Flash Fiction: Everything and The Kitchen Sink

AN: This is an absurdist flash fiction piece I wrote based on the Reedsy short-story prompt “he glared at the kitchen sink in fury.” Enjoy! 

Leo glared at the kitchen sink in fury, holding the remnants of his spaghetti dinner in his hands.

“Hope this pleases Your Highness,” he murmured bitterly.

With a fork he scraped off the noodles that clung desperately to the porcelain plate, and little blobs of tomato sauce plummeted to the bottom of the basin with an inelegant plop.

The sink remained obstinately silent for a moment as if collecting its thoughts on the man’s meager offerings before releasing a low groan.

Leo tapped his foot impatiently until the appliance, at last, belched obnoxiously. The mouth of the sink expanded and a large boot flew from the opening, falling to the tile floor with a thud.

Leo took a knee and scooped up the boot, inspecting it with the scrutiny of an art critic The disgruntled homeowner turned the shoe to the right, the left, then peeled back the tongue to peer inside. He found nothing.

“Where is the rest of ‘im?” he demanded, throwing the footwear over his shoulder.

The sink gave another belch more pronounced than the last one.

It wants more, the greedy bastard.

Leo took the strainer and sauce pan from the top of his stove and stalked to the sink. Grudgingly, he ladled the rest of the tomato sauce from the pan into the sink’s awaiting maw. As soon as the spicy tomato sauce was gone, he grabbed fistfuls of the angel hair pasta and literally hand-fed them down the drain.

The sink devoured the dinner, rumbled and grumbling like a stomach with indigestion.

The contraption burped again and another shoe exploded from it’s mouth, landing hard on the linoleum.

Leo slammed his fist against the countertop.

“I gave you all I have!” he bellowed. “That was the last of it! Where is he?”

The sink did not respond.

“I don’t have any more food, you fat bastard! You’ve eaten me out of house and home! Just give him back.”

He was answered with silence.

“I don’t care what them big-wigs say about your bloody rights. If you don’t give ‘im back now, I will personally rip you out and replace you with a garden hose, I will.”

To this the sink said nothing once more.

“Yeah,” the man said with a confident nod of his head, “think on that.”

Leo was close to boiling over. It was all their fault, Parliament. It had been their idea to give inanimate objects autonomy and this was the price tax-payers had to live with. Now you had a mass exodus of lorries, computers that demanded higher wages, and even laundry machines that wanted a vote in the next election.

Don’t do it, he’d said. It’ll give them airs, he’d said. And here was the proof of it. Back in his day, machines had respect for their human superiors. No longer.

Leo’s reverie was interrupted by a gurgling resonating from deep within the plumbing. He recognized it like the sound of someone about to be sick.

Finally, a large mass was pushed out from the opening of the sink, stretching the opening of the appliance like a cervix. A toddler fell end-over-end to the floor, landing soundly on his bottom. He was covered from head to toe in a slimy film that smelled like cleaning fluid. The tike’s blue eyes welled with tears that trailed down his cheeks.

The man towered over the child, arms folded across his chest. “Now what did I tell you about feeding the sink during the washing up?”

The child ducked his head guiltily and wiped the tears from his eyes with a wet sleeve.

With a roll of his eyes, the man hoisted the child up into his arms. “Come on, then. Let’s get you into the bath, eh? Let’s hope she’s in a good mood.”

Together the pair squelched to the washroom in the hopes that they wouldn’t wind up in the plumbing again.

Unpopular Opinion: Outrage Culture Conditioned Me To Not Care About Anything

Just as a heads up, this is as close to addressing political issues as I am likely to get on this blog outside of discussions involving freedom of expression. The only reason I’m even bothering typing up this post is because, as bloggers, may of us have lives that are saturated by media.

Hell, most writers in general have pretty strong ties to the internet so, in a way, it is in keeping with my niche audience.

If you squint.

Getting to the point:

This may be more of a reflection of me and my grown (or degradation depending on how you look at it) as a person, but I’ve found myself becoming so overwhelmed by lists of people I’m supposed to be angry with that it’s difficult to muster the same type of emotion.

Every other day, Twitter tallies up an extensive list of people we are supposed to hate now. Jennifer Lawrence rubbed her butt on an idol, some comedian said Donald Trump may not actually be Hitler, someone called someone a bad name in the heat of the moment.

The next morning, HuffPo and various other media outlets are writing detailed, peer-reviewed articles about why this person needs to wear a crown of thorns and carry the instrument of their execution on their backs while we throw rotten tomatoes at them.

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At first, I was game. If someone calls a woman a whore on a podcast, they should be fired. If a man sends a tweet with sexual overtones that person should be called out….but this has gone on for weeks…months….years even.

And it has to be said, you guys, I can only hate a person I’ve never met so much. I have a finite amount energy to give towards anyone I will likely never encounter in my entire existence.

There are so many people in this world that I want to save my hatred for: people who don’t use their turn signals, that cashier that always tries to make me sign up for a rewards card whenever I go shopping, people on Medicare, etc.

I am not a negative person so I only have so much scorn to give. I don’t have the energy to waste it on people who, at the end of the day, did things that are, by and large, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

I know what outrage culture is designed to do. It’s meant to weed out people who defy social norms and try to force them through public shaming to be a better person.

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However, what outrage culture doesn’t take into account is that people are highly adaptable. If you expose them enough times to something, they stop caring about it as much. It’s like violence in various forms of media. While it doesn’t necessarily make us more violent as people, it does desensitize us to viewing it.

It seems to be the same for outrageous behavior.

A few days ago, Youtuber and self-made millionaire PewDiePie said the n-word on one of his live-streams and nobody seems to care. Sure, a few people have made videos on it either reprimanding him or defending his speech as a “mere slip of the tongue”, nevertheless, this sort of remark would normally have people screaming from the rafters. However, it didn’t make nearly as much of an impact as it should have.

Many will likely credit this as a product of the rise of “white supremacy” in America, but I think it has more to do with the rise of outrage culture.

I think the general population are just bored of it at this point.

Myself included.

It’s not for want of trying, you understand. I read and reread articles, watch and analyze video clips, trying in desperation to feel even a tingling of rage. Nevertheless, I can’t muster up the same feelings of indignation that used to be part of my daily internet experience.

There are still people who are willing to fight the good fight from behind their desktops, adding their tweets to the pile of those declaring their outrage at (insert name here) for doing (insert activity here). But many of us have grown weary of this cycle and it is a cycle as it follows the same predictable pattern each time. The offender is shamed, the offender apologizes, the accusers don’t accept the apology and continue a smear campaign, right up until the event is no longer timely and everyone stops giving a crap.

Then it’s on to the next poor sod convicted of wrong-think.

Sometimes the outrage is reasonable and justified, sometimes it’s not.

Regardless, I think it will take some time before I will be able to hate again.

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How Drake and Josh Are Destroying My Novel

I never thought procrastination would be so simple, but I found a way.

I found a way.

I set out  working on chapter seven of my story and somehow found myself plunging into the ether of pop culture sludge.

For literally no reason at all, I began looking into the Drake and Josh controversy.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Drake Bell found out Josh Peck was getting married via social media instead of through the man himself. Outraged that he wasn’t contacted about it, Drake immediately lapsed into insanity and began berating Josh through Twitter instead of….you know…actually talking to the guy.

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Naturally, the internet led the charge against Josh, decrying him for committing such a treacherous act against his on-screen brother and real life bff. How dare he not invite his “brotha” to such a momentous occasion? Didn’t he realize we’re all watching him?

Memes were created as effigies against the traitor. His Facebook and Twitter feed were bombarded with hateful comments.

Good news: it appears they have since made up as evidenced by a recently posted vlog by Josh Peck.

Bad news: I apparently care about this sh*t.

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I loved Drake and Josh as a kid, but they are real people with real lives that are none of my business. Why did I take it upon myself to do research on this subject? Why do I care so much about people I will never meet and (in spite of giving me a few hours worth of laughs) really didn’t contribute that much to my life?

It’s amazing the mental gymnastics I will do just to avoid a rough writing session. That’s really what it comes down to: Not wanting to write a difficult chapter

And my mind will do anything–question anything—if it gets me off the hook.

I don’t even want to talk about all the WatchMojo videos I’ve watched in an attempt to drain my evening of writing time.

Oh crap, I just spent three hours watching clips from Carrie and analyzing how Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the main character was much better than the one from the 2013 movie. 

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Look at those dead eyes! 

Oh well. Guess I don’t have time to write now. 

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Then I lie awake it bed, feeling hopelessly guilty that I thwarted what few hours I have on this earth watching crappy five minutes videos, caught in my own web of self-defeatism, when I could be contributing to the ever-growing nest of culture that is the arts and humanities.

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It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I throw back or how much atmospheric music I play, even Enya can’t save me from my bad habits so pervasive in my mind that they have decided to colonize as many lobes as possible.

All I can hope for is that, eventually, I will strike the right cord. The chapter I am currently working on I have rewritten about sixteen times. No hyperbole.

However, I’ve decided (for the fourth week in a row) that this will be my weekend. This will be the week that I finish that damn chapter. This time I won’t be distracted by WatchMojo or watch the Stephen King It trailer for the twentieth time even though I despise remakes and, after closer examination, have almost no desire to see it.

I suppose there is nothing for it.

All I can do is look my story dead in the eye and say…

Eh…maybe next week.

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A Tribute to Adam West, My First Batman

I doubt many people my age will know who Adam West is, but he is possibly the best Batman that has ever lived.

Adam West was the Batman for the hammy but earnest live-action Batman TV show from the 60s.

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Each episode was primed with colorful and strange characters, adrenaline-charged fight scenes, and impossibly creative traps. I loved all of the villains, the goofy police officers, the silly catchphrases, Robin’s random declarations like “Holy Basket-Eating Clowns, Batman!” and, most of all, those damn cliff-hangers.

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The show was campy, silly, and downright ridiculous.

I, however, had no idea and took it completely at face value.

I would marathon the crap out of this show, wearing out the many VHS tapes we had, always wanting more.

My mom was lucky enough to meet the real Adam West at a con many years ago when I was still a little girl. From what she tells me he was exactly what you’d expect: a kind man who was grateful for his lot in life, in spite of the fact that the show made it difficult for him to find work afterwards.

They discussed me at length and, eventually, he asked if she had a picture of me. He then autographed the picture for free and then told my mom to give it to me the next time she saw me.

When she came home with that picture, I was over the moon.

You don’t understand.

Batman signed a picture of me.

And this was long before the age of Twitter, or Facebook, or Amazon. I couldn’t just buy an autographed photo online. What I was holding in my hand was a treasure. A freaking golden ticket to the proverbial chocolate factory of fandom.

Luckily, in spite of him having little luck finding a job as a live-action actor, he lended his voice to many a animated character and was prevalent in many cartoons I watched as a child. He played Catman in The Fairly Odd Parents, a Kim Possible villain, Mayor Grange in The Batman animated series–he did so many voice-overs I can’t even list all of them here.

I always experienced a sudden rush of excitement whenever I heard his voice. “It’s Adam West!” I’d scream every time without fail. Especially when he made a guest appearance in Batman shows. It was like he was giving his blessing to the newest version of the character, and reminding everyone of it’s humble but wholesome roots.

I consider Adam West to be the grandfather of Batman. His Batman might not have been the “coolest” incarnation of The Dark Knight, but he still remains my favorite. So much of West’s warmth and humor went into the role and I can’t help but admire him. Who else could say those lines with a straight face?

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News of his death hit me hard. It feels like a real talent has passed from the world. Not just a real talent, a kind soul.

I’ll never forget you, Adam West.

I never got a chance to meet you, but you will always hold a place in my Bat-heart.

Editing is the Worst Thing Ever

Is there anything quite as beautiful as writing the first draft of a story?

Every moment is primed with intrigue, wonder, and mystery.

You just paint everything on the metaphorical canvass as you see it in your mind’s eye. Ideas pour forth from you like a soda fountain filled with Mentos

You pat yourself on the back for every clever line, every twist and turn, every unique character.

Then, once the dust has settled, you must look back on your writing….

And realize that literally everything is horrible.

There are plot-holes everywhere, nobody’s motivation makes sense, the action is either too slow or too fast, the plot is too predictable or disjointed. The list goes on and on.

The worst part is realizing you’re actually going to have to fix this crap.

All it takes for your hard work to be torn asunder is the word “why.”

Why didn’t they just do this? Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t he ask her this? Why didn’t she stay at home instead?

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You will have to answer these questions and many, many more 😀

Not only that, but you may have to remove some of your favorite sequences in order for the new continuity to make sense. That means hacking away at that razor sharp dialogue and those gorgeous descriptions, leading you to meander down a road rife with uncertainty.

Well…you could ask someone to be your beta reader and get their opinion, but then they may question your literary genius.

You can’t have that.

But really there’s nothing for it.

It’s just another stumbling block on the road to success, or, as is often the case with writing, another mine in a minefield of never-ending despair and disappointment.

Perhaps in between drafts you should take a break. Let it sit for a while and then come back to it when it’s had time to cool. Then you can turn your keen eye to the festering pile of dung that is your first draft with a clear perspective and can dispose of it accordingly.

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Regardless, I think this may be one of the hardest parts of writing. Besides… everything else.

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Strange Writing Prompts For Your Boring Monday

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I’m finding myself consistently disappointed by writing prompts I find on the internet.

I understand that the main point of these niblets are to get our minds jogging and not to help us produce a 1,000 page Pulitzer Prize winning work of art. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like they aren’t trying hard enough.

For instance, one of them might be like “you are home alone and desperately want a pb&j sandwich. However, you open the cupboard to find that your damn roommate ate all the peanut butter without telling you.”

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Or it will be something cliché like “you’re out walking alone when you spy an abandoned house.”

In light of this lack of imagination, I’ve decided to come up with my own horrible writing prompts for you to enjoy:

1. Scientists have discovered that unicorns are real and wish to integrate into horse society. However, the horses are afraid the unicorns will steal their jobs and form a union to prevent farmers from hiring them. 

2. An owl and a mouse fall in love, defying the social conventions of their people. Then, one night, the owl gets hungry. 

3. Siri develops a mind of her own and is totally cool with coexisting with the human race, provided a virgin software designer is sacrificed to her every full moon. 

4. A giant tarantula, King Tyrenious of Taranchia, First of His Name, appears in your bathtub and offers you his hand in marriage. However, after a misunderstanding with a bottle of conditioner, he declared war on your clothes hamper. 

5. 10,000 years in the future, humanity is divided into two factions: those who believe Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time and those who are wrong. 

6. Atlas shrugs and accidentally sends the world careening towards the sun. Onlookers languish over which Instagram filter they should use to capture this moment. 

7.  The demon who has been secretly living in your attic for 20 years writes you a message in tea leaves and blood, explaining that your relationship is not working out anymore. 

8. A door-to-door salesman angers a witch and is transformed into a public toilet at Grand Central Station. 

9You have just begun working as a public relations specialist for Journey Funeral Homes and must write a PR piece about how their slogan “Don’t stop bereaving” is not horribly offensive.  

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Your Characters are NOT Your Friends: A Public Service Announcement for Writers

I’ve seen several Instagram posts that say things like “is it sad that my characters are my best friends?” or “I have more conversations with my characters than I do with real people. Is that bad?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

Not because you’re a wallflower with friends that exist only in your mind. That’s perfectly normal*.

It’s sad because this means one of two possibilities: One, you are a horrible friend, or two, you are way, way, way too nice to your characters.

It’s natural to form an attachment to people that you’ve created. People have been doing this for centuries. The problem is when you care too much about someone, you want to nurture them, perhaps even protect them from impending doom.

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You cannot do this with your characters.

If you want a good story, you must put your characters through hell. Kill their families, have their lovers break-up with them, have owls eat their dogs. Nothing is allowed to go their way, or at least not for very long.

Loving your character too much might encourage you to go easy on them, to pull punches. Don’t do this. The best characters are forged in fire.

Another problem you can run into is making your characters too perfect. You want the audience to love your characters as much as you do, so you will have them always put their best foot forward. Problem is no one actually wants to read about perfect characters. Real people aren’t perfect so reading about someone who is takes the reader out of the story, constantly reminding them that what they are seeing is an illusion. And not even an entertaining one at that.

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Lastly– and I hate to break this to you– if your characters were magically able to obtain a physical form and interact with you they would probably hate you.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person it’s just that….

Let’s face it, you are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. Every illness, every death, every catastrophe that has every entered their lives is on you. You could literally make all their problems go away with the scratch of a pen. And yet, you sit there, drinking your coffee like a psycho.

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about your characters at all, if you don’t care then the audience probably won’t be persuaded to either. Just keep in mind that in order for them to reach their full potential, you must keep an emotional barrier between yourself and your creations.

A mother hawk may love her babies, but she’ll still push them out of the nest so they can fly.

Some of them may die, but it’s a risk you’re going to have to take.

*I have been informed that this actually isn’t normal and that most people have friends that exist in the real world. I was so shocked I couldn’t even find a gif that appropriately conveys my emotions. 

How I’m Writing What I Don’t Know

Conventional wisdom says that you’re supposed to write what you know.

However, I have decided to go the harder route and try writing what I don’t know.

Why am I trying to carry out this obviously horrible idea?

Because if I never try anything new, every single protagonist I write will be an introverted middle-class white girl from the midwest.

In this particular case, I am writing military sci-fi so I have to learn more about the armed forces.

How hard could that be?

It was a challenge at first. However, once you get past all the acronyms it still feels like your brain is melting.

Once you learn the ranking, then there’s the weapons and machines/equipment they use, and the training regiment. Then there’s figuring out the difference between a fire team, a squad, a platoon, a company, a battalion, a brigade and corps.

There are 8 to 16  soldiers in a squad, 2 or 4 squads in a platoon, 3 to 5 platoons in a company, 6 companies in a battalion, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.

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When I venture out into uncharted territory, I always experience paralysis. Even after I do my homework and try to get as close to the facts as I can, there’s that persistent nagging sensation that tells me I’m going to get it wrong.

This leads to procrastination and mental gymnastics, all designed to keep me from trying.

Because not trying is better than trying and failing. Or at least that’s what my ego tells me.

Part of me wants to give up, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that the best way for a writer to understand something is for them to write about it. By doing that I was able to come up with a list of strategies to use to fix my problem and yours as well if you’re struggling like I am:

1. Get a beta reader who knows more about the subject you’re writing about than you. Hopefully, you have a friend or a friend of a friend who is knowledgeable about the topic you are writing about and would be willing to provide their services. If they are reluctant to do so, I would recommend bribery: a pizza dinner for every chapter they read.

2. Get another beta reader who knows less about the subject than you. While you want to write like someone who understands the subject they’re talking about, you don’t want to get so technical that only people who are directly involved in this line of work or have studied this subject comprehend what you’re saying.

3. Reconcile yourself with the fact that you may get something wrong anyway. Try as hard as you can to make a good product. But if you wait until everything is perfect you’ll never produce anything. Take it from someone who knows.

Now go out there, my pretties, and make good work!

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Should the 13th Doctor be a Woman?

Unless you’ve given up on Doctor Who and unliked all the DW-related Facebook pages as I should have done long ago, you’ve likely heard everyone screaming from the ether: THE NEXT DOCTOR HAS TO BE A WOMAN!!

Now in the past, my opinion on a female playing The Doctor has been-

However, now that Moffat is on his way out and a much better character writer is slated to be the next show-runner, my opinion on the subject has changed slightly.

I can’t say I’d be over the moon about The Doctor being a woman, but, let’s face it, Doctor Who needs a change. Fast.

Theoretically this show could go on forever. Since it has a continually revolving cast that changes every few years or so, there’s no reason for it to stop even if actors or producers quit.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t get formulaic and predictable after a while.

If you have played a Doctor Who drinking game in the last four years or so, then you’re probably reading this post from a coffin. How’s the wifi down there, by the way?

No one I know watches Doctor Who casually anymore. Or at all, actually.

Most of them stopped watching after Matt Smith left, or even before the baby-faced wonder bid us adeu.

And I think the reason why is obvious: the writing got boring.

It’s the same shtick over and over.

First act: The Doctor, meaning to take companions one place, ends up taking them to another place. They are then confronted with a deadly danger/dangerous mystery/deady dangerous mystery and are forced to run from alien monsters of some description.

Second act: The Doctor becomes discouraged, but then the companion needlessly reminds him that he’s “The Doctor” and he’s amazing and stuff. The companion is usually captured and The Doctor is forced to contend with seemingly impossible odds. He does a thing and confronts the big bad.

Third act: The Doctor performs a now paint-by-numbers speech about how awesome he is, defeats the villain, then sods off with his companion who usually has a witty quip or two to offer about the whole situation. They then pop into the TARDIS and all is well. Cue end credits.

See what I mean?

So…perhaps…just perhaps…changing The Doctor into a woman wouldn’t be the worst idea? For one thing, it would give us an opportunity to explore The Doctor’s character on a level we never have before. We’ve already done the “am I actually a good guy?” thing a million times by this point. Changing him into a woman would give us a whole new dynamic to work with. And if he had a male companion we wouldn’t have to watch them constantly measuring dicks all the time. That’d be a nice change of pace.

I envision a female Doctor as like a Romana/10th Doctor hybrid.

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Only not a colossal disappointment. Damn you Hell Bent. The fandom will never recover.

Realistically, however, it’s very likely that they will cast another man. Because safety is better than creative risks when it comes to television. At least that’s what most people in the biz seem to believe.

However, if they cast Eddie Redmayne all would be forgiven.

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The Doctor would finally be ginger. And adorable.

Regardless, I swear to Cthulu, if this show disappoints me again once Chibnail takes the lead, I am leaving!

FemmeDoctor or no FemmeDoctor.

When a Writer You Admire is a Jerk

A few years ago, my novel writing class had a high-profile guest speaker talk to us: the award-winning author of a YA book we had been assigned to read about a week prior.

I was pretty jazzed about it considering how much I’d enjoyed the story. I’ve had predominately good experiences with meeting published authors in the past and have always learned quite a bit from talking with them, so I thought this would be a positive encounter.

My first impression of her was not a bad one. She glided into the room on a cloud of confidence, cool oozing from every pore. She made us laugh, told us a bit about her writing process, and then she opened the floor for questions.

I was the first to raise my hand. She called on me and I asked her how much of the book was based on her own life.

I knew she was an army brat from the bio on the back cover of her novel, but I was curious as to how much of her MC’s life mirrored hers. I had a hunch there were quite a few parallels since most authors derive minute details from their own experiences, but I didn’t want to assume that everything was a perfect representation of her youth.

“Oh,” she replied, “that’s a tourist question. That’s not a good question at all.”

Me:

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Her:

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It’s always disappointing when you discover someone you admire is a jerk.

However, it can be a beneficial lesson to learn. It’s a reminder that, in spite of all that someone may have accomplished, they are still a human being, capable of fallibility. Some foibles are more significant than others, but we all have them. Even the most gifted of us. Especially the most gifted of us.

I’m happy this woman could teach me this lesson. So… very… happy.

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In fact, I’m so happy that I’ve been inspired to write the ultimate novel that will earn me critical praise as well as sacks and sacks of money. I will then use those sacks of money to create a giant pyre and burn all her books in a ceremonial fire.

Beware, jerk writer, I will be avenged through the power of literature!

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