Sunday, May 31, 2009
In 2004, while I was writing for the alt-weekly newspaper Planet Weekly, in Jackson, Mississippi, I wrote the following column. I've decided to post it here, because it reflects what I feel now, what I felt then, and what I've felt for a long time. I simply don't understand why others feel differently, and a look askance at the justifications they give.
I haven't changed a word, or reference of the body of the text, and have only removed the link to our former website at the bottom. A point of pride: when this hit our blog at the time, I was impressed how many Mississippians chimed in and agreed with me - that the issue of sexual orientation simply shouldn't matter.
Like it or not, people, the world is going to change. It may change around you, but it's going to change.
For the first time, the issue of gay marriages – or civil unions – has been brought up for serious discussion. With the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deciding that they are legal, there is finally real, tangible discussion about this issue. Yes, the State of Vermont allowed civil unions several years ago, but Vermont is a small state with little influence on others. When Massachusetts took this big step, it became major news.
The conservatives’ views on this issue are already well known. In a nutshell, they believe that allowing gay marriages leads to the end of civilization, as we know it. This is not a surprise. A bit more surprising is the mixed reactions occurring in the various liberal camps. Even my man Wesley Clark splits this particular hair, supporting “civil unions,” but not going so far as to call them “marriages.”
Personally, I don’t see the problem. I totally support the idea of gay marriages. And I don’t feel a need to qualify the statement. I don’t think they should be called “civil unions.” I think that if a marriage is recognized in one state, it should be recognized in every state. I think a gay married couple should be allowed every right that a straight married couple receives. Call me crazy, plenty have, but I simply don’t believe that allowing gay men and women to marry will cause the downfall of the American Way.
If anything, it should strengthen it. In a nation where “Family Values!” has become an actual battle cry, the idea of preventing people from forming families is ludicrous at best, discriminatory at worst. If gays wish to form families, and raise children, they should have the same rights as those who are not gay.
What we have to lose in this situation are our prejudices. What we have to gain is much more important: an understanding that one need not be a part of a mother-father-two-point-two-children family, to be part of a family.
But what we have come to, as we so often do when dealing with the conservative mindset, is a case of hypocrisy standing in for policy. As usual, the right-wingers claim that they are the ones who stand up for everyone and support equality for all. This is true, unless of course you are different.
The conservatives can give all sorts of reasons for why this discrimination is acceptable, from the irrational “the Bible says so” to the rational, if selfish, “I just don’t like it.” I believe it’s actually a little simpler and far more insidious than that. I believe that they are afraid. Not afraid of what these “wicked” people will do to the American Ideal, but afraid of change.
Our society remains in a state of flux, constantly evolving and changing. Fifty years ago, women were expected to set aside their own personalities, dreams, and desires, to become stay-at-home mothers and wives. One hundred and fifty years ago, it was legal to buy and sell black men and women at will. Two hundred and fifty years ago, the concept of America didn’t even exist.
It’s time to take a step forward, ignoring the crusaders of the status quo; those who would prefer to force their prejudices on others – those who, in the past, also supported the ideas of sexism, slavery, and crown rule. Those were bad ideas then. Fighting a change to create a more tolerant society is a bad idea now.
Show me some spine, folks, and tell me what you think. All responsible viewpoints are welcome at… Incoherent ramblings will probably be okay, too.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Please feel free to read and enjoy - or not; that's up to you. But remember that the lowly author putting this together would be delighted to receive your feedback, as much or as little as you'd like to give. Leave a comment here, drop me an email, send me a DM via Twitter, or drop some knowledge on my Facebook wall. It's all good to me.
As far as I can tell, there's no way to link from one page of WritersOwnWords.com to another, so when you finish with Part I, come back here to link to Part II. I apologize for all the clicking, but their site can only handle about 15 pages at a time. But seeing how I've got over 100 different articles and whatnot archived over there, I'm not quite willing to move yet.
Thank you so much, and enjoy!
Chapter 5 - Harbordown by Day
Sitting on the edge of his bed, Sloan looked up as someone banged on the door. He stood to make certain his trousers were buttoned. Grabbing a shirt from the bedpost, he shimmied into it as he shuffled out of the bedroom, through the kitchen, and down the front hall.
“I’m coming!” he yelled, as the pounding began again. He stopped at the front door. The noise continued a moment and stopped.
“Mister Sloan, you have a message.” He knew the heavy Murnochi accent – the authoritarian voice of his landlady, Dorna Grabzhinko, whom he lovingly thought of as the Avatar of the Beast God. He unbarred, unlatched, unlocked, and opened the door. He cast a glance downward. Four and a half feet of Beast God stared up at him.
“This just came,” she said. “Very important, the boy said.”
Sloan glanced at the slip of paper she clutched. Doubtless the boy had brought it with him. Like most Downers, Mrs. Grabzhinko could neither read nor write.
“I seem to recall you told me you would have money for me last week.”
“Yes, I believe I did.”
“You do have money for me, Mister Sloan?”
“Not as such; not in the sense of coin that is, no.”
“But why? You work so hard.”
“Yes, I do, but unfortunately, profits have been a bit low this quarter.”
“Mr. Sloan, I remember when you moved in. You wanted the rooms with the big kitchen and the pantry.” She looked at him through rheumy eyes. “You told me then you would pay me every month. You were never late, you said.”
“I don’t recall saying that. It’s possible that I lied.”
To Continue With Part I (first)
Then To Continue With Part II
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Brad Huffman-Parent, who's been a member of the Washroom for a few months now is the comic-book creator I nodded to in the last post. He is involved with a competition to get his project, Steel Rising, a publication gig.
I'm all for it.
Dimestore Productions is running their sixth annual "Small Press Idol" competition, which is a big deal amongst small press comic-book types. It's a way to break into the industry, and it's a way to get their work seen.
Plus, what I've seen is pretty damn good. They've created a full, dynamic world that you want to read about. The artists are really good (and work in black-and-white, which I dig). On the Dimestore website are a few downloadable pages (via Adobe), but there's more art and information out there. (Brad, comment and give us some links to more of the background information, if you will. I suspect folks would like it.)
Small Press Idol is a four-round competition, and Steel Rising has made it into the third round. Currently they're holding at second place - with the first place entrant getting more votes from less people. You can vote once a day for Steel Rising - as I plan to do. I joined, and I hope some of you comic buffs (don't raise your hands; I know who you are) will do the same.
In Brad's words: "If we stay in the top 3 this round we advance to the final round where we have our #0 issue (which is 12 pages of story plus our character design and bios from round 2, plus any extras we want to add if there's space left, like pinups or the script) published and available for sale. Whoever sells the most copies wins the grand prize of $700 and a publishing deal for a 4 issue mini-series with the possibility of continuing into an ongoing series."
To do this, log into Dimestore Productions and join first. Only members can vote. There's a good chance that your confirmation email will go to your spam box. Mine did. You can then get the Steel Rising by going to the voting page and clicking on the Steel Rising logo. Just go through checkout without buying anything and you're good. Vote on the voting page. You can vote once a day. It's just a yes-poll; it only counts total 'yes' votes.
So...we can have a hand in helping one of our own see publication. Who's with me?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
First, I really want to thank everyone who reads the pieces and gives me feedback. It truly is invaluable. In return, I've decided that, if Heroes... ever gets published, I'm going to include you beta-readers in the acknowledgements. (Yes, I know...I'm dreaming big!) I call that the least I can do. I've know everyone here who's done it, and I've got a list of people who have sent me emails and Twitter DMs with feedback. I also have a list of who has done it in the past. If you want to be included, join in.
Second, "Chapter 3 - Sloan" has been put to bed, and moved up into the corner with "Heroes... So Far." I'm not quite ready to graduate Melbourn there, but I will be in a day or three. Furthermore, I'm progressing with "Chapter 5 - Harbordown By Day."
Third, I've posted two new works in the WIP section next to this. The second chapter of The Wyrd Magnet is up, but I've left the first one up as well. I think they're better together, and might give a slightly better sense of what I'm up to with it.
I've also posted the prologue for Conduit - which is the newest working title of what I have called Spans Forever and The Bridge Across Forever. None of the titles really appeal to me. Maybe sometime down the line we'll have a contest to name the damn thing, because I've just about given up on it. The prologue is just a teaser, a little bit of the oddness to come.
I'm not even quite sure how to define Conduit. It's basically a refining of what has been a multi-year writing exercise for me. In the past, when I was blocked, or bored, and simply needed to write something, I went back to that and wrote. The product, as it has been written so far, is terrible. But I think there's good stuff to be had inside it, and that's what I'm working on bringing out. I don't know if it will be a novel, a series, a serial...I just don't know. But by putting it here, I'm pretty well committing to doing something with it.
That's it. I said I'd keep it short this time. Oh, all right. I'll make it easy. Links below:
Conduit: Prologue - Obelisks
The Wyrd Magnet: Chapter One - Sub-culture
The Wyrd Magnet: Chapter Two - Let's Go
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Before some of your expert/gurus get cranky and try to remind me that Adams used e-mail and such, allow me to point out that he did it himself, and he was actually involved with early versions of both e-mail and Usenet, and he certainly didn't need some dweeb with a bauhaus-lite website to say, "Hey, if you post more frequently, you'll keep your followers happy."* I have no doubt that he'd have a lovely snarky Facebook page and about 200,000 Twitter followers, and he simply wouldn't give a damn what these social media experts have to say.
Why? Because they have nothing to say.
Harrumph, you say! (Actually, you don't. By and large, the people that visit this site are friends and fans of mine, or are creative folks on their own. I am well aware that there are fellow writers and bloggers, a comic book creator, artists, a sculptor or two, a couple of editors, and (please God) maybe a publisher reading on this. There are photographers and graphic designers, one I believe is a painter, and one whom I believe is a multimedia artist working in the field of entropy - seriously. Creatives? Hell, yeah!)
So...harrumph, they say! And that sums up about all they have to say. Social media experts (or gurus, which is the de rigueur on Twitter, which is where they seem to be congregating) have created a niche market of their own.
In this market they declare that there is 1) a way to do things correctly, 2) people who know how to do these things, 3) that they are those people, and 4) you need these people. I've heard it described as a remora-like relationship to the shark that is the internet. I don't think that's accurate.**
My take on them is a little different. Remember, as a child, when you and a bunch of friends were hanging around, doing nothing except throwing a ball around, or pretending to shoot each other, or just making like characters from Narnia or Middle-Earth? There were no rules. You just had fun, doing what you did, letting your creativity rule the day?
Social media gurus were the twerps that showed up and decided there must be rules. You had to play baseball; you couldn't just throw a ball around. You couldn't just shoot each other; there had to be people on both sides. You can't have two Aragorns!***
Yes, those were the kids that everyone else hated. In my neighborhood, they were the kids that also got the crap beaten out of them on a regular basis, but that's neither here nor there.
Today their game is much the same. They show up and announce that there must be rules, and you must follow their rules. They post blog entries for others to read. Who reads them? For the most part, other social media experts do. What do they do then? They retweet it on Twitter**** or link to it from their blog. They mark it as "important" or "vital" to be read. Who do they send these links and retweets to? Other social media networkers. What happens? The social media circle jerk continues.
They guest-blog on each other's blogs. The host blog makes a big deal of it. The guest makes a big deal of it. Other experts point to it - it's a big deal! They put together radio shows and TV shows that are broadcast on the internet, and visit each other's shows.***** What do they talk about? How important what they do is.
My joke: How many social media gurus does it take to screw in a light bulb? 10,001: One to do the work, and 10,000 to blog about how important their work is. But I digress.
Then, to connect with the rabble (to justify their existence and to fool people into thinking they matter), they post their links and draw your attention to other parts of the internet. They send you to Digg, and YouTube, and CNN.com, and I Can Haz Cheezburger, and thousands of other sites out there. And, of course, they send you to thousands of social-media sites. Let's not forget that.
These social media experts have denoted the people that run these sites "content providers." That includes me, and anyone who has a tiny blog, website, page, or vlog. Regardless of whether or not they post links to it, anything that can be linked to is just "content."
My take on this? Go f*** yourself. I'm not a "content provider" and I'm not creating "content." I'm a writer. I write and I blog. You want to link to it, fine. I don't actually care. But don't ask me to adjust my site to make it easier for you to access my "content." It boggles the mind that these twerps need to lump everything together to comprehend it.
I think this is why they have their rules. You see their posts everywhere. "How to Use Twitter Properly," "The Rules of Facebook Etiquette," "Digg the Right Way!," "50 Ways to Increase Your Followers," and so on. Let's be clear. No one writes this crap except for social media experts. No one actually needs this crap except for social media experts. But who believes it?
A lot of people believe this. They get caught up in it. Anyone who has come recently to Facebook or Digg or Twitter is going to believe that these are actually rules - these are things they should know. They see these signs telling them this everywhere they look. They may even RT or pass along a link to one, without realize they're just helping shore up this falsehood.
But it's not true. It's an opinion, generated by a self-centered minority of those who participate, who want everyone else to play like they do.
In very recent days, Twitter has changed the way its replies work. (Don't ask me to explain further; I could care less.) It has brought out the worst in many of the social media experts. There has been a wailing, and a crying, and a gnashing of teeth from many of them. Worst yet, it precipated a hurricane of angry, self-righteous blog entries****** from these experts about how Twitter was a "social media site, and not just a chatroom."
Wow. Wrong. Twitter is, and has always been known as, a "microblogging" site. It is a place to write/blog in 140 characters or less. The initial idea was "what are you doing?" It was a way to simply communicate with people of a like mind, with friends, and with people you might find interesting. What it's not is a social media site. That's just another lie from the social media experts.
Microblogging. Small writing. Twitter was, and has been, a place to create. They're trying to change that, to add rules that no one else really wants. You know what? They can kiss my ass. Let's all be Aragorn.
*"And what's with this five-book trilogy? That doesn't make any sense. You're going to confuse people."
**Though, sticking with the nautical theme, I'd posit that they are closer to barnacles cluttering up the keel: "We make it go faster! We add color to that dull brown wood!"
***It goes without saying that these Social Media twerps always wanted to be Gandalf, right?****Sorry, Twitter comes up a lot because I participate in it, but also because it seems to be the current ground zero for that type. I suspect that because Twitter makes it so simple to mass follow (and unfollow) people, these expert/gurus find it easier to beef up their phony reputations here, and try to parley it into a phony reputation elsewhere, than it is to start on Facebook and import their bullshit to Twitter.
*****To non-social media experts, these are called "podcasts" and "webcasts." Seemingly, only the 'experts' feel a need to shore them up as 'radio' and 'TV' shows. They're not, you batch of liars.
******Cross-referenced to other blog entries that agreed with them, of course.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
As always, read and enjoy, but please consider offering me your thoughts; I genuinely do appreciate (and need) the feedback. This rewriting project is the most important project on my plate, and though it's running much smoother when it was when I first posted the Prologue, I'm still trying to find the rhythm and voice to bring it all together.
Let me know what you think! And in case I haven't said it enough: Thank you!
Chapter Four - Melbourn
In a huge, well-appointed room in High Town, one man sat in a high-backed calf-leather-and-teak chair to enjoy the finer things life had to offer. His boots rested on a low stool in front of him, and a heavy book rested in his lap. On a small table next to him sat a nearly-empty decanter of sherry, a nearly-full glass, a tall white Willem candle in a silver candlestick, and a glass ashtray. Over the back of the chair he had casually tossed a long black cloak. As he listened to the cedar wood crackling and popping in the fireplace, he reached out and upended an ivory pipe over the ashtray. He tapped the glass, discharging burnt tobacco into the receptacle. He propped the pipe against the rim and reached for the tiny glass. He put the glass to his lips and tossed back the sherry, as if it was whiskey. He sighed and set the empty glass back on the table.
He refilled the pipe with tobacco from a pouch in his own vest, using a long match to transfer fire from the candle. He took a long draw and began reading again. Idly listening to the deeply seasoned wood in the fire, he read each page, line by line, his finger tracing his progress. After some time, he stood and stretched. Something in his back cracked. A slight groan escaped.
He eyed the crystal decanter. He took it and poured out the last remaining drops of sherry. Ivory pipe dangling from his lips, he crossed the room to a huge teakwood desk and slipped the book into an open leather bag sitting atop it. Several other volumes were already inside. He closed the bag, and wrapped the pipe in a dark cloth. The pipe went into a vest pocket; the bag he slung over his shoulder. Returning to the chair for his cloak, he donned it and fastened it with a burnished silver clasp.
Dressed all in black, except for a long-sleeved royal blue shirt under his leather vest, he was short and wiry. His almond-shaped eyes were blue flecked with silver. Long, copper-brown hair was tied back with black and blue ribbons, revealing a face of sharp angles. His ears were elongated, but not so pointed as Dunbar Stormglow’s.
He was mal sidhe, a lesser elf.
To continue: http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/291/
Sunday, May 10, 2009
But we live in a fairly noisy neighborhood, what with a baseball field and dog park across the street, a hospital a block away, and a large intersection about 100 feet away. Plus, about five different bus routes pass by the intersection. Here in So-So Cal, we use natural-gas-powered buses, which though they may be green, are loud enough to sound like a slice of the apocalypse as they roll by.
I heard the cat-noise a few times Thursday night, but it just was too loud to hear much more. On Friday morning, during a lull in traffic, I heard it again. So did Adam, who pointed his nose down (we live on the third floor) at the underbrush outside our complex. I heard it again Friday afternoon, and my girlfriend and I went exploring. We left Adam inside and explored the underbrush. The cat-critter quit making noise and we couldn't find it. After an hour of looking, we went back inside and decided to go to dinner. When we came home, we both distinctly heard the kitty distress call again. This time with dog in hand (so to speak), we stomped through the underbrush and located the little noisemaker.
It was a tiny abandoned kitten, about four inches long, with one eye cracked open. He/she/it was lying in a nest under a bush, under about one foot of thick underbrush. There was no sign of any other cat. It was lying on damp ground. Our complex has automatic sprinkles everything, and all the brush there stays moist. When I picked him/her up, it mewled and tried to push itself up on me to warm up.
I went to PetSmart and got some fake milk and a bottle to nurse it. My girl kept it warm. We fed the little beast. We were up most of the night, trying to keep it fed, keep it warm, and teach it urinate - which is something most folks don't know about rescuing kittens, I assure you. When we did sleep, my girl held the kitten on her chest to keep it warm. Early on Saturday afternoon, after a long morning of feeding, not sleeping, and washing damp shirts (figure it out) and bedclothes, I took the kitten back to the same PetSmart to meet with an adoption agent.
Before any real discussions were held, I met a mother and daughter, Joanie and Kimberly (hope I got the spelling right!), who took in rescued kittens. They looked her over, declared her a her, and said she was really healthy. Better than that, they said they had a mama cat who was nursing a litter around the kitten's age. She was a good mom, apparently, and they thought she'd take in the orphan.
This was exactly the situation we were hoping for. In fact, it was the perfect situation. It was someone who knew how to take care of the orphan, wanted to do it, and would be able to try to give the orphan a new family.
I'm allergic to cats - badly allergic. Just sleeping in the same bed with one caused me to wake with my eyes swollen, barely able to breathe. A scratch from a cat's claw makes me swell up. Just being around them little beasts makes it impossible for me to breathe or see. We spent about $20 on rescue food and supplies. We gave up a night's sleep, my girlfriend gave up a night's worth of work, and we turned our weekend around to take care of the little beastie.
It was all worth it - every bit of it. Though we couldn't keep the kitten and knew it, we knew it was something that had to be done. When something can't take care of itself, you might need to do it for them.
That picture of my dog on this page is Adam, who helped us find the little critter. He's the background I use on my Twitter page, for those who have seen it. About six years ago, I rescued him from the rain. I didn't have the time, energy, interest, or money in keeping a dog. But I did. Considering the joy he's brought me over the years, I can tell you it's always going to be worth it. Now I just hope that the little black-furred beastie will provide joy for a family of its own.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Furthermore, I always want to give the readers a little something-something for their time and effort for coming here. It annoys me to go to someone else's blog and find a line: "Wow, it was raining today. I don't feel like writing." I hate that. I want to say something, even if it is pointless and/or meaningless to anyone but me.
I've got so I Tweet my short lines, and I haven't had time - or the legal freedom - to put out the longer pieces. Add to that the fact that I've been doing a lot of writing and rewriting, and hopefully you'll understand why there has been a bunch of new fiction. But, I'm sorry to say, there's not been much...you know...blogwork.
This is on me; I own the problem. I promise to try to do better. Yes, that's the Bart Simpson hedge, but it's all I got right now. I promise to try to do better. Don't expect that this will become a daily post. The very thought makes me laugh - pshaw. No, it won't be that, but I'll try to post some random-like thoughts a few times a week.
But listen! If you've got any suggestions, let me know, dammit! I like hearing from y'all, and I like knowing that lots of you are reading - even if I don't know you and don't even know who you are. Log in, leave a comment here if you want. Introduce yourselves around; there's good folks here.
The biggest problem is that lazy son-of-a-gun writing these things, and I hear tell he promises to try to do a better job.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
As always, enjoy. Please remember that I'm actively seeking feedback on this, and opinions are not only welcome, but greeted warmly and embraced.
I have a little time available this weekend, so "Chapter Four" should be up by Saturday or Sunday. Hurry! Get your comments in before the musical number in C4 appears!
Chapter 3 - "Sloan"
Fifteen feet below the streets, in a damp, malodorous tunnel, one man stood and shivered. His heart still raced, his lungs still burned, and his body still ached. Certain types of magic played havoc with his body, and even though he’d tapped into it over an hour ago, he’d yet to climb up from the depths of the ritual. He glanced down at his right hand; it trembled. He made a fist and tried to will away the shaking.
Elias Merriwether Sloan stood in front of time- and moisture-warped door and tried to collect his breath. Through a gap in the planking, he saw into the room beyond the door. Four men sat in the room, waiting for him. They sat on battered, dark chairs that had splintered and mildewed in the humid air, and had seated more men than they. The oldest sat with his feet flat on the floor, his elbows on his knees, and his chin tucked into his chest. The youngest had tilted his chair back on two legs until it touched the damp wall behind him. Of the two seated between them, one cleaned him fingernails with a short knife and the other sat and stared at the door in the wall opposite them. They would all wait for him, no matter how late he was. He didn’t want to set a bad example of tardiness or disrespect to the others, but he didn’t want them to see him in this state either. Only one of them would say anything to him, but he was the one he needed to speak to the most.
Sloan stepped toward the door, his breathing less ragged and his heart beginning to slow. The aches remained, but those wouldn’t show. I looked at his hand again. The trembling had stopped. It was time. He grabbed the handle of the wood-and-iron door and pulled it open. He’d kept the hinges oiled; despite its age, the door didn’t squeak. He stepped into the meeting-room and glanced toward the men. He nodded.
To continue: http://www.writersownwords.com/washroomannex/work/290/