Archive for September, 2011


Walking Upright

on September 30, 2011 in Misc 4 Comments »

My left thigh feels like someone took a bat to it.

My left hip and lower back on my left side feel bruised too.  But the most painful, tender part is the top and back of my left thigh.

Did I have an injury, you wonder?  Did I foolishly overwork myself in a burst of frenzied exercise?

Nope.  Yesterday morning my left leg and lower back got worked over by the toughest sports massage therapist in the Rocky Mountain region.  At least that’s my opinion of her.  She’s also a serious hiker, a shaman trained by shamans in Peru (I am not making this up), and the spiritual guide to more than a few CEO’s in both Colorado and southern California.

For almost two hours, this woman dug – and I mean DUG – with ferociously strong fingers, hands, and elbows into the body parts I described above.  That’s because I told her what had been bugging me and within seconds of touching my said parts she diagnosed what ailed me.

See, off and on for a couple months now my lower back has ached when I walk for more than about ten minutes.  And I have a strong back and abs, so this didn’t make sense.  And ‘course you know how I’ve written here that stretching and getting very limber has been part of my Layla routine.  Well, after making some good progress for a while, I started regressing.  For the last couple months just sitting cross-legged kinda hurt.  A tendon in my upper left thigh would twinge painfully with nearly any kind of outward movements.  Anyway, these and a couple other really bothering symptoms made me figure that for all my stretching there were some bunched-up, tight muscles in me that were holding me back and making me hurt.

Turns out I was right.  And finding this out  made me feel better about spending $120 I could ill afford and for which I won’t be reimbursed by my health insurance.  But dang, this sport therapist/shaman was worth it!  She described the little muscles in my thigh and butt that were drum tight even as she pressed down mercilessly and rubbed and pushed while I tried not to gasp and squeak and squirm in agony.

Oh, and about my tendons in that area – they were rock hard, she explained, which isn’t good because they should be supple.  But my muscles’ tightness and other factors had cut off circulation to the tendons, rendering them rigid which can create all kind of problems.  And this tendon that was over here was supposed to be over there, and she had to push it back into place, and gosh darn wasn’t that an interesting sensation.

But here’s the real revelation:  you know why I had this leg/ hip/ back problem to begin with?  Why I’ve always been tight in certain places and no amount of stretching would loosen me up?   BECAUSE I DON’T WALK CORRECTLY!

That’s right, folks.  Despite my self-image of having good posture and being fairly athletic, the way my left foot rolls outward and a couple other details about my gait (she had me walk back and forth in front of her) have screwed up my body.  And the frustrating thing is, I’VE BEEN WALKING LIKE THIS SINCE I WAS A KID!  I know this because even when I was very young the heels of my shoes would always wear down on the outside, especially on the left.  Sound harmless to you?  Well, it’s NOT!

And I know this therapist is right because already my hips and leg, despite the bruising pain she inflicted on me, feel looser and better and that sharp tendon twinge is gone.  I’m also relieved to learn that there’s a medical, logical reason behind my body’s inability to truly stretch in a few specific positions.  Now I might finally make some progress.

All I have to do is break a life-long bad habit and learn to walk properly and get into the particular stretching classes she strongly recommended and which are run by a guy who’ll be able to tell me when I’m screwing up my body parts.  That’s all.

Piece of cake.

Okay, so now I have to educate myself on how to upload the digital version of The Compass Master to Amazon, even though this e-version isn’t finished yet, or I can choose to let the CreateSpace people do it for me.

Decisions, decisions!

Meanwhile I gotta post something here, but it’s not like I’ve got time to write anything.  So today I’m just gonna give you some reasons why, as a writer, you may find justification for using the F word in your description of a scene.

Also, these photos really eat memory, so I’m posting only a few today and more tomorrow.

Hope you enjoy them.  Or maybe wince or cringe.

WHEN IT’S OKAY TO USE THE * F *  WORD…..

Add an Image

This last one really is so very, very gross.  Oh, F*****!

A Morbid Confession

on September 23, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

They say that the wages of sin is death.  But after taxes its just a tired feeling – Woody Allen

So today I’m making a couple small confessions.

The first one is a little embarrassing because what I have to admit is that… (pause to clear throat)… I LOVE GHOST STORIES SO MUCH AND I REALLY WANT TO GO GHOSTHUNTING!

There, I said it.  But before you dismiss me as a flake and nut job I have to tell you that I just found out how bestselling, serious literary writer Jodi Picoult has done some serious ghosthunting.  In fact, she’s been one of the Ghosthunters with those two guys on the sci fi channel show.  She just hasn’t done any of the hunting on camera, but she thanks them in the acknowledgments of one of her novels, and I read about her ghosthunting adventures in the book Seeking Spirits, which the two guys wrote.  So there!  My ghostly urge has got literary creds!

Anyway, in Seeking Spirits the guys write that sometimes a ghost (or soul or spirit or energy or whatever you want to call it) might be hanging around because of unfinished business.  This is also what I’ve heard from my Irish mother and a sprinkling of my gobs of Irish relatives.  “Never leave unfinished business on this earth or you’ll have to come back to finish it,” they warn.  A variation of this is not fulfilling a promise or not doing the good deed you should’ve done.  Then they finish with a story (and the Irish are masters at storytelling) that they swear is true and that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  I LOVE that tingling excitement!

Anyway, all this stuff about ghosts floating around and bothering people because of unfinished business such as say, dead writers wailing like banshees over how they never got their novels published, leads me to my second confession, which is…

I’m hurrying up and self-publishing my novels because I just want those blasted, glorious, imperfect, pain-in-the-butt offspring of my imagination in print before I die.  If a publisher ends up liking them and wants to publish them too, fine.  Meanwhile, these babies are turning into real books  while I’m still this side of the grave.

Sounds kinda morbid, doesn’t it?  But it’s the truth.  I mean, a few years ago one of my cousins dropped dead of a sudden massive heart attack.  He was in his 50s.  Another cousin died very young from cancer.  Car accidents happen.  Shit happens.  I myself have no illusions of being immortal.  Meanwhile my unpublished novels are sitting in a computer and in manuscripts on my desk.

For whatever macabre reason I have long borne in mind the fate of John Kennedy Toole (note the Irish name).  He tried to get his novel A Confederacy of Dunces published but it was rejected.  The poor guy gave up the ghost and killed himself, whereupon his mother took up his cause and endured SEVEN YEARS of rejections from publishers.  Then she showed it to legendary American writer Walker Percy, who fell in love with it and got it published by a small university press.

A Confederacy of Dunces became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer.

And you just know that poor Toole was floating ghost-like around that Pulitzer award and mounting royalties and glowing reviews and saying, “Oh, crap!”

So there you have it.  A morbid Irish fatalism is one of the reasons I’m publishing my novels myself.  And believe it or not, my decision has given me some peace of mind.

Almost a Gambler

on September 20, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

First of all, my apologies to any of you who stopped by yesterday only to be greeted by a page that said “Account Suspended.”  In my non-cyber life I am very, very good about paying my bills.  However, when it comes to this blog I can kinda space out when an annual payment is due…. Oops.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, you know what Layla/ action hero stuff I was finally ready to do this last weekend?  I was going to go gambling.  As in head for a local casino in the foothills outside Denver where I can lay down cold hard cash and play games of Texas hold ‘em.  Which by the way I’ve never played with anyone and never for cash, but hey, gotta start some time, right?

If I’m sounding less than wildly enthusiastic about this, there’s a reason:  I’m just not a gambler by nature.  I mean, I LOVE adventure and excitement and lots of physical risks and thrills and spills, at least the kind that don’t inflict physical pain and injuries.  But gambling?  Nope, doesn’t do a thing for me.

Of course I’ve been in a casino at least once where I played a couple slot machines (nickel level only) and came out two dollars ahead.  My reaction was a sarcastic Whoop-de-Doo.  I mean, risking bodily harm or even death can be fun.  But risking my money?  That’s what small cap funds are for, and even those I stay away from.

The problem is action heroes are often whizzes in any casino.  They walk in like winners and walk out with money stuck to them like lint.  In Casino Royale M even assigns James Bond the official task of winning over $100 million dollars from the bad guy in, like, the most exclusive card game in the most exclusive casino in the world.  Guess what happens – HE WINS! (Shocker, I know.)

But here’s a reality factoid:  In Ian Fleming’s original Casino Royale novel, which was the first in his Bond series, even a swank gambling joint is a weary, grim place.  “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”

Or at three in the afternoon, I might add.

Still, Layla/ action hero duty calls, and I really did have the firm intention this last weekend of dragging my reluctant backside to said casino.  I was even kinda looking forward to it, which gives you an idea of how bored outta my mind I’ve been from too much work, both the paying kind and the writing kind.

But on Saturday the weather was crappy and I had chores to do, so I figured I’d go Sunday.  Then Sunday rolls around and a few REALLY CRAPPY THINGS happen and it was like, okay, my day is shot to hell.  I’d rather be up in the hills losing my hard-earned money.

So now it’s Tuesday and I’m at work.  But one of these upcoming weekends I really will go to a casino, where I intend to win lots of money.  Because action heroes never lose and because I really, really need the cash.

Novel Houses

on September 16, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

So yesterday I read Michael Offutt’s blog SLC Kismet (http://slckismet.blogspot.com/) and what he had to say about what makes men tick.  Why they do what they do.  What to bear in mind about men when creating them in your novels.

I can quibble about a couple of his points, but his main argument about how men need to be somebody and need to win really rang true for me.   Which led me to the question…

What about women? What are our most atavistic urges?

Now before you start throwing around words like nurturing, mothering, children, sex and romance and clothes and more sex and romance and whatever, I’m gonna cut you off.  Instead I want to focus on a single trait I see in most women.  And yes, this trait shows up in novels too.  To whit…

Many women have an obsession with houses.

How do I know this?  Because I don’t own a house, which absolutely flabbergasts a lot of females of my acquaintance.  In the eyes of some of them, it’s as if I’m an abject failure, an alien creature who has never known the joys of true domestic contentment.  I am unfulfilled.  They give me unasked for advice on mortgages or why I should buy a house NOW because the market will never be better (a lie I’ve heard for years).  If I had listened to any of them I would now be upside down in a mortgage.  Yet not once, except for a lone male relative, has any man ever questioned my domestic lifestyle or lectured me about home ownership.  Men just shrug.

And this difference between the sexes is right there in books and movies.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Then tell me about James Bond’s house.

Doesn’t have one, does he?  What he does have is an Aston Martin and he’s always driving really cool cars for which he must have a swank garage.

Lara Croft has a big old mansion, but the rough and tumble jock stuff she does in it shows you that she and her place were created by guys.  The houses in Stephen King’s novels?  You don’t want to go into them without an ax and an exorcist.  Batman’s mansion is generic and unmemorable; it’s the bat cave underneath that matters.  Indiana Jones’ house is just a stopover between adventures.  In Star Wars and Star Trek, people bunk in space ships and swamps and forests and anything but a suburban subdivision.  In noir novels and movies the male heroes have apartments; only the crooked rich live in big houses.  Charles Dickens’ most famous houses are dumps inhabited by Scrooge and Miss Havisham.  Jay Gatsby’s mansion is a lonely, loveless expanse of American excess.  Hemingway?  He was as domestic as a nomad.  Huck Finn has only a raft and no desire to get civilized and house-bound.  In Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy may be trying to get back home, but once she does the story ends.

Then again, I have to admit that Sherlock Holmes famously lived in a comfortable townhouse on Baker Street.

In many novels, a man might fight for his ranch, his land, his farm, his cabin.  But I don’t know of any books that describes, in loving detail how a man moves into and cleans up a house and puts flowers in the windowsill in the kitchen.  But that’s what happens in women-written novels, like anything by Alice Hoffman or stories like The Physick Book of DeliveranceDane.  Charlaine Harris’s series with Sookie Stackhouse (note the name) describes the house Sookie lives in, how she inherited it from her grandmother, how in one novel part of it burns down and it gets rebuilt and redecorated.  It mentions the new curtains Sookie buys for the living room.

Men do not write about curtains unless there’s a killer or a naked woman behind them.

On the other hand, it’s women writers who’ve created some of the most famous real estate in literary history.

Wuthering Heights, that shelter for overheated romance, comes to mind.  At the heart of Gone with the Wind is Tara, the home Scarlett has in her blood.  And what about Hogwarts?  No, it’s not a house, but it’s a home away from home for someone like Harry Potter, whose relatives’ suburban abode is a miserable prison.  To Kill a Mockingbird has Scout’s and Boo’s houses, memorable because of the vibrant life that goes on in and around them.

Anyway, this is my take on women and houses and literature.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, more like a tendency or instinct.  But what’s real about so many women’s novels is the real estate.

Once, just once years ago, I very possibly, very briefly exhibited a kind of action hero superpower.

I know what you’re thinking. Did I fly through the air? Pick up a car? Bend a steel bridge in half by means of pure mind power like Magneto does, or whoever that X-Man is?

Um… not quite.

What I did wasn’t much, but it was really weird.  I made a picture on the wall vibrate and rattle for about 10 minutes.

Yes, I thought that would astound you.  Let me explain.

I was not touching said picture, which by the way was a large, framed poster that weighs about a pound, maybe a pound and a half.  I’d had it since I was eighteen (a Beardsley print I got in London), still have it, and never before or since has it moved a fraction of an inch.  Also, at the time of said vibration I was at least several inches away from the picture.  The thing was hanging on the wall above and behind me as I sat on the sofa.

But see, while I sitting there I WAS FUMING! I was mentally RANTING IN A COMPLETE RAGE! I WANTED TO TEAR EVIL PEOPLE TO PIECES!

The reason for this was that I had just learned via phone from my sister that her teenage son, my fave rave nephew, had just been subjected to a truly cruel, outrageous injustice.  I mean, it was so over the top it was mentally hard to grasp.  Only a few days later would the ugly mess be resolved.

In the meantime, my nephew was extremely upset and suffering and my blood was boiling.  I was also paying almost no attention to the way the metal frame of the picture near my head was doing a non-stop tap dance.  After a while I reached up and stopped the rattling by touching the picture.  I vaguely assumed that the refrigerator in the kitchen, which had cycled on, was vibrating the floor which was vibrating the walls, etc.  Within seconds, the picture again started rattling away.  When the refrigerator cycled off the picture kept moving, and it didn’t stop until I got up and moved away and forced myself to calm down.

All the while, NOTHING else moved, not the other pictures and art pieces on the wall, not a single knickknack or paddywack or give a dog a bone in my entire place gave any indication that something was making them do a jitterbug.  The news never reported the tiniest earth tremor – very rare in Denver anyway.  And in the following days and weeks I found myself waiting for that picture to shake rattle and roll again.  But it never budged.  And that’s when I realized that my out-of-control emotions may have been the force that had moved it.

Now before you chalk me up as a nutcase, let me tell you that I only made this mind-over-matter connection ‘cause I’d seen an old science show on the topic.  In it, the scientist-cum-science-fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke investigated cases of so-called psychokinesis or telekinesis, and his simple conclusion was that small objects can “be thrown around” with no apparent physical cause other than by powerful emotions.

“Usually there is a disturbed adolescent in the background,” he stated (shades of  Stephen King’s Carrie!).  He went on to say that “labels such as ‘psychokinesis’ are only fig leaves to conceal our ignorance” when instead we should look for a scientific explanation for a phenomenon that has made for a “persistent pattern over so many cultures and such a long period of time.”

Hot damn!  Who knew there were so many watered-down versions of Carrie out there?  As for myself, all I can say is that I wasn’t a disturbed adolescent when I made that picture rattle.  But I guess I wasn’t exhibiting any latent superpowers either.

Darn it.

Yes I know I should be writing something new for my blog.  My poor, neglected blog.

I had the best of intentions on Labor Day.  But I put it off and by evening I was feeling too vaguely cruddy to do much of anything but get ready for work.

So yesterday at work I figured, I’ll write something over lunch.  But work got so busy I barely had time to eat.

Okay, so I’ll write something in the evening – as in last night.

Forget it.  Work got so crazy over a deadline I didn’t even leave the office until 7:00 pm and didn’t get home until 7:30.  By then my brain was making little farting noises.  I didn’t so much as cook dinner because standing for more than five minutes was beyond my capabilities.  So I just munched and practiced being a slug.

And today?  Well, I’m at work and shouldn’t be plugging away on my blog, and tonight I have fencing.  Assuming I have the energy to go to fencing.

Damn, I’m just a mass of pathetic excuses, ain’t I?

Anyway, I hope that in the next day or two I’ll get over this low-grade slugginess my body and brain seems to be going through (as in not quite sick, but far from functioning good health), at which time I will come roaring back here with action and literary brilliance.

Or at least some action and literary effort.

Panic Time

on September 2, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

OMG I feel so STUPID.

I left a quote in The Compass Master that might’ve gotten me in big trouble and I kinda went into a panic over it.

Let me explain.

On Tuesday the proof for The Compass Master arrived in my mail.   Proof is the publisher’s term for a book in its almost final form: bound and with the final cover and text, barring any changes.   So for the first time I saw how my baby is truly gonna look and feel.

Funny thing is, I didn’t get excited. Instead of YIPPEE, THIS IS MY BOOK!  I was more like, Oh, so here at last is The Compass Master.  Damn, I wrote one, big, fat, honkin’ thick book, didn’t I?  523 pages.   I think I got carried away.

Anyway that night I started slowly scanning the text and the next day kept it up on the bus to and from work.  And by scanning I mean making sure the 100 short chapters are all in order, doesn’t look like so much as a paragraph is missing.  I didn’t really read the text ‘cause I’ve been through the whole freakin’ manuscript again and again and again in the last few months, and if I read it again I’ll want to edit and cut stuff out ‘cause I’m never satisfied with anything I write.

But on page 237, for whatever odd reason, my eyes focused on one particular sentence…

“………………………………………,” Paul McCartney kept singing in his head. (WORDS BLANKED OUT DELIBERATELY.  SEE WHY BELOW.

And that’s when I wondered…Um, do I need copyright permission to use Paul’s seven little words?  And more important, why am I so FREAKING STUPID AND DENSE THAT I DIDN’T ASK MYSELF THIS QUESTION BACK IN THE EARLY REVIEW STAGES?

Now as you know I’m a veteran in the copyright permission department.  Did it so I could use in TCM quotes from a book and two stanzas of a Monty Python song.  That took time and money ($100 for Python), I can tell you.  So I already knew how you can quote two lines of poetry without seeking permission.  You can paraphrase from books, within limits, if you give attribution.  But what about songs?

Turns out the law says one thing and music companies say another.

The law basically instructs writers to give attribution (I did this by mentioning McCartney) and keep it to a few words (done).  But music companies are so fanatical about slapping their greedy, controlling hands over everything they possess rights to that they’ll haul even minor authors into court on charges of copyright infringement because the lowly writers dared to quote say, seven measly words from a song.   In one case the court found for the author and ordered the music company to pay his court costs.  But who wants to be sued and go to court?

So I spent a restless night of semi-panic thinking that at this late stage I’d have to pay my publisher CreateSpace about $200 to remove this single sentence.  I contacted them first thing in the morning.

They’re gonna take the sentence out for free.

Well, that was a thank you Jesus and all ye gods moment for me.

And this really and truly should be the final change I’ll make to The Compass Master.  Now Paul McCartney and Northern Lights Music can rest assured that this writer will never ever again quote anything of theirs in print.   No, not ever.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.