Antidote to current events: Truckers Against Trafficking

Who couldn’t use a story to balance out the anger and violence that has filled so much of the news lately? I’m normally a news junkie and for the past week even I can’t get myself to turn the channel to a news station.

Enter this blurb about Kevin Kimmel, a father, grandfather, and truck driver who saw a gaunt young woman being jerked away from the window of a recreational vehicle parked at truck stop, and made a phone call that resulted in the rescue of a twenty-year-old who was being tortured into having sex with strangers.

heroesEven more impressive is that Mr. Kimmel is associated with a group called TAT (Truckers Against Trafficking) that is working to educate those affiliated with the trucking industry to notice and report signs of sex slavery. Using the slogan “Everyday heroes needed” this group is fighting domestic human trafficking and so far has identified 425 likely trafficking cases involving 744 victims and 249 minors.

This tears at my heartstrings in a particularly strong way. My research for c3, a science fiction book about sex trafficking, sent me researching dark corners of the internet into which I would never have ventured otherwise. I was appalled, and I would described myself as someone who does not shock easily.

We still have a long way to go. According to the Daily Kos, there are an estimated 1.5 million victims of human trafficking in North America, and here on our continent it is a $150 billion dollar industry. As TED talk speaker Tony Talbott said while speaking on the subject “It’s all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it; You can sell a kilo of heroin once; You can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”

Watch his amazing TED talk, and join me in cheering for the Kevin Kimmel’s of the world.

 

 

The Power of Three

I joined a small writers group recently and it has added new energy to my story telling. Perhaps I should point out that the group is small in number, not short in stature, and that a lot of the energy I feel comes from the fact the others also write a sort of fantasy – science fiction- metaphysical melange like I do.

life lessons11We hold animated discussions about how telepathy works and how to write a phrase readers will want to quote and the other day we got started on ideas that are inherently powerful, even magic if you will. The best example we could find was the power of the number three.

Make three wishes. Blood, sweat and tears. ABC. The popularity of a trilogy. Star Wars’ brilliant three trilogies. Yes, I even wrote a whole fiction book called “C to the power of three.” The Huffington Post has a fun article on threes and marketing experts are happy to advise you on how to harness its power.

But no one seems to have this figured out better than those who compose country western songs. Seriously. I was not well acquainted with the musical genre before I wrote c3, but my hero Teddie was clearly a fan of it. I had made sounds tracks for the main characters in my other books and was compelled to do the same here. So I sought out CW songs that fit my story and Teddie’s personality and yet which I liked okay too. You can find all of them on the music page for this blog.

Almost every song tells a story, unlike most music in other genres. Every story is told in three parts. Always three parts. Each story is more compelling than you would expect, grabbing your heartstrings with an almost magical grip. Past, present future. The power of three.

Today I updated the music page with more details about my schmaltziest song, “Laughed Until We Cried” performed by Jason Aldean. Dammit I don’t like sappy music, but this one gets me every time. It must be that three thing that he uses so well.

Enjoy this excerpt from where the song appears in the book, and then enjoy the video at the end.  Grab a tissue. That power of three thing might get to you also.

Ariel got word from work that she had to leave a day early for a business meeting in Germany and Teddie was surprised to find herself sad at the news. The night before Ariel left, the two sisters sat together at the kitchen table, laughing and reminiscing, and Teddie realized how helpful it had been to have a relative close by as she went through this. She went to bed with a touching song about reliving family memories called “Laughed Until We Cried” playing in her head.

In spite of the soothing start to the night, she woke up a couple of hours later, filled with worry. On Lawan’s advice she had refrained from traveling in her mist body since the surgery, and she was growing more concerned about Usha by the day. She looked down and saw Usha, and she thought she was dreaming. Then as the absolute silence sunk in, she realized that she had gone traveling without meaning to.

Usha lay sleeping, fully dressed in robes that looked much like Lhatu’s. She was sleeping on a mat in someone’s kitchen. She seemed fine, but Teddie thought that there would be no harm in looking around a little more to make sure.

Teddie entered each room. Usha was in a home with two parents and three children. It was small and simple, but also clean, warm and cozy, and well decorated with children’s art. Teddie was going to go out on a limb and guess that the mat in the kitchen constituted the family’s guest room. These nice people must have taken her in for the night. Teddie felt an odd pang that for all the much-touted hospitality and generosity in her own home of Texas, no one she knew would even dream of providing lodging to a traveling stranger. And sadly, it was often wise that they did not do so.

She tried to see any detail at all that might help her figure out whose home this was. The children’s art, the handmade furniture, even the pile of shoes by the door. It was true, she knew it for a fact. If she could just bring back a picture of any one of these, it could be circulated around and somebody somewhere would recognize this place. Teddie stared hard at each scene, wishing she could memorize and redraw it. What a crying shame that she could not.

She woke up with tears of frustration in her eyes and as she rubbed the water away, she knew it. She simply knew how to do it. She crept into the den where Lawan and Awut both slept, and she shook her trainer awake. Awut took one look at her face and he could tell as well.

Videos taken at a concert can be good or downright awful, and this one of Jason Aldean performing “Laughed Until We Cried” live at Memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on October 22, 2010 is one of the good kind. It captures the energy of the crowd and feel of the concert while still providing enough reasonable quality audio and video for the viewer to enjoy the music.

Girl on girl shaming – sexist articles about #GlamourAwards2016

Girl on girl shaming – sexist articles about #GlamourAwards2016

I don’t reblog a lot — but this post from “Hopeless Hannah” gets is exactly right. What a ridiculous way to celebrate women’s accomplishments. If you agree, please drop by her blog and give her a like.

Hopeless Hannah

The Glamour Women of the Year Awards are said to celebrate the women of entertainment, with stars flocking to the event including Kourtney Kardashian, Caroline Flack and Amanda Holden.

However, for an event which is MEANT to celebrate women and their achievements, including Jennifer Saunders who took home the outstanding contribution accolade, the press seem to treat it as a chance to slay the women who attend for their dress sense.

Eughhhhh. Cringe.

Here’s some of the women who attended the event and the headlines that came with their fashion choices.

Jenna coleman sexism remarks glamour awards Image: Getty

So this is Jenna Coleman. She was in that little thing called Doctor Who and is starring in Me Before You this summer.

However, here’s what the press have said about this young, inspiring woman’s outfit.

mail online Mail Online make a sexist headline about Coleman’s frock. That’s so not like them!

jenna coleman express …and Express online weren’t fond of her dress.

View original post 174 more words

Because she could ….

bolder6A couple of months ago I wrote about March as Women’s History month, and the corresponding wealth of sites celebrating songs that empower women. Buzz Feed, The BoomBox, and vh1 all had their lists complete with best lines from the song, the reason the song is great, and a video to enjoy. I concatenated the lists together to create my own mega celebration of female power.

However, I felt like the songs were mostly recent and in certain popular genres. The only one that could be considered an oldie was the all time classic “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Country-western songs were nowhere to be found, even though I had discovered plenty of them when I was writing c3, and needed one to include in my story. (I settled on “Because I Can” by LeAnn Rimes and, I’ve come to really appreciate it even though I’m not a CW fan.)

An old friend of mine who is an expert on Classic Rock and Roll read my post and he agreed that too many older songs that qualified were left off of the list. He proposed twelve more additions. They are all good, but the three that simply have to be included are given below in chronological order.

Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit “You Don’t Own Me” predated the idea of feminism but it got the attitude right.The chorus features “And don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say”.

Yes, you can find a video of a song from 1963. Here it is.

“I am Woman” performed by Helen Reddy is a 1972 feminist’s anthem, with lyrics that begin with “I am woman, hear me roar!” It has had plenty of satire over the years but no one has put a more blunt statement of feminine power to music before or since. The Billboard Book of Number One Hits describes the typical DJ reaction to the song in 1972 as “‘I can’t stand this record! I hate this song! But you know, it’s a funny thing, my wife loves it!”

Enjoy this 1975 version performed by Helen Reddy.

Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 “I Will Survive” has gotten some recent attention when it was featured during the credits at the end of “The Martian”.  Yes, it is a song about human survival, but also one specifically about a woman finding the strength within her.  This video of Gloria Gaynor singing will have you standing up and yelling “yes” by the end and you’ll feel better, I promise.

the good news is ….

  1. feathers-and-flames-1024x683My guest post “Inspiration in the Worst of Places” is still being featured on Kurt Brindley’s wonderful blog “Relating to Humans“. He is still offering blog space to other like-minded authors willing to make a donation towards the film he will make. I am happy to think that I played a small part in getting his efforts off of the ground. As a bonus, I had 64 folks like my post, so I am quite pleased.
  2. My guest post has been removed from the offensive blog just as I requested. (See my post Yikes! Get me out of here for details.) This random blogger reposted it somehow thinking that my book supported his world view that the Islam religion is the “work of the devil”. (Those are his hateful words, not mine.) He has obviously not read my book. He did write back to tell me that I misunderstood his message; he was a peaceful man who wished no one ill. I chose not to reply. His claim is hard to believe when you look at the content on his blog, but I am grateful that he removed me from it with no further incident or discussion.
  3. My guest post got referenced on another blog, a wonderful blog called Janna Hill (I love her tagline: just living outloud and flinging cake against the wall.) She published a powerful poem about sexual assault along with the reference, and called the post A Poem & a Picture.  The image above is from her blog. I recommend a visit.

Yikes! Get me out of here.

How did I end up on an Islamophobic hate blog?

This started out so well. I enjoy my blogging life because I keep finding people who interest, encourage and teach me. One such is Kurt Brindley, owner of a fascinating webpage called Relating to Humans. Kurt is going to make a movie from one of his short stories, and is raising money by offering space on his blog to his donors. The movie will center on the first group of navy women stationed aboard ship. I’ve written a book, c3, about obstacles faced by young women and a donation to him seemed like much better use of my meager budget than one more ad on Facebook. Plus, I’d like to see him get the movie made.  So I signed on. My guest post looks great and I was quite pleased.

guest post

Not only have 50 or so people liked the post, but one went so far as to post it again on his own blog. Wasn’t that nice.  I wrote him a note of gratitude and hit the like button all around.

Then I got up this morning and checked out his blog. Oh. My. God. Okay, I know that there are people on the internet who hold radically different opinions than my own. They are entitled. I just didn’t expect my name and the cover of my book to ever end up on one of the saddest websites I’ve ever visited. (And remember, I researched a book about hate groups on the internet so I have been to some pretty bad ones already.) This man, who goes by Old Poet 56, equates the Islam religion with the devil, has a passionate post about how President Obama is a Muslim trying to bring this country down, and, well, it goes on from there.  This is beyond crazy stuff to me. I suppose that it is merely his view of the world to him.

At the risk of sending more people his way, I am going to insert a link to his site called Truth Troubles because it doesn’t seem fair to level what is basically an accusation of paranoid hatred without giving any other reader of this post the chance to see if I am overreacting.  I welcome hearing opinions on the subject!

I agonized for awhile about what to do. Finally, late this morning I posted this comment on Kurt Brindley’s perfectly fine blog and also on Old Poet 56’s toxic blog as well. I haven’t heard a peep back anywhere.

Old Poet 56: while I initially appreciated your publicity for my book, this morning I spent some time on your blog and am compelled to tell you that I am offended by the harsh Islamophobia that I found on your website. I am approximately your age and have worked with a large variety of cultures as I spent 32 years as a geophysicist in the oil business. I have found many good, kind people among every nation, creed, age group and other demographic I encountered and I believe you do humanity a huge disservice by painting any one group with a single brush. I think it would be best if you removed any reference to my book from your site. If you read it, you would find that it treats all cultures found in Central Asia with appreciation and respect and that it presents a theme of peace well at odds with the tone of your blog.

I don’t know if he will ever take down the reblog of my guest post or not. I don’t know if there is any mechanism for me to force him to do so. I do know that I do not wish to be associated in any way with the intolerance I found on his site.

Now what do I do…

 

“Everest” and “Into Thin Air” and armchair mountaineering

everestI am fascinated by mountain climbing, even though I have never done more than hike to the top of a mountain with a good trail. You can’t pack everything that intrigues you into one life, and this is something that didn’t make it into mine. So when I had the chance to climb a major peak in the Himalayas, in my imagination, along side my character Haley, I welcomed it and relished the research that went with it.

It’s not surprising that I’m also attracted to movies and books on the subject, and I finally got around to seeing the movie “Everest” which came out last September. I knew it was based on the 1996 climbing season when several climbers died in a sudden storm on the world largest peak.

So. Did I like the movie?

climbersNot nearly as much as I had hoped. For one thing, I saw it on our nice big television screen, but think that the beautiful cinematography would have been more impressive in a theater. More importantly, I wanted to get emotionally involved with the climbers, but too many of them were introduced too fast for me to sort them out, much less develop empathy with any of them. Combine the gear each climber wore with the quick introductions and sheer number of them, and I was challenged just figuring out who was who.

I later read that Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 3.6/5 rating and said Everest boasts all the dizzying cinematography a person could hope to get out a movie about mountain climbers, even if it’s content to tread less challenging narrative terrain.” Yeah, that too. There wasn’t so much a story (or stories) as there were a lot of snippets of many people getting ready to climb, many people climbing, and then some people dying. It had more of the feel of a documentary that was very well filmed and used good actors.

Part of the problem was that I had read Jon Krakauer ‘s book “Into Thin Air” several years ago and loved it. Krakauer tells the same tale of the same climbers in 1996, but tells it from the raw emotion of having survived that year’s climb himself. The book is hard to put down and carries an emotional punch that stuck with me for a long time. The movie simply lacks that punch.

I saw that Jon Krakauer did not have good things to say about the movie either, although his criticism centered around how the movie portrayed him, and in fact how the writers created a scene involving him that never really happened. Whatever the writers intent, I can understand how that would irk someone.

The Guardian reviewed the movie and thought that Emily Watson stole the show as the “base camp controller trying to manage the unfolding chaos” and I would have to agree. As one of the few women and one of the few characters not actually climbing, she is easily identifiable and manages to add continuity and tension to the otherwise choppy story.

My husband has no interest in mountain climbing at all. He very much prefers to chase any kind of ball around any sort of field or court. As we watched “Everest” he seemed most taken with the Texan amateur climber who is in over his head and survives, but loses a lot of his body to frostbite. As the movie ended, he looked at me oddly and told me how really glad he was that in spite of my fascination with high mountains, this wasn’t something I felt I had to go do. Yeah, I guess the movie gave me that as well.