Monday Muse: Thoughts.

Heyo, guys! Welcome to the Muse!

OK, so… it’s obviously late in the day. My schedule is such that it’s easier for me to write now than earlier, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing my duty and talking to y’all about writing things!

So, I have thoughts today. I wasn’t sure what they were until I started typing this, but now I know what those thoughts are. I was considering writing about my head canon that Mr. Darcy is actually autistic, which has come up again recently (I’m slowly amassing a number of fellow believers!), but then something else made me angry and I had to write about that instead.

I do not like the Captain America/Bucky Barnes ship. In fact, it and the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson ship make me irrational.

Now, anyone who’s been with us for a while knows that neither A nor I are homophobic, so this has absolutely nothing to do with both of these pairings being gay. Now, they definitely have something to do with being two men, but it’s not the LGBT thing. I promise.

It’s the fact that both of these pairings represent something I think we need more of in literature: really strong, very intimate friendships. Especially between men. The idea that the strongest relationship two people can have is a romantic or sexual one infuriates me. That two characters like Cap and Bucky, who share an intimate friendship–who might very well be the most important two people in the world to one another–must also be romantic/sexual because OF COURSE a relationship that strong also involves sex.

Get this, people: the strongest relationship two people can share DOES NOT REQUIRE ROMANCE OR SEX.

Now, I understand that a lot of this comes from a place of LGBT people needing to see themselves more in popular culture. And, God, do I agree with that assessment. We need it so much, people have taken to creating elaborate–and unsupported–head canons in a desperate bid to see them.

But, you’ve got to admit that a lot of it comes from the fact that it’s two hot dudes and God knows we’d all love to see them make out. And, more importantly, it comes from the priority we have given romantic and sexual relationships. For some reason, we believe that–aside from parent/child bonds–the relationship we have with our romantic partner or spouse is the strongest relationship we can have. In the show Sherlock, it gets used as a joke (and, of course, people have run with that joke as thought it were real even though there’s no canonical evidence that either Holmes or Watson are even bisexual, let alone gay). Cap is not only with Bucky, he’s with Tony Stark (and, somehow, they’ve adopted Spider-man?) and pretty much any other dude with whom he’s super friendly or confrontational.

Don’t get me started on that stupid fucking “everyone who fights must want to fuck one another” thing. (See? Angry.)

I am not the kind of person who doesn’t have head canons (see the Darcy one mentioned above). I am, however, the kind of person who gives all deference to real canon and doesn’t develop a head canon on the basis of wishful thinking and “OMG, wouldn’t Cap and Bucky be so hot together”. We have two problems here: the lack of LGBT representation and the ridiculous belief that intimacy–especially between men–must be romantic or sexual in nature.

Sometimes the relationship between two people isn’t romantic, but it is the strongest, most important relationship they have. Yes, Bucky and Cap have that kind of relationship and, yes, so do Holmes and Watson (especially in the show). Now, does it hurt me to have these characters paired with one another? No. Of course not. And people are free to do what they want since they’re, of course, fictional, but…

Let’s maybe think what it says about our society that intimate male relationships are shipped so often and, even more often, the subject of gay jokes. What does it mean that guys who are intimate are assumed to be a couple? Because this does seem to happen with men more than women.

I don’t know. But I know it says something that people become convinced–convinced— that there is evidence for this romantic/sexual relationship when, really, all there is is an intimate friendship. And, frankly, I think we need to support these friendships more than we need the image of a couple hot guys making out.

C

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Boozy Books: Behold the Dreamers

It’s Friday, y’all! Sit back, relax, grab a goblet, pull up a comfy chair, and snuggle into your weekly read: Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers.

This. Book. Is. So. Poignant. Please, read it.

Mbue’s story follows the Jonga family, (Jende, Neni, and their two children) immigrants from Cameroon attempting to achieve a better life in New York City in the shadow of the 2007 recession.

You can almost feel the tales of countless dreamers that were compiled to create the suffering and struggles of Mbue’s characters. The deep sadness of this story lies in how truthful it is. It paints a picture of an America that does not live up to the dreams it once promised. In fact, it paints a picture of a country that does not have room for anyone that is not well-educated, wealthy, and white. It shows the cruelty of the immigration system and the wage gap and the country’s boundless ability to chew people up and spit them out again.

Over the course of this novel you watch characters you love undergo monstrous transformations, you watch characters you trust act in their own selfish interests, and you watch otherwise moral characters make unbelievable decisions to protect themselves and their family. The point is: America has the power to transform people. Whether as a result of fear, greed, desperation, rage, or love, every character undergoes drastic change at the hands of the “American Dream.”

I found the ending particularly compelling, because (to me, at least) the final line of dialogue is so nuanced and open to interpretation. No spoilers, of course, but look out for that final question and just try to tell me there aren’t a hundred different ways to interpret it.

Now, let’s get to the pairing. This one is kind of hard to pair because the spirit of Cameroon is such a huge character in this story but so is America. So, do I pair with Budweiser? Or do I pair with Castel beer? I think we can all agree that Budweiser sucks ass, but it was definitely the most prominent American beer featured in the story. So, reader’s choice! (Though personally, I’m going Castel.)

Cheers!

A

Monday Muse: Writer’s Journal Woes

Hello readers, and welcome to the Monday Muse! Today’s topic: the mythical writer’s journal. What is it? How does it work? Is it the right path for you?

So, here’s the backstory… I want to make time to focus on honing my writing skills this year. This decision was partially spurred by a “resolution-like” exercise I participated in during a yoga class. Please, don’t judge me.

Anyway, after setting an intention (shut up), I set out to find ways to educate myself. I researched conferences, retreats, online certificate courses, and other expensive ways of basically saying, “look at me, I have money and all the leisure in the world.” Or maybe a wealthy husband… In any case, it occurred to me that I should probably start small before startling the credit bureau with uncharacteristic expenditures.

That’s when I stumbled upon several articles touting the amazing benefits of keeping a writer’s journal. That sounds doable, I thought to myself. But then every post I read from that point onwards was vague and unhelpful regarding the actual method of journaling as a writer.

Surely, I thought, there must be more to it than a daily journal. So, I did some more research. What I have found is that a writer’s journal can be anything you damn well please. But, see, I don’t find this particularly helpful. I thrive when I’m given assignments and I understand where and why there is growth.

Should I use a writer’s journal to delve into the parts of my stories that remain a mystery to me?

“Sure!” They said.

Should I use it to write observations on nature and daily life?

“Why not!” The internet quipped.

So. There’s no structure at all?

“Nope.”

Then how can I be sure I’m writing the right thing or even improving my writing??

“Well, as long as you write more, you’ll improve.”

Fuck you internet. Now I have a gigantic notebook full of days worth of random scribbles and no friggin’ idea what I’m doing.

It’s a scam, I tell you!

But, I am doing a lot of extracurricular writing, so I guess it’s not all bad?

Thoughts?

A

Shakespeare Saturday: Drunk Shakespeare

Happy Saturday, friends! Hopefully you didn’t yours actually relaxing… I spent mine cleaning the house, going to the gym, and trying to catch up on work. So. Yeah…

Anyway, it’s Shakespeare Saturday, and, surely, you know what that means. Another Shakespeare-related post about how much we love the Bard and how he’ll never go out of style.

I mean, everyone loves Shakespeare. Even Robert de Niro.

Even drunks like Shakespeare! Especially drunk actors… Which is why “Drunk Shakespeare” is a thing that exists and everyone should get into it.

Basically, a group of five actors is tasked with putting on one of Shakespeare’s major works. The catch: one of the actors has had at least five shots prior to the performance. The same actor is also encouraged to keep drinking throughout the course of the show as the sober actors try their darnedest to keep the script on track. It’s a little bit Shakespeare, a little bit improv, and a lot of booze.

Though the show is best known in NY, I’ve seen several local regional companies take up the show. So be sure to do a little research, because you might just have an opportunity to experience the mayhem and hilarity firsthand.

Cheers!

A

Boozy Books: To Be Or Not To Be

Before we get too far into the proceedings today, I am eking by on prehistoric amounts of internet because a storm knocked out the node. So this isn’t going to be a very entertaining edition.

Bare bones, is what I’m saying.

Fortunately for everyone here, the book I’ve chosen is entertaining enough to not only make up for this lack of effort pizzazz, it might actually give me a surplus to use the next time I’m not ready for this. Or I’m sick. Or, you know, I forget what day of the week it is again and doing do the Muse until Wednesday.

*cough*

So. You guys know we love William Shakespeare here at Nerd Cactus, right? I mean, we might have been understated about it over the last few years (we’re just about at three now!), but we really love the Bard. So when I can offer up something that involves Shakespeare, you know I’m all up on that. Plus, this is a Choose Your Own Adventure book! Yeah, like in your childhood! AMAZING, right?

Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be combines all the things I love in the world: humor, Shakespeare, and the ability to avenge by father’s most unnatural murder. You can play as Hamlet, Ophelia (the best option), and even the ghost (also entertaining). I’ve mostly gotten happy endings, too, which is always fun when we’re dealing with Elsinorian matters. (I’m an amazing scientist! My kids go on to go on an epic journey to rescue his family and become the kind of malcontent that makes a mama proud!) It’s clever, oftentimes absurd, sometimes farcical, and always really amazing fun.

Also, there’s a Romeo and Juliet version called Romeo And Or Juliet which I got for A a couple years ago, and she is fond of it. As with To Be Or Not To Be, it’s better to be the girl. Team Juphelia! Or is that Opheliet? I’m not sure.

What to drink with something so awesomely fun? I’m recommending a bubbly drink, light and effervescent. Something like a Bellini, sweet and fun. But this is a choose your own adventure, so you really could go any way you wanted. Maybe you want my go-to drink (the Whiskey Sour) or a Gin and Tonic. Beer is always a solid choice, too. I had a great Apfelwine in NYC that was sweet and bubbly, so…

I think you’ve got my point.

At least I got this on time this week! YAY!

Go and enjoy flipping all the pages and choosing all the adventures! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up taking over the world!

C

Monday Muse: Uh… About That

You know… the only problem with knuckling down and spending more time working on my various projects is that I’ll look up and it’ll be almost Wednesday before I realize I was up for the Muse this week. On the other hand, I’m having such an amazing time and living my best life right now, so I don’t really can’t complain even if it means leaving you guys hanging.

I do feel a bit guilty about saying that, of course, which is why I’m writing something now, as abominably late as I am, but… I get to spend hours furiously plotting one of the single coolest stories I’ve ever had the privilege to work on, drafting Liar, creating a world for Lost City… all those wonderful things. I’m not getting paid for it yet, of course, but I am doing what makes me happy. It’s taken me thirty years, but I am finally where I want to be.

YAY.

Let’s talk for a minute, though, about why I don’t recommend pantsing a fantasy story. Especially epic fantasy… or, well, any story where you need to create a world from scratch, so that includes sci-fi and whatnot, too. Earth Rising takes place in our universe, of course, but it’s one where humanity has completely conquered the Milky Way galaxy and Earth is at once advanced and trapped in the past (which is still the future for us), so there’s a lot of work there. So much work.

The thing is, my friend and I have been working on this for almost ten years. OK, sure, we didn’t plan on turning it into an actual series, so that definitely contributed to why we pantsed it originally. It was a group story a la campfire tales, with each person taking it in turns to push the story forward, usually with their own character. There a version of what will eventually be the first two novels in the series out there in internetlandia (you can probably find them if you look hard enough), and they are terrible. (OK, no… there are a lot of good bits there, and I love them so much.)

This is because, in a world as big as this, constantly making shit up as you go means having to literally rewrite the entire thing from scratch. And getting rid of a lot of really cool shit because you established a rule and forgot that rule and broke it nine zillion times throughout the story. It means not realizing until after several hundred thousand words that a character you’ve thought was a dude is actually a lady. You have a character who disappears at one point and HOLY SHIT, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH HIM NOW?! (Note: he’s too important to get rid of. We just forgot to write for him for a while.) A trilogy becomes a quartet (aka George R.R. Martin syndrome).

Basically, shit goes down.

Now, yes… some people prefer getting stuff down and fixing it later. The adventure of pantsing a story means you’re not writing a story so much as getting to know it via exploration. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve created a damn fine story by making it up as we’ve gone along.

I think it would have been better if we’d created the world first. Because then we could have done all this fun worldbuilding in the beginning and we wouldn’t have to edit out an entire storyline because one of us thought the rebels cloned Omega’s comms and the other did not. You don’t have to plot out the entire story, but when you’re talking about something this big, a foundation just makes it easier to focus on the exploration and not on keeping all the details in line as you go.

Sorry this is late. But also… no, I’m not. I should be, but I’m not. I’m having too much fun.

I… think I have something for Friday. Maybe.

C

Silly Sunday: It’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True…

Hi friends! Ready for a laugh?

I’ve been watching Jim Jeffries’s stand-up lately and he just cracks me up. His observational humor is spot-on. Take this clip for example. This comparison of US airport security with basically any other country in the world is hysterical and accurate.

I believe Jeffries has a stand-up special on Netflix so if you’re interested in his style of comedy, definitely check him out. 👍

Happy Sunday!

A