Monthly Archives: July 2015

“Creative News”

Newspapers

In my previous life, as they say, when I was a journalist writing news articles, everything had to be to true – whatever that means anymore – and it had to be backed up with documented facts and/or quotes. Every detail had to be accurate.

However, even back then, I had the fiction bug. So, every so often I exercised the liberty of combining journalistic fact with my emerging passion for fiction. For the fun of it, I would twist and pervert the rules and write fake news articles, backed by fake attributions and fake quotes.

I would write articles that possessed just enough truth to gain the reader’s attention, but plenty of fiction and sometimes humor so they would know by halfway through the article it was all a bunch of garbage.

Below, for example, is one of my short “creative news” articles I wrote several years ago, complete with a fictitious newspaper name. It was when American troops were still fighting in Afghanistan. I just adjusted the date to make it current for this posting:

KARACHI TIMES HERALD – Karachi, Pakistan, July 30:      The two-day terrorist strike crippling the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region has been directly attributed to the drop in death and destruction by more than 50 per cent along of normal rates.  Official sources in Islamabad claim that while an eerie, peaceful tone has engulfed that border region, the national economy has already developed signs of weakness, especially in smaller towns, reliant on “terrorist projects” and “anti-Western initiatives.” Estimates of a two-week strike is the consensus from both sides of the bargaining table.

“Even the flow of black market goods has slowed to a trickle,” Interior Minister Insaad indicated.  “Without the terrorists and militias along the border,” he said, “American and Afghan troops are more easily able to close smuggling paths and regulate border check points.”

Ahmed, a mid-level terrorist operative, wishing to withhold his full name, agreed with a half dozen colleagues rolling cigarettes outside a Peshawar smoke shop, saying that faith and conviction alone do not put food on the family table.  “We risk our lives every day,” Ahmed said.  “I have seven to feed in my family and others here have as many as 10 or 11.”  He claimed that attacking villages, battling the American invaders and bombing cars is not just risky, but is heavy and exhaustive labour that deserves better pay and working conditions.

With more than 2,500 terrorists and recruits estimated to have joined the picket lines since Monday, surprise has been the response by authorities to the reduced number of attacks and high crimes throughout Pakistan and even in neighbouring regional centres, such as Kabul, Kandahar and Delhi.

 

Kids Need To Read

BORED

HASNT MOVED

Enough said!

Unemotionally Attached

I am sitting here with absolutely nothing to post about today. My mind has been preoccupied with new and old story lines, trying to edit something for an upcoming workshop, and dealing with Month End issues at work. So as I sit here, wracking my brain with something – anything- to blog about, my mind keeps going back to CJ’s post yesterday.

It was a good post, and I loved reading her point of view on the matter regarding the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. CJ linked to some great articles giving you an insight on the drama that has been circled around Ms. Lee here of late.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that a lot of people hold dear, something they remember fondly reading while growing up. So the idea of this new book painting Atticus as a different man than he was in TKAM is unfathomable to some.

But what if you don’t hold To Kill a Mockingbird dear?

I don’t.

Up until a year ago, I never put much thought into the book other than it was a classic that I would get around to reading someday. Then last year at the end of a writers meeting with my group, Joe mentioned that his favorite novel of all time was To Kill a Mockingbird, we discussed it for a minute before departing and that was it.

Then over the holidays, I was out with my grandfather and we were browsing the books when we came across a used copy for a dollar and he said he remembered reading it when he was younger. I asked what he thought about it and he encouraged me to buy the book and find out for myself. So I bought the book and proceeded to shelve it.

Now I am not sure if he came across one of the many news articles about Harper Lee and her books recently or not, but he asked the other day if he could borrow the book from me. Seeing as how I still hadn’t read it, I figured I needed to do so quickly so that he can have a go. Then I mentioned to my grandmother about Go set a Watchman being released and all of the negativity surrounding it. We decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird together since she hadn’t read it in so long and, well, since I still hadn’t read it at all.

After we finish TKAM, we will probably read Go Set a Watchman together.

If the articles are true and that Ms. Lee was not of sound mind in letting this “draft” be published, then that’s a damn shame. But. What if she was? None of us really know except for Harper Lee herself.

I am not emotionally attached to either of these books in any way. After all is said and done, I probably will be, but come on, I am reading them with my grandparents – who both read To Kill a Mockingbird willingly as adults when it was first released. How cool is that? And now I will get to share Go set a Watchman with them too. We might hate it. We might not. No one can find out until they read it.

So now that I’ve got CJ and JesiKay shaking their heads at me… What are your thoughts on the matter? Share with us in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

~AJP

(Once I finish To Kill a Mocking bird AND Go Set a Watchman, I’ll let you know if I loved/hated either of them.)

Leave Well Enough Alone

Have you read To Set a Watchman yet? I haven’t read it yet, and the more I read about it the less I think I’d like to read it. I was excited when I first heard the possibility that Harper Lee would be releasing another book. I was To Kill A Mockingbird fangirling out, for a moment, until suspicions of possible irresponsibility of those who should be protecting the author began to arise.

Lee famously only wrote the one book (before this one) and had said she wouldn’t publish another.  The new book, Go Set a Watchman, was released on July 14th to massive sales but the reviews have been largely disappointing. One review I read in Entertainment Weekly suggested that if you love To Kill A Mockingbird, you may want to do yourself a favor by not reading this new book. The Atticus Finch we loved in Mockingbird is not the Atticus we see in Watchman.

Beyond the bad reviews though, there have been accusations of a blatant disregard for the author.  In a recent NY Times column, The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ fraud  Joe Nocera claims this publication “constitutes one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.” He goes on to detail examples of how those responsible may have taken an early draft of what turned into the beloved To Kill A Mockingbird and have published it as a lost gem.

One review from the Wall Street Journal by Sam Sacks said, “For millions who hold [Mockingbird] dear, Go Set A Watchman will be a test of their tolerance and capacity for forgiveness. At the peak of her outgrage, Jean Louise (adult Scout Finch) tells her father, “You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible.” I don’t doubt that many who read this novel are going to feel the same way.”

Whatever the reason for the publication of this novel, it seems a disappointing legacy for an author whose novel has meant so much to so many. I’ve chosen not to read it both because I wouldn’t want to add to the publisher’s bottom line if it is indeed a manipulation of the aging author, but mainly because I would like to keep my love of Mockingbird untainted by the new book.

What about you? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? What are your thoughts on this new book? How do you feel about sequels in general? Are there ever any good ones? Please share with us in the comments.

Have a great week.

~CJS

The Magic of Creativity

“I have seen landscapes… which under a particular light, made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge. Nature has that in her which compels us to invent giants, and only giants will do.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

I found this quote in an article I was reading about the creative force and I loved that last line in the quote. It reminded me of my youth when my family lived in the country. I would walk to the very back of our property and sit on a big wooden table with a spiral notebook and a pen and I would write. There was something very peaceful about it, and very inspirational.

The land that backed our property had a small pond surrounded by some wooded areas and hills. It was lovely. I don’t know how many times I wished I’d dared to climb over the fence and walk under the trees and to the pond. Of course, I didn’t. That was trespassing and would have been wrong, and if I’d been caught, my mother would have tanned my backside. But that pond and those trees were like a foreign land to me, and I often found myself daydreaming about magical places and wishing I could visit them.

One time I woke up in the dead of the night because something woke me. I didn’t know why but I was drawn to my bedroom window where I saw the largest full moon I’d ever seen. It was winter and the grass was all brown. I looked towards the back of our property and something pale caught my peripheral vision. I turned and looked to the left of the window and saw movement. It was fast. As the blur got closer, it slowed, and I saw a pack of what I at first thought was a pack of coyotes until the pack got close to the electric fence that separated our house from the back of the property. The leader stopped and sat down and I saw my first wild wolf. He was gorgeous. He sat for a while. I don’t know if he knew I was there or not. The pack joined him and then, as if called by something or someone, he turned and loped away, the pack following. There were at least six total. I have never forgotten the magic of that night.

There is something so visceral about Nature that it requires one to create something magical. I became a mermaid on my very first visit to a beach with crystal blue waters so clear you could see to the bottom. I spent as much time as I could in the ocean and if I hadn’t had to eat or use the necessary facilities, I would never have left the water. To this day I still feel as if I left a part of my soul in the ocean there at Playa del Carmen, and that trip inspired several poems.

What is it that sparks the magical/divine force of creativity within us? What gives us the inspiration to create something from nothing? We are magicians, sorcerers, gods. To crib Shakespeare, we have witchcraft in our lips, or rather, in our imaginations. We give birth to whole worlds complete with people, animals, nature, and everything that goes with it. How do we do it?

Creativity is a necessary tool for writers. If you’ve ever watched children at play then you’ve seen creativity at full force. I totally wish I could access my childhood imagination because it was awesome. I was only limited to the boundaries of what I could dream, and I dreamed a lot. I still dream, but most of the time now I find myself chained to day-to-day activities that want to prevent me from dreaming and using my imagination. Though, lately, I am discovering that certain tasks lend themselves well to daydreaming. Repetitive tasks, where the mind just goes blank at the redundancy, have brought to mind new ideas for me to use. Rocking my youngest son to sleep gave me new scenes for the book I’ve been trying to write, and I’ve even found some new stories in actual dreams when I sleep.

We’re all inspired by different stimuli. And whether we invent fairies and giants or rock monsters or the apocalypse, creativity is the force that drives us. Find something that inspires your creative force and let it rage within you.

For creativity compels magic, and only magic will do.

 

Jesi

Sunday Snippet

 

I’ve worked long and hard to complete my first novel. Any of you who have done it certainly know the work that goes into it.  For our Sunday Snippet I would like to offer you the opening scenes of the book. So, for your reading pleasure (I hope), here is a sneak peek at my novel, ‘Jenny.’ Please remember that this is not the final draft version of the book, so there may be some errors that will be corrected during the final edits. Also, the copyright lies with me. I hope you enjoy the snippet.

Jenny cover as a painting

                           ONE

George Price lifted his goggles and rubbed his eyes. He had been flying all day and now the sun was turning red; the sky a darker shade of blue. He needed to put the old biplane down before the black sheet fell over the Earth, hiding all of its features and obstacles. He realized that he should have landed miles back, near that little town he had seen, but it was too late. The sun would be down before he would be able to find it. George could see that there was certainly plenty of open space to land, below him, but none of it seemed to be anywhere near civilization. He slowly shook his head.

It’s 1928 and the land down there probably still looks the same as it did when the Mexicans owned it.

He lowered the goggles back down to protect his eyes from the blast of air finding its way around the small windscreen.

His right hand gently eased the throttle back and the sound of the big OX5 engine dropped back to less of a roar. As he peered down onto the earth’s muted colors and ever lengthening shadows, he could see a large field off of his lower right wing with a road running through it. Looks to be as good a place as any, he thought. Maybe if I’m lucky, a car will come along and I can get a ride to the nearest town.

If anyone, down there, even owns a car.

He flew in low over the field, eyes fixed on the ground, trying to spot anything that might interfere with his landing. A gopher hole could ruin his whole day, and he had seen enough ruined days. All looked good as he flew only a few feet above the terrain with his head hanging over the side of the JN-4, the air slapping his face and the motor’s exhaust smoke filling his nostrils. Once satisfied he pushed on the throttle to climb and turned to come back around and land. As he circled the field he spotted two riders on horseback, their upturned faces standing out as white spots against the darkening Earth. He waved. They did not wave back.

George pointed the airplane’s nose at the landing spot and slowly dropped down to meet it. He felt the big biplane’s wheels gently touch the ground, and he cut the power back, the engine now idling quietly and the propeller blades revolving lazily in front of him. The machine bounced along the uneven landscape, the wooden tailskid scratching the hard surface like a hand trying desperately to find something to grab, until it finally rolled to a stop. He switched off the engine and suddenly the only sound was the crackling and popping of cooling metal. The field was endless and empty; the departing red sun just above the horizon. He pulled off his leather helmet and goggles, unstrapped himself from the wicker seat and climbed out of the wood and linen fuselage. His feet had barely touched the hard dry surface when he heard the sound of horse’s hooves pounding the ground. He looked over the faded green tail of the airplane and saw the two riders coming his way, ahead of a widening cloud of dust. As they got closer he could see ten gallon hats, rifles; one rider on a large black mount and the other sitting atop a brown and white Appaloosa. He smiled.

They aren’t cars, but a horse will work, too.

They stopped a few feet from the tail of the Jenny. The smile left George’s face quickly as the rider on the black animal pointed the rifle at his head. The other slid his weapon into a saddle holster and climbed off of his two toned horse. “What’re you doing on my land?” he asked as he slowly walked toward George. He appeared to be about fifty with a tanned, weather beaten, face and a large greying moustache.

“Uh…yes, I’m…lost.” answered George, his eyes on the man with the rifle. “Say, could you not point that thing at me?” George turned back to the older man and watched him warily as he stopped ten feet in front of him. The man quickly glanced at the airplane and then, just as quickly, his attention was back on George.

“I’ll have him stop pointing that there rifle at you, boy, when I hear some answers to my questions!”

George could feel the anger welling up inside of him, but had to remind himself that these were two armed men. He did not know them and that made them unpredictable. He willed himself to calm down. “Well, I’m lost, that’s all. Not trying to do anything but find out where I am.” Price kept looking at the man pointing the Winchester Repeater at him and very much wished that he could grab it and beat him about the head with it.

“Lost?” asked the older man. “Don’t you have a compass or something in these machines?” George watched him walk over to the airplane and peer into the rear cockpit.

“Well, yes, but they don’t tell you where you are. Just the direction you’re going.” George turned his eyes back to the rifle still threatening his head. “Is this the way you greet people around here? Up north we say ‘hello’ and offer a handshake.”

The mustachioed face continued to examine the machine’s interior. “Flying up in the air in one o’ these damn things seems like an awful stupid thing for a man to be wasting his time with.” Then he turned around and said, “Tommy, put the rifle down.” He turned back towards George.

“I don’t really care how you Yankees do things. I don’t trust strangers who pop out of nowhere and wind up on my property.”

As the rifle was lowered, George took a good look at the other man. He appeared to be in his twenties, and although it tried, his scowl could not hide his baby-face.

“That there’s my son, Tommy. My name is Earl. Earl Baker.” George was preparing to see him extend his hand, but he never did. “I own this land.”

George scanned the darkening terrain all around him and slowly shook his head. “All of it?”

Earl Baker nodded. “Bout as much as you’ can see from here,” he said; but not, it seemed to George, in a bragging way. The tone sounded matter of fact. Like he was simply telling you the way it was. George was almost ready to forgive the rudeness and even the fact that a rifle had been pointed at his head. Maybe if I owned land I wouldn’t be too happy about some dumb pilot landing on it, either, he thought to himself. I’d better just find out where I am so that I can get out of here first thing in the morning.

“Speaking of ‘here’…where is ‘here’?” he asked. “I don’t know how I got so lost. I passed a town back that way. I should have landed.”

“Yep, that was probably Corsicana. It’s about the nearest thing to a big town around these parts. You want bigger; you’ll have to go to Waco, about thirty miles southwest of here. And we’ve got Dallas about the same distance north.”

George looked out toward the darkened horizon. Thirty miles seemed as far away as thirty-thousand miles. He turned back to Earl Baker and shook his head. “Yeah, I don’t know…I just…”

“Pa, it’s getting dark,” interrupted the baby- face. “We’d better be getting home.”

Earl looked up at the sky and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, we better.” He walked back over to his horse and lifted himself up onto the dark brown saddle. “I’ll come back in the morning and check up on ya. Good night.”

“You’re going to leave me here?”

“Hell, son, it ain’t my fault you landed here,” said Earl. “And I don’t ride two people on ole’ Sandy.” He patted the horse’s long white neck and then turned to his son. The baby face shook his head, quickly, back and forth.

“Don’t look at me, Pa, I don’t want him riding with me!”

Earl shrugged his shoulders. “Well, there you have it. Guess you’re sleeping in your machine, tonight.”

The two men wheeled their horses and rode off, disappearing quickly in the dust and darkness, the younger one laughing. Like two ghost riders they vanished as if they had never been. He pulled himself out of his horsehide flying jacket and angrily threw it onto the lower left wing of the airplane. So much for southern hospitality, he thought. Yeah, guess I am sleeping in my machine tonight.

 

The haze and smoke almost obscured the earth but Lieutenant George Price knew that only a few thousand feet below him there were men who were dying, ugly, mud covered deaths. He gazed down over the side of his airplane at the dark brown, pockmarked landscape of no-man’s land that separated the antagonists and thought that it was as close to a vision of hell as he ever hoped to see. His DH-4’s motor drowned out the sound of the thousands of, seemingly endless, exploding artillery shells that blasted away at an already featureless landscape. Suddenly there was the sound of an engine even louder than his own and the tak, tak, tak, of a machine gun. Above all of the deafening noise he could hear the sound of a voice, screaming, “I’m hit, I’m hit!” and the bullets making a drumming sound as they pierced the doped canvas sides of the big DE Havilland observation plane; and finally, the stabbing, burning, pain…

 

“What…?” George opened his eyes and was startled to see a dark haired woman, looking at him and beating on the side of the airplane.

“Lord…finally. I was starting the think you might’ve have died!” she said; her voice sweet and calming. Sleep left his eyes and they began to focus. He could now clearly see the small, delicate features in front of him.

“C’mon, now. You climb on outta’ there. C’mon back to the house.” As he came awake his eyes panned the field all around him with the night, hot, and coal black. He gazed into her face and her pale skin made it seem as though someone had turned a light on in the darkness.

“What are you doing out here?” he finally asked her.

“I heard Earl telling how he’d met a pilot who landed his airplane out on his precious land. I couldn’t believe that he and my husband left you!”

Ah yes, Earl, one of my visitors from earlier this evening.

She frowned and let out a deep sigh. “I’m afraid they aren’t too likeable at times.”

“Yeah, I think I met them during one of those times.” George shook his head. “No, I think I’ll stay right here. I don’t think they’d be too happy with me showing up at their house.”

“Oh, I know how to handle the Baker men. I’m not afraid of them.”

George let out a nervous laugh. He remembered the rifle pointed at his face. “Yeah, well I am.”

She folded her arms tightly and a determined look came over her face. “I’m not leaving without you! C’mon out of this thing.” Looking around at the airplane, she added, “It, for sure, can’t be comfortable in there.”

George smiled as he adjusted himself in the seat. “No,” he said. “It, for sure, isn’t.”

“Well, then, what are you waiting for?” She stepped back away from the plane.

George sighed deeply. You must be getting old, Price, he thought to himself. There was a time you would never have turned down a beautiful women’s invitation to go back to her house. And this one is sure hard to say no to.

Oh, what the Hell.

He shook himself awake and began to lift himself up and out of the airplane. He attempted to make as graceful an exit as possible but his foot caught on the edge of the cockpit and he tumbled out head first. Before he knew what had happened he was on his back, in a cloud of dirt and dust, staring up at the young lady’s horrified face. She quickly knelt down beside him. “Are you hurt?” she asked.

George took a deep breath and shook his head. “Only my pride.”

Her horrified expression suddenly changed as she covered her mouth with her hands and began to laugh. He started laughing, too, and held out his hand. “I’m George Price.”

She moved her hands from her face and was smiling. “Well, I hope you fly this machine a lot better than you climb out of it, George Price.” She shook his hand. “Jenny Baker.”

George sat up, pushed against the side of the airplane for balance and was back up on his feet. As he dusted the dry Texas soil off of his trousers, he said, “Jenny. That’s funny.”

Her smiling face suddenly frowned. “My name is funny?”

“No, no…it’s just that this airplane… it’s a Curtiss JN-4 but everybody calls it a, ‘Jenny.’”

The smile returned. “I knew there was something I liked about it as soon as I saw it.”

George stepped up unto the lower left wing of the JN-4 and reached inside the front cockpit. He pulled out a small leather bag.

“Is that all you got?” she asked.

George stepped down off of the wing. “These things don’t carry too much,” he said as he patted the airplane’s fabric side. It made the sound of a bass drum as the vibration bounced around inside the box-like fuselage. He grabbed his jacket and draped it over his arm. “If it’s not absolutely necessary, I don’t take it with me.”

She led George back to a Studebaker pick- up truck with a red body and black fenders. It was hard to see for sure, in the dark, but it looked new. Jenny slid into the driver’s seat and George climbed into the seat next to her, his jacket and traveling bag on his lap. They both slammed their doors shut and the sounds bounced off into the darkness. He watched her as she stepped down on the floor mounted starter button and threw the truck into gear; the motor rattling through the, no longer quiet, evening. They lurched forward and made a bumpy U-turn with the truck’s headlights valiantly trying to light up the darkness. But it was a weak attempt and it seemed as though they had left the earth behind. With no city lights to interfere the stars ruled the night sky and George thought that he could plainly see every constellation that he knew of. Ahead of them, rabbits were caught in the cones of light and disappeared. A coyote, its eyes glowing an eerie red, flashed by quickly across the dirt road. She took her eyes off of the path for a brief moment to look at George. “You can see that I need to go real slow, so it’ll take a while to get to the Baker house.” She locked her eyes back onto the dark road, again.

“I’m in no rush,” George told her. “I’m enjoying the company.” She looked at him and smiled that smile again. In spite of himself, George felt a flow of warmth through his entire body.

Remember, George. She’s married and her husband likes to carry a rifle.

“How did you find me out there?” he asked her.

“Oh, that was easy, really. Earl said that you had landed near the road. This road runs through the entire property.” She made a sweeping motion with her hand as if demonstrating the hugeness of it all. “I thought I’d just keep driving ‘til I saw an airplane. Figured an airplane would be hard to miss.”

George scanned the, ink-like, blackness. “Seems to me that an ocean liner could be sitting out there and I’d miss it.”

She covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. “Well, now, that’s the second time you made me laugh, tonight, Mister Price!”

“Mister Price?” George rolled his eyes. “Oh my God. Please, call me George. My dad is Mister Price.”

She hesitated, but finally said, “Well, okay…George.” Then her expression suddenly changed. She was serious now. “It feels good to laugh. We don’t laugh, much, in the Baker house.”

The drive was quiet after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open floor

Many apologies, everyone. I’m still seriously out of pocket. So, this is your chance to ask the Twisted Writers any questions you might have or suggest topics you would like us to discuss. I’ll be back next week.

Later!

Toning Down the Drama

“I’ve got a great story for you to write!” a friend pitched to me this past week. I won’t mention any names, but he knows who is. “It’s got overlapping government conspiracies, spaceships and lots of explosions, he continued, as he tried to sell me on his “fantastic” idea.

“I know I’ve used an explosion to start off at least one of the stories I’ve been working on,” I responded, trying to cool his jets, as I wanted to let him down easy. “But,” he begged, “You also like conspiracies.”

Yes, he had a point. I do like to periodically base a storyline on a conspiracy, but on a smaller, more subtle scale. I do like a good mystery and I suppose a conspiracy is just a mystery on a larger scale. In fact, I suppose, a conspiracy is a form of mystery, but is a mystery a type of conspiracy? To some extent I would think it can, indeed, work both ways.

But, my friend was talking about Area 51, in Nevada, in his vision of the story and brought in the higher echelons of the Pentagon, combining it with a full array of spaceships and aliens from neighboring planets around the galaxy. So, while I am somewhat familiar with the workings of the defense establishment, his plot for multi-level conspiracies sounded too large and too involving for me to attempt to tackle. The research, alone, would have wiped me out.

Despite his certainty and enthusiasm for his plot concept, it simply involved too many balls in the air for me, especially with two other stories I have on the front burners.

Then, there is the science fiction genre, which I’ve mentioned a few times that I have had trouble with. It is not the story development itself, I expressed to my friend, but the need to create – from head to toe – multiple races of aliens, along with descriptions of their spaceships, technologies and cultures. Despite his pleas, I still don’t think he understands how much time and effort needs to be dedicated to his 30-second idea proposal. I got the sense, though, that he was already envisioning his name in the movie credits.

Although it seemed like a futile attempt, with his head stuck in the lofty clouds of riches and fame, I tried to explain further to him that I prefer to keep my stories somewhat more grounded on earth. I prefer, I told him, to connect more with reality and everyday life. “There’s already so much to write about,” I intended to convey, “just talking about daily life and the plot twists it offers.”

After all, sometimes a good story is just down the street or in the backyard. These days, anyway, I have got more drama in my real life than I care to deal with and using writing can be a means to escape to a more serene world. I don’t need the excitement of high-velocity spaceships and grand galactic battles, like I did when I was a kid, I emphasized. Instead, I would rather write myself into a story of small-town America where character interaction drives the story and not explosions and hyper drive alien space ships.

 

Opus Is Back!

 

OPUS

Opus is back! What do you mean, “What’s an Opus?” Opus is not a what…he’s a who. He’s Opus the penguin. One of the best and funniest characters to ever grace a comic strip page. He was one of the stars of “Bloom County.” And in my humble opinion, he was the star.

Bloom County was a terrific strip. Written and drawn by a cartoonist with the unlikely name of Berkeley Breathed, Bloom County was peopled (not all were people) by some of the most unforgettable individuals on the comics page. Yes, page! There were newspapers then. That’s how you got your news. Well, there was also the television. But that was it. No. I’m not kidding. There was no internet and people didn’t walk around, and drive around, staring into little hand held screens. You younger types can stop looking at me as though I’ve lost my mind. It’s true. Ya’ can’t make this stuff up.

It was popular as all get out. But then, twenty five years ago, Breathed decided to call it quits to the horror of all of his fans. I was one of those horrified millions. I’m sure there were millions. I hugged my stuffed Opus doll all night.  Let’s see…I would have been…um, thirty-seven. So I was thirty-seven years old and had a stuffed Opus doll. So what!?

But he’s back! And the whole crew that populated Bloom County is back with him. I found out when I jumped into Facebook a few days ago. Breathed has decided to put the strip out on Facebook for some reason, and I think it’s great. Some suspect that the return of Donald Trump to the race for the Presidency has also brought about the return of Bloom County. The comedic value of this cannot be overlooked. Every cloud has its silver lining, they say.

I was a real fan, back then. And yes, I really did have a stuffed Opus. Bloom County even made me want to do a comic strip. I came up with an idea and submitted it to a cartooning syndicate. I got a very nice rejection letter. I’m still a fan, of course. And I see, on Facebook, that so many others are too. How can you not be?

Opus’s followers are legion. Breathed himself has said that he can’t understand how so many people can become so infatuated with a character that isn’t real. His exact words were, “I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” I think he’s being humble. Opus’s combination of mischief and innocence makes him  fascinating and hard to resist. If you aren’t familiar with Bloom County, start following it. Or look up the old archives on the internet. Or pick up one of the many Bloom County books. You’ll soon want a stuffed Opus doll of your very own. I may even get another one!

It’s time to read

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King

One of the most common writing tips out there is to read. A lot.

I learned to read early on, around the ages of 3-4. My great-grandmother spent her days dressing me up and teaching me the written word. Though I remember none of this, I will forever be grateful for my family’s hand in my love of books.

So, to write, you have to read.

Currently I am reading The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr..

What are you reading? Let me know in the comments section, even if you aren’t a writer, I’d still love to hear what you are reading. (I am always looking for a good book to read…) 🙂

 

Till next time,

~AJP