Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sorry?

As you may have noticed, it's been about three weeks since I've posted anything. And guess what?

I'm not really posting anything today, either. Just this general acknowledgment of my own suckiness.

This is not a great time of year for regularly producing new content, between work and Christmas and Thanksgiving. I'm hoping to get at least two or three more blog posts in yet this year, but no promises.

In the meantime, if you're really wanting to read something I've written, there's always Lindworm.

Currently I'm prepping for some changes in the New Year, so stay tuned for more info about that, and also about Christmas sales!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sorting the Seeds (Or Depression: An Analogy)

I’ve talked about this story type before, mainly in the context of shameless self promotion, but lately I’ve been thinking about what a good analogy it is for depression.

(Sometimes you try to write literary analyses, and you end up with angst-prose instead.  Deal with it.)



They give you an ocean and a teaspoon. They make you a lumberjack with a blown-glass ax. And you just feel trapped.

It’s not about saving a princess, this set of impossible tasks. You don’t get anything when you’re done, except for getting to be done, except you’re never done. You try and you try and you never get anywhere.

Some days I feel like Sisyphus, and my entire self is the rock I can’t roll up the hill.

I’m just so tired of being tired.

Imagine this.

You’re sitting on the floor surrounded by birdseed. You have to sort it by type, and you can’t do anything else, can’t even breathe, until it’s done. But all the seeds look the same.

Imagine this.

You’re sitting in a garden with a bowl full of rose seeds, and you have to plant them based on the color of the flowers they will someday produce.

Imagine this.

An ogre tells you to sort six bushels of chaff, and you don’t even know what chaff is. (You don’t even know what a bushel is.)

This is how it feels when your brain betrays you.

There’s some monster living in your head, demanding lonely monotony that never ends. And you want to be the hero but you can’t be till you’re done, and your heart is filled with unlimited chaff.

I am so sick of being trapped inside myself.

And maybe it’s bad because I’m bad, because don’t all the good guys have helpful ant friends?

Or maybe it’s hard because I am the ogre myself,  and also the prince, and possibly the damsel in distress.

So I sort and I sort the stupid seeds, and all I’ve ever wanted is just to be free.




Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's been a long week

No regular blogs today, guys. Sorry. I've been really busy with some other things, including work on my latest poetry book, Small Scars, which should be available by late spring.

The post that was supposed to go out today was about fairy tales about tailors, so keep an eye out for that in the near-ish future. I'm afraid things are going to get a lot less regular here with the holidays approaching.

So today I'm just going to remind you that I'm publishing a book on Patreon, which costs $1/month to access. I'd really appreciate it if you could all take a look at the site and consider supporting me; I'm not going to claim that it's a great literary masterpiece, but I'd like to think it's worth more than the two or three bucks it would cost you to read it.

An excerpt from the chapter that went up today:


“Can we trust him?” Davey nodded, looking slightly sheepish. “I don’t know. But I think—it is more thoughtlessness than cruelty, isn’t it? Maybe he’s just noticed. I think he means it when he says he’s sorry.”

“So do I. But that just makes everything worse, doesn’t it? When it all goes wrong?”

“Why would it go wrong?”


“Because everything always does.”  


And that's all, because I took a four hour nap today and I'm still in desperate need of a full night's sleep.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Literary Fiction, Commercial Fiction, and Why YA Fiction is the Best Fiction

I think I was sixteen before I dared to venture into the teen section of the bookstore, which was always full of vampires and suicide and other unpleasant things. I’m twenty four now, and I haven’t made my way onto the adult shelves yet.

I don’t particularly want to.

It’s not like I’ve never read books meant for adults. I’ve done all the classics, read books people recommended, grabbed interesting things off display shelves, all of that. I’ve read plenty of adult fiction, and some of it has been good. Maybe a lot of it. But there’s one overarching problem that keeps me from moving on to the next section of the library.

Categories of contemporary fiction can basically be described as: children’s fiction, teen fiction, commercial fiction, and literary fiction.

Notice how I’ve divided the adult fiction into two distinct parts. And you all know what I mean. You’ve got your cheap paperbacks, which are sometimes good, but more often low enough quality that you can tell more time and money went into marketing and overproduction than into actual writing. And then you’ve got your “future classics,” which are all high-quality books full of metaphors and flowery language and a lot of Literary Significance, which ultimately tend to be about professors cheating on their wives, blonde girls dying, etc.

I don’t want to walk into a bookstore, examine my options, and make a choice between literary and commercial, because they both kind of suck. I may have spent a significant portion of my life studying literature, but mostly what I’ve learned from that is that while literature is good, capital-L-Literature is more a way for middle aged white guys to feel good about themselves than anything else. And commercial fiction can be a lot of fun, and sometimes it’s really good, but sometimes I want something with more substance, you know? And literary fiction only really provides “substance.”

There aren’t really rules for young adult fiction. Or maybe the rules are just opposite from the ones you get in adult fiction—you have to have both. Because kids aren’t about to put up with all that fancy, literary crap, Actual entertainment is mandatory. Sure, I find the occasional crappy commercial book in the YA section of the library, but you never get straight up I-Wrote-This-So-High-Schoolers-Would-Be-Forced-to-Read-It-in-50-Years Crap, and most of the cool stuff has actual meaning, too.

So if eternally reading about teenagers is the price I have to pay for a combination of fun and substance, well, you know where to find me.




Sunday, November 5, 2017

Donkey Cabbages

I’m a little confused about how I read this story in the first place. I know it didn’t come from my first straight-through reading of the complete works of the brothers Grimm, because I remember being really excited to find it again when I did that. And I know I didn’t find it on the internet, or any sort of adult-oriented fairy tale collection, because I remember reading it at my great-grandma’s house; there wasn’t internet there, and I hadn’t ventured beyond the children’s section of the library yet when she was alive.

So the question, here, is what kind of children’s book of fairy tales contained this bizarre piece of fever-dreamage?

As far as I remember, this was my first introduction to the word “ass.” My childhood was often plagued with accidental cussing. It wasn’t until I said things in public that I realized they had alternate meanings. Children’s historical fiction in the early 00s did not shy away from the use of “bastard,” guys.

Anyway. The story.

We start with a young hunter.  He’s nice to a mysterious old woman in the woods, so you know what’s coming next.

She tells him where he can find some birds carrying a cloak. Shoot the birds. Take the cloak. Take the bird that you shot. Take out the heart. Eat it whole. Congratulations! Not only do you have a magic wishing cloak, but every morning from now on you’ll wake up to find a gold coin under your pillow.

(Weird side note: the eat bird heart, get gold coin thing shows up in other stories, too, and at some point I’ll probably do an in-depth analysis of why that is, or something, but I was already supposed to post this fifteen minutes ago, and I’ve barely started writing it, so we’ll do that some other time.)

Hunter travels. He ends up at a castle, as you do, and meets a creepy old lady, and a beautiful maiden.  I know it can be hard to tell sometimes—no wonder these poor fairy tale kids end up in so much trouble—but this creepy old lady is an evil witch, not a powerful fairy in the woods.

Naturally, the hunter falls madly in love, and he and the maiden hook up. Maybe he thinks this creepy old lady is the good kind. Maybe he thinks the maiden is too cool to be in cahoots with the witch. Who knows? Anyway, he should have seen it coming. I swear, it’s like Samson and Delilah levels of stupidity up in here.

They give him something to make him throw up, and someone really needs to have a talk with the Grimm brothers about the digestive system. Either that, or magic bird hearts are like gum, and take seven years to come out the other end. Because our boy vomits up the heart, and because she’s disgusting or desperate or the greediest person in all of history, the maiden goes right ahead and eats that puke heart. No more gold for the hunter. Lots of gold for the witch and the maiden.

(Really interested in how this heart thing works, btw. I mean, you wake up every morning with a gold coin beneath your pillow, right? But this leaves so many questions unanswered. I assume if you pull an all-nighter you don’t get any gold that day. But what about naps? Could you, say, feed the heart to your pet cat to fully maximize your gold intake every time she falls asleep?)

Is this enough for the witch? Of course not. She wants the cloak too. Proving she isn't entirely sucky, our maiden asks, hey, isn't all this money enough? But the witch is all like, no, of course not, so, Delilah-like, the maiden goes to her boyfriend again.

She spends a lot of time sighing deeply.

“Honey,” he says, “what’s wrong?”

“I just really wish I could go to Garnet Mountain, where all the jewels grow,” she tells him. “But I’d have to fly to get there, and obviously that is not an option.”

“Hey babe,” he says, “I gotcha covered.”

Leaving aside the whole thing where jewels apparently grow on mountain tops, I should probably clarify that the magic wishing cloak is specifically a travel wishing cloak. So he puts on the cloak, wraps her all up, and wishes them away to the mountain.

And then, because Evil Magic, he falls asleep. Girl takes the cloak and wishes herself home. Hunter wakes up, finally sees the light, and boy is he pissed. Now, in her defense, the maiden stranded him on a mountain covered in living jewels, so, like, she gave him a fighting chance here, right? Dude could be set for life.

But does he fill up his pockets? Of course not. No, our guy just goes stomping down the mountain for a while, until he reaches that “have to fly to get there” part of the climb, and then he takes a fake nap to eavesdrop on some giants until he figures out how to get off on the Magic Cloud Express.

Some floating later, he’s back on the ground, and he’s really hungry. So he finds some cabbage. Then he gets turned into a donkey, which is why you should never eat your vegetables, kids.

He’s so hungry, he doesn’t even care that he’s a donkey now. He just keeps eating cabbage. But then he eats a different kind of cabbage, and suddenly he’s a man again. This is where he gets the Idea.

He grabs a whole bunch more cabbage, makes a fancy salad, throws on a disguise, and goes back to the castle where Delilah lives.

It’s possible he missed his calling with this whole hunter thing, because the guy makes a mean salad. Like, as long as you don’t mind becoming a donkey, forget all those Michelin stars and crap—this is the dream chef.

Everyone goes nuts for the salad. The witch, the maiden, and some random maidservant are promptly turned into donkeys.

(btw, I know the text used the word “ass” to describe the donkeys several times in the first version of this I read, but let’s all take a moment to be grateful that they didn’t translate the title as “Ass Cabbages.” Like, things could have been so much worse.)

So everyone is donkeys. Dude pays a miller to watch the donkeys for a while. Tells him to beat the witch donkey thrice a day, and feed her once, shout out to my baby brother who loves the word “thrice.” The maiden donkey gets three meals and zero beatings, because someone’s still in love with his Delilah. The servant girl gets one beating and three meals, which is like—okay. Come on, man. This girl did not hurt you. No one even mentioned her until salad time. It’s bad enough you got this innocent person turned into a donkey, now you gotta beat her too?

You deserved to get your heart and cloak stolen, man.

The witch donkey dies under this treatment, and then our hunter feels bad and gives the other two the good cabbage to turn them back. Our poor innocent servant girl immediately disappears from the narrative again, hopefully to get a better job with no witches and no salads. Beautiful maiden apologizes, tells him where his cloak is, and offers to puke the bird heart back up.

Hunter takes the cloak, lets her keep the heart, and marries her, which is, frankly, a bad idea all around. Dude already knows he can’t trust her. Also, turns out the witch was the girl’s mom, so, like, honey. Really. Why are you hooking up with the guy who had her beaten until she died? Sure, she was a wicked witch, but she was also your mom.


Whatever. If there’s one thing fairy tales are consistently awesome about, it’s the power of forgiveness. We all live happily ever after. Stay tuned for some fun with tailors next week.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Noses

Okay. Is it just me, or are we way past due for a little fun around here? Like, don’t get me wrong, I adore Prince Lindworm, and I’m super proud of my book, and fully intend to continue with the shameless self-promotion. And I’m sure I’ll never run out of anger over all of the various injustices of folklore. But there’s enough tough crap in real life, and I’m kind of over it right now.  So let’s go silly.

Grimm Brothers. Two stories. Two amazing, ridiculous stories in which the noses are really only tangential, but I’m putting them front and center today.

The first time I read through the complete works of the Brothers Grimm, I marked everything remotely interesting with a post-it covered in commentary. This is what that ended up looking like:










So these stories, several pages apart, were both marked “nose swap,” with the page number of the other story. I had to reread them both to figure out what on earth I’d been talking about, and seldom have I encountered a more valuable use of my time.

Our first fairy tale is “Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful,” and it is a trip, guys. We start out pretty simple. There’s a miracle baby, a mysterious godfather, a mysterious key granting access to a mysterious castle. And then there’s a horse, which our miracle-boy Ferdinand—the faithful one, rides around on, picking up a magic pen, rescuing a fish, and getting a magic flute to summon the fish if he ever needs help in return. Standard stuff.

Then he meets a guy who introduces himself as Ferdinand the Unfaithful. Like, straight up, that’s what they call me. Who does that? Why point out your most significant character flaw upon first meeting, instantly warning everyone that you are not to be trusted?

Of course the really weird part here is that Good Ferd just carries on as if his new friend is not obviously the sketchiest of people (who, btw, knows everything about Good Ferd via “all kinds of wicked arts”).

So this cool, pretty girl is working at the inn where the two Ferds are staying (SHUT UP AUTOCORRECT IF I MEAN FRED I’LL TYPE FRED), and she falls in love with Good Ferd and gets him a job with the local king. And then she gets the same job for Bad Ferd, because she’s a little scared of him.

The king sends Good Ferd off to rescue his beloved, who’s chilling Sleeping-Beauty-style at the other end of the world. Which is where we get back into the helping fish, magic pen, talking horse, whatever crap, which we’re gonna skip because who cares? That happens in like every story.

He rescues the girl, the girl comes and marries the king, she decides the king sucks and she likes Good Ferd. Various shenanigans occur, the king gets murdered, the new queen marries Good Ferd, and we break the spell on his horse, which was, obviously, an enchanted prince all along.

There's a lot to unpack here. First, how did Good Ferd earn the Faithful title? We never even hear about his first girlfriend after she introduces us to the king. And then he stands by while a woman kills his employer, and then he marries her before her husband’s body is even cold. Who or what are you faithful to, man?

And, like, what is even the point of Bad Ferd? He doesn’t contribute to the story at all. Just hangs out in the background being shady.

And last but not least, the nose thing. It’s just this casual, throwaway line when the queen is contemplating regicide. “The Queen, however, did not love the King because he had no nose, but she would have much liked to love Ferdinand the Faithful.” Like, why did this nose situation not come up before? Why did it come up at all? Is it in any way relevant or necessary? Is it some weird euphemism I’m not getting? What is going on with this man’s nose?

To this day, I still have no answer.

On to the second story! “St. Joseph in the Forest.” For some reason I always confuse this one with “The Three Green Twigs.” A completely unrelated story that I mentioned in passing in the last Wednesday blog. Anyway. It’s also kind basic for the most part. Three daughters, increasingly nicer as they get younger, crazy mom prefers the old, mean kid. Littlest girl meets a strange old man in the forest, is nice to him, gets an awesome present. Whole family’s super excited about this, so the next day the middle kid goes into the forest. She’s slightly less nice to the strange old man, and gets a slightly less awesome present. Finally, the oldest girl goes in, and things get interesting. Because she’s totally rude, obviously.

Her awesome gift is…

(wait for it)

A SECOND NOSE ON TOP OF HER ORIGINAL NOSE!!! Double noses!!!!!

More stuff happens after that. She loses the second nose, and then she gets stung to death by lizards. Talk about lessons in minding your manners.

I think my plan, upon writing the original post-it notes than marked this story, was that Mean Girl should somehow transfer her additional nose over to the poor Noseless King. Presumably they would then get together, appropriately nosed, and no one would have to be murdered or stung to death by lizards. But rereading it, they do definitely describe the oldest daughter as a child, so I’m just like, really, Joe? Really? And it’s totally distracting me from the noses.

Saint Joseph. Dude. Sometimes kids are selfish brats. That’s just how it goes. Maybe you should get out of the sainthood biz and look for a new career path that can cater to your unique interests and skill sets, such as the torture and murder of children. There’s gotta be a wicked witch hiring at this time of year, right?





AND IT’S TIME FOR THE SURPRISE BONUS STORY

So, obviously, I didn’t bring the complete works of the Brothers Grimm with me to work this morning, because that’s a lot of book to haul around and cram into a cubby.

Which meant that when I wanted to work on this post over my lunch break, I had to rely on the internet for my source material. I couldn’t remember the title of the St Joseph story. Pitt.edu, the ultimate source for online Grimm brothers texts, betrayed me, and did not have the text of the Ferds. So I was left with Wikipedia, which of course didn’t bother to even mention the missing nose, leading me to believe I’d remembered the title of the wrong story.

Anyway. Some halfhearted nose-googling later, I wound up finding a whole new nose story. It’s called “The Nose Tree,” and may or may not also be Grimm brothers—it’s not in my collection, and it’s not showing up on any websites I would consider reputable sources, but there are a lot of sites attributing it to the Grimms, and there appears to be an Arthur Rackham illustration. It’s midnight. I don’t care enough to do serious research right now.

This is basically just a public service announcement regarding the existence of “The Nose Tree.” I’m not going to tell you the story, because the base plot is actually really similar to the fairy tale I’m talking about next week. What you need to know: There’s a magic apple tree that makes your nose grow, and it won’t stop growing or return to its normal size until you eat a magic pear.

Aren’t fairy tales great?


Have an awesome Halloween, and don’t forget about Lindworm!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Conservative Christian's Guide to Not Sucking: Gay Edition

Okay. Here’s the deal. We’re not talking about whether it’s right or wrong. That’s completely irrelevant to this issue, okay? Here are the rules. If homosexuality is a sin, you are allowed to disapprove of it to the exact same degree that you disapprove of divorce, premarital sex, and any other sins of that type. Would you kick a divorced man out of your church? If a woman was killed while spending the night at her boyfriend’s house, would you say she deserved it because she shouldn’t have stayed over in the first place?

If your answer is yes, please take a moment to come to terms with the fact that you are scum. If your answer is no, congratulations. You have completed step one of being a Decent Human Being.

I read a story once—Grimm Brothers—called The Three Green Twigs. In this story, a hermit sees a man being led to the gallows, and has the passing thought that the man is getting what he deserves. God sends him a message, and as penance, the hermit spends the rest of his life begging from door to door, never staying more than one night in one place, carrying a dry branch until it comes alive and sprouts green twigs. He dies the night it sprouts.

The Grimm Brothers’ version of God needs to chill, as evidenced by many, many other stories, but I’ve always found this a good illustration of the instruction “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I remember being in tenth grade humanities, watching a fight unfold between a dozen kids about whether or not all sins were equal in the eyes of God. And I think what I contributed to the conversation was that regardless of where God comes down on the issue, humans aren’t going to treat all sins as equal—obviously you can’t punish a serial killer the same way you would a kid who stole a candy bar. 

But there is absolutely no way to justify not treating all of the sexual sins as equal. (With the exception of adultery, which actually hurts other people, and rape, which I put in the same category as murder in terms of how despicable it is, except for the fact that you can kill someone in self defense, and there is never, ever any way to justify rape at all, but I’m getting off topic.)

If you wouldn’t tell your recently divorced aunt she’s going to hell, how dare you say that to a teenager holding hands with another girl? Seriously. What is wrong with you?

I once told someone very important to me what I’d read about the shooting at that Florida gay club—how the youngest victim had just finished high school the week before, how she’d gotten into such a good college, how she had so much life ahead of her, and now she was dead. The response? “She shouldn’t have been there.”

This was a few years ago, and we never talked about it again, and I don’t think about it much—I doubt she even remembers saying it. But every once in a while, those words will float through my head, and I’ll wonder. Would you love me if. Would you mourn me if I died and I was gay? Was it because she was gay that you said that? Was it because she was in a club, probably drinking underage? If I died drunk would you be sad? If I died in a club? If I died in love with someone you didn’t approve of? How much do you love me? Where do you draw the line?

Judge not, lest ye be judged by God. Judge not, lest ye be judged unworthy of your loved ones’ trust.

I don’t care if homosexuality is a sin or not. The people in my life are arguing constantly about it—my conservative family, my liberal classmates. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Your job as a Christian is to love people. Your job is to be there for them. And you don’t hurt the people you love.

I’ve seen Christians forgive rapists and murderers more easily than gay men. Is it because, if you’re interacting with the murderers and rapists, presumably they’ve repented, where the gay man hasn’t? Does it matter? No sin get treated like this. No children kill themselves over the bullying when they cheat on a test. No people are murdered in alleys for robbing a grocery store.

If you think quietly and privately that homosexuality is a sin, just like lying and skipping church and having kids out of wedlock, cool. That’s alright. But if you treat it the way—let’s be real—most conservative Christians treat it, you’re a bigot, and I bet God is ashamed of you.

Maybe you’re older, and your friends are older, and more likely to be conservative, so you don’t know. But I’m twenty four. That means I’m surrounded every day by extremely liberal peers, and they talk about this stuff. All the time. I can’t remember the last time I went an entire week without reading a news article about a teenager committing suicide over sexuality. This is the world you helped create.

So get over yourselves, treat gay people like you treat other people—hello, Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do to you—and remember. For every nasty, careless thing you say, someone you love is wondering, would you love me if?

You don’t get to judge. And if you can’t love people the way God loves people, regardless of everything, what is the point of you? Kids are dying over this. Try not to suck.