I have the extreme honor of hosting one of my new favorite authors, K.M. Alexander. His Bell Forging Cycle books are an obsession for me. Why? Because he's a phenomenal crafter. Please read below to learn more about his craft, his world and do yourself a favor, stop by his website: www.kmalexander.com.
Guest Post by K.M. Alexander, Bell Forging Cycle books
It wasn’t until college that I discovered H.P. Lovecraft, but I had been reading authors influenced by his work for years, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. The dark, weird, and mysterious always enchanted me. I was drawn to the shadows; something there tapped into my core emotions and excited me. Lovecraft and I are very different. He speaks of the “fear of the unknown,” which inspired him; for me, it was not fear but a fascination. I’m not scared of “things beyond.” When I started writing, I found myself attracted to those concepts. I’m three books into my Bell Forging Cycle, a Lovecraftian urban fantasy series. It’s a place where humanity finds itself living among alien species as equals, a world struggling with its history and dealing with injustice on a regular basis. Also, it’s a place under threat from ancient monstrosities, creatures from the unknown who cloak themselves in the shadows. When H. M. Jones asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I reflected on what I had learned along the way.
It's All About People
There’s a lot within speculative fiction to draw us to it, and as fans, we often get obsessed with the intricacies of a world. We argue at length about political structures and discuss the viability of talking dragons. We debate the power inherent in different magic systems and feud about the superiority of one wizarding house over others. (I'm a Gryffindor, by the way, which is the correct answer.) However, the core of every good story is well-written characters, people whose lives we care about and who in turn make us fall in love with a place. Without those characters, the minutiae are meaningless.
I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, and I’ve noticed I can tell fairly quickly whether I’m going to enjoy a book. It's not about the trappings; it has to do with the character. So often, writers tend to revert to tropes and stereotypes as opposed to tapping into our empathy as readers. People are complicated; we’re not black or white, we’re not good or evil. George R. R. Martin is fond of saying, “We're all the heroes of our own stories.” However, I think the reverse is also true. We’re also the villain in someone else's. A good character is a mix. I prefer my characters gray, and I know readers do as well. It’ll connect us to them, and we’ll see ourselves in their reasoning, if not their behavior. That’s real. That’s human. Give them motivations, likes and dislikes, weird nervous ticks, desires, and flaws. Please, above all else, make them flawed. That makes them real. If you can hook us on your characters, then you will make us fear for them. We’ll care more about the plot, the magic systems, the talking dragons, and the political maneuvering if we care about the people first.
Fear Lies in Anticipation
Long ago, on a whim, I sat down to watch the 2001 horror movie, Jeepers Creepers. In the opening act, two siblings (played by Gina Philips and Justin Long) are driving down a country road. Along the road, they spy a strangely dressed man dropping what appears to be bodies down a shaft. It’s shot from a distance. Features aren't revealed. Details are muddy. He’s unknown. The man notices and proceeds to chase them in an old beat-up pickup truck, running them off the road. It's an intense sequence. The movie falls apart after that, but those first ten minutes resonated with me for years. Jeepers Creepers built anticipation perfectly. It was a disappointment when that dread fell apart moments later when the monster was revealed.
Creepers is the classic example of showing the monster too early. When exposed to light, the actual monster is never as frightening as the picture in our minds. Readers scare themselves; we guide them to their conclusions. It’s not the monster that brings fear, it’s the anticipation. Throughout cosmic horror, you see this play out: the real dread comes from the unknown, the abyss that stares back. Look at the way Stephen King prolongs the anticipation in It, or how Ridley Scott lets the suspense build in 1979’s Alien. The fear of the unknown is often more terrifying than any monster we can conjure.
This lesson goes far beyond monsters. Often, the mystery being revealed in the next room, around the next bend, or in the next conversation can be just as powerful. Protagonists might fret over the revelation of a doctor's diagnosis. They could stress about the looming threat of war. There could be the strain of personalities clashing. Anticipation is the pressure that builds on the bulwark, and it makes those revelations all the more compelling when that bulwark finally crashes down.
Mystery is Key
Readers want answers, and it’s our job to provide them... eventually. This extends well beyond the monster and into the world and characters we create. Walk down any street in any city or town, and you'll experience a thousand stories. There is history all around us; it's built not only into the walls and sidewalks but in the people we meet. Extend your world into itself; make readers experience a place and its population. Give them questions, and hold back on all the answers. Reveal too much too early, and the sense of wonder will drain away. Hold back and share too little too late, and reading can become tedious. As a reader, I often find myself disappointed when writers wrap everything up in neat little packages and when they expound at length. In each instance, the mystery gets stripped away, and nothing is left for the reader to contemplate. Keep them wondering long after they finish.
Action Creates Reaction
My friend and fellow scrivener Setsu Uzumé said something profound the other day, and it's still resonating with me:
"A war story without trauma is propaganda."
Trauma is the key there, and it goes far beyond war stories. Trauma is what shapes us as people. Trauma IS the story, especially in the world of dark fantasy. One of my largest pet peeves with many series is their static nature. Characters never seem to evolve; they never face their defeats, there are no consequences for their action. Between books, many protagonists remain unchanged despite the trauma they might have endured.
When we study the real world, we quickly see how even the smallest events can have profound impacts on our lives. Take me for example; I am a much different person today than I was ten years ago. My experiences, both positive and negative, have shaped me and made me the writer I am today.
Apply those same lessons to what you write. Our characters' experiences should undergo the same change. Readers should see your characters evolve, become damaged, fight through their doubts. Let them experience the character’s journey alongside the character. If readers watch a character change, then they’ll care about the character more.
Interview with K.M. Alexander
H.M: Lovat is AMAZING. The idea of a tiered city in which the higher one rises the wealthier and more influential the citizens is an inspired setting, one that really comes alive as we read. Can you tell us a little about how you went about creating Lovat?
Kowloon Walled City, the “City of Darkness,” was easily my biggest influence, it was once a crowded space in Hong Kong built inside the walls of an abandoned Chinese fort. At its height, 33,000 inhabitants were crammed into six acres and about thirteen stories. During the 60s developers even constructed new structures atop the older ones. The result was amazingly complex. I had read about it before, and it fascinated me, I knew I’d eventually want to explore something similar but on a larger level.
The idea of the stacked city is more common than many people know. Even here in Seattle, we have an underground tour where tourists can explore old streets and buildings that are still existing below the modern metropolis. I liked the idea of history being below our feet, out of sight but always present. It was only natural that as I started to explore Lovat on my own that the wealthy lived higher. They had the money for the best views, the fresher air, and the newer buildings. Waste and water would trickle down, which helps serve as a not-so-subtle metaphor for how the poor live among the casts off from the rich.
H.M: Who are the authors who inspire you, and do they inform your writing?
China Miéville is my biggest influence and my favorite author. He writes strange non-traditional fantasy that has always hooked me. He showed me fantasy worlds didn’t have to be inhabited by elves, dwarves, orcs, and hobbits and that they could be weird and wondrous places.
Ursula K. LeGuin is another hero of mine. She writes humanity at a level few authors have been able to achieve. I started as a kid with Earthsea and came to her Hainish Cycle later. Both are amazing.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series was a huge influence on me growing up. It was also a mix of genres, and it always felt so epic. Few authors have captured a road story on such a grand scale.
There are so much more, though; it’s hard to know where to stop: Mark Twain, Cormac McCarthy, M.R. Carey, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, the list never ends, and it is wildly varied. Reading is so fundamental to writing. Each time I finish a new book I take a piece from that author. Something of their work sticks with me, and I believe it makes my work better.
H.M: Your books are heavily dark fantasy (my favorite genre to read and write), but they are also a mash-up of thriller, mystery and dystopia. Were you going for such a range or did it just happen?
K.M: It just sort of happened. When I read I tend to get bored with the straight genre work, and I’m always leaning toward books that step outside traditional boundaries. That preference showed in my writing. If I were honest, I’d pitch it as a “dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird western cosmic horror urban fantasy noir adventure.” But that is a mouthful and a little confusing so I tend to shorten it. The key was to keep the things I liked, but make sure to allow them to serve the story and enhance the world. I didn’t want them just to be an unusual motif glued onto the face of a narrative.
H.M: Do you have a favorite character to write? I know I have a couple I love to read, but which is the most fun to compose?
K.M: Some of what I like to write now has changed. I enjoy the blue-collar, no-nonsense nature of Waldo, and he’s always fun to write. However, these days I’m interested in writing in the gray. Characters that are neither hero nor villain but some mixture in between. I like that complexity. I think it’s challenging for me as a writer, and it challenges readers. It pushes empathy and forces us to understand viewpoints we might not have considered.
A little video I made on remembering your life as a whole and defining it as a bigger picture, a look past moments of hardship.
Think of a time when you felt the need to be violent, or acted in a violent way. Can’t picture that? Think of a time when you yelled or felt like screaming. Good, I think most of us can picture that place. What happened? Were you verbally or physically attacked? Were you frightened? What would have happened if you’d reacted in a calm manner, hadn’t fought, hadn’t yelled?
I can think of a couple times when I yelled that I probably could have just taken a deep breath and calmed down, let it go. For instance, when some person yelled at me for stopping to pick up my umbrella from the roadway because she had to slam on her brakes—in a parking lot, full of people. I could have not yelled back and things would have been fine. But I yelled back, told her to drive like she was in a parking lot, not in fucking NASCAR, and back off.
She did. People don’t like when you confront them, even if they first confronted you. Do I feel badly for yelling back? Not really. Not super grown up of me, but I felt my position was defendable, so I didn’t back down. It’s in my personality not to back down when confronted. I could have. No one would have been worse or better off, right? Why not just let it go? Well, because that’s not necessarily true.
I thought of that woman as irrational, even bullying, in the very least, unreasonable. I decided it was right for me to speak up, so that she’d understand that not every stranger is willing to be yelled at for nothing. It could change the way she carried herself in the future.
As a bi-polar woman, it’s easy for me to locate times that I wish I’d reacted more calmly to a given situation, not raised my voice or not approached a subject. But I’ve been wracking my brain for a time where I acted in a violent manner as an adult or young adult and regretted it (apart from fighting with my siblings/family, which I always regretted).
Some pacifists might cringe to hear me say that I have often been readily violent and do not regret so doing.
I remember throwing a book at one of my sister’s ex-boyfriend because I knew he hit her. I do not regret throwing a massive book at his head. I regret that it didn’t connect.
I remember soundly slapping a man who touched me inappropriately in the bowling alley. I cannot seem to regret the way his eyes went from entitled to frightened.
I remember punching an ex in the face as a pre-teen because he raised a hand to me. I remember how he cried. I remember telling him, “Don’t ever touch me again.” I remember the way he looked at me—like he never would, never could forget my rage. I do not regret this choice.
I remember wrestling a young man two years older than me because his little brother smacked my little sister with a stick. I told the kid he'd better run or I'd smack him back, and the kid ran to get his brother. His brother attacked me. A high school student attacked a younger girl. I remember rolling him off me, sitting on top of him and punching him a few times before getting up, and watching them slump away, defeated, from two little girls. I remember being told I should apologize. But I was not sorry.
I remember screaming, “Stop following me!” and throwing coffee towards the face of a stranger who’d been trailing me on my way home from school. I took dark paths, fear in every step, and he knew it. He matched his pace to mine, started closing the gap, and the pit of my stomach told me he would soon attack. I remember the way people ran to my aid and the guilt in his face that told me I was right--he had something in mind for me that he would not see through because I’d yelled and threw a fit.
I remember waking, as if from a daze, from rape and crying. My body wanted to riot, but I was too shocked to do so. I remember how he didn’t think it was rape, tried to convince me he had my say. I regret not finding my anger right away. I regret not beating him senseless. I often play a better scenario in my head, one where I'd fought. I do not feel guilty for the imagined battering.
I remember beating up the soap dispenser in the hospital where my father died. His staff was sub-par, the care they offered (when offered) was cold and often even caused him harm, but he could not go outside of his healthcare network, was lucky to be covered with a “pre-existing” condition. I remember thinking that if he’d been rich, he might have lived longer. I walked calmly to the bathroom after his spirit left his body, after it passed me in peace. I went to the bathroom, tried to wash my hands of hospital germs. I remember the soap dispenser was broken, like so many things were broken in that stupid fucking place, so I hammered into it with fists balled in rage. And I screamed at it. I kicked it when it was down. I do not regret this decision. It made me feel a tiny little bit better.
People call violence unnecessary, infantile. But that statement—like most blanket statements—is wrong. Being violent is often (though not always) a reaction to violence. What kind of tangible or intangible violence pushes a rioter towards reaction?
Maybe it’s because I’m a storyteller, but I put a lot of import on the process, the entire spectrum of what happens before violence is carried out. The STORY is extremely important to me.
People were rioting today, inauguration day, in the streets. And I couldn’t help but think--yeah, I thought that might happen, and it makes sense. I might not be one of the rioters, but I did not dismiss them as infantile as so many did, do and will. Droves of people feel that their very way of life is in danger because, through policy and lack of accountability, many people's lives are in danger.
There are people in this world whose stories are made of moments I cannot even imagine, prejudices and hate are played upon people in a way I cannot even fathom. The majority might like to remember the peaceful protesters more fondly, but I actually feel Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s more inflammatory statement that a “riot is the language of the unheard” is extremely important.
Some people are not heard equally. Some people are outright ignored. If you don’t understand the type of rage that rioters display, you are not one of the unheard. Violence may not always or often be right, but that doesn’t mean it has not been necessary in the lives of many.
You can dismiss political riots as ignorant violence, but I think there is something a little heavier going on when people feel so dismissed, so ignored, so desperate that they lash out.
You can rail against property damage, but it falls flat when you have not railed against human right's violations. Anyway, I think we can all readily agree that businesses are one of the things that Trump cares about, so the broken windows will probably be covered, even if, in the future, a broken person won't be.
I cannot help but see political rioters as cornered victims of an unjust society. They are not heard through traditional means, so they make their voice known in ways that makes more privileged people uncomfortable.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood why some people turned towards violence when they felt they were not being heard. He didn’t, himself, invest in those actions, but he got it. We don’t.
The Civil Rights Era is not far behind us, and we still don’t understand, as a society, why there are political riots (not to be confused with sports riots, so don't equate them, please). Many people didn’t understand the riots in Ferguson. The majority culture people called for peace, while an entire community mourned and screamed and, yes, rioted after one of their own was dismissed as not worthy of justice.
A young one's life and death were not treated with the respect of all lives and all deaths and that already present injustice(s) feel even greater. It was enough to show the people of that community that they were not heard nor supported by their local government.
This election is enough to show many fragmented peoples--minorities, women, victims of assault, the poor--that their concerns are not valid to those in charge, not heard. Their government has settled (yes, settled because the majority of the population did not vote him in) upon a man who does not care about them, who is hiring a slew of people who also will not care for them, who has already started to dismantle what little protections they have fought for in the last few decades.
When you take away people's right to fair treatment, health, and basic human rights, you are acting in a violent manner. You are an indirect attacker. Don't be surprised by a violent reaction.
We dismiss violence and anger, those of us with a bigger following, a greater say, more sway. Comfort is complacence. Many of us will call for peace, even those of us who want drastic change. I always hope things can be handled logically, peacefully, even if I am skeptical that they will be.
But if some people lash out, get angry, I will not dismiss them as animals, as ignorant. I will ask, instead, what kind of fodder feeds this rage and am I part of the problem?
How can we ask for peace if not all people experience equality?
Got a job; don't pay fair wages...
At least you got a job!
Got an M.A. but can't live off teacher's pay...
Shoulda thought ahead!
My body is treated as property; I've been voilated...
Shouldn't worn that skirt!
My boyfriend hit me for speaking...
Should have seen the signs!
My aunt was not rich enough to afford her cancer...
Death comes for us all!
My child is autistic; it can be so tough...
At least he's alive!
Can't afford the meds that clear my head...
Should take a good, long hike!
I work so hard, yet I'm always passed up...
You have to do your time!
My house caught fire, along with all my things...
At least you weren't..
SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!
Listening is not the same as hearing;
being present is not the same as "being there;"
opining is not the same as being correct,
and social icon is not the same as friend.
I will not be socialized into complacency
with the tools of the powerful and the noodle-will of the weak.
I feel a bit cantankerous lately, and extremely worn. I’m more than a little grumpy that a sexual predator, tax evader and tangled business man will be sworn into office soon. I’m grumpy that many people don’t see it as a bipartisan issue that our political system was meddled with by said man’s “buddy” over in Russia. I’m sick of the bro culture that demeans the legitimacy of women’s anxiety over becoming even less equal in the eyes of the world now.
I am tired of straight white men ‘splaining to me via “actually” commentary on my social media feed that talking of privilege is akin to racism. BTW, it’s not like racism or sexism. Some groups have a history of being murdered, raped, taken advantage of and harassed. You can be poor and still have the privilege of being straight, white, male or all.
You know what, I’m also tired of explaining privilege to people who want to ignore it. Yeah, it's fucking uncomfortable to empathize with others, and people don’t want to do it. That's what it comes down to, I think. I’m heartsick about the thousands of people who are dying for seemingly no reason.
I’m more than a little annoyed by bigotry stemming from fear propagated by men like the president-elect that might create the same kind of hatred that's killing thousands in another part of the world. I'm worried our country will go backwards, that Trump really will "Make America Great Again" for the rich, the straight, the white, the men, and everyone else will be left to eat the scraps, or hide who they are.
I’m tired of people I love not acting, voting and giving out of love but out of fear created by those who don’t care about them--the small business owners, women, poor, struggling with disease. They will suffer under the thumbs of men who’ve made millions off others. And they will be the makers of their own suffering.
I’m tired of agents, publishers and readers treating me with less respect than my male counterparts, even when I’ve proven my worth as a writer who has won the respect of the Indie community. I’m sick of the men who stop by the booths at the cons where I sell my books saying things like, “I didn’t know you could write fantasy and sci-fi and also be so hot. You don’t often see that!”
Fuck off, dude. I'm selling books not my body and you have no right to oggle me. Does it make it funny that my books deamonize men like you? You'll never know, since you're not here for my wit.
I’m sick of being catcalled or told I shouldn’t be walking by myself at night. I do it anyway, my head held high, but I’m tired of the fear, of the way I clutch my keys and weave them through my knuckles in case I have to fight for being a woman walking to her car. I'm sick of the old fear that I can't trust men that look like the man who harassed me, ignored my say.
I shaved my head, let a social norm fall at my feet, felt the breeze on my scalp, and felt a little better. I let go of the idea that I had to be what other people wanted.
If I’m not traditionally attractive, my life will be easier. But it’s not. I now have the burden of explaining to others why I did away with a part of me people thought sexy. It was unconsious. It was mourning. It was comfort. It was my decision and it shouldn't be a big deal. I don’t want to be sex-y. I cannot wait for people to not relate the word sex to me.
I realize that’s anomalous. We, women, are supposed to be concerned with that, aren’t we? It’s everything and the only thing we are encouraged to do. I don’t give a fuck if you think I’m sexy. I don’t give a fuck if you think I’m not. Stop googling me with your nasty comments. Stop telling me you like how I look, men I don't know. I'm not here for your approval. If you're not my friend, I don't give a shit what you think of me.
If you are a friend who supports me, I’m not talking about you. I teasure your love, the fact that you want to lift me up.
I’m talking about the hundreds of men who harass me online and in person. Who do not know me, but ogle me. Fuck off. I hoped maybe my hair said that now, so I wouldn’t have to, but I was wrong to hope.
Two men, strangers, stopped me to tell me I was gorgeous, that my hair probably just got in the way off what I had underneath. And I was surprised by the hostility rising up in me. I said nothing because I couldn’t think of what to say.
I am not safe. I am not safe. I’m not safe from comments, from expectations, from notice, from the baggage of being the me with a vagina.
When I was young, I always thought boys had all the fun, so I hung out with them and roughed around. When I was older, I thought white boys were the only heroes because my books and textbooks were filled to the brim with them.
As I got older, I started to realize that my history was spotty, had so many holes, failed to remember the people of color, the women, the culturally and religiously diverse. When I found these places, these friendlier spaces I consumed them.
Now I am inundated by men and women disparaging the diversity that is slowly creeping in on our books, as though it is a terrible thing for other people to have a hero that looks like them. And I can’t fathom why.
If God is love and you want to represent love, how do you act? Do you get angry over power, scramble around like a mizer, as if he won't provide? Do you even remember the love that said you should give everything you have to others. I don't recall seeing a verse in which Jesus said, "Blessed are the ones who make money, who are born into wealth, who are the representatives of social norms." Is that what your church tells you is love? Do you know? Do you care?
Instead of pretending that you are acting out of faith, please know that those who propogate the lies that wealth is won with hard work only are faithless.
It gets so hard to write when you know it will just be a fight, a series of arguments against a brick wall. And I wonder how we got any rights at all, when it’s such an uphill battle against those in power and those duped or oppressed. May we all find a little rest soon. I know I need a little rest.
H.M. Jones is an author who advocates for women and mental health awarness. As an English instructor at NWIC, she advocates for skepticism and research skills that don't start with Google. She is a speculative fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, poetry and magical realsim author. She has a lot of books because she doesn't believe in shutting off her brain.
She's on Twitter @HMJonesWrites, Google+, and Facebook.
I don't get offended easily. I am the first person to call myself crazy or nuts, and I know a lot of people would push against that, especially people with diagnosed mental health disorders, like myself.
But I am mentally ill and sometimes I think and do things that are beyond abnormal, yes, even crazy. I laugh at myself so that I don't beat myself up. Yes, it's that kind of thing. Because I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated that my brain sucks.
I feel guilty when I overreact in situations that don't call for a huge reaction, and I do it often because I'm bi-polar and no matter how hard I try to manage sometimes I fail. But I didn't realize how equally bad I feel when I'm not enraged for my highs (rare, I'm usually angry when I'm manic), but am, instead, very energetic and, yes, super productive. Yes, I even feel guilty about productivity. It's pretty unproductive to do so.
It was Nanowrimo this month and I won. I usually do. For whatever reason, I'm often manic during this time of year, a time of year when many other people with mood disorders are depressed. And when I'm manic, I write so much my joints in my fingers hurt and my eyes strain to read the words that fly from my head. I can write four stories at once, all open at different points, and switch between them when I get bored of one. And please believe me, at this point, when I say I am not bragging. I feel like I can't stop when I start, and if I am interrupted I have to physically keep myself from lashing out.
It changes things at home, too. My house gets cleaned, my children are entertained, I can go running without easily tiring, and I can stay up until 2 a.m. editing photos. My son and daughter will want me to sit and play, but it is painful for me to sit instead of stand or type or clean or update my websites.
I have a lot of writer friends who've said they wished they had my manic stamina. And I'm not offended by that. It happens to help me write, submit and repeat quite a lot. I understand the urge to want to get more out of the time we have. And I'm not unhappy that I get stuff out.
But I was actually really relieved when one of my writer friends looked at me and said, "That sounds rough. You get a lot done, but I don't think I'd want that." It meant a lot to me that he empathized with the bags under my eyes, the way I couldn't stop pacing, the nervous energy I couldn't contain.
It's not the worst problem in the world, but it's not paradise. I don't sleep much, my metabolism is all mesed up and I'm pretty irritable at that time. There are other uncomfortable side effects I won't get into, too, that makes life for a couple weeks near unbearable.
However, I made it through Nano again. I'm coming on another deadline for a different book, which I am almost done with, and a short story that I'm making headway on. But I'm starting to feel the decline of my energy and it's a relief. I might not finish one of the things I'm working on, but at least I'll sleep.
So I refuse to feel bad, this time, about writing enough to get me a neat little certificate and graphics, plus a few writerly perks. I decided to be fine with it. I did something cool. I almost finished an entire book in one month. It's not done, and, because I'm still manic, that really bothers me.
“Thankful for Being Grounded”
I am sometimes absent…
in the confines of the stories and lines swamping my wandering mind,
in the numb despair that clings tight and ensnares all positive spheres blooming in my being,
in the guttural, animal anger fed by a broken flight or fight response in the synapses not snapping,
in the ideas too grand, connections unplanned, what it all means, where I belong,
in the disappointment of a world that shines unfairly harsh under a helicopter’s glow.
You are present…
in the minutes that stretch while you patiently wait to capture my drifting gaze,
in the phone calls forgotten during the deep deadline of depression,
in the worry of reaching out when my line’s grown cold,
in the ways you remind me of all that’s gold.
I am thankful…
in the moments we treasured each other’s strengths and weakness,
in the midnight joyrides, high-pitched laughter in a crowded car,
in the moonlit secrets of skin pressed too tightly, not tightly enough,
in the way your mother’s breast was food, a pillow, a place to lay my sobbing face
in the passionate back and forth of words chosen carefully, shared pieces of hope and soul.
I am so thankful for it all…
so thankful that these moments capture my fleeing being in moments of need
and keep me grounded enough to live in the bliss of every day
this poem is for you.
I am thrilled to have one of my former editors as a guest blogger today, speaking about commonly confused pairs of words. This is such a great topic. Thanks for coming over, Wendy Garfinkle, Grammar Goddess.
Identifying 9 Commonly Confused Pairs of Words
You know how some words are so similar in spelling and/or pronunciation that you almost can’t help but get them confused on a regular basis? You sigh or mutter and reach for the dictionary...AGAIN...because you can’t seem to remember them no matter HOW MANY times you use them?
Here are 9 pairs of those words. Almost without exception, each the words in each pair sound EXACTLY THE SAME. It can be frustrating trying to remember their differences, and spellcheck won’t help you. You’re going to need a good editor. ;-)
• Immanent/Imminent/Eminent: When something is immanent, it’s inherent or inborn...like a bird that knows how to fly. Imminent refers to an incident that will occur at any moment; it’s impending...sunset is imminent. Eminent can refer to a person of high station or something prominent (such as a prominent nose).
• Wreathe is a verb that means to adorn something or encircle it. A wreath is a noun – a circular band of flowers or foliage, such as one that can be placed on the head or hung on a door.
• Feint is a noun that originated as a fencing term and refers to a movement made in order to deceive an opponent, possibly as a distraction from a more injurious blow. Faint is a familiar verb that means to lose consciousness. It also means lacking strength or brightness.
• If you’re a writer, you’re familiar with stationery – writing paper or writing supplies. To be stationary, on the other hand, is to be unmoving; standing (or sitting) in place.
• Capitol is often a proper noun – The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.... as it refers to the specific building occupied by a state legislature). Capital refers to a city or town that is the official seat of government. This spelling is also used for a capital letter.
• Both terms are adverbs, but altogether means wholly, entirely or completely, whereas all together refers to a group of people who act at the same time.
• When something is tortuous, it is full of twists, turns or bends, such as a tortuous conversation or road. Torturous, on the other hand, refers to the act of torture or suffering; extreme pain.
• To insolate something is to expose it to the sun, as in making sun tea. To insulate is to cover, or line something, such as using insulation in one’s attic to keep the heat from escaping during the winter.
• When you want to secure or guarantee something, to keep it from harm, you want to ensure it. Insure means much the same thing – to guarantee against loss or harm, but usually refers to purchasing an insurance policy to protect the things you want to ensure.
As you can see, relying on spellcheck to ensure that you’re using any one of these words in the correct context isn’t going to work. Other than insolate, which spellcheck doesn’t like for some reason, ALL of these words pass spelling and grammar inspection in a Word document. And you’ve probably noticed, some of the pairs – like ensure and insure – are not only similar in spelling, they’re also similar in meaning.
So while it’s important to improve your grammar as a writer, don’t expect that you’re going to always get it right, every time. Give yourself a break. Hire an editor to check your grammar and usage. That’s what we’re here for...to support writers in ensuring their work is the best it can be. Even we editors use editors. While this is the type of knowledge we acquire and build upon, even we aren’t infallible.
Are there any words – or pairs of words – that trip you up on a regular basis? Feel free to share them in the comments.
About Wendy Garfinkle, Grammar Goddess
Hey readers! I wrote a slightly gross, slightly hilarious short story called "Nessa, Iggy & the Murky Toilet Selfie" for Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology. For fun, we are holding a few blogs on technology, iPhones and other interesting tidbits. Please read on to find out what six of the Untethered authors (including yours truly) thought might be the next big thing in technology.
What Will the Next Big Thing in Technology Be?
What might be the future of portable technology? In honor of the book release for Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology, six authors speculate.
Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology is a fictional collection of twenty stories about the intersection of magic and tech, so these six authors have given the matter some thought. Many of them want to talk about watches, but have they really given the idea enough thought? You decide.
Rhiannon Held: Health monitoring! Most of the functions seem distributed across many different devices at the moment, but some kind of all-in-one thingy that tracks activity, counts calories, monitors vitals, measures hormones, injects medications, calls paramedics... Diabetes and blood sugar and insulin is an obvious use, but what about less obvious ones, like depression and neurotransmitter levels? And I'm sure it would be marketed as the last word in weight loss.
C.S. O’Cinneide: Televisions that grow legs and follow you around the house.
Jon Lasser: Wearables such as watches seem to be the new thing. I don't think we've seen everything they can do just yet. While the Apple Watch seems to be an excellent fitness and communications device, with secondary use for authentication, I imagine we'll see as-yet-unanticipated ways of using wearables. I think the next frontier is emotional self-regulation: building on fitness functions to help users manage their moods and avoid unpleasant emotions and experiences.
At the same time, the rebellion against portable technology is just getting started. Now that smartphones are ubiquitous, I expect more people will avoid them as a sort of cultural marker, signaling their importance by their refusal to engage with the minute-to-minute distractions technology can bring us.
Jeremiah Reinmiller: That's an interesting question as usually the next big thing, will be something small. We've already seen smart watches add ease of use features, and Apple recently introduced wireless earbuds so the audio can be always connected. The next logical step would be in the visual components. Google glasses looked interesting, but never made a lot of progress, and if technology has shown us anything, it's that the next jump will be something further than we expect. I think it's going to be some kind of integrated contacts we can wear. If someone figures that out (a way to display phone output wirelessly to contact lenses) they're going to make a lot of money.
A. Moritz: The next BIG thing will definitely be watches that can project a screen that can be manipulated by touch. They will be able to show us documents that we've created, pull up bus schedules/movie times/restaurant reviews from the internet...no more digging in your pocket to search on your phone! Anything that happens until then will be small to me ;P
H.M. Jones: I’m not all that sure. I’m actually the sort of person who keeps a cheap, breakable phone because I tend to destroy my technology on accident. I sort of hope it’s a hover board. I really want a hover board. I know I’m too old, but…I’m gonna need to see a workable hover board soon.
Want to see what these authors did with the concept of a magic iPhone? Pick up your copy of Untethered: a Magic iPhone Anthology in ebook or trade paperback today. Find it at Amazon.com, Nook, or wherever you prefer to grab your books.
Extra Interest: Stevehen Warren shares “I have a yellow IPhone 5c. It didn’t really influence [my] story, but it did help in jotting down the rough draft...”
H.M. Jones is the NIEA Finalist and B.R.A.G Medallion honoree of Monochrome, a dark fantasy about the power of memories.
Her short story "Nessa, Iggy and the Murky Toilet Selfie" is a fun, sardonic romp with a self proclaimed selfie queen.
When not creating stories, she is taking care of two kids, three chickens and a silly mutt. She enjoys bookstore shopping, cosplaying and drinking tea.
Visit her at www.hmjones.net, on Facebook H.M. Jones Writes and Twitter (@HMJonesWrites).
It is my extreme pleasure to have Rachel Thompson, author of the bestselling Broken books, as a guest blogger. Rachel and I have many things in common. We are both authors (duh), both geek girls, and both advocates for women. Rachel is a voice of reason and intelligence when it comes to advocating. This piece is a great example of that.
In this post, Rachel takes on the unenviable challenge of discussing interruption and sexism, what it means and even why it happens. Please read carefully before commenting because commenting without reading is akin to interrupting. Interrupting, as Rachel will explain, is often sexist, and is definitely not sexy.
This is the Reason Interrupting is Sexist
Me: I wanted to share this piece I just wrote and…
Him: Oh, you know what you should say? You should discuss how I made that hilarious comment about the Kobayashi Maru. You know, about the no-win scenario.
Me: Well, you don’t even know what I wrote, or if that’s even relevant...
Him: Oh, well, go ahead. I just didn’t want to forget. It’s a great line.
Marriage Interruptus. Twenty-two years of it. I saw the red flag of trouble when we dated but you know, love and shit. Somehow, the Kobyashi Maru ended up quite relevant after all.
One of many reasons he’s now my ex-husband. A minor reason, to be honest, but one that, over time, was indicative of larger issues: inability to listen, disrespect for my abilities and thoughts, money issues. Typical reasons marriages die. Nothing sexist about that…or was it? Sometimes it felt that way.
Is Interrupting Sexist?
Is the act of men interrupting women truly about sexism? Is that a stretch? If you’re a man, you might think so because it’s likely because you’ve been conditioned to talk over women, and probably haven’t given it a second thought. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Well, women interrupt, too!” And you’d be right. We do. Humans interrupt one another. But, at the same ratio in the same situations?
Think about this: have you been on the receiving end of constantly being interrupted and mansplained to? Perhaps you have, in a work situation.
If you’re in a position of leadership, you are likely used to people (male and female) deferring to your voice over theirs as a way to assert your power.
In other words, you might interrupt and not even know you’re doing it.
But we know.
Is Interrupting About Mansplaining?
Some would argue that my ex was unknowingly mired in ‘mansplaining’ mode (defined by the brilliant Rebecca Solnit in her essay “Men Explain Things To Me,” as that “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck”), and I wouldn’t disagree.
I don’t believe my ex intended to be manipulative or hurtful – I believe he simply felt his opinion mattered more than mine in a way that (many, but not all) men do. In my corporate life, I had many male managers who constantly interrupted both the men and women they managed. It was the norm.
The man I’m with now is interruption avoidant to the extreme – it’s something we’re working on with me and with my kids – we’ve all learned to interrupt, I believe, as a coping mechanism, as a way to be heard. This breaks my heart a little.
Examples of Conversation Interruptus
Two recent examples come to mind of egregious conversation interruptus: Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, the video which has now been viewed almost 29,000,000 times as of this writing. West ran onstage, grabbed the mic and said, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!” In his shockingly inappropriate fit of interrupting and ultimately, condescending mansplaining, it’s obvious Kanye was not happy for her. Even Beyoncé looked mortified.
Another example is the recent first Presidential debate in late-September of this year. According to Vox.com, Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times during the debate, often with “petulant asides” while she spoke, such as “Not,” or “Wrong.” Clinton, on the other hand, interrupted Trump 17 times, often patiently waiting for him to finish his interruptions so she could continue her allotted time.
Politics aside, because that is decidedly not the goal of this article, it’s interesting to note that Twitter exploded with women who related to being in that same position as Clinton (albeit in work situations).
Key Interruption Facts
Let’s take a look at these studies and facts (Source: Bitch Media):
“Men don’t just talk more in face-to-face conversations, but in our media conversations.
According to a 2012 study by the OpEd Project, women write 20 percent of traditional opinion pieces, 33 percent of online opinion pieces, and 38 percent of college newspaper opinion pieces. Bylines on literary reviews and creative nonfiction also skew male, according to the annual VIDA count.
And when it comes to coverage of politics, a 4th Estate analysis of 2012 election coverage showed women were vastly underquoted.”
On Twitter, men are retweeted more often than women. This is from a 2012 study, so I’d love to see updated numbers, but it is interesting to note that the majority of Twitter users are women, yet men are retweeted more often
How do we solve this disease of interruptus? Because it is a dis-ease, isn’t it? When we, at the receiving end are interrupted, we are not at ease; conversations become stilted, uncomfortable and awkward. Feelings are hurt, whether it’s in a personal or business situation.
Do women need to be more like men? Do men need to be more like women? That’s not likely to happen on a grand behavioral scale, particularly if the perpetrators of the behavior are unaccepting that it exists (most men don’t believe sexism is real, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another day), or are unaware they are even behaving in this manner. So, what’s the answer?
Maybe we need to meet somewhere in the middle. Noted feminist Soraya Chemaly believes women need to stop men from talking over us through the use of these ten little words every girl should learn:
Chemaly explains that girls are taught to be overly polite and active listeners in conversations, but men are not taught to socialize this way. As the parent of both a boy (age 11) and a girl (age 17), I’ve become very conscious of these words in dealing with men, and in teaching them to my children as well, because we all deserve to be heard.
Or, perhaps, it’s not about interrupting so much as it is more about learning to listen, regardless of gender or role. According to mega-successful businessman, author, job placement expert, and millionaire Cash Nickerson (who is a heck of a nice guy), listening is a martial art.
“Never, ever interrupt someone. It is the cardinal sin of listening.”
I believe the resolution is pretty simple: it comes down to respect. Whether you are aware of it or not, reading non-verbal clues during conversations doesn’t take a genius. Clue in. Your voice is not the only voice. Interrupting someone is rude and it blocks effective communication. So, make a conscious choice and stop interrupting.
If you respect the people you are with, take the time to listen to them. Talking over someone is a true sign of disrespect, doesn’t win you any points in the Relationship Department, and ultimately, is a true no-win scenario.
About Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson is represented by literary agent Lisa Hagan, and is published by ShadowTeamsNYC.
She is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Book Festivals), and the bestselling, multi award-winning Broken Pieces (as well as two additional humor books,A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed).
Rachel’s work is also featured in several anthologies (see Books for details).
She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post,The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), Feminine Collective, IndieReader.com, 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly,
Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live weekly Twitter chats, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish (Tuesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST), and#BookMarketingChat, co-hosted with author assistant Melissa Flickinger (Wednesdays, 6pm PST/9pm EST).
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
Connect with Rachel
Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia
Facebook (Business): https://www.facebook.com/BadRedheadMedia