Work

Dear Diary,

Something happened. Something I swore wouldn’t ever happened. But it’s done. I’ve done it. It’s out there now and I can’t reel it back in. I created original characters and content for [redacted]. Which means, [redacted] now owns something I created. That’s how this works, right? You’re bamboozled into needing a job and the only people who want to hire you know you’re creative. And they spend years on you before they start asking for things here and there. It’s mostly PR related things, sure. But then the clincher happens and you’re asked to create something for them. Mostly because they’re afraid of copyright infringement. Which, they’re in the right to, because we’ve totally skirted the edge of that legality on more than one occasion.

While it’s been my intention from the get go to create new content, my goal was always to base it on characters my predecessor established. Just replace his writing flair with my own nuance.

But I adapted [redacted], a beautiful children’s book by [redacted]. And within my adaptation of the story, I added a new character that wasn’t featured in the original story? Why? Because I wanted to, that’s why. This character was voiced by V. And, sure, maybe I’m bias, but I loved her reading of the character. So when the director told me to stop using other people’s works for my puppet shows, I quickly thought, “Well, shit. I have a character already. Might as well use her.”

Thus R.F. was born. And today, I finished the first short story that I’ve written in ages. Mind you, this isn’t an original story. It’s based on Stone Soup, a folktale that’s been rewritten hundreds of times in different ways (most notably, by Marcia Brown).

If you don’t know the story of Stone Soup, let me give you the run down. So a new guy in town (usually three new guys in town) are hungry, but they can’t find anyone who is willing to just give them some food (shocker, I know!). So they settle down in the center of town and make a show of bringing out a big, old kettle. They fill it up with water and some stones, and light a fire underneath it. Of course, the townspeople are curious so they go an inspect what’s going on. No one’s ever heard of stone soup, of course, because it’s a flat-out lie. But the three guys sell it up. And people all want to try it. But there’s something missing. Potatoes. Someone volunteers that. Still, it’s missing something. And someone volunteers that. And the list continues until they made an authentic soup with the townspeople none the wiser.

But my story is met to set up a bigger tale with the characters created. While I won’t focus each new puppet show on the trio created for this rendition of Stone Soup, I do plan on using them a few times down the line. There are stories to be told and these just happen to be the voices that are speaking to me right now.

My only regret this work-for-hire business means I won’t be able to keep any of them should I leave [redacted]. We’ll see.

Doldrums

Word Porn

The writer is like a person trying to entertain a listless child on a rainy afternoon – John D. MacDonald, “Creative Trust”

Due to the nature of the story reviewed here, I feel like I should give a warning. There are several terms here that should blow my linetrap/Bailey Jay post out of the water. If you’re sensitive to vulgarities, it’s highly recommended that you not continue reading this post.

I recently read a story. A poorly written story. A story that could have been saved if the writer was willing to visit an editor, or, at the very least, handed it to a friend first. Or better yet, a total stranger. Handing a draft to a friend is a recipe for a bad story, unless your friends are also writers. And writers who aren’t going to sugarcoat their thoughts about your piece. I’m lucky enough to have friends like that. Some are teachers, some are published, but the majority are brutally honest.

I’m not going to say I was expecting a masterpiece when I downloaded a story with the subtitle An erotic tale of Anal Excitement. And I did get what I paid for – at the time, it was free. But is it too much to ask for that writers – even self-published ones – take the extra mile and edit their work?

I took the liberty of highlighting a few passages to share with you, so that you don’t have to experience the story in full (unless you really want to). [Note: There was a lot to work with here, so you’re just getting the ones I loved the most.]

Part of me was torn apart, but the other part of me had seen this coming.

Re-re-repetition is awful. “PART OF ME was torn aPART, but the other PART OF ME had seen this coming.” What about if it were written like this, I felt torn, but part of me had seen this coming or The news left me floored, but I knew it was inevitable. They aren’t the best sentences, but there’s no repetition to cut through. Moving on.

There was a number to dial, and I left a message for ‘Wolf.’ ‘Hey Wolf, I’m Stephanie. I found your ad in the paper, and you sound just what I’m looking for. Call me.’ I left my number and smiled to myself.

“When in doubt, opt for less rather than for more,” wrote John D. MacDonald. “We all know about the clumsiness the beginning writer shows when he tries to move his people around, how he gets them into motion without meaning. […] The reader knows how people get across cities, and get in and out of buildings. The reader will make the instantaneous jump.” While the quote isn’t the best example of what I’m trying to state here, still works. A number has to be dialed in order to respond to a personal ad in the newspaper (though, who does this anymore? With the advent of  the Internet, people are turning to online dating sites and Casual Encounters on Craigslist). So why not just state she left him the message? And why even mention the message?

I left after 4 hours feeling amazing, my dark red hair shone in the sunlight, and my pussy felt delightfully tender and smooth now that it was waxed into a small strip. It excited me walking through the throngs of weekend shoppers, my silky underwear rubbing up against my bare slit.

Our narrator, feeling liberated (for some odd reason), treats herself to a beauty treatment with her cheating husband’s money (I’m okay with that). So she gets her nether regions waxed. So when she says that her “pussy felt delightfully tender and smooth now that it was waxed into a small strip,” she’s not talking about her vagina itself, but the pubic hair. Still, the sentence reads weird. And I can’t figure out a way to fix the sentence without it getting too wordy. Considering that I’m a not a female, how does pubic hair make one’s vagina any less tender? I couldn’t say mine protects my most sacred places like a shield. I’m aware the message she’s conveying, but perhaps tender isn’t the right word. Or perhaps, she meant to say tender as in delicate because she just got a whole bunch of hairs pulled off like a Band-Aid (I’ve seen a video of this procedure, what the fuck is wrong with some of you?).

And what’s with waxing one’s pubic hair down to just a strip? A little trim here and there, and it’ll save you some pain and still look hot as hell, am I right? And I get it, stating the fact that even her underwear is getting her off signifies how horny this woman is. But there’s just so many adjectives already.

‘I’m free tonight if you would like to get together for a bottle of bubbly.’

I’m a stickler about archaic words and phrases. If the term cutie-pahtootie sent me into a blind rage, can you imagine what the phrase “bottle of bubbly” did for my libido? Who even says that anymore? How hard is it to write champagne? Which brings me to my next question, who the fuck drinks champagne on a casual encounter? Sure, alcohol, but champagne? C’mon!

She later goes on to call it “the bubbly liquid.” I kid you not.

I nodded in reply, my heart fluttered in exhilaration, until I realized he couldn’t see my head bobbing up and down.

Raise your hand – who here doesn’t know the motion a head makes when nodding? Anyone? You in the back there? Oh. I thought I saw a hand go up. So everyone knows what nodding means, right? Okay. We won’t have to cover why the last part of this sentence isn’t necessary. Let’s cover why this sentence isn’t that necessary at all.

Sure, throw in some comedy. Why not? A lot of seasoned erotic writers do it. But a nod is a reply, one that doesn’t work too well on the phone. I nodded. My heart fluttered with exhilaration. And what’s with that word, anyway? Exhilaration? Running is exhilarating. Climbing a mountain. Swimming. Fucking. All these are exhilarating. Getting a phone call? No, that’s more like exciting to me. I know that exhilaration might look like it works, but it doesn’t bring up the same image for everyone. As generic as exciting is, you don’t want to throw around a word you pulled from the thesaurus either. Or better yet, why add it at all? Why else does a heart flutter?

The narrator moves on to say, “‘That’s sounds good to me!’ I burst out, ‘Would the Renaissance Hotel on 58th Avenue be okay? Say 9pm?” (Why didn’t I add this to the quote, because it only just bothered me.)

Okay, we know the narrator already did something stupid like nod her answer into the phone. We know that Wolf cannot see her reply, so she blurts one out. So why not write more in the lines of this: I nodded. My heart fluttered. “Is the Renaissance Hotel okay? Around 9 PM?,” I said, realizing he couldn’t see my response.

He undressed me slowly, kissing my porcelain flesh as he did so. It felt so forbidden, lying there on that hotel bed, with a  stranger running his big, strong hands over my body. I gasped as I realized I was naked, and glanced up to watch him unbutton his white shirt, and slip out of his slacks.

Wait. Wait. Wait. WAIT! Is Wolf a Rock Biter? Will Stephanie be sucked away by the Nothing, while he weeps to Atreyu, asking “They look like such strong hands, don’t they? Like big, good strong hands, don’t they?” And where the fuck is Bastian? Oh, they’re not in the story? Lose it, then.

What shocks me most about this paragraph is that the narrator doesn’t know what happens when a person undresses her. “He undressed me… I gasped as I realized I was naked.” So either he did it slowly or he ripped off her clothes. Which is it?

He knelt down between my legs, and his tongue darted out to touch my sex lips.

Sex lips. Seriously? Sex lips. Why not pussy? Why not clit? Why not something other than sex lips?

He parted my ass cheeks, and ran his tongue around the rim of my tiny rose. I tensed. No one had ever touched that hole before.

And here I thought sex lips was a bad term to use. What’s next, she’s gonna use the term “balls deep” to describe his performance?

It hurt at first, but he pressed and pushed slowly so as not to tear my delicate anus.

I don’t think even Steve Almond could fix this.

He was balls deep now, and I could feel the muscle walls of my ass clamping around his cock, trying to push the unfamiliar intruder out.

Well I’ll be damned. She did it. She actually wrote “balls deep.”

And question, what’s the ratio between familiar intruders and unfamiliar ones? Because, I’ve been under the impression most intruders are unfamiliar, unless stated otherwise.

Wolf drew his cock nearly all the way out of my butthole, then shoved it back in suddenly, and I yelled out, ‘Oh my GOD, yes, fuck my ass baby!’

Who even says that? I mean, c’mon! Who says butthole in a sex story? Seriously, though. Porn clichés are bad news. They kill the story. No one who isn’t paid to say it, says anything remotely close to that. Especially on their first time.

I milked his cock with my ass until he shot his creamy load inside my anus.

Now that’s a trick I need to see. Possibly in Tijuana.

He bucked and came too, his hot liquid splashing against my pussy walls.

Here, obviously, we’ve jumped ahead into the next sexual act, shortly after the first. I won’t even mention how there wasn’t any cleaning before he dove into her vagina, and how unsafe that is outside a story and porn scenes. But if we’re going to for visual effect of year, why not just say his spunk filled her pussy? Why splash? I’ve seen the video of a penis ejaculating inside a vagina. There’s no splashing.

If you made it this far, you’re a trooper. Give yourself a pat on the back. I’m not saying I’m the best writer in the world. But if Marilyn More and I were in a writer’s club, these are the suggestions I’d make on the margins of her draft. They’re aren’t to bash her credibility as a writer. They aren’t even there to suggest she try something else. What I am stating is that she work on it some more before releasing it into the world.

Doldrums

Mixed Media

image

In May, I started writing a blog I called No Children, named after a song by The Mountain Goats. And when I say started writing, I mean I claimed the url (not the title of the blog) on Tumblr. When things picked up, my mood change and I was no longer motivated to pursue it. Well, I’ve hit another wall and the idea is stronger than ever. Originally a fictional autobiographical string of stories, the idea has morphed into an episodic piece revolving around a broken hearted man just recovering from a divorce. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’d like to jump from the written word to short episodic films. That, of course, doesn’t come cheap and I haven’t the money to burn. We’ll see where this venture takes me.

Writing & Writers

“Been Talking to Jesus, He’s Not Talking to Me”

"Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together." —Ray Bradbury

There are moments when I question my lack of faith. Logic and reason keep me at bay from ever fully letting go. I’m allowed to dream, but I’m not allowed to live in  fantasy. Truth is, I don’t believe in a higher power outside of logic and reason and science. Without empirical data, I find things tough to chew. Would my life be better if I were religious or held a belief in a higher being? Probably not. But I would be so sedated by my god, I wouldn’t even think twice about things.

Writing

Maybe working in the library hasn’t introduced me to a plethora of people like working at the stadium has. I think it’s better that way. I love the people I’m working with. I know every says that about their job publicly, but these people are fun and fantastic.

The artist in particular. There are points where he comes off a little new age-y. Nothing annoying. One of the things I confessed to him was the death of my writing. It was just in passing. Outside of blogs and little memos, I haven’t written anything for a while. I just stopped. “You shouldn’t just stop,” he suggested the other day.

I told him about the blog. Nothing worthwhile, but I’ll never fully stop writing. It’s in my blood, my system. But lately, even these little posts have lost their depth. I’m just writing thoughts. Granted, I’ve always written thoughts. It’s different now. I’m not even putting much into them. Has it become a chore?

Thinking it all through, working on my Letters to Shaun project, I decided to stop and write a story. Well, the beginning of a story. A revision. An idea that I’ve written for a while but never completed anything outside of a rough draft.

It’s like I’ve become an atheist of myself. It’s easy to stop believing in yourself. And if I can’t believe in myself, how can the creations have faith in me? Damn the answers. Most of all, damn the questions.

Post title taken from “Empire State” by Guster.

Writing & Writers

“I feel like falling asleep while you scream”

"I'm gonna jump in. I'm gonna begin. I'm not gonna wait. I'm gonna be brave."

I cleaned the mess I call a room this week. While doing so, I found two short stories that never made it passed the first draft. Both were, oddly enough, titled after Bob Dylan songs. “Not Dark Yet” is about a man who flashes back to his childhood on his way to his father’s funeral. On the journey home, he attempts to rationalize the betrayal he felt. He attempts to understand his father’s actions, while never fully forgiving him. In “Things Have Changed,” I introduced a college aged man whose long-term relationship is falling apart, and all he can do is remember is his father’s infidelity. These stories were written a year apart, but there’s a clear message of both. Homie’s got daddy issues.

“David”

“David” is the first and last story I have ever published. It appeared, of all else, in a student literary magazine that’s put out once a year. It received an honorable mention by the issue’s staff. It’s about man whose relationship with his son is so broken, he doesn’t realize the person he’s talking to is his flesh and blood. And while the narrator – whose name is never revealed in any of the stories he’s featured in – never mentions the man is his father, I hoped that the subtle hints would present themselves. Very few people understood, which is understandable. Most people thought I was paying homage to Ernest Hemingway and William S. Burroughs, which was only half-true.

I wrote the story the year after my failed attempt to reconnect with Javier, whom David is loosely based on. In the end, I fantasized the father figure so broken, he returns home and shoots himself – Hemingway reference to the point that I even made him a writer, which my father, to my knowledge, never was.

With a little big of maturity under my belt, I’ve retired “David” from my reading list.

Memories

My brother, Jay, remembers one incident about my father. When I was just a baby, my parents got into a fight that led to my father grabbing me and a knife and threatened anyone who got near. Thing is, my brother repeated the act with his own child several years later. A desperate need to prove how important father is? To show the world how much one cares by threatening anyone that gets near? I’ll never know.

My father was two men: the sick man recovering from surgery who used to paint wooden animals to pass the time and the abusive alcoholic who gave up his family for his addiction. After my father left, I saw him sporadically. There were the typical broken promises, missed birthdays, etc. In the end, I learned that I didn’t need him in my life, despite the emptiness. I grew up just fine without him.

Recognition

On two occasions, I stood in front of my father without realizing who he was.

Rumors of a Broken Family

My ex-girlfriend, whose family is possibly the most stable – though far from sane (a joke, sorta) – once asked if I was going to be insistent about family portraits because most people who come from broken homes are. I never thought about it. Mostly because I’m not too photogenic. A lot of people say that, but seriously – I don’t do well in pictures. I have a nervous twitch that causes me to make a face.

Now with the new era of my life in the horizon, I’m asking myself the same question. Will I become the father who puts so much importance in family things? While I’ve never been very good at it as a son and brother, what happens with the third title is bestowed on me? Every year, I’ve been the host of the familial Thanksgiving dinner. And every year, I say it will be the last. And last year’s promise might just be kept.

My mother plans to go to San Antonio this Thanksgiving to see my cousin get married. Jyg has offered me her family – my brand spanking new family. And while I love them to death, I have this nervous twitch in which I’m forced to judge everything that is not conventional in my family. And it’s not silent judgement, it’s more of a passive-aggressive thing. And I’m not doing it because I disagree with it, or even hate it. I do it because it’s a nervous twitch. Like tearing paper into tiny bits. Or bouncing on one’s legs while sitting down during an important meeting where you’re forced to make some sort of public statement that will be the growth or death of your goals.

I’m reassured by several friends and family that I’m going to do great with this. But the nagging critic in the back of my head is reminding me of all my fuck-ups. And I begin to wonder how much different life would be had Javier stuck around and been a dad. But life’s too short to focus on this what-if. And if anything happens, I could always write a story to make sense of it, couldn’t I?

How to Save a Life