Saturday, November 20, 2004

Where did that come from?

That question come up often as I am writing. I don't often dare answwer it. Since I am in a contemplative mood this morning and feeling somewhat strong, I have been thinking about answers. All I really have to do is read the newspaper.

Item:

Tuesday, November 16, 2004. Macon, Georgia. A first-grader brought a .38 handgun to school. He said he found it under his parents' bed. The police report says that it was "empty".

Back when they were in high school, my brother and one of his friends learned about unloaded handguns the hard way. My brother still carries the emotional scars. His friend survived. Barely.

Firearm Safety Rule #1: The gun is always loaded.

Item:

Fallujah, Mosul, Baghdad.

The brother of a classmate of mine in elementary school was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He came home 6 months later in a Hefty bag.

Item:

Monday, November 15, 2004. Macon, Georgia. A registered sex offender chased two young girls around the neighborhood before school. He was naked. They lived across the street from him.

I have a memory that I have tried to forget for many years. The attic of the Rose's store was dim, dusty, and hot. The stock man had offered me $10 to help him carry some boxes up the stairs. I was 10. While we were in the attic, he "inspected" me to make sure I didn't have VD. What did I know? He was big; I was scared. The memory still scares the Hell out of me.

Item:

Thursday, November 18, 2004. Reynolds, Georgia. A 17-year-old shot and killed his 27-year-old neighbor after a fight about a PlayStation that the shooter says the victim stole from him. It was the first murder in Reynolds in 10 years. The last murder in that peaceful small town occurred after a fight over a cassette tape.

How can people get so outraged over Nicolette Sheridan's bare back or a flash of Janet Jackson's tit when this kind of thing is happening every day and goes unremarked? That seems like a moral perversion to me. Someone's priorities are out of whack.

Horrors don't just happen in the Middle East or Africa or Russia. Look around your town, your neighborhood, your house, your own head. There are plenty of stories around to inspire fear, dread, and rage.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The courage to face the truth

Read through "Bare Trees" and noticed that I have danced around the meat of the story. I'm going to have to put in two more scenes that show the uncomfortable truths that my protagonist has to face. I have been showing them through his reflection on events just past, instead of showing the events themselves. Ain't happening. Looks like the first draft will be closer to 4000 words. That's a little long for my liking. We'll see what the rewrite does to help that.

Still looking for a title. I don't usually have this much trouble with titles. Often, the title comes a part of the package when I get the story idea. Sometimes the story is inspired by the title. Since this story revolves around memories, I thought I would try to ring some changes on Hamlet. "Rosemary for Remebrance" or "That's for Remembrance" or even just "Rosemary". Not too happy with any of those. I need to look into something to do with choices or choosing, too. The protag has to choose between his dead first wife and the woman he now loves and has to learn how to let go and get his life back, instead of living with a ghost (she's not a real ghost, just in his head).

A "real" ghost? As opposed to what? A wraith, a phantom (or phantasm), a specter? Wonder where potergeists fit into this reality. That one's going into the "Ideas" document for further review. Ahhhh, the wonders of weirdness.

A slight digression

Had to vent a little bit before getting down to serious work.

WARNING!! Do not read this if you are easily offended. In fact, if you are easily offended, you probably shouldn't be here at all.

-----

"Next!

"Welcome to the Pearly Gates. Okay, let's see... Oh yeah, we've been waiting for you, heh, heh, heh! You got some 'splainin' to do, young man.

"Okay, from the top. We'll skip over all that stuff while you were growing up. You're not expected to have any sense before you turn 21, but what's all this about living with your parents and partying every night until you were 25? Didn't you have any ambition? No? No dreams to pursue? No goals or direction? No? You were issued a dream and a talent before you were born, what did you do with them?

"Fun? You think you were put on Earth to have fun and sponge off other people? Boy, you really missed that one!

"Test? Of course it's a test! We told you that in the orientation. Didn't remember, huh? Yeah, I've heard that one before. The clues were all around you, man, weren't you paying attention? You probably thought they didn't apply to you. I get that a lot, too. What made you think you were so special?

"Yeah, that whole 'self-esteem' thing. Really burns the Big Guy's butt. Everybody thinks they're some kinda prophet or something. Well, it don't work that way, Sparky. It's called self-determination. You do for yourself, and we'll help you out. No free rides. It's up to you to make your way in the world. You've got to put out some effort, make things better for yourself and everybody else.

"Where were we? Oh, yeah. Says here you spent the next ten years making babies you couldn't support. Six of 'em. What about that?

"'Be fruitful and multiply?' I get so tired of hearing that! What about taking care of the Earth you were given dominion over? It's not just there to be used up, you know. There's more coming behind you. You have to leave something for them besides your sh...uh...crap to clean up!

"And just look at how your kids turned out. Greedy little shin-kickers running around grabbing every buck they can get and hoarding it all. Think the world owes 'em a favor 'cause they had it tough. Screwed-up ain't the word! That goes against you, too.

"Not have kids? Don't be stupid. Of course you should have kids! You're supposed to use the good sense We gave you, is all. Be responsible. Have as many kids as you can handle and raise 'em to be good people. If you can't do that, don't have any at all. Lucifer's causing enough troublle already. We don't need people helping him out by not thinking about what they're doing.

"And now, the piece-de-resistance! The infamous Grilled Cheese Sandwich! You really caused a ruckus with that one, let me tell you! We had to scramble to keep Jesus from going down right then and putting an end to all the idiocy. That would have screwed up our plans for all Eternity. He was really pissed about you dissing his mother that way. Probably still is. You better be glad he's not here to greet you personally.

"You thought it was a sign? A sign of what? That Jesus was coming for lunch? Have you lost your mind? A grilled cheese sandwich? Don't you think He would have picked a little more decorous way to announce Himself?

"And Mary! You really owe Her, let me tell you!

"Well, there's just no excuse for that one. You're outta here! Have a nice Eternity."

Misspoke on the eBay auction

I said $69,000; it was actually 16,000. Mental flatulence, I guess. Now over $17,000. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. I'd better light the aromatherapy tartt and put some quiet music on the stereo.

Get a job, get a hobby, GET A LIFE!

Enough about the Monday Night Football intro starring Terrell Owens and Nicolette Sheridan. Good God, people! Don't you have anything better to worry about? You and your kids see a lot worse than this every night in prime time. Wait a minute...wait a minute...I'm getting an epiphany....Got it! A black man ogling a naked white woman. The horror! The horror! If we don't act now, scenes like this will pollute our precious bodily fluids!

People! It's TELEVISION! IT'S NOT REAL! GET A LIFE! And quit ruining mine. Stupidity really burns my ass.

On a brighter note, I saw the "Peter Comes Home" Folger's Christmas commercial this morning. That's one of the extremely few commercials I can stomach. My wife always cries when she sees it. Now if Miller Brewing Company would just put their "Christmas Card" commercial back on...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Barnum was right!

Got this link to an eBay auction from Holly's Weblog.

Holy Shit!! As of yesterday afternoon, bidding was up to over $69,000. For a grilled cheese sandwich? I better start looking at things closer before I throw them away.

Rejected! Part Two

"Where the Heart Is" rejected by Vestal Review. God, kick a man while he's down, huh? :)

Now 20 to 4. 8 points in the Great Rejection Slip Contest. Might still make double digits before year end.

When the urge bites, when the words sing, when I'm feeling weird...

1200 words on "Bare Trees". It's now at 2200 and should top out at around 3000 in the first draft. This is a story I've been wanting to tell for a long time. I have had the beginning and ending for around three years, but never could get a handle on the middle until now. I also have to find a new title. "Bare Trees" is only a phrase that recalls the scene that first drew me into this story. I'll visit Bartleby in the near future.

I also finished Zette's Without a Fear of Words this morning. Though most of the essays have been published in Vision, some have not. I think it's 6 bucks well spent. There's a lot of stuff here that I want to keep close at hand.

---

Muses are funny creatures. I suspect that every writer has their own personal take on them. In On Writing, Stephen King says his Muse is a cigar-smoking man who prods him occassionally. My Muse is a still, small voice that often speaks at 3 a.m., or who tickles the back of my mind from time to time with images that demand to be written down and explained. Sometimes she gives me the story straight out, but mostly, I have to work for it.

I have not yet learned to generate stories at will. Though I can always come up with an idea, it is very hard for me to get excited about most of them. When a story starts feeling like work, instead of fun, I will abandon it. Some eventually find their way into the bit bucket, but most just need time to ferment down in the nether reaches of my subconscious. They bubble back up in the oddest forms, sometimes.

Off to work. Another day, another dollar.

It ain't worth it.



Rejected!

flashquake rejected "Baby Blues". So far in my career: Rejections - 19, Acceptances - 4. I'm not counting non-fiction in those totals, since I consider that just a sideline.

"Bare Trees" is calling me this morning for some reason. I'll work on it some before picking WITB up again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

War is Hell -- William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman didn't mean just for the enemy. He had been on the losing side in several campaigns prior to his March to the Sea. War is indeed Hell for all participants, even for bystanders. No one knows this any better today than one young U.S. Marine in Iraq.

No one should judge what he did on the basis of a videotape on the news. No one sitting in the safety and comfort of their living room has any right to judge what he did unless they are willing to put themselves into his place and imagine what he had been going through.

This is a college-age man, barely old enough to vote, not old enough to drink alcohol legally. He was given a rifle, sent half-way around the world to an alien land to fight with fanatics who have no regard for their own lives. Sudden, violent death has been this man's most constant companion for months. What he did may not have been self-defense, technically, but he was certainly acting in the interest of self-preservation.

I, for one, am not going to cast stones at this man for reacting to a perceived threat in a very tense, now-or-never situation. God help him. I hope the Marine Corps will, but I have some doubts.

Monday, November 15, 2004

"The world is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." -- Auntie Mame

I often catch myself playing the Poor Sucker. It's a role that I know as well as if I had written it myself. It's familiar, as comfortable as that old sweater I pulled out of the closet this morning. The world is a terrible, exhilarating, horrifying, joyful place, a Banquet of Earthly Delights, and I'm starving to death. I have Life Anorexia. Over the course of many years, I have trained myself to see only the dark side of things and never allow myself to take part in the fun. It's a habit that's really hard to break.

It's very easy to operate one-dimensionally, but the easy, facile answer is never the best one. We all assume the world would be wonderful if only things worked as they should. Wait a minute! Who's "shoulds" should we live by? Mine? Yours? Hers? Theirs? Nobody has all the answers. Few of us have any real answers at all. We assume that we do so we don't have to face our fear and uncertainty.

The world is a messy, complicated place inhabited by messy, complicated people. "If only" is unfortunately not an option. We have to deal with what is, not what we wish. After all, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride". Beware of "should".

Hmmm. I seem to have wandered away from my original thoughts. Maybe I should back up and try again.

On the other hand, maybe I won't.

---

The good stuff

Finished "Done to Undeath" last night and submitted it to Vision this morning. As many times as I have submitted stories and articles to various markets, I still get a few butterflies. It's the middle of NaNoWriMo, so it will probably be a while before Zette has a chance to respond. No worries. I have plenty more to work on.

Didn't get any fiction done today on account of transportation issues. My wife's Jeep is in the shop with a broken brake rotor. $350 that we can't afford. Oh well, we have no choice.

"Where have all the flowers gone?" -- Peter, Paul, and Mary

It's winter, dumbass! Well, almost, anyway. :) We had our first frost this morning. The cats are claiming their laps for the winter.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

The courage of our convictions.

Another perspective on courage in the wake of the Texas victory over Kansas yesterday. Kansas coach Mark Mangino made some comments in his post-game press conference regarding the offensive pass interference call that cost Kansas the game and left Texas in good shape to go to a BCS bowl game. Mangino expressed the opinion that the call was motivated by the money that was at stake for Texas. He later apologized for his statement.

After watching a replay of the controversial call, I am left with the belief that Mangino was right the first time. The "foul" was no more than receivers get away with on virtually every play in every game. The flag was thrown only after the pass reception that could well have iced the game for Kansas. The result of the call was a Kansas punt from their own end zone and excellent field position for Texas, allowing them to drive for the winning score. Draw your own conclusions.

Enormous sums of money are the real prize for a BCS bowl bid. Those teams with the best audience appeal are much more likely to draw a good ranking, no matter the quality of competition or the real quality of football that they play. This system has turned NCAA football into a professional game. I find that extremely important and I mourn the loss of pride that the NCAA has suffered and the profit motivation for the players. I hear the comment every week about how a certain player "passed up" his chance to enter the NFL draft in order to return for his senior year. Have our unicersities become no more than vocational training schools for professional sports? What ever happened to the idea of getting an education? Our universities have become profit centers rather than centers of learning.

Coach Mangino's comments were right on the money, so to speak. It's too bad that he gave in to his own profit motive and reversed himself in order to keep his job and possibly avoid a heavy fine, which raises another issue.

Since when do the NCAA conference officials dictate the opinions of their coaches and players? Do these men and women no longer enjoy their rights as Americans to freedom of speech, a right guaranteed to all citizens by the Bill of Rights? Apparently money has become such a power in this country that it outweighs even the Constitution. Let's just go ahead and change our name to the United States of the Almighty Dollar.

It takes courage to maintain the integrity of your convictions. It takes courage to realize that your words may expose a truth that may offend powerful people. It takes courage to realize and live up to the idea that there are much more important things than money in this life. I have pity for people like Coach Mangino who feel so trapped in their lives that they have to castrate themselves in the service of profit. I pray that more people will find the courage to stand up for waht they believe is right and hold onto their personal integrity. Our world would be a much better place for that.