Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Measure of a Man: Brainstorming

The last couple of weeks have been difficult. I spent much too much time wallowing. My brain has been overwhelmed with questions, such as "Why?" "How?" WTF?" That said, my writing has suffered for it. I have given my stories little to no attention over the past two weeks.

However, that does not mean that I haven't been thinking about my current project. After the first draft I was unsure as to whether it could realistically happen or be believable. In the course of development I think I have discovered a much more important story. Maybe eventually I will return to the original.

Among our peers at least today-in-age, if not for all-time, I might argue, that men are defined by their successes and failures. This is a focus of much fiction: the highs and lows of men. Perhaps this is a reflection of my own state of mind, but what happens when a man utterly seems to fail in everything? I'm talking about a man (or woman, of course) who's never caught a break, never had a moment of positive luck.

Celebrities have shown us time and again that even with success in excess failure at times is inevitable. But at least they've excelled before. Lets evaluate a man who never had a boyfriend or girlfriend, who never made above a D in school, who failed to get into college and was rejected by the military, a man who can't keep a job and rarely makes above minimum wage. This is a man that screwed up everything. What causes a fate like this? How would a man cope mentally? What, if anything, redeeming can be found about his life?

Personally, I am of a mind that every person has a function and a purpose, and that ultimately no life is a failure. My questions are completely for fictional pondering, story-potential exploration.

I think what this means is that I am going to take a secondary character from my first draft of "River Rat" and explore his story. This will not be a happy story. Part of the reason I write is to explore the human condition, and because we are fallen it's not always the brightest of existences.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Smathering of Thoughts: Happy, Sad and Otherwise

"(A walker displaces the territory as a swimmer does water, but a quiet sitter is a dropped stone and his ripples subside and water laps back in: submergence.)" --William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth

I recently was accepted as a contributing writer at It sure won't pay much, at least for the first few months, but it will keep me writing while search for that elusive full-time job. There are some of you out there who think that writing for pennies is pointless and degrading to writers everywhere, that people like me are enablers. In a perfect world, of course we'd all be paid more. But in a situation like mine, if you can get published anywhere it is foolish to pass on it, regardless of how much or how little the gig pays. You can find my Suite101 profile and a link to my first article, a review of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, at

Sometimes we have to remember that it's not all about us.

Last week I discovered the Pixies. Their 1988 debut album Surfer Rosa is one of the most fun records I've heard in ages. I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to listen to it (except for kids; there is some suggestive content). Another recommendation: Dummy by Portishead.

There is a time for everything.

Yesterday, my wife and I watched Mulholland Dr. for the first time. I don't think there was ever a 10-minute stretch that I didn't say something to the effect of "What the heck?" Far and away one of the strangest films I've ever seen. But in retrospect, thanks to the millions of bloggers and movie buffs out there, I've come to a better understanding of the movie, and I see now how brilliant it was. It is definitely disturbing, creepy and deserving of the R-rating. All of that said, if you like movies that make you think, suburb directing (Mr. David Lynch) and creative story-telling, watch the Mulholland. The scene in club Silencio might be one of the best written and directed scenes of all-time. I wish I had written it. To watch the scene see: Part 1 and Part 2.

Sometimes it hurts.

One of my favorite bands, Tool, is starting a mini-tour tonight. Twice they will be close to me, but I won't be able to make either show for several reasons. Oh well.

Earlier this week I was dealt a substantial job-related blow. I thought I had a good shot at the position, but was subsequently strung-along for months, kept in contact with and then dismissed without so much as an interview. I get angry and depressed just thinking about it. Dwelling on failures will not help me. People will disappoint you. Sometimes we have to remember that it's not all about us. There is a time for everything. Sometimes it hurts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Yesterday I sent out "Getting to Know Lou Jones" for the first time. After getting feed back from five different people, editing it at least a half-dozen times and obsessing over sentence structure since the beginning of April "Lou" now has been submitted to 10 different journals (all of which allow simultaneous submissions, of course).

Submitting is a difficult process, for me anyway. To send something that you've worked so hard on, and for so long, with the high likely-hood of rejection can be a blow to the ego.

If you write poems or short stories and are having a difficult time finding a publication that your piece might fit into check out Duotrope's Digest. This made my life so much easier, and hopefully once I'm making a little money I'll be able to donate to the site (it's entirely free). Duotrope's is massive index of journals, magazines and e-zines, is searchable by all sorts of criteria, and if you register it can help you keep track of all your submissions. Brilliant.

Using this, I searched and read about countless publications until I found 10 that I thought would fit my story. All of them had to allow simultaneous submissions, publish works over 6,000 words (about the length of "Lou") and have at least some possibility of being published in print (some are e-zines that publish a yearly anthology). Not all of them pay, some do, some just in contributor's copies.

So, as I hear back from them all, waits vary from 1 month to 6 months, I will report the responses and their dates, at Duotrope's and that will add to the publication's overall stats on the site.

My plan is this: once I have received five rejections, I will search out five more publications to send "Lou" to until someone sees its potential and buys it. Relentless.

On top of all this, I am writing a new story tentatively titled "Domestic Rat" and am job searching, applying, making follow-up calls, praying, hoping, listening to music (now playing: The Dillinger Escape Plan, "Miss Machine") and reading. Right now I'm reading PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon. It's a travel book of epic proportions and verbage, so it's taking some time. I'm loving it though. As soon as I finish you can find a review here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Close-Minded To Close-Mindedness

Today: a rant. If there is one thing that I'm intolerant of, it's close-mindedness. (Yes, I understand the irony of that sentence.) Let me begin by clearing up a couple of things. I do believe in absolute truths. I do believe that convictions are something that everyone should have. Relativistic truth is as ridiculous as many people's beliefs.


For the moment, I will keep from hyper-specifics, but someday I'm sure I'll lose it and spill it all. Two examples of close-mindedness that drive me crazy:

1. If someone believes something different than you, be it a religious belief or a differing scientific theory of sorts, don't automatically dismiss the other person as crazy or their views as preposterous without fully hearing them out. While I said that I believe in absolute truths, I don't claim that I know every exact truth (I could very well be wrong about many things) and it would be foolish of me to shun someone and shut them up without trying to understand their points of view. After hearing them out, I should then be able to make a sounder judgement, and if I still believe they are wrong I will have points from their argument to use against them. IT IS THE ULTIMATE FOOLISHNESS AND SELFISHNESS TO NOT LISTEN TO OTHERS.

2. In art (music, film, paintings, performance, sculpture, literature), how dare someone dismiss a movement or a technique or work as a whole without trying understand it's place in history and culture, and the artist's motivation. To completely dismiss Jackson Pollock's action painting as talentless trash is an uneducated statement. You don't have to like it. I'm not saying that you have to appreciate (as in enjoy) everything, but you should appreciate (as in respect) everything in its place. Certainly, you can critique technique when comparing to something similar. You can't compare Lady Gaga to Led Zeppelin, because they aren't trying to do the same thing. You can't compare Pollock's paintings to van Gogh's for the same reason.

Oh, and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you are sensitive to language or sex or violence in movies, don't dismiss a well-made film like "Crazy Heart" as terrible because a character has a drinking problem. Just because a piece of art, book, or movie involves and incorporates human immorality does not mean that it is condoning it (yes, I do know that some do condone, but be careful and respect the context).

There. Glad I got that off of my chest. I could go on, but I won't. Feel free to disagree. I love a good debate.