Friday, January 31, 2014

An Open Letter to Famous People

Dear Famous People,

Stop being jerks when meeting fans. There. I said it. 

You're not special snowflakes - for every one of you whose names we know, there are a couple hundred struggling actors/singers/writers just as talented - if not moreso - who we don't even know exist. Maybe they just haven't gotten that Big Break. Maybe they were just never encouraged to pursue their dreams. 

Either way, you're no better than them.  

Yes, what you do is hard - acting, writing, singing - these are all demanding careers. But, understand something - what you do is not harder than getting shot at in Afghanistan. It's not harder than teaching kids in the inner city. It's not harder than pulling a mother and three children from a burning building. It's not harder than performing a delicate operation to save a life. 

You're not a God - no matter what your fans tell you. 

Here's a little scenario for you:

This guy watches your movies for years. Loves them all. Maybe he even buys some movie related merchandise. He thinks you're the next best thing since sliced bread. One day, he gets a chance to see you at a convention. He's saved up money most of the year to be able to attend. The time comes, and he walks up to your table. 

This is the moment in time when you have to realize something - this moment will mean nothing to you. To you, he's one in a line of a thousand. A faceless blur you'll never see again. 

For him, this is the most important moment of his entire life. He's more excited and nervous now than he was on his wedding day. He'll remember the next few minutes for the rest of his life. 

Make. Them. Count.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


The beauty of growing up as a child who desperately tried to balance the Human and Vulcan ways of life, is that you end up a rather emotionally stable adult. It also means that when you have a moment of very Human panic - real, raw panic - it is followed by an immediate, almost audible, click as the Vulcan side grabs control. Analyze the situation. Note the details. Determine the possible diagnosis and outcomes. Embrace the logic because it will prove helpful - suppress the emotion because it will make the situation worse. Of course, the downside of all this, is that you will never - ever - be the person who can shrug off all the possibilities and say "Meh, everything's going to be fine."

Last Friday morning, January 24th, at approximately 10:00 AM, my husband collapsed. He didn't just collapse, he had what appeared - to me at least - to be a seizure. He was sitting in his chair at the dining room table, and we were having a conversation. I don't remember the topic. Suddenly, mid-sentence, he went stiff, his hands and feet started to shake, and he slid out of his chair, face first onto the floor. 

I panicked. I screamed his name. I dove to the floor. 

And all at once, this is what happened in my head:

As he stopped speaking and started to shake: PANIC!PANIC!PANIC!PANIC!PANIC!

A stern voice in my head called out "STOP." Cue full stop to the panic.  The voice continued: "Emotion will not help. Not the details. Count the time - that will be important later. Is he conscious? Speak slowly. Speak clearly." 

At this point I was rational, calm, precise, logical. I had counted five seconds between the cessation of conversation and the fact of him being face down. I was acutely aware that his breathing had not changed, his limbs and trunk were not shaking - only his hands and feet. Not a convulsion then. His eyes were open. He was coherent and speaking - telling me he was fine. I determined, even before he did, that he had sustained no injuries. Not because I saw that he hadn't, but because my mind quickly replayed the events, calculated the distance to the objects around him, and concluded that nothing lay within his path. He had not hit his head, I knew, because the sound of the fall hadn't included the sound a skull makes when smacking against hardwood floor. 

The dogs were going nuts, upset, trying to get to him to lick him. He looked over at me and said "Kennel the dogs. I'm fine."

The inner war resurfaced - the human, emotional side of my mind shouting "NO! STAY!" while the Vulcan, logical side arched an eyebrow and murmured: "This is a logical request. The dogs are a hazard. Your thirty-second absence will have no impact. Kennel the dogs."

I hesitated. I jumped to my feet, yelling at the dogs to follow me, ran to the bedroom and slammed them into their kennels. 

I came back into the dining room and hovered near him as he righted himself, stood, and sat back down. I established that he was fine. Uninjured, save but for a scrape on his knee that hadn't really broken the skin, and that slightly amused, slightly confounded, incredibly pissed off look on his face of What the fuck just happened?

Hubby apologized for scaring me. I told him that was illogical.

I asked him to let me take him to the ER. He agreed, but only if I'd take him to lunch first. O.o

After lunch - and a drive through the car wash!? - we arrived at the ER. 

I won't go into that adventure, but suffice it to say, I've rarely been as annoyed. Okay, that's not true - I've been far more annoyed far more often that I'd like to recall.

They did an EEG, EKG, ECG, an ultrasound of his neck, a CT of his head, and several rounds of bloodwork. They admitted him and kept him Friday night and Saturday night. 

They have no idea what happened. There seems to be nothing wrong with him. 

They referred him back to his regular ear doctor, who has ordered a CT of his ears and neck, as well as referred him to physical therapy because apparently we all have crystals in our ears that sometimes fall out of place and can cause us to drop over, and there's a way to right them which involves physical therapy. Yes, it does indeed sound like something out of Star Trek. But I Googled it - it seems legit. 

I managed not to cry until I was driving myself home on Friday night - for all of 45 seconds. I haven't cried since, and I don't intend to.

It isn't that I hate to cry. On the contrary - I'm not one of those macho men who believe that tears somehow lessen the length and girth of my penis and make me less of a man. The beauty of having a silicone penis is, well, nothing can ever really diminish my manhood. Except perhaps a house fire. 

No, I don't hate to cry, I simply am annoyed by crying at inopportune times. I have no time to fall apart when things need to get done. Falling apart is something you do in the shower, or at 3 AM. It's not something you do in the heat of the moment. It's not something you do when everything is on the line. 

I grew up with very emotional parents. My father could get angry over anything, and my mother would cry at the drop of a hat. I found it - disturbing. Not just because the emotions were overwhelming, but because they interfered. Yes, your situation is quite tragic and I'm certain you're very upset, but I'm six years old and hungry and can't reach the kitchen counter - be a dear and make me a sandwich before you fall apart, okay? Yes, yes - you're angry - we all get that. But do me a favor and drive us home safely, so I don't have to fear for my life because some guy cut you off in line at the bank. 

Everything they could react to, they did. Largely. Loudly. Excessively. Often.  

Imagine my delight when I first met Mr. Spock. 

In any event, Hubby is basically on house arrest - he can't drive anywhere by himself, at least until we get the results of the newest round of testing. Which means I'm driving him around.

Understand, I learned to drive when I was a teenager from a teenager. My parents had no desire to teach me to drive. Mother claimed the "water in the ditches is too high" and she was convinced I'd somehow drive off the road, crash into a ditch, and we'd drown. Mind you, the ditches weren't as wide as any cars, so in the midst of driving off the road I'd have to somehow perform an impressive feat of vehicular acrobatics, wherein I lodged the car in the ditch on its side. Of course, it should be noted that the ditches weren't even four feet deep - I could stand in them. So even if I did somehow pull that magic trick off, the odds of us actually drowning were slim to none. 

I was taught to drive by one of my best friends. Her idea of teaching me to drive was pulling in my driveway, declaring she had a migraine and telling me to drive. In hindsight, not incredibly smart on either of our parts, but it worked out. She had a Chevrolet something - I think it was a Cavalier, and I recall it being blue, but it could've been another color. I do remember that it fit me perfectly to drive in, and I loved it. I didn't love it as much as the Dodge Omni my other friend owned - but then who didn't love a Dodge Omni? I did, however, get to drive it more than I drove the Omni - which was all of once. 

Am I the world's best driver? Of course I am. What - did you think I was going to say "no?" Don't be silly. I'm a great driver. 

Hubby is also a great driver. Especially from the passenger's side. O.O

Sunday, January 19, 2014

With Impunity

In his book "Up Til Now," William Shatner discusses a review he once received, calling his performance (I've forgotten which one) "wooden."

About the review, he says - "Wooden? I barely even remember sitting at the kitchen table on a rainy morning, eating three slightly undercooked eggs over easy, reading the review while Gloria, who was dressed in a pale green cotton top, got the girls ready for school. As a professional actor, those things don't bother me. And that particular review has continued to not bother me for more than four decades."

I have that page marked in the book, and I read that passage often.

Never let it be said that I don't love William Shatner.

Here's the deal - negative reviews bother all of us. All. Of. Us. Any writer who tells you negative reviews don't bother them is either lying or on crack. Myself included, and I've never done a drug in my life.

We - authors as a whole, in general - like to claim that negative reviews don't bother us. That we're far too professional to let them. After all, a review is just an opinion - one person's opinion. For every one or two bad reviews, there are twice again as many - or more - positive ones.

Authors rarely like to admit it, but we're a teensy bit masochistic (well, some of us more than others) - we read those bad reviews not because we want to, but because we're driven to. Because, quite frankly, one never knows what the review will say before its read, and we're not immune to enjoying a little stroking of our... ahem... egos... now and again. Once we see it's not going to turn out well - usually decipherable by the tell-tale lack of stars - we don't stop reading.

The fact is, I remember every negative review I've ever gotten. I remember who wrote them, where I was when I read them. I ranted and raved in the privacy - or publicity - of wherever I was. How dare they say what they'd said? Didn't they know who I was? I'm one of the best in the industry - who the hell were they to sit in judgement of me?

While those words left my lips, the never - ever - left my fingertips.

Authors, you see, can't respond to negative reviews. At the most, we can say "thanks for the input." "Thanks for the input?" Really? Isn't that a bit like someone calling you an asshole and you thanking them? Seriously? Do people do that? "Thanks for the input." And you'd be amazed at the number of reviewers who get offended at those four words. Sometimes, you can't even say "thanks for the input."

A few days ago, a fellow author shared a review with me. Now, when I say "a review," what I really mean is a nasty, horrendously insulting personal attack thinly veiled as an opinion on a book. The "reviewer," and I use that term lightly, used their platform to air views which had nothing to do with the actual book.

Now, I'm fine with "this book sucked and here's why." I'm fine with "I hate this trope and that's what this book is about and I want to throw it against the wall."

God knows I've got a laundry list of pet peeves and I've discussed them all. Loudly. Often.

What I'm not okay with are blatant attacks on authors as people - on *anyone* in the public spotlight as people.

We're all human. With the exception of a small percentage of the population, we all deserve kindness, compassion, understanding, and to be treated as if we matter.

But I digress.

Writers aren't supposed to respond to any negative reviews. We're not supposed to defend ourselves, our choices, our characters, our characters' choices, our editors, our publishers - nothing. Believe me, I've seen the shit storm that is invoked when an author dares to speak out against a negative review.

All of this recent review sharing got me thinking - why not?

Who decided it was acceptable for a reviewer to tear an author a new asshole, but not acceptable for said author to thrash about and make noise when torn?

Reviews are sort of a Baptism by fire in any case. When you're brand-spanking new to the industry, you're told that reviews are important. Essential. Vital. You want reviews. Some publishers ask you to send in a list of places you think might want to review your work. Some publishers have people hired especially to facilitate reviews. Hell, most contracts even have a clause about reviews.

But you don't want just any reviews, you want *good* reviews. Good reviews, you see, are the path to success! Get good reviews, and you'll be writing checks for your mortgage from your royalties! Just you wait!

Ahem. No. As someone with quite a few good reviews for each of my works - my back list of over 20 works - I can tell you with certainty that I pay my mortgage from my Evil Day Job. I do, however, support my Star Trek memorabilia habit through my royalties, and that's pretty cool. But financial stability on my royalties? Hardly.

While you might absolutely support yourself on your writing alone - many authors I know do - good reviews are absolutely not a guarantee of that.

Then again, who really cares about reviews, anyhow?

When you get further into your writing career, you discover that the nebulous advantages of reviews are just that - nebulous. Maybe readers read them, maybe they don't. Maybe readers listen to them, maybe they don't. Some readers admit reviews impact their purchases, some say they don't care. Some review sites are reputable, large, and in charge. Some are just small and humble and "Who?" Some reviewers don't even both to check their facts - and really, how credible are they?

Case in point - I once received a rather scathing review for my very first solo release "On God's Honor." This was several years ago, when the book had first come out. I'd tell you I've forgotten the who, what, when, where of that review, but that would be a lie. It was my very first ever negative review. Not my last, by any means.

But in that review, the reviewer not only got my name wrong, but the title of my book, and one of the main characters' names, and mentioned a "plot flaw" that wasn't actually in my book.

I remember sitting there at my computer at The Evil Day Job, reading that review. It was a Tuesday morning, the sun was shining outside...

Not that I let these things stay with me, mind you. I'm far too professional for that.