Monthly Archives: August 2011

Angst

Just about when I start telling myself that maybe I see things a bit too darkly, maybe I let that ennui, the ‘ol rolling blah infiltrate too deeply into my cerebral cortex, something like this happens.  My wife has been working for several years now with kids, keeping them constructively busy in after school programs so they’ll stay off the streets and out of their otherwise latchkey afternoons and early evenings.  She gets a lot out of it, and so do the kids, who grow very attached to the people looking after them.  It’s the kind of thing you’d imagine would build up nice karma cushions for all those concerned in that kind of work.  Well, two nights ago, at three o’clock in the morning, a car speeding down Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the west San Fernando Valley hit a pole, careened, hit a few other things and finally  came to a brutal stop.  Inside the car were two people, one of whom was a young woman my wife had worked with in the after school program operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The woman, her name was Jennie, was twenty three years old.  Her boyfriend, at the wheel, was twenty seven.  God only knows why they were going as fast as they were, why they went into that curve near Lassen Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard maybe just a little too high, a little too quick to hug the road.

Nobody”s going to be able to explain this adequately to Jennie’s four year old little boy, the light of her life.  Nobody’s going to be able to reconcile what happened with the fact that she’d just a couple months before finished getting her degree at California State University, Northridge. Nobody’s going to be able to really make sense of why a young life full of potential and good spirit needed to wind up inside a mangled white and black metal body along Topanga.  They could’ve stayed home.  They could’ve been sitting in a restaurant.  They could’ve been making love, making popcorn, making plans.

It makes no sense that some people live to ripe old ages and don’t appreciate it — or maybe they do, I don’t know, I’m not there yet — while others get cheated out of the absolute best their lives were going to give them.  It certainly makes me, for one, look around and give quiet thanks for the fortunate, good long run I’ve been on.  I hope that for more than  one day or so, I remember and appreciate what I have, what’s around me, what I see when I go to the beach or the bathroom or the market or… you name it.  It’s going to make me treasure any little encounter I have with my sons, my nephew, of course my wife, even my dog.  Because the person who I believe must be hurting the most is the other now-staggered soul who lived with Jennie.  Her mother.  I can’t even conceptualize what the parent who survives their child’s sudden, violent death must cope with and try to overcome.  She’s got to be there for her grandson.  Hell, she’s probably having enough trouble just being there for herself.  She’s going to run the events of that early morning through her mind a million times over the rest of her own life, and not once will it make sense, seem right, seem even possible. And she’ll have to live with that anvil on her chest.

So me, the ambitious writer, living in denial of the effects of gravity on a body significantly older than Jennie’s ever got to be, thinks that this really is the random, lurching, bull-in-a-china-closet reality I thought it was, after all.  Demolishing unpredictably, demolishing predictability.  The greatest power in the universe is an amalgam of chance, entropy, unfortunate collision and undeserved pain.  The poet described life as nasty, brutish, and short when discussing the medieval survival chances of the average man.  Well, nowadays medieval times isn’t just a bad dinner theater in Anaheim or Buena Park or wherever it is.  It’s still what we’re living in.  It’s all around us when we’re riding in little japanese cars at three o’clock in the morning on Topanga, and the Bad Luck Spirits are out upon the land.  It’s a hunter and a killer, a panther, coyote, or telephone pole.  It’s the reason you give another quiet little sigh of thanks — to whomever you think might be listening — when you come up that freeway off ramp at the end of a late night high speed ride from the other side of town, or farther.  And you can relax for a while, because tonight the unexpected sudden stop against the immovable object wasn’t in your cards.  The Bad Luck Spirits attached themselves, lamprey style, to someone else’s back.


A Brand New Gunslinger

I just watched the guts of Rick Perry’s announcement (which he’d tipped everyone off to in a shameless bit of pre-announcement announcing for days before) that he’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination.  I think he’s going to get it, because he’s a really great demagogue, and clearly has figured out the best way to slither into the consciousness of his “base”.  He’s a frightening, skilled propagandist, and he has no problem, surprise-surprise, lying through his teeth.  He actually pretends to want to help the little guy get work by preserving the sanctity of every last cent the corporations and ultra-wealthy are hoarding.  He actually wants to dump even more onto the backs of the already beaten-down average joe.  He says it’s all Obama’s fault, and that somehow the president has an “obsession” with taking more and more of the hard-earned taxpayers’ money and giving it to the “central government” to “spread the wealth”.  How many virulent buzz words can you cram into a sentence, Rick?  He is far better at this than George W. Bush.  Somebody called him George W. on steroids, and they’re right.  He knows how to rouse his base, knows how to get phrases like “grace of God” into his text, and reminds me chillingly of Jimmy Swaggert.  When we find out that he’s cheating on his wife, he’s going to cry, beg our forgiveness, and grovel like a champ.

I’m going to keep this particular blog simple and fast, because I don’t want to obfuscate or confuse by trying to be clever and artsy-fartsy in the writing.  This is THE MOST IMPORTANT BLOG I MAY EVER WRITE, BECAUSE IF THIS EVIL MAN WINS THE WHITE HOUSE, WE ARE ROYALLY FUCKED. Pardon my french, but sometimes only french can get it said.  He is bad news, and then he’s worse news.  Everyone with a working brain needs to be aware, to be afraid, and to be VOTING AGAINST RICK PERRY.


All The Latest Conveniences

Today I launched my second book on the internet, via a platformy thing called “Smashwords”, which always manages to conjure up a red line underneath it when I include it in any sort of written statement.  What I’ve discovered in launching the first book, about a month ago (if that) is only magnified now.  That is: having an ebook or two or five or whatever out there is a GIGANTIC undertaking, and the hardest part of it all is not the writing of the tome, it’s the allotment of the time required to make the world realize that it, and me, are out there at all.  There are enough ebooks released daily to gag a library.  So it’s a little like the very start of the Boston or New York or LA Marathons: that foot you’re stepping on may be your own.

This is magnified by the stark reality that I am not a candidate for Most Knowledgable Person Of The Year when it comes to anything computer-related, which includes figuring out how you navigate the ins and outs of almost anything: getting book reviews, setting up links, blogs (okay, I did figure out how to get this one happening, but it was a FLUKE!), and the avalanche of other terms and “conveniences” and handy electronic shortcuts that others seem to have mastered so effortlessly.  Sure, I could hire somebody to do a lot of these things for me, as I know many of my writing bretheren and sisteren have done, but money unfortunately is an issue in this day and age, and most other writers who’ve given me advice point out that it’s nothing I can’t do myself if I just apply the ‘ol brain to the task.  Yah.  Everybody seems to be entranced with the notion of how the new frontier of ebook publishing — that is to say, largely, self publishing — is the wave of the future, if not the present.  What they don’t necessarily broadcast is that it means the author often has to be the whole business.  The salesperson, the PR person, and all the other persons a publisher spares authors from being.  If I didn’t have a very good and valuable friend named Allan Cole, an author himself of some note and a seasoned veteran of all these electronic wars from ‘way back, to help me when I’d otherwise be pulling my remaining hair out over formatting, ISBNs, and any number of do’s, don’ts, and don’t-even-think-about-its — well, let’s just say I’d be hairless.  (And probably nowhere to be found on Smashwords, CreateSpace, and most of the other places I’ve managed to pop up.)  It is CONFUSING.

Another great source of comfort and help has come from the LinkedIn thread I’ve been addicted to for many weeks now.  On it, any number of writers with a great deal more success and experience than I have are more than willing to come forth with genuinely valuable advice — some of which I am actually competent enough to follow.  Currently I’m delving into how in the world to get these books reviewed, which seems to be the next vital building block in my progress as an ebook marketer/author.   Then, lying ahead like lurking sharks, are book functions, writers’ conferences, and God knows what other pitfalls and pratfalls I’ll find along the way.  What, I often mutter to myself when I should be falling asleep, does all this have to do with the quaint, almost forgotten urge to write?  Sometimes I really don’t know.  About a week ago I wrote a piece in this blog about how rewarding it was when my Dad really loved my new book.  How that particular phenomenon, getting satisfaction when a family member or other respected person really likes what you’ve done, and the How-To-Succeed-In-Business-Without-Really-Tryingness of the ebook-plugging frenzy that is part and parcel of “the new authoring” can ever coexist and get along cozily in the same person’s brain is at present beyond me.  Not that I’m losing enthusiasm.  On the contrary, I’m itching to get started on the third book.  I even know what it’s about.  But first… (ahem)… I’ve got to get the second one ready for CreateSpace, the “print on demand” wing of Amazon that lets readers order actual physical book versions of the very ebooks that I have been jumping through hoops trying to get comfortable with.  So if you like to hold the book in your hand and that Kindle is maybe a little too thin and light to feel like a book… well, you get the idea.  But I really will get to do some writing on the third book once I’ve conquered CreateSpace one more time.  Unless I’m just too damn tired.