Six years ago I wrote a book. Make that several. They chronicled the life of a young, angry, would-be “Feminist”, “Women’s Rights Advocate”, “Libber” named Deanna Collings. Then #metoo hit and it felt opportunistic to let go of a what amounted to a coming of age fairy tale with a cast of female characters from sledge hammer moms to the interns working for a pair of rich, powerful lesbian fairy godmothers. And the evolution of an eventual boyfriend.
A number of people told me no such girl existed. Or that she wouldn’t behave the way she did, or swear like her brother or be such a romantic or drive like Danica Patrick or know how to hotwire her brother’s old motorcycle. Or be a cool and klutzy ex-cheerleader, pretty and smart, risky in some ways and not in others. I quit listening because 95% of Deanna Collings is a patchwork quilt of the same people who told me she wasn’t all that.
However one beta reader, a middle school teacher, mentioned seeing a Deanna type pass through every couple of years and hoped they made it without being waylaid by pitfalls from bad boyfriends to Stepford Syndrome, things Deanna and other female characters encounter along the way. The teacher even sent me a school picture of what she thought Denna looked like. Which was interesting because over several books Deanna is never described in great detail. On purpose. I set her up to belong to the readers from page one.
MEET PAXTON SMITH – The other day a local girl pulled a Deanna Collings at her valedictorian address. She removed a subversive substitute speech out of her commencement gown to supplant the one she’d had approved. Kick ass, Ms. Smith.
Maybe I should dust off the first two THG’s, rethink the title, sharpen my editor’s crayon. Because the world needs more Paxtons and Deannas.
Attention: All those seeking equity and equality who aren’t already running our local governments, city councils, school districts, hospitals, sports franchises, school boards, economic development campaigns or spending tax dollars for Covid Vaccination Sites where white people aren’t, listen up.
A study by researchers Steven Stack of Wayne State University and Jim Gundlach from Auburn University hypothesize that topics often present in the lyrics of country songs — such as “marital discord, alcohol abuse and alienation from work” — can foster a suicidal mood among those who are already at risk.
The researchers performed a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas and found the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the higher the suicide rate. In their paper, the researchers explain that “the effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty and gun availability.”
The retort is that depressed white people simply seek out country music. You know, for that “Bummed but not the Lone Ranger” feeling of false empathy from a puppet pop star. Before they pop themselves.
This study was done two decades ago, so with with the deep inroads pop has made into country maybe things have changed. But I doubt it. Hell, enough Taylor Swift would make make anyone as suicidal as hearing Achy Breaky Heart ever again. But the main themes in country haven’t changed. A whopping 75% of country songs are the old heartbreak numbers. Add in the collateral damage from lost love and “dee-vorce” and there goes the truck, the double wide, the farm, the kids, the dog, all with drinkin’ as the usual offered solution and you have 98% of country music.
So, Sha’niqua, you wanna turn the little community college Becky’s outta the blood lab? Turnin’ up the R&B or BCA won’t help, but changing it to country will.
Two funnies from my career in music: A conversation at a small, grimy cinder block bar outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, where we asked someone in the parking lot: “You got room for live music here?” “Why hell yeah. We got room for both kinds. Country and western. Which one are you boys?” Standing outside the Ryman in downtown Nashville with two geezers, one holding a violin (sorry, fiddle) case, the other a mandolin case while a hired gun guitar player threw down some serious shred warming up at sound check inside. Fiddle geezer looks at me and his friend, saying: “That shit rat there?” He thumbed the Ryman’s open door, spit a stream of tobacco juice into the street. “That shit rat there is whut the hayul’s wrong with country music ennymower.”
Or is it the fact that’s it’s all one song, as shown from 6 top songs being indistinguishable?
There’s a neurological disease known as ‘alien hand syndrome’ that causes the person afflicted to be completely unaware of what one of their hands is doing.
Yes. Anyone with the disease is estranged from the behavior of the hand (or limb) which will behave “capriciously and without direction” from its owner. Sufferes have been awaked by their random hand stroking their face, pulling an ear or messing with their privates.
There are a number of etiologies that could be involved, from certain Alzheimer’s brain lesions, stroke, dementia and uncategorized “damage”. A fall, a blow to the head. Regardless of cause, the hand does its own ‘Thing”.
Instead of the angry severed hand, though, a great plot I’ve only seen a few times would involve a connected hand with a politically incorrect mind of its own. Instead of a middle finger popping out, an involuntary Incredible Hulk style power-choke grip lifts a conveniently deaf convenience store clerk over the counter while the owner demands half the two-fer price for a single bag of Doritos.
Take a serial killer who is by day a pleasant enough high speed interface engineer who gets driven around at night by his hand to commit murder most foul. It could be written from the Grisham-Turrow-Gardner angle, the Cornwell-Garritson angle, a pick an author whodunnit, a Laura Levine-esque humor take or a Noir shamus riff titled The Upper Hand.
Bonus – Give the hand owner Tourette’s to go with and the comedy at the convenience store explodes. I’ll spare you a demonstration.
Like the myriad of disgusting headlines my friend sends me or I discover in my own local news, I’m sharing another one I haven’t seen beaten to death (yet). Not that it’s not out there by any means, but I haven’t seen it circulating in print or TV.
Here you go – Death by beach umbrella.
Many accidents and injuries involving errant beach umbrellas go unreported, but you should know that between 2008 and 2017 at least 31,000 were reported and required emergency medical treatment. Several deaths by beach umbrella have even been reported along with quite a few maimings, including loss of eyeballs, feet, appendages and abdominal parts.
What a fucking great setup. PI or Bounty Hunter Barbie on the beach with Hunky Ken. After the fashion observations and minute accessory descriptions, the wind kicks up.
“Damn!” She exclaimed, pissedoffedly. “I paid twenty dollars for that hat.”
“Hat?” Ken said, absently studying her perfect buns that sported a confectioners dusting of sand.
“Yes, my white straw sun hat with the blue and fuscia Kate Spade knock-off bandana. There it goes!” She pointed into the mess of tumbling, rollicking beach umbrellas, picnic baskets, beer coolers, plastic starfish and towels piling up against the pier and tourist gift shop.
“Isn’t Kate Spade like, dead?”
“That’s why the knock off is so valuable, moron.”
“Check that.” Hunky ex NATO superspy Ken tapped his temple saying “Be right back.” He dashed recklessly into the melee. Upon grabbing her fashion statement hat he stopped in his tracks and began blocking incoming beach debris with his forearms like Wonder Woman in a speedo. The wind abated as suddenly as it started.
“What’s wrong?” Bounty Hunter Barbie asked.
“This one has your name on it, Barb babe,” he shouted, then muttered “or is it babe Barb…?”
When she arrived, he pushed the upside-down umbrellas and coolers aside to give her a clear, yet disturbingly grim view.
“Jeez, Hunky Ken. It’s Benson Ekoreck, the witness protection skip I’ve been looking for.”
“With a beach umbrella stuck in his chest.” Ken reached to remove the umbrella.
“Stop!” Barbie screeched in that shrill voice she hated but just came out when she was upset or orgasmic. “That’s my umbrella!”
Well, of course it is. Was. Whatever. Anyway, there you go, a free plot device. Remember, you heard it here first. Evanovich owes me five-spot if she uses it.
Seriously – Umbrella deaths and bodily damage are a reality. So much so that several Democratic Senators, two from Virginia and one from New Jersey on a day with nothing better to do sent a letter to the Consumer Safety Commission demanding the effects of errant beach umbrellas be looked into.
Well no shit, Sherlock.
Can’t help myself – If the fictional scene started above had gone on, it might have ended this way –
“That cop thinks you whipped up the windstorm with your hoo-ha somehow so you could get the Bail Bond on that dude refunded,” Hunky Ken said, disaffectedly brushing sand from his glistening bicep.
“He’s just a hairy scrotum in a cheap suit looking for an easy way out. I didn’t do it, so he can kiss my ass and go pound sand. Hey, what’s that on your shoulder?”
“Souvenir? You can’t just take things from a closed crime scene just because it started out as an Act of God, Hunky Ken.”
“Ohh… But the cops said to pick out what we wanted…” Hunky Ken stopped, looked glumly back at the pile of beach crap being picked through by once happy beach goers. “I guess I better take them back.”
“I guess. Wait. Them?”
“I got you one, too.” In a quick move based on years of training and reflex perfection, he whipped two beach towels off his shoulder, snapped them out in front of himself before handing one to Bounty Hunter Barbie.
“Oh my God!” She inhaled a big breath. “A Versace beach towel! You don’t see many of these.”
“Or these.” Hunky Ken held up an oversize Def Leppard towel. “This is major killer.”
Bounty Hunter Barbie rolled her eyes. “What’s so special about a Def Leppard towel?”
“It’s a collector’s item, babe, Barb, uh Barb — ”
“Never mind.” Barbie pouted, unaffected by his enthusiasm.
“No, really. Check it out, Babe, uh, Barb uh… In this picture?” Hunky Ken palmed up the silkscreened band photo on the towel for her. “The drummer dude still has both arms!”
FORKLIFT OPERATOR – Whorehouse near Port of Tacoma is currently hiring FT forklift operators – The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington
IVORY SATAN WEDDING GOWN – strapless, back buttons, size 10. Sparkly Vail, cleaned, $85 – Classified Ad, Canton, Ohio
HANGING YOURSELF COULD BE PAINFULSO GET A PRO TO DO IT – Headline in Florida Penny Saver
I have uploaded a short video about my small organ –E-Press release and header on YouTube video by a professional organ builder
Did you hear the one about the horny lady who went to church? She chased the preacher around the sanctuary until she caught him by the organ.
The sword’s other edge – These are why self-editing is so critical. I have read more meaningless or Freudian slips or blind eye publishing in the last week or so it’s crazy. I was victimized myself last week by an autocorrect dictionary that couldn’t decide between hangar and hanger. The moral is we need to read our stuff before hitting the publish button.
“You’re telling me nobody in Washington DC has a piano you can rent?”
“Not Washington Music or Venneman or the Steinway Hall or any of the back-line places? Jesus, you’d think there’d be a shit load of pianos in DC. All the parties and weddings and receptions, hotels.”
“No, man. I’ve called them all and nobody has a grand piano I can rent. That’s why Rick told me to call you. He said you could hook me up.”
“Wakeman. He’s coming in to play a classical music concert. A live broadcast, and he needs a good piano.”
Right. Rick’s a real comedian. Here we go. “I can get you a ProMega3, from Chicago, with Rick’s programs blown into it. Have it there in three days.”
“What? A Pro…What?”
“A Generalmusic ProMega3. It’s a physically modelled digi –”
“A digital piano? No way, I can’t have that. Those sound like shit, everyone will know, Rick will hate it.”
“Rick won’t hate it, that’s why he told you to call me. It’s not a sampled piano. Yeah, those all sound like audio Polaroids. But this is a real-time physically modelled instrument, sympathetic resonance figured on the fly like a real piano, all the math done by the physics department at the University of Padua. Padua being where the piano forte was invented.”
“It’s still a digital piano, no matter how good it is. It isn’t an authentic piano. I have $5,000 microphones set up in here for a real –”
“Riddle me this. You put five of those microphones on the piano. Run them through the board –”
“A digital console with high end Prism ADA converters. Those things are –”
“Ten grand a pop. Great. What do you have at the end of that signal chain?”
“What do mean, what do I have?”
“You have a digital piano. Just like the one I’m offering you. Five high end mics, data conversion to harmonic and volume modelled envelopes, real time resonance. The sound board and wooden case is done with math, not samples. It’s as authentic as your mics and digi board. If anyone notices or complains, I’ll eat it.”
“Well, hell, we’re out of time now, I don’t have any choice. And Rick said…Shit…Are you sure you don’t have a real piano?”
“Positive, but I’ll send you a ProMega3. Tell Rick everybody loves a clown and to poke around the first bank, Herbie Hancock’s fave Fazioli tweak is in there. Sound check for Artist Not Present in Rick’s case is number 2, RW Stein. Any problems, call me.”
A week later I make the call. “Anybody complain about Rick’s piano?”
“No. Did you hear the show?”
“Sure,” I lied. “He’s crazy funny and can play his ass off.”
“Yeah. So, uh, look, how can we get two of those ProMega things for the studio?”
All you have to do is make me, or any reader, believe it. I have a WIP set in LA in the early 80s. I wasn’t there, I was in NorCal. I have friends who were. What is needed is “A studio in Silverlake.” It works because there were a lot of them. A high-rise ocean-front condo in Santa Monica. Yeah, duh. A funky old 8 plex apartment in Long Beach. L.A. is the global center of funky small apartments that could have been shotgun houses, old motels, two story office buildings. They’re in every TV show ever shot in L.A. from Dragnet to Transparent. I read Laura Levine’s fluffy mysteries, her heroine lives in an apartment in West Hollywood. Some colorful neighbors, funky houses. Traffic sucks on the 5, the 1, the Harbor Freeway, Santa Monica Blvd. Of course it does. Who am I to quibble? Fancy restaurants on the beach, Mexican places with huge burritos, everybody accepts that. More importantly, it’s enough. Robert Parker used to beat me with Boston, but not too hard. Tony Hillerman could put me in an old beat up Suburban in the New Mexico desert with few words and a few mountains. Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty in L.A. Are there any map coordinates? No. Descriptions of big houses and restaurants and grubby offices. Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. A dumpy house, a grimy bar, a nut-case estate. For me? In and Out Burger on Beverly. A vegetarian walkup in the parking lot of a strip center, or off the 1 in Malibu. Pre-War apartment courts on the bay in Huntington. They’re there. Why not? Authentic is the story, on a believable set.
Authenticity, then, does not require 200 pages of Irvine Welsh’s phonetic Scotts, or an accurate down to the nails in the shutters description of a side street in the Bahamas or a page and a half of verdant pastures or a horticulturalist’s coffee table book version of Louisiana garden and potted plant life. Or $20k worth of mics and preamps. Authenticity is a few locations, a few props, carried by the story. All the set decoration in the world isn’t the story. If the story works, it could be next door or a far-off land. Make me believe the characters and their stories without gumming up getting them around and putting them somewhere. Authenticity is the story.
Authenticity – When asked about Jeff Beck’s guitar rig his tech answered with all the right techy stuff. He finished by saying “But he could play an old Masonite Silvertone through a Pignose and he’s still gonna sound like Jeff Beck.”
More Authenticity – Rick’s version for an Australian magazine. Zoom to read.
In rural Nepal many families still practice Chhaupadi, a custom that requires all menstruating women to be banished to a small hut or shed for the duration of their period. They are not allowed to interact with or touch any male family members or livestock or enter the family home.
Nepalese men are lucky their women aren’t out in the barn sharpening knives. And pity the lonely fool with a couple of daughters, they all get in sync with mom. Unless it’s World Cup Week.
Yeah, Right, Babe. Sure Thing.
Back in the late 1800s a common argument against giving women the right to vote was that it would allow married men an unfair “extra” vote. As they would surely exercise their influence over their wives to vote alike!
It’s thinking like this that makes me want a word for Male Bimbo.
Plus a Handgun, a Suspended License and a Stolen Car
Character Study +
John D MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Laura Levine, Fitzgerald – A few words and a reasonably complete picture. From characters to towns. Solid. You know who and where and aren’t bogged down in details. His suit looked dirty but wasn’t. Avocado appliances, a small box-store table for two. A Grand Canyon dishtowel hung from the oven handle. A big man. Pink. Rubbery. Thin and nervous enough to make it contagious. Yellowish skin. Dark circles under unsteady eyes. He was wide and plodding. Neckless, shoulderless, bald. His necktie short, loose, the knot partially buried by a third chin.
Okay, enough fun. Gambits is about writing prompts, cues, unusual manners of death. Here’s another one from an old friend of mine. From The Daily Oklahoman. A paper I threw in my youth (quite accurately) from a red Sting Ray.
GUTHRIE (AP) — Police in Oklahoma say they found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen.
The traffic stop happened June 26 in Guthrie, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. Guthrie police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR that police don’t know why the uranium was in the vehicle or how it was obtained, though uranium ore can be bought on Amazon.
Gibbs says police also found a gun in the console and a terrarium in the backseat containing a pet Timber rattlesnake.
Gibbs says the driver, Stephen Jennings, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, transporting an open container of liquor and driving with a suspended license.
There’s the setup, here’s the character – What the hell was this guy up to? A hit man gone to seed?
Trivia – Guthrie was the original state capital of Oklahoma. A handful of bu$ine$$ men wanted it in Oklahoma City. Guthrie, the original territorial capital didn’t want to give it up. The capital is where the state seal resides, by God, and it’s in Guthrie. As bu$ine$$ men will do, they arranged to have it stolen from Guthrie. When it arrived they removed it from a canvas bag and set up shop in a downtown OKC hotel. Where there were smart enough to keep it locked up and guarded.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Eliminating The Word “Fix”
If you use the word “fix”, as in, “Something is wrong with my painting, so I need to fix it”, I would like to suggest that you eliminate the word “fix” from your vocabulary.
To me, the word “fix” implies that my painting is broken and needs repairing.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with your painting. If you are having the thought that you need to “fix” your painting, all it really means is that your painting is not “there” yet. It means that your painting is currently not looking how you want it to look. Yet.
All it really means is that your painting is unfinished, and that you have more work to do.
It probably means that you want to re-work some parts of the painting. But, it definitely does not mean those areas are broken.
Eliminating the word “fix” from my vocabulary has provided me with a much healthier way of self-evaluating my work in progress. And, it helps me have a better attitude about going back into my paintings to re-work them.
Eliminate the word “fix” and let me know how much better you feel.
For all I know he’s the Dan Alatorre of painting, but I don’t care. Painting is one of those things like singing. You get it or you don’t. You can or you can’t. Kind of like writing. Some would be better off dictating. Remember when Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach tried to sing? Like totally thank God for like Dionne Warwick, right?