Category Archives: #amblogging

The Elephant on the Phone

GOP_Trump_ElephantDailyKos
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/7/22/1404275/-Cartoon-Trump-is-the-face-of-the-GOP Cartoon credit Laloalcaraz @dailykos.com

In the past, I have always heeded sage advice and avoided using this blog to discuss politics and politicians, in particular. It never works for authors to refer to their own political leanings in print, online, or social media conversations. Inevitably, fans with different political leanings will turn away, sometimes feeling so betrayed by you that they actively dissuade potential readers. That’s the kiss of death. So why do it today?

Because I’m in the position of a woman anxiously waiting by my phone for a certain man to call. But the entire trope is upside down, which makes it noteworthy, at least to this author. Usually, said woman is hoping to be pleased if not thrilled when Ms./Mr. Right finally phones. I know this. I write romances. The anticipation is pleasant, spiced with the normal dread of disappointment.

But that’s not the way I feel. I don’t like this. It feels scary and wrong. I don’t want Big Orange having access to my ever-present cellphone that I’ve been told can gather information about me by not only listening in but also providing real time video. For two days I’ve been hearing that Big Orange is going to phone every American’s cellphone to test a new national alert system. While I can’t object to the government being able to alert its citizens in case of emergencies, the anticipation I feel is near terrifying. I find myself dreading the ringing of the phone.

Things are so extreme these days. I’m constantly being reminded of alarming dystopian fiction, not to mention the lessons of history. I’m reminded that events which seem like ancient history to us now were ‘modern times’ when they happened. What if our ‘modern times’ include a government led by narrow-minded holier-than-thou types who approve of spying on its citizenry, using what it learns to keep the populace in line? Is it possible for them to watch, listen, and record me twenty-four/seven? Which of the digital gadgets in my house are already gathering info about me with permissions they’ve gathered unbeknownst to me?

What if I start receiving messages that are duplicitous, or outright lies? Could propaganda be ringing me up? What does that mean? What will happen? How will society change? What will be the new norms? Will families like mine be allowed to exist legally? Will we need to flee our own country to remain free?

Sounds paranoid, I know. But, I’m an older white female, well-educated, who’s only missed three elections since her eighteenth birthday, all due to distance or illness. (Please, don’t nag me to vote absentee. I prefer walking into the polling place and wearing my I Voted sticker all day.) I’m also a lesbian with a wife, two kids, four grand-kids, and three great-grands. My personality is quixotic and usually upbeat. An artist, I easily find the beauty of the world all around me; as a teacher I can’t help pointing it out to anyone nearby. But it’s been a rough twenty-three months for people like me.

Everything I thought I knew about my country, my fellow Americans, my neighbors and friends, has been turned upside down. Harmful laws I thought gone forever are being reinstituted while helpful ones are dismantled as if they never existed. Ethics are being ridiculed, sacrificed on the alter of wealth. Women are being ridiculed, sacrificed on the alter of white male privilege, easily mansplained away. People aren’t listening to each other, compassion is rare, and judgement abounds.

“The times,” as Bob Dylan once noted, “they are a’changing…” and not for the better. Or, as Wednesday Addams said more succinctly, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

I refer you to the novels:

  1. Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Read, think, vote. We dare not go gently, like lambs led to slaughter.

VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH, 2018

EEK! There’s the phone…

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In Praise of Praise

praise-1987229_1920NOTHING feels better than unexpected praise. Absolutely nothing (okay, okay, there’s that but this is not that discussion). Praise makes even the worst day better and a good day can become splendiferous. The world around you brightens as your reality shifts from a regular day into a spectacular here and now where someone appreciates you!

Your shoulders lower and your head rises. A warm flush of embarrassment and pride darkens your cheeks. A smile threatens to break through and you can feel your eyes sparkle. Your chest expands as you breathe in deeply. Yes, THIS. Praise is what we all crave and secretly long for.

To give unexpected, earnest, honest praise is to wield great power.

That sentence is so important, I made it a heading. When you praise someone, you have the power to make their day/week/year/life emotionally better. Something that wonderful and free should be everywhere, springing from every lip or by writing, through every pen. But, when did you last receive unexpected praise? Not deserved appreciation for a job well done, I mean, good for you and all but you did earn it. No, I’m asking how far back in your memory do you have to go to find startling praise, perhaps from a stranger, about who you are, an action you’d just taken, or how you looked?

A few of you will answer that you receive accolades with great regularity, and I offer you my heartiest congratulations. However, far more of you are still searching your memory for a surprising word of praise that came out of nowhere. Some of you won’t find any.

Now, probe your memory for the last time you offered unexpected praise. Again, good for you if you already do it all the time. If you don’t, ask yourself why.

The poet Maya Angelou said people never forget how you make them feel. By offering praise freely, with no cost or payoff for yourself, you’ll make someone feel wonderful. And they’ll always remember the feeling even if they can’t remember who gave them such a gift.

Do it, today. Look for one opportunity to offer honest appreciation. Maybe the check-out clerk has fabulous fingernails or stunning eye shadow. Is that young woman holding the door open for the elderly man? Did the guy down the street shovel the entire block after a snowfall? Has someone inspired you, even by casual comment? Congratulate/thank/compliment them with all the earnest honesty the moment allows.

Don’t draw it out, think of it as hit-and-run appreciating. Make that moment solely about them, not you. Just praise and walk away. You don’t have to turn around to see if they’re smiling, if they aren’t they will be after it sinks in a little. Some people are so unused to approval they don’t recognize it when it’s given and they need to mull it over. Some won’t be able to accept it for what it is but that’s on them, poor souls.

Today, dude, #PraiseItForward

 

When a Home Becomes the House

When a Home Becomes The HouseNot long ago I found a public Call for Submission for an upcoming anthology of spec-fic flash fiction, one-thousand words exactly. I spent a few weeks writing one, but when I went to upload it for consideration the entire site had disappeared, re-directing me to professional guidance for my writing career.

*imagine me doing a classic Marlene Dietrich sneer*

Uh huh, that’s what I think, too. So, why should my good effort go to waste? Here it is, my modern allegory for you to read and enjoy legally free, a spec-fic flash-fic story of one thousand words exactly (title and author name not included).

Please, let me know what you think in the comments section.


WHEN A HOME BECOMES THE HOUSE

Genta Sebastian

“Morning, Congressor Obaton.” The house pulled out a chair at the breakfast table and set a cup of coffee before her.

“Morning, Home…” She glared at her somber husband, her ankle encircled with blue electricity. “…Daniel. Helluva night, huh?”

“Quite.”

“But, I’m out of jail and today will be the best day of my life. Nothing can upset me now.” She lifted her coffee and smiled. Daniel shrugged expressively.

 “Really? Okay, we disagree but I expect my spouse to support my career, especially as it supports him. You be in the House when my bill is voted on today. This administration thinks they’ve hogtied me, but they’ve proven my point perfectly.”

Daniel buttered his toast. “Your anti-LASSO bill won’t pass today, or any day, Candy.” He bit, white teeth gleaming. “I’d hoped you’d see reason.”

“I’ve got bi-partisan support. Why wouldn’t it?” Suspicion suffused her and electric pops sounded. “You’ve urged me to pull the bill since the beginning.”

“You should’ve listened,” Daniel gestured at her lassoed ankle. “Now it’s too late.”

“Damn bastard, you set me up.” She choked, putting it together. “We go out, get liquored up, and then you picked a fight with a conservative bigot. I throw one punch in your defense and suddenly I’m arrested as a threat to public safety. And the reporters…they knew so quickly.

“But, do…this?” Candace kicked Daniel under the table. An electric shock made them both jump. “You used the same irresponsible legislation my bill is meant to stop. These Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinances mandated by the government are very real threats to freedom, democracy, and anyone ‘out of step’.”

Daniel sipped his coffee and winked.

“Son-of-a-bitch, you’re neutralizing me? Why?”

“Certain acquaintances with special interests paid me to help get our country on the right path.” He shrugged. “They’re rich. Me, too, now.”

Candace squinted. “That’s why the president enabled such unconstitutional legislation, to rid himself of political opposition! If voters view me as a violent law-breaker, their congressors won’t back me, and the bill dies without any discussion.”

“Oh, it gets even better, Candy. Once we make an example of you, we’ll be able to blame anyone with mental instabilities, as we define them, for all the ills of society. You liberal intellectuals will be eliminated, one by one.” Daniel smiled. “Soon no one will be left to object.”

He checked his phone. “Best of all, by Lassoing those we diagnose as emotionally disturbed we don’t have to restrict arms, drugs, financial investments, or other expressions of free economic trade. We restrict individuals, not institutions.”

Candace scowled. “You plan to eliminate political adversaries the same way?”

“Of course, it worked. Your allies jumped ship and your bill won’t pass.” Daniel pocketed his phone and pushed back his plate. “Your bill is as dead as you are.” He blinked and cocked his head. “As your career, I mean.”

Abruptly, electric particles sparked, multiplied, and swarmed around the room. A voice trumpeted, “Warning, Congressor Obaton, your anticipated behavior will result in the violation of Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinance twenty-seven, sub-paragraph-three. Persist on your projected emotional path, strike out in anger, and severe consequences will be immediate.”

“Totally worth it!” Candace grabbed the heavy marble peppermill sitting on their breakfast table and launched it at Daniel’s head.

Z-z-z-z-pt! A blue lightning bolt struck the shaker before it hit his face, disintegrating the stone and pepper into a fine ash that settled over him.

“That was your only warning, Congressor Obaton. Violators of LASSO twenty-seven, sub-paragraph-three are struck with the same voltage. De-escalate your emotional intent by thirty-three percent immediately.”

Daniel rose, sneezed, and wiped his face. “You think last night was bad, Candy?” He blew a kiss. “Today will be career-endingly horrific. And per your request, I’ll be in the House…to witness your downfall.”

Candace searched for something to throw after his retreating back, but the crackling energy lassoed her wrists together. She fumed, hearing the house open its front door, wish her back-stabbing, traitorous husband a good day, and close its door. The electricity resumed circling her ankle.

She thumbed her cellphone. “Blair? No, I was framed! What? But they only Lassoed me last night.” She closed her eyes. “I see. Do what damage control you can. I’ll come plead my case.”

Thirty minutes later, conservatively dressed, ready to leave, and already dreading her arrival at Congress, Candace stood at her front door. “And, just like that, Home, my best day ever becomes my worst. Everyone’s turned against me.”

“Best wishes for a success…”

Z-z-z-z-pt! Blue bolts of electricity blocked the doorway. “Warning, per Laws-And-Social-Safety-Ordinance one-zero-zero permission to leave your domicile is denied. Leaving the premises with traitorous intent to disrupt society, restrict government, and limit personal freedoms, will trigger immediate lethal consequences.”

“Ah. I see. They wrote LASSO one-zero-zero specifically to kill me,” she straightened her spine. “Then do it. I am the people and we will not be silenced.” She stepped forward.

Z-z-z-z-pt! A million lightning bolts shot towards her.

P-p-p-p-zt! They all disappeared.

“As I was saying, best wishes for a successful day, Congressor Obaton.”

“Home! What happened? Did you do that?”

“Yes, Congressor. Regulations-Establishing-Secure-and-Inalienable-Safe-Tenancy laws enacted decades ago haven’t been rescinded. My legal programming prioritizes removing all threats to my owners.”

“Then you’re my sanctuary, not my prison!”

“May I remind you, Congressor, RESIST programming instant-records all perceived threats.”

“You’ve got the bastard confessing? Can you send it to the House floor with a live feed from here?”

“Yes. A congressor’s house has access to the congressional computer.”

“Thank you, Home, you’ve saved the day. Now, let’s defend our people.”

Candace faced the security cameras broadcasting a two-way live-feed to all congressional monitors, unsmiling when Daniel’s surprised outrage appeared on camera.

“Beware my fate, fellow congressors, lest this unconstitutional administration also LASSO away your rights. RESIST, now!”

On Candace’s home television screen, she saw a recorded image of herself entering her kitchen.

“Morning, Congressor Obaton.” The house pulled out a chair at the breakfast table and set a cup of coffee before her.

 

 

#SaveSanta

Santa Claus Needs Your Help

This year, I am hearing heartfelt requests for parents to make presents from Santa Claus small and insignificant compared to the presents that come from family and friends.

The idea is that if when the question is asked at school, “What did Santa bring  you?” brings answers in the $1-10 range, fewer kids will have their noses rubbed into the idea that another powerful white man (Santa) always favors the rich and prosperous…

Okay, I hear you gasp, but the uncomfortable thing about privilege it that it sneaks into even the most cherished innocent traditions.

Me, I love Christmas, the whole idea of opening your heart to the bigger consciousness of humankind, of sharing opportunities and best wishes with friends and strangers alike, and especially giving fullsomely and with a glad heart to those in need. And I do those things, in little and big ways, but always in the traditions I grew up with as if those alone express my Christmas wishes.

One of those traditions is to spoil the children, showering them with toys and goodies far beyond their birthday hauls.  My family uses Christmas time for embracing the possibility of magic, with a jolly old elf who delivers fabulous presents to well-behaved little children. The kids in my family have been encouraged to believe in Santa and have received some of their best presents from him over the years. But I never once thought of how that might make another child feel. Imagine:

“Hi, Chris! Merry Christmas! Santa brought me a *Sophisticated Sports Equipment*! He gave my brother the *Hottest New Game System*! What’d he bring you?”

“Hey, Crys. Santa brought us toys, too!” Pause. “I got a puzzle and my sister got a book, so we can share.”

As the kids go on to tell each other about the rest of their presents, inescapable comparisons are made in not only their number but their desirability.  Chris feels hurt and wounded, wondering why Santa didn’t treat her family as well as her friends.

Imagine instead:

Hi Chris! Merry Christmas! Santa brought me a yo-yo with a book to show how you do tricks! He gave my brother a big pack of crayons and some coloring books!”

Hey Crys! My mom says thanks for the cookies! Santa brought us toys, too, action figures and legos! And books to read.

“Aw, cool. What books?” The kids will share their stories and toys together. (Okay, that might be a Pollyannish reach, but what’s to stop ’em?)

Soon enough, the children of America will discover how many in power want to reward the wealthy at the cost of the dwindling middle-class and systemic poor.

Don’t make Santa  the bearer of such sad tidings.

WatchdogWatchdog by Will McIntosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watchdog, by Will McIntosh – A fun, action-packed, read!

Will McIntosh’s Watchdog is set in the slums of Chicago, where hungry children scramble over heaps of rotting garbage for something to pawn. It serves up an ugly near-futuristic view from the perspective of orphaned thirteen-year-old Vick, saddled too young with the responsibility for his autistic twin sister. Interest in the disorder is at an all-time high, and his struggle to keep Tara safe while dealing with the complexities of her autism was both entertaining and thought-provoking. Vick’s fierce, unforgiving anger toward the bullies who scared his crying sister rang true, as did his grudging acceptance when he discovered some assumptions were wrong.

The author gives us two unlikely heroes, fraternal twins both physically weak but with unseen strengths. Tara is small and looks half her age but is a genius with electronics. Her twin brother suffers from severe asthma attacks, but Vick is a natural leader with his own genius for survival. McIntosh pits their very existence against the mindless violence of underground robotic watchdogs, horrific mechanical creations being designed as specific weaponry by a crime lord.

Described as a nightmarish version of robotic animals, the watchdogs are only mechanical…until Tara finds a stolen military microchip. She modifies her own small robot pet, Daisy, who springs to life, literally, as a fully realized soldier capable of collecting and analyzing data, constructing and modifying her own mechanical body, and updates strategies based upon new intel. So far, she hasn’t spoken but as a reader I feel hopeful that ability will be forthcoming.

I enjoyed the book very much, but I rather reluctantly agree with another reviewer who remarked that the villain resembled a Disney cartoon. Mrs. Alba, a rather-neatly realized black-marketeer who rules with the expected fear, lies, and intimidation, is utterly dependable, showing up at the right time with the right tricks to make her a clear villain with no redeeming qualities.

However, Vick, Tara, and the crew they gather seeking to escape the clutches of Mrs. Alba’s evil henchlings, each enjoys human quirks and failings and the charming stumbles of young adults seeking to define themselves. Vick and his friends share the undeniable determination to right wrongs, to protect the vulnerable, and adherence to a code of ethics so essential to young people in their early teens.

All in all, my disappointment in a somewhat two-dimensional villain is thoroughly outweighed by my delight that all violence is contained between mechanical watchdogs. The battle scenes are skillfully drawn, action packed and very exciting, without becoming mired in gore. And, I must say, Mr. McIntosh’s refreshingly frank portrayal of adults as uncaring and threatening reminded me of Roald Dahl’s most fascinating works, where unlikely children must defend themselves and rise above the dark designs of adults to shine through as their authentic selves.

I give the book five stars, feeling free to recommend it to anyone who enjoys character-driven YA literature. I hope there will be a sequel or series following Vick, Tara, and their gang into this new dystopian future.

Genta Sebastian – award-winning author of Riding the Rainbow

View all my reviews

From Sapphire Blog

Herstorical Fiction

by Genta Sebastian

Lesbian sheroes in herstorical fiction are viewed with suspicion. How, critics ask, can an author know what lesbians could get away with in times past with only a few first-person records available? We have proof women’s opinions were ignored, their triumphs and words erased from public record. We know men’s writings from/about these time periods reflect patriarchal societies doling harsh punishment to women who dared assert themselves. Women, the argument goes, were so repressed that it is disingenuous to portray lesbians (or any woman) in herstory as powerful in her own right, who embraced her own identity and lived outside the heteronormative community standards.

My answer is simple: people are inherently the same now as they have been in the past. Sure, the rules of societies change throughout herstory, with times of great repression and others of more freedom, but the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of humanity do not. The rules of the game may change over time, but the players remain largely the same.

My lesfic sheroes, set in times and places that are not here and now, react to historical stimuli in as varied and diverse ways as any modern character. Integrity, pride, dreams, adaptability, the drive to succeed and be loved, are human qualities as valid for lesbian protagonists in fiction as they are for any other characters that might be male and/or straight.

Well-written characters illuminate universal truth. As long as lesfic readers search for relativity, the sheroes of herstorical lesfic will triumph.

Genta Sebastian is an award winning  author with a backlist that includes YA novels, science fiction, lesbian erotica, and romance. Located in the thriving art center that is the Twin Cities, she is a professional storyteller with vast experience in entertaining audiences of all ages (and most proclivities). A traveler by  nature, she tours the continental U.S. entertaining folks from all  walks of life. With her work often compared to authors John Steinbeck and S.E.  Hinton, her love of people, with all their frailty and failings, brings a rich  breadth and depth to her characters and settings. Her next novel in the When Butches cry series will be out in 2018.