7.28.2016

Interim Meanderings

I still owe you a post about the Farm. And by you, I mean me. Because there are some definite things I want to put on paper (in as much as this blog is actually paper) about this recent jaunt.\

I just needed to get something out here. There's been quite a bit that's been happening in my life. And sure, it's actually a lot of the same stuff that always happens, but you know, it's practice. For when the really cool shit happens, I guess.

That made more sense in my head--as does most of what I write here.

Speaking of writing. I have been. I got Scrivener for iOS almost exactly 14 hours after I sat in my local writer's group meeting and said that I thought it would be a waste to get it for my iPad Mini because, well...Mini.

So yeah, I lied.  And I gave it some thought. Which is to say I thought of some good rationalizations. But in my defense, I'm pretty wicked smart at rationalizations. And I kinda gotta feel like if you back them up or follow through with them, then they are reasons, and not excuses or rationalizations.

So Todd, why did you get Scrivener for the iPad when you said you weren't going to? Seems wishy washy--are you practicing to go in to politics?

On the political front, no. No fucking way.

On the front of I got it when I said I wouldn't--here's the deal. Yes the screen real estate on the iPad Mini is small. But it still works. I used a couple of other word processing type apps on there, and as long as you have an external keyboard, it works. Now, I'm not keen on carrying a separate keyboard with me, so I went back to using the Clam Case Pro for now.  The keyboard is a little smaller than what I use every day, but that's a good thing (and here's why). The smaller keyboard forces me to actually slow down. Not quite the same way that a typewriter does, but it does actually make the writing more deliberate. And that's definitely a good thing.

Speaking of keyboards and good things, I just recently picked up a mechanical keyboard. Unlike a regular keyboard, each key hits an actuating switch. On the other keyboards (the non-mechanical) there is a membrane that lays under all of the keys. This makes the keys mushy.  The mechanical keyboards click and pop. You can hear the rhythm you are getting in to as you write--in short, it's effing brilliant.

I got one by a company named "AULA" and got their Dragon Deep model. The switches are a knock-off of the industry standard, "Cherry Blue" switches.  I've had it in place for 2 nights and have clocked about 2000 words it so far. Which is cool. The next closest thing (with the Cherry Blue switches) would put me back easily $100.

Alright, that's really all I got at this point.

I'll have more to say once I hit the deadline for this short story.

Peace out peeps,
     -A.T.

7.09.2016

Writing Prompt

Another writer's group meeting this morning. We all rotate who is going to lead the meetings. I'm on deck.  I like the idea of writing prompts, so I tried to think of one.

I printed off a half-dozen pictures. I turned the stack over, shuffled the cards, and wrote a random emotion or feeling on the back of the pictures. My hope was that the emotion or feeling on the back would be completely dissonant with the picture on the front.  The prompt was to use the picture and emotion/feeling and write for fifteen minutes.

Here was my picture.

"Surprise"

The word on the back was "surprise."  What follows is the result after 15 minutes. It's not perfect, but I think I will file it and maybe come back to it someday.


** Writing Prompt 07-09-2016 **

The flags stood stoically. Frank hadn’t planned on going to the memorial at all. He wasn’t one for displays of patriotism.

“This is fucking bullshit,” he thought as he pulled into the public parking.

“Welcome, sir, to the Field of the Dead,” an older gentleman said to him as he exited his car and started walking toward the flags.

“The...the what?”

“The Field of the Dead, Frank.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Do I know you?” Concern grew in the pit of Frank’s stomach.  That’s where it started.

The old man stood before him, withered. But somehow familiar.

“What the fuck I’m talking about Frank is that you are in a field of the dead.  Each of these flags represents the lost soul of someone you took from this planet too soon.”

“I..I need to go. This was a bad idea.”  Frank turned to leave.

A wrinkled hand,  hardened by decades of manual labor caught Frank just above the elbow just as he was turning to leave.

“Not so fast Franklin.  We’re not done here.”

Frank stood paralyzed.  Only three people in his lifetime ever knew his name was actually Franklin. Two of them were dead.

The third was….

“Jack?”

“Yeah, dickhead. It’s me. And you’re not leaving. You and I have some unfinished business my friend.” As the word “friend” came out of his mouth, the old man’s face turned sinister, spittle accentuating the harsh edge of the word.

“You….you died. I was there.”  

The pit in his stomach grew to a cavern. Beads of sweat gathered behind his ears. Shock and surprise at this sudden turn slowly gripped him. Any thought of escape at this point was moot.   He had to see this through at this point.

“Yes. You were there.  You were there when we all died.  There are three-thousand flags and nine-hundred and seventy-five peonies. And you put us here, Franklin.”

Speech seemed like a foreign concept. Jack led him around the memorial, which despite the holiday weekend and hour of the day, was surprisingly void of any life.

A placard hung from each flag. Each placard held four vital pieces of information. A name. An age. A location. And lastly, a cause of death.

“This...this isn’t real.”  Words meekly found their way through the paralyzing fear.

“It is real.  Your cure killed us.”

The cause of death on each card was exactly the same….

“Kindness.”

7.07.2016

Spin Cycle

I never learn.  I mean, sometimes I do. But with certain things, I never understood why they were the way they were. I didn't abide much by the philosophy of things being better because that's the way they'd always been done.

Take laundry for example. I know that a prevailing school of thought is that you don't wash colors and whites together. You should wash them separately. At one time I'm sure there was a fairly logical explanation for this.  The dye in fabrics was not of a caliber where it would stay colorfast in the wash. So if the colors ran, they would only be mixing back in with other, similar colors. The whites would stay white. And the colored clothes would stay colored.  Sometimes, if the whites started to fade, an additive was put in the wash to bring out their brilliance, by stripping the traces of color that may have become blended in with the white fabric.

But that never made much sense to me as a child learning to do laundry.  I had a basket of dirty clothes. A basket that would easily fit in to one load. So I would wash them together. One load. Not two separate half loads. Sometimes I would get some new colors. Things that used to be purely white had a new hue.  I rolled with it. They were just clothes, right? No big deal.

I still do that. All of it goes in to one load. I don't separate colors and whites. All in.

Some say our country was founded to be a melting pot. But I'm not quite seeing that these days. I'm seeing a country that's a laundromat. And people are separating the clothes before they clean them.

It heavies my heart.

It would be terribly ignorant of me to spout some platitude about not seeing colors. And even worse to say that all lives matter in light of recent events. Such comments tend to close dialog. They stop the flow of understanding.  A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook. A dude was just doing a live video of how the recent Alton Sterling killing affected him. It was thirty minutes long. I was looking at a video of a gentleman whose skin was darker than mine. With gold teeth, dreadlocks, and a snap back ball cap.  I very nearly didn't watch it. But my friend tagged me for it. Maybe he sees something in me that I don't. I'm not sure. But I watched it none the less.

And it made my heart heavy.  I knew that many of my friends would watch it and dismiss this man as a thug because of his demeanor.  Because of his speech patterns and colloquialisms, they might miss the message. The intent of his message. Here was a man in pain. A man who is watching people get killed in this country by people who are supposed to be protecting our citizens.

I'm going to pause here. This is not a post about good cops and bad cops. This is not a post about criminals with intent to harm or not.

Police officers are humans. Some humans are assholes. Some humans are bigots. Some humans need to exert control over people who don't look like them. And some of these humans get jobs as police officers.   The truth is, these people have jobs everywhere, but we don't really hear about it.  If the 7/11 clerk is an asshole to a car full of Latino teenagers, nobody gives a shit. Because, that guy's just a racist asshole. But when that same racist asshole has a badge and a gun and the authority to use both, we run in to problems. Nobody puts on a badge and suddenly stops being that asshole they were before the badge.  And with a media that seems hellbent on feeding us fear, we run in to more problems.

I don't know if you picked up on this from my profile picture or my charmingly naive worldview, but I'm white.  Caucasian.   Of primarily Irish and Italian descent.

My parents brought me up to see the world as one big load of laundry, though. Whites and colors weren't done as separate loads.  Some of my relatives further out on the family tree might disagree, but my folks were pretty good about making sure that I saw a person's heart first, not their appearance.

As much as I would love to sit here in my apartment, far removed from the real strife in this world, and say that I'm not racist or that I don't benefit from white privilege, I probably am. And I'm pretty sure I do.

I catch myself doing a double take sometimes when I'm out. Feel myself tensing up ever so slightly if two or more dudes with darker skin than mine walk toward me. And yeah, I know it's fucked up.  Look, I didn't say I was fully enlightened yet--just working on it.

As for the white privilege piece of it, here's where I figured that out. It hit me full force tonight.   I'm doing laundry (and hence the inspiration), and I realize that no matter how fucked up my life is...no matter what I do...whether or not I get a conceal/carry license or not, or gods-forbid do something that saddles me with a criminal record. No matter how fucked up my life could possibly become, I can't envision a scenario in which a traffic stop by a police officer will ever incite in me a feeling of terminal dread.

To me, that's messed up. The part that is really messing me up, though, is trying to wrap my head around the other side of that. To be of a mindset that if I get pulled over for even the most minor of offense, my life could end.

The fact that I can't fully imagine that is where the buffer of white privilege comes in.  We can pretend it's not there, but it is.

I'm just sad. And upset. And I don't even really know how to start the dialog. How to understand. How to talk to my friends who happen to have more melanin in their genetic makeup than I.

I don't know what to do about it.

So I write.

And continue to do laundry. Maybe the answer will come to me during the spin cycle.

Love,
-A.T.


7.04.2016

F*ck Facebook

I'm not posting the link to this post on Facebook.

It's not some great protest move or anything. It's just my bi-monthly bout of being fed up with Facebook. And that's fine. I think there are about 4 people that will actually come read this blog on their own without the link--and thank you for that.  I could probably name them by name, but I don't want to embarrass them.

I think there are some good things about social media. Well, two that I can think of and they are both actually kind of mixed blessings.

The first is that whole argument of 'I found my long lost friend/cousin/roommate/bully-from-sixth-grade and reconnected.'   That's fine. But what if that person wasn't really meant to be back in your life at this time?  We are so "connected" to people that we wind up getting absorbed in the minutia of what people post on Social Media that we think we know them. What's worse--is that we think we know what's best for them.  And sometimes that can be fucked up.  We've forgotten how to talk to each other. How to write a letter.  How to pick up the phone and call someone. The last time I checked, smart phones still made phone calls.

The second argument after the stay in touch camp is usually the "there are only certain events and info for those events only gets posted on facebook."  Fine.  If I do decide to leave Facebook, I'll have to hope that someone tells me about something that's going on. I mean, I hope my friends--my true/real life/sit on the patio and drink til 2AM friends have a way to get in touch with me that's not fucking facebook.

I look at the Facebook 'wall' (or news feed or whatever they're calling it this month) as a party.  And I'm wandering through the party (scrolling) and overhearing various conversations. If it's a conversation that interests me, I'll hang out a little longer (comment/dive deeper in the thread). If not, I'll move to another conversation (keep scrolling).  I can tell you this much, if the conversations are only about politics or religion, I'm going to keep walking.  And I'm eventually going to leave the party.

That's about where I am now. I get this way when I see myself getting too caught up in the bullshit.
I could post a post that I'm going to leave Facebook, but that's pretty much a cry for attention. "I'm going to leave this horrible place because nobody understands me, so please tell me how much you love me and you'd miss me"

At this point I just don't give a fuck. I figure we'll start a detox. Take it off of my phone. Stop posting. And in a month or two just disable the account. And a month or two after that, maybe on my birthday, I'll delete the whole damn thing.

There are a few groups and events that I know I'll have to provide alternate contact methods, too. But I know that will be fine.

It's crazy.

I'm listening to Steven Wilson's album, "Hand. Cannot. Erase."  The concept of the album is about a woman living a big city who dies in her apartment and no one notices....for three years.

It's got me thinking....

And the muffled reports through my headphones are telling me that the Fourth of July Fireworks are starting.  I'm just not feeling it this year. I don't want to be around people...a lot of random people...right now. And to be honest, the craning of my neck for that long just doesn't feel good.

But yes, back to the album based on the events surrounding the death of Joyce Carol Vincent.  Makes me wonder sometimes, how long it would take someone to notice. And on the microcosm....if you never post on Facebook, is that the same, metaphorically, as separating yourself from society? So much of our current worldview is so joined at the hip with social media.

Meh.

The good news is, these feelings that I'm working through definitely fuel the dystopian sci-fi piece I'm working on right now.

Sometimes unplugging isn't a bad thing at all.

-AT

7.02.2016

A Writer Writes

It looks like it's been about 3 weeks since I posted something of my own here.

To be fair, my last post was from a friend. And I truly felt that she needed an outlet - an anonymous outlet - to work out her frustration and rage for the terrible thing that happened to her. I didn't do much, but I gave her a first step. If you haven't read it yet, you should. Because it's terrifying to think that companies can get away with sweeping things under the rug because it doesn't fit their mission statement or their bottom line. She's not through the ordeal yet. Not by a long shot, but she's making steps to take her life back on her terms. And that's a start.

I haven't posted here for a few weeks because I wanted her post to get some traction and exposure.  But that, dear readers, doesn't mean I haven't been writing.  I have at least 3 paper journals going at all times and have still been writing in them to get the demons out of my brain bucket.

I've also been keeping busy by writing another guest blog. You may recall my last guest post over on Tim McWhorter's blog (you can check it out here if you missed it). I've devoured two of Tim's books already and am looking forward to reading more. You should definitely look him up and check out his work if you like to be scared.

Today's guest blog post is on my friend and fellow author's blog, Mr. C. Bryan Brown. Mr. Brown also dives deep in the realm of things that go bump in the night.

He recently published a post on the benefits of working on your masterpiece from an outline and invited me to provided counter-point.  If you know me, you know that I pretty much write as it comes to me.  I know I'm not unique in that approach, but apparently in the profession writing realm, it's called 'pantsing.' As in 'writing by the seat of your pants.'  And I'm perfectly OK with that.

The link to my post can be found here.  I'm going to also give you the link to the original point for which I countered. That post is here.

But Todd, if you think your way is best, why on earth would you post Chris's work, too?

Good questions.  Here's the thing.  Pantsing works for me. Most of the time it works very well. But in writing my post, I got a sneak peak at the post I would be countering. And my first thought (and the gist of a comment back to Chris) was this, "Damn. That almost makes me want to become a planner (or plotter, or outliner)."  His first comment back to me was that my post almost makes him want to be a pantser.

But the point is this. A writer writes. It doesn't matter how they write. Only that they do. And that they do as often as possible. I'm not going to lie, I use outlines. Sometimes. But I very rarely use them on the first draft. The first draft is me transcribing the movie in my head. That has to be as I'm watching it. Later, as I re-read and edit, things have to be put in to place.

The first draft of anything I write is selfishly for me. I write for me. If the piece makes it to a second, third, or 16th draft, that's for you.  The reader.  If a piece makes it through an editing process, it does so because I want to share it with you.

I don't know if my methods of writing will evolve or not. I'd like to think they do every time I sit down to write. I can't say that with any certainty or not, but I image it does.

Well, I think I've given you plenty to read and think about.

I've got an extra day off of work this weekend, thanks to the holiday.  So, I plan to sit down, watch the movie in my head and transcribe it.  Knock a few more miles back of this thing called the elusive first draft.

Have a wonderful day my friends!

Peace,
-A.T.


In The Bag

There are a few common threads throughout this blog if you read it long enough. One of these threads has to do with my obsession...er...ques...