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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Scrambled Semantics

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We Americans are like a reverse Tower of Babel. The words we say are the same but the meanings are entirely different. We talk past each other with neither side understanding what the other is trying to say, almost as if we are speaking two different languages. If this keeps up, good old Webster is going to have to start printing a conservative dictionary and a liberal dictionary.

For instance, the Paris bombings. At the Democratic debate the moderator questioned the candidates about their reluctance to use the term "radical Islam". This, of course, is something that incenses the right who accuse Democrats of being soft on terrorism because they prefer to say radical jihadism instead. They criticize President Obama because to them, he pussyfoots around and won't call a spade a spade.

Democrats don't like the radical Islam characterization because they believe it paints with far too broad a brush, in effect, putting an entire religion under suspicion. There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. They make up 22 percent of the world's population. They are .8 percent of America.

The vast majority of Muslims are not radical jihadists or radical Islamists, however you want to phrase it. In fact, as reported by Think Progress, "Muslims around the world condemn Paris bombings." So to imply, as the Republicans seem to, that we are at war with Islam itself is not helpful. Muslim countries are our partners in fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda. Muslim Americans are soldiers in our military. The Republicans make a mistake to try to turn this into a Christian versus Muslim holy war. We need the moderate Muslims in our battle against terrorism. Let's not allow our own fear and intolerance turn them away.

Three other simple words that get people passionately aroused are Black Lives Matter. Did the people who coined the phrase mean to say that only black lives matter or that black lives matter also. As a liberal, it seems clear those words should be defined as - "we want to be treated like everyone else."

We want our sons to walk down the street or play in the park and not be killed because, to whites, they look like thugs. We want to be sentenced to the same punishment as whites who commit the same offenses. We want to be treated with the same respect by police and other authorities, not shot because we're having a heart attack or tasered to death in jail because we're having a seizure. We want to be hired or not based on our qualifications and not our skin color.

But the American right has taken Black Lives Matter as a call to arms by African-Americans who want special rights. They deny that blacks are treated in a lesser manner. They pooh-pooh the idea of White Privilege. Although they've most likely benefited from it their entire lives, they simply can't see it for what it is because it feels so natural to them. Black Lives Matter protesters are simply violent criminals as far as they are concerned.

Gun control is another code phrase. Ask a liberal what gun control means to them and they'll probably first say, background checks and closing gun show loopholes and stricter penalties for straw sales. Indeed, some of them might very well say a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. But I don't know a single liberal who wants to rescind the Second Amendment. Many who support stricter gun regulations are gun owners themselves.

Ask a conservative what gun control means to them and nine times out of ten, they'll say gun confiscation. All the rest is simply trying to get the camel's nose under the tent, prior to banning all of the over 270 million guns in the United States. You can't talk them out of it no matter how hard you try.

Political correctness is another idea that puts us in a muddle. I'm not even sure exactly what it means in 2015. It began as an effort to be aware of the feelings of people not like us. How hard was it to quit calling African-Americans the "n" word if they found it offensive? Or Mexicans wet-backs? Or gays queers?

As time went on, it became a little more difficult to color between the lines of political correctness. Was it wrong to name our sports teams after Indians? A tribe name like Seminoles doesn't sound so bad but Redskins, which used to be a pejorative term for Native Americans, maybe so. Is the Confederate flag offensive to black people. Yeah, I expect it probably is.

Is it offensive to conservatives to be told Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I guess it must be. I used to send out Christmas cards without giving it a thought. I just took the next one in the box for whoever was on my list. It might be a cute little mouse or Santa or a manger scene or silver bells. It was the thought that counted, right? Then I discovered that I might have been unknowingly upsetting people so I quit sending cards.

Both sides are constantly horrified by what they consider the other's political correctness. And truthfully, both carry PCness to idiotic extremes. Little boys should not be expelled from school for eating their sandwich into the shape of a gun. Little girls should not be expelled from school for wearing a sleeveless blouse.

How did we reach the point of being convinced that we have a "right" not to be offended anyway?  We all need to toughen up. None of us get through life without experiencing hurt feelings but let's save our indignation for serious injustices.

I often listen to political talk radio on my commute. I constantly hear conservative talk show host pontificate about me - "liberals say...." or "liberals believe...."  My silent response is "hey, wait a minute, I never say that," or "That's not at all what I believe."

Presumably, conservatives believe liberals make the same wrong assertions about them.

Maybe we should try to get together and talk about it.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

And You Call Yourself a Wordsmith!


I'm a writer. I think of myself as something of a wordsmith. Who would have thought I'd have been mortified by a word?

My birthstone - August - is a peridot. My birthstone has been a peridot for 69 years.

Two weeks ago, my friend, Brenda, and I went to Decatur, Indiana. There is a store there that buys estate jewelry all year long, then during the month of October, they have a huge sale. I thought it would be a fun trip although I wasn't in the market for any jewelry.

Then I saw a peridot ring I simply had to have - a rather large peridot with diamond chips pave set into the band on each side. It wasn't simply that I thought the ring was beautiful, though I did. Rather it recalled a sweet memory. My first husband bought me a peridot ring for my 18th birthday - a 19-year-old who bought a ring he couldn't comfortably afford for his girlfriend. I remember how happy he was when he gave it to me and how happy I was to receive it.

When the son born from that marriage was a teenager, he went through a rebellious, delinquent stage. He stole the ring to sell for, I don't know, cigarettes or gas or weed. He never owned up to the theft until several years later when he apologized. I just thought I'd lost it.

So this ring made me think of that ring and of a time in my life when I was young and loved and in love.

When I took it up to the clerk (who was also the store owner), I told her that story. She looked at me rather pityingly and said, "oh, my dear, it isn't a periDOT, it is a periDOUGH."

I had been mispronouncing the name of my birthstone for almost 70 years. Did no one not want to embarrass me by correcting me? Or do most people, like me, not realize the a word spelled P.E.R.I.D.O.T.  doesn't end with a .DOT but a .DOUGH?

How can you call yourself a wordsmith when you can't correctly pronounce the name of your birthstone and continue to make the same mistake for 69 years?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

House of the Rising Son - by Trevann Rogers

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I just read a new book that was recommended to me by a friend. I almost read it simply as a favor because it didn't really sound like my normal fare at all. Except for the occasional vampire, I'm not much into paranormal, preferring gritty reality instead. So I opened my Kindle with a "okay, let's get this over with" sigh....and fell in love. I bonded with all the characters - they are witty and quirky and lovable, each in his or her own strange way. But Cheyenne is definitely my favorite as he tries to reconcile who he wants to be with who he is. He doesn't want to be an Incubus; he doesn't want to have supernatural Power, he prefers that it is his music that draws people to him.

But he discovers that it isn't easy to give up your birthright. Along the way to trying to do so, he falls in love, finds a core group of friends, saves his children from being stolen from him and manages to meld both halves of his life into happy whole. But, here, I'll let Trevann Rogers speak for herself:


Vicki, thank you for allowing me to post on your blog.  Posting here is special because even though Cheyenne and Rafe are not really alike, they occupy the same space in our hearts. 

I started writing about Cheyenne at a difficult time in my life. Getting lost in his world was an escape.  In those days I wrote short stories, many of which were inspired by music. Music is still an integral part of the world but the stories are longer.

In Vicki’s work with the police she saw many of the same situations that I saw as a social worker.  It doesn’t take much thought to see why I preferred to write about paranormal creatures living out their dreams.  And an Incubus rock star?  There is no better combination.

I still go to concerts but have broadened my obsessions to include a few actors and WWE superstars.  There are things to enjoy are all around us, but sometimes we have to go looking for them.

House of the Rising Son, my debut novel, was released on September 22, 2015 through Samhain Publishing. 


Blurb: Sex. Rebellion. Rock and roll.

Living After Midnight, Book 1

Cheyenne is a half-human incubus whose star is on the rise in the Unakite City rock scene. His father, the leader of the supernatural races, would prefer he keep a “low profile”, but screw that. Cheyenne has as much music in his veins as royal incubi blood.

Alexander’s future is all set—finish law school, join the family firm, and marry someone who’d be good for business. Not that he has a say in any of it. He’s barely met the woman his father expects him to marry.

As Cheyenne’s musical career takes off, his carefully constructed life begins to unravel, exacerbated by an ex-lover who can’t let go, a crotchety barkeeper with a dirty mind and a pure heart, a drag queen who moonlights as a nanny, and Alexander—who’s not sure if he’s falling for the incubus or the rocker.

Cheyenne denies who he is, while Alexander hides what he wants. Together, they learn that getting what they truly want means being who they truly are.

Warning: Contains hot were-tiger sex, a Thanksgiving celebration that makes the Inquisition look like a tea party, and an incubus who’ll rock your world.



"While waiting for their drinks, Alexander studied the deep grooves carved into the table, trying to ignore the friction of Cheyenne’s thigh rubbing against his as the musician tapped a heel to the thump of the DJ’s music. Once the drinks arrived, Alexander downed half the bottle before he realized Cheyenne’s large green eyes were staring at him.
“So where’s your girl, Prudhomme? I mean, Prune Danish. No, wait...”
“Prudish. Shit, Prudence,” Alexander sputtered.
Cheyenne’s eyes sparkled. “No, you got it right the first time. Where is she?”
He shrugged. “Home, I guess.”
Cheyenne cocked his head. “Oh, really?” He put his hand on Alexander’s leg. “What’s up? You can tell me.”
“It’s not working out.” Alexander dragged his teeth over his lower lip. “It’s my fault.” He couldn’t keep his attraction to Cheyenne out of his voice. “I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
Cheyenne put his thumb to his lip and paused. “It’s like the drink.”

Alexander tilted his head, not sure he heard correctly. “The drink?”

“Yeah, that nasty ass bourbon. I bet your father drinks it. Your uncles. All your friends. Everybody, right?”

He didn’t answer, but waited for Cheyenne to continue.

“It was just expected that you’d drink it too. So you did.” His hand moved up Alexander’s thigh. “But now, maybe it’s okay to drink what you like. A different brand, a better vintage. Because you want it. Because it tastes better.” Cheyenne licked his lips. “Because it feels right.”
Alexander cleared his throat and brushed his lap, pushing Cheyenne’s hand away. “I can’t.”
“If you change your mind, let me know.”

“You don’t understand. It’s not that easy. My whole life will change.”

“It already has.”

Buy House of the Rising Son here:

Barnes and Noble

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Changing Reading Habits

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My book reading and buying habits have changed a lot in the last couple of decades.

For one thing, I used to have a rule about always finishing a book once I started it. I don't do that anymore. Maybe its because I'm getting old but I no longer feel that I have the time to waste on a book that doesn't capture me pretty quickly. I'll give it a chapter, then toss it aside without a second thought if it doesn't live up to expectations.

I also had a rule about keeping a book once I bought it, especially if I enjoyed it even, if I thought I probably wouldn't read it the second time. But again, age and reality set it. My son once made a comment about me dying and leaving him with a ton (literally) of books to dispose of. After that, I started giving them away. It hurt to see some of them go, it really did, but its not like I don't have nine bookcases-ful of my very favorites left.

Of course, technology has changed book-buying and reading habits as well. When I was young and poor, I rarely bought a book, except for the occasional paperback. They all came from the library. I waited patiently for my turn for a new book by a favorite author. Beyond that, I read anything and everything they offered whether it was exactly my cup of tea or not. I discovered a lot of wonderful books that way.

Now, I buy almost all my books from Amazon and I don't have the patience to wait. I pre-order books so that I get them at the earliest possible moment.

And, more of them now come in the form of Kindle downloads than actual books. I resisted Kindle for a long while but now I'm sold on its convenience - taking one small device containing a whole library of books on vacation instead of carrying a sack of heavy hardbacks - being able to start reading a looked-forward-to book instantly - lower prices (with most classics for free) - reading by Kindle light if the electricity goes off or while waiting in a dark car.

I notice I've gotten rather quirky about my book choices. I hardly even look at titles any more. I simply go by authors. Only if I can find nothing by writers I know and trust, do I begin looking at the books themselves. (I think this is a form of stick-in-the-mud-ism.)

Similarly, I'm  almost never attracted to books by female authors. (Diana Gabaldon being a huge exception). Generally, I seem to relate much more to the male point of view. And also I pass on books in which the main protagonist is a female. I want my hero to be a man and while he can have his soft moments, I want him to be as much anti-hero as hero.

My taste for books in my older age is for grittier and more graphic fare. (My number one favorite author is Andrew Vachss.) I like Noir. For this reason, many of the books I buy are from Scotland and Ireland. They seem to have the edge on edginess there.

That's one reason I don't go to my library as often as I used to (although I do still go) - whoever the buyer is for new books is Mrs. Obvious. She buys all the mysteries that also contain recipes. She's partial to all the most popular female authors. While I'm more into blood and sex, she appears to be more into tea and crumpets. She purchases everything that appears on the Best Seller list but rarely ventures into unfamiliar territory.

Reading seems as if it would be an unchanging preoccupation but it turns out, it's not.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rafe Rides Again...

Vicki Williams Amazon Page

I continued to write my column and update my blogs after my son died but I found that fiction was simply beyond me. I could write about real things - politics and NASCAR and writing - as I do on my blogs but the creativity necessary for creating fictional characters and places and events just wasn't there.

I'd try but I'd end up staring at a blank computer screen, grasping for an idea, any idea but my mind simply balked. I wrote not a word of fiction for 4 1/2 months.

When I did decide to force myself to focus once again on a book-length piece of writing, I knew I had to start with Rafe Vincennes. Rafe is my comfort zone and my familiar. Eight of my books have been about him. I know how he thinks and how he'll react in any situation.

He isn't always a comfortable character though. He's been called a sociopath and a autistic savant. Even his own son isn't sure he has a conscience. None of this concerns him. He lives life by his own individual credo.

As a child, his father said raising him was more like raising a wild wolf cub than his other normal children and even as an adult, he's still the alpha male, guardian of his pack, always alert for danger and willing to do whatever needs to be done to protect them.

He's a champion race car driver and an actor, married to an actress who has been voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. She is his north star to whom he'll always return but he is chronically unfaithful. Sexual adventure is a completely different part of his life and, to him, has nothing to do with family.

Once I sat down after my long respite from fiction, I sought him out...and there he was, waiting to take me along on his adventures.

"Come on," he said, "I'll pull you out of this funk you're in."

I'm 30,000 words into my next book, thanks to my faithful sidekick. Well, really, I think it's the other way around. He's the primary who determines the action and I'm the sidekick who records it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Facebookization of America

Image result for blowhards      Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah!

As a writer, one of the things I hate most about the 21st century is the Facebookization of our communications. We have embraced over-the-top hyperbole to such as degree that everything is capitalized and dramatized. Every issue is surrounded by superlatives and contains it full complement of exclamation points. Every missive ends with a laughing or crying or winking or frowning emoji, the words themselves obviously considered too weak to stand alone.

These are examples of what I found on my newsfeed in just one morning Facebook run-through.

"Every judgement about women DESTROYED in just over one minute!"

"NY Times throws Ted Cruz off bestseller list for cheating, conservatives go INSANE!"

"Watch former confederate flag-defending hypocrite Haley flip-flop on its banishment!"

"Pink SLAYS flat-shaming trolls!"

"Politically incorrect cartoon NAILS the media double standard!"

"Toning down the rhetoric won't change as racism is as rife in the Republican base as maggots are in rotten food."

"In the U.S., you are free to live as you wish unless your white, straight, Republican, a gun owners or southern."

"BOOM - the awesome cartoon nails Hillary!" (Three for the price of one here - boom, awesome, nails.)

"Toby Keith has a BRUTAL message for Barack Obama about GUN RIGHTS!"

"Ted Nugent has a message for all Trump haters and its AWESOME!"

"Oh. My. Gosh. Megyn Kelly just went OFF on the White House!"

And this goes on day after day. No one ever simply responds effectively to their critics, they CRUSH them, or ANNIHILATE them or DESTROY them! Everything is beyond excellent, it is AWESOME or INCREDIBLE or AMAZING. And some things genuinely are awesome or incredible or amazing but we don't save those words for those things that really qualify. We use them for the just good and the simply okay as well.

We don't disagree with certain politicians. They can't just be wrong in our eyes, rather they must be EVIL beings who want to DESTROY America!

Naturally, I think the worst of the excess is perpetrated by the right but I don't deny that my side does it too.

What I wonder is where do we go from here? Can writers actually keep readers interested in mundane words when they have become so habituated to hysterical rhetoric? What will we call wonderful things when you label your fast food burger incredible and your new shoes fantastic?

How will we recognize true evil when a president trying to do the best he can has that awful adjective hung around his neck?

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Inevitability of Change

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It's easy to take something for granted when you've experienced it so many times and I suppose I'd gotten rather blase about the Florida Keys. I've been there often since my kids have lived there so many years. But this time, I took my friend, Brenda, so I got to see it through new eyes and that helped me appreciate southern Florida all over again.

When we left Indiana, it had been gloomy and gray and rainy for so long, we longed for sun and warmth and riotous color and we found all that in the Keys. Brenda got to see many firsts - the weirdly twisted gumbo limbo trees, Frigate birds like flying Batman logos high in the sky, the Royal Poinciana trees in full spectacular bloom, the vast sweep of the Everglades, the incredible Keys sunsets, the southernmost point of the United States.

Beyond my daughter-in-law's pier are a line of mangrove islands that create a kind of protected harbor between them and the seawall. Many boats, extremely upscale cruisers and yachts and sail boats, anchor out there. We'd go out each night to sit on the benches at the end of the dock to watch day turn into night. The boat people have a tradition of blowing conch shells in tribute to the sun as it falls below the horizon leaving shades of tangerine and fuchsia and scarlet and gold behind. It is an eerie, otherworldly sound.

During the day, we admired the blooming bougainvillea spilling down the sides of fences and watched pelicans and seagulls cruising above. Sometimes, we spied an iguana and other smaller lizards. Sitting on Lisa's balcony, we heard the rustling of the graceful coconut palms and palmettos.

We drove to Key West one day over the Seven-Mile bridge where the waters swirled in hues of royal blue and emerald, turquoise and sage under a powder blue sky. We ate grouper and shrimp po'boys and sandwiches mounded high with barbequed pork.

It was exactly what I needed to find a new lease on life after John's death. The vivid colors and hot sun and plants and animals so different than what we're used to at home encouraged me to acknowledge that life isn't static but filled with constant change. There is nothing to do but accept it and move on to see what good can be found in what comes next.