Monday, October 30, 2017

Here's A Noose. What's Your Hurry?

(WARNING: What follows isn't book or writing or media related.  It's personal.  Delivered with all the usual charm.  But it's about the dread S.H.)

I hate having my picture taken.  I know what I look like.  I know what my voice sounds like.  Neither pleases me.  I am still gobsmacked that my wife married me.  The wedding photos show a luminous bride.  The groom looks like the guy the neighborhood kids are 75% certain is a serial killer.  


Enrolled in a metro driver class, the problem put before the students involved figuring out a desired route or destination when the bus passenger at hand might have a speech impediment.  Solution: You let the passenger use her or his finger to write the relevant number on your palm.  

As a test, to see how sensitive our palms proved, the class instructor had each table pair proceed to palm write.  I wrote in the palm of my classmate.  She got every number.  Swell.  Her turn.  She wrote 5.  Yep.  Got it.  17.  Sure.  Then...69.  With a pause.  And a little sidelong glance to see if I 'got' it.

The metro class was a time-intensive endeavor.  Basically, you got shot through the chute to try and take a CDL test determining whether or not you had the right stuff or not.  Almost all of us were working full-time jobs while taking the class.  A little harmless sex joke didn't seem appropriate to bump up into kerfluffle form.  Also, as though I can't stress it enough, I am not a good looking guy.  If anything I believe sexual advances made towards me are made for the simple reason my default setting is looking uncomfortable.  I guess some people just want to up the ante and pop the uncomfortable into the red with a little squirm thrown in for flavor.  

For years (and years and years and years and sweet Jesus, years) I worked in the retail book world in the general Seattle-area, all for the same company.  

I encountered three instances of sexual harassment at 2 of 3 locations, and the harassment I encountered/endured/dealt with sourced from female co-workers.  

In the first instance, the unwanted advances/jokes were directed both at me and another male co-worker (we'll call him Connor).  Connor and I approached our boss, informed the boss of the goings-on, and agreed we'd try to defuse the situation on our own before opening the human resources can of worms.  The can, I'm still happy to say to this day, remained unopened.  I don't know what particularly drove my female co-worker into her temporary madness, but she's still someone I miss, and over time have come to admire for her fine works outside retail-Hell. 

The other two instances I'll thumbnail.

One, basically at a workstation by ourselves, a female co-worker let me know how much she enjoyed anal sex with an understated offer for partaking in the activity.  There was no provocation other than the Casual Conversation Muse was having a glitch of unfortunate proportions.

Two, another female co-worker, on multiple occasions, let me know how much she enjoyed oral sex - receiving and performing.  

In one of the above instances, the co-worker would get a pass from most people, even management, even the most rod-up-their-butt human resources expert for the simple existence of outstanding health issues.  It's what I think of as the Ewok Effect.  

Take any issue of the day, and insert an Ewok, and the scoundrel in the crosshairs is suddenly sympathetic.  Think of Hitler.  But if it's an Ewok in jodhpurs and with the little cute!   The Holocaust is practically excusable.

So, if the female employee telling me about anal or oral is somehow hurt or hobbled in some dreadful and permanent state, complaining either to them or to a boss about being harassed is tantamount to complaining about an Ewok.  

ME: "Hey, I know I'm gonna sound like a jerk for complaining about this but the Ewok was telling me in graphic detail about getting a little nookie."
BOSS: "The Ewok had sex?  OHMIGOD!  That is so cute!"

I come from the Go Along To Get Along School.  The bad thing is I also come from the I Never Forget A Slight School.  And not slights directed only my way but towards family.  This is not a happy marriage.  This is why my hair is thinning.   

In his work office, my dad would hang a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models calendar.  On the inside of the door.  In other words, no one could see it.  And it's not like Dad held meetings in his office.  He was usually out of the office, out in the woods doing the job of a Fire Management Officer.  But one woman in the business office took issue with the calendar and filed sexual harassment charges.  She was a piece of work, the kind of turd that bobbled back up in everyone's toilet, seeking to inflict hardships with wide a brush as possible because of course everyone always tries to undermine a minority woman.  I think the troublemaker would be a short spitting distance from 70 at this point in her life.  Even so, given the chance for a face-to-face, I would have to fight like a mother dog to suppress unleashing a hot torrent of insensitive language.    

This is now a post-Harvey Weinstein world.  And now Kevin Spacey is thrown into the fire, too, with who knows how many more to follow.  What Annabella Sciorra, Natasha Malthe and just too goddamned many other women have suffered at the hands of Weinstein and his species of shit is a different kind of Hell than I can know.  All I've known in comparison was a Heck.  A low-level smidge of a Heck.  

I think the basic problem is people have genitals.  And as so often occurs, people misread the room.  And the company.  And their companions openness to information or first-hand experience with said genitals.     

What I'm waiting to see yet not expecting to see, is men coming forward to detail their experiences being harassed by women.  It seems highly unlikely any woman could be a Weinstein-sized monster.  But I know there have to be lots of men who've bitten their tongues or didn't want to rock boats and went along to get along.  Saying something, problems arise.  Saying nothing, the stress monkey shortens your lifespan.  The poisons don't care.  A or B, the crossbones marked wine is gonna flow.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pluck Your Magic Twanger, Froggie

Blazing Saddles is overloaded with memorable scenes, but the one I always think of is where the Honorable Governor Lepetomane hands out paddle balls "in lieu of pay."

When I can't write prose, I usually do not write at all.  2014 I didn't write a damn word.  It was a weird stretch following a solid decade and a half of writing every morning.  

This year I cranked out two novels, and then September shuttered the doors.  I keep poking at novel ideas, even something titled The Monitor which would be in the vein of Bentley Little but most of the inspirations seem best suited for continued segregation in the hopper.  

So, in lieu of prose, I've turned back to poetry.  Not that this is a good thing.  Not that I'm qualified to be called a poet.  Karyna McGlynn is a poet.  Morris Stegosaurus is a poet.  I'm just some poor schlump, but like schlumps in even the darkest part of the forest, I feel the need to connect.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bottling Whine

According to author Amelinda Berube, there is a likely reason 50+ agents have given the big thumbs down to Exit The Skin Palace:

I suspect the trouble you’re encountering in pitching to agents is that you’re kind of falling into a weird place between middle grade and YA. With a 12-year-old main character in the query and opening chapter, most agents are likely dismissing it as miscategorized. 

And according to query feedback courtesy literary agent Peter Knapp of Park Literary:

I found both the narrative and the dialogue in this manuscript to sound older than the MG voice you want to aim for. I’d say the characters talking about losing weight and bottling “whine” to sell are more likely to be heard from YA characters.

Dead, Monty is 12 and will be 12 forever and ever until he moves on to whatever is beyond the Game Room (the rust-colored wasteland occupied by ghosts with too strong a tie to the land of the living).  

Having written a second title using the character, I've realized I take the approach to Monty that Sam Raimi uses on actors from Bruce Campbell to Tobey Maguire, which is to just really smack the poor SOBs around and make them suffer for the good of the art.  

Besides being dead and fighting malevolent forces, Monty gets to watch friends and family move on without him. 

Right out of the box (or out of the grave -- so-to-speak), he discovers a good four years have inexplicably ticked away.

His parents have chosen to have another kid.  His two best friends - Trista and Denny - are no longer 11 and 12.  They're teens.  Monty...He's a pre-teen.  For good.  If ever there's a 4th book (let alone a 3rd) Trista and Denny will be graduating high school and leaving Monty all but behind.  

I didn't know that on top of trying to surf the deluge of self-published writers out there I'd also be adding an extra chain to my ankle by blissful ignorance of category (middle grade vs. young adult vs. teen, etc). 

There's something to be said for tempting a protagonist with monumental despair when the author -- given the steep climb to having adoring readers and any sort of 'literary career' -- considers 'despair' the default setting for the whole writing enterprise. 

I expect Monty's stubborn nature to make up for my mourn-ridden slack. I can feign doing my part, and a shared lockstep - though off a beat here and there - is not a bad rhythm.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Round 2 of formatting Exit The Skin Palace went slightly better.  

The first adventure of Monty, Dawn, Trista, Denny, and Splat is available here.

There is one place where an asterisk lays right on top of the paragraph below but if I tweak it -- all of a sudden a later chapter turns into Swiss cheese.  One of those poke your thigh bruise, and blood shoots out of a nostril conundrums.  

Funny anecdote: While tweaking and re-loading the Exit Word doc a gazillion times, I allowed myself to get distracted by multiple images of Veronica Lake.

Easy enough, sure.  But the fallout came in the form of uploading the Exit file onto The Lipless Gods page.  Meaning I obliterated the longstanding TLG upload.  

So, after making sure Exit was as hunky dory as possible, I poked around and around and around and around and finally found what I think is the latest-and-greatest-and-Grammarly-pureed TLG version.  God knows why I even freaked out.  The book hasn't been downloaded in months.  Still, you never know when guests might pop on in unexpectedly.  

I haven't written a solid word of fiction in nearly six weeks.  Even the back-to-the-notebook canoodling dried up once I started trying to get Exit up to snuff for the ebook-hurdles.  

Gotta do something that direction or I will start losing what's left of my sanity.  At least I'm not sick of Monty.  I was pretty sick of him after getting Surfer On The Drift done.  Maybe I'll take a whack at the outline for the third book - likely titled First Ghost On The Moon.  

Or maybe I'll just go back and ogle Veronica some more.  I might end up doing less damage that way.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Into Life A Little

Just can't get Smashwords to digest Exit The Skin Palace completely. The EPUB-check is a constant source of sorrow.

Chapter 15 keeps chopping off the next paragraph like this:

And Chapter 28 keeps bumping the next paragraph like this:

For little old unloved authors, to have the one that's supposed to take care of you act so mind-bogglingly shoddy (though in an obnoxious poisoning if not non-lethal manner) dries up the creative juice like a mother. 

First world problems.  I will gladly take them over real problems.  Fuck.  Yes. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Taking a break from typing prose I've gone old school -- back to notebooks, and the odd prose and poems (Brautigan/Ashbery/lord-knows-who-else influenced) of a decade ago 

Why?  How long?  Don't know.  But less screen time is a good thing.