Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Moloch Eaters

In the late 1960s, when my brother and I were living in Kansas City, and there was a proliferation of alternative newspapers and magazines, we decided to start a magazine on a shoestring. The Moloch Eaters. I wrote articles and stories and my brother illustrated it all, doing a very nice job. One feature story was in comic book form, about Al Capp. I had a nit to pick with him, for calling Joan Baez Joannie Phony and for calling students S.W.I.N.E. - Students Wildly Indignant Over Nearly Everything. He committed these errors in judgement in his comic strip of Lil Abner. We advertised for subscribers and were getting a few, just as the work was nearly ready to take down to the nearest copy office. A well known entertainment icon's brother solicited us for a job, not realizing we were pretty much paupers. Then tragedy struck our family and we had to give it up and go to Corpus Christie, to bury a brother. My brother and I never got back together to work on another such magazine, and we returned the subscription money we received. But I have always wondered, if we had persevered, we might have built a career out of such endeavors. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My First Fiction

In grade school, teachers would single out my fiction and essays to read before the class. I was very young, the first time. I no longer recall the grade or the teacher. My first effort to creatively write was of the colt of a stallion named Alice. Perhaps the horse was transgender. Perhaps the truth lies elsewhere. Leave me alone. It was a two page tale, of how that colt wandered away from home and nearly got eaten by a mountain lion. Or a cougar. I forgot which. But the big cat's foot trod on a loose stone and it tumbled over a cliff. The little horse decided it would be safer at home and he went back to his stallion mama. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

some love women some love gods
i love to dance with the arthropods

wave eyestalks and move your feet
if ya got claws click them to the beat

if ya make webs spin them fast
if ya fly ya gotta move your ass

make one last try 'fore ya hide
here come the nets and insecticide

Speaking Bluntly

Two letters from Colette, who was born on this day in 1873, to her friend Marguerite Moreno.

Rozven, mid-September 1924
… I should like to talk earnestly to you about your copy for Les Annales. You still do not have quite the right touch. You lack the seeming carelessness which gives the “diary” effect. For the most part you have approached your gentlemen as though they were so many subjects assigned in class … For one portrait which works—Jarry—there are two others—Proust and Iturri, say—who don’t. They are just not sufficiently alive!
I am speaking to you now just as bluntly as I would speak to myself … You, who are magic itself when it comes to oral storytelling, lose most of your effects when you come to write. You leave out the color. For instance, your Proust—pages 3, 4, 5. If you were talking to me, this scene would be stunning. But in your written version what do I find? “Madame A. had a critical mind and brought ruthless judgments to bear … a chorus of flatterers agreed … the conversation took a bitter turn … mocking exclamations, derisive remarks,” etc. Do you realize that in all that not one word makes me see and hear what you’re talking about? If you were telling me this in person, you would paint old Madame A. and her husband, Papa Anatole France, and the whole company in fifteen lines. You would transform your “untethered mischiefmaking” into a single line of dialogue, of heard conversation, and it would all come alive. No mere narration, for God’s sake! Concrete details and colors! And no need of summing up! I don’t give a damn whether or not you ask Proust’s pardon for having misunderstood him. Nor do I care whether or not Sardou was “one of the kings of the contemporary stage”! Do you see? And the same goes for Iturri. A “charming and delicate dinner party”—“a conversation which wandered from one subject to another”—what are you showing me with phrases like these? But nothing! Paint me a d├ęcor, with real guests and the food they are eating! Otherwise, it’s all dead! In spite of yourself, you’re thinking of Madame Brisson. And I forbid you to do so! Liberate yourself! And try, oh my dear heart, do try to conceal from us the fact that you loathe writing. Try also to pardon me for throwing all this on paper so hastily. I must dash. Write me at Blvd. Suchet. I love you, I hug you, and I am determined that you shall write “marvelous” things, do you hear? My paw to Pierre.
Paris, June 14, 1926
I’m told you’ve been working ten hours a day and I hope this isn’t true. If it is, I cannot sympathize enough. Scratching paper is such a somber battle. There are no witnesses, no one else in your corner, no passion. And all the while, waiting outside, there are your blue springs, the very cries of your peacocks, and the fragrance of the air. It’s very sad.

Translated from French by Robert Phelps, 1980.
Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

more on revisions

I may have mentioned I am taking notes for a next novel, even as I work on this one. The next is to be sci-fi, about a crew come to Earth, to follow up on the remote studies already made. Object: Probable colonization.

Back to the current project. I found my second chapter nearly as difficult as the first. I think that is because it continues to set the parameters for what is to follow. Beyond here, I think I relaxed some as it began to flow for me. But, we shall see.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

William Faulkner

I had long wanted to read him, or at least know what his novels are about. I found an online offer, to buy a trio of his books at a cheap price. I received copies of The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and, Sanctuary.

I had seen a film based on Sanctuary, a number of years before. So, I started with it. I enjoyed it very much, but it was a totally different thing than the movie - which, by the way, starred Odetta. The Candy Man was a good creation.

I liked Light in August best of all. I often had to read on to make a breakthrough, to understand what the author was saying. It, like Joyce's work, was worth the extra effort. I may one day read it again.

Sound and Fury did not cut it with me. I read the first section, and was fine with it. But I never got into the second. In the end, I abandoned the book and never returned. I have read a few summaries.

So, I rate Faulkner a difficult writer, but worth reading, despite my own failure with his most honored novel.   

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On Becoming a Writer

Dickens' prose was endlessly inventive. Maughm's engaging and smooth. I would give anything for their facility of expression. Most of all, I wish I could make a character live, as they do in those novels. I grew up with Asperger's Syndrome, or a thing mighty like it. As a child, I observed life, but never was able to join in it with others. I could not hold a conversation, beyond simply answering the sort of questions that require simple yeses and nos. If a boy attached himself to me, while walking to school, for instance, he would spout a running monologue the whole way, and I would listen. None hung around very long. Even into high school and beyond, I could not strike up a friendship, not hold a conversation, not make a friend, not bond with a single soul. Between classes, I stood by the sidewalk, without looking at others, without being approached by others.Unable to speak, while reading, in my free time, Dickens and the like. After school, I had to work for relatives, because I feared to approach would be employers; the few times I did, they dismissed my overtures.

As a young adult, when pressed for a yes or no, I wavered between the two, in the simplest to the toughest matters, until the asker walked away with no answer at all. To tell somebody something, I seemed to have to apologize first and then insinuate the information. 

I blamed it all on an abusive stepfather. This was only in part the truth. I am certain he did not help any.

I was fifty years old by the time I went to work at an apartment complex. I desperately needed the work. So, I had to face the residents and learn to deal with them to keep my job. It was, in short, my therapy. 

When I decided to write, I kept hitting great walls, in creating characters and moving the dialog, because, in my entire life, I had no notion of the things people will do or say. I recall my brother and I in the dirt, playing with toy cars and homes made of sticks we found on the ground. When the cars would park outside the homes, silence ensued a few moments, before we started again from the beginning. We had no ideas about what people do at home. Now, twenty years later, I have enough grasp of what people do, say and think, to create novels. Not like a Dickens or Maughm, but those two are rarities even among great authors.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Erskine Caldwell

His convoluted writing style made it hard to read Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre. But, I loved his books. He told with humor, tales that could have made you cry, if written any other way. He wrote a few books that were personal reflections, on his life, on his philosophy on writing. One of the books had some pages so clumsily put together, I found myself laughing with embarrassment. Elsewhere, he said that it was his habit to read a dictionary, from cover to cover, once each year. The one he was describing had all words of three or more syllables stricken. His books did not need those ten dollar words. He also divided the world into those who write and those who read. One favorite I recommend is, A Fishing Trip (Maybe "Fishing Story" or "Tale." It is more readable than Tobacco Road, and shorter. Two white men on a fishing trip. One unfortunate black man, who tastes their racism.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


More on my way of revisions

It was suggested to me that I ought to let the pages cool a while before working more on them. I plan to do just that, but only after a first revision. An example of why I need to keep writing, at this point, may be found with the introduction of a pivotal character, in Chapter Two. I had to gloss over too many details about this one, in my quest for quicker productivity. So, now, I need to flesh out her character and background a bit. This new writing, here, as in other chapters, will require further revision, later, and that will come after the cooling period.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fifty Shades of Grey

I never read this book. I did watch a portion of the movie on TV during the past week. I was minded of The Story of O as the rich Grey gradually pulled her into his web and ended flying her to a huge building, where he had her agree to stay. If she obeyed him in everything, she would be rewarded. If not, she would be punished. The agreement was made in a room full of instruments of bondage and torture. I did not watch much beyond that. A bit later I tuned in again and they were having sex. I did not think what I saw of that scene was done imaginatively enough. I went back to my computer and did not see more than that. I bring this up, because there are some x rated portions of my book. I wonder how I may be judged for this. Anyway, what I have written is in no way similar to 'Grey.'

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rewrite Styles

Writers have divers ways to tackle the problem of revising a first draft. My way is to print the rough draft and then to place one sheet at a time beside the keyboard, and to type the new version, with that as a reference. My sparse writing style came about as a result of composing verse instead of prose for a number of years. It taught me word economy. So, in my revision, I have to add color and descriptions in lots of places that are little more than outlines in the first form. It is slow, but, I don't mind at all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I felt lazy today.

Only worked about thirty minutes.

 I have had to name nine characters in the first two chapters. I am told not to overpopulate a novel, but this one could not achieve the objective without a cast of a few dozen. If only I could bring them to life in a few paragraphs the way Charles Dickens did.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Big Worry

My one big worry as a writer is that I will become too old too fast, and leave some of my best work unfinished. My favorite writer of the Forties and Fifties, Phillip Wylie, died at age 69. He had been unable to work for a few years before that. Here I am, seventy three. I am generally doing okay, but it is not possible to know when one's health will decline  Whether or not a major publisher sees merit in my writing is only secondary to getting it done. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chapter One

Revising the first chapter, and probably the final one, is possibly the hardest part of this particular work. I am aware that Chapter Number One must capture the reader and propel same into the thick of a fanciful world, that is at the same time plausible while stretching credibility. It was grueling and much slower than anticipated. I only just finished it and I intend going over it a time or two more, before traveling on.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Post NaNoWriMo Syndrome

I finally printed my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) winner certificate today. I was not interested in the other stuff - tee shirt  and whatever. The site thrives on donations and selling merchandise, as well as allowing ads from self publishing companies and the like. If it seems I am going negative, perish the thought. I would donate or otherwise help if I were in a better position to do so. I love these folks and will be forever grateful for the boost in my writing powers that a single month could produce. I plan to win again next November.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

And, now, the work becomes more fun.

I don't have to guess and plan, these days. My creations have run their course, after a linear fashion. I still need to flesh out the narrative and smooth the rough parts. Bland phrasing must become dynamic. Some would say it needs to be padded to bring it to full 90,000 words, but my writing has a sparse quality that makes the added words necessary, to bring out the full flavor of the story. 

Monday, January 11, 2016


Tomorrow I will print my rough draft and make also a disc of it. Then begin work from page one and hope I can put enough lipstick on this pig to make readers think I am a writer. :) Joking. If I doubted myself that much, I would stick to self publishing. I hope to land an agent as soon as I have a presentable manuscript.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Book

I am trying to wrap up the final chapter over the next few days. Then the fun starts. The rewrite will be as tough as the first draft.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


For the first time ever, I ate quinoa, yesterday. Had the red kind, in a mix with rice. Very good. I read a few times it is good for you. I must google it some day.

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Current Writing

As I close in on the first draft of my novel, I make notes in preparation to write a next one. The next will be entirely different, a sci/fi thing. I no longer rely on memory for this stuff. The more notes I take the better. After all, I can delete what proves unusable, but can never dredge up the lost and forgotten.

The current project employs a legion of characters. They are hard to keep up with, as characters, but their story lines are fairly easy to maintain.

I have never thought of my writer's vocabulary as especially large, but one person, on attempting my autobiographical fiction, quit reading, because she tired of consulting a dictionary. As I told her, I try to keep it simple. I really don't know a remedy. I have to write what I know how to write. If people don't read it, so be it.