Trial by Fire

never-too-late

It’s never too late, but ugly is as ugly does. I don’t remove myself from that statement. Anyone who’s visited this blog or my twitter feed knows who I’m voting for and who I rail against.

So this is me. Am I mistaken to take it further and say this is us? Eleven short days before we elect our new president, who we are is not in question, but where we’re going is. What vision do we have for these United States, which–at least, right now–seem to be anything but? No doubt this country is fractured in all kinds of ways: split economically and racially; divided by party, gender, sexuality, religion, education, opportunity, the rule of law. And the threads that have historically bound us together–our national pride, our democratic system, our humanity, our decency–are most certainly frayed, almost beyond repair.

But the key word is almost. November 8 will be the test for us, because someone’s candidate is going to win, and someone’s candidate is going to lose. What happens next is anyone’s guess; only time will tell if our presidential choice was wise or folly.

Today is no different than yesterday or last week/month/year: fear and anger bubble to the surface of our collective conscience, solidifying the divisive construct of us vs. them: angels or demons, right or left, right  or wrong–

see-as-we-are

When our children look back on this tumultuous time, who and what will they see? It’s never too late for us to be who we might have been, had we taken a deep breath today, had we stepped back from the vitriol and the rhetoric, had we given thanks for all we have and all we’ve accomplished–we, as in, the people.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, for our children’s sake as well as our own: we’re in this together, folks.

Time to Get Real

A doctor feeds a malnourished child at a feeding center run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, Nigeria last month.

In this photo taken Monday Aug. 29, 2016, a doctor feeds a malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, Nigeria. The whimpers from skeletally thin babies too weak to cry are a harbinger of worse things to come: A quarter of the children lucky enough to make it to this emergency feeding center are dying. They are the latest victims of Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency.

SUNDAY ALAMBA/AP

And the countdown clock is ticking.

Yep, the countdown clock is ticking. As I write this, there are 23 days, 11 hours, and X minutes until the next Presidential election. You can go to this website: http://www.270towin.com/2016-countdown-clock/ should you feel the need to keep track of the time you have left before the world implodes/explodes/does-whatever-the-fuck-it’s-gonna-do.

Need a little titillation in the interim? Go ahead, pull up MSN online and read about Hillary’s latest possible ethics violations, or The Donald’s latest over-the-top response to yet another tawdry sexual assault allegation. Or, if you prefer, scroll the headlines for Billy Bush’s possible $10,000,000 buyout from the Today Show. His lawyer says it ain’t so . . . really compelling stuff.

Boy suffering severe malnutrition at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics in Muna on outskirts of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria. 30 June 2016Image from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36831225

Maybe you’re looking for lighter fare. Today’s MSN headlines include how often you should wash your bras, Trump calling for a drug test before the next debate, and this not-to-miss headline: ‘General Hospital’: Where are they now? Or perhaps you’d prefer to read about the latest Ken Bone controversy. Yep, Ken Bone, aka That nice-debate-guy-in-a-big-red-sweater. . .

Meanwhile, as you scroll down the headlines (beer in hand), another child dies from starvation in a world a million miles away . . . actually 6000, but whose counting?

You may have noticed that headline while you were scrolling, the one about all those people starving in Nigeria. You may have even paused a moment; thought to yourself, That’s in Africa, right? Far away from here, that’s for sure. Well geez, that’s too damn bad. Hope somebody helps those folks but hey, this crazy presidential election’s important, too. What is it . . . 23 days and how many hours now? I might be missing something important and what’s this about Ken Bone and Reddit, anyway? How did I miss the THAT controversy?

Meanwhile, in a hellish place called Borno state, in a besieged country called Nigeria, another starving child is fighting for his life.

Photo Attribution: World Vision Deutschland

Photo Attribution: World Vision Deutschland

Aid experts say the humanitarian crisis caused by the seven-year conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram militants has left an estimated 500,000 people homeless in northern Nigeria, the majority of whom are in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care.

Of these, 244,000 are children, and the French charity Doctors Without Borders, which has set up a network of emergency camps in the region, warns that one in five will die in the coming weeks if they do not receive urgent treatment and food supplies.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/29/50000-children-face-death-by-starvation-in-northern-nigeria/

The photographs aren’t easy to look at. The stories about famine and suffering are tough as hell to read. It’s easier for us to shake our heads, say, “That’s so awful.” Easier (and far more pleasant) to keep scrolling through those mindless headlines. Easier for us to complain to each other on blogs and Twitter feeds; easier to turn on the tube and tune out the suffering somewhere else; easier to mindlessly watch our football games and our recorded episodes of The Big  Bang Theory; easier for us to check out the latest viral clips of animals behaving oddly during a full moon and epic cooking fails.

We scroll the headlines on our smart phone and tablets for proof that our privileged world is falling apart, forgetting just how lucky we are, just how good we have it here. As we eat our Cheetos and drink our bottled waters and trade our vicious barbs and lament our democratic election process, another child too weak to cry starves to death in front of heartbroken parents–a child whose only crime was being born in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Charles Dickens was right: Mankind is our business. The common welfare is our business. And when our fellow human beings on this earth suffer as those poor people suffer, they are our business. We have a responsibility to help the most vulnerable, whomever and wherever they may be.

Take a moment to consider the unfolding, epic tragedy in Nigeria: 500,000 people literally trapped in a hell not of their own making, in a country under siege from terrorists and famine. Pick up the phone or pull up the website for Doctors Without Borders and donate as much money as we can to those brave, brave souls who put their lives on the line every day, for a cause the likes of which we can’t possibly fathom, for a people whose personal suffering is a million times worse than any we will ever know.

Today, thousands upon thousands are enduring unimaginable suffering. Thousands of starving children are dying. Thousands of grieving parents can’t do anything but watch.

And the countdown clock keeps ticking. . .

Down, Down, Down the Rabbit Hole

theemperorsnewclothes

How can Donald Trump, a man with a zero-respectability factor at this point, continue to inspire, let alone have, a fan base? Don’t they know their emperor has no clothes? There’s nothing to see, folks, but we’ll just let the guy speak for himself.

The following is taken from the transcript of the second debate*:

COOPER: Have you ever [kissed women without their consent, grabbed their genitals, sexually assaulted women]?

TRUMP: No, I have not. And I will tell you that I’m going to make our country safe. We’re going to have borders in our country, which we don’t have now. People are pouring into our country, and they’re coming in from the Middle East and other places.

We’re going to make America safe again. We’re going to make America great again, but we’re going to make America safe again. And we’re going to make America wealthy again, because if you don’t do that, it just — it sounds harsh to say, but we have to build up the wealth of our nation.

Wait. What does the Middle East have to do with grabbing a woman’s genitals?

TRUMP: But I want to do things that haven’t been done, including fixing and making our inner cities better for the African-American citizens that are so great, and for the Latinos, Hispanics, and I look forward to doing it. It’s called make America great again.

No, it’s called ANSWER THE QUESTION.

TRUMP: And I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it.

Please don’t say it.

TRUMP: When I speak, I go out and speak.

What does that mean?

TRUMP: We’re going to be able to. You’re going to have plans…

COOPER: What does that mean?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what it means. You’re going to have plans that are so good. . .

But . . . never mind. You were asked a question about Muslims, remember that one?

QUESTION: Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I’m one of them. You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?

TRUMP: Well, you’re right about Islamophobia, and that’s a shame.
. . .
Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. 

Please tell us that wasn’t part of your response to that woman.

TRUMP: She won’t say the name and President Obama won’t say the name. But the name is there. It’s radical Islamic terror. And before you solve it, you have to say the name.

The name is Idiot. Or asshole. Whichever you prefer.

TRUMP: I was against — I was against the war in Iraq. Has not been debunked.

Has so. Even Bernie–

TRUMP: Bernie Sanders said that Hillary Clinton has very bad judgment.

TRUMP: And I will tell you very strongly, when Bernie Sanders said she had bad judgment, she has really bad judgment. . .

TRUMP: And, again, Bernie Sanders, it’s really bad judgment.

Oh–I mean, what? 

TRUMP: She’s not doing any me favors. But by doing all the others’ favors, she’s doing me favors.

So she isn’t, but she is ?  We don’t get it.

TRUMP: No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.

You know, when we have a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have — and, frankly, drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sights all over, where you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times. We haven’t seen anything like this, the carnage. . .

Carnage, indeed. Wrought by you, the United States Republican Presidential nominee, who brags about grabbing women’s crotches, who publicly ridicules disabled persons, who incites violence, who calls women pigs, who boasts about his penis size. . .

You’re right, Donald, we haven’t seen anything like this. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.

TRUMP: Obamacare is a total disaster. And not only are your rates going up by numbers that nobody’s ever believed, but your deductibles are going up, so that unless you get hit by a truck, you’re never going to be able to use it.

Please, please, hit us with a truck to put out of our misery. Surely this is all a bad dream–

TRUMP: We have enough problems in this country. I believe in building safe zones. I believe in having other people pay for them, as an example, the Gulf states, who are not carrying their weight, but they have nothing but money, and take care of people.

**23. Texas – Median household income: $53,035  Poverty rate: 17.2%
39. Florida – Median household income: $47,463  Poverty rate: 16.5%
44. Louisiana – Median household income: $44,555  Poverty rate: 19.8%
47. Alabama – Median household income: $42,830  Poverty rate: 19.3%
50. Mississippi – Median household income: $39,680  Poverty rate: 21.5%

Just sayin’, Donald. There appears to be somethig very, very wrong with your balance sheet.

TRUMP: I have a very, very great balance sheet, so great that when I did the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, the United States government, because of my balance sheet, which they actually know very well, chose me to do the Old Post Office, between the White House and Congress, chose me to do the Old Post Office. One of the primary area things, in fact, perhaps the primary thing was balance sheet. 

We’re tumbling down, folks.

TRUMP: We are old. We’re tired. We’re exhausted. . .

We are. We ARE.

TRUMP: It’s a mess.

It is, Mr. Trump–wait, are we actually agreeing with the man?

TRUMP: . . .I disagree. I disagree.

Down, down. . .

TRUMP: How stupid is our country?

Is that a rhetorical question? I mean, at this point, what can we say?

TRUMP: All I say is this. General George Patton, General Douglas MacArthur are spinning in their grave at the stupidity of what we’re doing. . .

It’s true, it’s all true, and we’re spinning . . . falling . . . oh hell, what’s the difference? This would be hilarious it wasn’t so bloody tragic.

TRUMP: You know what’s funny? She went over a minute over, and you don’t stop her. When I go one second over, it’s like a big deal.

RADDATZ: You had many answers.

TRUMP: It’s really — it’s really very interesting.

It’s really very something, that’s for sure.

TRUMP: It’s just words, folks. It’s just words.

*WHEW* For a minute there, we thought. . .

*http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/10/us/politics/transcript-second-debate.html
** http://blogs.voanews.com/all-about-america/2015/09/21/these-are-americas-richest-poorest-states/

Make Me

doll-face-soft

As with novels I have written, she’s more than the sum of her parts. I know, because I made her–with my oils and brush, painted each strip of yarn, brightened her eyes with light, her puppet smile on white rendered just so…

She knows some things you couldn’t know. About herself. About her maker.

Novels, often sewn from naught and each, a tiny seed of thought adrift until, by chance, a writer plucks it from the ether, makes it hers, renders it real . . .

But to what end? Unsold, said novel hides in hollow walls of shame and doubt, unseen by others, not allowed to speak

And yet, it has a voice. It says,

What matters most lies in my rendering. My mere existence proves that YES, my writer’s efforts (and her failures, which she views as weak), have made me quite unique; and lessons inked in blood and sweat are lessons she will not forget.

Sometimes in writing, as in art, the value’s in the making.

W.T.F.

cat-what-the-fuck

First of all, that’s bloody hilarious.

Second of all, Wise Kitty is directing that question to this writer. Said writer is 100% certain of it, being as she’s been asking herself the same question for months now. And yet, the answer continues to elude her, for reasons as yet unknown.

Meanwhile, said writer is painfully cognizant of the implications of Wise Kitty’s question, which include a proverbial ticking clock…

Oh fuck. Fucking A. What is wrong with me? said writer asks Wise Kitty. I mean, aside from the following:

a) I don’t have an agent anymore.

b) My agent pool for CHERRY is nearly dry.

c) If I self-pubbed CHERRY I’d need permissions, as I’ve quoted from TRY, STONE CITY, Elmore Leonard’s TEN RULES of WRITING, and the biggie: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, kinda sorta. Actually, whether I self-pub or have an agent/publisher, I’d need permissions anyway, but…

d) My query for ALBERT (still) kinda sucks.

e) If I forego agents altogether and just try publishers, would I be making a huge mistake? I can’t stop waffling. (<– Maybe that should be f).

f) See a). My confidence was shaken when I parted company with my agent back in February. I haven’t yet recovered. I thought I had. Apparently, I was wrong.

g) I’m in the middle of writing a thriller–with two POVs, set in both the present and the past–which is not a genre I’ve written before. Hence, my uncertainty/waffling.

h) What agent would take on an author whose novels a) don’t fit the status quo, b) are dissimilar, and c) are adult literary fiction narrated by children/pricks/psychos…?

i) I’m deluding myself. I will never be published. (See all of the above).

j) Relative to g ), my WIP (SOULLESS), has possibilities, but only if I take my poor young main characters to a very dark place, which can only happen if I allow myself to go to that dark place…

Who the hell am I kidding? I’m there. I’ve been there. I don’t know how the fuck to get OUT of there, which is slowly and quietly killing me and yet I feel compelled to carry on, which is why Wise Kitty is asking me once more, with feeling:

cat-what-the-fuck

Apologies, Wise Kitty. I have no fucking idea.

 

kk’s LASERBEAM of DOOM

giphy rainbow unicorn

Before I skewer my unsuspecting target with my sooper dooper LASERBEAM of DOOM, I need to get something off my chest. It concerns Crazyman, aka Donald Trump, who was actually the original focus of this post.

In fact, I just now deleted said post. Why? Supersaturation. Too much. NO MAS.

:p

All right, just one more thing about the guy and then I’ll stop: People are wondering when/if Trump will ‘stick to the script,’ aka ‘read the teleprompter,’ so he’ll come across as ‘more presidential,’ aka, ‘less like a horse’s ass and/or raving lunatic.’ To those people I have to say the following:

ARE YOU EFFING SERIOUS??? WE’VE SEEN “THE REAL DONALD TRUMP” FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS AND MONTHS NOW. READING FROM A TELEPROMPTER WON’T CHANGE WHO AND WHAT HE IS. ANYTHING TRUMP SAYS OR DOES FROM THIS POINT FORWARD WILL NEVER NEGATE WHAT HE’S ALREADY SAID AND DONE. 

ENOUGH.

*deep breath*

Switching gears now…

stephen king quote

Well said, Mr. King.

I greatly admire Stephen King, and I trust most of his writerly advice. In fact, I endeavor to do what he suggests: I write a lot, and I read a lot.

Of course, when you do anything a lot, not everything you do is going to be stellar. Which means I sometimes write crap, and I sometimes read crap . . . like King’s UNDER THE DOME. I found the novel to be bloated and self-indulgent to the point of no mas.

Then again, THE STAND was a really good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the novel I’m currently ‘reading,’ aka ‘slogging through’: WICKED WAYS, written by Lisa Jackson and also, Nancy Bush (whom I believe is her sister). For me, the process of getting through this novel (I’m maybe 40 pages from the end) has proven to be an almost herculean effort on my part. WICKED WAYS is an incredibly tedious and frustrating read. Tedious, because the author (I’m calling out Jackson here, as her name is prominent on the cover) has written a tedious novel about a bunch of characters I don’t enjoy spending time with. And frustrating, because the book is SO POORLY WRITTEN as to be almost laughable, and yet, it’s written by a NYT best-selling author. . .

How can that  be?

Before I answer that, another question: Is it poor form for a writer to call out a fellow writer this way? I’m thinking now how I would feel if some unpublished hack did the same to me.

Although, chances are

  1.  I wouldn’t be reading said unpublished hack’s little blog with its tiny little audience anyway, and
  2.  As a professional writer, I’d take negative reviews with a grain of salt, realizing that readers respond to writing subjectively, and have every right to do so.

Back to skewering with kk’s Laserbeam of Doom: I checked the reviews for WICKED WAYS on Goodreads ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20949512-wicked-ways ), just in case I was way off base here. The results surprised me: of 1054 ratings for the novel, nearly one-quarter–254 people–rated it 5 stars. Just five percent (54 readers) gave it one star, which begs the question:

What the HELL were those 254 people reading??? 

Here are snippets from four Goodreads reviews:

Elizabeth is a great character, but a bit wimpy. She always seems to be crying about something or worrying about something… (snip) I really was not to fond of her daughter, Chloe. She acted like a spoiled brat most of the time and it angered me every time Elizabeth gave into her.

 

I enjoyed this book. I did feel that Elizabeth was kind of plain and boring.

 

I tried to finish this book but when the author made the highly unnecessary sentence “they got out of the car using opposite doors” really? No, I thought they clambered out of the same door -.- I just couldn’t do it anymore.

 

Gave up halfway through. Terrible writing, boring characters and a waste of time.

That last review pretty much echos mine, except for the fact that I’m still reading the damn thing.  And here’s a little tidbit for you: those first two snippets are from 5-star reviews. Go figure.

So what’s the point of skewering this particular novel? It’s not a classic by any stretch, but then, it never claimed to be. And, as the fourth in a series, it’s far from being a bust for the author(s). In fact, the majority of Goodreads reviewers really seemed to enjoy WICKED WAYS, which makes me wonder if this could possibly be a case of sour grapes on my part. I mean, here I am trying to get another agent/get my stuff published/write the best novels I can, and there she is. . .

I admit it: there’s a bad taste in my mouth right now, but not because I’m in any way jealous–scratch that. I’m a little jealous. Hence, my frustration, but only because I know poor writing when I see it, and there’s an awful lot of poor writing in that novel.

And yet, who’s the unpublished sap still reading that damn book, and who’s the NYT best-selling author laughing all the way to the bank? Yep, kk’s Laserbeam of Doom is primed for action.

Guess who’s getting the shaft.

🙂

 

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here

Attribution: Joaquim Alves Gaspar

Attribution: Joaquim Alves Gaspar

Loss is tough, especially when it hits you hard and fast; with no chance to steel yourself against the pain that will surely rock you to your core.

Our dear friend and neighbor died unexpectedly early Thursday morning; in his sleep, for which we’re profoundly grateful, especially for the sake of his loving family and his wife.

But that one consolation has done little to ease our profound sadness and sense of loss. We’ve  been blind-sighted. Shocked and rocked and heartbroken. It’s like somebody yanked the rug out from under us and sent us tumbling headlong down some crazy rabbit hole, and now we’re stumbling in the darkness of some cruel, parallel universe where the person we loved is everywhere, without existing anymore.

His absence on our little street is palpable. He was the keystone of our neighborhood. His death has sent us reeling.

Wish you were here, Ed. We’re really going to miss you.