The Typewriter: Beta readers wanted

24 May

I’ve completed the 2nd rewrite of The Typewriter, a novella mystery involving the mysterious. Comment that you’d like to read it before publishing in order to give your input, and I’ll give you the particulars. “Likes” don’t count on this.

 

Cover_art_w_title_blood

Cat Herdin’

18 May

Cat Herdin’

By L. Stewart Marsden

Seems I spent the most of my life …

Herdin’ cats and
Swimmin’ with the great whites
Huggin’ that cacti too;
Spittin’ in the wind
And tryin’ to ski uphill
Callin’ my brown eyes blue —

And you . . .

Turned my right sides downside up
And converted my days into nights
Deflated my footballs
After I gave all
You know it seems that ain’t hardly right

Then let the door hit me in my behind —

And I …

Fine’ly got fed up
Brushed off and stood up
And took off through the old saloon doors,
Grabbed my hat, my rope and I saddled up
I promise I won’t take it no more …

‘Cause I gave and I gave
Till I cudn’t give a damn
And the onliest thing left of who I am
Was that one last bit of courage and grit
That has had it with alla this pain and this —

And I’m won and done with alla it —

And with
Herdin’ cats and
Swimmin’ with the great whites
Huggin’ that cacti, too;
With spittin’ in the wind
And tryin’ to ski uphill
Callin’ my brown eyes blue —

But most of all I put air in my balls
And built up the gall
To say that I’m all done with you!

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 18 May, 2015

Charmed, I’m sure …

18 May

Charmed, I’m sure …

By L. Stewart Marsden

I feel charmed in your embrace
warm and safe from harm in your embrace
in a haven of absolute protection
a harbor from any storm
the leeward cove where my soul docks
to ride the weather till blown out
when calmer waters once again
lazily lap my hull
and we explore the seas once more.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then …

17 May

The Liebster Award

In my About page I made the following statement:

2. As much as they are appreciated for the thought behind them, I don’t respond to nominations — unless, of course, it’s for an Oscar, Tony, Grammy or the Pulitzer. I don’t understand most of the online “awards.” Plus I’m a curmudgeon.

My writing friend Clara Bush —with a bunch of other names in between — has nominated me for the distinction of The Liebster Award. She sent me an email. Said,

Hi Skip,
I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. If you don’t know about it, you can check it out here: 
Sounds like a cool thing. Hope you think so. 
I’ve seen the award name about on WordPress. I responded to Clara’s email: Liebster? Is that Maine or Maryland liebster? 
lobster
I once ate a huge lobster at Flutie’s down in the canal area of New York City. I mean, HUGE! The animal must have been about a hundred years old or something. The black intestinal vein ran like a thick cord from fore to aft. I had quite a few glasses of wine to drink, and the trip was chauffeured in a limousine, so I don’t remember how it tasted. Wonderful, I’m sure.
So I’ve been on WordPress going on — what? — four years? And along the way there have been those people who have sent me announcements that they had nominated me for this or that award. Don’t get me wrong, I am always flattered at the notion that what I write and post is actually read by anyone, or that after reading my stuff, they like it enough to give me a badge.
But then Clara does it! I mean — CLARA! I don’t remember how we crossed paths … probably a WordPress thing … but she writes these creepy tales that combine my memories of growing up with aliens and Indians and the West. You couldn’t have a better mix. Unless you throw a court scene and Abraham Lincoln into the recipe. I took a screenwriting course at NYU one summer and the instructor said Lincoln and a court scene were paramount inclusions that guaranteed success.
What could I do? I couldn’t say, No, Clara — I won’t accept the award. Well, I probably could. But then Clara would never speak to me again, and when she becomes a recognized best-seller … see what I mean?
There have been a few times during my rather mundane existence that I’ve been surprised by recognition — other than my mugshot showing up in the local post office.
The first was when I was in my teens and was still young enough to be a Boy Scout. I loved Scouting! Nearly killed myself on several camping occasions, but boy did we ever have fun! One of theuwharriecanoing_edited-1
highlights of Scouting was summer camp. This particular summer, I literally stayed the entire summer at Camp Uwharrie, located just outside High Point, NC. I worked on earning my four aquatics merit badges: swimming, life saving, rowing and canoeing. Toward the end of my last scheduled week at camp at dinner in the Mess Hall, the camp director stood and announced a Scout had distinguished himself during his time in camp so much that he was being promoted to camp staff. And not only that — but to the Waterfront Staff!
And he called my name! Wow!
I was overwhelmed with surprise mixed with a little pride, I must say. That summer I was also tapped out into the Order of the Arrow, but that didn’t even approach the impact of being called up to camp staff!
The second surprise came when I was a junior at a Virginia boarding school. A prestigious and exclusive southern prep school, I never felt a part of the tradition. My mom and dad were immigrants to the south from Minnesota after the war. My dialect was influenced by my Midwestern parentage. Yankees, we were called. If my older sister hadn’t been such a looker, I never would have made it.
We juniors were required to attend the graduation of the seniors at the end of school. With a total student population of slightly more than 300, if we hadn’t attended, the event would have been almost a nonevent. During graduation foreplay, many awards and recognitions were handed out. Things like yearbook and newspaper honors and more. The master who headed up the history department stepped to the dais and announced the recipient of the History Award. It was me! Ironic, that. I had been kicked out of my history class for goofing with my pencil, which flew through lincolnassassination_edited-1the air and hit the instructor. Don’t ask me how I managed that. But also, I had for the first time really gotten into a term paper on the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This was before the internet — when you actually had to go through the stacks of a library to research a topic.
I got sucked into that process, read everything our school library contained and then my home library and other near-home libraries as well. I loved the process. And I wrote. Typed, actually. On an old Royal manual typewriter. And I drew maps, and illustrations — the whole nine yards. When my name was called I was once again floored. But proud. Neither of my parents were at the ceremony because I wasn’t graduating. They gave me a hardbound book with a wonderful color dust jacket about American Indians. I wish I knew where that book was.
The most recent surprise — other than Clara’s — came a few months after I had performed in a local community theater production of the musical My Fair Lady. I auditioned for and landed the role of Alfred P. Doolittle, the garish and drunkenly father of Liza Doolittle, one of the musical’s main characters. Years before I landed the same role for another community theater in the western mountains of North Carolina, but refused it when my then wife was not cast as Liza. It was a heroic response on my part, I thought.  This time my then-wife was a bit too old to get the role, although she auditioned for it, and accepted a part in the chorus.
My Fair Lady was one of my parents’ favorite musicals. They saw it in New York with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, and bought the cast album, as well as movie album. One of Dad’s favorite tunes was Get Me to the Church On Time, sung by Alfred. Sad to say, my dad had died before I played the role.
Dressing room chatter — as with all community theaters (I recommend the mocumentary Waiting for Guffman, by the way) — included gossip about the North Carolina Community Theatre AlfredPDoolittle_insetRegional Awards. One veteran board-stomper who assessed himself far more highly than others did, said no one from our particular theater would ever win anything. We might be nominated, but because of the politics and high competition in our particular region, he basically advised us “don’t hold your breath.”
The wonderful thing about live theater is you never know how things will be from one night to the next. And with several weekend performances, we had more than our share of not knowing. People drop lines — stare vacuously towards the audience hoping someone will cue them. So happened to me on more than one occasion. On one particular night, I forgot a line, and substituted some political remark instead which fit just as well. The audience howled. And it happened on the night the regional theater reviewer was in the house.
A few weeks after our run, the actor who played Henry Higgins emailed me a congratulatory message. I had been nominated for a Cameo Role recognition. I was one of I think eight nominees. So I checked a few months later, and to my surprise, I had won the category! Kind of a blah way of discovering it, I admit, but I was too cheap to buy tickets and rent a tux and make the drive down to Charlotte and sit and eat with dozens of people I didn’t know.
In his book Surprised by Joy! C.S. Lewis talks about those rare instances in life when something so serendipitous, so unexpected and so wonderful happens that we are elevated well above our common state of emotion. The specialness of these particular intrusions on otherwise common lives, sort of makes the living worth it.
So, Clara Bush, I accept your nomination. I am humbled and grateful you thought well enough of my work to include me in your list of nominees.
On to the administrative duties of being a Liebster Award nominee:

The rules for the award …

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

Check … did that.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

Here it is: LiebsterRed

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

So Clara asked that I answer the following questions:

1. In the world of literary fiction, who is your hero? Hero=he or she.

Okay, I’m not sure if you mean character or author? If it’s character, then Tess of D’Ubervilles. A strong and compelling character. If author — gosh. Kurt Vonnegut ranks right up there, as does Roald Dahl.

2. The song you listen to in order to get motivated to write? Song= one only, please.

I typically do not listen to music for motivation. Normally I itch to sit down at my keyboard because all these crazy ideas and thoughts and scenarios and conversations have been playing in my mind, and if they don’t get out I’M GOING TO GO MAD!!! Maybe Adagio for Strings.

3. What quote keeps you set on go to complete your goals?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— A. Lincoln.

Yeah. Good question. I tend to hop from one lily pad to the other. So focusing on and completing one project at a time is not my tendency. It’s like how I cook. I’ve got something on this burner, and something on that burner, and something mixed in a bowl and the oven warming and something thawing.

4. What animal is your spirit guide?

Hadn’t thought about that. Spirit guide. If you mean my muse, I would have to say it is the Past. While some of my inspirations come from current events, much or most derives from memories of people, places and events. Even a smell can trigger a story. In my newest project, The Typewriter, the physical spiritual guide is a Royal KMM typewriter built sometime in the late 1940s.

5. If you were in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, which one book would you hide to keep it from being thrown into the fire? Other than the Bible.

You assume a lot with the Bible comment. Well, Fahrenheit 451 might be on the list. Bradbury is definitely a favorite author. And it would make perfect ironic sense.

6. What preparations have you made for the Zombie Apocalypse? List at least 2. And don’t lie. You know you’ve made some.

Not really. And I’m not lying.

7. If you could choose, would you be a vampire, werewolf, or zombie? Why, briefly?

Werewolf. Cause vampires can’t kill you, and I’ve never seen a werewolf with a bad case of fleas. Now if I could be the werewolf in Bouchard’s short story, The Compleat Werewolf, so much the better.

8. What is your pick for the greatest science fiction movie ever?

Not a fair question. The 1956 version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is right up there. Anything filmed in black and white pre 1960 was far more innovative and scary that what gets to the screen these days. In my opinion.

9. What scares you? I mean really creeps you out in the creepy way like look under the bed or in the closet way— not like car wrecks, or serial killers, or death of loved ones, but like aliens or alien abduction, or ghosts, or dinosaurs, or…

More than fantasy, the reality of things like microorganisms that reside in our bodies, or the thought that my next-door-neighbor might be making pipe bombs with the intent of visiting the schools my children attend. Or a government that seems okay to back down to foreign intimidation.

10. Your first kiss, would you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Down, definitely. It was just a brushing of the outer lip skins. And she was like a zombie.

11. If you could time travel, would you? Where to? Past? Future? Would you go back and repeat and/or improve your first kiss?

The past intrigues me more than the future. I’d like to be able to sit down with some of the great names of the past — Twain and Jonathan Swift and Poe and Thomas Hardy. Eleanor Roosevelt. Some of my ancestors.

The kiss thing? Naw. That was then.

4. Nominate other bloggers that you feel deserve the award.

Jots From a Small Apartment. A lovely blog that combines two forms of art: watercolor (typically) and prose.

Ray Ferrer’s Urban Wall Art. Ray illustrated my first self-published collection of short-stories, Through the Glass Darkly. His work was ideal for my purposes.

Sheila Sea’s poetry blog. Concise, sensual and intriguing are the words that consistently come to my mind when I read this poet’s work.

The Outlier Babe’s The Last Half. An oliophonic compendium of various stuff, anyone with enough sense to recognize herself and her life as fitting that of an outlier — and even using the word if you haven’t read Cold Mountain — is an opportunity for something special. Go dip a toe.

5. Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer.

Revenge is best served cold …

1. When did you come to realize you are an artist?

2. What did you overcome in order to reach that conclusion?

3. Would you prefer to be famous or infamous … and why?

4. What will your legacy be?

5. What would you like for your epitaph?

6. What are your currently working on?

7. Dinner with any two people, alive or dead, and why?

8. Name and describe one surprise event in your life.

9. If there were do-overs, which one would you?

10. Is literature improving or not? Why do you think so?

11. What is the difference between a stove?

6. List these rules in your post.

Check.

7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.(They may have never heard of it.)

 Alllllllllll-righty, then! Doing so now.

In My Opinion …

16 May

In My Opinion …

By L. Stewart Marsden

I often tell people my opinion and five dollars will get you a cup of coffee just about anywhere. Cheaper at McDonald’s, if it’s just the coffee with maybe some cream and sugar. They offer the fancy stuff as well for a little more of your hard-earned money.

Starbucks — depending on how much candifying and latte-izing and frappawrappa-dooing you want and need to dull the bitterness of the actual coffee — will take every bit of that Fairy Floss plus whatever sales tax the guv’mint allows you to pay them.

The basic meaning of the phrase, which my friends now consider well-worn in their presence, is that my opinion isn’t worth much in the long run. You can — if you so choose — pretty well get along in life without it.

The word opinion is derived from the Latin, opinare and opinio. Now, just say that word. Oh-pee-nee-oh. If I have to paint you a graphic picture of the inference here, then you truly need to go buy more Viagra.

Then it became used by the French (but of course!)

It has many definitions, all related. The Latin means “think or believe.”

An opinion can be a legal judgment. The judge rendered her opinion in the case Johns v. Settlemeyer.

An opinion can be of value, and sought after. What do you think about this new stock offering, Mr. Buffett?

An opinion can be unsolicited but offered anyway. Go no further than Facebook entries for great examples. The prompt below was Tavis Smiley says that poverty among black Americans is largely due to government programs that discouraged fatherhood and helped cause the destruction of the black family unit.

The social media opinionaters’ responses:

Dem gov led to this ignorrance† !!
Like • Reply • 2 hrs
Truman’s War on Poverty. Democrat Slavery.
Like • Reply • 2 hrs
Welfare was never meant to help. It was only to insure† the vote of the one receiving someone else’s money.
Like • Reply • 1 • 2 hrs
Ah oh!! This guy is going to get slammed for telling the truth!
Like • Reply • 2 hrs
So true!

†If you are going to give your opinion, please spell and use words correctly! “Ignorance” is the correct spelling (ironic, though), and ”ensure” is the right word.

It is a first-cousin of the word opine — which is an oft-used crossword puzzle word. It means to “hold and state as one’s opinion.” It conjures images of street-corner preachers thumping their Bibles and opining about the end of the world, etc. Or of congressmen filibustering on the floor of the House. Or political candidates, bellowing their opinions on everything from angels to zebras, then changing opinion as the winds of consensus and financial support change.

Opinion is also like a red herring that diverts attention from what really matters. Or is perceived as such if the opinion is aimed at you. “Well, that’s your opinion.” Rendering the opinion basically false and without value.

We are told that other opinions directed toward us should not hinder, deter or otherwise dissuade us from who we know ourselves to be. And yet, often the most reliable opinions are rendered not by our friends and supporters, but by people who actually know something. And we — should I say I? — don’t want to hear it. Keep your opinions to yourself, they/I say.

Counting myself among a group that commonly wants opinions — writers — I sigh at the “atta boy!”, “gee this is great!”, “you rock!” kinds of tidbits. Worse still are the social media that allow for “likes.” Whoever invented that as a response should be taken out immediately and drawn and quartered. In my opinion.

“I lost my beloved dog today … life partner for the last fifteen years!” 154 likes.

The opinions we writers seek will enable us to crack the steel ceiling of the publishing world. Or maybe dent it.

 

The Ultimate Rules for Opinions —

• The value of opinions lessens each time you give one.
• The accuracy of your opinion is in direct inverse relationship to the number of words used.
• Opinions matter less when not sought
• Opinions are the grist for the news media
• Opinions, and a five dollar bill, will get you a cup of coffee just about anywhere.

In my opinion, anyway. What’s yours?

 

Copyright © Lawrence S. Marsden, 16 May, 2015

Equal … and the same?

15 May

Equal … and the same?

An opinion

By L. Stewart Marsden

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.
— Aristotle

In a recent address at Georgetown University, President Barak Obama made assertions and statements that have once again raised the hackles of a variety of opinionators.

He said, “Part of what’s happened is, is that elites in a very mobile, globalized world are able to live together, away from folks who are not as wealthy, and so they feel less of a commitment to making those investments.” (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/12/obama-wealthy-ignore-poverty-by-sending-kids-to-private-schools/).

He also … “insisted that there needed to be more investments in public schools, public universities, public early child education and public infrastructure, insisting that funding these organizations both “grows our economy and spreads it around.” (breitbart.com, op. cit.)

I wonder by any chance is this a discussion of equality? And, does equality necessarily mean sameness?

At age sixty-five I have no delusions of recapturing a time in my youth when my body was able to do things it can no longer do. I was a fairly decent basketball player at one time — back in the days when middle schools were junior highs. As I got older, however, my early prowess was eclipsed by many, many others.

Guess what? I didn’t play college ball. Guess what? I wasn’t drafted by the Boston Celtics to play in the NBA. Others around me grew and developed skills I didn’t have in my DNA.

The same goes for a host of other areas, not only sports: math, science, business, et. al., were not my areas. I didn’t have or develop the skills. Hence I missed out on a Nobel Prize in Physics. I never made it to the cover of Forbes.

But should I have?

Granted, I grew up in a neighborhood of privilege. My dad was successful, and my siblings and I benefited as a result.

But should I have?

It doesn’t seem fair.

We hold these truths to be self-evident … not only are they evident, according to the Declaration of Independence, but they are elementary.

All men are created equal.

But are we? Should we be?

A child is born addicted to heroin due to his mother’s addiction.

Hard to disagree this child is disadvantaged.

But should he be?

Another is born into a family of social, economic and political influence, and those powers are thrust upon her at an early age.

How fair is that when compared to a thousand others who are unlikely candidates given parentage and economic position at the start of their lives?

Not to be glib, but it’s obvious to me few — if any — are born into equality. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

All [people] are NOT created equal.

The question then becomes how to create a level playing field so every individual or group has the capability to succeed in the inalienable rights of all: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We’ve witnessed throughout the ages attempts at parity. Wars and the overthrows of governments and political systems are the norm for humankind. Some clearly want to impress sameness on the rest of the world through aggressive tactics of many kind. Their names and biographies litter tomes of history books.

Equal. The same.

Even evolution rails against the concept. Genetic differentiation providing for the survival of the fittest.

Equal? Fair? Where’s the self-evidence? Perhaps the NFL Patriots? Rory McIlroy? Michael Jordan? Bill Gates?

A few people have told me “I could never write as easily as you do.”

Equal? Fair?

Of course, the skills of writing are developed and honed over years of practice and doing. I suppose the argument could lead to the self-evident conclusion all can write. And all can play NFL football. Or play PGA golf. Or in the NBA. Or create a dominant world-wide company.

Equal? Fair?

No. And no, perhaps. Depending on what you mean by the word, “fair,” as Bill Clinton might say.

Be it ever so gloomy and dire, my assessment of life is it is not dealt out equally. There are those who are privileged to have to fight and struggle for their successes, while there are those underprivileged who have it all through no effort at all.

Sound strange to you? Would you reverse my definitions of privileged and underprivileged?

Jesus said, “For ye have the poor with you always …”

Equal? Fair?

Of course, he also said, “…. and whensoever ye will ye may do them good …” (Matthew 14:7, KJV).

So, not equal. Not so fair. But the onus is on those with superior ability to enable those with inferior ability to at least reach their capabilities.

It’s how separation of the species differentiates us from every other creation on this planet. We’re not equal. Not the same.

I would hold our troth, though, is not just to survival in this life.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 15 May, 2015

Overheard at an outdoor café

9 May

skipmars:

Saturday Review . . .

Originally posted on Writing Odds n Ends:

Overheard at an outdoor café

by L. Stewart Marsden

“So, what do you think? Should we go?”
“I’m not sure I want to spend good money on it. After all, it will eventually go to Netflix.”
“C’mon! What else would we do with the day?”
“Walk? Have that conversation you’re always begging me for?”
“I’m in a movie mood and not a talking mood today. I feel like a box of buttered popcorn and a large Coke.”
“Funny. You don’t look like buttered popcorn or coke.”
“Did you write the check and send it?”
“I’ll do it later.”
“Later! With you, everything is later! Why not sooner than later? Write the check now and we’ll walk down to the post office and take care of it.”
“Look! If you continue pushing like this, you might not care for the results.”
“Really? If I don’t push, it won’t happen! Perhaps you’re…

View original 389 more words

Virtual hope

8 May

Virtual hope

By L. Stewart Marsden

I writhe
in virtual agony
from behind my side
of a protective flat screen

having seen
the faces of
beautiful women far away
on the portal’s other side

who hide
in mystery lives
which I can’t see
or hope to become part —

my heart
ever slowly beats
to think that I
might ever meet just one

at some
small quaint café
to sip and talk
and share the ending day

perhaps say
“Again next week?
or even somewhat sooner?”
and await the smiling answer …

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 8 May, 2015

Dodging bullets

6 May

Dodging bullets

By L. Stewart Marsden

No less lethal

for having been dodged, avoided, slipped, nearly whatevered …

the missiles whiz past in slow-motioned agonizing closeness

to disappear somewhere over there — or out there — or back there.

And returning to that moment when all was interrupted …

when all was suddenly frozen in brittle two-dimensioned planes …

remains the thought, the worry, the paranoia that

from over there — out there —back there

another bullet will come.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden,  6 May, 2015

On the Kentucky Derby

2 May

I don’t know if you watched the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. I did. I mean … the hype! While I watched my writer’s brain kept churning, and I couldn’t help writing the following. In the face of what’s been going on in Baltimore and the rest of the country/world, this side-step into a world totally removed from reality caught my attention. Tell me what you think.

Groups Complain About the 141st Running of the Kentucky Derby:

Strange bedfellows of extreme groups gathered after the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby today to voice complaints regarding the annual event.

1. The Association of Sexual Satisfaction (ASS) complained that compared to the build-up of more than two hours on national television, the actual time of the race was 2:03.02 (two minutes, three point oh two seconds) — which left most viewers unfulfilled and wanting more, only to be exasperated by less-than-satisfying post-race interviews and reruns.

2. The American Tea Party as well as the American Libertarian Party were incensed by the fact that of the 20 jockeys originally scheduled to ride in the event (one was scratched), only two — Gary Stevens (Firing Line) and Mike Smith (Far Right — on whom the Tea party placed a $250,000 bet) — had what the party termed “Amerkin names.” “We would like to see the documentation of all other jockeys to make sure they are in the Nited States under proper papers,” said a spokesman from the group.

3. Westboro Baptist Church, who condemns all who participate in horse racing to hell, further complained about the winning entry’s name. “By God, this is an American institution — and the winner was a goddamn foreigner with a horse named American Pharoah! This country is NOT a dictatorship, but under the rule of GAWD! Pharoah got his ass whipped once, and we cannot condone a horse named Pharoah winning in a Southern American tradition!”

The group called for the immediate dispatching of the horse, jockey and owner.

4. The NAACP complained that the event is “Lily White!” and uses references to slavery in the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as well as the tradition of women wearing hats and gowns that reflect an era of black American repression. The Reverend Al Sharpton has called for a march next week of three laps around the Churchill Downs racetrack followed by a fund-raising event with Hollywood notaries that will feature Mint Juleps and shrimp cocktail.

This is satire, of course, and not at all true — at the moment.
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