Okay, Let’s Talk About This A Bit

me and depression… so yeah, there’s that.
as far as i can tell, it started being a problem for me when Dorris took a contract in San Antonio, and i was only seeing her two days (more or less) every two weeks. it didn’t get nasty ’til she was in Plano and i’m seeing her three-and-a-half days every three weeks.
i don’t get suicidal – i feel useless, and as bad as it gets is “it would be easier on her and other folk if i wasn’t around”. (don’t worry, rationally i know better. but the funny thing about depression is it don’t give a fuck about what you know rationally) and yeah, if there was a magical “erase myself from existence” button, i might have pressed it a time or two.
my thanks to this artist for helping me vocalize that feeling:

https://medium.com/the-nib/i-want-to-live-6a40fbc76ef4

this search for a therapist has been going on for close to two months - i’d fool myself into procrastinating,  thinking i was doing better, that i wasn’t doing anything i wanted to do/get done because i chose not to, and coming to realize again and again “No, schmuck, you haven’t been doing anything but staring at the tv/playing vid games/reading/sleeping because you’ve been depressed.”
turns out i’m better at lying to myself than i thought. who knew?
so now, i’ve stopped procrastinating.

i remember the last time i was in therapy, back when i was living with Dave & Julie Pollard in Arlington.
it wasn’t a pleasant experience – if i didn’t leave the session feeling like i’d been put through the ringer, the therapist wasn’t doing their job.
i’d told my first therapist that if we got too close to something real, i’d start dancing around it, and i’d make it real entertaining, but to nail me down because i was in evasion mode. (you’d think i wouldn’t need to tell them this, right?)
she found my dancing Very Entertaining and refused to nail me down, so i found another therapist at the same clinic who would nail me down, and not enjoy the show so much they forgot why we were there.
helped me deal with some anger issues i was having at the time, and i’d have loved to continue – ’cause there’s a buttload of issues up in here – but didn’t at the time.

even with that successful experience, it’s been hard to actually do this – ask for help, make arrangements, call therapists and play phone tag with them. but it’s done.

now, let’s see what comes of this…

 

 

listening to: “Cherry Bomb” – The Runaways
mood: overall, pretty good

The Reverend Earnest Angry and the Disco Temple of Comedy

in the beginning was Cosby, then Pryor, and Carlin, and once i made it out of Smithville, there was Williams.

i’d avoided ‘mork and mindy’ like the plague, despite my deep-seated need to have a meaningful, religious experience between Pam Dawber’s thighs. i was aware of it, of course, it was at the time a cultural icon, but no matter how funny it was, i avoided it. therefore i was vaguely aware of Robin Williams.
i don’t remember how the album “Reality, What a Concept” was introduced to our group of friends at (All Concrete All Corpses Autumn Cottage) Austin College, but believe me, i played the shit out of that record, and even all these years later can remember vast chunks of it.
and then i knew who he was. fuck ‘mork’, this brilliant, improvisational genius was Robin Williams.
new recordings weren’t listened to so much as consumed, devoured. more comedians joined my personal comedic pantheon, and Williams held his own. Cosby faded, his clean and relatively safe comedy no longer suiting my tastes and the times, but even with Kinnison, Leary, and St. Hicks, Williams held on, not by his fingertips but by his manic, improvisational stream-of-hilarious-thought bits.

and let’s talk about the films… not the comedies, but the Good Stuff.
Moscow on the Hudson – a film i don’t own, for good reason. i think it’s brilliant but it tears me up emotionally to watch it.
Dead Poets Society – another film i can’t bear to watch too often
The Fisher King – and yet again, too radiantly painful
Good Will Hunting – so worthy of the Oscar he received
the roles that showed not his already amply-established comedic skills, but his incredible gift at portraying emotion and humanity so poignantly that they are exquisite holy tortures.

the two best tributes to Robin Williams’s effect upon me are the number of bits of his comedy i can easily remember, and the innumerable ways his comedy influenced me and flavored my own sense of humor.

the Disco Temple of Comedy… the Central Texas Home for the Terminally Twitchy… feel the similarity? when you read my work, if you look hard – and sometimes not all that hard – you’ll see this man’s comedic fingerprints.

we all face our own demons, and we fight hard, and we seek out help, or we go it alone, and it never really stops, but we make our way as best we can.
and sometimes the demons win.
Good-bye, Robin. tell Richard and George and Sam and Bill ‘hi’ for me.

 

listening to: “Shakespeare (A Meltdowner’s Nightmare) – Robin Williams, “Reality, What a Concept”
mood: bittersweet

Housekeeping And Updates

so before we get too far into this post, here’s a picture of Conan, being silly in the sheets on the floor of the master bedroom:

photo 1 (1)

i am a firm believer that pictures of the silly dawg are a good thing and should be shared, if for no other reason than to keep Sister Becky amused.

next up… housekeeping.

i washed silverware yesterday. this is momentous as i Hate washing silverware with a passion.
i hear you say “well throw them in the dishwasher, idiot, and quit yer bitchin’!” (it’s true, i hear y’all sayin’ that)
y’all obviously don’t live in Pflugerville, where the water’s so hard, so full of minerals, third-world countries contract to  mine our water. (for the especially gullible among you, no, not really)
so dishwashers Never get the dishes Looking Clean, and ya have to run vinegar through them to keep them from clogging up entirely (have i mentioned the fact that i Hate the smell of vinegar, and therefore the idea of vinegar steam is exceedingly revolting – i tolerate it to clean the coffee maker because… Coffee!)
so i wash dishes by hand.  that’s okay, because the mostly mindless act of hand-washing dishes is restful for me. i enjoy it.
except fuckin’ silverware.
so, as has been the case lately, dishes galore have been piling up on the counter because the sink has a silverware load in it. i’d been washing just what i need to cook/eat with, when i needed it, for 3-4 days, and finally i’d had enough.
i broke down and washed the silverware.
of such small triumphs are good days made.
seriously thinking about buying more silverware though…

on to other issues.
if you think a chili burger is a fine and good thing, lemme tell ya, you’re right.
but you’re probably wrong as well.
you’re probably thinking of a regular burger, however you like it, with a dollop of chili in there somewhere.
rank fuckin’ amateur. you should hang up your “Chili-Burger-Lover” t-shirt.
this… This Is A Chili Burger!

photo 2 (1)

it’s my standard Moonie’s burger – Texas Toast, 2 patties, fried egg burger (plain and dry thank you very much) - covered with a ‘bowl’ of their Really-Pretty-Damn-Good-for-a-Burger-Joint chili.
yes, we took tupperware to Moonies, i put the burger in, poured the chili on, and brought it home.
yes, it looks kinda gross, but chillens, it was Fuckin’ SUPERB.
Conan thoroughly approved of it as he cleaned out the tupperware afterwards, and who the fuck are you to dispute the word of Dr. Dawg?

 

listening to: Lee play “Watch Dogs” on the PS3
mood: full and happy

 

So, On That Whole “Reaching Out” Thing…

long, Long time ago, when i was still in junior high, when i lived in Smithville, i met a guy, don’t remember how, who became one of my best friends. he was older, worked for the railroad (a common occupation in S’ville at the time), and so his hours were rather erratic, but we shared a lot of the same interests.

i used to hang out til all hours of the morning talking – something my mother never quite understood – about books, comics, films – trust me, there weren’t a lot of SF&F fans in my patch o’ Texas.

he taught me how to listen to music. he was – probably still is – an audiofile. before an album was put on the turntable, you cleaned the record, you cleaned the turntable, you cleaned the needle, and then you Listened.

you didn’t talk, or read, or sing along, or even tap your feet.

You. Fucking. Listened. and nothing else.

taught me how to really appreciate music.

the album was listened to once, a cassette tape being made of the album at the same time. (first person i knew who had the equipment to transfer music directly from album to cassette. the rest of us had to sit there with a tape recorder in front of the speakers – or the radio – and hope nobody talked or interrupted us.) *

once that cassette was made, that was the everyday listening copy, and you could talk, whatever while that was being played. but albums were sacred things – music in as perfect and direct a pipeline from creator to listener as you could get.

hell, i still remember one of the best gifts i got in those years. he brought out the album, and recorded me a first generation copy of “Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds”. generally, i got second gen tape copies. but as a present, i got a first gen. that fuckin’ meant something.

he was the first guy i knew who had a video recorder – a betamax. i was with him when he got it, and why he got it is an indication of what kind of geeks we were.

so he’d been thinking about getting one, but hadn’t committed yet. this would’ve been May 23, 1977. KTBC, the CBS affiliate out of Austin announced they would have a clip from “Star Wars” on their 10:30 PM news the next night, in advance of the premiere of “Star Wars” the next day. the afternoon of the 24th, we made a mad, barely-touching-the-road trip to San Antonio to his credit union so he could get a loan for the betamax, then an equally speedy trip back to Austin to pick the betamax up – i think at Montgomery Ward, then back to S’ville so he could unbox it, set it up, figure out how to use it, so he could record that clip.

it was the Millennium Falcon/Tie fighters fight as they escape the Death Star, and we watched it at least 30 times that night. we were back in Austin at the Capitol Plaza Cinema, first showing of “Star Wars” that next day… we got out, bought tickets for the second showing. got out of that one, bought tickets for the third showing, and finally went home after having our minds completely blown three times.

we did the same ‘three-showings-in-one-day” for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. we went to a lot of movies together.

i went to college, albeit briefly, ended up in Dallas, we lost touch, and he eventually ended up in Fort Worth, and we kinda sorta got in touch with each other again, but a lot of years had passed, and a lot of mileage, and it didn’t quite click like it used to. some of the asshole/dumbshit things i did pissed him off – and rightly so – and we fell out of touch again.

periodically i’ve reached out to him since i’ve been back in Austin/Pflugerville, and we’ve talked a little, but it still isn’t the same, and he shows little interest in maintaining contact.

but i’ve reached out again, left a message on his voice mail, hopefully he’ll call me back. i sure do miss him.

* (favorite story about that… my friend Ricki was recording “Red Octopus” by Jefferson Starship onto tape. there was a disturbance, he dealt with it, and kept recording. we loved that tape – middle of first side, you hear his mother yelling from downstairs, “Ricki! Ricki”, then Ricki’s reply. “Mother, shut the hell up!”)

 

listening to: Spanish Train – Chris de Burgh

mood: hopeful

Some Things Don’t Change

y’all can skip this post if you want. it’s personal, but not, in a lot of ways. it’s a downer though… do what you like.

 

in sadness related to that group of friends, the ’80′s crew, those who lived in the Zone, orbited the Zone, or visited the Zone somewhat regularly, out comes the Pink Floyd.

you’d have to have been there – trust me.

i mean, Rush, Marillion, and Harry Chapin got played as much or more, but Floyd… Floyd was the ‘oh shit’ music.

sometimes it was the ‘call the ambulance’ music.

took me a long time to be able to listen to Floyd and not go back to those unhappy times, longer still to be able to listen to ‘The Wall’ without it giving me daytime nightmares.

and right now, the guitar licks in the intro on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” feel like home.

i really wish they didn’t. i wish i wasn’t listening to them because i Need to. i wish i didn’t know i was going to cry through “Wish You Were Here”.

remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.

yeah, i remember.

 

listening to: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I – IV) – Pink Floyd

mood: edge of tears

Last Goodbyes

funny thing about life, you never know when it’s going to end.

got word today an old friend has passed. he was, more times than i can count, a rock of sanity and near-normality in the chaos that was our group of friends in Dallas, back in the ’80′s. where we were pushing the boundaries of chemical alteration, him… not so much. he drank, even got drunk a time or two perhaps, but not like we did. our debaucheries were Epic. his were casual. he was a good man, patient and caring.

in later years, Jason married another friend from the same group, Kat, an ex-girlfriend of mine, and they have a son, Davy.

i always enjoyed talking with Jason, although i never spent as much time doing it as i’d have liked. and now i can’t.

every goodbye could be your last. think about that. don’t fixate on it, as i’ve been prone to do at various times in my life, but remember it.

i know when we’re younger we’re immortal and invincible and nobody is ever going to die – until they do – but then it’s “them” not “me” and we remain immortal/invincible and go on spending our days on whatever. as we get older,  it gets a lot more real, and it sinks in, that whole ‘last goodbye’ thing, but you can’t live with that in your head all the time, so we  resolve to say all the things we want to say, and visit with the people we need to, and that’s all fine and good, but life gets in the way, and like i said, you can’t keep going with that living in your head 24/7, so we forget and then someone else goes beyond and it’s the same thing all over again, and we swear we’re going to do better this time…

but we can’t live with that in our heads all the time. so we forget. it’s natural, shit, it’s even healthy.

and it hurts like hell when we are reminded yet again.

so let’s do away with the grand pronouncements and pledges to do better. at some point, in the next week, reach out just once. just once. make it a promise to yourself. tell that someone you’ve lost contact with you still think of them, you still love them. get together with someone you haven’t seen in a while. don’t be morose about it, this shouldn’t be an occasion for sadness – rejoice in company shared, celebrate words finally said, revel in time shared.

and when you’re tempted to think back on the people you’ve lost, and not spent enough time with, let the time you spend with the people you still have be in honor of those who’ve already passed. no big thing, no angst, just smile, and know that if there is a beyond, those you’ve lost are happy you’re not letting this opportunity slip past.

 

listening to: “Poor Man” – Old Crow Medicine Show

mood: sad

So, On With Things…

a general update on writing around here…

so, after waving at several deadlines as they went whizzing past (sorry again, Sister Becky), right now the only active deadline i’m facing is a steampunk air pirates story by the end of the year – this of course means i’ll forget about it until the very last minute.

not on a deadline (as such), chapter 64 of “oil” (probably 75% done), my noir novel (no fuckin’ idea anymore how close or far i am from finishing a first draft on that one), plus the usual backlog of Really Good Ideas that i’m sure i’ll get around to some day… if i live 500 years…

one of the deadlines i missed gave me quite a chunk of world-building for a fantasy world – the sword and sorcery type – but that idea isn’t exactly setting a fire under my testicles at this time.

i’m kind of adrift right now… other than getting 64 finished, there isn’t anything really sizzling in my brain… hell, there’s no story ideas even warm at the moment. of course, as any of my fellow writers know, that shit can change at the drop of a hat… any hat… anywhere on earth.

still, it’s a disquieting feeling.

 

listening to: “Diet Mountain Dew” – Lana Del Rey

mood: sleep and somewhat out of sorts

Well, If This Works, Let’s All Give A Cheer…

So after a lot of hard work from my talented daughter, I may have a web site that doesn’t look like a ’90′s throwback.

This is a Good Thing, and makes me very happy.

Several things I realize, looking at it now.

1. My God, Conan looks young in that ‘Donate’ picture. He’s 14 now, a distinguished member of the house’s senior staff.

2. I really fuckin’ need to get on a stick and get some more stuff published, either by me or someone else.

3. After re-reading the free samples on this site, I’m still proud of all of them.

4. The left-0ver chicken strips I had for brunch may not be enough… okay, the web site’s not responsible for this one.

5. The whole “Central Texas Home for the Terminally Twitchy” motif works real well for me and my work/sense of humor/general outlook on life.

So now I’m going to post this, and y’all’re invited to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over the new look, send praise Jacqueline Reader’s way for her superb work on the site, and in general, run around behind each other, clutching at each other’s asses, shouting “OOOGA BOOGA!”

 

listening to: dawgs crunchin’ dawg food

mood: pretty damn good

Killing Your Characters

i find it vaguely ironic i’m writing this while listening to the game of thrones soundtrack. George kills his darlings so much better – and more often – than i.
in the great porn soap-opera-from-hell, i’m killing off a strong secondary character, and i’m finding it both easier, and harder than i thought it would be.
easier: i’m having to let go of her, but like the character herself, age 86 or so, it’s time. she’s served her purpose, and more, and it’s time to shift the focus that’s been hers to one of the main characters. she’ll always be a part of the story as she’s been a lynchpin for a lot of the plot’s development, and after 800,000+ words, it’s not like i’m rushing her off-stage.
harder: i love the character. it’s been so much fun expanding her past her origin, developing her, finding myself surprised by the process of her telling me her story. it seems a shame to end all that. i still find myself musing about letting her live. nothing’s written in stone until this chapter is finished and posted up to Storiesonline… but it is time for her to go. dammit. too many future scenes, too many future developments hinge on her passing.
once you reach that point, where you’ve plotted beyond the death of a character, and that death figures into the plot heavily… you feel kind of damned. there are few ways you can remain true to your vision for the story’s continuation without doing as you’ve planned, but like a character in some horrid melodrama, fated to kill another character, you find yourself in dialogue with yourself, arguing over what must be done. even as i write this, it feels like i’m holding up the dagger and wondering how it got in my hand.

then there are the practical story considerations.
how long to drag it out? will the readers feel you’re shortchanging them because of the speed with which you get rid of a character?
the death of Amilyn (Paul Reubens) in the film “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is one extreme, a humorous one, but i’m not playing this one for laughs. the character is in the hospital, there is time for final good-byes, and i’ve decided to give a few short paragraphs of those good-byes with each of the major characters. it feels like any more than those short bits would be milking it unnecessarily, but i’d be cheating my readers if they didn’t at least get those small portions.
yeah, there are some after-death teary moments planned – a last letter, the funeral, the reading of the will, a couple of others, but after that… unnecessary milking.
and where does this fit into the actual ‘chapter’ structure? hell of a way to end a chapter, tempting to use it as the centerpiece of a chapter – building the whole chapter around it. or i could go the ‘to live and die in l.a.’ route…
a bit of explanation: in my movie memory, before i saw that film, the death of a major character was a Major Event. grandiose music, slo-mo, freeze-frame, pause-in-the-flow type stuff.
then i go see ‘to live and die in l.a.’… major character enters the scene, gets blown the fuck away, and the story just keeps rolling right along.
you know, the way it is in real life.
left me absolutely gobsmacked. it seemed like a violation of one of the unwritten rules of movies to me. you simply didn’t do things that way…
but they did, it was brilliant, and it’s one of the many reasons i still love that film.
as it’s looking to work out in the g.p.s.o.f.h., it will occur off-stage, and while it will be noted, and all the little pieces that follow will happen in due course, it’s not going to end a chapter, it’s not going to be the chapter, but it still won’t be “life just goes along like it does”.
a compromise.
requiescat in pace, Minerva Eileen Cornelius, 1920 (?) – 2006

just some thoughts on what’s going on in what i’m writing.

Mood: surprisingly upbeat for someone writing a character’s death
Music: “Winter Is Coming”, Ramin Djawadi, “Game of Thrones” Season One Soundtrack

On Getting Stuck In The Quicksand…

it’s a long hard road if you want to rock and roll…
or something like that.
and part of that long hard road is getting so bogged down in the minutiae of giving your readers what you think they want that you rob them of what they really want.
to make sure i’m getting this point across correctly, a very relevant example.

my porn-soap-opera-from-Hell, “Oil of Roses”… it’s over 850,000 words by now, it’ll hit a million before this phase of it’s finished.
i’ve long held the belief that my readers want all the day-to-day lives of my main characters (out of a total cast of goat-humpin’-Thor only knows how many right now). the problem is, operating on that principle mires me down so deep in trying not only to keep up-to-date on all those main characters, but trying to make all of their lives interesting all the Goddamn TIME!
folks, that shit don’t happen. even honest-to-God soap operas don’t make every second of their characters lives interesting, they only…
are you ready for it?
are you sure?
THEY ONLY SHOW YOU THE INTERESTING PARTS.
seems pretty simple.
even follows that axiom of “if it bores you to write it, it will bore the reader as well)
yet, even intellectually knowing this, you can bogged down in the reality of trying to make it all shiny and sparkly and fascinating (or in this case, perverse and stimulating) and one day you find you’ve been thinking about how to write a meet-and-greet that was going to be 90% boring family getting-to-know-you stuff, and 10% sturm und drang.
you’ve been thinking how to write this meeting for about 11 months.
you’ve futzpuddled with it here, and pissed on it for flavor there, and you’ve made some abortive stabs at writing the scene, but you’ve been smart enough to realize they should be dumped in the trash, but in this great effort to give your readers what you think they want?
you haven’t given them dick, diddley, or squat.
they want new chapters, new excitement, new stimulation, character development and developments, they want to see you producing something for the story they love.
and you’ve been thinking and thinking on how to make that 90% of boredom exciting.

so one evening, when you’re staring at the ceiling and not sleeping, it occurs to you.
if the scene is blocking you, dump it.
not just the boring 90%, all of it. forget the sturm und drang.
start the scenes in the burning emotional ruins that are the aftermath of all that sturm und drang.
and get the fuck on with the story.

there’s a line Dorris and i quote to each other a lot, most times jokingly…
“Don’t think too much, it only hurts the team.”
listen to your audience. listen to what they really want. don’t try to interpret, analyze, mythologize, or even supervise what they want. listen to them. they’ll tell you.
your readers are pretty direct that way.
then, if your goal is making your readers happy, as it is in this instance, do what they want. if something gets in the way of that, get outside the box that’s imprisoning you, and go. if you can’t write the scene you think should be there, write the scene you CAN write.
there are few guarantees about any advice in this game, but i’m willing to bet if you write what you can write, then the scene you couldn’t write will be put in perspective, and often that perspective will be the unwriteable scene is not at all necessary, or even desirable.

go ye therefore out into your work, and when you feel yourself sinking into the ground, back the fuck up and go around the goddamn quicksand.
here endeth what passeth for a lesson.

Mood: chastised
Music: the “Game of Thrones” theme, playing in my head, ’cause i just watched the season premiere