Universal. Not So Universal. An Open Letter.

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Hillary Monahan. I’m a writer and, as of last week, a dissatisfied customer who might as well have lit $120 on fire in lieu of visiting your park. I recently attended Universal Studios Orlando (May 21st, 2013) and I wanted to express my disappointment with the experience and explain why — going forward — anyone asking me about Florida travel will be advised to avoid your theme park and to concentrate their energies on Disney instead, who I must presume is your most direct competition. The sole black mark on my recent vacation was visiting your resort. I want that day back, but unfortunately, time does not work that way.

I am a heavy person. I’m not quite so heavy you can launch me into orbit like Sputnik, but heavy enough that I am aware (and comfortable) with my chubby label. I also have large breasts. I don’t quite know at what point in your design you decided not to account for people having breasts, but I could not get on a single ride in your park that had over-the-shoulder constraints because it sandwiched my breasts into a tiny plastic window. On the Harry Potter ride, said window created a VERY EMBARRASSING experience for both me and your ride operator, a young man who couldn’t have been more than 25 and was desperately trying to get me in to experience the attraction because I fit in the seat itself rather comfortably. The only deterrent was the fact that I have ample curves.

At this point I should probably note that I was able to comfortably ride every single ride in Disney because they account for all body shapes. I am not “too large” for them in any way.  Also worth noting: my husband was larger than I was by at least twenty pounds and could ride everything without issue.

I am well aware that you have test seating outside of attractions so passengers can test their breasts ahead of time (and whatever elses they have that are too round for your seats), but this is an uninspiring feature for multiple reasons. The first is that the test seating outside of The Hulk roller coaster was covered in children resting their feet. No one shooed them away or made sure that it was open for people to use. As I’m on vacation and really don’t want to have to spend my time bullying other people’s children, I wasn’t comfortable berating them until they left. This same phenomenon occurred on no less than two attractions I passed. Normal benches were covered so test seats became a refuge for weary travelers.

The other issue I have is how very vulgar the positioning of these test seats are. Yes, I am heavy, and yes, the world around me knows it as well as I do. That doesn’t mean I want to flaunt my heaviness by wedging my huge boobs into your test seats in front of a hundred million strangers. I’m groping, squishing, and lifting assets that I had even before I gained any significant weight. Where and when do you account for my dignity? Why can’t there be an alcove to the side with a sign so I don’t have to feel like I’m putting myself on display? It’s humiliating enough to have to use the test seats in the first place to see if I fit into your modified seating. It’s worse when I have to do it in front of sneering strangers who will see me trying to flatten breasts that simply don’t flatten.

(Also, a note? Giving me a speed pass through the lines of other attractions so I don’t feel bad about the line I was bounced from after an hour wait does nothing to make me feel better. You know what might have? A refund on my ticket because Harry Potter attractions WERE NOT going to happen for me. But you don’t provide those.)

I think it goes without saying I left your park after a few hours feeling depressed and — for the first time in a long time — ashamed of my body, which was something I thought I’d abandoned a long time ago. I’ve never considered my size to be much of a setback before; I walked ten miles a day around Disney without too much issue, I kept up with my group and didn’t need special treatment because I have some extra pounds. I fit on bus seats without a problem, I wasn’t too ungainly for my flight. It wasn’t until I visited Universal that I felt strange or unwieldy in my own skin. I resent you and your attraction designers for that, Universal, and that’s why you’ll never see my money again.

I’m sure you’ve heard that spiel about one unhappy customer breeding at least ten non-buyers before. Well, I can assure you that as a writer, my reach goes a little further than that. One voice will become two, and if two become four, maybe you will pay attention then. Doubtful, but one can hope.


Hillary Monahan

Books. From Manuscript To Offer.

Books. How do they work? They’re like magnets, y’all.

I get asked at least twice a week how books work – how they go from being in a notebook or on a computer to getting onto a shelf (speaking to traditional publishing, of course – the process for self-pub is still one of great mystery to me.) I know I’ve written about this in the past, in particular when I talk about writer crazy here, when I talk about what being a novelist means here, and right after I got agented here, but this post will hopefully break it down into one, easy-to-digest guide. I’ll add to it or edit it later if any information is incomplete or, you know, WRONG.

Right. Onward!


Acquisitions Committee: These are “the money people” at a publishing house. Once your book has passed second reads, it is sent to a board who will yay or nay the project based on any number of factors (how other authors in your genre are doing, the strength of your work, the state of the current market, etc.) Acqs boards (sometimes called editorial boards) usually consist of editors and marketing people (and raptors – clearly there are raptors) who will braintrust over your book to decide if it’s profitable to take you on as a debut. As most debuts never earn out to their advances, they’re essentially deciding if they think they can launch your career based on the work in front of them. You might not be profitable right out of the gate, but in the FUTURE, well . . . anything can happen. It’s the future. And the future is awesome.

Advance – The amount of money offered by a publisher to acquire a book (though not all pub houses offer advances.) Even if your book sells poorly, you don’t pay this back. It’s simply the purchase price for the book. Advances are often paid not in bulk but in chunks, like one third at signing (when the author signs on the dotted line to accept an offer), one third at edit acceptance (when the author completes her editor’s editorial requests,) and one third upon publication (the book hitting shelves.)

Agent or Literary Agent: An agent acts as your gateway into the publishing world. They submit your book to editors at publishing houses in hopes of striking a deal. Once there is an offer on your book, they negotiate on your behalf to get you the best deal possible. Later, after your book has sold, agents review contracts and royalty statements to ensure that your finances (and by proxy theirs) are in order. They are a sounding board and “first editor” of any work that’s going on submission. Legit agents will never ask for money to represent you – they take you on “for free” because they believe that your work will one day sell for buckets of money and they’ll get their cut later (most agents take anywhere from ten to twenty percent commission on any sales – ask the agent for their terms before you accept an offer of representation.) As agents work gratis until your book is bought, they tend to be highly selective with who they represent. It is worth noting that — just like everyone else — agents have tastes and specializations to consider. Before you query an agent, make sure they enjoy and/or specialize in your type of fiction. Some agents only want adult literature, for example, so querying them with your YA mystery is a waste of your time and theirs. Others might love paranormal romance, but have so many authors in their stables that write paranormal romance, they aren’t accepting new authors at this time. Research agents, make sure your work is a good match for what they like to represent, and when you do get around to querying, READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES AND FOLLOW THEM. Showing an agent that you have basic reading comprehension skills means your query won’t end up in the trash. If they only ask for a query letter, three pages, and a synopsis (and when they ask for three pages, they want your first three pages not some random snippet in the middle), send . . . a query letter, three pages, and a synopsis. Don’t send a full chapter thinking, “But you’ll really love the whole thing so just read it.” They have processes for a reason. As a novice writer, you’re probably not smarter than they are about the industry, so stop being a dink and do as you’re told. It’ll get you cool kid points in the long run.

Auction – If there are multiple houses interested in acquiring your work, it will likely go to auction. The auction is arranged and managed by your agent. Auctions do not necessarily mean a half a million dollars and a pony courtesy of your new editor, though. It might mean a moderate advance but a house ups your marketing budget. It might mean allowing your agent to sell international rights or tweaking the terms of audio book rights. The rules of the auction change from agent to agent (and greatly depend on how many people are involved in the bidding.) Rachelle Gardner does a great job explaining the whole crazy process on her blog. Check it out.

Debut – An author with no previous publishing credentials. Your first book.

Editor – Celestial beings who work their bums off to acquire your work. Once it is acquired, celestial beings who turn your ugly little baby into a bookshelf prom queen.

Exclusive – When an agent or editor is asking to be the ONLY person you consider for your book (whether that’s representation or doing rewrites and pre-offer edits). Agents do this less and less it seems, but some might still ask you for it. Think long and hard about any exclusive before you consent. The moment you agree, you are saying no one else can look at your work or touch it for X number of time. If an editor is offering to do a rewrite with you (essentially pro bono editing work) it might behoove you, but it depends on your circumstances. There are many fish in the publishing sea.

International Rights – The short explanation: international rights dictate how your book gets in the hands of the rest of the world after it’s been purchased in the American market. Whether your publisher controls that or you and your agent control that depends on your deal. For example, if your publishing house only asked for North American rights, that means your agent can offer the book for distribution to European and Asian markets. These rights are purchased and mean more money in an author’s pocket.

Manuscript – Your draft of your book. A book in larvae form.

Offer – When a publishing house has decided to acquire your book, this is the “package” they offer you to get you to sign on the line. Initial offers are where you start. Counteroffers are offers given to try and beat out another house’s offer, etc.

Partial – When an agent likes your query letter enough to want to see a portion of your book. Sometimes it’s three chapters. Sometimes it’s more. They will tell you what they want. FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS.

Royalties – The amount of money/percentages you make once you’ve earned out to your advance. An author gets a percentage of a book’s sales once the book’s advance has been met. This means if a book got a $20,000 advance, the book has to “earn out” that $20,000 before you see any royalty money.

Second Reads – An agent sends your book to an editor. Said editor loves the book and would like to purchase it one day. To get support for this, they go to what is called Second Reads. Second Reads is a group of people at the publishing house who will read your manuscript and weigh in on it. They essentially tell the editor what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the work. If the strengths outweigh the weaknesses and the Second Reads panel gives it a resounding thumbs up, it will go to the raptors (aka Acquistions.)

Slushpile: The slushpile means you submitted a book or query letter as a general submission, as in the editor or agent didn’t specifically ask you for it and you’re throwing your hat in the ring along with the rest of the unknown scrubs (please note: I, too, was a slushpile scrub. I say this fondly because BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, HAVE THE TEE SHIRT.)

Submission or On Sub: When your book has been sent to editors and you are waiting to hear back from them. Also known as the fourth level of Hell.

Synopsis: Your book’s story compacted into two or three pages. It explains what happens over the course of the book and reveals all major characters and plot points.

Query or Query Letter: This is a one page letter you write to agents (usually – editors will sometimes be open to queries but most prefer you filter through a literary agent first) that tells the agent/editor what your book is about. It’s the first thing any agent sees of your work, so make sure it’s really, really shiny. Don’t use superfluous words. Watch spelling and punctuation. Clearly outline the plot and MAIN characters so they can really grasp what you’re peddling. The key here is surgical precision. As the ultimate goal of the query is to entice an agent to want to see your full manuscript, do not tell them you’re the next Stephen King because that’s a waste of words (and they’ve heard it a zillion times before.) Streamline the meat and potatoes of your story. You can include a brief “about you” paragraph at the end of the letter if you’re so inclined, but keep it pertinent to your potential writing career. They don’t care that you have a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Innsmouth University. They WILL care if you have something that will help get the work bought, though, like previous publishing credits or a blog that gets 50,000 hits a day. Note: a great resource for query writing is Janet Reid’s Query Shark. You can learn a ton from this lady. Read the archives. It’s worth it.


STEP ONE: Victory Through Prose. Write AND FINISH A Book.

I know, I know. You have six chapters that you’re sure are THE BEST six chapters in the history of history and everyone in the world should see them. You’ll send them to agents and editors and all of them will be so impressed with your writing that they’ll faint, puke on themselves, and give you buckets of money. They’ll beg to name their first child after you.

Only not.

If you’re an unknown (like me and most of my writer friends were) you’re going to be a slushpile kid. That means to be considered for publication, you need to complete the WHOLE BOOK first. Edit that WHOLE BOOK until it gleams. Give it to people who won’t tell you it’s awesome because they love you, but will tell you where it sucks, how it sucks, and what they think you can do to desuckify it. Then, after you drink a twelve pack of beer and avoid drowning in your I’M A TALENTLESS HACK tears, you put your nose to the grindstone, check your ego, and edit that sumbitch until it’s faaaaantastic.

STEP TWO: Grow A Thick Skin. Rejection Round One Cometh.

The book is written and polished and you’re shaking dat ass because you’ve accomplished something marvelous. It is now time to get yourself an agent. Research agents, research their guidelines. Write a KICK ASS query letter and email away. Don’t be a tool and send one email to six hundred agents. No one likes spam emails and this makes you look like a spammer. Mind you, it’s okay to query six hundred agents if you want (most agents don’t expect exclusives most of the time) but make sure you take the time to send individual emails to everyone. Oh, and make sure you address it to the right person? Sending a query over to Tom FatBottom that’s attentioned to Missy LovesPizza doesn’t look very good.

Now wait. And wait. Stare at your inbox forever. Refresh inbox a trillion times an hour.

Some agents get back fast. Others take two to three months. Some agents will flat out tell you if you’ve heard nothing from them in two months it’s a no so move on. There will likely be LOTS AND LOTS of rejections on the horizon – the trick is to not take them personally (and never, ever answer one with attitude – that’s career suicide.) This is a business, after all, and yeah, you took a year to write this book they should AT LEAST read it, but so did everyone else. I don’t remember where or when I read this, but for a point of reference? Irene Goodman (my agency) gets something like 40,000 query letters a year. My agent accepts one or two clients a year. Do that math.

STEP THREE: Rejoice! And Edit.

After partial manuscript requests and full manuscript requests and however long it took you to score your agent, you’ve got one, and the agent is as excited to represent you as you are to be represented. They have wonderful ideas for your career, you’re a special snowflake, blah-blah-blah, and OH, YEAH, CAN YOU DO THESE SMALLLLLL CHANGES. Said changes could potentially take you a while to complete. An agent will often times have tweaks and edits they want you to make before taking your work out on submission. Don’t argue. Unless it’s going to totally alter the work and make you hate it beyond belief, suck it up and do as you’re told. Your agent’s livelihood is selling books. If he or she doesn’t sell them, he or she might not have nice things like food and electricity so they probably know a thing or two about the industry. For the most part? Listen to the experts.

STEP FOUR: It’s Out of Your Hands.

Post your editing frenzy, the agent will take your book out when he or she deems it strategically smart. It’s sort of an industry “DUH” that August is when a lot of agents and editors step back from the biz to either vacation or catch-up on their backlog. Deals still happen, but not as frequently, so not a lot of things go out on submission in August. November and December can get a bit hazy, too, as holiday rushes and end of year budgets are a concern, so your book might sit for a couple months before it’s sent out to editors. Be cool. It’ll get there.

Now, depending on your agent, the book gets in the hands of the publishing houses one of two ways. Some agents have to essentially query editors like you queried your agent. They put together a mini-proposal so the editor will consider the work. Other agents basically say HEY I HAVE THIS and everyone green lights them to send it over without that proposal. At this point in the publishing process? The writer is uninvolved. That book is your agent’s problem, not yours. You’re officially on submission.

STEP FIVE: Wait. Waiting. Still Waiting.

Being on submission is a weird, weird thing, dudes. Sometimes, you’ll wait for six months to hear anything. Sometimes, it can take even longer for editors to send it to seconds or pass on it. Sometimes, you’ll hear in two or three weeks. The waiting can be agonizing AND unpredictable. Some people will wait forever for a deal, some will wait twelve minutes. There’s no way to know where you’re gonna fall. Whatever the case, wait as gracefully as you can (while losing your hair and clawing the walls and becoming a total freakazoid.)

A couple tips that got me through the horrendous wait (and I’ve been on both sides of the fence — waiting forever AND the whirlwind — so I know a thing or two about this): one, a “no” is a fast, easy way to clear an editor’s desk. They might not like writing rejection letters, but if a project’s not for them, passing on it frees them up to get to something else in their mammoth workload. If they’re NOT saying no and just staying quiet, it might mean they’re sitting on your manuscript and thinking about it or maybe waiting for the right time to bring it to second reads or acquisitions. Silence is not always a bad thing. The no is easy to do, guys. If they’ve read it and were going to reject it, they’d just reject it. Remember that.

Second tip? Write something else while you’re waiting. Stalking editors on social media programs or biting your fingernails to the quick in the interim does nothing for you. Concentrate on another project to keep yourself afloat. Writing is a great way to channel your angst about the wordless abyss that is being on submission. Also, writing’s what you supposedly want to do so, like, do it.

(Also, this should be something I shouldn’t have to say, but having had a ringside seat for this – don’t poke editors or agents on Twitter just to see if they’ve read your stuff. Don’t try to woo them or romance them by sucking up. And by all that is holy, if you have even a moment’s hesitation as to whether or not something is appropriate to say to an industry professional, DON’T SAY IT. ABORT MISSION. It’s okay to interact with publishing folks if they have a public profile, but be careful with it. Don’t cram yourself down their throats or they’ll remember you for THAT instead of the quality of your work. Chill, Honey Bunny. Just chill.)

STEP SIX: Survive Second Reads, Acquistions. MORE REJECTION? WTF?

An editor decides they simply MUST have your work for themselves. They want to sweep it away to Vegas and make an honest book out of it. COOL! Your book will go from being on submission with that house to second reads wherein other editors (most of the time) also read your book and give their two cents on the project. Generally speaking, second reads must be in favor of the book for it to progress from here out. It’s great if the editor loves your book, but if other editors think it’s too flawed or simply don’t like it, it won’t go anywhere and the author and the editor must resign themselves to this not being an ideal match. HOWEVER. If the second reads consensus is WOO HA, MARRY THIS SUCKA! The book goes to acquisitions. Acquisitions will then do whatever it is raptors do and determine if the house is going to make an offer.

MEANWHILE! While all this craziness is going down on the publishing house side of things, your agent will take the news of a book going to second reads to other houses to try to stir up interest. They’ll tell the other editors with the project that they have strong interest. If an editor hasn’t read the book, they’ll likely prioritize it so they don’t miss out on something potentially awesome. If they’ve been sitting or waffling on it, they’ll make up their minds right around now. Going to second reads or acquisitions is a great way to launch a book from “quietly on submission” to FEEDING FRENZY. SHAAAARK. Lots of long-awaited answers come in at once. More rejection is likely, but so, too, are other editors falling in love with your book. Brace yourself. Shit just got REAL.

STEP SEVEN: Rejoice. Victory Is At Hand.

So, an offer comes in. Your book survived the editor, second reads, and acquisitions with its dignity intact. An initial offer is presented to your agent which means you will one day be on shelves. After your agent does his or her Victory Butt Wiggle and you hyperventilate into a bag and weep openly at your success, your agent will take the offer to the other houses still in play to shake out last minute answers. If the initial offer is the Last Man Standing, the agent will negotiate to tweak the deal, considering not only your advance but also royalties and some of those aforementioned marketing strategies and international/audio right things.

If, however, multiple houses want to offer, you’ll likely go to auction and that changes the dynamic. The offers will get better, though as I said before, not necessarily all on advance money. There might be other perks included and perks can make or break a debut. More advertising or marketing backing is never a bad thing as it could guarantee a more prominent position in a bookstore or on a website. Visibility is key! Your agent will consider the whole package each house offers before advising you where they think you should go.


Hopefully this answers some questions and/or debunks some mystery about the publishing industry. There’s more to the process (like editorial notes and galleys and ARCs and what’s an ISBN and such) but I can tackle those at another time. If there are questions, drop them in comments. If I don’t have immediate answers, I’ll get them for you. I KNOW PEOPLE WHO KNOW PEOPLE, YO. I’m connected.)

League of Legends. The Gender Gaming Thing. Again.

So a friend of mine asked me today, “Are you offended by the portrayal of women in League of Legends.” For those of you not familiar with LoL (and know this – gamers are laughing at you if you’ve never heard of it) League of Legends is essentially a free to play game where you control a character, get six abilities, and go kill other people playing the same characters. It’s not all that complex of a concept, really. The big draws to the game?

– There’s an enormous cast of characters to pick from. You can pretty much play whatever style of fighter/support/tank you want.
– Pure Player Versus Player. For those looking to go against opponents with an actual brain (in lieu of a programmed computer foe), this is the game for you.
– You don’t HAVE to pay a dime to play. If you want to buy characters and customize them, you can, but you are in control of what you contribute to this game.

I’m touching on bullet point one up there today. If you’re unfamiliar with the game and the characters, I want you to go here and check out who you can play. Then I want you to take particular note of the female characters. I’m going to categorize them for you here to make this simple. In some cases, I use a skin that’s purchasable to illustrate a point:

Gorgeous, Thin, Ample T & A Available

Total: 17.5 – Cass only gets half points.

Gorgeous, Thin, Less T & A But It’s Still Present

Total: 7

Thin, Not Sexy Unless You’re Weird

Total: 5


Total: 1.5 (Giving Cass half points for cleavage – note that female scaries are still thin)


  • Zero

So let’s tally that up – 31 characters by my count, at least 25 of them are beautiful. At least half of them are sexualized beautiful. Five of them are considered NOT sexy because they’re animals, children, or “little people.”  None of them are fat because fat women clearly don’t exist.

Not a good ratio so far.

Let’s break it down for the men, now, shall we? And I’m getting lazy with the images so you’ll have to take my word on it for some of these characters. Want proof? Just ask for the character and I’ll direct you:

Sexualized Men, Plenty of Beefcake.

Total: 8 if I’m being generous.

Attractive Men, Limited Beefcake.

Total: 12

Thin, Not Sexy Unless You’re Weird.

  • Alistar – A minotaur.
  • Amumu – A mummy.
  • Blitzcrank – A robot.
  • Corki – A flying little person with old man hair.
  • Fizz – A fish boy.
  • Galio – A gargoyle
  • Heimerdinger – I don’t even know what the crap he is but it looks like a half robot machine man thing. It’s weird.
  • Jax – Arguably could be put in scary, too.
  • Kennen – Tiny ninja. No really. Like gerbil people ninja.
  • Malphite – Made of rock.
  • Maokai – A tree man.
  • Nasus – Dog man.
  • Nanu – Yeti riding small person.
  • Rammus – An armadillo.
  • Renekton – A crocodile man.
  • Rumble – A mechanized squirrel.
  • Teemo – Little person kid-like thing.
  • Twitch – A rat man.
  • Veigar – A little wizard dude.
  • Viktor – A mad doctor type.
  • Volibear – A bear.
  • Wukong – A monkey man.
  • Xerath – Alien mage.

Total – 23


  • Brand – A fiery demon man.
  • Cho’Gath – A demon thing that eats people. Looks like a roided up lobster.
  • Dr. Mundo – A knock-off on Mr. Hyde.
  • Fiddlesticks – A ghostly scarecrow.
  • Karthus – Dead guy.
  • Kassadin – Alien dead guy hybrid scary thing.
  • Mordekaiser – Black Knight demon type.
  • Nautilus – Ocean ghost.
  • Nocturne – Ghost.
  • Shaco – Evil clown.
  • Singed – Evil scientist.
  • Sion – Undead dude.
  • Skarner – Scorpion.
  • Trundle – A troll.
  • Warwick – A werewolf.
  • Yorick – Undead.
  • Ziggs – Explosive midget.
  • Zilnean – Old, old man.

Total: 18


  • Gragas
  • Urgot – Fat AND Scary. WOO.

Total: 2

So that’s 63 male champions, only 20 of which could even potentially “appeal” to someone as attractive. Of those 20? Less than half of them are blatantly sexualized.  But hey, at least they got a couple of fatties, right?

To recap: the ratio for exploitive art and presentation of female characters as sexual objects in LoL is over 50 percent. Making them attractive at all without the consideration of excessive T & A? A whopping 80 percent. That’s 80 percent of their female characters drawn to be beautiful. For men? Less than one sixth of their characters are “blatant beefcake”. Less than a third can be even categorized as “beautiful” because Riot’s portrayed them as different species or abhorrent because of scare factor.

So to answer my friend’s question from earlier, am I offended by LoL’s portrayal of female characters? Less than I should be, sadly, because the gaming industry is fucked and I’m so tired of this goddamned topic. I’m -disappointed – Riot lumps women into a category where all their tit-donning characters have to be pretty. I’m sorry, but if you can make 40 something characters that AREN’T pretty on the male side, why aren’t there any on the women’s side AT ALL? Even their token “scary chicks” are somewhat attractive. What message is Riot trying to send? Are all female characters truly drawn just to appease the male audience? And if so, what does that say to boys growing up? Or to women who want to game? Why can’t women be SCARY AND DISGUSTING like Urgot or Mordekaiser? Why do they have to be drawn like pretty princesses and Barbies? And don’t throw Pantheon at me as Riot’s big “here, have a cookie – we sexualize the men, too.” That doesn’t pacify, placate, allow, or explain.

So, long and short of this? For the four thousandth time?


Note: Sad but true, interwebs trolls are interwebs trolls. The last fourteen-year-old entitled white-kid nerd rager that came in here and tried to basically say “chicks should deal with it because games are made for people like me” was promptly deleted. SO. We can’t have nice things like discussions. Comments nuked from orbit. Games are for everyone, basement-dwelling nerdlings (of which I pretty much am one). Play nice and let everyone have some fucking equality in entertainment, will you?

Hillary Versus The Devil Box

Round One.

I am not a television watcher despite the fact that I’m employed by a cable provider.  Amusing, I know, since it means I don’t really take advantage of my employee benefits to their fullest (and couch potatoes everywhere would like to smear my face in a cow pie for that fact).  I do make the occasional exception, though, and one such exception would be the show Supernatural.  Let’s get the reason people will SAY I watch it out of the way, shall we?

Beef, It Does A Body Good

This does not hurt the show.   I’m not going to lie; the three guys are uhhh . . . distracting.  Especially when Misha does Batman Castiel voice (this is a tangent, by the way) . . . BUT.  BUT I’M NOT DISTRACTED BY THE HOT, AT ALL.  Ahem.

In all seriousness, let me show you the real reason I watch the show from week to week:

This is the introduction of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse in their horsemen story arc.  It is one of the coolest character intros I have ever seen anywhere.  It is not Stand Alone Awesome.  There are tons of moments like this in the series and the hope of a new one makes me DVR this puppy like a MoFo.

The thing that cracks me up about Supernatural (and what inspired me to write this blog post) is the evolution of the show in general.  Allow me to elaborate.  Sam and Dean Winchester are brothers (Hot 1 & 2 in picture strip above).  They were raised to hunt monsters by their father (who is played fantastically by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, also known as The Comedian in Watchmen).  In episode one of season one, we are given a little bit of family history, mainly what inspired John Winchester to teach his sons to hunt in the first place.  We are also given a glimpse of what turns out to be the main story arc – something is weird about Sam, something happened to him when he was just a baby, and it will forever change his world.  It seems relatively inconsequential at first; each episode of Supernatural season one really does seem to be “Winchester boys are looking for their missing father, but along their journey they hunt and murder whatever random spooky thing goes bump in the night.”  It plays out like a standard, formulaic action/adventure show that’s really got no soul behind it.

And then the demons show up.  The tail end of season one and into seasons two and three are laced with demonic story arcs, and that odd family history starts to come to the forefront as a main player.  The writers weave the formulaic monster hunting show in with this curious “who done it” mystery type thing, and eventually everything starts to revolve around “WHAT THE FUCK IS SAM WINCHESTER.”  I’m not sure when this mindless, brainless two-fisted-popcorn show became cerebral, but it did somewhere along the line and in a marvelously slow way, so you can’t really pinpoint a single place where things took a turn to Fantasy/Drama and OH MY GOD WHAT’S GOING ON HERE.

A couple other noteworthy things:  if any of our readers watch House, when I say “House’s patient of the week is usually one of THOSE actors”, you know what I mean.  House is great at hiring famous people on to do one shots (ie Amy Irving, Felicia Day, Jennifer Grey, James Earl Jones).  Somewhere around season three you start to see this phenomenon happening on Supernatural, too:  I spied a Six from BSG, Kurt Fuller, Mark Sheppard (Firefly fans rejoice, he’s awesome here too), and Linda Blair just to name a few.  As the show got more popular, so did the budget for awesome guest stars, so you get some amazing acting from people playing bit, temporary parts.  The music started kicking ass (Kansas, Metallica, other music you go HAY I KNOW THAT THAR), and they introduced some long-term player characters that somehow managed to improve an already solid cast (see:  Bobby Singer and Lucifer characters for reference).

At any rate, this show warrants checking out if you like the creepy-crawly urban fantasy type stuff.  It’s one of the few times I can honestly say a series starts off good and ends up great as the seasons go on, Season 5 coming to mind as particularly awesome.  There’s interesting stories, good writing, humor, great characters, and too many memorable scenes for me to list.  I don’t often recommend TV, but if you had to ask me for something, this show would be near the top of my list if not AT the top.

So yes, go forth and have a taste of beef.  I mean . . . give it a gander.  I bet you might like what you see.

Not Crazy. Much.

Feelings are a very weird thing.  I’ve wondered multiple times in the past if people processed things like I did, as in “do they feel sadness the way I do”.  As we all cry the base emotion must be similar, but people are so wildly different from one another maybe the feeling itself is changed from one person to the next.  I ask the same question about happiness; some people are overly bubbly and exuberant and express happiness by juggling or standing on their heads naked.  Some are stoic and express happiness with a muted smile and a sip of beer.  My question is – does the bubbly person feel happiness the same way as the stoic person?  If you could make it into a solid thing and remove it from person A and person B, would their happiness look exactly the same?  Are the differences not in the emotion itself, but how we express it?


First off, I have no idea if other people think about stuff like this.  This could just be Hillary being overly pensive and thinking she’s a great fucking philosopher after a Xanax and enough Diet Coke to drown a whale.  There’s a point here, though, I swear, and it’s somewhere around the Xanax part of the last sentence.  I, dear readers, am burdened by a case of The Crazy.  No, not the “bury your pets in the backyard and sniff your garbage” crazy, but more like I am diagnosed as depressed and anxious.  For these conditions, I am medicated.

I’ll be honest, when I was first told I needed to be medicated, I balked.  A lot.  I didn’t want to be one of those stereotype women who lived in the suburbs and needed Prozac to make brownies.  I felt – and actually still feel – that our society is far too medicated for its own good.  I think sometimes kids aren’t all ADD, they’re just spoiled and want to play video games instead of doing schoolwork.  I think some parents want to be able to point at something like ADD and say “IT’S NOT MY FAULT HE’S NOT DOING HIS WORK, IT’S THIS CONDITION” and are far too willing to latch onto an excuse and a pill instead of doing their god damned job and telling the kid to shape up.  If that means throwing his XBox 360 out the fucking window to get the point across that school comes first, so be it.

((Side note before I go any further:  yes there are kids out there with the actual condition of ADD or ADHD, and yes those kids need proper treatment.  I don’t for one second believe it’s every other kid in America though.  Screw that noise.))

Anyway, the point being I had a very strong, almost visceral reaction to being told that I could use a little chemical assistance in getting back on my feet.  A little background for those readers not familiar with this author’s history:  I was very close to my grandmother.  She was in a lot of ways a second mother to me.  She died unexpectedly in March of ’08.  I had what would clinically be called An Utter Shitfit after that.

My Crazy May Or May Not Have Involved Tinfoil Hat Cats

My stomach rotted out, I sobbed a lot, and I found I couldn’t cope with anything.  No really, anything, including my job.  I liked what I did at Comcast before I had my meltdown, but after I lost my grandmother, I couldn’t stomach angry customers yelling at me anymore.  I’d freak out, shake, sweat, and go the ladies room fifty times a day to try and fix myself.  It was awful, and it was a totally new, terrifying thing.  Mind you, I’ve always been something of a sensitive basket case and took far too many things to heart, but this was a whole new ballgame.  I’d gone from “over reactive” to a ticking time bomb.

When all of this happened, a friend (some of you know him as Bricu, others know him as That Pretentious Bastard) would talk to me about some of my grief issues, and he’d give me some great pointers on how to cope.  Not too long in he recommended I go talk to a therapist.  It stuck in my craw a little, but I knew he was right.  Looking back I’m note quite sure why I was so against seeing a specialist.  I think it had to do with pride, like “I’m a big girl, I can handle my own shit.”  I had a very definitive idea in my head of A) what therapy would entail and B)  what needing a therapist said about me.  Let’s get it out there now, I was wrong on both accounts.

When I thought about a therapist, the first thing I pictured was a middle aged man in a cardigan sitting back in a business chair with a notebook opened in his lap.  He’d have glasses perched on his nose, and an expensive pen.  Maybe he’d have a manila folder with my name printed along the edge.  He’d have a big dark office with painted pictures of craggy old men on the wall.  There’d be a lot of leather bound books with gilt letters on the side.  And then, of course, there’d be the standard leather couch or divan I’d be expected to sprawl in.  In my imaginary therapist world, he’d ask me questions about my formative years, ignoring the problems at hand, and eventually convince me that the reason I was coping so badly with EVERYTHING EVER was that someone stole my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch when I was six and all of my problems stemmed from a shitty childhood.

No shit, this is what I thought. Why?  Probably because I’ve watched too many movies.

Imagine my surprise when my therapist’s office had plain white walls, a comfortable chair in the corner, a vase of flowers, and a really pretty thirty something year old woman waiting for me.  She had crayon pictures everywhere – some from her own kids, some from her kid clients – and there was a set of the “Five stages of grief” done on paper plates with Cheerios.  Instead of diving into my childhood and telling me that some uncle I forgot existed touched my no-no parts and I’m a repressed molestation case, she talked to me about Stuff.  Random stuff, anything, bullshit stuff.   What I liked to do, why I was there, what I hoped to accomplish not only with therapy, but with my life.  Any anxiety I had about going into that office was gone after one session, because she talked to me like I was having a conversation at dinner with a friend and not like a therapist to a patient.  She got to know me.

When she told me a few sessions in that she thought I should consider medication, I told her why I didn’t want to do it.  I even think I brought up the aforementioned pride bit, like “I shouldn’t NEED this, I’m stronger than this, this is a crutch.”  She patiently explained to me that medication is not something that people should consider a lifelong commitment.  In some cases that’s necessary, but a great deal of therapy patients do this to help them get back onto their feet until they can establish good behavioral coping mechanisms outside of the pills.  It wasn’t so much a crutch, she said, as something to help me get by while I go about addressing my stress and depression triggers.  Phrased like that, the pills didn’t seem like such an evil entity to me anymore.  Was I thrilled about them?  No, of course not.  But I knew I was in a bad place, I knew I needed help, and so I relented.

That was a little over a year ago now.  When I started my journey with this whole “mental patient stint”, I threw up constantly because of panic attacks, I cried, I stayed in dark rooms and didn’t let myself go outside, I swung between insomnia and sleeping eighteen hours a day with no happy medium.  Now, though, I no longer throw up.  I don’t sleep all day, or not sleep at night.  I’m on half the dosage of Prozac I was on before, and I only take Xanax on an as-need basis.  I’m looking at going back to work on a regular basis, and I hope to be able to nix the pills entirely by the end of the year.  Do I have all of my coping mechanisms figured out?  Fuck no, but I’m getting there.  Surprise, surprise, writing helps me deal with things.  So does /getting out of the house/ despite the fact that the prospect of leaving my Safe Zone is scary as hell.

I’m not cured, but I’m better, I’m leagues better.  It’s all I could have asked for.

Now back to the original paragraph, and to the point I’m trying to make here.  I know that how people handle things is different.  I know that my stress triggers will not be the stress triggers of everyone else around me.  I even know that some things that make me look like this:


Would be blown off by most other people.  Does that make me or anyone else seeing a therapist for anxiety and depression “broken”?  Nah.  It just means we’re at a point in our lives that we need to Figure Shit Out and have gone to the professionals for help.   It’s no different than seeing a podiatrist for a foot problem, really.

I think the reason I wrote this in the first place is I hope someone can look at my own personal experiences and learn from my pitfalls.  I hope if you feel like you need help you don’t go through a shame cycle about it like I did, and I certainly hope you don’t think meds are THE ANTI-OKAY.  No, they’re not for everyone, but taking them is not necessarily a sign of weakness or ineptitude as a human being.  This post wasn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable (yes, I understand it’s of a personal nature) but as someone who sees the written word as a powerful medium, if one person takes something positive away from this, it was worth sharing the experience.

And if you are a person dealing with any of these issues?  Take it from someone who knows:  it gets better if you do the diligence.  Hang in there.  It’s worth it.


Okay, let’s start here with a music video preview:

Readers, meet my latest OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS flick.  And you’ve probably never heard of it.  Suck is a vampire movie.  “But there’s tons of vampire movies out there” you say, and I would agree, but are there tons of vampire movies that you’d actually call good?  Probably not.  Maybe I’m a vampire snob; I’ve read a lot, seen a lot, and I’m sorta sick of the portrayal of vampires as emo Louis-From-Interview knock offs.  Twilight hits my gag reflex, and the last time a horror movie vamp actually scared me was 30 Days of Night from 2007.  I loved that movie because it spun the status quo into something different:  vampires were disgusting vermin, not pretty prancing playboys.  I like Suck for a similar reason in that they took the status quo and shook it up.  How you ask?  They made a rock/comedy/horror hybrid that works on so many levels.

The story is fairly simple:  there’s a struggling rock band on tour, and most of the band mates aren’t seeing eye to eye because the female bassist and male lead singer recently broke up.  Everyone’s broke, miserable, and stuck in a car together.  Long trips between gigs and constant in-fighting is not a path to greatness.  That is until Jennifer the bassist is turned into a vampire.  All of a sudden their audience appeal skyrockets, they’re pulling in fans left and right.  This shouldn’t be a bad thing, but the lead singer (Joey) is not used to playing second fiddle to anyone, and Jennifer is the new hot thing for their band.  As she isn’t really forthcoming about her new “condition” there are problems, some obvious (like what to do with the people she eats?  Oh right, make their roadie Hugo clean up after her), and some not so obvious, like Joey’s jealousy.  And did I mention she’s being followed by a vampire hunter who wants to use her to find her maker?   (Played by the wonderful Malcolm McDowell).

A bevy of situations arise from there, all based around the band, the music, the vampires, and the lingering sexual tension between Joey and Jennifer.  The movie is wrought with guest appearances (Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins and Moby just to name a few), and the soundtrack is unbelievable.  One of the biggest comedic highlights is the aforementioned Hugo, who’s a nerdier, bastardized version of Dracula’s Renfield.  The scriptwriter/director (incidentally the same guy that plays Joey) includes more than a few tips of the hat like that, and for vampy fans like me, it’s hugely appreciated.

I honestly didn’t expect to like this movie when it was put in front of me, but hearing a few friends absolutely rave about it (husband included), I gave it a try, and I’m so glad that I did.  The true litmus test of any vampire anything, though, is showing it to falconesse.  The girl did her /thesis/ on the vampire, and is better read on the genre than I am.  When she was smiling and laughing through the whole thing, I knew we had a winner.  So yes, go now. If you’re a horror fan, a music fan, a comedy fan, or just a movie buff in general?  Go find this movie.  Sit down with a tub of popcorn and a beer, and watch something totally refreshing and different.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.