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Archive for March, 2011

The Liars got together one day and began to lie to one another.  Each lie built upon the one before it, becoming more fantastical as they progressed.  Lie was piled upon lie until finally the Liars paused to catch their breath.

“How horrible it is to be a Liar,” they said, laughing at their own lie.

And then they lied some more.  They heaped lies upon lies upon lies, the lying Liars, as they lied, lied, lied, lied, lied. When they weren’t lying they talked about lying which, being Liars, they lied about as well.  They even sang songs about lies.  They sang “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Liar, Liar” and “Would I Lie To You?”

Finally, having exhausted every lie they could conceive, one of them told the truth by mistake.  No one trusted that liar ever again.

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A King, who was fond of manipulating people and viewed them as toys for his personal amusement, announced that whoever could produce the biggest lie would receive his daughter as a bride.  Many tried and failed.  One, notorious for his tricky dealings merely stated “I am not a crook,” and though this was clearly not true, it was not the best lie.  Nor was the man who promised the king a no-obligation all-expense paid vacation to a nearby spa in exchange for a “short presentation” on some available property, though everyone had a good laugh at their own expense from that one.  Finally a wiry Bohemian fellow stepped up.

“I have to say, of all the crazy things drummed up in the burg, this has got to be the weirdest.  You’ve got this handsome figure of a monarch here, a totally righteous cat with nothing but love for his fellow-man, willing to sacrifice the most beautiful – I mean knock-you-out, melt-your-face, gorgeous – daughter for any cat who can tell the biggest lie?”  The Bohemian paused and looked around.  “Think about it.”

The King opened his mouth to speak, caught himself, studied the puzzled faces of those around him, opened his mouth to speak again, then finally roared.

“Take him to the dungeon!”

“On what charge?” said the Bohemian.

“For attempting to insult me and my daughter by telling the truth and calling it a lie.”

“Ah, but if you were truly a righteous cat with love for his fellow-man, would be so quick as to have me locked up, or own a dungeon for that matter? And honestly, every parent thinks their kids are the most beautiful, but you wouldn’t trade away something you love so easily if you weren’t worried she couldn’t land the old ball-and-chain on her own. You want to jail me for telling the truth, but the truth hurts, your majesty.  You’re the biggest liar here, and since there’s no way you’d marry your own daughter, so why not concede that I have indeed produced the biggest lie and let me have her.”

Once again the King was about to speak, then thought better of it and began to roar with laughter.  And everyone around began laughing as well. The Bohemian smiled.

“Throw him in the moat!” bellowed the King.

As the Bohemian climbed his way out of the muck he looked back at the castle.

“Eh, it was worth a shot,” the Bohemian shrugged.

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The subject is trees.  And once again I have the poetry stretch over at The Miss Rumphius Effect to thank.  Dusting off Joyce Kilmer’s much-maligned poem I found myself instantly enamored with her last line, “But only God can make a tree.”  Indeed, I thought, but what of all the man-made trees in the world?  With that in mind I found myself  making a list.

the fruits of trees no god created

I think that we shall never see
the following fruits fall from a tree:

no circuits from the circuit trees
on gadgets from the gadget trees;

nor puppets from the puppet tree
on rockets from the rocket tree;

no peasants among peasant trees,
nor varlets amid varlet trees;

no bigots and no bigot tree!
no zealots and no zealot tree!

baptists? not from baptist trees!
harlots? not from harlot trees!

no trinket-twinkling trinket trees,
or toilet-tinkling toilet trees;

the chemist trees are free of chemists
and artist trees are void of artists;

no palmists in the palmist tree,
no dentists in the dentist tree;

no covens from the coven tree
with infants for the infant tree;

no pundits from the pundit tree
pulling pageants-full of pageant tree;

no merchants from the merchant tree
pinching muskets from the musket tree;

while poets from the forest trees
invent forests for their poet trees…

I think, and I’m sure god agrees
it’s best no trees bear fruit like these!

Yes, yes.  What can I say in my defense that would sound believable?  Nothing.  I went straight for the puns, and still I left a few out that I didn’t think fit. Now if you’ll excuse me, the pillory awaits.

Elsewise, it’s Poetry Friday!  Take a gander at all the poetic goodness available, conveniently rounded up at A Year of Reading this week.

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Three teen boys are sitting on the couch watching TV.

Toddy: This show is stupid.

Roddy: I know. Change the channel.

Toddy: I would, but that means I’d have to get up and look for the remote.

Roddy: That’s lazy.

Toddy: Yeah, well, I don’t see you getting up and looking for the remote.

Roddy: Man, even if the remote was sitting right next to me I wouldn’t even reach for it.

Toddy: Now who’s being lazy.  Check it out, Nod has the remote in his lap.

Roddy: Yo, Ned.  Change the channel.

Ned: Unh.

Roddy: What?

Ned: Unh.

Toddy: Dude’s so lazy he can’t even talk!

 

Three teen girls lounging in a bedroom.

Zoe: What do you guys wanna do?

Candi: I dunno.

Sandi: We could go to the mall, but we’d have to walk.  Mom says she’s not driving

Candi: Walk?

Sandi: I know.  Seriously.

Candi: Even if Mom gave us a ride we’d still have to walk around the mall.

Sandi: Who wants to even deal with all that?

Candi: I know, right?  We should just shop online.

Sandi: We’d still have to look things up.

Candi: We should totally get personal shoppers to do it for us. What do you think, Zoe?

Zoe: (snores).

Sandi: I can’t believe she fell asleep during a conversation she started!

 

Mom called everyone together for a family meeting.

Mom: Kids, the house is a constant mess.  There are clothes and shoes in every room.  There are empty food wrappers everywhere, dirty dishes in your bedrooms, the bathrooms look like a tornado went through them.  I warned you if it didn’t stop I was going to hire a house cleaner so I did, and I’m going make the laziest one of you help pay for it out of your allowance.

Roddy: That would be Ned.

Toddy: Yeah, last week he spilled a soda on himself while he was doing homework on his bed and he didn’t even move to clean it up. He left his wet pants on the bed and slept on the floor that night and the next day the soda dried and his pants were stuck to the sheets.

Roddy: Yeah, and the sheets were stuck to the mattress and he had to tear them off and some of the mattress came with it.

Candi: Zoe is worse.

Sandy: Seriously. Whenever she runs out of clean underwear she just steals some of ours.  If she’s really desperate she even take some of yours, mom, and the worst thing is she puts it back in our rooms for us to deal with.

Candi: Sometimes she even wears her underwear in the shower to wash it, and I’ve even seen her wear some of the boys’ dirty boxers.  She just grabs whatever is closest at the time.

Mom: Zoe, Ned, it’s between you two.  Do you have anything to say?

Ned: Unh.

Mom: What?

Zoe: (snores).

Mom: Honestly, I don’t know where you kids get it from. I can’t wait until you kids are eighteen and will move out of the house.

Ned: What?!

Zoe: You’re going to make us move out?

Ned: What are we going to do?

Zoe: That’s totally unfair!

Etc.

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Today, one from the archives.  Or rather, one from the file I should rename “When the heck did I write that?”  Actually, I have an idea about when I wrote it, back when I was mulling over a picture book based on an old zen koan.  So this is around a dozen years old.

Mooncatching

To catch the moon
first dig a hole
and fill it full of water.

Then late at night
when stars come out
start barking like an otter.

Circle around
and check the hole
from every direction,

And soon enough
you’ll find the moon
caught deep in its reflection.

It’s simple. what can I say, I like simple sometimes.

By the way, this weekend – Saturday especially – the moon will be the closest to the earth that it’s been in 18 years. It will appear to be 14% larger than normal, and if you can catch it coming up on the horizon it’ll look huge.  Make sure you have a big enough bucket!  While moongazing, why not sing a happy song to help it along?

It’s Poetry Friday in the Interhood! (Like that word, Interhood? I just made it up. Portmanteau words are good.) Andromeda over at a wrung sponge is hosting the roundup over in her neck of the Interhood this week.

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do i realy have to say c. 2011 david elzey?

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Once there were three brothers Grimm – Wilhelm, Jacob and Jerome – who set out about the countryside collecting tales.  They hadn’t traveled more than a day out from Frankfurt when they stopped at an inn for the night. Their ears attuned for stories they were drawn to a leathery old spice trader from the East sitting by the fire telling tales from his homeland.  The Brothers Grimm listened, and while they later agreed that the stories they heard were of the sort they had in mind to collect, they decided not to record these particular stories.  Their diaries only state their decision and not their reasons why only that after listening late into the night they retired to their rooms to sleep.

But in the middle of the night young Jerome could not sleep and decided to take in the night air.  As he reached the main room he found the Eastern traveler still by the fire, this time stirring a small pot of soup.

“Troubling sleep?” the traveler said. “I have just the thing.”

The traveler offered up a ladle of the soup from his soup to Jerome who sniffed it cautiously.

“Mushrooms, with a clearing effect on the mind.”

Jerome had no reason to doubt the traveler, and after tasting it found the soup to be quite tasty. He sat next to the traveler and stared into the fire, transfixed by it.

“Some journeys are not taken by foot,” said the traveler.  Jerome nodded, and then closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth that overtook him.

The next morning Jacob and Wilhelm awoke to find their brother’s bed empty.  When they ventured into the main room of the inn they found Jerome had taken off his bedclothes and climbed into a small kiln space next to the fireplace where wood was kept to dry.  He was mumbling incoherently, almost singing, and rocking slightly. The traveler from the East was nowhere to be found and there was no reason for Jacob and Wilhelm to suspect he had anything to do with their brother’s behavior.

Wilhelm and Jacob tried in vain for hours to remove their brother from the cramped space, fearing the heat of the fireplace was boiling him from within.  Any attempts to put out the fire were met with Jerome screaming as if being tortured, as were his brother’s attempts to toss water on him to keep him cool.  At last Jerome climbed out, and with a calm smile on his face sang:

Shall we go, you and I
While we can?
Through the transitive nightfall
of diamonds

Then he collapsed dead.

Jacob and Wilhelm agonized over what to do.  To return home so soon, and with their brother dead, would destroy their mother who had already lost her husband and her father.  It would also place a public pall over their storytelling venture they feared would overshadow their work.  So instead they decided to bury their brother in a nearby wood under a different name and agreed to write home with a fabricated story of Jerome’s exploits leading him to run off with an enchanting young girl.

Soon Jacob and Wilhelm began having strange dreams.  Jacob dreamed of a pair of brothers who sold a third brother to a Turkish sultan as a slave. The slave brother, who looked a lot like Jerome, was taken by the sultan’s daughter to be her husband.  Wilhelm dreamed of Jerome as well, on in his dream he had married a chambermaid in hiding who turned out to be the daughter of the King of England. Both Wilhelm and Jacob kept their dreams to themselves and separately took the meaning that their brother had been well-received in the Kingdom of Heaven.

After a few days the Brothers Grimm arrived at the edge of a dark forest.  Entering the forest they felt a cold chill that never left no matter how much they bundled up. And out of the corner of their eye a small, hairy gnome seemed to be following them.  That night rains forced them to make shelter where they slept uneasy alongside a fire.  That night they dreamed of their brother Jerome, only this time the dreams were not as nice as the other ones.  In Wilhelm’s dreams Jerome was tossed overboard from a ship where he swam to shore and was arrested as a criminal and jailed.  In Jacob’s dream Jerome had been caught stealing a royal scarf and was placed in prison until his beard had grown below his knees.  At once both brother woke up crying.

“What have we done! Our brother is in hell!” cried Jacob.

“We should not have abandoned him!” cried Wilhelm.

Quickly Wilhelm and Jacob related their dreams to each other and took it as a sure sign that they should have taken him home to be buried alongside his father and grandfather.  They were all set to pack up and return home when the rain stopped and a beam of moon shone through the trees.

“Brothers!”

Wilhelm and Jacob searched out the source of the voice but they were looking too hard.

“Down here, brothers!”

Before Wilhelm and Jacob stood a gnome, or what their brother might have looked like if he had been squashed to under two feet with a full salt-and-pepper beard.

“This cannot be!” said Wilhelm.

“I know, pretty trippy, right?” said Jerome.

“Is it really you, Jerome?” asked Jacob.

“Well, it is and it isn’t,” said Jerome. “And you can call me Jerry.”

The full-grown Grimm brothers looked down at their miniature gnome brother in shock.  It was so clearly their brother and yet, somehow, he was something else.

“Okay, let me lay it on you,” said Jerry. “That trader back at the inn, the one from the East?  Yeah, he fed me some magic mushrooms. Opened my eyes right up, let me see that I just couldn’t live a straight life.  Not here, not now, and not even later it turned out.  But, hey, I’m not complaining.”

“You speak so strangely,” said Jacob.  “Can you, perhaps… explain it in a way that we can understand?”

“Right on,” said Jerry.  “You know how sometimes when the rye goes bad and a village goes a little crazy with visions?  That’s what the mushrooms did.  Only the visions… oh, man.  The visions.  It was like the universe opened up and showed me its clockwork.”

“So…” asked Wilhelm cautiously, “Are you really here before us?  Did we not bury you many days back?”

“Oh, yeah.  That.  No, I’m dead.  I took some time off, zoomed around on the astral plane for a bit until I could find the rest of the band, didn’t drop back down until 1942.  In the United States. But it’s all good, man, it’s all golden.”

“But if you’re dead, then…”

“Right.  Who are you talking to now?  Well, it’s sort of complicated if you don’t dig the whole concept of reincarnation, or non-linear time sifting, or any of that. I am your brother, I’m a vision from the future dressed up to look like something you might be willing to accept for a crazy place like this.”

“And the dreams?” asked Jacob.

“Dreams, oh man. That’s a whole different thing, but it’s all connected. You think you’re seeing me as a slave or on a ship or whatever, that stuff happened.  But it didn’t happen when my name was Grimm, and a lot of that is all mixed up with stories you haven’t even encountered yet.  You guys are tapping into the great cosmic unconsciousness.  Everyone’s there doing their thing and the only way you can interpret it is through the filter of your current knowledge.  Trust me, you’re going to have some major  deja vu moments in the coming years. Just don’t go thinking you always know what’s going on, ’cause there’s no way you can.”

“We have lost our brother, and the guilt of it has driven us mad,” Jacob whispered to Wilhelm.

“We have entered a place of evil and are bewitched by a warlock into seeing things that are not,” Wilhelm whispered to Jacob.

“Boys, I’m right here, and I’m telling you, it’s all good.”

“Why now?” said Wilhelm.  “Why not come to us that night you died, or better still, come to yourself and prevent your death?”

Though Wilhelm was satisfied with his line of questioning it merely caused the gnome to laugh.

“You have much to learn about time travel paradoxes and the butterfly effect!”

Jacob began to grow angry, and Jerry could sense it.

“You speak in riddles!  Talk plainly, why are you here?”

“I could see that you boys were having troubling dreams and knew that you would not be able to do the great work you are about to do without putting this all behind you.”

“Our work will be… great?”

“You have no idea!  Picture books for kids, an entire movie industry with merchandising tie-ins, departments at universities devoted to the stories you are about to collect, Freudian reinterpretations of the symbolism in the stories, desperate-for-attention writers blogging about your tales… it’s all out there, waiting for you.”

Wilhelm and Jacob straightened up, satisfied to think their work would be as important as Jerry said, even if they didn’t quite understand all of what he said.

“How do we proceed, then?’ said Jacob.

“Well, in the words of all the most clichéd stories, open your eyes.”

Which they did.

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I’m in the last act of my current work-in-progress, making a crazy-mad dash to the finish.  It’s a first draft and it’s ugly and beautiful and will probably bear no resemblance to the final draft after revisions.  Still, knowing that revisions are coming, I’m planning ahead and outlining my next project.

I know the benefit of letting a draft “rest” before taking it on in revision, but once I get to the end I usually have a better sense of the beginning and want to rework it some.  That causes a ripple effect down the line and I’ll end up trying to rework the entire manuscript.  This is wrong, bad-wrong, and crazy-making wrong because I don’t have the perspective to see it with fresh eyes.  The only way around this is to try and force a rest period by having something else lined up and waiting for me to work on.

So in those moments when the Muse refuses to sing these final pages to me, I’m outlining.

Boy, am I outlining.

I have a rough three-act outline for the story, breaking the main and sub-plots into large general chunks.  I have another outline I call The Haiku with has the three acts broken into thirteen chapters – three for act one, five for act two, three for act three, with a prologue and epilogue chapter on either side.  I have a five-act outline modified from screenplay structure, an original idea I came up with years ago that’s more satisfying to me than a three act model. And somewhere around here I have a folder with all the key story points written down on small sticky notes to be shuffled and rearranged into a proper order according to how I see the story unfolding on any given day.

At this point I have the story so over-plotted that when I finally sit down to write I shouldn’t have to review the outlines at all, which is the point. I have heard and know of writers who finish their first drafts and then delete them, an extreme version of pre-writing designed for them to get a sense of the story before settling in and writing the “real” draft.  If I’m being honest, that’s probably what I’m doing in the long run between my “first” and “second” drafts, because they are often so radically different that the first draft probably holds the same purpose as those “vomit drafts” that others throw away.

But if I really thought that draft was disposable, I’d never be motivated enough to finish it.

So this new project with all its outlining, it’s less about locking myself into the story and more about pre-visioning a first draft so that when I start writing I’m actually on the second draft.  Each of those outlines contains god bits not found on the others.  In some, the plot points are different, though they exist on all the drafts.  The sub-plot weaves a different pattern into the tapestry of each one, but the through-line is the same. The unnoticed holes in one are filled by the details in another. I’m so ready to write this thing after all the outlining that I’ll probably never look at the outlines once I start.  Which is the point.

Am I playing games with myself?  Yes. I’m overlapping my involvement with the stories so that when I finish the current WIP and need to let it settle I can start up with the new one immediately. It’s said that to be successful you have to show up for the job, every day, Butt In Chair.  Agreed, but there also needs to be something going down, and I call that Always Be Writing. And if it takes outlining myself to the point of distraction, so be it.

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