Brats vs Prats

pemperAnyone who has spent more than ten seconds in the company of pocket sized human monsters we lovingly call children, know that they are a delight when they choose to be. I say this in the most positive sense because most often they opt to be quite un-delightful. Especially if there is chocolates, action figures, or blingy stuff involved. Then they are opinionated, unstoppable, know-it-all little autocrats who can turn our worlds and hearts upside down with a single sniffle.

The idea for this post came to me as I stood frozen, my face a nice mottled shade of red at the check out of Coles Supermarket the other day. The reason for my plight was none other than a certain five year old whose life mission is to land me in hotspots just for giggles.

So there I was, exhausted from a shopping trip that  should only have taken me five minutes max, but somehow turned out to be thirty five minutes. In that time, I had circumvented aisles full of Yokai and Marvel figures,  patiently answered a million “Why” queries, fought my way through lollies section and damn near pleaded for mercy before freezers filled with Ice-creams. Needless to say, I was at my wits end. Still I battled on, like a trouper. I almost made it to the finish line without a display of hissy fit and waterworks. Victory was just within my reach.

Then to my horror, I saw a shelf  to my right, rows after rows of of Kinder eggs, neatly displayed to lure little imps. I hoped, I prayed, I begged that it would go unnoticed.

Dang it!

I won’t explain in detail what followed next. But here is a summary:

The de-escalation techniques I learnt at a particularly painful parenting session- Useless garbage that got zero response.

Attempts to defuse the situation- Total failure

Number of dirty looks from can’t-be-bothered shoppers- Too many to count.

In the end, I gave in. Waved the white flag in surrender and bought the eggs.

You might think that was the end of it.

Sadly no.

As I was paying, the little dude saw the shelf full of magazines next to the checkout lady. He leaned forward, grabbed one with the picture of a half naked, busty young girl entangled with a very muscular hot guy at front. It wasn’t a porn mag, but the images were explicit. Then my darlingpemper proceeded to announce for all world to hear. “Do you want it? Isn’t this the kind of pictures you always look in your computer?”

I wished the floor would open up and swallow me in whole.

The ninety year old lady with a zinger frame behind me tsk-tsked at me. She muttered something like, “Watching filth in front of little ones. People like you should be whipped.” Or something to that effect. I tried to explain to her that I was a writer and the pictures my brat mentioned were cover pictures or book banners for my work. But she was having none of it. In the end, I hung my head in shame, pushed the trolley and walked away.

Life lesson #302 = In the battle between Kinder eggs and your pride, Kinder eggs will always win.

 

 

 

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And the medal goes to….

olympicsDuring the Christening ceremony of this blog, I told the few followers I had that I will be trying to make this blog interactive and funny, and as realistic as possible. As part of that, I approached a few of my friends in the writer’s circle and asked if they would like a piece of their work to be featured in my blog. A funny incident, their random thoughts, something from their past that tickled their funny bones etc etc . In the coming weeks, I will be posting one such piece of work from my writer friends to add spice to this Crazy Rambling blog of mine.

To kick start this fantabulous idea, I have my friend S.Liam Spradlin here. I know Liam through FB. He always has a word or two in response to my crazy FB posts. (Like minds I guess.) I hope Liam’s story gives you a chuckle.

          And The Gold Medal Goes To…
With the upcoming Olympic Games I’m reminded of an Elderly lady I met a few months ago. No, she wasn’t a former Olympiad or a world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle  or the fastest female on two feet. On this  day, she was quite the opposite. Let me explain. I work in a pharmacy and many times I find myself in some very amusing and quite personal situations.  I am not a pharmacist or a pharmaceutical guru by any means; I’m just a technician trying to help the customers with their prescription needs  and over -the-counter remedies.
Now back to elderly lady mentioned before. I noticed her as soon as she walked through the doors. I suppose I was having some type of “doctor” moment because it was obvious there was something terribly wrong with this lady and every step she took was forced and full of pain. I remembered her because she walked like a duck, but not so much with a waddle. Or maybe like a baby’s first steps, but hers were  much more cautious.
Quickly deducting the approaching situation , although I had plenty of time for she moved at a pace slower than mould , it was obvious she was experiencing some type of discomfort in her foot. She shuffled her feet forward instead of lifting each foot and walking steadily. She held her hands clinched at the thumbs just below the belt line. I remember thinking to myself that she appeared to clinch her entire body in such a way that she was determined to maintain balance and create a lower center of gravity. And so I stood waiting…
She was still a good arms reach or father away when she stretched open her purse. Upon so doing, she produced what looked like a torn sticky note that had been rolled up secretly like a scroll. Immediately knowing what to do, I grabbed the note and begin to unroll this hidden treasure of information. Shaky but readable , I could make out the words.
Feeling quite proud of myself for at least recognizing the apparent source of this lady’s discomfort,  I quickly grabbed a tube of “Athlete’s Foot” and checked her out at the register. Upon handing her the receipt she disappointingly reached in the bag and handed me back the box. With great dissatisfaction in her voice she said that I had erroneously given her the wrong product. Double-checking the product against what was written I showed her that I had given her exactly what the Doctor had suggested she try. “ But I don’t have Athlete’s foot,”  she exclaimed, “I have Athlete’s vagina!”
To this day I don’t know what more to say….
  by: S. Liam Spradlin
(Liam has just recently started taking writing seriously. I believe he wants to try his hand at short stories and poetry first. I wish him all the very best as he tries to find a new groove in life. )

 

Deadline…or is it a lifeline?

deadineI’ve been a writer for the past decade, a published one for the past four. The first few years of that decade was spent mostly procrastinating, struggling through rejections, and learning through mistakes. My life as a writer was very lonely, since I was not legally, contractually or emotionally bound to anyone. No publishing houses, no editors from hell, no readers waiting with bated breath for my newest creations. Looking back, I can see that it was no wonder my stories during that period came out bland, aimless, and most often with weak characters that had no unique voices of their own. I worked at my pace, created what I thought was best, never really noticing that my writing was sub par, plot lines weak. Even when I finally reached a stage where my stories were good enough to be published, I did not grasp the difference between a story written by a mind that was fully worked up, and one churned out by someone who was unaffected by stress and tension.

All that changed one fine morning when I signed myself up for a novella writing challenge. Something like Nanowrimo, but within my online writer’s group. The few days of the thirty day challenge, I cruised along. Writing couple of paragraphs here, polishing them there, rewriting bits if I felt the need to do so. Kind of like a raft aimlessly drifting in calm waters. Then the group admin bumped up the challenge by suggesting we all share our work at the half way point to motivate ourselves.  So I did.

But the results, they appalled me.

I was a published author by that point. One book with great reviews under my belt. This itsy-bitsy challenge…come on…I guess a part of me felt cocky that I could pound out something brilliant without much effort. Hey…published author…know all the tricks of trade….WRONG!

The negative comments, combined with the embarrassment-it was a strong trigger. I felt fear of failure. A rude awakening to my inner creative monster. All of a sudden it was like being held at a gun point. I couldn’t afford to lose. I truly understood what it meant when someone said they wrote to beat the Clock. Pressure, I realised in that fourteen days was a hell of a life saver. It turned me into an adrenaline junkie. Rather than running out of steam, ideas kept popping inside my head, characters started to flesh out themselves, threads started to weave themselves into intricate patterns, tightening the plot.

The novella I finished through that challenge later got accepted by an e-book publication. It still isn’t the best of my works so far. But that story will always remain as a stepping stone in my writing journey. To this day, I write by setting deadlines for myself. Add to my misery, I recently found a free app that pops up on my browser and do the count down for me. http://itsalmo.st/ As much as I hate it, it is also, a life saver. As the cut-off date draws near, my writing speed picks up. Tension builds and my characters start to behave and listen to me for a change. Without a ‘ticking clock’, I will be that aimless raft-lazy, content, fearless.

 

 

Dummy’s guide to new gen texting.

New Gen- Even the word makes me cringe these days.

It immediately transports me four years back in time, to my pre-new gen aware self. A time when I naively believed that I was still a chic and trendy, misguided youth. A time when I believed that world was my oyster. Then to that day when my carefully cultivated happy bubble burst, leaving me with a bucket load of confused emotions.

It all began when a new intern started at my office as my junior. A young, nineteen year old. Chirpy and overly peppy- she was all things I wasn’t. Amongst a group of crusty, middle-aged team mates, this girl was a breath of fresh air. I immediately took her under my wings. We were going to have lots of fun, maybe turn into best office mates. After all- we were almost the same age. (Almost, being the operative word here.) What’s six years give or take in the grand scheme of things?

One fateful day, as we were having lunch, she casually asked me if I would like to join her for drinks or movies on a night out sometime? YES. It was that moment I had been waiting forever. Mentally pumping my fist in the air, I tried to appear casual, shrugged and said “Why not?”

A few days later, she sent me a text asking me if I would like to join her for a movie. First text from my BFO (bestie from office). Floating on a silver cloud, I replied immediately. Unlike her, I wasn’t adept at speed texting. My fingers wouldn’t fly over the keys. I had to hunt and pick my alphabets. Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I chose the right words. Finally, I pressed send.

Her reply : “LOL! Swicked. A bit slowmo here. C U f2f.”

Now, I wasn’t technologically challenged. I knew what LOL stood for- Laugh out loud. (In all honesty, for years, I thought it was Lots of Love.) But these words- Swicked? Slowmo? f2f? I convinced myself that they were typos.

My phone pinged again with another incoming message. Once again, I went through the motions. This was an unexpected Punishment. I pressed send with a sigh.

Another ping:  This time a few random symbols. When I squinted and looked at them, it appeared like a cannon ready to launch. Or a not-so-poetic middle finger.

I texted: “I don’t understand.”

She pinged back: “That was a thumbs up.”

Oh, okay. Of course. That made total sense. Not really. But let’s move on.

A few minutes into this texting, my fingers began to ache. Still I soldiered on. At one point, I asked her something and got a ‘K’ from her. I felt a bit miffed at her response. She could’ve at least bothered to send a proper word. But hey, it was all part of female bonding, so I couldn’t gripe. Another few minutes into the ping-pong game of texting, I asked her something else. Her response , “Defo. G2G. B4N.”

Okay, that was it. I had no clue what this girl was on about. Maybe she was chemistry major and loved to talk about random chemical compositions. Maybe her spellings were appalling. Whatever the reason, I needed clarification if we were to take this friendship into Best-friends-forever level.

When I met her for dinner before movie, I subtly brought up the subject of her overusage of crazy acronyms. She laughed and told me that she often forgot the generation gap between us. That she would from then on make sure to ring me, as texting didn’t appear to be my core strength.

That my friends, was how I realised that while I was nursing massive delusions about my youth, I had been demoted from Gen Z to Gen Y.

These days I am a pro at texting. Online and texting acronyms are like second nature to me. I learned out of necessity and to an extent enjoy using them. But that day in that small Chinese restaurant, it will forever be etched in my memories. The day I realised that New Gen was a rare breed I did not belong anymore.

HAND- (That’s Have a Nice Day, in case you didn’t get it 🙂 )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etiquette nazi in a writer’s group…

writer's groupEtiquette nazi-we all know who they are. That one stuck-up person in a group who is obsessed with manners, politeness and pointless, overcomplicated laws. He or she will do whatever it takes to ensure the group adheres to the rigid guidelines, and will use any means (threat, nag, aggressive looks, cold shoulder etc) to get their point across. No one particularly like this person. But not to suffer the wrath of this nazi, most mild-mannered people in a group will do as they are told. But once in a blue moon, a rebel will appear on the scene. Question the unquestionable. All of a sudden there will be a shift in the power. Division in loyalties. In the end- a civil war.

What happens if the so-called nazi is a member of your writer’s group? GASP! Anyone who has attempted to find a decent, face-to-face, on-going writer’s group will know that finding one that suit your needs is a difficult task. There are various factors that can contribute to this- your geographical placement, your availability, the genre you focus, and above all, your ability to adapt. And after going through all the hoops, if you end up in a group and find an esteemed member of the group as an etiquette nazi- it can be quite disappointing.

Months back, when faced with such a scenario, I however decided to stick around. Simply because I didn’t have much choice. Living in down under has its disadvantages- access to writer’s group that cater to your needs is just one of them. So I bit the bullet and continued on, patiently listening to this one woman’s endless tirade about anything and everything that bothered her. There were moments when I wanted to roll my eyes so hard till they popped out of the sockets. Patience, as everyone knows, is a strong virtue, and mine got sorely tested everytime I met this one person.

Moving on….

There was this one day, when the co-ordinator delivered a presentation about traditional publishing. At the conclusion, she explained that there are still publishers around who expect the manuscript to be delivered as hardcopies. In such scenarios, the co-ordinator advised us to keep a SASE along with the material. Now, atleast a few of you would have figured out the SASE- SELF ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE. Me being a bit slow on the uptake, didn’t figure this one out quickly. To my eternal grief, I turned to the nazi sitting right beside me and asked ever so politely what on earth was a SASE?

Two things happened one after the other. The nazi burst into laughter. Not the amused, that’s-so-funny, hearty kind. But an all out insulting guffaw. Then she shot me this condescending look and said, “Are you seriously telling me that you don’t know what it means by a SASE?”

I shook my head, nearly hyperventilating now. The rest of the group was silently watching the show, with identical pitying looks on their faces. For a moment I wondered if I had somehow committed a serious writer’s offence by admitting my ignorance. Was there a dummy’s guide to SASE that I had failed to read? More to the point, what in the heaven’s name was a SASE?

“And you claim that you’re a published author.” Another disappointed headshake from her.

I don’t need to say that I was mortified. All this unwanted attention.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

A few moments into the awkward silence, I saw a movement to my right. A guy, in his late sixties stood up. I looked at his long, salt and pepper hair, thin frame clad in oversized jeans and shirt and wondered what he was up to next. Maybe it was one of those “lets-bully-the-new-kid-on-the-block” day.

But he simply looked at me, then the nazi, and said, “Well, unlike you, this girl wasn’t born in the dinosaur age.” He turned to me, “SASE, my dear, is a self addressed envelope. You wouldn’t know about it, because you probably never had to use one. In the olden days, ” he gave the nazi another pointed look, “we used what was called a snail mail to send out our manuscripts to publishers. It’s not a biggie if you didn’t know about it. Besides,” he flashed the group with a smile. “One will never learn unless one ask. Am I right?”

The group responded with a nervous, collective nod.

And just like that, a rebel hero was born in our writer’s group.

I barely restrained myself from running up to him and giving him a hug for rescuing me from the dragon. In the end, I simply thanked him for his input and left it at that.

And I decided something that day- if that guy ever published a book, I will be the first one to buy one hundred copies to support him.

 

 

Depth

Critique partner or Critzilla from hell?

critique partnerI have often felt that finding a good critique partner is like joining a dating agency and going through blind dates until you find “The one.” Over the last decade, I have been through many first dates, some even extended to second and third dates, and only two made it to “live-together-on-a-trial-basis” stage. Why?

The reasons are simple-

You often find that once your critique partner reads your first draft, or even the second draft, she/he loses interest and turns unresponsive. Around third date, you send them an email with your precious WIP, cross your fingers and toes, and hope for the best. A week or two later, you’re still waiting. No response. Since you’re the optimistic kind, you make up excuses for their lack of reaction, and try again. It might take you another week or two of silence to realise that at some point, the relationship has gone stale. So with a heavy heart, you move on.

Back to the dating agency. More forms. Little tweaks to your profile and expectations column.

Then you might encounter with an entirely different scenario- Your critique partner turns into a Critzilla who takes offense when you don’t follow their instructions to the tee. These are the kind of people who like the theory of open communication, but when it comes to practice, they expect things to go their way. This happened to me once in the beginning of my writing career. When it reached a stage where I felt that my crit partner’s suggestions weren’t entirely acceptable for my storyline, I chose not to make the changes she recommended. The result- she bad mouthed me in the writer’s group, managed to turn them all against me in the span of a week. I had to say ‘Hasta-la-vista’ and run for my life.

Oh, I shouldn’t fail to mention the sugar coaters. These are the kind of crit partners who are overly sweet. They don’t want to offend you, so they always give you a positive comment about your work. This isn’t ideal either. Unnecessary praises will give you a false impression that your work is excellent, when in reality it may need a lot of work to tighten the story line or fill up the crater-sized plots holes you’ve created.

There is yet another possibility for your dating life to go wrong- It happens when your critique partner turn into a toxic jerk who ‘shredit’ rather than edit your work, and constantly pile you with negative comments that turn your muse into a wimp. You go into the relationship expecting constructive criticism and end up getting bombarded with destructive diatribe. You feel so devastated, you begin to doubt every word you manage to write.  If it happens to you—don’t even think about it—-just run.

Having said all this, I feel obliged to add that your crit partner isn’t always responsible for the failure of your critiquing relationship. I once took on a newbie partner who turned out to be too pushy. Always demanded her work to be critiqued in the set time frame and never returned mine in the turn around period. If for some reason, I was unable to deliver, she would send me a minimum of ten emails a day, demanding a progress update. Well, my low tolerance for pushy characters won out in the end and I terminated that relationship in eight weeks.

What was point of this blog post again….ah, yes……Getting that one ideal crit partner is a blessing. Like any relationship, it takes work, dedication and honesty for your critique partner relationship to last long. If and when you find that someone who ticks all the boxes, never let them go. Beg, lament, whine-do whatever it takes- but no matter what you do, do not let them go. (I have heard that wine and a box of Godiva are often good choices of bribe. Just saying :))

 

Do not gawk at Julius Caesar

rome

Stalking. Eyeballing. Giving a fast once over.

We’ve all been caught doing the above at least once in our lives. If you haven’t been caught out yet- well- hats off to your stalking skills. You’re a pro.

I am the least professional when it comes to the art of gawking. I almost always get caught, simply because I get all flustered, my eyes get a nervous tick, and I give myself away.

The following incident is one which started off as simple fun but ended up as a Nightmare for me.

This was about 8 or 9 years ago. Like a squirrel who gathered acorns for a rainy day, me and my partner saved up enough to go on a most anticipated European trip. One of the best holidays of my life. Our tour ended in Rome- land filled with architectural wonders, mouth watering food and beautiful people. On day 13 in Rome, I packed up my bags and reached the airport with a heavy heart full of memories to last a lifetime, and enough experiences to write at least three romantic novels. Caught up between weaving a story of an Italian winemaker in my head, and going through the motions of security checks, I looked around and – BAM- I saw him!

An Italian airport official wearing a suite came out of nowhere and filled my focus while I was waiting at the emigration for a clearance. Needless to say, my jaw dropped. He had the kind of classic looks- tall, dark, with a high-bridged nose and perfectly cut jaws (I know–you’re cringing- bear with me.) He reminded me of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He looked up, our gazes clashed and I am pretty sure he smirked at my expression. Busted! When it was my turn and he asked me for my passport, my hands shook. When he asked me about my holiday in Italy, I croaked. Words were stuck, along with my tongue at the roof of my mouth.

He narrowed his gaze at me and I was positive my heart was a puddle on the floor. It was only when he asked me to repeat my name in a rather forceful voice it clicked to me that while I was off in la-la land, here in the mortal world, things were progressing downhill like a landslide.

It turned out, thanks to the innumerable T’s and O’s in my legal name, my name printed on my Visa was wrong and as such, he couldn’t let me travel back to Australia without further clarification. Very patiently, he summoned two of his other colleagues, who moved a red-faced me into a small room for further questioning. Minutes ticked on. Half an hour turned to one. I wasn’t feeling hot flashes now. I was hyperventilating. Screw my story line and romantic musings. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

After a few phone calls and emails that bounced back and forth between two continents, they gave me an all clear and I was back in the queue to face him. Caesar smiled, shrugged, and continued with the proceedings as normal. I thought I saw a flash of humour in his eyes. Which irritated me to the point of acute embarrassment. He asked me all the right questions. I answered them as patiently as I could. In the end he asked me if I would return to their beautiful country. I wanted to say, “Not a snowflake’s chance in the hell, buddy!”. But the memory of their interrogation room forced me to nod politely.

And so I moved on.

Note to self : Newton’s third law applies to gawking.