Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Finally, a Self Help Book for Happy Losers

Ah, those make-your-life-better publications abound don’t they? Until a few years ago, arrogant snot that I was, I didn’t give them much credit. That was before my great depression. Later, some hardbacks truly ‘showed me the way’ to get better whereas others regurgitated common sense. All a matter of perspective I suppose.

It’s uncanny that this business/self-help book happened into my goofy present outlook – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Yes, the cartoonist of Dilbert.
Just weeks ago, I’d finally learned to quit yearning for carrots like a toothless mule and instead enjoy the ride. You see, my goal a few years before was to become a solvent writer if not published by New York. Moderate success came along, but not to my expectation. Oh the agony! Any genre that I thought could get me across the finish line is what I wrote. Go ahead. Call me a word slut. I’ve been a very bad boy and deserve it. Anyway, the work proved to be life consuming. Rarely did I have any fun. (Insert images of Nicholson maniacally typing ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ here). I love putting words on paper but gee whiz Beav, plotting novels, a humongous undertaking, started making my pea brain anguish over the dubious payoff – not to mention the weeks or months to complete the 1st draft. No wonder writers are always depressed!

So, comedy called me again. At first, if felt like going over to someone’s backyard to play horseshoes. Relaxed. Fun. It takes place at a neighborhood bar open mike. Because I’m not good at being idle, I soon schemed up some directions for my ‘hobby’. Now let’s get real. At 50, my chances of becoming the next Bill Murray is about as likely as Donald Trump learning modesty. That, and due to my failure to snag the gold with writing, I stopped short of declaring a goal.
I think I’ve stumbled on to something.

Scott Adams is a winner. Yet his take on ‘making it’ was refreshingly contrasting to most success advice. On goals he writes:
“To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach that goal-if you reach it at all-feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game. If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction.”

Adams suggests other ways to better yourself rather than obsessing on the end result. A touchy-feely, roll-with-it approach is what rewarded him after years of dinking around and constantly regrouping. I should point out that he owned two restaurants, designed video games, rose to middle management in banking, and numerous other ‘attempts’ that were most impressive.
I’ve had a scattered career life also, but for far too long I was hell-bent. Now, his words are preaching to the choir.

Check out his 2 cents on persistence. God, I love this:
“The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of different things-sampling, if you will. For entrepreneurial ventures it might mean quickly bailing out of things that don’t come together quickly. That approach might conflict with the advice you’ve heard all your life-that sticking with something, no matter the obstacles, is important to success. Indeed, most successful people had to chew through a wall at some point. Overcoming obstacles is normally an unavoidable part of the process. But you also need to know when to quit. Persistence is useful, but there’s no point in being an idiot about it.”

My Dad was a Mr. fix-it, Grandpa a carpenter. In a respectable trade, persistence is a virtue and it was instilled in me like Adams touched on. Unfortunately, I carried it with me into the arts thinking it would guarantee progress. It took a while, but I wound up proverbially following Hank Williams’ lyrics to “scat right back to my pappy’s farm.”
Adams has solidified the optimistic view of my experiences though. With all these failures, I’m ready to play them for their true worth. I invite you to give How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big a read. You may find that you're actually a conqueror.

Gusto Dave (Taylor Swift's male opposite...Tyler Slow)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


When I was a kid, you could get me to do just about anything for candy. Wasn't it like that for you too? Now, I'll do anything for a beer, but as a kid, it was candy. "Oh you want me to do 3 hours of math for a little packet of Sweet Tarts? Sounds like a deal!"

When you're a kid, you have no sense of commerce. Teachers milk that trick too, don't they? "If the students ever find out that candy is our secret, it'll topple the whole elementary educational system."

Remember those Tootsie Pop commercials where the boy asks the owl how many licks it takes to get to the chocolate, then the owl grabs the sucker, licks it three times, then flippantly bites into it? If I'd been that dude, cheated out of my candy, I'd unleashed my cat on him. "Let's see how many bites it takes for kitty to get to your chewy center, wise ass."

Not just childhood, but through my teens, I loved Snickers. The perfect junk food meal! Really satisfies. (All you old-timers will remember that ad). Nowadays, the only time I eat a Snickers is if I'm feeling insecure about my comedy. Then a Payday when I'm broke. And if I'm randy, Mounds!

Frozen mini Reese's peanut butter cups will be the death of me. The paramedics will crash in and find me sprawled across the floor with all those golden foil papers crumpled up around me...and the biggest smile they've ever seen.

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Real Man

A Real Man

                It appears America is suffering from a deficit of adult development for males. Maybe I’m wrong and just an old codger, but on several of my outings a hipster/metro-sexual/generation x dude has shown up who didn’t have a clue to some basic things that men of older generations know. I blame the parents who gave these overgrown children open checks to play video games constantly. There’s no shortage of blanket asses who can rule a joystick, but ask them to light a grill and they have to search it on YouTube.

Again, I may be out of touch, but I can’t begin to count all the times I’ve heard women complain about their boyfriends who are total screw-ups, yet their one redeeming quality is expertise in superhero movies. Ladies, Valentine’s Day is coming. If you’re about to get steady with a male unit, or you already got a Neanderthal attached to you, put them to my test otherwise you’ll be babysitting.

                Now, before you think I’m going to get all Indiana Jones/boy scout on you, which is kind of the right idea only a little too gung ho (in fact, I quit scouts because we never did anything outdoors) these are real issues that will crop up in a guy’s life, so he might as well man up for them. If he wasn’t taught by his guardians, he can learn from hairy old gorillas like me.

                Speaking of scouts, start a fire by rubbing sticks together? I’ve never seen anyone actually do it, so that’s unrealistic and like I said, too gung ho, but it does segue into the first requirement.

Build a fire using the basics: kindling, leaves/paper, wood and a match. At a party I went to, the soft cardigan-wearing host threw an armful of pine chunks into a pit, splashed butane all over it, and lit it, thinking that it would ignite into a roaring, toasty burn. To his embarrassment, his flash in the pan petered out, of course. A fire feeds on three inputs: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Our boy host didn’t see to the heat element. I hope he doesn’t struggle the same way in the bedroom! Incidentally, a lighter rather than a match is fine. It’s the chemistry that’s important for a man to understand. Oh the romantic double entendres! And back to the grill, if he’s got at least the caveman thing down of growing a fire correctly, other worlds will open up to him like lighting propane. It’s a snap.

Change a flat. You will blow a tire at some time. It’s more certain than death and taxes. It’s so guaranteed that the tools to swap it out come standard in vehicles. Not knowing how to fix a flat is like not knowing how to sharpen a pencil. The only challenge is the grit needed to twist the lug wrench… which is why it falls into guy territory most of the time. However, plenty of ladies have this skill. Yes, believe it or not, I’ve fixed flats for two oblivious dudes! Disgraceful.

Swim. For crying out loud, this planet is mostly water. To the scouts thing again, swimming is one of their badges. My son went with his pack to a pool to earn his merit, yet most of the kids couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go in the deep end. They got their badges anyway. Scary. Ladies, if you got a landlubber on your hands, no matter what his age, he can skip down to the rec center and learn floatation. There’s no shame in learning. If he refuses, go to the beach and frolic the surf in front of him with some other studs. No, just kidding. Actually, just go ahead and send him home where his mommy will kiss it and make it all better.

Tie a tie and polish shoes. These are listed together because the guy might have the neck apparel knotted correctly, but is wearing a pair of trashed shoes! Why even put on a tie then? Even old shoes can clean up nicely, so if the male doesn’t at least give these two eye-catchers attention, can you imagine what a spoiled slob he is at home? Of course kiddo needs to learn to tie a tie because—we hope—he’ll grow up and interview for a job or become an entrepreneur.

He works. It may not be the best job. Maybe he bitches about it, but a man earns his keep if he’s able-bodied. If he thinks his skills are above the job, he works anyway while taking action to get a fitting occupation. Remember Eddie, the brother-in-law from the Vacation movies? What a catch!
He pays his damn bills. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's critical because of honor—something our society is losing. You borrow money, you pay the creditors back on time. If a goof-off has late fees all over his accounts, he’s just going to drag you into misery.

         Those are the non-negotiable expectations. I fought an impulse to list: start a lawn mower, bait a hook, read a tape measure, whittle, and some other testosterone treats, but in fairness, I felt I should stay on theme. How come there was no mention of drinking beer, tools, hunting, hot rods, boxing; all of which I and other males enjoy? Because they have nothing to do with actual manhood. You see…my father defined being a man better than anyone I’ve ever heard. At a formative age of 14, I thought masculinity was having muscles, babes, martial arts training, robust chest hair, a big ding-a-ling, you know…all that macho crap. But Dad corrected that a man simply takes responsibility for himself and his loved ones.

That makes sense doesn’t it? If you can’t swim, your dumbass can drown. Not very responsible. You need a job. It’s a good idea to be able to provide warmth for yourself and family. That car, which will pop a radial, is important for livelihood and Mr. Grown-Up can be prepared for it. Responsibility. These are the bare-bone, minimal requirements.

Lest one think I may be a chauvinist, if I had a daughter, I’d teach her these things, too—more importantly, to demand them of any suitors.

Don’t get me wrong. To each his own. Bro, It’s your business if you wear those God-awful scarves as a fashion statement, and beanies in blazing hot weather. Go ahead and stretch your ear lobes in gauges all the way down to your ass where they dangle like snot in the wind. I don’t care. Hell, I like Star Wars, belching, scantily covered women, tattoos, motorcycles, on and on. Let’s be clear, though. Those are luxuries, not measurements.

Sadly, America has raised full-grown males, handy with their joy sticks, clad in their muscle bound avatars, blowing virtual stuff up, but they missed the train out of adolescence through these delusions. It's also why texting and driving rules out junior from being a man...because it's irresponsible.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Necflix 2015: An All Time Great

                Rise up from your day-to-day grave, your slumber of work, eat, sleep, and monotony by joining me with this brazen look of cinema that forces you to look the Reaper in his eyes (like a good horror movie should) and make you thankful for the routine, the beaten path/rat race. Or do you dare venture into the dark twisted forest with me? I’ll protect you. Scouts honor.

                So, I’m thrilled to share this first film recommendation with you. All hail M. Night Shyamalan! Finally a perfect horror tale out of Hollywood! The Visit just made it to my top ten all-time favorite scary movies. I normally hate ‘mockumentaries’, but this is one for which I’ll make an exception. The audience gasped, jumped, chuckled, and at the end applauded. It’s next to impossible to find a writer/director who understands the genre enough to capture all the things a horror film should be: fear, believability, and a sense of playfulness, yet Shyamalan nails it this time. You know how run-of-the-mill fright shows usually have some inane violent/spooky scene forced into the first five minutes to mark its genre? Well, this doesn’t need it because the dialogue and interaction between the brother and sister, doomed to visit their grandparents’ house with a shocking revelation, steal the show, especially the boy. Every time something disturbing happens, which should alert the kids to run for their lives, it’s explained, diffusing the situation and making the trip oh so fun until…

                While we’re at it, Shyamalan’s Devil and Signs are way up there as well. No nudity and low on violence, these were attractions I was glad to share with junior years ago.

                The next thumbs up goes to The Countess starring Julie Delpy. Written and directed by this Oscar nominated, multi-talented actor (she also has composer credits!), the film is shelved as a biography/drama. Nonetheless, it’s about Erzabet Bathory and anyone who relishes an eerie story knows that Liz insanely bathed—oh the irony—in servants’ blood to prolong her youth. She made Vlad the Impaler look like the lovable Tom Hanks. At least Vlad was torturing enemies to win a war! Because Bathory’s murders were so unspeakable, there doesn’t need to be any creepy tone added. Delpy masterfully shows us a sympathetic character who, due to misogyny, descends into madness. The costumes, sets, and cast are outstanding. It also stars William Hurt and Daniel Bruhl. In spite of the countess’s sanguine rituals, little blood drips on the screen. This is a film I offer to friends who aren’t necessarily horror buffs, but enjoy a well-done, out-of-the-comfort-zone tragedy. In fact, if you love scary flicks, this may disappoint you, but considering the season, I’m compelled to praise it right here right now.

                This next one may surprise you as it’s a literary classic never categorized as horror, but Lord of the Flies the 1990 adaptation will positively raise the hairs and damn near burn them off your neck. Stephen King even cites the novel as one of his influences. A pack of kids left to their own devices in the wild, regressing into barbarism, oh yeah, this is truly a petrifying premise.

                With the passing of Wes Craven, I’d be remiss not to mention what I thought was his masterpiece. Yeah, Freddie found his way into our household lingo due to the character’s originality and wit, but The Serpent and the Rainbow is about the only zombie film I know of that stays true to the Voodoo mythology and makes you jump a couple of times. Craven goes right for the fear of being buried alive.

                Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, if by some chance you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t seen it already, is a must. Not only is the beauty and the beast pragma compelling, but the giant insects in the canyon scene—ick, it makes me shudder as I scribe—defines this blockbuster as quintessential horror.

                For good reads, I’m delving into The Amulet by Michael McDowell who penned the screenplays for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Although I’m not finished with it, the characterization and first eerie demise excites me to go ahead and plug it.

Happy Halloween!

(Spoken in my deep, crackly voice)

Ghosto Dave

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Taboo of Using the Term Literary

You’re a literary writer? So that must mean you’re rich, privileged, and a graduate from an ivy-league school. No? Well then you can’t be a literary writer.

10 years ago, I fell into an email discussion with my writers organization about what literary meant. It astounded me that just a couple of weeks ago, the same damn debate surfaced with a similar group. All this technology, education, and savvy, and we still bump around in the dark, clueless to the meaning of a word.

By the end of this article, you’ll side with me to snuff the term altogether. But not before I milk it for the absurdity.

Let’s start in an obvious place, a dictionary. My 20-year-old, hardback Webster along with define it as:

Of, relating to, or dealing with literature.

Thank you for that thorough explanation! Ergo (doesn’t that sound literary?), this prompts the look up of that snobby last word as well from the same sources:

Literature: A body of writings in prose or verse. Imaginative or creative writing especially of recognized artistic value.

Whew! I’m glad that’s cleared up. I mean…we all know what artistic and recognized is right? On the contrary, the adjective ‘artistic’ is so overused, abused, and cheapened it might as well be standing on Colfax with a bottle of gin.

Maybe literary is like love. We all know it, but can’t explain it.

If you fell for that, you’ve been disqualified. Wrong answer. It can be explained and I’ll gladly shoulder the burden. Even though I’ve not traced the Latin root of ‘lit’, it probably means something like light or truth. If you think about the word literal which basically means brazenly truthful, then literary is prose that emulates the real world, something that could truly happen.

I can hear the debates now.

Then why is James Bond not literary, spies are real? Because it’s not realistic to get shot at that many times and escape without even a hair out of place.

Then why is romance not literary, people fall in love every day? Real couples don’t fall in love like they do in romance yarns, ladies. (Yes, I’ve read lots of Harlequins in my pursuit for publication). Romance is fantasy. Men aren’t like that. Look at your adorable hubby who is scratching his privates while watching Duck Dynasty.

Of course literary is difficult to write because everyday life can be monotonous and the author better know how to use conflict well and explore emotions. And this leads to the elitism. Because literary is so difficult, a novice is not welcomed into the club of literary writers who are bankrolling their great grandchildren’s ivy-league educations from royalty checks. Pity.

So let’s use a term from centuries past that’s just as good: Drama. Nevermind that it usually pertains to plays. That’s more snobbery. A story that can really happen that explores the emotional highs and lows is quite simply a drama. No need for another label.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Before You Hit a Conference, Here's What's Happening With NY Publishing

The name of the game is entrepreneur. Roll that word around on your tongue for a spell. While you’re at it, you can reshuffle the job of writing to the bottom rung of your to-do list.
A few years ago, a speaker at one of my favorite conferences (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold) had the vision of the future in regards to publishing, shared it, scared the lunch out of my back side—the same could probably be said for my fellow addicts...whoops, I mean writers—and sure enough he was dead on. It has come to pass. The days of the talented new writer being ‘discovered’ by the mighty New York press machine are all but on life support if even that. Publishers sign writers via different means now.

But who can blame The Big Apple for its modern strategy?

Have you ever seen Shark Tank? Before you register for a seminar and editor/agent pitches, tuck that TV program into the back of your mind.

If you decide to attend the convention, you’ll probably get a kick out of the similarities between the investor/product inventor negotiations and the editor/writer pitches. No doubt, somewhere in the conference, you’ll wander into a workshop on ‘developing your brand’, much like James Patterson is a brand. If you get a little face time with an agent, chances are they’ll ask you about your media presence: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etcetera which work like a dream for established celebrities, but just drain precious time like life blood from struggling writers. That’s not just my opinion. Ask the aspiring authors at the conference and you may unleash a Pandora’s Box of groaning.
Note, also, that independent presses (or for clarity, publishers other than the biggies in New York) consume most of the conferences these days. Sure, some heavy players will be there, but for the most part, they’re hanging out to haggle with the agents who have placed their clients with indies and are ripe for the next step.

Think about it. If you were an editor with an acquisition budget to risk on a keyboard plucker, wouldn’t you want to know that he or she has investments in their business, some established tenacity, maybe even a little bit of a following? All New York has to do is kick back, watch Amazon, and take its pick of desperate novelists who are ‘on the brink’. I think this is pretty smart of the giant presses. Make no mistake. It IS their business model now for regular-joe new acquisitions.

Recently, I mentioned on the Rock that back in the day, I had pals who got picked up by New York at conferences. Bam. Pow. Like out of the movies, somebody’s dream just came true in a five minute meeting. Yet those victory stories started waning basically to almost nothing. Even with small reputable presses, the book deals dwindled. That’s because all the editors hit a slump of us writers who value putting words on paper much more than spending time trying to be the popular kid on Twitter.
This current technique does yield fruit though. I have a good friend, talented mystery writer, who has worked her tail off and just recently signed a contract with one of the giants…after paying dues with a classy independent for several years. We’ll probably be interviewing her shortly. I’m SO tickled for her.

Here’s to you attracting a big money investor at your next novel pitch!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Starving Artist's Grocery Guide

Three weeks of groceries for $93. I'M THE CHEAPEST MAN ON EARTH AND DAMN PROUD OF IT.

Unless you are sponsored financially by a partner, or actually have a career in this dismal economic landscape, if you also claim the profession of writer, chances are you're waiting on the 'big break' and scraping by. It makes it easier to get by if one knows how to cheat the grocery stores. I don't mean stealing. Rather, I'm talking about how to avoid falling for the pathetic marketing machine that makes the typical shopper think he or she needs to drop $600 a month.

Before I go in for the haggle, keep in mind that I'm single, no pets. I make special dinners once or twice a month, and feed my kiddo about 7 full days in the same time period. But I know others who share my demographic who spend 4 to 5 times as much as I do.

I don't clip coupons. King Soopers sends me discounts on stuff I typically buy (Big Brother is watching) and I use them when I remember, but I save probably only about $20 a month tops by doing so. Budgeting and choice are the key strategies.

This menu is healthy too. I'm pushing 50 and still look damn good.

For vegans and organic grub buffs, sorry, I can't help you. You'll have to go on paying out the nose for your selections.

So, mute your growling tummy if you will and check out the don'ts:

No soft drinks. Don't get me wrong. I hanker for an ice cold Coke from time to time, but in no way does my body need one or two daily. Even though Coca-Cola is brilliant at presenting those 12 packs as cheap, if you do the math, you'll probably see that the carbonated syrup eats up at least $10 bucks of your bill a week.

Water. Drink it out of the tap. Why would anyone pay for something you get for free? There is no proof to show bottled water is any better for you.

Pre-packaged goods that are set up for daily servings. The lunch packs and breakfast sandwiches are devastating to a budget. Buy the big jar of apple sauce, spoon it into a little container, and take it to work with you daily. Cook the eggs and sausage for all week and keep them in Tupperware in the fridge.

Candy, cookies, ice cream, chips -- junk. Of course we all want these from time to time. I have a SUHWEEEEEET tooth myself, but I limit that kind snacking to weekends only.

So called sports drinks. They're not much more than Kool-Aid. Yeah, so they got electrolytes in them. You can get those from chow you're already buying.

Coupon items that you never buy usually. You're not saving money. It's just the opposite. The marketing machine just got you to pay for something else! That 20 to 50 cents the manufacturer waived didn't hurt them. They have it all priced to 'appear' like they're cutting you a deal.

These are the foods you should optimize with your budget:

Beans. They have electrolytes (damn, there went the excuse to buy sports drinks), a rock bottom price, low fat, and they're great as a replacement for meat when it comes to protein. I use them in burritos for lunch, nachos, and hell, just plain old beans and ham hocks. And when you get my age, you come to appreciate the regularity advantages.

Pasta. At least a week's worth of my meals a month will be pasta based like spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, or pasta salad. The carbs are great for running.

Bananas and apples. Man, I'm always surprised at how cheap bananas are. Great for snacks. Apples, by the way, prevent doctors from chasing you like vampires according to cryptic tales.

Peanut butter. To tell the truth, I'm not much of a PB&J fan. It doesn't squash my hunger. However, as a snack before a sensible lunch like a salad or baked potato, it's perfect.

Oatmeal and bran cereals. A big tube of generic oats lasts me two weeks.

Eggs. Check this out. Even though eggs are expensive right now, I've been eating breakfast burritos for lunch all week (sausage, cheese, eggs, tortilla, and a little salsa) and subsequently the cost each day for a pretty hearty meal is less than 2 bucks a day. Still a helluvadeal.

Chicken. These little cluckers are still unbelievably cheap as far as I'm concerned. There are so many of them and they're so easy to breed, I think if we had a nuclear catastrophe, the fowl would rule the Earth. Buy them in the meat department and cook them yourself in a crock pot with all kinds of vegies.

If you plan a few meals with the aforementioned, you'll be surprised how much coin you'll have left to splurge with and round out the rest of your meal planning with reasonable vegetables. By the way, it's not beneath me to shop in stores that specialize in damaged cans and discontinued items. Talk about deals! At Esh's in Greeley, I scored a 35 oz can of coffee for $7!

For me, I look at food buying as a survival thing. If I were on a desert island, would I want soft drinks or chicken? Think about shopping this way first, and the pocketbook will reflect the gains. You'll also appreciate fancy meals much more.