Friday, November 11, 2011

HOUSEWORK, WRITING, AND A NEW FERRARI

With no apologies to either writers or housewives…

This morning, I got up extra early to turn out some bread dough into parchment-lined baguette cradles. It was ready for baking, because it had completed a second overnight fermentation and rise, as is customary for a true Parisian baguette. I washed dishes, burned paper garbage, emptied the drainer, took the wet garbage out to the kerb, started a load of washing and made espresso—all before 07:00. I was privileged, compelled, and pleased to do all this because I am a writer—a neurotic writer and a seasoned bachelor.

I am privelged to do housework because I work at home in erratic fits and starts. I am not one of those writers that has the discipline to keep regular hours. I am at the end of year three in a ten year project to learn to write and to earn a good living from writing. Having no TV and no interesting substance addictions to keep me busy, I have to fill my time when I am not writing doing something. And if that something is mindless and productive and saves money, so much the better…

Housework is, by and large, mindless and repetitive; that is why housewives hate it. That is why writers love it.  It frees the “better parts” of the mind to develop character and hatch out plots. It is not as good as lying on the sofa dreaming up plot details, but that has its drawbacks as well, if you consider napping a drawback.

Housework also sets the stage for writing, because I find it difficult to work in a messy environment. And since I work in the house and can’t afford a housekeeper (see paragraph below) making my living quarters neat is a part of the writing process. Fortunately I am a both a guy and a mature guy (read: “can’t see very well anymore”) so I don’t need to do much cleaning because I have a real hard time seeing dirt. Dirt is so small.

I am compelled to do all this housework because, if you are unaware of it, let me remind you that writers are poor, by and large. Doing my own work saves money. Doing my own cooking saves even more money. Killing my own wild game saves me yet more money and allows me more opportunities to meditate on plot and character. I spent over 40 hours, motionless, staring at empty woods and fields before the first deer decided to walk in front of my bow.

Since I am proud of being my own housekeeper, I have never been interested in finding a woman to be my housemistress. I have always been looking for my ideal woman who is #1. : looking for a wife for herself and who is #2.: interested in supporting me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

I have certainly found my #1 recently, and as for #2—well—I may have to settle for settling for supporting my own self in the style to which I have become accustomed—poverty with occasional starbursts of extravagance. She’s a gem who likes my cooking and some other things about me that I do well. Who needs her meddling in my kitchen or buying me a new Ferrari every year?

When I start writing a blog, I never know where it will end up.  Part of the fun…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

...BEER, BLOGGING AND REMARKS ABOUT TROUSERS

Photo by me
The following was written originally as a letter to KLP (seen above).

You inadvertently gave me the topic for my next blog when you told me you were having trouble writing yours.

Art is the product of leisure. Humans did not make a lot of art until there were enough surpluses in the food supply system to allow for frivolity. Even writing a factual information-based blog such as yours requires what I most often call "staring-at-the-ceiling-time", because I do a lot of my writing in nap position on the sofa.. Other times, I write while I am walking or running, when my knees permit. 

Of course, writing is a job, but it is not always a job that is carried out with pen in hand or fingers on keys. That is the mechanical part of writing or rewriting. But writing is only a small part of writing, oddly enough. Art is the product of leisure, albeit a focused and disciplined leisure, sometimes. Typing is not writing; it is just typing.

No one knows where creativity comes from, but when it comes, the trick is to quiet the "noise machine" that is running constantly in the human brain so that the creative thoughts can fight their way onto the page. Only Zen Masters can quiet the "noise machine" totally, but the writer has to be able to quiet it down enough on enough occasions to let the creativity flow. It is a trick. And if lying on the sofa or running or peeling potatoes or taking a bath works, don't be afraid to leave the keyboard and pick up a veggie peeler or a bottle of bubble bath.

Once upon a time, I wrote a lot of poetry and some of it was excellent and some just maudlin school-boyish rambling, but during the one or two year "poetry period" I never wrote one verse unless I had at least one alcoholic drink in me and usually one and a half or two. After three drinks, the creativity stopped, replaced by the meaningless muttering of an alcohol buzz. Not one poem sober... I needed the alcohol to shut down the "noise machine" in my brain, but not to replace the noise with the inevitable  incompetence is inebriation. Now, writing prose, which requires more time than one or two hundred word poems, alcohol is not my drug of choice. since a good prose writing session consists of writing 500 to 1500 words in an hour or three--at least 300 words past the point of inebriation were I to be drinking.  An 88,000 word novel would require drinking about 500 liters of beer at a cost of about $3000 in money, buying larger pant sizes and getting a liver transplant. I know I have to suffer for art, but buying larger pants is a price I am not willing to pay.









Thursday, November 3, 2011

MORE A THAT SILLY WRITIN' ABOUT WRITIN' STUFF




In this here writin’ thang, I never experienced the early-onset hubris I did my first few years in photography many decades ago.  I never imagined any of my writing was good or great or (horrors!) perfect. I never needed to be ‘taken down a peg or two’ in order to get back to honing my craft instead of patting myself on the back. Oh, some of my poetry was first class, but great poems are sometimes a gift that falls into the hands of a modestly aware human who has the good sense to write them down before they go back to where they came from. Prose ain’t like that. Prose is a marriage—a way of life –and sometimes just a fu_kin’ chore like scrubbin’ the floor.

No, I never suffered hubris (in case you are to lazy to look it up, hubris is a Greek word for the ‘sin of pride’ {the kind that goeth before the fall, eh?}).  But I was starting to suffer from the sin of complacency. I thought my writin’ was pretty good and was slowly getting better and wasn’t that just peachy. Well… Welllll, yesterday someone finally had the guts to not be diplomatic about criticizing my ‘best’ book—Surfing Vietnam. It was not as though he wasn’t trying his best to be diplomatic; it is just that he was born without the ‘diplomacy gene’. And to make it worse, my critic was intelligent and picked out some things to criticize that I secretly suspected were weak (“the heartbreak of psoriasis”), but was just too lazy to fix. I was chastened, but not wounded or angry. I was not motivated by the chastening to change anything about anything—my writing style or plans.  I just filed it, under ‘chastening’ and was gearing up to forget it, as I am wont to do with chastenings.

Then (ta da!) out of the blue, another person sends me an e mail praising the hell out of my tear-ass funny blogs and asking me why the hell I don’t write novels that are tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex.  Golly, I couldn’t answer the question of ‘why not’, so I let go and started writing a new novel that was tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex. No plot yet, no plan, just free-form writing… That felt good to me.

I betcha it’ll feel good to the reader too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BLUDGEONED BY THE BLANDNESS OF THE BORG


I am in an airport. It doesn’t matter which airport. They are all the same. If the goal of all malls, strip malls, subdivisions, and fast food joints is to look and feel the same the world over, that goal has been achieved in the airport. These glorified bus terminals are the unconscious, yet intentional, archetypal crowning achievement of Western civilization.  One size fits all…

It is impossible to discern any one particular offensive feature of an airport, because there are none. Airports are completely inoffensive in detail.  It is the totality of the airport experience that is offensive. Endless empty spaces, brightly lit—efficiency encapsulated in a flavorless, colorless, odorless cocoon. There are no random acts of whimsy, no evidence of the messy hand of man or the benevolent hand of god in the design. Some great airport-making machine in an airport-making factory spit this and every other airport out of its neutral-colored plastic airport-spitting maw.

But it is the people processing policies that really make the airport the embodiment of modern Western civilization’s descent into a ubiquitous insidious mind-numbing colorless evil.  Saints and sinners, millionaires and paupers are submitted to the same unsmilingly democratic humiliation at security. We are forced to appear barefoot and stripped of all adornment when entering the technological judgment temple of "security". We pass through the arches to be measured by the wizard’s wand.  We are thus separated into worthy sheep or unworthy goats. Woe be to the goats.

None of these processes or procedures is carried out with obvious malice, but with quiet determined efficiency and not particularly well veiled threats. When we are enmeshed in these processes and procedures, we dare not speak, fearing we may utter the wrong words. We dare not make a sudden move or an exuberant gesture. We shuffle along, sheep-like and exhibit no emotion, taking our cues for our emotionless behavior from the emotionless uniformed acolytes who are our examiners and judges. Examiners and examined, we are all part of ‘the system’ and, as such, we may no longer allow ourselves to have personality, particularity or peculiarity.

I am in an airport. The loudspeaker intones, “We are now boarding rows 13 through 21. We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.” 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

.....WINTER IN FLORIDA--GATOR HUNTIN'

photo by me

Dear faithful blog fans in Ontario: I am in Florida. It is winter here now in this appendage stuck on the bottom right of the New Nighted States called Florida. It got down to 56 degrees last night. No, that is not hot enough to fry an egg of the hood of your car, it is just the funny way they have of telling the temperature. 56 degrees means it is about half way between freezing and room temperature. It is going up to 76 today, which is above room temperature a little.  The natives wear sweaters in the winter here and eat inside the restaurant rather than on the patio at 76 degrees. They are people who have lost all their innate adaptability to live in a normal climate.

And fat!  These people are fat, by and large and should be able to withstand living at room temperature outside, if the old saw about having to have some insulation to withstand cold is true. These people are so fat they should be able to enjoy casual dining on an iceberg. The only cold they can seem to tolerate is the 56 degree (those are funny degrees again, of which I speak) temperature in the malls and offices caused by what can only be the widespread and almost universal malfunctioning of the air conditioning systems.

Well, the gator huntin' is going well, anyway. Got me three big 'ums so far all gutted and froze and ready to fly back to Canada on Monday. Coming for dinner?

Friday, October 28, 2011

CIA VIDEO-10 INCHES AND PINK

Photo by me



Yesterday was my birthday. I was with my Sweet Petunia all day. She took the day off from her demanding job to be with me. The day started with a pumpkin cake for breakfast, baked by her new daughter-in-law (yummy!) and ended at the sex shop.

Now I am no stranger to sex itself.  I tried it once, and it didn’t hurt too much, and I might even try it again someday, but I have never visited a sex shop. My first visit yesterday was not my idea. I was born in the Midwest, into a rabidly moderate sect of Lutherans and attended a small Christian college (for small Christians). For the whole story of my youth, read my first book, Surfing Vietnam. I am simply not given to public displays of sexuality. For instance, my behavior riding the Gay Pride float at the Ilderton Agricultural Society Fall Fair Parade is extremely circumspect. I wear generously cut bib jeans and never make rude hip thrusts in response to the goading of goggle-eyed onlookers outside the pub. I am keen to demonstrate that I am gay-positive, but positively not gay.

The Sex Shop

It was night. The balmy late October air on the Orange Blossom Trail made me feel drowsy and safe as it streamed through the open sunroof of my Sweet Petunia’s sport scar. She was driving us home from our romantic dinner on the patio of the best restaurant in this here part of Florida. Suddenly Sweet Petunia hung a U-turn in the middle of the O B Trail and slid her sleek machine into the garishly lit parking lot of “Orlando’s Biggest and Best Adult Superstore”. My heart nearly stopped. My sainted mother’s face appeared in the glare on the windscreen and I heard her voice saying, “Try to keep your hands above the sheets when you sleep. You’re a big boy now and will be getting urges.” I saw the face of my old German Lutheran minister appear next to hers and heard his sonorous preacher voice intoning to us Confirmation Class boys his favorite passages from the 1912 Official Boy Scout Handbook—the ones that dealt with “self-abuse”—still, I believe, 99 years later, the definitive text dealing with that subject.

And there I was, in my sixth decade, with my Sweet Petunia, about to enter the hot red neon-encircled doors of the adult superstore. She parked between a big BMW sedan with heavily tinted windows and a full-sized black Hummer.  A “working girl” was patrolling her stroll on the sidewalk in front of the store, baring as much shiny tan skin as was legal, to the endless delight of the endless stream of traffic on the Orange Blossom Trail. I kind of knew from watching all six seasons of The Wire (twice) the kind of person who drove the kind of vehicles we had parked between—the kind of person who employed the kind of person walking up and down in front of the store. I feared that if we entered the store that that kind of person might snatch my Sweet Petunia and offer her employment, drugs with foreign names and a new wardrobe. But enter I did, clutching her shirttails with my sweaty hands.

The store reeked of artificial strawberry scent, that I later confirmed was leaking from the flavored edible undies packages that lined half of one super wall in the superstore. I was surprised that the store was brightly lit—glaring almost. I had hoped for a more subdued atmosphere—one with dark corners, perhaps, in which I might lurk while SP shopped for items I am too delicate to name. The bright lights, I supposed, were meant to facilitate the workings of the dozens of video cameras that infested the store, which I knew for sure were directly linked to the FBI, CIA, IRS, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I envisioned the bored civil servants manning the monitors saying, “We got him now. Nailed the bastard… We always suspected that Hockings character was a f_cking pervert. Let’s audit his sales tax reports.”

After SP and I passed the clothing displays near the door, where most of the mannequins had bodies that put to shame the last three of Hugh Hefner’s wives, we came to two long aisles (four sides, seven feet tall) with nothing but vibrators and dildos. The overwhelming sense of inadequacy I felt looking at the size of the dildos and imagining electro-technical proficiency of the vibrators could only be matched by standing next to Hulk Hogan in the gym doing bicep curls with a pink vinyl-coated five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Yes, that inadequate…

The dildos seemed to have muscle tone. I can tell you that from my observations in the locker room at the YMCA that few organic male humans have muscle tone “down there.”
And as for inadequacy, in the face of the vibrators, well, you only have to ask a modern woman about the joys of technology compared to the sorrows of the organic. Let’s just say I used to read a lot of feminist essays in the 70’s and have never fully recovered.

Not finding what she wanted, my SP asked me to ask a clerk for assistance. Asked me to ask!
Real men don’t ask for directions when they are lost in the desert, much less for help in an adult superstore. Every item in an adult superstore should be intuitively or instinctively obvious to a man of the world. Can you imagine James Bond tapping the shoulder of a bored clerk in a sex shop and squeaking out in the tiny cracked voice, most befitting a pimpled pubescent school boy, “Excuse me ma’m, which one of these has the fastest speed, and which one can you safely use with a silicone based lube?” Pointing vaguely in the direction of 369 vibrators…

“I’d recommend this pink one,” she says indicating a 10-inch long 3 inch thick item with a lot of “muscle tone”.  “And it takes just two popular double A batteries, which I can give you gratis, if you exercise your option to purchase this quality device.”  An English major drop out from FSU working at the sex shop by night and writing a powerful feminist novel by day…

“How do I know it’s really quiet and really powerful?” I asked in my schoolboy voice, staring at the tassels on my Bass loafers.  I looked around for my SP for support in my questioning.  SP was at the end of the aisle reading the packaging of some devices whose function, I am sure, would elude me.

“I can demonstrate it for you.” She adds coyly.

“Gulp.” I said, and after a beat, “Have you tried them all?”

“No, sugar; I’d never make it to work, if I did that.” As she ground here massive breasts into my arm and smiled.  She made her sale.

I looked up at the video camera and wondered what the boys at the CIA were saying.










Thursday, October 27, 2011

NAKED LUNCH AND BOWHUNTING-- “See the clown Mommy! See the clown.”


 Photo by me
My former writing teacher, Susan Swan, respected Canadian author and public intellectual, has been posting on Facebook about the personal and the political. Remember the Seventies slogan: “The personal is the political.”  That sort of conversation… It is from that discussion that I was inspired to write this blog.

Decades ago, in my photographic career, an agricultural magazine, hired me to do the illustrations for a piece on a new factory-farming hog operation. What I saw (and I will not describe it out of delicacy), disgusted me so deeply, that I decided then and there to not support the hog industry by eating pork.  My pork consumption is very low and sometimes nil for months. I am not perfect in my resolve, but not bad.

I once visited a slaughterhouse. It was not nearly as offensive as the factory hog farm, because the animals there only suffer for minutes or hours and not for many months. I suggest a visit to a slaughterhouse should be required for small children before they are allowed to visit the magic kingdom of Ronald McDonald, under the Golden Arches.

William Burroughs wrote the book Naked Lunch. He defined a “naked lunch” as “a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." Indeed.

I am present at the death of almost every animal I eat and am aware of what it takes to put meat my fork. I am not living in denial—denying the life imprisonment and horrifying execution of the pig in my Sausage McMuffin suffered.  “See the clown, Mommy! See the clown!”

Killing with a bow is not a pretty thing; sometimes it is downright gruesome, but it is not factory farming.  Field dressing and butchering is disgusting.  I hunt for meat because my meat is the very definition of free-range, and it is not as though the animal I kill was not going to die anyway, eventually, of something. The “something” is usually winter starvation and, just about as commonly, predation or a parasite infestation combined with malnutrition. No matter how briefly painful it might be for my animal to die from a broadhead at the end of my arrow, it is kinder than any other way that animal was going to die “naturally”, unless it has the good fortune to run into the path of a transport truck.

I know what is on the end of my fork.

I respect vegetarians.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

... "IN A RELATIONSHIP" ON FACEBOOK !!!

photo by Fred Hockings 
I am “in a relationship” on Facebook with a "named person".

As Facebook  is a public place (as public as any wedding) and as we have between us 254 “friends” that we have “invited” to the “announcement” of our  new “in a relationship”-with-a-named-person status, and as our photographs are now joined on the top row of our “Friends List”, I ponder what it all means in terms of the level and depth of commitment this requires of us.

In conversation with the “named person” last night, I threw out the suggestion that it meant about the same level of commitment as the giving of letter jacket in high school and she added that she felt it would be like wearing a guy’s high school ring on a chain.
We both agreed that is was probably not the same as getting engaged, but that it approached the level of being “engaged to be engaged”—a term I coined (or possibly borrowed ) in high school when I gave C. a real gold-plated cultured black pearl ring for Christmas. (C. and I  never did get engaged engaged, but then, we never had sex either.)

The “named person” and I are on a road never traveled—the road of  “in a relationship” on Facebook. We must boldly go where no one of us has gone before. Despite our different taste in music and the fact that we will never be able to share clothing, (She is a size zero and I am a woman’s 18; one of us is going to have to seriously alter our diet.) we have committed to working this thing out on a day-to-day basis, trying to move from our two current commonalities: liking dogs and liking same beer style, to a more fully realized multi-faceted level of intimacy. Meanwhile I have been looking for genuine gold-plated cultured black pearl rings at a good price.

I may also have to change my profile photo from that of me as a three-year old boy in a cowboy suit to a photo taken sometime in the current century. The cowboy photo makes the “named person” look kinda silly for being “in a relationship” with a man more than half a century her junior.  “Cougar” doesn’t even come close.

Friday, October 21, 2011

SURVIVING UR 4TH MARRIAGE--a guest post by Sasquatch

PHOTO BY ME

Rules #1.  Get a pre-nup.  Do this by assuring her that you have less money than she has (you probably do, since you have three ex-wives) and that you are doing a pre-nup to protect her.

Rule #2. Do not criticize her children or even comment. Even if they are convicted bank robbers or pedophiles, to her, they are still just innocent babies. On the other hand, gracefully accept suggestions she makes regarding your children; she is making them out of a concern for your and their welfare.

Rule #3. Do not tell her she is fat, unless you have done a really good pre-nup. Also you need not comment if she is losing weight.  If she is losing weight, she is either having an affair, planning an affair or has cancer. In any case, she will not be around much longer, so commenting on her weight loss is not going to garner you any long-term favor. Skip it.

Rule #4. Learn to kiss. Women like to kiss more than f_ck. Kissing can sometimes progress to f_cking, so it is worth the effort.  If you do not know how to kiss, rest assured it can be taught. Look in your local advertiser paper under “Services: erotic” or Google “escorts” in your hometown. Because hookers like to kiss about as much as wives like to give BJ’s, you may have to assure your sexual service person that you will use a dental dam during the lesson.

Rule #5. Never ask her for a BJ. When you are getting one and it is her idea or your birthday, act surprised and very grateful. Do not mention that the other three wives never did this. Mentioning the other three will ruin her concentration and she won’t believe you anyway. If she never gives you a BJ, see Rule #4, about kissing for suggestions regarding outsourcing the service. Learn how to clear the history on your browser and your phone when outsourcing BJ’s. Also see Rule # 1. about the pre-nup.

Rule #6. Never drive her car. Especially when she is in it. It is jinxed and will run into something within the first mile. She will never let you forget the accident, especially if she spills coffee on her suede pants when you hit the school bus full of children.

Hint #1. Learn to cook one meal, and make it a fancy meal. She wants to brag to her friends about your cooking, and occasionally show you off to guests, and the one meal that you have down pat should be enough. Do not learn a second, or you will be cooking full-time.

Hint #2. Show affection in public. Watch your dog piss on every pole and bush on his walk. Having you show affection to her in public is like that to your wife. It announces to all the bitches observing the show that you belong to her, even if she is not particularly interested in similar affection you display at home. That kind of affection is not socially useful, but just cuts into her knitting time and interrupts her favorite TV shows.

Hint #3. Lock up your old clothing. She wants to throw out those great pants you wore at your second wedding and the letter jacket you let your high school girlfriend wear to your swim meets. See the above section about dogs pissing on lamp posts.

Hint #4. Mark date nights on your calendar. You want to be able to point to physical marks on a physical calendar to show that you do indeed take her out frequently, when she says “I can’t remember the last time we went out.” Keep receipts as supporting evidence. She is truly convinced that you never take her out and you need to build your case in advance.

Hint #5. Sit down to pee. Women hate seeing pee drops around the toilet. She might even try to force you to clean them up. Humiliating!!! See the first rule about the pre-nup, when she tries to make you clean the floor. It is easier to sit down at night than to blast your eyes by turning on the light—particularly if you have been drinking. Japanese men all sit down, and they are still sexist as hell. Sitting will not make you girly, but it might make you Japanese. But here is the best part, put the seat up, after you sit down and piss. It will show dominance (women do not really like wimpy compliant men), and it will allow your wife to brag to her girlfriends that “my husband never splashes on the floor.” Her girlfriends might start attempting to kiss you in the hallway at parties when they are drunk. They will be convinced that you are a superhero. All this from just learning to sit and pee… Try it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

......THE TRUTH ABOUT FICTION


‎"A play is fiction - and fiction is fact distilled into truth."
                               - Edward Albee -

My first book, and still my favorite baby, Surfing Vietnam, started out as one first-person, autobiographical short story.  It grew into three autobiographical first-person short stories. I got the inspiration from seeing those stories on paper to write a book of short stories, all linked by time and place and protagonist.  But in order to do that, I had to fudge some of the content that was straight autobiography; I compressed time, added new characters and changed sequences. Still true stories, but enriched with minor bits of plausibly fictional content...

To make the book long enough, I realized I had to add some stories that happened, not to me, but to my contemporaries. After doing that, I felt I had the license to (what the hell !) go ahead and make up a few stories that could have happened or even should have happened to my protagonist. Pure fiction...

The first draft was done. In reading it I realized how constraining it was to have written it in the first person. The protagonist was really no longer me.  He had a life of his own. Writing the book as a series of short stories gave the book a choppy and disjointed feel. So I rewrote the book in the third person, letting my protagonist breath his own air and live his own life. I linked the stories to make one long story with chapters in chronological order. I found the theme in this second draft and tweaked the stories, and the ending to serve that theme. There was a theme, I just didn't know it until I read the second draft.

So, is this book truth or mere "fiction". Which parts are autobiography and which are fantasy? I do not know how to answer that question, except to quote myself (and I am sure I am paraphrasing someone else unwittingly) "To write great fiction, you must always tell the truth." 

Maybe I read that Albee quote above before I saw it on my Facebook wall this morning, posted by John Gerry promoting one of his plays.
.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

....E-Book Economics

        
        “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” 


A fair number of e-book authors are opening up about sales figures and income generation.  A once taboo subject in the writing world...
I have blogged about the many advantages of never seeking to be published in paper, so I won't belabor that point. I did think I mentioned at one time or other that to earn the same living as a senior teacher in Ontario, a writer would have to write a Canadian bestseller every month of the year (for the first year--there are residual and foreign sales that come later).

So, I will outline my sales results for my three books so far published and my expenses in producing them (excluding my labor).  I have about $2000 invested in each book for editing, cover design, translation into e-languages and distribution. They have been on sale for various lengths of time, and the production money has been invested for various lengths of time too, so time is a wash.


I have a modest amount of other money invested, thank heavens, no longer in the stock market, and it is earning 1.23% interest. The money I have invested in e-books is, so far, earning me four times that percentage.  I am, in fact, earning more than four times as much, since the only sales figures I have on hand are for Amazon/Kindle and for my private sales site, MyBookOrders.  All the rest of the sales figures from Sony, Apple, Kobo and the many other sites on which I sell books, only come out quarterly. I have not been selling books for three months yet, only two, so I have no info.


Now for those of you who are math wizards, at a 6% return on capital, I would have to invest $300,000 in e-books to crack the Canadian poverty level of $18,000 yearly for a single person.  That means having 150 books up at the current rate of sale. Only 146 left to go to achieve a poverty level income from writing...  


I had better get busy writing and YOU had better get busy buying my books! Thank you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

.....WordsWordsWordsWrittenWords


Sometimes ( I was reminded of it again this morning), the written word can be one's best friend or one's worst enemy. In yesterday's blog, I used one particular word in place of what could have been easily been another five different words. Those five different words, I believe, would have conveyed the same meaning--without changing the nature of the thought one whit.  And yet someone read that one word of my dashed-off diatribe and found a whole world of meaning that caused some concern and wrote to me about that concern.

This is where the "enemy" part comes in. The written word is static.  It is what it is and just sits there like a lump, forever.  It does not disappear like words spoken in the wind. A written word can not be discounted. It can not be denied. I will not go away; it is available for reference far into the future. The reader presumes the author did not just spit the word out randomly in the heat of a complex discussion hastily held, but pondered each word choice for the same length of time the reader ponded it or even longer. That is why we must be careful what we write.  We must write to precisely and unambiguously convey the exact meaning we intend.  A hard f_uckng job...  That is why some folks are writers and other folks ain't. It's a hard f_uckng job.

On the other hand, the written word affords the time and distance necessary to say things that do not easily or often pop out a coherent manner from a human speaker standing in front of a live audience working without a script. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to do improv, and fewer still with the ability to do it well. That is why written words can become one's best friend. For example, the person who took issue with the meaning of that one word in my blog would not have had the ability to express the issue clearly standing in front of me just making it up on the spot. So the person wrote about the issue using the tools only written language gives us--time and distance.

In a distant time (tomorrow) I will expand on the above thesis. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"HAVING IT ALL"--PRINCESS DI & STEVE JOBS


When do we have it all?  What happens to people who have it all?  

It was obvious to me the first time I met her, that in terms of personal compatibility, we "had it all". And my observation has been confirmed and reconfirmed every day since. She and I behave "as if" we are the best match possible, and in doing so, make it the best match possible. Sometimes, and in this case it is true, thinking  makes it so.

But this blog is not about relationships, but about "having it all". I started out talking about an intimate relationship, because, for me, that has always been the hardest piece of the "having it all" puzzle to fit in place. I am healthy, productive, my books are getting good review and good sales (for early days), and I seem to have a lot of people around me who seem to like me. I have a dog who seems calm.  But I don't seem to "have it all". 

I am not recognized on the street, except in Ilderton, Ontario where I am well known for my chocolate chip cookies and for walking that pretty setter dog. Additionally, I have no "real" money and no secure financial future. 

Which leads me to ponder people who seem to have "had it all": Steve Jobs and Princess Di come to mind. What was life like waking up in the morning, looking good, with huge wealth, lots of productive activity scheduled and good personal relationships?  I am befuddled by the thought. I have never yet opened my eyes to such a scenario.  

I have always posited that we human animals are hardwired to worry and be on the alert. All animals have "flight or fight" hardwiring that is triggered more or less regularly and also food and sex-seeking behavior that is constantly tuned up and turned on, the latter during breeding season ( in humans, breeding season is every day). When we have all the health and wealth we need and all the sex we desire and we have security of person for ourselves and our families, what is left?  Where do we get our "jolts" in the "fight or flight" department and the "sex and food-seeking" department?  What happens to people who "have it all"?

Some of the books I have been reading recently (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Master Game) tell me that such people who "have it all" and do not seem realize they "have it all" continue to acquire food and sex and wealth far beyond their real needs, producing promiscuous, gluttonous, materialist pigs--people who live in a state of self-destructive anomie. Others who do realize they "have it all," often become depressed that there is nothing left to do with their lives. For example, I ask, how many millions of  North Americans are super excited to build their "dream home" and fill it with junk, only to be bored and depressed when they have it built and have to live in a palace filled with crap?  

Others may turn to creative or charitable pursuits. Others may seek "enlightenment" in mystical practices. It seems we are not meant to be happy when we "have it all". We are a species that is hardwired to need and want challenges and even threats to stimulate our action centers. We are not meant to be zoo animals who live in a state of torpor--even though we are our own zookeepers. North America as one big f_cking zoo...

All of the above leads me back to the personal, which is where I started--with this wonderful woman I met and the prospect of being happy with her forever. I have always needed threats to make me effective. I have always needed an empty belly to hunt effectively. I have always needed a "burr under my saddle" to run fast. Perhaps the realization that I am in my sixth decade and that THE FINAL THREAT is just around the corner will be enough of a threat to keep me keen and working and allow me to accept with good grace the love of this woman and  monetary rewards from writing. 

Oh, yeah, did I mention that Steve Jobs's system crashed--permanently--recently, and that Princess Di is now just skin and bone in a pretty black Catherine Walker dress?  Unsettling images that, oddly enough, afford me some insight...

Friday, October 14, 2011

I DIDN'T HAVE TIME--A RANT

PHOTO BY ME
I am told the Russians have a saying:  "It is not convenient." It is usually used in place of the ubiquitous North American saying: "I didn't have time." The Russians are being more honest.  Their version is another way of saying: "What you are asking me is way down on my priority list (as you are  too)."


The Rant:  In the past few weeks, I have asked, in a most kindly fashion, a number of people to review my books on Kindle--give it a star rating and write 20 words.  Some of these people I have begged in person as well as in phone calls or in follow-up e mails. These people are my friends or close associates. I have hand delivered the books to them free of charge (a print version costs me almost 20 bucks.) I supplied a link in the e-mail so they could go directly to the review page.  I timed how long it took me to complete the process of going to the link and writing a 20-word review.  It took me 1 minute and 12 seconds.  And I type slowly.


I specified to my readers that I was not expecting a good review.  I specified I was not asking for a lengthy or erudite review or a school book report. And almost no one bothered to take the 1 minute and 12 seconds from their "busy" lives to extend me the courtesy of helping me out.  Why?  I am sure their answer would be "I didn't have time." If they had said it in Russian, I would  have believed it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE

As boring as is sounds, I need routine in order to write.  Stability, order, cleanliness... I need a space in time that is surrounded by lots of nothing.  I know of lots of writers, most notably women, who get up at 4 A.M. after three hours of sleep and do the cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, and sneak in 15 minutes of writing before the kids get up and she goes off to her 13 hour day at in the executive suite. I am sure my mythical woman writes a few paragraphs on the can at work and at stoplights stuck in traffic on the commute home.

I can't do that. I need "clean time" surrounded by an ocean of nothing to do. I need six hours to write two because the two hours of work have to be preceded by and followed by two hours with no obligations.  I excoriate myself for this insane need for leisure as a prerequisite for doing any work, but it has been my mode for many years, including the years I pursued the art of photography. A bad habit I can cure with an act of will, like quitting smoking or losing weight or with hypnotism or psychotherapy or maybe drugs...  I dunno, this quirk is still with me into my sixth decade and has prevented me from writing ten times more novels than I have actually produced. Maybe those were crap books that didn't need to be written. Rationalize, Rationalize, Rationalize...

My lazy friends tell me I am the most productive person they know.  My productive friends have not seen fit to comment. I consider myself lazy, and feel guilty, but I feel guilty about a lot of things--forgetting to take my vitamins or going to bed without flossing or not giving my dog a long enough walk. I live in a fog of guilt.  My Executive Director friend Karen says that the person who makes the best employee is the most guilty person, and she has a graduate degree in management. What about being self employed, Karen?

Monday, October 10, 2011

LITCRIT SHIT-A DEARTH OF TESTOSTERONE

I finally received  some reviews of the above three books on the Amazon/Kindle site. The reviews run the gamut from raves to rants. But something has happened to my brain, without my willing it to happen.  I did not rage against the bad ones or even feel hurt by them; I learned something from them and really appreciated getting them--yes, I am talking about the bad ones.

Now, doing my writerly navel gazing, I wonder if my taking bad reviews with grace means I have finally matured in my 6th decade.  If that were provably so, it would worry me no end. That kind of knowledge could send me into a state of anomie from which I might never recover.

 Then I remembered talking to a woman who was taking hormone replacement .She told me there is testosterone in the mix she uses. That triggered my thinging that my placid acceptance of criticism and even  (horrors (!)) learning from it, might just be due to a lack of testosterone caused by aging.  That might also explain why I have been making so few enemies in the past few years. 

If you wish to review my books, search my name "James Hockings" on Kindle. Of course it would help to read them first. (hint, hint)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

.....WARNING: CHARACTERS RUN AMOK--GRAPHIC SEX SCENES...

My latest book is done--edited, cover designed, blurb almost finished and ready for translation into MOBI and ePub on Monday.  For sale soon on all popular retail on-line sales sites...!!

This book is the second (of three planned ) in the Max and Molly Murder Mystery Series. In this second book, we get further glimpses into the private lives, of M and M, rounding out their characters and making us care about them. The writing is taking on the character of a "buddy series" than a police procedural. This is good--good for me as a writer and good for the reader.  The characters themselves are demanding this.  I created such quirky personalities in the first book that it would be unusual if they did not demand to be heard in their own voices in the second. I shudder and also am excited to think what these characters will do in the third book.  Stay tuned.

We are social animals. The strongest and best writing is about relationships and not about clever plot and cunningly designed language. Language and plot are there to underscore and amplify the truth of the social interaction in the work.

Oh, yeah, sex.... Molly has some graphic sex scenes in this second book. Hey, it was her idea, not mine. Max wanted me to leave them out.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

MICHAEL ONDAATJE AND PUFF PASTRY


Not every writer has talent that is limited to writing.  As I asked KP, when she commented favorably on one of my non-commercial talents (no, I will not tell you which one) , "Why does it seem the least bit strange that the creativity that drives me [to distraction sometimes) should slop over into areas other than writing and photography?"  Slop over it does.  This fine morning, in the sad absence of KP, the slop is slopping over in the kitchen. All day... (Idle hands are the Devil's playthings.)

I harvested my window box of basil, whipped it in the blender with some water and am freezing the basil slush into ice cubes to pop into sauces this winter. I am also using some basil in the pasta sauce I have on the stove with the last of my garden tomatoes and peppers.

I mixed some bread to rise and rest overnight for baking on Sunday or Monday.

The venison steaks are thawing. I will roast them smothered with the wild mushrooms I harvested on the way back from my last five mornings of unsuccessful deer hunting.  I am beginning to suspect the deer have all migrated to Florida, not wanting to face another Ontario winter like last year's. 

Chocolate chip cookies (yes, the grand prize-winning recipe I used for the Ilderton Fair) are next up on my cooking agenda.

Oh, right, I forgot to mention Michael Ondaatje. I hear he makes a fine puff pastry.



Thursday, October 6, 2011

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOG

My not-so-sainted mother used to ask me rhetorically, "If you don't blow your own horn, who will?"

Well, listen to my horn blow. I just won first prize in the Chocolate Chip Cookie baking category at the 160th annual Ilderton Agricultural Fair. (It took the judges 12 hours to come down after tasting them).  This is no trifling category like whole wheat bread or the best decorated ice cream cone.  This is one of those categories that can lead to everlasting fame in the community or everlasting shame for the losers. In 1953, there worst bribery scandal in IAF history involved the CC Cookie judging. Blood was shed. The winner who cheated was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. The two women who took bribes, were forced to resign from long-held executive positions in the Anglican Church Women's Missionary Circle.

No, the CC Cookie category is one of the top five most coveted prizes at the fair, right up there with best standing soybean field crop and vegetables that look most like their owners.  AND THIS YEAR THE PRIZE IS MINE!!!

Friends have asked me if I will change because of it. "No, I will still talk to lesser mortals. Oh, I might talk down to you, but I will still talk. I am not the kind of person who deserts his friends just because he has created the perfect desert."

I am like the Canadian flasher who wears a bag over his head--proud yet humble.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'M FALLING

Fall is my favorite season and why not? For a dreamy and delightfully, though delicately,  depressed fiction writer and photographer, the poignancy of this second last chapter of the year is simply irresistible. The harvest as the  harbinger of the Big Sleep to come...

When others drive hundreds of miles to zoom about for a  weekend on the twisted roads of rural Vermont or Central Ontario to view the fall colors, with the satellite radio in the SUV blaring loud music or bad news, the rustic artist walks a few steps into his backyard and contemplates wild apples fallen upon a background of leaves and grass, then sums it all up in 1/15 of a second at f:32--all the vivid sadness and gay decay--all the sweet ephemera.

"To encapsulate the macrocosm in the microcosm… " It says that in my job description.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

THE CAR THAT EDITED A BOOK

Well it weren't akchewally the car that edited the book.  It were me setting for three hours at the shop waitin' fer the mighty Cobalt to git her wheels aligned, so she don't crab down the road sideways no more.

I copy edited 1/3 of my latest detective novella because there was sweet f-all to do at the shop but plunk away at the laptop. At home I have a passel of distractions: internet porn (honest, Mom, I was looking for pictures of brasiers for a report I'm doing for school on how the Romans roasted wieners in the olden days and I got all these pictures of women in their underwear.), my dog whining to go our or come in or to play fetch, the cookies in the freezer shouting my name and pleading "Eat me! Eat me!", a toilet that needs cleaning, the radio warning that the stocks I am too poor to own are going down the toilet (probably the same unsanitary bowl in my back room) and the sofa with her soft pillows who is whispering "Come sleep with me, Big Boy." in her husky dusky voice. No, I have too many distractions at home to concentrate on editing.

So...

My plan is to book appointments with several medical specialists each week and sit in their waiting rooms for hours on end writing and editing. God knows, at my age, my GP will believe damned near anything  is wrong with me I tell her it is wrong with me. Maybe I can even get the time to write more interesting blogs, if I sit long enough in enough waiting rooms.

PS, Dear Blog:

Heard the Ontario three party debate last night as I was baking chocolate chip cookies for the Ilderton fair. I don't know who won, but I know who lost--the people of Ontario.  Still, a lot of people died for your right to vote, so I say, "Vote early and vote often." I'm gonna...

Monday, September 26, 2011

TAKING A SICK DAY

Bet you didn't think self-employed people got sick. Bet you didn't think they got sick days.  Well, we get 'em; we just don't get paid for 'em.

Looking at the above drawing ( I did it all by myself) you will never wonder why I chose writing and photography over drawing and painting as my means of artistic expression.

Just in case no one reads this, I will express my wishes to myself for a speedy recovery. GET WELL, JIM!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

THE GRIND OF $ELLING BOOK$

Thirteen hours on Thursday and seven yesterday, e-mailing and Facebooking individuals with invitations to buy my books--particularly Surfing Vietnam.  The results, so far as I can tell, is one book sold. Today I am developing an e-mail group list to send out a group e-mail pitching my books. I got up to the letter "c" in my list of 1450 business contacts.

And I am not discouraged, perhaps because I know selling e books is a marathon and not a sprint. The fact that I have sold 20 books on-line in a month is encouraging. There are cases of first-time authors who only sold that many in the first three months, who have gone on to make a good living or even to "clean up"selling books on-line.

I have a firm belief that Surfing Vietnam is a timely, well-writtten and edited, amusing, and very grittily real morality tale and coming of age saga.  It is worthy of success and so am I;  it is just a matter of getting enough copies out (particularly with reviews) on Kindle to start the snowball rolling downhill. My checkered past (and the clever "lies" I tell about my past in Surfing Vietnam) is now where I am placing my hopes for the future. It is the only pension plan I have.

Back to the grind...

Friday, September 23, 2011

THE NOBLE SAVAGE ?--MY ASS!

 On our trip down Highway 61 along the Mississippi to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, we stopped at the largest archeological site north of Mexico--Cahokia, a village of 15,000 or more N'amerinds dating back about a thousand years. There are mounds there, the largest of which is shown in the photo above. It took centuries to build. The people who built it had to carry dirt from a fair distance away in wicker baskets--one 55 pound load at a time, climb the pile and dump it. I doubt the citizens of Cahokia carrying those baskets were whistling while they worked, more likely, the citizens were listening to the whistling of the lash. Ordinary working-class natives had better things to do than dump dirt because they lived in a very primitive agricultural society that plowed the fields with sharpened sticks and ground corn with rocks. Dumping dirt was probably not viewed as "recreation".

In one particularly telling burial mound (and forgive me if I get the exact numbers wrong), the Chief was buried along with a few hundred ritually murdered servants and a few dozen girls from 15 to 25, also ritually murdered, to keep up his standard of living in the next world and to keep him from getting horny in his cold grave. He also was buried with 1,200 (!) perfect (!) arrowheads, bushels of shaped and punched seashell "coins" and bushels of mica. No one told him that you can't take it with you.

These were not nice people, or at least their form of government was not nice. For the working classes, it was a life of slave labor in this world piling us up dirt and creating surpluses for the ruling clan to flaunt and more slave labor in the "next world" to keep the Chief and his clan happy--even after death. "Noble savage" is a stupid white man's term that is only half accurate. The word "savage" by itself would suffice.

And although no one knows the exact reason this civilization collapsed after a few hundred years, the best speculation points to exhausting the farm land, internal strife and external wars--none of which fit any definition of "noble". These things sound like the very things that are collapsing our civilization--just plain savagery. People have not changed. 1000 years has not produced any measurable moral evolution in Homo sapiens .

Where there are surpluses, as there are in most social orders beyond the nomadic hunting and gathering orders, the aggressive minority will grab the surplus, create slaves and take their surpluses to the grave with them, leaving the working classes with baskets of dirt.

Savages...  Still savages...




Thursday, September 22, 2011

HOME IS WHERE THE BILLS IS


These are the faces of the three brave men who sailed down the length Mississippi River (by car) and landed in the pagan lands of New Orleans. The hazards they faced on Highway 61 (revisited) were without number, but the most challenging of them all was being confined with each other in car, motel room, tent, bar, for 24 hours a day bumping into each other's lunacy. Two painters and a poet--all too damned verbal and too damned stubborn and too damned smart to agree on anything. One overtly aggressive, one passive aggressive, and one cannily waiting in the wings to take the field when the two aggressive ones exhausted themselves. (No, I will not name names.)

The battle of the Mississippi is over now with no clear winner. (Men always count coup.)

While I was taking 192 voice notes and 155 camera notes for my next novel due out in 2013, Canada Post delivered a VISA bill, a Master Card bill, an American Express bill, a credit card processing bill, a Bell bill, a library fine, and a parking ticket from Keokuk, Iowa.  Reality sucks... The reality of being an artist really sucks. Maybe someone out there will buy a futures contract on the novel. Ya think?