Misfit Monday: Home on the Web

We’ve all heard about how mechanics take care of their own cars. As in, often, they don’t. They tell everyone else to get the regular, scheduled maintenance as listed in the Owner’s Manual, but for their own cars… well, these usually get put off. And put off. An oil change might get done weeks or months after it’s should have been, or it might not. Until something goes wrong.

Such is the life of a web designer. When I first set up this site, I didn’t have any books published. I didn’t blog. I just set the site up because we’re all told we’re supposed to, in case an agent or editor we’ve sent a submission in to decides to look us up. My site had a basic page about my books, a bio, and a contact page, but that’s it. Mainly, I wanted to keep my domain name, because I secured it way back in 2000, and it’s a nice, short, easy to spell one that would get snapped up in microseconds if I let it expire.

Then I read Kristen Lamb‘s We Are Not Alone, in which she convinced me of the benefits of blogging. (Like being able to talk about my dogs and post cute puppy videos. :D) So I dutifully put up a blog, and made my recent posts my home page. I published two books. It was all good.

But something wasn’t right. I had a blog, with the appropriate pages for an author website, but no real home page. That’s been over a year now.

I got new author photos, shot by the wonderfully-talented Pat Strang of 513Photography. It was time I stopped being a web designer who took care of her own website like a busy mechanic takes care of her own car. So please, take a look at my new home page, and let me know what you think!

I still have work to do. I want to add an archive list to my blog pages, now that I have enough material to make it worthwhile. I probably should add a Search function. I’m going to streamline the sidebar with my book info that shows up on every page besides home. But this is a good start.

I’d love to hear from you! Does my home page include the information you’d want, as a reader who wants to know about an author? If you were to stumble across it via links, does it tell you what I, and my writing, is all about? Is there anything you’d suggest I’d add to my home page?

Misfit Monday: Running with the Big Dogs… or Not

If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch (or the couch)… or so the old saying goes.

I have a confession to make. My husband runs with the big dogs (heck, he’s one of ’em).

I’m the one on… well, maybe not the old wooden rocker, but on the porch swing, or maybe one of those cheap plastic resin chairs.

Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee

Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband went to the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tennessee this weekend. He went with three friends, two of whom were women.

I was happy to stay home.

For starters, I haven’t been real fond of camping since the time my family went to Put-in-Bay up on Lake Erie, and it rained all freakin’ weekend. The older I get, the less appeal “roughin’ it” has for me. But the kicker is that at Bristol – probably any NASCAR race – the campground is nothing but party central, all weekend long, with the main activity being the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

I have nothing against drinking, as long as one’s not doing something stupid, like driving. But I’ve always been a lightweight, and that too, has become more the case as I get older. A couple drinks is enough for me, because the older I get, the less alcohol it takes to make me feel really bad.

On Friday night, my husband was pounding beer, moonshine, jello shots, and who knows what as he wandered around the campground being his sociable self. I worked on my short story.

On Saturday morning, my husband wanted someone to shoot him. I worked on my short story. 😀

When I was in college, staying in on the weekend to do something like write or – gasp! – study, maybe! – made you a nerd, and not in a cool, Revenge 0f the Nerds kind of way. After I graduated college, being single and staying home on the weekend meant you were a loser. (Well, that is if you actually cared what anyone else thought – which most of the time, I didn’t.) Only when you had young children did it become acceptable to stay in on the weekends – because the kid(s) provided an excuse. By the time my daughter was old enough not to need a babysitter, I was okay with admitting to other people that I’m not a partier, and staying in when I want. Which is most of the time, unless I’m going out with my husband.

Once my husband got “the hair of the dog” and some food in him on Saturday, he felt better and enjoyed the race. He used some restraint in partying Saturday night, because he and his friends were planning to leave early Sunday morning for the trip home. And overall, he had a great time.

I finished making revision notes on my short story, plus got a bunch of other stuff taken care of. I had a great day, too!

What about you? Do you run with the dogs, or stay on the porch? And if the latter, how long did it take you to stop caring if you were uncool?

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Misfit Monday: Worst. Fanfic. Ever.

Last week, I took a break from the usual daily grind and minutiae of everyday life to take three teen girls to Chicago for a college visit. The trip went well, my daughter and her two friends had a great time (I did, too!), and we were impressed with DePaul University.

But one thing that will probably stand out in my mind most of all was the drive there and back.

It’s a 5-6 hour drive, depending on traffic and road construction. Add a 3G-enabled tablet and YouTube, and things get interesting.

For the first hour or so of the drive there, they surfed the web looking at fashion (more on this Thursday!). Then my daughter and her friend with the tablet discovered that their other friend (and I) and never heard of The Worst. Fanfic. Ever: My Immortal. So they needed to enlighten us. Now this is probably old news to many, but I hadn’t heard of it before, so for those who also haven’t, here it is:

English: Created by modifying this image Itali...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

My Immortal is (loosely-based) Harry Potter fan fiction, and was originally posted on fanfiction.net in 2006. (It was later removed, and that’s a whole story in itself.) It is an example of everything we’re taught not to do as writers, whether of fanfic or fiction featuring our own, original characters and worlds. It is so badly written that many have theorized that it’s not a real attempt at honest-to-goodness fanfic, but an intentional effort to write the Worst. Fanfic. Ever., much in the vein of  Atlanta Nights. Normally I would only discuss a book I don’t like in a “what can I learn from this” spirit, and do my best not to identify the book or author. But after having experienced My Immortal, I’m going with the Tara-is-a-troll theory.

We listened to the series of YouTube videos, narrated by an English guy. The best part was, he pronounced the misspellings phonetically, so we got to enjoy those, too. And boy, were there a lot of them – starting with the main character’s name.

This obvious Mary Sue character was a seventeen-year-old girl named Ebony Dark’ness (sic) Dementia Raven Way – or sometimes, “Enoby.” Her main love interest was Draco Malfoy (or Darko), whom she’s excited to spot her first day at Hogwarts (and that pretty much sums up the first chapter). Some of the other characters keep their original names (or misspellings thereof) – Dumbledore is sometimes Dumblydore, Dumldeor, or Dumbledork; Professor McGonnagal is McGoggle, and Snape is sometimes Snope, Snoop, Snake, or Snap. Other characters have completely new names: Harry is “Vampire,” Ron Weasley is “Diabolo,” and Hermione is “B’loody (sic) Mary,” and they are all gothic, satanic vampires.

Most of the story’s “plot” – and I use the term loosely – consists of Enoby “doing it” with Drako, Vampyr, Snap, or Voldemort; going to see concerts by Good Charlotte or My Chemical Romance; and drawn-out descriptions of her “goffik” outfit (all of which were purchased at Hot Topic). There are frequent author intrusions (e.g., “if u dnot get this, then u r a prep!”), and each chapter begins with a hilarious “Author’s Note” that is usually something on the lines of “STOP FLAMMIN DA STORY” (sic) and threats not to post any more installments until a number of good reviews are received.

There’s effusive use of adverbs – people are always doing something “goffically” or “sexily,” and the only description is of characters’ eyes (usually a “goffik red”) and extensive descriptions of Enoby’s outfits (black leather miniskirt, ripped red fishnets, and “corset stuff”). There’s time travel, with a cameo appearance by “Morty McFli” of Back to the Future in his “tim machine” (sic)  that’s painted “blak” so as to be suitably gothic. There are anachronisms, like bands playing in the 80’s that didn’t exist until a decade or more later. There are logistical impossibilities, like Enoby stepping out of Drako’s flying Mercedes while it’s flying and walking away, or when two characters “talked to each other in silence.” While listening (I was driving part of the way, so I didn’t see the videos), I noticed there were many mentions of “one hundred and eleven” and sometimes, “eleven thousand, one hundred and eleven.” The kids explained that this was actually supposed to be exclamation points – many of them – that were typed without the shift key.

And… oh, the malapropisms! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Dumbledore had constipated the cideo camera they took of me naked.”
  • “Snap was spying on me and he was taking a video tape of me! And Loopin was masticating to it!”
  • “I had to do somefing more impotent”
  • Many times, the main character wants to “silt” her wrists
  • “Snap” frequently “laughed statistically”
  • She also mentions the time she “lost my virility”
  • One chapter starts with a warning in the author’s note: “Viower Excretion Advisd.”

Of course, there are also characters acting out of character, random insertion of other characters, characters appearing out of nowhere, clothes that were taken off (or rather, “of”) and never put back on, only to be taken “of” again in the next chapter, and general writing that looks more like text-message spelling than anything recognizable.

And then there are the sexytimes. I can’t type it, I’d be laughing so hard, so I’ll just leave it to you to read from the beginning, if you dare — or, in My Immortal style, “ef u dar.” Or, watch and listen to the same readings we did on YouTube. The commentary alone is worth it!

So what do you think? Could something this bad have possibly have been written unintentionally? Did you dare to read any of it – and if so, how long did it take you to stop laughing?


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Misfit Monday: The Blast Cabinet from Hell

I am usually pretty good at putting together ready-to-assemble furniture and the like. I know to RTFM (“read the flippin’ manual”), and have a good sense of spatial relationships, or visualizing how things fit together. I love putting together IKEA furniture – for me, it’s fun. But the other day, I was stymied – along with my whole family.

The Blast Cabinet from Hell, minus the door

My husband is in the midst of restoring and rebuilding a classic TransAm. Part of this includes cleaning up all the parts as he removes them, to get them as close as possible to original factory condition, and a great way to do this is to sandblast ’em. This is how the guys on the History Channel show American Restoration strip the paint and grime off all those Coke machines, antique metal toys, and yes, cars, and then repaint them and make them look like new. So DH bought a blast cabinet from one of the popular online auto parts suppliers.

He was thrilled when it arrived the next day. Things went downhill from there.

I came home from work to find him ready to kill something – preferably, the blast cabinet. When I jumped in to help him assemble it, I quickly understood why.

The thing must’ve come with 400 nuts, bolts, washers, and other small parts, none of which were labeled.

And yes, he did RTFM – that was the first thing I asked him. This was also the first thing our daughter, who’d also been conscripted into helping, asked him. Guess what his usual MO for stuff like this is?

The worthless instructions were barely readable – most of them, anyway

But in this case, the assembly instructions weren’t much help, as they were almost unreadable, and what was legible, didn’t make sense. I suspect it was translated (and poorly) from Chinese, or some other language dissimilar to English. In many cases, it didn’t specify which way something fit together (does that screen go with this side up, or the other one?), and the pictures were even less clear than the text. My husband even emailed the retailer with a request for better instructions. Not only weren’t they any clearer, they were different than the first booklet!

The worst was when we had to match up four sets of bolt holes. Invariably, where some matched up, others didn’t, even after loosening what we’d already assembled and jockeying it around. My husband even resorted to getting out his drill and drilling a few of them larger. But we pressed on, and puzzled it out until we got most of the cabinet put together and called it a night.

The next day, I came home from work to find DH in a similar state as the day before, only this time he was muttering about what he could do with a machine gun.

We’d gone to all that trouble only to find that the door didn’t fit. One of the hinge holes was over an inch off!

The blast cabinet is being returned tomorrow, shipping at the retailer’s expense. Unfortuneately, he can’t get them to return the entire day he spent working on the darn thing, or the couple hours my daughter and I both spent helping.

He’s going to look through Craigslist to see if he can’t find a used, already-assembled one someone wants to unload.

How are you with ready-to-assemble products? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Do you RTFM as a matter of course? Got any horror stories like the above to share?

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Misfit Monday plus Excerpt: Ahead of her Time

I’m away again, so I’m going to leave you with another excerpt from Time’s Enemy. This passage takes place after Tony rescues nine-year-old Charlotte in the flood – twenty years later for her, in fact, when Tony comes to visit her as an adult in 1933.

Time's Enemy CoverTony followed her into the basement, her favorite room in the house despite its constant, damp chill. Her favorite because of the workbench that ran along an entire wall, a place she could lose herself for hours. She snapped on the two metal clip lights above her creation, a welded, metal cabinet with foil-covered panels. Tony craned his neck to study the water tanks and the pipes she’d twisted around it. “I’m experimenting with water to store the sun’s heat,” she explained.

“I’d say you’re on the right track.” She searched his face. Not a hint of the veiled reservations her brother always tried to hide when she showed him one of her projects. She seldom mentioned her work to her sister, whose usual response was to chide her for wasting time she could better spend on something constructive, like quilting or working in the garden.

Louie had gone beyond skepticism to outright derision. Among other things, it proved he wasn’t the man for her. If he hadn’t broken their engagement, she would have. Elmer’s lack of enthusiasm confirmed she’d best keep her activities to herself, should they eventually marry.

That prospect grew less likely the longer she spent with Tony. She let her eyes travel over him and remembered the bubbles of joy she’d felt when he took her arm in his on the way home from Rike’s. So different than Elmer. Tony opened the cabinet’s sealed door and ran his fingers around its smooth edges. “You might be onto something here.”

“You think so?” She clasped her hands.

“Oh yeah, this is cool.”

English: Solar oven Português: Forno solar

An actual, modern solar oven (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Read about my friend Athena Grayson’s adventures with solar cooking here.

“Cool?” Her shoulders slumped. “But it’s supposed to get hot. Or at least warm.”

He laughed, and heaviness fell over her body like a lead jacket. It was worse than Louie’s scorn. She started to turn away. “Oh, no, I mean it’s neat,” Tony said. “Good. Swell.” His face settled into a grin. “In my time, cool has another meaning besides temperature. It’s a good thing.”

Anticipation warred with unease, and she figured out why when they trudged back upstairs to start dinner.

She’d finally met a man who believed in her. Not only believed in her work, but wanted to help her. A man who could take her ideas and sell them. Do the part she hated and, she had to admit, was hampered in by the fact she was a woman. Tony could cross barriers she couldn’t. He could solicit interest in her work from men who couldn’t see the innovator beneath her feminine form.

He intrigued her, intellectually. And otherwise, she had to admit. If it weren’t for the fact that he belonged decades in the future, she’d want Tony to take her to the dance, not Elmer. Tony to be the one who spent his evenings with her. Tony who might ask her to marry him—

She couldn’t think such things. Especially about an Enemy of Time. A man she needed to convince to go to the Society House and turn himself in.

Later. First, she’d at least fix dinner. It would hardly be civil to send him to Theodore on an empty stomach.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you! Please know that while I’m away I may not be able to reply to your comments for a while, but every one is appreciated, as are any retweets and Facebook Shares. I’ll be back soon, and will reply and visit your blog if you have one. Also, while the Booklovers’ Buffet sale is over, Time’s Enemy is still on sale for $.99 until tomorrow, so if you’re thinking about giving it a read, there’s no better time than the present. You can buy Time’s Enemy at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords and many other online retailers. Thanks for reading!

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Misfit Monday: How to Watch Misfit Movies

Mike and the two robots (lower right) settle in for a really bad one!

A couple weeks ago, a post by my IRL friend Jim Winter reminded me of something I used to love, and had mostly forgotten: Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was first introduced to it when I was in college, by Jim and my mutual friend, Rob. It ran on Comedy Central and later the Sci-Fi Channel for several years in the late 80s and early 90s, and is now available on Netflix!

For the uninitiated, MST3k (as it’s affectionately known by fans) has a simple premise: mad scientists have kidnapped a janitor so they can monitor his brainwaves while they force him to watch really, really bad movies. His only companions are two robots, and the three of them survive by making snarky commentary throughout the whole show. Hilarity ensues!

"The last thing a sausage sees..." - robot Tom Servo while watching - LOL!

When Jim’s post reminded me of the show, I checked to see if it was available on Netflix. It is! I knew my daughter and her boyfriend would love it, so one night, we settled in to watch one they’d picked. The movie in this one was Final Justice, starring Joe Don Baker. I’d never heard of either. But wow…. this was a level of badness I’d thought had gone out with the 60s, or at least the 70s! My daughter kept commenting, “I can’t believe how bad this is!” Final Justice has it all: cheesy dialogue, implausible situations, re-used segments of footage, multiple boat chases, and of course, the ditzy female sidekick. I especially liked how the main character’s cheesy cowboy-sheriff outfit never got torn or dirty throughout all of this, until one scene near the end, where he washed up on the beach after a boat chase, and a friendly island family washed -and ironed! – it for him. The commentary was great, watching was great fun, and I got a wonderful family night out of it. (Amazingly, my daughter does not mind hanging out with me, and neither did her boyfriend.) I expect this is family fun that will be repeated!

Did you ever watch MST3k? Have you ever rediscovered something you’d forgotten you loved? I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment, and share!

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Misfit Monday: Appendices

Useless, or something extra?
Appendices. Even the word is a misfit! Plural for appendix, it’s an oddity: where most plurals in English are formed by adding “s” or “es,” appendix’s “x” is a shape-shifter, and turns into a “c.” At least that’s the plural I’ve always seen, although according to Dictionary.com,  “xes” is also correct.

First, I have to thank my brother for this post topic. I’ve discussed my own Sheldon Cooper tendencies last week, and a few weeks before, but really, I’m not that much of a neat-freak – just when it comes to my car. My brother’s tendencies in that area extend to the processing of information, too. (And yes, he’s an engineer, and very intelligent.)

It all started Thursday, when my mom wound up having to take my dad to the emergency room for unusual, really-bad stomach pain that turned out to be appendicitis. When I called my brother and told him, he asked, “What exactly is an appendix?”

I explained that it was a vestigial organ attached to the large intestine. Then he started to read a definition to me: “Supplementary material at the end of a book, article, document, or other text, usually of an explanatory, statistical, or bibliographic nature.” * (He was obviously looking it up on the computer while we were talking, LOL!) But what it really comes down to is that the appendix is the misfit text in a book – the stuff that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else. And you’re not really missing much if you skip it; it’s supplemental information.

Holding cell, spare parts, or none of the above?
But the information on the anatomical appendix turned out to be quite interesting. I’d always thought it was a vestigial organ that no longer served any purpose, other than to cause some people problems. But there were several theories on Wikipedia. One was that it’s sort of a  protected storage bin for helpful bacteria, when there’s an infection elsewhere in the system. Another theory is that it’s an enhancement to the immune system, but this is mostly disproved by the fact that removal doesn’t seem to harm anyone. The argument to that disproof is that perhaps it’s more functional in areas without modern sanitation and hygiene. But there is one potential use that has been proven: spare parts, for people with congenital defects or after surgical removal of problem “parts.”

Walk-behind lawn mower

Strong, silent type
When my mom and I met with the surgeon after he finished with my dad, he told us that Dad’s appendix had been a mess for at least five days, and was amazed it took him that long to seek medical help. But Dad insists that he wasn’t in any pain until the night before. At any rate, all went well, and my dad came home yesterday. My daughter says her band director had acute appendicitis a couple months ago, and had to be rushed into surgery. He was back in school three days later (albeit against his doctor’s orders). Hopefully, my dad’s recovery will be as quick.

And hey, my brother learned something new, LOL!

What do you think – is the appendix useless, or does it serve a purpose? Have you or anyone in your family had appendicitis? How long ago, and how long did recovery take? My husband’s prepared to do some extra lawn mowing, but he’s wondering for how long!

* Definition from Dictionary.com

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Just Another Misfit Monday

Ever since America’s favorite lasagna-eating cat declared “I hate Mondays,” it’s been a fashionable thing to… well, hate Mondays.

And for this reason, Monday is the misfit among days of the week. More people hate Mondays more than any other day. I know I do.

For some of us, the why is obvious: we have a whole week on the job just starting, and Friday–and our weekend off–is at its most distant. Mondays are even more insidious for those of us who are “not morning people,” as we tend to make up for the week’s sleep deficit by sleeping in on weekends–which makes it that much harder to get to bed on Sunday night, setting us up for another week of sleep deprivation beginning on Monday.

Of course, the obvious cure to this phenomenon is to simply stop sleeping in on the weekends. Duh! But who wants to do that? Here again, the morning people have the advantage: those who are used to getting up at 6AM are more likely to continue this pattern through the weekend. But this is no solution for those of us who’d rather stay up until 9 (or later) no matter what day it is. So we put up with the weekday sleep deficit and keep hating Mondays.
I found a few interesting statistics about Monday-hating on the web. A U.K. government organization found that there were more suicides on Monday than any other day of the week (and fewer on weekends). What was surprising was that this pattern held even among retired people. Supposedly, people are more likely to be late to work/school on Monday, too. Not surprising, for those of us dealing with the jet-lag phenomenon of catching up on our sleep over the weekend. It’s even been suggested that more heart attacks happen on Mondays.

I also found a few mentions of people who actually like Mondays. Some are undoubtedly people with a non-traditional work schedule, but a surprising number were people who do start the work week on Monday. These people took the view that Monday is a fresh start, or that they have the whole week ahead of them to complete their work tasks.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you! Do you hate Mondays, or are they a new beginning for you? Do you work a traditional Monday trough Friday job, and does that influence your opinion?