My own skin…

When I called my mom to tell her, I began with, “I have one more thing in common with Grandma, now!”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an uneasy relationship with my own skin. I usually joke about it by pointing out that my skin knows how to do only three colors: pale pink with blue highlights, bright red, or pale pink with blue highlights and freckles. I’ve never been able to tan, and it takes hardly any sun at all to make me sunburn. Throughout my childhood most of the neighbor kids would tan during the summer months. I’d come to school in the fall, and nearly all my classmates would have varying degrees of tanned bodies, while I would be pasty pale and maybe a bit freckled.

And kids would comment on it. I might get a, “Gee, Breshears, don’t you ever go outside?” It hardly was the worst thing anyone ever teased me about, and there was often one or two other kids who had similar pasty complexions, though usually it was only the redheads.

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November Writing Challenge: NaNoWriMo

I'm doing NaNoWriMo again!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again!

Last year, inspired by Cafe Aphra‘s Alternate NaNoWriMo, I set up a NaNoWriMo profile, set a goal of finishing my novel that was already in progress (The Trickster Entanglement), and set a word count goal of at least 1,000 words a day. This was a deviation from the official NaNoWriMo rules at the time:

  • Write one 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch.
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction.
  • Be the sole author of your novel.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.

Once I had my profile set, I discovered the NaNo Rebels forum on the NaNoWriMo site, which was an officially sanctioned way of doing more-or-less what I planned to do.

This year, NaNoWriMo has officially loosened the rules a bit, striking the “Start from scratch” rule and replacing it with, “Don’t count anything you wrote before November 1 in your word count.”

Even though all of my previous participations in NaNoWriMo have been at deviance with the rules, I’m actually a little disappointed in that rule change. Because I’ve always thought that the original goal of trying to write a novel in a month was a great exercise. The only reason I hadn’t done it before was because before the first NaNoWriMo ever, I’d already been in situations at work where I wrote more than 50,000 word in less than a month. I didn’t feel I needed to learn that lesson, but rather needed to get better at finishing things I’d already started.

That’s why when I participated before last year, I would set myself a goal I usually called GeneStoFinMo (Gene’s Story Finishing Month), where I’d try to finish a bunch of stalled short stories. I had varying degrees of success.

Last year was completely different. I attribute part of it to having only one story I was focused on. Another part of the difference was I did post word counts on the site regularly. And I had at least a couple of writing buddies I was competing against. Or we were egging each other on. Or something.

In any case, wrote 58,000 words, very nearly finishing the novel last November. I used both Camps NaNoWriMo this year to tackle revising and finishing that novel and a related project. I contemplated the goal of using this November to complete implementing the rest of the editorial comments I’d received on a previous project, but I’d been revising and editing and so forth all year. I felt like I needed to do something different.

So this year my goal is to write at least the first half of the next novel in my fantasy series. I say half, because my guess is the final product will be about 90,000 words. I am setting the word count goal of 1667 words a day. So, yes, I want to hit at least 50,000 by the end of the month. I have written several scenes that might be in the book. But I’m not sure. So the plan is to start from a totally blank file at midnight on October 31, and see where the words take me.

If, by chance, you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year and would like to be writing buddies, my NaNoWriMo name is Fontfolly. Please add me, say hello, and I’ll add you back.

Let’s get writing!

They don’t all have to be heroes, but…

ZoeHellerQuoteSo one of the new shows I’m watching this year is a very soap opera-ish murder mystery that has a season-long story arc. And despite the heavy use of flashbacks, I enjoyed the premiere, so I let my Tivo keep recording it, but I didn’t watch the next several of episodes because I was busy, and I devoted what TV time I had to other shows. But I kept reading good things about the show from people I like.

I squeezed the second episode into my schedule, and I found the characters and the story still engaging, despite some quibbles with the cases-of-the-week that were being used as a means to propel the longer story and make the show appeal to people who might be less invested in big story arcs. But I didn’t watch the other episodes already on the TiVo right away.

Suddenly there seemed to be an explosion of people raving online about how much they liked where the show was going, so the next time I had a few hours, I got caught up. The story is still very intriguing, the dialog is snappy and believable, and the characters are getting fleshed out. The problem? I hate just about every one of them.

Just a handful of episodes into the first season, they have managed to make every character that is more than a walk-on extremely self-serving, detestable, or utterly loathsome.

To be fair, for decades it’s been the practice of soap opera-style shows to give every character major personality flaws and some sort of secret. But it’s a technique originally resorted to by writers who had to create episodes about the same cast of characters five times a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for dozens of years. Which means it can be most charitably described as an act of desperation.

As soon as one raises the question of likability in literary circles, someone will present the counter-argument that characters who are perfect in every way—always cheerful, and always lovable—are unrealistic and boring. The sort of reader or viewer who wants characters to be likable is characterized as unsophisticated, vapid, or even mentally deficient. But the only mental deficiency in question here is the sort of person who thinks the only alternative to making every character wholly repulsive is for characters to be unbelievably good.

In fact there is a wide spectrum between entirely abhorrent and absolutely flawless. In other words, not every character has to be a hero, but if the spotlessly pure character is unrealistic and boring, so are the characters who lack any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone lets their worse instincts get the better of them sometimes. Everyone has some personality quirk or habit that at the very least annoys someone else. Every person has done something in their life of which they ought to be embarrassed or ashamed. I understand all of that, and I get that sometimes you want to tell a story about the things we hope people will regret later. I do.

Lord knows I love a good villain, and my protagonists are never what anyone would call perfect people, but at a minimum characters need to be relatable. I don’t want to despise, pity, or disdain every single character. Give me something to admire about at least one of the characters. Give me a hint that some of them might be redeemable.

Give me someone to root for.

Fairy rings and h/a/y/ fungal fever

The fairy ring has returned, although it's not as sharply defined as last year.

The fairy ring has returned, along it’s not as sharply defined as last year.

This started out as another in my series of “I hate hay fever” posts. I had been having mildly worsening hay fever-like symptoms for two weeks, and coincidentally noticing a lot of mushrooms, toadstools, and similar fungal species popping up in lawns, flower beds, and the sides of trees everywhere I walked. Since I have a mildly severe allergic reaction to spores and molds as well as pollens, it seemed like a good guess that I was reacting to all the fungus “blooming” around town.

Same image, with a light line added to show the boundaries of the fairy ring.

Same image, with a light line added to show the boundaries of the fairy ring.

Two separate fungal blooms are happening in our lawn: clusters of small brown toadstools, and slightly larger white mushrooms. It is the latter that form the fairy ring tangential to the curb in front of our house. Last year the ring had so many of the white caps around its edge, that it was impossible to miss. This year, so far, there are a lot fewer of the caps, but the little clusters of them mark out a circular area, once again. Several of the white caps are a lot smaller than the others, and you can’t see them as well in the picture I took. Since the camera is catching it at an angle, it appears elliptical rather than circular. Anyway, I’ve added a ring to the second image to help show it. (Click either to embiggen)

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Friday Links (difficult people edition)!

(Click to embiggen)

Thanks to the Sky-Man for linking to the infographic! (Click to embiggen)

It’s Friday! The fourth Friday in October, and Halloween is still a week away!!

Who knew that October ’14 would be the month when more than a dozen states would get marriage equality? We knew the good news about equality couldn’t last, but why did this week have to be all about douche-y people?

Anyway, here is a collection of news and other things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared:

Morning Maddow: Rachel’s Pantheon Of Heroes (Video). In case you’re losing your faith in humanity.

GOP using increasingly racist arguments against gay marriage.

How Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll Wooed Unchurched Seattle.

Alvin McEwan explains why “The Erasure of ‘Gay’ From Black History & the Black Community Must Stop.”

The Gamergater’s Glossary.

Isaac Asimov Mulls “How Do People Get New Ideas?” An previously unpublished essay on the origins of creativity.

The entire Idaho wedding chapel story is a lie. And it get’s better: Caught ya: Far-right’s latest marriage ‘victim’ edited website to make more solid legal case.

What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it. (Thanks to @tdjohnsn for the link!)

Phyllis Schlafly: End Early Voting Because It Helps Democrats.

>Conservatives Converge Around Fox News as Main Source; No Single Source Dominates on the Left

6,000-Year-Old Temple with Possible Sacrificial Altars Discovered.

Queen of the Underworld Sheds New Light on Greek Tomb – Newly revealed mosaic may hold key to unlocking mystery: Who was buried in the massive mound?

In every heated conversation about faith and violence, there’s one thing that everybody gets wrong.

Never say never: why TV networks are suddenly ready to unbundle.

Get Down Tonight: Seattle’s first disco nudged the city toward its left-leaning future.

ADHD Is Different for Women.

The Bad Apples Of #GamerGate.

The worst known case of workplace lead exposure at a U.S. range happened during renovations at Wade’s Eastside Guns in 2012. But documented hazards there go back to 2008.

The real lesson of Ebola in Dallas: this virus is very difficult to spread.

Anti-Gay Group Vows War Against Rob Portman, GOP Over Marriage Equality.

Here’s a Better Idea for the Gay Man Who Wants to Raise $150,000 for Anti-Gay Bakers. The self-proclaimed “gay activist” referenced in the story is not; he’s gay, yes, but the only things he’s ever done is scold other gays for not being tolerant of Christian bigotry.

Vultures circle GamerGate: the narcissists, grifters and creeps arriving in its wake.

Unfortunately for a rare few of you, this is a necessary infographic.

Canada’s parliament attacked, soldier fatally shot nearby.

CNN disappointed with Canadians’ lack of panic.

Maybe Guys Are the More Emotional Sex. (thanks to @Sharpclaw for the link!)

Sweden May Have Mystery Sub Cornered, Ready To Use Force To Surface It.

We are citizen radio: Rainn Wilson to produce TV series with accused rapist, White people live life like it’s one long frat party.

13 Lies We Have to Stop Telling About Bisexuals. Listicles are always problematic, but this one suffers more than the usual amount of redundancy. #1 and #2 are the same myth, rephrased, for instance.

Stunning View of Solar System’s Largest Volcano and Valles Marineris Revealed by India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

Things Are Improving For LGBT Students, But They’re Still Really Bad.

White menaces to society: Keene State and the danger of young drunk white men.

Kooky Straight Couple Claims Same-Sex Couples Want to Steal Their Marriage. They filed a typo-ridden epic privilege tantrum as a motion to a federal appeals court.

Churning galaxy boasts a fiery halo of baby stars.

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” – Teaser Trailer (OFFICIAL):

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A working hoverboard, it’s finally here:

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Star Wars (Guardians of the Galaxy Style!):

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The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson – Weird Al Performs:

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Pumpkins Spice:

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Stephen Colbert Sings Friday with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here. Also, also, also! I think I should post this video every Friday!)

$5.7 BILLION Drop in Hospital Uncompensated Care Costs Due to Obamacare:

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Bright Light Bright Light – An Open Heart:

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HALLOWEEN PARTY MIX:

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Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne – Real Love [Official Video]:

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Ricky Martin – Adiós (English Version) (Official Video):

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Selection bias, confirmation bias, or…?

Conservatives Converge Around Fox News as Main Source; No Single Source Dominates on the Left (Source: Pew Research Center)

Conservatives Converge Around Fox News as Main Source; No Single Source Dominates on the Left (Source: Pew Research Center)

The news seems to have been dominated by a couple of themes this week. I could easily write a whole series of blog posts extending my “Bullied Bullies” series into the double digits, what with The entire Idaho wedding chapel story is a lie, and NC officials refuse to marry gay couples, claim religious oppression, and Gamergate Goons Can Scream All They Want, But They Can’t Stop Progress, and No, The City of Houston Isn’t Bullying Anti-Gay Pastors – This Is Basic Lawyering. I could go on and on.

But I don’t want to only write about people being clueless and/or bigoted all the time. I have to remind myself that one reason I see so many stories clustered around particular topics is because I tend to read news sites that report on topics of interest to me, and as an out gay man who was raised Southern Baptist, studied math and science at university, and have always been a sci fi/fantasy nerd, I gravitate toward news sites that cover social justice, science, technology, and nerd culture. So I’m going to see a lot of stories like Gamer Gate, or the propaganda efforts of anti-gay folks, and so on.

It’s not just which news sites I choose to go to, of course. If some sites are covering a story, similar sites will pick it up, even if only to summarize and point to the original piece. Seeing these stories, and seeing people respond to them, make the news gatherers, reporters, and editors look for similar events in subsequent news cycles.

Sometimes, of course, there really are a lot of things happening all related to a particular topic. The recent Appeals Courts’ rulings about marriage equality, and the Supreme Court’s decision to let them stand, has put a lot of states that no one expected to be dealing with marriage equality so soon into the crosshairs. This makes people who oppose same sex couples having the right to marry feel even more threatened. And because each circuit court covers a bunch of states, these people who feel threatened are scattered over a wide geographical area. You have a lot of people in a lot of places all reacting to a perceived threat, you’re going to have a lot of incidents that will rise to some level of newsworthy. A whole lot.

And of course, I’m not the only person who is reading selective news. The folks who feel exactly the opposite as I do about some of these topics are reading their favorite sites. Or should I say their favorite site, singular (Conservatives Converge Around Fox News as Main Source; No Single Source Dominates on the Left)? Where they find the same stories being couched in a very different light, fanning those flames of fear.

I had about four half-written pieces that I could have finished to post yesterday, but they were all about the sorts of stories I link to up in the first paragraph. One of my goals for the year has been to reduce the outrage, and focusing so much attention on those stories does not help me with that goal. The problem is, the only other topic I had nearly ready to publish was about people who look down on other people because of the kinds of books they like to read. Which had a very same-y feel to it.

Which all led me to here, contemplating how everything I’m writing about (other than my novel) is processing exactly the feelings I don’t want to be spending so much time on. I suppose it could be argued by writing them down, I have gotten some of it out of my system, but I’m not sure that publishing them all would further the purpose.

So I’m going to try to concentrate my attention for the next few days on my fiction writing. I’m overdue for writing about the craft of writing, any way.

Bullied bullies, part 4

cartoonThis is last week’s news, but still worth commenting on: Mark Driscoll resigns from Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill is a megachurch (consisting of 15 branch churches, several in the Seattle area, both others in other states) that preaches a slightly modernized/pseudo-hip version of the usual misogynist/homophobic fundamentalism. And the lead paster/senior pastor/whatever he called himself was a particularly douche-y man named Mark Driscoll. Read More…

Weekend update: Can’t keep up

The people updating this maps can't keep up!

The people updating these marriage equality maps can’t keep up! (Click to embiggen)

The marriage equality court rulings, whether states are deciding not to appeal or whether the Supreme Court refuses the appeal, just keep rolling forward. The people trying to maintain graphics the show which states have equality, which don’t, where rulings are under appeal, and so forth have been having to update them at least once a day all week. Again. It’s more than a little breathtaking!

One that is particularly exciting for me is Arizona. I have some friends who live there, two of whom happen to be a lesbian couple who, after being together more than a decade, had gotten legally married over in California during the brief period it was legal before Proposition 8 was passed (which, of course, was late struck down and now California is a marriage equality state, once more). But Kathy and Barb are Arizona citizens, and it has been galling (not to mention sometimes costly {don’t ask about how hard it is for a couple whose relationship is not legally recognized to get a clear house deed in both their names once the mortgage is paid off}). Anyway, on Friday Arizona came into the 21st Century, recognizing the rights of same sex couples to marry, which means their California marriage license is recognized. And the icing on the cake? Friday was the sixth anniversary of their California wedding! Talk about an awesome anniversary present! Congratulations, Kats and Barb, and here’s wishing you many more happy years together!

It’s not all good news regarding equality, Media Matters explains How Conservative Media Make It Harder For Schools To Protect Transgender Youth.

And look at this, Report about racial profiling for traffic stops in Ferguson, MO, reveals that 25% of the city’s revenue come for court fees and fines. Am I supposed to be surprised?

In case you missed it, since earlier this week most of the media failed to report that the seemingly slightly more tolerant statements about homosexuality were reversed, Catholic Bishops Scrap Welcome To Gays.

But in moderately better news, Catholic Cardinal who said it is evil to introduce children to their gay relatives ousted.

Friday Links (with prehistoric giant kangaroos)!

memecenter.com

memecenter.com

It’s Friday! The third Friday in October—only two weeks before Halloween!

Last week was so crazy amazing: ten states got marriage equality over the course of five days. How could anything top that? Well, the dominoes keep falling!

Anyway, here is a collection of news and other things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared.

So, here are my links for the week:

20 HILARIOUS RESPONSES TO NOM’S WARNING THAT GAY MARRIAGE WILL LEAD TO PEOPLE MARRYING THEMSELVES.

Largest, oldest creature on Earth?.

Why I Deleted IHeart Radio From My Devices And You Should Too.

Texas Just Crowned Their First Transgender Homecoming King.

Uprooted, Again. An interesting ending to a story about one woman who used DNA testing to fill in her family tree…

The strange world of the bright blue Velella.

New Particle Is Both Matter and Antimatter: The Majorana fermion.

Second draft of document on accepting gays bows to pressure from bishops.

Everyone Keeps Falling for the Catholic Church’s Good Cop/Bad Cop Routine.

Adorable photos of flying lemurs! And other interesting pictures, but the flying lemurs are incredibly cute! (They aren’t true lemurs, they’re a species that split off from the primates 79 million years ago, but they’re basically a cross between a lemur and a flying squirrel!)

A wonderfully accurate comic about Gamer Gate.

Presbyterian workers wore no hazmat suits for two days while treating Ebola patient.

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean.

Frigid Polar Vortex Unlikely to Repeat This Winter.

Locomotion in Extinct Giant Kangaroos: Were Sthenurines Hop-Less Monsters?

The media is doing an awful job explaining Ebola, and #ClipboardMan is proof.

CASSINI CAUGHT IN HYPERION’S ELECTRON BEAM.

Condition Called Tetrachromacy Allows This Artist To See 100 Million Colors.

Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass.

Man with possible explosive device lodged inside his leg brought to UAB Hospital.

Paramedic refused to leave man with grenade lodged in his leg: nerves, humor and body armor all part of 8-hour ordeal.

Nijicon: Philly’s First-Ever LGBT Comic Convention Is This Weekend.

Leaving the GOP Gov. Huckabee? Great, Take the Other Anti-gay Republicans With You.

In North Carolina, Thom Tillis is the Last Holdout Against Gay Marriage.

And by the way, those people claiming these marriage equality rulers are anti-Christian? Remember that in North Carolina, it was United Church of Christ ministers (among others) who sued to get the ban overturned: United Church of Christ wins for marriage in NC.

Christian right’s vile PR sham: Why their bizarre films are backfiring on them.

A conservative judge’s devastating take on why voter ID laws are evil.

Anti-Gay Marriage Group Alleges Bias on Federal Appeals Court. They don’t understand probability…

Matt Zarley – I Just Knew:

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Nick Deutsch – Run:

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Columbus Day – How Is That Still A Thing (HBO):

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David Guetta – Dangerous (Lyric Video) ft Sam Martin:

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Go purple!

Millions go purple on Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

I’ve written way too much about my own experiences being bullied in my youth. It can be depressing to think that all these decades later it’s still going on. But I refuse to be daunted. And these kids do, too:

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Find out how to go purple at http://glaad.org/spiritday

Find out how to go purple at http://glaad.org/spiritday

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