Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some Open Letters

I didn’t originally intend this post to be an homage to Allie Brosh, but I realized after writing it in my head that I couldn’t possibly not mention her.  She was writing posts like this one long before I started blogging.

Anyway, here are my letters:

Dear Other Dog Owners,

My dog is not always friendly towards other dogs.  Don’t get me wrong; he loves people.  If he met you on the street (sans dog), he would think you were his new best friend.  He’d probably sit on your foot and gaze up at you adoringly, hoping you’d start petting him and never stop.  But if he sees another dog, he can get aggressive or territorial.  This is why I always walk him on a leash.  And I have a corrective collar attachment that helps me keep him under control (squirrels and cats are also in danger, after all).  I also turn and walk away if I see another dog being walked nearby.  But all this means nothing if your dog is free to come over and get murdered.*  Please, please, PLEASE put your dog on a leash when you walk him or her.

“But he’s a good boy.  He never leaves my side!” you might say.

But what if he does?

“Oh, she always comes when I call her.”

But what if she doesn’t?

Listen, it’s obviously a tremendous burden to take two extra seconds to put a leash on your dog, but breaking up a fight is worse, right?  Just think on it, okay?  One menial task could save all of us a lot of grief.

Love,
Bex

Dear (Probably Drunk) People Who (I Guess) Have Made a Hobby of Breaking Glass Bottles on the Sidewalk,

I wear shoes.

My dog doesn’t.

Dog in shoes

You guys are assholes.

Love,
Bex

Dear Lady Who Left Her One-and-a-Half-Year-Old Son in His Stroller OUTSIDE the Teavana While You Went in to Order a Drink,

I have a short list of words here for you, and they’re all related in some way.  Let’s see if you can guess what that relation is:

1. Pedophiles

2. Kidnappers

3. Child Molesters

4. Pedophiles who kidnap children so they can molest them*

5. Crowded malls with women who are conveniently not near their children or paying attention in any way

Can you guess what all these things have in common?  That’s right: You’re an idiot!

Love,
Bex

That’s all.  Just a few things I needed to get off my chest.

Word of the Day: Menial (adj) – Lowly and sometimes degrading.

Writer's-Block-Strip-38

*Dear All the People Who Need to See this Disclaimer,

I am not trying to make light of pedophilia, kidnapping, or child molestation.  Quite the opposite, I fear for any child who is left unattended in a crowded area.  That is what prompted the above “letter.”  

I would also like it known that it is not my intention to insult any of my readers.  If you are a person who does not use a leash when walking your dog, then that is your decision.  My “letter” was meant to be a cautionary one, written with the use of humor because that is how I write most everything.  It was not a personal attack.  I don’t even know you.

And finally: My dog would not murder your dog.  He has, in fact, met dogs he’s been perfectly friendly with.  He is not feral.  He might bite, snap, growl, or something like that just to show dominance or to get the other dog to get away from “his” territory.  I have yet to convince him that the neighborhood does not belong to him.  He is a very sweet boy, so I would not want you to think ill of him.

Love,
Bex

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A Note about “Trashy” Novels

Yeah, I know I said I was going to do another post about all the books that are meaningful to me, but that’s not going to happen.  Let’s face it, I’ve got a “Books I Recommend” page that includes all the books that I found most meaningful, and it would be too difficult to decide on only a few to talk about.

So, on to a topic that I’ve explored before.

50 Shades of Grey
I was talking with a fellow server at IHOP when she asked me if I watched the Vampire Diaries TV show.  I told her I did not since I am a big fan of the books (Or I was; I kind of grew bored of the series after a while) and the show basically did the same thing as the Ella Enchanted and Percy Jackson movies and True Blood – they kept the names the same and based the plot on the blurb on the back cover.  I mean…Vampire Diaries didn’t even keep all the names the same.  They changed Aunt Judith to Aunt Jenna and turned Elena’s four-year-old sister into a teenage brother with a drug problem.  So…yeah.
Anyway, when she found out I was a book person, my fellow server asked me if I had read 50 Shades of Grey.  I told her I’d tried to (and I blogged about my experience with it not once, but twice).  She then expressed genuine surprise at the fact that I was not captivated by the yarn that E. L. James spun.  I began to cite my reasons – namely the lack of pacing, the fact that it’s just fan fiction, the overuse of the “inner goddess” and “subconscious,” and, of course, the fact that she was using the concept of the “subconscious” incorrectly.  My colleague rebutted with “Yeah, but who cares?” and “No, haven’t you ever looked at a guy and thought, ‘Oh, he has a great ass,’ or something like that?”  I couldn’t make her understand that “subconscious” does not mean “things that are thought in private without being spoken out loud.”  And all this leads me to a few things that I’d like to point out.  Because that conversation made me angry.  Really angry.
Bex Smash
But I fear that some might misinterpret the direction of my righteous fury, so I wanted to set a few things straight.
1. I have no right (nor does anyone) to tell people what they can and can’t enjoy reading.  I myself enjoyed reading the first Twilight book, before I delved too deeply below the surface.  If people like Twilight and 50 Shades, I can’t stop them.  That’s not my place, and I couldn’t if I wanted to.  What I do hate, and I’ve said this before I think, is fanaticism.  When you throw yourself so wholly into something that you won’t even listen to an opposing opinion – or worse, opposing opinions make you angry – that’s when we have a problem.  For example, I have a lot of Taylor Swift’s music.  I think it’s catchy.  Yet I still loved the post my best friend wrote about her, and if Taylor Swift were on trial for murder, I would not volunteer to act as a witness in her defense.  I don’t know the girl.  I accept that I like her music without showing loyalty to her as a person.  If someone else doesn’t like her music, I don’t punch them.
2. I have no problem with people reading any novels that fall under the following categories: Romance, Beach Read, Chick Lit, Trashy, Girl Porn, etc.  I myself write books that Barnes & Noble would call “Teen Paranormal Romance.”  And I have read a dozen books by Romance author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, whose male protagonist in one of the books undresses himself twice before having sex.  A different male protagonist – a native Spanish speaker – in one of the other books in the series spoke incorrect Spanish.  “Lo qué son?” he asked, which means roughly “What are they it?”  (It should have been “¿Qué son?”)  The point I’m trying to make here is that you can read and enjoy whatever books you want, and they don’t all have to be Pullitzer-worthy.  What I really want is for people to be able to distinguish between these books and original works of literary genius.  Can there be a romance novel that is a well-written work with depth?  Absolutely!  Are all books created equal?  Nope.  Call me a book racist, but I believe many books are better than others, and I would like other people to acknowledge that, too.
3. Am I a hypocrite?  Earlier I talked about how I dislike fanaticism, blind adoration, and the like.  But I fanatically hate 50 Shades right?  I wrote a ridiculously subjective list of objective reasons why Twilight is bad.  So doesn’t that mean I’m a fanatic?  Maybe.  But let me tell you something:  If you came up to me and said “I enjoyed reading Twilight because…” and inserted a reason or two, I’d listen to you.  I might debate with you.  I like debating.  That doesn’t mean I’ll hate you for your reasons, or think your reasons are invalid.  And, yes, that only makes me slightly better than the fanatics I have decried here today, but it’s something.
4. Most importantly, if people want to read about BDSM then I want them to read it from a book that isn’t going to give them the wrong impression about it.  When I called Christian Grey abusive, my coworker said “NO!  He’s dominant and she’s submissive!  That’s how it works!”  And that’s when I nearly Hulked out.  Because no, that’s not how it works.  When people think of abusive relationships, I think they often miss the fact that abuse doesn’t have to be physical.  Let me run you through a little scenario to explain what I mean.  Keep in mind both Edward Cullen and Christian Grey here, okay?  They’re the same person anyway.
Say you have a daughter.  If you already have a daughter, you are a step ahead.  Congrats.  Say your daughter is sixteen and she comes home one day to tell you that she has a new boyfriend.  You learn quickly that your daughter’s boyfriend…
– Snuck into her room to watch her sleep for months before they started dating.
– Displayed a great deal of jealousy and anger toward all your daughter’s other male friends.
– Made decisions for your daughter, sometimes going as far as breaking her car in order to stop her from seeing a male friend AND/OR deciding he doesn’t like the car she’s driving, so buys her a new one and makes her drive that one instead.
– And finally, last but not least, he told your daughter that he is very, very tempted to kill her.
What would you say to your daughter at that point?  Would you tell her she should love him more for resisting that urge to kill her?  That his not murdering her so far is a point in his favor?  Or would you tell her she couldn’t see this boy anymore?
Okay.  That’s what’s wrong with the relationship in 50 Shades (and Twilight).  Setting aside the fact that Christian goes about initiating a Dom/Sub relationship completely and utterly wrong, he is also a manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive man.
So, in conclusion, do books like Twilight and 50 Shades make me angry?  Absolutely.  Because I want people to expect more out of the books they read, and to hold authors up to a higher standard.  Do I hate people who enjoy the books?  No.  It just frustrates me and makes me kind of sad, but their lives are theirs.
That’s all.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.  I have an idea for a comic but I haven’t drawn it yet.  Next time!  I promise.
Word of the Day: Decry (v) – To speak disparagingly of; denounce as faulty or worthless; express censure of.

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A History of My Life as Told by Books -OOPS!

So I was rereading the first post in this series when I came across this line: “I was a huge horse fan (as you will see in one of my next posts).”

And I was all like…What?  What did I mean by that?  Why did Past Me set me up to be so confused?

And then it hit me.

The Thoroughbred series!  Created by Joanna Campbell!  I had meant to talk all about those books and completely forgot about them!

So here’s a quick add-on to the previous post (Middle Years).

I read thirty-nine of these books, if memory serves.  The bookshelf in my room was 75% Thoroughbred books and 25% Everything Else.  I still own them, though I think I’m missing a couple, and I intend to reread a few someday.  They were such an important part of my preteen/early teen years that I can’t imagine not going through them at least once, just for nostalgia’s sake.

In the end, I’m kind of glad I forgot to include them in my last post.  Why?  Because I devoured these books.  I followed Ashleigh and several other characters as they grew from children into adults and had children of their own.  I’m thinking that means this series deserves its own post.  It illustrates how significant Thoroughbred was to me.  More importantly, since we’re going through my life through the books I read, the first book I ever tried to write was a “horse book.”  Before The Dreamcatchers, I essentially stole a bunch of ideas from Thoroughbred and tried to write a book.  It didn’t work out, but I was determined to try again.  And that is basically how I came to write The Dreamcatchers.  It wasn’t my first attempt, but it was my first completed attempt.  And, in a small way, A Horse Called Wonder started it all.

There.  Now I truly am done with my “middle years.”

No Word of the Day.  It’s the same day as the previous post, so you already got one.

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A History of My Life as Told by Books – The Middle Years

Just so we’re clear, by “middle years” I mean like…middle school.  Not middle age.  I haven’t quite reached middle age yet.

Anyway, I want to say that this’ll be a short post, but I can’t because I know myself better than that.  I do only want to concentrate on a few books, though.  I’d like to list them in the order that I read them, but I don’t know if that’s possible.  You will find all of them on my Books I Recommend page.

To the best of my knowledge, I read The Phantom Tollbooth and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles before I ever read The Outsiders, but I could be making that up.  Memory is a funny thing, after all.  One thing I know I read before all of those is There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, and that seems like a great place to start since it will transition nicely from the previous post’s picture books to this post’s “chapter books.”

This book is special to me because it is such a fun read that is rife with literary analysis potential (or LAP) despite being a book for children.  As such, I would probably use this book as a jumping off point if I ever had my very own Creative Writing or English Literature class to teach.  I probably wouldn’t use it for advanced college courses, but it would work for any class that needed an introduction to story telling and/or close reading and essay writing.  Why?  Because the main character, Bradley, has a very clear character arc.  There’s conflict.  There’s symbolism.  There’s even a foil for Bradley – Jeff, the new kid.  All that aside, it’s just a really interesting book that tugs at your heartstrings.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that tells a very unique story.  To label it a “kids’ book” would be an injustice.  I believe people of all ages could read and enjoy this book.  Since this is supposed to be a history of my life through books, I’ll briefly touch on that.  I saw a lot of myself in Milo (the protagonist).  When the story opens, we find out that Milo is a bored ten-year-old who always wishes he were somewhere other than where he is, who can never entertain himself with the tools he already has at his disposal.  This rang true for me.  My mother will tell you (please don’t contact my mother) that I was a difficult child to please.  There were plenty of things that could entertain me, but none of them were what I wanted right then.  I always went to her with that tired complaint of “I’m boooored!”  If I wasn’t complaining about that, it was only because I was glued to the television.  Playing outside was a thing of the past.  I was, and still can be, a lazy person.  Reading of Milo’s adventures, sadly, did not change me profoundly.  But it taught me that maybe I should change, and that’s got to count for something.

It’s hard for me to put into words what made The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles so special to me.  I suppose if I had to put it in a nutshell, it was the imagination.  Julie Andrews painted a picture with her book, one that you can briefly glimpse when you look at the cover.  She built a fantasy world with creatures never before heard of, and made you want to believe in them.  I read this book again and again.  I’ll still read it, once I’ve whiddled down the pile of as-yet-unread books I’m working on.  It’s a really great adventure with thought-provoking, three-dimensional characters and a world I wished I could visit.

Ah yes, The Outsiders.  I had to read this book for my eighth grade literature class, and I dragged my feet the whole way.  I had already learned to dread assigned reading.  Even if it was just a paltry two chapters a day, it was too much.  I’d read the synopsis on the back and decided I wouldn’t like it.  Then I started reading.  And suddenly I couldn’t stop.  The assignment was to read from chapters four to six?  I read to the end.  Part of it was that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with the boys in the book.  I was twelve or thirteen at the time, right?  It happens.  The other part was that it opened my eyes.  It’s almost cliche to say, but I had a very black-and-white view of the world when I was younger.  Smoking=Bad.  Gangs=Bad.  And so on.  When I saw that this book was about gang members, I didn’t understand how it could also be about good people.  I just couldn’t grasp it.  I swear this is true.  Reading that book made me rethink many of my preconceived notions about the world and other people.  It really, truly did.  And I reread it many times after that.

So that’s it for that period in my life.  I’ll probably do one more post about the more recent years and then call it quits.

Word of the Day: Paltry (adj) – Ridiculously or insultingly small.

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