Iñigo Montoya: You Keep Using That Word

If you enjoy the movie “The Princess Bride,” you’ll recognize the following quote:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

~ Iñigo Montoya

Even if you’re not a “Princess Bride” fan or haven’t seen the movie, it’s likely you’ve been around the intarwebz long enough to have seen the quote bandied about in forums (fori?), in memes, on Twitter, on Facebook, and anywhere else web users tend to bandy such things about.

Today, I’m gonna bandy it some more.

Reality

We each perceive life, the universe, and everything differently. We make judgments, form opinions, and choose courses based on these observations. Lots of times, we don’t understand each other’s judgments, opinions, or courses simply because our perceptions of the same event/person/situation are so vastly different. We’re operating from different realities; therefore, if m/any of our interactions are to be beneficial, we have to step back and try to learn each other’s language before we can even talk to one another.

Please To Be Noticing

I am not saying, “Absolute truth does not exist.” I happen to believe that absolute truth does exist. For one thing, the statement “absolute truth does not exist” is, in itself, an absolute truth if one believes that it is true. Therefore, to make the statement is to contradict oneself.

I try to avoid contradicting myself. As one does.

You Keep Using That Word

So. As I look around at our world, our cultures, our occupations, our communications, our notions, ideas, brain-farts, and conundrums, I keep coming back to the quote from Mr. Montoya:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And I ponder that it applies to all of the things I just mentioned (and more):

I do not think that argument supports what you think it supports.

I do not think that conversation meant what you think it meant.

I do not think that person said what you think s/he said.

I do not think that person feels what you think s/he feels.

I do not think that job functions the way you think it functions.

I do not think that party espouses what you think it espouses.

I do not think that candidate stands for what you think s/he stands for.

I do not think that religion embraces what you think it embraces.

I do not think that country represents what you think it represents.

I do not think that culture embodies what you think it embodies.

And so on.

And, of course, it would be perfectly valid for you to direct those statements back at me.

That’s how interesting conversations start. : )

I Was a Weird Kid, and Here’s Proof

Or: My Parallel of Trout Fishing in America.

 

Or: Snail Hunting in Germany

Once upon a time, my parents and I moved to Darmstadt, Germany, two weeks before my 3rd birthday, and that’s where I grew up.

From ages 3-6, I attended Kindergarten. (In my early 1980s Germany, “kindergarden” was basically the American equivalent of daycare. We played, we did crafts, we had field trips, and at least one of us acquired a foreign language from her fellows and from her teacher, Frau Apfelrock [Mrs. Appleskirt {I swear I am not making this up.}].)

At age 6, I started Grundschule, German elementary school.

Grandpa: She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.

The Grandson: What?

Grandpa: The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.

While in elementary school, I attended an afterschool “daycare” called Kinderhort. Kinderhort was within walking distance from school, and it was designed for kids whose parents worked fulltime. This way, we didn’t have to go home to empty apartments and get ourselves into trouble. ; ) At Kinderhort, they fed us lunch, we had extensive playtime indoors and out, and we had to sit down every afternoon and do our homework. After late afternoon snacktime, parents arrived to pick us up.

The Plot Thickens

One day, probably in 3rd grade, it was time for our first overnight Kinderhort trip. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t just overnight, it was several overnights. I remember feeling vaguely apprehensive over being away from my parents for most of a week, but I don’t remember saying anything about this out loud.

My parents, however, perceptive people that they are, must have known which jig was up, because they sent this note along in my suitcase:

Yes.

You read it correctly.

To bribe me into participating fully in a fun-filled field trip, my parents promised that we would go snail hunting once I got home.

Because that was what I liked to do.

Snail Hunter Extraordinaire

Even as a kid, I hated spiders. Bugs held no fascination for me. I did enjoy the roly-polies (amusingly known as Kellerasseln in German) we occasionally found beneath rocks and rotten branches, but it’s not like I wanted to take them home with me.

Snails were a different matter.

Forget the “sugar and spice and everything nice.” I had the spice, all right, but other than that, I was “snips, snails, and puppy dogs’ tails all the way.”

I HEARTED SNAILS ALMOST BEYOND COMPREHENSION.

I found them, and I brought them home. Pink shells, yellow shells, striped shells, big, little, medium. I made homes for them in terrariums (terraria?): potting soil in the bottom, sticks and stones to crawl over, shallow containers for water, and all the lettuce and cucumbers they wanted. Once a day, I misted them with water from a spray bottle. The top of each terrarium I covered with mesh held in place by rubber bands.

Do please click to embiggen cuteness.

I read books about snails. Like, the educational kind of books. I learned about how they eat, how they sleep, how they mate, how they repair damage to their shells. When some of my snails inevitably got frisky with each other, I watched the whole process and felt amazed. When the snails laid eggs, I researched carefully how best to care for them. When the eggs hatched, I suddenly had tiny escapees all over my bedroom and had to find a tighter mesh with which to cover the terrariums/a.

Me with my pets, ca. 1985. Click to embiggen.

When my friends came over, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just want to sit there and watch the snails.

Hmm.

Most of my snails hailed from the large courtyard between our apartment building and the surrounding buildings. They were fairly common garden snails, common enough that the parents frequently had to make me set some of them free. And, of course, there was the occasional death in the snail family, which generated space for the occasional new addition. (Yes, I mourned the death of each gastropod.)

The one snail that lived with us consistently for several years, though, was The Big One.

In German, she’s called a Weinbergschnecke: literally, a wine mountain snail. Extrapolating from the “Berg” (mountain) part of her nomenclature, I named her “Bergie.” Why did I decide that this snail was female? No clue. Except that she looked like a girl. And like a Bergie. (Snails are actually hermaphrodites.)

Bergie was a helix pomatia, also known as “escargot snail.” That’s right, she was one of the edible ones, and I kept her as a pet. I always felt right courageous for having rescued her from a terrible culinary fate. Besides, she had a damaged spot on the top of her shell when I found her. Though she’d already repaired it, I knew she needed a little extra TLC.

At some point — I don’t remember why — it came time for me to set all of my snails loose, and I knew I wouldn’t be acquiring more. When I placed them carefully into the damp underbrush in the big courtyard, they slimed happily away without a clue that they now found themselves in a bigger, more dangerous, and yet more variegated world. I said goodbye to them all: pink, yellow, striped, big, little, medium.

But the only one I truly regretted was Bergie. She poked her head out, unrolled her eye stalks, and looked around as though she knew exactly what was going on. I was sad, but I thought she might be excited about this new adventure. I watched her for a few minutes as she got acclimated. Once she was well on her slow, meticulous way into the grand expanse of Untamed Flowerbeds Plot Next To Stone Wall, I went home.

Some time later — it might’ve been a few months, it might’ve been a year — we moved away. A few days before we left for good, I went hunting in the courtyard one last time. Sure enough: There, under the well-drenched leaves of a stinging nettle, sat a Weinbergschnecke with a telltale scar on the top of its shell. Bergie! Weird kid that I was, I grinned like an idiot.

But I didn’t bother her. If she had forgotten me, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by making her remember.

Bergie

(Click for what’s pretty much life size!)

Advance Reading Copy of Rethana’s Surrender!

Cover art by the cramazingly talented Adele Lorienne

NOTE: Some of you have been expecting this book to come out under the title Schism or Schism’s Daughter. After much debate and debacle, my publisher, our marketing director, and I have finalized the title as Rethana’s Surrender. But it’s still the same story, I promise! : )

Dearest readers!

As you might already know, my newest novel is coming out within the next two weeks! This one is epic fantasy: another world, magic, intrigue, danger, swords, and fantastical creatures. I’ve been writing stories in this universe for twenty years, and this particular novel has been in the works since 2003.

So you can probably imagine how close this story is to my tender little writer’s heart. ; )

But in spite of my possessiveness, I am excited to let you read it. Early. As in, before it’s published.

That’s right, dear inklings! I have Advance Reading Copies available!

If you’d like to get an ARC of Rethana’s Surrender, leave a comment (with a valid email address) on this post before the end of the day Wednesday, June 20th. You don’t need to say anything besides, “Me too, please!” in your comment — unless, of course, you want to tell me how excited you are to get your ARC. : )

I only have digital copies available, but they should be readable on whatever you’re using to read this blog post. On Thursday, I’ll send review copies to the first hundred people who comment below. All I’d ask in return is that you write me a review at the digital vendor(s) of your choice. Blog posts are welcome too, of course.

Aaron is going to send his horde of fantasy readers over here to get their ARCs from me, so get your bid in early!

For those of you who want to know a little more about the novel:

Legends of the Light-Walkers: Rethana’s Surrender is the story of 20-year-old Rethana Chosardal who can use fun and visually cool magic, but she’s not supposed to use it. For one thing, it freaks the natives out. For another, her family has spent the last ten years in hiding from the ruling class of magic-wielding clerics.

When the magic-wielding clerics show up and take Rethana and her sister captive, this is not a good thing.

Also, Aaron recommends that I tell you: In grand The Princess Bride tradition, *this is a kissing book*.

Finally, a shout-out to Adele Lorienne for the lovely cover art that completely blows my mind every time I look at it. Adele, thank you for your stunning work!

UPDATE: The ARC request deadline has passed. But if you want to get your hands on a copy of Rethana’s Surrender, it is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can also post your reviews at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

To those who have already read and reviewed the novel: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I very much appreciate all of your positive feedback so far. It’s encouraging to hear that so many of you connect with Rethana as deeply as I do. : )

In Which I Think My Navel Is Helpful

Hile, inklings!

If you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have, because that’s just the kind of sedulous inklings you are), you know that I generally post something on this blog every Tuesday and Thursday —

— and you’ll have noticed that I missed Thursday last week.

You’ll also have noticed that today is Wednesday. At least, it’s already/still Wednesday where I live.

Wednesday usually means no courtcan.com blogpost, except that today it does mean a courtcan.com blogpost.

“I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.”

(Odds bodkins, but I love that line.)

“That’s not the point!”
“So, what is the point?”
“The point is…the point is…I’ve forgotten the point.” (Love those ones, too.)

The point is, I’m blogging off-schedule, and I’m enjoying it, and I’m doing it today because I wanted to share links with you.

These links are to posts I’ve written for friend and colleague Aaron’s Pogue’s Unstressed Syllables. I want to share these particular ones here, because as I re-read them, I feel encouraged and enlivened.

Ha! That sounds awfully navel-gazer-ish. ; ) But I’m not talking about energizement based on my own writing. I’m talking about remembering how people and ponderings brightened a corner of my writing world. If there’s a chance such blogpost remembrances can brighten someone else’s corner, I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to share those remembrances here.

So. Here they are in random order:

1. What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Twitter, in which I showcase some favorite tweets that rally us all to be more passionate humans and bolder writers.

2. What I Learned About Writing This Week…from My Writers Tribe, in which, for the first time, I chronicle the pitfalls and possibilities of being around people who don’t think my writerly brain qualifies as mental ward material.

3. What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Getting Edited — oh, the horror? Just how bad is it for someone to spirit your baby (READ: novel) away and vivisect it?

4. What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Taking a Shower
Even writers have to get clean sometimes. (Yes, we must needs leave the house occasionally and be presentable so as not to frighten the children.) But what about the purification of the writer’s soul? Our spirits need uncluttering, too. How’s about a fresh start to everything?

5. What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Observation, Redux
Watch them when they don’t know you’re looking. It’s fascinating, and it will open your heart to the poignant beauty in everyone around you.

So click through, read, enjoy, ponder, commiserate, decry, invigorate, challenge, rejoice. Leave comments over there, or come back here and share your questions, comments, concerns, and cookies! I’d love to hear from you. : )

Have a cramazing day!

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

There is a children’s book which, sadly, I have never read. It is Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Although my English teacher mother and my bibliophile father kept me in English-language books whilst I was growing up in Germany, they seem to have missed this one somehow. I arrived at college in Oklahoma in 1996 to find fellow students referencing this little book all over the place. This book, and the film The Princess Bride. I didn’t know what anyone was talking about.

In the interim, I’ve seen The Princess Bride about a bajillion times — but I’ve never gotten around to getting my hands on Alexander’s story. For my purposes today, however, all I need to know about his story is the title and the cover art. I can extrapolate pretty well: Alexander’s day is starting out sucky and it’s just getting worse.

(On a side note, my fingers keep wanting to type “Aleksandr.” Apparently, I am Russian today. Yeah, baba.)

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Wednesday

Yesterday, I could relate all too well to Alexander’s story. It all started when I poured my coffee, zested it up with Truvia, and then opened the fridge — only to discover that there was no milk in any form. No cow, no goat, no almond.

I cannot drink coffee without some form of milk. My tastebuds haven’t the constitution for the purely black stuff.

So. No coffee for Courtney. If you know me at all, you know that this was pretty much THE harbinger of Doom.

The doomish trend continued when I settled in to work out our monthly budget, which I do at the start of every month.

NOTE TO SELF:

Never do a budget without having fortified self with coffee.

I shan’t divulge my budgeting details, ’cause that’s nunya. ; ) However, I will say that upon close review, the finances looked worse than I’d anticipated. In fact, I’d been anticipating good stuff. There wasn’t any. Just bad stuff. I slumped in my chair, rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands, and plodded on.

Things got worse when I opened a bill, and it was medical, and it was unexpected, and it was for several hundred dollars, and I don’t think I should have to pay it. A phone call confirmed my fear that the only way to get out of it will be to haggle with the insurance company that hasn’t provided our insurance in almost a year.

The only haggling I enjoy is the haggling one does with European vendors who don’t speak one’s language.

Yes. I would rather stand in a dirty, open-air market and argue over trinkets at the top of my lungs with an irate vendor who is trying to cheat me and whose language I don’t speak than have a phone conversation in English with an insurance company.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is that by now, I was bawling in horrid frustration over my budget forms. This was followed in quick succession by slamming the back of my head into the corner of the kitchen cabinet and then poking myself in the eye with a fingernail.

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

In Which Things Get Better

Since Judith Viorst’s book was published in the more innocent, less snarky age of 1987, I’m assuming Aleksandr’s story has a happy ending and a Moral To The Story. (Word.)

My happy ending came in the form of a phone call from my mother. (How do mothers always know?) She said, “Daddy and Grandpa stopped at Sonic on their way home, and Daddy paged through a Gazette while they ate. Here’s what he found… .”

What Daddy found was an article in the Oklahoma Gazette. And the article was about my book.

As a placeholder for what you’re reading right now, I posted the following on my blog yesterday:

Odds bodkins and gadzooks! My novel is in today’s Oklahoma Gazette!

Read article “Write-hand view” by Danny Marroquin.

Cramazing!

 

Every Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Has Its Silver Lining

And that, my dear inklings, is your Moral To The Story.

Are you having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

I’ve minimized a lot of my worries through witticism and sarcasm in this post. I won’t minimize yours. If you’re struggling with something more serious than budgeting woes and bumps on the head, my prayers and good thoughts are with you. I understand that there is darkness so deep, silver linings aren’t visible. (I’ve been there.)

But if you’re just having a bad day — what’s your silver lining?

It doesn’t have to be something like your first novel’s cover art in the newspaper. (Although that’s pretty freakin’ cool, lemme tell ya.) Your pick-me-up might be a literal ray of sunshine. A smile from a stranger. A call from a friend.

Or maybe it’s chocolate. I ate a lot of that yesterday, too. ; )

How do you turn a bad day around? Let’s talk.