ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Your Ears Need This: Tainted Jesus (Soft Cell vs. Depeche Mode)

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hearthis
There's a lot of crappy mashups out there. Sometimetimes it's just some idiot playing two songs at once. Sometimes it's mixing two songs that are already so similar that you aren't sure if it's the original or not.

But when mashups are good, they're spectacular.

For example, DJ Lobsterdust's mashup of "Tainted Love" and "Personal Jesus". It works so perfectly, capturing the essence of both originals while still creating something completely new. Give it a listen and look below (excellent mixing with the video), and you can grab the mp3 at Lobsterdust's website.

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My Schedule at FandomFest

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Yes, folks, this weekend I should be at FandomFest (I'm writing this on Wednesday) barring some other kind of insanity plaguing me.  (Seriously, this has been a jacked-up month in a lot of ways, but it's almost over, right?)

Anyway, before I totally jinx myself, here's my program schedule:

(Note:  Nothing Friday)

Saturday 10am Beckham Room The Process of Creating an eBook (M)

Saturday 2:30 pm Colllins Room Reading and Critique Session I

Saturday 7pm Stanley Room Scams Authors Encounter in Today's Publishing World

Sunday 10am Beckham Room The eBook Marketplace Now and Just Ahead

Sunday 1pm Collins Room Reading and Critique Session II

The rest of the time during the day I'll be in the dealer's room.  Look forward to seeing you there!

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Expect Delays

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Very short form: between incapacitating headaches, time spent waiting at the optometrist, and general blech, I am running about two to four days behind schedule on everything. With FandomFest this weekend, it'll continue that trend.

Your patience is appreciated.

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They All Listen To The Smiths: A Brief History of the Corruption of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Advice for Writers)

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soc_econ.pngThe Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a stereotype of the quirky (yet strangely helpless) female character that serves to enable a male character to grow and change. You’ll recognize the type in these videos:





Here’s the problem with saying "I'll just avoid this (or any) stereotype": Excluding all things reminiscent of the stereotype can be just as artificial as the stereotype itself. Or to paraphrase Donald J. Bingle: “Big-breasted bimbos do exist in the real world, and can in your fiction. But if all (or even most, or really, more than a few) of your fictional women are big-breasted bimbos, you’ve got a problem.”

Yes, we’re looking at you, comics industry.

Anyway, I have been a fan of Tom Robbins’ earlier books -- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction in particular -- for about 15 years. Both books have a female character who is... well, quirky. The female lead in Another Roadside Attraction in particular, if you only look quickly, might look like just another Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She even relishes walking in the rain at one point.

But there's a difference.

I would like to suggest two metrics that differentiate these fictional women (and others) from the banal MPDG trope.

1. Agency. The female protagonists in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction have their own stories. Whether or not another person is enlightened or brought to greater understanding is not the sole purpose of their existence; they have their own story. Yes, they may enlighten or inspire others (even men) - but they do not exist to fulfill those men. Quick differentiating tip: If the (probably male) narrator does not get the girl, she probably isn’t a MPDG.

2. Transgression. As in: levels of. The degree of societal transgression in Robbins’ books is rather, um, high. His characters transcend (sometimes literally) common societal norms, and sometimes quite visibly. And when I say transgressive, I mean deviant. And, for Robbins at least, that includes sexuality, and the woman being the master of her sexuality. The other characters impacted by this transgressive example then, in turn, become transgressive themselves.

That’s not the case with a MPDG. While elements seem similar, it’s a matter of degree. The MPDG herself, while still socially transgressive, is so in a much more neutered way. (DBoth literally and figuratively. With MPDG’s, the character (note: singular, and pretty much always male) impacted by the MPDG is not inspired to transgress societal norms. Instead, he is depicted as starting out as far more repressed than most members of society. The MPDG is not even a vessel for change, but a vessel for normalization.

So let’s take Chasing Amy. The personality traits of Alyssa (the female protagonist) could be mistaken for a MPDG-lite. Her existence in the movie has a transformative effect on Holden (the male protagonist). Yet she - not Holden - is in charge of her own sexuality. She is sexually transgressive (fingercuffs), and states clearly that her choices are hers. She does not end up with the transformed man. Her career success is clearly independent of Holden and her emotional life goes on without him (she calls him "Oh, just some guy I knew.").

Toward the end of her video, Sarkeesian says:
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is really a muse who exists to be the inspiration for the troubled, tortured man. In fact we should talk about this whole idea of a muse which is the foundation for this trope. For centuries male filmmakers, writers, painters, artists of all kinds have often cited women as the inspiration for their brilliant masterpieces.

I swear if I hear one more story like this I’m going to scream. Or puke. Or both.

Women are not here for men’s inspiration or celebration or whatever else. We are musicians and artists and writers with our own brilliant and creative endeavors. But you wouldn’t know that from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

And that's the rub. Someone can be inspiring - but that is only a part of who they are. Someone can inspire you - but they do not exist for the purpose of inspiring you. They are a real person, with their own real feelings and lives and hopes and dreams and fears.

Ultimately, for us writers, relying on tropes like this boils down to creating cardboard characters and crappy writing. Up your game.

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An Appeal For The Nuclear Kid

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random.pngChris the Nuclear Kid isn't (physically) around me a whole bunch right now, and so he's been finding himself... distracted... from writing his 100 word stories for the weekly challenge. Heck, he's not been recording them for a while either.

And while he gets all enthusiastic when I tell him that y'all have mentioned his stories in tweets or podcasts, I don't think it's quite the same.

I know I have a "fuzzies" file, and I'd like to help him start his own.

If you've enjoyed any of Chris the Nuclear Kid's stories, or want to encourage him to write more, or maybe even start his own story blog, toss me a note (or preferably, a brief recording, say, using your smartphone) at . Put the subject as "Nuclear Kid" so I know to route it to him.

Thanks much, everyone!

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Beautiful Things - A 100 Word Story

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storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://bit.ly/stevereads) in your podcatcher or phone, or swing by http://bit.ly/stevesdrabbles.



GB.AFG.10.0069Conversation dropped to pure meaning when shit hit the fan.

Marc’s voice, terse, fast. “Four, suppression right, third advance overwatch.” Squad leaders were moving as he spoke, diagrams and instructions morphed into movement.

Susan loved it; loved ripping the bullshit social niceties away to raw information and meaning. She hefted her rifle and sprinted. A sprinkle of bullets at first, then a shower, then a zinging ricochet storm. Marc hit the dirt next to her, panting. Cooper fell past him, unbreathing.

Lead mosquitoes zipped between them.

Susan looked at Marc. “Love you,” she said.

It meant more than any poem.

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Your Ears Need This: Rock of Ages (DJ Schmolli)

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hearthis
There is a small danger to this massive, awesome mashup of 23 tracks all smashed into just over five minutes of awesome:

The urge to go and buy all the songs right now.

  • Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love
  • Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil
  • Run DMC - King Of Rock
  • The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats
  • Twisted Sister - I Wanna Rock
  • Kid Rock - Bawitdaba
  • Dio - Stand Up And Shout
  • AC/DC - Let There Be Rock
  • AC/DC - Back In Black
  • Run DMC ft. Aerosmith - Walk This Way
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop
  • Def Leppard - Rock Of Ages
  • Alice Cooper - I'm Eighteen
  • Joan Jett - I Love Rock N' Roll
  • Iron Maiden - Wasted Years
  • N.E.R.D. - Rock Star
  • Queen - We Will You You
  • Beastie Boys - No Sleep Til Brooklyn
  • The Doors - Riders On The Storm
  • Accept - Balls To The Wall
  • Faith No More - Epic
  • Black Sabbath - War Pigs
  • Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

Panos T's video for this mashup is well worth the time of day (embedded below), you can grab the MP3 from DJ Schmolli's website.

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Publishing The "Right" Way

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publishing.pngOne of the unfortunate side effects of (successful) self/indie publishing shows up in the attitudes of (some) writers. To paraphrase: “You can’t just write anymore, and you’re a fool if you just write and hand off responsibility and control to a publisher.”

Luckily, this attitude isn’t nearly as common (or commonly expressed) as it was just a year ago, but it’s still out there. And it’s stil wrong.

There are three main classes of outlets for authors today:

1. Self-publishing
2. Small (and micro) presses
3. Big Six

Each of these approaches has positive and negative elements - this is an extension of looking at digital publishing as investing. You have to be informed about what each of these costs - both in terms of time and money, the drawbacks, and the probable gains.

This is really another iteration of the mythology around selling your first novel - which Jim C. Hines debunked (and which I helped with).

But don’t let anyone tell you that their way of publishing is the only right way (remember my advice about cults of personality). As long as you are making an informed choice and acting in your best interests, then you’re publishing “the right way”.

Here’s an analogy (largely informed by this episode of 99% Invisible: There are people who are talented musicians or singers, but not skilled songwriters. There are people who are skilled songwriters who are not good at public performances (or singing, or...). Would you insist that only singer/songwriters are allowed to perform? (And therefore, your favorite musicians could never do a cover?) And that same person(s) had to do all their own booking, promotion, and the like?

Um, no.

It’s great when people do many of those things - the band Jasper the Colossal just had their CD release party. Their CD was funded by a Kickstarter, just like Amanda Palmer’s. But to say it’s required in order to be a skilled performer? Or a skilled songwriter?

Please.

Be informed. Know the benefits and risks, the pros and cons. And make the choice you’re comfortable with for your story.

(I swear, I wrote this the day before Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith put up their own takes on this)

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Rough schedule for Alliteration Ink for 2012

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Alliteration InkJust to give you a brief look into the things going on at Alliteration Ink - and what’s coming down the road (all dates are tentative). This does not count the eBook conversion jobs coming down the pike, my day job, vacation, conventions, and the like. And it's also not counting various projects (such as one with Sarah Hans) which are in various stages of negotiation, planning, and design. Considering that Eighth Day Genesis came together in four and a half months, there's still time and space for more stuff to show up here...

June:
The Crimson Pact v3 in print (done)
Eighth Day Genesis in print

July:
The Crimson Pact v4 in eBook
The Crimson Pact v4 in Print

August:
See No Evil - eBook and Print (genre poetry from Matt Betts)
Begin accepting submissions for Spec The Halls (annual charity event and contest)

September:
Updated “So You Want to Make an eBook?” (tentative)

October:
Dangers Untold print and eBook (horror anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek)

November:
Spec The Halls eBook sales begin

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HOWTO Roll your own BookStub program

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The always awesome Writer Beware recently ran a bit about Author Solution's new marketing strategy - BookStub.  Here's the skinny:  it's a neat idea, but waaaay overpriced (over a grand).

How neat of an idea?  As some folks have pointed out in the comments, it's so neat that Dean Wesley Smith first proposed it well over a year ago, and I gave step-by-step instructions (now updated with instructions for the QR code part) back in April.

Sure, it takes a little bit of time to do it by yourself.  But my cost-per-unit ($0.20-$0.50) is a wee bit different than the $60 per unit that BookStub ends up costing.

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Little Details Everywhere... (So You Want to Make an eBook?)

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So You Want to Make an eBook?I love finding little interesting things in everyday life. Details that everyone else walks past, but because you have a little more knowledge, a little more information, the world is a far more interesting -- and sometimes infuriating -- place.1

Book design -- the paper variety -- is actually a pretty big deal. Drop caps or not. What kind of dividing images for scene breaks. Formatting on the page. Margins. Serif or sans font - and what face of each, and what size? What kind of space between lines and paragraphs?

When done well, book design has an impact on the reader, but should not be noticeable in and of itself. You shouldn’t consciously notice those design choices or how they work together. Ideally, you will only notice when design is done poorly.

There’s big exceptions to this - premium “fancy” editions come to mind. The ones that are bound in leather, or have fancy drop caps, and so on. Illuminated manuscripts are a wonderful example of books where the design is supposed to draw attention to itself.

But that’s not most book design - and it’s definitely not most eBook design, particularly in fiction.2 For those of us working in fiction, the idea is to draw the reader into the story. Anything that gets in the way of that goal is bad book (and bad eBook) design.

Therefore, the principles of eBook design must focus around making the design of the text as invisible to the reader as possible. That’s why this is my credo: Maximize compliance to standards by keeping it simple.3

The reason’s simple - the more fancy you get, the more things can break. I talked about this a bit when I was reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Pat Rothfuss. But I’m bringing this up again because people are hearing about the new eBook standards - ePub3, KF8 (for the Fire), and iBooks (which just increased minimum cover sizes).

Whether you convert your book yourself by hand (I’ve written a guide on how to do that), hire someone to do it for you (again, something I do), or use a program or service (such as Smashword’s Meatgrinder), keep this principle in mind.

You want to avoid problems like this one (second half of the post) and this one. But you still want your design to simply be invisible.

Or in other words, you want people to be talking about your story, not your font choice.



1 Check out 99% Invisible for multiple fascinating examples of this. Or learn about font kerning, and you’ll suddenly see details everywhere. Whether you want to or not.
2 Reference and textbooks are another big (possible) exception here - sidebars, very specific placement of illustrations, and footnotes can have a huge impact. Books for children are another exception.
3 I recommend indented paragraphs with a small space between them, a sans font (like Arial) for the title/chapter title and byline, a serif font (like Times) for the body of the text, and inline images centered between paragraphs. Avoid underlines whenever possible.

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FandomFest Haz A Literary Track - and I'll be there!

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EventsFandomFest in Louisville is a huge convention, and much like GenCon and Origins, has its own literary track headed up by the incomparable Stephen Zimmer.  I'll be doing several events (including stuff about digital publishing and read-and-critiques), as well as manning the Alliteration Ink table.

How big is this literary track, you ask?

Over 110 author guests will be participating in the programming, including several Guests of Honor including these New York Times best-selling authors:  Timothy Zahn, John Scalzi, Robin Hobb, Ernest Cline, Jim C. Hines, Angie Fox, Julie Kagawa, and Richard Kadrey.

Good freaking stuff

Also:  it's at a new hotel this year:  the Galt House.  By all reports is an awesome hotel in and of itself. 

Stephen has put together a Facebook event page here, and you can browse panel and workshop topics, descriptions, and participants on the literary track by visiting http://fandomfestblog.com/programming/literary-track

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Alliteration Ink has acquired DANGERS UNTOLD, edited by Jennifer Brozek (crossposted)

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Crossposted from the Alliteration Ink blog/news page (Tumblr|website)

Alliteration InkDANGERS UNTOLD PRESS RELEASE JUNE 2012

Release Date: 18 June 2012

Jennifer Brozek, editor of the award winning GRANTS PASS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE URBAN KIND, and HUMAN FOR A DAY, has sold a new anthology to Alliteration Ink.

"I am proud and honored to be publishing Dangers Untold with Ms. Brozek," said Steven Saus, the owner of Alliteration Ink. "She is among the top anthology editors working today. Publishing anthologies with excellent stories is one of the cornerstones of Alliteration Ink, and I look forward to reaffirming that with Dangers Untold."

DANGERS UNTOLD isn't your normal horror anthology—not a vampire, zombie or werewolf to be found. DANGERS UNTOLD is a series of seventeen short stories from horror industry professionals who have a different take on what makes for good horror.

Authors include Erik Scott de Bie, Jason V Brock, Nathan Crowder, and Gary Braunbeck.

Available: Oct 1st, 2012.

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Management PROTIP

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No one is inspired by the "I was once in your position, working just as hard" speech.

Most people are inspired by the "Let me help you, I remember how hard that was" action.

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Recommended: Father's Day by Donald J. Bingle

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Don is one of the authors in The Crimson Pact series of anthologies, and I am also the publisher of his spy thriller Net Impact.

But that's not why I'm mentioning him today.

I'm mentioning him today because his short story Father's Day is currently free on Amazon for digital download through the weekend.  Remember, you don't actually have to have a Kindle to take advantage of this - you can use the PC application or smartphone app (both free) to enjoy this story.

Highly recommended for your father this weekend.


"You never know what day your kids are going to remember most about growing up.

You hope that it is a good day, a day when you performed well as a parent. Your greatest fear is that it will be a bad day, a day when you lost your temper or let the dog run out in front of traffic, or a day when something happened that is only talked about in front of high-priced therapists.

In my case it was the day my dad bought sod."

Thus begins Donald J. Bingle's award-winning short memoir about his father, a heart-warming, surprising, and humorous tale about how a single incident on a single summer day can become one of a child's favorite memories of his parent.

This short, simple tale will bring both laughter and tears and create a lasting memory that no mass-produced Father's Day card can ever duplicate. Pre-load it on your dad's Kindle for a perfect Father's Day gift. At about 2,000 words, it is a delightful short read, not a lengthy chore.

"Father's Day" won 1st Place in the California Literary Arts Society Memoir Contest (2009) and 2nd Place, Non-Fiction, in West Suburban Living's Annual Writing and Photography Contest (2005).

Donald J. Bingle is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, the GenCon Writers Symposium, and the St. Charles Writers Group.

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Your Ears Need This: Pomplamoose - Don't Stop Lovin' Me

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hearthisNot only because it's a delightful cheerful, catchy (and not overly synthed, but enough to make it interesting for me) pop song, but because the video is just so delightfully cute.

And I would totally be doing that first dance. Er... wait. I think I have done that dance.



The track is free until 1 July at pomplamoose.com/mpfree/

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Review of "Industry Talk" by Jennifer Brozek (tl;dr=GET THIS BOOK)

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review.pngWhen Jennifer Brozek asked me if I would review Industry Talk (Amazon|B&N|Drive Thru Fiction), I was skeptical: "A book about writing and freelancing for the roleplaying game industry? That's not really what I do." But I've known Jennifer for a few years now, had my work rejected by her several times (and accepted once), and I enjoyed The Little Finance Book That Could, even if I utterly fail at following its advice.

So I said yes.

Thank the heavens.

There's actually two sections to this book made up of edited collections of columns Ms. Brozek has done elsewhere. First up is the part I was expecting: advice on freelancing in the RPG industry. While I don't have a ton of experience working in that industry, I've got enough time doing freelance work to know that this book is also a valuable reference for anyone doing any freelance writing work... and especially those wanting to make more of a living doing it. It's a very useful guide, and Ms. Brozek writes in a comfortable, casual style that helps pass along the attitude needed to make this all work.

The second part is advice on how to put together an anthology for a publisher.

Remember, I'm not just an author, but a small (or micro) publisher. Over the last years I've worked with five anthology projects from the publisher's point of view. And let me tell you: every problem, every question, every little thing that could have been headed off before it became a big thing was addressed. Industry Talk is so spot-on that I am making Industry Talk required reading for anyone pitching anthologies to me. Seriously.

If you've ever thought about freelance writing or putting together an anthology (and especially if you want to do either in the games industry), this book is well worth the price of admission.  Industry Talk will set you back about $5 electronic, $9 deadtree.

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Sharing Advice: Practical Lessons From the Far Side of a Divorce (Part 2 of 2)

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So this is the attitude I was talking about yesterday:


Yeah, it's a parody. And yeah, it actually is pretty damn funny... as a joke. Not as real life. In real life, this would be a toxic festering pile of emotional destruction that would take every bit of pain each of them had, make it worse, and make sure it stayed burning for years.

random.pngSo here's some resources and tips that have helped me (mostly) avoid that kind of toxicity. Maybe they'll help you. And thank you to all the people who have brought these thoughts and books into my life - whether I was appreciative at the time or not.

The Books

GETTING DIVORCED WITHOUT RUINING YOUR LIFE: A Reasoned, Practical Guide to the Legal, Emotional and Financial Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement by Sam Margulies. While somewhat dated as far as legal details, the broad strokes are still very relevant. The attitude it espouses is extremely relevant.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. This book really dives into how our language shapes our thinking. While you may start out with simply a framework of phrases, the real value comes when you develop some degree of mastery. (Hint: I'm very much still working at this.)

The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures and Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines For Responsible Open Relationships. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR MONOGAMOUS PEOPLE. Seriously. Even if the idea of an open relationship squicks you out, I still recommend these books for relationship advice, including what happens after. The rationale is simple: Dealing with one relationship is hard enough. These folks manage to run more than one simultaneously. They have their stuff together.

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. I managed the trick of being in a mutually codependent relationship (e.g. everyone involved was, to some degree, codependent). Important thing to note: Codependency does not require substance abuse, though it's frequently seen there.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir by Kate Bornstein. Auntie Kate is awesome and amazing, and if you ever get the chance to see her speak, do so. In the meantime, her fascinating memoir was a wonderful reminder that the standard fairytale sitcom life track is a joke.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Want to change your life? Start here.

The Tips

  • There is a difference between "Don't be a dick" and "sparing feelings".
  • Do not spare someone else's feelings. You will do far more damage to anyone involved in any way.
  • If you're leaving a relationship, leave that relationship. If you're starting a relationship, start a relationship. Avoid leaving a relationship to start a relationship.
  • The universe doesn't co-operate with this. Do your best to keep the two relationships separate, and recognize that it won't always feel that way for people involved. Be extra slow and clear with your feelings.
  • People in codependent relationships are not aware how deeply fucked up they are.
  • Part of the process of getting better is them really recognizing what is so blindingly obvious to you. You have been warned.
  • Everyone has perfectly reasonable reasons for their actions, from their point of view.
  • Everyone tells it so they look like the good guy - even to themselves.1
  • Everyone is trying to meet their needs for safety, security, and love.
  • You don't have to agree to provide someone else's needs
  • Not being able to meet another's needs does not mean either of you are bad.
  • Everyone has some unhealthy behaviors to meet those needs.
  • Your needs will change. Relationships may change as needs change. This is okay.
  • A healthy behavior in one situation may be unhealthy in another. 2
  • If you're constantly arguing about the same thing or behavior, you're arguing about symptoms when really, someone's needs are not being met.
  • Develop a strategy of moving conflict away from text when understandings start. "Can we move this to voice or P2P?" works far better than you think it would.
  • Most conflict - nearly all - is based on misunderstanding. The key is finding how far back that misunderstanding lies.3
  • Blaming is a waste of time.
  • Focus on what you're doing from now on, not what was done before. 4
  • Try to always mean what you say.
  • The thing you fear in your head is scarier than reality.
  • Reality can change and be worked on; the fear in your head stays as scary forever.
  • Confronting fears with reality are the best way to exorcise them.
  • Boundaries are usually unpopular, but are absolutely neccessary.
  • Forcing feelings into binaries makes everything harder.
  • This also goes for things based on feelings, like relationships.
  • You will have conflicting feelings about people you are in relationships with - or whose relationship with you is changing. That is normal.5
  • So as long as it doesn't violate your own boundaries, be compassionate.
  • You can, and should, renegotiate.
  • Be as clear and honest as you can right now.
  • When your ability to be clear and honest improves, be more clear and honest.
  • Be true to yourself, not to what other people think about you.
  • Know what the cognitive distortions are, and avoid them.
  • However long it takes you to unfuckup yourself is how long it is supposed to take. Sometimes the people around you can’t deal. That’s okay too.6


1 I'm doing it now. I'm sure that to someone, I look like a guru, when really, each of these comes from a time when I screwed up and hurt someone else because of a failure on my own part.
2 Take a recent argument between my girlfriend and myself. The emotional distance and calm presentation I had learned to keep anger issues in check came across to her as a lack of caring. We argued off and on for weeks. It wasn't until I got mad that I successfully communicated how serious I had been all along, and she felt that I had really heard her and cared about her statements.
3Another example: A phrase she said once reminded me of a sitcom situation. I laughed at the situation, not at what she was saying... but that's not what she heard. Luckily, that one was caught quickly, and I developed a phrase ("sitcom funny") to let her know something about the scenario struck me as amusing, but I was still listening and cared about whatever serious thing she had to say.
4 Good example: "You didn't recognize me in this past situation. I feel unappreciated and think you take me for granted when you don't actively tell people you're involved with me. I need you to go out of your way to tell people that we're together now, even if that makes you uncomfortable."
5 Even if you can't stand living with that person for one more second, that doesn't mean you hate everything about them. And vice versa - just because there's stuff you like about the other person doesn't mean you have to (or should) jump back into the same relationship you just left.
6 Both apologizing AND forgiving myself here! Woo!

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Sharing Advice: Practical Lessons From the Far Side of A Breakup (1 of 2)

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random.pngOver the last couple years, I've had a lot of change in my life. I have referred to some of it here, obliquely. I've told some - and that "some" grows larger on a regular basis - people much more. I'm still not comfortable telling everything - not yet, anyway. It took five years for me to be able to even mention my suicidal gesture. It took a bit less to refer to my oldest son's problems (not the Nuclear Kid) here or anywhere else.

And, y'know, I'm not sure I really want y'all to know all of it either. I rarely want sympathy for sympathy's sake (for example, this was just me working through my own emotions and thinking the result was kinda neat). I'm a guy whose closest friends are people he doesn't see on a regular basis. (Yes, I'm aware of how crappy a support network that is, thanks.) This isn't new.

Before that, most of my support network were people I knew online and on message boards. I told people in the BBS (online forum back in the 90's, y'all) community about my suicidal gesture years before I told anyone in my family or who I knew only offline. You might be able to find the message if you look hard enough - it was a networked forum, and someone might have an archive.

I've mentioned before that the online me isn't the same as the real me - and I've said elsewhere that "con me" is an extroverted caricature of myself. I've said that if you need to look at a relationship status on Facebook to know if I'm seeing someone, you probably should be asking me instead.

It's possible that this layer of obfuscation - these public and private masks - are a defense mechanism that I've used to avoid hard decisions. Probable, at least in part, given how people use rationality to justify our emotional decisions. In part it's because I don't feel comfortable sharing some things with some people. In part it's because I'm quite shy at times, and sometimes because I'm embarrassed easily. Whatever. It doesn't matter, really.

I was kind of up-front all of a sudden about my divorce becoming legally finalized. There’s a reason which I kind of mentioned, and I’m really going to stress here:

Our society does not prepare us for relationships ending in anything like a healthy way. Any healthy advice we can give each other is worthwhile.

The construct is relatively new to our society (divorce hasn’t been legal all that long), and we’ve spent a whole ton of time making the process as hateful and hurtful to everyone involved as possible.

I’m no guru, no monk. I’m sure as hell not one with the universe. But I know I don’t like feeling mad. I don’t like feeling pissed off. It’s a waste of time and energy that I could be using doing cool stuff.

Over the last few years, there are some things I've learned, and some resources I've come across. I'd like to recommend them to you.

So to start, I'll repeat the items from last week (in case you skipped to avoid drama):

* You will feel sadness and regret and nostalgia, no matter how bad it got. That's normal. It's also NOT a sign that you are on the wrong path.

* If all parties involved can actually decide to be civil and friendly, that's far easier and healthier. But if one person doesn't want to do it that way, then it's out of the question. Perhaps for the time being. Perhaps indefinitely.

* You can learn a lot about yourself and relationships by fucking it up. So just because one (or more) relationships ended badly or involved you making mistakes means you can avoid those errors in the future.

More resources later today and/or tomorrow, then publishing and research the rest of the week.

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So, that's a relationship, then.

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A few random thoughts as this divorce gets legal right about now (I actually have a longish post for tomorrow, but these are some important snippets that others might find useful):

* You will feel sadness and regret and nostalgia, no matter how bad it got. That's normal. It's also NOT a sign that you are on the wrong path.

* If all parties involved can actually decide to be civil and friendly, that's far easier and healthier. But if one person doesn't want to do it that way, then it's out of the question for the time being.

* You can learn a lot about yourself and relationships by fucking it up. So yeah, having more marriages (or relationships) does not necessarily mean that you're bad at relationships now... And you're quite possibly better than when you started.

Anyway, I wish her well. While it didn't end the way either of us expected, that doesn't mean she, I, or the relationship was bad.

And that's an important distinction to make.

And now, onward.

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Endings, Beginnings, Betweens: Songs on the Eve of a Divorce

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So, yeah.  My divorce (second, for those keeping count) will be final tomorrow. 

And it kind of sucks.

Even though I originally asked for it, even though I was the one who moved out, it still kind of sucks.  There's an emotionality that's hard to pinpoint and hard to classify in words, really.  Amanda Palmer does it nearly every time she sings (example: Trout Heart Replica, The Bed Song).

But those two aren't quite right for this feeling.  It's the feeling of leaving the hell of high school and missing it while you venture into the exciting world beyond, the feeling of wanting to drive toward the old job with the shitty manager like you did for a decade while going to the new scary one.

Like I said, hard to express in words.

I happened to get off of work early yesterday, and spent half of the time playing with the Nuclear Kid.  And I spent some of the time arranging this mixtape for myself.

And it pretty much sums up how I feel, eventually, somehow, in the midst of all its confusion and contradiction. As things end and begin.

You can click through on YouTube here, or it's embedded below. It's an hour to sum up the feelings at the end of a decade or so, but I think it does a good job. (If you've not used playlists before, it'll automatically advance to the next video.)



The playlist:
How It Ends - Devotchka
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Us - Regina Spektor
Transatlantique - Beirut
Canvas - Imogen Heap
Heartshaped Handgrenades - Joe Anderl
Karma Police - Radiohead
Glycerine - Bush
Want It Back - Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra
Pretty Good Year - Tori Amos
Soma - The Smashing Pumpkins
In My Mind - Amanda Palmer
Open Road - Clear Horizon
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division

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100 Miles - A 100 Word Story

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storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

Car TrippedShane sighed in the backseat and tried to get his parent's attention. "How far is it to Grandma's?"
"It's a while yet, honey."
"How far is that, Mom?"
Her sigh echoed his own. "A hundred more miles. Shush so Daddy can concentrate on driving."
Shane looked out the window. Even an irritating sibling wouldn't be boring.
"Mom, how far now?"
"Shane, just read one of your books."
She'd used the "Mom" voice, so he stopped asking and looked out the window again.
When the first zombie shambled from the woods, he smiled.
It wouldn't be a boring trip after all.

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A Libertarian Misunderstanding

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As with the other political posts, I'm looking for discussion, not a "I'm right, you're wrong" kind of thing.

The flaw in libertarianism is a misunderstanding of the extent of human interactions.

We can all agree that the authority for sections should be among those who are impacted by them (e.g. "between two consenting adults").

Libertarians have the hubris to think that others don't impact them, nor they have an impact on others.

Discuss.

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