Question Of The Day

A “friend” of mine made a comment on Facebook today that just plain irritates the shit out of me. Let me start by saying that I’ve written about this person before, as a concerned friend, but have since moved on to simply not having any respect for her whatsoever.

I’m not sure if it was the entire comment, the fact that she used the word “ironical”, or that the comment simply shows a severe lack of intelligence, a desperate need for attention, and severe issues, but whatever it is, I actually responded because it pissed me off so bad.

I do not look down upon people who live together, but are not “legally married”, as she so quaintly put it. A piece of paper isn’t what every single person on this planet needs, and some people are quite content in their relationships to not need a license, rings, and all that comes with a word, because at the end of the day, marriage means different things to different people. Many couples are together and saving to be able to pay for their wedding, or to purchase their first home, so the actual marriage part gets placed on the back-burner as they work and save. Being together and being committed is enough for so many, and it does not invalidate their love to not be “legally married”.

Marriage, from where I am sitting, is hard work. This particular person chose to marry someone who lives in another country. She sees him just a few weeks per year, if that. He has no plans to move to her country until he retires, yet she’s talking about having a baby. If you’re married and you do not live together, that is a choice you have made, for whatever reason. I, personally, don’t see a need to be married to someone I only see 2-3 weeks a year. That’s less than a booty call to me, truly. It’s not a relationship at all. Not unless that person is in the military.

To hear her talk about having a baby when he’s in one country and she’s in another is mind-blowing. I’m not sure if it’s simply a religious belief or pure ignorance, but if I want to be a single mother, I don’t need to be “legally married” with a husband in another country in order to do it and be respected. The warped, judgmental perspective astounds me.

Do you think people need to be legally married to live together or is it 100% ok to “live and let live”? I, personally, respect either decision on behalf of couples everywhere, but my God, if you’ve chosen to marry someone you’re not living with, don’t blame the rest of the world for your CHOICE. That’s not “ironical”, that’s idiocy. Yes, I’m feeling particularly harsh this week.

“Why Do You Write?”

“Why Do You Write?”

Recently a friend asked me an interesting question. It was related to what I do as a writer; What I write about and who I write for. It was asked in a place where an elongated answer was too complicated to process, so I decided to “answer” via this post. It’ll probably be helpful for anyone that has never really heard me talk about my work before.

~As a quiet, ultra-observant child, communication was often an issue for me. I was shy and introverted (shocking when you read my work, I know.), and after a few initial “first words”, I spoke in full sentences once I began speaking. I remember looking at my Aunt like she was insane when I was about two years old and saying “That is obnoxious. Please stop doing that.” She was astounded at how direct I was, but because my childhood was a difficult one, my Aunt tried very hard to bring a sense of fun and silliness to my life. It didn’t really stick. I was definitely born ancient.

I am still relatively quiet, but now I know full well that I am an introverted extrovert. In the proper setting, I somehow become the center of attention, the life of the conversation, and I honestly have no idea I’m even doing it. I have no idea what makes me interesting to others or why they listen when I speak, but they do.

Before I started writing, getting my point across often meant I was greatly misunderstood. It somehow gave the impression that I was different than I actually am. A few weeks ago my brother informed me that I’m not a bitch, I’m simply misunderstood. It was an insightful remark, and amusing as hell.

I began writing as an alternative form of communication. I was lucky to be published in most school related publications in regard to poetry and extended avenues. I didn’t always have a choice what was submitted and published, so I decided to do something about that.

In 1994, along with one of my best friends, I decided to produce a by subscription only newsletter. This was prior to the Internet becoming so popular and easily accessed. At this particular juncture in time, newsletters were all the rage. A year into that project, a different opportunity presented itself. I became President & Editor-In-Chief of a fan based organization for a professional athlete. I had his permission and carte blanche, and soon found myself catering to about 1200 people from all over the world. On an extremely regular basis, I’d receive inquiries from people in countries so small, most people had never even heard of them. It was impressive, and I took it in stride. After all, I was just being myself.

I was producing membership newsletters from scratch. Design, layout, photography, and written material. It all had to be put together by me, and I did at least 90% of the writing. I was also handling merchandise, t-shirts and other custom-made paraphernalia. Word of mouth was pretty astounding. I quickly developed a reputation for my no bullshit approach. It’s something I treasure to this day, despite the very sour end to all that hard work.

When I made the decision to leave, to stop completely, it was after the loss of my Grandmother. About two and a half months later a friend died in that sport. No one should EVER fall to their death and have it blown off with a “The show must go on.” attitude. No one, but especially not someone so undeserving of such a tragic end. I backed away slowly, but surely. I was done. I had not only had enough, but I was traumatized, without truly knowing it at the time.

Coming off the heels of that, I threw myself into two other pro-sports related projects involving other athletes, but eventually stopped altogether right about the time my father’s cancer returned for the third time.

I took time to re-focus my interests. I began writing a book around that time, and it remains half completed. I truly doubt it will ever see the light of day, and I am more than ok with that. My heart no longer resides with that body of work, so I’ve made peace with the fact that it won’t be completed.

I’ve never truly stopped writing. I’ve taken breaks for my health, for my sanity. I’ve gone off and done other things temporarily to gain knowledge, but writing has always been a gift for me. It allows me to be heard on so many levels, and gives strength to a voice that, clearly, someone in this world wants to hear.

I tend to live in my own head quite a bit. The genres in which I read are just a peek into what’s bubbling in my writing psyche at the moment.

Four years ago this month, I broke down a system for a dark urban fantasy series. It’s leaning more towards being mythological fiction steeped in history, set in present day. It has had time to simmer and bubble and become something very different from what I originally began writing. It has developed beautifully into something I’m really proud of. I originally set it up as a 17 novel set where each book is an extension of the previous one. I have since pared it down to 8, but at any given moment can twist it and put it in a new direction that extends the story-line out. The first book is nearing completion, and large chunks of the second and third books have been written. I’ve worked in chapters for books four and five as well. I dislike the “write straight through” phenomenon. It’s wonderful if it works for you, but it doesn’t work for me.

You will often read or hear genre writers speak of their characters “coming to them” out of the blue with information, advice, etc. I have not a single weak character, so for me, it’s about slipping into their skin and writing their thoughts, explaining their appearances and mannerisms, and dipping ink into each personality. I LOVE my characters like a dog loves a bone. Anytime someone annoys me, they get cut from the story completely. Pretty much all of my characters are based on someone in my life, however loosely interpreted they may be, but several are immense amalgamations of too many different people to count. Perhaps that is why I love them the way I do. They don’t really talk back, they don’t give me attitude, they don’t judge me, and they’re not rude. Hmm, now that I think about it I realize I like them over pretty much everyone I know!

Writers are artists and I know that I am precise, efficient, and conveying exactly what I want to convey when I write, be it fiction or non-fiction. Some people are simply gifted writers, and I’m egotistical enough to know I’m not some poor man’s imitation of anything or anyone. I know my strengths and I will always, alwaysuse them to the very best of my advantage. In a world where writers are a dime a dozen, you have to be unique to stand out. You have to bring something different to the table and God, the competition is fierce. At the beginning and end of each day, the only person I compete with is myself. If I break a previous record on word count or I complete a chapter so that it fits in seamlessly, that is really all that matters. You write for your audience, yes, but your first audience is yourself, and maybe a few trusted friends, and before a finished body of work is submitted to a publisher, you aim to please audience #1.

Editing? I self-edit because I always have, and yes, I know what I’m doing, however I am not opposed to cutting material under advisement that I trust. There are days I delete nearly everything I have written and start from scratch, and I am almost always better for it, even if it’s painful to cut material. When you’re skilled, you know what works and what does not. When you’re intelligent and skilled, you know sentence structure, how to place dialogue, and you do not use run-on sentences. It’s important to know what you are best at. Not everyone is a writer, this is a given. I am not self-important and I do not need to pat myself on the back or call myself anything I’m not. I know who I am and I know the direction I am taking.

I’m not sure if this answers the why and what, but maybe it provides some insight into what I do when I’m not on here. In short, I create.

“Why Do You Write?” is copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Create

Coming Out of The Ancestral “Closet”

Coming Out of The Ancestral “Closet”

I find it more than a little appalling that in 2014, I am still being asked “What are you?” Not “What religion are you?” or your average, inappropriate social questions, which, by my standards, are still rude. No, it’s always been “What ARE you?”, with such profound emphasis, as if I am my own species. It’s become ridiculous, and as we’ve established, I am not a patient woman.

Growing up in New York City; a small, fair skinned, dark blue eyed, dark haired child, I was utterly adorable. I have pictures to prove it. My peaches & cream complected blonde, hazel eyed mother was very clear in my genes, but so was my olive skinned, raven haired, dark brown eyed father. I was clearly a genetic mix of my parents and maternal Grandparents. For years, my eyes had that perfect Asian up-tilt, a gift of my Tribal Siberian and Mongolian ancestry, something that I now enhance with eyeliner. I was about six years old when they changed in color from dark blue to hazel. It normally doesn’t take such a long period of time for a child’s eye color to change.

Where am I going with this? Well, I will tell you. I’ve known for about 8 years now that I am indeed part Latina. I have absolutely no reason to hide it or not discuss it if it comes up in conversation, especially now that Spain and Portugal are allowing Jews to return for citizenship. I have to say I was very sorely tempted to pack my bags and leave.

Growing up, everyone assumed I was either 100% Puerto Rican or 100% Italian. I am neither. In fact, I’m not 100% anything. I am so blended, I should have my own flag. My Latina roots come from Spain (Zaragoza) and Argentina (Buenos Aires).

Several months ago, while filling out some forms I checked the Caucasian box, as I’ve done my entire life, and followed up with Hispanic on the second portion of the form. It is truly the first time I’d done it, but I simply felt like not putting it down was to lie, and it bothered me, so I checked the box proudly. The woman handling the paperwork looked at me immediately and said “You’re Sephardic?!”, with such utter disbelief as she looked at the color of my skin and eyes, that I glanced up briefly from filling out the forms and said “I am Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Russian Siberian, and Jewish Asian.” In truth, that’s not even the half of it, but it was short and to the point. I didn’t owe her an explanation of my lineage, but I’d be damned if I was going to be treated any differently.

Really, why the hell does anyone give a shit?! Why did she? I later found out that as an immigrant to this country, she did not want anyone knowing she was Sephardic. I was slightly astounded, but anyone who is at an age where their Grandparents or parents may have died during the Holocaust is probably still hiding what they are. Having been born here, I suppose I do not feel the need to hide. I’ve never felt the need to do so, not ancestrally or religiously.

People tend to forget that Latinas come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are blonde and blue eyed, some are more like me, and others are dark haired, dark eyed, and always look naturally tan. I cannot tan to save my life, and since I detest sun damage and the sun on a whole, I religiously wear sun protection. Some of us speak Ladino, Yiddish, Spanish, Portuguese, or older versions of various languages. Some of my cousins, also Sephardic, speak French (My brother does, I do not.). I grew up in a bilingual home, my closest family friends did too, and they all spoke Spanish. I spent years studying other languages, and am now teaching my brother Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish. I understand languages I don’t speak, but I base that on the fact that some of them are incredibly similar. I have been trying to learn Swedish for a couple of years now. Not for any other reason than I think it’s beautiful when spoken.

I’m a great observer of others, but I try very hard not to judge people based on race or religion. Everyone is an individual. If you treat me like shit, I am not going to judge your ethnic background for that, just you. If you treat me well, I’m not going to automatically assume that everyone like you will show the same kindness and respect.

I have friends from all walks of life, and I accept and respect them for their individuality. I don’t care where a person is from, so long as we treat each other with respect and courtesy. Most of the people in my life who are closest to me are not American born or American citizens (though I can now say for a fact that more are). Two of my best friends are Israeli and German. My boyfriend holds dual citizenship. He is Welsh born, returns to Wales several times a year to visit older relatives, but is not an American citizen. His parents and siblings are not American citizens either, but they’re some of the loveliest people, and to me, that’s all that matters.

I have a friend who, for damn near our entire friendship, would openly declare herself Hispanic “From SPAIN!”, she’d tell people loudly. She’s also part Cherokee, which shows. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, but now that our friendship has declined so badly, I have noticed more and more that she is embracing the fact that her ancestry is actually Mexican. It’s always been pretty evident to me, but would I ever have said a word to her about it? No. That’s disrespectful. That’s like catching me on a dumb day and then pointing out that I have some Polish ancestry. It’s rude and it’s not something you say or do.

I think what bothered me the most about her saying it so often is that people would ask her if she was Hawaiian, saying that she looked “exotic”, and I’d then think of Stefanie (FAWKESTEARS on this blog), who is Native Hawaiian. There’s a definite difference, not just in looks, but in so much more. She is not simply born and raised there, you can see her Hawaiian and Japanese ancestry in her hair, eyes, skin, and beauty. It shines like a beacon. Her Italian mother, we often joke, barely got a gene in. Between her and her siblings, she is the one who most looks like her father’s side of the family. For the previously aforementioned friend, ancestry and honoring it is clearly a big issue, so I never, ever tried to make her feel uncomfortable, nor did I ever press her on it. I feel it is something to honor and show respect, not hide from or deny, but that’s me and my otherworldly view since I’m still being asked “What ARE you?”

The next time someone says that to me, I might very well declare myself a vampire, purchase a really cool pair of colored contacts from Italy, and not say a word to anyone ever again, until the sun sets. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers, do they not?

So, this is me. Part Latina. Owning it, not ashamed, remembering to use my Spanish instead of forgetting that I can speak it, completely unconcerned if my honoring it bothers someone else. It’s my genes, my ancestry, and if you’ve taken issue with it, fuck off!

“Coming Out Of The Ancestral ‘Closet’” is copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Who?

Who is the one person in this world that would help you off your ledge? “Your ledge” might be a day of insanity, deep, dark depression, horrible anxiety, anger, fear. It might just be a day of insecurity or an issue you’re having in your daily life. It can be anything, really.

Who is the one person that, with certainty, you know would push you off that ledge and not shed a tear?