the words in an author’s work.

Unfortunately, the discussion devolved from there, and to be fair, I was the one who initiated the downward spiral of nastiness, as his even tone and elegant turn of phrase began to filter into my mind as condescension.  In my defense, I was on my phone which automatically made having any kind of reasonable discussion a hundred times more difficult, but I took offense to his assertion that trigger warnings have become a matter of faith in the same manner as black cats and broken mirrors.  One can’t argue with faith, so why bother?

And then I typed this:  Maybe because your accusation that my viewpoint is superstitious nonsense triggered me.

Yes, I was trivializing a serious subject with flippant use (which I should not have done), but I was also reacting emotionally.  I have experienced a traumatic event, and I would definitely appreciate the kindness of a warning that gives me the choice to proceed or not as I see fit.  This is not coddling or censorship.  The material doesn’t have to be altered or hidden from me by any arbitrary set of rules, I just want a heads up.  Is that too much to ask?

What I found most disturbing about the entire conversation was his viewpoint that because people are already misusing trigger warnings, it’s next to impossible to know what will trigger an individual, and psychologists assert that avoidance is a poor way to deal with a traumatic event, that we shouldn’t even try to create a way to alert people to potentially harmful content.  While one person may be triggered by a particular color, which is obviously impossible to foresee, there’s a pretty good chance that a graphic description of a gang rape would trigger a victim of sexual abuse.  Yes, that person should definitely seek professional help, but what if they can’t afford it?  Or are too embarrassed, the trauma is too recent, or whatever their own personal reason might be for not getting help?  As for those misusing trigger warnings, stop.  Just stop it.  You know who you are.

At the end of the day, my internet argument was a good thing because it made me consider something about which I didn’t originally have an opinion.  It also reminded me that even though I become almost incoherent when I’m upset, my feelings do count and I have every right to express them, just as you have the right to choose not to agree with me or even read what I have to say.  That’s not censorship.  That’s a perk of being an adult.

Alphabet Blogs

Bravado

I am a big fan of the fake-it-til-you-make-it philosophy.  As a teenager, I learned that if I looked like I knew what I was doing, no one would question whether or not I possessed a hall pass.  For me, that same bravado has also worked in a myriad of other social and professional situations.

For example, I have successfully given the impression that I had been paying rapt attention to a  lecture delivered in the most mind-numbingly boring staff meeting this side of the Andromeda galaxy, bluffed my way through a surprise FAA inspection, and even scored an author interview.

Bravado?  I say, “Bravo!”  You are whatever you imagine yourself to be.

Alphabet Blogs, News, Self Promotion

My A to Z Blogging Challenge Ultimate Defeat

Congratulations to all those bloggers who successfully completed the April A to Z Blogging Challenge!  Sadly, I burned out about halfway through.  However, I did learn some things along the way.

First of all, I learned that while it has been asserted that one should write every day, it is important to start slowly and build up endurance.  You don’t start an exercise program by trying to run a marathon.  Writing is hard work, especially if you’re not independently wealthy with a full staff of attendants to take care of all the little details of life that don’t involve writing.  Like cleaning.  And children.

I also realized that I do a lot of writing in my head.  Everyone has their own method.  While some simply sit down at a computer and type away–editing as they go–without any sort of plan in mind, others use a storyboard, note cards, outlines, and innumerable drafts to plan, shape, and polish their work.  Even if I’m not physically writing on a daily basis, the story is still stewing in my mind.  For me, trying to write anything before the ideas have blossomed is simply a waste of time.

Finally, I learned that I have an incredible support network of family and friends that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  You guys rock!  Thank you.

While I didn’t complete the challenge, I still intend to finish the alphabet.  If I begin with a weekly posting schedule, I’m positive that by next year the April A to Z Blogging Challenge will be a breeze.  I am also working on a new eSeries on BigWorldNetwork.com, Kai’s Inquisition: The Blight of Shaddowfall.  The first episode was released yesterday, and all the following installments will be available on Sundays.  Please check it out, and don’t forget to let me know what you think.

Alphabet Blogs

K is for Keraunophobia, The Fear of Lightning

K

 

 

 

 

 

The wind had picked up in the last hour.  What was once a friendly ruffling of the boy’s sandy, blonde hair quickly became an insistent tugging at his clothes, almost shoving him forward as he hiked back to camp, as if the gusts were imploring him to seek shelter.  As he walked, he looked up through the bare branches of the Spring trees, and noted how the billowy, white clouds that had adorned the sky not long ago, were now piling up, and darkening into an irritable grey.

“Come on, son,” his father urged, his tone upbeat but strained.  “We’re almost there.  We’ll bug out and ride out the storm in the car.”

The boy didn’t respond.  His breath came in noisy, short, bursts from exertion and anxiety.  He adjusted the heavy pack to more evenly distribute the weight on his shoulders, his wide, hazel eyes never straying far from the darkness gathering on the horizon.

“Dad?” he panted.  “Are we…  Are we gonna be okay?”

The man abruptly stopped.  He spun around, crouched down, and held his child’s shoulders reassuringly.  Blue eyes locked with hazel.  “Yes, son.  I would never let anything happen to you.  I promise.”  He patted the 9-year-old on the head.  “We’ll be warm and dry in the car before you know it.  Now, get a move on.  We don’t have all day.”

The boy’s stomach tightened with panic in spite of the comforting words.  As he followed his father along the trail, a flash abruptly split the black, roiling clouds marching relentlessly toward them, making him jump.  He bit back his scream, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to contain it forever.

As far back as he could remember, lightning had sparked an uncontrollable fear within him.  He had spent many a storm hunkered in the dark recesses of his bedroom closet, cocooned within his soft “woobie,” rocking and crying as white-hot lighting arced across the sky.  Now, there was nowhere for him to hide.  No blanket with which he could block out the deadly zigzags parading across the heavens.  Nothing that could stop the lightning from taking him.

The storm clouds had almost reached the pair by the time their campsite came into view.  With a concerned glance at the sky, his father instructed the boy to go wait in the car.  “Oh, and James?  Your woobie is under the back seat.  I’ll be right there.”

Relief, gratitude and love flooded through James, forcing the fear to retreat just a little.  He threw his arms around his father’s waist in a rare show of emotion just as chilly, fat, drops of rain began to pepper the dirt around them.

His father returned the hug only long enough to wordlessly remind James of his promise.  He would be safe.

Alphabet Blogs

M is for Merinthophobia, The Fear of Being Bound

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“This is what you get for listening to your hormones,” she growled to herself. Rolling her eyes, she loudly proclaimed in a mocking falsetto, “Oh, Astrid! It will be so romantic! Just follow that gorgeous, complete stranger to some god-forsaken jungle teeming with all manner of dangerous creatures, and I’m sure all of your most depraved sexual fantasies will come true. Take a chance for once in your boring, little life!”

She let out a strangled sob. What could have possessed her? On impulse, she had followed the excruciatingly sexy man who would have looked equally at home at a surf competition or behind the wheel of a Maserati. He was polished, but with a dangerous, wild aura, as if he were not only up for anything, but prepared to lead the way straight to Orgasm City. If he had introduced himself as “Bond, James Bond” she wouldn’t have been surprised at all. In fact, she probably would have responded with a heartfelt, panty-soaked, plea to be allowed to stroke his 9mm semi-automatic.

But none of those things came to pass. Instead, she had boarded the bus–bound for Hell for all she knew–in some sort of trance and settled into the uncomfortable, ratty seat directly behind him. As she stared like an idiot, the sandy-blonde, blue-eyed god had begun speaking–in Portuguese?– with the man next to him. The conversation grew soft and heated until it was silenced with the kind of kiss only lovers shared.

Red-faced, Astrid stayed on the bus long after she should have gotten off, finally shuffling down the stairs in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on her back, her clutch containing her passport and some local currency, and her trampled pride. Although she was obviously a tourist, the driver must have assumed Astrid knew where she was going.  He didn’t even watch her traipse off into the rainforest before spewing dirt and rocks from the spinning tires in his haste to be done with his day.

Initially, she traveled with some confidence through the impossibly green vegetation, certain there would be a village where she could spend the night and pick up a bus ride back to the capitol. But it wasn’t long before the seriousness of her situation began to dawn on her. She was lost in the South American rainforest, and not another soul knew she was missing in the first place.

Astrid initially tamped down the panic crawling up her throat by reminding herself that she had experience camping in the woods. Unfortunately, the woods of Northern Illinois were nothing like this. There, the trees were farther apart, and the flat, even ground was covered in a soft layer of leaves, pine needles, and moss. Here, the flora fought for resources by coating every surface imaginable, creating a living maze of trees, ferns, moss, fungi, and vines. The feel of the oppressive humidity, the screams of monkeys and tropical birds, even the cloying scent of the jungle blooms hammered the differences home for her. If she didn’t know better, she would think this was another planet entirely.

It was the vines, though, that finally got to her. The thick, emerald ropes hung from branches like serpents slithering out of the canopy.  Each time the wind swept through, a sound–dry and sinuous–brushed against her ears, making her cringe as if slapped and ball her hands into fists. Her mind tormented her, imagining the vines as a single creature slowly surrounding her, intent on wrapping her in its tight coils. Binding her. Squeezing until there was nothing left.

They were everywhere. Coiled on the ground, entangling her ankles. Wound around trunks, snatching at her wrists. Swinging malevolently from above, grasping for her throat. She began to feel trapped, weighed down by her now overwhelming terror. The hope of adventure and passion that had filled her with a reckless abandon only a few hours before now crystallized into a frozen dread.

Crushing helplessness drove her to her knees, sobbing. Her only goal now was to escape the vines, but they had somehow encircled her with a writhing curtain of ropes. The circle tightened, sliding ever closer, weaving in and around as it snaked toward her, around her, over her. A breeze swept through the jungle, whipping the vines into a frenzy as they constricted around her limbs, binding her so tightly that she could no longer breathe.

“No…,” she exhaled as the jungle swallowed her whole.

 

Alphabet Blogs

L is for Lysssophobia, The Fear of Rabies

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“Ugh!  Get that filthy thing off the porch!”  Jessica squealed.  In one smooth motion, she hopped back behind Addie, and glared daggers at the small, furry creature scurrying about on the wooden deck.  As if realizing it had an audience, the beast turned, reared up on its hind legs, and peered sorrowfully at them through the screen door.

Addie rolled her eyes at her big sister and scoffed, “It’s just a squirrel, Jess.  They’re everywhere, for Pete’s sake.  Besides, that one’s just a baby.  It probably wants a walnut.  Hand me one from the bowl over there, will you?”

Jessica’s face collapsed in revulsion.  “You’re not going to feed that thing, are you?  They carry all kinds of diseases like malaria, plague, and… And rabies!”

“They do not!” the younger girl countered, shaking her reddish-blonde curls in exasperation.  “Well, maybe the rabies thing, but not those others.”  While it was true that she was mature well beyond her six-and-a-half years, she still could not fathom the depth of her sister’s odd obsession with rabies.  It was sickness like any other.  All you had to do is go to the doctor, and they would fix you right up.  Addie knew her sister wasn’t afraid to go to the doctor like she was, so what was the big deal?

“I forbid you to open that door, Adelaide Rose.  Absolutely forbid it!”  Jessica shouted, her normally pale face growing crimson in anger.  “Why, that awful creature is practically foaming at the mouth, and you want to let it mosey on in here like it’s the damn Queen of Sheba or something.  There ain’t no way I’m gonna let that disease-ridden, disgusting beast make us insane with its damn rabies!”

Addie’s mouth hung open.  She had never heard her sister swear before.  Maybe Jess really was scared.  “Uh… Okay, Jess.  I was just… Um.  I’m sorry.”

“You better be!” Jessica spat, shaking her long, dirty-blonde bangs from her eyes.  “Because if you’re not careful, you’ll end up just like Auntie Kay.”

“Auntie Kay?  Who’s that?”  Addie’s blue eyes clouded with confusion.

“Mama’s little sister,” Jessica said, her tone both matter-of-fact and conspiratorial.  “She went to the looney bin before you was born.  She got bit by a dog with rabies, and completely lost her marbles.  The doctors said there was nothing they could do.  She was so crazy from the rabies rotting her brain that she hung herself in the bathroom.  She died all alone in that awful place, Addie.  Mama was so heartbroken that to this day she won’t even speak Auntie Kay’s name.  Just up and forgot her.”

Jessica’s eyes brimmed with tears.  She whispered, “I don’t want Mama to forget about me like that.”

Speechless, Addie stepped into her big sister’s embrace and the two girls wept, silently clinging to each other for comfort.

Realizing that it no longer had the attention of the humans, the red squirrel flicked its tail twice in disappointment and returned to the task of searching for food.

 

 

Alphabet Blogs

J is for Judeophobia, The Fear of Jewish People

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She crouched by the window, and separated the wooden blinds just enough to allow her to observe the man loitering at the end of her walk.  He didn’t look like he was a Jew, but appearances were notoriously deceptive.  That’s why they used to wear the star, so that there could be no question of their contamination.

Her breath caught in her throat.  What if she had forgotten to bolt the door?  In a flash, she dropped the slat and raced to the door, certain that it would burst open before she could secure it.  It was locked.  She propped her back against it and tried in vain to quiet her breath, her knees weak and trembling.  After a moment, she spun around and peered through the peephole in the heavy, steel, entryway door, a faint hope fluttering in her chest that the man had moved on.

He had not.  He was now walking toward her house.

The world tilted sideways in her mind.  Lightheaded and sweating, she swore and backed away from the door, eyes wildly scanning the room for anything she might use to protect herself.  She no longer doubted that this man was a Jew, an abomination.  She could feel his hatred, his jealousy, the vile taint of his very existence.

She wanted desperately to flee, to escape his fury.  But where?  Her confusion deepened even as her focus on her fear sharpened.  Jews are dangerous animals, she told herself.  To that, her inner voice–which was oddly similar to that of her grandfather–calmly responded, What do we do with dangerous animals?  We put them down.

Suddenly, she knew what she had to do.  She sprinted to the hall closet–her bare feet slapping the tile noisily–and frantically searched through the coats, hats, and scarves for the Mauser.  Gasping with relief, and she pulled the pistol from the lower shelf and checked that it was loaded.

Ding-dong.  The bell ringing sent a jolt of adrenaline through her aching chest.  Armed, she shuffled back down the hall to the front door and once again checked through the peephole.  A victorious smile came to her lips when she saw the Jew’s back to her, retreating like a coward the way he had come.  She freed the locks with a shaking left hand and threw open the door.  The man didn’t even have a chance to turn to face her before she fired, splattering blood and bits of brain across the concrete.

It was only then that she noticed the package he had placed on her stoop, and the horrible truth of her error lanced through her madness like a scalpel.  With a suffocating remorse, she turned the Mauser on herself, adding two to the tally of lives snuffed out with her grandfather’s service pistol.