Saturday, October 3, 2015

I feel fortunate and happy to have a job

I'm busy writing my book.  If I didn't have a contract binding me to a delivery date in the near future, I would not be working this hard.  I feel fortunate and happy to have a job to do and realize that my happiness is based on purposeful work. I like to work.   Happiness, by the way, is a quiet thing.  Happiness is like an agreeable companion who links arms and walks with you and let's you lead the conversation.

 I have no concept of what "working hard" means for a writer.  People who jackhammer concrete in 90 degree heat work hard.  Window cleaners in high rise buildings who dangle over the abyss while they swipe a squeegee over glass work hard.  School teachers who teach teenagers work hard. 

Sometimes the characters in this book speak up and tell me how they want to proceed.  Sometimes minor characters show me how they can be used to move the story along.  I am continually amazed at the process because it defies explanation and sounds false.  It is not false.  This is my seventh book and the writing experience is very different.  I'm trusting it but I'm not sure I should trust it completely.

I'm posting today because my book, Three Daughters, is part of an Amazon promotion for the month of October.  You can buy all 722 pages of the Kindle edition for 1.99.  It's going to be on sale in the UK, too, beginning Oct. 9th.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"You're promised nothing. Ever." Marlon Brando

Every time I think of saying good-bye to Facebook, I will get a snippet in my feed from Joanne Woodward.  I don't know Joanne and I'm not sure how I became one of her FB friends but almost daily she posts quotes from two works by James Grissom: Tennessee Williams biography, "Follies of God" and from Marlon Brando's portrait "Come Up A Man: The Hungers of Marlon Brando. We knew Tennessee was brilliant but who knew Marlon Brando was a brilliant thinker?  All of Brando's quotes are so incisive it makes you realize he could have been a great writer as well as a great actor.  He gets to the deeply buried truth about things.  In the quote below he talks about talent in a way I hadn't considered.

"Work the talent. Hone the talent. Share the talent. This has been my life, and this was seen as healthy and necessary. Talent gives nothing to its owner: It only gives momentary pleasure to those to whom it is given. The application of talent depletes a person, while the study of things and people to feed it give great pleasure. But when you're done sharing the talent, you're empty and tired and terribly vulnerable, and if you have no one in your life to tell you to do things and to be there for them, you're dead. Talent is not enough. Judy Garland is proof of that: She gave and she gave, and she had, in the end, nothing. No one to hold her--I mean HER, not the person known as Judy Garland. I am an example of this: I pursued talent and work and the marketing of it, and what do I have? What do any of us have? A lonely phone call in the night."--Marlon Brando/ From Grissom's "Come Up A Man: The Hungers of Marlon Brando

And also from Brando: "You're promised nothing. Ever. Without becoming entirely nihilistic, keep this always in mind. The pursuit is everything. The reaching. The straining. Harold [Clurman] told me once that to die with your arm stretched toward something that is impossible for you is the greatest goal to have. Keep reaching. Expect nothing. And then--one day, amazingly--you grab hold of the play, the film, the book, the person. And life is that amazing thing you hoped for, dreamed of." 

The other quote is from  Grissom's extraordinary portrait of Tennessee Williams' and his take on Ernest Hemingway.  It is exactly the way I feel about Hemingway, "he altered the literary scene for all of us and his rhythms are now our rhythms....."  By the way, this book is a masterful biography of Williams' creative process which can overlap to include even the least of us.

 "Whatever we may feel about him personally--whatever his particular demons may have been--he altered the literary scene for all of us, and his rhythms are now our rhythms, and his nightmares our nightmares. We are all indebted to him even in small ways."--Tennessee Williams on Ernest Hemingway.

 Off subject:  on a personal note, I have been fortunate to sell another book (one that isn't written yet) and my posts may be farther (further?) apart.  I'm a little scared if I will be able to fulfill the enthusiasm and expectations of the publisher but I'm going to keep writing and do my best.  Writing this blog has helped me become a more facile writer.  By that I mean I can summon the emotional context in which to place events without too much agonizing.  My mind is used to finding the best way to present even small ideas.  I notice the writing process is markedly different from when I wrote my last book.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The best bs ever!

As some might know, I live in East Hampton and not too far from my house, is the gorgeous barn of Ina Garten, the doyenne of all things culinary and tasteful and high end.  I love watching Ina and Jeffrey giggle and adore each other.   I love watching Ina cook with her beautiful commercial grade equipment and her gorgeous produce and her first-name relationships with the shopkeepers of the high end food that she buys.  Ina tells us to always have chicken stock in the freezer and then she pulls out gallons of clear earthy stock that must have required a hundred chickens to produce and then also strained through unbleached muslin.  I marvel that any earthly being lives in such a perfect yet relaxed world. 

Yesterday, I found a headline on my Yahoo news feed with these words:  
Ina's Barnlike Abode

On  a shady side street of East Hampton, New York, Ina Garten built her "barn," inspired by the simple country buildings of Belgium and designed by architect Frank Greenwald.  Ina loves to entertain outdoors, and "all my guests love to sit on the stone sitting wall before dinner, having a glass of wine," she says.  After dinner, everyone gathers around the big iron fire bowl to roast marshmallows and make s'mores.
In the entry, a 19th century muslin-covered settee from Bloom is just right for donning summer flip-flops or shucking winter Wellies.  A 17th-century Venetian mirror hangs on a wall painted Farrow and Ball's Light Gray.

Some BS is bad, some BS is good but this is the best BS ever!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed. So what?

When I came upon a book titled, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Well.  You know.  Magic. Life-changing. The author is foreign giving her message more weight. The book's suggested regimen is so radical, we assume a payoff of spectacular personal change.

My life, by the way, is already magically transformed.  Logically I had no right to succeed at anything. I perfected the maneuver of sounding smart by remembering everything and knowing nothing completely. It has brought me far.  I have received almost everything I've ever wanted and expect to get the few items left very soon. I share this because, like many, I enjoy any documentation of all the things that are seriously wrong with me and are blocking any hope of a good happy life. 

Are books like this of any use?  Yes.  Books like these are useful when there is something mildly wrong with us and we need a little kick to try out a new idea and challenge some dusty status quo.  A new idea that requires action (getting rid of all useless possessions) takes hold in stages.  There's the first layer where you get rid of obvious trash: torn clothing, broken utensils, etc.  A few days later, your eyes and mind open a little wider and you get rid of stuff that isn't broken but is useless and possibly worthless.  All subsequent stages are true awakenings wherein you realize how all this stuff is mentally weighing you down and you can't get rid of it fast enough.  No regrets!

Let's take the book, Stuff - compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things. I had all the classic symptoms of a mild hoarder and the evidence was in my garage. I was certain I would one day sell the stuff in my garage so why should I throw it away?   I don't feel that way anymore and although I have sold a few things, I have also given away or thrown away much more.  Sadly, I still hoard some clothes from when I was thinner. 

I received two useful messages from these books and both improved my life.

It's okay to let go of stuff.  It takes a while for this idea to take root. Familiarity is not a reason to retain anything.  Let it all go by whatever means.  It's beneficial. Think of it as psychic income.  Visually, it's liberating to see empty space.  Emotionally, there's a sense of relief not to be responsible for fixing, refurbishing or using any of the stuff.  Mentally, you now have room for other thoughts.

It's not a sin to throw away/give back sentimental keepsakes and you won't regret it later.
All the "awwh" stuff you kept from when the kids were little, including handprints in clay, macaroni portraits, abstract paintings, sat scores, mother's day cards, etc. can be boxed and given to each child to do with as they wish. 

My favorite title by far is  Selfish, Shallow and Self-absorbed.   That should be my autobiography.  If we are realistic, it is probably the universal autobiography. We want everything to be about us. So what?  Think about it.  That's the way it has to be. By the way, the above book is about deciding not to have children but you can have children to enhance your selfishness, shallowness and self-absorption because what are children but miniature versions of us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Editors who used to show up at your house to hold your hand

I belong to a site named "Narrative"

I don't feel worthy of being anywhere near this site because they are the kind of serious writing place that will publish a story by Virginia Woolf  which they did in the current issue.  It is called Monday or Tuesday.

The poem of the week Scars  by Tod Marshall is about the debris that lives under a trailer that is exposed when a windstorm blows off the skirt. 
Everything they publish is literary as in Farrar Straus and Giroux when Roger Straus ran the ship and Michael di Capua was an editor,   as in Viking Press when Tom Guinzberg was editor in chief, as in when the first Tom Wolfe was screaming out in the street at one in the morning that he had written ten thousand words that day.  As in, people who remember who Ford Maddox Ford was and the name of Hemingway's editor. As in Maxwell Perkins. As in, editors who used to show up at your house to hold your hand.    As in, more recently, Jennifer Egan. They have writing contests and award prize money.

Today this magazine arrived in my e-mail box and offered a free - as in free - ad of  100 words.  Just in case I misunderstood, they said it was free about eight times.  Just place the ad between aug 6 and aug 8. 

Anyway, I'm passing this along to my blog readers in case they want to take advantage of it.
72-Hour Classifieds Giveaway!      
To introduce you to our incredibly easy place-it-yourself classified ads, we’re offering free one-month ad placements for all our ad categories.

Any ad placed from August 6 to 8 will run for one month absolutely free. See the ad categories listed below.

In placing your free ad, you may include text highlighting and an image for enhanced marketing of your workshop, contest, services, books, or other items of interest to readers and writers.

Our classifieds are a fast and easy way to reach more than 200,000 readers, and you can create and post your ad online in just a few moments.

See our classified ad categories today, and plan your free ad!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Why don't we just quit this "dog and pony" show called Democracy?

This morning I read that President Obama feels "most frustrated and most stymied" by the failure to pass "commonsense gun safety laws through Congress, even in the face of repeated mass killings.  He blamed it on the political clout of the NRA. 

Does the NRA have more political clout than all of Congress?
Yes it does.  It has more political clout than the 100 Senators and the 435 voting members of the House of Representatives.  The NRA and most lobby groups have way more power than even the president of the United States of America.

What does that mean?
It means the National Rifle Association can bully 100 Senators and 435 voting Members of the House into voting for its interests even though the outcome fuels senseless and heartbreaking mass murder.

How can that be.  I didn't elect the NRA.  You mean the NRA is more powerful than my precious democratic government?
Yes.  And not only the NRA.  The Dairy Lobby, The Phramaceutical Lobby.  Big Agra. Big Pharma.  AIPAC.  Almost every industry or special interest group has a lobby and all have political clout.  They can and do bully the congress into doing what they want.

Are you saying  that although billed as a democracy, the USA is run by a shadow government that is killing its citizens with guns, with antibiotic infested chickens, with radiated milk, with high fructose laced food, with plastic water bottles that leach poisons into our bodies, with drugs that create more havoc than they alleviate disease.

Don't we rail against governments that kill their own people? Aren't we trying to sell them on democracy?
Yes.  That's our mission. 

Why aren't the citizens outraged by this shadow government?  Why isn't there an outcry?
Because the press and elected officials keep the citizens in a frenzy over things like animal rights, transgender rights, racism, inane political correctness, abortion, immigration, the Kardashians.

But aren't those issues important, too?
Of course, but if the press devoted one tenth the media attention to the totalitarian bully tactics of the shadow government of unelected thugs that run the Congress, as the air and print space they allot to Caitlyn Jenner, we would be raging at the door of the Supreme Court to outlaw lobby groups or impose campaign spending limits so we can make this obscene rape of our government a punishable act.

How do the lobby groups get so strong?
They dangle a lot of money in front of the Senators and Congressmen.

Whuck? You mean they buy them off?
Yes.  They buy their allegiance.  They buy their vote.

Are you saying my elected congressman and my elected senator are not really working for me but they are working for the NRA and the Dairy Lobby, and big Pharma and Big Agra and AIPAC and god knows who else?

Then what's the sense of having elections and spending all that money.  Why don't we just quit the dog and pony show and call ourselves a totalitarian government.
There is no sense.  No sense at all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

There is a purity of intent in our president.

Yesterday I changed my mind about two things:  President Obama and sports.

Normally, I would not watch a presidential news conference in the middle of the day but it interrupted one of my favorite game shows (yes, I know, you think less of me now).  Instead of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" there was our fabulous looking president telling us in a sure, strong voice why the Iran deal is much better than no deal because the alternative is to blow Iran up into smithereens (little bits and pieces.)  The president didn't say that last part.  He said war was the alternative.
The president also mapped out all of the safety nets that were in place in the deal in case Iran wanted to sneak around and build nuclear weapons behind our back.  The president also said that a nuclear plant is not something you can put on a dolly and wheel out of sight.  I was astonished at the reasonableness of his remarks considering that this initiative is a major game change in the way we deal with the Middle East. 

There is a new note in our president's voice. He is calm and sequential.  There is a purity of intent that comes across when he lays out his reasoning.  There is a purity of intent when he challenges the opposition to be courageous enough to embrace the alternative view which would be war. 

Normally, given my penchant for grand irony, I should have been madly in love with a president named Barack Hussein Obama II.  Holy Toledo, is this a joke?  In the early years, I was not a fan. I didn't mind that he was not as pure as advertised.  I didn't mind that he was backed by Wall Street money or had to repay lobbyists like the unpure presidents. Remember the $536 million sunk into that trainwreck Solyndra? I particularly didn't like the stealthy way the health bill was passed, cobbled together with possibly non-constitutional legislative tricks. I didn't like the way the press was slobbering (yes, slobbering) over him because I considered it democratically unhealthy.  I had a hunch that Michelle had a chip on her beautifully toned shoulder.  After all, she was a brainiac, too, and why should she be demoted to issues like childhood obesity instead of making the big decisions.

My respect for this president grew slowly and is now complete.  I began to pay attention toward the three quarter mark of the first term. He was publicly stubborn.  He would not be bullied by the press to provide answers before he was ready.  He had his own way of dealing with the world outside of the USA.  We didn't have a puppet in the Oval Office.  Maybe the president grew, too, and I'm appreciating the man he has become.  Either way, we are the luckiest country on earth to have this intelligent man who has nothing political to lose, leading this country as best he can.

My second awakening is about sports.  I have only a passing interest in sports.  I know from the headlines that sports figures sometimes do very dumb things.  Two of them blew off a finger over the July 4th holiday.  A couple of them have shot people.  Dead. Many of the men marry gorgeous women and then divorce them.  Those were my default thoughts about sports but last night I changed my mind.  I watched the entire Espy awards show and not for the reason you think.  I did see Caitlyn's good speech but that came late in the proceedings.  I watched the entire show because I was riveted to the men and women who received awards. The clips of their feats were fantastic and showed tremendous physical talent.  The recipients were modest, thoughtful, grateful and gave short interesting speeches. Two of them made me cry.  Yay sports!

And by the way, have you noticed what a brilliant and interesting man Mike Tyson has become?