A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The ear always knows best...sometimes

The other night I watched a concluding episode of Prison Break's last season. In one scene Michael's evil mother received a pained howl from Miss Grundy--everyone's least favorite stickler for prim and proper English.

Michael's mother, Christine, is presented as a well-educated, upper middle-classs psycho who prides herself on her smooth carriage and polished speech. And yet in this scene she says:

"Between he and I..."

To many ears that may have the proper ring. But in this case the ring is deceiving. Ask yourself: Would you say Beween us or Between we? Between him and...or Between he and...? Between requires, in this instance, a pair of objects, not subjects. And we can't fault Miss Grundy for protesting here because the error can be avoided by simply recasting the sentence to double-check the sound from another angle.

Another common slip:
More importantly...Gore Vidal pointed out decades ago that the adverb form of important is wrong. It should be More important...And if we have any doubt, we can always try the phrase in full: Are we saying The more importantly thing...Or The more important thing?

Still, Miss Grundy,these days, is wrong as often as she's right. And unless we're writing formal English, we can follow the rules of current usage. Hemingway didn't hesitate to end a sentence with a preposition, if his ear gave the okay. Rules are also changing to accept some once-forbiddens: e.g. confusion of 'like' vs. 'as'.

Google will often tell us the current status of a word or phrase. But if Google and our ears all fail--

well, what the devil are editors...for?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Advanced Tweet Tactics from Oscar Wilde

People use all kinds of tricks to cram their Tweets into the space of 140 characters. 'To' becomes '2'...'Into' becomes 'n2'..'Before' becomes 'b4'...Etc. And more often than not the Tweets, when deciphered, were hardly worth writing to start with. 

That's a shame because the best Tweets provoke and entertain within the same back of a postage stamp space. And the best Tweeters pull it off, for the most part, without resorting to typographical tricks. 

And today I'll pass on a few secrets I've learned that you might like to play with.

1) Start with a plain and loosely worded version of what you'd like to say. You may want to write it out first, maybe in a Twitter notebook, just to get it on the page. The main thing at this point is to clarify the thought.
E.G.: Let's imagine Oscar Wilde working out the strategy for one of his most famous quips--about smoking:: Cigarettes may be dirty and somewhat disgusting, it's true. But once you start, you cannot stop. One always leaves you wanting more. Which tells us something about--maybe the nature of pleasure?

2) Decide, condense and simplify. You can't have it all in a Tweet, not even if you're Oscar Wilde. In his epigrams, he sought to provoke and amuse...not to speak from the heart or go off on a philosophical bender. In this case he set out to provoke by means of paradox. Bold decision: leave out the whole business of cigs as disgusting and dirty. Link smoking with pleasure. Go further: 
A cigarette's the ultimate pleasure...Why? Think, Oscar--think, think!
A cigarette's the ultimate pleasure. Because it relaxes us and perks us up and makes us look very sophisticated. And each smoke leaves us wanting another.

Oh, dear. Better, yes--but no cigar. Worse, it's 14 characters over!

3) Play Scrooge now with your characters. Tweak your phrasing and your words. 'Ultimate' has eight characters and you're 14 over. Save, save! Using 'perfect' instead saves you one. Very good! Now then, that whole second sentence is slack and verbose. Leave out the benefits stated because they're understood. And 'sophisticated' has 13 characters, while 'very' adds 4 more.  ' Exquisite' has only 9 and suggests the 'very'. This frees us to make a point about pleasure never lasting.
A cigarette's the perfect pleasure. It's exquisite while it lasts--and always leaves us wanting more.

And how about that? We still 39 characters left!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Seven

Small adventures have occurred along with a couple of great ones between the last chapter and this one.

In the first Moleskine, I had enough space left for one final set of Five (the template of questions I use). From the start I'd known the importance of keeping the wind in my sails when I could--and preserving the strength to row when I could not. Still, the first Moleskine had been a good friend and I wanted to finish it on a high note.

Out of nowhere, the two words 'spiritual bounce' began to have their way with me. And, as they did, I found myself approaching the now familiar questions with a sharp new edge:
How could I bring more spiritual bounce to erasing two top Don't Wants from my list of brood abouts?
How could I bring more spiritual bounce to two Do Wants I need to achieve?
And so on, through my list of five.

Bounce implied, to me, a note of boldness, save and verve instead just grim perseverance. And I had my work cut out for me--for on the very first day, I found myself caught in a stormy situation that called for still more bounce...and then more bounce. At the same time, I filled the section marked:
Inspired Actions
--Began serious efforts to repair past family stress lines.
--Continued rewriting The Suiting.
--Began consulting with a photographer for a new Facebook/Twitter/Amazon photo.
--Continued Top Secret plans with my new best friend for a big move in 2014.
--Set up an intensified workout routine for the October photo event.

Enter Moleskine #2
At the start of my fourteenth set of Five, I'd worked the same format for 65 days. Though I'd added special spices, the founding principle had stayed the same: one of 5 questions per day, addressed in the same format. . Lead Question...Perception...Clearances(things that need to be clear in my head)...Intention Imagined Now...Inspired Actions...(Workout record, 3-4 times a week.)

I decided to shake this up not once but twice:
1) I'd really dig in this time and devote two full days to each question, doubling the page count for notes. And I would study the book relentlessly each day, monitoring my progress.
2) I'd drifted a bit from the 'card game' I'd played with 50 Cent for two years: a deck of cards containing quotes from The 50th Law. Now I saw how to incorporate these into the new Moleskine--but in a brand new way. For each two-day session I would 'play' one card.
E.G.: How can I apply this 50th Law card to my top thing to be 'cleared'?
Issue: concern about age.
Card: 'Shit into sugar.'
Lesson: 50 Cent's greatest advantage was the feeling that he'd already hit rock bottom and, so, had nothing to lose.

And so, in the spirit of Bounce, I began.
Inspired Actions resulting:
--Began checking on Norelco and other personal groomers for photo.
--Continued talks with photographer, checking out photos of models to use.
--Checked for character props for photo: kilt, eye patch, applique tattoo...
--Dealt with job-threatening crisis at work.
--Prepared list of questions for interview with Leverett Butts.
--Contacted W., a Charlotte writer, re meeting for coffee and guidance on my search of a editing/proofing       position 
--Finished typing The Suiting.
--Began reading next book to review.
--Began growing mustache like Boss MacTavin's for the photo--and changed diet to further reduce body fat for photo.

Yes, Action Manifesting does require work. But the first Moleskine set me up nicely. And the second, more intensive, one should make a world of difference.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chapter Seven's Almost Here!

The latest chapter in my Action Manifesting adventure goes Live on this blog tomorrow:


And, you have my word, it breaks new ground.

Don't miss out on this one!

Friday, July 19, 2013

On Not Burt-ing or Mickey-ing Fate

Two of my favorite actors have major things in common--with each other...and with anyone who's earned good luck after years of failure.

For your consideration, Burt Reynolds and Mickey Rourke. In another life, it seems, each had been voted World's Sexiest Man. And each had had memorable hits. But for reasons we needn't go into, each man watched in horror as his career hit the skids. Bad luck. Bad film choices. Bad karma. Bad fights. Bad whatever.

For our exercise today, please shift your focus from all past mistakes to the Moment of Glory that each of them blew. They were both given huge second chances: Burt got a role in Boogie Nights and Mickey got the lead in The Wrestler. Worth nothing: the two had needed champions to help them land these parts. But their bad luck was on the mend when each was put up for an Oscar. And here's the moment you want to remember.

You don't need to be a movie star with two dozen films behind you. You don't need to be an author with six published books to your credit. To perform this exercise, all you need is to have gone through at least a few years of rejection. Better still if you've experienced at least a little revilement. Now:

Back to Burt and Mickey. Neither man could shut his mouth. The mockeries and rejections bubbled in their blood. Burt began to make bitter remarks about the Academy, how they'd waited far too long to give him his fair due. And Mickey started going on about how now the bastards would pay millions upon millions for all of the years of neglect.

Their anger's understandable. But their second chances are long gone and we seem to have lost two great actors for keeps. The Money Men won't finance films with embittered and difficult actors whom they perceive as has-beens. Especially if they've played some part in turning them to has-beens.

Just think about this the next time you're tempted to lash out at agents, publishers or anyone in power. You may be right but it's infinitely better, when your own chance does arrive, to do your best to radiate gratitude and good will. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Pony is Still in the Race--and Here's Why

My proposed withdrawal of Nobility has started to heat up. If you've got the time to read about 10,000 words you can read John A. A. Logan's post that accuses me, among other things, of having been lonely last Christmas and having some family issues, as well as telling nefarious lies. Or you can read this post on Kindleboards from one of the festival runners. See the top post, by Julie:


Know this: I never intended to smear the festival, its committee or the other writers. I tried to make that clear. That I'd received an inappropriate cannot be denied. I expressed my concern that others might also have been contacted--and this same possibility occurred to Julie Dawson. I did not name John Logan and I refused to do so when Julie asked for his name and/or a copy of the email. I wanted to pull my book. 

Now this: Since the voting has already started, I'm told, if I were to pull Nobility, the festival would have no choice but to close the entire category. I swapped emails wit Ms. Dawson and grew convinced that the festival itself was beyond reproach and the committee was on the watch for any sign of vote manipulation. 

Was I wrong in wanting to pull the book? No, I don't believe I was and I have the email to prove it. But I never smeared the festival and I can't be responsible for shutting down a whole category. So my pony is still in the race. And this makes twice that I've now tried to do right on this issue.

As for John A A Logan, I revere his past work. But he shouldn't have sent me that email. No lie.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Top Secret Ingredient of Writing

The TSI is far less a secret to readers than it seems to be to some writers.

Even as readers, we know without really knowing why we love and trust some writers even if their books are dark. At the same time, other writers who load on the sugar and romance quite simply give us the creeps. Even if we'd never seen photos of the writers, clear images would come to mind: how they look and what they're like.

Now, we're more likely to be wrong about authors' faces than we are about their hearts. The romance writer might resemble a burly and hard-boozing cowgirl. The horror writer might look like a geek or, God save us all, a banker. But the truths we infer from their writings are subtler and more telling::
--Sloppy editing and rambling prose may suggest a motormouth with no or little self-control.
--Lack of precision in word choice may suggest undies in need of more Tide.
--Cheapness with words--refusal to take time to round out a scene or flesh out a character--may suggest a tightwad who'd tally the peanuts we ate in his home.
--Books filled with hateful rotters may suggest sickos who loathe their own lives--and maybe with good reason.

Then again:
--Artful pacing and patient scene construction leave us feeling that the authors are thinking of us, not themselves. And we can assume that, in their lives, they care for others too.
--Clear, compelling phrasing lets us know that writers are born sharers: committed to creating in our minds what they see in theirs.
--Non-shifty, non-evasive souls put their hard truths in perspective. Somewhere a child is laughing. And somewhere a couple makes love in the light. The impression that we form is stern but it's graced with compassion.

Yes--sigh, groan--it's true: good writing, at least in part, does come down to character. And this isn't something we can turn on whenever we sit at our desks. In fact, the world may not agree about what good character is: Lord Byron, to some, was a son of a bitch. But nobody's said that we need to be saints. Character isn't perfection, it's simply the backbone our spirits require. No matter what he did in bed, Lord Byron--when he sat to write--became the hero who would die in Greece.

We don't need to die heroic deaths.We don't need to sleep with married stars, although that might be nice. We don't need to swim the Hellespont or run with the bulls in Pamplona.

But we can spare the TSI a little while each day and:
--Repair a relationship that has gone south.
--Be less quick to judge a friend.
--Make a decision so bold that it stuns us.
--Be a little bigger and better than we've been.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why I've Withdrawn Nobility From Award Consideration

Right now I'm too upset to write anything but a short post. But know this:

I had the honor of seeing Nobility included in the list of finalists for Best Novella in the efestival of words this year. But the high that arose from that honor crashed fast when I received an email from a relative of another finalist in a different category. They were thinking of voting for Nobility...and wondered if I was thinking of voting for his book.

The wording was subtle and careful but the message could not have been clearer: vote for us, we'll vote for you.

Well, my book is called Nobility and my vote is not for sale. I'm here to write, not to engage in literary politricks. I won't name the writer or say a word against him. But, to my way of thinking, this festival's been compromised and I can't be a part of it this year. Not with my novel and not with my votes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Six

My new ally (Call me Jules) Caesar ended up staying for three hands of cards. Given the rules of the game, as you know, each hand lasted for five days--with one of five questions per day.

Round one: How would JC begin with my Don't Wants/my Do Wants/Top things I need to get clear on, etc. Rounds two and three: to ramp up the action, I called on different qualities and strengths peculiar to JC: Which single Don't Want would JC bitch-slap, as a brutal warrior, into submission today--and how? How would JC inspire his 'inner troops' to tackle today a top Do Want? How would JC have mastered and ruled one top issue I need to let go of?

As you see, I'd begun using my trusty Moleskine notebook as something far more than a diary or log. I'd begun to take far bolder steps toward becoming an Action Manifester. And a major surprise added fuel to my fire: One day while checking my Inbox I found a notice from Linked-In. I clicked and had my jaw lowered: my favorite brother, X--the main reason I'd moved to Charlotte, but whom I'd grown estranged from after a family feud--had moved to Southern California.

And here I was in Charlotte with no further reason to be here. No family ties, no East coast ties. For all of an hour, I sat feeling crushed. But then I heard Jules taunting me...and I got down to business. Correction: I got down to business with a sense of urgency that I had never known.

Immediate goals: restore contact with my brother...try to reconnect with another lost part of past, in L.A....begin making immediate plans to prepare for a Top Secret move...make every attempt to re-connect with the entire family...begin prepping immediately to better my prospects for the move: rental and job references, Amazon sales, super-buff phyique.

Almost overnight, I saw a dramatic difference within the 3x5 Moleskine itself. The final section of each day, tagged Inspired Actions, had always run about 6-8 lines. Now it runs up to a page.And the urgent sense keeps growing: Acquire more research on my destination...Contact B for changes for new cover to The Suiting...Email brother X...Respond immediately to his email...Get email addresses for other estrange siblings...Strengthen bond with present boss...Lunch w/Z re writing/editing position to make more money for the move...Etc.

Results: invitation to nephew's wedding, in Charlotte, this December--a chance to meet most of the family...with five months to mend the past rift. A growing friendship with Miss G, a young lady I've bonded with online, who's become not just a friend but an ally and a partner in planning the cross-country move. A highly supportive new Twitter network that loves and touts endlessly my Boss MacTavin mysteries. Near-completion of the rewrite required for the upcoming 25th anny edition of The Suiting. Receipt of the hours I need at both jobs to finance the cross-country move in 2014.

And, oh yes: the physique I want is beginning to show.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

OMG, its' coming--EEEEEEEE!

A family emergency has taken up my time this week--that, and wrapping up the rewrite of THE SUITING for its 25th anny edition in August.

But there's no keeping a wicked man down:

The long-awaited 6th chapter of REB MACRATH, ACTION MANIFESTER will be published here next week. More action, more humor, more wild razzmatazz!

The Action Manifesting plan has taken a dramatic turn I know you're going to love. Suddenly the stakes have grown infinitely higher--and Reb, as you'll learn, has been gleefully game.

Hang on tight, friends--here it comes!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Master Hwang In Shik's Great Question

Here's an important life lesson that I only recently came to apply to my writing.

The first martial art I studied was Hapkido, which would eventually lead me to a much longer time in Aikido. But back then, in Toronto, Hapkido was gaining more interest--thanks, in part, to the film Billy Jack. I'd begun in one school that, like most others, advertised its teachings of a dozen martial arts--with hopes of picking up oodles of students. So, a school might really teach Kung Fu but advertise Kick Boxing, Aikido, Hapkido, etc. I'd started off at such a school, let down and faintly disgusted by its commercial crassness and failure to deliver what it was that I'd set out to learn.

Well! Along came this little Korean named Master Hwang In Shik with an authentic 100% Hapkido academy...and a background that included films with Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. I was hooked at our first meeting and stayed with him for years, until I returned to the States. A tough call. I'd fought long and hard for the right to go home--and I debated fiercely about staying in Toronto with this incredible teacher.

What was the great lesson he taught me? The locks and holds and throws had always interested me most, way over the punches and kicks. But one night he said something to me that would continue to reverberate long after my martial arts injuries caught up with my poor  body. This particular night I'd gotten distracted, so badly I couldn't perform in the class. All I could do was stand there and watch one young visitor from another school do back flips and high spinning kicks like Bruce Lee. Now, Master Hwang himself had always expressed pure contempt for movie-style antics, insisting that Lee had basically killed himself with those high-tension angry faces and cat-like kiais. Master Hwang saw what had caught my eye and watched me with amusement. Finally, he took me aside and said:

"Listen to me carefully. That boy is good, he's very good, at movie martial arts. But who will still be kicking thirty years from now?"

A week or so ago I Googled Eagle and Hapkido...and, lo and behold, I found the link below. Master Hwang In Shik is indeed still kicking. And thanks to him, I believe, I'm still kicking also--though no longer in a dojo. And also thanks to Master Hwang, I don't pay any mind at all to flashy ebook wonders that come along with promotional back flips and endless kiais of MeMeMe...with one or two books to their credit.

The only thing that counts is this: Who will still be kicking five or ten books down the line?

Here's the link for you to have a look at actor/fighter/teacher Master Hwang In Shik: