If I use a Horcrux, will that help?

Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy.

I had planned November to be all about the writing. I joined that whole NaWriMo, or whatever it’s called. thing. The Progenitor would stay on course, I said. I had a word count. A proud, distinguished target.

Bullocks.

As it happens, November is traditionally a busy month on the Georgia Center for the Book schedule. The Georgia Literary Festival in Augusta, Children’s Book Festival in Savannah, Elizabeth George, Lynn Cullen, Diana Butler Bass, Sue Grafton with Amanda Kyle Williams, Jane Smiley, Tanwi Nandini Islam … you get the drift. Busy.

But wait! There’s more! I, as the Executive Director and along with my awesome Board of Directors, launched the Broadleaf Writers Association in November! No problem! Just a few things to take care of. Emails to send, posts to write, a website to set, meetings, social media to maintain, conversations with writers, a fundraiser to plan. Just a few things. No big whoop.

But wait! There’s more!

Twice a week I work with a friend of mine who runs an after-school chess program. Two schools, each thirty minutes away. Great work, I love it, but you may not know this … kids suck your energy away. I’m guessing this is what the soda bottle feels like after being drained in a few gulps.

BUT WAI … oh, never mind. You get it. Busy.

Oddly, I found time to write. The Progenitor moves forward. I’m nearing the halfway mark, which is not as far as I’d like to be, but is certainly not a disappointment. As action packed as it is to the end, it’ll zip by. I still expect to have it completed before Spring.

All of this activity made me realize that Voldemort may have been onto something with the Horcruxes. I mean, dude split himself into seven pieces and he was good with it. A little wacky, sure, but he went about his business. No fracture too difficult to manage. I’m split four ways and I’m exhausted. Maybe if I could parcel some of this into an inanimate object or four I’d be better off.

The most recent split of my attention launched today. Broadleaf’s initial fundraising campaign launched on GoFundMe. Lookit: (this is where a GoFundMe widget would go if I wasn’t too tired to figure out why it isn’t working. So instead, here’s a fancy link to the campaign!)

So, like, cool and stuff. People can donate. Though it’s foremost a writing organization, the hope is that my most wonderful friends and family (and those by extension of the Board of Directors and writerly folks of my world) will see this as a cool concept worth getting behind, or simply supporting. After all, we want to educate, to teach people how to better write so that they might pursue writing for publication, or better make use of in their workplace, social lives, or professional pursuits. Writing is an important thing, after all. Teaching people to do it well seems worth a few bucks tossed in the Broadleaf kitty, doesn’t it? Sure it does. Help a brother out. Help an organization looking to do wonderful things out. CHARITY ARE GOOD.

That’s all the pitch I have left, folks. Been a day. In baseball parlance I’m a good hundred and fifteen pitches into the eighth inning. Someone get the bullpen up. I need a drink.

But I’m here. I’ve posted. My hope remains that I will return to chronicle the process of writing The Progenitor at some point, though spending my available energy actually writing the damn thing seems a better use of time. We’ll see. I’m sure you’re on the razor’s edge in anticipation. Of course you are.

Boom. Done. Blog post written. Neato little flash thingy link for the campaign embedded (or not, but whatever). Words spent.

Hey, my coffee mug might be a good place to go from here. I wonder if you can drink out of a Horcrux?

An Idea at 10,000 Feet

“So, I’ve got this idea.”

“I literally just tensed up. Like you were going to hit me.”

This is a real thing, apparently. I tell my friends I have an idea, and it’s like I’ve catapulted a cow over the rampart. RUN AWAY.

I like ideas. I have many of them. Some of them become living breathing things. Others squirrel away in my head, awaiting the End of Days and Mental Apocalypse that will signal end of Me. Some of my ideas have worked. Some of them worked for a short time then flamed out badly. Some idea were quite splendid, but ultimately forgotten. A couple of them right-out sucked. But I keep going, producing ideas as if planting for a bountiful harvest come Fall, never the wiser, never the worse for it.

Like I said, I like ideas.

This a page from one of my favorite ideas EVER.

This a page from one of my favorite ideas EVER.

Ideas are the seed of creation. Plant them, water them, talk to them about your league-leading fantasy baseball team, and wait to see what happens. Do this daily and the growth will amaze. Forget a few days, give it half water, half evaporated passion, and maybe not so much. Forget it altogether and try to contain the shock and horror when you realize your ideas are smoking-hot scorched earth. I often time find myself in the in-between there, a shortcoming I continue to work on. My little factory of ideas is overrun with product. Distribution has been a bit slack.

Which brings me to my point. You see, I have this idea…

I want to blog my way through a book, open the door to the reader, offer raw material and my thoughts on it as I take the journey from conception to completion. The aforementioned friend, who shall remain nameless no matter how tall or bald he may be, thought me–perhaps justifiably–insane. Why would I want to put myself through the added strain of writing a blog every time I’ve written my day’s work? I don’t know. Jeez, if I had to come up with reasons for the vast majority of my ideas, I’d have shut down the factory long ago. I’m not what one might term an A-type personality, after all. I like cheese, and I damn well prefer to sit while I eat it. That said, I do believe that the exercise–and it would be precisely that–would be an interesting one. I have no idea how it will go, and I have no real plan for what material, or how much of it, I will share. But, being able to lay out the process of creation for all to see would have quite an appeal. If not to readers, then perhaps to writers. At worst, it will to me.

Again, this is an idea. In my head it seems a good one. At least an interesting one. But we’ll see. What I do know is that having people monitor my work and (EGAD!) even comment on it as I go would be significant motivation to create the best manuscript I’ve ever written. Then, after I’ve produced this other-worldly masterpiece of literature, the publishing industry will be so fond of the process they’ll create small rooms along Broadway in Manhattan, windows looking over the work space of writers in need of motivation, their day’s work scrolling atop the space, or accessible via tablets on the outside of the glass! They’ll be forced to record videos about their day’s work! People will watch the breakdowns as they flow from euphoric to despondent, from absolutely certainty to complete despair! BRILLIANT!

Then again, maybe not. My ideas can get away from me, after all, otherwise my friends wouldn’t fear them.

So here’s what I am proposing: I have an idea for a Young Adult fantasy novel. It’s been sizzling away in my brain meats for some time, and I’m pretty sure it’s at the right temperature to break out and devour. When next I write here, I will begin the process, detailing the idea, where it came from, how it has transformed, and give a rough idea of where I see it going. I’ll refrain from talking about the end point, or revealing spoilers that might dampen the reading of any material I post. Also, I’ll refrain from posting entire chapters, as I’m not entirely sold that people won’t run away screaming. If, however, you find yourself one who might be up for taking post in the bookstore of my mind and reading all that I have written, I’ll gladly create a way for you to do so. But you’ll have to let me know. Which seems a rather simple thing to say, but this is me we’re talking about. Assume nothing.

The working title of this project is Specimen A. If it had a subtitle it would be: The Progenitor. It may well wind up with both. Or neither. Or one. Who knows?

So there you go. My idea. Well, my most recent idea. We’ll see how it goes.

The Immutable Lifing of Life

Nine months, twenty-five days, and some hours I’m too lazy to count. That’s how long it’s been since I last wrote here. I guess that qualifies as an appropriate gestation period of silence. Oddly enough, birthed unto the world, that silence now screams, betraying the calm that was my earnest effort to ignore it forevermore.

It’s not my fault. I just didn’t want to do it.

In part, I admit, because life has been … well, it’s been lifing pretty hard. That’s not to say that its myriad pokes and prods have left but puncture wounds and headaches. No, it’s pushed, encouraged, picked me up in moments of stress and told me it would all be okay, then kicking my ass because I looked like I needed it. Still, the lingering lifieness of life has left my writing focused to work I wish to get published rather than words that summarize my current state of mind. The need for those words to be structured properly, for the story to be conveyed with ease, perfect flow, characters worth remembering, everything that makes a book what you hoped it would be, has far outweighed the need to blog. In essence, I mean to say that I want to be damn good at it.

So there’s that.

Ugh. I just saw this picture. The webbernuts seems to exist solely to see how many different ways it can make people cry.

SO MUCH LOVE.

SO MUCH LOVE.

What’s interesting, and eternally frustrating to me, is that much of the lifingness of life these past months has to do with matters of a personal nature. I won’t talk about that on social media, or certainly not here. Which sucks because I’ve always viewed my blog as a therapist of sorts. One that offers no feedback, true, but one that patiently waits out my rants and thoughts and worries and fears and more thoughts and more fears and more worries and sad. So, the few times I’ve wanted to write about it, I’ve arrived to find the door closed, the Inner-me offering a finger waggle then pointing me away. And so I trudge off, hands in my pockets, lip pouted, mumbling about something inane that Inner-me just ignores because it’s inane.

And there you go. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

There’s no real point to this. If you’re reading, I apologize. Thanks for stopping by. Leave a quarter on the counter on your way out, if you would. I just wanted to write … something. This is certainly something. Pride. Beaming. Smiles everyone. Welcome to Fantasy Island.

I actually do have something to announce. I just can’t do that now. Basically, I have the news, I just lack the trumpet. I mean, I don’t know how to play  a trumpet, per se, but I can make noise with one. Which is a lot like writing. Making noise. I can make noise. I’ve also been working on a new book, with additional side projects, while continuing to push The Storyteller and the Shadowheart of Ahriman (which has endured more blood cleansing than a dialysis patient, but is somehow better off for it). Maybe for the sake of having someone read something I’ve written or am writing–which is a more difficult task than I could have imagined–I’ll just start posting bits on here. Maybe you can read a whole book out of it. For free. Why not? I wrote it for it to be read. Sure, I’d like millions of people to be enjoying it, but the simpleton mathematician in my head seems to think one is greater than zero, so okay then. If for no other reason than to keep him from mathing, I’ll do that. I hate math.

This is the only certifiable math I’ve done in a good many years:

The Simpson are no longer funny, because math.

The Simpson are no longer funny, because math.

Chew on that. Just don’t expect it to make sense.

 

Because Writing About Writing is What Writers Do

Somehow, it’s reached a point these days where you aren’t really considered a writer unless you’re writing about writing. I can’t really say whether that’s good or bad. Perhaps because I don’t know, but more likely because I avoid reading most of them. One might deem this tutorial littering of the internet a consequence of self-publication, in that everyone who wants to see their book in print (or on a Kindle or whatnot), can then take to their respective blog (or blob, if you’re my mother, bless her heart) and detail all the ways in which you can achieve whatever level of success they deem they have attained.

Again, good or bad, I don’t know. This is just a truth we all have to accept. Maybe there’s useful information out there that can help you. Maybe there isn’t. No idea. I mean, I can’t tell you what the Onion is writing about today because I haven’t read it. I know it’s funny though. I can guarantee that. And it’s there. There is far better than not.  Just like writing a book. It will always be better to you if it is there than if it is not.

There you go. Hallelujah, praise Timmy Christ, and may the force be with you. My writing lesson of the day. If you don’t write a book, you don’t have a book you have written. Genius. I have now joined the ranks of pseudo-professional writers who have blogged about writing. I am nearly complete as a human being. I’m one drunken tour of Scotland’s Pub of the Day Club away from ascension.

So, what do you do? How do you decide whether the advice you’re getting is advice you should be taking? Look, the truth is–the thing you need to know before taking this whole writing thing to the next level–there’s no such thing as a simplification of writing that any one person can offer. As with life, the process of learning about writing is an extensive and exhaustive process. One blog, one book, cannot cover what you need to know. Yet here you are, all engrossed in my words, or perhaps just hiking your way across the internet one click at a time, so allow me to illustrate my point in as simplified a way as I can so you only have to read one blog about it. Then you’ll know everything you need to know about writing. Ready?

Writing is hard.

Boom. You’re welcome.

Ok, so maybe that was too concise. But the truth remains. Are there varying levels of talent in which writing becomes less hard? Absolutely. Tom Robbins forged a career out of his brilliance, tapping one mind after another with a skilled hand that is not so much stratospheric as it is alien. Yet, he wrote every manuscript by hand, working on each individual sentence until it was exactly what it needed it to be. He didn’t use word counts. He just let the work tell him when he was done. Which is not “as easy as that.” That’s fucking hard. That insane-level genius. Sure, it comes easier to him than it does to most everyone else, but his easy isn’t easy for him. It’s grueling.

Writing will kick you to hell and back, then wait for you to stand so it can kick you around some more. It’s a giant sponge sucking all your time and energy, then squeezing it down the drain while letting you know it’ll be right back k thanks. It’s something that requires you to spend more time in a world that doesn’t exist than the one you’re supposed to be living in. It offers you an array of friends you can’t live without then scoffs at your genie-in-a-bottle wish that they were real. It tempts you with hope, then insists you proceed with squashing all level of hope anywhere and everywhere for everyone you create, and, shamed though you are to admit it, love. It coaxes you with the allure of wealth, readership by the millions, adoration and praise, then leaves you with a waste basket of rejection and the realization that you have yet to leave the workforce, and probably won’t anytime soon. Writing is your mistress, and it won’t be satisfied with an occasional text. It wants all of you, but it doesn’t want you to stay over, and it sure as hell doesn’t want to be anything else. It wants you to succeed, it needs you to succeed, but it doesn’t stop badgering you just because you don’t.

And you know what? You love it. You revel in it. You slosh around in your misery like a pig in filth. You devour the entire helping of writing for the pure gluttony of it, then dive into the fridge with an appetite for more. Writing is that friend you can’t live without, and it both is and isn’t there with you at every waking moment. It is the single greatest love-hate, abusive relationship you will ever know, and it will inspire you to journey into the greatest, most wonderful, corners of your mind, where mystery and fantasy burn like wildfire, where romance and seduction beat like a heart, and where the entire universe is willing to bow to the supreme truth of 42.

This is what you want. This is why you believe you exist. This is why most of your earth-based friends and family have difficulty understanding you. This is why you creep people out in crowded spaces as you stare off into alternate realities, completely unaware of your surrounding, or of the uneasiness you leave those in your path. This … this insanely hard, difficult, maddening, bitch of an art, is why everything matters, and why every struggle is survived, every fear faced, every trace of indignity of self ignored.

If not, you can stop looking for advice on writing. You can stop worrying about improving. Just write. Do your blog thing, keep a journal, write whatever your kids or family seem to want to hear, but leave the advice on the shelf, leave the expectations be.

Because writing is hard.

And quitting it is impossible.

Charles in Charge and Writing Do Not Mix

Sometimes I’ll do anything I can to avoid writing. I’ll run from the computer like it’s a Charles in Charge reunion special. Reading, destroying brain cells on Facebook, over-managing my fantasy baseball teams, catching up on baseball news I already knew, Words With Friends, walks, shopping, driving, sitting on the patio like a grown man in time-out, harassing the cat … name it. It runs contrary to the idea writing is my passion, my life, I know, but I do it regardless. Not because I’m afraid to write. Rather, because I’m afraid to write badly.

On the surface it’s an absurd statement. It reeks of a failure in confidence. If you’re afraid to write, avoiding it for any reason, then perhaps writing isn’t for you, right? However, I don’t lack confidence in my writing. Though I’m no savant and have a great deal yet to learn, I’ve worked hard on my craft. Besides, Publisher’s Weekly thought well of me. Shouldn’t I? My issue, though, isn’t with my talent, or my ability to weave a compelling tale, or whether or not what I’m about to type will be pure crap. The ‘delete’ key takes care of that. If not, editing exists for a reason. What I’m afraid of is producing work that floats off into the ether like space debris: forgotten and forever to orbit in the dark vacuum of nothingness. Perhaps that means it was bad, perhaps it doesn’t. Sometimes you can feel so damned positive you’ve written something great–or at the least good–only to watch it wander into an uncaring world that as much notices it as avoids it altogether.

Maybe that doesn’t qualify it as bad, exactly, but as a writer it becomes difficult to separate good from bad when feedback is non-existent.  Sure, you get some words of encouragement from those who know you, or from other writers, or beta-readers, or even your Publisher/Editor/Agent. They like it. They praise you in widely generic ways. They might even specifically site an instance in your work they particularly liked. Which makes you smile. It makes you proud. It gives you that momentary feeling of heroic wonder. Then it becomes print, you talk about it through various social media portals, maybe you have some events, and you wait for the accolades and reader reviews. And wait. And wait. Ultimately, the silence invades your mind, leaving a gap in your defenses wide enough for an F5 tornado of doubt to plow a destructive path through your pristine landscape of ignorant bliss.

No matter how much you talk it up, nobody’s talking back. Your book sucks. It must. It has to. You re-read it. It doesn’t feel as sublime as the last time you looked it through. Are you no longer blind to the truth, or have you allowed silence and doubt to insert their impression in your head? What does that mean for your current manuscript? Should you suspend writing in order to review what you’ve written? Will this unedited piece of unfinished potential crap offer you insight as to why your recent work is failing? Or are you over-thinking it? Of course, you can go to your Publisher/Editor/Agent for advice, but they’ll tell you to cool your jets, this kind of thing happens all the time. But no, you think, this is happening to me. It wasn’t supposed to. My book was good.

Or was it?

It’s troubling to think all this can cross through the mind in a fraction of a second. Even more troubling, however, is the anticipation it can and might likely happen to your work-in-progress–before you’ve even finished it. You have constructed a fully viable, fully entrenched, vision of your manuscript’s future while it still doesn’t even know how it will end. The characters are gathering for an intervention and you’re in the corner wallowing about how nobody will ever care about anything you write. Ever. I suppose if I were a parent, I might better understand this, or how to cope with it. My cat doesn’t inspire worry. Her naps will always be quality naps.

So, I’ll stare at the computer screen, eyeing the open Internet tabs, finger ready to open Scrivener. I might read what I have to that point, if I haven’t wandered off already. Maybe pack the laptop and head out for coffee, read it there. Maybe take a drive to hunt for inspiration. It doesn’t happen all the time, and generally by the time I’ve begun typing, my fears have waned. My characters are at the forefront. I’m a God, moving pieces, orchestrating fates, divining obstacles. All is good. My work is good. My story is good. My book, so far, is good.

I’m a writer. I don’t write simply because I can. I write to entertain, to bring something to someone’s life they will enjoy and share. It’s narcissistic, cathartic, inspiring, and humbling. I like to imagine a God, creating a Universe, filling worlds with living creatures, molding paths, futures, destinies, holding arms to Heavens when the job is done, with a notable “Huh? Awesome, right?” expression. That God would be bummed if even the crickets went silent. I guess it’s okay for me to be as well.

I just need to keep writing.

Maybe a drive first, though.

Words In a Box Weigh Heavy

If you ever have a chance to move a bookstore by yourself, don’t.

I made a number of mistakes during the run of Wordsmiths. A lot of them were up front. One of them was not hiring at least one guy who could lift a box of books without tumbling down a flight of stairs. I don’t know, maybe I’m asking too much at this point. There aren’t a lot of physically gifted book nerds in the world, after all, are there? Regardless, the only reason this point has relevance is because one of my other mistakes was not working harder to get the bookstore in the location I wanted to begin with.

The square in downtown Decatur is a charming place. Home to a number of Atlanta’s finest eateries with an endless supply of drink options, unique shops, coffee shops, a MARTA station, beautiful architecture, and as many events as they can cram into that space over the course of a year. It’s hoppin’ is what I’m saying, in case you drifted a bit and began thinking about your next meal. The Arts Festival, Beer Festival, Wine Festival, Beach Party, July 4th Fireworks, and much more, bring thousands of people right there, on the Square, businesses reaping the benefit. And for a bookstore, there is no greater gold than Labor Day weekend, when the Decatur Book Festival arrives. 75,000 (or more) people fill the Square, with books on the mind, and money in their wallet. It is the weekend we long for, our Christmas crammed into three days. If you, as business, aren’t on the Square, then to those who visit, you just aren’t there. Plain and simple. Not when that many people are vying for space, unwilling to wander too far away.

So…my mistake. We’ll call it Mistake #1 on a list that, at last count, has no end.

In my talks with the city, two main buildings were targeted. The first, the old Sun Trust building on the Square, basically ended the conversation for me. That was it. The place. The main floor still housed the ghost of the old bank, longing for something sight-worthy, memorable, befitting of such an historic place. It had a vault, right there in the open, a haven for the creative mind. There were offices, primed to be culled out as book nooks. There were chandeliers, pillars, and so much character. It needed Wordsmiths. I had grand plans at first, far too grand actually. I scaled them back (which if you visited the store might make you wonder how, or what in the world I might have thought was bigger than what I wound up with), focused on the space, and entered negotiations with the building’s owner.

Now, I’m not here to disparage the man. Allow me to make that clear. But–and this is no secret to those who knew him–he was no genius. In fact, to my misfortune, I was the first individual he managed a continued conversation with about leasing the space. Ever. Most people wandered off after “Hello” and “It will cost you THIS MUCH I WILL NEVER BUDGE.” Then again, this was my first leap into a lease negotiation as well. So, there we were, two people with no experience talking about an offer on a lease with no basis of negotiating comparison. In hindsight (a common refrain you may see here), I should have sought advice. I should have asked for help settling on a deal. But as we hammered away, I let my pride, my vision of the long-term dream of Wordsmiths, get in the way. I allowed us to get hung up on the length of the lease. He wouldn’t budge beyond a one-year lease, I wanted at least two (preferring three). Such a short term left me with an unfavorable possibility: Having to move the store after one year, which I wanted nothing to do with. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Oy vey.

It was full of opportunity, and everything I was looking for.

It was full of opportunity, exactly I was looking for.

Negotiations broke down. He told me he had a number of people lined up, waiting for the space. Not wanting to cave, unwilling to deal with him further, I dropped out, wished him luck finding anyone with a business willing to sign a one-year lease, and moved on. Oh, how I wish I had just taken the lease, proven my worth, and built my store there. I would have saved thousands of dollars. Wordsmiths might still be around. Then again, the economic crush of 2008 might have still done it in. I’ll never know.

The story of our second location is another tale altogether. Though the space was beautiful, and historic, it wasn’t Wordsmiths. It wasn’t what I meant for it to be. And it wasn’t on the Square. Granted, it was only a block plus away, but you’d be amazed how far that is. You’d be amazed how much business you gain being in an impossible-to-miss location. Additionally, it left me with the ultimate choice, as mentioned already, I wanted nothing to do with: I had to move the store a year and half after opening it. And guess what? My Country Bumpkin Owner still hadn’t secured a tenant. So we had a chat. Not the first time we would have a conversation about hindsight. And I signed a one-year lease. Just like I should have done to begin with. I’m not a dumb guy, but I sure seem to do a lot of dumb things.

I didn’t have the resources I needed to convert the space to its original design (one that would have included a small cafe), but it came together nicely. I believe, and tell me I’m wrong if you visited and think otherwise, this is the memory of Wordsmiths Books. This is the image that comes to mind when people tell me they loved the store, when they mention the name to anyone, anywhere. When I think of it, I’m sitting in one of the chairs before the store opens, coffee in hand, taking a long look, staring through the front door, clock ticking steadily above the vault to my rear, smiling at the realization of a dream. I could have lived there forever.

It was everything it should have been in the first place. Or, something like that.

It was everything it should have been in the first place. Um. Yeah. Something like that.

The Living Story

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, 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 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. Perhaps because of this daily exposure, the anti-originality escape clause of “there is no story that has yet to be written,” gets bandied about with regularity. Eh. Maybe. It is a rather unoriginal thought, so, sure, the stories that are written are nothing more than variances of stories that have been around for centuries, experiences we have, personally or by degrees of separation, experienced. Stories your grandfather told you on cold nights by the fire, stories you heard while eavesdropping on that squabbling couple in the cafe, stories chipped in tablets and handed down (or succinctly dropped on the floor and cracked into pieces by that snarky caveman-esque editor with no appreciation for the man-mammoth-woman love triangle). But in each story, in each tale that rings of familiarity, there is 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, life prodded the art of storytelling. Let’s face it: Writers can become a touch insulated. A tad protected from reality whilst we delve into the preferred insanity that is our chosen world of fantasy. It’s safer there. We can do what we want. We can kill those who have wronged (or, sadly, been nothing more than model citizens), feel remorse, and move on without consequence. We can encourage affairs, destroy relationships, leave the winning lottery ticket on a bench, force someone who needs it desperately to toss it in the trash because, well, they’re just that responsible, then stick our tongue out at them when they realize what they’ve done a few hours later.  We can rule the moon, 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 we’re always safe, because it isn’t real. It’s just a story, and they’re just characters bent to the will of our perverse madness.

Some time ago I heard it stated that every writer has within them a musician wishing to break out (and likewise, it seems, many musicians have an insane loon within them wishing to break out), which makes sense, albeit in a slanted twist of logic.  After all, art in any form tends to illicit rhythm, flow, a pace to move to. A musician is to a writer is to a sculptor, is to a painter, and so on. But while each is an aspect of the fabric of life, life is the true art. Life is the song. Every life is a story, and in turn, every story is alive.

It’s so 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…ever 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, in tempo, and it’s 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.

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Tales of a Heroic Nothing

I could have been a hero once.

Not in that Superman kind of way to which every kid aspires. You’d probably know about that. I’d have been all over the news. Likely because I would have exacted my revenge upon everyone who ever wronged me. Nothing too horrific, but with x-ray vision (which no kid should ever have), super strength, body like steel, and the ability to fly my ass away from any crime scene, I wouldn’t have exactly been kind about it. I guess, when you think about it, that would make me less of a hero than a villain. Less Luke than Anakin. More Jerry than Tom.

Boy that would have been cool.

But this isn’t a story about me being cool, largely because one doesn’t exist. No, this is a story about baseball, and perhaps other wandering ramblings in my effort to actually reach the point. If you don’t like baseball, then maybe just skim through, and settle on a few key words in order to get the gist. Let me help: turtle, cattle crossing, cactus cat, and this is totally unfair and stupid. I’m not sure yet if any of those will make it into this post, but if they don’t and you were skimming because you don’t like baseball, then that’s what you get for listening to me. Also, YOU’RE WELCOME. Because this story just got a whole lot shorter.

I grew up (for the most part, though a number of people will debate when, or if, I ever actually did that) in a small Northern Florida town called Palatka. Oh dear Lord, there’s a wiki page for Palatka! You have no idea how much that entertains me. Or perhaps you will, at some point. A wiki page! I’m not even sure the majority of the populace there even knows what the Internet is, short of some Big City way of greeting your neighbor like any decent folk would: with a shotgun and a beef about their pregnant daughter. Anyway, Palatka is a Timucuan Indian word for “cattle crossing”. Make of that what you will. If you’ve ever been near a cattle crossing, or heaven forbid through one, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this town is like. I feel as though I’m allowed to sound negative about the town I still consider home, whereas I should probably kick the ass of anyone else who dares make fun of it. Largely because this is my blog, and yeah, but also because I still, oddly enough, have a fondness for it. A lot of “firsts” there. Including my first attempt to flee my dumb stupid hometown.

So. Baseball.

See, that paragraph was easy to skim, wasn’t it? Two words. Boom. Done. And half of it had to do with baseball. It’s like you didn’t even know you were reading about baseball and the next thing, you’re all, “I totally identify with baseball now.” It’s the magic of writing, folks. Be jealous.

The first story I recall writing, and the one that made me want to do it forever and forever amen, was a little piece about baseball. I was twelve, so I bypassed the obvious need for an intellectually inert romantic spin that would have livened the story up to a more readable state, and focused on what mattered most: Being a hero. The plot was a simple one. I didn’t want to confuse the issue, detract from the overwhelming power of being a hero in the most important sport in all of history. Short of bobsledding, of course. That’s a cool sport. But it’s really just Hollywood’s love child, isn’t it? Unless you’re Jamaican, nobody cares. And really, we only cared because we wanted to hear them talk about it, right? I mean, so you’re inept. So your country doesn’t actually have a winter. So you might have spokespeople that shout “Hooray beer!” at you in a way that makes you feel the need to drink.

Cactus cat.

Still skimming? Well, you just totally missed a whole paragraph about Jamaican bobsledding. Skimmers. This is why book clubs are so fascinating, and why dropping in on one in order to talk about something that didn’t actually happen in the book is so much fun. You know these people haven’t all read it. Either they skimmed while being talked at by family that just won’t go the hell away for an hour, or they didn’t really read all of it, so if you drop in something–I don’t know, about a Jamaican bobsledding team for instance–they’ll panic. If they deny it, they risk the chance exposing they missed something while knocking a spouse upside the head. If they go along with it, you know they didn’t read it.

Actually though, the cactus cat story is pretty good, but I guess I’ll deal with that another time since I’m otherwise engaged in more important storytelling. So, in this story, a twelve-year-old boy, who looked NOTHING like me at all, is walking to the championship game. He steps in a hole, twists his ankle, rolls on the street a bit and feels the eternal letdown of potentially letting his team down. Not willing to give in, he hobbles to the game, where he’s forced to sit on the bench until there are two outs in the last inning, his team down a run, and the bases are loaded. Coach calls him up to pinch hit, because hero plot, and the kid delivers a game-winning hit, barely making it to first before his ankle completely gives out. Hero stuff! YAY!

I always loved that story. I always wanted to be that hero. I think part of me was certain it was prophecy, destined to be a part of ME and my heroic journey through life. Still, I walked very carefully to all my games. Who wants all that pain, right? Just give me the hero stuff. And a soda, if you don’t mind.

DISCLAIMER: I love baseball. Anyone who has had any contact with me whatsoever knows this. You may not. So, whatever your definition of love, whatever you deem to be the most passionate a human being can be about any one person or thing, you’re wrong. Just stop. It’s way worse than that. I don’t want to simply watch baseball. I don’t want to live it. I don’t want to own a team. I want to own baseball. All of it. Mine.  To love and to squeeze and to call George. Got it? There, now that’s out of the way.

I was on a few teams that were good. Two that even made it into the championship. I like to think I did a bunch of little hero stuff along the way to help out. But nothing big. Not that I didn’t try, I just didn’t get the opportunity. The first team got trounced in the championship. The second team, the second championship I was in, however, I flat-out got jipped. Worst part of it is, I didn’t even know. It was ten years later before I found out I had my potential hero moment ripped from my unknowing hands.

I played alongside a cousin of mine. He was six months older, always bigger, and always better. We played a lot together. Whiffle ball, a little with tennis balls, always he and I in a driveway annoying my mom by pitching against the garage door. On that first team, we were teammates. A few years later, we played on different teams. Teams that were both good. Teams that beat the snot out of other teams (there’s a lot of snot involved in Little League Baseball, in case you were wondering). Teams that faced off in the championship, my cousin pitching against us. We were evenly matched, my cousin and I. See, though he was better than me, we had played together for so many years that he couldn’t pitch anything I hadn’t already seen and hit. So, when the final inning came around, my team down by one, two outs and runners on first and second, I came up to bat feeling nervous but confident.

What I remember is this: I walked and the next guy to bat got out. Anti-climactic, I know. I could spin some wonderful tale about how he got me down to two strikes and I battled–as any good hero will–and earned that walk. Gave our team the chance to win. Not heroic stuff, but a courageous warrior type refusal to lose stuff. What I found out ten years later–ten years of seeing myself as the ultimate fighter who won out but didn’t have the support to be the victor–came from my cousin in a rush of undeniably heinous amusement. “Man, I remember that game,” he said, smiling slightly. “No way I was going to let you beat me. I just threw four pitches as far away from you as possible, and worried about getting Joe out. I knew he couldn’t hit me.”

Jaw. Floor. My chance at being a hero taken, not by circumstance, but by a cousin who was willing to be beaten by anybody but me. Images of what my life could have been flashed before my eyes. Al Bundy and his four touchdowns. Parades in my honor. A sense of confidence and purpose from that one moment driving me to a lifetime of success in the sport I loved. I stood there and gawked at him. Then, not wanting to seem surprised–ergo defeated–I smiled, said, “Yeah … crazy stupid Joe,” and walked out of the room, because that’s the way I roll. Non-confrontational to the bitter end. Then I went outside and beat the shit out of a tree with a whiffle bat. I’m sure the tree had it coming, hovering over me as it did like a cousin too afraid to let the sun shine on me for a moment.

And still, to this day, I think this is so unfair and stupid. Ok, I really don’t, but it was the last key word(s) to fit in, so, there. I did it. No, wait, there’s the turtle bit. So, advice you didn’t ask for with an image you didn’t want: When cutting the grass for a friend, DO NOT mow under any bushes that might line the side of the house, no matter how far under the grass may go. You may find it to be the unfortunate hiding place of a frightened turtle, and an unpleasant mess for you to clean.

Point here is I could have been a hero. I would have been. And all the x-ray power or superhuman strength wouldn’t have beaten it.

So intimidating.

So intimidating. You know it. I know it. It’s the glasses, isn’t it?

The Negligent Blogger

I am a negligent blogger.

It may even go beyond that, but it somehow feels freeing just to say it. I don’t imagine anyone willing to drop their child in a wicker basket on a doorstep would pause after leaving the note, nod, and suggest to themselves they felt freer already and good for them for making such a selfless decision; still I can’t help but look at my blog as the neglected and abandoned child it is and somehow feel pleased about it. (Originally followed up by a lengthy ramble about why this validates my childless family, but deleted because my cat saw it and immediately began hacking up a hairball in protest. Never test your cat.).

Point is, I haven’t written here in a long time. I’d count the days, but that would be like dropping that child off at the doorstep, then counting the steps back home, just to see how far a heartless soul can actually walk.  But then I’d have to devise some reason for feeling bad about it, when I’d much rather have tater tots while contemplating the unpredictable mood swings of hippos.  Regardless, I’ve thought a lot about my abandoned child, wondering when I might visit it again, stressed it might not like me anymore.  However, when I woke up this morning, feeling refreshed and stress-free for the first time in months, I had a thought that brought me to a place of peace with my bastard blog.

“At least I’m not Dan Brown.

Aside from the money, of course.  Waking up to know I could buy a small island and decree myself a one-man nation of articulate baboons has always been a dream of mine. Not that I’d do it. Who wants to serve under a dictatorship like that? And all the paperwork of being the Dictator doesn’t pay off unless you actually have baboons to go ballistic when you assign it to them.

Some dreams need work.

I had a dream last night that I lived in a two-story house that was docked in a tremendously deep lake. Not a houseboat, mind you. A whole house. Just floating there. Well, floating in that sinking kind of way. For some odd reason I had decided that living in a two-story house on a lake with no notable means of flotation was a quality idea. Needless to say the fact that it was sinking came as quite a shock.  So I hurried about gathering whatever our arms could carry, water cascading down the stairs–yes, that’s right, the house sank into water that came from the second floor–stumbling onto the dock in time to watch the steeple of the house disappear into the murky waters below.

This in no way seemed odd, or even remotely disheartening.  Quite the opposite, in fact. Like any sane person, having watched their improbably placed two-story home sink into a lake, I simply waited for it to reappear. Which it did some time later. Because that’s what houses do. All the time. I want to say it reappeared hours later, but who knows in a dream, right? I could have returned to the spot years later, or I might have just been reliving the moment in perpetuity. Like a less funny Groundhog Day. Or I could have been like that stupid person who somehow buys a house without bothering to see if it was once owned, I don’t know, by a homicidal maniac who butchered his entire family thing. Because, let’s face it: If you know this and still buy the house, you deserve to see the world in a hundred different pieces. Anyway, I wittingly walked back into the house. And it sank again. Go figure. Houses. I would presume this would have happened again had I not woken up. Though I’d like to think somewhere in there I would have said to myself, “Don’t drive angry,” which wouldn’t have made any contextual sense unless you were Bill Murray talking to a groundhog driving a truck, and would have been precisely the reason I would have said it. Dreams. Sometimes a babbling drunk Uncle detailing the process of baking one of his “special pies” is easier to understand.

Which is why I’m terrified my blog hates me.

So I’m going to talk to it a bit more, worry less about whether or not anyone cares, ramble about nothing important, and hope to repair the damage done by a negligent father who long since forgot how many steps away he walked before realizing he eventually needed to find his way back.

Also, because this:

White Americans is LOL.

White Americans is LOL.

Yes they are, funny cheese sign. Yes they are.

It’s Not Torture When It’s Fun

It’s no secret that I stopped keeping up with the music scene about the time that hair bands starting losing their hair. I think I’ve bought 2 cd’s in the last decade. Could be longer.  Might also be that one of those was Chinese Democracy, so that might not count at all.  I listened to it once and decided it was best to remember my favorite bands the way they were. When they were still good. So I willfully stepped aside and stuck my nose in the next Harry Potter (or the one before it–who can really tell when you’ve read them all as much as I have). It’s not that I dislike music, I just came to the realization that trying to keep up with writing, reading, paying my bills and watching as many movies as my dollar would allow was as much as I can handle. I’ve taken a beating for this, most notably from a certain NYC bound friend who prides himself on his musical knowledge, book quote tattoos, snazzy vests and pre-show panic attacks. But he did like Zooey Deschanel for a while, no matter how much he denies it, so I’m feeling ok with myself.

Last night, after a riveting mimosa-buzzed performance of female pop icons by the one and only Moss (really, there will be videos in the future–there’s nothing like it), I had to admit–with no fraction of regret–that I never watched any of the videos from Britney, Christina, Mandy Moore, or Jessica Simpson. I apparently had no context to the compelling renderings of these classics that the Moss was pouring heart and soul (and a good dose of nasal pinching) into, so she threatened to make me watch them. And with all good threats by the Moss, it was immediately implemented lest she get busy watching the last season of Will and Grace and forget. She showed me Britney’s Oops, Toxic, and Baby One More Time (Which is obviously about being really cool in high school. I don’t know, you tell me.), and then followed those up with Christina and Genie in a Bottle, that one where she’s all skanky-ho in the boxing ring (whatever that disease of a video is called) and Fighter. I actually liked Fighter, for what that’s worth to you. I don’t even remember what the Mandy Moore song was, but I kept thinking of Saved and wasn’t really paying attention.  Somebody should have told her that she’s about as sexy as Cheerio’s in lime juice, though. Jessica Simpson used to sing, did you know? I saw a video! There was a plane, or something, and she was doing stuff–I don’t know what. She might have even been singing. All I can think of when I see her is one of her many infamous quotes: “I don’t know what it is, but I want it.” What a maroon.

It was after the fourth–or it could have been the fourteenth–apology by the Moss for needing to show me just one more that I realized I wasn’t bothered by it at all. In fact, I was enjoying it. Wait. I wasn’t enjoying it, per se, but I was enjoying how insanely bad they were. I like watching bad videos, movies, and television shows. I get to flex my comedic muscles, while instantly feeling better for myself in the process. I don’t need therapy, I just need more of the Kardashians.

Which leads me to my prevailing point: Torture me with the worst you can show me, I don’t mind. It’s not torture if it’s fun. It’s entertainment. I enjoy it so much, I’m going to make a spectacle of myself in order to make it even more entertaining. The Moss has offered up the first season of Sex and the CityI’m going to pick a day, set aside 12 straight hours and watch them all. I’ll set up a live blog, pipe comments into Facebook and Twitter, let everyone play along, and we’ll see what becomes of me. I’m not sure that my mind is prepared for 12 straight hours of that… can I really call it a show? Four weathered hags and their quest for sex, relationships and, I don’t know, luggage? I’ve never watched an episode, so I really don’t know what it’s about, but I will admit to having seen the first attempt at a movie. Like I said… I like to watch bad movies.

Anyway, if it goes well–whether anyone is paying attention or not–I’ll open it up to the public. You can pick something, I’ll watch it, blog about it, and probably lose my mind over it. I might even become religious to avoid remembering it. I don’t know. It could be fun for everyone. As soon as the Sex and the City marathon is in place, I’ll post about the specifics. I don’t mind doing this for my own entertainment, but it’ll be more fun if people are checking in on me. I’ll need it. That, and pizza.

For the moment, however, I have a song stuck in my head. More than that, a video that makes no damn sense at all. I think, based on Britney’s costume, that it’s sponsored by Trojan. At the very least they hopefully handed out condoms on the set, just in case. If there is a “script” it was written by a very lonely young man living in his mother’s basement, in between shots of Mountain Dew and down time from Halo. Mars? Really? Wait. Now where is she? AND WHY THEY HELL IS THAT GUY BEING HELD UP BY A CHAIN? Then he gives her the Heart of the Ocean, I guess. What an idiot. He makes Taylor Lautner look positively Ivy League. Anyway…

Everyone give your nose a good pinch and say it with me. Ooh baby baby!