Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
I hope I stay within budget
My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
|For some, research is the definition of tedium. I am one of them, which is why I like to write science fiction and fantasy. While rules of physics, biology and human nature must be followed - to a point - at least I don't have to know what the weather was like on January 3rd 1872 in Portland Oregon, and whether or not the moon was full that day. I also don't have to know where the local grocery store is, because when I'm building my world, I can put that grocery store wherever I darn well please, thank you very much.
My junior year of high school, everyone had to take an asset test to see where their academic strengths and weaknesses were, so the students and guidance counselors could determine more easily where they should take their next educational steps, if any. My worst score (if I remember right) was history at 83. No surprise there. I didn't care for history in school. I couldn't appreciate it as much as I do now, because being so young, I didn't see how history greatly affects our present and future.
My best score at 99 was research. Looking up where to find things, regardless of subject was easy for me. So you can imagine how much I like the Internet . . .
Even my chosen profession of land surveying requires a slew of research, whether it be finding property owners, easements, or plats. Every new job we get requires all that research. I'm good at it (and relearning almost every day how important thorough research is).
You'd think that because I'm good at research, and at least as far as my job is concerned, I'd enjoy it. And I do. Sometimes finding the one document I need is like finding buried treasure. Finding a property corner in the middle of a forest set over a hundred years ago is even more so. When it comes to writing, however, I prefer to not have to research at all. That's because I'd rather spend that time writing.
Another not-surprise is that I'm a pantser writer. I've tried the outlining, character detailing, etc., and I simply don't have the patience for it. I appreciate the writers who take that route, because they don't have to worry about going back and fixing stupid mistakes such as describing the character one way in one scene, and change them completely in another. I think the time they spend researching, building and characterizing saves them a lot of editing in the end.
I think they also excel at finding the right agent and publisher for their works. They know the importance of thorough research (especially those who write historical fiction), so searching for someone to accept their work has to come easier than an impatient pantser like myself.
But it must be done, so I have to put on my research hat and look for agents. I found a few so far that look promising. I won't know until I research a little bit more (such as whether or not they have social media such as a blog or Twitter), and in the end eliminate them as a possibility, or swallow my fear and pride and submit my proposal.
|For the longest time I didn't like me. I am silly and weird, and too often too smart for my own good. Growing up people teased me, sometimes mercilessly. I soon believed that being silly and weird were wrong, and in order to be loved and accepted, I needed to be different. I needed to be "normal."
Whatever that is.
Only after I reached my 20s did I realize how much energy it took to be something I wasn't. It left me mentally and spiritually exhausted. Not only that, but people didn't accept me as much as I hoped they would.
Where did I go wrong? How can I be loved and accepted, and be the person God meant me to be?
So I went on a little journey, and I began to talk to the little girl inside me. The one untouched by pain, the one who believed in herself and everything around her. A little girl filled with an immeasurable hope and certainty that nothing could ever go wrong.
It didn't take long for me to realize that's the person God wanted me to be - in all her glorious silliness and weirdness. In all her hopefulness and innocence. Unscarred by time.
Now in the last half of my 40s, I've not only decided to embrace my weirdness and silliness, but the joy that comes from not acting like an adult all the time. It's okay to be childlike. To run around giggling. To make funny faces at people.
After all, if children know anything, they know how to embrace joy, and to express it with no regard over how it may look to others around them. They look at the world around them, not with boredom or cynicism, but with wonder and awe.
That's what my mini-me reminds me to do when I'm feeling not so good about myself, and the pressure of too many expectations I simply can't meet overwhelms me. It's okay to be sillly. It's okay to be weird. After all, if everyone was "normal," how boring life would be.
Converse with and embrace your own inner child, in all his or her glorious silliness and weirdness. Those conversations may also help lead you to the person God meant you to be.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:1-5 NIV)
|In a writing group on Facebook, we discussed diversity within fiction, and as usual, some comments took a tangent. One person wrote (in part): "I think part of the problem is that some authors live in isolated race bubbles. I don't live there. My world is diverse . . . I spent a summer in North Dakota one year and found it kinda creepy. Where were all the non-Norwegians? I didn't see any non-whites for weeks. Creepy."
I responded thusly: "As a North Dakotan, I agree the racial makeup is largely German/Norwegian. And for someone who grew up around more diversity, I can see how it would seem strange at first. Creepy, though? It almost sounds as though it's intentional, as though anyone else isn't welcome, when it's far from true. In fact, it's changing, however slowly. We have a growing Mexican, Nigerian, Liberian and Indian population. My church alone is testament of that. We have members of all the above listed members, and even host an all-Spanish speaking church two nights a week. Truth is, few people can handle our winters, and that's what keeps them away. Germans and Norwegians originally settled here, and stayed."
After some thought, I realized my comment was a bit too "knee-jerk." After the beating North Dakotans took during the DAPL protests both in the national media and especially social media, I am over-sensitive when people say unflattering things about them. I take it personally.
But his comment spoke to a typical reaction, not of North Dakotans, per se, but how different cultures can make us uncomfortable at times. Someone, like the commenter above, who grew up around a more ethnically diverse area, suddenly surrounded by only German/Norwegians, could very well be a bit "creeped out."
When I first moved up to North Dakota, we attended Community Days in a small town. It's basically a big block party where the entire town participates during the American Independence Day holiday. Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, I, too, was surrounded by and grew up with people of other ethnic backgrounds.
During that Community Days event, I looked around, laughed and told my husband, "This here is a Rainbow Coalition nightmare."
Was I creeped out? No, because I knew even then that cultures vary often by state as well as region. In the end, we're all -- not only Americans -- but human. Regardless of color or background, we all want many of the same things, to be treated with consideration, empathy and respect. We have to let go of our discomfort in new surroundings, and really look at and attempt to find common ground with those who appear so different.
That opens the door to new understandings and possibly new friendships. If not, and those people look at us with closed-mindedness or treat us with outright hostility, we then, as Jesus said, "shake the dust off our feet and move on."
All I ever ask of myself and others is to give people a chance, regardless of their ethnicity, culture or location. Perhaps then we'll discover that people - North Dakotans and otherwise - aren't so creepy after all.
|Attempt number two in seeing my short story published.
This time I will have to wait three whole months before I hear anything back.
Interestingly, that'll be around my birthday. Will I end up with a surprise birthday present, or perhaps a reason to quit celebrating my birthday should I receive bad news?
I wish I could say more about this, but, really, what else is there?
Should I apologize for writing such a short entry, or congratulate myself for succeeding in not wasting your precious time?
Either way, I hope you have a fabulous weekend.
Word of advice, though. Go outside! Play! Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices! Avoid politics at all costs!
Your brain will thank you for keeping it sane.
|Jealousy. I wish you'd stop visiting unannounced. You saunter in, without even a knock on the door. You make yourself comfortable by sitting next to me on my couch, far too close. I can smell your rancid breath as you whisper your nasty thoughts into my ears.
The worst part is, I can't place all the blame on you. I don't kick you out the moment you walk through the door. I don't move away when you sit next to me. I don't cover your mouth, or cover my ears when you speak.
I listen, as much as I tell myself that I shouldn't.
And your timing is always impeccable.
You only show up when I read about other people's successes while I continue to flounder. No. It's worse than that. I only dream of success, and don't work enough to make it happen. Those people who succeed faster than me? They probably worked harder, and smarter than me. Therefore, do I really have the cause to complain? To moan and wallow in my frustration?
Or it could be God said, “It's time” to them, when he's asking me to wait a little longer. Do the reasons really matter? They shouldn't, because God's timing has never failed me, not once.
So I have decided, at least for this moment, to give jealousy the boot out the door. It's not welcome in my home. I must instead use that energy to actually work toward my goals. How's that for a novel idea?
As long as I continue to do that, success will come. Sure I may fail a few times along the way, but that comes with living life. We all fail more than we succeed. The singular difference between a failure and a success is the successful person never gives up no matter how many times he or she has failed to reach their goal.
I'm not so special that I deserve to never fail. Some will wait even longer than me.
And that's life.
Allowing jealousy to whisper in my ear won't change anything, except make me miserable and waste even more time.
|One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:
Thank you for submitting "Ashella's Heart" to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don't feel it's a good fit for us and we're going to have to pass on it at this time.
Thanks again. Best of luck with this.
I'm a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it's a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I've read so far have been science fiction. I don't want to waste time submitting to a magazine that'll reject it out of hand because I didn't get the genre right.
EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, "Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?"
I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*
|That's the average response time to short stories submitted to a magazine that publishes fantasy, science fiction and horror. I've read three issues so far, and think my short story that won 2nd place in last year's Writers Digest competition would make a good fit.\
In approximately 22 days.
The worst part about the whole process of submitting articles and short stories is hitting that awful "submit" button (or dropping that proposal or query letter into the mailbox). Once I do, there's no turning back. No more chances to edit out any mistakes, make any other changes to the plot, grammar, setting, characters . . . nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It's like sending a child away to school, or discovering it's time he left the house to create a life of his own. My story is now out of my hands, out of my control. It's my heart and my mind on display, and I can't help but think, "Now I get to find out if the editors of this magazine thinks the story is good, or if it's crap."
Not submitting it is always easy, because in my dreams, my stories always find a place. They receive nothing but accolades.
But it's not real, and reality can suck sometimes. I'm like most writers in that I often prefer my fantasies. In my fantasy worlds, I am in control. Submitting stories and articles for others to judge is purposefully relinquishing that control, and my opinions and biases are shown to either be spot on, or completely spot off.
It's a terrifying thing to step out of my made-up world and take a chance that in reality, everything I created is nothing like I believed and hoped it was.
That said, in case my story is rejected by this magazine, it doesn't make my story crap. It simply means they didn't find it a good fit for them. There are other magazines out there, and in fact, I have another in mind (I went back and forth for a few days trying to decide which to try first. It boiled down to response time. The one I submitted to is a bit quicker). Like many others, neither magazine takes simultaneous submissions, so I have to submit it one at a time.
Time will tell.
I'll keep you apprised.
|Regardless of what people think about Bill Cosby now, many of his routines back in the day were comedic gold.
I watched his routine on parenting a while back. At one point he said (paraphrased), “Children are brain damaged. They do the stupidest things, and can never tell you why.” For example, his son gave himself a reverse Mohawk with clippers. When Bill asked him why, his son said, “I don’t know!”
Yesterday, I purchased two tubes of toothpaste for my husband, and placed them on the sink so he would find them.
Later my son took his shower. Afterwards, he said, “I accidentally put holes in the toothpaste, but we can fix it with tape.”
Apparently, he decided to destroy the boxes the toothpaste came in by stabbing at them with a pen. As such, he not only destroyed the boxes, but poked five holes into one of them.
“What made you think that was a good idea?” I asked him.
“I don’t know!”
Yep, my child is like every other child past, present and future. He’s brain damaged.
|I love watching my son grow up. What parent doesn't, right? The best part for me is how he develops, especially when it comes to language. When he was still a toddler, I was astounded at how quickly he picked up concepts, and how they all tied to language. For instance, I showed him an apple, and said "This is an apple." He understood right away what I meant. He also didn't get confused when I taught him colors. I pointed to a red apple to show him "red," and he easily grasped the difference between "red" and "apple." I understood then that language is built into our brains and develops naturally as we grow up.
Language keeps us connected to each other, and helps us learn about the world. Without language, we couldn't build anything (consider the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9). Imagine trying to build a house with others without the ability to communicate what needs to be done.
Even math and music are considered languages, and while some believe they can do without math, most everyone needs music.
Mess with language, and we mess with the free exchange of ideas. People no longer understand their world or each other, and we no longer grow as a species.
George Orwell understood this better than most, I think. He expressed his concerns in an essay titled "Politics and the English Language." http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit
He dug deeper into and expressed it more in his book, "1984," most specifically with the language he labeled as "Newspeak."
According to http://www.orwelltoday.com/newspeak.shtml: "The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought."
To expand the idea (on the same webpage):
"Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in The Times were written in it, but could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech."
I ran into this article earlier today:
Which in turn led me to University of Washington / Tacoma's University Writing Program and their Writing Center:
Under "Our Beliefs" of their "Statement on Antiracist and Social Justice Work in the Writing Center" it states:
"The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society. For example, linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent “standard” of English. Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English."
I'm sure you can see the correlation between Newspeak and what the writing center is espousing.
What led me on this journey (thanks to Voxxylady ) is this article:
According to the article, some publishers are hiring so-called sensitivity readers "who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as 'dealing with terminal illness,' 'racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families' or 'transgender issues.'"
These statements are of special concern:
"Sensitivity readers have emerged in a climate - fueled in part by social media - in which writers are under increased scrutiny for their portrayals of people from marginalized groups, especially when the author is not a part of that group."
"It feels like I'm supplying the seeds and the gems and the jewels from our culture, and it creates cultural thievery," Clayton [a sensitivity reader] said. "Why am I going to give you all of those little things that make my culture so interesting so you can go and use it and you don't understand it?"
Also known as "cultural appropriation."
As an aside, for me personally, I don't care who writes about my culture, as long as they do so accurately. Not every person in a particular culture wants to write about their culture, so why limit themselves, and in the end possibly dooming their culture's future to oblivion because no one dared, or was allowed to, write about it?
As another aside, the article included this:
"Despite the efforts of groups like We Need Diverse Books, 'it's more likely that a publishing house will publish a book about an African-American girl by a white woman versus one written by a black woman like me,' Clayton says."
I'm calling bulls*** on that. During my own search of agents, I had to cross out quite a few because they are actively seeking so-called marginalized writers such as Ms. Clayton. For which I am not a member.
Most agents care only about the story and the quality of writing. They don't give a rat's ass about the writer's race, gender, etc.
Even those seeking minorities still need a salable story, so although a person's minority status may get them to the front of the line, he/she still has to deliver. Seems to me, Ms. Clayton is holding herself back, and using her race and gender as an excuse not to try, let alone succeed. Too harsh? Offensive even? Good.
Now back to the original subject.
All of this is political correctness not only run amok, but an attempt to control thought. When you control how language is used - eliminating certain words, or changing the definition of words in order to change peoples' perception - you can control how a person thinks. When you control how someone thinks, that person loses their freedom to think otherwise. They can no longer think critically, because, in a sense, their words are chosen for them. The number of words - and ideas - they can use are curtailed if not outright eliminated.
If I offend you, or if you offend me, all the better. To quote (where it originated I don't know): "The solution to offensive free speech is more free speech, not less."
Writers especially need to protect all words and language - our tools of trade. We can't allow any type of censorship, because once it grabs hold, we may lose everything.
Truth is most often found in offensive speech, because it forces us to think and respond. Human beings are experts at lying to ourselves, and lying to each other. By attempting to control words and speech, the truth gets lost and liars rule at the expense of everyone else.
|One of my favorite shows is called “Brain Games.” Each half-hour episode shows volunteers and the viewers audio and visual games that show how our brain interprets sensory input. In short, the brain doesn't merely hear, taste, smell, or see anything as it is, but tries instead to interpret what it senses. Even then, it's not a true representation of the real world.
Let's take a look at the ear. Sound waves flow into the ear canal which causes little bones to vibrate inside. The brain then interprets the bones' vibrations as specific sounds. Even then, we're not hearing the sound itself, but the ear's response to the sounds. The brain also tries to attach meaning to those sounds. Where it's coming from, and what's causing it. For instance, that roar we hear isn't simply a roar. It could be a lion, a fierce wind, or an airplane flying overhead. If it doesn't sound immediately familiar, we will continue to listen until we can say, “Oh! I know what that is. That's a train going by.” We're not like a tape recorder that doesn't care what the sound is. It simply records it. Humans, on the other hand, try to give every sensory input some kind of context.
We went traveling one day and I saw a big orange blob in the middle of a cultivated field. My first thought was school bus, because the color was similar. But then I thought, “Why would there be a school bus in the middle of the field?” I stared at that thing for as long as I could, but I never did figure out what it really was.
How often do we look at clouds and find shapes and faces in them? Because the brain wants everything to be familiar, to look like something it's seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or felt before. It's a survival mechanism, so that way it can quickly determine if it's harmful or beneficial.
And because it tries to give everything context instead of accepting that there may be no context, or the context is beyond our current experience - like the orange blob in the middle of the field - it sometimes lies to us. My brain grabbed the first object from my experience that matched closest to what it saw - a school bus - so that's what I thought I saw at first. And yet, it probably wasn't a school bus. My brain lied to me.
Some other examples are optical illusions and magic tricks.
Here's a video (excerpt from “Brain Games”) to further prove my point:
Note: You can watch the first four seasons on Netflix.