Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewell to Twenty-Eleven (or, How About a Nice, Tall Glass of Half-Full?)

Well, despite our best efforts to delay the inevitable, Christmas came and went and now 2012 is breathing down our necks. Yet even with all the insanity of the holidays, The Universe kept chugging along, blissfully ignorant of our late-night mad-dash for deals, panic over the price of the latest toy/gadget/rocket ship, and general jack-assery that comes with yule-ing our tide.

And that, ladies and gents, should make us all feel a whole lot better about Life and Things. I mean, let’s be honest: 2011 was a wild, wacky year. Wall Street was bipolar, we were/are at war, we had more protests at home and abroad than you could shake a stick at, we endured a Kardashian vomiting all over the “institution of marriage” we had to admit that this is the final season of Chuck, and a million other things that make us want to stare at The Universe and say, “Oh come on! Really?!”*

But buried within all the doom and gloom splattered across the TV were also a lot of bright points. There was the discovery of (possible) life on other planets, the excitement as we waited for the results of the whole Higgs-Boson shindig, there were miraculous births and amazing survival stories from disasters, we closed the chapter on one war, we watched some excellent television, etc.

Like the madness of the holidays, it’s easy to let the noise from the negativity of the past year wear us down. But you know what? We shouldn’t because so much in our lives is based on perspective. It’s not so much looking at life as glass-half-full, but rather looking at…actually, I suppose it is looking at the “full” part of the glass.  

2011 is coming to close and, to be honest, things were reasonably good in this small corner of the planet. I got married to “the one that got away”, inherited a new (and completely crazy-in-a-good-way) family, had a couple friends get published (or will be), bottled my first jars of honey, and heard about justice (finally) for a murdered friend. I toured one of the most fascinating cities you’d never think to visit (and you’d be wrong!), wrote a lot of words (on this site and in stories), read some great books, read some fantastically crappy ones, ate, drank, and generally tried to enjoy life to the fullest.   

That’s not to say everything was hunky-dory. There were plenty of dark points and late nights spent staring at the ceiling wondering how to fix things. There were days/weeks/months of biting nails and counting every penny. And don’t get me started on the number of rejection letters I collected.  

But all of those were/are speed bumps and not mountains.

Or at least, they should be. After all, we only have oh-so-much energy to spend worrying about Things and Such, so we had best pick and choose the ones that cut deepest. Otherwise, we’re going to be emotionally exhausted in another 12 months.

As we stampede into 2012, a lot of people will create resolutions or make promises for how to improve on the New Year. But you know what? The Universe won’t care. It will keep doing its thing whether we join a gym or eat 12 boxes of donuts.**

That doesn’t mean we should wallow in despair, stop trying to improve, or give up on our dreams. Instead, we should realize that life is going to happen no matter what and we can either watch it drift by or jump in and hang on. Maybe this is the year we’ll land an agent/publishing contract/underwear modeling career. Then again, maybe it won’t be. Maybe we’ll struggle, cry, cuss, and worry instead. Either way, the big, bad river of life will keep on keeping on.

And if that’s the case, you can bet that when we’re here this time next year, we’d all rather say goodbye to 2012 with a tear of sadness than with a kick in the pants as it scampers out the door. And so much of that depends on whether or not we get out there and make the effort to actually live our lives.  

So here’s to you, 2011: Thanks for all the good times and bad. It was a heck of a ride.

And here’s to you, 2012: May the coming year be one filled with hope, laughter, and experiences worthy of song. And may we never forget that life, with all of its bruises and scrapes, is meant to be lived and not simply tolerated.



*I know, I know, there are many more things on that list, but there just isn’t time to get into all of them. How about we talk over a beer sometime?

**The latter sounds soooooo good right now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 16 Dec 11

It's that time of year again: The Season of Giving. Therefore, I give you this week's installment of CM's:

Tweets of the Week:*

@Michael_A-Tate: Alright words, look out because I'm going hunting. And when I catch you I'm going to arrange you for display in my zoo...I mean story.

@LovelyWhenReady: If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

@AncientProverbs: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellent, then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

@ReadWriteLuv: "A committed writer sentences himself to death." -Unknown #humor (ROFL must've been a run-on sentence.)

@HillaryJacques: So glad people can't see me inside stand-up tanning booths. Not because I'm naked, but beacuse I'm doing the robot. Badly.

@JensBookshelf: Sometimes I think I should be a proper grown up and follow politics. Then I remember I like stories with character development.

@herebemagic: I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. Dr Suess.

@StaciaDecker: Amazingly, agents would rather allot unpaid work hrs to developing existing clients than to queries from strangers who call them idiots.

@Greorg_Grey: Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. So study hard and be evil.











*Note: All tweets are kinda' as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, 15% off retail, buy one get one free, doorbuster sales, and no interest until 2013!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Believing (or Tebowing for Our Stories)

Let me preface this post with a disclaimer: I'm going to talk about religion and sports, two topics that are in the same volatile stratosphere as politics when it comes to "appropriate party conversation." That said, it's merely to set up The Whole Point and, if anyone takes offense, I'm sorry. It's not intentional.

We good?

Excellent.

So here's the thing: I watched the Broncos-Bears game last night (and by "watched", I mean that it was background noise while CobraMrsFit and I puttered around the house). For three quarters, it was boring TV. Tebow and the Broncos looked flat and the Bears, lead by the machine that is Brian Urlacher, completely dominated the Broncos offensive line.

But with, and I'm not kidding, about 2 minutes left in the game, CobraMrsFit and I were glued to the TV. The Broncos not only scored a TD, but failed to recover an onside kick, watched the Bears drive down the field only to have Marion Barber step out of bounds (one of two game-changing mistakes), then somehow also drove down the field which set up Matt Prater for a 59-yard field goal to tie it with 3 seconds left in the game. And, because there wasn't enough drama already, the Bears won the coin-toss in overtime, drove down the field only to have Barber fumble the football (which the Broncos recovered), and then Tebow and Company set Prater up for a 51-yard field goal to win.*

It was, without a doubt, one of the most intense games I've watched in a long time.

Now normally the post-game interviews with players are a load of boring, run-of-the-mill quotes that barely show up on my radar. Last night, however, when the mic was put in front of Tebow, the first words out of his mouth were, "I first want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Wait. What?

Tebow then went on to thank his O-Line, the staff, and his teammates. Specifically, he wanted to thank them for believing. "If you believe," Tebow said, "then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible."**

What's amazing, however, is not so much the game (which WAS amazing), but the amount of hate and discontent the Broncos quarterback has generated. Check any sports forum and you'll find an insane number heated arguments about how awful/wonderful Tebow is/is not. Bring his name up at the water cooler and watch as people get into it.

The guy has even been the source of his own Internet meme: Tebowing.


***

Toss that word in your favorite search engine and you'll find thousand of similar images. Some of my favs include:


****

*****

So here's the question I have for The Universe: Why the hate? Sure, it's easy to poke fun at a guy who is open about his faith and trust me, I get it why people don't like the way he plays ball. His QB skills are random and wild, but you can't argue with three overtime wins this year. More important, you can't argue with the fact that he continually gives credit to everyone but himself. In almost every post-game interview, Tebow has talked about the quality of his teammates, the great plays others have made, and the power of believing that the impossible isn't.

And maybe that's the reason.

In the recent Muppet movie, the cast is confronted by The Big Bad Guy who says that essentially, their G-Rated, goody-too-shoes humor no longer has a place in a bitter, cynical world. Perhaps Tebow is experiencing the same thing. Maybe we've become so accustomed to celebrities paying rent in rehab (or filing for divorce after 72 days), politicians acting like total idiots on camera, and people generally operating like selfish, intolerant d-bags, that we automatically assume someone with a different attitude is just playing us. And who knows: maybe Tebow really is a tool and just playing a role because it makes him stand out.

But what if he's not? What then?

Again, the guy thanked everyone and not once did he take credit for the win. Sure, he had some amazing plays, but credit should go (and rightfully has gone) to Barber for his two flubs. More important, credit goes to Matt Prater who's two field goals tied and then ultimately won the game in OT.

Yet the media seems focused solely on Tim.

Yes, Tebow is open about his faith, but it seems to be more than just his Christianity. He had faith that his team could come back. He believed they wouldn't stop fighting. But to win, the Broncos needed a lot of miracles to happen. And you know what? They did. Barber flubbed twice, both at critical junctions. Receivers caught balls when they needed to. Prater sliced the uprights on record field goals. Tebow's belief that the impossible could happen turned out to be warranted.

To quote the pastor of our church during every sermon: "This brings us to the 'So What?' What should I take away from all this?'"

We're writers, or at least trying to be writers. We operate in a world where the odds are distinctly not in our favor. We spend hours, days, and even years polishing a story knowing that it may never see print because it's not the right genre, not the right agent, or not the right time. We work, sweat, and cry to create something that, in all likelihood, will never wind up on a bookshelf.

Between our own doubts and external obstacles, it's easy to become bitter and cynical, to assume that we're never going to amount to anything, so we might as well quit. Yet we continue to write, continue to query, and continue to hope.

Why? 

Because we believe. We believe that the odds don't matter, that there may be a window of opportunity just around the corner. We have faith that, despite the stacks upon stacks of rejection letters, an agent, editor, or publisher will feel the same way about our story that we do. We continue to fight because we refuse to believe that we are just wasting our time.

Ultimately, our success or failure depends on a great many factors. It starts with a story that is polished to a shine, but it also requires that story finding its way to the right person at the right time. Some of that is luck, but the vast majority of it is tenacity, determination, and a little Tebow-level belief that we can do it.

And maybe, against all odds, it'll actually happen.





*For those doing the math, that's 110 yards. Kicking! Ironically, more yards than Barber had on the ground.  

**Quote courtesty of http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/gametracker/recap/NFL_20111211_CHI@DEN/tebow-rallies-broncos-past-bears-in-ot

***Image courtesy of: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=tebowing&hl=en&safe=active&biw=1054&bih=638&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=Tbes68-KbRZCwM:&imgrefurl=http://www.benchedpress.com/2011/10/httpwwwbloggercomimgblankgif.html&docid=hfV2wwkOE1TobM&imgurl=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YVcYu5UhXlM/TqnlPH7EwbI/AAAAAAAAAds/ZtOba4670xM/s1600/tim%25252Btebow%25252Btebowing.jpg&w=422&h=594&ei=wwXmTpO6OuGJ0QHS0OjtBQ&zoom=1 (wow. that's a long one).

****Image courtesy of: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=tebowing&hl=en&safe=active&biw=1054&bih=638&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=sKmT3J7nf-DDcM:&imgrefurl=http://tebowing.com/&docid=lKHa7J7rkDBBlM&itg=1&imgurl=http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lvzwvlCxvl1r5ubj1o1_500.jpg&w=500&h=375&ei=wwXmTpO6OuGJ0QHS0OjtBQ&zoom=1

*****Image courtesy of: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=tebowing&hl=en&safe=active&biw=1054&bih=638&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=-2epgJgEK5HgcM:&imgrefurl=http://tebowing.com/&docid=lKHa7J7rkDBBlM&itg=1&imgurl=http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lw030ynpfh1r5ubj1o1_500.jpg&w=500&h=375&ei=wwXmTpO6OuGJ0QHS0OjtBQ&zoom=1

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Importance of Genre (or, "You Say Tomato, I Say Banana")

With the release of the Hunger Games movie trailer recently, there's been a lot of noise about the main character, Katniss, vs Twilight's femme fatale, Bella*. Numerous blogs, articles, forum debates, and office discussions have centered around the pros and cons of both characters. The static goes something like this:

Katniss is a survivor who has been forced to operate on her own and does what needs to be done when the situation demands it. She a thinker, a planner, and a good role model for young girls.

Bella is an annoying teen who complains about everything, including the fact that two hot boys are head over heels in love with her. She is clumsy, always in need of saving, and her only motivation is a near obsessive need to be loved.

That's all fine and good for a chuckle, but when you boil it down, the comparisons are unfair. The reason?

Genre.

The reason why these girls are so drastically different is because the authors designed them specifically for their respective "worlds". Yes, both franchises can be considered Young Adult with female leads, but the similarities end there. Twilight is basically a modern era, paranormal romance while Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games is more along the lines of a dystopian young adult adventure/survival series.

Arguing that one main character is "better" than the other is like saying that water and oil are essentially the same thing.

Allow me to go on record as saying that, personally, I don't care for Bella, Edward, Jacob, or anything associated with Twilight. Allow me to also caveat that by saying I typically don't enjoy romances in general because that's not what I am drawn to. Yes, I find Bella everything listed above and was immediately turned off by the "oh-woe-is-me-I-is-a-sparkly-monster, blah,blah,blah" by Edward. I don't identify with any of the characters and was not interested in whether or not Bella chose Team Edward or Team Jacob. 

I'm Team Potter all the way. Specifically, Team Neville.

That said, I will absolutely defend Stephanie Meyer and Twilight because I recognize that I am not her target audience.

Objectively, her books are well written. Individual plots are well structured and the major story arc is outstanding. Say what you will about the characters, no one can argue with the success of the franchise. Something about it resonates with people.

A lot of people.

Hunger Games also resonates with readers, but for a completely different reason. Part of that is because it appeals to a different echelon than Twilight. Yes, there are a lot of people who love both, but the genres draw certain lines in the sand. And no matter how you argue it, people like what they like. I love fantasy or futuristic worlds with underdogs struggling to overcome "bad people" (*cough* Harry Potter/StarWars/Firefly *cough*). I DON'T like teenage girls boo-hooing about boyfriends. But millions of readers do, or at least don't see Twilight like in that manner. Many more are devoted to the immortal romance that Ms Meyer created and they have developed an attachment to both the story and the characters.   
Comparing the two leads is also unfair because neither would survive in their other's world. Bella would likely step on a landmine or get an arrow to the heart within 10 seconds of the starting gong of the Hunger Games. Katniss, on the other hand, lacks Bella's burning passion which might prevent her from forming a strong alliance with the Cullens. Her independence/survivalist instinct would be a hindrance because she wouldn't want to rely on anyone. More likely than not, she'd tick off the wrong family and wind up on the dinner menu.

Obviously these are broad, semi-humorous sweeps of the paintbrush. There are subtleties to each story/character that different readers identify with. Additionally, the franchises are separated by their respective genre which allows both girls to prosper or fail based on the "rules" spelled out by the author.
But no matter what, it's important to keep in mind that while you or I might like or dislike a story, both Twilight and Hunger Games have main characters that appeal to millions of readers.

And let's be honest, wouldn't we all love to touch that many people with our words? 







*For the 3 people in the world who don't know what I'm talking about, Bella is the female lead for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series. Also, Han shot first. Trust me.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tweets of the (last two) Week(s): 02 Dec 11

Sometimes life is busy. Between work, holidays, and alien abductions, I've been away from the blog-o-sphere, however, after near riotous demand from the unruly masses*, here is the latest installment of:

CM's TWEETS OF THE WEEEEEEEEEEK:**


@AbielleRose: I don't want to be known as a 'writer." I want to be known as a creator.

@hellioncat: Laughing at someone brave enough to try something they can't do is your greatest act of cowardice.

@alan_tudyk: I walked my dog in the pre-sunrise early morning breeze today. The only sound was my breath and the owl song. Suddenly hungry for Hooters.

@TheNotebook: Don't cry over the past, it's gone. Don't stress about the future, it hasn't arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.

@ericjkrause: Hehe. Too true. RT @FARfetched58: You know spammers have ruined everything when a hot female avi becomes a reason NOT to follow someone.

@ItsAYYSIAN: Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy bacon, and that's pretty damn close.

@SoVeryAwkward: That awkward moment when someone asks if you're on Team Edward or Team Jacob...and you say you're on Team Potter.

@Broslife: I always have to remember when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome.

@zachbraff: Team not Sleeping on the Sidewalk for a Ticket to a Movie that's Gonna be Out for Months.

@JensBookshelf: A car just drove past slowly, with thumping gansta rap. Guys, it doesn't work if you're driving your Mum's station wagon.

@PamGrier: We do not stop playing because we are old. We grow old because we stop playing. Xox.

@Chemistry_cat_: Holy shift, look at the asymptote on that mother function. #chemistrycat

@Inspire_Us: The difference in winning & losing is most often, not quitting. -Walt Disney

@MorganCline: Brushing my pet bunny & listening to Paul Simons "Graceland" album...so yeah, I'm exactly where I thought I'd be at 32.

@Flickimp: There are times when I wish I was at Bag-end watching the clouds drift by.

@Sam Sykes Swears: In writing, talent is used some of the time. Luck is used once or twice. Persistence is used for absolutely everything else.

@VoiceVote84: This year I'm thankful for a loving family, warm & generous friends, education, and just enough wisdom to be grateful. #thanksgiving

@lanniewright: 'Times are bad. Childern no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book." -Ceciro, circa 43 BC

@alyankovic: I swear some days it's no longer worth strapping on your studded leather codpiece.

@Itisawomanthing: Being female is a matter of birth, being a woman is a matter of age, but being a lady is a matter of choice.

@_Snape_: Voldemort is like a teenage girl. He has a diary, a tiara, a favorite ring, a pet he adores, and an obsession with a famous teenage boy.

@JewelStaite: Things uttered in public places that warrant weird looks from strangers: "Man, I sure do love hot dogs."

@KellyMeding: "I hate rice cakes. They taste like popcorn farts." #Chopped #bestlinesever

@alan_tudyk: my ass is in widespread panic

@InspiringY0U: Finding each other is the beginning, staying together is the process. Working together is the success. #InspiringY0U

@joelmchale: Clean up on aisle Los Angeles. #wind

@AntonSesay: You Are Exactly Who You Think You Are, So Think Highly Of Yourself.

@DalekThay: You BETTER watch OUT. You BETTER not CRY. You BETTER not POUT. I am TELLING you WHY. YOU will be EX-TER-MIN-ATED. #DalekChristmas

@ColleeLindsay: BREAKING NEWS: Some people on the Internet are idiots. FILM AT ELEVEN!

@HillaryJacques: My boss's mouth says "get towork" but her eyes say "eat chocolate and frolic". Which to believe???

(whew)



*and by that I mean complete and total silence from the Intertoobz.
**epic fading sound effect, in case you were wondering. Also, Note: All tweets are kinda' as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, knick knacks, paddy whacks, and giving a dog a bone.