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Sunday, August 26, 2012

My blog for 8/26/2012 Song Of The Chattahoochee

Song of the Chattahoochee

by Sidney Lanier

Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.

All down the hills of Habersham,
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried Abide, abide,
The wilful waterweeds held me thrall,
The laving laurel turned my tide,
The ferns and the fondling grass said Stay,
The dewberry dipped for to work delay,
And the little reeds sighed Abide, abide,
Here in the hills of Habersham,
Here in the valleys of Hall.

High o'er the hills of Habersham,
Veiling the valleys of Hall,
The hickory told me manifold
Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall
**Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,
The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine,
Overleaning with flickering meaning and sign,
Said, Pass not, so cold, these manifold
Deep shades of the hills of Habersham,
**These glades in the valleys of Hall.

And oft in the hills of Habersham,
And oft in the valleys of Hall,
The white quartz shone, and the smooth brook-stone
Did bar me of passage with friendly brawl,
And many a luminous jewel lone
-Crystals clear or a-cloud with mist,
Ruby, garnet, and amethyst-
Made lures with the lights of streaming stone
**In the clefts of the hills of Habersham,
In the beds of the valleys of Hall.

But oh, not the hills of Habersham,
And oh, not the valleys of Hall
Avail: I am fain for to water the plain.
Downward the voices of Duty call-
Downward, to toil and be mixed with the main,
The dry fields burn, and the mills are to turn,
And a myriad flowers mortally yearn,
And the lordly main from beyond the plain
Calls o'er the hills of Habersham,
Calls through the valleys of Hall.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My blog for 8/25/2012 72 Truths About Writing

72 Truths About Writing

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
—Stephen King

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”
—William S. Burroughs

“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.”
—Steve Almond, WD

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
—George Orwell

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac, WD

“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”
—Hunter S. Thompson

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
—George Orwell

“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl, WD

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
—Robert Benchley

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”
—Stephen King, WD

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
—Peter Handke

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”
—William Zinsser, WD

“If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.”
—William Faulkner

“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. … I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.”
—Gore Vidal

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
—John Updike, WD

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
—Samuel Johnson

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King, WD

“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.”
—Allegra Goodman

“I’m out there to clean the plate. Once they’ve read what I’ve written on a subject, I want them to think, ‘That’s it!’ I think the highest aspiration people in our trade can have is that once they’ve written a story, nobody will ever try it again.”
—Richard Ben Cramer

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”
—Doris Lessing

“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”
—Jules Renard

“Style is to forget all styles.”
—Jules Renard

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
—Tom Clancy, WD

“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”
—Eudora Welty, WD

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
Lawrence Block, WD

“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”
—Leslie Gordon Barnard, WD

“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”
—Fred East, WD

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”
—Leigh Brackett, WD

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, WD

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King, WD

“Genius gives birth, talent delivers. What Rembrandt or Van Gogh saw in the night can never be seen again. Born writers of the future are amazed already at what they’re seeing now, what we’ll all see in time for the first time, and then see imitated many times by made writers.”
–Jack Kerouac, WD

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully, October 1923

“All stories have to at least try to explain some small portion of the meaning of life. You can do that in 20 minutes, and 15 inches. I still remember a piece that the great Barry Bearak did in The Miami Herald some 30 years ago. It was a nothing story, really: Some high school kid was leading a campaign to ban books he found offensive from the school library. Bearak didn’t even have an interview with the kid, who was ducking him. The story was short, mostly about the issue. But Bearak had a fact that he withheld until the kicker. The fact put the whole story, subtly, in complete perspective. The kicker noted the true, wonderful fact that the kid was not in school that day because “his ulcer was acting up.” Meaning of life, 15 inches.”
—Gene Weingarten, WD

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg, WD

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee, WD

“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”
—Andre Dubus, WD

“Geniuses can be scintillating and geniuses can be somber, but it’s that inescapable sorrowful depth that shines through—originality.”
—Jack Kerouac, WD

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
—R.L. Stine, WD

“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Writers are always selling somebody out.”
—Joan Didion

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
—Robert A. Heinlein

“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
—George Singleton

“There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”
—Jim Thompson

“Anyone who is going to be a writer knows enough at 15 to write several novels.”
—May Sarton

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”
—William Carlos Williams

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”
—Andre Gide

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
—Virginia Woolf

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
—Elmore Leonard

“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”
—George Singleton

“When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”
—Margaret Laurence

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”
—Patrick Dennis

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard

“A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.”
—Angela Carter

“I almost always urge people to write in the first person. … Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.”
—William Zinsser

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau

“You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide.”
—Marie de Nervaud, WD

“Whether a character in your novel is full of choler, bile, phlegm, blood or plain old buffalo chips, the fire of life is in there, too, as long as that character lives.”
—James Alexander Thom

“Writers live twice.”
—Natalie Goldberg

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My blog for 8/15/2012 Short Story

The Devolvement 

     "Well, where the hell is she?" Harmony asked, just in from his construction job. “Her car’s gone.”  His raisin pupils were tucked into slits passing for eyelids. He dipped his head under the cold water tap, shook it, and mopped it with the dishtowel.

     “She’s on the flat rock out back.” Delia took the misused dishtowel from her husband's hand and chose a folded replacement from a drawer.

     “Hell, it’s a couple of football fields to that rock. Delia, she’s sitting in the desert on a rock!” 

     “I can see her just fine with my binoculars.  She drove herself out there.  Since you fixed her truck in four wheel low, it only goes five miles per hour.  Why are you so angry?  You don't even like my mother."

     "What the hell is with your family?  How are you going to feel if something happens to her?”

     Your family.

     "Look, I can't help that she decided it was time to die.  You’re the one who said it was you or my mother.  She's eighty-eight years old and wants to die.  Anyway, she's got her car if she changes her mind."  Besides, I really don't care what she does any more. 

     She answered the ringing phone.  "Delia!  Hi, George.  Yes, I want to let you know that our mother is...” she explained, paused. "Bye." 

     "That was doubtless your monosyllabic brother?" Harmony said.

     "I can't help it if he doesn't talk."  Is this pick on Delia day?

     The phone rang again. "Delia!"

     Harmony rubbed the top of his graying crewcut and walked out the back door.

     "Hi, Aunt Dottie.  Yep, Mom’s on the rock...” she explained. “Yep, George just called.  No, your sisters don't know yet. I'll call you tomorrow."

     She looked down.  No shoes.  She searched for them briefly, knowing she was late for her art class.  She ran to her Toyota.

     The changeling flipflops materialized from under the driver seat after she slammed on the brake at the art center.  Jamming her toes in them, she dashed off.

*                         *                *                       

     Planes of back musculature on white paper snapped into focus as she drew with charcoal.  Next time she wanted a model who looked like a God!  She wanted definition--a  workout junkie.  Could she be a voyeur? She giggled.

     Her cell phone rang. The instructor glared. She fished in her purse with charcoal blackened fingers.

     "Delia, where's your mother?"  Cousin Chloe asked.

     "On that rock out back,” she almost whispered. “Yes, I know it’s hot.  She’s got a parasol. How's your dad?"

     “Oh my God, Delia, he got mad and left his wicked witch second wife, but forgot why he was mad at her before he got here. We've got to get her out of his house.  Uh, is your mom okay?"

     "Yes.  I tried to talk her out of going so I'd have some time to get her some Prozac or something, but she got in her car.  I followed.”

     The other artists stared.

     "Oh boy, and I thought we had problems with my dad."

     "I've gotta go. Sorry," Delia said.

     "What are we going to do with these senile siblings?" 

     “Good question.”  Delia turned back to her drawing.

     Later at home, she glided into her kitchen’s drifting fragrances.  Cool tile met her bare feet.  “I smell tacos?”

     "And pretty good ones, too." Harmony relayed a bite of taco meat from his simmering skillet to her mouth.

     "These may be the best tacos you ever made.” 

     He smiled.  "Yep, I think so, too."

     "Magic meat?  Exotic spices?  How'd you do it?"  She pressed her front against his side.

     "That's my little secret, and you are SOL."  He grinned and slipped his arm around her shoulders.

     Delia snuggled into his black T shirt which smelled like cologne and cumin.

     He planted a kiss on her forehead then turned to his stovetop.

     She grabbed her binoculars and looked outside. Mom still on the rock, a portable canopy over her head.  I wonder how that got there.

     She left Harmony with his taco meat and tiptoed into the master suite where she found a demolition project.  "Eerk," she yelled to the kitchen. "What happened to my fireplace in here?"

     "Oh, yeah.  It never looked right anyway.  Should have been lower!” 

     She stared at the empty hole.  "Shucks.  I liked my fireplace."

     "Don't worry, I'll build you a better one," he hollered.

     So. Gain a taco, lose a fireplace.  She mouthed to her image in her vanity mirror, "If he wants to go through all that work, I guess I shouldn't complain."  She took a deep breath and changed into a pair of Mexican peon pants and orange shirt.  I liked my fireplace.

     "Tacos for dinner?  Alright!"  Her grandson, Christopher had arrived from the basement with his tuba slung over his shoulder.  He wore an emblazoned band-of-the-week shirt. 

     "Why do you have that monster at home?"  Some day he would discover women and forget the tuba.  His bold copper hair, shocking blue eyes and chiseled chin would cause trouble soon enough. Meanwhile he had his tuba.

     "Huh? Oh.  Gotta practice new liplocks."  He sidled down the hallway like a sandcrab with its shell.

     Of course you do.

*                       *                    *

     Delia attacked her new commissioned painting. The client had seen one of Delia’s pictures at a local art show she liked, but wanted a larger one.  It wasn’t Delia’s normal impressionistic type of thing, had in fact been an experiment into abstract painting but she was determined to give the woman what she wanted.

     She worked from dark to light, all soft edges on vibrant colors.  The gesso undercoating held well but the whole picture seemed to shimmer.  Fluorescent confetti.

     Sonesta stuck her head into the loft. "Hi, Mom.  Aunt Arlene and I went to see grandma this afternoon."

     "That's nice dear," Delia was thinking purple but glanced up at her daughter.

     "She's doing OK, in case you want to know."

     "Hmmm."  How'd I do that anyway? A pool of color had  made its own shadow under a marquee she’d added to the city street scene.

     "She's not dead yet," Sonesta tested.  "I think it's going to take a few more days."

     "Of course it is, dear," Delia mumbled, eyes on a drip.


     Delia looked up. "Why are you yelling at me?”  

     "Because you're not listening!"

     Delia set her brushes down, wiped the paint drip off her the canvas with her pinkie.  "OK, I'm listening now.  What is it?” 

     “I thought you should know she'd like to see you some time."

     "She's only been out there for one day." 

     "Yeah, but she didn't remember that.  She thought you took her out there last week.”

     Delia blanched.  “Strange." A gray ball of guilt grew quickly in her stomach.

     “Maybe you should go get her."

     "I don't want to go get her yet," Delia said.  The guilt ball vibrated. “Remember last month when she told the family that I stole all her money, that I was going to make her go stay in an old folk’s home?  She said she’d keep it up until I took her out to sit on her stupid rock?  Well, I figure if she sits on that rock for a couple days, she'll get over it.  She’s got plenty of food."

     "It might rain.”

"The desert rain table is about two inches per year." 

     “But it could rain."

     "You don't want me to leave her out there, do you?"

     "It is a little weird, Mom."

     "Well, you're right, of course, but the woman is not insane."

     "Daddy thinks she is.  Aunt Clarice thinks she is.  Uncle James says you should put her in an assisted care facility."

     "Honey, your grandmother hates “nursing homes,” but is not crazy.  I have to respect her wishes.  She loves the desert—its heat, its dirt.  Delia crossed to her window, picked up her binoculars, checked her mother. A large dog sat next to the woman under the canopy. Where did he come from?

     "But she's a really old woman! She shouldn't be driving either."

     "Yes, she should—but only in the open desert. Should I tell her she's useless and take away all her independence?"

     "No, but I wish she would act like a grandmother is supposed to."

     Delia gulped. "Like sitting in a rocking chair and knitting, maybe?" How she had longed for a normal mother.  Not one who painted her house rooms vivid fuchsia then bordered them with wild rose wallpaper that had made Delia gasp when she was five.

     Sonesta’s blue eyes softened a little.  "Well, wouldn't it be nice to have just one normal person in this family?"  A halo formed around the top of her wavy red hair.

     "Your hair looks like red gold right now.  And the answer is, I'd get that for you if I knew how."

     "I love you, Mom."

     A faint roar grew louder outside.  Stopped.  Door slammed.  Grandma entered the kitchen with a large dog.  “Me and my dog want some ice.”

Friday, August 3, 2012

My blog for 8/3/2012 Wine Tragedy

Our Leprechaun landlady stopped yesterday to give us a bottle of wine from the guy whose wine vinyards are next door (San Marcos Winery).  I had mentioned to her I wanted to see if we could buy a bottle from him before we leave town.   I knew his workers had been pulling nets over the grapes, but apparently they were too little too late.  The sun had already damaged the fruit, not to mention an attack of wasps that ruined the crop.  Though it was an award winning crop last year, this year it's a total flop.  Can you even imagine being a grower?  In this man's case, I think financially he's okay, but the disappointment must be devastating.  I've seen him out in the vines tweaking equipment the whole time we've been here.  He even has roses planted at the road end of the vine rows, and plaques with the names of the type of grapes in those rows.  He obviously loves what he does.  It's a good thing...this year it's all he's going to get.

I took a picture of the vines in their nets this morning.  Kinda sad looking.

I'm living for November to see if anything good is ever going to happen with our economy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My blog for 8/2/2012 Chick fil A and Dog Tails

Hate-groups protesting chicken?  Because the company is owned by a Christian?
I don’t think so.

People...it all comes down to frustration, and dog tails.

We are staggering under an economy that depresses everybody.  We drive in gridlock.

Our TV sets undermine us as parents.  Our media undermines us with titillating shows that glamorize actors playing roles as law-breaking criminals.  Our heroes are 14 year olds with perfect bodies who have no idea there are 80 more years to be lived after that first 14.  Our newscasters make sure we know about every disgusting thing a human animal is capable of doing.  Our electronic geniuses constantly make new mousetraps and paint them pink so we will love it, buy it.  Our parents go neurotic trying to keep ahead of their children, whose lives are being segued into a slipstream of depravity.

Until I came to San Diego, I didn’t realize how totally American citizens are regulated.  And taxed, of course.  We have a free country that is getting less and less free because our government wants to make everybody happy.  I didn’t know until now that every TV in a business is taxed by how many individuals can see the screen at one time.

We have a democratic process we adhere to and tout to the world.  Why can’t we let it work?  Why do we let the tail wag the dog?  Our minority groups are killing us.

In order to make our minority groups happy, oops, there goes another “freedom.”

Majority has a right to rule.  The only laws should be those that come from the majority.

And for those who don’t like those laws, they may go somewhere else­­--to a country that will perhaps be happy to be wagged by the tail.