Thoreau Day 2K17

•July 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

usa_flag

I’ve always hated the 4th of July. Nothing good has ever happened to me on Independence Day. It’s like the day is cursed or something. The curse goes all the way back to when I was ten. My hamster died on July 4th. Well, he didn’t actually die. He was eaten by his big brother. I guess that still counts. Anyways, ever since then the 4th and I have just not gotten along.

It probably doesn’t help that I hate fireworks, too. Hate ’em. A bunch of idiots gathering in a field to stare into the sky at bright colors and listen to loud noises is way too American for me. One time I went to a fireworks show and this idiot teenage girl took a picture of every single firework. Every…single…one. And the camera made this annoying beep every time she prepared to take a picture so the entire show was like this: BEEP…BOOM! BEEP…BOOM!. Idiot. Another time a bunch of people sitting behind us talked about what they ate on each day of their vacation DURING the fireworks show. Why even come? Morons.

I’m not one to complain without actively trying to improve a situation so a few years ago I invented my own holiday to replace Independence Day. It’s called THOREAU DAY in honor of my favorite American writer and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau is famous for his treatise on nonviolent resistance against the government called “Civil Disobedience” that was later the inspiration for men like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and he’s also best known for his social experiment where he lived alone in the woods around Walden Pond which started on (you guessed it) July 4th.

So how does one celebrate Thoreau Day? Forget about picnics and fireworks and sparklers and all that shit. Thoreau Day is a day of quiet reflection where one spends his/her time reading transcendental works and critiquing the job of the government in running our country.

It’s a good time.

No pigging out, no mandatory family visitations, no loud, obnoxious fireworks booming all night long. Our forefathers questioned the job the British were doing in running the colonies. Shouldn’t we do the same with our own government? After all, they work for us (Although that no longer seems to be the case in recent years and now we seem to have many kings instead of just one). That’s as far as I’ll go into this year’s critique but, trust me, it was a doozy. Can’t say America is doing too well grade-wise at the moment.

So I encourage all of you to ditch the burgers, hotdogs, and sparklers for quiet reflection and government critique. Ever since I did I look forward to the 4th of July every single summer.

A thoughtful and somber Thoreau Day to all!

Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part III)

•June 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

forest_pic

The finale of my three-part short story, Memoir of the Living Impaired, is posted now on my website.

In the first two parts, our narrator died but rejected the afterlife to watch over his young son and his wife. His wife, Laura, eventually moves on and gets remarried and his son, Jason, grows into an angry teenager with self-destructive tendencies. Now Laura is pregnant and Jason is heading off to college with his ghost father at his side.

Check out the third part here: Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part III)

Seven-Year Writerversary

•June 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Happy seven-year writerversary!

 June 1st marks the anniversary of when I started taking myself seriously as a writer. I was starting my Creating Writing Masters program at Wilkes University and I figured if I was going to dump that kind of money into being a writer I better actually be one. So I made a vow to write every single day.

 That was seven years ago. I’ve kept that vow since then. I have written every single day for 2,557 days straight. Through the birth of my two children, moving into a new home, vacations, and just not really wanting to, I’ve produced words every single day. I’ve accumulated over 7200 writing hours (and counting). I’ve had fifteen short stories published in that time and written five pretty good novels and three pretty ok but probably not as good as I think screenplays.

 I almost missed my writerversary this year (which is why this post is four days late). I just didn’t really think about it until it was already past. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m leaning towards good. Writing isn’t even a “thing” anymore. Now it’s just a regular part of my day like eating or getting dressed. I’d say showering but, if I’m being honest, I haven’t even done that every single day for the past seven years (Damn kids…). One way or another I’m going to get my hours in. People ask me how I manage to write every single day and the answer is that I stopped watching television. So if you’re looking for the key, that’s it. There are only 24 hours in the day. Something has got to go. Sacrifice.

 So what’s next? Year #8, of course. Eventually I figure the world will give up trying to stop me and I’ll get one of these novels published. It’s a war of attrition and I’m in it for the long haul.

 FORWARD!

Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part II)

•May 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

graveyard

Part II of my short story, Memoir of the Living Impaired, is now available on my website.

In Part I, a father died unexpectedly and shunned the afterlife to stay behind to look after his young son, Jason, and wife, Laura. He quickly learns that being a helpless bystander in his family’s life is a torture he never could have imagined, and his presence in the household is preventing his wife from moving on.

In Part II, a new man enters Laura’s life and a teenage Jason falls in with the wrong crowd…and our ghost father is helpless to do anything about it.

Check it out: Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part II)

Part III will appear in June.

Diversity in Literature

•April 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A lot has been written about the lack of diversity in literature (especially YA books).

Because of this, there has been a slew of “issue” books that have been released the last couple of years to offset the deficit. Most people see this as a step in the right direction. Books about being gay or books about being Muslim in America or books about being autistic or books about being deaf. People view this as progress.

But is it?

When I first started teaching 10th graders, the curriculum at the school was chosen specifically to cater to our large Latino population. We taught novels with Latino protagonists that were about being Latino in Latino families. And…the kids hated them. Especially the Latinos. The problem wasn’t that the protagonists were Latino but that the books just weren’t very good. Students in my 11th and 12th grade classes (also heavily Latino and non-white) were much more into the classic books that we read where the protagonists were more traditionally white European types.

The difference had nothing to do with the ethnicity of the protagonists. It had to do with the quality of the books. In the classic books, the race of the protagonist never came up. It was never an important part of the novel. In the 10th grade books, the race of the protagonist was a constant discussion point and it obviously burned the kids out.

So here’s my challenge: Can’t there be books with diverse protagonists (transgender, Latino, African-American, disabled, autistic, whatever) that AREN’T about being transgender, Latino, African-American, disabled, autistic, whatever? That needs to be the next step in the “diversity in literature” discussion. Just write compelling stories where characters who just happen to be whatever and its’ not a discussion point. I want to read a really great book and learn on page 56 that the protagonist is a gay, autistic Muslim and have those things affect the rest of the story 0%.

If my students have taught me anything about how best to approach diversity it’s to…not. They don’t focus on it. Race doesn’t define them. They are more than their ethnicity. In the end, they’re all just teenagers trying to figure life out and that’s the same whether they’re white or black or brown or whatever.

Instead of obsessing about diversity and making sure everyone has a book that speaks specifically to them, let’s focus on telling good stories. Yes, let’s have diverse characters in those stories, but the best stories are about being human. They shine a light on the human experience that we can all relate to. Let’s have more of that because that’s something that doesn’t speak to a certain demographic; that speaks to all of us.

Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part I)

•April 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

RIP_jpeg

I’m trying something new with my online story for this month. Last year I had this idea for a short story about a recently-deceased father who shuns the afterlife to take care of his family…and comes to regret the decision. A writing prompt I stumbled upon read “Write about your greatest fear.” The worst thing I could think of was having my children be in danger and being helpless to do anything about it. That’s how Memoir of the Living Impaired was born. It was going to be super sad but contain some dark comedy to balance it out. So I started writing it not quite sure how it was going to turn out.

Well, it turned out pretty good but there was a problem. My short story was really, really long. Like, really long. Like 12,000 words long. After edits, I got it down to 9000 words but that was as far as I could go while maintaining the emotional impact of the story. Needless to say, it was nearly impossible to find a venue willing to publish a story that long and it wasn’t long enough to turn into a novel.

So I decided to keep the story for myself and print it on my website in three parts. The first part is available now and then the next section will appear in May and the finale in June.

If you want to have the feels, check it out! Just follow the link below and come back in May for Part II.

Memoir of the Living Impaired (Part I)

Science Fiction and Social Commentary

•March 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I just finished reading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s one of the early science fiction works that’s often credited with heralding in the science fiction genre as serious literature. In the novel, a Martian is brought to Earth to learn the ways of Man and ends up founding his own religion until he’s murdered as a martyr (oops…spoiler alert). The novel isn’t as widely read nowadays, but in the 60’s it flourished since it tackled commune living, free love, minimalism, and the rejection of conservative American values.

The reason I love sci-fi novels is that there is no better stage for social commentary than the realm of aliens and spaceships and time travel and laser guns going pew pew pew! Sci-fi has always been a bit silly. People from other worlds and robots and space monsters. But the ridiculous nature of science fiction also makes it fertile soil for commenting on our social norms in a safe setting. Some of my favorite works of literature are dystopian sci-fi novels.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 warned us about the rise of television and the dumbing down of America as literature decreased in popularity. He also correctly predicted the rise of censorship and the inventions of the flatscreen television and headphones. In fact, the dude who invented the Walkman based his idea off of Bradbury’s description (Guess he wasn’t paying attention to the book’s message).

Orwell’s 1984 warned us about totalitarian governments and the rise of “surveillance states” where Big Brother is always watching. Big Brother was also the first to tout “alternative facts” as it manipulated information to control its citizens. I’m sorry to say our world looks more like 1984 than ever before. We became exactly what Orwell warned us not to.

Aldous Huxley may have been more accurate than any of his fellow writers with his predictions in A Brave New World. It isn’t threats and violence that the Powers-That-Be use to enslave us but pleasure and distractions. iPhone anyone? Netflix? Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition? We’re too busy having fun to worry about the world burning all around us.

Science Fiction gets away with social commentary because it warns us about what could happen if we continue down the path we’re on. Unfortunately, more often than not, these authors become prophets as the human race time and time again refuses to heed their warnings. We turn their fiction into our reality.

In that long tradition of science fiction and social commentary, I’m currently working on a science fiction novel that sees a man accidentally travel into the future where Trump’s evil clone and Walmart have teamed up to take over most of the United States. Hey, give it 50 years. You’re gonna see it happen…