Advice from e.e. cummings

ee-cummings_cu_large“If art or poetry is your goal, you’ve got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about self stylized obligations and duties and responsibilities etcetera ad infinitum and remember one thing only:  that it’s you—nobody else—who determine your desitny and decide your fate.  Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else.  Toms can be Dicks and Dicks can be Harrys, but none of them can ever be you.  There’s the artist’s responsibility; and the most awful responsibility on earth.  If you can take it, take it—and be.  If you can’t, cheer up and go about other people’s business; and do or undo until you drop.”

from the e.e. cummings non lectures

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing: #ApocalypseNation

Thanks to Andrea Jarrell for asking me to participate in this little creative project. Someone passed along the questions to her and she passed them to me and I’ve passed them along to others still. Each author will attempt to answer the questions about their current project. You can click on each of these four wonderful writers’ names to be taken to their blogs/websites and to see how they respond: Andrea Jarrell, Jordan Rosenfeld, Vincent Carrella, and Tim Horvath. Here are the questions which I answered about my latest project:

What is the working title of your book?

Apocalypse Nation

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came from wanting to write a book that people might want to read (as opposed to the several manuscripts I’ve written that no one wanted to read). My wife and I were watching the Walking Dead and the plot holes, specifically how the characters chased after one bag of guns when all around them were dead soldiers and policemen that no longer needed their guns, were very distracting. I decided that I could write a zombie story that had fewer plot holes. It was supposed to be a quick, easy book. It has not been. I’ve also discovered that I might have been unduly harsh about the plot holes. I hope there are few glaring ones in my text.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary zombie thriller, I hope.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Kevin Spacey might be good for one of my characters. For the teen market, I’m thinking Taylor Swift as one of my young female characters. Maybe Josh Brolin for another character. I’d love to see Hailee Stanfield from True Grit as my main character’s sister, but she might still be too young. I haven’t settled on an actor that I envision as playing my lead character, Jack Brinn. He’s mid-twenties and the character moves from a sort of dumb innocence to a pretty tough dude. The book is mostly about his transformation.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Man goes on the great American road trip to find his sister and a daughter he didn’t know he had. Plus zombies. They aren’t called zombies in my book. That’s two and a half sentences. Sorry.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well over a year. I think I’m entering the third year and I’m almost finished with a heavily revised draft. But I’ve had a lot of life on my plate at the same time. Stupid life always gets in my way. I get in my way, too, but mostly it’s life.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

No idea. I’ve never sought out zombie books or movies. I really liked the first episode of Walking Dead but haven’t watched anything after the first season, mainly because I don’t want that show influencing my writing. Plus, the plot holes! I have heard good things about Justin Cronin’s literary vampire/virals books The Passage and The Twelve. But I’ve avoided reading those, too, because I don’t want to feel influenced by his prose. I’m hoping that people will look past genre and simply read the book because its fun, exciting, and moving. The good, cathartic, escapist sort of read.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

No man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money—Samuel Johnson

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

What’s not to like? A hero’s quest. Guns. The undead. Search for missing family. Plus feuding families, faith&science&politics&guns. Did I mention guns? And big-ass-zombie-crunching trucks? And chase scenes? And new ways for the zombie illness to be spread that’ll scare the pants off you. And a fortified town? And snappy dialogue? And not one, but two bad guys? Maybe three? I thought the undead would be the main “bad” element, but I was wrong. Humans are still humans. People are still trying to get rich in Apocalypse Nation. The trains are still running and the greedy are still greedy. Though the US doesn’t look anything like it does now, it’s still a country. I think people will see real people and real character development along with the blood splatter. The book has it all. Although I’m often wrong when pondering my own writing, I think I’ve written a rip-roaring page turner. When you see it, pick it up. You won’t be sorry.

Taking a Break from Blogging #Blog #Break #Timeout

Here looking for a new update? You won’t find one. I started this blog in 2009 as a report to the New Hampshire community after the State Art Council awarded me a fellowship. Originally, it was a blog devoted to discussing my writing. Since then, I’ve used it to post many things–art, life, family, music, and the like. But now I’m taking a break. In the event that someone has stumbled to this site looking for a way to contact me, the contact function will still work. I just won’t be putting up any new writing in the foreseeable future. Thanks to those who came here to read my thoughts over the past couple of years. Perhaps I’ll post more someday. Until then, I hope to see you in the real world. Be well.

#Blazing into the #newyear…wait… do I really have to blaze?

I’ve been slow to update my site recently. I posted nearly 160 blog entries last year–a number that surprised me. In December of 2011, however, I didn’t post much. Here’s what’s been on my mind.

My father-in-law. He’s been with us for over two years. He’s now started in-home hospice. Dying is an absorbing event. I’m grateful to have the chance to go through it now, as an adult. I doubt it will be the last time.  Although I’m not the primary care-giver, and our lives are full around Jack’s hospice life, there is a very definite pull of energy toward the back part of house where his room is. Three years ago, we renovated the final section of our house for just this purpose. It hasn’t been easy, but what about life is easy? And why should it be? Of all the two-bit planets in this two-bit galaxy, ours happens to support conscious life. The chances of that are staggeringly small. It’s a miraculous thing to ponder, but there’s no reason to believe the miraculous should be easy.

Also, on the total other side of the spectrum, my cassette adapter for my van stopped working and now I have to listen to the radio. My friends say, “Try NPR”–and that’s all well and good–but I don’t like talking on the radio. When I’m in the car, I like music. Now, down from the thousands of choices available to me on my iPod, I’m stuck with classic rock stations (unless Grace is in the car–and then it’s KISS 95’s All Hits All The Time). Not really having listened to rock radio in nearly 20 years, I was surprised to find that the songs are exactly the same. Seriously people–how many more times do you need to hear “Light My Fire” or “Break on Through” by the Doors? Me? I never, ever need to hear those songs again. And yet I’ve heard them both three times each in the last week. Give me “Peace Frog” once every ten years or so and I’m good with the Doors. Are the boomers so stuck in those old songs that they can’t bear to not hear the Doors everyday? And don’t get me started about Zeppelin. I’m in the car about twenty, thirty minutes a day tops and I’ve heard: “Stairway to Heaven” (two times), “Black Dog” (three times), “Misty Mountain Hop” (a great tune, admittedly, one time), “Fool in the Rain” (three times) and “Achilles Last Stand” (one time). Seriously? Is there some blood deficiency that requires Page/Plant infusions thrice daily? Even Robert Plant must hate how much he’s on the radio. People need to get out and find new music. Or maybe I should just bust the radio. It’s hopeless.

Also, it’s on in NH, I suppose. By “on,” I mean lots of republican volunteers calling looking for my vote. It’s ghastly. Newt the philanderer called today (his proxy, at least) and wanted to know if I could count on his vote. Not unless his name is Obama. Mitt called too. Mitt has shiny teeth and oily hair. I don’t care about his religion. His insistence that our country is the greatest in history galls me. He wants to shovel money into the military and also cut taxes. He talks about being married to his wife like it’s been a prison sentence. At least he hasn’t screwed around on his wife because he loves his country so much (Newt). I’m sure Santorum will be calling tomorrow trying to gauge my fear of gay people (the scary, scary gay agenda). Ron Paul called too. To all them, I just say no.

So, that’s the beginning of this year’s blogging for me. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the last couple of days and today, as I was starting to feel like myself again, I had the spark of an epiphany. Each winter break (teaching at the University of New Hampshire, I get an unbelievable break)  I go into my time off thinking of all the things I have to “do.” I always have a list of things I need to get done. I’ve been a list maker all my life. I never, ever, ever get the list finished. It’s a pointless endeavor. I’m going to try an experiment for the next three weeks: I’m not to try to get anything done at all. Just going to see what happens when I stop trying to make anything happen. I’m going to attempt to live my life fully, but I’m not going to make lists, I’m not going to try to accomplish anything per se. Just going to live and breath. And do lots of hot yoga.

#doodles in lieu of…

I haven’t been able to get to the page recently. Temporary, I know. But I’ve been trying to keep the doors to the creative space open somehow. Doodles fit the bill. Here’s what comes of a writer not writing but not wanting not to write. That last sentence is a work of genius. Have I mentioned I learn people writing? I do. I learn ’em good.