Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

Rabbit Hole

This past weekend was the Labor Day Holiday here in the US. My husband and I enjoyed another of our historical weekends with about 500 of our closest friends at a park in the high desert. While the temperatures were quite nice (relatively speaking – it was ONLY in the high 80’s F – which translates to still too fucking hot for me), the winds were relentless all weekend. Gusts up to 40mph, with a steady stream around 20-25mph. It’s amazing how fast that wears thin.

So the combination of heat and wind wore me out a little more than usual. I’ve spent the days since trying to be productive and finding myself wandering aimlessly from one task to the next. Last night I sat down at the computer, determined to get a nice blog entry out, and found myself falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. What I stumbled across is from nearly 30 years ago, and still rates as one of the best of its kind ever. Go watch it. You’re welcome.

Queen: Live at Wembley 1986 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw-_LQJ6e8E

QueenPicture from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2188810/Iconic-album-covers-Queen-David-Bowie-Blur-recreated-Lego.html

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A few weeks ago I posted my to-do list for this year (“Ass Kicking Needed”). Well, I’ve actually accomplished a couple things on that list already. Okay, so they’re not big major things, but, hey, it’s a start, right?

First off, as I’ve become more educated and less paranoid about the Internet and blogs and e-publishing and social media (sometimes my age shows too much), I’ve come to learn that having people share your stuff is not a Bad Thing. On the contrary, you want people to share your stuff. Especially if you’re an artist. Agents, managers, editors, perspective employers, all want to see what you’ve been up to, how you represent yourself, and – most important – how you market yourself. Okay, so I’m still pretty lousy at the marketing part especially, but I’m working on it. So with sharing (and, hence, greater audience, more comments, bigger pool of awesome people) in mind, my original material is now licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Share away. I’d really like to break that long-awaited 200 followers mark.

Secondly, I’ve updated my About page and added an e-mail address for those who might want to contact me directly. Since I don’t have the funds yet to develop my own actual website with my own actual domain, I felt adding an e-mail would make me a little more accessible without adding a lot more expense. Please don’t make me regret that decision.

And thirdly, I’ll be returning to lurking at FanStory.com, while also checking out Critique.org. I dabbled on the first site a few years ago and had a mixed experience, but I do think it offers a place for writers of all flavors to get and give feedback and support, as long as you understand that all communities have their issues. The latter is a new venture for me, but gets the stamp of approval from Writer’s Digest, so I thought some exploring was in order. I’ll give you a report on both of these sites at some point in the future.

As for my usual weekly rant, the one I have boiling around in my head is still far too much raging nutball, and not nearly enough reasoned argument supported by evidence, to be allowed out of the box, so you’ll just have to wait until I can calm down. Instead, go back to Ted Talks and watch some more really cool videos. Or go to YouTube and watch some cute animal videos. At the very least, I hear you’re not really legit unless you have cat pictures on your site. So here you go:

IMG_0107 IMG_0535

My two most recent mascots. RIP, boys.

If that doesn’t guarantee success, nothing will…

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In my constant effort to avoid actually accomplishing anything, I spend an inordinate amount of time browsing the Internet, reading all sorts of memes from the right and the left on Facebook and watching videos of everything from dancing cats to epic fails on YouTube. Usually it’s all nothing but time wasters, but every now and then something sticks with me and I end up going back to it several times just to make sure I saw it right or didn’t miss anything, or sometimes just because it makes me feel good.

Recently I ran across a video of Michael J. Fox on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, during which Michael was talking about living with Parkinson’s and his attitude toward life. You can see it for yourself here. If you’re any kind of fan of his, or have spent any time whatsoever watching the news or talk shows or reading his books, you’re already well aware of his positive outlook despite his challenges. So it wasn’t really new for me to hear. But for some reason it really stuck with me this time.

As a chronic depressive, positive thoughts are a rare bird in the bush of crazy that is my mind. It’s not that I’m consciously creating the negative, hopeless, self-loathing things that inhabit nearly every moment of my life. In fact, I constantly have to fight against them, forcing logic and reason into the forefront when anxiety and OCD tendencies are running amok. Thankfully there was a time when my insurance actually paid for counseling sessions as well as the meds, so I have some tools I can use in the everlasting fight for my sanity.[1] One of those tools is to focus on the good things on your life. In the beginning it can be hard to recognize what those are, but over time and effort it becomes a growing list. Since I’ve been Mrs. Crankypants these last few entries, I decided that today I need to let that go and look at the good things I have and get back into a better head space. So here we go:

1)   Husband – For most of my life, I figured I’d never have one of these. Being bigger, stronger and smarter than most of the guys I knew made it hard to get a date. I was 39 when this big lug of a blonde finally convinced me he was worth my time and I haven’t been happier. He is truly my partner, confidante and cohort-in-crime. He supported me without question when I told him I didn’t want to go back into an office job anymore, and was going to stay home and actually try to get this writing thing going. He’s my rock, my hero, my battle-brother, my knight in shining armor, and my best friend. If I had nothing else nice to say about my life, he could make it seem like a picnic in the park.

2)   Family – I actually like most of my family. I have too many friends who are estranged from parents or siblings, and even my husband was more relieved when his mother passed than sad. But as a kid, my family didn’t have a lot and being in the military, the only constant was each other. Sure we’ve had our disagreements, but most of them we got over, and the ones we didn’t we just don’t talk about anymore. And since I didn’t have my own kids, I have to stay on good terms with my nieces and nephew, because they’ll be the ones deciding what happens to me when I’m completely senile.

3)   Friends – My husband and I are very private people and have a bad habit of not letting others in, metaphorically speaking, even when we could really use the company. We care deeply about the people in our circle and would do just about anything for them if asked, but tend to not let them see what’s going on with us. We have the attitude that we “don’t want them to see us like this.” But there have been a couple occasions over the last few years where we’ve been forced to ask for help because there was just no other option, and people stepped up for us. It made us realize that we’re not alone in this world. And we also learned that we have a pretty bitchin’ team for the coming zombie apocalypse…

4)   Schedule – I am my own boss. I don’t have to subscribe to someone else’s idea of what my day should contain and when. This is especially nice since I’m a night person. All those years working the 8-5 office grind wore on me in more ways than just all the annoyances from the bosses and co-workers. Now, I get to be on my body’s normal vampiric circadian rhythm, in bed about dawn and up in the early afternoon, all without having to set an alarm. I do what I want when I want, and any deadlines on me are those I decide for myself. That, folks, is true freedom.

5)   Creative Ability – I can play more than a dozen different instruments, compose music, write fiction and non-fiction, do needlework and weave at a level some seem to think is pretty astonishing, design my own patterns for needlework and weaving, do respectable drawings, and can even color inside the lines. These creative things have been easy for me all my life, a gift that I often neglect to appreciate.

6)   Health – There are those who know me that might wonder about this one, given that I can’t see past the end of my nose, have terrible tinnitus and frequency loss, had titanium knees installed, suffer from migraines, carry A LOT more weight than I should and, of course, the depression. But those are things that have been with me most of my life, and that I have largely adjusted to in one way or another. Even as my old, fat self, I’m far stronger than the average person, have pretty damn good reflexes and endurance, and make my doctor crazy when he looks at the scale and then looks at my near perfect blood work. Already I’ve lost a number of friends that were my age or younger even, to heart attacks, stroke, aneurisms, and I just keep on ticking. We’re long-lived in my family, and I plan on terrorizing the world for some time to come.

7)   House – Yeah, it’s in a geographic location I’m not too thrilled about, but the house itself is pretty good. It’s nice sized, has some features I really like, and keeps me dry. It’s my haven, my sanctuary from the cold, cruel world, my fortress of solitude. I’m not at the whims of a landlord who couldn’t be bothered to care beyond that monthly check. I can put nails in the wall, paint things chartreuse if I really wanted to (and could convince my husband), can have pets, and share it with a really cool roommate. Owning your home gives you a security you just can’t have any other way, and that helps keep me calm on so many levels.

8)   Companion Animal – There’s all sorts of studies about how pets can help ease stress, but anyone who’s ever had a pet doesn’t need a study to know the benefits. Right now we’re down to just a cranky old cat, but he’s a great character to have around. Mostly for comedic relief. He makes more noise coming down the stairs than our 60lb. dog did, and is about as graceless as a cat could be. But he also walks on the treadmill with me, tucks himself against my back when I’m not feeling well, and insists on helping me with whatever project I might be doing, usually when I’m right in the middle of the most important part that I really can’t screw up or the whole thing is screwed. Nothing like a 15lb. cat in your lap when you’re trying to be productive. But there’s also nothing like petting a soft, warm, purring bundle of anti-stress when the world has been mean to you.

So these are some of what I’m thankful for, the good things in my life that make it all worthwhile. I’m going to still have my days when the depression is beating me mercilessly about the head and shoulders, but these will help me fight back. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

[1] Maybe someday cognitive therapy will be taken more seriously, but as long as the public at large, politicians and even the medical community just want to throw pills at mental illness, or, at worse, don’t want to throw anything at it at all because it’s “all just in your head and you need to get over it,” then people like me will continue to struggle. Get educated, people. It could mean life or death for somebody you love.

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I’ve taken a little break from my novel. After grinding out nearly 16,000 words on it in November (yeah, I know – NaNoWriMo winner I’m not) I realized I needed to take a step back and look at the whole forest instead of just the trees. In reviewing the flow of things and all the little pieces of the story I’ve been allowed to see, it’s looking like I’m only about a third of the way through this particular book (@65K words already!), and there seem to be a couple more books to follow. This is going to be massive, which means it’s also going to take A LOT of time to sort out. At the rate I’m going, it’ll be about three years total for the series. I’m so screwed.

So I’m taking a break because I need to get some other things done. I have a couple short stories rattling around in my head I should actually write down, and a couple to submit to publications, and I have to make some more queries for my first novel. The submission and query process is the part about being a writer that I really can’t stand. Writing is hard enough, but now I have to be my own PR agent, too? That’s nearly impossible for a depressive with no self-esteem. Just imagine Eeyore being a cheerleader, and you’ll understand.

But it’s part of the package. And if you’re a writer and haven’t figured that out yet, get on the boat, kids. Even those really successful writers with big buck contracts and agents and managers and PR firms have to play salesman at some point for their product. Whether it’s a book signing, a convention appearance, or an interview, writers who actually sell their books will have to come out of their caves and pitch to the masses. Yeah, I’m not thrilled about it, either, but it’s what we signed on for, so might as well put on the sunscreen and practice walking in the daylight.

Now, some of you might be asking why I don’t just go the electronic/self-publishing route, and the answer would be because I’m a traditionalist. That translates to old fuddy-duddy. I like real books. I like the smell of old ones, the crisp feel of new ones, the weight of all of them. I like how they don’t require a battery to operate and how I can read them by the light of the moon when I’m out camping. I can even level a table or crack a crook over the head with one, and still be able to read it. Betcha can’t say that about your Kindle or iPad. Traditional printing is still the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, so that’s what I’m shooting for.

Plus, to go that electronic/self-publishing route, you REALLY have to promote yourself. You have to be well versed with all things social media, and you have to be willing to spam yourself across the Internet. In a good way, of course. I just don’t have those kinds of skills. I can barely handle e-mail and this blog. You can just forget about Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and whatever else there is out there. That’s a realm for the young, those kids born with smart phones in their hands and wondering how the hell anyone could possibly survive without instant access to everything. I need a guide for that strange world, and so I look to an agent and publisher to lead me through that maze.

To get those, I have to sell them on my novel. Agents and publishers all have query and submission guidelines. No two of them seem to be alike, but the one thing they all want is some form of summary or synopsis. A summary can be as short as a few lines, to several paragraphs. It’s that blurb on the back of the dust jacket that teases you into cracking the pages, or those tantalizing few paragraphs on the inside front that convince you to spend your hard earned cash on a few hours of escape. It has to be the kind of sales pitch that could sell ice to Eskimos, because your book is just one snowflake on the tundra of publishing, and it had better be damn good to get any attention.

My short summary for Decker is as follows:

The dreary rains of the Seattle Free Zone hide more than the hungry maw of a corporate power gone mad. In the streets a mercenary seeks redemption for a crime not hers, while the FBI agent sent to find her learns he no longer believes. Forced into an alliance against a foe long since human, the pair discovers success will demand a heavy price.

It took me two years to finally get it to that point, but I’m liking it now. Hopefully, so will an agent or publisher. I have a longer summary as well, but that still isn’t where I want it, so more angsting I will go…

A synopsis is a more in-depth summary. Usually two or three pages long, it includes your characters, plot points and how the whole thing ends. It’s your novel in a nutshell. That’s right, you just spent a year writing 100K wondrous words, only to turn around and cut it down to the bare bones. And it has to be fabulous bones.

My current synopsis sucks. But since I’m querying a publisher that wants one, I need to take these next few days and pull it together into a rousing, teasing, passionate read they won’t be able to resist. It’s going to mean some hair pulling, tea drinking, cat scratching hours in front of the computer. I think I’ve written a good novel. I think it’s something other people will want to read, and my beta readers seem to agree. But I have to convince some pretty skeptical professionals first.

Therein lies the hardest part about being a writer. You can’t just sit back and let your work speak for itself, because it will just be a miniscule voice in a massive chorus. You have to plant a flag, send up fireworks and summon a flyover from the USAF Thunderbirds just to get noticed. Luckily, I’m an Air Force brat, so don’t be surprised if there’s an F-16 parked out front. It’ll be on its way as soon as I get the flag and fireworks.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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I was watching television the other day and a commercial came on that asked people what they would do if they didn’t have to worry about money and could do anything they wanted. The first answer was “be a writer.” It was a common answer, too. I have dozens of friends and acquaintances that also have that dream, to be a writer, but only a handful of them are actually working toward that end. A select few are even making money at it. Not great gobs, mind you. People like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are freaks in the literary world. The rest of us schlubs just plunk away as best we can, hoping we can scrape enough words together to convince someone, somewhere, to pay us a few pence, just so we can say we really are professional writers.

What is it about writing that makes so many people think they can do it? I made the mistake of asking my husband (he who has also mentioned he wants to write) that question, and he just sent it back to me:

Him:   Well, why do YOU think you can write?

Me:      Because I think I’m pretty good at it. And people have told me I’m pretty good at it. And, mainly, because I can’t NOT write.

Him:   You’re not writing all the time.

Me:      *frustrated spiral further into depression*

He’s right: I’m terrible at following my own advice. Even when I actually sit down at the computer and open up my novel, I keep finding other things to do. Like pet the cat, check Facebook, watch kitteh videos on YouTube, balance the checkbook. You get the idea. I have a hard time getting started, which is confusing to me because nearly every waking hour is spent with those characters and their problems swirling around in my head. But when it comes time to put it all down in writing, I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire.

Last week I mentioned that I was going to unofficially participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo by working on my novel at the same pace required of actual participants. Those of you who are successfully on track at this point are probably up to about 8,000 words. I’m at just under 2,500. That means I’m averaging 500 words a day. And it takes me two to four hours to do that. I probably shouldn’t admit that given I’m shopping around my first novel and some potential agent or publisher could see this and wonder if I’ll be able to get them a second book before I die of old age. Sorry, no guarantees. Though my family is pretty long-lived, so chances are good…

But the question is still unanswered: why does everybody want to write? There’s a mystique to writing that seems to draw the fantasies of untold numbers. Work at home, on your own schedule, drinking a cup of tea while gazing out onto a flock of ducks floating across a misty pond, etc., etc. The masses seem to think it’s a life of leisure that allows you to rake in the money by selling a few books. If only!

We, of course, know the truth behind that myth. The vast majority of people out there who think they can write are actually hacks just putting words together to fill space. You can’t spend more than a few minutes on the Internet without coming across them. Bad spelling, terrible grammar, typos, and barely coherent thoughts expressed in a style equivalent to the average fifth grader. For all its wonders, for all the opportunities it has allowed writers with its immense demand for content, the Internet has actually proven to be the bane of good writing.

The truth is, writing is fucking hard work. It’s more than just knowing the rules. It’s more than just active vs. passive voice, why first person point of view works for some stories and not for others, or how many different ways you can have your character talk, speak, blurt, demand, exclaim, shout…

Writing – REAL writing – is the ability to tap into something unexplainable, and then share that with the world. Real writing is an art, which sucks the reader into another time and place and allows them to experience something amazing and profound and heart breaking. Real writing is an intangible gift and should not be taken lightly.

Most of those people we know who claim they want to be writers will never do anything more than Twitter posts about their lunch. Which is already more than they should, but that’s just my inner snark coming out. Some of those people may actually learn to be competent with words. Plenty of people can write well. They are good craftsmen, and can be entertaining, educational and even thought provoking. But very few people are writers. There’s only one Stephen King for a reason.

I’m no Stephen King, but I do think I have something worth sharing, and that’s why I keep doing this. I hope I’m not one of those delusional wanna-be’s, the kind you see in the first few weeks of reality show competitions like America’s Got Talent who are CONVINCED they are the ultimate gift to entertainment, only to be the gawd-awful train wreck of train wrecks. Maybe by being worried about that means I’m not. Sort of like you’re not really crazy if you’re worried about being crazy, so then I must be a writer if I’m worried about not being one. Or something like that.

Even when I’m distracted by other things, dealing with depression, procrastinating my way through the days, and getting rejection after rejection, writing haunts me. I HAVE to do it. I come back to it time after time, day after day, because I can’t NOT. It is an obsession, an addiction, my lifeblood. Maybe that makes me crazy after all.

But it also makes me a writer.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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In my continuing quest to avoid doing anything productive during those times when I should be writing, I wander aimlessly through the Internet, following vague trails and traveling down dark alleys into inane byways of our twisted little cyber-world.  The things I find there are often funny, sometimes sad, occasionally interesting, and every now and then a gem of rare proportions.  I recently came across one of those rare gems on YouTube, that bastion of all things video, and it caused me to have one of those epiphanies that so rarely eludes me most days (no, it didn’t hurt, but it did scare me).

The video was a badly shot cell phone recording of a convention visit actor Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate: SG-1) did several years ago.  One of those boyishly handsome kind of guys with a pair of ice-blue peepers that could melt the heart of even the most jaded among us, Mr. Browder could have just shown up in jeans and t-shirt and every woman in the place would have been a puddle at his feet.  However, apparently not one to leave well enough alone, he decided to add a little to the visit, and appeared on stage in a full white bunny suit – ears, tail and all (inside joke for Farscape fans – if you haven’t seen the series, it’ll take too long to explain…).  Worth the price of admission in and of itself, and then he’s devilishly funny on top of that.

But that’s not what caught my attention.  I lived in Hollywood proper for several years during and after film school, and white bunny suits would have been mild compared to some things I saw there, so seeing an actor on stage in one just didn’t rate.  No, what caught my attention is a comment he made about his chest hair, a comment that came across as being somewhat embarrassed by the fact he’s got a healthy patch of brown fuzz across his pectorals.  He claimed that one of his fellow actors on Stargate teased him about his hirsute status, and talked about how the others would shave their chests but that he wasn’t about to submit himself to such things. (You can see the video here).

And that’s when that epiphany thang hit me upside the head – there is no hair out there.

Look around and see for yourself.  All those stylishly hip ads in magazines and on TV are rife with gaunt, pouty, eight-packed, chest-hairless boys.  Body builders have been shaving for decades, using the argument that you can see the muscular definition better, which might be true, but since Arnold they’ve just turned into comic-book mutants as far as I’m concerned, so I don’t look anymore anyway.  Back in the days BH (before husband) I used to pick up the occasional Playgirl, and not to read the articles because they were largely trite party-girl stuff I wasn’t interested in, but to browse the merchandise, as it were. (Side note:  yes, women are just as interested in looking at the opposite sex as men are.  We just keep our eyeballs in our heads and our mouths shut when we do it.  And married doesn’t mean dead!)  With issue after issue filled with nicely built, but smooth men who looked barely old enough to be there, I finally stopped buying it because I got bored.

Men everywhere and not a chest hair in sight.  My husband, during one of his more redneck moments, postulated a correlation between hairless boy-men and the sexual proclivities of the production people around them, a theory I found difficult to debate, having been exposed to The Business and its quirks.  Sometimes that Kansas boy is right, but don’t tell him I said that – his ego’s big enough as it is.

So I started thinking about the guys I did like, the men I could look at all day long, sighing wistfully and thinking thoughts that really can’t be posted here.  The obvious first one on the list would be my husband, a big, strapping Midwesterner who uses a four pound hammer when he blacksmiths on the weekends and has been described as an Albino Gorilla (I was told that I’m not supposed to take them home from the zoo…).  The only blond on the list, it’s probably better that way ‘cause if he were brunette, some guy from Alabama with a shotgun would try to claim his carcass to sell off as a Bigfoot.

The afore-mentioned Mr. Browder is on the list, of course, and not just ‘cause he’s pretty to look at, but he’s one helluvan actor, too.  They always seem sexier when they’re good at what they do.  Tom Selleck is there, too, because I was a young, impressionable college co-ed when he hit the airwaves as Magnum, P.I., often romping through Hawaii showing off his own manly chest carpet (and thankfully back on TV again with a new series).  As I recall, there was actually a bit of a controversy about it, because there just hadn’t been a lot of bare-chested he-men on the telly prior to that.  It was considered just a little too raunchy.  There’s a story from the days of the original Star Trek that told how William Shatner could only have his shirt off if he was smooth-chested, but it was okay for Leonard Nimoy to go au-natural because his character was an alien.  That and twin beds for married couples and you have the Hollywood standard back in the day.  No, I didn’t say it made sense.

Gerard Butler joins our team, representing the European contingent, and no, maybe not as thickly forested as some of our entries, (and not at all in 300, but with all that beef on the hoof, who cares?!?), but he makes up for it in shear smoldering machismo.  Backed up by Clive Owen, who’s acting versatility equals his plain ol’ hotness, it makes me think of other reasons to visit the Continent besides prowling through museums looking at embroidered coifs from the Middle Ages.

And lately there’s been a growing wave of real men arriving from Australia, Hugh Jackman and Alex O’Loughlin being my first picks for Team Drool.  I watched the movie Australia just to see Hugh’s nicely defined … acting style.  And the new Hawaii Five-O is definitely on the viewing list just because Alex is romping in the water shirtless (it helps that it seems to be pretty good otherwise, too).  Something about those Aussies just screams…, well, let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

So, Ben – relax.  Real women want real men, and real men have chest hair.  My thanks to you, Tom, Gerard, Clive, Hugh, Alex and all those other real men out there who have shared your fuzzy torsos with the world, and given women everywhere something to hold on to, in more ways than one.

Speaking of which, I should go thank my husband, too…

©  2010   Cheri K. Endsley  All Rights Reserved.

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