Monday, February 23, 2015

Of Lions and Dragons and Raunchy Grammarians

My weekend. Let me show it to you.

See, as I've blogged before, I belong to a family who kicks ass.  And busts bricks.  And has probably spent more time in sweaty, spangly lion-pants than I've spent in all my non-couch-based activities combined.

Some of the aforementioned lions.
(My sister's not allowed to be the back half anymore, cuz she's married now.)EDIT: My sister has an open relationship with the front halves,
and she is comfortable with that. 
Anyway, so this past weekend was the annual Lunar New Year celebration, which is basically what you would get if a medieval feast, a Shanghai street party, and Kung Fu Hustle had a three-hour throwdown in front of 400 people.  With more slammin' beats and less property damage.

Well, slightly less property damage.
And it's just so damn cool, y'all.  Schools from as far away as Florida and Colorado come to show off their hard work, and there's fabulous novelties every year.  This time, we had top-hatted tai chi (way to put on the ritz, Mom!), ninja turtles, improv-weapons dueling, and - wait for it - a country western steampunk martial arts bar brawlBe still, my throbbing loins.

And be less shitty, my pathetic phone camera.
And it's just so great, because like... you know, if the DFW Writers Workshop are my second family, these guys are my second in-laws - and it is so fantastic to see another kind of community, another kind of artistry, another kind hard work paying off in sweat and splendor. So basically, if you didn't get to see it in person, go check out Laurel Houston's photo album right this picosecond - she is a phenomenal photographer (and a barefoot ninja herself!)

And speaking of which, there on the left is one of my actual in-laws:
the sweatiest and most splendid of them all.
Anyway, there was food, fun, and forms long into the night - and the next morning, I had the singular pleasure of getting up to go see some of my very favorite people, the North Texas Romance Writers of America.  It was only my second visit, but I tell you what: I'm gonna have to stop going soon, cuz every time I do, I enjoy it all the more - and it's already so good that I can't hardly stand it.

Like, it doesn't surprise me that they collaborate and support each other, because hey - we're writers; we're supposed to do that.  But I am just amazed at how organized they are as they go about it!  Everybody who has a book published gets a giant pencil.  The people who write and/or edit the most pages in a month get their names read out.  There's a segment for people to announce news, and not just writing-related news, but baby-gets-to-go-home-from-the-hospital news.  There are events and get-togethers and contests to see how much you know about other members.

And at the risk of divulging the Secrets of the Order, there is a tiara.

And the more I think about it, the more essential that seems.  Sure, there's the fun external stuff - candies and pencils and sparkly jewelry and all - but underneath that is a systematic way of including, recognizing, and caring about people.  Which seems massively important in a way I hadn't thought about before, because, like... y'know, we're so trained to respond to every "how are you doing?" with a "pretty good, and you?"  Sometimes it's just terribly hard to feel like you have permission to talk about yourself in any significant way.  So the more deliberate, explicit systems and places and rituals we have for doing that, the more genuine connections I think we can make - and I must be slow on the uptake, because from everything I've seen, NTRWA figured that out a long time ago.

Anyway, one of their rituals involves a presentation from a guest speaker - and on Saturday, that was me!  The NTRWA members and a few super-dedicated members of my traveling fan-posse came out to see the world-premiere presentation of The Comma Sutra.

I knew I was in good hands when the title screen went up and one member
immediately gasped, "that would make SUCH a great book cover!"
Here to help make sense of the joke is the class description:

Does your writing lack a certain...variety? Does your manuscript suffer from premature exclamations, heavy or abnormally frequent periods, or have difficulty maintaining even a semi-colon? Don't suffer in silence! You too can enjoy the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with knowing how to please your critique partner. In this class, we'll practice the ins and outs of good punctuation (and yes, it WILL be raunchy.) Join us, won't you, as we embark on a journey of true textual healing.

And like, seriously y'all.  This class should have come with a diploma, a tattoo, and an apology.  The things these brave men and women endured in the name of honing their writing craft... well, let's just say that analogies were made which can never be un-made, and noble grammatical precepts harnessed to truly sordid imagery.

In fairness, some of the jokes pretty much wrote themselves.
Needless to say, I was super nervous about presenting this (because it's just so hard to know how dirty is too dirty, and how much bad xeno-erotica is too much bad xeno-erotica.)  But we had great questions and discussions, and I for one had an amazing time.

"Well then," you might say, "that's the lions and raunchy grammarians, but where are the dragons?"

So glad you asked: they are right over here, at the Kingdoms of Evil podcast!  Dieselpunk dragons, build-a-bear dragons, cake dragons - dragons for everyone!  This is the second part of the conversation I had with my notorious Red Sofa compadres, 'Evil' Dan Bensen and 'Rogue' Dan Koboldt (the first part is here, in all its seagull-stunning glory).

And here is a nice blacklight dragon to round out the set.
I've done the Evil podcast a couple of times now, and it's just such a thrill - because y'know, usually when you have a good chat with somebody, it's only between the two of you.  You can rave and gush about your super-cool friend all day long, but nobody except your mutual acquaintances are really going to get it.  Here, though, is permanent, audible proof that I am a fun person who hangs out with fun people, and evidence to help the rest of y'all understand that these guys are exactly as awesome as I've been telling you.  (I even made Evil Dan help me write exo-erotic example sentences for the Comma Sutra presentation.  Now THAT'S friendship in action.)

Anyway, so if there were going to be a single unifying thesis statement for all three of these marvelous weekend-things, it would probably be this: one of the coolest things about getting older is getting to participate in new social spheres - not just the ones you move between on a daily/weekly basis, but also the ones that reach out and include you every now and again, for special occasions.  It's a great reminder that the world is full of wonderful people, even when you don't see them on the regular, and that there are more places for you than you can ever fill at one time.  That is a pretty damn happy feeling.

The precise function of the melted chocolate remains elusive.


  1. Yay, you! That is a really interesting observation about rituals motivating people.
    And hey, when are we web-plebians going to get to see the materials for Comma Sutra?

    1. I don't know, man, but I would love to figure out how to take this show on the digital road - it's too fun not to share!

      (And by fun I mean god-awful, and by share I mean inflict. Naturally.)

  2. Wow, so much fun! And seriously (like seriously, seriously), please write a nonficiton grammar book for writers with exactly that title and cover. I would buy it in a hot second.

    1. Man, Annie - you know what happens when you tell me to jump! Okay, step 1: I'm gonna go out and get a day job. Then, step 2, I will quit it. In this way, I will procure the time to write the book, and we will live happily ever after! (In Las Vegas.)

  3. Thank you for joining us. We enjoy having you!!

    1. I'm so glad the feeling is mutual, Jerrie - y'all seem like you are consummately professional enjoyers!

  4. So glad you came (um...LOL) to NT. We had a great time. Glad the weather was beautiful and not an ice day.

    1. I was just thinking that this morning - was that lucky or what!

  5. We're going to have to coordinate a time when we can both do NTRWA!!!

    1. YES. They meet the third Saturday of every month, so we'll just have to bust out the sextants and horology charts to figure out when that will coincide with a Dallas-area con, so you can come see them live and in person! This must be!

  6. Replies
    1. Aww, thanks! I hope you meant that, Clover, cuz I'm gonna hold you to it!

  7. I want Comma Sutra! (Also, try Zen Cho's Spirits Abroad. She has stories about lion dancers/ghost hunters)

    1. NEAT! We'll make a fair trade of it, then - grammar-sluttery for ghost stories!