Not-Quite-Monday Muse: Hunh.

Hey! So… it’s very close to Wednesday. And we still haven’t posted a Monday Muse. Which, I mean, I know is completely undermining your ability to trust us as a viable pair of writers. Are we professional? ARE WE JUST LOSERS?! HOW CAN YOU TRUST US AND BUY OUR (not-yet-published, which probably doesn’t help matters) STUFF IF WE CAN’T EVEN GET BLOGS OUT ON TIME?!

To be fair, we both have excuses. A just started a new show, for one, and perhaps more importantly, Monday was her day for finishing up those edits on Juliet, aka the chapter from Hell that every one of our Betas commented on and always seems to come out a little bit worse when we try to fix it. Finally, however, we seem to have found the right mix of keeping what we loved about the original chapter and fixing what people thought didn’t work. You know, without fucking up a character it takes a little longer to appreciate than some of the others. (Juliet isn’t the easiest character to love, especially compared to Mercutio, Benvolio, and even Romeo, but her badassery is pretty amazing once you see it.) We love her, it’s her introduction, and it’s also, perhaps most importantly, chapter two, which means it’s an important part of our query.

So… that’s why A’s been busy.

As for why I missed the fact that her busy-ness obviously meant I probably had to step in and do the Muse (we… we probably need an assistant, guys. Someone to remind us when to do this shit and not get caught up in our creative places), well… look at the date. It’s still, for one more day at least, NaNoWriMo. I’m a completest, so I like to write a little bit every single day and finish on the 30th (one would be correct in assuming I have obsessive tendencies, yes), which means my head wasn’t in the write place to Muse. Unless you wanted to hear all about how Hedy wants to be President one day, but would settle for a position in the Cabinet if necessary (Sec. of Energy, of course). She also wants to travel the world (you might be thinking, why not Sec. of State, then you do not know Hedy), win a Nobel Prize for Metageophysics, live in a castle… you know, be a fucking hero. For the record, she is nine.

My nine-year-old character might actually be my hero. She is amazing.

So, yes, that’s why we didn’t have a Muse on Monday. For that, I sincerely apologize. November’s a hard month for me and showtime is a hard time for A. But, after tomorrow, I swear… I will be (mostly) on-the-ball. It’s also December, and I have to do research into the food of Al-Andalus so I can make a Moorish Christmas dinner because I WANT TO and, frankly, ham’s boring. And then there’s all the damn present buying (which I treat as seriously as Leslie Knope except I don’t have her ridiculous level of spending power — seriously, how does a government employee have that much spending power?!), wrapping, decorating, wishing people a Happy Holidays and seeing who forgot to take their blood pressure medication, etc.

But I’ll try to be better about being here. Because I consider starting a blog as creating a compact with our readers, and I don’t want to let anyone, especially myself, down.

C

Boozy Books: Trickster Makes This World

Hey guys! Welcome to Boozy Books! Sorry I’m late. It’ll stop as soon as NaNo is over, I promise. I’m glad I warned you ahead of time, though, or else I’d feel like I was being a real asshole.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a non-fiction book here on Friday. I’ve always tended to stick to the fiction I love because I don’t think a person should drink while reading non-fiction because non-fiction is for learning. It’s for having your brain at its sharpest… the ‘edit sober’ portion of good ol’ Papa Hemingway’s always-perfect writing advice. You need or want to learn? You don’t drink.

But, in deciding to do this, I have effectively cut myself off from half of the books I love. You know, I am… well, I am not a literature person. I love literature, I love to read good stories and lose myself in amazing worlds, and I’ve been known to get into arguments with random people over whether or not Shakespeare wrote his plays (he did). But I am, first and foremost, a lover of history. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to tell the story of humanity, preserve it, save it for as many of our children and our children’s children as possible. Our science, our inventions, our great moves forward as a people… I have never thought that was humanity. It has always, always been our past. It has always been history. So you’ll find me nose-deep in non-fiction, in primary sources, and getting into arguments over whether Shakespeare wrote an accurate Richard III (he did not), and you’ll find that more often. I am, simply put, a non-fiction lover.

So… fuck it. I’m sharing one of my favorite non-fiction books this week. Because I can. And because I want to. Those of you who know me and talk to me (seriously, guys… if you want to talk to me, follow us over on Twitter and it’ll be me talking back) know about Lucky. He is ridiculously popular among the writing community on social media (well, you know, the people who talk to me, anyway), and it’s actually throwing me into a spiral of anxiety regarding living up to that reputation he’s earned for himself. Lucky (birth name Jacob Trucco… in this life, anyway), also known as Loki, Hermes, Set, Coyote, Liar, Trickster… god. Original human name mostly lost to time. People want to know him.

Trickster Makes This World helped me develop Lucky. And probably explains why so many people love him so much. The Trickster archetype is change, and change is, invariably, creation. Trickster brings and takes, but even in taking is respected as doing what is necessary. Trickster is not evil, no matter what Christian scholars tried to do with pretty much all of them (except perhaps Hermes, but only because Hades existed to vilify unfairly). Kings (because, as you’ll learn reading this book, they’re almost invariably male) of the liminal space, the space between (those of you who know Lucky recognize this factor perhaps most of all). This book discusses all the great Tricksters from myth, talks about how it is the Tricksters more than any other that have formed our relationship with the world and the gods. And it talks about how our creations — our art, our music, our literature — are our own, in a way, expression of the Trickster within. Sort of. Lewis Hyde writes it better.

My recommendation is to drink tea with this book. Tea or water or coffee or whatever you want that makes you comfortable and takes you to a reading place. Like I said, I don’t like drinking when I want to read non-fiction, and this book in particular requires a relatively close reading to penetrate. If, when you’re done, you want to drink in order to get the thoughts flowing and the creativity going, I’d say something that makes you warm, loose, calm. A nice glass of Scotch, perhaps, or Bourbon. You know… Whiskey-type stuff. That always gives me that nice, warm feeling. OR you could always combine the two and do an Irish Coffee, or something. But, again, save that for when you’re done reading and just need to work through everything you’ve just taken in.

I’ll be back Sunday!

C

Monday Muse: The Fields of Creativity

Hyo! Is that a word? Should I stick with my usual ‘heyo’ from now on? I guess I should.

Heyo! How is everyone? Doing well? I hope so.

So, it’s been a fun time for Nerd Cactus. I am in the midst of NaNo, reaching that final stretch. Six days of 2k each and I am donezo. Will I have written anywhere near the entirety of the draft? No fricken way. I’ll have barely finished the first third, which puts me on track to write a 175k word draft…

If there’s a downside to writing using word sprints, it’s the fact that a good 3/8ths of what I’ve written is utterly useless to the overall novel. It’s good, it’s in character, it involves Hedy spoiling Return of the Jedi for Joel… but it really doesn’t belong in the novel. (OK, I might keep the Star Wars talk. It’s fun. And I love it.) But it’s amazing being in that place where you just let your consciousness float atop the fields of creativity and churn out content. I’m such a slow writer naturally, picking out a couple hundred words a day because I’m… obsessive. So writing in sprints has been amazing for me. But, yeah… it does lead to a lot of bloat.

Totally worth it, though.

I hope NaNo is going well for all of you who’re doing it and continues to go well! It’s a great thing for productivity and for community, and I love it very much.

Before I go: one more thing! An update on ACTUAL Nerd Cactus business. A has written our query and submitted it to be torn apart and rewritten by professionals before we actually begin shopping the novel around. She is just about done with the final edits on one last chapter. So… by the end of this year, Killing Mercutio will be out in the world. Send it love. Send it good juju. Send me the names of great agents who might be interested in a Shakespearean thriller. Or, you know… good juju.

As for our curret project… we’re getting ready to do some workshops on Bill and Ben’s Excellent Adventure. One of the benefits to A being an actress is, for the low, low price of giving them food, we have access to all sorts of actors. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the thing on a stage soon. And next up, while we learn how to structure a TV show, we’re delving into a fantasy project called Talentless, following a boy who’s about to turn sixteen and find out if he has the magic that’ll allow him to join society or if he’ll be forced to spend his life outside of it, among those whom society has deemed unfit. It’s a great project that we developed a couple years ago but kept putting it off because it’s so different from Mercutio. But we both loved it too much to hold off any longer, not the least because it has amazing characters and… is remarkably pertinent right now. We love it, and we’ll keep you posted on the awesomeness.

First up: Black. “Played” by Oberyn Martell himself. No head squishing involved, I swear. He’s a bitter, sarcastic fuck. Sorry for the cursing, but there’s no other way to put it.

So… Nerd Cactus are in a very creative place! I hope you’re there with us. We can have a party!

C

Shakespeare Saturday: The Bard On Refugees

Heyo! Welcome to Shakespeare Saturday. No, I know it’s not Saturday anymore, but I… was an idiot and there was blood involved and then, when I got it all cleaned up, I got inspired to write for NaNo and then, lo and behold, it was now. And I realized I hadn’t posted anything.

The Muses… who knew all they demanded was blood sacrifice?

Anyway. I want to remind you, fair readers, that there is exactly one piece of writing we still have in Shakespeare’s hand. Yeah, that’s it. One piece in the hand of the Bard himself. And, you know what it’s about?

Refugees. More to the point, not being a dick about them.

Sorry about the naked link… but I figure, it’s the content that matters. Read it. Be inspired in our modern world by the immortal words of the Bard.

Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, and the refugee migrants

C

Boozy Books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Well, it’s not Saturday anymore… But only by a few minutes so let me just get in a quick literary pairing for your weekend read. Today I’d like to recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s a great story, told in a thoroughly unique way and has even been adapted for the stage. Neat!

The mystery novel is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy who has an unnamed behavioral condition (most probably high-functioning autism). But Mark Haddon, the author, has been adamant to state that this book is not about Asperger’s or autism, it is about being an outsider and seeing things outside of the box. The process in which the main character, Christopher, goes about solving the murder of his neighbor’s dog is unusual and demonstrates that what makes him different gives him a different perspective.

Pair this with something full-bodied, unique, and complex. I’d say a Malbec, but it seems like an obvious choice. So think outside the box!

Sorry for the late (and short) nature of this post, but I’m ears deep in tech rehearsal and kinda need to go to sleep like a responsible adult… 

Happy reading!

-A

Monday Muse: Thoughts From Last Week

Hello, Nerd Cactus followers! Welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday Muse. I’ve honestly been dreading writing today’s post because there’s a lot on my mind and I fear that this isn’t the most appropriate platform to vent my frustrations about the past week. While this post will certainly be a reflection of my tumultuous emotions there will be no pointing fingers and no attempt to place blame. What I want to talk about is this (and let me stress that I am directing this to every person reading this, regardless of political views): what should we do now that we’ve seen the great, ugly divide in our country?

I haven’t been particularly hopeful this week and I refuse to jump onboard the “we have to come together” bandwagon because the damage has been done. I’m not saying it’s irreparable, but it certainly won’t be fixed with a shrug and a Facebook status that essentially reads: “let’s let bygones by bygones”. No, I will not let others try to normalize the hate and violence. I will not let go of my anger, because this is the kind of anger that can fuel action.

Now is the time to act. We have to create the change we want to see and we certainly can’t rely on party lines or politicians to help achieve a better world for us. The system is falling apart, the world is laughing at us, and already there are those who have resigned themselves to complacency with a shrug and a “well, what’s done is done”. 

We all have to start being more active. We have to educate ourselves and leave behind the vast echo-chamber that is our collective newsfeed and seek truthful and informative journalism about not just our country, but the world. We have to stand for the things that are important to us whether that means donating time or money or skills. I’ve seen far too much timidity. I’ll be honest, I too could do a better job trying to talk to and understand the other side’s viewpoints, but people have become so encased in their little bubbles of like-minded “news” sources that nobody wants to debate misinformation or concede that other opinions even exist. We have to communicate with one another and TRY to make sense of how and why we’ve landed on such different ideas. We have to be better.

So yes, I’m angry. But I’m not going to use that rage to attack. I’m going to use it to try and make a difference.

-A

Silly Sunday: I Think We All Need a Laugh

So. Here we are. The first Sunday after what is arguably the… well, yeah. So I’m pretty sure we all need a bit of a laugh today.

I’ve been using these all week, myself. I feel like the whole internet has seen them at this point, but they never, ever stop being funny. And this is the kind of thing I’m going to miss so, so much once the White House turns orange.

Joe Biden Memes. So many Joe Biden Memes. You get him, Joe.

Some different Joe Biden Memes! Well… some of them might be different. I don’t want you to miss any.

OK. Go laugh. Go have all the laughs! Because laughter is how we defeat fear and anger both. In any form.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a Muse.

C

Shakespeare Saturday: Shakespeare Planned Ahead

Hello fellow nerds! Welcome to Shakespeare Saturday (late edition). I’ll keep it short and sweet so we can move right along to Sunday’s order of business…

Some writers write for their audience, but it looks like Shakespeare may have written for the space in which his work was performed. Neat! Take a look at the article below to learn more about how the newly excavated Curtain is raising questions about the structure of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

​https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/culture/2016/nov/10/shakespeare-write-henry-v-suit-london-theatre-the-curtain-odd-shape?client=ms-android-verizon

-A

Boozy Books: Middlemarch Revisited

Heyo! It’s C! Welcome to Boozy Books! Unfortunately, I actually haven’t read anything new recently. I’ve purchased tons of new books to read (because who isn’t continually adding to their TBR pile), but haven’t really taken the time to delve into them because of NaNo. (For the record, I’m at 21540 words right now, so I think I’ve got a decent handle on it, thankfully.) As I always need to be reading something, I decided that this was a perfect time to re-read one of my most favoritest (I know that’s not a word, I swear) books in the world: Middlemarch.

I know I’ve already paired it before (I think I chose an English ale), but for me, it’s a book that has so many facets and so many interesting things that I can always find something new to love about it. I have also come to dislike a lot of things about it. Not in the structure or the writing, but in the reaction I have to certain characters. In general, I like the same characters: Dorothea and Will Ladislaw, Fred Vincy, and definitely Mary Garth (who has been a favorite since the first moment I met her because, well, who doesn’t like someone who can laugh at everything but not at what matters). Some characters, like James Chettam, have grown in my esteem, though not enough to like them (his great… ordinariness will always bother me somewhat) so much as not dislike them.

The big change comes in the depth of my dislike for Middlemarch as a character, as a town made up of people resistant to change and insistent upon doing things the only way they’ve ever known. They’re gloriously devoted to stodgy sameness, to a way of life that is completely and totally insular and which celebrates Truth as it suits them rather than how it is. And, reading this novel during… these times… my intense dislike for that kind of almost studious resistance to intellectualism was writ large on that page. Middlemarch itself became the villain for me, chipping away at people who were unusual or driven by something larger, or perhaps not quite so concrete or tangible. One big reason I love Dorothea so much is that she is able to temper her tremulous, febrile dreams into something tangible… and overcome that Middlemarch so-called truth. One being reason I don’t like Lydgate and actually feel sorry for Rosamond Vincy is because, for all his vaunted dreams of changing the world, he is actually far more mundane than Dorothea. He marries Rosamond because she is what a wife ‘should be’. In the end, Lydgate has his own Truth that he is unable to give up. He isn’t willing, like Dorothea, to throw everything away for that transcendence into something more. And Rosamond Vincy, bless her, cannot grasp that intellectual dreamer in Lydgate. He marries her because she is that Middlemarch Truth and then expects her to understand that he means to be something More.

It’s stuff like this that makes me love this novel so much. That I can read it and see my own world reflected, and to constantly be finding new things in it. There’s so many layers, so much to see and learn and reveal with subsequent readings. As such, I am amending my original pairing. I am recommending a layered drink. Something where the flavors change as you drink because you’ve found something entirely new the further along you go. Something that you can’t really identify. And since it’s all very personal — Middlemarch is what we each make of it — I am leaving it up to you to choose which drink you want. Create your own layers… because that’s what Middlemarch has done for me.

I’ll be back on Sunday with some much, much, MUCH NEEDED SILLY.

C

Monday Muse: Have Some Decency — It’s Great With Sugar

Heyo! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse, possibly the last before the United States collapses under the weight of its own fears. I could be coming to you from deep in an underground cave or something next time, which begs the question: how am I getting WiFi in an underground cave? Do the Silurians have WiFi? If so, why isn’t it password protected? People like me are just free-loading off of them and slowing down their service. I should be ashamed of myself. Shame on you, future-cave-dwelling C! SHAME ON YOU!

Anyway, all that aside… I want to talk to you about not being a righteous asshole. Seriously. That’s what I want to do. It’s been bugging me all day, and I think it needs to be addressed.

If you are at all acquainted with the writing community on Twitter, you know there’s some shit going down. (Oh yeah… this post will definitely have swear words… sorry.) There’s a… very, very problematic book coming out (or out.. .I’m not sure/don’t care) that features such classic hallmarks as White Saviorism, the Fetishizing of Eastern Cultures, and the whole “brown people are savages” thing. Yeah… that’s how bad this book is. And it definitely needed to be called out. In fact, it should have been called out a very long time ago… like when the author submitted it to an agent/publisher. But it wasn’t, and now it’s being published, and, understandably, it’s getting a shit ton of negative feedback.

Negative feedback, I want to add, it definitely deserves. This book should not have been published. I’d argue this book should not exist at all, but I’d settle for it slowly dying in a cupboard somewhere, never to see the light of day. Really, in the world we live in, that would have been enough for me.

But, alas… the writer submitted it and a publisher  — a major publisher, I should add, which makes a lot of difference — decided to back it. Like… really back it. Like, you’re going to see this shit featured at your local Barnes and Noble soon. And, though I’m leaving the book nameless, you WILL KNOW which one I’m talking about as soon as you read the blurb. Seriously. Anyone with any awareness of the world around them will see what’s wrong with it.

But, and I know there’s a lot of that in this… the reaction on the internet was just as problematic as the writing of the book in the first place. Oh, don’t get me wrong… the author deserved to have her sheer block-headedness pointed out to her (and should probably have just admitted it was problematic instead of hiding behind the rudeness of her detractors), but the internet broke down into a shit storm of awfulness. It’s kinda like voting for Trump, you know? Not everyone who voted for him is racist/bigoted/prejudiced, etc, though a decent number of his supporters are. Some people are just voting based on what they know, what they have experienced, and what they think is the most important thing this election cycle. But, instead of looking at these people as basically decent (in most instances), but maaaaaybe making a decision without considering all the ramifications for people who aren’t them or people like them, it’s easier to put it down to prejudice. And, you know what? I’m not surprised people are getting defensive and buckling down. Because PEOPLE DON’T LEARN WHEN THEY FEEL ATTACKED.

Let’s say it again for the people in the back: PEOPLE DO NOT LEARN WHEN THEY FEEL ATTACKED.

If you start to attack a person, if you make it about their moral compass or their decency or their humanity, they are not going to listen to you. And, you know what? They’re right not to. Even if you have the moral high ground, you give it up the second you start chipping away at a person’s being. Now, I’m not talking about your KKK members or your Westboro Baptist Church-types who are so entrenched it doesn’t matter (though, no, you don’t get to treat them like shit, either because part of moral superiority means not being a flaming asshole to people even if they’re a flaming asshole themselves); I’m talking about people who, my God, probably just DON’T NOTICE what they’re doing. They don’t know better or they tried and got it wrong. People who are good people at heart — and I truly, truly believe most people are good people — who need to be given the benefit of the doubt. People who, if shown the error of their ways respectfully and in the spirit of forgiveness, learning, and forging of strong bonds of togetherness, will get better. Attacking them makes it about their personhood, not their ideas, and I am not at all surprised when people don’t learn in those instances.

A person who writes a bad book like this is not automatically a bad person. They are ignorant of certain things, but they are not necessarily an ignorant person. When dealing with problems like this — problems of race, economic disparity, culture, society, etc — we need to be sure to see the distinction between a person and their mistakes/mistaken beliefs. We need to realize that the end goal isn’t punishment, but growth and learning and a better fucking future for humanity. Because when we punish, when we conflate a mistake or a bad decision (and, yes, I am willing to believe that this poor woman really was that unaware of what she was writing; a lot of white people are due to the circumstances of their upbringing) with the worthiness and goodness of a human being, all we succeed in doing is tearing ourselves apart. I know because I spent half of last night trying to reassure a fellow writer that it’s OK to write diverse books even though she’s white, that people are fundamentally decent and will support her so long as she is willing to listen and research and open her heart to voices and perspectives of other people. She was ready to give up, questioning her gift, questioning herself because what if she got something wrong? Would the internet, would the writing community, turn on her?

I reminded her that of course they wouldn’t because, really, most people are capable of seeing an honest mistake for what it is. But, dear God people… we need to grow the fuck up and start being decent to one another. Because otherwise, we’re only going to tell people that they need to live within the borders of their reality. That a white woman can only write white characters, white stories. That a straight man can only write straight man’s stories. And that is fucking bullshit. Bullshit that leads to nothing but more ignorance, more divisions, and total intellectual segregation.

Which, despite this mess, I am going to continue to assume ISN’T the point of telling stories.

I’ll be back on Friday with Boozy Books. Seeya!

C