Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Because He Goes First Don't Mean You Can Trust Him

"I don't think I deserved to get shot."

I really didn't think that was something I'd ever find myself thinking.  In fact, I believed until quite recently that I'd constructed such a mild-mannered, family-friendly existence for myself that such an occurrence was virtually impossible.

Well, let me tell you friends and neighbors...it ain't.  I have done been shot.

By my man.

Because I asked him to.

Allow me to elucidate.  On a few, rather unsettling occasions I caught the husband sending little BB's chasing after the odd, stray dog.  I'd admonish him and without fail he would respond, "Baby, I used to shoot my brothers all the time and it never hurt them.  Heck, I shot Carl almost in the eye and it didn't even break the skin."

This was intended to be a ringing endorsement of the general harmlessness of BB guns?  I reckon so.  But on this chilly midmorning there was to be a demonstration.  "C'mon," he said.  A merry grin played on his big, handsome face.  "I'll let you shoot me.  You'll see."  Then he placed the Red Ryder (Oh yeah, we've got one of those) confidently in my hands and began trucking down the path to the gate at the end of the garden.

He turned his back confidently and hollered, "Let 'er rip...right in the asscheek."  He slapped the haunch in case I was unsure.

I was totally unsure.

"You sure about this?" I called down the path.

"C'mon girl."  He was laughing.  I admit now I felt a little thrill of anticipation.  What would happen when projectile met posterior?

I raised the little rifle to my shoulder and peered down the sights.  I do love that ass of his and did sincerely hope I would do it no lasting harm.  I exhaled and took my shot.

I saw the cloth of his nylon sport shorts move as the BB hit directly in the center of his right buttock, exactly where I had aimed.  Other than that, there wasn't a bit of motion from the big fella in front of the gate.  He turned, smiling oh-so smugly.  "See there," he said, syrup in every word.  "Didn't hurt a bit, did it?  Didn't even really feel it."

Well I couldn't believe it.

I mean, I really couldn't believe it.  I was utterly incredulous, so I uttered the words that will ring in my head every time I think to myself that if the man already tried it, then it must be okay..."All right, now shoot me so I can be sure."

So confidently I strode down the garden path.  So carefree was I in handing him the gun as we passed one another.  He even tipped me a little wink as if to say, "See, I told you so."  I positioned myself as he had done in front of the gate at the end of the garden.  Distantly, it seemed I heard him call, "Put your hands on your head.  Don't wanna hit one of your hands."

I braced myself, ready for a thump even for a bit of a sting.

Let me go ahead and stop the narrative here to note the difference in wardrobe choices made by the man and me that day.  The nylon sport shorts aforementioned? Well they're three layers thick, made for absorbing lots of sweat and offering discretion for active males.

I, on the other hand, was clad in whisper thin, combed-cotton pajamas and no underthings.  I mention this bit of information not to titillate...oh, no...but to accurately convey exactly what lay between my sweet, round ass and a steel projectile travelling at roughly 220 miles per hour.

"Holy Shit! Oh my God, What the hell was that? OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW!" I hopped up and down clutching my bottom which had certainly caught fire.  Big, tears of hurt and shame started welling up in my eyes against my will and my bottom lip started trembling like a little girl.

"You shot me!"  I knew exactly how ridiculous that sounded.  That had, after all, been the game plan.  But he'd just stood there when it happened to him.  It felt like he really, REALLY shot me.

I will say to his credit, the man looked horribly contrite and just as shocked as hell that my experience hadn't mirrored his own.  He hurried after me into the house where an immediate examination was made of my bottom. 

Upon the smooth flesh, there now was a rapidly deepening purple/black bruise with a knot in the middle of it hard enough to make me think the BB was actually lodged in there.  Had there been one drop of blood, I'd have been certain of it.  Oh, the man was horrified at what he'd done.  I was just terribly embarrassed, and oh so very hurt.  But he couldn't be satisfied to let me suffer it alone.  He gallantly dragged out the First-Aid kit and made a meal out of slathering the wound first with disinfectant, then with a generous portion of Neosporin (with pain relief) and a ridiculously large Band-Aid. 

He was so proud of the job he'd done, he couldn't help himself from doing what he normally did when he was particularly happy about something.

He slapped me square on the ass.

The hurt part.

After I got done with that spate of hollering and hopping about and both of us were well and truly worn out from the whole thing, I got him to promise me, though half-hearedly, he'd find some other way of discouraging strays.

Honestly, couldn't have we come to this conclusion without me getting shot?  Another question I really thought I'd never need ask.  But I'll try not to complain.  After all, without foolish things like this happening to me every day I'd have absolutely nothing to write about.

And that, gentle reader, is the name of the game.

Happy Hunting.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Read any good books lately?

I had a lively debate with another writer a few days ago.  It all started with a recounting of two widely respected and beloved authors ridiculing the work of another bestselling but (newer, younger...what's the word) author's take on the same subject.

It's not important to go into any of the specifics of who the parties were or what the subject matter was because the argument transcends the topic.  The gist of the argument was that the new author's work was not a valid expression because it was "bad writing".

Well, who are either of those authors to decide what's good writing and what isn't?  Who am I or the other author with whom I was arguing.  Before you hit me with the obvious...yeah, I know there's a line.  The reality star who got a multibook deal...I read her stuff and it's so godawfully bad that I kept reading it because I couldn't comprehend something so awful, with such glaring errors in style and grammar, with no redeeming qualities of plot or character could actually  make it out of this girl's hot pink laptop and onto the shelf at Wal-Mart.

But the obvious clowns aside, who is to say what is a "bad" book and what is a "good" book.  Sales certainly tell us what the readers think.  I think a million copies flying off the shelves is a pretty good indicator that the material is being enjoyed by more than a fringe niche.  And a volume that actually makes it out of a publishing house and into a real-live bookstore only to wind up with three, manky bargain stickers on its poor, battered cover six months down the line must tell us, at least in part, that the public is not interested in the story being told.

Of course sales figures alone cannot claim to separate the stories that ought to be read and those that should never have made it past the slush pile.  Good writing must have characters about whom the reader cares, a plot in which the reader finds themselves invested, conflict that keeps the reader turning pages and a climax that makes the reader really sorry that they've reached the end.

Thing is...there's a whole bunch of stories out there and a whole bunch of different readers. 

My whole family (three generations of 'em) are all voracious readers, and we've a lot of the same titles in our collections which argues the point that there is a firm standard of good writing.

But...

There's also a whole bunch of books on my shelf that my daughter wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, same thing with me and her shelf.  My husband wouldn't be caught dead with half the stuff either one of us reads and my mother (with whom my reading tastes are most compatible) even had a singular taste in her own well-worn favorites.

My point with my friend was that there is an audience out there for pretty much any book.  She wasn't crazy about that idea, but I think it's great.  It's great for the writers and it's great for the readers.  It's unfair for all readers to be expected to only embrace the classics, to only be given the choice of one mythology for their favorite fantasies.  It's a much more pleasing thing to get out there to the library or the bookstore (or...*deep sigh*...browsing the Kindle or iTunes e-book selections) and find an author whose voice seems to be tailor-made for that reader's taste.  It's a little like falling in love, often with much longer lasting relationships and lots less disappointment.

As for the writers, perhaps my attitude is colored by my quest to get published, hoping...feeling certain...that there is an agent, a publisher, and yes...an audience for my books.  I'd be an egomaniacal fool if I believed for a second that my work will be universally loved and revered by everyone who reads it.  But I think it's perfectly reasonable to believe that with continued work, optimism, and determination I will find the perfect fit that will enable me to get my stories into readers hands, readers who will enjoy them and be left wanting more. 

Not every novel is a candidate for the National Book Award, and that's okay.  Just because a work isn't traditional, conventional or even (god help me) perfectly well written doesn't mean it isn't a good book.  It doesn't mean the story is without merit or that it isn't enjoyable.

At the end, this is a debate with no end in sight.  I feel pretty confident throwing that out there, because I had nearly the exact same debate about twenty five years ago when the older, highly revered author my friend was defending so vigorously was a fairly new commodity.  He was ridiculed when he was new, and even after his work caught on and every book he wrote sold a grillion copies, critics still found fault with him.  I offered the same argument then:

There is an audience for just about every author, and that is a good thing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Janet Reid's Amazing Story Contest

I entered another one of Janet Reid (Literary Agent and Query Critic par-excellence). 

It's the second such foray I've made into the world of competitive writing.  It's a wonderful excercise in discipline--the submissions are limited to 100 words or fewer and each has had a list of words the entrant is required to use in their story. 

Waiting to see if I've won is a cheap thrill, and I get practice at handling rejection where the stakes are much lower than when I'm waiting to hear back from my queries.

I'm on the lookout for more of these opportunities.  They are so helpful on a personal and professional level and any other writers reading this (Hellooooo *echos*) would be well served to join in.

Here's my second entry.  The contest can be found at http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/



“C’mon, baby…what is this amazing thing?  Just gimmee a hint.” 
Tara laughed, the fringe around her d├ęcolletage shimmying.  Pauly was instantly transfixed. 
She raised an eyebrow.  “What, did we start the countdown to your birthday already?”
“Nah, I just wanna know.”  He pulled Tara closer, biting her earlobe.  “You get me that Wee Willie Smith jersey?”
“Will Smith?”
“Nah you wackadoo, the old New York Rens guy.”  Pauly stared into her eyes.  They twinkled like Argo on a cloudless night.  “Okay here’s something amazing.  How ‘bout you truck on downstairs and make me a sandwich if you’re gonna tease me.”

*Follow Up:
The results are in and...I didn't make the cut this time either *sigh*

BUT

I got noticed for my guess as to what the Amazing thing we'd want to see would be...and got a picture of The Rental Cat that I'd asked for, so that in itself was a minor thrill.

So, back to the grindstone.....

Again?

Starting over...what the hell?  Had a nice, little thing going with my little not-blog over at the place with the thing.  For anyone who's interested (Filip, I'm talking to you) it's still out there like everything ever put out on the internet and you can view it here ( http://ksmithcats.blogspot.com/ )  Everything's fine and dandy, then all of a sudden...BABOOM...it doesn't work anymore.  All the other crap works...but

Ah, who gives a shit?  I've got one follower and he probably doesn't give any more of a shit than the other 7 billion people who don't follow.  And what the hell are they following anyway?

I gotta figure out how to use this thing more effectively.  That's my homework for the day.  Prowl around this blogger deal and look at the people in my line of work who use their blogs as more than a public diary or a load of word-vomit.

'Til then...