Monday, January 25, 2016

Life and other petulant poetics.

Life, you're a bully,
fear mongering my fate.
You kill everyone I know.
Aneurysming aunts and uncles.
Carcinogenizing parents and children.
Even drowning cats and dogs.
And one day, you will kill me too,
before I can even do
half of what I hope to do.

Life, you're a barbarian,
battering to break my heart.
You blemish endings on everything.
Stealing hope and youth.
Fattening flab and absurdities.
Even blinding saints.
And one day, you will break me again,
this time before the tide of my life
can turn waves toward sunnier days.

But, Life, you should know,
you will never, never
conquer me.

I will nurture love
in your most barren expanses.
I will find joy
in your hardest darkness.
I will stand up
in your thinnest of lights.

You will never, never
cause me to surrender
to the evils of hate.

I will live, Life,
while I may
for all I might,
will-o'-wisp bright,
while you bully on.
And so I will win
my will
with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Psychology is NOT Psychiatry: a rant against harmful confusions in fiction writing.

I'm not a grammar Nazi, but I am a definition hard-ass. Words matter to me. How they sound is important. When you use them is important. But most of all, what they mean is important because the meaning is the hardest part to pin down, and the squiggliest, wiggliest, ugliest beast of them all is the connotation of a word.

Misuse word meaning and connotations and you can generate a whole host of confusions. Misrepresent the meaning and you generate a nest of pain perpetuating ignorance and malnourished and deformed ideas that may never be logically corrected.

For example, one common harmful confusion (dear to me professionally) is the use of the term Psychiatrist when you mean Psychologist or vice versa. A psychiatrist has little or no training in psychology and a psychologist has zero training in medicine.

Are they related? Yes, but they are not interchangeable
According to Merriam-Webster:
  • Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with mental or emotional disorders.
  • Medicine is the science that deals with preventing, curing, and treating diseases.
  • Meanwhile, psychology is the science or study of the mind and behavior.
In practical terms, this mean you go to a psychiatrist if you want medicine or treatment for a mental or an emotional disorder/ disease. You go to a psychologist if you want to study or gain more insight into your mind or behavior--usually so that you can apply the science of psychology to improve your mind or behavior. 
Frequently psychiatrists and psychologists work together. A psychiatrist will assess a mental/ emotional disorder, prescribe a medicine, and refer you to a psychologist so that you can learn how to modify your behavior to minimize or eliminate the consequences of your emotional disorder. A psychologist may coach a client on a behavior modification only to realize the client is actually suffering a mental/ emotional disorder and will refer the client to a psychiatrist for medical treatment.
So what? Why should you care as a writer or a reader if these two terms are used correctly?
I think you should care because every time these words are used incorrectly it breeds misunderstanding about where you, your family, and your friends can expect to go to get the right kind of mental and emotional help and encouragement. At best misunderstanding one for the other means you start with the wrong professional first and waste time. At worst misunderstanding one for the other means you don't get what you need and you get so frustrated you quit before you realize the misunderstanding--and thus go without the life-saving mental and emotional support that fits you.

I beg my fellow writers to learn the difference. Care more about the content of your words than your semi-colons and commas.  Please. Be a hero (nail the squiggliest dragon of all).

I beg my fellow readers to hold writers responsible for these differences above all else. Give them feedback about the connotations and impact of their words in your life--whether or not you like the plot. Please.  It saves lives.
St. George Slaying the Dragon/ Saving Lives

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Pre-preview of Playing with Matches (a romance)

WARNING: This is a totally unedited, unsanctioned preview to a book that may never be accepted for publication.  All criticism welcome, but please be kind as I'm delicate.

Blurb/ Back of Book
Life is like a bucket of high octane fuel for Augusta Stuart.  With her career careening down the track at high speeds already, she thinks she is ready to find someone to love.  Being an expatriate southern belle lesbian in the midst of south San Antonio's conservative Catholic Latino culture makes finding a companionate soul more challenging, but Gus prides herself on being progressive and races out to try internet dating.  After dozens of harrowing and hilarious "miss-dates," Augusta meets Callia Alexena.  Cal is the antithesis of everything Gus thought would be attractive to her, but their time together is like playing with matches.  Both women will have to decide what preconceptions they are willing to burn in the race to find love. 
Plot Summary/ Synopsis:
Augusta moves to south-central San Antonio to start a mental health clinic for disadvantaged children. She has always wanted to do something to help children in her own country and she has always wanted to use her training and skills in clinical psychology to do so.  As rewarding as it is to be in the thick of her career, doing what she has always wanted to do someplace where it feels like her work will make a real difference, Augusta is lonely. As a self-proclaimed lipstick lesbian far from the support of her big tight-knit family in Atlanta, Georgia and surrounded by the Latino machismo conservative culture of south-central Texas, Augusta feels like a social freak.  In an attempt to jumpstart her social life Augusta decides to join an Internet dating site, but each hilarious and horribly wrong date leads her to believe that most of the women available are no more mentally stable than her patients and their parents. Hopeless and disappointed, Augusta decides to take a chance and go on a blind date with the founder of a company that provides logistics technology for healthcare services.
When Callia Alexena shows up to meet Augusta the sparks do fly, but is it really good chemistry? Callia doesn't expect a whole lot from a blind date, but she certainly doesn't expect a wanna-be social debutant, too wrapped up in her own pre-conceptions to even ask what Callia actually thinks about any given topic.  Augusta finds Callia to be the antithesis of everything she would have said was really attractive in a soul-mate, but Callia's no-nonsense technocrat practicality is far more entertaining than any of the baggage offered by her other disaster dates. Helping 50,000 families displaced by a hurricane will give them a chance to butt heads and hearts.  They will challenge each other's motivations before learning that loving others well requires you to drop all of your pre-conceived notions first.  Will they learn that expectations are just the kindling sticks you burn to get enough light to discover a deeper compatibility of souls?

Chapter One – Calling Home

“You did what?” June’s thick Georgian drawl rose an octave at the end of her question.
Augusta Stuart smiled at the incredulity in her older sister’s tone. “I joined an on-line dating service called San Antonio Matches.”
“What for?” The voices of her nephews squabbling filtered through the connection along with June’s skepticism.
“Because I’m tired of being alone, but don’t tell Mama that.”
June laughed through her nose. “Yeah, we know her answer. She would tell you to quit trying to save the world and come home were you’re needed and loved. And you know what?  I’m not so sure she isn’t right.”
“This is a good opportunity to use what I’ve spent the last decade learning and wanting to do, June.  I can’t give it up now.”
“I get it.  You want to help children.  I even get that you want to help impoverished children, but I don’t see why you can’t do that here in Atlanta.”
Gus squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed her forehead. “The chance to build a mental health service program for impoverished youths is here in San Antonio.  I get to establish and direct the whole program from its start.”
June snorted softly. “I think those two years with the Peace Corps in Guatemala turned you into a bleeding heart liberal.”
“You’re one to talk.  Besides I think it was my fellowship at Harbor House that gave me the bleeding heart part and made Tyler Foundation interested in offering me this job.”
“You’re fluency in Spanish probably didn’t hurt either.” Her sister pointed out.
Gus smiled. “Yeah.”
With a sigh, June said,“You know we’re proud of you.  I just worry about my baby sister, playing with matches on-line and all that.”
“And Mama is putting the pressure on you to put the pressure on me, since July got engaged.”
June gave a rolling laugh. “You know it, Sister.  Ever since our darling baby brother conned that sweet girl into marrying him, she’s been telling me there is undeniable proof of miracles and asking how come it’s so hard to find a wealthy, healthy lesbian to make her most-educated daughter a wife.”
“That’s exactly why I signed up for the online dating site.  I’m telling you all, it’s impossible to find myself a wife if I never date—and you don’t want me recruiting lesbians in bars.”
“And they don’t go to church?”
“Oh, sure.  And you know the Catholic Church is so welcoming of gays these days they’ve even taken to hosting lesbian socials in Texas’ most Catholic city.”
“Now there is no reason to be so sarcastic with me, missy.” June chuckled.  “With that kind of obstinacy it’s no wonder we can’t marry you off before you’re an old maid.”
“Well, that’s probably a good part of the truth.” Gus brushed aside a strand of her brown unruly hair and gave a small sigh.
“Oh now, don’t go getting all morose and moody on me now. You make friends with a fencepost easy enough.”
“Yeah, but its hard being so far away from you all again.  And if things work like I want them too here, that also means I will remain far away from you all.”
“You can always decide you’ve done enough and come home, Gus.  It doesn’t have to be forever, no matter whether it goes well in San Antonio or not.”
Gus twisted her cellphone charging chord around her index finger and let it loose again. “Yeah. You’re right.  I think I’m just PMSing on top of stressing over the move and my first day jitters.”
“You’ve done it before.  You’ll do it again, and we’ll send care packages.”
“Oooo. Chocolate covered goobers?”
“Sure, and some of my pecan pie cookies.”
“You’re the best.”
“I know.”
“Modest much?”
“Nah, my sister, the psychologist, told me too much humility damages my self-worth and ruins my social credibility.”
“Blah, blah, blah.  Your sister uses too much psychobabble.”
“Yeah, she does.  I love you, Gussie.  I gotta go change your niece’s diaper.”
 “I love you too, June.  Kisses to all.”  Gus smiled as she heard her newest niece, March give a hearty squall.
June’s reply was harried but warm, “And sugar back at ya.  Bye, Hon.”
The call ended.
Draft of an idea cover only (NOT REAL)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

True Grit - a poem in memoriam of Bernhardt Thomas Lindemann

For my uncle, Bernhardt Thomas Lindemann, a giant heart of true grit.

True grit looks more like Willie Nelson than John Wayne.
He bends his 6'4" frame down to place a good ear nearer
and gives little girls lots of practice with the hammer
even when that means the building will take twice as long.

True grit acts more like Gandhi than Chuck Norris.
He bows his head, gives an encouraging lopsided grin
and squints to find the love and humor within
even when others are busy saying something stupid, hurtful and wrong.

True grit laughs more like Barney Fife than Steven Seagal.
He farms the black lands for love through drought and wind
and doesn't give a damn, so long as the baby cow lives, that he won't win
even when he has more debts than friends.

True grit plays more like Will Rogers than Mel Gibson.
He finds nothing funnier than being bested by his daughter
and letting his little brother toss him in cold water
even sharing the stories in their favor when his wife walks in.

True grit doesn't get a comeback sequel like Sylvester Stallone.
He is strong enough to ask for help when his doubts become demons
and fierce enough to forgive himself without asking for reasons
even when it looks as if his hopes are all a ruin.

True grit leaves his love looming large with those he loved
and goes without regret on a closer walk with God,
even when it seems too soon.

My grandfather with my mother and my uncle, Bernhardt Thomas Lindemann, as a toddler.

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