A report from the playground

“when we create, we are creating the world. remember this, and commit.”

— Nayyirah Waheed

On Friday morning, I crossed the 10,000-word threshold on my novel tentatively called Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus.

Those are as many words as the average Myke Phoenix novelette, and it’s already the longest stretch of fiction I’ve written since 2014, when I hunkered down and banged out 10 novelettes.

I am having a blast. You know all those writing gurus who say writing is fun once you get out of your own way? Oh, man, they are right.

I was going to call this post “A report from the battlefield,” because, you know, it’s “the war of art” and creative types supposedly are always struggling to do the art. But if I’m honest, when it’s going well, it’s like watching a good movie. And watching a good movie is fun as hell, not a struggle.

I designed this cover more than a year ago, as a way of envisioning a finished product. It may or may not be what the actual book looks like, or its title.

But it’s coming along, and I am stoked, and I am committed. This is a cool feeling.

My advice to myself is not to be too pleased with myself, just keep going. But 10,000 words is a milestone, and so I pause to celebrate — just for a few minutes.

That exhilarating moment when you quit stalling

I did not make a new year’s resolution to publish two books the first weekend in 2021.

But I recommend the experience to anyone who has been sitting on the cusp of doing something.

And that’s where I was:

I had dozens of blog posts collected for a book of optimistic celebrations, a deliberate counter to the doomsayers who flood the airwaves and social media every minute.

And I had exactly two dozen bits of flash fiction set aside for an ebook.

On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, I kicked my procrastinating self in the britches and pulled the trigger on Gladness is Infectious.

The official short description:

We have two choices each day: To add to the beauty or add to the despair … to ride the light out of darkness and live in peace, striving against the discord … to celebrate our best angels, not our worst instincts. Here’s a warm blast of optimism.

And Sunday, with momentum on my side, I created a cover for the ebook and launched 24 flashes into the ether.

The official blurb:

If you only have a minute, 24 flashes is for you.

This little book contains 24 very short stories, most of them fewer than 1,000 words, which fits many people’s definition of flash fiction; hence the title.

You’ll find fantasy, romance, science fiction, horror, suspense, maybe even a thriller, all in the time it takes to read this blurb.

Buy it now. You’ve got the time.

Are you ready to take a big step but waiting for the right moment to let ’er rip? Quit stalling. Let ’er rip.

A book of celebrations

Each of us has two choices every day: Add to the beauty or add to the despair.

… to ride the light out of darkness and live in peace, striving for harmony against the discord … to celebrate our best angels or our worst instincts.

That has been a constant theme of this blog during these times, and I’ve collected many of those writings in a little book dubbed Gladness is Infectious.

I thought it might be fun to start the new year with a nice warm blast of optimism instead of further cold obsession over a certain virus.

Gladness is Infectious contains 60 fragments of thought and bursts of creativity over the last few months from this little corner of the internet. You can find it at Amazon (free at Kindle Unlimited through March) and soon at a paperback retailer near you.

Another New Year’s Top Ten list

I have adapted a New Year’s habit from my friend Wally Conger, who would list a “Top 10” for the year just finished from his brushes with pop culture and life in general. Here’s my list for an infamous year.

A couple of days ago I wrote about how the Arts have taken a hit from the COVID-scare lockdowns of 2020. I had that thought as I compiled this list and realized I haven’t been to a movie theater since The Rise of Skywalker at Christmas 2019, and we attended no live concerts or theater productions this year. Until now my Top 10 always had stuff I experienced as part of an audience. It’s a darn shame.

But 2020 was not devoid of delight. F’rinstance:

Continue reading “Another New Year’s Top Ten list”

Glad … for what ifs

I’m so glad … for speculative fiction.

Of course, ALL fiction is speculative. There are science fiction and fantasy what-ifs …

What if a farm boy in a distant galaxy grew up to be a new hope? (Star Wars)

What if a farm girl accidentally traveled to a magical kingdom and saved her friends? (The Wizard of Oz)

… but all stories begin with “What if.”

What if a shallow rich girl was caught up in a war and had to defend her mansion alone? (Gone With The Wind)

What if a cynical bar owner met the woman who broke him and found out her side of the story? (Casablanca)

What if a sad man on the brink of suicide had a chance to see how much he means to people? (It’s A Wonderful Life)

What if a little girl in a racist town saw her attorney father defend an innocent man? (To Kill a Mockingbird)

I’ve had people say they tend not to like speculative fiction. But every story is speculative fiction: What if this happened? What if he met her? What if he met her again years later? What if they returned to the scene of their triumph? or their most bitter loss? What if someone was murdered? What if some developer wanted to tear down the old town hall?

If you like good stories, you like speculative fiction.

Glad … for words

I’m so glad I … learned to read and write. The world opened.

I learned about shy stegosauruses and buried treasure, superpowered heroes and heroines from other worlds and down the street, and with pencil and paper I created my own world.

Words give us a portal into other minds and souls, times and places. We walk with Thoreau through Walden Woods in 1854, go whale hunting with Melville in 1851, settle into the audience at the Globe Theatre in 1603 to see what story this fellow Shakespeare has come up with now.

The twisting and shouting of everyday life and social media settles into a calm between the covers of a book, and we see the more reasoned background of hastily or imprecisely spoken words. Or our hearts are hastened by the passions on the page.

We live in a world where all of these words are at our fingertips. It’s a grand time to be alive.

Top 10 lists of remembered joy

While mindlessly surfing social media the other day, I stumbled across a “10 best TV shows of all time” thread. I love lists and so enjoyed wandering through other people’s lists.

Then I decided to give it a whirl. These are the 10 shows I thought of before my brain started thinking “shows that I SHOULD put on the list” as opposed to the first ones that sprang to mind.

Foyle’s War
Breaking Bad
Eli Stone
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Hill Street Blues

(There are multiple programs called Jericho; the one I meant is the one about a small town in the aftermath of a nuclear war.)

Lists like this are conversation-starters. The next time I think about best TV shows of all time, I’ll probably have a whole different list. Except Firefly. Firefly will top every list I compile.

My favorite movie list isn’t as fluid. I even have my Top 10 specifically ranked.

  1. It’s A Wonderful Life
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. Casablanca
  4. E.T. The Extra-terrestrial
  5. Arrival
  6. Serenity
  7. To Kill A Mockingbird
  8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  9. ummm …

OK, it gets a little fuzzier after the top eight. (There are multiple movies called Serenity; since Firefly is my favorite TV show, you can make an educated guess as to which Serenity I’m talking about.) Movies that have made my personal top 10 include Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves, Singin’ In The Rain, A Christmas Story, Joyeaux Noel, The Lives Of Others, Metropolis, The Empire Strikes Back, John Carter

Let’s see what happens when I try to think of 10 favorite books …

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Dandelion Wine
The Scarlet Letter
True Grit
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
To Kill A Mockingbird

It gets hard after that, because I have loved so many books. And notice I didn’t number them.

I could bore you all day with this. My favorite albums, songs, comic book stories, order of the Star Wars movies, bands, singer-songwriters, old-time radio, silent movies (Have you ever seen The Wind? OMG) …

In the end, the appeal of lists is that they recall moments of joy and discovery and love, each item bringing back a memory of a time well had.

The longer the list, the greater the recognition of how much joy life offers to each of us.