Category Archives: the road ahead

The Moaning Writer

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I am not Charles Dickens.  I wish I were.  I want to be a writer of wry humor, social commentary, and have an effect on the soul of the world I live in.  The way he was.  Heck, Dickens invented Christmas the way we do it now (with considerable help from department stores like Macy’s) by writing A Christmas Carol.  But the chances for that are growing ever dimmer.

The small publisher with which I was associated, and who gave me a contract to publish Snow Babies, has died.  The business folded while my novel was still in the editorial phase.  PDMI Publishing was a worthy group of writers and entrepreneurs who in a different time might’ve gone far.  I know by reading some of their works that they had talent.  But between the ferocious grip of the mega publishers and the waves upon waves of self-published stuff on Amazon, real writers with talent are drowning in a sea of mediocrity and media indifference.  Writers who succeed are the ones with the most luck or the most direct connections to the gate keepers.  Profit is far more important than literary merit.  You don’t really have to have talent any more.  You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is or how to compose a compound sentence properly or how to spell.  Shoot, you barely have to know how to write.  Just write about sparkly teenage vampires falling in love with high school girls or sexual perverts who are into torture devices, and you can be a millionaire… if you can somehow luck out over the millions of wannabes writing the same exact crap.

There was a time when writing teachers and published authors were telling me that sooner or later good writing gets published.  It was supposed to be inevitable.  But that was a different time than now.  Different rules for the game.  I will have two published books with two different publishers.  I-Universe published Catch a Falling Star.  And Page Publishing will publish Magical Miss Morgan.  But I paid both of those publishers to turn my books into published paper books with ISBN numbers and access to customers of Barnes and Noble and other outlets.  But I don’t expect to earn the money back that I invested.  Not while I’m still alive at least.

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My I-Universe publishing experience was worth it.  I spent a lot of money to get Catch a Falling Star published, but I got to work with real editors and advisers who had experience working for Knopf and Random House.  They gave me a real evaluation of my work and taught me how the business of promoting the book was supposed to work.  And the help that they gave me ended there.  No advertising budget beyond what I could afford myself.  I learned a lot for my money.  But I had to come to terms with the fact that marketing was going to take more time and effort than I was physically capable of doing.  I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor after all.

Page Publishing was a mistake.  They were cheaper than I-Universe, but I am not getting anywhere near the value for my money.  Instead of real editors reading and suggesting and modifying my work, I get nit-picky grammar Nazis who don’t even know as much about grammar as I do.  They are only copy editing.  And the last rewrite was me spending time changing all the incorrect changes they made back to the original text.  They did not even tell me the name of the editor making the changes.  I talked to the I-Universe editors over the phone and discussed changes in detail.  Page gives me email copies to read over and fume about silently.  They are no better than the vanity presses of old who were really no more than a re-typing and printing service.

So, from here on, I will only do the self-publishing options available through Amazon.  I have no more money or energy to spend on the black hole of literary dreams.

I can’t help but be a writer, though.  That part is genetic.  I will continue to write and tell stories that I need to tell.  I can’t help it.  Not to do so will cause me to shrivel and die almost instantly.  And I am only exaggerating just a little bit.  Well, maybe a lot.  But it is still true.

Whatever promises the future holds, I am not depending on them for my feelings of success, closure, and self-worth.  The world as I have come to know it will always be a ridiculous stew-pot of ideas and ego and cow poop, and I am not so much giving up as stepping out of the stew.  I wish to tell stories for the story’s sake.  I have no delusions of becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.  I will never be Charles Dickens.  And I am okay with that.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, insight, publishing, self pity, the road ahead, work in progress, writing

The View From My Little Town

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An aerial view of Toonerville in Winter 

As immigration officers round up school children and their families blocks from a school in North Carolina, Trump minion Flynn is being accused of violating the Logan Act over discussions with the Russians before Trump took office, and DeVos is being chased away from a Washington middle school by angry protesters who don’t want her sucking the intelligence out the students, I am reminded there are quieter places to go and get away from all the insane noise that is trying to kill us.  Thus I head back to Toonerville, my HO scale model train town that has been packed away since we moved to Dallas in 2004.  I have laid the downtown and part of the residential area out on a snowfield on the spare bed in my bedroom.

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I am reminded, as I revisit Toonerville (with the Toonerville Trolley waiting down front from the train station), that I am a humor writer that writes about small town experiences and the teaching of children.  I am imaginative and creative, and I have working strategies for dealing with the stress and insanity caused by all the political baboons doing the politically-charged things that political baboons do baboonishly every baboon day.  There are places to go to get away from the Trump Circus’s endless monkey-house of horror.

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In Toonerville, none of the clocks keep the correct time and none of them agree what time it is.  Certain things are timeless.  The village works together to solve its problems.  What the wits and twits who chew Red Man tobacco down at Al’s General Store think about politics never leaves the checkerboards in front of the fire place.  Mayor Moosewinkle at City Hall has no plans to run for State or Federal office.  (Thank God for that, he’s a nut.)  And officer Billy Bob Wortle, formerly from Texas, has never shot anybody of any color.  The County Sheriff doesn’t even trust him to own bullets for that big old gun of his.  As far as executive orders from Washington go, we mostly don’t give a damn.

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Down at the Post Office, Mr. Murdoch the postman has never “gone postal” and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  He loves to gossip, though.  And Mr. Santucci, the hot-headed Italian owner-operator of the Farmer’s Market (who looks just like Santa Claus in the Coke ads, but is one very foul-mouthed Santa at Christmas time) secretly believes that it is the many differences between the various residents of town that keep life interesting.  And old Ben Johnson, the town’s only black man, is his very best friend.

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It’s a truly good feeling to live in a small town where all the people bicker and throw fits, but no one would every want to throw anyone out of town.  People belong together, working for the common good.  And it is a rather sad thing if the only place such a town can exist is inside my goofy old head.  But if we bicker a little less and throw fits less often on the inside, won’t we be better people on the outside too?

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Filed under artwork, commentary, compassion, goofy thoughts, humor, imagination, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, satire, strange and wonderful ideas about life, the road ahead

A Shakespearean Celebration of Trump

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Yes, I am well aware that I am in the middle of an epic Shakespeare rant this week, explaining in the goofiest of terms the reason I believe Shakespeare is not Shaksper.  But you have to mark a solemn occasion like the onset of the end-times.  So I thought I might pay dissembling dreary lip service to the inauguration of a man who, if he appeared in the middle of a Dick Tracy episode, would be known as the villainous Cheeto-head.122p7s

You see, I don’t recognize this villain as the legitimate head of my government.  So I won’t be using the title of “President” with this villain’s name.  Instead, I intend to practice Shakespearian insults to get the bad taste out of my mouth on this horrible day resulting from the malfeasance of certain bad actors, a concerted effort to suppress the vote in key States like Florida, an inebriated campaign run by a dissolute, dissembling mountebank with a talent for misdirection, and a very unfortunate ill-timed collective brain fart on the part of masses of angry but somewhat intellectually limited white people.  (No, I am not worried that they will get me for that last one.  They don’t know what most of the words mean, and none of them would take the time to read this far through this post.)

The conflagration of Trumpkin Trolls on the internet have been telling me that they have endured eight years of Obama, and now I should just shut up and endure eight years of the Great Orange Face.  But, swaggering lackwits, I say thee nay!  This will not be an eight year reign.  It will either be a zero-year tragedy extravaganza or a permanent reign until the bedeviled Fenris Wolf consumes poor over-wrought Thor on the terrible day know as Ragnarok.  The spoiled bag of figgy pudding that is our new leader and golden king will have a lot to answer to St. Peter for.  Um, or is that Mephistopheles?

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I intend to hold the vicarious viscount of villainy accountable with my words and wit, meager as they may be.  And I will decry everything he and the harpy DeVos will do to my beloved system of public education.  I will probably also expire from the villainy of the wretched Republican pizzle drinkers who are busy disemboweling the health care system that has so recently kept me alive, but I will continue to testify to their perfidy until my last breath expires.

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So, I guess I can bring an end to this venomous epistle satisfied that I have lectured ass-headed Bottom about having a donkey’s head on his shoulders in the most roundly Shakespearean way I could wrangle.  Shakespeare, if he gave us anything of value, gave us to understand the true power of words.  And it is by the application of powerful and true words we must battle this sanguine, self-satisfied snollygoster who can barely read and is crippled with a dysfunctional slow-working pate which he more often sits on than uses to think with.

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Filed under angry rant, humor, irony, Liberal ideas, memes, monsters, pessimism, the road ahead, William Shakespeare, wisdom

Love and Hate and Politics

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I cringed through a few of the speeches in the Republican National Convention.  Speech after speech talked about how bad Hillary Clinton is, how terrible ISIS is, how Obama has betrayed us and failed us, and other warm fuzzy stuff like that.  They make me sick to my stomach with fear.

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Was there anything to like about the RNC in Cleveland?  Well, their logo was nice.

I could complain about the plagiarism thing, the Ted Cruz booing thing (although that actually made me smile), or Donald’s deep, dark speech of the coming apocalypse.  But I would rather do like the Democrats seem to be doing this week.  I would rather talk about the good things they can and will do if only we are smart enough to give them the chance.

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They contrasted their policies in favor of ending discrimination based on race, gender, and orientation with the anti-crime and anti-terrorism howls of the Republicans. Instead of talking about how satisfying it would be to throw the other side’s candidate in jail for imagined crimes, they told us about Hillary’s record of standing up for women, children, and the handicapped.  They gave us specifics about what she has done and who she has helped and what she has learned from Bernie Sanders.  Sanders graciously made her the unanimous choice by throwing all of his delegates behind her.  There was peace and harmony (beyond a few former Bernie supporters who were so mad about the DNC email leak that they may vote Trump out of spite).  Cory Booker’s speech suggested that instead of talking about what we are afraid of, we should be talking about working together in a spirit of love and friendship in order to do great things.  Trump, of course, had an angry tweet in response to that, suggesting he knew things about Booker that could shame him.  Booker replied that he loved Donald Trump and felt honored that the orange one considered him worthy of an angry tweeting.

Now, I am not saying that Democrats are perfect and Republicans are evil… am I?  I don’t believe that when I am rational and not dreaming up nightmares… do I?  But loving one another is what I think the default position should always be for Christians.  So why are the nominally Christian conservatives so much more keen on the righteous wrath of God stuff and punishing those they hate?  Shouldn’t it be the opposite of that?  And my severely Republican friends are always suspicious of just how Christian the godless communist heathens in the Democratic party really are.  If the Democrats are so totally wrong, shouldn’t the facts line up against them?

But it all boils down to facts versus feelings, doesn’t it.  Republicans have reason to be angry, especially the poor ones, because of the raw economic deal they have been given.  Their righteous indignation deserves redress.  But is that best served by punishing Democrats in the more liberal party that more generally favors less income inequality?  What about the capitalist billionaires who drive the Republican agenda?  Are they really saints and deserving of everything they have taken for themselves?

I am smart, but not smart enough to have ultimate answers to the biggest questions.  I have Republican friends who agree whole-heartedly  with that last sentence, especially words five, six, and seven.  But I know the DNC made me feel good while watching, and the RNC made me ill.  I definitely choose love over hatred and politics.

 

 

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Filed under clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, insight, irony, politics, the road ahead

Driving Lessons

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My middle child, Henry, is sixteen and anxious to learn how to drive.  And like all young drivers, he has yet to get into his first accident, is awkward behind the wheel, and is determined to be the best driver the world has ever seen.  So, we gave him a driver’s instruction course, which he completed by July 15th, though he hasn’t taken the wheel yet in a driver’s ed car.  And I had to come to terms with the idea that, even though I shelled out more than 300 dollars to have someone else teach him to drive, I was still going to be the one riding in the passenger’s seat and cringing every time the car lurches towards oncoming traffic and hideous, painful death.

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I decided that since we were visiting Iowa where populations are shrinking and little towns like ours are dying, we might as well take advantage of nearly empty streets and lack of other drivers competing for road space.  We went to Rowan to practice driving.

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Of course I had forgotten how narrow the streets are in my little home town.  Some of the avenues can’t sustain two cars passing in opposite directions at once.  And there are more than a few junk cars, old tractors, and other wheeled things parked in the way, just begging to be hit and make a dent in our affordable insurance.

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Leave it to me to be multi-tasking while teaching the boy to drive the family battleship down the narrow streets of Rowan.  I wanted to take pictures to do this post.  I also wanted to take my mind off the depressing realization that Donald Trump will likely be the next president, and our lives will continue to go down hill as we are treated more and more like cash-generating farm animals for billionaires, corporations, and the owners of all the debt we have accrued by selfishly spending money on life’s necessities in order to keep on living.  We stopped to take a picture at the house I grew up in.  It was depressing to see that the house has not been painted since I put that blue paint on it when I was a teenager.  Dang!  I’m sixty now.  And the poor people who live there now couldn’t afford to paint it even once in the last forty-two years.

But even with all the potential distractions, we managed to practice driving and parking and driving again without any catastrophes or sudden fiery death.  We did pass the same lady walking her little white dog four different times on four different streets.  We only made a wide turn and nearly squished her dog one time.  And we only had one incident where he accidentally pressed the gas instead of the brake while the car was in reverse instead of drive.  Unfortunately, that happened on Main Street.  Fortunately, the one and only car parked on Main Street was in front of us and not behind us.  So we were successful.  An hour and a half of driving practice with no costly accidents and no blood or death.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, Iowa, kids, photo paffoonies, politics, self portrait, the road ahead

The Prognosticator’s Spyglass

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A while back I gave you an overview of my writing plan and called it the Magician’s Spyglass.  My magic, of course, is story-telling, and the spyglass is a metaphor for looking at the long view ahead.  But I have also recently been thinking about the purpose of my writing and where I need to go in sailing my fictional ship with pink sails.

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Here is where I’ve been, the view over the aft rail.  I have my novel Snow Babies contractually obligated with PDMI Publishing to be published (though the time in the future when it sees print seems to be drifting farther and farther forward.)  The novel Superchicken is finished, and the publisher accepted submission, but they have not yet made a decision on its possible publication.  The Bicycle-Wheel Genius is completed and being seriously edited by me.  The Magical Miss Morgan is completed, edited, and about to be submitted to the YA novel-writing contest that I last participated in with Snow Babies.  I am currently writing two new novels, Stardusters and Lizard Men, a science fiction novel about planetary destruction and renewal, as well as using the energy and creativity of youth as a natural resource.  And When the Captain Came Calling, a novel about the origins of the Norwall Pirates, that boys’ club of liars that forms the center of most of my Norwall books.  So, there is that.  I am still sailing straight ahead into stormy seas with my writing.  But I am not wearing an eye-patch over both eyes.  I am looking at the rough seas and squalling storm clouds dead ahead.

So, as Prognosticator, I must gage the winds, evaluate the white-caps, and take a sounding or two.  I have these problems to overcome.  I am limited in funding because of poor health, mounting medical expenses, a large tax burden, and a steady retirement income that may be threatened by a Texas Republican trend to cut everything out of public schools, even teacher pensions.  This State will never ask billionaires and oilmen to foot their fair share of the bills.  They would much rather take away education money because, after all, you need to keep the masses stupid if you are going to continue to farm them like hogs and cattle for every dollar you can squeeze out of them.  Stupid people vote Republican, and so are the cherished commodity that Texan Empires are built upon.

The environment is changing for the worse.  With COPD and severe allergies brought on by the exposure to farm chemicals in my teen years, I have trouble breathing fresh Texas air (made up of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, butane, and other by-products of fracking and refining).  I also have experienced seven Dallas-area earthquakes in the last two years that directly result from fracking in the oil shale beneath our feet.  Soon our drinking water should be flammable, judging by the Pennsylvania experience.  Global warming has given us record heat-waves and drought in the last decade, though all the officials in this State are insisting it is all in my head.  I was imagining the heat two summers ago when we had 99 days of temperatures over 100 in a row.  So there is the reason my Stardusters novel is about environmental Armageddon.

The likelihood that I am ever going to make more money writing and drawing than I spend on the endeavor is increasingly small as the publishing industry continues to change and continues to benefit the booksellers like Amazon more and individual content creators less.  I will need to write a post or two on that before one of my six incurable diseases kills me.

I must continue to write about artists and writers that influence and engage me.  That is lifeblood to me, a commodity that I may soon be short of;  I need to write about how I create the stories that I am writing.  I also need to chronicle the life I have lived as a teacher and an educator, because the valuable lessons I have learned as a teacher and a mentor to the young will all be lost if I do not do everything I can to pass them on.  That is the primary reason that my teacher-story, The Magical Miss Morgan, now exists.  These are all things that I am now predicting I must write about.  The water is churning and navigation is becoming more difficult… so onward we sail until I can shout, “Land Ho!”

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