Rediscovering the incense girl/Celebrate

incenseWhen I was a young girl, I lived in California. When I wasn’t living in Colorado or Washington state, anyway. And one of the nice things about California was the availability of incense sticks. I could buy them at the local Kmart, where my dad was the store manager.

I always liked burning incense. And since I was a part of perhaps the last generation allowed to grow up innocent, I had no clue that older people used incense to cover up their illegal drug use. It was just a nice way to get a nice smell into your living space. And you got to use matches to light them! Which is a big deal when you are young.

When I was college-age, my dad got a job at Kmart’s headquarters in Troy, Michigan. I lived in Michigan when I wasn’t going to school in River Forest, IL. But in time I graduated, failed in my career, and ended up moving to Menominee county in Michigan’s upper peninsula, where I live to this day. And there was no incense.

From time to time, I would find a local shop that carried incense, but that was rare, at they usually went out of business or quit selling incense. Perhaps it was because the local drug-crazed aging hippies no longer felt the need to cover up their vice.  So I went through long incenseless years and forgot I’d once been the incense girl.

When a big Walmart opened up in nearby Marinette, Wisconsin, I found they carried incense— two brands. I bought the cheaper brand because of my poet’s level income.

I used some of my favorite ‘flavors’ of incense, particularly patchouli, for every day. On Sundays I used frankincense, because that’s the kind they use in church. I found it a nice way to mark off the Sabbath day.

But recently I found that my incense brand had gone downhill. The factory in China must have forgotten about quality control. Each box had incense sticks that were too thick and wouldn’t burn properly, and a few that were very thin and also hard to use.

I switched to the more expensive brand— half the number of incense sticks for twice the price— and found better quality, but fewer ‘flavors’ I liked. I prefer the old-fashioned scents of incense I remember from my childhood.

This month, since I had money left over from the months I was sick and buying very little food, I indulged myself and bought some incense from Amazon.com. I found the HEM brand had the incense types I wanted for a decent price, so I bought some sandalwood, patchouli and frankincense.

The new incense is lovely, and the scents bring back memories of my childhood, when life was considerably more sane. Except for the Manson family, of course.


Celebrate the Small Things

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop, which takes place every Friday. You can find out more at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

My celebration this week: my house currently smells like sandalwood incense and not like the cat box.

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Banning ‘white’ male heterosexual authors from publishing

neganlucilleRecently I’ve read about the scheme to stop ‘white’, male, and/or heterosexual authors from publishing for a year. Also there are special snowflakes out there who are personally boycotting such authors and encouraging others to go thou and do likewise.

Now, I know there are folks out there who think there is nothing more important that judging authors and other people by their sex, skin color or sexual behavior. But, really, is this proposed ban really necessary? Or possible?

Since the major publishing houses are run by left-of-center people exclusively, I’m sure many would participate in such a ban. Except for the fact that anti-discrimination laws on the books make it illegal. But what would happen if the laws were changed to make the ban possible?

The first thing banned authors like James Patterson would do would be self-publish. If the major self-publishing firms were participating in the ban, any web site that lets people download files in exchange for cash would do. And some struggling authors would publish e-books for free if that was the only way to get their work before the public for a year.

But what about the authors that stood to gain from the ban— the female, queer and/or person-of-color authors? Established authors in these categories might sell more books without being tainted, but for the young, up-and-coming authors, the ban might only get them noticed as ‘second-rate’ writers that needed special help to get their work published, in the form of a ban on competing, more popular authors. Some of these authors actually are second-rate, but only because they are young writers who haven’t yet grown as writers the way older, more established authors have. But if they gain their first writing contracts because of then ban, much of the public will see them as permanently second-rate.

What about the authors who, for whatever reason, keep their true sex, race or sexual behavior private? Will they be included in the ban unless they give up their privacy? If they are not, what is to keep the dreaded ‘white male heterosexual’ author from creating a minority female pen name to publish under? There was once a famous Gothic romance novelist who was, years later, revealed to be a male author. So readers can’t necessarily tell.

Finally, what if the publishing world, left-leaning as it is, decides to extend the ban— perhaps only in the case of certain authors who aroused ire by complaining about the ban or by self-publishing in spite of the ban. Or authors suspected of having conservative views which the left loves to characterize as being ‘racist.’ I would think an author under a five year publishing ban might find his career might never come back from it.

We haven’t yet got to the point where a publishing ban has gone through. But there are signs out there that a lot of influential people believe that such a ban, for the sake of ‘diversity,’ might be the only right thing to do.

Zombie Prepper or Zombie Survivalist?

1227160757The word used to be ‘survivalist.’ But the people who run our media developed a really nasty stereotype about ‘survivalists’— mainly, that they weren’t liberals.

How could they be? They obviously didn’t trust Big Government to step in and provide for them in a crisis. So when survivalists were noticed at all it was to be condemned as crazy gun nuts and hateful non-liberals.

Now the preferred term is ‘prepper’, which sounds a little like ‘survivalist lite.’ And the most media acceptable thing to be prepping against is the zombie apocalypse. Because zombie preppers can’t POSSIBLY be non-liberals. After all, everyone on The Walking Dead’s a liberal. Even the ‘priest’, Father Gabriel (who’s Episcopalian, BTW.)

But I’m old-fashioned and cynical, and don’t trust Big Government to take care of me in a crisis. Hell, they can’t take care of the people they are claiming to right now! The social welfare programs are notorious for cutting off the real needy people at random, while ignoring the cheaters who have illegal incomes in the drug and prostitution industries.

And look at how well Big Government, in the person of the VA, helps military veterans who need medical help. That’s why I conclude that in a big national crisis— whether it’s zombies or an economic collapse when our fiat currency becomes valueless— the only help I can expect will come from me.

Some people think that being a prepper/survivalist means buying a fortune’s worth of expensive dehydrated food with a 25 year shelf life and doing nothing else until the crisis hits. But the wise survivalist makes survival skills a part of his way of life, rather than counting on pre-packaged supplies to save the day.

The survivalist will make survival-friendly choices— living in places that are rural or very-small-town rather than urban/suburban death zones, for example. He will learn traditional skills such as hunting and meat processing. He will keep chickens and/or goats, raise a garden, grow sprouts in the house….

Because if the zombie apocalypse actually hits, that is NOT the time to start learning the skills or eating ‘weird’ survival-friendly meals that didn’t come from Burger King.

The Writer and the Survival Mindset

Thinking about survival and learning some skills is an aid to the writer. The writer’s job is to place characters in loads of trouble, the more intense, the better. One way to do that is to put a character in a survival situation without the supplies and skills a survivalist would want to have. Or how about taking a skilled survivalist and having his whole survival hoard, along with his survival-friendly home, taken away from him by powerful people?

 

Why Negan had to kill them/Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate blog hopIf you are a Walking Dead fan, you’ve just experienced a thrilling half-season which began and ended with episodes in which Negan, the new Big Bad guy, killed two members of Rick’s group. While the half-season ender didn’t kill off anyone we were too sad about, the first episode kills featured two particularly beloved characters. Why?

Because of an important rule of storytelling. If you want an audience to fear that someone will kill beloved characters, possibly even the Main Character (Rick Grimes, in The Walking Dead), you have to show him actually killing beloved characters. Killing offstage, killing characters so minor they are mere names, will not produce the fear level that may be desired.

For novelists, particularly those who are timid, inexperienced, or working in the Christian fiction genre, there is the tendency to chicken out at this point. They ALMOST kill a beloved character. Or they fool themselves that what is essentially a minor character can be killed off with the same effect. But if the story is the sort that demands a real, evil villain, half-measures won’t do. Remember, even in Evangelical Christian fiction, beloved characters can be killed. Remember what happened to Chloe in the Left Behind series.

On the other hand, if you are writing a form of children’s fiction, including YA which is aimed at young people from 12-15, toning down your villains can be essential. You can have your villain kill people off-stage, perhaps people that the main character will mourn, but not someone who is central to your main character’s life. The same goes for writing other categories of fiction in which extreme villains are not expected or wanted— cozy mysteries, or sweet romances.

neganlucille


Celebrate

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop: Join at http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

This week I am celebrating getting back into blogging (I hope) after a few months of being ill and a month of cleaning up all the crap that didn’t get done while I was ill.

Illness can make you feel depressed, especially when it comes with isolation. I went through a phase of thinking that my writing and my blogging were crap, and that I had nothing to offer any friend anything that would be of value. So why write, why blog, why try to have ‘friends’ who were really more like acquaintances?

But I’m over that. Most days. And at least my cats need me. Especially now that it’s winter. My barn cats, who have access to an enclosed porch and my basement, found their water dish full of ice yesterday morning. My kitten Roxie, who a couple of months ago got herself locked in the refrigerator overnight, probably wanted back into the refrigerator to warm up. I do let the more sensitive cats in the house overnight when I can. And my elderly cats have taken to sleeping in the laundry hamper in the basement— which makes me hate to do laundry because it takes away the kitties’ bedding.