Fifty Shades of Werewolf Bureaucracy

I must admit bias on the topic of a certain kind of urban fantasy, the werewolf and vampire category. Typically, those stories involve a werewolf or a vampire strutting around and doing his stuff. I find little of interest in them, and have often wondered why so many readers are devoted to those stories.

I have a theory, thought up in the last couple of weeks. It’s a political theory. Why political? For those of you who don’t know me, I come from a farming family in California and currently work on that farm. Farming in California is highly politicized. There’s no way to escape it. Water is dominated by politics, as is labor, air quality, organic issues, GMOs, land use regulations, species issues, nitrates, run-off, etc.

Therefore, like the old cogito ergo sum proposition of Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am,” one might say of California farmers: “agricola ego sum, ergo sum politicam.”

Anyway, given the fact that almost a majority of Americans are on the public dole in one form or another (food stamps, aid for dependent children, section 8 housing, Obamacare, etc), it follows that they need to be taken care of by government. Government is their alpha werewolf or dominant vampire. Therefore, that’s the kind of story they like to read. It is their story, whether they read it or live it. Vicariously living a story where your life is run by a dominant vampire is probably a bit more exciting than actually living a story where your life is run by a grey, impersonal bureaucracy sending you checks every month.

I know, I know. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it is something. It also explains the ridiculous appeal of all those bondage submission Fifty Shades of Grey whatnot, as well as all the various Billionaire’s Maid or Desperate for the Billionaire books.

That’s all for today. Carry on.


Cheery Christmas Carols

I tend to write more frequently on my Facebook page than this blog, perhaps as an antidote to all the posts about what people ate for breakfast (bagel, wheatgerm, steamed kale, etc), what their amazing cat just did (slept), or how their kid is doing in school (was awarded Student of the Month, mostly for not beating anyone up or stealing other kids’ ritalin).

Anyway, as you know, my humor trends dark (which allows the light to shine brighter). Below is a reprint from a recent Facebook post.

A MODERN CHRISTMAS CAROL

(with culinary and musical undertones)

Holidays were always tense at the Pudding household. Particularly in the evening when carolers came to sing at their front door.

“Is the door locked?” said Mrs. Pudding to Mr. Pudding.

“Yes,” he said, and he glanced at the 12-gauge leaning next to the couch.

“I wish they wouldn’t sing that carol,” muttered their daughter Figgy.

The last few notes faded away outside with a final repeat of “we won’t go until we get some, so bring it out here.” The Pudding family sat in rigid silence, listening to the soft sound of scratching and scrabbling at the door. Finally, there was only silence.

“Damn zombies,” grumbled Mr. Pudding.


fantasy and a child’s point of view

Children see the world in such a profoundly different way than us adults. Most children. And most adults.

My three boys are still young. And with that youth they still have a clarity of eye in how they see life. They enjoy it. They’re delighted by it, surprised and pleased by it. They take a great deal of pleasure in simple things that most adults would not even bother noticing.

Life is still magical for them. I suppose it won’t be for long, and that’s a melancholy thought. But, for now, I can see their eyes light up over the smallest and oddest things. For instance, the other day I think I randomly mentioned the idea of cats secretly baking pastries at night (or something equally silly–silly from my adult perspective). They laughed uproariously at this, but, in a certain way, they took it seriously as well. I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they considered the idea of Duster (our cat) silently and sneakily baking croissants and bear claws in the kitchen at 2 in the morning.

I’ve realized lately, considering the perspective of my boys, and the sheer joy they get from that perspective, that the fantasy genre offers the same possibility. The possibility of a new perspective. Of joy in seeing things afresh again. Of seeing the world’s first day, of new vistas and quests and danger met cheerfully. Worlds beyond worlds.

Oh, yes, I know there’s plenty of anarchic, nihilist fantasy out there these days. More and more, I suppose, popularized by George Martin’s Game of Thrones series, and copy-catted ever since in dreary, factory output. Conveyor belts of the stuff coming through Amazon.

But I’m not talking about that kind of fantasy. I’m talking about Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton. Patricia Mckillop’s Riddlemaster trilogy, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. I’d humbly include my Tormay trilogy in that tradition as well. Certainly not as one of the greats, of course, but with that same peek through the window at the world’s first day.

Unless you become like children, right? They’re the ones who still have a worthwhile way to look at things these days (not if they’re already preoccupied by that dreadful nitwit Miley Cyrus or glued to their iPhone or whatever, but you know what I mean), and, I suspect, that’s why fantasy as a genre has something going for it that you really can’t find in other genres. Not often, at least.

Some of you reading this might think I’m babbling like a soft-minded fool. That’s alright. Others of you might understand. If you do, well, think on it for yourself for a while. Promise me that.


Randomness and Brookfield Chocolate

Once upon a time, I wrote a rather exuberant review on Amazon of Brookfield Chocolate.  How could I not? They make a good product, particularly their delicious little crunchy version (it really is good). Having lived in Switzerland for several years, I have a great appreciation of chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate, other than odd people?

And now, due to the humorous hand of fate (at least, some times it is humorous), I find myself in a commercial for Brookfield Chocolate. We’re shooting tomorrow, early in the morning with the sunrise and the dew on the broccoli fields, the lark on the wing, and God in His heaven.

I shall resist fame mightily, but who doesn’t want to be on TV these days? The glamor, the lights, the caked-on makeup, the red carpets (frankly, I would never have a red carpet in my house–much too garish). 15 seconds on TV seems to be the chief goal of many people. Perhaps I have arrived at the Great Purpose of my life?

In other news, I’m writing a series of humorous children’s stories at the bequest of an old VeggieTales friend of mine. I just finished the fifth story today, and have two more to go. My friend is agented (I am not), and apparently the agent wants the project. Oh me, oh my. There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. It’s a good thing that I enjoy writing, in and of itself.


Slade, Cade and Devin

It’s readily apparent to me that the use of cool new names in modern literature is evidence of ground-breaking creativity. Every Young Adult book that you pick up (and I don’t pick them up as I must save my energy for more vital tasks, such as building lego starfighters with my small, warlike offspring) features a hard-abbed hero with an impressively non-traditional moniker such as Slade, Cade or Devin.

Somehow, a story acquires much more gravitas when it features someone named Slade. For instance…

Slade Devereaux paused in the middle of his morning ritual of five hundred crunches in order to take a long, cooling drink of organic fair-trade water. He knew it was vital to stay hydrated. It was almost as important as raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, plus benefits. As the water slipped down his muscled throat, his mind drifted to last night and the time he had spent with Esme Swavay.

Was she thinking of him now? Was he thinking of her thinking of him now. Yes, he could answer that, being self-aware; he was. But was she now thinking of him thinking of her thinking of him? That was the question.

Any-hoot, I think the real killer app to make it big in modern publishing is the names. It’s all about the names. You’ll thank me later if you’re an aspiring writer, but, if you can come up with awesome names that evoke intense coolness, you’ve made it. Don’t worry about your story. That’ll take care of itself. Concentrate on the names.

Currently, I’m probably writing a story about an exclusive prep school where all the students are actually were-muskrats in secret. Every night they change into muskrats and go out and ravage the city’s trees. The entire population is on edge. Editorials are written in the papers. Commentators pontificate on the nightly news about the ravagement. Everyone is wondering if their avocado tree or kumquat tree will be next.

The only problem is, I don’t have any cool names, so this is gonna be a failure of a story. Unless I come up with the right names.

Melvin?

Agnes?

Leroy?


The flittering nitwits of Twitter

Well, I’m not sure how many nitwits are on Twitter (ten, ten million?), but I appreciate the sound of those three words together. They were meant to be together, like Sonny and Cher, peanut butter and bananas, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

But, seriously, am I just too old for Twitter or am I merely dumber than a nitwit and simply cannot grapple with the beauty and utility of tweeted communication?

Everyone (practically) in the self-published world says that authors should have a twitter presence. Obediently (once upon a time) I trotted over to Twitter and twigned up. I acquired followers (like a mad prophet) and became a follower (like a sheep…baaa). As my followee list grew, I began to see a stream of tweets (whenever I cared to sign on, which was and is infrequent).

“Buy revolutionary face-cream now! NOW!”

“Steamiest erotica ever! Forbidden love between hard-abbed pilates aficionados! Read NOW!”

“Lolz! R U up wit dat?”

“Best grumpy cat compilation ever.”

“Wassup?”

“Yo.”

“Buy organic yo-yos NOW!”

Needless to say, my eyes glazed over. And still do, whenever I visit Twitter. I assume that whoever invented it has quite a taste for Ritalin.

What’s my point in all this? I can’t remember, to be honest. Spending too much time (any amount of time, in fact) on Twitter has wrecked my concentration. My short term memory has been reduced to 140 characters (or whatever the Twitter limit is–I can’t remember).


Brilliant Marketing Mumbo-Jumbo

I tend to be a sucker for articles on ebook marketing. Hope springs eternal that I’ll stumble across a fresh insight, some new angle on the industry that I can use. Who knows what that might look like? Perhaps an untapped market on Mars that loves epic fantasy?

Anyway, I just read a piece by a well-respected guiding light in the indie movement. Boiled down in a nutshell as I mix my metaphors like a bartender shaking up a cocktail for James Bond, the article advised the following: increase your customer base, charge more, have more to sell.

Uh, well…hmm…

Kind of reminds me of the article I once saw about a poll of doctors that said the number one way to live longer was to not die.

Anyway, the article plunged me into a deep, moss-encrusted well of nostalgia, complete with small frogs chirping (yes, like birds) Rule Britannia, bringing back the sunlit days of yesteryear when I bravely braved the cubicle land that was Big Idea Productions (makers of Veggie Tales, excellent company-paid lunches, and looming bankruptcy).

We frequently hired consultants in that business. They flew in (usually from either New York or Los Angeles) and spent several days onsite, dressed in impressive clothing and using words like “synergy” and “paradigm” and “dynamic.” They would end up telling us what we already knew (such as: zip up your pants after going to bathroom, never accept large wooden statues of horses from Greeks, and don’t eat oysters in months beginning with the letter Z). We would then pay them lots of money in order to get them to go away and leave us alone.

Of course, we never learned, which is why we would start thinking about hiring more consultants. Usually in the spring, when hope springs afresh and eternal, kind of like how Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park always leaps up again every now and then, jetting up into the air and causing tourists to scurry and click-click-click with their cameras and Mabel Thorkelson of San Jose, California to screech at her husband, “Bob! Get Junior away from that moose! I tell you, we should just put that kid in reform school and be done with it!”

This, in turn, forms Junior’s character, giving him a deep-seated antipathy of authority (such as moose and his mother). Later in life he will end up being a successful bank robber and will fall in love with a beautiful Spanish girl named Esmerelda.

I digress.

All that to say, yes, hope does spring eternal, which means I will probably continue reading articles that advise on ebook marketing, even though none of ’em ever have anything new to say.