Monday, January 30, 2012


The online uproar this week regarding Twitter's new censorship policy really got me thinking. I thank God I live in America, where our freedom of speech is, for the most part, protected.

Of course, the flip side of this is that everyone's speech is protected, regardless of how venomous or hateful their intent. So those loons protesting unrelated funerals? Yeah, they can have their kids holding up stomach-churning signs in the face of parents grieving their dead children.

So at what point do we say, "Maybe we should zip the lip?"

Here's my take: I have a 5 year-old and a 2 year-old, and because I am a lover of words, I want them to have a respect, not a fear, for language. That does not mean that I freely curse around them or play my favorite Nicki Minaj songs in front of them, of course. But it does mean that I am realistic about my kids' probability of hearing/or seeing things I'd rather them not hear/or see until they're 40.

When they do hear a profanity, I explain that it's a "grown-up" word, rather than say it's a "bad" word. I'm hoping to teach them not to fear words and steer them toward more intelligent talk. I feel like words are powerful enough without the added weight of banning them. I guess that's easy to say when they're so young. We'll see how well I handle it as they grow, along with their vocabularies.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Here we are, 3/4 of the way through January. How many New Year's resolutions have you stuck to? We're not even a full month into 2012, and I'm struggling with one resolution - weight loss. Sugar is my mortal enemy and drug of choice. *Curse you, deliciousness!* But at least my writing resolutions - well, they're at full steam ahead.

1 outta 2 isn't half bad.

Oh, wait. It is exactly half bad.

I spent a good portion of the last year on my body. Mainly by gaining 25 unnecessary pounds. (An unfortunate side effect of taking in sugar like it's oxygen.) "But you're a vegetarian!" people say. "I thought all vegetarians were healthy." After I've stopped laughing myself to tears at this thought, I explain that while I don't eat meat, there are plenty of other things I do enjoy (in excess) that really stick to the ribs. And the hips. And the thighs.

Yeah, you read that right. "1/2" birthday. For my son's 6 month milestone. He couldn't eat any, but I sure did! Any excuse for cake will do.

I wish I could tell you that my aversion to eating meat is a deliberate, conscious choice, or protestation of some worthy cause or another, but it isn't. I don't eat meat simply because I have a very weak stomach. I've tried meat. Lots of times. But for some reason, the texture of fish or birds or anything meaty, combined with the thought of grinding flesh in my mouth is a near-guaranteed way to make me puke. I've been that way since I was a toddler, (much to the dismay of my parents, seeing as how most of our low-income meals were made of Hamburger Helper.)

I'm not a complete failure. I've lost a few pounds already, and I work out most days - even if it's playing the Wii or something, it counts. (Trust me, it has to. Because I've already checked around, and there are no "Dragging Sloth" bootcamps or "Step Aerobics for Softies.") But the real reason I can't count myself a failure is because I haven't given up. I haven't exercised some days, and I've OD'ed on ice cream on others, but the key is that I'm not going to quit. I will keep plugging away, one day at a time, and I know I will succeed.

This is the same principle I have applied to my writing. Some days I question whether I should keep submitting or just write for myself. There are times I'm so blown away by someone else's books or blogs, I think there is no way I will get published if Jane Doe still isn't. But that stubborn little part of me, the same one that forces my reluctant carcass onto the treadmill most days, will not let me quit.
(This is what my torso looks like. Well, probably. It's just hidden under an inch or two of fat right now.)

I do believe, with every fiber of my being, that I will be a novelist. It may not be this month or even this year, but if I continue on this path, sticking to my own resolutions, I know I will succeed. I hope you will stick with it too. Whatever your resolutions or goals or dreams may be, I hope your writing is one vice you'll always refuse to let go.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


So here we are again. Today I wanted to talk to you about--

Shh! Did you hear that?
I think it was just the wind. *listens* Yeah, definitely just the wind.
So why is your heart rate still elevated? And why can't you shake the feeling of being watched?

I don't know about you, but I have been unquestionably stricken with the heebie-jeebies. More times than not, sure, it was probably just the wind. Or a spirit. Or the house is just settling. Or my grandmother is trying to tell me she is okay in the afterlife. Or my mind is completely refusing to acknowledge there is a ghost in my house. Sure, there are footsteps on the 2nd floor of the house I'm in alone...maybe animals got in...and, uh, put on shoes...and are stomping around up there? Screw it. I'll admit - that freakin' house is haunted as hell.

I'm referring to one particular place I know to be haunted. I don't live in that place anymore, but the decade we spent there provided me with all the evidence I'll ever need that the living are definitely not alone here on Earth.

For example, I once had an extremely realistic dream of my deceased Grammy. I woke up as she was telling me not to worry, and when I sat up in bed, I was hit with a strong whiff of her signature perfume, only to have the smell vanish in seconds. The perfume in question is one I myself do not own.

Another example: I've watched my dog growl into an empty space, while she backed away from something I could not see.

Also: In the same house pictured above, a friend left in a panic, after someone crawled under the covers with him. Someone who simply was not there when he rolled over. He was 110% certain someone had lifted the blankets, laid down beside him, and pulled the blankets back up.

In this age of cameras on every phone and tablet and computer, you'd think more paranormal evidence would be caught on video, right? Let me tell you, in that fleeting moment of terror, there is no time to think "I have to get this on film." If I have one coherent thought when I'm scared half to death, it's going to be something along the lines of "Don't pee your pants, Helena."

And when someone does capture evidence on film? Many will brush it off with a mundane excuse, or "debunk" it without merit, or will chalk the person up as nothing more than an attention-seeker or a loon.

I respect people's right to disbelieve in the paranormal. But I also ask that people keep an open mind and not be so quick to brush off the possibilities. This is a huge world we live in. New discoveries are made every day, proving that creepy beings are nothing to fear as some dangerous abnormality. Keep your peepers open, guys and gals. You may just be surprised to find that Paranormal is the new normal.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Go On And Dream

Without a doubt, Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech is one of the most profound, heart-wrenching, soul-searching speeches ever given. His words have reached generations, and will continue to fortify generations to come.

His dreams may have seemed radical or far-fetched to some people at the time, but Dr. King knew then, as anyone with a conscience and common sense knows, we're all equal in God's eyes. We all deserve to dream.

I sit here now with dreams of my own. I dream of being a loving mom to my daughter and my son. A daily presence who will send my babies out into the world brimming with confidence and a "Yes, we can" kind of attitude. I hope to lay a strong foundation in hopes they'll easily brush off any potential naysayers, out to crush anyone else's dreams before they've even tried.

As a writer you will be told "No" so many times you'll lose count, and some of the rejections are more tough to swallow than others. It's entirely up to you to decide whether or not you want to continue on this dreamer's path. But I say go on. Dream big, and don't lose sight of it. I have a dream that we will break through. It. Will. Happen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


FOLLOWER, PLEASE DON'T GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who among us hasn't peeked at our Twitter Follower count, only to check back later and get hit with the bitch-slap-sting of realization that we'd been Unfollowed?

Smarts a bit, huh? Initially, I'd mentally retrace my Twitter tracks, wondering "Was it something I said?" or if I'd failed to reply to someone, or perhaps *deep breath here* maybe they just didn't like me.

Just as my old school-days insecurities start to take over, I convince myself only the Twitter-bots dumped me. Yeah. Surely that was it. And I could do without those mo'fo's anyway.

Of course, this is where we come to the uncomfy part. Let he who is without Twitter-sin throw the 1st stone. Have you unfollowed people? *glances over both shoulders* Don't tell anyone, but I have. Tons of times. And I'll tell you why.

First, let me start by promising you that I am not - I repeat, NOT - a person who'll simply follow someone until they follow me back, then drop 'em like a hot tamale. No, that's selfish, and frankly, that'd be too much work, going back and forth to clean house. But I do have 3 deal-breakers, and in no particular order, here they are:
  1. Meanies: I can take a joke. I always bag on myself, I sometimes bag on the Kardashians, and I occasionally put my husband's gaffes out there. I enjoy a good funny. But I have unfollowed (more than one) Twitter user for "jokes" that cross the line, in my lil' opinion. Things along the line of rape, homophobia or racism just don't tickle my funnybone. And depending on the 140 characters, I may even block the person. See ya, bye!
  2. Twit Validation: I think this contraption irks me more than it should, and I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I will admit that rather than jump through a hoop to hear what someone has to say, I'll always opt to unfollow instead. It just seems offensive, since the whole point is socialization. As much as I hate spammers, I just couldn't bring myself to hope for followers, then turn around and electronically frisk 'em when they do follow me. But that's just me.
  3. Overly repetitive: I love the writing community. I enjoy the way people band together to help each other get more followers or book reviews or book sales. Love it. But when you're following hundreds of writers, you want to be able to see their posts in your timeline. Am I right? So when the same person sends 50 Tweets at a time, either for their own promotion, or a flurry of rehashed dead people's quotes, or worse, to detail every. single. minute of their day ("I'm awake." "I'm dressed." "I'm at school." "Leaving school." "Pasta for dinner." "Dessert time!" "Watching tv."), I'm outta there. I'm sorry, but to fill my timeline with mundane things like that, when I could be reading people's tweets who make me laugh, or inspire me to work out, or intrigue me into buying their books? There's no contest between who I'll stick with. (But I still love you! Just from way over here.)
I think the promotional Auto-DM's are annoying, but I can roll with it. I think people who #FF every single follower they have is annoying (and not at-all sincere), but I can roll with that too.

Of course, I've been unfollowed, dozens of times. Who hasn't? Nothing personal, and I can roll with that as well.

But these are just my own nit-picky issues. I've made a full confession, and I feel better. To repent, I shall go follow another 50 people or something. But those 50 had better bring it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rx for Writer's Block?

How many times have you heard "Laughter is the best medicine" and wondered, Medicine for what, exactly? I'll tell you, it heals just about anything and everything.

Witness this family pic. I'm the one chortling food out of my mouth. What you can't see is that I'd gotten some devastating news about one of my siblings the day before this.

For me, heartfelt laughter helps to get me through just about anything: Physical illness, emotional turmoil, and - Surprise! - even the dreaded Writer's Block.

I don't know about you, but I try to find the funny in even the most craptastic situations. My most epic workplace-meltdown, which ended with me screaming at my boss "THAT'S FUCKED UP AND YOU KNOW IT!!" may not have been hysterical in that moment, but now, I can't think of that day and not giggle myself to tears. (It's also super-cool that I didn't get fired or anything.)
I'll readily admit comedy isn't a cure-all for all of life's dark times, and it doesn't always work. My Grammy's passing? No, laughter won't cure that heartbreak, ever. But picturing her cringing in humiliation as HER mother sat on our front porch, openly (and quite graphically) waxing poetic over her regret at never experimenting sexually or trying out interracial love is hilarious enough to quell my tremendous grief, just a bit, when I miss her most. Grammy was pushing 70 at the time, so my pervy great-grandma must've been hovering around 90. That level of awesome is the hysterical memory-gift that just keeps on giving.

Life is hard sometimes, no doubt. There will be heartbreak and loss and rejection and struggle. But there will also be joy, hugs, smiles, jokes, (chocolate), generosity and break-throughs.

A good laugh dries tears and closes gaps. The sound of kids squealing with laughter quells anxiety and reinforces positivity. Comic relief is also inspiring, relaxing, and enlightening - so your pesky Writer's Block doesn't stand a chance.

If you need a lil' push in the right direction, check out some of these comedy gems:

  • Twitter: @VAGivens and @surlymuse and @julieinthelou for daily doses of funny.

  • Books: Check out OMG! by Deborah Baer for pee-your-pants funny. Just about anything by Sophie Kinsella for beautifully embedded novel-length comedy. And for "Oh no she di'int!" laughs, you should run, don't walk, to get "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" by Chelsea Handler.

  • TV: I don't know how it gets any better than "America's Funniest Videos," but I also have laughed myself to tears watching "Modern Family," "Raising Hope," and "30 Rock."

  • Movies: "Napoleon Dynamite" rocks my face off, "Bridesmaids" had me at hello, and if I could run "Borat" on continuous loop in my house, I would.

So if you're behind me one day and see me trip or witness me sneeze coffee into my lap, or even drive by while I'm getting a speeding ticket, go ahead and have a laugh on me. It's my treat. (And it's my treatment.)

Friday, January 6, 2012


So yesterday I was cruising around the internet, and saw the Twitter pic Mariah Carey posted of her husband in a hospital bed. She said he's having kidney failure. I'm not usually one to give much energy or focus to the latest haps in the disconnected celeb world, but I have thought a lot about poor lil' Nick Cannon (a lot more than I'd care to admit) since yesterday. I liked the way they seemed to stick together, and face that monster head-on and chin-up.

See, two years ago, my husband's brother's kidneys started failing. Rapidly. Almost immediately after we got that news, his sister's started failing, just as fast. The family huddled, decided who would be tested for kidney donation, and the wheels were set in motion which ended with my sister-in-law Marie donating a kidney to her brother, and my husband donating a kidney to his sister. The 2 transplant surgeries were set to take place 1 after the other, 1 week apart.

My husband had no qualms about the surgery. He took a month's leave from work, left St. Louis for Los Angeles, and spent his days shuttling between his sister's apartment and the various departments at the hospital at USC for labs and other pre-op fun stuff.

The decision to be a live donor isn't just a matter of saying "Yes, let's do this," though for both donors in this case, the answer was immediate. There are a wide range of tests, physical and psychological, that span weeks, and last years. The physical pain after surgery is pretty significant, and the risk of any surgery is nothing to sneeze at.

My husband never once complained about the hoops he jumped through to donate his kidney or the pain he endured afterward. He came home, proudly showing off the photos the surgical team took of his healthy kidney, next to his sister's dead one. And the snazzy certificate USC gave him is displayed in our house. Not for bragging rights, but as a reminder.

Any one of us could suffer health crisis. I guess the decision to be made is how to handle it: Pretend you're an ostrich and bury your head in the sand, or face that monster head-on and chin-up, saying "Let's do this."

Monday, January 2, 2012


Wow. Another year gone by. Let's just check last year's list of resolutions and see how we did. *eyeballs list*

Yes, well, there's always this year. Ahem. So why don't we start from scratch, shall we?

2012 WILL be the year that I:

  • Attend my 1st RWA Conference. This year it's in Anaheim and I. Will. Go.

  • Tend to my neglected lil' bloggy-blog, at least twice per week. *nuzzles blog*

  • Go to Belize. One of the most beautiful, laid-back places on the planet.

  • Pray the Mayan calendar has no actual truth to the whole end-of-the-world thing.

  • Work out/or do something physically active at least 5 days per week.

And if I don't stick to my resolutions? Well, there's always plenty more scratch to start next year.