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Monday, June 24, 2013

The (Over) Importance of Words

I brought this over from my redstatebluecollar blog because it's about words and I thought the message was important

 Oh, Please, America, Buck Up!

It appears that America has become a nation of over-reaction. Little boys are kicked out of school because they ate their sandwich (or cookie or whatever it was) into the shape of a gun. Seriously? Here in Indiana, we can put a Pro-Life license plate on our car but not one picturing a rainbow. Really? 

And now poor old Paula Deen has sent us into absolute hysterics of political correctness. She used the "n" word 40 years ago, a word so taboo, it must never be spoken or written but only expressed as the "n" word.

Hate to tell you, folks, but 40 years ago, lots of people said the "n" word and they said the "k" word for Jews and the "s" word for Mexicans and the "w" word for Italians and the "q" word for gays. Most jokes had a racist tinge or they had a sexist tinge. Most of our fathers were Archie Bunker when Paula was growing up in Georgia.

At the same time, most little kids, both boys and girls, played with guns. We all had cap guns or water pistols or plastic machine guns. We shot each other right and left. We got into the spirit and fell down dead when we were "shot". And guess what? We shot each other a lot less in real life back then.

But now we have all become super-sensitive. It takes almost nothing to offend us. And the people who make us feel that way? Why they should lose their jobs, if not be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail (or kicked out of school). Hurting someone's feelings is the Great Crime now. You can steal from them (a la Big Banks) or despoil their environment (a la Big Oil) or treat your employees like crap (a la Walmart) or betray them (a la corrupt politicians) as long as you use the proper terminology to do it.

Words, it seems, have greater power than actions these days. Even in the rape debate, we turn against the Todd Akins' and Richard Mourdocks' because of what they said. I don't really care what they say. What we should be worried about is what they actually do. The harm doesn't come from the names, it comes from the legislation. I actually prefer it when those men show their hands. They are less dangerous than the ones who keep their mouths shut while sponsoring and voting for laws that harm women.

It doesn't offend me when ignorant Rush Limbaugh calls young women sluts and prostitutes. It simply reveals who he is. I notice he didn't lose his job. Evidently, it is more outrageous to have used the "n" word 40 years ago than call our daughters sluts and prostitutes right now.

I've often been called names during debates with Facebook "friends" on the other end of the political spectrum. They are often said with such "gotcha" relish, I assume my opponents think they've cut me to the quick but they haven't. I simply shrug, consider the source and move on.

We used to have a saying when I was a kid (at about the same time Paula Deen was a kid) - "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me". I think we should get back to that attitude. Words can only hurt us if we let them by infusing them with too much power, as we have with the "n" word. No word should be so important that merely saying or writing it is a taboo punishable by imprisonment in a dungeon of disgrace. It's just a word...not like, say, shooting a black kid in a hoodie for being in your neighborhood.

Same with guns. I'm for sensible gun control. I'm for universal background checks. I'm for banning high capacity magazines and assault weapons. And no, I don't want to start a big argument over gun control. That's for a different blog. But a kid who eats a sandwich into the shape of a gun getting kicked out of school? Another who gets expelled for having a fake gun the size of an earring on his key chain? That's freakin' ridiculous.

And a state government that assumes to protect his citizens' delicate sensibilities by not allowing them to see a rainbow on the license plate on the car in front of them?

I'm sick of being protected. Don't do me any favors. I can bear up under the "n" word or the "s" word or the "k" word. I can bear up under being called a slut, a prostitute or even a c***. I can bear up under a cheese sandwich in the shape of a pistol. I can being bear up under seeing a rainbow license plate.

So can we all. Toughen up, America. 


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Covers and Titles - Oh, My!

I've just finished the seventh volume in the Rafe Vincennes series and my eyes are blurry from looking at potential cover photos. I have stared at so many sexy men, I may have to stop and go take a cold shower! One of my writer friends, who is way more successful than I am, is casual about covers and how important they are in the appeal of a book, but I obsess about them.

Everything has to be just so, in keeping with the book itself. Rafe, for instance, has black hair, collar length and dark brown eyes. He does not wear jewelry. He does not have tattoos. He is muscular without being muscle-bound. He is very tan.

There is nothing that puts me off more than a book with a sultry ebony-haired beauty on the cover only to read inside where the author describes her as being a platinum blonde.

Some photos came close but the model was wearing a necklace. Some came close but the model's eyes were blue. Some came close but the model had a tattoo. Some came close but the model was posed in a very self-conscious way that Rafe would never do. Rafe knows he's handsome but he doesn't play on it.

My picture cannot be a direct face shot. I've learned that people who read your books develop their own very strongly held impressions of your characters. My friend, Jan, and I compared photos of men similar to how we pictured Rafe. When she saw mine, she said "no, no, no, that's not what Rafe looks like at all!"

One Rafe book cover was a black panther, one was a girl holding a NASCAR checkered flag, one was a man in shadow on a pier with his small son, one showed Rafe with a handgun in his back waistband. In one he was on a horse, in another, a motorcycle. I struck me that though sex is such a big part of Rafe's life, I'd never featured a "sexy" cover so that's why I was looking at men in shorts and men with towels around their waists and men in gyms and men in tight jeans and men without shirts and men without anything at all.

The completion of books are the hardest parts for me. It's when I write "the end" that my stress starts. Not only do I have a difficult time settling on covers, I'm terrible at choosing titles. I never had to write my own titles for my newspaper columns and it's a good thing because mine would invariably be bland and obvious instead of punchy and clever.

So this book is done. I'll publish it next week....if I can find a cover and come up with a title.