A Year In Review: Goodbye to 2016

  • Europe’s The Final Countdown played as midnight rolled over into the new year
  • I thought I would edit my book The Minäverse in earnest, being that it was The Final Countdown; it was going to take a month
  • It took a year
  • Instead, I racked up client work like raindrops falling from the sky in my childhood town of Portland
  • Meanwhile, the election charged ahead, with Trump’s antics creating an election season like none I’d ever experienced in all my years of voting
  • I shut off Facebook for my own sanity and never really missed it, although I miss chatting with family members I rarely see; I kind of wish other modes of communication were still the fashion
  • My second child reached the age of adulthood and left the nest
  • I began to see white butterflies everywhere; if I went for a walk, white butterflies would follow me; one day, when I sat on my porch, dozens flew back and forth past me and around me; a pair of white butterflies visited my workplace, and I could see them outside the window for weeks
  • I had another birthday, on which day of celebration, I was startled to see the apparition of a bear outside my bathroom window; my husband suggested perhaps I’d glimpsed into the Shadow Realm; this could be true of the butterflies, as well (see The God Cup for more info on white butterflies)
  • Brexit happened, and I was impressed the British had sought independence; not that it’s any of my business, but I was sorely disappointed in them when they joined the EU
  • I got tired of my (non client day job); I looked for other jobs; I got promoted at my job and liked it 100% more than before
  • I gave up client work almost entirely, except in very particular cases
  • I went back to the town I officially call home in order to vote, as I was still registered there; Trump subsequently won the presidency, albeit not in my blue state, where Gary Johnson took about 10% of the vote; hey, people here really liked him as governor and seemed not to notice he’d turned into a raving lunatic since those heady libertarian days
  • I ached to finish my  book; I kept finishing and then not being finished again (I still want to go over that last chapter one more time; I’M SORRY, OKAY?!)
  • Meanwhile, pretend Russians threatened to take over America, while Putin no doubt rolled his eyes in the privacy of his home — or threw things; one can’t really say what Putin does when the camera isn’t watching
  • And Europe continued to be invaded by refugees and/or terrorists, as did the US
  • A loved one ended up in the hospital right before Christmas (no details, as I don’t have the right to discuss others’ lives on the internet)
  • Instead of going out and chopping a Christmas tree in the forest, as we usually do, we purchased a tree from a lot; it’s a Douglas Fir and quite possibly the most beautiful tree the kids have ever decorated
  • My family drove out to be with us, and Christmas was good
  • New Year’s Eve was mellow, with enchilada style casseroles, sparkling cider, and classic Tom Clancy films
  • As the new year rolled over, Alphaville’s Forever Young played from the station that my husband quickly turned on after the credits rolled for Patriot Games
  • The Final Countdown to Forever Young? I’m not sure what to think; I’m still thinking about it to be honest; one could take it a myriad of ways
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Is Twitter Still Worthwhile as a Social Media Tool?

I probably will never return to Facebook, but I was trying Twitter out because I can follow anyone without having to be “friended” or followed back by them. This makes it a somewhat interesting venue. However, it’s become another censoring cesspool, just like Facebook. I followed a handful of spec fic authors I like, such as Brian Niemeier and Nick Cole, only to read that these two aforementioned authors had been shadow-banned. I went to Niemeier’s Twitter page to see that he had retweeted my tweet about his Dragon Award win (or liked it, don’t remember which), and had followed me back. I hadn’t received any notifications from him, nor had I seen any of his tweets in my feed. For the record, I don’t miss notifications because I don’t get very many. I don’t have enough followers, follow enough people, or really interact that much with other Twitter users to get more than a couple of notifications a day.

Today, when I saw one of Niemeier’s tweets retweeted (I’d never seen the original), I went to his Twitter page and retweeted the same tweet, calling out Twitter for their shadow-banning (shysta, that last sentence sounds ridiculous). After my tweet received more likes and retweets than almost any I’d posted, I had a strange progression of events: I was suddenly followed by a couple of Twitter marketers and then began to see Niemeier’s tweets in my feed. Does this give rise to all kind of conspiracy theories on my part? Sure, that there are people monkeying with Twitter, which isn’t exactly earth-shattering. And they’re no doubt monkeying to their own detriment, which is why they have to occasionally try to convince us we need them as a marketing tool.

Look, I’m at the point where social media is more than a little off-putting. Okay, it always was a little off-putting. But it’s even more so now. I don’t know if Niemeier was ever officially shadow-banned (Nick Cole, for his part, largely stopped using Twitter), or if Twitter is simply playing the compartmentalization game that I saw occurring on Facebook. Facebook keeps people in little boxes. I was in a box where I rarely even saw my own husband’s posts. My husband, in case you’re wondering, is an unapologetic conservative libertarian, just the kind of person the big Zucker hates.

I’m not declaring anything new or making shocking allegations the world isn’t aware of already. We already know the conversation is being controlled in social media. As someone who would still like to publish at least one more book and find new authors to read (where do you think I discovered both authors I mentioned in this piece?) or even new editing clients (I’m torn about that last one, but I MIGHT want to), I can’t completely tear myself away from social media. We’re living in a world that is no longer brave or new, and it’s tiring after a while. I’m not sure how much energy I have left for all of this nonsense any longer. There has got to be a better way, a Phoenix that rises from the ashes of the crapstically controlling internet spaces. A part of me doesn’t care, though, and would rather ride my bicycle around town and go to the library, where I’ll be lucky if I find new authors I want to read. And then the part that DOES care regains energy from the anger at not finding the books I desire.

Books=information and ideas. Even fiction offers information and ideas couched in story form. This is not the area where I should be dropping the ball and losing my will to care. But that doesn’t mean that I have to remain in the mire of Twitter, any more than I had to remain in Facebook land.

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A Man Without Arms

NMALBbunyan_dennis

Now, there’s a lumberjack.

Not that long ago, I took a short writing holiday in Albuquerque when I had to travel there for other undisclosed reasons. I was supposed to finish my book entitled The Minäverse. I didn’t. When by “edit” one means write the whole damn book from scratch again, finishing becomes a task that is forever on the edge of the mirage horizon. But while I was there, the gravitational pull literally sucked me over to the May Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant I frequented for the nearly twenty years I lived in close proximity to the Duke City.

My book has a twisted sports theme. Balls, being dangerous, have been outlawed in primary school sports, and there’s a conspiracy afoot that professional ball players don’t actually have them…or use them, I should say. If that symbolism isn’t 100% obvious to anyone who has his head half in the gutter, I don’t what is. Balls, however, haven’t been outlawed in society in general. Balls are simply highly suspicious. Arms have been outlawed, or regulated to the point that there’s little reason to try to obtain one.

To sum it up, kids don’t have balls, adults are highly unlikely to use them, and a baseball bat is the most dangerous weapon the average joe has easy access to, if by easy access one means he has only to fill out the fronts and backs of fifty sheets of mandatory paperwork asking him important questions, such as, has he engaged in porn, hetero, or gay sex in the last thirty days; does he want to; how many meds is he taking; how many does he want to access through the Homeland Security protocol for all meds to all citizens all the time. As I’ve been rewriting and deleting my first chapter all day today, I had a sudden flash image of the May Cafe.

It was one of those moments of quantum access into my own subconscious. If you don’t know about quantum magic, I’d suggest looking into it. That aside, the May Cafe has been guarded for years and years by a twenty-seven foot lumberjack, complete with beard and very, very big axe. Recently, the lumberjack lost his axe and arms in a storm. Nature defeated the giant, as Nature is wont to do. Sadly, and I’m sorry, Nature, the image of the lumberjack is greater than you are. Suddenly, I imagined a refurbished lumberjack rebuilt in the image of my hero, who is a New Mexico native, very large — though twenty-seven feet tall is pushing credulity — and the type of guy for whom shaving is a wasted effort, as he always has a 5 o’clock shadow.

So now it’s nearly midnight mountain time, and I haven’t rewritten the last spate of words I erased. What a crappy day. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, as it was my day off, and I had a nice walk with the dog and kiddos. Also, I wasted some pleasant time putting together an image of a hippy-looking Jesus surfer riding the Hawking radiation right out of a black hole to contribute to this nerdgram before I smacked myself out of it. But still. The angst. I can’t get over the angst of my never-finished book. At least I have a lumberjack in my head, though. At least that.

without arms

Oh my good Lord, he doesn’t have any arms.

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The Joy of Short Stories

It’s time to discover it again. I don’t mind novels. I’ve wasted a lot of time reading them over the years. But I’m not the daydreaming type. I don’t read to get lost in story worlds; kudos to the author who is savvy enough to get me lost, anyway. I read to get lost in mental constructs. I read for ideas, and it’s a lot faster to get to the author’s completed idea when reading short stories. For those who are daydreamers, short stories are conversely things of joy because daydreamers, as readers, can still immerse themselves in an author’s dream world without having to give up hours of their lives to do so.

As a writer, I can write my ideas (and dreams) into short pieces in a few hours, versus the months to years it takes me to complete the first draft of a novel. Because of that, I used to write a Christmas story every year or toss off a story when my novel-writing was frustrating me. I remember hearing at writing workshops that short stories were just as, if not more difficult to write than novels. That’s bullshit, really. Does anyone actually believe that? The details do have to be very focused in a short story; writing them is a good discipline because of that. Still, it’s much easier to keep track of the details when the plot is accomplished in under 10,000 words. The novel I’m currently finishing I wrote very quickly (in about a month), but two years later, I’m about to lose my mind trying to remember all the details.

There are a number of good short story magazines out there: there’s Sci Phi Journal, for example. Yesterday, I read this article on the Castalia House blog, which links to a journal I’d never heard of before called Cirsova. Of course, most of you know about friend Jessica Thomas’s Common Oddities. I have too many short story anthologies on my Kindle to link to — and, hey, I have one called The Jaybird’s Nest and other stories that has had few reviews and could use some more. If you click on the Common Oddities link, go to the second (Spring 2014) and read my story La ’tistic en la mente to get an idea of what’s in my book of short stories.

I haven’t written a short story in years, and it makes me a little sad. As I said, it’s time to rediscover the joy. Have a great day and week, as I may not post again for a while.

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Every Grain of Sand

Shot of Love, in my most un-humble opinion, isn’t one of Bob Dylan’s best albums. For a start, it’s short, and Dylan’s gems are usually found in a haystack of songs. But I’d forgotten about the last song on the album, Every Grain of Sand, until I heard it the other morning in the car. It was one of my favorite songs in high school; my dad must have bought Shot of Love at some point in my childhood. After all, it was one of Dylan’s post-conversion 80’s albums. The melody of the song is haunting when mixed with the lyrics and the vocals. I’m posting the lyrics, but I suggest you go find a copy of the song somewhere and listen to it.

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood [sic] every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.

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