Is This Thing On?

Hiya.

Been a while.

How have you been?

Can’t recall the last time I posted something here. Thought I’d drop in, for a minute, and remedy that.

I remember, some long time ago, having a goal of posting here at least once a week. Going to cross that off the list of things that definitely didn’t get done. It’s a distinguished list: losing weight, journaling every day, finishing unpacking the new house, cleaning up my office…

If I kept going that list would take up the rest of this piece. Best to stop now, before it develops its own gravity and sucks us in like a black hole of regret.

(Black Hole of Regret is the working title for the memoir of my high school years that I’ll never write, and occasionally shiver at the thought of, by the way.)

Anyways.

So, the world feels a little fucked right now.

America in particular – but that’s just because I live here and not somewhere besieged by famine, drought, war, or the constant barrage of natural disasters obliterating the local infrastructure, et al.

Sometimes you need perspective.

And sometimes it doesn’t help – at all.

To say that the world feeling fucked has contributed to my lack of productivity, at least in creative realms, would be something of an understatement. And while it has contributed to it, it hasn’t stopped it. Not yet, thankfully.

Last month I finished my work in progress. At 110k words, it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. Earlier this month I finished the latest round of revisions – I tend to revise as I go – and sent the manuscript off to my Beta Readers. (This time around it’s all about content, continuity, and entertainment value. Any typos or grammar errors they catch will be things I don’t have to hunt for on the next round of edits, and that’s a bonus. )

As an aside: just about every professional author I’ve spoken with or read about says that you should not write the sequel to a book until you’ve sold the first one. It’s good advice. I didn’t follow it. This book was the book I had to write at the time. I have a steady day job and no deadlines to meet, so I could write the sequel – on spec as they say – and not worry too much.

I also got back all of my first round of rejections. (Not the first rejections I’ve ever gotten for the first book, but the first round since I’ve had it professionally edited and spent the time to learn how to properly write an interesting query letter. Only the first of those two things is assured. The letter writing? I may still be bad at it – which might explain the rejections, but it’s impossible to know without feedback from the agents, and they’re not in the business of sending feedback on query letters. Can’t say as I blame them.) I finally found the box with my agent list. I’ll be querying the next round before too long. Want to get at least two rounds in before the new year. We’ll see what we’ll see.

To stay busy during the interminable waiting, I’m doing what most writers – at least the ones that want to stay vaguely sane – do: I’m working on a new project. (The notes for which I also have to finish digging out of boxes.)

NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in November. I’ve always been already into something in years past, but this year, no such restriction on my time, so I think I’ll give it a shot. If you’re interested in NANOWRIMO definitely look it up, but here’s a brief overview: the challenge is to write 50k words of a novel during the month of November. Simple huh? But any writer knows that simple don’t mean easy. Ok, maybe most people know that much. Anyways, if you’re interested, there’s a ton of stuff online about it, even a website where you can create an official profile and log your daily word counts. It’s not a competition with anyone except yourself, but there is a large support community and I recommend looking into it, unless you’re a weirdo-hermit like me. Also, if you’re going to try to write that much in one month, I strongly advise getting all your prep work done beforehand. Know your character’s names, personality, location/ settings, general plot if not detailed outline, (I’m not much of an outliner), that kind of thing. You want to remove as many potential obstacles to word production as possible, and that means trying to get all your research – or as much of it as you can foresee – done early, like yesterday would have been best, but today works too.

(Just, as a point here: I was going to make this post a general update. Some writing stuff, some fitness stuff, throw some Halloween love in for fun, but it seems to be mostly a writing update, so look for the other stuff in weeks to come.)

My new project, it barely has a working title, came about as a strange synthesis of two projects that I didn’t think were at all related.

I started writing a short story, ages ago, that turned into something much longer. Sometimes that happens. I like the story and the characters, and I knew the plot – something odd for me. But it got shuttled to the back burner when I got back to writing regularly and dedicated to finishing the last novel. But my brain is a bit of a squirrel at times, burying nuts and digging up others. So, a couple of months ago, I got a line in my head – that’s how all of my poems and a few of my short stories start. It wouldn’t go away until I said it out loud. Then the next line came. By line three or four I knew I had to write the damn thing down because it was giving me goosebumps. So, I wrote it in my notebook. What came out was a kind of horror nursery rhyme. Nifty thing, and no idea what I would do with it. Quite a lot of my poems are like that. (I’ve been writing poetry, steady, for more than 20 years now. That’s just how it happens sometimes.) And then, one day, while letting my current manuscript sit before taking on the revisions, the poem came back to me, but this time connected to that short story cum novel I never finished.

There are rare times when all the windows in my mind line up and I can see clearly, out to the scenery beyond.

This was one of those feverishly exciting times.

To that end, that’s the research I’ve been doing. The comingling of the horror nursery rhyme has changed the story somewhat, but in ways that make me feel better, well, more certain about the narrative. Still things to nail down, if I want to make this my NANOWRIMO project, but I can feel it building momentum in my guts.

As a writer, that’s a great place to be.

A lot of people love having written something. I found out, in my journey, that I actually love the writing. I get wonderfully lost in the process and spend a decent amount of my time writing in what psychologists refer to as flow state.

I’d really love if I could make it my day job, but that might be a ways in the future. Still, good to have goals and be working towards them. Makes a day feel purposeful, and that makes for a better, more enjoyable life. Try it sometime, you’ll see fairly quickly.

And, like the small, weirdly cute rodent my brain actually is, now that I’m working on something, other ideas spring up and try to borrow some of the energy. I write them down and then let myself forget about them. If I remember them later, or if they spark the same sensation when I’m not into a new thing already, then they’ll get given a go. Works for me. If your brain is a skittering thing, maybe give it a try sometime.

Well, that’s about all for now.

Thanks for tuning in after so long.

Until next time…

Advertisements
Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Updatery: Been a Minute

Hi,

Yeah, I’ve been absent from these pages for a while.

Been a little busy.

Thought I’d share an update.

The Wife and I bought a house, back in the middle of August. We’re still unpacking. We’re also both first-time homeowners, and that is taking some getting used to.

DragonCon happened over Labor Day weekend. I’ve been attending the con for about the last 17 years. Still trying to figure out if I’m going next year. It’s gotten so big it has become difficult to do the things I like and see the people I want to see. And now I have a house payment, and that takes some financial adjusting to as well. We’ll see about it.

Another reason, and probably the biggest culprit in why I haven’t posted here in a dog’s age is: I’ve been pushing like mad to finish the 1st-ish draft of my new novel. I finally got there on Sunday night. I haven’t done the preliminary count, but I think it’s somewhere between 115 and 120k words. I know my Beta Readers are looking forward to getting their hands on the completed story, but first I need to let it sit for about a month, (okay, maybe less), and then do a final basic revision pass on it. Mainly I want to make sure the content is where I want it to be and there are no plot holes – glaring or otherwise.

On the writing update side of things, I have gone through my first round of this newest age of the agent search. Rejections all around, save for one which I’m waiting to hear back from regarding the query status update email I sent this morning. Not giving that one much hope; if they had liked what they read, I probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long for a response. Que sera, sera I suppose. Once I find the box it’s packed in, I’ll dig out my prospective agent list and pick out a new list to query. Maybe this weekend. Of course, I’ll keep you updated on my journey, rejections and all.

What else?

Well, the political situation and discourse in this country has turned into screaming chimp, poo-flinging shit show, but somehow, I don’t think you need me to update you on that.

Hope you’re week is going well.

Until next time…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Putting the Civil back in Civilization: Violence

If we’re going to talk about a civil society we’re going to have to have a proper discussion about violence.

What do I mean by “proper”?

Well, for one thing, no fucking glad-handing.

None of this, “Gee, in a civilized society there would be no violence,” bullshit.

(If that is the marker for civilization, then we as a species have never been civilized. Never.)

We might like to think of ourselves as the only animals that have evolved beyond our violent tendencies, but that is some of the most chokingly fragrant manure ever spread in popular discourse.

It also has no basis in fact.

All you have to do is look at America, and you will see it disproven time and again, and again, and fucking again.

(And lest you think this is something you can blame on them, whoever your “them” happens to be, let’s squash that tribalism cockroach under foot right now. Even a cursory glance at the news will be more than adequate to demonstrate that both sides, of any divide you’d like to name, contain violent bastards. Both. Fucking. Sides. The sooner you get that “us and them” shit out of your head, the sooner you can start being productive in the effort to make things better.)

As animals, humans are just as capable of violence as any other animal.

We cannot begin to work towards minimizing the damage violence causes until we first take this fact into account.

We are violent, and there is no way to make us wholly non-violent.

Get it in your heads, and keep it there.

If that is the place we’re starting from, a place of reality, then we can begin to move forward.

The first thing we need to do is figure out when, under what circumstances, violence is ethically justified.

Yes, violence can be moral and ethical, if contained to certain parameters.

What might those be?

Here’s a suggestion:

Violence is ethically justified when it is used to protect one’s self, or persons nearby, from bodily harm.

(I invite you to consider, for yourself, other cases in which violence may be justified. This is the bare bones, hardest limit, no exception standard I could devise.)

I want you to notice the bit about bodily harm. That’s important.

Violence is never ethical in pursuit or defense of an ideology, so far as I have been able to discern. Nor is it ethical to engage in violence because of verbiage.

Thoughts and emotions happen in the nebulous space in our heads. Because what happens in all of our heads can vary wildly from person to person, and because immaterial notions do not adversely affect another person’s rights or safety, these things can not be used to justify violence on ethical grounds.

As for ideology, well, ideology is a competition of ideas and the presentation of those ideas. When violence enters into the picture it becomes a decision based on coercion, not on which idea has the most merit. 

As such, to justify the ethical use of violence, the use thereof must be universalizable. That is to say, it must be formulated in such a way that, if someone else were to use it thus, even the person you hate the most in the world – especially that prick – that you would be okay with it. A universal principle.

That is why I have restricted my own ethical standard to bodily harm of my person, or of any person near me.

(Not that too, any person. I don’t have to like you or love you, or even care about you to intercede on your behalf if you are the victim of violence in the moment. It doesn’t matter. If I see you in trouble, I/ him/her/ they are ethically justified in stepping in.)

And that brings me to another thing about violence:

Can we, as a culture, stop this nonsense about how, “Violence never solves anything,” please?

I understand the motivation behind the saying, I do. But knock it the fuck off. Violence does in fact solve some things, albeit a set of one.

Violence is sometimes the only thing that will stop violence.

(That is to say that violence can be stopped with prevention, before and only before it becomes physical. Once it becomes physical, the only two things that will stop violence is: a) more violence –or – b) the violent party getting tired and stopping of his/ her own volition. I think we can all see the inherent dangers in waiting for option (b) to happen.)

So, by this thinking violence is not only justifiable, but sometimes required.

(If you don’t think so, try this thought experiment: Say someone is beating the living shit out of you. If you were wholly non-violent, which you aren’t, would you like the police that come to your aid to be non-violent? You want the cops to talk the crazy son of a bitch down, or do you want them to wrestle that flailing fuck off of you and put him/ her in handcuffs? Come on now, be honest.)

Now, as a corollary to the hard ethical standard I set forth above, let me further specify on the use of violence:

One must only use as much violence as is necessary to bring the violent situation to a halt.

That means no overkill. There is no justifiable reason to continue to be violent when an aggressor has been subdued or neutralized. No need to kick on unconscious or otherwise incapacitated offender. Curb stomping is right out. Sorry.

Under those restrictions, violence can be ethically justified. More than that it can be useful and preservative of human life and safety.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please feel free to comment here.

(Let’s leave aside the notion of War for the moment. It is a stickier wicket, and not much applicable to one’s everyday life. Start small and work up.)

(In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you a little about myself: I grew up a shy, too-smart, chubby kid who never slept. I grew up in some rough neighborhoods, at times, and some rough schools. I also spent around 5 years of my working life as a bouncer. I have been mugged at knife point. I have been jumped. I have been in numerous multi-person chaotic brawls. I have studied various martial arts for the majority of my existence to date. I am also on record as encouraging everyone to learn how to fight. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it, kind of thing. I have been the victim of violence, and interceded to end violent situations. I also have a degree in philosophy and have studied ethics and ethical systems. I can thank Kant for the idea of universalism. I have taken theory and my first hand experience, and the experience and thoughts of other experts in the field into account in my considerations of the subject.

All of that to say this: if you wish to debate me on the topic, I welcome it. I truly do. But please, come correct. Do your homework. Make your arguments as tight and defensible as possible. If you’ve done that. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, I’d still like to hear your feelings and concerns, but we won’t be engaging in debate. Still, the conversation could be interesting.)

If you’ve made it this far, allow me to sum up the way I think violence can be ethically integrated into a civilized society:

1)  Violence is only ethically justified when it is used to protect one’s self, or persons nearby, from bodily harm.

2) One must only use as much violence as is necessary to bring the violent situation to a halt.

Think about it.

Posted in Putting the "Civil" Back in Civilization | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting the Civil Back in Civilization: Speech

Some time ago, probably somewhere in the middle of a rant, I mentioned something about making things better.

It’s one thing to opine, to criticize, to get down to some serious spittle-flecked raving, but it’s another thing altogether to suggest some ways that we might, collectively or as individuals, make things a little less bile-inducing.

In that spirit, and when my lazy, badly in need of lubrication brain thinks of them, I will try to post some suggestions.

Today’s inaugural topic is: Free Speech.

A lot of people talk a lot of shit regarding the subject, especially online.

Please allow me to offer some thoughts, and maybe – if it seems reasonable to you, dear reader – a way to proceed.

First, we need to make a necessary distinction to avoid confusion.

There are two types of Free Speech.

One type of freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution. It protects one from having one’s speech curtailed by the government.

Dig that, it’s important. The first type of free speech protects the right to say what you will from being censored, shut down, imprisoned or otherwise retaliated against by your government.

That’s important because the second type of Freedom of Speech follows from that legal protection. It is an assumptive ideal within our social discourse.

It is assumed, based on our legal rights that I, or anyone else for that matter, can not stop you from saying whatever the hell you want to say in public.

(Yes, I know there are certain reasonable legal limits concerning libel laws, slander statutes, and crowded theaters. Lets leave those aside for the purposes of this discussion.)

I feel the urge to illuminate this subject because lately, and not for the first time in America, certain groups – both Left and Right – have decided that they need to shut down speech they disagree with.

I didn’t think I needed to point this out, but apparently I do:

Trying to shut down speech you don’t like is patently Un-American.

It goes against one of our foundational ideals.

Now, I’m not going to get into the various name-calling that this subject inevitably brings up.

(Recall, if you will, The Only Rule that Matters: Don’t be a Dick.)

What I want to point out is the utter foolishness of censoring speech of any kind.

There is one way, and one way only to deal with speech you disagree with: Argue against it’s point. Present better ideas. Be persuasive.

(I know that being persuasive and making good arguments require a modicum of skill. Take the time to learn. Your life will improve because of it. Promise.)

Here’s why trying to censor unpopular speech is foolish. It does two things:

1) It sends the speech underground, creating a sub-culture. This gives the idea more weight and energy than it otherwise would have warranted in open discussion.

-and –

2) It makes you blind to the types of ideas and notions swirling around in your opponent’s head(s).

You should always know your enemy.

Knowing what makes your perceived opponent tick allows you to engineer around it. Dig under it. Crawl over it. Overcome it with better ideas, and show people the better ideas so they have a legitimate choice.

I think that censoring language is, essentially, a move from a position of fear.

People, as individuals, are fairly ok. They can pick a good idea from a bad one if the sides are presented clearly. To want to stop anyone from hearing an idea is to be afraid that one’s own idea is inferior.

Then it becomes a game of control, not enlightenment.

Ideas can be terrible things.

But they can also be great, and wonderful, and liberating.

We should, at least as Americans, never be afraid of ideas, even ones that make us uncomfortable.

Especially the ideas that make us uncomfortable.

That’s how we grow. That’s how we learn more about ourselves. That is how we find common ground.

That is how we fix things.

Does this mean we have to listen to everybody?

Hell no!

There are some reasonable limits to engagement. If a party does not respect the dialogue or the people trying to have it, then they can be excluded from said dialogue. We should still keep an ear out for what they’re spewing, because, again: know your enemy. But on the whole those types of troublemakers can be disregarded, in a given conversation. This especially includes fucking internet trolls. (FITs, for short).

Notice that I mentioned dialogue/ discussion. That’s important too. It’s important because nothing and no one can be ruled out of dialogue/ discussion in general , (Except, maybe FITs, maybe). One must exercise judgment, in the moment, and with regard to the participants of the discussion and the subject matter being discussed. 

I know, I know, no one likes to use their judgment anymore.

What if I’m wrong? What if I look bad?

What about it?

Be wrong occasionally. Look bad.

You learn more being wrong than being right.

(Of that, I speak from copious personal experience.)

But that’s the short and sweet of it:

Listen, argue, exclude when warranted and necessary.

Listen and argue some more.

Repeat, ad infinitum.

We keep that up and things might, by tiny increments and agonizingly slowly, get better.

Might.

We have a better shot at it that way than any other.

And it has the benefit, when done correctly, of no one getting hurt.

That’s a plus in my book.

Anyways, now you know.

Go argue.

Have fun.

Posted in Putting the "Civil" Back in Civilization | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humor Nooner

Just a quickie for the middle of your day:

I was thinking about how much I admire the women in fitness. Specifically the drive and sacrifice it takes to achieve their goals.

And I thought, you couldn’t get men to go the same distance.

It’s like, many women, at least all the ones I know personally, complain that when they get fit, the first thing to go away is their breasts.

Now, consider if the shoe were on the other foot.

If men, in order to get fit and look jacked had to lose two inches of dick…

…We’d all be fat bastards in baggy jogging suits.

Just a thought to brighten your day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writing Updatery

Sent out the newest round of query letters last night for Drawn to Flame.

Here’s hoping I have finally learned to write a query as interesting as the novel it’s trying to sell.

And now…  The Waiting.

Wish me luck.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Of Ruins and Non-Confession Confessions

My brain is fucked this morning. Figured I’d share. I hope what follows is something like coherent.

First, a little background:

I did not have, what is now commonly referred to as, a stable childhood. I’m old enough that when my parents divorced, I still got strange, sideways glances from people in school – students and teachers. This is back when they still used the phrase “broken home.”

I was raised, mostly, by a parent from a highly dysfunctional family. And these things get passed down the generations. So, beyond being a child of divorce, the environment I was raised in was also highly dysfunctional. Add to that an undiagnosed thyroid condition that never let me sleep, and an adult dose of anxiety and depression, and the picture of my childhood and adolescent life becomes more like a late night horror show than a Lifetime movie.

To tell the truth, looking back on those times with the benefit of hindsight, medication, and therapy, I hove no clue how I managed to maintain. It was probably a combination of dumb luck, animal cunning, and sheer bloody-mindedness. There are certain drives wired into us that help the organism survive. And it’s impressive what you can get used to and see as normal – especially if you don’t know any other way of being.

I tell you this, not to solicit sympathy, but to set the scene.

This was the water I was swimming in – the underlying structures that existed when I was 15, and a sophomore in high school.

With that in mind, let me tell you a little about the worst year of my life.

A whole bunch of things happened, within the space of about two months, give or take:

I lost the girlfriend I consider my high school sweetheart. (My first real heartbreak. That’s like virginity; you don’t forget the first time.) She left me for one of the guys in my circle of friends. For whatever reason, (teenagers have lots of reasons, and they’re all teenage bullshit), that friend group ostracized me. I suppose this was before the idea of “Bros before Hoes,” but so be it. Around the same time, my mother announced to me that she was getting remarried and we would be moving out of state to live with her new husband, in New York – state not city. So, to sum up: My girl dumped me, my friends dumped me, and I had just found out, about 3 months into the school year, that this would be my last year at that school.

If you can hear the support structures crumbling like God-sized dominoes, it wouldn’t surprise me. Some days I still hear the echoes.

That year, and series of events, ruined my life. But, I’ll get back to that point a little later.

It’s now 23 years later. I’m happily married, reasonably successful, and marginally sane.

You think you make peace with a thing.

(You kind of do make peace with it, in that you stop allowing it to fuck up your day. You stop obsessing over the thing, and you rarely think about it, and not with the same energy you did in years past. But that thing still pisses you off. And it should. For a human life to have value, someone should be angry when it is damaged, even if that someone is a N of 1).

So, why is this thing rearing it’s hydra-headed presence to disturb my relative peace of mind at this moment in time?

This is why my brain is fucked, this morning.

The guy who stole my girl, (couldn’t resist the phrasing, sorry) those so many years ago. The same guy who worked to not only ostracize me from that friend group, but also to generally give my name a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. That guy, sent me a Facebook message the other day.

(My Facebook account is set to private. So, this message had to be accepted by me. Because of something weird with the notifications, I didn’t read it until a week after it was sent.)

Apparently, he’d been thinking a lot about the past, lately.

Oh joy!

And he wanted to, in his scattered and inarticulate way, apologize. At least that’s kind of the gist I gleaned from the message. I mean, the word apologize was used. I think it was even directed at me. But have you ever had someone apologize without really and sincerely accepting fault?

(If you’re wondering, “I was kind of a dick,” is not really accepting fault. It doesn’t admit hurting the other person and it doesn’t admit that it was wrong.)

I got this message yesterday. And a whole Jehovah-decides-to kill-off-the-nephilim flood of memories and emotions broke through and started scouring the countryside of my emotional landscape.

And that’s why my brain is fucked this morning.

I’m still processing.

(I’m definitely taking my wife’s advice – which strangely wasn’t, “set him on fire,” this time – and I’m not going to engage with him. What the hell could I say anyway? And why would it matter? Nothing will change. Well, he might feel a little better about his past mistakes, but I sure as hell won’t. And I’ll be damned if I’m making him feel better. )

Really, this post isn’t about him.

But his message brought back the memories of that year.

The memories of what was, of what I had worked and planned for – such as I could plan. And those old, razor-edged thoughts about what could have been.

Those thoughts kill you, in ways little and large.

I wish I could tell you how to deal with those thoughts, how to stop having them, or stop letting them hurt you. If I could, then I would know how to handle it myself. Maybe I’ll try denial next time?

It’s funny, people who have the capacity, or ability, or whatever, to “let things go” will tell you to just let things go. But when I question them, they never seem to be able to tell me how. I’m not stupid, but letting things go is way outside of my framework of understanding. If I’m going to attempt it, I’m going to need some instruction.

(I have been trying to teach myself, by the way. Through reason, and therapy, and meditation I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my brain works. I’ve learned a lot about how to cope. But letting go is a skill I still struggle with, sometimes daily.)

Oh, I told you I’d come back to the thing about my life being ruined. So, here’s that bit:

I had an argument with my older sister – she had much the same sort of upheaval at the same time – about that statement, that my life had been ruined. This was many years ago.

She was vehemently of the opinion that my life couldn’t have been ruined, because, you know, there I was. I was a living, breathing adult operating, if not within normative parameters close enough to avoid detection.

I’ve thought about that argument, and her point, a lot since then. I still disagree.

Because the life that I knew had been ruined. For all intents and purposes, (there were other circumstances I’ll not go into here), the life that I knew ceased to exist. More than that, it was taken from me, bit by bit.

That I have a life now, that I am happily married, reasonably successful, and marginally sane does not alter that fact.

But it does prove one thing:

You can rebuild over old ruins.

What you build may be better or worse, grander or meaner, but it will never be that thing that came before. Nothing can be.

This is, as near as I can tell, an incontrovertible fact of existence.  

Nothing, once destroyed, can ever be remade. You can make something with a remarkable semblance, a veritable copy, but the glass can never be unbroken. Even if all the pieces fit back together, you will still see the fracture lines. There will always be chips, missing.

So, that’s what I went to bed and woke up with: dealing with that.

And I’ll continue to deal with that. My brain will gnaw on it like a rawhide dog chew covered in peanut butter.

It might be a minute before I get it sorted.

I’d like to end this with some note of hope, some moral or heuristic or advice for the future.

But I don’t have anything like that.

All I can do is chew on it.

And, maybe, thank you for walking this leg of the journey with me.

I don’t know what it means, but it means something, and for that:

Thank you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment