The Good-Morrow

In Arts and Education on March 24, 2016 at 12:12 pm

a poem by John Donne, 1572-1631

I wonder by my troth, what thou and I

Did, till we loved? Were we not wean’d till then?

But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly?

Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?

‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ‘twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,

Which watch not one another out of fear;

For love all love of other sights controls,

And makes one little room an everywhere.

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;

Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;

Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,

And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;

Where can we find two better hemispheres

Without sharp north, without declining west?

Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally;

If our two loves be one, or thou and I

Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

The Road Often Traveled

In Humor on March 9, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Writing a novel is straight up demonic possession. You create a world teeming with characters, and then your characters conspire against you. They decide the balance of power is all wrong. And when that happens, you better watch out.

Picture it. You, spell-casting sorcerer, bent over your cauldron in your favorite star-studded purple robe. I summon thee, protagonist. Live! LIVE!!

Later that afternoon, you’re shoveling the front walk with your:

  1. Snorkel
  2. Swim suit
  3. Rubber duck floaty
  4. Flippers

Neighbors drive by. Your chin juts out. “S’up?”

Fiction writing is madness. Madness I say! For some, it’s Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel. For others it’s Paul Sheldon trapped in Annie Wilkes’ home, and forced to rewrite the fate of Misery Chastain. For still others, it’s Stephen King being Stephen King.

Fiction writing is a lonely process. Perhaps that’s why we invite our characters into our personal lives. They keep us company. They care about what happens in the book, even before anyone else has had a chance to see it. They care about our book even when no one else cares enough to read it.

This isn’t a pity party. This is how it goes. Not every story is for every reader. Mind boggling, I know. Finding your target reader can be weird. It can be a bit like internet dating. The profile looked good, but then you meet in person, and—BOOM—your date is Zergladon the Zornk. Only you’re still getting over the last Zornk you dated. Just think. If this Zornk would’ve been up front about being a Zornk, you could’ve spared each other a lot of embarrassment. But no.

Every fiction writer knows what it is to complete a first draft. (For those who don’t write fiction, the process is commonly called “shoveling shit.”) Every fiction writer knows what it is to produce a second draft. (AKA, the delicate alchemy wherein, if you’re lucky, shit becomes Shinola.) Ah, but now we’ve reached the third draft! Cue the choir of angels. Things are getting good. There is much hand sanding. This may be the point where you find yourself shoveling snow in your swim suit–but wait, we haven’t even begun the final stretch. You can’t afford to be totally out of your mind yet. You’ll still need it for what’s to come.

Perhaps you’ll enlist “BETA readers” to take the temperature of the book. (Read: blind date with Zergladon the Zornk.) But if you’ve been burned by a Zornk, you may instead decide to put that book on the shelf for a few years. Get some distance while you go through the whole process again with a different book. One that has you contemplating homicidal thoughts, because this one is about a mother whose child was killed in a school shooting, and is now hellbent on revenge. She targets politicians and NRA executives. It’s bloody and mean. It’s John Wick, but with a pissed off grieving mama.

Ah, there are personalities we can’t inhabit, it’s true. But we find our way into them anyway. Usually no one gets killed.

There are jokes that fall flat and need fixing. There are entire novels without a single believable character. There are others where every characterization is a cliche, yet each cliche is somehow central to the plot.

There are rewrites, and rewrites, and rewrites. Eventually that manuscript may go to publication, if you’re lucky, and then there’s the next lengthy process. And on it goes.

But in the beginning, it started with you, alone, and words on a glowing screen. I’ve noticed there are always words, writing books. Curious. I’ve further noticed the words are numerous, and most of them get left behind.

It can be a lonely road, but at least it isn’t  one of those stupid “less traveled” ones. This road is shared by every other fiction writer. You’ll recognize us by the fact that we wear blinders. (Or maybe rubber duck floaties, depends.) If you should ever be fortunate enough to see one coming down the street someday, be sure to go right up to him and kick him where it counts. When he asks why, say, “Misery loves company.” And if that doesn’t work, say, “My protagonist told me to do it.”


Donald Trump is From Africa

In Polemics on February 29, 2016 at 1:48 pm

When Donald Trump runs for President, he’s not bringing America’s best. He’s bringing people with lots of problems. And they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Or not. I don’t know. Maybe they’re all rapists. No one saw him getting this far, is all I’m saying.

But let’s show a little optimism. Everyone was sure Crystal Pepsi was a good idea too. Remember that? Then we found out no one wanted to white wash Pepsi. But at least white washed Crystal Pepsi still tasted like Pepsi. Donald Trump pretending he doesn’t know about David Duke and the KKK is more like brewing compost.

That ain’t Folgers in your cup.

But I guess we have to talk about race again. The Oscars happened, and David Duke loves him his orange The Donald. But just wait till David Duke discovers Oompa Loompas come from Africa. I bet Donald Trump will know who David Duke is then.

The point of all this is that maybe we should just relax. We’ve got so much dread and self-loathing. Our social media accounts are lit up with dire prophecies. Like we’ve all suddenly become Nostradamus. Trump will be Hitler! Trump tweets Mussolini, and an orange shih-tzu rises from the West with 666 branded on his paw! Like any of that’s going to help. “Oh, I was going to vote for Trump, but then I saw that one meme”—said no one ever.

Still. That pesky fact remains: Our social media accounts are lit up. There are so many anti-Trump forces out there. Entire countries debating whether or not to ban him. There’s Vicente Fox and the F-word. (Sounds like a children’s book.) The Donald Trump candidacy has been like one big shock and awe campaign. Only he’s supplying all the shocks, and we’re all like, “awwww.”

But seriously. How bad can it be? I mean, it’s not like civil liberties are being trampled on. (Disclaimer: Unless you live in certain key regions affected by the Patriot Act. Or Ferguson, MO. Or between the East and West Coast. Or Hawaii. And if you live in Alaska, all bets are off.)

And it’s not like are children isn’t learning.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with this country that a bulletproof vest and a Bushmaster Assault Rifle can’t solve. Look out your window. Are the streets running with blood? No? Well then you must not live near a school. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Thing is, the folks who really want to stop Donald Trump are going about it all wrong. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m just a guy. I’m no different from you, except that I happen to have a blog and a silly stick. (Unless you have those things too, in which case you are me and it sucks to be you.) But if you ask me (which, admittedly, no one ever does and, let’s face it, not for entirely unfounded reasons,) but if you DID ask me, I’d tell you that you’ve got to take it back down to a level the people understand. Give the people what they want. And what do the people want?


Straight up racism, baby. Talk about the color of his skin. We’re obsessed with skin color. Only this time it’ll be a social service. He’s a Cheeto. And too much Cheetos is bad, m’kay?

Maybe you’re better than me, and skin color isn’t your speed. One could branch out: He has bad hair, as has well been documented. Or there’s the theoretical: I bet he tastes like brewed compost.

These are the jokes, people.

Face it. No one is bringing down The Donald by talking about the First Amendment, or oh-my-god-he’s-going-to ban-1.6 billion-Muslims, or Mexicans being rapists. None of that’s going to fly, because as George Carlin famously said: The point of cocaine, alas, is to run out of it.

When the high from Donald Trump’s soundbites wears off, people want more. And so his critics are always one step behind, and he’s there, all covered in blood, looking like Russell Crowe at the Colosseum: ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

So yeah, The Donald is just weird. He’s a Cheeto. Like Cheetos? Trump 2016.Keep it simple. Keep it stupid. He does.



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