For those of you who don't know, I'm not just a writer. I've spent most of my life studying, teaching, and editing the written word. I can't get enough of it, which is pretty funny when you think about the fact that I'm somewhat hindered in my ability to use said language verbally. (Yes, I'm socially awkward. :p ) I'm a professional line editor, which means I tell writers the correct way to "do things," so to speak. Not everyone likes it, trust me. I hear more negative comments about line editors than I do about bad reviewers. Writers don't want to be told their sentence is grammatically incorrect and therefore so dang confusing I can't understand what they are talking about. They don't want to be told that they've referred to two different characters as "he" in a sentence and therefore I can't figure out who is doing what. I totally understand--I get a bit "rabid" about my own prose--but still, some things are just necessary for comprehension, people! :)
Where was I? Oh...
So when I saw a comment on Facebook the other day about something being a "real" word, it got my attention (most things like this do). An author on my friends' list was teasing their fellow writer about a certain word ("friggin") being "real" because they'd found it on Urban Dictionary. She's right, it is a real word, though it is actually "frigging" (see definition in Merriam-Webster) or "friggin'" if you're from the South like me, but still, even though I knew they were joking around, I cringed. Ach! Not Urban Dictionary! It's the bane of my existence, people, seriously. It's like telling a historian you got information off Wikipedia--watch out for the seizure! Really, it is, because anyone can add a definition or example sentence (and I've seen some doozies!) to the website, and no one polices it for accuracy. Take a look at this:
Urban Dictionary Word of the Day, July 26, 2013 -- Moronimated: "something so dumb it has to be animated. Axe Cop's Sockarang is moronimated."
Or how about: Urban Dictionary Word of the Day, July 30, 2013 -- Almost-quaintance: "a person to whom one has at one point sent a successful social networking friends request or from whom one has accepted such request. 'I really need to clean up my facebook friends list; my news feed is painful to scroll through: It's full of so many strangers' bullshit.' 'Yeah, gotta' love those almost-quaintances!'"*
How about "snice," which apparently means "combination of snow and ice." Followed by the clear example of "Man, the dog just came in covered in snice. Awesome!"
And "January," "Everyone's favorite month!!! playing in the snow, snuggling by the fire, and having excuse for ur penis looking so small."
<choking on my own combination right now--of laughter and, yeah, laughter>
The term "blowjob" has many definitions on Urban Dictionary, many of which start with sentences like "The best part of sex ever." and "An act of awesomeness." Worthy of Merriam Webster, let me tell ya. And that doesn't include the entries around "blowjob," like "Blow Job A La Mode" (all capitalized--must be extra special!) and "blowjobalicious." How about "blowjobalotstanka" and "blowjobbery" (actually I think that one was spelled as two words, "blow jobbery," which must make it right, right?)? Seriously? Not to mention the examples, such as "Thnx, babe, that was the best blow job I ever did get." Oh the inhumanity!!! The--wait, "inhumanity" isn't a real word; it isn't defined yet on Urban Dictionary. The fuckupery! The fuckupance--sorry, fuck-upance!
Oh. My. God.
Seriously, folks, Urban Dictionary can be great for a laugh, it really can (as evidenced above :) ). I think most of us get that, and that's how we take it (as a joke). But do you know how many people take it as gospel? How many people refuse to use any other dictionary? How many authors I've seen in line edits who've sited Urban Dictionary as proof that what they wrote is correct? Um, no, it's not. Despite what every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to post on Urban Dictionary (Tom, Dick, and Harry are "three young men that can be blamed for gay habits," by the way), it's not right. Not. Even. Close.
As casual as our world has become about everything from fashion to dating habits to what we can say on television, I do believe some standards give us a baseline for societal discourse. Personally, we may choose to meet it or not, but it's there.
Or maybe not, since according to UD, "baseline" is "the bare minimum standard that a girl must be at or exceed when considering fornication." Or "a sequence of low growling notes strategically played by nick beard, of the band Circa Survive, on his ernie ball music man stingray base guitar." (Apparently band names require capitalization but people names do not.)
*Please note all grammar/punctuation errors were copied directly from the site and have abso-friggin'-nothing to do with me!
And by people, I mean authors, lol. I will be in Atlanta tomorrow for RWA Nationals, and the place will be chockful of authors (and editors, and agents, and...well, you get the idea). I have to admit, the few authors I've met have typically been my local RWA chapter mates. But I have met a couple of my favorite, non-chapter mate authors (and pray I never act that way with readers who come to see me O_o). No, really, for the most part authors are great; like all groups of people, we have our cranky apples, but I have never felt as welcomed as I have at local meetings or book signings when that Deep South hospitality and southern charm get poured on and arms are opened wide. It's an awesome experience, one I can't wait to have with my own readers someday.
I was once privileged to visit the late Beverly Barton at a local signing. Beverly was a mentor of my sister's, and I stood in the shadow of my twin and listened in awe as they talked like the friends they were, like everyday people with everyday concerns. Beverly joked that she never did a book signing without her husband nearby, and yet somehow, whenever she managed to end up alone at a book signing table, she always attracted the strangest person in the store. Her husband stood behind her during the conversation, silent but smiling and nodding his head. This woman who had written books I had read dozens of times was right there, in front of me, talking away! It was a great moment. A few months later, not long before she died, I gave a short "workshop" on editing at our local meeting, and upon passing me in the hallway, Beverly told me I had done a good job. Wow! Just that one sentence made my day!
Authors have the ability to do that. They can make or break someone's day, their experience at an event, even a reader's experience with that author's next book. I have met a couple of authors whose books I have not picked up since; I have met many whose books I have snatched up at first opportunity afterward, like Annie Solomon. Standing in line with my sister as she waited to speak to Kerrelyn Sparks at the Literacy Signing in Orlando a few years ago, I looked at the seat "next door" and saw the most intriguing book cover I'd ever seen -- a Gothic gate, dark colors, a moody, edgy scene. "Ooh, I wanna read that!" I thought, not even really caring what it was about. I just loved the cover. And being my twin, Dani spoke up and said, "Look at that!" pointing out Annie's book. We snatched it up, reading the back cover, and got even more excited. Annie spoke with us so graciously that night, two readers who knew nothing about her or her writing, that I read her book first when I arrived home from that trip. It was One Deadly Sin, and it was phenomenal. And unbeknownst to me, Annie was a member of a nearby RWA group I later joined, and taught a workshop that helped me finish my problem child manuscript, Take Me. I have never forgotten that moment standing in line, though, speaking to her, and how gracious and kind she was.
I'm thankful I have been able to experience the author/reader meet from the reader's side of the equation, so that when I'm on the author side of that table, I can help make, not break, my readers' day. Meeting people is not easy for me -- being painfully self-conscious most of my life, I tremble and panic at new places, new experiences, and new faces. My editor and agent appointments this Friday at Nationals have me in a bit of a tailspin! But one thing my mama, and now these wonderful authors who have helped me grow into one of them, have taught me is that enthusiasm and genuineness go a long way. I want to be that author, the one that leaves you feeling awesome and inspired and excited.
So, after October, once Dirty Little Secret is out, I hope you get a chance to read it. And I hope I get a chance to meet you. And I hope, somehow, that meeting can make your day a bit brighter, a bit more fun, and your next journey through one of my books a bit more meaningful. :)
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I hate being bothered. I know, I know, it sounds awful, selfish, self-centered. I love to talk, to know people actually care whether or not I exist, and as someone who is fortunate enough to work from home, I often find myself feeling as if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth and no one really noticed. But still…I hate to be bothered.
When my husband bought me my first (and only) smartphone, I was ecstatic to be able to receive e-mail wherever I was instead of waiting, sometimes hours, to access my account from home and see who needed what (especially important since e-mail is how I receive my day job projects). Then I discovered texting—instant gratification! But the more I used these convenient features, the more I realized people expected me to be available twenty-four/seven. And though I enjoy being in touch with people, I also realized I didn’t like being in touch that much. :)
The other night, while cooking dinner, my teenager was receiving text after text from a friend on her flip phone (and yes, she complains constantly that she doesn’t have something more sophisticated). She was getting more and more frustrated, and I finally asked her what the problem was. She said she hated it that her friends expected her to be instantly available. WOW! We actually agree on something! Which is really odd, because she is a social butterfly, and I am most definitely a homebody.
It seems sometimes that, the more we are connected, the lonelier we are. We expect everyone to be available at the touch of a button, but what we communicate often lacks depth, dimension. A true connection comes not necessarily from quantity but from quality. To feel like others remember I exist, I don’t need a hundred messages about nothing. I need one message that touches my heart. And while my daughter loves multiple messages, if none of them touch her heart, her need for connection isn’t met either.
I hope in some small way I am able to bring that touch of heart to my books. I can read a hundred books that skim the surface of human emotion and, though they might be fun, I don’t really feel satisfied. But it only takes one book that delves the depths of passion, hunger, pain, joy, and I feel as if my heart has been touched and my need for connection is filled, at least until the next book comes along. ;) That’s the book I want to write. That’s the book I want to give you—a book that is more than fluff; a book that feeds the need for connection.
*Photos by moyan_brenn and katerha.