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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

UNIVERSAL TRUTHS & WOUNDS _ A TO Z


At Meilori's, 

that haunted jazz club which is never too far from where dreams have died, 

I was playing chess with the ghost of William Faulkner.

The fog gathered near.  

The jazz murmured low in the shadows.  

The torches beckoned to all who wander lost in the dark of their soul.


I must have spoken that thought aloud, 

for Faulkner said low, 

"How do you know they are so lost?"

I smiled sadly, "On such a night, if they could be home, they'd already be there." 

He returned my smile.  "Just so.  Just so."

I asked, "Why weren't you at the poker game last night?"

Faulkner snorted, "Hemingway is already morose about November's writing contest."

"So you approve of NaNo?"

"Goodness, no!  It is a horrid waste of 30 precious days that will never come again.  

The dead know all too well how fleeting life can be."


I nodded, "Mark Twain says each day is a coin we can spend any way we wish, but ...."

Faulkner finished with me, " ... you can only spend it once."

He sighed, 

"But have those contest participants bought anything of lasting value with those 30 coins?"

"So you agree with Hemingway?"


"No.  He lived a full life and should know Mankind has always looked for the secret elixir, the hidden keys, the lost path to success."

Faulkner smiled bitterly. 

 "Not that they exist, mind you, but we want them to.  We live in denial of the simple fact 

that  

the true path to success, whether in writing or in any other endeavor, 

is paved with courage, imagination, and persistence."



He blew pipe smoke into the shadows. "And it is a lonely road."

I sighed, "For me it has been."

Faulkner murmured,

 "So it is understandable that so many writers think they have found the key to becoming writers 

in this joint 'group hug' as Hemingway so colorfully and callously calls this contest."

He frowned as I moved my knight in a move he had not foreseen. 

 "But the truth is as elusive as smoke in the night.  Sometimes you can smell it in the air, but it slips through your fingers."



Faulkner took my knight in a move that this time I hadn't seen coming and smiled,

 "But I can tell you and your electronic friends the simple secret to writing success."

"It's not nice to tease a struggling writer."

"Oh, I am quite sincere.  The simple secret is this:

Write of an old thing in a new way."

In response to my frown, Faulkner said, 


"The oldest lodestone to literature is the human heart in conflict with itself.  

From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams that lodestone has been the compass that led the way to riveting stories."

He tapped the chessboard with the stem of his pipe. 

"Only that is worth writing about, worth the agony, and the sweat of wresting something from nothing."


Faulkner leaned forward, stabbing my chest with the pipe stem.

"Leave no room in your writing for anything but the old truths of the heart,

 the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - 

 love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

 

Until you do so, you labor under a curse.

You write not of love but of lust,

of defeats in which no one loses anything of value,

of victories without hope and,

worst of all, without pity or compassion. 


Your griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.

You write not of the heart but of the sex glands
."


He wrinkled his nose as if to sneeze.  

"When I was in Hollywood, Samuel Goldwyn would point out the latest hit to me and my fellow script writers

and say, "I want the same thing ... only different."

I smiled, 

"No stories of young boys or girls fated to save the world, no wallflower girl courted by supernatural heart-throbs, no ...."

Faulkner said, 

"Dare to save your character's world in a way not seen before and with imagination not cookie-cutter formulas.'

I moved my last knight, positioning it to take his King.  "Checkmate."

He tipped over his King and arched an eyebrow, "Only a callow soul takes advantage of the dead."

The ghost of Mark Twain pulled up a seat and crowed, "Why I do that all the time!"

Faulkner snorted, "I rest my case."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THEY LIE; I LIE _ A TO Z


TRUTHS


"Lies run sprints;
But the truth runs marathons." 
- Michael Jackson

Truths are the antidotes for lies.

Especially the lies many authors believe.


LIES

They are what drives our characters to do the things that spiral into 

foolishness and adventure and wisdom won ... 

or defeat assured.

LIES 

They do the same to us if we believe them about our writing dream.  

Lies can be fought with truth talk.


LIE #1

I AM NOTHING, A FAILURE IF I DO NOT GET PUBLISHED.

Really?

Was Emily Dickinson a nothing, a failure 

because she never gave up writing her poems her way and was never published in her lifetime?

 Creative writing is one of the best exercises we can do for the aging brain.

Don't take my word alone for it: 

Jenni Ogden, a writer AND a neuro-psychologist has found it so.

Writing adds to the intellectual and physical exercises 

that slow down the brain’s aging process most often experienced

 by the forgetting of names and words and where you put the car keys – or the car!

Use it or lose it.


LIE #2 

IF I HAVEN'T MADE IT (GOTTEN AN AGENT, BECOME FAMOUS) BY NOW, I NEVER WILL.

Oh, come on now!

A novel is more than just sitting down and cranking out a word count. 

There are those little pesky things 

like plot, and character, and pacing, and dialogue and so on and so forth. 

All of those things take time to develop.

 While you’re doing all of this as a budding novelist, 

you are also most likely doing all the other things in your days that constitute your life

A day job, spouse and family, hobbies and friends, 

reading and television and video games and even (wait for it) sleep. 

It all adds up — and it all subtracts from the amount of time you have to write.

 Writing those three or four or five novels an average writer has to burn through 

before they write a publishable novel will likely take years.

No matter who you are as an author, you pay your dues at one end or another. 

To put it another way: it takes many years to be an overnight success. 

Maybe you haven’t “made it” yet. 

That doesn’t mean 
you never will.

George Elliot didn't publish 'Middlemarch' until she was 52.

Anthony Burgess (published at 39), 

Helen Dewitt published 'The Last Sumarai' at 41,

 William S. Burroughs 
("When you stop growing, you start dying.") published his first novel at 39.

 Laura Ingalls  

("There is no great loss without some small gain.”), was in her mid-60s when she published 'Little House in the Big Woods.'

 Marquis de Sade, (Ah, let's not go there!)

 Raymond Chandler (published 'The Big Sleep' at 51)

-- all gained fame older.

Bram Stoker, too (Who didn't write 'Dracula' until he was 50)  

and said "We learn from failure not from success."  

Gee, I must be a genius!



LIE #3

I DON'T HAVE TIME

Does Dean Koontz have a magic stopwatch that stops time to give him 30 hours a day to write?

Let me tell you about Robert Louis Stevenson --


A year after Kidnapped he left Scotland and southern England for America 

in search of adventure and a better climate for his tuberculosis.

Writing continued on land and sea at 400 pages a year for twenty years, 

reckoned his first biographer. From one letter home a year before Stevenson died:

    "For fourteen years I have not had a day's real health;
    I have awakened sick and gone to bed weary; and I have done my work unflinchingly.
    I have written in bed, and written out of it, written in haemorrhages,
    written in sickness, written torn by coughing, written when my head swam for weakness;

     And for so long, it seems to me I have won my wager and recovered my glove....


    And the battle goes on 'ill or well.'

     It is a trifle; so as it goes. I was made for a contest."

So what is stopping you from writing?

Monday, April 23, 2018

SEX ... IS THAT ALL THERE IS? _ A TO Z


“My fear of abandonment is exceeded 
only by my terror of intimacy.”
 - Ethlie Ann Vare


Has Casual Sex Destroyed Our Ability 
To Think Beyond Ourselves ... 
To Love?

Our generation centers more and more on an ever-expanding growth of technology.

Once girls wore letterman jackets of their boyfriends, 

exchanged love letters, and took long walks in the park hand in hand.

Now, lonely souls search Tinder, Facebook, and 

stare starry-eyed at tiny images on their iPhones, mistaking texting for touching.

So many of the young people you see staring intently at their smartphones are slightly dead inside, 

hollowed out by a complete lack of  real human interaction.

 Sigh.

Even talking on the phone has become foreign and uncomfortable to so many.  

We do not have conversations anymore.  

Texting is remote, less threatening, but ultimately less fulfilling.

To say "Good Bye" via Instagram is easy in all the wrong ways.

When couples meet, it is easier to let the hormones take over, 

engage in passion without purpose, 

and avoid the threat of true communication and its inherent danger of rejection of who we are as a person.

So many of us have become obsessed with the casual.  We don't want strings.

We want to drift where the currents of passion take us.

But a ship without a rudder soon becomes lost at sea.

Look at the faces of the models in the magazines:

Cool, Distant, Unobtainable

Those faces are icy.  

You could not imagine them uttering "I love you" and risk having another having power over them.

Funny.  

In this age of free sex so many are in chains of loneliness.

When you think of another person 

merely as an object with which you engage in external masturbation, 

you place your own desire for animal satisfaction above their dignity and worth as a person.

When you fail to see the humanity of another person, 

you lose a bit of your own humanity as well.

Do it enough times, 

and you become so hollow you start to ache inside without knowing why.

What Do You Think?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hanging would be more lasting _ A TO Z



" I will REASON with him, 
though at bottom
I feel hanging 
would be more lasting." 
- Mark Twain 

Ghost of Mark Twain again.

I made the mistake of watching the national news on Roland's flat window into the world.

Man is the REASONING Animal. 

Such is the claim.  

After watching the court jesters that pass for politicians these days, 

I think it is open to dispute.

 Those thugs are aware that loudness convinces sixty persons 

where reasoning convinces but one.


Take our president ...

He is not quite what you would call refined. 

He is not quite what you would call unrefined. 

He is the kind of person that keeps a parrot.

 But I digress

I was talking of reason and Man.


Does the human being reason? 

No; he thinks, muses, reflects, but does not reason. 

Thinks about a thing; rehearses its statistics and its parts 

and applies to them 

what other people on his side of the question have said about them, 

but he does not compare the parts himself, and is not capable of doing it. 

That is, in the two things which are the peculiar domain of the heart, not the mind:

politics and religion. 

He doesn’t want to know the other side. 

He wants arguments and statistics for his own side, and nothing more.

Look at me.

I've taken off the mask of humorist to show my philosophical face and gone to meddling.

Best re-mask and not lose Roland any more followers!

Besides what do I know? 

 No man is entirely in his right mind at any time ... especially humorists.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Isn't it QUEER? _ A TO Z



They give birth astride of a grave, 
the light gleams an instant, 
then it's night once more.   
 Waiting for Godot 
by Samuel Beckett

"I think that the realization of oneself
 is the prime aim of life."
Three Trials of Oscar Wilde



"Very few among us have the courage
 openly to set up
our own standard of values 
and abide by it."
 - Oscar Wilde


 "That’s the dark secret of our time, 
no one mentions it, 
but every time 
one opens a door
 one is greeted by a shrill,
 desperate and inaudible scream."
 - Doris Lessing


Ghost of Oscar Wilde here

I am fascinated by this medium called YouTube 

where ordinary people may voice their views on every topic imaginable, including

melodramas found on something called a flat screen TV of all things.


Roland and I have been viewing a program each of us had missed, Runaways.

Finished with its short run, 

we turned to YouTube to see how others enjoyed it.  

We stumbled upon the reactions of the lovely Eden Singer from New Zealand 

(Yes, my affections are drawn to my own gender, 

but I can appreciate beauty no matter where I find it.)


There came that moment at the melodrama's ending 

where two young women kissed in open admission of their love for one another.

Eden openly wept, apologizing to the viewers for the tears.


But I understood 

(as did Roland, though he is painfully heterosexual, in that it hurts when a beautiful woman looks through him.)

Eden felt acknowledged, seen, and considered of worth enough 

to be represented in this culture which often only mouths tolerance.


Though living in New Zealand, 

Eden spent hard-saved money to travel to Las Vegas 

to attend a convention celebrating those television melodramas 

which dare to include those who are often called queer.


Roland and I applaud their persistence in staying true to their hearts 

despite what many say behind closed doors.

To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. 

To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. 

It is no less than a denial of the soul.


The public has always, and in every age, been badly brought up. 

And it has been brought up by those who decree what entails acceptable entertainment.

But their time has passed and they do not know what to do.

They were told what they wanted,

 and they believed it. 

They can only keep their dream alive 

by being with others like themselves who will mirror their illusions.

People’s beliefs and convictions are mostly obtained second-hand, and without examination, 

from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue 

but have taken them second-hand 
from other non-examiners, 

whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

Pay me no mind. 
 
After all, I was imprisoned for daring to live these thoughts ... 
 
until Mark Twain and Captain McCord broke me out of prison.
 
(in an alternate version of this world
 of course.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What keeps you turning the PAGE? _ A TO Z



“There is no terror in the bang,
 only in the anticipation of it.” 
- Alfred Hitchcock

Ghost of Alfred Hitchcock here

Twenty-eight of my movies were derived from novels.  

You might think of that as "Dial L for Literature."

I so enjoyed the works of British author Daphne Du Maurier, 

I based three of my films on two of her novels,  

Jamaica Inn and Rebecca and one short story, The Birds.

Too many look at a French novelist's name and imagine men at street cafes, 

wearing berets, smoking French cigarettes, and staring off into the distance 

as if searching for that abyss of which Sartre and Nietzsche wrote.

Please do rise above that provinciality and dare her work.  

You will be rewarded with fine storytelling.

GOOD STORYTELLING

It can all be reduced to one word:

SUSPENSE 

The reader fears that something terrible is going to happen to a character for whom she has grown to care.

 Mystery is the hook.  Yet, mystery is an intellectual process. 

 Suspense is essentially an emotional one.


A DIFFERENT WOLF

Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? 

Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. 

What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. 

It's just a different wolf

This fright complex is rooted in every individual.


HOW TO BIRTH EMPATHY

The fear of being helpless in face of danger is universal and so can evoke empathy in the reader.

Take this  scene - 

A young girl gasping for breath inside an oxygen tent.  

She speaks to the icily beautiful woman standing by the oxygen pump.

"I will never call you mother.  You've fooled everyone else.  But not me."

The cool blonde smiles slightly as the young girl continues.

"Deep inside you there is someone terrible that no one else knows about."

The step-mother leans forward as she slowly turns off the oxygen and smiles wider.

"Now, I have everyone fooled."

As a good story-teller you will, of course, come up with a realistic way for which the young girl to survive.

But from that moment on, the reader will be bonded to your heroine. 


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

If you can keep the reader asking that question at the end of every page, 

you have succeeded in creating suspense.

It is the story-teller's primary function to create a living emotion.  

His secondary function is to sustain it.



What many fledgling authors do not understand is 

that the more successful your villain is, the more successful your novel will be.

Your antagonist must win at every turn.

Like a dinosaur caught in a tar pit, 

your protagonist must sink deeper into the trap with each attempt to escape it.

Your antagonist must be frustratingly urbane, intelligent,  resourceful, 

able to mingle with her victim's associates without arousing suspicion. 



If you craft your antagonist well enough, many of your readers will fantasize being him or her.

A woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing 

doesn't want  to watch a film or read a novel about a woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing.


I hope this has helped in some small way.

Now, I must be off.

I see the ghost of Lovecraft drifting my way,
and I scare so easily.