Dog Pile on the Rabbit


 
There’s an old cartoon starring Bugs Bunny called, ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan.’  If you’ve never seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon, then you are probably significantly younger than me or were very sheltered as a child.  I am going to lean toward younger than me.  Either way, you need to look him up.

In this particular cartoon, Bugs tells a story of his younger days and how he got cornered by a bunch of dogs.  Early in the cartoon the dogs decide they want to bully Bugs.  They play a game called ‘Dog Pile on the Rabbit.’  The activity is just as it sounds: the dogs pile on the rabbit in an attempt to hurt him.

Can you see that?  Can you see Bugs in his nice little blue blazer (he had a hat, as well) being pounded on by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven dogs, all of them wearing heavy sweaters and derbies? All of them on top of him, trying to crush him under their weight?

Do you have that image?  It’s kind of mean, isn’t it?  It’s the typical bully mentality: see someone you believe is weaker than you and push them around.  If that’s not bad enough, have all your buddies push them around, as well.

Dog.  Pile.  On.  The.  Rabbit.

This morning I was perusing Facebook just before heading to work.  I came across a post in a group I was a member of.  I use the word WAS on purpose here.  This group was a book review group.  As a writer, these are the types of groups I like.  At some point last night someone took exception to another person asking them to review the individual’s book.  From what I gather, based on the person’s post, the person downloaded the samples of two books and…

…went off on the requesting individual.  When I say ‘went off’ I’m talking ballistic here.  The individual asked for an honest review of his self-published book.  Apparently, the reviewer decided to give an honest review, but also post it to Facebook because…because…honestly, I don’t know why.  Maybe the reviewer was a little pissed off because of the quality of the writing.  Fine.  If you’re mad about that, then tell the requestor, don’t tell the rest of the world.

I’m not going to mention the reviewer’s name, but here are a few little tidbits from the post in the group on Facebook.  Are you ready for this?  Here goes:

You reek of amateurism.  (That’s not too bad, right?  There’s a chance the reviewer is right.)

You’re a deluded narcissist… (Not very nice.  Name calling.)

Either way, you will never get read by anyone who matters.  (EVERY reader MATTERS.  Every single one of them.)

You’re an embarrassment who deserves to fail.  (WTH?  Really?  Deserves to fail?)

Okay, I have to stop here.  A lot of the comments made in this post bothered me, but this one lingered on my mind long after I read this.  No one deserves to fail.  No one.  I don’t care how bad the book (oh, wait, I mean, the sample of the book) was, but to say someone deserves to fail is totally wrong.  The person did something many others didn’t do: he tried.

Let me throw out a thought:  What if this person, the requestor who wrote the book that reeks of amateurism, is a special needs person?  What if this is the best he could do, based on being a special needs person?  What if this is someone who always wanted to try to write, but never did because he thought people would laugh at him.  Or worse yet, bash him?  What if this is a person who lacked the confidence to try anything like this?  And what if this person worried and struggled to even ask anyone to read it?  We don’t know these things, but what if?  Just throwing it out there.

How dare you think you’re good enough?  What dues have you paid?  What makes you think for one minute you deserve to be called a writer…?  (Ummm…Stephanie Meyers anyone?  My point?  She’s not the greatest writer, but millions have bought her books and millions have watched her movies.  Why?  Because she connected with the readers.  No, she’s not that great at it, but she succeeded where most of us want to, and the fact that she didn’t give up is what made her a writer, at least for a while.  Was she good enough?  What dues did she pay?  Does it matter to the millions who love Twilight?  I doubt it.)

There was a lot more, but most of it was general mouth running, though I still think it was aimed at the individual.

Here’s the problem with this whole post: this is NOT how you review someone’s book.  If you think someone wasted your time, fine.  If you think someone can’t write, fine.  If you think that the book should be burned in a ceremony in a temple, fine.  But—BUT!—you don’t attack the individual.  The moment you attack the individual you have lost all credibility.  You have become a bully.

There are tactful ways to leave negative reviews, be it privately or publicly.  This…this is not the way to do it.  Zero encouragement.  Zero positivity.  Don’t say that sometimes you can’t say something good about something or someone.  That’s a lie.  If you can’t, then you don’t want to.

This was mean-spirited.  This was hurtful, and I feel bad for the person it was directed at.  It’s public shaming, even if the reviewer didn’t post the requestor’s name or title of the book.  I’m certain that individual saw it.  I wonder how crushed he may have felt after reading it.

But wait.  Remember the first few paragraphs about Bugs Bunny?  Did you see the title of this piece?  That’s right.  Dog Pile on the Rabbit.

The public humiliation was one thing, but the comments that followed were worse.  People piled it on, echoing the reviewer’s thoughts and words (even though they didn’t know who the writer was or read his book).  That individual who wrote a book or two was the rabbit and the reviewer was Butch, the leader of the dog gang, and all those that got in line and jumped on top were the other dogs piling it on.  Just piling it on.

Now, before you think I’m a sensitive, whiny individual, I’m not.  I’ve never read anything by the reviewer (who may or may not be a writer, as well.  I don’t know).  But, I do know he’s not Stephen King.  He’s not James Patterson.  He’s not Dean Koontz.  He’s not Clive Barker.  He’s not J.K. Rowling.  He’s not Dan Simmons.  He’s not even Stephanie Meyer.

I also know that he was wrong.  Period.  He was wrong.  I don’t care who you are, your efforts should never be bashed by anyone.  Yes, the person asked for an honest review, and yes, this is about as honest as one can get in expressing how bad the reviewer thought the book was.  But this was the wrong way to do it.

Maybe I wouldn’t have taken exception to it, if it hadn’t been made public for anyone in that group to read.  I wouldn’t have known about it, so I’m certain I wouldn’t be writing this now.  Maybe, if he had just kept it between himself and the writer…No.  Who am I kidding?  It’s still wrong.  There is this thing called tact.  I have, on more than a lot of occasions, been told I lack it.  However, I’ve never bashed anyone like this reviewer did to this individual.

But really, this isn’t just about the ranting review.  It’s about the public pile on.  Why do we, as people, do this?  Why don’t we stop and think, ‘hey, that could be me?’  Why don’t we, instead of bashing and jumping on the bandwagon, try and put ourselves in others’ shoes.  Maybe then we wouldn’t be so quick to pile on, to jump right into the fray, to judge.

I do have one question about this.  Would the reviewer, if standing face to face with the writer, still say the things he said?  Would he be a little more cautious?  Would he suddenly change his tune because, guess what, the person is right there in front of him?  I don’t know, but I can take a guess.

Let me tell you a little story.  Back when I first started writing, an editor sent me an e-mail asking me about a story I had written that had appeared on a website.  I sent him the story, excited that someone wanted my work.  Not long after, I received an e-mail back from him.  In that e-mail he ranted and blasted me, personally, and my writing—much like the reviewer did to the requestor.  I was told I should never write anything ever again.

That was very early in my writing ‘career.’  It could have been damaging.  At first, I was hurt and angry and I wanted to just wring the editor’s neck.  If he had been standing in front of me when he said those things, well, I just may have done that.  Instead, I chose to prove him wrong.  But most people aren’t going to do that.  Most people who get smacked like that give up.  That’s never a good thing.

So, people, before you pile on the rabbit, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Not just in the writing world, but in life.  Just remember, we don’t know what someone else is going through, or even anything about them.  This may be the best a person can do, based on circumstances.  You just never know.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

 

What Does Gender Have To Do With It?

I don’t have a vagina.

Now that that’s out the way, let me explain. It’s true. I don’t have a vagina. And, you, the readers of the world and other writers of the world, don’t care. You don’t look at me and say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror and he has a penis, so we probably shouldn’t take his work all that seriously.’ You don’t do that, do you? Do you?

Of course you don’t. Why would you? It sounds absurd. Yes, absurd.

Let me break this down. It’s one thing to say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror so we probably shouldn’t take him all that seriously.’ I get that. Some people don’t think writing horror is difficult. I kindly point out that the two hardest things to do in entertainment of any type are to scare people and to make them laugh. It’s not easy. Go ahead, try. At any rate, horror may not be your cup of tea and if it isn’t, that’s fine and you would probably not think there is much literary value in the darker worlds horror writers create. I get it.

However, it’s something else all together to say, ‘he has a penis, so let’s not take him seriously.’ Really? What does my penis have to do with anything I write? Nothing. It doesn’t whisper to me the words to say. It doesn’t think for me.

A few hypothetical questions:

If I told you I was a horror writer, would you call me a whore? Would you say I’m a whorror writer? When you look at my bio image do you automatically say, ‘hey, he’s a hunk of a man, so clearly he can’t put two words together or even form a coherent sentence? (For the record, if you called me a hunk of a man, I would laugh, then I would cry, then I would laugh and cry at the same time—I know what I look like and I am what I am.) Would you think I wrote with my penis? If that were possible, I think I would sell How To Videos. But I just can’t make it hold a pen or type. It’s just not happening.

See how ridiculous that sounds? Nobody is going to asks these questions of a man. Nobody is going to look at a guy and think ‘he’s so hot he can’t write or that he uses his penis to write. It just doesn’t happen.

Now, let me ask you one more question. Are you ready for this? Here goes:

What if I was a woman and said I wrote horror?

Wow. Things got quiet in here.

I want you to think about this for a moment. If I were a woman, would you view me any differently? Would you view my writing any differently? Would you view my abilities to tell a good story any differently? Would you think that I am beneath you or subpar to you, especially if you are a man? Would you think I couldn’t write as well as any man out there?

The sad thing about this is, for some, maybe even many people that I realize, the answer would be ‘yes.’ And most of those people would be men.

And why is that? (Disclaimer: the thoughts to this answer are my views and opinions and are only accurate if they apply to someone who thinks this way. If it doesn’t apply to you, then you are awesome.) My honest opinion is that men (I’m generalizing here, folks) have a superiority complex and many of them feel that no woman is equal to, or greater than, the penis swinging gender. I don’t know where this heightened sense of self-importance and self-absorbance comes from, but its kind of meh…it’s kind of stupid. No, it’s not kind of stupid, it’s all the way stupid.

As a friend of mine put it so eloquently: this goes back to the cave man days where the man hit the woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave. ‘I am cave man, hear me roar.’

Have we not advanced any further in society than that? Do we still have the cave man mentality? Sadly, there are a few men out there that do.

Just because I have a penis doesn’t mean I am better than someone who has a vagina. In fact, that someone can do something totally amazing that I can’t: give birth to life. That is, as I’ve said before, bad-assery. Wait, there is more. Not only do they give birth to life, but they also love the life they created, even though that life destroyed their bodies. Okay, men, do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Go give birth to another person.

So, how did that work out?

It didn’t? Hmmm…

Okay, some of you are probably thinking this topic isn’t serious. But, it is. Very much so. February is Women in Horror month and I have seen more men bashing these writers than I think I ever have before. It’s ridiculous.

Recently, I read a blog post written by Stephanie M. Wytovich, a writer. The title? Take the Whore Out of Horror. You can find it HERE.

Miss Wytovich wrote of a conversation she had with an individual. The following is an excerpt from her blog post (used with permission):

Stranger: “Writer, huh. So what do you write?”

Me: “I write speculative fiction.”

Stranger: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Genre fiction. I’m a horror writer.”

Stranger: “A whore writer?” *immature giggles*

Me: “No, a horror writer? *death stare*

Stranger: “Same thing. So whore fiction, eh?

A whore writer? Really? That has never, ever happened to me. Is that because I’ve never come across someone so witty as to come up with that? Is it because I’m not pretty? No. It’s neither of those. I think it’s because I don’t have a vagina. I really do.

The term whore is degrading in and of itself. It is defined as a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money. Do you really, honestly, think it is okay to call someone a whore? If so, then know a lot of men who may fall under that term.

For the record, if anyone were to ever call my wife, daughter, sister, mom, nieces, female friends, this, I will beat the piss out of them. And I’m sure many of you men out there would feel the same way if someone said that about one of your loved ones. Why, then, would we call a woman that if it offends us when someone calls our loved ones that?

Answer a question: What does gender have to do with it? Seriously? What does gender have to do with how good someone writes or how good someone does his or her job? What does gender have to do with any type of artistic creativity? What does being female or male have to do with anything in this business of writing/publishing?

Nothing.

Let me repeat:

N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I want to try and stick to the horror writing subject here, so I want to quote something else Miss Wytovich said in her blog about female horror writers:

We are WOMEN working in HORROR and we are PROFESSIONALS.

Why did she say this in bold and capitalizing three key words? Because of the paragraph before that:

This issue, beyond every issue that there is in publishing, and in horror, is what I have the biggest problem with. I’ve talked about stigmas and clichés a lot this month, but the notion that women in horror are nothing more than what their bodies portray them to be, is ridiculous. And it’s immature. And it’s offensive.

She’s right. But she left off a few things. It’s not only immature and offensive, it’s narrow-minded and outdated. It’s cave mannish. It’s a few other things, but I’m trying to keep from being snarky and rude.

I want to say this to anyone who thinks that women are lesser than men in the horror world, you clearly haven’t had the pleasure of reading the likes of Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Fran Friel, Belinda Frisch, Chantal Noordeloos, Anne Michaud, A.C. Wise, Lisa Morton, Tracie McBride, Mary Shelley and (my favorite) Shirley Jackson. These are all very good writers who happen to be women. Does that make them any less than writers who just happen to be men? Nope. Not at all.

Here’s the problem: this is a prejudice. It’s a mindset. In order to change a prejudice toward anything, you first have to change the mindset. We are all people, regardless of gender, color, creed or sexual preferences. At the end of the day, we are all people. What makes anyone better than anyone else? Nothing. I think it was the band Depeche Mode who asked what makes a man hate another man. I want to ask, what makes a man better than a woman?

Nothing. There’s that word again.

Just because you were born with a penis doesn’t make you better than someone born with a vagina.

As a person, I want to be treated with respect. I want to make a living and support my family. I want to enjoy any successes I earn and learn from the failures I have along the way. As a writer, I want readers and I want people to buy my books and I want to be treated equally among my peers. So, why shouldn’t our female horror writers be treated the same? Why shouldn’t they want the same? Why shouldn’t we, the male population, respect them the same way we respect other men? The answers, in order are they should, they should and we should.

I said it’s a prejudice and a mindset. It is. If someone looks down on someone because of their gender or race or whatever, then it is a prejudice, and prejudice is learned. Some will argue with me, and that’s fine, but I stand by this: prejudice is learned (and in many cases, taught). If someone hurt you and they are not the same color as you, then you may develop an idea that all people of that color would do the same thing. You learned something from an experience and then it was attached to all people of that color, as if every single person of that color would do the same thing. That’s not a good way to think. Or maybe someone taught you it’s okay to treat women poorly. Or maybe you just do it because you can. It doesn’t matter where the behavior comes from, it’s just not acceptable.

I am fortunate enough that I was taught to treat women with respect. I am fortunate that I was taught that every person should be treated with a bare minimum of respect, no matter who they are and that you should never, ever go below that minimum level. I am fortunate that I can sit back and take criticism from women and take advice from women and even seek that advice out from women. Why? Because I’m no better than they are, and in most cases, women are far better than I am.

Women have played significant roles in helping me with all three of my books. Tracie McBride edited Along the Splintered Path. Paula Ray helped me with the title and the bio. My wife helped me select the stories for Southern Bones and proofed them when the edits were finished. She also proofed Cory’s Way. Bailey Hunter did the cover lay out. Sue Babcock helped edit it and Paula Ray pointed out a few important things that, if they hadn’t been caught, could have had negative implications on what readers thought. I wouldn’t change any of the work they did on my books and I enjoyed working with each of them. Note the key word there: with. They didn’t work for me, we worked with each other, giving an equal amount of effort on the projects, the way it should be.

I guess I’m old school. I still hold doors for women. I still carry heavy items for them. I still let them get in an elevator before me and I offer to help them if I see they need help (and sometimes when they don’t). I still stand up in a crowded room and offer them my seat. I still hold women in high regard. When did we lose the ability to be gentlemen and don’t say it began with woman’s lib–that’s a cop out.

I want to take one more tidbit from Miss Wytovich’s blog. It’s very important, and it’s every single thing that the writing profession should be:

Let’s all just realize that the label of female horror writer shouldn’t even exist.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It’s as simple and true as that.

Miss Wytovich hit it on the head. You never hear someone say ‘he’s a male horror writer.’ Then why should you hear ‘she’s a female horror writer’? Gender doesn’t matter. The ability to tell a great story does. I don’t care if you are male or female, if you can write a story that I like, that engages me and that I connect with, then I will read your work.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It really is as simple and true as that.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

(I would like to thank Stephanie M. Wytovich for allowing me to use portions of her blog post for this particular post. Also, please check out her blog, Join Me In the Madhouse.)

Livin’ On the Edge

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this blog are solely mine. They are just that, opinions. They are how I feel and what I think. If you can’t handle someone having an opinion that may differ from yours, then please, stop reading now.

Possible indecipherable rant to follow:

‘There’s something wrong with the world today.
I don’t know what it is.
There’s something wrong with our eyes.’

Every time I hear the song, Livin’ On the Edge, I often wonder if Aerosmith was being prophetic or just crooning about the way things were at the time, not foreseeing how much worse it could get.

What is wrong with us? What is wrong with our nation? Our world? What is wrong with us, as individuals?

On April 30, 2014, a 17 year-old boy was arrested inside a storage facility. Supposedly, he told the police if he had a gun at the time, he would have killed the first responder. He was going to kill his family. He was going to set a fire in the woods nearby to create a divergence so he could set off bombs at the local middle and high schools. His goal was to kill as many people as he could before a SWAT team could take him out. He wanted the SWAT team to kill him.

Two weeks earlier, a kid in Pennsylvania goes on a stabbing spree in school, stabbing twenty people, mostly teenagers, before he is tackled by the assistant principal.

On April 2, 2014 a gunman begins shooting at Fort Hood military base. Four people, including the gunman, died. Supposedly, he was angry because he wasn’t granted leave. Now he has permanent leave. And so does three other soldiers.

Remember Sandy Hook?

Do I need to give any more examples?

‘We’re seein’ things in a different way
And God knows it ain’t his
It sure ain’t no surprise.’

Seriously, what is going on?

There’s an owner of a basketball team spewing hateful, racist remarks, and for the longest time, the NBA did nothing about this, though the Justice Department did on two separate occasions.

We have football players beating their girlfriends and getting slaps on the wrists, as if domestic abuse is okay. And then those girls stay with the abuser. I don’t get that. I don’t get that at all.

There are people using the ‘N’ word–and you know what word I’m talking about–but taking two letters off and adding an A on the end. So that makes it okay? What? It’s a horrible word no matter how it is said.

We have religious leaders claiming intolerance instead of love, patience and acceptance. Hey, folks, I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but the Bible explicitly says, do not judge one another. (Matthew 7:1)

In this day, we still have racism and bigotry and people bashing on others because of their sexual preferences.

Really?

There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today
The light bulb’s getting’ dim.
There’s meltdown in the sky.

I’m going to say something that may not go over very well with a lot of folks. We have soldiers fighting terrorism in other countries, yet we can’t seem to get pass the hypocrisy of our own. Hey, terrorists are not our biggest concern. With what we—Americans, folks, Americans—are doing to each other, the terrorists can just sit back and let us kill each other, because that’s what we’re doing.

What happened to us? Where is the unity we all felt after 9/11?

We’re a selfish people. We want our money. We want our possessions. We want our notoriety, and by George, we’re going to get it, no matter what the cost. If someone has it, we’re going to make it ours.

Yes, I’m generalizing here. There are a lot of good people out there. There are a lot of people willing to help others. But there are a lot more of those people who seem to have lost the moral compass. There are so few Dale’s out there. (Yes, that was a Walking Dead reference for those who didn’t catch that.)

If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you’re a better man than I.

Here’s what I think:

People no longer respect other people, their property or their lives. We don’t respect living any longer.

‘Oh no he didn’t. I’m going to shoot him up, and his family, too.’

If we respected the living, if we respected life, then there would be less of these shootings and less violent crimes and less hate-mongering, and there would be more talking and more reasoning.

Yeah, I know, it’s a pipe dream. Why can’t we all get along and all that.

I remember when people used to get in fights at school and by the end of the next day they were friends again. We would get our aggressions out, sling a few fists, bloody a nose or two and take our punishment when we were finished—like men, even when we were just eleven and twelve. Then the next day we would sit at the same table at lunch and swap food as if nothing ever happened.

What happened to that?

What happened to Mom and Dad disciplining a kid and the kid learning from it?

What happened to closing your mouth and treating the elderly like they were royalty? We used to never cuss in front of our elders. Now no one really cares.

Respect.

Entitlement.

People want everything handed to them. Kids expect to receive their iphones and ipads and ipods and televisions and video games and nice clothing. They don’t want to work for it. There are a lot of adults out there acting like kids, living off others and not earning their keep.

Everything I own, I earned. I’ve had very little given to me in life. I paid for the two cars in my driveway. I’m paying for the house I live in, even if it is small and in need of a lot of work. This computer I’m typing at right now? Yup, paid for with hard work. I don’t have a lot of new things, and I don’t buy a lot of new things. Things I need are paid for. Things I want, well, I wait on getting those—they’re wants, after all and not something I really need.

‘Something’s right with the world today
And everybody knows it’s wrong.
But we can tell ’em no or we could let it go
But I’d rather be a hanging on.’

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just throwing up at the mouth.

We are truly living on the edge of self-destruction here. We don’t love like we used to. We don’t care like we used to. We don’t respect like we used to. We’re not giving like we used to be.

I love my country. But I don’t love the things happening here. I don’t love the angst we’ve developed, the self-entitlement, the selfishness. I don’t like that I can’t let my kids walk down the street without fear that something could happen to them. I’m terrified every time I drop them off at school in the morning.

What’s wrong with us these days? I don’t know, and honestly, I’m not sure how to fix it.

We’re livin’ on the edge, and I’m afraid we can’t keep ourselves from falling…

Stay safe and love and live and be courteous to one another. Someone has to do it. I don’t know if I even made sense tonight. Probably not. I just had to get this out of my mind, out of my heart, so I can get back to writing and living.

Until we meet again, my friends…