Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Political Rant on Election Day. How . . .Unique.

Okay, if you don't like political diatribes, please exit now.  If you consider yourself a loyal Republican or a loyal Democrat, also, duck out now.  You have been warned.  It's not just hot in the kitchen where I'm cooking up my resentment, it's scalding.

Who's left?  My fellow independents, or those people who lean that way?  Great.  Listen up, people.  This is really important to me.

I know you're pissed off.  I know you get pissed off pretty often -- what is it, every 2 or 4 years?  You flock out to the polls and show off how pissed off you are.  You vote out the clowns who have most recently disappointed you.  The problem with the current method, though, is that you're voting back in the clowns you voted out the last time we did this dance.

Stop it!  Just . . .stop it!

Why are you swinging between the same two branches and wondering why you can't find any fresh fruit?  The ideas are the same, every time.  They promise change.  They promise a return to the founding principles of the country.  They promise lower taxes, a healthy retirement, and good education for your children.  And you buy it.

Right?  I mean, that's why you're voting for these people . . .isn't it?

No, that's right, we've already discussed this.  You're voting against the other people.  That's right.  To punish them.

But how long is that effective, if they know you'll just vote them in next time?

Stop it, I said!

There are other parties, ya know.  Parties who haven't been given a real chance.  Parties who more closely represent you than the following:

DEMOCRATS: Who don't mind putting the country in debt and putting you in a state of perpetual dependence by offering unlimited welfare and socialist reform systems.

REPUBLICANS:  Who preach about smaller government while all the time expanding the roles of the CIA, FBI, and DEA to regulate who you should love and how you should live.  Oh, and they don't mind having us in debt, either.

Why do we keep voting for these idiots?  Let's face some reality: Welfare doesn't work.  It makes us dependent, like children.  We need to stop living like somebody owes us something and get ours for ourselves.  And we need to get all of these G-men out of our bedrooms, rec rooms, and happy places.


Because later is just going to piss you off again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bodhisattva Project

**Anyone who has a problem with listening to someone rave on and on about their own enlightenment, please duck out now.  Between you and me, I do NOT blame you.**

Some of these truths will sound terribly self-evident, but I need those of you who remain after my heavy encouragement to depart to understand something.  Maybe you know me already and don't need to be told this. Maybe you don't know me in any way but the persona I've cultivated on facebook or any of the other online personality mills out there.  But here is the fundamental truth about me:  I am incredibly insecure and totally lacking in the mysterious substance called Common Sense.  I have to have a major epiphany in order to understand things that most other people take for granted.

For instance:
1.  Nobody will ever have the ability to love me better than I do, because nobody can read my mind about what I want romanticallly -- and even if they could, they can only do so much.*
2.  The body demands, and no matter how often you scramble to comply, it is never enough.  NEVER.  Consider your own addiction(s) and see if I'm wrong.
3.  There is God in each of us.  The key is learning to see it, even in those you feel less than worthy of your attention.

See?  This stuff sounds SO obvious, but I can't even tell you what a revelation it is.  I mean, I've heard these platitudes all my life, but I've never actually embraced them before now.  It was a sudden change in perspective, and it's set me free of all the baggage and stress I'd been carrying.  Most of the stress, after all, was in my futile efforts to satisfy the urges of my body and still please everyone else while hoping someone, anyone would take the time to notice ME and give ME what I always wanted, without me having to go through the trouble of telling them what that was.

Like any real recovery, it's not an overnight process.  I still stumble, and I still feel the siren's call to rejoin my old, addictive-personality habits.  They're deeply-ingrained, and it would be so easy to go back.  But it's just not me anymore.  It's not good for me to seek perfection from myself and everyone around me when perfection is a moving target at best, and plain impossible on any given day.  All I can do right now is put the God inside me back in charge of the machine through which I'm experiencing this world, and govern the machine with discipline and complete love.  I know the kind of love and affection I want, and if given in reasonable doses, I think it could change my life.

So, then, what is this Bodhisattva thing about?  According to Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person on the path to enlightenment, bound for it, but not quite there.  That's where I am.  I finally see the potential miracle of releasing the selfishness of my flesh, but I'm still restrained by the flesh from achieving that miracle.  This is going to be the most exciting period of my life.

I'll keep you updated, and I'll be sure to give disclaimers at the beginning of each of these posts so if you're really not in the mood to hear about my silly revelations, you can skip it.

*I am very well-loved by my husband, but that's not what I'm talking about.  Even with his devotion to me, he can't be expected to understand the specific romantic impulses that flood my feminine brain.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dysfunction Junction

I have a host of deficiencies as a writer.  I'm a puppy in a small pack, and I know that.  However, I've always considered myself a voracious, compulsive reader.

Since I've been writing seriously, though, I've become aware that I don't read the same way anymore.  Let me explain by contrasting how I used to read with how I read now:

Days Gone By:  I would pick up a new book, either at the library or the discount bookseller or, better yet, borrowed from a friend.  After graduating high school, I no longer had the funds to support my new-paperback habit, so cheaper was better.  My new acquisition was generally from a trusted author (C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Anne Rice) or a trusted genre (fantasy, chick lit, romance).  This book came with me everywhere: city buses, lunch, work, dinner, and even on walks.  I read during every spare moment, gorging myself on words until I got to the end of the book and reveled in the writer's great denouement and hidden messages or morals.

Present Day: I don't read print books anymore.  I have several books on my Kindle, and I'm trying to force myself back into print using my love of gadgets, but it's pretty slow going.  I have the very unfortunate habit of skipping ahead, past all the bulky prose that sets up scenery and emotion straight for the meat, the climax, and the heart of the story.  Because of this tragic propensity, I've had to switch to audiobooks.  You can't skip ahead or skim past the spoken word.  You have to slow down and absorb everything.  It's been a godsend.  But what's worse: I can't wait for the ending of the book.  I have to know in advance how it'll end.  I will do a Wikipedia search for the book and devour the plot, then return to the book to see the beauty of how the writer gets us there.

Maybe you think that what I'm going to say next is some backwards attempt at justifying this new method of mine, and maybe you're right, but I honestly believe this: The journey is not about the destination, but about all the scenery and experiences along the way.  Even saying that, though, you rarely ever in life embark on a journey without knowing your destination.  You can't buy a train ticket or plane ticket without knowing where you're going.  Even if you do go on a rambling road trip, you have an idea what direction you're traveling.  For me, knowing where the book ends up allows me to appreciate the unfolding scenery and gives me permission to relax and marvel at the different tricks and traps laid out by the author.

Okay, okay, I know, I'm broken and dysfunctional when it comes to reading.  So shoot me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

River of Dreams

I am overcoming my sleep deprivation issue.  It's been a long row to hoe, because I have somehow transformed myself from a spoiled young girl with a devoted family and unending vistas of possibilities and potential into a scared, skittish woman who startles awake at every hint of noise in the house.  I think my father's death (of which I'd been informed in the middle of the night, wakened from a deep sleep I'll never know again, it seems) was the beginning of the bad times.  He was my noble sire, the Greatest Father in the World, and the man who gave me a love of words and language and reading.  I was his princess, and I knew I was adored and supported unconditionally -- by him, if not by my mother, at least, not in the same unequivocal way.

Which is all to say that I knew in my heart as long as my father was in the world, I was safe.  Noises at night did not rouse me.  At one point, an apartment I lived in alone was burglarized while I was asleep in bed.  I didn't know of the deed until the next morning, when I stumbled out to watch cartoons to find no television in the living room and a balcony glass door wide open to the world.  After my father's death, I no longer felt safe to cast off the clothing of care and worry I wear during the day to dip my soul in the healing River of Dreams.

That's how it is to me, this mystery of sleep.  You have to get to a point of surrender.  You have to be willing to close your eyes and keep them closed, and turn off the voices in your mind that remind you of your job and your paycheck and your mortgages and your bills, voices that nag me that I'm not writing and the book isn't going to write itself, voices that hound me for not being of the right genetic makeup to do things that come naturally to other people -- voices that call me out on being a mediocre, unmotivated freak of nature.  Pulling all of that nastiness off of me to let the visions of rest play in my mind, turning control over to the great Mercy of sleep, and dipping my toe in the endless rolling nonsense stories that flow in the River of Dreams -- that's the magic that has become elusive to me.  I sense it there, that current, those stories.  I know there are millions of them: I'm playing poker in an Old West Saloon while my mother sings the blues.  I'm riding horseback through the backyard, but it keeps stretching, and my dogs are begging me in human voices to stop.  I'm stealing clothes off a clothesline of a farm in Kansas, and a tornado is bearing down on me.  There are millions of tales just like this, none of which make any sense, but all of which disconnect me from my real worries and cares and let my mind breathe.

Why is it so easy for me to cling to the nasty soup of self-doubt and sadness, instead of removing the cloak of it in exchange for rest and healing?  Is it because I'm so obsessed with my own real story?  Is it because I fear losing something again, as seems to so often happen in the middle of the night?

No matter what it is, the refusal of my mind to wade in the River has made me angry.  I've forced my Self down to its sweet, strange banks.  I've held my Self down to the odd water, and tasted the flow of gibbering silliness that does not touch reality, but only hints that it's there -- the images and movements that make a safe, if abstract, landscape for rest.

It's been a colossal struggle, but I might just be winning it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Muse's Ally: A Fond Remembrance

As I've stated before, my Muse is a silly, capricious thing.  I often imagine she's beribboned and dressed in pastels, with long, flowing tawny hair and laughing eyes.  She has a full life outside the work she does for me, so she treats her time with me as a volunteer thing; she shows up when she wants and gets done what she needs, then leaves for her Muse social gatherings and shopping excursions.

Again, as I'm a volunteer/charity case, she doesn't come when I want, but only when she wants, and if she shows up and the place for her in my head is in shambles, she will often pout disapprovingly, wander around for a minute in sulky silence, then depart when my back is turned.  It may be weeks before I see her again, and that time is spent in sackcloth and ashes, and there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing.  Well, at least spiritually.

So what causes that Muse Spot to be in shambles?  Lately, it's been a profound sleep deficit.  I know personally plenty of people who can get by with 5-6 hours of sleep and not only function, but thrive.  I am not one of those blessed souls.  I need AT LEAST 7 hours.  Anything less begins the slide into a state of zombie existence, where my eyes are open and I'm going through the motions, but I'm not enjoying anything or even actively participating in anything.  All I can do is wish for sleep and despair over it getting any better.

As such, my Muse is ignoring me.  I don't blame her.  I've been an anxious, angsty mess lately.  I could punk out and demand my right as a woman to have my emotional moments, but that's not exactly going to win me any points with her.

A breakthrough to report:  Last night I DID sleep.  My Muse's ally came to me, took pity on me, and soothed me away.  I did wake in the night, but I was able to get back into the Land of Nod. 

This is just the beginning, surely.

So Muse, if you're reading this:  Come on back.  Your room is straightened and my manuscript awaits.  Hell, I'll even let you break something.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Along for the Ride

I went to a writer's workshop three years ago.  It was presented by a woman who claimed she was a "best-selling" novelist of both fiction and non-fiction.  I had never heard of her, but at the time, I wasn't as into this industry as I am now.  (To be fair, I should probably do a little research at this point to see if I would recognize her name now.  But, I'm too lazy.)

The workshop promised to share her secrets to writing good fiction, and doing it regularly for profit.  Little capitalist that I am, that sounded good to me.  So I sat in a room full of other writer aspirants with an open notebook and opened my ears.

She suggested, first and foremost, that the writer should be prepared to outline and index-card their book.


I watched, confused, as she demonstrated this process.  She started with her opening scene, and did index cards for each of the characters in her scene, then stuck each card on the wall as reminders to her of the characters' physical and personality traits.  She then wrote down a brief synopsis of her scene and tacked that to another wall.  She explained that she was building her story, and before she put it down "in concrete" in prose, she wanted to work out the kinks -- on her wall.

She was writing her book on the wall.

Well, that's how it felt to me.

Now, I know that for many people, including the woman who hosted the workshop, this is the ideal way to do what they do.  They want to be able to shift cards around without having to endure the bulky process of cutting, copying, and inserting in a Word document or a Scrivener file.  That's fine, if that's what works for you.  I honestly did not come here to slam that approach for you, but to explain how it is that I write.

In the beginning, there is a character.  The character may be based on a real person, or they could be someone I made up whole-cloth in my head.  Most of the time, I do not have a story arc for this character; I may have personality flaws that will launch conflict, but there is rarely a clear idea of the struggle this person will go through.  I put the character in a room in my mind and try to see what that character is thinking of.  People at rest with nothing to do will generally think of the things that intrigue, entertain, horrify, sadden, or gladden them.  I then take the scenery from the character's thoughts and build the room around them.  The character interacts with the scenery, and the story starts rolling.  Eventually, a story arc establishes itself, takes hold, and paints a very vague picture for me of where we'll end up.  My job then becomes Hall Monitor.  I'm tasked to ensure all characters and all sub-plots make it to the finish line together.

I cannot index-card this process.  To do that would be to write the novel on index cards then walk away.  It has to be born in the middle of prose.  Often, the way the sentences flow when I write determines what happens next; it's very rarely much more elaborate or scripted than that.  Very often my characters will jog left when I want them to go right, when the finish line is drawing near and it would be a handy-dandy thing to not have to clean up after these creatures and have everything tie off neatly.

But in the end, I am not in charge of my story.  I am the Grammar Police, the Vocabulary Toolbox, and the Shepherd.  I am the Conductor, but I am not the Composer.  I am the Director, but not the Author.  Sometimes I think I'm just along for the ride, and a privileged spectator, the first person who gets to see this new story.

Perhaps my way of writing is primitive, but it works for me, and it keeps the voices in my head contented and quiet -- for the most part.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I have been repeatedly tortured by my own body lately.  I have been subjected to horrible emotions and harrowing pain -- to say nothing of the psychological distress and symptoms of depression.  I did not come to the blog today to moan and seek sympathy.  I'm not a seeker of sympathy anyway.  I therefore won't divulge here what has led to all of this spiritual and physical angst, but I will say that it is connected to a fundamental biological process.  (I think those lines are wide enough to read between, so I'll leave it there for you.)

Because it's a biological process to blame for all of this anger and bewilderment and helplessness, it is perfectly natural.  I am no different than those of my fellow humans who do extraordinary things just to secure love, or a safe place to live, or a steady paycheck to ensure that life and health can be maintained.  Most things we do as human beings have perfectly logical and completely natural origins.

I think about those times when I feel ravaged and taken advantage of by my own instincts and biological issues.  I think how helpless I am to the commonality of being human, and how a crying fit can be attributed to little more than an abnormal cascade of hormones.  I wonder why some people are blessed with so much -- pretty faces, genetically superior bodies, incredible intelligence -- and some are given so little by the stroke of genius or madness that determines these things.

And then I think about the one thing I have, the one thing I do, that escapes proper biological or evolutionary excuse.

I write.

I do not do this for the sake of my body or the advancement of my DNA.  I do not do this to make my habitat more secure, or make those people I hold dear safer and more prosperous.  I do not do it, obviously, to put bread on my table (since I have no sincere hope that this will be a lucrative occupational endeavor).

Why do I do this?  Why does any of us, if it is not an evolutionary imperative?  Why did the first cave-dweller glance up at the walls of the cave and decide to commemorate that day's hunt in crude, but recognizable and oddly graceful, stick drawings?  What compels us to create?

I don't know the answer to the question (even though I suspect there's a nugget of the Divine in the resolution), but lately, just being able to ask it refreshes me and keeps me from the worst of the despair.  I am not just a natural creature, cursed to roam the world, live, and die without anything greater being done.  Like all my fellow artists of all stripes and types, I am super-natural.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When the Words Don't Come (Or, When the Words Come and Real Life Objects)

If you live with a writer, or if you watch one very carefully in their day-to-day lives, you will know for certain when they're engaged in their art.  They smile more.  They have more confidence (even if it is a mere modicum).  They walk around in a pleased but distracted fog, because they can hear their characters' voices and see glimpses of the worlds they've built.  It takes a little more effort than usual to get their attention.  They hum to themselves.  They are happy.

If they are not engaged in writing, however, you will see something significantly different.  They get emotional, or they withdraw.  They are easy to find; they're either in the kitchen, staring listlessly into the refrigerator, or they're in the bar, losing against their half-empty glass in an impromptu staring contest.  They either avoid their computers, the scene of so much happiness in the past, or they engage their computers too much, trying to milk inspiration from Minesweeper, Bejeweled, or Facebook.  If they could, they would sleep most of the day in an effort to fast-forward through their lives to the point where the voices in their heads are once again their characters' friendly voices, instead of the chanting voices of Failure.  They are obviously not happy, and their symptoms are similar to, if not the same as, true depression.

There are two reasons for this tragic state for writers, and I can't decide, frankly, if it's worse for the writer to have nothing to write, or have something to write, but be kept from writing.  The one form of deprivation is referred to as writer's block, and it's a cold killer of joy.  I've described the euphoria of having a project to work on -- you have a cacophony of voices in your head, and you never feel alone.  To have those voices suddenly vacate -- to have no companions and no preoccupation -- is awful.

But the other form of deprivation, to have those voices pleading with you to spend time with them, to make time for them, and to give them a chance to live and breathe and act and fulfill their destinies -- and to not be able to give them what they want -- that's awful, too.

So is it worse to have friends and not give them your time, or is it worse to have no friends to disappoint?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Fertile Field

Now that I've shared my thoughts about what writers are and why artists do what they do, I feel the need to discuss the environment that spawns artistic creation.  Almost any artist can tell you, after years of experience with trying to "set the mood," that this just plain doesn't work.  You can't set the stage for creativity.

It's not like getting set up for relaxation.  In that scenario, you draw bath water, light scented candles, turn on peaceful music, and pour a glass of something tasty.  If you take your time with the preparation, your mind begins to disengage.  If you focus on the flickering candlelight and immerse yourself in the water with full appreciation of Here and Now, you really can't help but be lulled into defenselessness.

I've often tried to set the scene for writing.  I've closed the door to my office in an attempt to block distractions.  I've turned on music that's gotten my creative juices flowing in the past.  I've opened an empty, pre-formatted Word document, taken a swig of water, then waited for my Muse to arrive.

She doesn't oblige me.

You cannot summon a Muse.  They don't respond well to commands.  Unless you are a very powerful writer (think: Patterson, King, Evanovich) who has the Muse on a leash and can crank out new books at a blinding clip, the thought of directing the creative urge becomes laughable, and fast.

Think, instead, that the Muse comes to you when she's ready.  You can be sitting in the middle of a job interview, sweating bullets, when you notice the original art hanging behind the interviewer.  You latch on to it, hoping that the tranquil mountain scene takes you to a peaceful place psychologically -- and that's when the dizzy bitch finally shows up, cooing over the pattern of the clouds and handing you an invitation to WriterLand.  "It's time," she whispers in your ear.  "Now.  If you come with me now, I'll explain to you why your character did what he did in the last chapter.  It's brilliant.  You'll love it -- but you have to come now."

And you can't.

Some of my writer friends are reading this and nodding their heads.  Some are raising their fingers in polite protest.  "But," they say, "you can't excuse writer's block so conveniently.  You should still be writing something every day, whether your Muse is with you or not.  There's no better way to weave a leash than to let her know she's wanted."

You may be right.  Daily writing exercises (like blogging) do open things up.  It keeps the pump primed; it keeps the tools sharp and ready.  You can every day practice the art of transferring concepts into words, and, like artists do, share your perspective with people and hope they get your point.  But that's not the same thing as the art itself, and I hope you understand what I mean by that.  A blog should not be confused with a short story.  A blog is a thought, an impression, a means of communication.  It's casual journalism.  Sometimes, frequent blogging can lead to discussion of topics that may appeal to the Muse, but the blog is not the will of the Muse.  Even short story exercises, where a plot is indicated and resolution is sought, can't be confused with true creative inspiration.  Real creativity, the kind that comes from your Muse, comes in a forceful rush, and it's dizzying, inspiring, and a little like madness.

On a personal note, I've discovered my Muse loves road trips and travel.  When I'm flying along in a metal tube more than 30,000 feet from solid earth, gazing around at my fellow travelers and watching them amuse themselves, she whispers and giggles in my ear.  The experience of seeing new places is my fertile field.

What's yours?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Is Art? WHY Is Art?

Imagine a songwriter, a writer, and a painter, all sitting together to watch the same sunset.  Of course, each person witnesses the spectacle through their own filter of experience, and each sees something different.  They are each motivated to capture the moment they share.

The songwriter picks up his pen and starts to hum to himself.  The music that comes to this man may be a melody that reminds him of his father's favorite song, because the sunset reminds him of a hunting trip he shared with his father.  The sunset disarms him and makes him feel the freedom and trust of that trip.  He writes a sweet homage to the man in his memory.

The writer also picks up a pen.  She examines the shadows and the light, the variation of hues.  She leafs through her mind, trying to find the words to describe the richness of the palette in front of her.  She settles on a memory, the experience of walking through a grand art gallery.  She writes about the world as a canvas and the sky as the artist.  She writes about the way the sun tilts to the horizon and spills a rich carpet of color on its bed before settling into night.  The writer has transferred her impression to words.

The painter takes up his paints.  He sees the sunset in its components -- amber, purple, magenta, cobalt, all centered by a spectacular golden orb that's fading into bronze.  The last time he saw this specific palette, he was in Miami, celebrating his honeymoon with a wife who has since died.  The beauty of the memory moves him to tears as he paints, and the canvas comes to life with his emotion.  His strokes are broad, but not hurried.  His painting becomes a tribute to a golden moment of happiness.

This is how art is created.  No matter how different you think your art is -- writing vs. painting vs. music -- every artist aspires to the exact same thing: Every artist creates art to transmit emotion filtered through experience.  The best art in the world, therefore, is the art that doesn't have to be explained.  If the artist has done their job, everything should be easy to follow.  The lines on the canvas belong where they are.  There are no misspellings in honest, passionate writing.  There are no jangling notes thrown in for "artistic context" in a good song.

No one should have to explain lyrics to you.  You shouldn't have to read the card beside the art hanging in a gallery to get it.  You shouldn't have to run to a dictionary to understand the words a writer uses.  Those things are acceptable, of course, if you do initially get it -- if you feel the emotion and see it through the correct filter.  If, then, you're motivated to go deeper into the experience and read the lyrics and examine the art for subtexts or get the dictionary to understand all nuances of a word, then so be it.

I hope this also explains why what is art to some is trash to others.  All art created authentically and for the right reasons has an audience.  It is the artist's job to find his or her audience.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writing is Easy!

Anybody can do it!

Heck, I'm planning on doing it myself!

I am not writing this blog because I think there's anything very special about me as a human being.  I'm not an elitist.  I am, however, a specialized human.  I know there are people out there who shop at a near-professional level.  There are people out there who feel the joy of the angels when they cook.  I have several close friends who have a distinct urge to visually capture a moment either by paint or photography.

As an example of the specialization I'm talking about, I'm going to bring my husband through the muck of my analysis for a minute.  My husband is a human being specialized for making music.  He's fascinated by science and mathematics, and, by extension, tempo and rhythm.  He listens to the timbre of voices and explores the range of what's audible wherever he is.  On one of our first dates, he took me to a city park and asked me to tell him everything I could hear.  I heard the traffic, the sighing whisper of cricket noise, a far off dog barking, chatting humans, and a trickle of water from a creek.  He heard much more, and pointed out to me the music drifting in from an open car window, the rustle of leaves from people walking past, and a breath of breeze stirring the trees and making the wood creak slightly.  It was a symphony, one I never heard before him.  He heard it every day, every moment.

It's this tendency towards sound and music that helps him make music, and makes it seem easy.  He has a gift that drives me insane: He can hear an album, and within an hour he can play back any bass track on the album.  His pitch is perfect.  And like any true artist, he looks for the challenging music.  While I'm content (for the most part) with syncopated pop music and I don't personally think slick production is the work of the devil, my husband looks for the innovative, the slightly-off, and feels deep respect for artists who can use music to challenge his own artistic bedrock.

I was born to write.  I am a student of human behavior, including all of the broken parts, because that's where plots and stories come from.  When I read, I'm constantly copy-editing, shifting words around and diagramming in my head.  I listen intently to my friends when they tell me their stories, because stories feed my brain and blood.  In my bored moments, alone and with nothing to read, I find myself scripting dialog.  Sometimes I even act it out (*blush*).  I read salacious accounts of tragedy, terror, and humiliation, because I've noticed that while everyone professes to want to hear good news, it's the bad news that sells -- both newspapers and books.  I watch a sunset and try to figure out how to paint it faithfully with adjectives, metaphors and broad poetry.  No matter how much I practice my skill, I know my place.  I read a good book and both celebrate the talent of the writer and my own inadequacies.

Again, this doesn't make me better than anyone else.  I'm lost in wonder when my best friend bakes a cake for me.  I'm mesmerized by a well-negotiated deal, or a party that seems effortless but was pulled together by a master.  I only want people to know what a writer is, and why we do what we do.

And if you come across a writer who makes it look easy, take a closer look at the writer.  See if you don't see in them what I see: Students of the world and their fellow humans.  You know, nerds.  Then consider this: Those nerds are feeding the monsters in their basements, the demanding ones who will someday roar back all the knowledge and blow your mind.

Okay, that's all I'm saying.  Carry on, dear world, carry on.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Do the Right Thing for Your Write Thing

**Disclaimer:  What is the right thing for me to do is not the right thing for everyone.  It very probably could be said it is not the right thing for most people.  It is right for me, however, and I feel the need to share these thoughts before I hear too much more snootiness or pity directed at me.  Thank you for understanding.

Now for some industry-related thoughts.  It's come time, I think.

I am not represented by a literary agent.  That route did not work for me.  It wasn't lack of trying.  I queried dozens of great agents for my first, ill-conceived novel (whose name shall not be shared), and over a hundred for my darling Corona.  I received some interest, and even got semi-serious with an agent I would have been delighted to work with.  In the end, I was not able to change my manuscript enough to suit her needs, and we parted amicably.

I also was possessed of an idea for getting my book out that I needed to move on, and fast.  I want to make sure it's clear, here and now, however: I have nothing against agents, and I do feel that if I had been patient and willing to go through a few more rounds of queries, I could have found the right person for me.  I am not a disenfranchised, whiny writer who thinks that they're entitled to an easy victory, and the fight isn't worth fighting if I can't have what I want.  I'm not a sell-out defeatist.  To all my writer friends still in the hunt, I wish you the triumph and match-made-in-heaven you seek.

I decided, instead, to go direct-to-publisher and have had the joy of seeing my first novel published with Canonbridge, LLC.  Canonbridge is what is referred to in snooty, insufferable writer-elite circles as a "small press POD."  And what does that mean?  Let me explain.

Small press:  There is a horrid misconception, apparently, that only the bottom of the barrel of writers are willing to stoop to being published by a small press.  Small presses have integrity.  They won't publish garbage.  They are, however, harried and put in far more hours than most of the staff at the big publishers.  They do more with less, and the reason why is they want to produce the best product they can, both for themselves and for their writers.  And, of course, the reason for that is so their writers can realize their dreams of being published, and can realize maximum return.  The contracts from small presses are beyond generous, by industry standards.  No advance?  No problem -- advances are speculative, anyway.  I'd rather know that I've EARNED every dollar I receive in mailbox-money.

POD:  And what exactly is the BFD with this, anyway?  Is this not the environmentally-sound way to handle the problem plaguing the big publishers?  Why should they have warehouses filled with books they can't sell?  I am just as much trapped by the über-clearance section at the bookstore, but I know what those books really are: They're the overstock of books that couldn't sell at full retail price, and they have to be moved NOW to allow for fresher titles.  Churn and burn, baby, that's the name of the game, and in the meantime, that's a lot of paper being churned.  Every book sold by my "small press" is destined for a loving home and a history of being read by friends.  If it's passed on, great.  But I don't like the thought of waste at all.  I'm not a slavish tree-hugger, but the more I know about the industry, the more I understand about the practice of print runs, and the less I like it.

Besides, it seems to me this practice of advances and large print runs may be one of the reasons the cherished big publishing houses find themselves in a period of upheaval.  It's not such a practical methodology anymore, not with the advent of numerous environmentally-responsible e-readers and audiobooks available.  Their ledgers are full of advances paid out and not fulfilled.  I know the concept of the advance made me drool when I started seriously persuing writing, because it releases a writer to do just that -- write, concentrate, and produce ever-better works.  But -- then again -- there's something to be said about the beautiful things writers create when they're under pressure, with a full-time job and a full-time family and a dream all running the lab in their minds.

Finally, let's talk about bookstores.  I don't know a writer who doesn't profess to the fantasy of seeing their book in print on a bookstore shelf.  It is, honestly, one of the most intoxicating dreams I have.  But I have to say this, and in no uncertain terms: Unless you have given an editor at a big publishing house a literary joygasm, you will not be guaranteed any bookstore time.  They have to see the buying trends of the public (is your book filled with sparkly vampires?).  They also have to weigh the season (does your 700 page philosophical coming-of-age tale work with beach-reading season?).  Finally, the publisher produces catalogs that are sent to bookstores, and the booksellers make the decision.  Granted, most of them are going to go with the joygasm-producing books, but -- they won't take ALL of the publishers' recommendations.  Since there's not guarantee at all that going through all of the motions of agent + big publisher = integrity-backed bookstore presence, I dropped out of the dogfight.

That doesn't make me a dropout.  It just makes me less a dog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Character Interview: Tom Strausser

Recently (like, several minutes ago, or more accurately, as I go) I met with Tom Strausser, one of the heroes in my first novel, Corona.  Tom took some time away from his active tour schedule.  He felt he had no choice.

TS:  I didn't have a choice.  You're the Creator.

MJ:  Yeah, yeah, whatever.  Put that trash to rest.

TS:  You know I can't.  I survived the adventure, after all.

MJ:  Are you sure it really happened?

TS:  What -- the Corona thing?  Of course it did.  I wouldn't have met Rose if it hadn't happened.

MJ:  Are you sure?

TS:  Wait -- what are you implying?

MJ:  Well, you and Rose keep telling people you met on match-dot-com.  Are you sure that's not really what happened?

TS:  Is this the interview?  Cuz I gotta tell you, it stinks to high heaven.

MJ:  Okay, fine.  Let's leave existentialism off the table for now.  Did being in Jaenrye teach you anything?

TS:  Uh . . .meaning what?

MJ:  Tom, come on.  Did you discover the hero inside you?


MJ:  Stop that!

TS:  Come on, don't ask me questions like that.  You know I'm not comfortable with them. 

MJ:  Why not?

TS:  They're goofy.

MJ:  Fine.  How about this one:  Do you have to curse so much?

TS:  What the fuck are you talking about?

MJ:    Okay, it's clear I'm not going to get you to say anything significant, so let me just ask you this:  Are you looking forward to the adventures facing you and Rose in CRUCIBLE?

TS:  Sure!  --Oh, wait.  Shouldn't I be?  Aww, man, hang on, what's going to happen to us?

MJ:  Okay, that's all for now --

TS:  WAIT!  You can't just leave me hangin' here.  What happens?  Shit.

MJ:  Tom, thanks for joining us.  I'll see you soon, and you'll find out what happens to you guys then.  Kiss kiss!

TS:  SON of a bitch!  You are just not right.

Well, that was fun.  :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jaenrye Beatified

beatification (N.):

  • blessedness: a state of supreme happiness
  • the action of rendering supremely blessed and extremely happy
I mention the term Beatification in the book I've been cuddling all evening.  In the book, Beatification is all the people trapped in a dying world want, without knowing they actually want it.  The concept of the word as used in the book refers to the release of the imaginary, fantasy world into the greater consciousness, through efforts to become published.  Once a fantasy world is shared with and enjoyed by other people, the fantasy world is spared from being abandoned and forgotten by the Creator.

Tim and I placed separate orders for copies of this book.  I placed a bulk order (to satisfy obligations for contests and such), and apparently that slowed fulfillment quite a bit.  Tim ordered one copy.  It was scheduled to arrive yesterday.  When I got home, I checked all the standard places (mailbox, front door stoop) to see if it had come in while I was at work.  No dice.  So I settled in to try to calm my nerves.

The doorbell rang.  

I blogged about expectations recently, and I feel the need to follow that up with what I was expecting to feel in this moment.  Was it going to change how I saw myself?  Was the notion of my immortality going to enter my head?  Would I be proud, or humbled by the hard work so many people contributed to this process?  Would I want to giggle and make everyone feel just as silly as me?

I got up, and please don't think I'm being cheesy when I say that a dozen voices suddenly cropped up in my head.  They were jubilant, celebrating with laughter and song.  It made me a little dizzy.  I met the UPS man at the door, and my heart skipped to see him holding the box with the sideways smile -- the Amazon.com box.  I signed for it and took it inside.

It never even occurred to me to not open it.  It was Tim's order, and we're not in the habit of opening mail or packages addressed to the other, but I knew he'd understand in this case.  I was careful and slow, and the party in my head grew more complex.

Then I saw it, my book, the cover designed by my wonderful cousin staring back at me from its box.  I smiled.  I teared up.  Oh, goodness, it was silly and clichéd and -- one of the most sublime and amazing moments of my life, because I knew right then, as I lifted the book out of the box and felt its girth, its solid presence in the real world, that I'd kept my promise to the characters I'd been building since childhood.  They were liberated from the hidden places, the forgotten places, and were now Beatified, set free in the world to be known by readers.  

You see, that sweet moment wasn't about me at all.

That is how I feel right now.  It isn't that this is my shot at immortality, that my ISBN numbers (one e-book, one print) are recorded for posterity.  It isn't that I'm no longer uncomfortable to call myself a writer when I'm introduced to new people.  It isn't about me or how it affects me or how it makes me feel about myself.

Okay, that last part isn't true.  I feel better about myself, but that's only because I kept an old promise.  This whole experience, however, at its core, is about the people and creatures of Jaenrye.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those people who helped me make this happen: Liz Czukas, my beta reader (and a damned fine writer herself); Wilette Youkey (cousin first, kick-ass cover designer and writer second and third); Maggie Stewart-Grant (publisher and slave to words); Tim Heiser (husband and eternal supporter); and my dear friends in the Inkslingers and everywhere else.  

It's time to party in Jaenrye.  :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beware Expectations

As a child, you had your dreams.  The nature of those dreams was ephemeral and unstable; in the same day, I saw myself as a princess, Batgirl, and Annie Oakley.  None of these dreams seemed at odds with each other.

As you grow older, though, you develop a really harsh new perspective.  Sometimes things you only dreamed about as a little kid -- happened.  Maybe you thought it would be really cool to go to a water park for the first time ever.  Then you went.  It was a forest of water slides with a lazy river running through it.  It was a new fantasy world of frozen lemonade, cocoa butter, and towels slung over plastic lounge chairs.

The next summer you're told you're going to a new water park, a different water park.  This causes some severe excitement, because a part of your brain expects the same thing that happened the last time; you expect the turnstiles and the waving costumed characters, the wave pool and the kamikaze slide.  On the drive there, you start to notice the difference between that experience and this one.  For me, that didn't release the expectation, though.  Instead, I grew concerned and felt the expectation for the same joy I felt last time back up in my brain.  By the time we entered the park, the expectation was so backed up it caused anxiety.  I was in a mad rush to have just as much fun in this new environment as I had last year.  --Which, of course, made it sheer awful.

I couldn't appreciate the new park for the new things it offered.  I couldn't see the kiddie pool, the all-natural, river-fed water, or the cute German feel of the place.  I sulked over the fact that I was too young to try the surf wave.  I missed the waving costumed characters and rejected the fact that the bratwurst tasted much better than the generic hot dogs I craved.

I wish I could say that experience taught me something about expectations, but it didn't.  I'm trapped in the old pattern of having accomplished or experienced something once, then carrying that blueprint around in my head as an expectation for all future encounters.  Even if the experience I had before was bad, I find myself prejudiced against ever going through that hell again.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because I discovered last night that I'm not properly enjoying the thrill of being a published author, like I should.  I'm not feeling the joy of being able to share a story that was born in some deep, subconscious chamber of my heart.  I don't have any thrill over the opportunity to see my name in print on the spine of a book, to hold it in my hands, and, if I'm lucky, to see it on the shelf of a bookstore.  Instead, I'm slave to my expectations, and they're ruining everything.

Where did these expectations come from?  Oh, well, when a girl like me grows up, it becomes very possible for those idle dreams to become obsessive expectations.  I dreamed that I could be a writer.  In high school, I dreamed I could finish writing one book.  In college, I dreamed an agent would discover me out of the blue and offer me representation.  From there, my dreams became ever-more elaborate and unrealistic.  Matching the reality -- gratifying as it by rights should be -- with my expectations is turning into the hardest lesson of my life.

I'm working on it, though.  These are the times that try my soul.  This is my Crucible.  If I can make it over this particularly aggressive deflation of my ambitious ego, I'll be in the clear.

Then -- watch out.  :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Elemental First Page

For those of you outside the business in which me and my friends are engaged, you may not be aware of current Common Sense, vis-a-vis the publishing industry.  According to this contemporary Common Sense, the first page is EVERYTHING to a new book.  This is a result of extensive market research, of that I have no doubt.  Browsing habits of people in bookstores were examined, and these marketing professionals determined by observation that if a book can't snag a reader by the first page, then the reader puts the book back on the shelf and carries on with her browsing.

I certainly understand the inescapable logic of this.  I mean, I've done something similar my whole life.  I read the back of the book, the inside flap of the book, study the cover art, then, if all of those conditions tickle my fancy, I dive into the copy.  

Now that I'm on the other side of the great divide -- the gulf between writer and reader -- I wonder about the wisdom of this.  I know we're an instant-gratification generation of people.  We can't be bothered to listen to the whole album to find the songs we like best; we go to iTunes instead and download the few tracks we've heard on the radio.  We can do that now.  We don't have to read the whole paper anymore.  News is delivered in three-paragraph gulps to our internet home pages.  We don't have to sit down to a full meal anymore, not with tapas bars and smoothie counters.  

We are, here and now, enamored by convenience and speed.  We want what we want, and we want it now.

But -- doesn't that run counter to the entire concept of a book?  A book isn't about the first page.  Most of the masterpieces of classical literature couldn't have made it in today's climate (a notable exception that comes immediately to mind is "Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka, which had me from the first sentence).  A book took years, and in some cases, decades, to write, and it was assumed those of the public who spend their hard-earned duckets to by the book would savor every word, examining sub-plots and character depths that most fiction readers have to be forced to find by their college professors.

I know some of you are arching your dominant eyebrow at me.  I have confessed to many that I am very, very weak at the first-page concept.  I'm really not here to make excuses for my literary deficiencies, only to find myself puzzled by this over-reaching need for a compelling first page.  From the first line of agents to the pocketbooks of readers, it means the world.  Writer-development websites have made contests that focus on the first page.  Again, I understand the sound marketing judgment behind this focus.  However, I can't help wonder if Austen, the Bronte sisters, Poe, or Clemens would have persisted in this environment.

They probably would have.  Feel free to chalk this up to sour grapes, and return to your regularly-scheduled day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For YOU, the Hero of Every Story

Most of you, I don't know at all. As I sit here, sipping coffee and occasionally glancing out the window at the thick, soupy Central Texas dawn, I wonder about you. I wonder who you are, what you look like, and what you do. I wonder what you worry about and who you love. I reflect on your stories, and I speculate on all the ways we're different.

Some of you I've had the pleasure to interact with on the fansite wall; you've left your insightful comments, telling me what books you're reading, what heroes you admire, and which direction your lives are leading you. I hope you don't think I'm not really paying attention. I read what you write; you help me immensely in figuring out what happens next in my own story, as well as the stories of the people in my head.

I imagine most of you do NOT interact with me on the fansite wall because you don't feel that either what I'm saying is of interest to you, or what you would say would be of interest to me. I want to take a moment right now to say that if you fear the latter, your fear is totally without foundation. I am ENDLESSLY interested in what people have to say. It's almost a fascination. Sure, it can be a little selfish, this Personality Voyeurism in which I indulge. I can't make the people in my head sound real unless I catch snippets of Real People conversation -- in other words, I can't properly hear THEM until I hear YOU.

If the issue instead is that what I'm saying is of no interest to you, please let me know. I want this to be a fun ride for all of us. I really am NOT in this go-kart race for my own ego. I'm in this thing because of the nature of CORONA herself, because of her message, which is this: INSIDE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US IS A HERO. I sincerely believe that.

I don't care if you're a stay-at-home mom, a mail carrier, a waitress, a cab driver, a student, or the lady behind the counter at the supermarket deli. If you let me look in your eyes, I promise, I will see the hero inside you. You can't bury him or her that deep. You may have tried to forget that hero is there. You may have tried to do evil things to contradict the hero. It doesn't matter. Your nobility, your essential flawed humanity and desire to be worthy, won't die, no matter how silent it's grown inside you.

Maybe you think I'm full of crap because Everyday Heroes don't make the news. Mothers who rush to comfort their disappointed children, office workers who face termination to point out a bad business practice to their supervisors, the random pedestrian who chases a ditzy lady across a busy street to return her dropped wallet -- that kind of thing just HAPPENS.

Still, if you really think about it, aren't the best books about Everyday Heroes, just like you? Isn't it all about people like you doing things you can't imagine you'd ever have the courage to pull off?

Yes, I'm still watching the dawn and thinking about you, about all the ways we're different, but in one very important way, we're the same: If push came to shove, I believe in our ability to get fed up with being pushed around and step aside to let the inner Hero save the day.

So to all of you Everyday Heroes, I say this: Thank you so much for letting me see your faces and hear your words. If there's anything I can do to get you more involved in telling your story, let me know.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Power of the People

I'd like to take a moment right now to explain myself. I can understand it if some people think I'm a little stir-crazy -- one of those reclusive, half-mad writers, or, worse yet, one who thinks money is the true root of all evil and has no use for it. After all, what writer (or publisher) in their right minds would be willing to practically give away their first novel for only 99¢? After Amazon takes their (gargantuan) cut, we're down to fractions of pennies, people.

Believe me, please, when I say that I have as much interest in money as the next true American girl. The reason I'm willing to do this is that I believe in the power of the people to make a change.

You proved you could do it with the digital music revolution. Napster was a wake-up call to the staid, stale old music industry. It was a shout of independence, an insistent cry rising from the dorm rooms and teen bedrooms that business could no longer be done as it always had. A new business model rose from the piracy, one that included terms like DRM and iTunes, one that changed the landscape of music promotion forever.

Now, we stand at the precipice of a new revolution. Ahead of us lies a future full of digital books -- words streaking through the ether like a precipitous fall of stars. There are those in the large literary agencies and austere publishing giants that want to hush you, lull you back to sleep, and reassure you that print books will never go away. Frankly, I hope they're right. I really do. Print books are the tangible, huggable, lovable story of our minds and hearts across the millennia; they are the icon of learning and speculation; they are the portals to other worlds.

What they also want you to believe, however, is that while print books aren't going anywhere, digital books are a fad that WILL eventually disappear. They want you to believe that you cannot change an industry, you can only wait for the dust to settle and let them make the decisions for you.

Why would you want to carry over a thousand books in the space that traditionally houses one thin paperback? Why would you want to have the freedom to download any title you want on a whim while you wait for the bus?

I'm not here to try to make digital book fans out of you, I promise. My dream as a writer was never dependent on being the writer of e-books. Like all of the other writers I've met, my dream from early childhood was to see my name on the spine of a print book that rested on the shelf of a bookstore.

The thing is this: by the time a book sees the bookstore shelf, the publishers and distributors and bookstore owners have given that book their blessing. It has been decided that this is one of the books that will make it, one of the books you WILL buy. Thousands of other books never see that opportunity.

What I'm trying to prove here with the 99¢ sale of a first novel is that the PEOPLE should decide for themselves what books will make it. I am not dependent on digital books or booksellers for everything, only for my chance. I rely on YOU, my friends, family, and fond new strangers, to give me that chance -- to spend less than $1, read my book, and decide for yourselves if it was worth your time.

My publisher, Canonbridge, LLC, has given me the seed to plant. I am grateful that they bought into my vision, but now I turn to you.

A fantasy world can only be real if you believe. A dream can only come true in the same way.

The world of Jaenrye, peopled by fairies, monsters, heroes, and everyday people from our own world, waits for your decision.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The More Things Change . . .

Today's topic is on the inevitability of change.  I think I read somewhere that, for the most part, people fear change.  They wear a groove in their days, get settled into it, and are happy to mete out happiness in small doses for the rest of their lives.

I don't believe this is unique to our species.  I'm pretty sure if you made a mouse reasonably comfortable in an environment a mouse would not normally favor -- say, a bird's nest -- the mouse would learn to love the place, and, after a number of weeks, would refuse to leave, even if you offered it the Beverly-Hills standard of mouseholes.

So it is with us.  We find ourselves in a predictable, bland, but safe and comfy enough place, and it's hard to be shaken out of it.  We cling to our homes, our friends, and our routines with the tenacity of an eagle with a fish in claw.  Despite our constant griping and complaining about the consequences of the actions of other people, we would balk if faced with a real opportunity at growth or change.

This could be good, actually; it reassures me that on some unconscious level, most people do count their blessings, every day, enumerating the things in their environments they do not think they could live without.

But why, if a chance to grow and prosper is presented, do we run?  Why do we fear the difference?

We're taught from very young that change is a threat.  If you're currently employed, think about the risk of giving up your steady, aggravating, but routine job for the chance to do what you dream for a living.  There is no guarantee of success.  There is only the act of walking away from your steady paycheck and plunging all of your newly acquired free time into your passion.

Would you do it?  Would you trade your known lifestyle for the unknown?

Most of us would say no.  How do I know?  Because every one of us makes that decision every morning.  Very few of us have the luxury of doing what we love for a living, right this moment, but we fear taking the step out of the airplane and plunging to ground without at least a parachute.  I know I do.

But, if you really think about it, change is constant.  The life you considered comfortable and adequate three years ago is gone now.  Maybe it's a baby that came into a long-established relationship.  Maybe it's the news that a loved one was lost overseas in a foreign war.  Maybe it was the loss of a job, an unexpected move, or a sudden discovery of wealth or prosperity that hadn't existed before.

My point is this: When change is forced on us, we adapt.  We can do that; humans are very flexible, adaptable creatures.  When that happens, those around you offer to pitch in, help out, and cushion the blow, all the while praising your courage in the face of adversity.  Sometimes, those changes work out for the best.  If nothing else, it can serve to make us stronger and more aware of our weaknesses.

But Heaven help the poor soul who decides to initiate the change in their lives.  People cluck their tongues and scratch their heads, almost eager for the negative outcome so they can crow, "Well, you brought it on yourself.  You have no one to blame but yourself.  Why would you mess up the great life you had?"

Even though I'm one of the Chicken Littles, paranoid over the perception of a falling sky, I have to say this: I know why, now.  I understand why it's sometimes necessary to mess up a great life in search of a greater one.  It's those of us who seek greener pastures that find them, after all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heading Into Battle

Things are rounding the corner in CANTICLE.  It's getting a little . . .scary over there.

For the past several months, I've been building the framework for this, as well as flexing my newfound muscles in regards to writing action scenes.  Going into the writing of CANTICLE, I was an abysmal failure at writing action scenes.  I did the best I could for the sake of CORONA, which, fortunately, did not rely overmuch on them.  CORONA was more a story about the hero that thrives in each modern-day person of our own world, and the voyage of discovery required to bring that person fully into their own potential.  CANTICLE, however, is about the reckoning of a woman from a completely different world, and the need to write convincing action scenes to better bring to life those other-world creatures became overwhelming.

The first half of the book is written, and the action scenes contained there are relatively convincing, all things considered.  Now, however, I'm girding my characters for the real meat of the novel, the life-or-death proving grounds, the serious battles.

To say this part scares me is a bit like saying volcanoes can cause minor damage to nearby communities.

I'm almost out of build-up.  I have to just take a deep breath, close my eyes, and like the seers in CANTICLE, I have to let go of my own fears and background noise and just describe what I'm seeing.  I have to remember to take my time and not rush what's happening.

So . . .wish me luck..  I'm going in.

Striking Out On My Own

Well, this is weird.

For those people who know me really, really well, you know that I prefer the interactive blog experience that the Daily WTF? Series on WEbook represented for me. The experience really opened up my blogging, to the point that I abandoned all other attempts and became heart-and-soul dedicated to that project series.

As it turns out, I find myself in need of the ability to extricate myself from my online gang.

This is a bittersweet thing to me. I mean, I like the thought that people will seek out my opinion and mine alone, but . . .I love my gang, and I'll miss their insightful, affectionate, and imaginative comments.

At any rate, I will simply have to rededicate myself to blogging in this format. I can do it. I can be a grown-up and stand on my own. I only hope everyone at the Daily WTF? knows that no matter how far afield I wander, I will always love the interactive blog.