Another year without a nuclear meltdown has got to be making them rethink the calendars…

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Mornin’ all.

We done went and had ourselves a bit of winter this week. It was sleeting so hard that when I got up the other day that it sounded like a pipe had broken. I had a momentary flashback to last years’ Pipes of Hell winter production before I got a grip and realized that it was a balmy 30 degrees, and the water was coming down from above, not up from below.

I took a look outside. A couple inches of snow, then ice pellets as far as the eye could see. What an awful mess! Fortunately for us, no one had anywhere they needed to go. Kids were home from school, man was home from work. There wasn’t a single reason any of us had to go out.

So of course we went out.

…what? Oh come on. It’s a New England tradition. The plows had already come through, so we weren’t clogging up the roads and getting in their way, and there was almost no traffic. As soon as you can, you get in your car and chug the mile to the local grocery store to make sure every other redneck congregated there still agrees with your assessment that winter is wicked fahkin’ shitty. It’s just what you do. I don’t make the rules, people.

Besides, we were low on milk. Not quite out, but low enough that the morning joe would be tan, not khaki. Couldn’t have that first world problem, now could I? I mean, I chipped a nail this week, too. There’s only so much one person can take.

We’re halfway through the kids’ holiday break. For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. They needed to clean their rooms to make space for fresh inventory after Christmas. I remember when that meant they played with the rediscovered toys while I sat buried under the heaps of long forgotten treasures, desperately trying to throw out the crap that the kids only suddenly NEEDED because it was time for it to go.

Now, even the littlest pup is old enough to mostly guide himself in cleaning.

I’m not saying I don’t have a couple in the litter who show the same hoarding tendencies I possess. Sometimes I’ll catch the pup sneaking a broken toy under the bed. “What’s that?” I’ll say. “I can fix it,” he’ll protest. “Put it in the trash before you end up with an hour long TLC special,” I’ll tell him, carefully creasing my brow in practiced parental consternation.

Aside from cleaning, it’s been mellow and game-filled. They are my little flock of geeks and got some cool games for Christmas. And while they got out and played before the shit weather rolled in, I can’t say any of them seemed the least bit disappointed to discover that Mother Nature made sure their time was free for digital adventuring.

Pokemons explored caves. Isaacs were…bound? I’m sorry, I don’t really know how that game works. Brain puzzles were solved, and, if the excited tittering wafting from the teen lair was any indication, large battleships were thwarted.

Looks like they’ll have that same kind of morning again today, at least. It’s raining and the snow/ice is getting a fresh, glossy glaze. Hey, I suppose I can’t complain. I mean, it’s the first real sign of winter, and it’s almost 2016.

Can you believe it? Another year out. Pfft, just like that. Seems like I cracked open my free 2015 calendar the nuclear power plant sends to all the folks that live in the potential fallout zone just yesterday.

…true story. Got next year’s unusual bribe all ready to hang in the morning. If the plant ever blows, at least I’ll have the warm memories of all the free calendars they sent over the years to temper my anger at their incompetence and give me comfort. Well, the warm memories and the literal warmth of the radiation…

It’s that time of year again when we look back and reflect on the old shitstorm we’re leaving behind before our hungover asses wake up to the first misting sprays of the new one. Everyone’s recapping the year as only the internet can.

Most sites are linking their favorite lists by category. The news this year was, by and large, fairly bleak. I’m looking through these lists of murders and scandals and jihads and arrests and it’s depressing as hell. There was a link on MSN to the “20 Cutest Internet Cats of 2015.” I was thinking that would take the sting off the hell hole we’re in and clicked on it. True to their word, some of the kitties really did have squiffy wiffy faces. I was feeling more positive until I clicked on the last cat. The last cat on the list looked like Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is now ruining the palate-cleansing ability of internet kittehs. Screw you, Donald Trump. #generalmessageof2015

Then there are the usual lists of celebrity lives that ended in the course of the year. The entertainment sections have lists of actors and singers that shuffled off this mortal coil. The sports section listed “7 Sports Heroes You’ll Miss Next Year.” What a set up articles like that are. I didn’t even know these people existed until you told me, and then as soon as I find out about them, you tell me they died. I was in a world of blissful ignorance before. Any emptiness and loss I now feel for heroes I will never get to know is completely your fault, sports writers. Screw you, too.

Science and tech sections also have their loss articles, but no one reads them. I think that’s probably sadder than the fabricated depression from the sports writers. This keyboard I’m typing on could have been invented by someone who died this year, and I’ll never know. I mean, I *could* know, I guess. I just won’t.

Hey, at least I’m honest.

Aside from the news bits, many of the lists on the internet are sponsored. “Top 20 Hairstyles of 2015,” brought to you by Wen hair care. Just guessing here, but I think these styles are going to be held in place with Wen’s Dr. MacGuillicuddy Formula Super Shiny Impossible-to-Muss All Purpose Hair Shellac Elixir and Floor Polish. They’re also linking their least favorite lists. “Worst Hairstyles in 2015.” Looks like there are many folks out there who didn’t buy Wen. Tighten that shit up in 2016, folks. Just call Wen and ask for “magic hair beans.” They’ll know what you’re talking about.

Here’s a good one. “50 of the Best Cars of 2015.” How about, “80 Great Breakfasts to Start off the New Year.” This is one you cannot miss: “101 Life Hacks We Learned in 2015.”

It cracks me up when I see lists like this. 50 Best Cars…so, like…ALL the cars of 2015, then? I think they just try to one up each other. I think the folks at BuzzFeed brainstorm or interface or idea-share or whatever they call it to try and come up with a list that cannot be topped.

“Let’s see if we can think of a list that will dwarf all other lists,” some asshole in an ill-fitting plaid shirt says as he pushes thick-framed, lensless glasses up his nose.

Stanley gulps, though whether because of genuine panic or simply discomfort the starched bow tie pressing against his Adam’s apple creates is undetermined. “Dave,” he rasps. “You’re talking about…the Golden List.”

The group gasps as one, but Dave is undeterred. He holds up a perfectly manicured hand, mostly to flash the sweet 1986 Casio calculator watch he found at a yardsale that sometimes even works, and the group stills. “Yes.”

The one word gets the hipsters riled enough to forget their corporate catchphrases. “That’s fucking nuts!” someone shouts. “It’s a pipe dream, Dave!” says another.

“This is it,” Dave shouts above the din of the crowd. Everyone settles back down. “I said it in January and I meant it. This is OUR year. We’re not leaving this office until we finally do it. I want everyone to network and give each other input and no one is leaving until we come away with the Golden List.”

Stanley hitches up his high waisted acid washed jeans he’s totally wearing ironically, duh, and takes a deep breath. “You do know that’s the top, right? That’s the pinnacle. If we create the world’s most comprehensive list, it’s all downhill from there. We’ll never be able to beat it.”

Dave removes the annoying empty frames, stares long and hard at his expectant hispt-herd, and finally utters, “Then we go out in a blaze of glory, my friends. Who’s with me?”

50 cars. 80 breakfasts. 101 life hacks… I tried to do a Google search for “longest compilation lists,” “longest year end wrap up lists,” and “longest dumb lists of shit that happened in 2015,” but I simply confused the Google Overlords. They still think I want a list of armed conflicts near large rivers. Should make my autofill even more interesting next time.

Things happened this year. More things did not. We were great at realizing problems, but really shitty at fixing them. We’ve got to work on that in 2016. We’ve had some deaths, some more personal than others, and some births. Folks set records, smashed records, invented records, and some even recorded records, though they won’t just call them “records” anymore and that’s super annoying. There was a lot to 2015.

I look back on the news, the media, the trends and stories and pop culture ebbs and flows. What do I want to talk about in terms of the year we’re leaving behind? I have spent the year blogging. I got most of it out of my system when it happened. Something grabbed my attention, I hopped on and “Mornin’ all-ed”, and walked away feeling lighter and freer. I generally don’t need to recap, since it’s all archived and anyone is free to look back on their own if they want.

However, there is something nagging me that I need to get off my chest before I can move forward. Somehow I missed the news when it came out, and then it became awkward to talk about apropos of nothing. But that’s what year end round ups are for, right? It’s a time to have one last chance to air your grievances before you close the calendar, throw it away, and start fresh.

With that in mind, here’s Bethie’s Huge Annoyance of 2015. I’m not even going to try and compete for the Golden List award. It’s really simple. Just one thing.

This:

hoverboard

THIS IS NOT A HOVERBOARD!!! It doesn’t hover. It doesn’t even come CLOSE to hovering. It’s on GODDAMN WHEELS for crying out loud. It’s AT BEST a crooked skateboard. It’s not innovative. It’s not the “future”. It’s just a board with spinny wheels on it. WHEELS. No hovering capabilities whatsoever. The emperor is naked and it’s time someone stood up and said something.

STOP CALLING IT A FUCKING HOVERBOARD!!!!! GAAAHHH!!!!

*exhausted panting* *deep breath* *slicks back crazy wayward lock of hair* *clears throat*

There. NOW I’m ready for 2016.

Thus concludes the last Musing for 2015. I say this every year, and every year some dope ignores the good advice. If you want to usher in 2016 by getting utterly shit faced, cheers! Now, grab a couch. A floor. Be the huddled mass in the bathtub moaning all night. Whatever you do, DON’T DRIVE AFTER YOU DRINK!! Any is too many. I hope everyone gets to wake up tomorrow morning with a headache, cotton mouth, and a nagging suspicion that the lampshade and goat weren’t actually a dream…

I’mma need you to stop kicking me in the balls, m’kay?

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Mornin’ all.

So I’m sitting here trying to mainline my coffee like a champ and the cat is perched on top of the computer tower staring at me. She’s been there staring at me for a good ten minutes now. Once in awhile, she licks her chops. Other than that one, repeatedly creepy movement, she’s unwaivering in her stoicism.

I’m a bit wigged out, if you wanna know the truth.

Why is she sitting there? What does she want? She’s got food. I just cleaned the litter. Her coffee mug is full of water…

“What?”

Oh, yeah. She won’t drink out of a water dish. She uses a coffee mug that she commandeered right after we got her a few years back. It’s on the living room table, too, because why drink water that’s placed by a food dish? She’s not an uncultured swine, you know.

I thought maybe she wanted me to pet or snuggle her. I thought wrong.

Why is she doing it? She is my first cat, and even though we’ve had her for a couple years, she still flummoxes me. It feels like she’s looking at me like one of those stranded cartoon characters who starts to see his buddy as a hamburger. Think she’s preparing to chase me around the deserted island?

Somewhere out there is a kitty owner who knows what’s going on. Do me a solid and let me know if I should start booking it around the palm tree, k? Thanks.

Today is for finishing up projects. I’ve got a couple that are in states of partial completion. I’ve got to buckle down and get them done so I can make myself sick with nervous worry by putting them up for sale. I would have had them done on Monday if it weren’t for a fantastic game I made the mistake of popping into the life-draining machine.

“So you could have made some money, yet instead you let some aliens kill you over and over, is that what you’re saying?”

GAH no! First off, they were zombies, not aliens. Duh. And second, kill me over and over? Bitch, please. You have no faith in my gaming ability.

“…*blink**blink*…”

Oh.

Oh, I see. I was ‘sposta get the message and I totally missed it and you weren’t really looking for details and… *sigh* You’re right. You are completely correct. I *should* have buckled down and pushed through the creative blocks. One project is being held up by math that’s been hovering just outside my scope of comprehension (angles are a bitch, man. A real bitch.), one is waiting for framing inspiration to hit, and one is just full of fiddly details that have many steps.

In fairness, I have been working on that last one all week. It’s a series of airbrushing, then waiting for that layer to dry before putting on the next. I did not understand just how time consuming that one was going to be when I saw the crappy bookshelf in the free pile of the junk shop across the way and thought, “There’s a decent piece of kitsch somewhere under that coffee-cup-ring crusted paint.”

I have also made a sword this week, if that counts. A wooden one my nine year old designed. Oh! And I wrote fifteen pages of a book.

“Well. That’s something.”

I actually did a lot last weekend and the beginning of this week. Then I had to play my game and watch YouTube videos and make swords with my son and get another damn sunburn somehow. Just needed a break I suppose. A reset. And boy, does bashing in a zombie brain with a modified M.C. Hammer (not kidding…that’s the name of the weapon in my game…heh heh…jokes) make for a remarkable reset.

So does YouTube…probably the very best site on the internet. Hold on. I can see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes, but hear me out. Where else can you look for a silly video clip of a cat with a toilet paper tube on its tail and end up learning about the magnificently moving sound of a Chapman stick because you clicked on one of their suggested vids to the right?

You have an urge to madly search for “Chapman stick” right now, don’t you? You should. Your ears NEED this. I recommend searching for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Chapman Stick” on YouTube. Go on. Do it right now. I’ll wait.

……..

…was I right or what?

If you now share this obsession, welcome aboard!

Anyway, where else can that happen but on YouTube? Where else can I giggle at a kitty one minute, then groove to a completely foreign sound the next? It’s like flipping through the tv channels of every single cable company in the history of ever from anywhere on the planet, all in one spot. YouTube is a modern marvel.

Then there was the sword project. You’ve never seen my nine year old. The summer sun has brought out a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose and he’s got these crinkles around deep amber eyes when he smiles. How can I say “no” under those circumstances?

It’s a kick ass sword, too. We even cut out a keyhole in the blade, then painted it with gold spray paint. He said, “My brothers are going to be so jelly.”

“Jelly, Bethie? Seriously?”

Hey, he’s a product of modern society. Nothing I can do about it. He’s right, too. The elder larpers will, indeed, be jelly. Totes.

Like I said, I also wrote some this week. I hit a speed bump in plot, then let it mellow for awhile and picked it back up. I’m past the bump, though I know it’ll be a rough transition when I go back and read it over. I’ll have to smooth it out, but at least I’m past that part. You don’t know how long it took for me to be able to produce enough words to push through a sticky scene. For the longest time, I’d hit that road block, and it would totally stop me. I could not make myself just put in a few filler to mark time until my brain kicked back into gear.

Which brings me to an annoying trend I’m seeing with digital books. No, NOT having ANYTHING to do with the authors, so any of my indie friends, take a deep breath. I guarantee you’re going to like this rant.

Writing a book is hard. Even if you’re a fast writer…even if the words flow…even if you nailed NaNoWriMo in the first week, it’s still hard. The process of writing a book is not over once you type “the end.” Or “fin” if you want to feel fancy. In fact, the brutal part of the process has just begun. No matter how quickly you write a story, you still have to edit. You still have to have folks who aren’t in love with the characters that are really just extensions of yourself cut and gut and slash and hack your brainchild in front of your eyes. You still have to rewrite and tweak and reword and rework.

I guess what I’m getting at is every book is work. It’s hard work. It’s work that the majority of the population doesn’t understand because they have never written a book.

Perhaps that’s what’s really responsible for the trend that’s got me pissed. They just don’t know better.

I’m talking about every author’s bane. The review.

Every legit ebook site has a place for user submitted reviews. While authors have a love/hate relationship with this feature, readers rely on it to help guide them in their future purchases. You’ve got the standard reviews of “love this author, have everything they wrote,” which, to be honest, are THE best. You’ve got people who didn’t like the book. Also good, because:

a) A properly written poor review will help you become a better author.

b) If everyone likes everything you write, you’re writing it wrong.

You’ve got illegible reviews written in modern text lingo. Those can be discounted completely, since those readers clearly aren’t literate. You’ve got flame wars for no reason. Those happen whenever a site invites user comments. I saw one over at B&N’s Nook site once that was a 20+ post back and forth about Obama. On a romance book. I feel bad for those authors. Their reviews get hijacked by jackasses and become a turn off for other readers through no fault of the author.

Then you’ve got the reviews I hate. “Great author, but why does she charge for her books?”

Oh! I heard it. The collective sigh, with eye rolls and sympathetic nods from my fellow indies! You’ve gotten this, too, have you? While I’ve yet to have one posted in public, I’ve gotten several emails asking why I charge.

I read one the other day that was particularly offensive. Not on mine, but a book I downloaded and really liked. I went to leave a review and saw this:

“I loved this book! I would definitely read more from this author if they were free. Granted, she only charges like $2.99, so that’s not bad. That’s not the point, though. They should be free. Who’s with me to start a petition to B&N to make all this author’s books free?”

Eye. Twitching.

Why in the hell should that author work for free? NO other artist works for free, they just don’t.

And don’t start with the popular “library” argument. It’s popular, but wrong.

As the daughter of a librarian, I can assure you that libraries definitely pay for the books they lend. People pay for their memberships. Taxes pay for building upkeep… A library is not free. The books you read in the library were not free, not even to you when you get right down to it. They’re a helluva good bargain, to be sure. But the authors are still compensated. They’re still paid for their hard work.

Look, folks. The internet does not entitle you to free shit. It just doesn’t.

“You JUST touted YouTube. That’s free.”

But it’s not. People *can* put up their stuff for free if they choose. They also have the option to sell ad space. To the content creator, there is a way to make money for their work.

That’s not what people want for Nook and Kindle and other eReaders. They want free books. They do not want to join a monthly service, like Netflix. Can you IMAGINE the backlash there would be if ads were coded into the ebooks? Yikes. The kerfuffle a fart in church causes would be mild in comparison. No book lover would tolerate an ad interrupting a good scene, and they shouldn’t. Ads have no place butting into a book, not even a digital one.

So what does that leave?

What it’s always left for authors. People have to buy their books. End of discussion.

“…start a petition to B&N to make all this author’s books free…”

Ya know, if it was just one yahoo saying crap like this, I’d roll my eyes and move on. It’s not, though. It’s a trend I’ve seen over and over, and the popularity of the sentiment seems to be gaining momentum.

Can you go into an art gallery and just take what you like? Or a bakery. Can you tell the baker to make your gorgeous work of art wedding cake for free? You risk going to jail if you download a pirated movie or song, as well you should.

“I loved this book!”

Is that why you think you’re owed more for free? I love it, and I said so, and now you MUST reward me by giving me free shit? Is that the theory you’re working under here?

How about this one?

“Disappointed. Loved this book but the rest in the series you have to pay for. What gives?”

What gives? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the author wants to feed his kids this week? Or pay his bills? Shit, maybe he’s gonna get real freaky deeky and actually replace that broken lawn mower he’s been limping along with all summer?

That wild man.

“hooked me with this, charged for the rest. will not fall for it. don’t bother.”

Fall for it? Fall for WHAT? You got an entire novel you loved for FREE! You got hours of entertainment that you clearly enjoyed and didn’t have to pay a single dime for it!! How DARE you complain about ANYTHING, you selfish asshole!?! It’s not a ploy. The author is not setting some kind of trap. They gave away their hard work. You should be grateful, not spiteful.

“Another author who gives you a free book, then makes you pay for the rest. Can we stop this trend already?”

Yes, can we stop this trend? Please? Let’s all of us indies band together and stop giving away anything for free. That will certainly curtail these moronic reviews.

Because that’s the other option, folks. For all of you out there who are guilty of writing one of these first-world-problem reviews, that’s what you’re going to bring about if you keep this shit up. That’s the only other option. You are going to whine and bitch your way out of ANYTHING for free. Is that really what you want?

Writing a book is hard. Writing a good book that people like is harder. But writing a good book that people like and getting shit for actually wanting to get paid for the work you put in? That’s got to be the biggest kick in the balls of all.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for…shit. What the hell day is it, anyway? It’s so hard to keep track in summer. Oh, right. Saturday, August 15, 2015. I’m done with my politically incorrect rand and am now heading off to finish up at least one project, even if it kills me. And if it’s the one with the math, there’s more than a good chance it honestly will…