Thoughts about Tensions

Tension.

That seems to be the word for the year.  It wasn't all that long ago that the only tensions I had to face were the everyday ones--and the ones I chose, like writing, painting, etc.--and those were just a part of life.  Now, social media has grown into such a monster that issues which would have never made us blink a couple of years ago are now tearing our nation apart.  Issues like cyber-bullying would have never existed before social media became a monstrous international hangout.  Cyber-space is the new place to breed hatred.  Now, you don't have to at least have the guts to face someone, you can threaten, insult, harass, and bully someone without the fear of reprisal.  Throw out words like bigot--which doesn't mean what everyone nowadays thinks it means--homophobic, racist and people will not only rally to your cause, but shut down anyone with a different opinion.  Hmm.  I thought we were built on disparate opinions, even (as the case of the People vs Larry Flint demonstrated) unpopular opinion.

You see, the truth is, popularity is fickle.  Thus, we have trends.  These trends change in lieu of having larger events in the news.  Now, with social media, we don't have to wait for the media spin--anyone can shout fire in a theater.  Now, anyone with a grudge, or who doesn't feel someone should have the right to shout anything at all, can use cyber-bullying, harassment or the threat of mass boycott to try and force conformity.  Not enough racial division, well spin something in the news to be racial, and BOOM...now that's a fire!  But that's not enough nowadays.  Now, you have to actively hate someone that shows dislike or hatred of another (because it's not hate if your friends are doing it, or if Obamalamadingdong advocates it), or risk ostracism, labeling or obscurity.  Say something against the present administration, you're racist; against the present sexual climate, you're a bigot or a homophobe; against Muslims and you're an antiquated, right-wing-nut Christian who doesn't deserve to have or share their own beliefs.

Why?  Well, here is the tricky part, isn't it?  Common sense tells us that if we want racial peace, to stop throwing around racist terms, pushing one race down in revenge for what some of its people have done.  Or, if you want people to be "tolerant" of something they do not like, to be patient and tolerant of the opposing position.  But that is not happening.  The answers I find to Why? when it comes to racism or tolerism (if I can coin a term), are invariably: You better, or else.

You better.  On April 19th, 1775, a troop of Red Coat veered from the Bay Road, ostensibly on their way to Concord to collect weapons purported to be had by the populace, and confronted a colonist militia on the Lexington Green.  To this day, arguements vary as to who fired the first shot, both sides claim it was the other.  BUT, the troops were not ordered to the Lexington Green.  So, that makes it the fault of Major Pitcairn for leading them there in the first place.  Right?  Why go to the Lexington Green?  To show that the Crown had the power to make them disperse.  To tell them they better, or else.  Didn't work out so well.  If not for that day, would the United States even be?

So, now, we are being told that again.  You better accept gay marriage, or else--you'll be hounded at every turn, you're employers will be harassed until they fire you.  You better accept the president's health care plan; Benghazi; ineffectiveness, support of militant Muslims; play for our 1st and 2nd Amendment rights, or else you're prejudiced and are trying to foment hatred and intolerance.  You better...

Well, I, for one, don't take to well to authority.  And you know what?  It doesn't matter what color or descent they derive from.  I acquiesce if I choose, not anyone else.   I guess I'm one of those antiquated folks--those outdated thinkers--like our forefathers.  Were they imperfect?  Yes.  The were men.  But, they shared an ideal that became America--an ideal which I share.  I don't own a gun.  That's my preference, but I'm glad friends of mine do.  I'm glad I have the right to.  There were those in 1775 who were complacent with not being allowed to own a weapon, or to have to offer soldiers room and board, or to not have the right to ask questions or remain silent with impunity...they were called Loyalists or Royalists or traitors.

These people today, these cyber-bullies who align themselves with Toaster Pastry Agendas, who foment hate and malcontent as political smokescreens, will find out the hard way what they gave up to run with the popular crowd, and how impossible to get that back.  Beauty fades, as does strength, and what will be left?

Happy Fourth of July!

We moved into this house a year ago 3 July.  (Which is technically only a couple of hours past.)  It has been a strange year.

I should have, by now, learned not to switch tattoo shops without expecting repercussion.  Every time, it takes a year or two to get where I had been at the last one (and before that one, I owned two consequtive shops, which followed the same pattern). Medication costs are higher here, pay is lower, work is scarcer, and there is no assistance.  (This is a core reason why I was trying to keep away from negative posts.)  So, last month it was so slow that it was devastating.  Depression threw a few tons on my shoulders, which compounded exponentially with each of the kids' wants and needs.

Then this month started with days busy enough to give me my breath back.  I've been writing fairly steadily, but, 220k hasn't gotten me to the end yet.  I see a few serious changes when it comes time for the next draft /treatment.  Part of my subconscious may want to prolong the ending due to indecision about the next project.  I want to enter the Dark Crystal contest, but I have been brewing another novel idea for months.  The Dark Crystal contest is 7.5-10k, and our oldest boy said of it: "Dad, that's only 10 days for you."  Well, maybe the first draft, but coming up with an original idea, plotting it, writing it and editing it I think may push the line.  And then I have to find a volunteer or two to read it...arghhhhhhh.  I'm not sure what to do.  But, then, I'm not finished with this one yet. (You see what I do to myself?)

I'm not over Uhtred's death, either.  Strange how it clings to me.  I thought I might be able to push past it some, but I still have my times where everything seems to remind me.  And I haven't been able to really go out back since.  I still miss him being at the door to welcome me home; him putting his front legs (not paws) on my lap and licking me when I try to put my shoes on.  I still creep around at night so as not to wake him up and get him started; still want to remind the kids to take him out, or want to get him to go for a ride with me... Damn.  We were just getting to be right.

Loss

Sunday, 23 June, 2013 my nine-month-old dog, Uhtred died.  It was pretty horrible.  He was playful and happy, which he usually was, until he went for a walk with my kids.  When he came home, he was quiet and gated in the kitchen to eat and drink.  But he didn't drink.  He was breathing heavily, as if he were extremely hot and hard-run.  I gave him a little while and when he was very quiet (which is not him, left alone he barked or whined) I checked on him.  He was lying on his side, his tongue on the kitchen floor with a puddle around it.  When I went in, he didn't lift his head or acknowledge me (again, WRONG).  So I pet him, and noticed he wasn't moving, only breathing a little raggedly.  I went and got my wife (I wanted to be sure I wasn't overreacting) and by the time I got back, his breathing was shallow, ragged, and his heartbeat was slower.  We called our next-door neighbor over--she has dogs too--and we all tried to get an animal hospital or someone who could tell us what to do.  He then lifted his head, his eyes wide and took a deep, shuddering breath.  He dropped his head, and then tried again, lifting his head.  Two more times was all he could manage, and then his heartbeat was gone.

Then I began to piece together what had happened:  The kids took him to the store, and the boys went in and left my daughter to sit with him. She sat on a bench, he under it.  Suddenly he got up and moved far enough to the other side of the bench to make her get up and move.  Then the boys came out and they started walking home.  Uhtred started whining and trying to lay down.  Cait wouldn't let him lie down, but kept him moving back to the house.  While under the bench, Uhtred was bitten by a black widow, the poison worked its way through his system on the walk home and finished him off while my wife and I looked helplessly on.  His moving from one side of the bench to the other moved my daughter out of danger.  He died and saved her.

Digging his grave was just as miserable.  The ground used to be a landfill, so each time the shovel went in it went into glass bottles, ceramics, bricks and roots.  But me, my oldest son and a volunteer (to whom we are grateful), managed.  I covered him and my son did most of the fill after that.  That night and last night I went to sleep with visions of Uhtred's last shuddering breaths.  Rest in Peace, Uhtred.  You died a hero.
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Spring cleaning the blog just in time for summer

Wow, it's already 18 June, 2013, and I haven't touched this blog in a while.  Reasons:

  • I moved from Maine to North Carolina around the same time last year.

  • I have tried not to post anything negative, and it seems since then, well there hasn't been many positives to report.

  • Prose has taken most of my free time (and some oil painting recently).

  • Facebook, curse it!

   So, as far as prose goes, I have accumulated 210,000 words, and am not at the end of the tale yet.  It's kind of amazing.  I had only intended maybe 175 on the first draft (with edits and trimming to take it back to maybe 150 0r 120k).  Instead, most of the characters dictated that they were an ensemble cast, and not just bystanders.  Each one wants their own PoV.  Some of them have made it known that for the story to be told, they HAD to get their own, and got it.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that the story grew in size.  Each PoV has their own thread, if not, they are not the right choice.  For us to follow a PoV character, we have to care about him or her, and what they want.  And then the "villains" decided they were going to have an internal struggle, a hierarchy with its own turmoil.  I know, right, that can only get complicated.  But complicated is good, right?

     I've also discovered, in the course of this journey, that I much prefer the warrior to the magus.  I'm not fond of magic systems--and I'm not sure there are any believable ones left unexplored.  I prefer what is termed "Low Fantasy," and am likely to explore sword-and-sorcery (which was my first fantasy love) in an epic form, since I have a proclivity to get verbose.  Swords-and-sorcery, pseudo-mythological or pseudo-historical seem to be my natural directions.  I think, because of that, some of my prose is considered "tropes" and "cliches" instead of motifs.  So, my intent is to twist those tropes and weave them into an unexpected time, with more believable characters.  Funny, I haven't finished my current WiP yet, and I already have three or four story ideas percolating.

     Which brings me to my last thought: Publishing.  There is a huge political undercurrent in publishing right now.  Now, this has been true of the internet in general since Mr. Obama's presidency has begun, but this is the first time I have seen it affect the careers of writers.  The market is a struggling beast as is, but to limit who has a chance based not on their skills and merits but their political view is, in my opinion, disgusting.  I don't write in political commentary or allegory, no matter who I feel should be in (or not in) office.  Why should a writer have to (or have to avoid) introduce gays, anti-Christians, purposefully immoral character just for the sake of verisimilitude in this volatile political climate?  Why should ANY opinion be invalidated?  I think "edgy" is an excuse.  Let the readers decide what they want in their fiction, not those who serve some political agenda.  I don't know about you (my one or two readers), but I'm sick of being fed cafeteria fiction.  What I like, what I want to see MAY NOT be the same as you or anyone else, but that doesn't mean I should not be able to.  If you want to read "edgy" fiction, read edgy fiction.  I want to read something fun.

Happy New Year!

So, I'm excited to see what 2012 will bring. I'm predicting that the world WON'T end. That's right, you heard it here (this year) first. :D

I have a digital painter on which I will be practicing, and a few clients to give me work. I'm not making any solid claims, yet, but a few authors have been in touch with me about illustrating e-publications. Also, I'm seeing opportunities for anthologies--in which I could illustrate and publish prose. Wish me luck (if I have any readers out there).

I'll attempt to connect on here a bit more through the year, but it's looking like I'll have a busier schedule this year. I won't mind that. I hope everyone gets their New Years wishes this year, and finds blessings in abundance.

A Big Change

I know I haven't posted in a while, just like I know I really don't have any followers. That's okay. But, whosoever happens upon this might smile.

For the last 23 - 24 years, I've been actively looking for a half brother and two half sisters, Now, I only mention the "half" to save on explanation: I've been searching with the "I have long lost sisters and a brother" thought in mind. My father died when I was 14 months old, and I was the only child of his second wife. It was the children of his first wife I was looking for. I searched every possible way I could think of: I searched SSI and phone books of their last known locations, and when I was 17 I received a mis-mailed letter from SSI cutting of his college benefits. That was the first location I had. By the time I followed up, it was too late. My searches proved horribly failed. It got frustrating and I gave up.

For a while.

In the mean time, they were searching for me. My brother's wife worked for the DMV and searched for me there. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong state. My oldest sister too was searching, and exhausting all of her means. In an attempt to learn more about our father's history, she went on Ancestry.com.

Jump back to me. I found some online, archived newspapers from my home town, and in one, found a short obituary for my father. A new burst of inspiration pointed me toward Ancestry.com. Well, I joined for the free trial. I found an incredible amount of possibles and it gave me more hope. Then, when I'd utterly failed on my brother--who never joined--I'd almost given up...

...Until...

I found my father's name. Oh, sure, it was possible--like so many other times--the name was just coincidence, but, there was listed as his children, one name that I recognized: My eldest sister's. Now, again, it was a possible coincidence, her name was not uncommon, but I said what the hell, and emailed her a question. I wanted to know if her father (because it could've been understood another way) shared my father's exact name.

There was no reply. I waited until the trial period was almost over and still had no reply. My heart sank. I was sure this was them. Maybe they didn't want to know me. Maybe my mother being a second wife caused me to be shunned. Either way, like so many attempts before, I had gotten there too late.

Last week, I received an email from Ancestry.com. I figured it was an ad, because I'd quit before they started charging me. What I found was a reply. I shall never forget the words:

Yes. He was. Are you my brother? Sorry I didn't reply sooner. Just got your message. Computer problems. Please reply. We've been looking for you. So excited!

And I cried. I cried because I knew I'd  found them. I cried because they'd been searching for me, too. I cried because it had taken most of our lives to find each other. But, most of all, I cried because for the first time in my life I had siblings. We'd found each other. We'd done it. It was too good to be true. Just like that, the connection was there, where there was nothing but looming emptiness and longing for so much of my life.

This week has been bittersweet. It's strange how our minds hang on to distant memories and refuse to change. Not only am I so much different to them, but, I'm just meeting them--just meeting my brother and sisters, at 40. I can't begin to describe all of the feelings I have. Now, all of my hunger for knowledge has multiplied exponentially. I have never even seen a picture of my father (after he died, my grandmother thought the pragmtic way top help my mom move on was to burn everything that reminded her of him, thus ripping that part of my history away). I'm giddy with the thought of calling someone Sis or Bro and meaning it literally. It's strange and beautiful. And then there's so much to learn, not only about the past, but nieces and nephews I've never known. And cousins. And their children. And then I have a few Aunts and Uncles I've never met, and haven't the slightest clue if they'll speak to me once they know who I am.

And that is something that I too am just beginning to know.

An old Post which Never Made it

Well, I didn't get into DragonCon. It was a long shot anyway. The day I was informed, was a low day indeed--I won't get into it, but lesser men (or me a few months back) might not have made it through. The next day, I won an award for tattoo of the day--a hornet, which I did on an award-winning artist--and learned it beat out two sleeves. The day after that, I took nine more, one of which was for best backpiece. So now, I'm a 185 time award-winning artist. How's that for a positive spin?

The writing has come to a virtual halt, again. Life's turbulent right now. But, I still have pieces out to be rejected...and some have been out there a while. Life goes on. So, after I get these critiques out, I'm going to refocus on the novel. I won't be biting off more than I can chew for a while.

Lose some, win some...

Well, I didn't get into DragonCon. It was a long shot anyway. The day I was informed, was a low day indeed--I won't get into it, but lesser men (or me a few months back) might not have made it through. The next day, I won an award for tattoo of the day--a hornet, which I did on an award-winning artist--and learned it beat out two sleeves. The day after that, I took nine more, one of which was for best backpiece. So now, I'm a 185 time award-winning artist. How's that for a positive spin?

The writing has come to a virtual halt, again. Life's turbulent right now. But, I still have pieces out to be rejected...and some have been out there a while. Life goes on. So, after I get these critiques out, I'm going to refocus on the novel. I won't be biting off more than I can chew for a while.

NEW ERA?

Well, it IS possible.

I'm in the judging for the DragonCon Art Show. This is a new step for me. I'll know whether or not I'm in by the 15th of April...if all goes as was promised.

Also, I'm involved in a new combined-writer blog called The Fictorian Age. (Fictorian was MY contribution.) A bunch of great neo-pros and up-and-comings are involved. Wish us luck.

Last but not least, and rounding out this hectic--if short--post: The Down East Tattoo show will be the weekend of the 15th, 16th, and 17th. So, the posting has had good reason for being slack. (Not to mention I had to buy a new laptop.)

2010 Year's End

I was hoping for a positive to wrap the year up, but, instead got a rejection. That one sentence describes most of my year. I could list the negatives at home and work that have made me want to find a tall bridge over concrete, BUT, I won't. I prefer to look at the year's positives.

1) I have made (and strengthened) some wonderful friendships this year:
  • Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson--of whom I'm a fan--gave me two opportunities to do maps for his Terra Incognita trilogy. I'm very grateful for this, and can't thank him enough for the work. He's a great guy, and I feel much richer for knowing him.
  • Nancy Greene, a fellow Hatracker and (hopefully still) my collaborating author on a deep Historical-Fantasy. We met at a Seminar made possible for me by (once again) Kevin J. Anderson. She was gracious enough to share her room, made it possible for me to not only go to the semianr, but get back and forth to the airport. We got a chance to work like full-time authors for the weekend--a memory I'll treasure. That seminar, in turn, extended my group of writers friends by more awesome people. The first on that list is:
  • Moses Siregar III, who is a very positive minded guy, and whose motivation is catching. I did a piece of art for him, which can be found in his excellent novella, The Black God's War--which an excerpt of his epic fantasy novel, due out in May. Buy it. Read it. Recommend it. Moses is one hell of a guy, and he's given a much needed positive boost or critique (even when he was working his tail off) whenever I needed it.
  • Jake Freivald, editor and owner of www.flashfictiononline.com, whom I've been lucky enough to publish three stories with and do artwork for various stories over the last couple of years. Jake has always given of his expertise, time, energy and helped me when times seemed the darkest. His magazine is geared toward short-short fiction and helping other writers achieve their goals, and deserves more patronage than it gets.
  • Adam Colston, recently placed among the Writers of the Future winners--and deservedly so. We've butted heads a few times, but I have the utmost respect for him as a writer. He also took the time to help on a few stories throughout the year.
  • Scott Dantzler, another aspiring writer who has had a hell of a year. Hang in there, bro, we'll get there.
  • Garry Blackman Jr. has been a great help to my business and peace of mind over the past year. He's become a pretty damned good friend, whom I am looking forward to repaying with some artwork.
  • Sarah Blackman, Garry's missus, who has taken time out of her busy, working-mother-to-four schedule to read the earlier stages of much of my crap.
2) I have grown closer to my children this year:
  • Over the past ten years or so, I'd focused so much on my business, I'd lost sight of what it had all been for. When I opened the Brunswick shop, I swore they would have my mornings, dinner times and nights. Every night.
  • During the darkest times, the times I wasn't sure I was going to make it, my oldest son clung to me and anchored me to life. He dug his heels in and let me know dark thoughts are unacceptable. He stepped up when we needed him to, and slapped me back to reality. How blessed am I to have such a son!
  • My daughter stepped up too. At ten years old, she's become a kind of second mom to our seven year old, special needs kid (my Tiny Tim). She's on the spot when we need her mos, and always loves to laugh. She becoming quite a beautiful young lady who has it together. She gets that from her mom, I'm sure.
  • We've gone from mornings, dinner and bedtimes to hanging out and watching Fringe together. I so love to hear them laugh.