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The Scintilla Project: Day 1

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 14 March 2012 · 593 views

Get ready, readers. I'm participating in [url="http://scintillaproject.com/about/"]The Scintilla Project[/url]! What does that mean for you? TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS OF [b]DAILY[/b] BLOG POSTS FROM YOURS TRULY! What? Don't think I have it in me? Because that's more posts in one month than I usually do in three months? Well... You got me there. But I'll show you! The project starts today, and we were given two choices of these two prompts:

[b]1. Who are you?

2. Life is a series of firsts. Talk about one of your most important firsts. What did you learn? Was it something you incorporated into your life as a result?[/b]

Who am I? Hell if I know. It changes almost daily. NEXT!

Most important firsts. Now there's something I can talk about...

The most important "first" of my life is one I've written about before on the blog, but one that continues to stick with me. I still remember this day often, and I still think about how far I've come from that day, because I never thought I'd get to that [i]first[/i], much less beyond it to where I am now. What was it?

[b]The first time I drove a car.[/b]

Unlike a good portion of you, this didn't happen when I was 15 or 16. Not even at 17 or 18.It didn't happen until I was 25 years old. I had been married for almost a year at the time. I'd lived in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania ([url="http://www.iup.edu/"]IUP[/url], holla!), Towson, MD and then York, PA. I worked, part time while in school, and full time after that. I got by just fine without ever having to get my license and learn how to drive.

Why didn't I drive? Fear. Plain and simple. No matter how I tried to rationalize the decision, it was fear at the heart of it. (You can read about how the fear started [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2008/05/facing-down-fear.html"]here[/url].)

[b]The first time I sat behind the wheel.[/b]

I laughed. I don't mean a good-natured "hey, look at me!" kind of laugh, either. I mean a nervous, couldn't control myself kind of giggling. For a minute. Maybe two. That's the moment I think about so often.

If you look at the post about fear I mentioned above, you'll probably see how the fear developed, and how it grew, and you'll probably understand the why and how of it. But you can never understand just how real the fear was for me unless you've experienced something similar. Or unless you were there to see me that day.

I could see on my husband's face that part of him wanted to laugh with me (I bet I was a pretty funny sight, to an outsider, and laughter is contagious anyway) but I could also see another part of him that finally, [b]finally[/b], after six years knowing me, realized I was truly afraid.

I say often that my husband is my safety net. I feel safe with him in situations that might otherwise freak me out. He'd never pressed the issue of me not driving, but I still felt silly every time we talked about it. I felt a little bit sheepish whenever I explained my non-driving to anyone. Knowing my fear wasn't rational didn't make it any less potent.

But seeing the way he looked at me that day, at that moment, it was like I had suddenly been validated. The way his eyes said [i]I get it now[/i] spoke to the tiny piece of me that had always whispered [i]You're crazy. You know that, right?[/i] And it told that voice to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

It's something that I recognized only with a certain degree of distance. That whole hindsight is 20/20 thing. I'd never realized before that I was even saying that to myself and believing it until seeing the recognition in someone else's eyes that what I was feeling was real.

That first day was only the beginning of my long road to becoming a confident driver. We didn't do a lot of driving that year, and I let my permit lapse. I don't think I was emotionally or psychologically ready then, but that moment when my fear bubbled up in the form of laughter was a moment of release for me. Knowing my husband finally understood how much anxiety I had over the issue, and recognizing my own self-shame about it freed me, in a way, to deal with the fear consciously, rather than pushing it away as I'd done for years.

I did finally get my license, last May, three years after that [i]first[/i] day learning to drive. There have been a lot of anxious firsts since then: first time driving alone, first long-distance trip (following behind my husband and his brother when we moved across the state), first solo long-distance trip (from Pittsburgh to Easton, MD - only five months after getting my license). But nothing compares to the first time.

[b]What did I learn that I carry with me?[/b]

Believe it or not, I'm slowly learning not to care about what others think of me. Not in a big, monumental way. Not yet. I struggle with this every day of my life, and some days are better than others. But I've had to incorporate it into my life in tiny ways, related to driving. Sounds strange, I know.

You know how they say road rage happens because people feel anonymous or invincible in their cars? I'm the opposite. We'll call it road empathy. I'm always thinking about and aware of other drivers, anticipating what they're doing, where they're going. If someone is trying to merge on the highway, I'll let them in in front of me. These are all good things, of course. It does have a downside, though.

If someone rides my bumper, I'll probably speed up a bit, even if it makes me uncomfortable. I always use my blinker, and rarely merge/turn/whatever unless I have plenty of room, because I don't want to be rude, or inconvenience another driver. But goddamn, I live outside Pittsburgh now. Driving in the city can be crazy. I can't worry about whether the person behind me will think I'm a jerk for easing my front bumper into the next lane during rush hour, forcing them to let me merge whether they like it or not. Not everyone is as considerate as I like to be. I can't let someone else's impatience put me in a potentially risky situation.

It's only driving for now, but maybe... little by little... I'll let it seep into the rest of my life and stop caring so damn much about the impression I make on everyone else. I guess we'll wait and see.
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Can I Use the ISBN Provided by Smashwords to Publish Elsewhere?

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 29 February 2012 · 98 views

Recently I've gotten some comments (on my post from last March comparing [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2011/03/smashwords-vs-kindle-direct-publishing.html"]Amazon's KDP and Smashwords[/url]) and emails asking this question.

Short answer? [b]No.[/b]

There, question answered, thanks for reading!

Okay, okay. I know some of you are kicking your feet and whining [i]But why not? It'll save me money to use the ISBN provided for free (or as part of the $9.95 Premium option) from Smashwords when I upload to [insert other ebook retailer here].[/i]

My gut-reaction reason for not using the ISBN given to you by Smashwords when you epublish elsewhere is that it's simply unethical. Smashwords is not your cheap ISBN vendor. They offer their free or low-cost ISBN service to people who use their distribution services. It's a perk. Something to entice you to do business with them, you see. If you take that ISBN and attach it to your Kindle book or any other ebook format that you then distribute yourself (or through some venue other than Smashwords), you're taking advantage of the service they've provided. In the long run, this could hurt indie authors everywhere. If everyone snagged a free or cheap ISBN from Smashwords and then used it elsewhere, you can bet your laptop Smashwords would eventually stop offering the service. You might be saving yourself some money in the short term, but you'll be doing yourself (and the rest of us) a huge disservice in the long run.

[b]*steps off soapbox*[/b]

Now let's look at some of the logistical reasons you don't want to do this.

First, you don't [b]need[/b] an ISBN to publish and have your ebook sold through any of the major outlets except Sony and Apple. You can sell direct through Amazon and have Smashwords distribute to various other outlets without an ISBN. So why even bother putting an ISBN on your Kindle version when you upload to KDP? Amazon will assign you their own identification number. The point of an ISBN is to identify a title (or an edition of a title). Retailers then use the ISBN to track sales of that title or edition. Since Amazon and other retailers will assign their own identification numbers to your book for sales tracking purposes. I'd be curious why indie authors feel the need to bother with an ISBN for the ebook at all, outside of the retailers that require it.

You're required to have a different ISBN for each edition of a book. If you do a print edition, you'll need a different ISBN than your ebook edition. It's currently hotly debated whether each of the ebook [i]formats [/i]constitutes a different [i]edition[/i], thereby requiring different ISBNs for each. Some say yes, others say no way, and it's even unclear based on what I've read from [url="https://www.myidentifiers.com/help/isbn"]Bowker[/url] and [url="http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/isbnqa.asp#Q2"]here[/url]. [url="http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/international/html/usm6.htm"]Here[/url], in the ISBN Users' Manual, is the closest thing I've found to the assertion that each format will require a different ISBN. But it also begs the question of whether an ebook is either "software" or an "online publication." Their section on [url="http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/international/html/usmnote.htm"]non-printed books[/url] was written in 1996 and covers physical items like audio cassettes, CDs, computer tapes, and more, but (obviously) not ebook files. Behind the times much?

When you purchase an ISBN yourself, there's a dropdown menu to specify why type of book the number will be assigned to. Among the different format types, there is a "multiple formats" option - according to some people's personal experiences I've read, like [url="http://dreamnotion.zhollis.com/tags/do-i-need-separate-isbns-for-amazon/"]this one[/url] - to select when specifying what the ISBN will be associated with. It would seem this option would be sufficient to use with all ebook formats. Of course, ISBNs are expensive, which is why many people have been asking about using the one given to them by Smashwords in other places. In the U.S., it's $125 for one ISBN, $250 for 10, $575 for 100, or $1000 for 1000 (obviously the best deal, but how many indie authors have $1000 to spend on ISBNs, and how many anticipate needing that many?) plus processing fees. If you're Canadian, you are super lucky. You can [url="http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html"]get yours for free[/url].

When Smashwords purchases the ISBN for you, that ISBN is attached to the ePub version of your book [b]ONLY[/b]. Why? Because that's the industry standard for everyone but Amazon, and that's the format that is distributed to Apple and Sony, the two retailers requiring and ISBN. So the ISBN record will only list ePub as the format, even if you use it when you upload to Amazon.

[b]If you've purchased ISBNs for your ebook versions, let us know about your experience and your thoughts. [/b]
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A Birthday Wish

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 21 February 2012 · 428 views

The day is barely half over and I've been happily surprised at the number of people taking a moment to wish me happy birthday on Facebook and elsewhere. It has been very sweet, especially since a number of these people are folks I know only through social media and networking as a writer. I've spoken often about my love of the writing community, sites like [url="http://www.agentqueryconnect.com/"]Agent Query Connect[/url], and all the fun and support I get on [url="https://twitter.com/#%21/JLeaLopez"]Twitter[/url]. It amazes me every day how well I can get to know and care for people whose faces I only know from their online avatars. And I'm touched by your birthday wishes for me today.

I have just one birthday wish, and that's for everyone in my extended "family" - my network of writers, readers, and friends - to support a young man in the fight of his life. Let me tell you Joshua's story.

Just one month ago, Maxwell Cynn shared a very personal revelation on his blog: His 21-year-old son, Joshua, was diagnosed with acute T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia. Two days later, his heart stopped. Thankfully, the ICU doctors and nurses were able to bring Joshua back and he is currently undergoing chemo and treatment for his cancer. Read Max's heart wrenching [url="http://maxwellcynn.blogspot.com/2012/01/life-changing-event-leukemia.html"]post here[/url].

Many of Max's friends were touched by the news and one in particular, [url="http://edenbaylee.wordpress.com/"]Eden Baylee[/url], sprang into action to help. She set up an IndieGoGo campaign, [url="http://www.indiegogo.com/indiesuniteforjoshua"]Indies Unite for Joshua[/url], to help raise money for Joshua's treatment and other expenses. At the time of his diagnosis, Joshua was half a semester away from graduating with a degree in philosophy, with a 4.0 GPA. He had to leave school to enter treatment. The Indies Unite for Joshua campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 by the end of May to help Max and his wife offset the cost of Joshua's treatment and school loans.

Now back to my birthday wish, and all of you. Max is one of those online-only friends of mine that I mentioned above. He's always been exceptionally sweet and kind, and he's a long-time supporter of my writing endeavors. He's a writer as well, and his books are a great read (thought-provoking, smart, and sexy on top of all that!) My wish is for all of you do one small thing to help Max's son Joshua.

How can you help? The obvious answer is donate. You can claim lots of great perks for different donation levels (starting at just $10), ranging from ebooks to guest blog spots to professional manuscript editing. Eden also recently secured the support of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian, and you'll be able to see those contributions on the campaign page starting Monday, February 27th.

If you are unable to contribute financially, or would like to do more, there are plenty of options. Emotional and moral support is just as important. Here is what you can do:
[list]
[*]Purchase one of [url="http://www.maxwellcynn.com/"]Max's books[/url].
[*]Snag the widget from the [url="http://www.indiegogo.com/indiesuniteforjoshua"]Indies Unite for Joshua[/url] page and display it on your blog or website (like I have in my sidebar here). Click "embed" on the campaign home page for the code for the widget.
[*]Share the campaign on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network you belong to. Please use the hashtag [url="https://twitter.com/#%21/search/%23IndiesUnite4Joshua"]#IndiesUnite4Joshua[/url] when tweeting. It'll help IndieGoGo see who's sharing the campaign and hopefully get more exposure that way.
[*]Re-tweet, re-share, re-post as often as you feel comfortable! If you see me (or someone else you follow) tweeting about it, re-tweet it for us!
[*]Visit [url="http://maxwellcynn.blogspot.com/"]Max's blog[/url] to read more about his brave son Joshua and leave a comment of support and encouragement.
[*]Tweet [url="https://twitter.com/#%21/JoshuaMoore1342"]Joshua[/url] and let him know you're pulling for him!
[*]If you would like to help in some other way that I haven't mentioned, contact me and I can put you in touch with the appropriate people.
[/list]If every one of [i]my [/i]blog followers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends shared this story, and even just two or three of [i]their [/i]friends/followers/readers did the same, that would be a few thousand new people who would hear Joshua's story. Somewhere in that few thousand, I know there are plenty of people who would like to help, and with that help, I know we can reach our goal.

Keep fighting, Joshua!
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Once and For All: Peak, Peek, Pique

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 24 January 2012 · 500 views

Homophones are a grammar pet peeve of mine. There/their/they're. Your/you're. Its/It's. But the one that really gets me is peak, peek, and pique. Why does it bug me so much? Recently speaking, it's because I've seen it not only in the social media interaction, but also the professional writing, of a PUBLISHED AUTHOR. Yes, an indie author - and indie in this case doesn't mean just self-pub, it means small independent (mostly digital) press, which I assume does have some sort of editing process?! Misusing one of these words in casual discourse is one thing. Letting it slip (more than once) in a published work is, in my opinion, unacceptable.

The other reason this particular set of homonyms irritates me is that for every person who goes "Ohhhhh, gotcha, thanks!" when the error is pointed out, there is usually one person who will attempt to justify the mistake by trying to equate the definition of the word they've misused with the intent behind the sentence. But they're still wrong. Let me tell you how and why.

I am far from a grammarian, and although I know plenty about proper word usage (most of the time - [url="http://www.robbgrindstaff.com/"]Robb Grindstaff[/url] has to remind me about farther/further every time!) my eyes have been known to glaze over at some of the more complicated discussions of syntax and such. I don't want YOUR eyes to glaze over here, but in order to finally put the peak/peek/pique thing to rest, we'll have to dig into [i]transitive[/i] and [i]intransitive[/i] verbs a little bit, in addition to the actual meanings of the words.

[i]Transitive verbs[/i]

A transitive verb is one that takes a direct object. [i] She left the door open. [/i]Here, [i]left [/i]is a transitive verb, because it takes the object [i]the door[/i]. The action is being performed directly on the door. The sentence would be [b]incomplete [/b]if there weren't an object to go with that verb.

[i]Intransitive verbs[/i]

Intransitive verbs do not take a direct object, and are [b]complete [/b]without one. Intransitive verbs are (often, I'm not sure if they are always) a state of being. The action is not being performed directly to or on someone/something. [i]She left at intermission. [/i]Here, [i]left[/i] is an intransitive verb. There is no direct object.

If you aren't sure whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, try to reword the sentence in passive voice, using "by". If you can, it's transitive. If not, it's intransitive. [i]The door was left open by her [/i]make sense. You can't rewrite the second sentence in the same way because it's an intransitive verb.

[b]So what does this have to do with peak/peek/pique?[/b]

First of all, let's just throw out [i]peek [/i]from this equation because we all know the verb to peek means to glance quickly. It is occasionally used instead of peak, but nobody has ever tried to use the different meanings of peek and peak to justify their misuse. It's mostly a spelling error. Though I hold you, dear readers, to a higher standard, so I really hope you're using that one correctly. ;-)

The big two offenders are [i]peak[/i] and [i]pique[/i], which people seem to confuse not only in spelling, but meaning.

From [url="http://dictionary.com/"]Dictionary.com[/url]:


[b]pique[sup][/sup][color=#333333][/color][/b]

[color=#333333]verb[/color] (used with object)

[color=#333333]1.[/color] to [color=#333333]affect[/color] with sharp irritation and resentment, [color=#333333]especially[/color] by some [color=#333333]wound[/color] to pride: She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation.
2.[color=#333333] to[/color] [color=#333333]wound[/color] (the [color=#333333]pride,[/color] vanity, etc.).
3. to excite (interest, [color=#333333]curiosity,[/color] etc.): Her [color=#333333]curiosity[/color] was piqued by the [color=#333333]gossip.[/color]
4. to [color=#333333]arouse[/color] [color=#333333]an[/color] [color=#333333]emotion[/color] or provoke to action: to [color=#333333]pique[/color] someone to [color=#333333]answer[/color] a [color=#333333]challenge.[/color]
5. Archaic . [color=#333333]to[/color] pride (oneself) (usually [color=#333333]followed[/color] [color=#333333]by[/color] [color=#333333]on[/color] [color=#333333]or[/color] [color=#333333]upon[/color] ).

[color=#333333]verb[/color] [color=#333333](used[/color] [color=#333333]without[/color] [color=#333333]object)[/color]

6.[color=#333333] to[/color] [color=#333333]arouse[/color] [color=#333333]pique[/color] in [color=#333333]someone:[/color] [color=#333333]an[/color] [color=#333333]action[/color] [color=#333333]that[/color] piqued when it was meant [color=#333333]to[/color] [color=#333333]soothe.[/color]


[b]peak[/b]
[sup][color=#333333][/color][/sup]

verb (used without object)

14. to project in a peak.
15. to attain a peak of [color=#333333]activity,[/color] development, popularity, etc.: The artist peaked in the 1950s.


verb (used with object)

16. Nautical . to raise the after end of (a yard, gaff, etc.) to or toward an angle above the horizontal.
From these definitions, you can see that the proper statement would be [i]That short skirt and low-cut top [b]piqued [/b]his interest. [/i]and NOT [i]That short skirt and low-cut top [b]peaked[/b] his interest.[/i]
The sentence clearly means that the provocative clothing aroused the man's interest. Further, you can look at the fact that if you used [i][b]peak [/b][/i]here, it would be a [b]transitive verb[/b], because it has the direct object of [i]his interest[/i]. (His interest was piqued [b]by[/b] the clothes.) But the only definition given of [i]peak[/i] as a transitive verb (used with object) is a nautical reference. You can [i]peak the gaff[/i] while sailing, which would mean you raised the after end above the horizontal. The other definitions are [i]intransitive [/i]usages of [i]peak. [/i]
While dictionary.com doesn't list peak as a transitive verb meaning "To bring to a maximum of development, value, or intensity" or "to cause to come to a peak", there are other sources that do. This is where you get people trying to justify the use of [i]peak [/i]in sentences like the one above.
They argue that the sexy clothing [b]could have[/b] brought the man's interest to a maximum of intensity, or could have caused his interest to come to a peak, and so that sentence [b]could[/b] be correct.

But it's not. It sounds ridiculous, and it looks ridiculous. As a reader, I would never assume a writer intended that meaning of peak, and as a writer, I would never construct a sentence that way. If that's truly the intent of the sentence why wouldn't one simply say [i]The short skirt and low-cut top brought his interest to a peak.[/i] There's no grey area about meaning there. Although it's still a ridiculous sentence. If some skimpy clothing brings a character's interest to the highest point, I sure hope that character is a 12-year-old boy who gets big thrills from very little.


To be honest, I don't know why some dictionaries list [i]peak[/i] as a transitive verb in anything other than the nautical usage. (Dictionary.com doesn't; [url="http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/peak?q=peak"]Oxford [/url]doesn't; [url="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peak?show=1&t=1327437913"]Merriam-Webster[/url] does, but doesn't specify anything about nautical usage; [url="http://www.yourdictionary.com/peak"]You Dictionary[/url] does; [url="http://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=peak"]American Heritage[/url] does.) Perhaps it's an old usage that has fallen out of style? I'm not sure. But it's used so far and between that I couldn't find a single usage of it as a transitive verb after lots of Googling and discussion with word nerds on Facebook and Twitter.


So there you have it. Now you know the proper definition of [i]pique[/i] versus [i]peak[/i], and should you ever forget which you want to use, look at whether you're dealing with a transitive or intransitive verb. With the exception of the nautical usage we covered above, you should [b]NOT[/b] be using [i]peak[/i] as a transitive verb. That should take care of using [i]peak[/i] when what you want to use is [i]pique.[/i]
And of course, please don't use [i]peek[/i] when you mean to use either of the other two. Just don't.

If I ever see any of you write "It peaked my interest", I will call you on it. I might have a temper tantrum about it first, but then I'll call you on it.


[b]That's one of my grammar pet peeves. What are yours?[/b]


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A Writer's Guide to Successful Blogging, Part 4

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 14 January 2012 · 390 views

Remember this series? Thought it was time for another installation. If you missed the previous posts, it's not too late to catch up. So far we've discussed the [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2011/05/writers-guide-to-successful-blogging.html"]overall theme[/url] or subject of your blog, [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2011/07/writers-guide-to-successful-blogging.html"]time management tips[/url] from [url="http://deanswritingtime.blogspot.com/"]Dean C. Rich[/url], and the important detail of [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2011/09/writers-guide-to-successful-blogging.html"]live links[/url].

Today we'll be talking about some important things all writers need on their blogs (besides blog posts, obviously).

[b]Subscription options[/b]

Note I said option[b]S[/b], plural. Occasionally I'll come across a Blogger blog where the only option to subscribe is to follow with Google Friend Connect. That's okay, but it's not enough. I follow that way, but to be honest, I rarely look at my blog list when I sign into Blogger. I sign in to post on my own blogs, then I log out. I like to subscribe to posts via email, and also occasionally using feeds. Every reader is different, so you want to make sure you have plenty of options for each of them.
[list]
[*]Google Friend Connect (for Blogger blogs)
[*]RSS, Atom, or other feed services (in Blogger, go to Layout, click add a Gadget in whichever sidebar/area you want it to appear, and then select Subscription Links)
[*]Email - in Blogger, this uses FeedBurner to deliver your posts via email to subscribers (follow the same instructions as above, but select the Follow by Email option)
[/list][b]Email[/b]

You should absolutely have some sort of contact info on your blog. You can put in on a separate page/tab, or you can add it right on your homepage (see mine? top left corner). At the very least, this offers readers a chance to send you a "love your blog!" email if they so desire. But think of this: have you ever had trouble commenting on someone else's blog? I have. Blogger especially has a tendency to be picky about comments. One of my readers who couldn't comment on my blog dropped me an email to let me know she appreciated one of my posts.

What if someone stumbles across your blog and wants to talk to you about a guest blogging opportunity? Or what if an agent/editor/someone who you'd just die if you missed the opportunity to hear from wants to get in touch with you? You never know when someone will need to get in touch with you through some method a little less public than a blog comment, so go ahead and put up your email address.

Privacy concerns? Of course, that's natural. You can set up an alternate email address specifically for your blog, then connect it to your regular email so you can check both at the same time. Or if you use Hotmail, like I do, you can set up an email alias - it's not a separate email account, just an alternate address for my existing account. This way I don't have to worry about checking a separate account.

One tip: to avoid as much spambot mail as possible, put your email up as such: YourEmail[AT]provider[DOT]com or some other way that disguises the fact that it's an email address to anything but a human reader. I didn't do this at first, and after the tenth or so email about getting my degree or ordering high quality replicas of whatever, I changed it.

[b]Social Media buttons/widgets[/b]

Do you tweet? Have a Facebook fan page? Belong to some other social site you'd like your readers to know about? Check with each site and/or your blog host to see if there is a button or widget you can add to your site that will direct your blog readers to those locations. Twitter, for example, offers a few different options. You can have a simple button, or you can have a widget that displays your most recent tweets.

Remember, it's all about making it easy for your readers to keep up with where you are and what you're saying.

[b]Post sharing options[/b]

This seems like a no-brainer, but I've seen plenty of blogs that don't have this. If someone likes your post enough to share it on Facebook, don't make them open a new tab/window, sign in, copy/paste the link into their status and hit send. If they're in a hurry, they might not share at all. With share buttons, it takes a fraction of the time to post a link to FB, Twitter, or any other number of sites.

In Blogger, you can access this by going to your layout, then clicking edit in the box where your blog posts go. Check the box for "show share buttons" and you're all set!

[b]"My Writing" section[/b]

If you're published, have a dedicated place on your blog toshow off your work. If you have books for sale, you can put the covers and links in your sidebar. You can have a separate page or tab that lists links to anything you have published or available for purchase.

If you're [b]NOT[/b] published, don't worry. If you feel so inclined, post a few paragraphs as a sample, or include blurbs for what you're currently writing or querying to agents. You can also not do this. It's up to you.

All of these features will help your readers find and share your content with ease. There is one last thing I want to mention, and that's [b]comment moderation options.[/b] Everyone has their own take on this, and reasons for why they do what they do, but here's my two cents:

I [b]don't[/b] have comment moderation, I [b]don't[/b] use captcha authentication, and I [b]do [/b]allow anonymous comments. I want my blog to be a dialogue. Why would I put up any barriers for people who've taken the time to read and then leave a comment? You might get a spam comment now and then, but they're easily deleted (I haven't had one in quite some time. Blogger's new spam filter is pretty good about catching them). I don't moderate comments partially because I don't want the hassle of having to approve them all, but mostly because I kind of hate when other people use it. I hate not knowing if there are additional comments before mine that I'm not seeing because they haven't been approved yet. Those comments might say something interesting that I'd also like to respond to. I also like to keep up with the conversation on a post I take time to comment on, so I'll click the box to subscribe to follow-up comments. If there are four comments in the queue before mine, I'm pretty sure I don't get notifications for those, so I won't know to come back and check the discussion unless someone comments after me.

That's my opinion on the issue. You'll do with the comments what you think makes sense for you. But as for the other things, I hope to see all those features next time I visit your blogs, if they aren't there already.

[b]Are there any other features you think are must-haves for writers who blog?[/b]
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Yes, I am a Judgmental Bitch

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 02 January 2012 · 679 views

Whoa, what? Where'd that come from, you ask? Well, New Year, New Me! Okay, not exactly. And I'm not exactly a judgmental bitch... not all the time, at least. This post has been brewing in my head for some time now, and I figured what better way to open the new year than with a bit of spunk? The post title is fair warning to you all: I'm not about to be nice, and you might disagree with me, but I don't care.

Let's talk about erotica, shall we? A year and a half ago I first wrote my little [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2010/07/erotica-writers-manifesto.html"]Erotica Writer's Manifesto[/url]. It was partially serious, and partially facetious. One line in particular is especially important to me:

[i]I will not write trash[/i].

I feel the need to reiterate this, and expand upon it. I know what some of you may be thinking: [i]How do you define trash? One man's trash is another man's treasure.[/i] Or in the case of erotica, one person's squick may be another person's kink. I get that, I do. I like a good spanking scene now and then (as you can probably tell from my [url="http://www.facebook.com/notes/j-lea-lopez/between-the-lines/319572718065634"]new short story[/url]), but that might totally turn off other people. That's fine. But for me, there is a line.

I joined a group of erotica writers late last year, excited to be in a group of like-minded people who write the same sort of stories I write. I love [url="http://www.agentqueryconnect.com/"]Agent Query Connect[/url], and they aren't prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought a forum specifically for erotica writers would be perfect for me. Well, I didn't stay long. I poked around for a couple weeks, interacted a bit, but then I deleted my account. I couldn't get anything more there than I do from AQC and my network of writing friends on Facebook and Twitter. That, and I didn't like some of the conversation taking place there.

I'll bring this back around to the issue of writing "trash" in a second, just bear with me here. Anyone who knows me in real life, or who's interacted with me frequently enough in any online forum, Twitter, etc. knows I'm generally very middle-of-the-road, don't like taking "sides", hesitate to make any sort of value or judgment statement whatsoever (because I don't want to offend anyone, and don't want to have to retract a statement later if I change my mind and decide I'm wrong). I have to feel pretty strongly to draw any sort of line in the sand. But here I am, drawing one.

There's a particular type of erotica that is immensely popular and sells very well. I happen to find it slightly morally repugnant. I won't buy it. And if it's not something I'd buy to read myself, I won't write it, either. The question came up on this other forum about jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak, and publishing these types of stories because they're a hot seller. Some said sure, it's a little squicky but I write them and they make me good money. Some said no, I wouldn't do it. There was plenty of "don't do it if it's not right for you" but also plenty of "set aside your own objections and go for it! It's a hot seller! You can do it!" I made a comment similar to what I just said above: I wouldn't read it, and find the subject matter morally questionable, and therefore you won't catch me writing it to make a few bucks. Someone came back with a gentle nudge to tell me I might not want to offend my fellow writers who are trying to make a living, just because they chose to do it writing stories that aren't necessarily what I would write.

Well, whatever. That pissed me off a bit, I'll admit. It made me laugh a little bit, too. I thought it was interesting that someone chose to single me out for my opinion, but not any of the people encouraging others to swallow their own objections and drink the Kool-Aid. But that's all really beside the point.

The point is this: I won't write trash, and I consider those types of stories to be trash. I've hesitated to name the particular theme in case... well, I guess I'm still worried about offending any of my potential readers (old habits die hard) but here it is: pseudo-incest stories. The ones with step-parent/step-child sex, or step-siblings, etc. Daddy/daughter stuff especially. (I'm sure there are other subsets and themes that I disagree with, but this is the biggest.) You wouldn't believe how well they sell. It makes me shudder.

But the fact that these stories are popular isn't the only thing that astounds me. The seemingly nonchalant attitude of some of the writers about the moral "grey area" they inhabit with such writing was pretty stunning. There are discussions among writers about how well some of these different stories sell, how to "get over it" and write this type of story ("it" being your own mental blocks/objections), how to toe the line of legality, etc. Of course the arguments against me go something like this: [i]You don't assume a murder mystery author is encouraging murder, do you? You don't think an author who writes about serial rapists or baby-killers is endorsing that behavior, do you?[/i] No, of course I don't. But this is different. I'm sorry, but it just is.

That's what I would qualify as trash. Subject matter that is morally reprehensible. And authors who pander to that market regardless. And without even bothering to write a [i]good story[/i]. Because let me tell you, I followed the Amazon links and read some free samples, and in 99.9% of the cases, I found the writing quality to be sorely lacking.

The writing quality may even be what pisses me off the most. I have a message for these types of authors (and let me make it painfully clear, I am NOT referring to any and every member of that online forum I joined and then left, because they do not all fall into this category. I'm directing this toward any writer, anywhere, who writes these types of trashy storylines, especially if they also write trashily. No, trashily is probably not a word, but it fits here anyway.) Here's what I have to say:

You're giving erotica a bad name. You're the reason that people keep telling me I should use a pseudonym if I want to publish erotica. You're flooding the market with these books that I not only find disgusting, but that are also poorly written. Erotica can be so much more than just trashy sex. I'm tired of your predictable characterizations and plots. It makes me sick that many of these pseudo-incest stories feature a father figure who "teaches" the young woman about her sexuality. Or a mother figure who is a frigid bitch, leaving it up to the daughter to give the step-father the sexual attention he craves. I mean, seriously? WTF? Can't you at least think of something a little more imaginative? And hey, maybe a little less misogynistic?

Jump on the trashy bandwagon if you want, but you won't find me there. Not now. Not ever. You'll see all of my erotica published as J. Lea Lopez because I like what I write, and even if I touch on subjects or situations that some people may be uncomfortable with, I'll do it responsibly, and with some class. And talent. If I'm not willing to put my name on it, I'm not going to write it at all.
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In Which I Swoon Against My Will

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 24 December 2011 · 408 views

All of my ridiculous Christmas song posts so far have been about older songs. Today I'm looking at a more contemporary song. To be honest, this is a seriously guilty pleasure. I adore this song. I don't want to like it, but I do! In fact, this song makes me all melty inside. You know, like some old school Boyz II Men ballads or something, except it's.... come a little closer so I can whisper. I don't want everyone to hear. It's... *NSYNC.

Oh yes, dear readers. The boyish Justin Timberlake, the dreadlocked Chris Kirkpatrick, clean-cut Lance Bass, manly Joey Fatone, and silky-voiced JC Chasez. And yes, I knew all their names without having to look it up. My guilty pleasure Christmas song is [i]Under My Tree[/i], from their 1998 Christmas album, [i]Home For Christmas.[/i] Before I analyze the lyrics, let's just listen:


Ah, the late nineties' boy band sound! The bad fashion! The frosted hair! What's not to love?

At first listen, it's a sweet, if cheesy, song that would make any pre-teen girl scream with glee. But let's look a little closer at the lyrics to see the unexpected sexiness - as well as the outright goofiness - that make me love this song so much.

It's that time of year
Christmas is here
Everybody's back together again
Spreading the joy,
Spreading good cheer
Toasting to another year's end
So thankful for,
All of our friends
When the party is over,
The night's just begun [b](oh hello... does this mean what I think it means?)[/b]
I promise the best part
Is yet to come
Slow dance together,
Two become one[b] (yes, this is exactly what I thought it meant! *NSYNC, you naughty boys)[/b]
That's what we've waited all day for

No one else but me and you
Nothing I would rather do
Then hold you all through the night
Under my tree [b][color=#cc0000](aww, here comes the first swoon!)[/color][/b]Bring along the mistletoe
Keep the music nice and low
I'll show you how good it could be. [b][color=#cc0000](oh my, did it just get a little warm in here?)[/color][/b]I wish that Santa could be here to see [b][color=#cc0000](who knew the big guy liked to watch? That's kinky)[/color][/b]
It's beautiful
Under my tree

The fire's aglow
We've got Nat King Cole
Singing us a song from his heart
Sleigh bells and snow
Makes us feel close
To the stars
When carols are sung and
The fire has died
The embers still burns with the love in our eyes [b][color=#cc0000](CHEESE ALERT! And yet... I bet you just swooned, didn't you?)[/color][/b]We cherish the moment
We savor the night
That's what we've waited all day for

No one else but me and you
Nothing I would rather do
Then hold you all through the night
Under my tree
Bring along the mistletoe
Keep the music nice and low
I'll show you how good it could be.
I wish that Santa could be here to see
It's beautiful
Under my tree

No one but me
No one but you
See rendez-vous (under my tree)
No one but me
No one but you

When the party is over,
The night's just begun
I promise the best part
Is yet to come
We slow dance together,
Two become one
That's what we've waited all day for [b][color=#cc0000](Yep, can't you just feel that anticipation, like you have indeed been waiting all day?)[/color][/b]

No one else but me and you
Nothing I would rather do
Then hold you all through the night
Under my tree (under my tree) [b][color=#cc0000](cue another swoon!)[/color][/b]

Bring along the mistletoe
Keep the music nice and low
I'll show you how good it could be. (Oh yeah, show me how good it could be... Uh, I mean... yeah...)
I wish that Santa could be here to see
I wish that Santa could be here to see [b][color=#cc0000](Well... does Santa [/color][i]really[/i][color=#cc0000] have to watch?)[/color][/b]

No one else but me and you
Nothing I would rather do
Then make all your dreams come true
Under my tree
Such a cozy rendez-vous
Just relax enjoy the view
I'll show you how could it could be.
I wish that Santa could be here to see
It's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful under my tree [b][color=#cc0000](Aww... and the final swoon!)[/color][/b]
It's that time of year
Christmas is here
It's that time of year
Christmas is here
Full of love and good cheer.

[b]So that's my ridiculous song guilty pleasure. What's yours? [/b]

I hope you've had fun looking at some silly Christmas songs with me over the past couple weeks. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
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Skating - Is That What Kids Call it These Days?

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 17 December 2011 · 571 views

As my [url="http://jlealopez.blogspot.com/2011/12/date-rape-song-its-all-about-context.html"]last installation[/url] in the ridiculous Christmas lyrics series showed, sometimes the meaning of a song can change when taken out of the social context in which it was originally penned. Certain words take on new connotations over time, which can make for some comical interpretation. There's this one song at work that everyone just hates. It's annoying. But it makes me laugh because of what was obviously not intentional innuendo. It's called [i]I Wanna Go Skating with Willie[/i]. Yes, you read that right. I assume the writer used the name Willie because it played off the other lyrics of "will he" and "willy-nilly", but considering the modern slang usage of [i]willy[/i], it just makes it sound comically obscene.


[center][url="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Iz37ImNs8_M/Tu0foQOXxGI/AAAAAAAAAXM/DkMai4WrLNs/s1600/patti+page+xmas.jpg"][img]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Iz37ImNs8_M/Tu0foQOXxGI/AAAAAAAAAXM/DkMai4WrLNs/s1600/patti+page+xmas.jpg[/img][/url][/center]

Unfortunately there is no YouTube video for this song, and I couldn't find anywhere to direct you to listen to it for free, except for places like Spotify, where you need be logged into an account to listen. So here's a Spotify link for it ([url="http://open.spotify.com/track/2oBF9j6V6OPu7KcEnEHhfI"]Patti Page – I Want To Go Skating With Willie[/url]) , or you can search for it on Lastfm or any of those other places. Here are the lyrics:

[i]I wanna go skating with Willie[/i]
[i]Cause Willie is such a good skate[/i]
[i]I wanna go skating with Willie[/i]
[i]But will Willie ask for a date?[/i]

[b][color=#cc0000](Willie's a [/color][i]good skate[/i][color=#cc0000], huh? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?)[/color][/b]

[i]That Willie's got me willy-nilly[/i]
[i]My poor heart is ready to break[/i]
[i]I would like to go skating with Willie, but will he?[/i]
[i]Cause Willie is such a good skate[/i]
[color=#cc0000]
[/color][color=#cc0000]
[b](Did you snort a little at [i]willy-nilly[/i]? I know I did.)[/b][/color]
We'd go gliding, sliding
Over the slippery ice

[color=#cc0000]
[b](Gliding and sliding, eh? I guess Willie understands the importance of lube.)[/b][/color]
[i]We'd go sliding, gliding[/i]
[i]Gee, but that Willie is nice[/i]

[color=#cc0000]
[b](She really likes her Willie.... *wink*)[/b][/color]
[i]We'd go gliding, sliding[/i]
[i]Gosh, but that Willie is great[/i]
[i]I would like to go skating with Willie, but will he?[/i]
[i]Cause Willie is such a good skate.[/i]

[b](Willie must really know how to use his, uh, well, you know.) [/b]

[i]We'd go gliding, sliding[/i]
[i]Over the slippery ice[/i]
[i]We'd go sliding, gliding[/i]
[i]Gee, but that Willie is nice[/i]
[i]We'd go gliding, sliding[/i]
[i]Gosh, but that WIllie is great[/i]
[i]I would like to go skating with Willie, but will he?[/i]
[i]Cause Willie is such a good skate[/i]
[i]Cause Willie is such a good skate. [/i]

Please, if you're on Spotify, click the link above and have a listen, or find this song elsewhere on the internet. If you think the lyrics are hilariously awful, just wait til you hear it with the music.

Next time, I'll be talking about a modern Christmas song that I'm ashamed to say makes me swoon a little.
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Write Me a Song

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 14 December 2011 · 605 views

[color=#cc0000]
Since I've been talking a little bit about Christmas songs, I thought I'd take a slight detour and talk about how songs relate to writing in general. This post originally appeared on 11/10/11 at [url="http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/"]From The Write Angle[/url] as [url="http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/2011/11/crossing-bridge-song-structure-and-plot.html"]Crossing the Bridge: Song Structure and Plot[/url]. I'll be back in a few days with more silly Christmas songs![/color]
I was marveling the other day about how some of my favorite singer-songwriters can really tell a whole story in a four-minute song. I love a good ballad, especially. The music, lyrics, the singer's voice, everything works together to take you on a roller coaster ride of emotion. I tend to write character-driven stories, and it's that same gut-wrenching ride that I strive to impart to my reader. This got me thinking. [b]What can fiction writers learn from songwriters?[/b] The answer, I believe, lies in structure.

Thinking back to your elementary and middle school English classes, you may remember charting the plot of a book using something like this:


[center][url="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gl_7-bNKRyM/TrxuTs0x9aI/AAAAAAAAAWo/k2fKtUmwClU/s1600/Freytags_pyramid.png"][img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gl_7-bNKRyM/TrxuTs0x9aI/AAAAAAAAAWo/k2fKtUmwClU/s320/Freytags_pyramid.png[/img][/url][/center]

Look familiar? Was I the only one who felt constricted by this particular diagram? Exposition and rising action were no problem. For the most part, falling action was a no-brainer, and denouement was easy peasy. But I often faltered around the climax. (Please, no psychoanalysis of that statement is necessary.) In many books, the climax felt more like a series of events—a plateau, if you will. And that straight line of rising action is really more of a procession of peaks and valleys. When you break it down, it looks a bit like a song. (For these purposes, "song" refers mainly to current popular music. Song structure varies greatly, not only within but across genres as well.)

The exposition is your basic intro, and the rising action starts with the first verse, followed by the chorus. The verse tells the story, and the chorus gives you the overall theme of the song. (Don't ask me why, but I'd never realized this basic premise of storytelling vs. theme until I [url="http://www.irenejackson.com/form.html"]read it in those concrete terms[/url], and then I thought of just about every song I'd ever heard and—whaddya know? It's true!) Many songs also have a [i]bridge[/i], which I have come to realize is my favorite part.

Let's take a listen to one of my recent favorites, [i]Take it All,[/i] by Adele.



The verse does indeed tell you the story, and the chorus gives you the theme. When the chorus comes in for the first time, there's a burst of new emotion, like a mini-climax, before we come back down a notch for another verse. The bridge starts around 2:08—this is where you hear things change, and instead of coming back down to the emotional/dynamic level of the verse again, we start another build of emotion. It's not a one-note type of climax, it's a gradual build toward and satisfying release from the point of highest emotional impact. The repetition of the chorus closes the song and drives home the general theme again. Was it as good for you as it was for me? A great song has you yearning for that bridge, for those few bars where it all comes together and makes the hair on your arms stand up.

So let's go one more time. [i]Gravity[/i], by Sara Bareilles, is another song that gives you the same ebb and flow of tension in the alternation of verse and chorus, then knocks your socks off with a great bridge (which starts at 2:25). I dare you to try not to get swept up in the tension. I've listened to this song hundreds of times, and I still take a deep breath at the peak of the bridge, when she sings the word "down," and hold it until she releases. Exquisite.



So what can we take away from this (besides learning of my penchant for soulful female singer-songwriters)?

Instead of a three-act structure, or the linear rise and fall in those old plot charts that seem to turn on a dime at the apex, think of your story as a song, or a series of songs. Tell your story in the verses, intertwined with conflicts that help us understand the overarching themes of your novel (the chorus). Build toward that spine-tingling climax. I want you to take me over the bridge. Give me a few moments to savor the dizzying heights before you wrap me up in another cozy chorus and send me on my way.

You can use this structure on both a micro and macro level to weave a story rich with tension and emotion that reaches nearly addictive highs. If you can do that, you'll have me coming back for more of your product again, and again, and again...

[b]What other aspects of songwriting can you apply to fiction? What songs intoxicate YOU with their emotion and powerful storytelling?[/b]


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The Date Rape Song: It's All About Context

  Posted by J. Lea Lopez , 11 December 2011 · 492 views

[size=1]Let me start with a disclaimer: you should read this post with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I don't believe this is [i]actually[/i] the meaning of this song, and neither should you.[/size]

[i]Baby It's Cold Outside[/i] is one of my favorite Christmasy songs. I love the back and forth structure, and it's just a cute little song. However, when you've been hearing it over and over again for two months (and it's still not even Christmas yet), you start to read a little more into the lyrics than perhaps you should.

The song was written by Frank Loesser in the 30s (not the 40s as the video states). We're talking 75 years ago. It's all about context here. Lyrics that made perfect sense back then feel a little different today. Take a listen:


Cute, right? Well, let's see...

It's clear when the song starts that she's saying she should go, and he's saying please stay. Here are the lyrics, with my comments in bold.

[i]I really can't stay [/i]
But baby, it's cold outside
[i]I've got to go 'way [/i]
But baby, it's cold outside
[i]This evening has been [/i]
Been hoping that you'd drop in
[i]So very nice [/i]
I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice

[b]He really doesn't want her to go, does he?[/b]

[i]My mother will start to worry [/i]
Beautiful, what's your hurry?
[i]And father will be pacing the floor [/i]
Listen to the fireplace roar
[i]So really I'd better scurry [/i]
Beautiful, please don't hurry
[i]Well, maybe just a half a drink more [/i]
Put some records on while I pour

[b]She said NO, buddy, okay? Don't press your luck! And chica, don't let a man sweet-talk you with all that [i]beautiful[/i] stuff into doing something you don't want to.[/b]

[i]The neighbors might think [/i]
But, baby it's bad out there [b]Yeah, we get it. The weather's bad. She's still trying to leave.[/b]
[i]Say, what's in this drink? [/i][b]ROOFIE![/b]
No cabs to be had out there
[i]I wish I knew how[/i]
Your eyes are like starlight now
[i]To break the spell [/i][b]WTF did you put in my drink... I feel funny...[/b]
I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell[b] No running away now...[/b]

[i]I ought to say no, no, no sir [/i][b]So say it! Don't let him bully you.[/b]
Mind if I move in closer? [b]What part of 'I really should go' would make you think that?[/b]
[i]At least I'm gonna say that I tried[/i]
What's the sense of hurting my pride? [b]WHAT? Is this like the old-time equivalent of "If you loved me, you'd do it"?[/b]
[i]I really can't stay[/i]
Oh baby, don't hold out [b]Don't hold out, PUT OUT![/b]
[i]Ah, but it's cold outside [/i][b]No, don't succumb to his pressure![/b]
Baby, it's cold outside

[i]I simply must go[/i]
But baby, it's cold outside
[i]The answer is no [/i][b]You tell him![/b]
But baby, it's cold outside
[i]The welcome has been[/i]
How lucky that you dropped in [b](Cue maniacal laughter and evil hand-rub)[/b]
[i]So nice and warm[/i]
Look out the window at that storm

[i]My sister will be suspicious[/i]
Gosh, your lips look delicious
[i]My brother will be there at the door[/i]
Waves upon a tropical shore
[i]My maiden aunt's mind is vicious [/i][b]In other words: People will be looking for me, you creep![/b]
Gosh your lips [b]are[/b] delicious [b]He just kissed her... even after her all her protests[/b]
[i]Well maybe just a cigarette more [/i][b]Where's your backbone??[/b]
Never such a blizzard before

[i]I got to get home[/i]
But baby, you'd freeze out there
[i]Say, lend me your comb[/i]
It's up to your knees out there
[i]You've really been grand [/i][b]Has he, really? Sounds more like he's been a jerk.[/b]
I'm thrilled when you touch my hand
[i]Why don't you see[/i]
How can you do this thing to me? [b]By 'this thing' I assume he means be such a tease.[/b]
[i]There's bound to be talk tomorrow[/i]
Think of my lifelong sorrow
[i]At least there will be plenty implied[/i]
If you caught pneumonia and died [b]WHAT?! This could be either another attempt to guilt her into staying, or a thinly veiled threat, as in, if you leave, you might "catch pneumonia and die"[/b]
[i]I really can't stay[/i]
Get over that hold out [b]He's gonna get what he wants[/b]
(Together:)[i] Ah, but it's cold outside[/i]

So, you see how a girl could misinterpret this little ditty as being an account of date rape, right?

Oh, and if you're really dimwitted enough to think this song is [b]actually[/b] about date rape, please [url="http://persephonemagazine.com/2010/12/listening-while-feminist-in-defense-of-baby-it%E2%80%99s-cold-outside/"]take a look at this[/url].

In the next installment, I'll take a look at another very old song that makes me giggle with its unintended sexual innuendo.
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