Pardon the Dust

Pardon the dust. I’m underway with some renovations on the interior of Self. It wouldn’t be noticeable I imagine, so it’s not at all likely anyone would notice. In fact, I’m guessing no one will. But that’s the problem. No one notices. There seems to be a disconnect with the way I view my dreams, desires, etc., and the daily results I experience. As in, I have this grand vision of what my life should be, and I work toward it, yet I have this near out-of-body experience with what actually is.

So I’ve been trying to figure out why. Why do I feel what I am doing should be more observed and appreciated than it is? I’m not a bad person, per se, so I feel karma isn’t the answer. I’m not perfect, of course. I make mistakes. Many many. But that isn’t cause for the results, I wouldn’t think. Everyone makes mistakes, after all. Doesn’t hold back those who succeed, or are at the least noticed for what they do.

I’m forced to accept the only possibility I can find logic within: I am Clark Kent. I’m invisible, for the most part. A kind-hearted person you notice, but don’t think much of as a hero. Nobody looks at Clark and says, “Now there’s a guy who’s going somewhere. Let’s pay attention to him.” No. That’s the whole point. And even Clark makes stupid mistakes, like giving up his powers for no discernible reason whatsoever.

That’s who I am. Clark Kent after giving up my powers. Invisible and meek. Fun stuff. People pay attention to a point, then move on and forget I was there at all.

Why would they do that? Because they’re looking for Superman. They’re looking for heroes. They’re looking to be wowed, impressed, carried onward into hope and victory. Strong personalities, active voices, people who offer them results they want.

This guy:

You might argue that’s the same guy. Still Clark, right? But who will they remember? The meek guy who got beat up, or the guy who stood up to the bad guy and defeated him with flair and strength?

I’m not likely to go beat on some worthless schmo for the sake of attention, so that’s out. Hell, I still catch flies and release them when I can, rather than squishing them into oblivion for invading my space. But I’ve encountered my share of bullies. And they’ve won. Sure, I’ll bitch about it, but after the five seconds in which people listen and agree, they move on. Nobody wants to listen to someone complain about being a victim. They want Superman. Action. Decisive action.

When I was eight, I had a birthday party. It was the first one I had organized, first time I had invited kids from school to my home. There was cake, balloons, games planned, a beautiful day in a park. Nobody showed up. I didn’t try to have another party after that. Now, I could say that it molded my perception at that point, convinced me nobody would ever show up for anything I planned ever; but that would be Clarking without power. Something I am proficient in. Complaining after the fact, then withdrawing. Truth is, that party was just another bully, and it beat me. It beat me and I didn’t fight back.

I’ve often stated, of myself, that I engage in the fight, get knocked down, yet always get up to fight again. What strikes me, in this whole Clarking vs. Supermanning duel of perception is not that I keep getting up. That should be a given. I mean, you don’t get up, the fight’s over. As we’re talking about life here, then life is over. So you get up. Of course. You fight, to one degree or another, to defend your right to existence. Expectations, though. That’s what I’ve come to see. I expect to get knocked down again. I expect to stand up again. I expect to fight again. I expect this to repeat, endlessly. That’s just Clarking your way through. Superman (or if you must, Clark Kent with his powers) doesn’t enter a fight expecting to hold his ground or be defeated. He expects to win. He expects good to triumph. He expects to move on to another fight and kick its ass as well.

So I’m renovating. Interior design is not my strong suit, though I work on it constantly. I’m hoping to make this one stick. It’d be nice to do so. Perhaps then people will notice me. They’ll read my work because they can’t imagine not reading it. They’ll read it because they want to, because they could’t wait to, because they want to know what story I tell next. I’m actually quite good at this whole writing thing. It’s taken a lot of work to become so. But if I continue to toss it about like Clark’s weak punches, nobody will care. It’ll be kind of sad, actually.

I’ve learned to write well because I want people to read it, when what I need to do is to write well because I expect people will be reading it.

Writing, Broadleaf Writers, my current job, relationships, everything.

I have to learn to be Superman.

Being invisible sucks.

Fluttering Your Way This October

I killed a man.

Well, actually I killed several people, but to keep to the point, I killed a man by the name of Timothy Webb.  I thought this would be enough to keep him forever out of MY life, but, alas, I was mistaken.  Apparently, God took quite a fancy to him, and his actions as Christ, and CEO, at The Christ Corporation, and decided to make him an angel.  He gave Timothy his metaphorical wings, granted him the gift of a Key that supposedly held the power of Jesus, patted him on the back, and sent him on his way.

His first act was to show up on the doorstep of MY imagination, and demand that I do something about it.  I just kind of stared at him, in terrible disbelief, and shrugged.  This did nothing to satisfy him, so he invited himself in, began rambling about being ill-equipped to be an angel, and something about Natasha–the maligned angel known as Satan in our world–recovering well from her temporary bout of humanity.  So, for the next few hours we sat, until it became apparent to ME that the only way I would get rid of Timothy would be to write another story for him.  I proposed the idea, made up a completely fabricated storyline, waived him on, and then proceeded to forge onward with a plot that, in no way resembled the idea I had discussed with Timothy.  From this was born, Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction.

It now has a release date: October 1, 2010.

What is Flutter?  Well, it’s more devil fiction than Anointed, has significantly more explosions, plenty of characters who don’t survive to see the end, and an angelic system of social networking that is eerily familiar to Twitter.  But that’s not much of a description.  Kind of leaves you wanting, I admit.  So, instead, I offer you a brief look at some of what I wrote for my publisher, when I turned over the reigns of my baby:

In my eyes, it carries the same voice, and some of the feel, but none of the story structure of Anointed.  I wanted to write something, on the heels of a book that was philosophical, and, at times, rambling, with something a little more adventurous, a little more off the wall, and a lot more explodey (I really like that word all of a sudden)…I have included references, or creatures, as follows: Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Back to the Future, The Matrix, a dragon, a vampire (tee hee…I like him!), a bobsledding monkey, a wizard/piano duel , zombies, and a chocolate hot tub.  Ok, the last may not be fantasy in terms of the genre, but you find me anybody who doesn’t like everything listed before it, that isn’t as fond of the hot tub, and I’ll quit writing.  Oh, also, there’s a reference to swine flu, and to Google Buzz (which is mistakenly called Fuzz).  That, along with Natasha in a bikini, a porch made of cheese (it’s Gouda than you think!  Ugh…), a God who thinks he’s a child, a video game of explosive proportions, ugly angels, an escalator in the sky, a prison in Heaven, the rebirth of Jesus, and a very unfortunate moment for the masters of The Christ Corporation…there’s so much activity, and no break to sit in a restaurant to discuss the history of Satan, or in an office to discuss the history of Christ.  What I hope I have created is a book that you really just can’t put down, and one that makes you both want to read its predecessor, and anxiously await what is to come.

I like that I can be a complete tard when I write to her.  Granted, she published the first book, so it’s not like I’m going to fool her at this point.  It’s not quite back copy material (that bit you might read on the back of a book that summarizes the story), but it covers most of what I consider to be cool about Flutter.  I’ve been asked what this book is meant to lampoon, given the generalized lampoon of Christianity in Anointed, to which I say it’s predominantly a lampoon of social media, and how easily distracted the world has become by it, and to technology in general.  I’d like to think that I can wield this tale like a weapon, and waggle it in the face of all those who have fallen prey to its mighty grip, but, well, I’m one of them.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, email, blogging, texting, computer games, anything and everything that occurs on the cell phone, and so forth–I’m there.  Or, at least, mostly there.  So are you, most likely.  Be warned: The angels know, and they’re about to do something rash.  Ish.  Rash-ish.  More in the vein of rash, but less rash than rash might be.  Kind of, severe, in that, “Don’t make me come down there,” kind of way.

So, I’ll keep it at that for now.  I hope to offer a few snippets in the coming weeks.  The first will likely be a scene that takes place in God’s Office, as He prepares for a trip to Earth, with the ever-present moan of the Holy Ghost guiding the way.

Until then, I need to go lock the door.  I’m sure Timothy wants to know what to do now.

Rejecting Rejection

(this blog first appeared on A Good Blog is Hard to Find)

I made it through the entirety of high school without having to endure the potential tragedy of a date.

Now, in that, it might seem as though I celebrate that I escaped the awkwardness of a staggered and indecisive conversation over a delightful dinner at Taco Bell, or that I rejoice in the passing of another dance without collapsing in a heap atop the punch bowl by way of two very clumsy, and inexperienced steps, or even that I am proud that I never had to answer that terrifying throttle of Ahab’s harpoon to the nerves, “Should I use my tongue, or would she slap ME?” But that would imply a choice in the matter. Sure, I was the shy kid that would blush if someone next to ME sneezed, but for the most part I gave gallant, if not altogether misguided, attempts at finding a girl who, “got ME.” The problem–the ultimate failing in this course–was that I spent those years of my life chasing after every single girl in the school that would rather have structured their weekends around delightfully dull dinners with their parents and younger siblings, than to have succumbed to MY cherubic charm (absent the charm). It made for quite a run of rejection, to be honest. The kind that, more often than not, left me standing bewildered in a hallway of students, a mere bumper to the course, a potential ramp of skateboarding delight, wondering why it was that a slap to the face could make MY feet hurt so badly.

The pure fact of it all is that rejection sucks. Sure, you can pick yourself up, you can tell yourself that they just didn’t get you, and that someday you’ll find someone to flaunt in front of the line of people that rejected you, and take the high road, give a simple raise of the brow, and maybe a knowing smile (which always works best with the tongue out, if you ask ME), and you’ll revel in your triumph, hand in hand with acceptance. But those words…those god-awful words, just never leave you.

“No, you’re just really not cool enough for me.”

“Yeah, um, I’m just not looking for you right now. Check back with me in a couple of years.”

“You’re a really great guy, and you have great potential as a companion, but I don’t think you fully understand what dating is all about. Maybe you should be looking for someone with lower standards.”

“You know, I might have gotten those messages, but I haven’t really had a chance to listen to them. How about you call me in a few weeks, and, if I’ve had a chance to review your proposal, we’ll talk then?”

“See, the problem is your pitch. If you had begun with the most important part–where you ask me out–I might not have lost interest so quickly. The whole, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about what to say,’ bit is a horribly cliche start. It’s the way these things work, though. I get so many offers each week, and I only have so much time to listen.”

It’s a tired, tired, um, tired…thing, but you carry on. You carry on because you’re stubborn. You carry on because you just couldn’t imagine another day without a companion by your side. You carry on because, well, because you’re just plain lonely, and really want someone to share your time with. Mostly, you carry on because you refuse to be denied, and know that someday the right girl is going to come around, and that you will utterly, absolutely, and undeniably rock her world. You do this because the failure to do so, would mean the end of your dating life, which is something you just cannot allow.

But never mind that, we’re here to talk about writing, which has nothing at all to do with anything I have thus far said. After all, people will always appreciate you for spilling your guts out on the computer tremendously more than they do if you do so in person. You need thick skin in any area of life that presents the possibility for rejection, but writing is pretty straightforward, and is unlikely to ever cause you pain, or grief, or to feel like your brains have just been sucked out through your nose.

For example, I was on the verge of snagging a literary agent once at the William Morris Agency, but was declined, after a thorough reading, not due to poorly written material, but due to problematic scheduling, and an untimely submission. See for yourself: “Though we appreciate, and value, your talent as a writer, we feel that your manuscript is just not right for our agency, or for the market at this time. Please consider us for future projects, however.”

See? That’s not a rejection at all, and sounds nothing like the rejections posted above! They clearly wanted to represent ME, but were unable to because of the market. They just couldn’t wait to read the rest of MY work!

Earlier that same year, I had sent sample writings to the wonderfully compassionate, and caring, people at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. They were so very considerate in their attempts to encourage MY writing skills, that they sent me a letter to MY request that included the following: “Writing is a skill that we wish to harness, and cultivate, in each, and every, writer. We feel, though you do show great potential, that you would be best served to improve your skill further before applying again for Bread Loaf. Please consider sending us more material in a couple of years.”

Again, such a willingness to lead ME in the right direction! How can I feel anything but complete acceptance of MY skill, and ability? Goodness knows, I might very well have languished in a perpetual state of un-improvement for years to come! Now I’m a published author! Thank you, Bread Loaf!

Sometimes–yes, even in the publishing industry!–the level of acceptance you receive from publishers, or agents, or editors, or the like, can be twinged ever so slightly with a heavy, yet suggestive, hand. You might even feel a bit put off by the words they have chosen, but rest assured that they only have your best interests at heart, and want nothing more than to see you in their fold, successful and happy! They try so hard to offer you their acceptance that they will chance to wake you from your blissful rest with a most carefully aimed bomb. For example, I sent a manuscript to Harper Collins many years ago, offering them the glorious chance to view a book I knew they would trip over themselves to purchase. What I received was a carefully worded letter, indicating that my work was such a stellar piece of art, that they wanted to ensure I knew how elated they were that such a young man (I was 18 at the time, and fresh off a new branch of female-induced rejection) had, “taken up writing as a hobby.” Wow! What kind words! I mean, I’m sure that spell-check missed the, “hobby,” part of that. Obviously, they meant, “career,” but such are the follies of the computer age!

So, rest assured, dear friends of the craft, that rejection is not something you will ever have to deal with. Your best interests, and the cultivation of your art, will be coddled by those in your midst: by your friends, fellow writers, agents, editors, the kindly old lady in the cafe that threatened to beat you with her walker if you talked about your writing just once more, and so on. They want only to see you succeed. All you have to do is smile, and wait for the offers to pour in.

Just don’t ask ME for dating advice.

The Writing Life

(I wrote this post on the Southern Author’s Blog, so it’s a bit of a duplicate)

I haven’t been writing for the entirety of the limited experience that I call, “life”. I mean, well, obviously I wasn’t writing in the womb, nor did I pop out with pen and paper and get to scribing my experiences in utero. I suppose that would have been quite the story, if not, an altogether painful experience for my poor mother. So, what I mean to say, is that, though I may have spent the majority of my capable time on this earth writing, I have some lingering years remaining that offer no insight whatsoever into my life as a writer.

What is that supposed to mean? I take it to mean that I need more coffee.

The thing about life, see, is that life, in and of itself, is a story. Not the words you put on paper (or screen in this modern age), or in the ideas floating about the nether regions of your mind, plucking you awake at the most obscene hours of the night, but in every aspect of every person in every day that you live. Writing is, more or less, the centrifuge to the swath of stories we swim through on a daily basis. I’ve been told many times that, “there is no story that has yet to be written,” and to some degree I get the concept of that statement. To some degree, yes, the stories that are written are nothing more than variances of stories that have been around for centuries. Stories that your grandfather told you on cold nights by the fire, stories that you heard while eavesdropping on that squabbling couple in the cafe, stories that were chipped in tablets and handed down (or succinctly dropped on the floor and cracked into peices by that snarky caveman-esque editor with no appreciation for the man-mammoth-woman love triangle). But in each familiar story, in each tale that rings of familiarity, there in a unique perspective, a unique slant, something that only happened that one time.

Oddly, it took me a while to see this. I had to actually look up from the page, so to speak, and take a nice long look at the world. I had to see how, in its persistent way, that life prodded the art of storytelling. Sometimes, as a writer, you become a bit insulated. A bit protected from reality whilst you delve into the preferred insanity that is your chosen world of fantasy. It’s safer there. You can do what you want. You can kill someone, feel remorse, and move on without consequence. You can encourage affairs, you can win the lottery and stick your tongue out at the world, you can rule the moon, you can take the fragile psyche of a beaten soul and thrash it upon the ground like a small child who is curious to see what happens to the turtle inside the shell once it is broken. But you’re safe because it isn’t real. It’s just a story, and they are all just characters bent to the will of your madness.

I heard it stated that every writer has within them a musician wishing to break out (actually I ready that today from a source I’d rather never listen to again, but I liked it, so now it’s mine…bwahahaha!), and I have to agree. However, it would be irresponsible to music to claim that it resides within any one person. Stories, music, dance, painting, sculpting, they’re all art. They’re all the same. They are all the fabric of life. They all flow. And not one is inspired from within, nor do any reside there. Life is the art. Life is the song. Every life is a story, and in turn, every story is alive.

Ok, so the idea is a touch out there. It’s as inspired as it is insane (though there really isn’t a difference…all artists are insane with inspiration). It’s something out of a Russell Crowe, or Dustin Hoffman-type movie, but it’s true. It’s so very easy to forget that your little experiences, your seemingly insurmountable trials, your possessed frustrations are shared by all of those around you. We all feel a bit like Truman, trapped on the stage, the world as our audience…every so alone in our experiences. But the world is replete in repetition, and in shared experience. No, the mind of that person next to you is not yours, and their similarities are not as yours, but their story is like your story, only in variation, and that variation is enough to make it unique. We are bound by what we are: living creatures who wander like mobile trumpets, blaring our stories for the world to hear. You only have to listen.

Life is everywhere. So are the stories.

Go find them. It isn’t hard. They are waiting for you.