Monday, July 17, 2017

went to the weed bluegrass festival the other folks around here, there is nothing alarming about that name. weed is simply a little town way out in the mountains, and it holds this festival every july, and the festival is its largest fundraiser for the community center and scholarships that the community provides to its people. some of its kids go to my son's school, as it's only 23 miles away or so, but it takes a good forty minutes on windy, treacherous roads with no shoulder on steep cliffs. you follow the cox canyon road out maybe 18 miles before turning and actually crossing over a range of rather steep mountains; this is only about six or seven miles, but it's very steep and somewhat dramatic.

bluegrass people had come from all around, and most were camping. this is generally an upbeat, but very conservative, religious crowd. they like gospel music. they are generally opposed to alcohol in all of its iterations. they tend toward large motor homes and little pets, and they are generally well keyed in to the music itself. that is the part that endears them to me. they love the music, and they know a lot of songs.

fiddlers are rare, not only here, but in texas, and throughout the countryside. i've found generally welcoming greetings from crowds like this, since they don't get many chances to play with fiddles. there were several steel guitars, and several banjos; there was a standup bass, and one more fiddler, a woman whom i know, who is actually one of the organizers. it's a tiny community, but it seems the restaurant-cafe-post-office is clearly the center of it, and almost all of its residents were there that night.

my son recorded much of it; he knew the waitress and some other kids who were there. in the end, because we knew people, it was a local kind of thing. and that i liked. the music was good, the company was good, and i felt like i was a fiddler again. this is the kind of festival i could attend every year, as long as i live.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017

in a blizzard of new marketing ideas, i've tried several things. one was to enter the world of flash fiction. apparently flash fiction is anything between 500-1000 words although like "red dirt" i may have missed some of the essence of the definition. i figure, if i've been writing both short stories and haiku for several years, i ought to be able to combine the two, and make very short, very concise, short stories. my first, however, was rejected. i don't know if i can handle rejection, maybe that's why i self-publish in the first place.

but flash fiction was clearly made for the phone. people apparently call it up while they stand there looking cool, whipping out their phone in some public place, and maybe they read an entire story just as they stand there. i can make stories for that situation, i think. i might just need some practice.

then, a second idea, in cruising around i found a site that seemed ideally suited to me, the eastoftheweb short story site. it seems ideally suited to me because there are a lot of internationals coming to it looking for both entertainment, and learning english; this is my ideal market. they don't seem too picky, based on the stories i've already read, though one was excellent, the other had lots of grammar issues and downright inaccuracies. now actually my writing is strong on correct spelling, its/it's being correct and all that, that is not my weak point. but judging from my rejection, certainly i have some kind of weak points. perhaps it is utter failure to develop characters, i don't know. but this site does allow people to comment and maybe that will help me, if i get on there, and get me some exposure too. it can be done, i'm sure, and i can keep trying.

then by far one of the most interesting, is this kid who reads stories right onto the web, in his own project to have a successful, commercially viable youtube channel. he solicits stories, free, from authors like me, and promises to tell their source. unfortunately i submitted a story to him, and then never heard from him, and then lost his url; in fact, i don't even remember how i found out about him. he's out there in space somewhere, and doesn't turn up when you google "short story" and "youtube" together. like many young people, he had a penchant for fantasy and horror, neither of which i am rich in, but he seemed to have it together in some crucial ways, and i kind of wish that had come to something; perhaps it still will.

it is still basically irritating me that my son is making $250 a month on youtube, while i'm making basically squat, from all the hard writing and poetry i do. my wife says i shouldn't compare. but to some degree money is the world's reward for doing something the world really wants, and it's become obvious that the world wants youtubes more than, say, haiku, or even short stories in the written form. either that or maybe i just suck as a writer, which is always possible. i got lots of kudos and credit as a teacher, but the fact is, sometimes you write something, and everyone says it's good, but they're just saying that because they like you and want you to feel good about yourself. if you think about it, this is a shame, if in fact what is happening is they are leading you on and leading you to write a lot more, and give up a lot later than you probably should.

on the other hand, it's also entirely possible that the world wouldn't know good stories from bad, or even good haiku from bad, due to the fact that so many buckets of both are dumped on the endless sea of self-published dreck, and how is the cream supposed to rise to the top? the fact is, they can't even see it, don't read it, get sick of even picking up new stuff when it's so invariably bad. publishers used to put themselves in that position, the position of judge of limitless dreck, and for their pains they would get to be the ultimate decider of what got published and what didn't. now, anyone can publish, but there are no judges, so there's literally no way for people to know where to start.

i'm not really venting here; i have a genuine body of work and i'm a little mystified if it will ever amount to anything. six collections of short stories make about 120 stories, which are rapidly turning into flash fiction. three volumes of poetry, a thousand each, with a few unique ones before that which were not represented in those; that makes 3k. i kind of expected that the poetry would never sell; do people ever buy poetry, for any reason? i'm not sure. i think it's a carefully guarded secret that people never buy poetry, and therefore poets are simply people who desperately want to be considered poets, but basically have to find other ways of making a living, unless they can make a living teaching poetry. but that's hopelessly cynical, it's just that, as far as i can tell, what few people sell anything on the poetry front, must sell it only after they've died, and after a hundred years or so has allowed the cream to float to the top. in other words, there's almost no way to get any attention as a poet just by cranking it out. and the fact is, i'm uncomfortable with the image, the persona, the identity as a poet anyway. it's of no use to me; i would rather be known as a short story writer. i almost feel like drifting back to the realm of secrecy with the poetry.

they're coming out pretty well; i need about three a day to get a thousand in a year, and i pull it off, pretty much. if i miss a day i come back the next day and get six. if i'm in the mood, i write a few more and then slack off for a while. but i'll have my first hundred soon and the good news is, i have a kind of storehouse of knowledge for each state, plenty of material, when i'm not bound by time (as i'm not, this year). if i get a few more volumes of it out, i'll be happy. i want one that is entirely on history; the idea of that would be to have each haiku have not only a kigo (season clue), but also a geographical clue, and an era clue, or time clue. if i get good at it i can write hundreds, maybe a thousand. we'll see. that would be the 2019; i'm working on the 2018 now.

as for my other projects, some may fall by the wayside. there are 1) an esl reader, a reading workbook; 2) a novel about texas, to be called either trigger warning or texas hold 'em; 3) my original novel, about saint louis, called interference; and 4) my autobiography/memoirs - now this one has taken on a bit of urgency, as my wife has decided to write her memoirs, and in the process, has bought or collected about a dozen of them, including one on how to write them, and i think, has begun to actually type on it a little bit each day. i wouldn't have to necessarily be urgent about mine, which in a sense are almost done, but my strategy is simply to finish a first draft before i start hearing, reading, or experiencing any alternate ways of doing it. and so i've applied myself, a little, to finishing.

however two things hang me up. one is that my twenties, awkward and uncomfortable as they are, are quite boring as i admitted so little of all the wild stuff i did. i did nothing to make those years visual, dramatic, interesting, going anywhere, and in reviewing them, i recognize that. now i'm reading a very interesting book about the hippie-commune era, and i was right there, flailing around, trying to find community, trying to figure out the best way to live one's life, yet i didn't really put that in there, because, in its own way, it was just another failure, like a career that didn't work out. but i also see that, from the point of view of studying the 70's, and the largest back-to-the-land movement ever, that i was right in the middle of it (actually the tail end of it maybe), and therefore my insights might be of use to one who really tried to look at what was happening then. flailing around as i was, i had a lot in common with that whole movement, and i can very easily document that by writing about it clearly, if i can get it together. time is running out. look for publication, maybe, in the fall!

another hangup with that book is whether to simply publish it, or let people have a crack at it first. nah. my strategy, basically, is to not offend anyone, that way it won't matter. sometimes the truth offends them, but in that case, they have more problems than just me. after all, no one really buys my books, to speak of. and one guy, in a forum, once said, if you want to sell books, what are you doing writing short stories or memoirs? write something people want to read! or, another one said, the problem with short stories is, each one is about 300 pages too short to pay the bills.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

the fourth in cloudcroft is busy. we are twenty or thirty degrees cooler than the valley so lots of people come up, and the shopowners stay open to greet them. people hang around the boardwalks. motorcyclists come through as cruising through the mountains is one of their favorite things. everyone wears red white and blue, or some combination thereof.

the parade was actually on saturday, day of my meet the author, and i stood up there on the second floor, downtown, with all my books, as every firetruck on the mountain came by and tested out its siren. kids scurried for candy. someone actually threw stuffed toys. some uncle sam came by on stilts.

altogether i don't get too excited about it. i think people are eager to go down the hill to see fireworks, but it's hardly worth it to me and i'll be grateful if i can stay up here, lay low, stay off the cliffs. yesterday someone endangered my life on the roads and i realized, lots of people are impaired. bad time to be on cliffs. i yawn here now and the sun hasn't even come close to setting. i did very little today except haiku, random reading, and sitting on the porch, where it's cool as usual. this is the first town i've been in where you can actually be outside on the fourth - my biggest aversion to the holiday is simply the heat. the drinking is not an issue as long as i stay home, and the over-the-top patriotism, well i can take that or leave it.

on the haiku i gave away some today - it is, after all, e pluribus haiku, and i genuinely hope somebody is getting something out of it. it's a kind of colorful look at the united states - not meant to be disrespectful, meant more to be a genuine picture of the usa as it is, or in this issue, as it was in 1974. the new issue is more free with the time, time is now, and so far i'm producing plenty. my goal is to make it maximally visual, bright, intense. i want it to be the warhol's marilyns of haiku. i want people who care about haiku and know it, to like it. i pay attention to who grabs it when i make it available for free. there are a few people who are reading it. not so many who are paying for it, yet. that's the way poetry is.

a wide swath of this country, my half, are upset about the way things are going, about russia taking over, and ruining our environment, science, and education, and our relationship with europe - but i look at it this way. it's our opportunity to make sure the system works and works right. we have to do the right thing to get him out of there peacefully, and fix the damage - the epa is what we use to keep each other from poisoning our land - and we need public education. so it's a crucial time for people who love the country, in all forms, who need to come together to save it. if you love the country, stop complaining, and find the ways he's used the national till to make himself richer, and get him out of there. it's that simple.

on the local level there are people who seem to vote republican no matter what. they don't seem to care about all the stuff that irritates us, and they object so strenuously to the socialist-leaning democrats that they couldn't imagine ever going over that way. so, now they're trapped. they have this ignorant boor, destructive and petulant, and they have to stick with him to the bitter end. unfortunately, it may well be bitter. he will use the government to destroy the press, if he can.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Meet the Author

Sat. July 1 2-5
Imaginary Books, Downtown Cloudcroft

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

summer's heating up - 120 in phoenix, 111 in lubbock, 107 right down the hill from us - up here, it's 80 and it keeps raining. last time it rained, it ended up humid, so now it's warm and humid, but not too bad. even 85 is warm here, and people don't like it, if they did, they'd probably live in the valley. we here are the refugees from that kind of stuff.

the big problem with 110 is, you fry out your airconditioner. we don't even want to use ours in the first place, and don't. our evenings are nice and we sleep with our windows open. right now it's a bit stuffy but evening is coming - more rain and then probably down in the fifties.

the puppy constantly wants out on the porch here, where i sit overlooking the white sands and writing. he barks at the bees, and the flies, and the neighbor dogs, and whoever walks by, usually hikers, but i'm supposed to spray him with vinegar when he does. i'm somewhat negligent, being preoccupied, and then my wife gets mad, because we're bad neighbors, who don't control our barking dog. he's cute, and he's spoiled, but he thinks he has to bark as part of his identity. and of course he's got that yipper bark that people hate so much. cute to us, a yip-dog to others.

my class is going strong and i spent all day on it, not even getting too much to the reading part. the books are easy and fun to read but there is other stuff to do too. one thing i have to do is set up observations but there's no one to observe, all schools are out for the summer. dilemma. everything else is ok.

when it's hundred and seven in the valley, we devote ourselves to staying out of the valley. that means buying from the local convenience store and walking more. i'm surprised we don't have hundreds or thousands of tourists, but i guess aircon has made it so they don't really have to come up here to get away from it. whole valleys of people are just hunkering down, staying inside, not getting out in it, and not pushing the air-con too hard.

little puppy is sitting on my lap again. he likes it there - he watches the trough behind downtown cloudcroft, and he makes sure everything is ok. he likes this better than his other choices. it's just that he can't help but bark, it's in his genes. that's what he does. that's his identity. getting him to be quiet is working against his very nature.

Friday, June 16, 2017

been trolling around the flash fiction scene. there are "literary magazines" online, and they do very well. some good writers are on them. and these good writers are into writing 500-word only, short stories. there is nothing else different about the story, except that it's very compact. 500 words, you can read on a phone.

and that's the point, i've come to realize. these kids that are hanging around, reading their phones, in the airport, or at the bus stop, or in school, or wherever? sometimes they read flash fiction, i'm sure. somebody does. it's got to be quick. you have to get to the climax before the phone dies.

i could do this, because economy of words is my stock in trade. unable to finish an entire novel, all i have to my name, besides quaker plays, is haiku and six books of short stories. all are economical, if nothing else. i don't waste words. i relate well to the young.

it's a challenge, but i'm kind of at a crossroads anyway. i'm trying new marketing techniques. i need ways to make a name. i may just get started.

First bouquet of summer

so says Dr. Wink, the teacher of my online teacher-education class. But they are having fires up there by Santa Fe, they say, so I hope everyone's alright! Let's just say, I'm thinking of her.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the quaker religion is partly based on the idea that if a group of people wait patiently, silent and settled, the presence of the divine spirit will make itself known. one does not need a pastor, priest, or minister. each person is equally likely to receive a message and bring it out to the group, and, in the experience of members, sometimes people find that the message is received as if it were intended for another member. often, there are meetings without messages; the effect of a visitor may lead people to be unwilling or unable to speak.

i left cloudcroft at about 8:15 in order to get to las cruces for ten-o'clock meeting; getting gas in alamo, i happened to see the principal of alamo high school, though i'm not sure he knew who i was (that i was trying to get a job at his high school). the desert was long and hot, even in the morning. going across the organs the car goes up a steep hill and then down into the huge mesilla valley. the meeting house is adobe and in a fashionable part of town just east of downtown. when meeting started there were about seven or eight of us, most older than me, some veteran quakers.

a young woman came in about halfway through. she was unable to keep her eyes off her phone; perhaps something was happening, or, she just couldn't. as it turned out, i believe she had the only kid, a boy about two or maybe one. this boy was walking pretty well, but not saying much, so i'd put him between one and two maybe. the meeting had nice decoration, several paintings, and beyond the main room, a small kitchen. i gave them some navajo tea that i brought; i'd also brought one for my dad.

as i sat there i found that, as usual, it was hard to get my mind off daily concerns, my job, my life, my four kids, my busy schedule, my dad's health. finally i worried about my friend maurine's problem.

i had just published maurine's book, new children of the light. maurine is very invested in quakerism, being a quaker elder. but she finds trouble with her small meeting in its present state, since many of its attenders have rejected god, or at least rejected the traditional view of god as older, male, and judgemental. i try to remind her, it's the things god is associated with - maleness, olderness, judgementalism, that irritate them, not the feeling of one divine power - though of course i don't know how they feel exactly. there is an issue with atheism throughout quakerism, as lots of people feel strongly about rejecting that traditional view, and others are simply unable to redefine it or go along with that.

so suddenly, in the traditional way of quakers, i got a strong message, and it was unmistakable. it was, "call me the great spirit." on reflection, i thought, perhaps this message was meant for maurine, who of course wasn't here in las cruces. but an elder said something to the effect that, now is the time to speak of your concerns, or anything that has come to you. i knew that now was the time. i was quaking a little.

so i told about maurine a little, and said that ordinarily i would be a little more shy around people i didn't know well. but the message was unmistakable, so i told what i'd received, and i also admitted i didn't know quite what to do with the message, although i was sure i'd tell maurine, and also, i would try it. it is not unreasonable, and i am not opposed to it. i figure, if i'm a quaker, and i believe in listening patiently, receiving and delivering messages, i should just do it. first step is just deliver the message, and i did. second step is figuring out what to do with it.

in the past i have written about the pronouns we use to talk about god. finally i concluded that i should not use pronouns to talk about god - after all, god is neither he nor she, and one cannot pretend that it doesn't matter, or let one be more important or prevalent than the other. so, in the end, i concluded, one should simply use the term god when talking about god, and leave pronouns for people. fair enough. but if one uses the term great spirit, one does the same thing. no pronouns. one does not have to even avoid them. perhaps i had not done this earlier, for fear of appropriating a native american idea or term. at some point, you have to just take the cues that are given to you.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

e pluribus haiku 2017

a thousand original haiku

Available at Amazon $6.29 + shipping
Available at the Createspace Store $6.29 + shipping
Available on Kindle $3.59