Recently, I was ranting on Facebook about my hatred for the periods in a.m. and p.m as well as the comma between city and state in addresses (see what you miss by not being my Facebook friend?) and one of my friends posted a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song “Word Crimes.” As a long time Weird Al enthusiast and a Facebook friend to several editors and writers I had already seen the video (click here if you haven’t). The video parodies “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke’s insanely catchy hit from 2013. If you haven’t heard that one, then you probably weren’t living in America all of last year, but here you go – Blurred Lines. (Warning: may not be suitable for work and my cause you to get in arguments with your feminist friends over whether or not the song is “rape-y”. Double Warning: If you use the word rape-y at me, I will smite you.) But back to the story, as I watched the Weird Al version again (because why wouldn’t you?) I was caught by the line “You do not use “it’s” in this case!”
But why don’t we? Yes, yes, the current rules state that “it’s” is a contraction. “It” is not possessive; “it” cannot own anything. But I say, “Listen up English – if you’re not going to provide me with a gender neutral pronoun, why can’t I use the defacto pronoun already in use in conversation – it?” Clearly, the language is lacking such a word. English should stop being stuffy and allow this clearly needed possessive to enter the dictionary. I’d willingly delete “tweep” from the Oxford-English Dictionary if I could have “it’s.” Who’s with me?
The premise of my Carrie Mae Mystery series is that in the sixties, while other ladies were burning their bras and inventing Tupperware, Carrie Mae Robart founded a door to door / friend to friend cosmetic selling empire – Carrie Mae Cosmetics. Her goal was to give women financial independence without having to work outside the home. However, the more women she met, the more she realized that there were some problems that couldn’t be solved with just money – some problems needed a fist in the face. So Carrie Mae set up the Carrie Mae Foundation. Financed by proceeds from the cosmetic sales, the foundation is part non-profit – working on pro-bono legal cases and lobbying government on women’s rights issues – and partly a women only, black-ops, elite fighting force. The heroines of my stories Nikki Lanier, Ellen Marson, Jenny Baxter and Jane Rozmarek are part of that force and they travel the world, fulfilling the Carrie Mae mission statement: helping women everywhere.
Now the thing you’ll notice about this premise is that it’s only partially based in reality. I mean, sure, it’s possible for a woman in the 1960’s to found a peer to peer make up sales company. Not that I know of any… ahem. But sadly, it has apparently never occurred to anyone to found an elite fighting force for women as part their non-profit. (If someone knows of one, please email me immediately; I would like to join up.) The problem with all of this lack of reality is that I have to make it sound plausible when writing. And that means all the other bits have to sound real. I have to research the guns and the locations and I try to make sure that my characters emotions feel authentic. But if I spend too much time in reality, I suddenly look at my own premise and think, “That’s ridiculous! I can’t write that.”
That’s right; I tell myself, “I can’t.” Those are some of the worst words in the English language. (Although, they’re still not as bad as, “We need to talk.”) I’m two books and two short stories, and half a manuscript into a series, and… I can’t? How does the Can’t Gremlin sneak into so many places? I thought I was well fortified behind the Walls of Fantasy; girded by the Armor of Gumption; defended by the Holy Force of Imagination. And yet… I can’t. Why is it so hard to get that jerk of a gremlin out of the house? Can’t have an elite fighting force? You might as well suggest that a woman can’t write books. The cycle of Can’t can be extremely hard to break, so when I get too down in the Can’ts, I like to read other people’s books. There’s nothing like a good trip through someone else’s imagination to leave the Can’t Gremlin in the dust. But still, I know he’s just waiting around the corner to trip me up. Which is why I prefer to visit reality infrequently and for only brief periods of time. Feel free to visit me any time, but leave your gremlins at the door – I can’t be bothered with Can’t today.
I’m sitting in my backyard listening to my neighbors complain about one of their roommates. Apparently, the miscreant roommate has three bags of trash sitting by the door to his room that he has failed to take out.
“I mean, that’s not a problem… exactly.”
Each of the guys carefully, and politely denote their own housecleaning failures.
“I never make my bed.”
“You never saw my apartment; I can get meh-ssy.”
“I have empty bottles in my room too.” (“Not like that,” interjects the first guy.)
They each tiptoe up to the line of declaring the roommate’s behavior an actual problem, but don’t cross it. Clearly, the garbage is still being contained in the room. But equally clear is that they all find the roommates sloth disgusting. Note to the miscreant: When 3 twenty-something dudes, who have only a tentative grasp on hygiene, find your housekeeping habits to sub-par on the rank of foulness, you just might have a problem.
All of which got me to thinking about villains and bad guys and wondering whether or not they realize that they are failing at their end of the social bargain. What if villains are just totally incapable of realizing that their 3 bags of garbage is offending the other roommates? Getting kicked out of the house will come as a total shock if you have no idea that a hazmat suit shouldn’t be required dress for your room. Maybe if Sauron had just been a little tidier maybe he wouldn’t have had to move in with the Orcs. If Darth Vader hadn’t grown up with Jabba the Hut as role model maybe he wouldn’t have gone to the dark side. If Voldemort hadn’t had to live on the back of some guy’s greasy head maybe he wouldn’t have been so peeved all the time. What do you think? Do villains choose to deviate from the social norm, or do they just blow right by the stop signs without seeing them at all?