Friday, August 31, 2012

Ecstatic for Ekphrastic

On Thursday afternoon I mailed several Ekphrastic poems to an art magazine.  Like many endeavors in my life, I had no idea that there was actually a word describing this practice (poetry about art) . . . but that word is ekphrasis.

I didn't know it, but I have been writing poetry about art (paintings, sculptures, architecture, etc.) for some time.  But now I know the word:  ekphrasis.

I have been trying to use this word in conversations around the house of late, but my wife doesn't seem to appreciate it.  For example, I attempted to tell my wife, in poetic terms, that her gray hair and wrinkles were works of art.  She didn't seem to appreciate my work.  And later, I attempted to comment on some of my culinary arts as I was cutting the cheese on the back deck.  (No, I was literally cutting the cheese . . . some very sharp Wisconsin cheddar that, as I noted, was some of the finest I had tasted.)

I'm rather ecstatic for ekphrastic comments now.

Some weeks back, while walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) in New York city, I came upon a small group of gawkers hovering in front of the masterpiece, The Starry Night.  There were no photographs allowed, but I managed to string together a few memorable lines in my head about this painting before I walked away.  They are still with me and will be a part of my memory until I get beaten over the head with a bag of oranges.

Words, of course, can have much longer-lasting power than images.  I can carry those words with me always.  I don't have to carry a cell phone or have an app to pull them up, or to remember that painting. All I have to do is avoid alzheimers.

That's why I'm ecstatic for ekphrastic. (And it's interesting to note that the word, ekphrastic, is never included in computer spell-checkers.)  Technology doesn't know everything.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Going Places

Now that I am part of the "empty-nest" establishment, and have been made even more free since burying the cat, I find that I am increasingly agreeable to my wife's whims.  (Sure, I wish she would be even more whimmy, but we won't get into the fine print.)

On our free evenings we sit on the back deck and eat dinner together (usually my cooking), or we hike or kayak, and sometimes we dine out.  One day last week we even danced.  (If you want to call it that.)

Now and again, we have conversations.  Sometimes we do other things.  (I won't get into the fine print.)

But most frequently we sit at home, in silence, reading glasses pinched to our noses, working late into the night, asking each other questions about our various papers, and letters, and emails that we are working on.  Usually, my wife wants my opinion about a certain turn-of-phrase in a staff letter (she's a school principal) or she asks my opinion about a legal concern that could potentially impact a student or parent.  So, in a way, I'm not only pastoring a church, I'm helping to operate a school, too.  And I continue to learn.  My education is never complete.

As for me, I often hand over my latest essay, article, column or poem and ask my wife to give it a read.  She usually declines, stating the obvious reasons:  "I'm too tired!" or "It's too late" or "Do I really have to read more of your crap?"

I see her point. Most of what I write may be so loosely defined.  I've got essays that don't go anywhere.  Stories that lead to dead ends.  Poems that need new direction.  Whole chapters of books that have fallen into the ditch. 

And my oil needs to be changed frequently. 

Sooner or later, however, a few of these pieces get to leave the house.  Some of them make their way to places like New York, or Chicago, or to various points west of the Mississippi.  Most come back.  But, thank God, a few of them find a home elsewhere and never return to me.

The nest is empty.  But I'm still floating a few feathers on the wind.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Room for Improvement

Recently I began rewriting essays that I had completed (and in most instances published) some 15-20 years ago.  And in rereading these I have discovered that I am now a much better writer.

I am elated.

A writer should always take the approach that he/she has room for improvement.  Practice, after all, is often the best instructor.  And there is something to be said for experience . . . which most often consists of failure and education by trail-and-error.  

But it's not just the volume written that has helped me to learn, but the years I have dedicated to this pursuit.  Certainly, I still make mistakes.  In fact, I make plenty of them.  But now I can often recognize the mistakes in my writing (especially work being slated for publication) while I'm working it up on the page:  faulty syntax, typos, word selection, sentences that lack clarity.

I'm still trying to improve.  I am still learning the craft.  In fact, every time I read writing that is truly astounding, I am humbled.  I am amazed.  And a part of me also feels dejected, as I realize that I am still a novice in the art.

Sadly, great writing . . . in fact, not even good writing . .  .is any longer a prerequisite to publication.  I read many badly-written books.  And much of the "published" material online these days is barely readable.

I hope to improve as a writer every time I sit down to write.  Every writer should!  And one of the best ways to improve is to revise.  To rewrite.  And to stay in practice (just like shooting free throws) by writing over and over again.

Keep the arrow pointing upward!  


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Call Me

Monday was an interesting mix of phone calls.  One caller, for example, had been trying to reach me for some time in regard to an article I wrote in YouthWorker Journal back in March, and another fellow wanted to talk to me about a book project.

Both seemed amazed by the fact that I actually took their phone calls and spoke to them for some time.  I suppose they expected me to be "too busy" to be bothered by mundane questions about writing.  And, since I don't have a personal secretary or a voicemail message that says, "I'm sorry, but I am currently writing very important material and cannot take your call" . . . they were taken aback when I actually answered.

Lord knows I've been overjoyed myself when I have called New York, or Chicago, or even Loveland, Colorado and reached an editor who was willing to take my calls in between bites of liverwurst sandwich.  I love it when an editor asks, "And what can I do for you today, Mr. Alleycat?"

Editors should take more calls.  Guys like me need the constant affirmation of someone who cares, especially since my wife doesn't provide this nurture.  I'd love to be able to call an editor on, say, a Tuesday afternoon and rap for a bit about an upcoming magazine theme, or a topical essay, or to recite a poem.  I'd love it if an editor said, "Hey, it's great to hear from you.  Send me some more of your crap!"

That's why I take phone calls. I can't stand the thought of some dude dialing mercilessly in the rain, getting shocked by lightening, hoping against hope that he might reach a living person.

Of course, I could be dead by then.  In which case these people would have to call me wife.  She'd put them straight through to voice mail.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trip to Paris

I've enjoyed reading The Paris Review Book of People With Problems--one of a series of anthologies that The Paris Review published in the mid 1990s.  I found my first-edition copy at an online used bookstore and have enjoyed the short stories here by Rick Bass, Annie Proulx, Frederick Busch and many other short story luminaries.

The Paris Review is still one of those hallmark literary journals that writers aspire to break into (well . . . I'm still trying).  And it is always helpful to read the work of those who have graced the PR pages.

Currently I have a small notebook filled with story ideas--stories that I hope to write this fall.  But I know that some of these will pan out and others not.  Some stories will show promise at the beginning, but won't have enough energy to carry them to completion.  And there are those that never get off the blocks.

But it helps to read.  Many an idea is born from the experience of reading.  And The Paris Review selections are not a bad place to begin.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

English Teacher

It's true.  I was an English major in college.  With a Creative Writing & Classical Studies minor.  I wore a pocket protector, carried Greek vocabulary flash cards on my person at all times (even on weekends), began collecting books, never cut my hair, and rarely dated.  You can see why.

If not for the call of God (still trying to figure the reason for that) I'm sure I would be an English professor in a small community college like St. Wiggins of the Woods and I would be teaching high school dropouts how to read a Chinese restaurant menu. 

Currently I am enjoying this English thing, as I am reading through a substantial stack of entries (essays, news stories, columns) that have been submitted for a national United Methodist writing competition.  I am the judge and the jury . . . and I'm learning a lot.  (Really, folks, the United Methodist people are incredibly caring, helpful, and involved in ministries and missions that we can't even begin to list!)

There is some fine writing across this great United Methodist landscape and I'm narrowing the field to get to the Grand Champion.  I also have two other faithful readers who will help me narrow the field (thanks Michelle and Jennifer).

Naturally, I will need a sack of donuts and a pot of coffee to push on through to the finish.  It is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

And I guess that's me . . . the former English major.  Anybody know what a "gerund" is?  (I do!)  And that's why I'm the judge!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Raining Cats and Dogs

Our 28th wedding anniversary has had, to say the least, a pall of loss over it.  The energies required to move a son into college and a married daughter to a first-job-apartment were more than Becky and I bargained for. We are still catching up.  And on Monday, when my wife came home from work, I announced that I had piled one more change on our plates by having our cat (Violet) euthanized.

This cat (16 years) had been with us since my daughter's eighth birthday.  In its day, the cat was beautiful.  And, despite the fact that both Becky and I grew up with literally dozens of cats around the house, Violet was tops in terms of beauty, personality, and longevity.  But she was sick (down to about 25% kidney function) and it was time for her to go to that great litterbox in the sky.

I brought Violet home, buried her, and thanked God for the joy she had added to our home for the past sixteen years.  (My son was 3-years old when Violet joined our family, and he's 19 now.)

Some years back, I wrote this dialogue poem (between cats and dogs) that seemed to please an editor or two.  Although some people are cat lovers and others dog lovers, this one might speak to both.  After all, our cats and dogs never seemed to get along.  I wonder why?

Cats & Dogs

CATS . . .
   The canine craves his bloody meat
   While sitting at his master's feet,
   But feline temperaments bequeath
   A nobler path than barks and teeth.

DOGS . . . 
   Defined by food, the canine feasts
   On freshest food among the beasts.
   Felines espousing rest and peace
   Are simply lying through their teeth.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


A wedding anniversary is not always a bad thing.  It affords me an opportunity to peruse my trove of love poems and find a few suitable lines for this blog. 

Here's an oldie (but a goodie?) that might speak to those other advanced-age couples who wonder if the best is yet to come.  I'm optimistic.  And now that my wife and I are empty-nesters our evenings can be a lot more energetic (instead of trying to hide from a nineteen-year-old).

So . . . take a walk on the old side.

We Shall Be Old Some Day

We shall be old some day when the children are grown,
When the house is cold, the attic spare . . .
And then I will find you everywhere.

We shall be old some day with a pension plan,
With our passions quenched by a coffee thirst . . .
And I will love you as at the first.

We shall be old some day when the evening is dark,
When our teeth are false, our opinions honest . . .
And I will love you as I promised.

We shall be old some day with our photos faded,
The mortgage paid, our work at end . . .
And then we shall be young again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Lovers

For years my wife has accused me of loving my library more than her.  But that's absurd.  Books can't bake a cake, scrub a sink, or clean a grease trap.  Books are inanimate objects, incapable of feeling, lifeless.  A wife, on the other hand, can be full of life when she's not exhausted, and sometimes she is capable of expressing her feelings.  Anger and disgust come to mind . . . but she is also capable of feeling frustration, impatience, and paranoia.  

Well, you see the difference.  A wife is just so much better than a book, and sometimes she let's me turn her pages.

However, in all fairness to myself (and to her), I've still got the hots for this 28-anniversary cutie.  And, if not the hots, at least a sizeable crush.  What a broad!

Sure, there are those people who find me to be misogynistic and chauvinistic, but these are just the people who know me--like family members and such.  My mother has this opinion of me, too, but what does she know?  

Interestingly enough, I actually find the time to write a fair amount of love poetry, and sometimes editors actually pay me for it!  I'm talking actual cash, folks.  With coinage and everything.

And when I write love poems, I'm thinking of my wife.  I usually picture her in various stages of undress (which is rare) and try to imagine what I would say to her if I were drunk (which I have never been).  The result is usually fantastic and I've had other women tell me how my love poems have changed their lives . . . making them realize how fortunate they are not to be married to me, for example.  I admit that I would hate to be married to me, too, and then turn around and write another poem to my imaginary wife.

At any rate, here's a poem that was published in the January 23, 2012 edition of The Christian Science Monitor.  (I think my wife actually read this one and liked it.  She may have actually thanked me.  Several times.)

I'll offer it here again to Becky with all my love on our 28th wedding anniversary, which is now past due.

Shelf Life

I can read you like a book:
Your loved and lovely lines
Your well-thumbed pages
Your knowing-look
The shape of your spine.
And I have read you in such times
When light was dim
And hope absurd
Knowing I could turn your page
Beginning to end
And read word by word
What I could not gauge
Nor comprehend.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Odd Anniversary

Saturday was my 28th wedding anniversary . . . which was, in fact, one of the oddest weekends I've had in the past twenty-eight years.  On Friday my wife and I moved my son into his dorm room at Vincennes U., and after a long trek back home, we spent the remainder of the day/night loading my daughter's wedding gifts into two trucks for a Saturday morning trek to Bloomington and back.

Year 28, then, was marked by immense change accompanied by the strain of carting nearly two tons of material across the state.  Tired?  Make that exhaustion.

In spite of the pace, however, there was always time for romance:  including several Starbucks drive-bys in which I proclaimed, "Don't you just love the iced mocha?"; a hot breakfast at McDonalds where I reminded Becky that she looked just like the Hamburgler; and a reminder to my wife that I did plan to write her an anniversary card, but golly-gee, I just had so much to do what with pulling my hamstring and all . . . .

Still, I do have an ample supply of love poems.  Always do.  And I've had a goodly number of them published this year (most of which my wife has not read).

So . . . here's one from the Gipper (to be exact, a poem I wrote on April 27 in my daily poetic journal).  Hope she likes the sentiments while she's applying the Icy Hot.

What We Do Not Say When We Speak of Love

When I met you with your friends
I feigned to say “I love you” in the worst way,

But I am not given to public display
Or to romantic ends of chance.

And so I smiled and nodded—
A hint you understood with an affirming glance

As we might choose to reminisce 

What sign you are, or fingerprint,
Or even if you steal my love without a kiss,

You know exactly what I meant.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Absentee Anniversary

On Saturday, August 18, Becky and I will celebrate wedding anniversary # 28 . . . but not really.  On Friday, we move Logan into his dorm room at Vincennes University, whereupon we return immediately to Brownsburg, load up two cars, and transport mounds of wedding gifts to our daughter, Chelsey, and son-in-law, Michael, who are moving into their apartment in Bloomington on Saturday morning.

All in all, a crazy weekend.  Toss in Saturday night worship and two more on Sunday morning and this anniversary has all the trimmings of a frantic escapade. 

I have, however, produced an ample supply of poems for the old gal, despite my hurried cadence.  Some of these she will read (maybe) when they appear in print at later dates . . . but others I will post here next week.  Be sure to visit if you want to see how a real man proclaims his love for an old, over-worked but-incredibly-gifted woman.

Yes, we will both be absent on our anniversary this year, but now that we are "empty-nesters" our pace, our evenings, our meals, and our entertainment will change immensely.  (Don't think we won't do it.  I'm serious. EVERYTHING changes!)

Currently, our plans include getting rid of our ATT-U-Verse TV service and maybe our land-line telephone, euthanizing the cat, eating what WE want to eat (instead of worrying about our son's bottomless cravings for lean meat), eating at Wendy's more often, and living in a clean and tidy house for the first time since children entered the picture twenty-three years ago.

It's like we told our son, who asked, "What are you two going to do together after I'm out of the house?"

Answer:  "Anything we want to do!"

Somewhere in the mix of our two 60-hour work weeks husband and wife are going to bump into each other in the days ahead.  I'll hand over my stack of new material and ask my wife to read it.  She will decline (citing exhaustion).  I will write more (despite exhaustion).  And then we will turn out the lights and go to bed.

Every morning, when we rise long before the dawn, we will ask ourselves the question:  "Why didn't we do what we wanted to do last night?"

But I'm not sure we know what that is . . . 

We are, however, open to suggestions.  The lines are now open . . . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Finding Me, Finding You

Last week following my uncle's funeral service, a woman inquired about some of my upcoming work.  "What new writing do you have being published in the coming months?" she asked.

"Well," I said. "Let me see . . . ."

I reeled off five or six pieces--some poems, some fiction, some essays--that were slated to be released soon.  And then she asked, "And where can I find these?"

I suppose she was hoping I would have an answer . . . but for the life of me I could not remember the magazines or their respective names.  "There's a poem about breast cancer," I said, "but . . . well, I don't remember the magazine."  "And I have a memoir to be released soon . . . but it's rather eclectic and the magazine, as I recall, had the word biography in the title."

I hate questions that make me work for answer.  I'm not built to remember yesterday, much less to recall the names of all the magazines that give me a favorable nod or an okie-dokie.  By the time I get word from an editor that he liked one of my pieces and wants to publish it, I have already forgotten what it was I sent him, or when, or why . . . and the thumbs-up is as shocking to me as discovering plutonium.

And there have been, believe it or not, one or two times when I have discovered myself in a magazine and thought, "Holy Cow!  I forgot they were going to publish this one!"

Like Forrest Gump, I'm not a smart man . . . but I know what love is.

But I don't love my memory loss.  I suppose it's stashed somewhere among the history.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Title this

James Michener once admitted that he was not gifted with great book titles.  Hence, he simply used locations (he wrote historical-based novels) for most of his book titles:  Hawaii, Chesapeake, etc.  He often said he was envious of writers who could create exceptional titles for their work . . . titles like A Streetcar Named Desire or Look Homeward, Angel or The Grapes of Wrath.

Yes, titles are tough.  A great title can be the beginning of a mediocre work, and an exceptional title grabs attention.

I've never been gifted at creating titles, myself. But that doesn't mean I don't try.  And it doesn't mean I haven't hit upon a few exceptional ones that have grabbed the attention of editors.

Among my personal favorites, and titles that have caught the eye of editors are my short story titles "The Sea and All That Is In It" (science fiction); "Playing the Straight Man" (suspense); and "Coulrophobia" (mystery/suspense).

But for these, I'm afraid that all of my other fare, by the hundreds, are second-rate titles.

But interestingly enough, I sometimes create titles before I have concepts or characters to fill them.  I am warming, for example, to a science fiction story that I have worked on for nearly two years that will be entitled (if I ever complete it):  "Musca Domestica".  (You'll have to look this up in a biology text book to catch the drift.)  And I have a notebook of other titles with illustrious lines such as:  "A Thousand Words From Home"; "A Thousand Years in the Sight of the Lord"; and "The Cattle on a Thousand Hills".  (Note the "thousand" theme?)  But I have no idea when, or if, a story will ever fill these up.

I love a good title.  Hence, some of the best books I've read in the past twenty years would probably be:  "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"; "Angela's Ashes"; or "Mornings on Horseback".

See what I mean?  A great title makes the writing.

Maybe I should spend more time creating my titles.  I'm troubled by my lack of creativity.  There are some good titles out there that no one has taken, and I've got to find them.


Monday, August 13, 2012


Three weeks ago an editor agreed to publish my 5000-word humorous memoir about my foray into the underworld of competitive bodybuilding . . . provided I cut 2500-words.  Cut?  Half? 

It was a necessary challenge and one I actually loathed to face.  Nevertheless, after several days of procrastination, I sat down one evening and began cutting and rewriting.  The goal, of course, was to create a 2500-word essay that would contain the essentials of the 5000-word memoir without losing any of the voice, pace, or wit of the longer.

When I finally re-submitted the piece to the editor, he informed me:  "Nice job.  Most writers can't do it.  It's difficult to cut 1/2 of a memoir, but you've accomplished it admirably."


Anyone who sets out to write eventually learns how to cut.  Rewriting is, in essence, cutting, refining, revising.  But I was glad to make that 2500 word cut.  I've ended up with a fast-paced read, I think.  And I hope people will enjoy the memoir and find it insightful and knock-dead funny when it finally hits the newstand.

The editor is also going to publish some of my humorous "before-and-after" bodybuilding photos, showing how I lapsed "after" the competition into my old donut-eating routines and pale-skinned hair-suit instead of my buff, tanned six-pack body.  I went from eating 1000 calories a day (all muscle and bone) to eating a diet consisting primarily of Snickers and Almond Joys (goodbye six-pack).

But I never know what to do with these thousands of words that I've left on the "cutting room" floor.  Where do these words go?  I suppose they just float away into the netherworld like so many other words that I have written . . . rising upward into that great unused library in the sky.

Maybe I should start another blog next year entitled "Extra words" or "Clippings from the Cutting Room Floor".

Friday, August 10, 2012


A few days ago I had a brief correspondence with my former literary agent (sounds so smug doesn't it?).  This particular agent has, in recent years, created a unique niche by pairing "ghost writers" with those celebrities, politicians, and gurus who cannot write a book themselves, but need the expertise of the writer who can, and who can also remain anonymous.  This particular endeavor is more common than one might think . . . as most celebrity and political books are not written by the the person whose name appears on the cover.  Rather, these books are written by ghost writers, who usually create the books for a flat fee, no recognition, and an oath to absolute secrecy.

I've been invited to submit my resume to be a ghost writer for those who might want to have their name on the cover of a book, but who cannot write a book.  I will probably never get a call to do this (me, a ghost writer?), but the prospects are larger and more illustrious than ever before.  In fact, the majority of celebrity books are indeed written by ghost writers, and not by the celebrity whose photo plasters the cover.

Some well-known and best-selling authors also write ghost.  In fact, we would probably be surprised to find out who actually wrote some of the best-selling political books, self-help titles, and even best-selling novels of the past decade.  The names on the covers may not be an indication of the actual author.

Me?  Hey, I can say that I've written every one of my books.  Every word. Every comma.  Nobody ghosted for me or sent a greasy manuscript my way with a note attached that read: "Paste Your Name Here".  In fact, I write so much, that I also submit material under other monikers.  Some editors may be tired of reading me, but they don't seem to mind reading a new author (who is really me in disguise).  

If I do get a call to ghost write a book, I won't be saying Boooo! about it.  My lips are sealed.  I'll just slave away every morning hunkered down over my 25-watt bulb, chugging pots of coffee and eating mounds of donuts, thinking about my work as a ghost, hoping that people will find me to be as friendly as Casper.  I'll be haunting someone's book.  But you won't find my name anywhere on the pages.   BOOOOOO !!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Star Wars

One of the genres I enjoy writing is science fiction.  I have a multitude of stories here, but find myself most often writing in themes pertaining to our ever-evolving forms of communication and the strong pull of isolationism that seems ever more ominous.

One of these tales, which I entitled "The Word Master", was first published as an "short", and is available on Kindle (for $.99 I might add, a bargain).  It's one of my better science fiction stories and I've had some interesting feedback from it.

Currently, I have no less than seven science fiction stories that are continually looping through the science fiction and fantasy market and I hope to place a couple of these stories by year's end.  And I'm always writing more.

One of my favorite stories, however, is a fun and fantastical tale about "the last man on earth."  I've been imagining what would happen if all the males on earth (save one) were wiped out in a plague, leaving this solitary male to contend with a planet loaded with three billion females.

You can let your imagination run wild (as I have) with a scenario like that one, but I'm finding this one to be loaded with tons of humor and thousands of implications.  In fact, it's difficult to write because the possibilities are limitless.  

Once I get this one revised and completed, I hope some editor out there will find this story drop-dead funny.  One man among three billion women?  How laughable.  But these are the kind of thoughts that keep me working well into the night, even when I'm exhausted. 

And once my wife goes to bed, I can imagine that I am the last man on earth.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Window Shopping

Last week I completed an essay entitled, "Travels With My Mistress".  It's a great piece--one of the better first-person narratives I've written in the past year--and I'm confident a literary journal will pick it up for publication this fall when I begin submitting my enormous pile of summer-ripened material in September.

I won't disclose the theme of this piece (not what you think at first blush) . . . but I will say that for many writers the creative process continues day and night: with notes, ideas and whole pieces being structured in the labyrinth of the mind.

For me, I often encounter this process in the car . . . and in any given week, often compose entire poems in my head as I drive.  (This is why I often run over squirrels or crash into telephone poles. I don't text and drive, but I do write while I drive.)  The first chance I get to enounter a piece of paper or a computer screen, I write these down.

Here's a poem I composed some weeks back after glancing out the window of my pathetic old truck (which is, by the way, literally held together with duct tape).  The poem should be self evident.  I won't explain.

Bus Stop

She carries her life in a shopping bag
Overflowing with serious stuff:
A change of clothes, an oily rag,
And hope that hope will be enough.

He sits beside her on the bench,
A forearm covered in tattoo,
His future stolen inch-by-inch
By love and love's trust bid adieux.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Offer I Might Refuse

Yesterday I received an invitation from a publisher to submit my work--and an assurance that my work would be carefully considered and a decision made in a timely manner.  But I'm not sure I want to submit.  Sometimes a writer just knows . . . .

I've refused many times.  In fact, I've refused many offers that other writers might have accepted, and refused to sign contracts that other writers may have signed in their sleep. 

I'm not a legal eagle or an expert on writing contracts, but I do read them.  I don't like giving my work away without certain cautionary conditions--and there are times when I would prefer to give my writing for free instead of being paid for it if the conditions are more favorable (in my view).  In fact, I would rather write for a publication desirous of my commodities before I would write for a publication possessing an air of stinginess or self-preservation.  I would rather be a part of work new or creative than to assist in work that is trite or overly critical.  I would rather labor in humor than in tears.

It is nearly a monthly occurrence that someone invites me to review a writing contract of some form or another--usually a book contract--and offer my opinion about "the deal."  But I hate hosting Let's Make a Deal.  I'd rather talk about goals and writing and ideas.  "The deal" is simply a by-product of a writer's output and productivity.

I have a drawer in my office stuffed full of writing contracts.  These (now numbering in the hundreds) are disorderly and in no apparent chronology.  I have no idea how to locate an old contract if I needed to.  As soon as I sign my name to one contract, I stuff it in the drawer, finish the piece I'm working on, and then move on to the next project.  If (or when) a check (almost always minuscule) arrives in the mail, I rarely remember what I wrote to earn it.

I sign these checks, too . . . and give them away.  There's always a mission.  And there's always another deal coming down the pike.  But I don't accept all of them all.  Some deals I can refuse.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Recently a newspaper article featured a profile of He Said, She Said (book) the same week that people began asking me:  "Didn't we see you on TV in a commercial?"

Answer:  Yes, that was me sitting in the wheelchair.

My son and daughter were the first to ask:  "Hey didn't we see you on TV?  Was that you, Dad?"

Again.  Yes.

However, I would like to make the following statement regarding this said commercial:

No people were injured in the making of this commercial, which was filmed on location before a live studio audience.  Those in the commercial were actual people, and were not fake people.  Furthermore, those who made the commercial seemed to really enjoy creating it, and it was a heck of a lot of fun.

Now people are asking:  "What's next for you?"

Well, in ten days I move my son out of the house (and into VU) and I will also be loading all of my daughter's wedding gifts and some of our furniture and transporting it to Bloomington.  So soon you will be hearing about wild parties at our house and much celebration.  I plan to make cookies (I have a recipe).  And I will subscribe to another magazine.

After that, I'll be just another face in the crowd. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Girl Friday

Here's the drill:  I try to take Fridays off.  And for me, this usually means I get to write for a longer period of time.  Most days, I only get to write in the mornings (and sometimes late nights), but on Fridays . . . I can concentrate on longer projects.  My Fridays are much like my marriage--out of sight and mind until I wake up one morning and realize, "Holy Cow, I could actually kiss this woman and enjoy it."

Last Friday was one of those "big" days.  I completed several shorter pieces, a few poems, and made contact with editors who were considering me in their estate planning.  I also wrapped and sent various gifts--bribes, really--to those editors who should publish my work and send me a large check.

I am thankful for Fridays . . . and in a few days, my Fridays will assume a totally different ambiance.  Once my son moves to his college campus, and we clean out the wedding gifts stored in our basement, and I euthanize the cat . . . this place will be completely quiet.  And I mean QUIET.  Library Quiet!  Monastery Quiet!

This will be something I have not experienced in great quantities since 1989, when our daughter was born and my wife began complaining about my cooking.  I have already handed in my chef resignation and have completed the pine box for the cat's burial.  Now all I have to do is write on Fridays.

How much can I write in a day?  I really don't know.

But I'm sure looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my girl Friday. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Blowing Bubbles

About once a month I find myself infused with the need to write light verse.  But the market for light poetry just isn't what it used to be.  And the verse accumulates.

As my wife and I approach our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary (August 18th--the day we will be helping Chelsey move into her townhouse in Bloomington and the day after we move Logan into Vincennes University) I find that I am writing more in a romantic vein.  But I also discover gems I had forgotten.

Here's one from my poetic daily journal, a poem I wrote back on May 31st.  I don't remember writing this one at all, but found it clever.  (Maybe Becky wrote it?)

Battle Axes

They say that men cannot express
Emotions as a woman must;
The fairer sex who wears the dress
Is sensitive and serious.

But where does that leave guys like me
Who often feel inferior
When moved to write his poetry
Expressing the interior?

Supposing women know their place
It leaves me just a protégé
With a poetic data base
Infused with every male cliché.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pulp Fiction

A few months back I received word that Loch Raven Review ( was publishing one of my "mystery" stories: a sexy, pulp fiction piece entitled "The Bill Collector".  It's in the current issue (Summer 2012) and is ready for reading online prior to the print edition.  One of dozens of stories I've written, I hope you like this piece . . . as it's one of the most enjoyable stories I've worked on in the past five years.  And did I mention . . . it's sexy?  (Now I know you'll read it.)

Writing mystery stories . . . or crime-related pieces . . . is always challenging.  Mystery stories of the pulp variety have to be populated with charged characters, electric predicament(s), and a degree of threat or mayhem.  The characters in pulp may often come across as cardboard, but the promise of a twist ending always helps to carry the story forward.

These stories are fun to write, and I can usually whip one out in a few hours when I get in the mode.  And now that I have an ample collection of published "mystery" material, it would be an honor to have them collected under one cover.  Just for fun.  A story book.

I could also include my first published story in a collection, I think:  a literary piece that I wrote in my late-twenties entitled, "Baseball Season". It's still one of the finest stories I've ever written (perhaps my best), and when I've shown it to editors they always give me a favorable nod and ask, "Do you have any more like it?"

I'm trying.  I'm still writing.  And I have stacks of these tales in various stages of progress and more on the way to other publications.  Watch for 'em.

And I don't want to forget to thank the editors.  Always the editors.  This time . . . thanks to Chris at Loch Raven!