AAACK: Should we panic about the economy yet?

Well . . . the cupcakes are irritated. The bailout bill that “they” thought they had enough votes to pass just failed in the House. Everyone points at the other side of the aisle and cries, “You! Devils!” But I am conflicted.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted the bill to pass, but I had talked to a number of bankers and ex-investment industry types over the weekend, and I had been pretty sure that we needed to do SOMEthing. I couldn’t see a way out of it. But I still felt uneasy about committing so much money. Consider this . . . the last website I checked said that according to World Health Organization, there are only about 6 billion people on the PLANET, all told. They want to spend 700 billion dollars (that we don’t HAVE yet, as I understand it). It is ridiculously mind-boggling.

Now, WHY did these representatives vote NO? For the most part, I think, it’s because of the many, many people who wrote their congressperson to say, “Vote NO or I will vote no on YOU in a couple of months!” The way I understand it, the representative is elected to voice the will of his/her constituency, so that is what is supposed to happen–I mean, they are supposed to vote the way the constituents ask and tell them to, not the way they want to themselves. If the constituency says, “BLUE!” the rep is not supposed to be a nanny and say, “But we know better–so GREEN.”

In other words, if this is the reason behind the voting of NO, then that is how it’s supposed to work. For once, it worked RIGHT. I am proud, in that sense.

On the other hand, a press conference just got held, and some Republicans said, “The reason there were defections is because Nancy Pelosi insulted us and said that we FINALLY came to the table after being UNPATRIOTIC.” Well . . . wait . . . that SHOULD NOT be the reason for you to change your vote! You should still vote what your district says it wants AND your conscience! Just let stuff like that roll off your back; don’t react, other than to smile mysteriously and shake your head sadly to indicate that you won’t stoop to poking into the other party’s cage with a stick of any length. To react like that is to be a little kid saying, “You stuck out your tongue, so now I sulk and don’t do what is right because YOU want me to.” Aaack! Please, no! Let them have changed their votes for that OTHER reason–because they got faxes, letters, emails, and calls begging them to vote no.

I suppose you could argue that the only reason they listened this time (if that’s what happened) is because they come up for re-election SO SOON, and they were afraid they’d get the boot. *SIGH* But that is how it is always supposed to work. Even if YOU and I think that the “YES” vote is the rational and proper vote, if the district of Congresscritter Yahoo-1 says that she/he must vote NO in order to properly represent them, then . . . he/she has to say NO, UNLESS it would be a direct sin against his/her own conscience (for example, it is voting to do something clearly immoral, such as declaring war on some random place *ahem* or taking away rights that should be protected under the Constitution.)

Mama and her Groupies are hysterical. They DO love an uproar, and here’s one made to order. Blinky said, “What’s gonna happen now?” Mama said, “No one KNOWS what’s gonna happen. They didn’t even know if this bill was gonna fix it. But doing NOTHING, experts tell us over and over, is the worst thing.” Pinky said, “My stocks have gone into the toilet and I’m afraid my kids won’t be able to get college loans for the spring semester because money’s so tight.” They all lived through the Great Depression, and they’re afraid we can’t all grow Victory Gardens in time.

We don’t know how this will shake out. The House will work for a couple of days and then call for another vote on the new version. Who knows? Maybe the public will change its mind and the representatives can vote YES next time. Or the bill will change such that people feel safe voting for it in public. What’ll happen to the economy at OUR level? Will it affect us as the “average” grocery shopper and book-buyer? I’m afraid it will, and probably fairly soon.

It IS scary. However, I went outside a few minutes ago. The world is beautiful. The butterflies have hatched out of our passionvine’s flower buds and are doing a mating dance all over the side yard. My hanging baskets and potted plants think it’s a second springtime and are all budding out again. The squirrels chatter in the trees, the birds sing, and I feel good. I can see, hear, walk, think, and all that good stuff. Everybody’s alive and we’re all hangin’ in here. There’s a lot to be said for that.

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WRITING: hypergraphia or scribblies–whatever it’s called

From a panel at one of the writing conferences I attended last year, some things to ask yourself when you’re stuck writing a scene:

WHAT does it LOOK like? WHAT does it SMELL like? WHAT does he/she really WANT here? WHERE are they? WHEN (what season, which century) is it? WHAT are they doing? What TIME of day? HOW do they FEEL? HOW do they REACT? HOW does this lead directly into the next scene and goal?

That last one is a toughie, as I often am setting up something that won’t be fulfilled until several scenes later. I always have felt that if you keep a story question going and YOU know what this is leading into, that should be enough. But the New Thinkin’ says that every scene should lead into the next with cause/effect apparent. That’s where I get marked down sometimes (whereas many authors in the past DIDN’T.)

Comic strips aren’t so different from stories told all in text. It’s just a different medium.

It turns out that this comic strip/cartoon thing is easier to lick if you just SIMPLIFY THE CHARACTERS. That way, those of us who can’t draw can still do them. I’m working on a comic that turned out more like a Sunday strip because the story got larger. That seems to be the way with me–stories turn into novels, novels turn out to be 130K or so. There’s also a lot of text in the cartoon. I can’t get away from “writing stories” at heart.

I suppose I’m just hypergraphic.

Also, I think I’m just a lot better at expressing things and setting scenes in words than I am in visuals only, although I turned out not to be as terrible at doing the visuals as I thought I was. A webcomic would be fun and very low-pressure, as thousands of people are doing them, so I may post it when I get finished and possibly continue . . . posting a cartoon intermittently.

My Artist Trading Cards aren’t going as well, and I’m probably not going to do any more swaps. It’s just not my bailiwick, although I do admire a number of cards that I’ve seen people make. I think I am more inclined towards “soul cards,” which is a whole other pursuit in which you develop a deck that reflects aspects of yourself and your life. It’s almost a kind of personal Tarot. But I’m not necessarily ever going to do any of those, either. *grin*

The closest I’ll probably ever come is an illustrated journal. This is an illustrated journal of sorts. Portable, too–I can access it from any Web-connected computer. Don’t have to worry about locking the pages away from the fam, either, as they couldn’t be less interested. One of my cousins may still be out there reading, but no one else is really into it. They won’t journal about their lives, either, which is a shame, as I think SOME of my kinfolks would be doing their children a favor by leaving behind some record of their days and the family traditions and so forth. My cousin Pat used to scrapbook and last year made a family tree page, and *her* mother supposedly kept journals for herself, but they’re the only ones. . . .

On arcaedia’s journal, she recently posted about two writers who put their novel up on the Web, and it’s now been picked up by Baen. I was hopeful that possibly I could give that a shot–after all, two agents have told me to try it because my books are “offbeat”–but I was disappointed to hear from all involved that it still isn’t a good path for unpublished authors. They apparently had published several books in this series before and had been dropped by the previous house.

That seems to be happening more and more. There was a thread yesterday on one of the YA novel groups where people talked about books that they’d turned in, revised, and had contracts and pub dates IN HAND for . . . but the books were canceled. Everything’s got to get past a committee now, and you know that a camel is a horse designed by committee. There’s such a herd mentality out there. Is it because people are now brought up by daycare workers and experience life in regimented groups where everyone has to agree and do the same thing at the same time? Does that color their way of thinking to where they can’t believe in an individual vision? Or is it just the bean counters?

All our beans are about to go to a bailout, so I imagine this will only get worse as time goes on. So it would be really NICE if I didn’t want to write novels.

Unfortunately for me, that still seems to be my default outlet. Even though I get shocked every time I plug something in.

WRITING: why NOT fan fiction?

*shock* Another post actually about writing? OR at least containing musings regarding the ethics of and/or practicality of spending time on fan fiction (which I know is a VERY popular pursuit nowadays)?

Yeah, it is. Gimme a break . . . I know I’m not any kind of authority and that I’ve even come out and ADMITTED that I’m not going to have any commercial success with fiction, but I’ve spent an awful lot of time studying related topics, writing fiction, and analyzing fiction (mine and others’), so I keep thinking that some of my experiences might benefit those of you who still have a chance out there. So sue me. If you don’t like it, just skip the entry.

This morning, author Barbara Ferrer (fashionista-35) analyzed some of the reasons why authors might object to fan fiction–and it’s a cool scenario that she sets up, one I would never have thought of. See it on her journal. Then go read the “Smart B*tches, Trashy Books” site to see the original discussion. I think they make some valid points, although they’re not the points I would have made.

As far as *I* am concerned, I wouldn’t mind if somebody wrote a really screwed-up pastiche of _Dulcinea_ or a totally out-there Ariadne mystery and nailed it to all the telephone poles in town . . . I would be so gobsmacked at the notion that someone thought it was good enough to copy/steal that you’d have to scrape me off the floor with Britney Spears’ girdle. I would find it flattering. If people became aware of my work through that, even if they were disrespectful of it (what ELSE is new?) and disdainful of it (just like everyone else), I would be of the notion that “there is no such thing as BAD publicity.” After all, have not the many pop divas of the world benefited from their bad publicity, almost as much as from their good publicity? Same with Dallas Cowboys football players of yore. No, it wouldn’t bother me if people did this, EXCEPT that I would caution that they’re wasting their time, as the original never sold, so why not start something of their own that might turn out salable? (Yes, I know that many people feel they don’t want to sell and that they just want to play . . . I still think it’s a helluva lot of work even to write a BAD novel, and I always have so much invested by the end that I want to see it published. For real. Not just on my journal.)

fashionista-35‘s analysis, however, presents one good scenario of how an author might become upset with fanfic writers. So many people think nothing of taking another person’s intellectual property and claiming it’s “fair use” or that they’re a “public figure” and therefore can have whatever they do copied (I’ve heard all sorts of screwed-up notions about THAT from people who should know better.) Here’s what I wrote in her comment thread.

When I was a kid in fourth grade, I got into trouble for fan fiction of a sort. We were assigned to write a story. I had recently read some series book or another (not Bobbsey Twins, as I had finished that series already) and had been impressed by the convoluted-but-plausible (to my fourth-grade mind) plot and one or two then-memorable characters. So I wrote a pastiche-type story using the first names of two of the characters and a very similar plot *moved from Montana to Texas* and with a few other minor changes that polished the serial numbers off a bit. I was impressed with my work because I had actually written my own dialogue and made up a lot of stuff . . . y’know. (This would have been *ahem* before 1970, when school was quite different from now.) I didn’t see any problem, as the series was well known to be written as work-for-hire under a pseudonym, and I saw this as just another episode.

Well, the teacher and PRINCIPAL didn’t. The day that the stories came back graded, several kids were asked to read theirs aloud to the class, and several got awards. I sat there waiting for mine to be handed back, and got more and more upset as nothing was said. The bell rang, and the teacher asked me to stay a moment and come up to her desk.

I had been given an F. I was an A+ student and usually the one who got singled out as having done the best job, etc., so this was a complete shock. The teacher said I was no better than a plagiarist, even though I had not used specific passages from the book in question. (I think it was a Mad Scientists Club or a Danny Dunn book, now that I contemplate this, as the plot was a pseudo-science thing similar to what those books used to specialize in.) They said that not only had I STOLEN this author’s characters, I had not even been faithful to them–I had put MY words in their mouths and made them act in ways that faithful readers of the series would know was “out of character.” The teacher sent me up to the principal’s office, and they called my mother.

The principal and my mother were a bit less outraged and righteous (although my mother has never forgotten this incident, citing it as one reason I shouldn’t try to write–“you’ll copy without realizing it and get into trouble,” just like various Presidential hopefuls have done without getting into any trouble whatsoever). But as a former English teacher herself, the principal suggested that I try an exercise.

“Next time you want to write something, why don’t you change the names and ONE THING about each of the characters you admire and want to write about, and write the story? As you go through with these things in mind, that’ll make them change, and it’ll change into YOUR story. After a few revisions, no one should be reminded of the other author’s work when they read your story. The important thing is that you write something ORIGINAL, and YOUR story, not using someone else’s stuff or style.”

I’ve never forgotten this. I do think it was unfair, but hell, worse things happened to kids back then (as I say, the world was QUITE different from the way it is NOW.) I suppose that practicing by doing pastiches might help authors to develop their own voices and styles, but as far as spending a lot of time doing that, I think instead that fanfic authors would be well served to spend all that time and effort developing their OWN characters and world. It simply isn’t that difficult to do, once you realize what you’re doing with the fanfic.

Never have understood, since then, why somebody would want to do fanfic. I always, after this experience, felt I was not qualified to predict what someone else’s characters might or might not do. I could see how I’d gotten those characters wrong (once they pointed it out) and was alarmed at the way I had not picked up on some of the subtleties of character portrayal. On the other hand, I was–what? NINE years old?!

(And expected to be Little Miss Perfect, which was the way the world worked back then.)

To explore the appeal of “a built-in audience” a bit more, let’s read what author Ally Carter wrote in HER weblog: “Blogging when you have no audience is very much like singing in your bathroom–no one is going to hear you.”

To this I say, “Wrong! My pets DEFINITELY can hear me. The dog even sings along!”

That’s like saying that when a tree falls in the forest, the sound waves don’t emanate from the source. All the little squirrels hear that, for sure.

So have a nice day, all you squirrels out there.

Anyhow . . . some authors really get upset when you use their characters or worlds. So why not change the names of characters and places and just do your own? You might find that your mind starts making it into a new creature. But you wouldn’t be able to go to an established fan community and get the stuff read, which I suppose holds its own appeal. You’d have an instant fan club of sorts . . . something that I admit does seem pretty cool.

My usual boring musings all about MEEEE

SERIOUS POST: I think they’re tryin’ to put one over on us, Rocky. . . .

“No taxation without representation!”

Am I the only one hearing this refrain (from the musical “1776,” based on events during the American Revolution) in my mind’s ear every time the teevee pundits prattle on about this bailout of the world’s biggest insurance company and all those foreign banks who have investments on Wall Street?

I don’t recall having gotten to vote on this allocation of TONS OF MOOLAY that gets put into the hands of ONE MAN totally without oversight. There was no referendum, as there must be on a city/county/ISD bond issue and on most other such special funding events. This may not be constitutionally kosher/halal.

IMHO, this is clearly taxation without representation.

The man who is to be given such power seems to be pretty smart and all that (as Grandpa would’ve said), but hey, that is TOO MUCH responsibility for ONE PERSON. Power breeds corruption. Too much power with no oversight can be disastrous. I don’t think we can give any one person this kind of money and power to allot it.

I *know* we can’t afford this bailout. The average taxpayer is bailing out foreign banks, speculators who have tons of money that they could afford to lose (because otherwise they don’t invest it like that–it’s their play money, although it would buy our houses and cars several times over), corporations, people who got houses they clearly couldn’t afford, and so forth.

The mortgage bailout bugs me, as well. Hey–I (we) have a mortgage on which I have never missed a payment, and before that I had another one that I also never paid late. For three years we paid BOTH mortgages (while Mama lived in our Little House for free.) Neither note was ever late! Same with my car payments! Now, I’m not perfect; I might go a few days late on Penneys now and then out of forgetfulness and the usual idiocy, but they haven’t melted yet (and I still have way too much open to buy on all my accounts.) So why do I not get bailed out? Why is it that the BAD people who didn’t pay and are saying they can’t should get a free ride? This I don’t agree with.

Today the congresscritters were all trying to slap this or that rider on the bill, and it may well fall apart because of their crazy add-ons. For once, their idiocy could work in our favor.

There are lawsuits being filed to try to stop this madness. Hooray! If only this could work!

Everybody’s gone crazy.

Even me. You saw my nutty ATCs in the last post. And the sketch of Dennis’s hair as projected in six weeks. *grin*


The Literacy Pirate

Artistic pursuits and creative outlets (110 volts only)

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I began doing a bit of doodling and some art projects after I realized that I’m going nowhere with my writing (and the piano is too out of tune now to play anything much. By that I mean that the F below the F below middle C and its nearby E-flat are completely sour, and a few other keys are off by quarter tones such that you can’t play by ear. I can probably get ‘er tuned next month, but I’m waiting until after we turn on the heat, as the changes in ambient house humidity and temp that will result would put ‘er back out of tune. This is a baby grand, after all, and an anteeek to boot–a 1920s Schumann.)

I’m not any good at drawing and so forth, but I don’t care. It’s an outlet. I’ve always thought I would be a good cartoonist if I could draw even as well as Cathy Guisewite (“Cathy”) and Scott Adams (“Dilbert”), but I can’t–not even close. I need to draw cars, desks, and people parts, and the only thing I can do is cartoon faces, a little.

Cartoon faces-aack