Reality Bites

The_Idiot_-_John_Kendrick_Bangs_-_cover_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_18881

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division …

Congratulations, President-Elect. You opened those wounds,  just as you closed the book on morality and decency.

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there are a few people. . .

(LAUGHTER)

. . .I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.

We are now in mourning.

But the blame for this mess lies as much at our feet as yours. Too many of us swallowed your messages of fear, hate, selfishness, and greed, and we’re about to learn the consequences of that.

Worst case scenario: the ugly fallout will be far-reaching and long lasting. The strides we’ve made, or may have made–in gender equality, human rights, gun control, environmental protections, affordable health care, inclusion, leading by example–will be obliterated in your wake. Your policies will set us back decades, if not centuries. You’re leadership will take us down the road to ruin.

Tremendous potential. I’ve gotten to know our country so well — tremendous potential. It’s going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Did you think we’d forget?

Say what you will about togetherness, Donald Trump. Your actions were unconscionable. Unforgiveable.

But as I’ve said, we did this to ourselves. It’s a shame, it really is. A travesty. A bitter commentary on what this country has allowed itself to become.

Deep breath. . .

Like thousands of others yesterday, I slid in and out of mourning; my anguish peppered with bouts of nausea, gut-wrenching fear, utter hopelessness. What an awful, awful day it was.

My husband and I talked about that. We mourn, yes, and we’ll will allow ourselves to mourn. But we can’t allow ourselves to sink into a deep and long-lasting depression that will only serve to hurt us, and accomplish nothing. The truth is, That man is going to be our president. What’s done is done. Nothing is going to change it.

But we do have options.

Last night, mr kk suggested ways we might temper our despair: think good thoughts, read the Serenity Prayer, list things we’re grateful for, relive happy memories–in other words, count our blessings.

I need to do that and I will–likely, many times–today, and in the days to come. But first, I need to make a declaration to this country’s president-elect: Your values aren’t my values, Donald Trump. Your empty platitudes don’t speak for me. I will never forget the things you’ve said, the damage you’ve done.

That person will never be my president.

THE THROAT: Damn Fine Writing

the-throat-straub

Those of you who’ve popped by here every now and again know how I feel about Absolute Write (absolutewrite.com). As a writer, I’ve learned so much from Aye-Dub, not to mention the support and friendships which have sprung up from my time there, enriching my otherwise lowly existence…

🙂

The other day, I noticed a thread on one of the forums : a fellow writer wondered about something he/she had read in King’s ON WRITING. Basically, King posits that, while competent writers can become good writers, poor writers can never become competent, and good writers can never become great writers.

That thread sparked a thought: What makes great writing great? which lead me to think of great writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Peter Straub’s THE THROAT–which I’m reading right now–is right up there.

How do I know? Because I’ve found myself wanting to find out what happens next, how the hell all those dots are going to connect. Reading this novel makes me want to find and read the first two books in Straub’s Blue Rose series. That’s a testament to his mastery of the genre: a mystery, no shit.

But for me, what makes THE THROAT so great is the writing. The story is intriguing, but the  writing is the thing. I’ve dog-eared pages to mark passages Straub has  written. Not flowery writing. Not necessarily profound. Mostly, they’re simple lines, perfectly suited to the character and scene, that have a certain something

Here’s what I mean:

He could not remember her name, but he knew he had stuck her right in the chest, and then stuck her a couple more times while she was still getting used to the idea.

Isn’t that perfect? It’s unexpected and kind of funny in a morbid sort of way. Not profound, but without a great writer writing that, I would’ve never had the pleasure of reading such a quirky, perfectly-constructed line.

Here’s another example, for a different reason:

We had at least two hours of Just Call Me Joyce, which demonstrated once again that when endured long enough, even the really horrible can become boring.

I actually stopped after reading that and thought about it, rolled it around in my little brain, wondering if it were really true. And I kept thinking about it. Such a simple declaration, but one with profound ramifications.

His hoarse, bludgeoning voice slammed each of his short sentences to the ground before picking up the next.

What I found so great about the line above is Straub’s mastery of well-chosen words. What an amazing line, I could SEE it, I could HEAR it. I FELT the reverberation of those slammed sentences, the meatiness of the man speaking: his exhaustion, his passion

Finally (because if I don’t stop at some point, this ode to Peter Straub will go on and on and on), there’s a part of the novel in which the narrator–a writer, no less–details just how he figured out his novel from beginning to end. It’s a blueprint of how a writer’s mind works, how he gets from A to B to Z, what his thought-processes are, how he cherry-picks from his own life experiences, the feeling that comes from finally, finally, figuring it all out…it’s an incredible insight into how the real-life writer Peter Straub, fiction writer extraordinaire, does what he does so well. And he allows us to be privy to that process? I mean, how lucky are we, his readers?

That’s great writing, folks.

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.