Sunday, April 27, 2014

Doctors Make The Worst Patients

"Professor, I think that the question is no longer 'Why is this happening?'  We - well, not the dead ones, who inhabited the coastal zones of 2014 - We think that the better question now is, 'What can we as a species do now, and going forward, to fix this?'"

The preceding 50 words were prompted by a writing challenge posed by a fellow blogger on CHAOTICALLY YOURS, HERE.  I never realized how little room there is in fifty words.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Naked Lemons

For decades, they haunted the bottom drawer of our refrigerator.  I knew what they were - they were naked lemons - but it took a while for me to figure out why they were.

My parents were martini drinkers.  Mom still is, and I'm sure if my father were still here, he'd partake, as well.  Early on, I think there were olives involved, but what I remember is the lemons, surgically stripped of their skins and a thousand miles removed from the kiss of the sun.

I know it's the "wrong" tool for the job, but I love that knife.

I knew how to order a proper martini long before I was old enough to legally drink one.  Bombay, straight-up, twist, dry and very cold.

I was still mucking about with my go-to spirit (rum) through my dad's final years, and - foolishly - I didn't take the time to learn his art.  

But my brother did.

I've learned to love this cocktail - that first ultra-cold, lemon-infused sip is pure magic - and I now possess a great set of instructions for its assembly.  I can finally make a superb martini on my own - although not with the consistency of quality that my brother possesses.  

Practice makes perfect, though.  Right?

[Failure to do justice to this masterpiece]

Prompted once again by my friends at Studio 30 Plus - this time the challenge was to keep it short and include the phrase "kiss of the sun."  This prompt comes to us from the gifted author and blogger K.G. Waite and her post Truths Untrue.  You know what to do - drop by her bloggy place and say hello!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Inspiration, Love, and Music - Briefly

Tread Lightly On The Sand Of Unnecessary Drama

"A great idea wakes you from a sound sleep and refuses to let you rest until it is written," they said.

"The best songs haul off and belt you within the first thirty seconds," I've heard.

"You know immediately when it's the real thing," they said.

I'm not buyin' it.

Sometimes, inspiration dawns on me, rather than manifesting itself as some blast from the dark.

Likewise, great music needn't be so grabby.  Sure, it needs to need your attention, but to say that it should pounce on your throat the instant it sees you?  Not necessarily so.

"The real thing?"  You mean love?  Yeah - that had to whack me over the head with a club and drag me to its cave, but did that make it any less real?  Nope.  I've known love you wouldn't believe, but that knowledge wasn't immediate.


Beware of drama for drama's sake.

(Some songs don't pounce - they rise)

Once again writing in response to a prompt from my friends at Studio 30 Plus - this time I had to use "it should pounce," from the brilliant Thomas Marlowe and his poetic piece SILENCE - and I had to do it within the cozy confines of no more than 150 words!  Seriously - I can only hope to be a fraction of the writer that this man is.  Check him out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ventriloquism Jimmy and "Madam" the Talking Bean Can

"What are you so sore about?  I thought it went very well..."

"It most certainly did not go well.  It never goes well.  Honestly, Madam - I'm at my wit's end."  Jimmy was at his wit's end.  "We've been over this and over this - why can't you, just once, try a new bit?"

"But I love that bit," Madam protested.  "The audience loves that bit.  It always lands.  Tonight, I dare say, it killed."

Jimmy's exasperation assumed the shape of a grunt, and made itself heard.  "Ugh.  Of course it lands - it's a good joke - but that's not the point. I think it's time to give up my silly dream of a performer's life."

Ventriloquism Jimmy was born in 1898 as James Bergen Flowers.  In 1911, his parents emigrated to Boston from the English town of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, where they had been failing to make a living as operators of a sweets shoppe near the pier.  America was kinder to them - for a while.  Edgar Flowers made hard candies and taffy and his wife Shari "Peanut" Flowers made cookies and fudge, and they lived well - until their deaths in 1928.  Word of their demise reached James  - by telegram from his parents' landlord - at Julliard, where he was studying drama.

Return to Boston immediately.  Your mother and father have died. Father bled to death when the taffy-pulling machine ripped his arms off.  Mother trampled and run over by horse-and-trolly on her way to telegraph office.  I couldn't stand the thought of their only child far away, oblivious to his parents' death.  That's why I sent this message.  You owe me two dollars for the telegram.  Also, thirty-five fifty for your parents' back rent.

James never returned to Boston.  He left school and hit the road, finding his way through a series of misadventures and failures into the life of the Depression-era hobo.  He worked when there was work to be had, and walked and did what all the other hoboes did to survive.  By the end of his sophomore year (He and his brethren used "freshman, sophomore, and junior" to denote the first three years of a hobo's life; after that, they were simply called hoboes), James had become Jimmy, learned to throw his voice, and met Madam.

In her first life, Madam had been a 110-ounce can of Libby's red beans.  Now, with her still-partially-attached lid, a charcoal face, and Jimmy's help, she was a self-described star of stage and the wireless.  Her specialty: telling jokes.  Her impediment: petrifying stage fright.  The proverbial cat, it seemed, always had her tongue.

"Please, Madam?" Jimmy the Ventriloquist begged.  "We'll never get anyone to pay us to perform, if you can't tell a few more jokes.  A couple of dozen jokes and you got a show.  One joke is nothing - a few words between friends."

"I can't," she insisted.  "I won't!"

"You can do 'why did the hobo cross the road...'"


"How about 'what do hoboes get for Christmas?" he suggested.

"Everyone knows that one - not funny.  No."

"The hobo handshake joke?"

"Oh be serious."

"Well, there's always the 'two hoboes and a rabbi' stuff.  Those are good."

"I'm not here to offend anyone," Madam sniffed.

"You can replace 'rabbi' with 'priest' or 'teacher' or 'Senator' or any number of things.  It doesn't have to be offensive," Jimmy said.  "What about the 'hobo's lint currency international arbitrage' joke?"

"Who's going to get that?" Madam sneered.  "Former-banker hoboes?"

Ventriloquist Jimmy sighed the sigh of the defeated.  "Fine.  We're on.  Do your one joke, I can say something about canned laughter and we can get booed and have rocks hurled at us and get on with our pathetic lives - even though as a tin can, you have no life."

Thirty.  Seconds.  Later...

"I saw a hobo walking track-side yesterday, wearing one shoe," Madam told the small, semi-attentive group of tramps.  "I said, 'Hey, brother - did you lose a shoe?'  He said--"

All the hoboes replied, in unison, "No - I found one!"

Jimmy sighed again, and shook his head sadly.

Prompted as per usual by my friends at Studio 30 Plus - this time it was Kirsten Piccini and her post STAND ALONE. Go. Read. Support.  And enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Secrets of Genre and Process: Can Someone Just, You Know, Give Them To Me?

So, I've been tagged in one of these "pay it forward-" or is it "tag - you're it" blog meme thingies.  I only said yes because it was Marie at MY CYBER HOUSE RULES who invited me.  She's one of my best internet friendishes whom I've only met in the world of TRON and The Lawnmower Man.  She's a liver of life (one who lives life to the fullest - not the squishy organ), a singular force for positivity and adventure.  Go now, and read her blog and look at her insightful photographs.  Go on - I'll wait.

...wait wait wait...

See?  She's fun, non?  Anyway, my task was to answer a few simple questions, so let's get to it.


Simple.  Nothing.  I've reached a bit of a crossroads with this blog.  I write a lot of little back-stories for the 700 HOBO names John Hodgman gave us in his brilliant and hilarious almanac of fake facts, "The Areas of My Expertise."  Please go buy it.  I also sometimes write ABOUT MYSELF.  I'm pretty sure the average blog reader is not interested in weird hobo fiction, and the average hobo fiction enthusiast doesn't want to hear about my MANY STINTS ON THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE.  So, one thing on which I'm working is deciding where to go next, blog-wise - if I continue at all.

What I *SHOULD* be working on is my novel.  I've done several National Novel Writing Months, and several of the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, and last year, I produced something that might actually be workable.  I should be working on that, but apart from editorial stuff, I have no clue about next steps, and at the moment, I am falling victim to a self-destructive "If I don't try, I can't fail" mindset.  I'll get there, though.  In the meantime, here's a glimpse of two of the three main characters, although this scene is not in the book:  HERE - CLICK HERE!!.


I'd like to tell you all the ways in which my work differs from and is superior to everything else in my genre, but to be perfectly honest... WHAT GENRE?  I started with BIZARRO TALES of my formative years, moved through almost two years of the UNEMPLOYMENT thing (also liberally-sprinkled with utter bullshit), before moving into the WORLD OF THE HOBO.

So, yeah.  I don't really have a genre.  And that's okay, for now.  


Because I have to?  I like putting words together, preferably in new and distinctive ways.  In everyday life, I often have immense difficulty in keeping my mouth shut.  And so it is when there's a keyboard in front of me.  I have to write. 

If we're talking about why I write the hobo stuff, the main reason is... because I've started.  I can't write about some of the 700 hoboes; I have to write about all of them.  It's a mild form of OCD, I'm sure.


Process?  What's a process?  Okay, I'll try to be serious for a second.  Process is very personal.  My day job is relatively menial, and I get to listen to my 11,000-song iPod most of the day.  I get a LOT of my inspiration from music.  That, and dreams, and the works of those whose work I adore:  Douglas Adams, Mark Leyner, Christopher Moore, Steve Martin, Loren Bouchard, and whoever writes the TV show "Archer."  

When I have an idea for a blog post, I wait until way too late at night, and crank out mostly harmless silliness for a rum-soaked hour or two, show it to [Maris], proofread, touch up, and post.

When I embark on a novel project (which I have yet to attempt outside of the compressed schedule of a NaNoWriMo event), I turn on the music and set my laptop on our old computer desk's monitor pedestal, and stand and type.  I get my characters talking (dialogue has evolved into one of my strengths), and let them tell me their stories.  It's all very organic.  Research is done on the fly, and I read each day's work to [M] for feedback.  Okay, sometimes, if it's going really well, I don't read her the "dailies;" I just keep writing.  

I tell stories, and my writing is in many ways simply a transcription of my conversations - real, imagined, and various combinations thereof - and as such, I feel that once it's been typed, it's been typed.  The words are out, and they should be changed as little as possible.  This is a recipe for complete and utter failure as a writer, and I'm working on it, but there it is.  It's not much of a process, but it has been pretty good to me, so far.

There.  Questions answered.  Now, for the fun part.  I get to tag a couple of my blogging friends.  I couldn't get three to commit, but here are two people whose work is worth a look - I promise:

1.)  There is seriously a little bit of everything at L.M. Leffew's CHAOTICALLY YOURS.  Her writing is crisp and smart and just go check out her blog, please.  Read more than one post.  She's cool.

2.)  Speaking of cool, check out Vinny C's blog AS VINNY C's IT.  He's from the southern reaches of the Caribbean, but don't be jealous.  His life is just like ours.  His perspective, however, is fresh and funny - plus, stick figure 'toons!  Go.  Click.  Enjoy!

3)  I was supposed to tag three people for this, but I only got two to play along.  So... go to their blogs twice, or something.

Thanks for hanging in there until the end of this little exercise.  I'll be back as soon as I think of something.  Tah!