Sunday, September 27, 2009

Times like these, I wonder…

As you can probably imagine, I face a lot of rejection as a writer. After all these years, I’m used to it. I’d probably die of shock if someone actually offered to publish me.

But enough of that.

The reason I’m writing today is to give you an example of what rejection is like as a writer. Now, in case you didn’t know, publishers are incredibly, insanely specific about what they want. Some publishers only print work about dog. Small dogs. Some publishers only print work about the south winning the Civil War. Some publishers only print work about New England Housewives Under 25 Who Walk With a Limp on Their Left Foot Caused By a Childhood Injury.

It’s strange.

Just about the strangest rejection I’ve had, however, I received last week. It was regarding my book on success: Climbing Maya. I was rejected because (and I’m quoting here)the title was a little suggestive”. Suggestive of what?! Even I, a lifelong pervert had to take a few minutes to figure this one out!

So there you go. One publisher is avoiding this book because it could possibly be misconstrued as PORN! It terrifies them so that they couldn't even suggest changing the title! They were scarred by the smutty name!

... maybe I should change it... to Cattle Fuckers...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It’s Nanner Time…

I don’t know how common this is but Shipoopi loves – but I mean LUVS – bananas. It’s really fairly amazing. I’ll go get a banana and she will run my way at the very sound of it peeling and sit at my feet, expecting some nanner.

So, with this in mind, I bring you “The Nanner Song”. (Best sung to your little dog who just happens to love nanners…)

Weeeee’ve got nanners.
We’ve got nanners.
We’ve got lots and lots and lots and lots of nanners.
We’ve got lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of nanners.

We’ve got nanners.
(chorus) We’ve got nanners.
We’ve got nanners.
(chorus) Lots of nanners.
We’ve got lots and lots and lots and lots of nanners.
(chorus) A bunch!
We’ve got lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of nanners.
(chorus) You strange dog you…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The end of an era...

I guess I quit smoking just in time. The FDA has banned clove cigarettes on our shores. That’s all there is; there ain’t no more.

I used to love smoking cloves and it was all Vicky’s fault, by the way. She had this weird rule about smoking. I couldn’t smoke my cigarettes but I could smoke cloves, which she also liked to smoke, conveniently enough. Of course, once she saw that I was smoking them FAR faster than she was – and, in fact, LOVING them – she became less accepting about it. Still, whenever Tim would come up to visit, we’d get a couple packs of cloves in case Vicky wanted to smoke one… cigarette…

Ah, the days of wine and cloves-es!

Of course, back when I should have smoked cloves, back in high school when they were alternative and hip, I wouldn’t touch them. It was Camel Straights for me and nothing else – is it any wonder I didn’t start jogging again for over twenty years! But I can recall that clove aroma crossing the South Coast Plaza parking lot, seeking me out, saying “Some day! Some day!”

And then, a few years before Vicky and I met, I would hang out with the stage manager for “Dial M” and it just so happened that she smoked cloves. So, we’d sit out after a show and smoke and talk and I would worry that she had other plans as well – after all, I was also going through a divorce… what a mess my life was.

So, when Vicky first said to me, “I like cloves,” all these memories came flooding back. Just as they do now. But, alas, no more.

So, smoke ‘em if you can get ‘em kids. Those tasty clove beauties are all gone. Nothing left but sweet, sweet memories… and the possible carcinoma…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just a small thing…

I wrote the other day about the sadness I feel when I hear my peers speak only of the price criminals must pay, of the death penalty and vindictiveness, but that is only a part of what is troubling me and I felt I’d like to talk about something broader today.

I look around me and what do I see? I see an effort to make it easier for people to afford health insurance polluted, poisoned by those who stand to make the most money when health insurance is expensive. I see a sick blanket of racism fall at the doorsteps of the first black president, a blanket laid down by people not very different from myself in that they are white and of a certain age. I see those who have laughing at those who have not and I see the scorn greeted by anyone who speaks out against it.

It troubles me that we’ve become such a petty people. We are entertained by the most prurient of things – Rush Limbaugh cackling racism, the exploitation of the poor on reality television, supermodels flashing their genitals – while we forget our fellow man. More and more of us are led to believe the insanity that those who have need feel no responsibility for those who have not, that any man who missteps deserves the most draconian of punishments, that as long as I get mine I don’t need to consider anyone else. Is it any wonder our children feel so alone and are led so easily to the next impulse. Some blame it on video games, music, movies – anything they can – but so few of us take responsibility ourselves.

So many of us just take what we can get and so few of us ask what we can give. The spirit of generosity has been co-opted by a spirit of selfishness and the spirit of Ayn Rand chuckles from behind the wings.

This was troubling me horribly just now as I was watching Les Miserables, the 1935 version with Frederic March (who, by the way, was really incredible). If you’re unfamiliar with the book or the film, the theme is one of generosity of spirit as opposed to selfishness. That one should always give, that it is better to help others than to selfishly ignore the suffering of others, is what the work teaches and every time I am exposed to it I wonder what ever happened to this lesson. How was it lost?

Today, what was most troubling to me was how this reflected on my own life, for I too am guilty of ignoring this message in my own way. I’ll give you an example. I was going to write a book on ethics, for writing is my gift and such a book has the potential to do a great deal to help the world, but instead I decided I wanted to do something fun and write another comedy. Now, part of me says that people need humor but another part of me insists that anyone can write comedy while ethics are far more important. Here’s another example. Vicky has been considering adoption more and more as an option to having children. I’ve found myself rather closed-minded towards it, mostly because I’m afraid I wouldn’t measure up, and now begin to see how wrong that way of thinking is.

The thing is, we can all make the world a better place if we start from a place of giving and unselfishness, where we accept that every person should be treated with decency and respect and not simply for our own amusement, but most of all that this begins with one small change of attitude – if we give of ourselves just a little, that’s all it takes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crime and Punishment…

The older I get the more I see a scary by-product of age. One by one, I notice my friends turn into bitter, hateful old men and women… especially when it comes to the issue of crime. I hear them talk about draconian measures, death penalties for children, and even with no sense of irony cutting hands off of thieves. I feel like saying “How very Muslim of you” though they probably wouldn’t get it.

It concerns me because I hate to see my generation gobbled up so obediently by the previous one, taught to believe all the falsehoods that they themselves chose to believe. This leaves the hope in the hands of the next generation but it is too often an empty one, as I see them misunderstanding so much as well.

After all, what’s the point of our justice system? Is it to help bring people back to a point of understanding, so that they don’t repeat the same mistakes they once made? Because if that’s the case, death penalties for children and the forcible removing of hands is going the wrong way. On the other hand, take or leave the pun as you will, if the point is to eliminate those who offend us, then we should all form a line and get ready for a bullet to the head.

Laws are not established in order to provide us entertainment, so we can watch our government murder and maim. A more perfect society is not formed when we greet misdeeds with hate. The fact that nobody is perfect too often eludes even the best of us and it is the expectation that everyone should always be at their best that shows our petty, small selves and creates a society that is no more than a reflection of what we make of it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Late night decisions…

Yikes. It’s 4am. I’ve been up since 11pm, got about an hour of sleep. Nice, huh?

Uncharacteristic of me, I think I’ve decided to go against my better judgment. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

I have to be honest. The book on ethics hasn’t been going very quickly. It’s actually very difficult. And I’ve been struggling with that as much as I’ve been struggling with the subject matter. And I’ve come to a conclusion. I realized that, for as much as I want to write this book, I’m under far too much stress to really focus on it right now.

My life is an awfully shitty mess. And I realized that what I really need is an escape. I need some fun! And being cooped up in this house with no job interviews and not enough money to pay for WoW isn’t fun.

So, early this morning, I consciously put aside my book on ethics. This isn’t to say I won’t write it. I will. Just not now. This is kind of like not running marathons when you have pneumonia. No, what I decided to do this morning was to ask myself, “Well, self, what do you want to do right now?’

Almost as soon as I asked it, I realized what it was – and as cheap as it might sound, especially when compared to a book on ethics, I decided I want to write another comedy. Of course, I do! It’s fun! It’s a treat! And it’s a great way to escape! Jokes and gags starting pouring out of me and I’ve been up most of the morning jotting them down.

The new play already has a working title, Diamonds Are For Thursday; it’s a comedic mystery in the Marx Brother’s tradition about a jewel heist. This is a huge leap for me and should be a blast.

I’ll keep you posted.

I guess the takeaway here is that if you’re fighting something, if you’re under a lot of stress already, maybe it’s a good thing to give yourself a break. At least, I hope so.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Submit or be mitted…

I’m in month number… well, wait a minute… Vicky would say it’s the eighth month and I’d say it’s the ninth month… but just saying that means Vicky would probably say it’s actually only the seventh month… anyway, I’ve been unemployed now since the end of January, a pretty damn long time…

But I’m not going to write about that.

See, the thing is I’ve been looking high and low for a job but that’s not all I’ve been doing. I’ve also been working like a dog to get my books and plays out in front of people – you know, agents and publishers – in the hopes that I might be able to get something moving there. I’ve had no luck, yet. And, yes, sometimes like today I get disheartened.

But then I think about this website I saw a few days back. I wish I’d saved it so I could share it with you. The writer talks about how he just sold his first book and he provides a chart of all the submissions he’s done, sending his book out to agents and publishers and what have you… The final tally was over 500. Can you imagine? If he sent out one each week, that would have taken ten years! And that’s not always easy, let me tell you. Some weeks you find two or three places to send stuff but others you come up dry. That must have taken an awfully long time with a great deal of effort.

So, that got me to thinking. How many submissions have I done?

Take my book No More Blue Roses, for instance. That’s gone out to only about 112 agents and publishers, only about one fifth! How about With Eyes to See? Only 98 or so! Wormfood, a horror novel that has seen some of the most strident rejections, has only been rejected about 49 times! And Climbing Maya, which I’ve been faithfully plugging more than any other book, has only been rejected 264 times!

So, what’s my point? Well, on a day when I feel just about as down in the dumps as you can get I figured it would be good to remind myself that this isn’t a sprint and I’ve only started. Heck, I’m 43 years old. I’ve been writing seriously for over 20 years now. I’m proud of what I’ve done and this kind of rejection is no reason to lose heart. Because others have been here before me.

It’s time for me to keep going and not give up. I hope you do, too. They say anything worth it is, well, worth it. I hope we both find out… and soon!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Dynamic Pluralism… the rough cut…

Actually, I wish I was so far along that I could say I had completed the rough cut (or first draft) of Dynamic Pluralism. As it stands, I only finished the rough cut/first draft of the outline. One page of text… very little text… ugh…

The thing is, I’ve spent most of the past few weeks just making sure I had a reason for writing it to begin with. How silly I would seem if I was saying something that’s been acknowledged for years now or – just as bad – saying something any respectable philosopher would laugh out of the room. Clearly, the idea should be in the mainstream somewhere, maybe move it down the hill a bit.

Dr. Crippen at Cal State Fullerton turned me on to John Dewey as a starting point. Dewey actually comes very close to my idea but never goes all the way. While he says we cannot use set rules of ethics from the past because times simply change too much, just like me, he says the best way to move forward is to constantly analyze our motives and our ethical systems. But he is still keeping it internal and individualistic. The rest of the early-20th century Pragmatists are far worse, saying it’s impossible to establish any law at all.

The come close to Dynamic Pluralism but miss the key part: talking.

… I know. Not exactly revolutionary. But that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. Dynamic Pluralism takes the dilemma established by the Pragmatists, that we can’t use outdated ethical systems, and provides hope for a new way. It doesn’t sound that impressive to say, “You should talk,” but it actually is, in a way, because nobody else has so far!

And so, I’ve written a single page of text, telling myself how to proceed with the book. It starts with the Introduction I’ve mentioned before and then heads into the different ethical systems laid out thus far. Early systems told us what was good – honor, truth, what have you – I call it the “I like pickles” idea – but that doesn’t help because everyone’s idea is different. That moved into Teleological systems: Utilitarianism. These said that maximizing the utility or the good – getting a good outcome – is what you want, but that just created an inherently selfish system. And that’s not ethical. Then, Kant came in with a non-consequential, Deontological system. And that put action over outcome. In other words, behave ethically and you will be ethical. Again, the problem lies in its individualistic roots – I could think I’m totally ethical as I brutally torture someone. (And hello to you, Mr. Cheney.)

Is it any wonder the Pragmatists thought it was hopeless? Well, maybe not. I just need to find the gumption to actually write the damn thing…