Drive Like You Stole It (Poem)

our spaces are filled up with so many useless notes,

coined by uninspired copywriters 

peddling you this

half-assed ideal of a better life
that has never been yours to

live anyhow
learn to live, learn to love, learn

to fuck, learn to chase the perfect

whiskey with an ice-cold beer
lose money at the poker table,

root for the wrong team, fall in love

with a dangerous woman. or a

dangerous man
drive like you stole it

oprah doesn’t give a fuck about you

The Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated…

It’s been a while, I know. Almost a year since I last posted something on this blog that’s been abandoned.

But some things have happened in the meantime…bought and moved into a new house, spent too much on new furniture, saw the new Star Wars movie three times, built a pretty sweet vinyl record collection – that’s a blog for another time, promise! – and turned 44 years old.

Oh, and my cat died. I miss him terribly.

Oh, and Donald Trump happened. Fuck that guy.

I would love to regale you with swashbuckling tales of literary madness, that I wrote a novel-length manuscript, got an agent, sold said manuscript to a publisher, and did a book reading tour in support of the book.

No, no, nope, and no. None of that happened. In fact, I stopped writing altogether.

I had some harsh conversations with myself about my writing. In short, I came to the realization that I don’t have the discipline (read: attention span) to write a full-length novel. Or a novella, for that matter. My writing comes in bursts, short threads that I can work with within a smaller confine, but this writing approach doesn’t work well when you’re trying to write 50,000 or more pages, then edit the fucking brute.

I would have seemed hypocritical from me to continue posting stuff on my blog about the “writing process” when I was failing miserably at it. About what little progress I was making. About how frustrating I found writing becoming.

So I gave up. No, not writing; posting on my blog.

What I did learn, much to my eternal surprise, is that I have a knack for poetry. Yup, poetry.

Why is this surprising? Because I used to hate poetry. HATE poety. HATED HATED HATED it. Honestly, it was personal biases that got in my way. Poetry always seemed soft and quaint, in the words of John Keating, something “to woo women with.” It wasn’t until I started reading what you can call “outlaw” poetry, i.e., the Beat Poets, Richard Brautigan, Sapphire, and, of course, Charles Bukowski, that I saw writing in riddles and codes, dancing with metaphors and similes, that’s when I was able to unlock why poetry matters.

I did find a community of poets and writers on Instagram, of all places, that willingly and openly shared their work. Since I was there already, I figured I would jump into the pool. My first attempts were tentative, small attempts at mimicking what I knew. The more work I read on IG, the more I felt confident about posting my own words. In the year or so that I began posting my poetry and micro-poetry on IG (more than 700 posts!), I’ve garnered a pretty sizable following, and have made strong connections with the poetry community on IG.

Time, then, to also start showcasing my poetry here.

Capture

I have no bold plans for this blog, nor do I have bold plans for my writing. I’m still writing poetry, which I will be posting here frequently (and thank you in advance for reading it; critiques are welcome, unabashed fandom is greatly recommended), and I’ll update my site on random thoughts and observations that come to mind. Just not politics, though; my political ranting days are over, and, besides, with the public cannibalism that goes for presidential campaigning these days, my teeth-gnashed rants are not the sort of thing I want to contribute. I’ll wear my politics on my sleeve and go about my business.

(Team Bernie, in case you’re wondering…)

I can’t promise exciting things, other than I’m helping out on an anthology that will hopefully see the light of day this spring, and putting together a collection I will self-publish before the year is through.

And fuck Donald Trump.

Thanks for reading. Talk soon.

.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

For those of us who are in our 40s and are constantly reminded that creativity is best suited and served for by those younger than us (see Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 List), here’s a reminder that just because you’re 45 and you still haven’t published that novel (or, worse yet, finished it) doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

The history of literature is rife with so-called “late bloomers,” writers who had the desire and the inklination to write, but never had a major work published until they turned 40 or later. Charles Bukowski didn’t publish his first novel, “Post Office,” until he was 51. Toni Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel was published. You get the idea.

We tend to romanticize this notion that youth is a requirement for producing major works of art, and while that may be the case in, say, music or visual art, it doesn’t lend itself that well to literature. Sure, you can write a great novel when you’re 25. But you can also write a masterpiece when you’re 50.

For more inspiration, there’s Bloom, “…for writers and artists of all ages and stages, for anyone who believes that the artistic journey is, and should be, as particular and unique as each one of us; that there is no prescribed beeline to literary achievement.”

I, for one, need to be reminded of this every day, and remember that it will never be too late for me to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer.

What “Sharknado” Teaches Us About Perseverance and the Power of Positive Thinking (Sort Of)

Last week, like many of you, I tuned in to watch Sharknado 2: The Second Coming.

 

 

Remember the names Anthony C. Ferrante and Thunder Levin. I’ll get to them in a bit…

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, the original Sharknado (in which a freak hurricane attacks Los Angeles, causing man-eating sharks to be scooped up into the storm by water spouts, thereby creating a “sharknado.”) because a huge cult phenomenon. Naturally, a sequel was immediately commissioned. I watched Sharknado. I laughed hysterically at how idiotic it all was. I watched Sharknado 2. I laughted even harder this time around.

But let’s be real here: Sharknado is beyond fucking stupid. It has plot holes the size of New York City manholes. The acting is deliberately awful. The special effects seem like they were designed on an iPad. And let’s not get into how beyond implausible the whole Sharknado thing is.

Implausible. Sure. But we love implausible. Consider the top grossing film at the box office this past weekend: an adaptation of an obscure comic book series about a misfit group of heroes, one of whom is a humanoid tree, the other a wise-cracking, gun-totting, genetically-modified raccoon. You read right. So lest anyone think we’re all about cinema verite, then Rocket Raccoon and his Guardian of the Galaxy mates proves we love premises that are bat-shit crazy (provided they keep us entertained AND don’t insult us), then surely the wink-wink insanity and sheer stupidity of the Sharknado films isn’t all that hard to swallow now, is it?

The point to Sharknado and its sequel isn’t art for the sake of art. It’s a glorious attempt at redefining what “bad” means, and by “bad,” I mean, “it’s so bad, it’s actually good!” Sharknado makes no bones about how stupid and brainless it is, and when Ian Ziering rips a shark apart with a six-foot chainsaw, you’re howling with glee. Why? Because there’s nothing cynical about the purpose behind Sharknado. Shit, why not be as insane as you can be, right? Why not be over-the-top, and do it with tongue firmly in cheek? See, the difference between this steaming pile of shit-sized fun and a $200 million dollar home movie like the Transformers films, directed by a 10-year-old for other like-minded and drooling 10-year-olds, is that Sharknado never takes itself so damned serious in the way Michael Bay wants to make the Citizen Kane of rock’em, sock’em robot films. That fucking idiot.

So what do the names Anthony C. Ferrante and Thunder Levin have to do with all this? Well, respectively, they’re the director and the screenwriter of the Sharknado films. They’re the creative (and that’s putting it mildly) geniuses behind these cult classics. They had an idea: a hurricane that somehow smashes into LA (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #1), which then sucks up all these man-eating sharks (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #2), the mashup which then creates a “sharknad0” (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #3). And not only did they see this idea through, some producer, probably a coked-up fellow just coming down a weekend binge with a few high-priced hookers, heard this idea and shook his fists at the heavens and shouted, AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, ‘SHARKNADO WILL FUCKING HAPPEN, BITCHES!

And then Ferrante and Levin got the green-light to see their creation come to life.

And then Ferrante and Levin got the green-light to see their creation come to life in a sequel! This time, where New York City gets bitch-slapped by the Mother of All Sharknadoes!

The cynics will scoff and declare that Sharknado proves anything gets made these days, and they’re right. For you, the writer, the artist, the creative, it proves that if something like Sharknado, with its emphasis on insane set pieces bordering on the shamelessly stupid and with tongue once again firmly in cheek, can see the light of day, then your work, the one you keep telling yourself is just too weird, too offbeat, and that no one wants to read, well, then think again.

Because if a screenplay involving man-eating sharks falling from the sky can get made, and spawn a sequel, then my novel, in which a suicidal woman embarks on a road trip with the protagonist from her favorite novels so she can convince the author to kill the protagonist, will not only be finished, but it will be published, and it will be read.

Scratch that. AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, MY NOVEL WILL NOT ONLY BE FINISHED, BUT IT WILL BE PUBLISHED, AND IT WILL BE READ, BITCHES!

Word.

And yes, there will be a Sharknado 3. Please please please let it happen in Miami. I’d pay money to see a Sharknado chomp on some over-tanned Euro-douches. Or Kim Kardashian.

Love is Like Peanut Butter (Writing 101, Day Ten)

When I was a boy, there was no food I loved more than peanut butter. Every boy and girl learns to fall in love with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but my love for peanut butter was such that I simply ditched the jelly and enjoyed one peanut butter sandwich after another.

Not a day went by that I didn’t eat one of these peanut butter sandwiches. On white bread. Sometimes my mother would pack one in my lunchbox. Or she’d have one waiting for me when I came home from school. I just didn’t like jelly, for some reason. Meh. I found it odd that kids would like eating a sandwich with two distinct and disparate flavors, but, hey, that was me.

When I went to junior high school, and I started eating cafeteria lunch – hooray for Sloppy Joe! – my love for peanut butter suddenly waned. Besides, peanut butter was for kids. I was a pre-teen now.

It got to where just the thought of peanut butter would actually make my stomach turn. Peanut butter is just nasty! Who eats that junk? Kids, that’s right! Well, I made a promise that if I were to ever become a parent, peanut butter would be forbidden in my household.

Except…

A couple of years after my daughter was born, when this would come into her sphere of interest, I suddenly became interested again in peanut butter. And not just peanut butter, but anything with peanut butter. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Peanut butter pie. A stalk of celery and a smear of peanut butter. And, yes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Whenever I have a craving for something sweet, I’ll look in the cupboards and reach for a jar of Skippy Creamy No-Stir Peanut Butter. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Almond Butter as well. Not quite as sweet as peanut butter, but just as delicious.

It’s like I’m trying to make up for a lot of lost time with a lost love.

All Aboard the Blog Train!

Not one, not two, but three writers have asked me to hop on the blog train. I was invited by Rebecca Douglass, the wonderful talent behind The Ninja Librarian, Kat Glover, who blogs over at Your Mama’s All Write, and Victoria Sawyer, who runs the terrific Angst blog, to take part in a blog train. The way the blog train works is pretty simple: the blogger that “rode the train” the week before writes a post answering three questions, and at the end of the blog, features three of their favorite bloggers. The featured bloggers keep the train a-rollin’ by doing the same a week later.

All three blogs are favorites of mine, and I enjoy reading their work and their takes on the everyday things that make you smile and gnash your teeth. If you’re not familiar with any of these blogs, it’s high time you got yourself familiar with them right now.

It’s my pleasure to take a ride on the blog train. ALL ABOARD!

Here now…The Questions!

1. What are you working on now?

Several things, actually. This blog, for example; I’m taking part in the Daily Post’s Writing 101 monthly writing prompt blog, posting a blog a day based upon their writing prompts. This has been a fun writing exercise for me in that it helps me flex my writing muscles and keep them moving. Nothing like muscle memorization to help you along, don’t you think? I also have several other blog posts I’m writing for the month – my weekly Friday List blog, an upcoming primer on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and definitely the random blog on what’s on my mind at the moment.

The work-in-progress that’s currently keeping me occupied is a full-length “upmarket fiction” (i.e. – a hybrid literary/commercial fiction work) novel about a suicidal woman who embarks on a road trip across 1990’s America with a fictional character. It’s pleasantly insane, which is why it’s kept my interest: there are always more layers of crazy to unpeel, and I’m having fun doing that.

I also have several pieces of short fiction that I’m polishing up and submitting either for competition or just to answer an open call for submissions.

Finally, I’m collaborating with fellow writers on judging entries for an anthology, and I’ve volunteered to copy edit another anthology.

 

2. How does your work differ from others of the genre?

My work differs not so much from others of the genre, but from other writers I’ve met so far. I don’t like the “genre” label because it implies limitations, so I much prefer to work without any preconceived confines. I do like the idea of “upmarket fiction,” which takes the best of both the literary and commercial fiction worlds, neither of which I have a preference for, but both whom feature very strong writing.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because, honestly, no one else is writing this. I write what I want to read, simple as that.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

I wish I had an actual process, you know, where I wake up in the morning, fix myself a pot of coffee, sharpen about 10 pencils, and get to writing. But I have a demanding job that takes up more than 40 hours per week, and I’m a husband and a parent. So when I write, I often have to use pockets of time throughout the day and simply make the best of it. When work wasn’t as demanding, I had more time in the day to write.

The thing is, I’m constantly plotting, jotting notes down, keeping the fires going. So that’s a process, right?

 

Now, for the other three that are coming along for the ride…

1. Tracy Cembor and I share something in common: she too finds the time to write, whether it’s a few scribbles or a thousand words, while balancing the demands of a full-time job AND being a parent. She shares her insights, her triumphs and her setbacks, all with a great attitude, over at her blog site. She’s well-worth the discovery, people!

2. M.L. Swift is a riot. His “About” page is exactly the way an About Page should be written. He’s funny and incisive and extremely generous. I’ve been a big fan of his blog and have enjoyed bantering with him on all kinds of topics over the past couple of years.

3. Bud Smith…well, shit, if you don’t know him or his writing, it’s your loss, pal. Seriously. Your. Loss.

 

 

How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating and Fall in Love With My Work-in-Progress Again

Yesterday, I rediscovered what it was like to get lost inside a work-in-progress again, and feel excited by the prospect of it all.

All the interruptions in life meant several things that were near and dear to me were sacrificed. One of those being my work-in-progress. The truth is I could have made the time, but the more distance I gave the WIP, the easier it became to ignore it, and that’s simply a cardinal sin a writer shouldn’t commit. Whatever excuses I made – and there were plenty, and all we’re legit reasons – there was likely nothing that would have prevented me from taking even fifteen minutes to jot down some notes or flesh out a character or sketch a scene.

Regardless…

For some reason, I have no idea why, I was thinking about baseball, and I had remembered this one elderly man who worked the security desk at the building I worked in when I was a Pfizer employee from ’94 to ’00. In addition to working the security desk, he had a unique second job: he worked for the New York Yankees, as the greeter at George Steinbrenner’s private suite at Yankee Stadium. Pete was his name, and he was constantly yapping about his beloved Yankees (a source of annoyance for this long-time Mets fan: OH SHUT UP), and sometimes he was WAY OFF about his opinions. For example, right before the ’96 season got started:

“Not sure what Mr. Steinbrenner’s soon’ hirin’ Joe Torre. He couldn’t win anywhere. He might be fired by the All-Star break!”

Torre won nearly 1500 games and 4 World Series.

Also, same conversation:

“This new shortstop’s not all that good, Jeter. He’ll end up in the minors not too long.”

OOPS. When Derek Jeter retires at the end of the 2014 season, he’ll be the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, runs scored, and games played, and perhaps the most beloved Yankee since Mickey Mantle.

Just goes to show we can’t always be right.

When I thought about Pete, I thought about some of the blowhards, both men and women, that I’d worked with. There was some background I felt that was essential that was missing so far from my WIP, namely my protagonist’s professional life. What she did for a living was as important as who she works with. I thought these past experiences of mine would make for good details to plug in, and see where the story leads me. I was eager to do some plugging and revisit my WIP.

But being that yesterday was Memorial Day, with swimming pools and gas grills galore, my day was going to get monopolized by all things Memorial Day. My daughter was itching up get to the pool. I was itching to get some writing.

Compromise: I took my daughter to the pool, and while she splish-splashed with her friends, I wrote 5 pages longhand in my notebook, lounging on a deck chair. 907 words in two hours’ time, just letting the words flow while the sun was beating down on me. I didn’t stop to edit, I didn’t make notes about what I wanted to write. I just wrote. What took place kinda reminded me of this picture I once saw of Hunter S. Thompson, before he became the legendary gonzo journalist:

(I swear, I was doing the same exact thing: notepad, beer, shorts, bare feet. Maybe there is something to writing in the sunshine, huh?)

I’m setting some time aside tonight – after this blog gets posted – to capitalize on the momentum I’ve suddenly picked up, now that I’ve rekindled my love affair with my work-in-progress. More importantly, it’s essential to me that regardless of the amount of time I set aside each day, whether it’s fifteen minutes or a few hours, those are the moments I should most take advantage of. There’s a work-in-progress that’s been neglected for too long, and it’s time I give it the full attention it truly deserves.

This should be fun.

Guest Post – “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream” by Rebecca Douglass

For the next installment in the Out Where the Buses Don’t Run Guest Blog Post Series, we now turn our attention to author and librarian Rebecca Douglass. Rebecca and I met on Goodreads a while back, and we’ve maintained our friend both there and through each others’ blogs.

She’s recently self-published another book, called “Death By Ice Cream.”

DeathByIceCream_FrontOnly

The synopsis of “Death By Ice Cream”:

Pismawallops Island is a quiet place where nothing much happens, even at the High School.  That’s why JJ MacGregor likes it.  When a high-handed new member of the PTA threatens to disrupt the even tenor of life in the middle of Puget Sound, JJ wants someone to take a firm stand against her.  But when Letitia Lemoine shows up very dead in the freezer where there should have been 30 boxes of ice cream bars, JJ worries that someone might have taken her command too seriously.  Not the sort to sit back while someone else solves her problems, JJ just can’t help asking a few questions.  But someone wants her to stop—and an acerbic sense of humor, insatiable curiosity, and carefully hidden dedication to duty lead her into more trouble than she knows how to handle.

Like any good writer, Rebecca looks back at the experience in writing “Death By Ice Cream” and recognizes there are some lessons to be learned. In her guest blog post, “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream’,” Rebecca shares those lessons learned. I think we as writers can take a lot from what she’s learned. Not to mention she’s learned all this while retaining both a great sense of humor and some humility to boot.

Her bio:

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  Her books include the tall tales for all ages, The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners.   Rebecca likes to spend her time outdoors, when not writing or working to make the schools the best they can be.  She spends her free time bicycling and running, and her vacations hiking, camping and backpacking.

rd author photo

Blog: http://ninjalibrarian.com

Book purchase links of all kinds: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html

At any rate, here’s Rebecca’s guest post. Thanks to Rebecca for writing this and sharing!

________________________________________________________________

5 things I learned writing Death By Ice Cream

  1.  It’s best not to take ten years to draft a novel.
    This is particularly true if you don’t have an outline. I should have learned this with my first, mercifully unpublished, mystery. Often months went by between times I worked on it, and I would forget what had happened, not to mention where I was going. Death By Ice Cream was also originally drafted (though somewhat faster) before I committed to writing daily. Let’s just say it took a lot of work to create the tight, coherent story I wanted. So what I’ve learned, in all seriousness, is to work every day. A writer writes.
  2. If you love something about the story, it’s worth saving.
    I learned this from my editor, Inge Lamboo. I took her a draft resurrected from the files where it had languished since I’d given up shopping it to agents, and told her I wondered if it was worth trying to salvage. I thought about just taking the characters I loved and start over. She told me that if I loved the characters, the book would be worth working on. She was completely right. It wasn’t easy, but I not only loved the main characters but also the setting, so the process was rewarding, and the end product a book to be proud of.
  3. It may not be easier to write your mystery using an outline, but it’ll be a poodle-load easier to edit.
    Actually, I haven’t really tested this, yet (only the writing part, since I’ve drafted the sequel, Death By Trombone, with an outline, mostly). But it can’t make it any worse. And honestly, it was easier to write the first draft knowing who did it and why. But an outline doesn’t have to be a bunch of Roman numerals in a cascade. My “outline” was more a series of questions: who’s dead? Who found him? Who might have done it? Who did do it? Why? And will JJ’s love life ever improve? By the time I had answered most of these questions, I had a whole lot more—and also both a substantial back-story and a good idea where the novel would go and how it would get there.
  4. Everyone’s lying.
    The best advice I ever picked up (wherever I did pick it up, and I don’t remember now) was that everyone’s lying. This is probably true in any kind of novel—everyone has their secrets, and that’s what makes them interesting and complex. It’s doubly true in a mystery, where it’s all those lies about unrelated things that make it so hard for the sleuth to find the important lie. But it was surprisingly hard for me to do. I tend to write in a straight line, and make my characters honest upstanding citizens. Well, most are, but that never stopped them from lying.
  5. Most importantly, I learned I can do it.
    I can write a mystery that completely works. I was never sure I could, up until a reader with an ARC reported back that she read the whole thing in one sitting. That only happens if you’ve done something right. I’m looking forward to doing it again. And again. Because, despite the agony of editing and the gloom of sales and marketing, writing is the best job I can think of, and I’m one lucky lady to be able to do it.