A Mile Into The Woods

Apr 27, 2017 by

A Mile Into The Woods

I walked a mile into the woods today to be further away from you and closer to me.
Perhaps I succeeded.
But it was time for another view.

I walked a mile into the woods today.

I hear planes in the distance.
The wind rushing over my ears.
The rustle of the leaves.
Feet padding along the trail.
Cars way off in the distance.
Birds.
Cracks and smacks of branches and sticks.

The whisper of the wind across my ear drums.
The pulse of God’s breath moving across my arms.
The bursts of sunlight breaking through the crown of the trees above.
The dancing shadows across the ground.
The to and fro of branches wafting in the wind.
The colors, greens, darker; brown, black, bright green and gray.

I hold out my hand and the sun catches it, throwing a shadow across the ground.
But it’s not crisp, it weaves in and out of light.
There, it’s solid.
No, now it’s not.
There are patterns from shoes that have been here before me.
V-shapes, circles, squares.
At deeper depths.
Tire tracks, from bikes.

A broken branch lies a few feet away.
The light above illuminates the top, worn from who knows what.
The rest of the bark is intact.

A tiny yellow flower, no bigger than a diamond clings to nature’s floor, protected by fronds of green petals.

A yellow star of a flower.

It’s a miniature star, yellow, with a darker yellow center.
And it was waiting for me to come along and sit here today, for me alone to capture.
Or maybe, just maybe it’s my metaphorical reflection, a quantum physics of sorts I do not yet comprehend.
But I’m trying.
My eyes are open.
Again.

A bird chirps overhead. Now it’s gone.

Divergent travelers surround me.
Another over-crowded airliner moans eastward overhead.
I hear a truck far off, backing up, backing up, backing up.
Both are in a race.
While I sit here.
Still.
Forgetting to breathe.
Or think about anything but the moment.

The sky above is blue.
The leaves above reflect the white light of the sun—not greenness at all.
While others are shades far darker in the shade.
And then there are the branches where from many feet below I can see the chloroplastered canals of leaf after leaf after leaf.
Like a playground bully, the wind pushes the leaves.
Like me in my inner frights of seeing too many parental fights, they never push back.
So many forces working against them and they continue a dance in the wind as if none of their opposition matters.
These are Spring leaves.
Deep inside I must resemble a crumbling one in Fall.

I see bees buzzing past me.
Clumps of white spores float along in the air.
A blue butterfly.
Then a Monarch.
A bird is somewhere off in the distance.
This snack he’s missing.
I’m glad.
There go two more now, chasing each other into the leaves like lovers in a Hollywood musical.

A water fall of sorts is no more than forty yards from where I sit.
The water rushes.
Like the mass of human drama beyond, it doesn’t relent.
A constant wash of white noise blending in with all the other orchestral parts employed around me.

The wind is blowing the branches above my head making the leaves look like a million pinwheels as they sway two and fro.
A kaleidoscope of light and shadow and mystery.

I want to lie down on the path in front of me.
On my back and flatten against the earth, staring up into the azure blue, and then just close my eyes and take it all in all the more.
But my inner parent voice says that’s not allowed.
Or maybe it’s an echo of an actual parent voice.
Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a blanket or a towel.
Or maybe I should just try it.
Who will know?
Those damned inner parent voices.
What do they really know?

Now a dog behind me somewhere has joined his bit part in the symphony of outdoor sounds I am awash in.
At home, if it were my dog, this would bug me, but in the distance, the sound is different.
Not annoying.
Not troublesome.
Now it’s stopped.
No, it hasn’t.

To my distant right I see one lone purple flower at the seam where the grass is no longer edged and bushes, Mother Nature, takes over.

The pink/purple flower. I took a picture anyway.

Just a lone purple and pinkish dot on the horizon.
And it, too, dances in and out of the bright light overhead.
Maybe I should go take a picture.
Maybe I should let the one in my mind’s eye be enough.
Click.

There goes a wasp.
Keep going.
Arms dropping.
Pincers ready.
I’ve been stung by you and life too many times already.
Keep going.

Maybe it’s time to load up the pack and head back.
Or maybe I should close the computer and open my mind more.
There went a shadow of a plane from overhead, racing on its way.
Why do I want to follow in pursuit?
A yellow butterfly just swooshed off to my left.
It doesn’t need clearance to fly.
No flight plan required.
Without a set destination.
Gate to gate time is of no concern.
Pushback.
Just the will to be.
It’s gone now.
I’ll go now, too.
There is so much more to see.

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Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Apr 25, 2017 by

Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama, famed novelist Rita Mae Brown spoke during a workshop at the Alabama Book Festival about the hole in the English language caused by our vocabulary lacking the adequate words to “articulate emotion.” She says Subjunctive Text is English’s answer to our language problem.

Rita Mae Brown at the Alabama Book Festival April 22, 2017.

I had expected a lecture on how to get published as a writer and got 50 minutes of mind-bending perspective on the tools we writers have–think of a mechanic with a red Craftsman box.

We have a “warriors’ language,” she said. It’s not equipped to describe emotions. At least not like Spanish or French.

Thankfully, Ms. Brown says we have an answer to this problem–the subjunctive text–what is imagined, wished or possible.

Her challenge to all writers: “Can you put the truth on the page?”

Hmmm.

The Close Your Eyes In A Restaurant Test

Ms. Brown offered writers a great tool about observation. “Go to a restaurant, close your eyes, and then listen to the falsity in what you hear,” she said. “You’ll hear people change their voice, derogatorily, to talk to children. You’ll hear the fake laugh of conversation. You’ll be amazed at the anxiety of social situations,” that you can hear by sitting there with your eyes closed.

She said men drop their voices a half octave to talk to women they’re interested in wooing. “It’s natural, like the male pigeon fanning his feathers, he can’t help it.” Women, she said, raise their voice, look upward, and raise their hands to gesture.

“Listen to the pauses and how people breathe when they talk. See how many of them talk from their diaphragm and mean what they’re saying.”

Governments and Passive Voice

Ms. Brown talked about the use of active and passive voice, saying men use active voice a lot, and governments use passive voice to cover their tracks. “Bombs went off earlier today,” she said. “That doesn’t tell you anything about who made that order, who set them off, who got bombed, or even the time it happened. Government makes use of passive voice to cover its tracks. Never forget that “language can be used to conceal as well as reveal.” 

Dramatic Epiphanies 

A real epiphany in life she says is something dramatic, though some are indeed quiet. “But they almost all paralyze us for a few moments when they happen.” Her point was that we, as writers, should pay attention to this in our characters. These events are like “faces falling off Mount Rushmore.”

There are times when epiphanies are “quiet and you suddenly realize you’ve changed and have either been deepened by pain or enlarged by success,” but they happen and when they happen in writing, we should give them the space they are due. “But then you must start again with a subtle pause in the action.”

Ms. Brown says people read because they need a break from the miseries of the day. So that we can learn how to survive the situations that life throws at us. “People look for curious characters,” she said.

Animals

During her first workshop and a later presentation, she spent considerable time talking about animals. “All higher vertebrates have their own language,” and she encouraged the study. “The fox is a vermin,” she said. “It’s hardly been studied at all, but don’t you think it’d be wise for us to spend some time trying to figure out how in January the fox seems to know what the food supply is going to be like in May?”

Another curious observation–“Animals, like your dog and unlike humans, don’t lie.”

Writers We Should Read

Ms. Brown said there are certain examples in the English language that we should all strive to emulate, but most likely will never achieve. Virginia Wolf was the top of the list. She loves Faulkner and then said Toni Morrison’s Beloved is crucial reading for its literary elegance and use of the English language.

I really enjoyed what she had to say. She bordered on controversial political jabs here and there, but no one seemed to mind, even in a Southern town like Mungumry.

She said some good things to know as a writer.

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Opioids–The Exit Strategy

Apr 12, 2017 by

Opioids–The Exit Strategy

During the past 10 months I’ve been on all kinds of pain meds. After the installation of a Abbott Pain Stimulator, I’m doing everything I can to get off the opioids. At present, I’m down to 1/2 a 10/325 pill in the morning and 1/2 of one at night. I am doing everything I can to get OFF these meds. The problem, most people are not like me. 

PAIN is a HUGE problem in America. When I first called a Pain Management doctor’s office in June of last year, the scheduler told me that doctor in North Dallas receives 50 new referrals a day. FIFTY new patient opportunities a day. FIFTY. That’s 250 a week. That’s 1,000 per month. Now I doubt the numbers are 1,000 new patients a month, but I can believe the numbers are that staggering.

From the picture, these are all meds I’ve been on during the duration. Most of them did nothing to stop my pain. Having a pain stimulator surgically implanted in early March 2017 has helped.

I was on Fentanyl patches and three Percocet a day from December 2016 to February 2017.  I still felt my pain, but my GiveADamn about it was broken. I was in true pain. That’s when these meds are most needed and they do help. But they are highly addictive and what didn’t come with any of them was an exit strategy.

WEANING

I’ve been cutting my consumption myself. That’s probably not a wise thing to do, but it’s what I’ve had to do because my doctors have not given me a written plan on how to get off the meds.

THE AMERICAN OPIOID CRISIS

Having been a consumer of opioids for more than 10 of the last 12 months, I can see how easily this can become a problem.

This post is just the beginning in a series. It is my intention to raise awareness about the dangers of using opioids. If you have a family member, friend, or you yourself have had issues with these meds, getting off of them, I mean, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me at DC at GrammaticArtist dot com.

It’s time to take action about these meds. Let me be clear. I am for their use when a person is in pain. But there needs to be better understanding among doctors about getting off of them, as well as just getting a script written and off you go to the pharmacy for more.

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Amazon Needs A “Do Not Use USPS Button”

Mar 28, 2017 by

I have been largely homebound the past 10 months. I’m an Amazon Prime member. That means I pay an additional amount yearly for them to rush things to me. Over the past two years, that mostly has meant things arrived at my door via FedEx or UPS.

But over the past 10 months, Amazon shippers have gotten cheap. They’re relying more and more on the USPS and there is no other way to say it, their service is sub par.

There needs to be a button at check out that denies an Amazon shipper to be able to send you something via the USPS. It’s that simple.

Today I received notice of a package USPS delivered yesterday. The “Your Orders” function says it’s in my mailbox. I live in an apartment complex. I went to the central boxes. Guess what. It’s not there. It’s in the office. I then had to drive further down to the apartment complex offices and they’re out until noon. So now I’m going to have to make another trip down to the office. 

Did I mention I’m having back issues. I’ve had four major surgeries since August. Getting around is not easy. And THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ISSUE I’VE had.

I’ve ordered dog food for my Great Pyrenees since I’m not supposed to be carrying 50 lb bags of dog food. It took an extra week for USPS to get it delivered. I’ve stopped ordering it this way at all. Screw you Amazon. You’re going to lose business.

Then there are repeated issues with delivery that have been noted on Twitter.

Using Amazon saves money. Particularly on books. But they suck when they let shippers send stuff via the USPS. It gets screwed up most every time. And there needs to be a button on Amazon that lets a purchaser say don’t waste my time with the USPS.

Now to their credit, USPS on Twitter has been most responsive. Their local office has not. But this has gone on for months now and I’m really just about ready to cancel buying on Amazon. It’s no longer convenient and has become a huge pain in the butt.

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The Travelers — You Are Now A Spy

Mar 19, 2017 by

I recently had the opportunity to read Chris Pavone’s The Travelers, a spy thriller and a great example for anyone living on the edge of morality not sure if their actions can or will have consequences.

Will Rhodes is living on the edge and makes a costly mistake after making every attempt, well, a fair attempt, to keep from being persuaded to do something he should not. It is succumbing to that temptation that gives this story it’s thrust. The bad guys trick him and then begin to make him do their bidding, or else what he did will get out.

Mix on top of that the questionable operations of his employer and you have a four-hundred page thriller that leaps from one continent to another with guns, knives and bad guys a step ahead or behind, depending on where in the story one is.

Largely this is a page turner that hangs its hat on a couple of basic principles—obviously the one noted above—what can happen if you’re unfaithful to your spouse in a world of spies when your wife is a spy and you don’t know it—but the application is there for all regardless.

Pavone also explores the essence of society on page 208:

“Everyone is acting all the time.  Smiling and laughing, great to meet you, that’s awesome. Wearing this and not that, keeping quiet when you want to scream, saying things you know aren’t true. You do it every day … and you did it before you ever met me. We all dot. That’s what keeps society going. That’s what life is. Acting.”

“Organizations are like organisms. They have deeply ingrained survival instincts. Which isn’t surprising, is it? After all, organizations are made up of people, and people are motivated by self-interest. We’re all self-preservationists. First and foremost, what people want is what’s best for themselves. We want to survive, we want to flourish. We get jobs, then we develop loyalty to our employers, and our loyalty helps our employers achieve success, which in turn help people survive. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

“The vast majority of espionage is committed for a very simple reason: money.”

The book obviously has some darker perspectives on humans in general, and that’s what helps supply the gasoline for the fire this book burns.

I don’t regularly read thrillers like this because I normally read books that seem to have more to say, but I read the book in the matter of a few days and am glad I did. If you’re headed to the beach in the next few months and need something that will keep you company in the sand, this is a great book to take with you.

ABOUT THE TRAVELERS

A pulse-racing international thriller from the New York Timesbestselling author of The Expats and The Accident

It’s 3:00am. Do you know where your husband is?

Meet Will Rhodes: travel writer, recently married, barely solvent, his idealism rapidly giving way to disillusionment and the worry that he’s living the wrong life. Then one night, on assignment for the award-winning Travelers magazine in the wine region of Argentina, a beautiful woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon Will’s bad choices—and dark secrets—take him across Europe, from a chateau in Bordeaux to a midnight raid on a Paris mansion, from a dive bar in Dublin to a mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and an isolated cabin perched on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. As he’s drawn further into a tangled web of international intrigue, it becomes clear that nothing about Will Rhodes was ever ordinary, that the network of deception ensnaring him is part of an immense and deadly conspiracy with terrifying global implications—and that the people closest to him may pose the greatest threat of all.

It’s 3:00am. Your husband has just become a spy.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

 

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The Emotional Craft of Fiction

Mar 9, 2017 by

Donald Maass is a literary editing GOD. There is no better way to say it.

I’ve now maintained a snail’s pace, using pen and stickies, to actively absorb every possible word of three of his books–Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing 21st Century Fiction–and now The Emotional Craft of Fiction.

During the fall, I took the Revision class offered by J. Suzanne Frank, the director of Southern Methodist University’s The Writer’s Path program. The go-to book Suzanne recommended for that phase of writing was Maass’ Writing 21st Century Fiction. What an amazing book it is. But….

Suzanne, whom I refer to as the Jedi Writing Master, didn’t know about this new work Maass published late last fall. Heading into back surgery last week, I had Amazon rush me a copy knowing the value of Maass’ work. Lord have mercy! At one in the morning yesterday I was photographing entire pages of Mr. Maass’ work, the part about the mirror moment–a term I’d only heard Suzanne use up until I found it in Maass’ book–and I decried she should just hand out the simple section on mirror moments where Maass says, “If you haven’t felt this emotion, essentially you don’t have a mirror moment!”

That was one of those sun-ray shining only on you during a dark, dank, cloudy day moments. My mirror moment in my present draft of The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club is heavy, but with the aide of Mr. Maass’ study suggestions it’s about to become a whole lot more intense.

Case in point: Kirk Carson, 14, has worked with his three closest friends all summer to build a the fort of his dreams in the woods off KI Sawyer AFB, (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), in 1977, largely in an effort to forget about his first true love, Rose Maxwell, dumping him for the base bully, Billy Banks, the son of the Wing Commander. While in the woods, the boys are met with a series of triumphs and setbacks, natural, self-inflicted, and mysterious–Lewis Luntz keeps saying it’s the Chippewa Haints who still roam the woods of Hiawatha–but what they don’t know is it’s a Soviet spy hiding out in the woods tracking the number of B-52s armed with nuclear weapons and by being in the woods off base, the boys have encroached on his hideout. The way it turns out, the spy has made it look like the boys will be safer under the leadership of Billy Banks and they vote to remove Kirk, and he feels their act is the ultimate in betrayals.

I have all that in decent shape in my MSS, but what I now need to do is the exercises in Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction, to help my readers feel the utter agony and humiliation Kirk feels as he learns the other three have already made the decision, have invited Billy–and Rose–to their “secret” fort in the woods and everything he has worked for and dreamed of, has been ripped away from him like a scab.

Did I mention that the day before, Kirk was also humiliated by Billy Banks–coaxed into jumping off the Devils Ledge at Chimney Rock, a sixty-five foot plunge to a Little Laughing Whitefish Falls Lagoon liquid enema? Kirk has had two bad days back to back and so now it’s time to do some of the exercises Maass has on page 99–“Is your protagonist lost or seeing a way forward?” “What does it feel like to be suspended, lifted out of time, in a moment of pure being?”–I’m ready to write those answers.

The book is a GREAT read. I’ve had a dustup with some dude on Twitter the past few hours who is all bent up about marked/unmarked linguistics. You see I tried to respectfully convey to Mr. Maass that for me, he over uses the word BOTH when he links two items together with the conjunction AND. In my copy of the book, I simply began marking them out–there are that many. One of my peeves. There’s nothing wrong with the use of the word BOTH, but it becomes a visual stop sign with repeated use and many writers on my Heather Sellers inspired 101 book list do it, too. Other than that, I love Mr. Maass’ insight and his devotion to helping writers like myself learn more about the craft of fiction writing.

This is a very good book. I think, for where I am right now, the most important of the three and it could not have come along for me at a better time. Thank you, Mr. Maass. I’m looking forward to what you do next.

Oh, an by the way, Suzanne said yesterday she was jumping over to Amazon to order her own copy. Here’s the link if you’ve not already followed one of the previous: The Emotional Craft of Fiction

 

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Drawing the line on Facebook

Dec 12, 2016 by

I’ve been attacked this morning on Facebook, like the Japanese fleet 75 years ago in an early dawn surprise, by a woman who purports to be a Vet, who had the gall to question the one thing that’s as strong in my heart as my love of Christ–love of our country. This is my wall, and I let people spew their left-way of thinking in my threads all the time. A friend the week before told me she admired how I never get personal back.

But saying I’m not a patriot, that I don’t love America because I support a good man like Rex Tillerson and his willingness to leave his high-paying job at ExxonMobil to serve our country’s interests around the world, well then you’ve gone too far. I am a Christian first. American second. Me third. It’s been that way since Dad joined the Air Force in 1968 and we began moving around the country every few months. It grew stronger when my dad would sit on Alert for a week at a time, ready to leave us behind to be incinerated while he tried to penetrate the USSR and blow them to smithereens if it came to that.

I fight back tears when the National Anthem is played–Every time. I stop at the Mesquite Fire Department and tell them they have the flags backwards on Truck 1 because the US flag is always in the direction where you point when you place your hand over your heart. I am an American patriot in so many other ways. This is my wall. This is MY WALL and while you are entitled to voice your opinion, questioning my love of this country is where you cross the line. Or when you say I’m a bigot because I refuse to defy the teachings that are in the Bible. Or say I’m a racist because “of the company I keep,” then you have gone afoul. I have friends around the world and country because of how I was brought up–serving as a dependent of a B-52 pilot in the USAF.

I say I have a lot of friends, but the honest truth is I have so very few “close friends” because of the USAF. As soon as we grew close, one of us moved. FB has given me back many relationships that were ripped away as a kid.

I lost a middle/high school “friend” this year because of reasons described above–because I didn’t support someone who has committed a crime that would have my own father in federal prison, and I instead supported the alternative.

Albeit, the president elect would not have been my first choice. TBH, no one running I thought measured up. But Mr. Trump has been elected. Never mind all the stuff that Wikileaks dropped exposing collusion between the Democrats and the news media. Never mind the sin that actually transpired. No, we seek to blame someone other than the ones who were robbing the hens of their eggs.

Such is the sick state America and the Internet has fostered.

I will tolerate, what so many of my “Friends” who preach tolerance hypocritically DO NOT DO, but when you say I’m un-American, you have gone too far. And frankly, you can go F yourself very much.

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