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What if men don't read? -- what do I do then?

I don't mean girlie men, or gays, or thoughtful students of literature and science. Certainly not sport fans, glued to the tube. Fathers of small children are too busy. No expectation of being read by women, young or old, that's for certain.

I need to write the third act of 'Partners.' I resolved to make it a passion play, christlike Kyle betrayed and punished, full of love for his fellow man while he kills. See? About a million miles from Earth, where cosy mysteries and factual accounts of combat in Iraq entertain the few grown-ups who buy books. I don't think young people read any more, and what I do is unsuitable for innocent hearts of any age.

It's not a marketing problem, and if it were I can't afford to plunk down thousands for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, reaching for a lone nut in a haystack of hooey. The traditional method of kicking doors open is to woo an established author, hitchhike on someone else's coat tails. That involves schmoozing and telling lies. I'm not qualified to do that. Not that I'm incapable of lying, but there's something wrong with the way I'm wired, a Frankenstein monster. I can't feign admiration for crap. Probably why I'm so isolated, writing for myself, daring myself to do better in a solo Category of One that no publisher or bookstore needs or wants.

The cost in cigarettes and coffee doesn't matter. No matter what I do, the years click along as they always have. Almost impossible to find "friends" on Facebook or Reddit. I tried Twitter,  revolted and disgusted by minds (?) that I couldn't delete, flooded like a river overflowing its banks with bullshit. I tried the Alt Right and white supremacists. They don't read fiction.

I missed the thriller category by a wide margin, no talent for it. Ah. That must be it, obviously incompetent. Authors should triangulate a known form, play pattycake with plot "beats." If I was serious about being successful, I would attend writers conferences, offer myself as an imbecile, humbly grateful to praise others at random, an interchangeable member of the wannabe collective, learner's permit in the back row. There's a writers group an hour away, meets every month. It chokes me to consider it. I have nothing in common with advertising copywriters, newspaper columnists, history buffs, bible thumpers, and visiting dignitaries, respectable by virtue of selling books -- any kind of anything that has a dust jacket.

I should have listened to erstwhile friends in the 1980s, when I was young and fine, making my first few leaps as a director. They logically urged me to change my name, marry a Jewess and convert. But I had been Roarked, no longer part of the world owned and operated by others. Bad enough that directing assignments were projects that someone else conceived. We all start by playing second fiddle in someone else's orchestra, doing old standards and shooting cliches in a barrel. No one else to blame for my aborted first feature. I had a lot to learn about filmmaking, seven eighths of which is playing well with others, hale fellow well met, smiles of pleasure from all concerned, none of which was natural to me.

I think back to innocent Janet, the girl who loved me. It was already too late for me at age 14, incapable of ordinary, respectable, sane, sensible life. I yearned for freedom, and I was ready to commit any crime to obtain it. Movies are made with OPM -- Other People's Money, a fact of life -- and dozens of years of experiments with cameras, lighting, microphones and editing benches. My first film was funded by a Catholic priest, Father Ed, who scolded me that the money he gave me was saved from a bicycle newspaper route. Twenty years later, it was a multi-millionaire who scolded me that I cast too many black people. "Are there no whites in London?" he railed, the head of a Dutch eugenics charity worried about gene drift. I didn't care whose money it was. I made shows I liked.

I wrote books I liked, after my film career died in a Disney cubicle. I don't expect anyone to agree with my ideas about liberty and justice. No one ever has. Nothing else to do, I returned to a pair of characters that I created as an object lesson for others, a group of 50 screenwriters who thought I was an interesting guru at Zoetrope. Some of them became successful writers; many gave it up after a few seasons, too talented to succeed. I blew a diplomatic fuse, unable to stomach Main Board dominance by villains and LGBT horror producers, literally gay people who made amateur horror movies on a shoestring that were guaranteed to win a festival award, every clumsy child a winner in that category. I couldn't do it, despised horror.

Harry and Laura, Janet and Archie, Chris and Peachy, and now, Kyle and Karen. See a pattern? Cis-het adult romance, graphically told, renegades in each other's arms, inseparable after the miracle of finding each other. Not normal. Nothing warm and fuzzy about men who kill. If I added up all the officials and innocent civilians I've killed over the years, it would be equal to every face seen on television, whole stadiums of NFL and college football fans, not quite as many tortured and starved to death by Galt, but a good effort anyway.

Being an Objectivist is a serious handicap in creative work. Helpful in every other industry, particularly banking and politics. BB&T, Saxo Bank, Speaker of The House, and Israelis by the boatload. With only a tiny bit of vice, I could have joined the libertarian Lew Rockwell cabal or the Antiwar pooftahs. What would Roark do? More importantly, what did l want to do? For a while it was okay to rant. I had a platform for a couple years. But I couldn't even stick to that script. Instead of making progress as a virtuoso attack dog, I told stories about men beaten by beautiful interesting women, argued that women should be exempt from the criminal law, given an exclusive prerogative of life and death. Men naturally resist such ideas.

I like Objectivist Living, however dull it seems. Benevolent MSK ought to be sainted, and I'm fond of his flattering Rand photograph on the masthead. I saw it in Andrea Millen Rich's office when Laissez Faire Books had a floor of operations in midtown Manhattan, 30 years ago.  Life is measured in decades. It's been two since I started writing fiction full-time, interrupted by as few day jobs and family duties as possible.

If I had pissed away twenty years as a drunk or a drug addict, I might be in better shape. There is no rehab for hundreds of thousands of words, nearing a million, every one of them a crime against humanity. A long time ago, '94 if memory serves, I explained that artistic achievement was more important to me than survival. Soon it will be put to the test. No one lives forever. Assuming that the blockade holds -- 250,000 independent authors on Goodreads, all of them more successful and less dangerous than I am -- my works will evaporate when I die, unread and ignored. Ayn Rand stopped writing fiction when she was my age, too busy with celebrity to create anything more. It happens to all of us, famous or not. We stop.

So, as long as my brain and body still function, I'll putter along, do a nice third act of 'Partners' that I cannot rush into from a pat outline. My characters dictate what happens as it unfolds, a chemistry of living, real people who cannot be forced to dance like wooden puppets. All I do is write about it, witness to their bitterness, vulnerability, love and compassion in the face of voluntarily chosen disaster, almost certain death by violence. I write about such things and the women who know and flee from that knowledge, not in fear, but to free their loved ones to fight effectively. The men who went to rescue Galt were willing to fight and die, leaving widows and orphans to mourn them in a remote mountain valley with a gold dollar sign.

I like it that Rand's stories are discussed on OL, the only legacy that matters. When I was 22 years old, I met a real life Dominque Francon and laid her, gave her little choice in the matter. She retaliated with all the dismissive hell that one should logically expect. It would take me another thirty years to be worthy of her, and I was married to someone else less challenging by then. I often think of Dominique, both of us nearing 70 now, far too late to dance again. I hope and trust that she found a rock hearted Roark to tame her exquisite beauty.

Can you imagine Howard Roark reading a novel? -- naw. Wouldn't need it.

 

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I am getting ads covering portions of this thread and the Trump thread. How do I get rid of them?

I remember dealing with a Laissez Faire book store in California. 

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17 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

What if men don't read? -- what do I do then?

I don't mean girlie men, or gays, or thoughtful students of literature and science. Certainly not sport fans, glued to the tube. Fathers of small children are too busy. No expectation of being read by women, young or old, that's for certain.

I need to write the third act of 'Partners.' I resolved to make it a passion play, christlike Kyle betrayed and punished, full of love for his fellow man while he kills. See? About a million miles from Earth, where cosy mysteries and factual accounts of combat in Iraq entertain the few grown-ups who buy books. I don't think young people read any more, and what I do is unsuitable for innocent hearts of any age.

It's not a marketing problem, and if it were I can't afford to plunk down thousands for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, reaching for a lone nut in a haystack of hooey. The traditional method of kicking doors open is to woo an established author, hitchhike on someone else's coat tails. That involves schmoozing and telling lies. I'm not qualified to do that. Not that I'm incapable of lying, but there's something wrong with the way I'm wired, a Frankenstein monster. I can't feign admiration for crap. Probably why I'm so isolated, writing for myself, daring myself to do better in a solo Category of One that no publisher or bookstore needs or wants.

The cost in cigarettes and coffee doesn't matter. No matter what I do, the years click along as they always have. Almost impossible to find "friends" on Facebook or Reddit. I tried Twitter,  revolted and disgusted by minds (?) that I couldn't delete, flooded like a river overflowing its banks with bullshit. I tried the Alt Right and white supremacists. They don't read fiction.

I missed the thriller category by a wide margin, no talent for it. Ah. That must be it, obviously incompetent. Authors should triangulate a known form, play pattycake with plot "beats." If I was serious about being successful, I would attend writers conferences, offer myself as an imbecile, humbly grateful to praise others at random, an interchangeable member of the wannabe collective, learner's permit in the back row. There's a writers group an hour away, meets every month. It chokes me to consider it. I have nothing in common with advertising copywriters, newspaper columnists, history buffs, bible thumpers, and visiting dignitaries, respectable by virtue of selling books -- any kind of anything that has a dust jacket.

I should have listened to erstwhile friends in the 1980s, when I was young and fine, making my first few leaps as a director. They logically urged me to change my name, marry a Jewess and convert. But I had been Roarked, no longer part of the world owned and operated by others. Bad enough that directing assignments were projects that someone else conceived. We all start by playing second fiddle in someone else's orchestra, doing old standards and shooting cliches in a barrel. No one else to blame for my aborted first feature. I had a lot to learn about filmmaking, seven eighths of which is playing well with others, hale fellow well met, smiles of pleasure from all concerned, none of which was natural to me.

I think back to innocent Janet, the girl who loved me. It was already too late for me at age 14, incapable of ordinary, respectable, sane, sensible life. I yearned for freedom, and I was ready to commit any crime to obtain it. Movies are made with OPM -- Other People's Money, a fact of life -- and dozens of years of experiments with cameras, lighting, microphones and editing benches. My first film was funded by a Catholic priest, Father Ed, who scolded me that the money he gave me was saved from a bicycle newspaper route. Twenty years later, it was a multi-millionaire who scolded me that I cast too many black people. "Are there no whites in London?" he railed, the head of a Dutch eugenics charity worried about gene drift. I didn't care whose money it was. I made shows I liked.

I wrote books I liked, after my film career died in a Disney cubicle. I don't expect anyone to agree with my ideas about liberty and justice. No one ever has. Nothing else to do, I returned to a pair of characters that I created as an object lesson for others, a group of 50 screenwriters who thought I was an interesting guru at Zoetrope. Some of them became successful writers; many gave it up after a few seasons, too talented to succeed. I blew a diplomatic fuse, unable to stomach Main Board dominance by villains and LGBT horror producers, literally gay people who made amateur horror movies on a shoestring that were guaranteed to win a festival award, every clumsy child a winner in that category. I couldn't do it, despised horror.

Harry and Laura, Janet and Archie, Chris and Peachy, and now, Kyle and Karen. See a pattern? Cis-het adult romance, graphically told, renegades in each other's arms, inseparable after the miracle of finding each other. Not normal. Nothing warm and fuzzy about men who kill. If I added up all the officials and innocent civilians I've killed over the years, it would be equal to every face seen on television, whole stadiums of NFL and college football fans, not quite as many tortured and starved to death by Galt, but a good effort anyway.

Being an Objectivist is a serious handicap in creative work. Helpful in every other industry, particularly banking and politics. BB&T, Saxo Bank, Speaker of The House, and Israelis by the boatload. With only a tiny bit of vice, I could have joined the libertarian Lew Rockwell cabal or the Antiwar pooftahs. What would Roark do? More importantly, what did l want to do? For a while it was okay to rant. I had a platform for a couple years. But I couldn't even stick to that script. Instead of making progress as a virtuoso attack dog, I told stories about men beaten by beautiful interesting women, argued that women should be exempt from the criminal law, given an exclusive prerogative of life and death. Men naturally resist such ideas.

I like Objectivist Living, however dull it seems. Benevolent MSK ought to be sainted, and I'm fond of his flattering Rand photograph on the masthead. I saw it in Andrea Millen Rich's office when Laissez Faire Books had a floor of operations in midtown Manhattan, 30 years ago.  Life is measured in decades. It's been two since I started writing fiction full-time, interrupted by as few day jobs and family duties as possible.

If I had pissed away twenty years as a drunk or a drug addict, I might be in better shape. There is no rehab for hundreds of thousands of words, nearing a million, every one of them a crime against humanity. A long time ago, '94 if memory serves, I explained that artistic achievement was more important to me than survival. Soon it will be put to the test. No one lives forever. Assuming that the blockade holds -- 250,000 independent authors on Goodreads, all of them more successful and less dangerous than I am -- my works will evaporate when I die, unread and ignored. Ayn Rand stopped writing fiction when she was my age, too busy with celebrity to create anything more. It happens to all of us, famous or not. We stop.

So, as long as my brain and body still function, I'll putter along, do a nice third act of 'Partners' that I cannot rush into from a pat outline. My characters dictate what happens as it unfolds, a chemistry of living, real people who cannot be forced to dance like wooden puppets. All I do is write about it, witness to their bitterness, vulnerability, love and compassion in the face of voluntarily chosen disaster, almost certain death by violence. I write about such things and the women who know and flee from that knowledge, not in fear, but to free their loved ones to fight effectively. The men who went to rescue Galt were willing to fight and die, leaving widows and orphans to mourn them in a remote mountain valley with a gold dollar sign.

I like it that Rand's stories are discussed on OL, the only legacy that matters. When I was 22 years old, I met a real life Dominque Francon and laid her, gave her little choice in the matter. She retaliated with all the dismissive hell that one should logically expect. It would take me another thirty years to be worthy of her, and I was married to someone else less challenging by then. I often think of Dominique, both of us nearing 70 now, far too late to dance again. I hope and trust that she found a rock hearted Roark to tame her exquisite beauty.

Can you imagine Howard Roark reading a novel? -- naw. Wouldn't need it.

 

"If you have the guts to be yourself, other people will pay your price."

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This is a subject that interest me so much, that I ask the men of OL very heartily to respond. I fear that Wolf's surmise is true, I know some of my friends here do not read fiction at all, and maybe it is true of everyone, but please do say if that is right as I hope not!

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1 hour ago, caroljane said:
3 hours ago, caroljane said:
21 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Can you imagine Howard Roark reading a novel? -- naw. Wouldn't need it.

"If you have the guts to be yourself, other people will pay your price."

This is a subject that interest me so much, that I ask the men of OL very heartily to respond. I fear that Wolf's surmise is true, I know some of my friends here do not read fiction at all, and maybe it is true of everyone, but please do say if that is right as I hope not!

I've been unnecessarily nasty to Wolf on a few grounds, most recently over what I thought was spurious reporting of some aspects of the Costa Rica "Galt's Gulch" whoopup. I do definitely think of him as a writer, in that he is driven to write, as many are, but also driven to share and publish his imaginative works, to hustle, which I am not. 

On his writing appeal, I think with my tastes he is at his best in memoirs, anywhere when the protagonist is him, least dressed in fictive bunting.  I mean, we got some clues about events through fictionalized re-telling, but I have been most moved when Wolf's stories here have leapt out of his heart's experience.

There is a massive splintering not only of mass audience but mass publishing. Both still exist and are catered to by a burgeoning publishing industry, paper bound, but the scope of individual authors, reporters, chroniclers, independent scholars, essayists, bloggers, "personalities" and Youtubers has fractured the very boundary between celebrity and nobody and marketing genius in the multimedia internet slash Netflix age. The multiple launch platforms of our present age require only diligence, not talent. Ambition, cunning, PR chops, marketing, ability to follow a recipe -- who knows what magic mix turns a Word into a sought-after Product?

I like the example of Bidinotto. I find his thrillers awful by comparison to great thriller writers of the past, but he is writing to order, to market, not to my taste. There is an appetite for that kind of thing, and the means of getting that kind of thing to people who like that kind of thing is fairly easy to comprehend. Bidinotto definitely has talent and diligence.

It's good to know that Wolf has enough inspiration to finish the trilogy. I hope he is in the process of collecting all this writings in all formats and so on. The writings may live on forever and even be re-discovered if archived with the modern world in mind.

My romantic depiction of Wolf is on a dry ridge off a plateau in a free zone of Texas, where everyone keeps to their business, and almost everyone has at least a shack where a man's man business is done.  The cabin down the yard is simple but contains everything a Wolf needs to write every day.

I and a few others write every day. But we don't write to grander purpose and may harbour no ambitions.

As far as nostalgia for an Argosy market, a real-man's man's man  Bloc of readers, we know those readers are there by their thirst for other entertainment vehicles celebrating Man World. It would be great to find how to open a conduit between them and the products of the Texas writer's cabin.

Edited by william.scherk

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I am reading the newest Jack Ryan in hardbound form. So far it has too much to do with the minds and shenanigans of terrorists and not enough "hero." 

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2 hours ago, Peter said:

not enough "hero." 

First, I thank all for replying. It helps more than you know. WRT to heroes, the ancients cast a long shadow, tales of brave Ulysses, as Page and Plant put it In song. Then the Vikings, more Led Zep. What's funny, of course, is that modern Danes still think of themselves as Vikings, conquerors of Britain, rulers of Greenland, which used to be green in the Medieval Warm Period. Sorry, I digress. It's embarrassing to talk about heroism. All of my work for the past 20 years addressed the question, and what I found is that heroes do wrong. It is always a gamble in the absence of foreknowledge, and the most surprising discovery of all is a romantic partner who shares the risk of losing everything, doesn't flinch from the heartless, reckless business of action. My women are always stronger than the men they love.

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2 hours ago, Peter said:

not enough "hero." 

First, I thank all for replying. It helps more than you know. WRT to heroes, the ancients cast a long shadow, tales of brave Ulysses, as Page and Plant put it In song. Then the Vikings, more Led Zep. What's funny, of course, is that modern Danes still think of themselves as Vikings, conquerors of Britain, rulers of Greenland, which used to be green in the Medieval Warm Period. Sorry, I digress. It's embarrassing to talk about heroism. All of my work for the past 20 years addressed the question, and what I found is that heroes do wrong. It is always a gamble in the absence of foreknowledge, and the most surprising discovery of all is a romantic partner who shares the risk of losing everything, doesn't flinch from the heartless, reckless business of action. My women are always stronger than the men they love.

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14 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

addendum, profuse apologies: "tales of brave Ulysses" was sung by Jack Bruce/Cream

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8hLc_nqx8g

 

1 more quote for you - this from Gratien Gelinas, Quebecois poet etc. "Ecrire c'est encore esperer".

(New laptop has no French accents either.  I blame the Fords.) 

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20 minutes ago, caroljane said:

1 more quote for you - this from Gratien Gelinas, Quebecois poet etc. "Ecrire c'est encore esperer".

(New laptop has no French accents either.  I blame the Fords.) 

What's dat? Write again, horse whisperer? Thank goodness, Americans don't have to have a "French Badge."

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2 hours ago, Peter said:
2 hours ago, caroljane said:

1 more quote for you - this from Gratien Gelinas, Quebecois poet etc. "[Écrire c'est encore espérer]".

(New laptop has no French accents either.  I blame the Fords.) 

What's dat? Write again, horse whisperer?

Google Translate is free.  Without doing that I break dôwn the Frènch and give everyone a lesson in the Romance Roots of our shared language. É in French shows with the acute accent that once there was an S standing proud, pronounced then, but not now. Ând then the Latin aspect of English immediate reveals cognâte and false-friènd forms; see it pop out on the third line where French swallowed the labial:

eScrire
  Scri
   ScriV
    Scrib
     Scribe

Ah, so then we remember from our muscle memory of French the endings of stand-alone verbs are in the infinitive tense.

To Scribe

C'est is another toddle of Anglo-Norman age. Ce or Cela or Ça is the the end of thiS. To Write, (this)'s

Espérer is To Espere, or To Espair in Jersiais. Implement Latin reinforcements.  Esperance.  Isn't that an archaic English word?

Yeah, hope. Trust. Faith. Wishes upon the future. The last thing that gives out. What is left at the end. Before we Expire in English or Expire in French, expire

Okay, yah, but whatabout

ENCORE? 
No. No. No. We know this one. Repeat. Do it again.
Again?
Still you want it?
You want it still?
Can one hope "still" in English?
 

TO WRITE IS STILL TO HOPE.**  TO WRITE IS TO HOPE STILL.  TO WRITE IS TO STILL HOPE. WRITING IS TO HOPE STILL.

I am but a scriv'ner, sire, on good ship L'Espérance.  Je ne suis qu'un écrivain, monsieur, de bon vaisseau L'Espérance.

Spoiler

towriteistohopestill.png

"We'll always have Mardis Gras in the French Quarter, you dang Cajun traitor."  Less lay bow tah roo LAY!

Edited by william.scherk
Spanish will be as easy to extinguish in the Americanadian Trump Union as French was in Confederation. If you cut loose Puerto Rico.
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11 minutes ago, william.scherk said:

Google Translate is free.  Without doing that I break dôwn the Frènch and give everyone a lesson in the Romance Roots of our shared language. É in French shows with the acute accent that once there was an S standing proud, pronounced then, but not now. Ând then the Latin aspect of English immediate reveals cognâte and false-friènd forms; see it pop out on the third line where French swallowed the labial:

eScrire
  Scri
   ScriV
    Scrib
     Scribe

Ah, so then we remember from our muscle memory of French the endings of stand-alone verbs are in the infinitive tense.

To Scribe

C'est is another toddle of Anglo-Norman age. Ce or Cela or Ça is the the end of thiS. To Write, (this)'s

Espérer is To Espere, or To Espair in Jersiais. Implement Latin reinforcements.  Esperance.  Isn't that an archaic English word?

Yeah, hope. Trust. Faith. Wishes upon the future. The last thing that gives out. What is left at the end. Before we Expire in English or Expire in French, expire

Okay, yah, but whatabout

ENCORE? 
No. No. No. We know this one. Repeat. Do it again.
Again?
Still you want it?
You want it still?
Can one hope "still" in English?
 

TO WRITE IS STILL TO HOPE.**  TO WRITE IS TO HOPE STILL.  TO WRITE IS TO STILL HOPE. WRITING IS TO HOPE STILL.

I am but a scriv'ner, sire, on good ship L'Espérance.  Je ne suis qu'un écrivain, monsieur, de bon vaisseau L'Espérance.

  Reveal hidden contents

"We'll always have Mardis Gras in the French Quarter, you dang Cajun traitor."  Less lay bow tah roo LAY!

17 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

addendum, profuse apologies: "tales of brave Ulysses" was sung by Jack Bruce/Cream

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8hLc_nqx8g

 

1 more quote for you - this from Gratien Gelinas, Quebecois poet etc. "Ecrire c'est encore esperer".

(New laptop has no French accents either.  I blame the Fords.) 

 

 

 

 

Et mille mercis encore 

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Physical work saves me. A tall dead red elm crashed in the last storm, crumpled a cow panel and wrecked the gate I built. Yesterday the trunk and big limbs got bucked with a chain saw, enough to clear the wreckage, so I could repair the gate. Hauled four wheelbarrows of dry wood rounds to the concrete pad behind the wood barn, piled them high on top of another cord of windfall, two thirds of which was a huge oak struck by lightning and felled by the power utility, because it might hit a pole if it fell uncontrolled. Just now I gathered brush, hauled it to the burn pile, six trips like the huntsman in Snow White, armloads of twisted branches. My women flip out in a panic whenever I light a burn pile, eight feet around and almost as high, the flames shooting up 40 feet for a few minutes, then a long hot burn as it collapses. I get yelled at and I patiently point to the evidence. See? Didn't get away from me. I stood by with jugs of water and a shovel. Nothing but flat cold ashes on a calm green day.

Last week, I installed sheetrock on the ceilings of an old farmhouse bathroom and front porch with room dimensions and rafters that were wacky, nothing square or uniformly spaced. The rock weighed a ton, had to keep it braced with one hand and the top of my head, fumble for a screw gun on the ladder, dropped dozens of screws. Exhausting work for hire, sore for days.

It saves me, like the sound of thunder and hailstones battering my writing office, doing fun notes like this one. Whenever I complete a chapter of 'Partners' I'm so upset with a dramatic finish that I have to go out and do physical work, split wood with a mawl, pick up the string trimmer and whack an acre or two, take a hand saw to the sycamore and stop it from growing into a 7000 volt high line. Insistent nature is always victorious, unless you fight it. We have bears, coyotes, cougars, and meth head trailer trash in beat up wrecks on the county road that bisects our property. There's a rifle with a scope next to the front door.

Anything is good, an excuse to get up from the keyboard, forget if I can. The story follows me wherever I go, scanning the ground for rattlesnake and copperhead, worn work gloves on my hands. I forgive myself, try to focus on physical reality, avoid injuries. Small and old, I have to work slowly. The wild calm grandeur of nature is sedative.

To begin a new chapter is so daunting a task that it takes days to conceive, test driving ideas. It takes forever to see the solution, always a notch higher and deeper. Stories cannot go in reverse or tread water. Characters do not become simpler, unless they die. I'm in the habit now of quoting an epigram from a literary source on the title page. In 'Finding Flopsie' I recited Scott Fitzgerald to introduce Chris's story, O. Henry for The Way Peachy Saw It. The venerated opener for 'Partners' was Jim Morrison: "The future's uncertain, and the end is always near." Oh, but not near enough, miles to go before I finish. Tense miles uphill.

Not just the present business of writing 'Partners,' a particularly challenging endeavor, but writing as such, each page a little more difficult because I keep aiming higher. Whether that succeeds or fails is less important. Novelists do not become simpler unless they die.

The dog helps. Always something to do, food, water, trim endlessly with a scissors, flea baths and tick removal. He's hilarious, too old and shrewd to be tricked. Doesn't even look up when I call him. He has general store privileges, lays on the floor on Wednesdays when folks come to sit and swap gossip at the tables in back. I throw horseshoes in the shade of a walnut tree outside, try to hold my own with a crew of old faces, ignore their protestations of frustration and watch them toss double ringers. Three or four hours away from writing, a lifeline.

If all else fails, there's Solitaire, a 3% chance of winning. I play from 5 to 7 in the evening, eat something and listen to vain asshole Mark Levin pat himself on the back. After eight hours of writing, I need to quit, wrung out and creatively drained. Talented people don't have these problems.

 

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51 minutes ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Physical work saves me. A tall dead red elm crashed in the last storm, crumpled a cow panel and wrecked the gate I built. Yesterday the trunk and big limbs got bucked with a chain saw, enough to clear the wreckage, so I could repair the gate. Hauled four wheelbarrows of dry wood rounds to the concrete pad behind the wood barn, piled them high on top of another cord of windfall, two thirds of which was a huge oak struck by lightning and felled by the power utility, because it might hit a pole if it fell uncontrolled. Just now I gathered brush, hauled it to the burn pile, six trips like the huntsman in Snow White, armloads of twisted branches. My women flip out in a panic whenever I light a burn pile, eight feet around and almost as high, the flames shooting up 40 feet for a few minutes, then a long hot burn as it collapses. I get yelled at and I patiently point to the evidence. See? Didn't get away from me. I stood by with jugs of water and a shovel. Nothing but flat cold ashes on a calm green day.

Last week, I installed sheetrock on the ceilings of an old farmhouse bathroom and front porch with room dimensions and rafters that were wacky, nothing square or uniformly spaced. The rock weighed a ton, had to keep it braced with one hand and the top of my head, fumble for a screw gun on the ladder, dropped dozens of screws. Exhausting work for hire, sore for days.

It saves me, like the sound of thunder and hailstones battering my writing office, doing fun notes like this one. Whenever I complete a chapter of 'Partners' I'm so upset with a dramatic finish that I have to go out and do physical work, split wood with a mawl, pick up the string trimmer and whack an acre or two, take a hand saw to the sycamore and stop it from growing into a 7000 volt high line. Insistent nature is always victorious, unless you fight it. We have bears, coyotes, cougars, and meth head trailer trash in beat up wrecks on the county road that bisects our property. There's a rifle with a scope next to the front door.

Anything is good, an excuse to get up from the keyboard, forget if I can. The story follows me wherever I go, scanning the ground for rattlesnake and copperhead, worn work gloves on my hands. I forgive myself, try to focus on physical reality, avoid injuries. Small and old, I have to work slowly. The wild calm grandeur of nature is sedative.

To begin a new chapter is so daunting a task that it takes days to conceive, test driving ideas. It takes forever to see the solution, always a notch higher and deeper. Stories cannot go in reverse or tread water. Characters do not become simpler, unless they die. I'm in the habit now of quoting an epigram from a literary source on the title page. In 'Finding Flopsie' I recited Scott Fitzgerald to introduce Chris's story, O. Henry for The Way Peachy Saw It. The venerated opener for 'Partners' was Jim Morrison: "The future's uncertain, and the end is always near." Oh, but not near enough, miles to go before I finish. Tense miles uphill.

Not just the present business of writing 'Partners,' a particularly challenging endeavor, but writing as such, each page a little more difficult because I keep aiming higher. Whether that succeeds or fails is less important. Novelists do not become simpler unless they die.

The dog helps. Always something to do, food, water, trim endlessly with a scissors, flea baths and tick removal. He's hilarious, too old and shrewd to be tricked. Doesn't even look up when I call him. He has general store privileges, lays on the floor on Wednesdays when folks come to sit and swap gossip at the tables in back. I throw horseshoes in the shade of a walnut tree outside, try to hold my own with a crew of old faces, ignore their protestations of frustration and watch them toss double ringers. Three or four hours away from writing, a lifeline.

If all else fails, there's Solitaire, a 3% chance of winning. I play from 5 to 7 in the evening, eat something and listen to vain asshole Mark Levin pat himself on the back. After eight hours of writing, I need to quit, wrung out and creatively drained. Talented people don't have these problems.

 

Yes, evidence indicates that they do. Even life-ending problems, sometimes.

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Did I mention that I dislike taking chances? - a risk averse gambler, betting every sous.

Quote

I put the key in a deadbolt to unlock a frame house that Herman had rented and furnished for us, close enough to the bridges and streets that crisscrossed downtown and the East Side, quiet enough to elicit no notice at night. Our car was hidden behind the house at the end of a plowed driveway with wide swirls of rock salt, and there was a snow shovel to deal with a storm. I didn't think I'd have to use it. The weather forecast said that March would be cold and dry.

The house was warm and I helped Jim take off his coat and suit jacket, hung them in the front closet on sturdy wire hangers next to mine. Jim was sullen.

What's wrong?”

I need to use the can.”

And?”

He seethed angrily. “Help me take my shoes off. And when I'm done, I need a new dressing on my shoulder. The little box in the trunk.”

Okay, sit down.”

I knelt and pulled the shoelaces, removed his shoes and put them aside near the chair as if they were my own, considered whether this pair needed a shine, perhaps a quick buff. I went to the closet and put on my leather coat, enough to conceal my gun and keep myself warm during three trips to and from the car.

I put his suitcase in the master bedroom and opened the little box.

Joanne had lectured me about wound care, a final act of charity, wouldn't let me thank her or express any personal warmth in parting, for what we believed was the last time we would see each other. In an alternate universe, Joanne and I could have been happy together as friends and lovers.

The little box was packed with sealed pads, rolls of gauze, antiseptic spray, pain pills, antibiotic ointment, medical tape and scissors. There was a sterile suture kit in case he pulled a wound open. I doubted my ability to sew him up. What Jim needed was a doctor, and Herman gave me Butterfield's card because we both knew that Jim would need to be patched up again, sooner or later. The man had no common sense, pushed himself mercilessly.

He was sitting in an armchair, smoking a cigarette that was almost finished. Self-contained. Silent. Remote.

I cracked a smile and forced Jimmy to frown at me. “I have to get you out of that sling and nice white shirt and tie. Nurse Marshall wants to look at the hole in your shoulder.”

He got up and did everything himself. Horrible, painful contortions.

Love is patient and kind, right? It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Pretty fucking hard to endure this, watching my partner suffer. I took his tie and placed it in a loose fold on the chair back.

It was impossible for Jimmy to get his shirt off without help, and I carefully avoided touching him when I pulled a little and slid the front panel away from his swollen bandaged shoulder. He had no business being dressed for business. It grieved me that this man would not rest and take it easy another month.

His shoulder was ghastly, flesh like a blue balloon that nothing should touch, wrapped and strapped. Those bandages had to come off. There was a drain to deal with, a hard tough ribbon of flexible rope that had been packed in the gaping hole that a bullet punched through the meat of Jim's left shoulder and shattered his collarbone — corrugated, useless, disconnected pieces of a bone that no longer existed, under skin and fascia that was sewn up and stretched, crimson and black. It had to be bathed with stinging antiseptic.

This was our new life together, impossible tasks and gritted teeth, caring for my partner intimately and clumsily. I wanted to cry for help, call the doctor and knock Jim out with anesthetic. Removing his stuck dressing and pulling out an inch of drain rope was torturing him. There was no way to do anything gently. I had been warned by Joanne to be positive and firm, hard hearted.

A Bible verse steadied my trembling hands. I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse.

Finally, it was done. I put a robe over his shoulders, whipped away his shirt and tie from the back of the armchair, helped him to sit down, and Jimmy eased himself in a relaxed slump, took a long deep breath that allowed him to move his left arm and crackle into a less hunched posture. It left him panting.

I went to the sink, got him a glass of water for pain pills.

Thank you,” he said gratefully.

You're supposed to eat when you take those,” I said politely and returned to the kitchenette to open the refrigerator and look in the cupboards. “The best I can do is a hot sandwich, chicken or tuna. Which would you like?”

Doesn't matter. You pick.”

I whipped out a Teflon coated aluminum skillet and opened the chicken can, drained it, shook it into the pan with a pat of butter. It began to sizzle while the bag of rolls was opened and closed, the smell of bread a welcome relief, simple domestic chores that were life giving and pleasant. “I need to go shopping, get us some fresh meat and vegetables, some sharp cheese and better coffee. Hills Brothers is awful.” I filled the coffeemaker and started it, stirred the chicken.

Jim attempted to reach his cigarettes, couldn't do it. I went to help him, got his cigarette lit, quietly moved the table and lamp to his right side.

There was nothing to say, no questions to be asked or answered. I flattened the chicken into a pancake, let the butter pop and hiss to brown the edges, got coffee cups down from a cabinet, sliced and buttered the rolls. It was difficult to face death. Every meal seemed like our last supper, no rhyme or reason, just emptiness, a ritual to ward off evil spirits. Take and eat of this.

Jim had extinguished his cigarette and nodded thanks when I handed him a hot sandwich on a plate and a paper towel. I returned to the kitchen counter to pour coffee, put a cup on his side table where he could reach it, turned on his lamp for warmth and light. The little winter sun was dying, windows darkened. Somewhere there was a thermostat to check before I went out.

Footstool?”

Yeah... thank you.”

We ate in silence, drank our coffee.

 

*** ** ***

 

Apparently, I had gone stupid. I couldn't remember how to start the car. My key didn't fit the ignition. How was that possible? I tried again. It seemed tight and sticky. The car was cold, and my hands were cold.

Was it in park? Too dark to see.

Shit. I left my cigarette lighter somewhere. I opened the door and courtesy light shined on my feet. I rubbed my left eye with the heel of my hand. My brain wasn't working. I pushed the key a little more firmly and the engine cranked.

Let's see. I sat and shuddered in the cold car, had to rub my forehead, blow on my hands, get the gloves on. No, dumbshit, the other one goes on that hand. Somewhere there was an ice scraper. Damned if I could find it. I pawed around behind the bucket seats, got out and moved the seat back. I needed a flashlight. Was it in the glove compartment or the console? Seemed strange.

Okay, try the defroster, if I can figure it out again. I unbuttoned my coat to look for my Zippo, patted all my pockets. Phooey. Must have left it somewhere in the house, and I didn't want to go back in. No reason not to, but something in there bothered me. It was too quiet. I needed loud music.

A bar. That's what I needed, a good stiff drink.

Why am I carrying this piece of shit iron? — felt like torture on my hip. Did I have to kill someone tonight? I was tempted to get out and take it off my belt, but it was cold out there and the car was finally starting to warm up. Where in heck are my cigarettes? I found them in my shirt pocket, searched again for the lighter. Well, that's just silly. Left back pocket, sitting on it, never put it there. I felt like a poltergeist was loose, making everything as difficult as possible.

Great. I had to back out.

I threw my hat on the passenger seat and twisted to see a little strip of rear window that showed a fence and not much else. When I shifted in reverse, the snow lit up, made everything brilliant and confusing and alien.

I couldn't remember what it looked like when I pulled in the driveway. Two long berms of snow, a bowling alley. Maybe it didn't matter. The big car rolled back and got stuck cattywampus too close to the corner of the house, had to go forward, try again, made everything worse, right front wheel plowed deep in a snow bank. Come on, stupid, you can do better than this.

32 years old. Alone in the world.

 

Where the hell could I go? — not downtown, East Side, West Side, North.

 

I whipped around the interchange and headed for Waukesha, passed County Stadium and never felt more lonely, exiled from all the goofballs I liked, people my own age, jokes and smiles, music from the 60s, Hendrix and Tom Jones and Quicksilver. Warm houses with homemade pizza and beer, chicks with flashing eyes, bouncy gaiety, eager to get stoned, forget about whatever they did 9 to 5. Me too, scrubbed clean, grabbed the bong like a lifeline, didn't care how bad it made me cough, got laughed at.

It had been years ago. Everything was years ago.

The car drove itself to Piggly Wiggly and parked near the doors, because the grocery store would close soon.

Somebody else moved like a robot, did what was necessary. I was just along for the ride, impatient to be somewhere else, maybe Harry Kelson's or Flaming John Sullivan's, laughing and rolling on the floor, wrestling with chicks.

 

I couldn't go to the Knickerbocker, I might be gunned down.

 

The ring on my finger was on fire, an emotional weight that I couldn't carry, just like the heavy Smith & Wesson that gnawed my ribs and hip, made it hard to breathe, the bitter taste of cordite stuck in my craw.

Death all around me, inescapable death — theirs, mine, everyone.

The car slowed to the curb. I put it in park with the last of my strength, sat slumped at the wheel. Drinking wouldn't fix anything. I didn't want to see $100 bills, didn't want to touch my wallet, couldn't get on the freeway.

It mattered that I loved her, and I burst into tears, crushed by pain that I had never felt before, shook and slobbered, no longer a man.

 

 

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Not to beat a dead horse, but you could have had at least one young male reader had you not insulted his mother, the buyer of his books and the enforcer of daily reading time.  He enjoys at least 75% of his reading list.  Who knows.  You might have been part of the 75%.  Either way, at least one of your books would have ended up being read by a dude and then donated to a library.

Avoiding alienation of potential readers really doesn't require all that much schmoozing or marketing. 

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6 hours ago, dldelancey said:

Not to beat a dead horse, but you could have had at least one young male reader had you not insulted his mother, the buyer of his books and the enforcer of daily reading time.  He enjoys at least 75% of his reading list.  Who knows.  You might have been part of the 75%.  Either way, at least one of your books would have ended up being read by a dude and then donated to a library.

Avoiding alienation of potential readers really doesn't require all that much schmoozing or marketing. 

Baffled. I'm sure you're right, but have no idea why.

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On 6/22/2018 at 8:23 PM, Wolf DeVoon said:

What if men don't read? -- what do I do then?

Generation X is likely the last generation of men that have a market for readership.  Any younger than that and the market is very small.

So what do you do?

I don't know.  Having an "online presence" takes almost as much effort as the writing itself, what I mean is going beyond a website, facebook page, etc.  It's using social media to try to get sales, readers, beta readers, word of mouth, etc.  I've read where people categorize this as marketing, but some of it felt like a hustle when I was learning it.

So I don't know, but if you're trying to sell online you'll have to wear several hats, and marketing is just one of them.  Fortunately, there are more men online in the age group that you're writing to.  But you know what?  Why not change it up a little and write a contemporary fiction book.  A few writers have went outside of their genre and done this, but of course that raises the questions of being a 'sell out' or doing it 'for the money'---a utilitarian vs. values argument.

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58 minutes ago, KorbenDallas said:

Why not change it up a little and write a contemporary fiction book.

In the years remaining, I want to attempt work that seems personally important, such as it is.

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On 6/26/2018 at 9:01 PM, Wolf DeVoon said:

had you not insulted his mother

I'm slow, but I get there. Authors win readers by being pleasant, agreeing to bullshit, service with a smile, ever so grateful 😛

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1 hour ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

I'm slow, but I get there. Authors win readers by being pleasant, agreeing to bullshit, service with a smile, ever so grateful 😛

Like J.D. Salinger?

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On 6/26/2018 at 2:40 PM, dldelancey said:

Avoiding alienation of potential readers really doesn't require all that much schmoozing or marketing. 

Oh, good. I have published a special book, just for you. I earn 2 cents per copy sold, planning a fun trip to Elko with the proceeds.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/wolf-devoon/authors-exist-to-please-and-flatter-readers/paperback/product-23701079.html

product_thumbnail.php?productId=23701079

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On ‎6‎/‎26‎/‎2018 at 9:49 PM, KorbenDallas said:

Generation X is likely the last generation of men that have a market for readership.  Any younger than that and the market is very small.

 

Comments like this on this forum really baffle me.  I have to wonder what, if any, young people you folks are hanging out with.  My 13-year-old and his cohort are voracious readers.  And they read actual books, with real paper pages which even I rarely do anymore.  It isn't a rare phenomenon, either.  My son's friends read The Outsiders this school year and were practically obsessed by it.  I bought my son a t-shirt with the slogan Stay Gold Ponyboy.  He wears it everywhere, and kids from all over react to it.  Kids read.  They even like it.

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12 minutes ago, dldelancey said:

Comments like this on this forum really baffle me.  I have to wonder what, if any, young people you folks are hanging out with.  My 13-year-old and his cohort are voracious readers.  And they read actual books, with real paper pages which even I rarely do anymore.  It isn't a rare phenomenon, either.  My son's friends read The Outsiders this school year and were practically obsessed by it.  I bought my son a t-shirt with the slogan Stay Gold Ponyboy.  He wears it everywhere, and kids from all over react to it.  Kids read.  They even like it.

I'm 40, when I was growing up hardly guys read books around me.  I did.  When I went to college way back when not many guys read, I can't recall any and I had to go through three literature classes that were required for the Associates Degree.  I recently went back to college and was around a generation younger than me, hardly any of them read.  I'm glad your son reads, but overall this demographic isn't what is used to be.  Readership for it is down, they are seeking other forms of entertainment and it's readily accessible.

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