Odd Out of Context

If you overheard the following sentence from a random stranger, would you think it odd?

“I want to pack llamas tonight.”

I said this to a friend on the way out of work, and she chuckled at the sentence because, out of context, it is kind of strange.  The implied meaning makes it clear: I am moving and I collect llamas.  Someone who knows these two things about me immediately understands the sentence.  Without that knowledge, it’s a somewhat funny statement.

Isn’t context a wonderful thing?

Llamas

I have a fondness for llamas.  It started when I worked with them as a teenager, and it has continued even though I am now more of a bird person than a mammal person.  I collect them (and have almost 50) and even have llama earrings, a llama sweatshirt, and a couple of t-shirts.

I’ve noticed something about llamas in pop culture.  They are sometimes used correctly (as in the Disney movie The Emperor’s New Groove, set in Incan South America) and sometimes incorrectly (as in a very brief appearance in the movie Troy) but mostly they are used oddly.

A quick search of “llama” on YouTube turns up Llamas with Hats (which is disconcertingly amusing), the Llama Song (llama llama duck, anyone?) and Funny Llama Attack (which isn’t funny, if you know anything about llamas).  Two are incredibly random and only really have llamas because they can, and the other is popular because it seems odd to people who don’t know llama behavior.  (To those of us who are familiar, that llama is clearly imprinted and the guy must have done something the llama saw as a threat.)  A little further down there’s an old Monty Python sketch, which is also incredibly random.

A llama shows up in Napoleon Dynamite and refuses to eat ham.  (Since she’s a herbivore, one can hardly blame her.)  There are t-shirts that say “Save the Drama for your Llama” and “You Will Obey the Llama” as well as a multitude of references to the two above-mentioned YouTube videos.  (I may own a Llama Llama Duck t-shirt.)

While I think llamas are awesome, many other people think they are odd enough to be funny.  Their appearance alone can make people chuckle, which in turn adds another level of humor to highly random things.  I’m not sure if I should be amused at this or bothered by it.

Wearing a Gift

I’ve been spending my day today in comfortable clothes, including a sweatshirt that I got as a Christmas gift years ago.

There is something you need to know about me before this post continues.  I’ve never been a fan of getting clothing as Christmas gifts.  According to my mom, I had a less-than-pleasant family Christmas as a child (in which I received a dress shirt and my sister got a fancy toy purse, complete with plastic keys and a fake compact) that soured me on clothing as gifts.  I may have put No Clothes on my wish list at least once, and my parents (mostly) obliged.  There were a few articles of clothing every year, including one pink sweater that was famously exchanged for hiking boots, but most of my gifts were things that could be read or played with.

This sweatshirt, which was given to me in high school, is an exception.  I was inordinately pleased by this gift, as it has a llama on it.  (I collect llamas.)  Of course, since I’ve had it for *coughs* years now, it is very comfortable and broken in but no longer particularly attractive.  Every time I wear it, I think about Christmas, even if for only a moment.  Yes, there are many gifts I still have and use, but inexplicably this sweatshirt is the one thing I own that reminds me constantly of its origins.

Maybe that’s what comes from being the surprising exception to a hard-and-fast gift rule. 🙂

Missing Your Target Audience

Today I watched one of my favorite Disney movies, The Emperor’s New Groove.  It is an awesome movie that most of my friends agree is highly entertaining.  Of course, it includes llamas (one of my favorite animals) so I love it. 

The movie, for all its wonderfulness, has never been very popular.  The problem is that it misses its target audience.  I know a few kids who have enjoyed it (the offspring of one of my friends quote it all the time) but most kids haven’t seen it or don’t enjoy it as much as adults.

It doesn’t have a princess (or even a love interest) and, while adults find it quite humorous, most of the jokes are lost on the younger crowd.  As one of the peripheral goals of Disney animation is the sale of all the accompanying stuff, missing the age bracket that inspires toy and clothing purchases pretty much doomed it to being one of those “hidden secret” Disney movies.   

As an author it is important to remember my target audience.  I know full well that my book (and accompanying stories) are female-driven.  While I won’t discourage my male friends from reading it (although none have to date) I am prepared for them to not enjoy the story as much as my female friends.  I would never presume to force my book on someone who wouldn’t enjoy it.  Of course, with little to no magic, it may also be lost on a lot of fantasy fans.  I don’t mind that, though, since it seems that it has found favor with non-fantasy readers. 

Perhaps I’m targeting the wrong group of agents, in that case.  Maybe I should be looking at general fiction agents, although convincing them to take a chance on something that looks like fantasy might be tricky.

I Wonder If J. K. Rowling Gets Owls?

In high school, a friend of mine made the mistake of sharing with us that she collected penguins.  A birthday and Christmas later, she told us all in no uncertain terms that we were never to buy, make, or in any way give her penguins again.  She was tired of them, and had too many.

This is the difficulty that arises from obvious gifts – they are the default, easy thing to give someone.  Imagine getting nothing but penguins as gifts.  No matter how lovely or rare or perfect they are, a part of you is going to want variety.  Add in the hideous, ugly, “what were they thinking?” penguins and you understand her frustration.

I’ve heard that this happens to authors and celebrities, too, especially when there is something easily associated with their work.  It makes me wonder: if my book gets published and goes viral, will people start giving me butterfly stuff?  I’m not sure I would enjoy that, although I would enjoy my book being popular enough that it is a problem.  🙂

A llama with dragon wings!

The two things that I already have as obvious gifts do not create this difficulty.  I have collected llamas since I started working with them as a teenager.  Llamas (unlike penguins) are not easy to find, so if someone gives me one I know they took some time and effort.  Plus, my collection grows slowly, which means I am always excited to add one.  Besides the llamas, I recently started accumulating dragons (in small amounts).   While I am somewhat particular about my dragons (I prefer the European-style flying type over the sinuous Asian-style dragons) I have yet to be inundated with dragons in large quantities.  Whitney did give me some neat little dragon earrings, but mostly I have acquired my dragons myself.  Even if this changes, for now I like dragons.  I wouldn’t mind a few more.  I have to say I was very excited when I got a package from my parents containing a llama with dragon wings – as if it were made for me!

The butterfly thing is a bit worrisome, though.  The Butterflies in my book are not flying insects, but female spies.  Yes, the butterfly is the insignia of the queen, and there are some used as symbols, but the insects themselves are not part of the story.  I did realize the possibility of this when I bought myself some butterfly accessories – butterflies can be kitschy, or overly girly, or even downright tacky.  And unlike llamas, they are everywhere

I am looking forward to the possible day when I have fans and get fan mail.  I just hope it’s not accompanied by a mountain of butterflies…