Sunday, November 30, 2008

an email I recieved from a world famous author

Dear Frank,

You're a fool. You know that, don't you? Because only a fool would try a stunt as crazy as this. You want to write a 50,000 word novel in one month?! Do you have sawdust in your skull? When there are so many other more useful things you could be doing, like cleaning up the house and yard, taking a correspondence course in Chinese, or contributing your time and effort to a charitable cause? Whatever is possessing you?

Consider the first card of the Tarot deck, titled The Fool. There's this young man traipsing along with a small dog at his heel, toting a bag of his worldly goods on the end of his wooden staff, carrying a flower in his other hand, gazing raptly at the sky—and about to step off a cliff, because he isn't watching his feet. A fool indeed. Does this feel familiar? It should. You're doing much the same thing. What made you ever think you could bat out a bad book like that, let alone write anything readable?

So are you going to give up this folly and focus on reality before you step off the cliff? No? Are you sure? Even though you know you are about to confirm the suspicion of your dubious relatives, several acquaintances, and fewer friends that you never are going to amount to anything more than a dank hill of beans? That you're too damned oink-headed to rise to the level of the very lowest rung of common sense?

Sigh. You're a lost soul. So there's no help for it but to join the lowly company of the other aspect of The Fool. Because the fact is, that Fool is a Dreamer, and it is Dreamers who ultimately make life worthwhile for the unimaginative rest of us. Dreamers consider the wider universe. Dreamers build cathedrals, shape fine sculptures, and yes, generate literature. Dreamers are the artists who provide our rapacious species with some faint evidence of nobility.

So maybe you won't be a successful novelist, or even a good one. At least you are trying. T hat, would you believe, puts you in a rarefied one percent of our kind. Maybe less than that. You aspire to something better than the normal rat race. You may not accomplish much, but it's the attitude that counts. As with mutations: 99% of them are bad and don't survive, but the 1% that are better are responsible for the evolution of species to a more fit state. You know the odds are against you, but who knows? If you don't try, you'll never be sure whether you might, just maybe, possibly, have done it. So you do have to make the effort, or be forever condemned in your own bleary eyes.

Actually, 50,000 words isn't hard. You can write “Damn!” 50,000 times. Oh, you want a readable story! That will be more of a challenge. But you know, it can be done. In my heyday, before my wife's health declined and I took over meals and chores, I routinely wrote 3,000 words a day, taking two days a week off to answer fan mail, and 60,000 words a month was par. Now I try for 1,500 and hope for 2,000. That will do it. If you write that much each day, minimum, and go over some days, you will have your quota in the month. On the 10th of the month of August, 2008, I started writing my Xanth novel Knot Gneiss, about the challenge of a boulder that turns out to be not stone but a huge petrified knot of reverse wood that terrifies anyone who approaches it. Petrified = terrified, get it? And by the 30th I had 35,000 words. That's the same pace. If I can do it in my doddering old age—I'm 74—you can do it in your relative youth.

Of course you need ideas. You can garner them from anywhere. I noticed that our daily newspaper comes in a plastic bag that is knotted. The knot's too tight to undo without a lot of effort, so I just rip it open to get at the goodies inside. It's a nuisance; I wish they'd leave it loose. But I thought, maybe there's this cute delivery girl who has a crush on me, and she ties a love -knot to let me know. Not that at my age I'd know what to do with a real live girl, but it's still a fun fantasy. Okay, there's an idea. I could use it in my fiction. Maybe even in a Pep Talk. The mundane world has provided me with an opening. It will do the same for you, if you're alert.

Here's a secret: fictive text doesn't necessary flow easily. Most of the time it's more like cutting a highway through a mountain. You just have to keep working with your pick, chipping away at the rock, making slow progress. It may not be pretty at first. Prettiness doesn't come until later, at the polishing stage, which is outside your month. You just have to get it done by brute force if necessary. So maybe your ongoing story isn't very original. That's okay, for this. Just get it done. Originality can be more in the eye of the reader than in any objective assessment.

You can make it from a standing start, even from a foolish daydream when you should have been paying attention to the Pep Talk. You will want to try for a bit more quality, of course, and maybe a spot of realism. Garner an Idea, assemble some Characters, find a suitable place to start, and turn them loose in your imagination. Now go home and start your engines!

Piers

PIers Anthony is the author of the Xanth series. You can learn more about him and his work by visiting his website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The first ten things I could think of to be thankful for

These are in order of how they came to me.
1) Thank God, America has voted for a new direction

2) Thank you for falling gas prices (last low price I have seen is 1.69 per gallon)

3) Thank God for Walt's grocery store and their discounted for quick sale stuff

4) Thank God for Connie French for inviting us over for dinner today

5) Thank God for the people who love to write

6) Thank God for Blogger.com providing blogging spots for us cheap people who love to write

7) Thank God for the internet. It was one of the few places where people could speak honestly and where the real truth could come out (not the WordSpeak that TV, radio, newspapers have dumped on us)

8) Thank God Jewel (our first stop) had a stack of today's papers. I did not want to go driving around looking for a newspaper all morning.

9) Thank God for coffee. 'nuff said.

10) Thank God this item list is over.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I found this website amusing

I googled parody and got this website.

Get a first life

The authors assume that anyone taking the time to read that website would be better off doing something else, like having a first life. I had to look at the website twice before I figured that out. Must be Canadian humor.
I think it is run by Canadians.
I find the idea of having a second or third life is much better than just the current first life I am in. The world is full of things built to distract you from your first life (ie, beer, television, iPods,and of course infomercials) Does life get better if you have designer stuff ? Paris Hilton thinks so -( but that is assuming that Paris Hilton thinks). Would I be better off if I lived in Tahiti ? I think so but know I would be bringing all the baggage that is me along so it might not be any better. Where is this essay going - Nowhere - I do not know why you thought it would make sense but perhaps you didn't - in which case you are happy now because NOW you know (by admission from the author) that this makes no sense. And since this piece makes no sense - it reflects how I feel about my first life - so there I guess it does have a point - not a very good one but hey at least I tried. (Isn't that what Hitler said ?)
The older I get, the less enthused I am about trying to change my life - too much work I think - and that is usually enough to keep me from doing whatever it is I thought about doing. When I was young, there was not too much I wanted to keep the same so change was easy. But now, I feel that there just is too much in my life - I don't mind change one thing but the idea of a domino effect is daunting - I think it becomes too much work - so I settle for changing the interior world where change is much less daunting - hard yes - but much less daunting.
So call me -
Daunte ( in ferno)

Frank

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Election Results from Bumville

In one of the most uncontested contests of election night, a stunning victory was declared last night for the dark horse candidate. The contest was of course for the mayor of Bumville, a position that up until this year nobody wanted. With the rumors swirling about that Bumville would get an Indian casino, two candidates for mayor appeared from nowhere:
Mr. Smith representing the Blue party   and 
Mr. Jones representing the Red party.
After a long and arduous campaign, in which both candidates were revealed to have been in bed with BIg Oyle, the election finally produced a winner:
Barracks O'Bummer who as previously mentioned was the dark horse candidate simply because he owned a dark horse (actually an unwashed Irish wolfhound).  Mr. O'Bummer was sleeping in his home (the abandoned barracks of the abandoned Nike missile site for which Mr. O'Bummer was named or nicknamed as the case might be) which was also Bumville's only polling place, when he awoke from a drunken stupor, got up and went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet, and went back to bed. 
BUT in actuality, Mr. O'Bummer cast the only vote in the mayoral election and thus became Bumville's newest mayor. In retospect, Mr. O'Bummer thought it was odd that someone gave him reading material as he was entering the bathroom but the quiz on it was something he could do as it featured only one question - choose the new mayor. Mr. O'Bummer stated afterward that he thought it was a contest application and thus filled in his name in the space provided. He finished his business and gave the paper back to the person who had given it to him. Afterwards poll workers noticed that booth number one had a very unpleasant smell to it and as this was the only voting booth in Bumville, someone would have to clean the booth before voting could continue. And since no one wanted to, the election was ended there and Mr. O'Bummer was declared the winner.
In a side note: Mr. O'Bummer's dog (whom he calls his running mate because he is Australian and that means the dog is his buddy whom he runs with) is named Hillary.
Reporting from Bumville - this is CNN (the Cynical News Network)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sheila and the Shaman

Sheila had spent years with hermit-like tribesman of this remote south sea island, and thus was treated as if she belonged. She had washed up on the island after her boat sank, and being an easy going, loving, kind person by nature she had no trouble making the tribesmen her friends.
One day, she got sick and was the custom, her friends took her to see the shaman. He cured her in no time fast and as was her nature, she first became friends with the shaman and then his apprentice.
He had a large assortment of medicines some of which he made from the remains of the dead that washed up on the island. For some reason, a lot of boats and planes crashed nearby the island and there almost never any survivors. Sheila had been the only one to survive in the last ten years. She was considered a good luck gift from the gods. Tribesmen believed if they touched her once a day things would be good and if she touched them things would be great that day.
One day, the shaman told Sheila she could have any one medicine or potion that he had made for free. Normally, the shaman would charge for his potions in jingos depending on how hard it was to make.
A jingo was the local currency and was roughly 'one favor.'
Sheila asked the shaman what was the most expensive potion he had.
“This,” he said thrusting a small vial in her hands. “It is made from the remains of American Cruise Ship passengers. They were what you say 'Republican Conservatives' . It is a heart potion. It opens your heart and you feel the love of the universe. You feel compassion and love for everyone. I charge 1000 jingos for it.”
“Wow,” said Sheila, “is it very strong ?”
“No,” said the shaman, “it is very weak, in fact it is the weakest heart potion I have.”
“Then why is it the most expensive.”
“Because of the work I have to do to find the essence of love and compassion in these people.”

The end – feel free to substitute 'Republican Conservatives' for any other group you might want to slander

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

two more 100 word stories

Two women were talking in an outdoor cafe. They were completely unaware that in two minutes their lives would change drastically but in their defense who of us is aware enough to sense that something important is about to happen.
Pearl, the younger of the two women, took a sip of her coffee.
“EUU” she said. She stared at her coffee.
“What is it ?” asked Maureen.
“I think there’s something in my coffee.” She stuck her finger in the cup which was half-full. She pulled out a diamond ring.
At that moment, the waiter appeared at their table looking flustered.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The car raced down the highway. Inside, a woman was screaming at the driver.
“Where the hell are you taking me ? Do you know who I am ?” she stared at the driver looking for some sort of acknowledgement of her tirade. The driver bent his head down to look at the speedometer, then turned on his turn signal.
“I am your goddamm master.” screamed the woman.
The car screached to halt in front of the St. Mary’s ER entrance. Instantly, a team of interns rushed forward and took the woman away.
“Good dog” said the lead intern to the driver.

What's inside ypu ?

Day three or four (I am losing track) of 1000 words of hell

It is early (for me) morning. I have my faithful cup of coffee and I am ready. For what I do not know, I guess I am ready to face the day, but not this task. I look around for things to write about but sadly there are none. Mere mortals might be stymied but mere mortals do not have the imagination that I have. Sensory depravation means nothing to me - I can go inside and go inside I will. I am careful not to wake my inner sloth, because the lord knows what he won’t do if awoke.
There is a theory of psychology which proposes that we human have inside of us our whole family in symbolic form. Some symbols can be the critic, the boss, the nurturing parent, and so on. My particular inner symbols are, I think, unique and since I have quite a few lines and words left to type into today, I will present a few of the more unusual ones I have.
At this moment in life, I would say my foremost inner symbol is . . . the Sloth. He looks like a cross between my father (in his worst beer guzzling, lazy boy lounging, nap taking days) and the actually animal which hangs from trees. In my symbolic landscape, my inner sloth lays in a hammock sleeping, snoring with a beer can in hand. The beer can is bottomless and thus can be used as a sleep inducing agent should my sloth ever wake up. You would think that a lot of beer drinking would evoke a need for my inner sloth to get up and relieve himself but alas this is a magical landscape inside of me and that need (like the sloth) never arises. Overall, the sloth’s duties include making sure I, the body and soul of me, never do too much. He is pretty much all threat and no action but for some reason I obey his whims. Probably because it doesn’t take much to keep him happy. Just do next to nothing.
The second important symbol within is JavaJoeBean the goddess of coffee. She is much like the greek goddesses of old, in the fact that she is good looking (vain and superficial), fickle (she can be loving as in the warm sweet first cup in the morning or she can be spiteful as in there is no more coffee except the old cold remains of a cup I poured about an hour ago, drank half of and forgot knowing the inner sloth will not allow me to make more coffee or nuke this coffee - she wants to show me who is boss and how low I will go to sate my coffee craving), mercurial (one moment she wants to be noticed, the next she wants to be adored, the next she wants me to beg for more and sometimes (rarely) she (gasp) wants to be left alone), and like Hecate she can be witchy (she certainly has a spell cast on me).
The next inner symbol that comes to mind is Doctor Dreamer, who unlike his name is not a healer, a medical man, a medicine man or a shaman. The Doc is THEE COOL DUDE and has adapted the moniker Doctor to signify how cool he is (ala DR. DRE, Doctor Who, Doctor Spock, Doctor Dementia . . .) - Currently the doctor’s first name (he changes it if the coolness factor of the name wears off) is Chad. I do know know why but that is the way of the Doctor. His two catch-phrases are ‘cool’ and ‘not cool’. That is how he tells me if something is worth pursuing or not. Currently, he thinks that writing 1000 words a day is cool because . . . well do you really have to have a reason ? Isn’t cool just cool ? This is the Tao of the Doctor. Keep on Cooling.
That leads me to the meanest, nastiest inner symbol I have - the TaoMaster. The TaoMaster goes with the flow, is in harmony with the universe, and will do anything to make me that way too, including dirty tricks that would put republicans to shame. The TaoMaster currently is waging a cold war against JavaJoeBean because he wants me to meditate more and not to meditate on coffee or contemplate the mystical nature of coffee or even hesitate to meditate because of my wanting coffee. He maintains that heaven (or nirvana) does not have a coffee machine to which JavaJoeBean scoffs “It does not sound like heaven to me.” Many are the times in which inside of me at the symbolic break room (the door to the symbolic break room reads : Internal Symbols only” in large golden letters and a note below it written in small barely readable print: “Has anyone found a can of beer, bottomless, can be any brand except XX. Contact Inner Sloth at Sleep Research Center, main hammock. P.S. don’t wake me just put can back in my hand. Below that there is another note - Can anyone give me a ride to the brain ? I will be willing to split gas and food costs - It is signed “IDea Man”. Below that there is another note which asks Symbols to please stop posting notes on the breakroom door. It is signed Cleaning Lady from Hell. ) there is a food fight going on - on one side TaoMaster is lobbing day old, moldy pithy sayings which have a way of clinging onto anything somewhat like peanut butter mixed with crazy glue and on the other side, JavaJoeBean has a super soaker bottomless squirt gun filled with double espresso laced coffee. This fight has been lasting for months now, in mornings JavaJoeBean has the advantage and at night TaoMaster rules until the inner sloth makes everyone go to sleep which leaves afternoons as the battle ground. But today is different, today I am actually going into the inner Symbol breakroom and put a stop to this fighting because . . .
The Word Count for today has exceeded 1000 words - and thus that signals the end.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too much coffee - day 2 of 1000 word challenge

1000 word task Part two - the day after

There is a writer’s website that challenges writer’s to write 1500 words per day and make them make sense and make them part of a continuing story (I am presuming the story is your own). I forget the name of the website (mostly because my brain strives to keep me from trying to do insane things such as the previously mentioned challenge). I was at an open mike night held monthly at a local library when the main speaker (an actual published poet) asked if any one had any questions. One person in the audiance of ten or so, asked if she, the published poet, wrote everyday. She said no. (which was what my inner sloth wanted to hear) But then she said she knew of a website run by a writer’s group that challenged writers to do what I have described in the first sentence of this essay. I promptly wrote down the name of that website and my subconscious decided such knowledge could be dangerous so I washed it in the last load of laundry.
I guess that I could Google ‘writer’s groups’ or ‘1500 word challenge’ but up till now I have resisted the urge. Why ? Because doing anything everyday other than eating or breathing makes that activity seem like work and work takes the fun out of anything, especially what your are working on. I think that writing is fun so I never want to view it as work. But the reality is that my mind wanders so much that if I do not have a schedule or routine I wind up not doing things I want to do. Many are the days (lately) that I have forgotten to eat breakfast and lunch.
I begin to notice this around three or four in the afternoon when I start to run down. A routine that I do have is drinking coffee.
I know that should cut down to about three pots a day but I can’t especially in this modern day world where there are two coffee shops per mile, coffee shops in bookstores, and even coffeeshops in department stores/malls . I feel like a heroin addict in a poppyfield. I have to have my fix.
I am not the trendy, new age type of coffee snob. I drink black coffee, no sugar, no cream, no sweet ‘n low, no alcohol, and no shots of espresso. I drank black coffee back in the days when it was fifty cents a cup and the cup was bottomless. (and gas was under a buck a gallon). I don’t think that Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts coffee is better coffee than that brewed at home. I drink coffee hot, luke-warm (is there such a thing as Matthew-warm, Mark-warm or John-warm ?) or cold. I drink cowboy coffee (grounds included in the cup), over-brewed coffee (thats been sitting there all day), and instant coffee. I even will drink Decaf. I got to have my fix.
I once had a friend who tried to help me go cold turkey on my coffee habit. She said that an herbal tea called Mate (accent over the e, pronounced Mah-tay) cuts the craving for caffeine. What she did not know was that I do not have a caffeine addiction, I have a COFFEE addiction. She locked me in a room with nothing but pillows and that foul hebal brew and waited as I went through my withdrawal. It was not a pretty site.
I raved and I craved. I even tried to drink the herbal stuff but like a kid who was promised candy and given vegetables (not good vegetables either, icky ones like creamed spinach and turnips) I spit it out immediately. I cursed, I pleaded, I rolled on the floor in agony. I felt like my head was going to explode (and that was all in the first two minutes). I ranted, and I began to see things (I saw cups of ghostly coffee floating in the room but like king Tantalus, I was not able to reach them). I cried. I felt myself turning into an animal (an aardvark I think). I blacked out.
When I came to I found myself in an unearthly place, room filled with brilliant white light and sweet harp music. There was a beautiful woman dressed in white, she had wings and radiant yellow hair.
“Welcome.” she said without speaking, “I am Javajoebean, the goddess of coffee.” She waved her hand and there appeared a beautiful white table and on that table was an urn made of the finest silver and in that urn was the wake-up drink of the gods - coffee. Somehow I knew all this instantly. “All this is yours.” I was in heaven.
But then I noticed something - something awful - there were no cups. The moment I realized this I knew - I wasn’t in heaven, I was in hell. She laughed a nasty laugh and shouted so loud my ears hurt.
“NO MORE COFFEE FOR YOU!”
She began to sing: (to the tune of NO TIME LEFT FOR YOU by the Guess Who)
No more Coffee for you, no more coffee for you .You got got got no coffee, no coffee, no coffee. No coffee for you who who who (repeated over and over again)
I fell onto the floor in an uncontrollable spasm, my stomach felt as if I was gut-punched. Something alien was inside of it trying to break its way out. It was my inner sloth. He poked his head through and told the goddess to turn down the music, some people are trying to sleep here, gosh darn it. (Editor’s note: the last three words before this editor’s note have been edited to make this story PG (politically good) The truth is that what the sloth really said made the goddess’s ears burn and eyes cry and mouth hang open in a combination of horror and surprise that a sloth could speak such words or even speak at all or even be awake). At that moment, I blacked out.
I woke up in bed alone drenched in sweat. There was a note pinned to the pillow. It said:
You have finished typing 1000 words today.
The END.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Daily Task - part one

One Thousand Silly Words

I thought that I would take up the challenge of National Blog Month (to write everyday in my blog) but I am lazy and slow so it has taken me up until now to get started. This might be a blessing though because I was in a negative mood up until a few days ago. I have Lin Kautz to thank for getting me out of my lazy negative mood. Thank you Lin.
I have decided to write a thousand words each day on my blog. A thousand words may seem like a lot but it is only a lot if you use big words and if you are trying to make sense. I am not used to doing either so I figure that it will be a breeze - less than 45 minutes worth of labor per day. Using the 30 words per minute rule and the mandatory 2 coffee breaks plus potty break, I figure that I can do this task in one 1 hour slice of the day. I f I try to do this two slices, say one in the morning and one at the stroke of midnight, I think each segment will be about 45 minutes long ang I do not want to drink coffee at midnight so I will try for one segment.
All of which is the details on my task at hand but it is also something intolerable (for the reader at least) - it is boring. So how do I make this article worthy of reading ? Actually, worthy of reading is a little on the high side of expectations, perhaps, a better goal would be to make this piece not god-awful-puke-enducing-gut-rendering bad. It may be tough but I think I can do it. I have wriiten over three hundred words at this moment. And I have not had a coffee break (since there was none in the pot and I am too lazy to make more). Thus I have not had to take a potty break either - but since my mind is not used to focusing on a single task for more than 12 minutes, I have had to bring myself back to writing this piece from - PAINTING. That’s right - I was painting - not the walls but a frame that I wanted to use in Bev’s next show. The last frame I painted is now gone - sold to some drunken woman who thought it looked so cool (the piece of Bev’s art that was in the frame is what she was refering to) but the idea is that the frame was made to look unabtrusive (indistnct, not taking away from the painting) and that was accomplished. Never once did the woman mention how (wonderful, awful, boring, sick, colorful, or sensational) the frame was. Mission accomplished!
But I need to get my thoughts and focus back onto this impossible task of writng 1000 words. Actually, I don’t need to get my focus back here because it rarely ever is here. And I still seem to be typing these words. I am thinking of what to write next and that is never a good sign when the article is only half-done. I blame that upon my getting my focus back here. If I was thinking about writing a story I would be thinking of that story and not how many words I have written. How horrible to think that I will try to do this everyday for at least a month. Yes, I am already thinking of reasons why I should not do this ever again and then I am thinking of reasons why I should stop this attempt and maybe, just maybe start again tomorrow when I will be in a much better mood to think clearly and type better and the sun will be shining and life will be wonderful - but then reality comes into play - I will have to be in two places tomorrow - one in the afternoon and one in the evening and I will have to be in a place tonight so this idea really will be a challenge.
I also have to prepare for my class on wednesday and I have to prepare for thing on Sunday - something about classes in the winter - I also have to go to a reiki share on Sunday. Hey, who filled in my calendar ? Suddenly, Bev appears and begins planning tomorrow and suddenly I realize who filled in my calendar, me. Why would I do such thing, make me so busy ?
I think that I do not plan ahead and I think that I say yes far too often for my work ethic (which is virtually unmeasurable at least by the human eye). By saying yes, I agree to do something and doing something always makes my inner sloth roll over in its sleep. My inner sloth might be pissed at me but I will not know until he wakes up which is almost never. So I am left to follow my whims which leads me to think such horrible thoughts as ‘I think that sounds cool’ which leads me to actual make commitments to other people and then I am trapped (mostly by Bev) into fulfilling those commitments. And then I get tired and put forth a crappy effort which is what this is. So I can make one of two conclusions - one, that I will never do more than two days of this writing one thousand words and two, I am tired already thinking about the stuff I have to do today and the rest of the week.
I have just checked my word count and I have typed in about 945 words (can you believe it ?) There is no way that I am counting these words myself, I am trusting the software of this computer (I click on word count (after I click on writing tools) and it tells me not only how many words I have typed in so far but also how many lines, characters, pages, and paragraphs (none of which I am going to count myself to check on the fallibility of the computer)). But the last check said I was way over 1000 (1035 actually) so I guess I have to finish - gee I was just getting warmed up.

About Me

I am a crabby old man who hates everything
or
I am a tiny wonderer in a large world
or
I am a young hippie tree-hugger
or
I am a mid-life crisis disaster area.
or
I am an attitude of stillness waiting for a wind.
or
I have not decided yet.