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Showing posts from 2016

Third Annual Last Post of the Year

So as has become tradition, I would like to take the last post of the year and review last year's goals, and set new ones for the upcoming year.

According to my last post of last year, I laid out the following goals:

1. Write a new book: DONE, though it wasn't the four novellas idea that I thought it might be, instead it turned out to be a middle grade sci-fi adventure story because my boys kept bugging me to write something they could read. It turned out better than I could have hoped and will eventually be a trilogy.

2. Find a home for Flagg: Er. This is still pending. Still pending. Still pending. Note: if you want to be an author, prepare to have every tiny shred of your patience tested, because nothing goes quickly, nothing is certain, nothing is ever final, and even now, I have no idea if the damn thing even arrived at its destination, let alone was read and considered.  Even still, I know the book is good, and will eventually find a good home, so there is that.

3. Have a go…

Ralph Reviews A Whole Lotta Stuff All At Once: Part Two

Okay, so I'm not a reviewer, I have no desire to be a reviewer, and I suspect that my reviews don't mean shit to anybody, even if I wanted to write them which I don't.

I hate writing reviews.

However, I do owe several friends and colleagues reviews.  Since I genuinely have enjoyed their work and want to help share the word, and I know every little share makes a difference, instead of being a dick about it, I thought I would review a bunch of things I have run across recently as well.  Not new stuff, necessarily, but new to me, stuff that I have loved, books and music and other things, and maybe this won't be too boring, making everyone who comes here for the crazy stream of words and ideas just jump ship.

Here goes:

NOFX, "First Ditch Effort"

I mean listen: first and foremost this is a NOFX record which means you pretty much know what you're going to get, which is a bunch of great, fast, polished songs.  These guys have been making killer punk tunes for a few …

True Believers

Outside, in the streets of this city, in the fields of this country, in the hearts of our citizens, they are lighting fires, they carry their gas and their torches, they are wearing their masks, they are wearing their uniforms and they are carrying their shields, they are painting people with the brushes of their choosing and they are calling them enemy.  The flames roar over long-dead tinder, old threats and grievances dug up, taken down from the attic, where they had sat long forgotten, and they come with their fires to burn all that we have built, and the air fills with smoke and ash, and the skies are lit dirty red and orange.  They are coming.

And in here, we sing, a bunch of lost kids, outcasts and freaks, discarded and unwanted, ragged and patched together, taped up, stitched.  In here we turn our faces to the ceiling and we sing.

Because we are True Believers.

Someday, they will come for us.  Someday, because we shout our defiance to those suits and devils.  We will not kneel, we…

Die Laughing

I want to die laughing.

I imagine it, this big final guffaw, watching a video of someone falling down or being attacked by a goose, just this terminal laughter, a giggle or a wheeze, that's the way to go out. We're all dying, just some of us faster than others, some are torn away and some drift off, but the destination is the same for each and every soul on this beautiful miserable planet.  Whether it be by accident or murdered by time, we are all on the same ride.

I want to be taken away by the Death of the Discworld, like I imagine Terry Pratchett did, the classic hooded skeleton, blue fire eyes.  On the Discworld, you pretty much always get what you expect; the afterlife is what you believe it to be.  I imagine Sir Terry, wherever he ended up, laughing his face off, turning his brilliance on the world itself, holding a funhouse mirror up to distort images into strange shapes, recognizable, but seen from a different perspective. Godspeed Sir Terry. Mind how you go, sir.

I want …

A quick list of things you do not have to do

You don't have to do anything you don't want to do.  All that shit you hate, all the working and the laundry and the oil changes and the lawn maintenance, the picking up of dog shit, the attending of weddings and godawful graduation parties, the dentist appointments, the trip to the fuckin' vet to get your beloved family pet put down.  You don't have to be a father, you don't have to be a husband.  You don't have to set your alarm, get up before the sun, you don't have to smile in the face of that asshole customer, the unreasonable bag of shit that insists that he told you that he wanted his dressing on the side, even though he didn't and he knows it and you know it, and, holy shit, this has ruined his whole fucking day, his week, his life.  He wanted low-fat ranch and you put on full flavor and now he hates you and everybody you love.  You forgot to hold the croutons and now he wishes you had cancer.  But you smile and hold your tongue, because the fuc…

Better Now

There is this thing I do, where I take a feeling I have, or something I am thinking about or something that is bothering me, and I take that thing and I slice it up and I place it under a microscope, and I peer into it and there flayed on a  glass slide, lit from beneath, it looks all-important, encompassing, it looks monumental.  I do this, look at things too closely, examine them, analyze them, and see if there is some kind of truth to be found there, something to take away.  I blow these things out of proportion, make them into something huge, some awful monster and I drag it out and I slay it there in the light.  I am interested in finding out who I am, who really lies beneath all this junk that I have been carrying, here underneath all the armor and structures that I have built around myself for protection.  And I have looked, I have dug in the garbage, and so far all I have found is more junk.  New junk, that kinda looks a lot like the old junk.

I am beginning to wonder:  what ha…

The Moron Brothers (prologue)

What follows is the prologue for a novel I have started but never finished, before my current project took over my writing efforts entirely.  I wanted to post this because I think that the perception is that these things come easily and whole, that writing is somehow easy for those of us that do it, that a certain measure of success with the craft means that it is all fun and games for us.  It isn't.  There are a lot of missteps and failures and garbage that has to come out before anything good happens.  Writing, if you take it seriously, is something that is shaped.  Made, rather than born, if that makes sense.  I will probably finish this someday, maybe next year after I get this current thing off of my plate.  This part came very naturally, but I found that the main text, the body of the story, wanted to fight me every step of the way, that nothing wanted to come easy.  Maybe I just haven't found the right voice, or maybe it just wasn't the right time for this one or wh…

Slam

I'm old now, and out of touch, but when we were kids we called it moshing, or slam, or maybe just the pit.  We didn't really ever call it dancing, though that was what it really was, just a movement to the music, a release, an expression of ourselves, a bunch of lost kids, angry and disappointed with the world.  To an observer, it looks violent, and sometimes it is, if you get a drunk in there flailing his elbows around, or some tourist jock type dude that saw it on movies or something and just wants to push people around, and sometimes something happens in there, people can crack their heads together, or you can get a fat lip or something, but mostly it is just bouncing around, just dancing, but like I said nobody really called it that.  It was just the pit, a thing that happens at shows, between the crush or people at the front, all sweaty sardines, dudes trying to keep their girls from getting crushed, all smashed in there, hot and stifling, between there and the stoic olde…

Effigy

What you do when someone leaves you behind is, you dig a hole, you line it with rocks.

You take the bricks left over from when you built that flower bed by the side of the house, you lay them out around the hole.  You don't think about the flowers, you don't think about how they died, how they didn't get enough sun where you built the bed, how they withered and wasted away.

You go inside and you gather all the things, the tiny hurtful things, the hair clip from between the cushions of the couch, the sock from behind the hamper, the scribbled grocery list.

You grab the afghan from off the back of the couch.  You don't think about how it smells like her, like the expensive shampoo that she used.  You don't think about the fights, about how it was her little luxury that you could never quite afford.  You take all these things and you throw them into the hole.  You take all the letters, the postcards that she wrote you when she traveled, you ignore the stupid puns, the la…

Thoughts on the eve of the launch of my first novel:

Tomorrow, my book launches.  It will pass from my hands into yours, the readers, and it will no longer be my little secret, the little thing that I am proud of and happy about.  It will be yours, to do with as you wish.  Right now I'm sitting at my computer after having already sat in an office chair for eleven hours today for my day job.  I'm sitting here thinking about what all this means, if it means anything at all, what I'm feeling if I could only understand what I'm feeling, how I am supposed to be feeling.  I'm sitting here eyes burning, my back and hips are sore, I have been holding this posture since five this morning, looking at the keys instead of at the screen when I can

I am sitting here, thinking of before and after.  Thinking of before and after.

After tonight there will not ever be another first novel, another first time, there will never be another before, there will only be after.  And tomorrow will come and it will pass, and the next day I will go …

In a Mood

I knew you had the blade when I turned my back on you
the straight razor with the pearl handle, stolen from your grandfather's old shaving kit
I knew you were behind me, knew you were not going to let me walk out
and when I felt the cold steel whisper on my throat,
I knew this was the way it had to be:
your breath, hot in my ear, saying
I love you.

So I'm in a mood.  I am filled with anger, and when I am, this is what comes out.

In the white room, there is silence, solitude 
When I cut my wrists, words pour out, black and white, seething, choking
filling the space, building a new world, 
one in which I am not welcome

I live a good life.  Solid, responsible. Why, then, this fire inside? Why is my head filled with these terrible images?

I feed the pages to the flames, one by one, 
the lives I created burning to ash,
I can hear them cry out
page after page, burning cities consumed by fire
I will never be free, will never be empty
I will never be alone

I have insurance.  I have a reasonable mortg…

In a Mood

I knew you had the blade when I turned my back on you
the straight razor with the pearl handle, stolen from your grandfather's old shaving kit
I knew you were behind me, knew you were not going to let me walk out
and when I felt the cold steel whisper on my throat,
I knew this was the way it had to be:
your breath, hot in my ear, saying
I love you.

So I'm in a mood.  I am filled with anger, and when I am, this is what comes out.

In the white room, there is silence, solitude 
When I cut my wrists, words pour out, black and white, seething, choking
filling the space, building a new world, 
one in which I am not welcome

I live a good life.  Solid, responsible. Why, then, this fire inside? Why is my head filled with these terrible images?

I feed the pages to the flames, one by one, 
the lives I created burning to ash,
I can hear them cry out
page after page, burning cities consumed by fire
I will never be free, will never be empty
I will never be alone

I have insurance.  I have a reasonable mo…

REVIEW TIME!!!

One of the unexpected side effects of declaring yourself a writer is that you are then expected to know something about writing and give handy advice to novice writers as if we are not all just winging it and hoping for the best.  I have no real advice except this: finish your shit, work until it is done.  Other than that, do whatever works for you, whether it is writing in the basement of a monastery at midnight or while driving a eighteen-wheeler across country or on the back of a damn dragon as it lays siege to the Impenetrable Fortress of Serious Impenetrability.  Just work, and finish your shit, and then fix all your mistakes, and then give it to other people to enjoy and point out all the mistakes that you missed.

Another thing that I didn't expect was that, as a writer, you are then expected to read and write reviews of the books of your friends and colleagues.  You know me, I am supportive as hell.  I love to lift up my fellow man as much as I can, so I wrote and shared my …

REVIEW TIME!!!

One of the unexpected side effects of declaring yourself a writer is that you are then expected to know something about writing and give handy advice to novice writers as if we are not all just winging it and hoping for the best.  I have no real advice except this: finish your shit, work until it is done.  Other than that, do whatever works for you, whether it is writing in the basement of a monastery at midnight or while driving a eighteen-wheeler across country or on the back of a damn dragon as it lays siege to the Impenetrable Fortress of Serious Impenetrability.  Just work, and finish your shit, and then fix all your mistakes, and then give it to other people to enjoy and point out all the mistakes that you missed.

Another thing that I didn't expect was that, as a writer, you are then expected to read and write reviews of the books of your friends and colleagues.  You know me, I am supportive as hell.  I love to lift up my fellow man as much as I can, so I wrote and shared my…

A People Zoo

The trouble, I have decided, is memory.  I remember things and people, and I can't seem to let them go. 

I have written something personal, just as a way to organize my thoughts on the subject, to see if I can process events.  I had something that just needed out, understand?  I was thinking of it and thinking of it and it just wanted written, so one night I sat down and wrote it.  And that was good, I had it out, it was safely trapped on paper and that was great.

I am a believer in art for therapy, for changing perspectives, for the organization and processing of events.  When we catch things on paper, it makes them real, and therefore somehow smaller, more manageable.  If we write as hard as we can, as honest as we can, as real and raw as we can though, the problem becomes one of exposure.  In order to reach people in a real visceral way, we have to first expose our own soft bellies, we have to shed our own chitinous exoskeletons, reveal our weaknesses and our failures, we have t…

A People Zoo

The trouble, I have decided, is memory.  I remember things and people, and I can't seem to let them go. 

I have written something personal, just as a way to organize my thoughts on the subject, to see if I can process events.  I had something that just needed out, understand?  I was thinking of it and thinking of it and it just wanted written, so one night I sat down and wrote it.  And that was good, I had it out, it was safely trapped on paper and that was great.

I am a believer in art for therapy, for changing perspectives, for the organization and processing of events.  When we catch things on paper, it makes them real, and therefore somehow smaller, more manageable.  If we write as hard as we can, as honest as we can, as real and raw as we can though, the problem becomes one of exposure.  In order to reach people in a real visceral way, we have to first expose our own soft bellies, we have to shed our own chitinous exoskeletons, reveal our weaknesses and our failures, we have…

Vacation Photos

So I took a vacation.  Packed up the wife and kids and mother in law in the family truckster and drove everybody to Wally World, represented in this case by Walt Disney World.

It was suitably great, relaxing and tiring and fun and magical.

I expected all that though, the walking and the lines and the rampant consumerism, the heartstopping awesomeness of seeing your kid's faces as they see something with their child's eyes that you could never hope to see with your cynical and jaded adult's.  They still believe in magic; they don't care about tired feet and diminishing savings accounts, they think a pencil with Donald Duck on it is totally worth five dollars, and look hurt and confused when you can't see it too.  It was incredible.

I have never been to Disney before.  It was promised me a couple of times and never seemed to materialize.  I thought that my chance to experience it as a child was lost forever, and it was, in a very real sense, but I never knew that you g…