Monday Muse: Don’t Be A Hallo-weenie

Happy Halloween, everybody! As we prepare to celebrate this spookiest of holidays I have seen an alarming number of costume PSAs. Now, it’s not the PSAs themselves that are alarming, but the comment threads attached to them. It would appear that there is a vast collective of people who see nothing wrong with blackface or cultural appropriation as a costume piece. They say those who are offended are too “PC” and need to lighten up. Interestingly enough these are, more often than not, a stream of people who are trying to put a racist, xenophobe in office. But I digress.

The fact is that the”sexy geisha” or the “sexy Indian”* are incredibly offensive to the cultures that they misrepresent. There is no attempt to accurately portray them and those who wear them seldom give a rat’s ass about the symbolism or history or anything besides their perceived sexiness.

*note: this costume title is offensive in itself. Why are Native Americans still being called Indians??

Here’s the thing though that really irks me… I’m sure there are lots of young kids out there who genuinely think that Japanese culture is the coolest, or legitimately want to be a hula dancer. There is no way they’re purposefully trying to offend (hell, I’m pretty sure most adults don’t been to offend, they just aren’t thinking, you know, like adults), but the costume choices your kids are limited to may inadvertently be problematic. Appropriation vs appreciation is a hard line to draw, and most Halloween costume companies fall far short with their polyester imitations of sacred cultural symbols. But in the case of innocent children who just wanna play dress up it makes me sad that the missteps of adults will ultimately limit them and prevent them from developing their genuine interest in other people and places around the world.

So don’t be a Hallo-weenie. Think before you dress up. And if your kid wants to be a samurai tonight just make sure they learn a little something about the history of the samurai and aren’t going just because of the cool sword. Because if it’s just about the cool sword… go as a pirate. 

Ok, so that was my responsible Halloween rant. Now for something fun.



Happy Halloween!!!



Silly Sunday: Happy Halloween!

Heyo! Welcome to today’s Silly Sunday! Since it’s not my turn to write tomorrow, I thought I’d take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! Whether it’s just an opportunity to dress up, eat lots of candy, & get drunk, or, in actuality, an ancient holiday of the dead/New Year celebration… I want to wish you a good one.

Personally, I’m going to take my own advice and go as Hamlet, complete with skull cup and bad puns. It’s not like I don’t own tons of all black clothing. (No, I’m not goth; I just like dark colors.) And I’m going to make horribly puntastic references ALL NIGHT. Because I’m awesome!

Anyway. Another thing that’s going on right now that will be over soon (thank all the gods) is the American Presidential Election. And, because I think we definitely need to liven up the situation a bit, how about an election where all the people running are Shakespeare characters?!

That’d either be much better… or much, much worse. Depending upon the people running, because there are several Shakespearean characters that would make even the most corrupt of our candidates weep.

Who Will YOU Vote For?

ps- One more thing. One of my stories got featured an another blog! If you’d like to read it, it’s about Loki. The god, not Tom Hiddleston. (Sorry.)

Tale of the Silver Tongue


Shakespeare Saturday: What the What?

Ok, so something weird was reported by NPR this week. I say weird because it’s just… It’s all. I mean it’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s scholarly speculation that shouldn’t be acted upon with such permanence. ESPECIALLY when other scholars are arguing completely opposing viewpoints. That means it’s not fact. You can’t prove it one way or the other. Ugh. Ok so listen. Shakespeare collaborated with other writers. This is known. But, but, but seriously… WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?

Maybe I should slow down and explain this outburst. On Monday NPR reported that the Oxford University Press would be making some changes to its new edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. This change? Oh, you know just crediting Christopher Marlowe as a co-author on three of Shakespeare’s plays. Wait, WHAT? And the research this change is based on just sounds so shoddy I can’t figure out why it’s being given any credit. Basically a bunch of scholars analyzed the prose contained in the Henry VI trilogy and decided that some of the words and style should be attributed to Kit Marlowe… because people NEVER use the same words or imitate style in writing *SARCASM*. Are you freaking serious Oxford Press??? 

Look, Shakespeare was known to have collaborated on his work. This, I am willing to cede. Most authors collaborate in one way or another. And it’s particularly likely that he would have collaborated and borrowed while working on his early works. Works such as, oh, I don’t know, the Henry VI trilogy. As an actor/playwright just starting out in a city that loved Kit Marlowe wouldn’t it make sense that young Bill Shakespeare would model his work after the superstar? 

Yes, that would make sense, A. You’ve got some great critical thinking/common sense skills. 

Thank you.

But some Shakespearean scholars just don’t want to let the matter of authorship live and let live because: “wouldn’t it be simply amazing if I figured out once and for all the truth about Shakespeare? I’d get published and funded and maybe a Nobel prize and daddy’s approval…” No, ye olde Shakespeare scholars of little faith and misplaced ambition. There’s a reason these plays survived 400 f**king years with one man’s name attached to them. How could an entire nation forget or collectively misremember the name of one of their most prolific playwrights? Stop trying to pretend he didn’t exist or wasn’t capable of writing all those plays or whatever your damn excuse is because there’s plenty of proof that the man existed and very little proof that definitively points to the conspiracy that there’s some kind of historical gaslighting that’s fooled the entire English-speaking world.

So to quote Forrest Gump: that’s all I have to say about that. Rant over. I promise.

If you’d like to read NPR’s report check out the link below…

Boozy Books: Mai Childhoodz!

Heyo! Sorry this is late. I actually got into a really great conversation about identity and representation in fiction and I swear it was 10pm, like, five minutes ago.

Hahaha! You thought I had a life for a minute, didn’t you? Like… “Aw, C. She must have actually gone out for once! Good for her!” Nope. I was just being one of those intellectual elites that’s destroying the country, or something…

I’ve been thinking lately about the books that got me into history and writing. You know, the two things that are pretty much my whole genetic make-up. And, though I can’t go back to the very beginnings, I can safely say that the first book I can remember reading and loving to obsessive levels was this one:

I remember I read this because I loved the game Oregon Trail (which just goes to show you: video games can be used for good). And then I had to go and buy every. single. one. I could find. The American Revolution, the Quakers, the Transcontinental Railroad… if I found one, I got it. I couldn’t get enough. And I was no more than 9/10 years old at the height of my Dear America obsession, so I know these were absolutely fundamental to my earliest writing self. Not to mention that old adage of “do what you wanted to do when you were ten”. And since professional “Oregon Trail reenactor” isn’t a thing (is it? IS IT A THING, PEOPLE?!), I figured historian would do.

So, what am I recommending this week, then? After all, this is a recommendation piece. Well… I’m recommending your childhood favorites. The ones that go way back. The Prydain Chronicles, maybe? Or Dr. Seuss? Or perhaps Alanna is your girl? Whatever. Go and get them. Dust them off. Enjoy them. Remember why it is that you loved them so much.

And then drink chocolate milk. If you want to be a grown-up about it, mix equal parts milk, chocolate liqueur, Kahlua, and Irish Cream with a half part of Vodka and pour over ice. Throw some ice-cream on that shit if you want. You do you. We’re adults now.

Even if we are reliving our childhood.


Monday Muse: Let’s Talk About Shock, Baby!

Hey, guys! Welcome to this week’s Muse, the last you’ll be seeing from me before the hell that is NaNoWriMo. Fair warning, there’s a good chance that both of my muses next month will involve tears. You’ll be my virtual bartenders, pretending to listen to me complain while my soul tears itself inside out. As much as I prepare, I’m never really ready to churn out 50,000 words in one month. I’m not the fastest writer. I genuinely loathe the actual act of writing, preferring to plan and to edit. So I’mma need you guys next month.

Fair warning.

So, what to talk about THIS month? This last opportunity I have to share something with you from a place of mental calm? I want to talk about shock value. And why, like hot chilies, a little goes a long way.

I do not watch The Walking Dead. It’s been a long time since I felt I needed more zombies in my life (with the exception, I’ll admit, to iZombie, which I think is actually kinda fun), so I never felt the need to watch it. But I’d have to be a damn fool not to know what it is or that, after months of stringing viewers along, it finally revealed who the dad from Supernatural (yes, I know who the actor is, calm down) killed with that bludgeony thing he carries. And I definitely do watch Game of Thrones both because I read the books and also because I have to keep some street cred or I’ll never be able to show my face on the internet again. Much less have conversations in the real world. But the whole TWD thing got me thinking about the use — and perhaps overuse — of shock.

Both of these shows make use of shock. The whole “who will Negan kill” thing is not shock, of course, but a cliffhanger (which is a different, though related, kettle of fish). The shock comes in who he kills and in how brutal the kill actually is. It’s the anti-Who Killed J.R. because it relies on revelation and the mode of that revelation. It requires action. And action is, of course, good. The death of Ned Stark (do I need to spoiler tag that, like…five years on? No, right?) is a perfect example of shocking because it subverts expectations of the hero (and we the viewer were conditioned to view Ned Stark as the hero) surviving. It propelled what was a good show into what I would argue is a spectacular one.

The problem comes when the shock serves no purpose except blatant viewer/reader manipulation. It doesn’t propel the story or reveal necessary information about a character, much less cause any character to grow. The event does nothing to promote the legitimacy of the storytelling because it is not, in fact, being used as a storytelling device. It is sheer, blatant emotional manhandling designed to reap sympathetic ties that have not been properly sown. For example, while the Red Wedding is not, in and of itself, done for shock value (it does serve immense plot needs), the death of Talisa and her baby absolutely were. It reveals nothing about any character that we don’t already know (oh, wow, the Freys and Boltons are bad and untrustworthy! Didn’t know that!), promotes nothing for the plot, & fosters no character growth. Another case of this is arguably Sansa’s wedding night. While it is not, as many say, rape (the sex on a wedding night was automatically consensual by the laws by which this world obviously works), it was unnecessary, promoting nothing as it did. It was sheer, blatant, emotional manipulation.

And that is bad writing.

Let me say it again for the people in the back: THAT. IS. BAD. WRITING.

So, before we go any further down the path to NaNo-dom, take a minute to look at what you’ve got planned. If you’re a panster, take a minute to really ponder. Is there anything there that serves no purpose except to shock people? To manipulate their feelings in a dishonest manner? If so, you need to remove it. It isn’t fair to you as a writer and it certainly isn’t fair to your readers/viewers (whatever the case), who deserve to have their emotions be treated with respect. We all want to be made to feel, of course; that is why we consume stories. But those feelings need — and deserve — to be the product of honesty. They need to be Ned Stark, not Talisa. They need to be… a good part from The Walking Dead… and not a bad one. I’m sorry… like I said, I don’t watch the show. But those of you who do know what I’m talking about.

OK. So… that’s it from me before NaNo, at least as far as the Muse is concerned. I’ll be back on Friday with Boozy Books!


Silly Sunday: Pet Costumes

Hello, everyone! Welcome to your weekly dose of irreverent silliness! Because we’re creeping up on Halloween, I’m going to use today to tout the absurdity and relative amazingness of pet costumes. 

Now, if your pets (like mine) won’t put up with costumes, don’t force it. It’s mean. But if you have a pet that actually enjoys dressing up, please use that power to give everyone a good belly laugh. Because a good pet costume can break boundaries and bring people together. It sounds stupid, and maybe it is… But just watch this video and tell me that watching it in the middle of an argument wouldn’t cool the waters of hostility. It’s ridiculous, I love it, and I can’t stop giggling.

Hope you had a good chuckle! Join us tomorrow for the Monday Muse!


Shakespeare Saturday: A Shakespeare Spooktacular

Welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday! I come to you with just enough time to cobble together a truly Bardtastic Halloween costume if you’ve waited until the last second… like I inevitably do. Because who doesn’t want to dress up as one of literature’s immortal wonders?

Weirdos, that’s who.

So… what can you do?

–Dress in all black and carry a skull. Have periodic conversations with Yorick. Or, even better, make sure your skull’s a cup and spend the evening coming up with increasingly dubious puns involving one of Hamlet’s great speeches.

–Some donkey ears (Eeyore is still popular, isn’t he?) and face paint makes for a great Bottom! You can go period if you want, or just wear sweats and pretend to be a more modern approach to the play (or even some dressy clothes) depending on how much effort you want to put in. Bonus points if you find a group of fairies and convince their leader to pretend she’s fallen in love with you.

–Go as one of Shakespeare’s many ghosts. Hell, spend all evening playing DIFFERENT ghosts and confuse the hell out of everyone involved. My favorite would be the old-fashioned sheet version that goes around screaming at people to mark them.

–Make a head out of a ball and part of a sheet, or whatever you have on hand. Go around telling people to ‘behold the usurper’s cursed head’. Bonus if you do it in a PERFECT SCOTTISH ACCENT!


— Get a pair of cheap fairy wings from wherever, combine it with whatever you see fit (I think moss and natural things from a craft store would be best) and go as one of the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you run into someone with a donkey’s head, pretend to be in love with him. OR, conversely, spend the evening fighting over a doll you’ve dyed blue.

–Are you a fan of blood? Wanna carry around a bloody knife and scare people? Then Titus Andronicus is the play for you! Get a chef’s hat and apron, cover yourself in fake blood, and carry around a pot with severed limbs (even a head if you’d like). Bonus points if you have a naturally quiet daughter; you can have her play Lavinia, and do all her trick-or-treating for her. After all, who’s going to say no to the guy with the bloody knife?

–Passionately in love? Very young? Then Romeo and Juliet are for you. Spend the night complaining about your parents (like every teenager ever) and promising to die for one another. Mature adults? Beatrice and Benedick are my favorite of Shakespeare’s couples. You can spend the entire evening bickering and then admit your love in a grand show by the end of the evening. Bonus points if you write AWFUL love poetry to one another ahead of time and hide it from one another. Older couple? Antony and Cleopatra! I’m of a gruesome temperament when it comes to Halloween, so I’d go for Antony wandering around with a sword in his chest and Cleopatra with an asp at her breast. Antony’d be more fun, in my opinion; he gets to spend the evening getting visibly plastered.

OK. I think that’s enough recommendations! Let me know if you’re going to go dressed as a Shakespearean character for Halloween this year! We’ll be back tomorrow for teh silliez!


Boozy Books: The Mysteries of Udolpho

Heyo! Welcome to today’s (well, yesterday’s) Boozy Books. I confess, I’m not sure what’s going on with A; we’re on opposite sides of the state right now, so we’re not seeing each other. But it’s an easy assumption to make that, because she’s an exciting individual with actual friends, she is busy. I, with no life, don’t know the meaning of busy, so I’m here to remember what day of the week it is. (How *I’m* the one that remembers  what day it is is mind-boggling, to be frank, but… that’s how it is.)

Today’s book is considered the quintessential Gothic romance. It is featured heavily in Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, and it’s actually by love of Austen that got me into reading a lot of the novels she mentions in hers. It feels a bit like Jane and I are in the same book club, you know? And who doesn’t want to be in a book club with Jane freakin’ Austen?

Anyway… The Mysteries of Udolpho is about a girl named Emily, who shares a very close bond with her father, and a huge appreciation for nature. They go on a journey together through Europe, where Emily meets and falls in love with Valancourt, who feels the same way about the world — and Emily. Unfortunately, Emily’s father dies, which forces to her to live with an unaffectionate aunt. Her aunt’s husband tries to force her to marry a ruined Count, and then carries her off to the castle of Udolpho. People die of horrible things, there are secret admirers, lost fortunes, attempts to run off… all the staples of Gothic romance. And, in the end, Emily is finally reunited with the man she loves along with the fortune that should’ve been hers all along. Seriously… there’s secret passages hidden behind bookshelves, pirates, dashing soldiers, scheming relatives… I could go on.

If that sounds cliche, well… it’s because everyone copied this. When I say quintessential, I mean it. Huge Jane Eyre fan? How about Wuthering Heights? This is the novel that inspired all of that.

To that end, I think the only thing I can recommend is a Malbec. It seems to be our choice for dark, but that makes sense, doesn’t it? Or, if you really want to go the whole way into the cliche, get you some Absinthe and visit with the green fairy!

Sorry we were late! I’ll be back later today with something Shakespeare-related!


A Mid-Week News Update!

Welcome to a special edition of Nerd Cactus! We’ll be back tomorrow (Friday) with Boozy Books as usual, so don’t be worried that we’re suddenly doing everything all backwards and weird. This is just a bit of special.

As you know, there are two of us: A and C. A is the cool, exciting one who has mastered the art of keeping her posts succinct and to-the-point. C is the weirdo who somehow ended up being in charge of the social media portion of this venture, much to the undoubted chagrin of the internet.

Well… perhaps a few of you are OK with C? Right? Yeah? Of course you are. Weirdos of the internet unite! Anyway, I (C) got interviewed by the ladies of Friday Phrases, whom many of you from the Land of Twitter will know run the #FP hashtag game and many other amazing flash fiction fun. And I thought that some of you might want to know something about me!

(Warning: I’m just as rambling in interviews as I am in blog posts. But I am also, I trust, worth reading.)

The interview can be found here. Please enjoy it!


Monday Muse: Baby Steps for Success

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Monday Muse. Sorry I dropped the ball on Saturday. I was celebrating an anniversary with my boyfriend most of the weekend, and it was quite a good time. Food, massages, movies, more delicious food… And four years of happy, stable love. Yay!

So anyway, I’m supposed to muse today, but I just spent most of the day driving to and from an audition that I felt was completely unnecessary so I’ll just vent about that for a little while. There will be a point, I promise. Lemme ‘splain. I auditioned for this theatre and this particular show in their season three. Separate. Times. Three! They’ve switched directors and choreographers and apparently have lost every copy of my headshot because there I was today, trying (once again!) to do a good job of representing myself to convince a bunch of people to give me a damn job. In a show that I’ve already done. It’s right there on my résumé. GAH

Ok, so what’s the point? Is there a point? Yes, yes there is. The point is this. And it can be applied to many, many aspects of life… Even if you have to do something over and over again, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Think of every edit or  follow-up interview or whatever as a “do over” that gives you a chance to improve upon what you’ve already put forward. It’s just another step toward success. 

Happy Monday!