A Symbolic Event


Mars is in the news.

I don’t know if it has anything to do with what the latest finds coming from the red planet or if there is some other motivation but Dennis Tito wants to send people to Mars.

And he wants to do it in January 2018.

The news is very exciting for a lot of people and has garnered some interest.

What I notice is that he is claiming he wants to send a married couple, a man and a woman, for “symbolism” as well as for mutual support.

I guess that rules out any same-sex couples that might be chomping at the bit to apply for the grand adventure.

So, exactly what is the “symbolism” Mr. Tito wants to display?

On Writing Good

I’m sure we have all seen poorly constructed writing, just like the title above, and I have seen many people cringe, recoil slightly from such monstrosity, set the book bad on the shelf and back away slowly, holding their hands as though they had touched something unclean.

But bad writing happens. And in this digital age of self-publishing ebooks, it seems to be happening more often.

My eldest son rants about such horrors like a food critic who finds eggshell in his soufflé but it does nothing except raise his blood pressure.

And while it might be that the only recourse the casual reader can have is to write scathing reviews of such ill-begotten creations, it seems unlikely to have much impact on the marketplace or the proliferation of similar works.

No one forces us to read the really bad stuff… well, unless you are a critic paid to endure such torture. And as disturbing as typos are in a read, I have often found some good in even the worst stuff I have seen.

I should clarify, perhaps not the worst (as I never finished reading beyond page ten in that one) but some pretty bad ones. I would hope somewhere along the way that some mentor would pull the author aside and ease them into something resembling compositional structure…

Which will happen about the time when pigs fly, of course.

I figure if I could wade through the language in Canterbury Tales and Pilgrim’s Progress, some blurring of the edges on what is considered correct today won’t kill me.

And at least I can review my own writings to make sure they don’t come across as bad.

(I hope.)

A Mountain of What’s-in-a-Name

Robert A. Heinlein wrote under several pen-names for various reasons. Stephen King wrote under a pseudonym as an intellectual exercise.

I was not attempting anything like a world record or anything but I had a few more than those two… combined.

Yes, at one point, I had seventy-one pen-names, but I have since greatly reduced that number. A lot of people may not understand why I had so many… I mean, what was the purpose? Why would one person need that many “aliases” if not for… well, some purpose that is not entirely aboveboard.

Actually, it was never intended to mislead people or to try and hide my identity. It was geared for the print publishing industry… that is, for when I ever got published. I wrote a LOT of different styles and for a wide variety of genres, as well as had a rather large output – I have written a 100,000+ word novel in eight days.

In the regular print industry, publishers expected an author to do a book a year… tops. In some special circumstances they might do more but nothing on the order of what I saw my output being when – and if – I was writing full time as a career.

Also, several agents had suggested I utilize a different name for each genre, in order to more completely “brand” myself as an author of a particular genre. It made sense… at the time. And so that is how I approached the business. Each genre had a different “persona” writing the material.

As time went along, I was able to create a biography for most of the different names. Yes, just as an author would do for the characters in their stories – creating a rather lengthy and involved “backstory” that may never see the light of the printed page – I created the “backstory” of each of the pen-names, being able to draw from each one’s “personal history” for use in their stories.

But the print media never “discovered” me or my multi-personality disorder and I have since gone the indie route to publishing. And as the books were written under different names, that’s the way I have started publishing them. But now it seems that the entire exercise was a waste of time.

Sure, it helps keep track of the genres and makes it less confusing for the readers – who wants to read a good sci-fi yarn and then find your “favorite author’s” new book is a romance? Or a mystery? Or a gruesome horror tale? Certainly readers use a little more latitude in their decision-making processes but would it be too much of a stretch to make all the genres by a single name?

Anyway, after much thought on the subject, I have trimmed to list of all the names that have not been published in one form or another, which leaves me with the much more manageable roster of nineteen pen-names. Basically a single name per genre. Does anyone see this as still too many or is the issue really a non-issue?

Should they all be by the same name and merely announce the genre on the cover? Such as “A Horror Tale by” and another: “An Historical Urban Fantasy Western Juvenile Cozy Mystery”?

Or is a name-per-genre about par for the course?

Any thoughts?

One Among the Homeless

There was a job offer I received quite some time ago, through a friend from college, who lived in Los Angeles.

It sounded pretty good and so I packed a bag and moved to the coast.

Unfortunately, the job did not pan out, wasn’t as much of a sure thing as he had outlined it.

But Southern California was the land of opportunity and I went banging on doors. And pretty soon found myself out of funds.

The friend went north to work in the fishing industry in Alaska and I didn’t even have a place to stay after the funds I had brought dried up.

And that’s how I found myself living on the streets of Los Angeles.

It could have been worse. I could have been stranded in some city up north, New York, Chicago, Montreal, a place where the weather would be very hard on those living on the streets.

Living in Los Angeles was almost a picnic by comparison. The benches in MacArthur Park were not altogether uncomfortable and, when someone chased you off “their” bench, there was always the grass… unless, of course it had lately rained.

And I was astonished how many restaurants threw out food that was still edible. It was not what I preferred to do to live, but I had to eat somewhere, you know. And after a couple of weeks, your taste buds ignore the rather unpalatable features of the buffet.

Seeing some of the other homeless people panhandling on the corner, I thought I would give that a shot as well. Several hours later, I had enough to buy myself a hamburger.

Best damned burger I ever ate.

Then I started thinking… the pickings were a little slim around MacArthur Park, it being an economically depressed area and all, and I thought Hollywood and Vine might be a better locale.

A few hours walking brought me to the promised land and I was pleasantly surprised. I rather quickly had enough for dinner, today and tomorrow.

But then it all ended.

A guy came up to me and asked me where was my license.

“What?” I looked him over. He certainly did not look like a cop. He looked like another vagrant. “What do you mean, license?”

“This area is controlled by the Panhandler’s Union. You can’t work this corner except you got a license and you can only work at your appointed times. We all gotta take turns, you know.”

I could not believe this! In this country where you were free to do most anything, you could not panhandle a certain corner without someone else’s okay.

So, I asked him what areas were covered and I moved just beyond the “promised land” of the corner. I found another good spot about half a block down in front of the gay bar.

None of the fellows coming out of there asked me for any silly license.

At the end of the day, with the Sun setting in the west, I walked back toward Wiltshire Boulevard and my waiting park bench and I saw a fellow walking on the other side, parallel to my position.

It was the wrangler of the local Panhandler’s Union and he was counting a handful of cash, folding money, as he walked. He turned into and alley and got into his car, a new Porsche, and drove off.

Once I got over that shock, I walked to the bus station on Wiltshire and bought a ticket to get me back home.

Los Angeles just hadn’t grown on me.

My One Venture into Politics

Many moons ago… but – hey! – who counts in moons anymore, huh?

Before I became a little less naive about such things, I actually thought once of going into politics. I worked on one campaign in my youth and the local organizer admired my enthusiasm.

We talked quite a bit. About politics, of course. And after the victory celebration for our candidate we said our goodbyes with perhaps renewing the acquaintance in the next election cycle.

So, I was a bit surprised when he called me a couple of months later. He invited me to lunch and said he had an interesting proposition for me.

After I arrived at the restaurant, this gentleman said we were waiting for another fellow he had invited along. Seemed he had mentioned me and my enthusiasm for politics to this other person, hence the meeting.

A short time later, he arrived; one of our state senators. We ordered lunch and he outlined his proposition.

It seems there was a district where the representative had recently passed away and they were looking for a fresh, savvy, young man to take on the role.

No, there wouldn’t be any election, per se, as it seemed the district was so heavily saturated with one party that the opposing party was not even going to field a candidate. It would be a waste of time and money.

And they offered me the position. You know, something to wet my whistle on before attempting higher political office.

And I asked about the catch. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

The senator chuckled and nodded to our mutual friend and said, “This young man catches on quick. I think he’ll go far.”

And the catch was that most the time I could vote any way I wanted on legislation but every so often there would be something come up that they would tell me how to vote.

“And that’s it, huh?” They assured me that was, indeed, it. Just vote the way I was told on a few items and otherwise I could be my own man.

I could have said, “Yes” or that perhaps I would think about it, but I didn’t. I told them “No, I don’t think I could do that.”

My guy said, “But how else are you going to get any of the legislation introduced that you would like to see passed. You can’t do that from the outside, you know.”

Probably true. I said thank you for the lunch and the offer but I would have to pass.

“A man of integrity,” the senator said, “I like to see that.”

I’m sure they found someone else to fill the position and probably before nightfall.

And I have never been sorry for that decision.

If you start compromising your morals to get ahead, you haven’t really gotten ahead.

a Bit of Nostalgia

The previous posting reminded me of a poem I read recently. It is by Claude Beaumont-Cursonn and is from his recently published …not to be. released earlier this year by Martian Publishing. (posted here with permission of the author)

My life has been altered
by our paths’ crossing
in one rare but brief moment
so long ago… faraway
the winter snows seem, now.
Strange legacy, indeed,
of a love-forever, once;
so soon forgotten…

                        …so often remembered.

Having the Right Altitude

I came across another bit of older writing I thought I’d share.

It is probably not long enough to call a “short story”, but more like a vignette. Regardless, I did not use the scene in any of my books, yet.

Having the Right Altitude

He and Cass had been together for several weeks but this was the first “real” date. Sure, they had met at a party and then went the week before to Norm’s very casual party, but it wasn’t the same as dressing up. So this was a first.

He arrived at her place ready to go but anticipated a wait. Having grown up with two sisters, he had been trained properly in the matter of patience in that area. He was not going to rush her.

She stepped from the bedroom with a brush in hand, her hair in a tangle. “Hi, hon!” She gave him a peck on the mouth. “I’ll be only a few minutes.”

“Take all the time you need,” he grinned. “You can’t rush perfection.”

“Thanks.” She disappeared back into the bedroom.

He looked around the room. A fresh bouquet of mums stood on the coffee table next to the reading lamp. On the wall above the table was her favorite photo from a modeling shoot: her stepping across a small stream, looking down to be sure of her footing as she moved from one stone to another.

Turning to the bookcase, he browsed for something to occupy his time. “Cass? Do you know where that book by Dos Passos went? I don’t see it here.”

She stepped out of the bedroom again and looked toward the case. “It’s right there on the top shelf, lying down.” She retreated again.

Standing on tiptoe, he saw the book and pulled it down, then sat on the couch to browse through it while he waited.

Presently, she came out of the bedroom wearing a slip and held up two willowy chiffon garments still on their hangers. Both were artistic prints, one in shades of blue, the other predominantly brown.

He came immediately off of the couch and stood before her..

She looked from one garment to the other. “Which of these do you think I should wear?” She pursed her lips and looked down at him.

“Hm, I don’t know…” He looked carefully from the brownish print to the darker blue item as he moved closer.

She moved the blue number closer to her chin. “I thought this one showed off my eyes…”

Looking up into her bright blue eyes, he grinned. “Your eyes don’t need any help in that regard. They pop quite nicely.” He looked at the garments again. “I think the brown one. It sets off your skin tone marvelously.” He leaned up and kissed her nose.

She giggled. “You’re sweet.” She returned to the bedroom as he situated himself back on the couch with the book.

A couple of minutes later, he rose again as she exited the bedroom holding two pairs of shoes, both dark colors, one pair with heels and the other a pair of flats.

“Which do you think I should wear? I was thinking of these…” she held up the heels, “but I didn’t… well, you know…” She looked down into his eyes.

He grinned. “The heels.”

Her arms went to her sides. “I wasn’t sure… I mean I don’t want to tower over you…”

His grin continued. “Don’t worry about that. I’m quite comfortable with my height. And with yours. Besides, the heels make your legs look fabulous.”

The concern melted from her face and she stepped to him, throwing her arms around his shoulders, both pairs of shoes resting on his back. Her cheek pressed against the top of his head. “You’re adorable!”

She pulled back to look him in the eyes, then leaned in to kiss him.

The shoes dropped to the floor as the kiss heated up.

It was some time before they returned to their getting dressed for the party.