“Ars longa, vita brevis.” Anyone who has been writing seriously for any time at all would agree that the Greeks hit the mark on this one. “Art is long.” And, given all the inconsistencies, stumbling blocks, bad breaks … and the self doubt to which all else contribute while the writer is struggling to learn his art—indeed, “life is short.”
Perhaps in the heroic quest of safeguarding one’s own unique voice in the pursuit of his art by shunning writing courses or self-help manuals, the writer runs the risk of reinventing the wheel again and again and again until he finally runs out of precious time, or the flame of enthusiasm, which are one and the same. Read more…
Social networkers who know me might get the inkling that I am a fan of Twitter. Social Networkers who know me well, will tell you if they stick a pin in me would (after they listen to my obscenities), expect I’d bleed in short spurts of 140 characters.
That is to say, Twitter is in my blood!
My wife would tell you what my good friends and my very tactful new acquaintances, away from the internet, won’t. And that is this: when I’m left to my own devises, and have no outside restrictions imposed on me, I can talk a subject to death while trying to get to the meat of it. It’s just the crazy way those zany electrical conduits race on their circuitous route from my brain to my mouth. I don’t control them, so I disavow any responsibility over uprooted signs, overturned food carts, or crossing guards resigned to shaking their staffs, along their way.
But, put me on Twitter and my brain becomes a master of brevity—which is not the same thing as being the master of intelligent brevity. Read more…
[This blogster is getting frugal in his retirement. If this post looks familiar to any of you it is because it was posted in my once lively, now defunct, Jay Squires Writer’s Workshop Newsletter. I think it has enough general interst that it should be included here. Curiously, I had an earlier blog post entitled THEN AND NOW (A WRITER’S LIFE) — a title which I totally plagarized myself by using in my Newsletter (fortunately, there’s a law against suing oneself or I’d lose what little income I have in my retirement — I had that good a case against me!) Even more curiously, I apparently had forgotten I used this same title, though the content in the two articles was entirely different. Anyway … hence the PART II here.]
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(A Writer’s Life)
It was about 1961 or ’62. I had just moved from a comfortable room in my parents’ home to a flat in San Francisco I shared with three others, only one of whom I remember. His name was Joe, and I remember him because he, like me, left a comfortable home in Santa Maria, California, to experience life in San Francisco.
We were oh so ready to begin our suffering. Read more…
I am about to post something that has the potential to instantly polarize my followers, possibly to cause a goodly number of them to unsubscribe from SeptuagenarianJourney altogether. I hope that doesn’t happen. But, if it does …
So be it.
I didn’t approach the controversial nature of the subject-matter with the sense of adventure I might have shown as a younger man. You won’t find any courageous nose-thumbing from this corner! As a matter of fact, a thorough exegesis of both sides of the argument by an expert would have been welcome relief to me. But, with no such balanced analysis forthcoming, it is apparently left up to me.
I’m taking a risk that’s not easy. I’m sorry if I insult any of you. That is not my intent. On the other hand, it is impossible for me not to take sides, so I can’t even protect myself from the wrath of some of you by pleading for you to please “not shoot the messenger.”
Indeed, I am the messenger, but to some of you the stand I will be taking may be considered a shootable offence.
Again … so be it!
Fire away! Read more…
STATS: The Tale of the Tape
Every now and then I hear about a person who doesn’t own a Kindle and assumes he’s out of luck when it comes to buying Amazon eBooks. Because Amazon is in the book selling business and are savvy enough to know that not everyone owns a Kindle eReader. So, they’ve made it easy for almost anyone to buy their books. They’ve developed a free app called Kindle on PC. Here’s the link to it: http://amzn.to/1TwgNZ.
Now, let me explain why I downloaded Kindle on PC even though I own, and love, my Kindle Fire.
1. When I purchase (or get a free!) eBook from Amazon it goes to both my Kindle Fire and my PC. And, this is really sweet …
2. Let’s say I read several pages or chapters on my “Fire” in the morning, and I want to continue on where I left off in the evening on my PC. I don’t have to search for where I left off. It automatically syncs to the furthest page read!
3. I am a note taker, an underscorer and a bookmarker. Both Kindle Fire & Kindle on Pc have all those functions—but with a difference. All eBook products pride themselves on their portability. Kindle is no exception. My “fire” is small, but my fingers are large. I prefer to type my notes on my PC keyboard. On my Kindle on PC my bookmarks show at the top of the page, but all of them are organized, so by clicking on the icon, all are laid out for me. By clicking on any one of them I am transported to that page of document. Nifty.
4. These 73 year old blue beauties are farsighted, even with corrective lenses. While I can enlarge the print on my “Fire” it reduces the number of words on the screen. I want to read more than ten lines before going to the next page.
I like the fact that I can take my “fire” with me anywhere. That’s nice. I wouldn’t take my laptop in the potty room. But, if I’m at my computer, reading, the Kindle on PC wins hands down!
So, if you haven’t already downloaded your Free Kindle on PC, do yourself a favor and download it right now!
Lest we forget, Kindle apps are also available for phones as well.
And now for the Stat-ticular updates:
For “THE GREATEST …”
Total Books Given away End of 3rd day: 161
Ranking in Kindle Free Books end of 3rd day (12 midnight): #3,746
Ranking in Kindle Free Short Story Collections end of 2nd day (12 midnight): #57
For “RSVP …”
Total Books Given away End of 2nd day: 20
Ranking in Kindle Free Books end of 2nd day (12 midnight): # 4,833
Ranking Free Mystery/ Hard Boiled: #26
Ranking Free. Crime: #68
Just to tell you, it’s not the end of the tally road for THE GREATEST short STOR[ies] [I’ve] EVER TOLD. It’s really just the beginning. Sure, no more freebies. Now, the interested reader will have to dig into his or her wallet or purse—but not too deep, dear friends! They’ll be able to get the cream of MY crop of short stories for only $2.99. Now, if the buzz was buzzy enough during the Free Promo, my understanding is that people will still continue to download it for weeks afterwards.
Soooo, That said, what I’m gonna do is have a final tally PAID STATS party seven days after this promo ends for both books. (Hold on while I run to the calendar!) Okay, that would put it at July 7, In The Year of Our Lord, 2013. Yes, the kid’s pulling out all the stops in making this official!
Now, before I go … let me remind you this is the final day of the FREE PROMOTIONAL for RSVP: INVITATION TO AN ALCHUKLESH MASSACRE
If you haven’t yanked it off the virtual bookshelf yet, push, shove, scratch and maul your way to the download button… now!
Thanks, and I love you all!
[What follows is adapted from and enlarges upon the actual preface to RSVP: Invitation to an Alchuklesh Massacre. It includes more of the backstory of the author’s early years. I hope you enjoy it.]
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Once, when I was just twenty and fresh out of the military, the opportunity of being Tribal Historian for a confederacy of Indian tribes fell in my lap. I was to travel the U.S. with an itinerant medicine man and his gorgeous teenage daughter. The first time I saw her, I gazed upon a bronze tan covering her sleek body. She wore a short buckskin skirt and had jet black hair, sporting two braids with an actual feather, for God’s sake, tethered to each.
She smelled faintly of nutmeg and romance.
I was to accompany them to the various reservations across the U.S., compiling mountains of notes while learning—as the medicine man promised I would learn—the true story of the American Indian. Later I would document it all for posterity.
All I had to do was go home and pack, dole out my goodbyes and return in one week.
But, I was a lad of twenty and my mother had something to tell me: Read more…
LOOKIN’ UP … WAY UP
End of 1st Day Stats
This is the first Stats Blog for my promotion. I feel the need to stall for a moment. Of course you will forgive me:
You know … there is a story behind the title of my short story collection, just as I’m sure there’s a story behind your book’s title. I am interested in the genesis of things like that, how the original thought came to you, how and why it was modified. Many times, just as it is with the germ of a story, what you end up with bears little relation to the idea with which you started.
The title for my book started with a false assumption. You see, I always thought The Greatest Story Ever Told was synonymous with The Bible . I thought that title existed, as a kind of subtitle, alongside the Bible for—well, forever. It never dawned on me that young people of today may never have heard of The Greatest Story Ever Told!
I don’t remember, now, what made me Google it. It was too late anyway. My short story collection with a very similar—with an intentionally very similar, I might add—title had already gone into e-publication and the cover with my title emblazoned on it was part of the total package. Read more…
Here’s the deal … this morning I opened my eyes and was floating around in that Alice-In-Wonderland nimbus where I knew I wasn’t dreaming but my mind refused to latch onto the idea of getting up and plugging in the coffee.
… So, I’m in this rowboat, see? I’m way out in the ocean, so far that there is no trace of the breakers, no sign of land anywhere.
Now, normally that would stress out my conscious mind because I had no bearings. And, my conscious mind looks out for my safety. But, this wasn’t normal and I didn’t really possess my conscious mind at the time. Everything just flowed.
… Besides, I have my sports fishing pole, the butt-end wedged securely under my thigh and the meat of the pole held at a forty-five degree angle with the line sagging lazily some twenty or thirty yards from the boat. What could be more serene? The early morning sun glints off the water. There is the heady smell of salt in the air. A circling seagull suddenly plummets and slices the surface of the water. He disappears for so long I figure he must have surfaced somewhere behind me. Then he emerges, a smelt or anchovy wriggling in his beak. Floating there, he maneuvers it around, gets it where he wants it, throws back his head and gobbles it down in three swallows. Nature, left alone, doing what it is supposed to do. The sun warms my face. I listen to the water slapping against the sides of my rowboat. So tranquil. I could stay here forever! Read more…
I am a writer. I AM a writer. I am a WRITER. Forgive my shouting. But sometimes it needs to be said—even if I am the only audience. I … AM … A … WRITER!
Let me define the writer:
A writer is one who never tires of stringing words, like beads, across the horizontal thread of a sentence. Sometimes the beads are stunningly beautiful. Sometimes they are stark and ugly. But even the latter beads are chosen to be just what they are. And, as a writer one takes responsibility for one’s choice of beads.
A writer anguishes over the placement of a comma, a period, a semicolon. Is it a natural place for the reader to breathe? Is it just to catch a quick breath? Or a breath that’s akin to a sigh? Does the writer want him to lope through the rest of the sentence? Or to sprint through it? And, from that sentence, does he want the reader to be nudged or tugged into the next. The reader processes it automatically, but it’s the writer’s choice. And, because it’s the writer’s choice, it’s the writer’s responsibility.
A writer understands the overwhelming importance of the type of sentence he chooses. Does he desire the Driving force of a Hemingway-like simple sentence: subject-verb-object; or does he opt for the more relaxed, rambling style of the compound or complex sentence. Choice. Responsibility.
A writer has learned to recognize the moment when he’s gathered all the juices from the idea in one grouping of sentences, and when the last sentence seems to beg transition into a new paragraph.
This is not a tutorial on the basic building blocks for writing. There are far better ones you should go to for that. It is a Manifesto. And I have a reason for making it at this moment. Read more…
I went to the library today. My son, David, works there. I went there to deliver a Christmas card to him. No need to go back and reread the sentence. It was today. It was a Christmas card. There’s a story there. I’ll tell it to you if you like. That was not the intent of this blog, though—telling the story, I mean—but life is complex. That’s why I don’t often write in simple sentences. To meet life’s complexities head-on, and write about them, I often write in compound sentences, sometimes complex sentences.
But the story … okay:
Last Christmas we gifted many of our loved ones cash or gift cards. David was one. We bought him a fifty-dollar movie gift card. He loves movies and since they were going through a financial rough patch, this gave him an opportunity to go to a movie without feeling like he was taking food off the family table.
Not too long ago, my wife and I heard on the grapevine (actually, the grapevine was my other son, Joe, who also loves movies), that the brothers went to the Marketplace Theater where David pulled out his gift card to pay for his ticket.
The teenager in the booth ran it through the scanner and put her mouth to the hole in the glass: “That’ll be nine-dollars and fifty cents,” she said, around her chewing gum.
David said, “Yeah, go ahead and use the card.”
“You used the card,” she said. “Fifty cents worth.”
Of course he told her the card was for fifty dollars, to which she retorted, “No. Fifty cents.”
David’s a pretty mildly tempered person, but he was getting a bit heated at this point. “Why would anyone buy a gift card for fifty cents? Do you even sell gift cards for fifty cents?”
“No,” she replied and popped her gum.
That happened sometime in January. Joe told us about it, I believe, in May. I don’t remember how it came up, but it was a rather oblique reference, as I recall. It was probably, by agreement between the brothers, that we weren’t to hear about it at all, but it somehow just happened.
My wife and I talked about it. I mean, it wasn’t our fault. We paid for a fifty dollar gift card. It was the movie theater’s fault. Specifically, it was the fault of the person who sold us the card. But it was David who had really lost out.
So, last night my wife dug out a Christmas card from the drawer. At the bottom of the greeting she wrote, “Merry Christmas all over again,” and tucked in two twenties and a ten.
And, I took it to him today.
Well … that’s the story, but it’s not the blog post I had intended.
What I really wanted to tell you was this: As I was walking across the library parking lot, clutching the Christmas card, I found myself flowing forward with a river of library patrons, most of whose arms were loaded down with books. One backpack so filled with books that the wearer was forced to walk in an awkwardly erect posture, threatening to fall over backwards, which conjured up images of a turtle on his back, unable to right himself. Children skipping, laughing out of sheer joy, screaming, well, because they were children; parents exhorting, “Now you remember you whisper when you go inside.” A little boy talking in excited tones to his sister, ” … and I’m gonna get me a book about horses and I’ll ask mama if I …” and his thin voice blends in with, and is blanketed by, other voices and noises and celebration.
Difficult to pin down, hard to put your finger on … this community of festivity, this carnival of expectation; hope—the possible unwrapping of a mystery inside those walls, between the hard, musty covers of a book plucked randomly from one of the thousand of shelves, the voice in the book, that one voice that says with precision and certitude what you have been forever feeling, but thinking you were alone, and lonely, in the feeling of it. But, here you find a friend, a confederate, a confidant, here—here in this book, taken from that shelf within the whispering walls of the Library.
And I am being swept along, thinking about this and almost trip over a young man, hoisting in his arms a mountain of books, one of which slides down the slope and while he bends to pick it up two more fall, and making a wild grasp for all of them the entire mountain collapses.
And I stop and help him. I pick up a one volume Works of Balzac, a Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and a paperback western novel. He lifts a huge tome entitled the Essential Dictionary of Music Notation, and a few more paperbacks. Enormous green eyes stare up at me through coke-bottle-lenses and he thanks me.
I continue on, thinking about all this and what it is urging me to remember. And, then I do remember. I remember something I had read, or seen on TV, or heard …something that was from a respected source that told us we were, mentally, becoming a nation of pablum ingestors. We have lost our intellectual teeth and are growing incapable of thinking on our own. A dangerous thought: other people thinking for us! Books being replaced by television; outdoor activities by video games.
We’ve all heard the naysayers.
How many aspiring writers have given up in the face of such cultural inevitability? I remember thinking back then, “What’s the bloody use in writing! Who will be there to read it, anyway?”
Today, with Christmas card in hand, caught in the flow and flood of this army of cultural dissenters, I hear and see, and, yes—I feel: the alphabet is hearty, the squiggles and squams of punctuation still function, words, almighty slippery, wriggling, palpitating words, still have meaning thanks to this army, thanks to this marvelous, beautiful army converging in to burst through the door and into the mystery world inside the whispering walls.