Rita Mae Brown’s “Starting from Scratch”

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.… Read the rest

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.

Worry no more, Rita’s got you covered.

 
I didn’t know who Rita Mae Brown was until a friend suggested I give her a read. This was back in the early-mid 1980s. He thought she was brilliant and hilarious.

That didn’t tempt me.

Then he told me she could benchpress 225#.

Yes, I was that much of an assh?le (may still be) that that caught my interest.

But I didn’t pick up one of her books (that I remember) until my first go-round as a writer. That book being Starting from Scratch.

Reading the book recently, it’s obvious I had read it at least once before; there were highlights in it. There were highlights of concepts I remember, if not exact phrasings. Truth be told, I was probably unprepared for the book when I first read it (my copy was published in Feb 1988). I’m glad I kept it around.

Starting from Scratch is a mechanic’s manual of the English language. Brown explains the purpose of first v third person POV with duh! level examples and lots of them. Ditto subjunctive case (trust me, you need to read this section). Ditto strong v weak verbs (another must read). Imagine someone showing you a crescent wrench and a 9/16″ box-end, showing you they can do the same thing, then demonstrating why one works better on these types of nuts, the other works better on those types of nuts.

Her Exercises chapter…remember what I wrote above about being impressed by her bench? Here’s your cardio and resistance training in one incredible package.


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The Goatmen of Aguirra Serialized on Piker Press

Sand Pilarski, the genius Managing Editor of The Piker Press, is serializing The Goatmen of Aguirra starting as this week’s cover story and running for the next seven.

I am thrilled, and thanks to Sand and The Piker Press for accepting this novella.… Read the rest

Sand Pilarski, the genius Managing Editor of The Piker Press, is serializing The Goatmen of Aguirra starting as this week’s cover story and running for the next seven.

I am thrilled, and thanks to Sand and The Piker Press for accepting this novella.

 
For those unfamiliar with the story…
The Goatmen of Aguirra is based on my experiences as a cultural anthropologist working with aboriginal societies. I wrote it side by side with The Augmented Man back in the early 1990s. I sent it to a few markets. One editor requested several edits and finally rejected it with “I think I’ve done more damage with my suggestions than helped it.”

Yeah. Well. Thanks.

In the end, nobody bought it so I shelved it.

In 2015 I gave up a business I grew from my basement to having offices in the US, Canada, and the EU. Susan (wife/partner/Princess) said, “I’ve never seen you happier than when you’re writing your fiction, so I want you to do that for the rest of your life.”

It’s wonderful when the one true love of your life knows what you love in your life, isn’t it?

I included The Goatmen of Aguirra in my self-published anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, which’s received good reviews so far.

I decided to send The Goatmen of Aguirra around again. But now it had a blackmark – “previously published.”

I saw The Piker Press and thought, sure, why not. But I started with an email entitled “Querying before submitting” and gave a two paragraph synopsis. Sand wrote back

Yes, I’d like to see it very much. Please send it along, and give me a couple days to read through.

I sent it. She wrote back

What a captivating and thought-provoking story! Once I sarted reading, I couldn’t stop. Every interruption seemed like a catastrophe.

And The Goatmen of Aguirra saw print in a recognized market earlier this week.

Remember what I wrote in 30 Years to Publication?

Yeah, I’m feeling good.

Take a read. Let Sand and me know what you think. ‘Preciate it.

Combating Evil With Good

A deliberately provocative title for a possibly mundane post, yet I’ve often learned that the best way to combat things that displease us is via mundacity, so be patient with me and let me know if my offering passeth all understanding for you.… Read the rest

A deliberately provocative title for a possibly mundane post, yet I’ve often learned that the best way to combat things that displease us is via mundacity, so be patient with me and let me know if my offering passeth all understanding for you.

Early last Saturday morning, a neighbor brought in a grounds crew to do some mowing and trimming. A team of three young, tanned and able bodied gentlemen, tshirts, cuttoff jeans, workboots and sunglasses all, and each with an incredibly loud piece of equipment, two riding, one strapped to his back, and they had at it.

Early last Saturday morning.

Even earlier last Saturday morning I was already awake. Sometimes I get up early to read on the backporch and listen to the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bees and the rest of nature fighting for survival.

I heard the truck and trailer drive up and clatter, bang and backfire to a stop. I looked around our neighborhood. No shutters open, no shades up, no blinds withdrawn, no dogs barking, no cats meowing, no children bicycling, no basketballs a’ bouncing, no baseballs a’ batting. It was…

Early last Saturday morning.

About half a mile from my house is a donut shop. While my neighbor came out of his house in his bathrobe and slippers to talk to the grounds crew, hair askew and sleep still muddling his eyes, I got in my car, drove to the donut shop and returned with five large black coffees, sugars, creamers and a dozen donuts. My neighbor was still talking to the grounds crew when I drove down the street.

Early last Saturday morning.

I parked in my driveway, gathered the coffees and donuts and walked across the street. My neighbor and the grounds crew were standing in a loose semicircle looking at and talking about my neighbor’s yard, the other half of the circle was taken up by their trailer and equipment. Their semicircle opened a bit as I approached and I assumed the six o’clock position.

“You guys like some coffee?” I didn’t wait for an answer, I handed them each a coffee, the “man-in-charge” first and my neighbor last as the coffees went from 12 o’clock to five, and I put the box of donuts, opened, on their trailer. “Help yourselves. I got a variety. Sure to be something you like.”

All offered their thanks. We chatted. For about an hour. Sipping our coffees, munching on donuts, listening to the dogs start their barking, the cats start their meowing, the basketballs start their bouncing and children start their playing.

By now Susan (wife, partner, all things bright and beautiful) had raised the shades and opened the blinds, a sign her Saturday had started quietly and peacefully, as all civilized Saturdays should.

I took the last swig of my coffee. “I’ve held you guys up long enough. Have a great day and don’t work too hard.” They offered grateful thanks. I don’t know if my neighbor was being charged by the hour or by the yard and I heard him comment that “Yeah, he’s a good neighbor” as I walked away.

Many Years Back…

…I would walk a mile in the mornings. This was before the donut shop appeared, our neighborhood was still young and grounds crews weren’t needed. One street on my route always had a bit of litter on it. After a week I decided to take a kitchen garbage bag with me and pick up the litter on my walk. There was an ice cream stand next to a ball park on my return route and I could drop the trash in their bins if I didn’t want to carry it back.

I noticed a young boy and his father on these walks. They also noticed me and we got in the habit of waving to each other as neighbors often do. The occasional “Howdy” and “Hello” and “Beautiful day for a walk” and such and nothing more.

Then one day I noticed them ahead of me on that street, garbage bags in hand, picking up litter before I had a chance.

A month or so later a few more streets looked cleaner as I walked.

Wicked Problems, Mundane Solutions

And while we’re busy waiting for the world to change, go buy a box of donuts for those who irritate you. Pick up some litter for no other reason than you like clean streets.

Note: This post originally appeared as the 6 June 2011 Economy of Meaning blog post (now defunct).

Le Meas, Mo Charaid

One of my teachers passed on Sunday. It was right after breakfast. I stood by the backdoor, looking into the woods, and felt him cross over.

“Calum’s gone.”

Back in the 1990s I studied with two Celtic Teachers, Pahdeval and Da Fischer.… Read the rest

One of my teachers passed on Sunday. It was right after breakfast. I stood by the backdoor, looking into the woods, and felt him cross over.

“Calum’s gone.”

Back in the 1990s I studied with two Celtic Teachers, Pahdeval and Da Fischer. They’d taken me as far as they could. Several hundred miles separated them and almost to the day they both told me I had to learn Gaelic – Scots Gaelic – to continue my studies because am Beurlad (Modern English) doesn’t support the concepts I studied with them.

Easy decision. Learn Gaelic. Could they teach me?

Yes, and there was another I had to study with, Calum Crùbach. In Alba Nuadh (Nova Scotia).

That’s a fairly big place. Where, specifically?

Falbh agus fios aige (Go and he’ll know).

Susan and I enrolled in a Gaelic summer school up there, an anniversary present to ourselves. We made lots of friends. One fellow, Malcolm, always seemed to be around. His humor was dry and infectious. He’d tell you a story straightfaced then burst out laughing when you caught on to the joke. He was a bawdy gentleman; courteous, gracious, considerate, always helpful, and would openly stare at a woman’s chest as if nothing else mattered.

It was a wonderful time and, as graduation approached, I had tshirts made up for the class, something to remember each other by.

I wasn’t sure of my Gaelic and he had a thick accent although he wasn’t teaching (he was studying pìob mhòr – traditional bagpiping). I asked him to help with my translations.

Happy to. He came up with a few translations that made advanced students laugh and blush. I asked Malcolm to translate “Don’t know the words, don’t know the language, gonna wing it.”

One teacher, a Scottish School M’arm if ever there was one (she was a Presbyterian minister’s wife and it showed. A lot), read one of the translations and walked away, shaking her head. “That’s not what it says, not at all at all at all.”

Tapadh Leibh, Malcolm (Thank you, Malcolm).

That’s when he corrected me. “Calum.”

Gaelic curses are a riot. Learn them. And be careful. They look a lot like harmless sayings…
…unless you know the people, the culture, the Way of Ocean and Earth.

 
Calum came from the Outer Isles and a line of Celtic StoryTellers. He had a tale for everything. Teaching stories, thinking stories, growing stories. Lore.

He asked me to help him translate fairy tales into a colinear Gaelic-am Beurlad to keep the language alive. He did it to teach me, more than anything else. To get me use to the rhythms, the meanings. The why of the Celts and Gaels, what cultural anthropologists know as the ceremony versus the ritual.

He taught me the traditions (fios agam) behind Scotch (if you think it’s just for drinking or celebrating, you…have studied differently than I have), the myths and not-myths of the Celts and Gaels. He taught me to sing the waulks, to summon the seas and quiet the earths.

He taught me how to see through the present to the past, into the deep past, and to respect the Old Ones of the Isles for choosing to reveal themselves to me and not to others.

He told me my name.

And he’s moved on.

Stad gu math, a’ Chalium.

Le Meas,
Eois

Patricia Ravasio – Bucky was Right!

Pat RavasioHello all and welcome to our continuing series of author interviews.

Today’s guest is THE GIRL FROM SPACESHIP EARTH author Patricia Ravasio.

Pat met The Buckster in her 20s and the experience changed her life forever. THE GIRL FROM SPACESHIP EARTH, the true story of the practical utopian ideas and lost wisdom of American visionary and realist R.… Read the rest

Pat RavasioHello all and welcome to our continuing series of author interviews.

Today’s guest is THE GIRL FROM SPACESHIP EARTH author Patricia Ravasio.

Pat met The Buckster in her 20s and the experience changed her life forever. THE GIRL FROM SPACESHIP EARTH, the true story of the practical utopian ideas and lost wisdom of American visionary and realist R. Buckminster Fuller, speaks to humanity’s ability to be something better. Her message is “We need to understand our potential as a species” and what she’s learning is how to save the planet and your sanity at the same time.

I’d like everyone to stand up and give Patricia Ravasio a big round of applause for taking part in our exciting adventure.

He looked right at me and said “It’s women like you who will grow up to save the world.”

 


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