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

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Children of the Light

by Maurine Pyle
Available on Amazon, $10 + shipping
Available at the CreateSpace Store, $10 + shipping
On Kindle Soon

From the book description:
"Why should we care about the Millennial generation? Managers, the military, and religious leaders are all asking themselves how they can adapt to this generation who represent the largest work force. So far no one has been asking the Millennials how they see things. New Children of the Light can serve as a window into the lives and minds of young people coming of age in the twenty first century. I have simply asked sixteen young Quakers to tell us who they are and who they want to become."

Maurine Pyle is a good friend of mine, so I helped her produce this book. It includes two of my boys, and I recommend it.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

first thing i did, when school got out, was stop going down the hill. i was just tired of traveling. now i know i make my reputation out of traveling, telling of reckless hitchhiking and train-jumping days, but nowadays i'm sixty-three, the roads are windy with steep cliffs right on the other side of the line, and the weather is dicey. though i've done that mile-steep hill so many times i could do it in my sleep, i try not to. and i take advantage of the opportunity to stay home.

the fact is, i'm covered for the summer. i have a part-time job, and i'm going to school, and the bills seem to be ok, as my wife's disability has been approved. we kind of live on a shoestring, with hope that we keep people in the two houses we still own, that are way over our heads in terms of rent - but so far, people have been in them. the rent comes in. we are able to live in our cabin, with its low expenses, and do our things.

out on the porch now; it's a very cool evening for early june. the puppies are stirred up because some neighbor dog is in the vicinity. the kids are stirred up because there's a visitor - a local eight or nine-year-old, a friend. the young girls were playing, the older ones were spying on them. everyone in a small cabin, so i've bailed to the porch.

i've been working to publish a book for a quaker friend about quaker kids and their stories. two of mine are in there. the quaker kids have their own ways of looking at things. her point is that we should follow the kids, or at least let them have their own worldview. they are not ours.

my own haiku book, a 1000-poem opus, is almost done. i went through with a fine-tooth comb, editing, but that cost one or two, and i'll have to rewrite them. more importantly, it's taken about two months to do even that. i was so overwhelmingly sick of the whole thing that i just stopped more or less completely for weeks at a time. not good. if one is to do a thousand in a year, particularly a thousand in the next one, one should not have any lapses, of a week at a time. it's about four a day, even if you never take a break. if you drop a week, like you move or get busy with a job or whatever, it becomes eight a day, nine a day. too hard a pace to keep up.

my novel about texas is savage. in fact i love texas and don't mean any harm. if you show it exactly as it is, that's savage. if you show how a university works, that's savage. i'm putting the university side-by-side with wal-mart. that's savage too. and i'm weaving in country music. had to take a break the past two days - the above projects got in its way. there is yet another project, esl-related - got started on that, but didn't finish.

the main thing is, relentless promotion. i put stuff on kindle-direct, free for a couple of days, that's good for a couple of readers - i am trying a contest, that may or may not work. i'm going on FB live. who knows how that'll go? i need to get my instruments in shape, and practice, for sure - i see that as a performance (unrehearsed), but primarily an advertisement. and i'd like to keep doing it. it's experimental. performance-based promotion. tomorrow (sun) at seven, mountain time.

the porch has calmed down, the puppy in my lap. the kids are still making a racket, all over the house. you have the young girls, always doing the young-girl giggling thing, but maybe getting on a movie, because it's late. you have the older kids, we call them the twins, eleven and twelve, who were following the young ones around, but were kind of out of sorts, out of their usual screens. then the fifteen-year-old, who makes more money on you-tube in a month than i've made writing stories or poetry combined, is feeling out of sorts, so he invites the twins around and they all do wilding. it's a little wild. maybe i should take my walk.

'nough for one night.

Friday, May 26, 2017

last day of school, for me, was yesterday; they were about to send me home at 8 am when i begged them to be placed in the low-incidence sped class. i did this, i admit, because having driven down the hill, i didn't especially want to waste the drive, and wanted to get some work out of it. but also, i have found some joy in hanging around the low-incidence sped folks. alamo is a small town of 30,000. it only has so many high school students of severe disability, but here, they're all in one room. and they really are very diverse, both in their disabilities, and in everything else. they are very unpredictable. you can be hanging around happily, in a central room, and one will become hysterical or stubborn, or yell for no particular reason. or jump, or wave their hands around. you just never know.

today, it's back home, mulling over, seriously, all my poor marketing or lack of marketing. i have literally created many books, with very little strategy applied to their pricing or marketing. undersell them, i thought, for a while, but it didn't work; being unknown, dropping my work in a sea of self-published work, how are they supposed to know good stuff by low pricing? Maybe they'll try it, and, of course, i was hoping that if they tried one, they'd buy a few more. but it didn't work out that way. perhaps i'm not that good, that they should want to do that. i have several possibilities for marketing and basically i'm still mulling them all over. one is to make a writing contest. another is to make a "best-of" volume of stories, also, my own author facebook page. still another is to start ad campaigns, either on linked-in (free for the first fifty dollars) or google (hundred dollars worth of ads for 25 dollars). there are still more, but i won't go into them now. as i go into kindle to mess with my kindle settings, i'm somewhat surprised at how random they are: one book was set at about thirty bucks; another had never even made it onto kindle. others had random pricing, or i had not decided whether to put them on kdp (kindle direct), or hadn't done it. only reason not to do it, is if you have plans to publish elsewhere. time to move forward on all plans at once? not sure.

so, back in the sped room, you have this guy in a wheelchair, and he gets stuck on stuff. he brought up this yellow #1 tape. now what he liked about this tape was that it had old kid songs, and he still liked the kid songs. well, i like them too, so i produced "this old man" on my phone and we rocked out to "this old man." some of the other workers, i suspect, didn't like that, as it kind of fired him up and made him obsessive. when he's obsessive he'll say things over and over. things like, "i need to get that yellow #1 tape" or "help me find that yellow #1 tape." the other workers were sick of it already. one mentioned that in his iep, his plan for care, it specifically said he was to try and get into the present, and not be so stuck on things. ok. but i'd found something that really got him excited. and it seemed to me that if he could get so fired up about one old song, it was perhaps because music could do things for him, and he wasn't getting nearly enough of it.

back on the promotional trail, i'll be putting a lot of work out this summer. don't know when it'll all come out, but it'll come out soon; mostly, as i've said, i've been dropping hard work into an endless sea of unappreciated work. it could be, i'm just a kind of mediocre writer; i hate to get caught in that endless loop of self-doubt and despair. i like to think of myself as somewhat of a fanatic with the poetry, writing a thousand a year (i'm exhausted, having reached a thousand but then, upon review, lost one because it was redundant). i'm in my own world, with the haiku. and i've had no plan on the pricing of the haiku either. seems if you write a thousand in a year, you should charge more than $1.99, but then, i've had no strategy, except to undersell on the hope that someone, appreciating one of them, will buy more. with the haiku, why should they? a thousand is already more than they can handle.

at one point this guy, the obsessive one in the wheelchair, kept repeating the words "speed bump." they have speed bumps, he says. now i couldn't figure out what he was saying, though i'd tried my hardest, at least three times, but everyone else knew exactly what he meant; he'd been stuck there many times. it reminded me of the time a korean guy cornered me and told me he wanted to know how to become puh-duh-rent - which meant fluent - but it took me three or four times and i still didn't understand him. in this kid's case, after reflection, i could understand how he'd get stuck on that. those buses come into the parking lot every day, and hop him up, in his wheelchair, as they go over the speed bumps. it's a big thing in a life that, in most ways, is very bound, bound by a general lack of options. more later....

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mannequin Challenge

& 20 short stories you can't put down

Available on Amazon
$5.50 + shipping

Available at the Createspace store
$5.50 + shipping

Available on Kindle
$2.99, also on Kindle Select

come down off the mountain this morning, on the way to las cruces, and there were hundreds of motorcycles on their way up. motorcycles all over the place, some stopped by the side of the road, some in formation, some with helmets some without, some actually not keeping to their side of the road. most of course did. as my brother said, when we got down there, they're just old folks, like us, not troublemakers anymore like they used to be.

of course, he lived in china for ten years maybe, and taiwan for about six; in taiwan everyone and their brother has a motorcycle, and it really doesn't mean anything. you have these young shop girls, they work in a 7-11 or something, and they ride around in a scooter, or a motorcycle if it's a permanent job. and they all make tons of noise and they wear these short skirts, even on the motorcycle. and they don't have tattoos, or long hair, or skull-on-leather jackets. they are basically not rebellious at all, as far as a person can tell. they're just trying to get around the city.

up here, turns out the motorcycle rally was over in inn of the mountain gods, on the mescalero reservation, but they had to do a poker derby kind of rally, where they came over this way to pick up proof that they'd been here. that put them 70 miles south of the rally itself, but forced them to check in at the local bar, which is an old friend of the motorcycle community, and possibly get a drink, but since they are on windy roads, 9000 feet up, with curves, narrow and with steep cliffs on the side, hopefully they didn't have more than one. or hopefully they are very large people, and can totally handle their beer. one hopes that they didn't encounter an elk, and have a showdown, or perhaps a mountain lion.

i personally remember the motorcycle gangs as a feature of a town as small as this one (~1000) and as being definitely rebellious, as they definitely had facial hair, pony tails, leather with skull logo-type jackets, the whole nine yards. something about them always screamed, don't tell me to quiet down or i'll take this silver tailpipe and shove it where the sun don't shine. and they were out on that edge where you definitely didn't want your daughter running off with them, because one wouldn't be able to protect her from the others, and she would be unsafe in all these bars. not to mention, on windy roads, 9000 feet up, when the driver's had a beer or two.

once i was hitchhiking in mexico and a guy on a motorcycle gave me a ride. i had no idea what motorcycles meant down there or if this guy was any kind of rebel; i had no cultural framework to use to judge him. but he gave me a swallow of pretty strong tequila and off we went. i felt a little woozy right away and had trouble holding onto him, but fortunately i didn't have to steer, and it wasn't really a mountain road. i can't remember if i had a helmet or not, but i had my backpack, and that made it a little harder to hang on, since it kept getting caught in the wind and pulling me one way or the other. it seems to me this was the guy who, when it was over, insisted on trading shirts, and i did, feeling like he'd saved my life, when in fact he'd endangered it, or rather, i had foolishly let him endanger it. trading shirts seemed like a good idea. down there all the mexicans wore american shirts, and all the americans wore mexican shirts anyway. so it seemed reasonable, and i did it. he was also one of the people that, when he really got to talking, i had trouble keeping up with him, because my spanish just wasn't that great. and also, i was just a little woozy, before the whole thing was over.

fast forward to new mexico. i have a high school teaching license now, qualified to teach high school social sciences. alamo has three jobs; the reservation high school has one. the reservation would be a longer drive, about sixty miles, and maybe 80 minutes, of windy mountain roads, each way. i'm not sure how teaching the res kids would be any different from teaching the alamo kids, but i'm sure it would be. for one thing, they have way more skills; they clean out their forest, and hunt, and tame wild horses, for starters. i'm not sure they do all that stuff before high school, but i'm sure that some of those kids are doing some of that stuff all the time. and some are working at the inn of the mountain gods. it's their local cash cow. it keeps the whole res in money and work, and most of this money comes from the outside. it's not the same old cash, being recycled endlessly. it's the real stuff, from texans or city people, dropped in the gambling casinos but dropped just the same. you don't even have to steal it, they're just giving it away.

i've never been there, to the inn of the mountain gods, but i've been past it, and i've been to a few other casinos. it's like vegas in that they try to have big shows regularly, big country stars, and they pay them to bring their entire entourage out there and stay out there, and put on this big classic show, and the customers, many of whom drink a bit, drop a little more money in the machines on their way back to bed. the machines and gambling tables are open as much as they can keep them open, as much as people will use them. i'm not sure if it's all mescalero apache working there, or if some of us white outsiders can actually get jobs there, and the same goes for the school really - do they really want some white guy teaching them history? i'm not sure. i can tell you this: their trucks are as good as ours. they plow through the same kind of snow, do the same kind of remote mountain rescues we do, and take pretty good care of their forests. they have hundreds of wild horses out there too - that makes them better than us, in my book. you see a few wild horses, you know you're out in the wild mountains.

back in the old days there were at least three major families of apaches, the mescalero, the chiricahua, and the jicarilla. there were a few more, including kiowa, further east, but these were the three we had in new mexico and arizona. and geronimo was a chiricahua. his wife and family were killed by mexicans at one point and he turned his rage against all white and mexican invaders of the traditional chiricahua lands. his stubborn refusal to give up or settle for living in some lousy no-count plains reservation, led him to keep fighting, until his people, the chiricahua, had lost even their own reservation down by the bootheel of new mexico and southeastern arizona. so what was left of his chiricahua band ended up in the mescalero reservation, which at least had plenty of room, and was beautiful mountains with plenty to eat. i don't know how important that is, though. one never knows about these things. it's like the u.s., you can live side by side with people for years, and not realize how racist people can really be, about their own neighbors and people they live and work with. i'm guilty myself, thinking "us" and "them" and wondering about the differences in "our" land. i can't expect to just transport myself to outside a culture where everyone, basically, is thinking "us" and "them" on some level, and if i teach there, i'm sure i'll deal with being one of "them" almost every day of my life.

sure would be interesting, though.

Thursday, May 11, 2017