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.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Son to the Rescue (Instead of Father's Day, How About Son's Day?)

Depression can creep around a hurting soul like ivy. What’s worse is the big D entices you into a gloomy way of life, sometimes to a point of no return. But in many cases, happiness is waiting with a change of perspective, and in my situation, a nudge from an unexpected hero.

            My darkness started in 2000 when in one week, I changed jobs, bought a new house, moved to a different state, got married, and my father died of cancer. The following year brought the loss of my mom and grandmother, and a layoff from the job I loved. Save for the birth of my son and a couple of other blessings, life looked pretty bleak. The recession had cheapened my profession almost into oblivion and I was running scared. Through it all, I worked hourly jobs, determined to help provide for my family, and hated my predicament. Later, I would learn that this noble attitude of staying busy and keeping my nose to the grindstone with angst is called projection in psychiatric circles.

            The worst was yet to come.

            New Year’s Eve 2012, my wife blindsided me with a divorce notification. Looking back, I couldn’t blame her. I was miserable to live with. If I thought I was next to worthless before, I turned into a train wreck after that. Each email from her attorney sent me into a panic. A day didn’t pass where I failed to bawl. The greatest pain—I’d let my son down. No more happy family. Guilt became a powerful ally for depression.

            On the advice of counselors, friends, and family, I read self-help books, stuck with my workouts, and mingled, but as far as I could see, rock bottom was where I’d stay forever.

            A surprising source showed me the way up. At a comic con, my son, cash burning a hole in his pants, paid $20 for a shoddy necklace—we’re talking about the kind you find in gum machines—which, of course, fell apart within an hour. I tried to dissuade kiddo from begging for a refund, certain they’d tell him to get lost. In tears, he hounded me. I relented. We meandered back to the vendors’ table. They were very gracious and promptly swapped with him. My jaw nearly unhinged in amazement. I had been so twisted with funk that a simple refund seemed like a miracle. It marked the first hint that my view of the world had strayed way out of alignment. I told my son that very instant that he’d made a lasting impression and I would commit to working on my attitude. He continued being an inspiration because of how well he adjusted after the divorce. His grades remained strong as did his spirit. Most importantly, he loved me.

            Soon, the self-help books started making more sense. This theme kept cropping up in them and resonating with me: You have all the tools right now to achieve contentment. Like with any discipline, martial arts for instance, time and practice is critical. I didn’t just become giddy overnight. In fact, operation happiness seemed undoable many times, but I kept plugging. Per my therapist’s advice, I maintained a journal of bad things, recording my first thoughts about them and knee-jerk feelings. After a few months, I learned that a super high percentage of the entries were non-issues. Most of the ‘horrors’, I didn’t even remember. My thoughts and feelings in the situation were off-the-charts unjustified. This realization to just roll with it felt like gaining a superpower.

            Compassion burgeoned in me. Taking one day at a time, challenges weren’t so insurmountable. Rarely did anything bother me. I found love again as well.

A better job with great benefits and hours also came my way. Although not fitting to my background, it turned out to be a gift that kept giving. The position, which required lots of customer interaction, earned me constant praise on my voice. Remarks like: “You should be an announcer,” or, “I could listen to you talk all day,” flattered me often. They reminded me that during the college days and shortly thereafter, I performed in restaurants and coffee houses. On my girlfriend’s requests, I picked up the six-string again. With a fresh outlook on life, and a passion for ‘remaking’ oldies with my own style, I've been hanging with musicians again. The best part is: my drummer son wants to be a part of it. Courtesy of Tumbling Dice, junior got to sit on stage with their drummer. Who knows? Maybe I have the next Bruno Mars on my hands.

As adults, we often think of kids as flexible, especially when it comes to physical aspects like sports injuries or their ability to sleep in the most awkward of positions. But if we really take a closer look, their flexibility across the board is astounding. With today’s technology alone, they are constantly relearning. To find myself again, all I needed to do was relearn. And it proved to be a great rediscovery.

My friends listen to me play and tell me that they’re glad to see my smile again, that I’ve come a long way. I always answer, “It wasn’t me. Of all places, a convention for superheroes, my son flew in and gave me a blast of his powers.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quarry: A Submission Parody

Any writer worth his or her salt is cringing at the spelling in that title. Oh, call it an inspiration from watching Bill Murray on David Letterman last night, or maybe my restlessness with the publishing industry, but I feel like having some hardcore, irreverent fun. I’ve always wondered what kind of responses I would get if I sent out a query letter intentionally fraught with errors and inane ideas.

Thus, here is the inquiry I will be sending out to agencies and presses to see what kind of bizarre fish might bite.
Quarry: the Blossom in my Shoo, a romantic Spense by Milo Angsy phd.

Its not what you think. Please reed on.

Blondy bond shell Trigger Norris was a wellknown firecracker. She didn’t take no crap from nobody. Her way or the hiway. One day, a purchase of a brand new pair of pumps changed all that. The shoo salesman was so hot. And really nice. But is he a space alien? Trigger simply can’t wield her regular attitude at him. Things she usually hates about guys, hairy arms, protruding Adam’s apples, and football worship (he wears a Cleveland Browns wrist bands), she finds adorable in this nerdy clekr.

Well, he asks her on a date and she finds herself somehow uttering yes, and before you know it they’re chomping dinner at Applebee’s, swappin their life stories. His name is Milo. AND HE REALLY TELLS HER THAT HE’S AN ALIEN FROM PLUTO, the planet that is no longer classefied as a planet anymore so he got kicked out with all the rest of his shpecies. At first she’s kind of creeped out, but then she gets into it because HE seems to believe as much.

When a robbery breaks out in the restaurant and the bad guys take them hostage, weird things start to happen. It’s not like Milo is a superhero or anythin. But the crooks get in wacky arguments with him every time they threaten to hurt Trigger. Will he prove to be her night in shiny armor? And what is that in Trigger’s shoo?

Inspired by 50 Shades of Grey, this book will sell millions.

As you can see, I am a doctor. My doctor’s degree is in paranormal investigation. That alone should makes this a hit as there is some reallife stuff in there.

I would be happy to come to your office and discuss the contract. No need to send a limo. I’m quite humble and eager to share lots of funds with you.

You can reach me tomorrow between 8AM and 7PM Mountain time. Please don’t call during lunch. Oh, and I can call you if that works out better too. If there’s any reason you can’t chat tomorrow let me know and we can work around next week also.

Doctor Milo Angsly
and Author
Yes, I’m really going to send this. I’ll share any interesting responses. Disclaimer: I have written romances before and they are NOT easy, so please don’t take this as a dig to the genre.

Ta, ta.