FOUR CHARACTERS & VANILLA PUDDING

I’ve been working on a manuscript for nearly a year. It’s been a troubling experience and I don’t know why it’s proving so difficult although I have a couple of thoughts. One…it’s so different than anything I have ever written. I like light writing. Both previous books have been light with a just a pinch of serious seasoning. The one I’m trying to complete is precisely the opposite. Overall I’m happy but it is so dark in places that I sometimes don’t want to go there. I read the words but they don’t sound like me and although I think I did well I’m not comfortable with how it sounds. This is, I think, my second reason for having so much difficulty. I’m not me and a Snickers ain’t gonna help.

So, to take respite from my woeful endeavors, I opened up a few of my old starter files and discovered a whole new world, most of which I’d forgotten. The people that inhabit this place are just as new but they feel like old friends. The story-lines are interesting but undeveloped.

That’s where the four characters come in. They’re of the new but familiar kind of people and totally unrelated to my main writing project. They’re fresh and eager to be drawn out and I sense some gold just below the surface.

As I roughed out a bit of an introduction and an opening scene to this new project I found myself enjoying writing more than I have in months. It’s been almost a chore to sit at the keyboard as my lack of blog posting indicates. With each of these characters I can draw on my life’s experiences from my days in radio broadcasting to bookselling and everything in-between. I guess it goes back to writing what you know.

I’m not done with my current manuscript and it will be completed but I think it’s time for a vacation with four new friends that will let my imagination run wild.

I see a part of me in each of them and I’m anxious to throw them into situations that will bring out the best in them and hopefully serve up some old time philosophies and humor to boot. I’m intending this to be more like the first two books with different characters and perhaps a little mystery-solving thrown in to give them the stage.

A quick tease, which apparently I’m supposed to include in a blog, is vanilla pudding. It’s the first befuddlement of Ned, the personality I most identify with. He and I both feel that vanilla is the boring aunt of the pudding family, the smelly one you put up with because she’s rich and makes good cookies. It’s nice (and serves the purpose somewhat) but given their choice most people would move on to chocolate or butterscotch pudding. In the annals of dessert warfare vanilla is always the pudding left behind. Vanilla would say ‘You go on without me and save yourselves’ and the other puddings would go on without him and save themselves because vanilla was…well, vanilla.

Ah yes…there’s a certain comfort in writing about vanilla pudding.

SPACE

It’s all around us. There’s nothing in it or to it and, if left uninterrupted, it goes on forever. That’s why they call it space. You can’t see it of course but if you go straight up until you get past the birds and the blue and arrive at nothing…that’s it. The final frontier.

Space on terra firma has become a rather intimate thing. Everybody has their own space and some folks can get a tad cranky if they feel that you have somehow trespassed on their space. The problem is that it’s not exactly clear to me how far this space extends from the body. A foot, two feet…or is it metric space? Is it like a big round invisible bubble or is it a concise shape cut parallel to my dimensions? Does it follow the contours of my ins and outs (mostly outs these days) or does it plot a random course around my 70 year old celestial body? Do bigger people get more space than little people? If so then I don’t think that’s fair. We’re all created equal (or so I’ve heard) so we should each get the same amount of space. If some people want to fill it up with more of themselves then that’s their business.

So many, many questions…

If it’s a really hot day does my space expand? On a cold day does it shrivel up and become inner-space? When I lie down where does the behind me space go? Does it compress or just sort of squirt out the sides? If I go into a really small room does all of my space fit in there with me or is some of it still outside the door? If I sit in a movie theatre does my space and the space of the guy beside me overlap and intermingle? Actually that’s a rather disgusting thought.

Of course back in the sixties I was in a different space. It was a groovy space. It replaced my neato space of the fifties and paved the path for my polyester space of the seventies. The eighties saw the downsizing of my space due to kids arriving on the scene. It’s amazing how tiny creatures such as newborns can fill up what was once a vast space. But as a new parent I didn’t have any real space to call my own…except in the bathroom. That’s the last bastion of solitude for a dad. Nobody messed with my space when I took it into the bathroom.

That was so long ago. Now they’ve all gone on to their own universes and I have my space back.

It’s funny though…it doesn’t feel the same. The space continuum has been disturbed. Of course there are times when the kids and grandkids come by and play space invaders and that’s fine. Unlike the guy next to me in the theatre these space cadets are welcomed. I also know they’ve booked a return flight. Their mission ends at bedtime. That’s when I can return to my own space. Everybody needs someone in their space but everybody needs a little space to themselves sometimes.

It’s all about balance.

TRUMP….(sorry, I just have to)

I give up.

I generally avoid discussing politics either here or on social media but this time around I decided to test my toe in that turbulent torrent of turbidity. There’s an obvious target of course but writing about Donald Trump is akin to composing an unfinished symphony. I have drafted three posts but before I get them to the polishing stage Mr. Trump throws another sack of fodder into the trough. Honestly, it’s just too damn repetitive, silly, and depressing to pursue with any amount of enthusiasm. Add ‘easy’ to that list.

Coupled with President T’s confusing rhetoric is the influx of ‘fake’ news sites. These digital Enquirers pander to those who don’t have the wherewithal to spend a few moments researching real news. If you go by what you hear, even from some members of your own online circle, every news organization is fake or politically motivated. Even here in Canada news outlets from the CBC and CTV/ATV to my local paper present fake news or are bought and paid for by political parties…according to my catalogue of online friends. After careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that if the media doesn’t mate with your narrative then it is the media that is wrong.

Opinions are fine. I love opinions. That’s what this blog is. An opinion.

Opinions, however, are not always totally factual. An op-ed may be based on black and white fact but can easily be colored by the simple inclusion of the author’s opinion and sometimes separating the two can be difficult. That’s why we have to research.

As far as Mr. Trump is concerned I have to resort to my first line…I give up.

Following is the original blog I started two weeks ago. It’s a bit of a rant but I haven’t done that for a while so….

I tend to judge stories and comments based on presentation as much as content. If someone makes a point clearly and it sounds like they know what they’re talking about I’ll pay attention and often research what they have said. When it comes to Trump I usually don’t waste the time checking. When he uses phrases like “The CIA ‘are’…” I can forgive him. Fundamental English doesn’t build golden vanity towers I guess. When my grandchildren can spell better than he…well, I suppose I could blame the education system although I suspect he just didn’t pay attention. When he points to his head and says “Believe me, I’m really smart”…who is he trying to convince? If he was smart he would hire a communications secretary to look after his social media and try to keep him on track (or quiet) when there are cameras around. When he has to tweet that he is in charge…again, who is he trying to convince?

He has had many opportunities to correct the impression he made during the campaign. Instead he has taken every opportunity to show the world how self-obsessed he is. At a wall commemorating CIA members who gave the ultimate sacrifice once again he managed to make it all about himself. In his own words on video or Twitter he likened the same agency to Nazis yet it was ‘the enemy’, that ‘corrupt media’, that twisted his words. You said it Donald…on the internet and on camera. It doesn’t disappear because you delete or refute it.

When he can make a statement in a live, uncut interview then turn around and deny saying it, blaming the ‘dishonest media’ for taking something out of context or misinterpreting what he had to say, I know it’s only bull residue. When he can ‘tweet’ in the morning then six hours later unequivocally state that he never said it then, to my mind, there is a problem.

But, like it or not, Trump is the president. It’s as simple as that. I respect the position as I respect the position of Prime Minister of Canada. It’s unfortunate that the office and the person holding that office become one and the same. I’ve distantly dabbled in American politics since Eisenhower (yes, I’m that old) and I can’t recall any president disrespecting the position as much as Trump has. I’m sure presidents from JFK to Obama (and especially Nixon) dropped a few f-bombs in the privacy of the White House but they never did it live on national television.

Yet he was elected. What does this say about those who voted for him? That’s a question I won’t even try to answer. I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next four years and all those people tossing their comments around don’t know either. We can speculate but all the speculation in the world won’t alter what destiny has in store for not only America but the world.

He and his family all proudly state that Trump is the voice of the ‘common man’, Donald Jr. even commenting that his father was more blue-collar than the ‘average’ man. They’ve stepped on enough common men on their way up that I suppose they know what they’re talking about. Trump Sr. also declares that he’s building a cabinet of folks who understand ‘the common man’. Uh huh. Other than Mad Dog I’m not sure any of these people have ever experienced a ‘common’ lifestyle. To paraphrase…he drained the swamp and now he’s up to his ass in new alligators.

Some say ‘give him a chance…it’s early’. To a degree I agree although he was elected in November 2016. He’s had enough time to start acting presidential…to show respect for the office and the people. He’s had plenty of time to take off the campaign mask and show the kind of president he will be but he hasn’t…or has he?

If Trump can set up a government as transparent as he is then it could be an interesting four years but I doubt this will happen. He’s already backtracking on his promises. That bright light across America that you can see from space is the lightbulb coming on in the collective mind of his supporters.

 

MIND CLUTTER…..

My last blog referenced ‘mind clutter’ and this seems to be a good place to start.

It’s been three months since I posted and much of that time has been spent trying to figure out what to post. The purpose of this blog was to promote my books (both of which are still selling…thank you) but in researching reaction to my previous blogs there’s really no distinct pattern favoring any individual topic. My ramblings on wolves, books, music, renovations or shoes all seem to gather the same amount of interest which, in itself, is interesting.

So, with a quick reminder to check out my books on Amazon, let’s do some rambling and perhaps de-clutter a little.

I have a third book, perhaps three-quarters finished. I love everything about the story and the characters but I can’t seem to find the drive to finish it. Unlike the first two books which were loosely based on personal experience this one is total fiction and slips into areas requiring me to forsake my comfortable place and explore the inner thoughts and external emotions of characters with which I have trouble identifying.

Once I sit down and open the file I’m okay. I consider it a challenge to see a life, albeit fictional, through different eyes. I re-read what I have written and I like what I have done so far. I pick up where I left off and new words come easily but while I know where I want the story to go I have trouble driving it there. It seems every sentence or line of dialog I type takes me into a different direction, usually away from the intended conclusion.

There have been many times I’ve relegated this manuscript to the back burner and worked on a couple of different ideas but I’ve gone so far with this one that I feel the need to finish it. I suppose I have put undue pressure on myself as I made the mistake of hinting at the final outcome of the story in the first chapter. Eliminating that subtle spoiler at the beginning is a possibility but with 51,444 words already laid down the idea of going back through them all to correct any references to the original ending only serves up more pressure.

An unfinished story is a ghost that will never be set free until that final ‘save’. It just lies in wait somewhere in the furthest reaches of your mind, taunting and teasing until it commands your undivided attention. You could be sitting in a food court sipping a coffee when you realize that the person at the next table looks like your main character or you’ll hear someone talking and you’ll think ‘hey that’s something Corbin Wessler would say’. That’s the story beckoning, its spirit reaching through the mush and mayhem of conscious thought demanding to be noticed, insistent on the peace that only completion will bring.

Thank you for bearing with my venting. Oddly enough it has served to make me realize that I have to accept my self-declared challenge and buckle down to exorcise this demon.

My 150th Blog!

Actually I would have passed this milestone months ago had I remained as active as I once was but so many things seem to get in the way.
I’ve decided that it’s time to start again.
A quick update on my books is probably the best place to begin. After much messing around and a long learning curve I have claimed my first book “White Wolf Moon” back from the vanity press that originally published it and it is now re-published under my name. My second book “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon” has been under my name since creation and, with the republish of the first book, I feel a bit more in control of both of them.
The interesting part about republishing is that it gave me an opportunity to sit down with the original manuscript and correct some of the little flaws that had been nagging at me since it was first released. A missed capital letter here and a small spelling mistake there haunted me every time I thought about it but they’ve all been corrected now and I can put that book behind me. It seemed to take as long to go through it again as it did when I first wrote it.
I have three fairly interesting ideas for another book but only one has reached an ‘almost ready’ stage. I have devoted a good deal of time developing the storyline but it is so different from anything I have ever written that those second thoughts keep popping into my head.
My first two books were based on people and incidents in my life and required little or no research but this one is bobbing around in uncharted waters. I’ve had to research everything from brain-injuries to small engine repair and forensics. The storyline continually drifts into a mystery/horror theme and my comfort level in that area is pretty low. I have written scenes that, upon re-reading, I toss aside only to open them again a month later. I find myself reworking them and feeling good about what I had written yet, for whatever reason, the whole story didn’t sit well with me.
In July I gave up on it entirely and put the whole manuscript aside. I began a more comfortable storyline, this one lighter and quite humorous if I do say so myself. I’ve been working on it periodically while re-editing ‘White Wolf Moon’.
This morning (after uploading the revised White Wolf Moon) I decided to open that cast off untitled manuscript and read it from the beginning. I’m not sure I have ever been so pleasantly surprised. Parts of it I thoroughly enjoy, some parts I like and a few parts will remain cast off…or at least held in trust for possible inclusion later on. Maybe I just needed to get away from it for a while but I find myself digging in with more enthusiasm than I have had in recent times.
Taking back my rights to my first book had contributed to the mind clutter I seem to be experiencing lately but now that it’s done I have a little more space up there for other things.
Ah mind clutter. Sounds like a good topic for next time.BTW: The photograph has nothing to do with this blog…it was taken in the early 50s in Monlochy, Scotland. The ice-cream mooch is Mitzi, my first pet. I just felt a little nostalgic today…

My books thus far….

NOO SHOOS/AULD FEATS

Shoe shopping is probably my least favorite activity. I’m a casual sneaker-type guy and in the old days my only decision was black or white. Now they have shoes for walking, running, climbing, gardening, cooking chili, washing dogs…but I have already digressed. That’s the problem with not writing a blog for months. I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical although I’m not really sure why. Life is good, cluttered and confusing but good. Maybe I just needed to step back and appreciate the clutter and confusion. That’s as good an excuse as any I suppose. Yup…I’ll go with that.

Back to my shoes. When I needed to replace my usually beaten-to-a-pulp footwear I’d go and stand in front of the racks hoping that a pair would jump out at me (yes they have jumping shoes too). The type of shoe that has never jumped out at me is the kind I bought a few weeks ago. Whenever I saw this style I used to think ‘oh, old guy shoes’ and passed them over but this time I thought ‘gee, they’re neat’ and bought them. The fact that I thought they were ‘neat’ kind of spells out where I’m going with this.

I bought ‘old guy’ shoes because I’m ringing the doorbell on 70 Sunset Lane. I’m an old guy.

I still don’t put a lot of stock in age although lately it’s been on my mind a little more. The underlying theme of ‘White Wolf Moon’ was a man trying to rekindle his youth on the premise that within his sixty-plus body lived every age from birth until now. I still believe that’s true although some of my teen years have thankfully found a good hiding spot (down by my spleen I think…but I shan’t go looking). It’s all about attitude. ‘You’re as young as you feel’ comes to mind but it’s more than that.

Physically there’s no going back. Too much water under the bridge or, in my case, beer under the belt. Lines of life, scars of experience, and pounds of Papa burgers gift wrap the essence of my being.

Mentally, however, one can take a break and look at life the way one looked at life ‘back then’. It’s not all that difficult but it’s also a bit of an education. Remembering times before computers and zillion channel television packages can be both funny and frightening but with the right outlook you can put things into perspective. Looking at today through the same eyes I had as a twenty-year-old I realize I haven’t really changed but everything around me has. Technology is a long, straight endless highway but life is a traffic circle.

The most damning evidence of my circle? Yup…the shoes.

At twenty I wore moccasins a lot. Leather moccasins laced together with a bow on top.

What goes around….

Mike Grant has two published books: White Wolf Moon and Barking at Yesterday’s Moon. Both available on Amazon.

 

‘Z’ BEFORE ‘E’ ‘CEPT AFTER….

This wasn’t the post I originally had set out for today. That one involves character development, change of plot lines and other assorted writing thoughts but I have been lead astray by one of those little ‘slices of life’ that occasionally crosses my path. Following is an unfinished blog post I wrote in early September:

“While picking up my grandson from school today (a semi-regular occurrence) I was treated to an interesting display of tax dollars at work. I was leaning on the fence around the playground when a large white cube van pulled into the field behind the slides and climbers. Three men in hi-vis vests tumbled out of the truck and walked over to one of the ramps leading up to the castle-like structure. One fellow knelt down and spun one of the letters the kids hold onto whilst navigating their way to the top. It was the letter ‘e’. He spun it a few times then walked back to the van and retrieved a wrench. The other two workers stood on either side of the structure and waited while the first fellow came back from the truck (about a forty-foot hike), tightened the ‘e’, and tested it again. Then they all marched proudly back to their vehicle and left the scene. Why it took a large van and three burly workers to tighten one letter I don’t know.”

That was as far as I got as I couldn’t see the post going anywhere after that.  I didn’t want to get into the politics of civil servants or unions or whatever the reason behind what I considered to be a waste of man hours/money so I elected to let it go. However…

play

Earlier this week I was waiting for my grandson in the usual spot when a smaller white van pulled into the field behind the playground. This time two men in hi-vis vests crawled out and walked to the climbing incline. One of them spun a letter. Déjà vu…it was the ‘e’ again. I can understand that. The letter ‘e’ is the most used and often abused letter in the English language so I can see that he would go off his nut more so than his twenty five brothers and sisters. I watched as, once again, one fellow walked back to the van to get a wrench while the other stood guard. I wondered why there were only two guys this time. Maybe they knew it was that rascal ‘e’ again and knowing that ‘e’ is generally a soft letter they figured they wouldn’t need all the backup that they’d sent out the first time. Ah…that first time. Seems to me something like this should only require a first time so perhaps they should be rethinking the repair. My suggestion would be to replace it with a lesser-used letter…like ‘z’. Kids don’t use ‘z’ as much as they use ‘e’ so that should solve the problem. Maybe not…but a 5 cent locking washer might…or even a shot of Loc-Tite. I assume either solution would be cheaper than sending two or three guys out to tighten a nut. Even with the reduced manpower this time the ending was the same as the first. A quick twist of the wrench, a spin test, and then off to tackle the next catastrophe or get a coffee to celebrate a job well done. See ya next month boys!

Okay, silly rant over. I leave you with a link to Patrick Jones’s blog. Patrick is another that has always supported me even to the extent of promoting ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ before I had uploaded it. I invite you to check him out but pour a coffee before you do. He has so much entertaining and informative content on his site that it could take you a while. Thanks Patrick!!!

http://thelindenchronicles.com/