The Frustrations of a Writer

A couple weeks ago, I got some good news.  A nifty literary publisher expressed some interest in a book proposal I sent them.  It’s a historical novel set in fin de siecle Kentucky.  Now, I’m excited again.  There’s not a lot of money in writing books – at least for the author – but there is a bit of prestige so that’s good.

Lacking anything to post today, I was going to just throw up the first chapter that got that publisher nibble (no contracts are signed yet).  However, just as I was about to do that I discovered that another group in print media seems to have “been inspired” by an idea I offered them.  Now they’re doing it without me.  So now I’m afraid someone will use that first chapter to steal that idea – I know, not likely, but I’m sensitive now.

Arghhh!

Sir and Ma’am

I swear.  That’s it.  I swear.  I’m not afraid of letting fly with a few obscenities.  But only around folks I need to ….motivate or an comfortable with.

I’m a word guy and I don’t see the need for ‘bad’ words or whatnot, but I do realize that they offend some people so I keep a lid on it.

However, I’ve noticed I can’t go anywhere it seems without hearing the dreaded f-word.  No problem for me, but for others there are.  The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger had a column a while back that I’m too lazy to look up and link to that questioned whether a society with our history that can’t confidently saw “Merry Christmas” deserves any prosperity.

I’m wondering in the same vein about a quality of a society where you hear f&$k more than Sir or Ma’am.  I never hear those words.

Ego Tax

One of the many irritations that I have in life is the state run lotteries.  Part of it is the lottery itself – it’s a regressive tax on poor people.  I’m no fan of the progressive income tax (the harder you work the more you get taxed), but a regressive tax is a sin.  I also hat the fact that state legistlatures say gambling is immoral – unless we do it.

There was also the fact that certain people in my life would begin too many sentences with “If I ever won the lottery…..”.  It was depressing that someone’s dreams were nullified unless chance happen to shine on them.

But that aside, the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.

But something new is bothering me.  A voluntary ego tax, i.e. personalized license plates.

Do you really need to express your individuality that badly?  It’s the equilvalent of waving your arms around screaming “Look at me.  Look at me.”  And you pay the government money for the right.

Your Cloud/My Silver Lining

I’m not a naturally positive person, so I take my upbeats where I can.

I live in a urbanish setting.  I work in a crowded suburban setting.  Sirens are part of my everyday sounds.  They don’t turn my head, but they do register and I think to myself, “No matter how bad this day is going, someone else is having a much worse day.”

That’s what sirens are to me: An affirmation that things ain’t as bad as they could be.

Bowling the Week Away

It was some Lebowskian nightmare:  I was holding a bowling ball looking down a long alley.  Instead of ten pins there were 50.  And instead of two rolls, I got 5 but after each roll, I grew more tired.  Then I awake.

It was Monday morning.  Dream as symbolism?  I’m not a believer, but the 5 rolls may have been the 5 days of the week.  The 50 pins?  My to-do list – and that was just the big ticket items.  And I am more tired.

But most of the pins got knocked down.  I’m paid on each one knocked down but I’ll have to pick up the spare this weekend – just a few pins were left up and they need knocked down before Monday comes and the frame is reset.

The Myth of the Quality of Make-up Sex

I’ve always heard that makeup sex is great.  can’t agree.  You’re both tense and emotionally sensitive.  Nerves are raw.  One wrong move or errant comment can lead to brooding or tears.  It’s like saying the best time to drive a Porsche is after you’re in a 10 car pile-up.

Now beach vacation sex – that’s another story.  You’ve caught up on sleep, you’re relaxed, you’re refreshed….that’s a different story.

Pen and Pencil Sets

They really should be pen and pen sets.

What grown up uses a pencil anymore.  Draftsmen use computers.  No one gets penciled in.  What with personal organizers everyone is digitized in.  Does anyone besides school kids use pencils for math anymore?

My father gave me a pen and pencil set for Christmas.  It’s hand made – at least the wood is hand made.  He turned it on a lathe.  That’s the way to say “turning it”.  Very fancy.  Looks good.  Writes well.  Clients ask about it.

Any way, I thought I lost the pen yesterday.  It was found on my dresser.  I’ve lost the pen to every pen and pencil set I’ve gotten – for high school graduation, for college graduation, for a promotion.  The pencils however remained because they aren’t used.

I had decided to start carrying fancy pen again because I haven’t lost the Swiss Army knife or lighter I’ve been carrying for the last year.  I thought I was grown up enough to now carry a pen without losing it.  So far so good.

But scratch the pencil and make it a pen and pen set because I’m not going to use the pencil and – if I’m still irresponsible – I’ll lose the pen soon enough so may as well make it a pen and pen set so the gift last twice as long.

Talking About the Weather

I’m tired of people talking about the weather.

I live in Cincinnati.  In the winter it gets cold, in the spring it rains, in the summer it’s humid.  There’s nothing much to say.  Talking about the weather like each season is a surprise serves no purpose except to annoy me.

The next person who says something incipid to me about the weather like “Cold out there, eh?  27 degrees.”  I’m going to say, “No kidding, it’s January you idiot” and stare at him until he realizes his stupidity.

New Year’s Resolutions

So far I’m keeping them.  I have a few – but only two that I’ll make public.

The first was to be more well read.  On a nightstand In the bedroom where my wife and I sleep when we stay with my father-in-law is a door stop of a biography of Charles Dickens.  It seems to have gone out of print.  For the last several years it has sat there giving me a Emile Zola-esque J’accuse.  You see, I call myself a writer – but I’ve never read a word of Dickens.

So my goal was to spend the year reading a few Dicken’s novels.  On Jan. 2 I picked up Oliver Twist from the library.

In a twist of it’s own, Dickens has helped me with my second public resolution – to get more sleep.

Chapter Four of Twist – where in the Beadle and the undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry, discuss where Mr. Sowerberry should take Oliver – is better than a cocktail or any pill in getting a 21st century guy to sleep.

Hope your resolutions are working out just as well.

Totalitarians of Grammar

When I write, I write for readability.  If you have to re-read a sentence of mine, I’ve not done my job.  But there are some out there that want the rules to be followed no matter how unclear the writer’s intent or just plain bad the writing becomes.

A guy in my office said he was recently e-scolded by someone he emailed because he ended a sentence with a preposition.  I offered him the (probably apocryphal) response Winston Churchill offered up, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Just last week, an editor chided me for the that v. which argument.  I can never remember which is which and thus don’t care.  However, I read a language column today that offered up a solution.  Can you get any more authoritative that the King James Bible?  I’d say no.  That and the bard are the fountain of modern literature.

Here’s similar passages from three different gospels:

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. – Matthew 22:21

Then there’s this….

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to CAESAR the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. – Mark 12;17

Ok…. How about another one.

And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. – Luke 20:25

The answer to that v. which – it just don’t matter.  I just wish I had this prepped when my editor emailed me.  The lesson from this week’s Gospel:  sometimes “which” sounds better and sometimes “that” sounds better.  All’s good just as long as you understand what the writer (me) is trying to tell you.