I Hate Romance

Uh oh. You've made Donnie Yen angry. Prepare for asskicking.

Even before the love of my life died, I hated romance as this post from 2010 attests. This is nothing new.

Immediately after Male died, I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t concentrate or do anything productive, which left the boob tube as my only option besides silence. I hate silence unless I’m reading. I didn’t so much watch television as have it on in the background while I blankly stared at walls (like my cat) or cried a lot.

I couldn’t watch anything that had even a hint of romance in it. If there was so much as a conversation between a man and a woman that didn’t involve work, I’d turn it off.

This left me with few options since almost every form of entertainment today has a superfluous love story. I absolutely hate the superfluous love story. If you’re going to have romance in something, put it right there on the cover or in the description, because if there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s getting sucker-punched with a romantic subplot that doesn’t need to be there in the first place. This applies generally, but particularly in the weeks following the death of the love of my life.

This penchant for throwing love stories about willy-nilly is the exact reason I don’t watch a lot of Hollywood movies even though I live in Hollywood. In the same way that restaurants don’t feel the need to mention on their menus that fucking onions are in everything they make (I hate onions), Hollywood throws the unnecessary love story into practically every movie produced.

There’s a movie about aliens coming down and taking over the human race? Add a love story. Action flick? Love story. War movie? Love story. Horror movie? Love story. A movie about genocide? Throw in a goddamn love story, because love and genocide go perfectly together I guess. I find it rather sexist, as if the only way they can get women to watch their schlock about stolen cars is to add romance in there.

I hate the superfluous love story. If I want to see a love story, I’ll watch a goddamned love story, but why must you ruin a perfectly good action movie with a love story that adds nothing to the plot? Not only does it not add, but it actually slows everything down. I don’t want to see that. If I watch an action movie, I want to see action not bloody love.

So, this left my viewing options very limited. I watched a ton of war movies, kung fu and wuxia (I’m all caught up on Donnie Yen now), and Korean revenge flicks.

Uh oh. You've made Donnie Yen angry. Prepare for asskicking. (craveonline.com)
Uh oh. You have angered the Donnie Yen. Prepare for asskicking.

Did you know that Korean revenge is a genre? It is in my world anyway, and it’s one of my favorite sub-genres. South Korea has been making some mighty fine cinema for the last decade or so. If you haven’t seen Oldboy (not that godawful American abomination that has no right to exist, but the real one), go watch it now. I’ll wait.

Fucking amazing, right? Is that not the best movie you’ve seen in the last fifteen years or more? Damn straight it is. Park Chan-wook is a cinema god. Granted, nothing he’s done since has touched the cinematic brilliance of Oldboy, but I cut him some slack. It’s hard to rival that movie, because it is so unbelievably tits. Just like Ridley Scott can never touch Blade Runner, they should keep making movies anyway, just on the off-chance that they manage something nearly as good.

Anyway, Korean revenge movies. It’s a thing that I adore. They rarely throw love stories in there, and if they do, they’re integral to the plot, as in Oldboy, so it doesn’t bother me overmuch.

I’m the same way with books. The only romantic type stories I can deal with in literature are the kind that end badly like Wuthering Heights or Romeo & Juliet. I don’t mind romance in there as long as it’s the star-crossed variety. If one or more of them dies in the end, I’m in.

So, after all this preamble about disliking love stories, why is it that when I wrote the latest part of The Dwarf Making Sweet, Sweet Love To The Skeleton, a detective series I’ve been writing that has nothing to do with love, I added some sexual tension between Walker and Betsy? I haven’t published the latest installment of The Dwarf yet, because this fact chagrins me. I’ve even written the book’s ending where, well, I don’t want to add spoilers.

The romance in my writing is a lot like the horror in old horror movies; implied, but never  shown. Have you seen the The Haunting (1963)? It’s scary precisely because they don’t show anything scary. It’s all implied. It could be because of a tiny special effects budget or it could be that the director knew that the phantasms created in the imaginations of the viewers are way scarier than any animatronic creature Hollywood could invent. They remade The Haunting in 1999 and it’s boring, because they thought special effects could top our imaginations. They were wrong. They were wrong to remake it in the first place.


Soap box over.

Why is it that when watching or reading something to entertain myself, I look for something without romance, but when I wrote it, I added it in there? Why am I such a huge hypocrite? It doesn’t really add to the plot. It doesn’t really move the plot along. It doesn’t have to be there, but it’s there anyway. Perhaps later today or tomorrow, I’ll pull the trigger and post it, and you can let me know if you think it’s superfluous or not, because obviously, I haven’t a clue.

Do you write romance in your stories that have nothing to do with romance? Does the superfluous love story bother you? Do you love Donnie Yen? Do you wish I had gotten to the point much sooner? Do you even know what the point is?

A Bit Of A Book Problem

Angular owl keeping books from flying off

Yesterday, I posted about my Shelves Of Special Things, which contain bric-a-brac that I’ve collected over the years. Several astute readers also noticed all the books in the background.

I have a lot of books. I’m a bit of a book hoarder. I have a nostalgic love of books going way back to when I was a shy kid whose social life consisted mainly of riding my bike to the library for another haul and returning to one of my favorite reading spots where I could easily get lost in someone else’s world all day. When my real life was so horrible, when I was abandoned and betrayed and abused, books were my escape. They still are.

I read a lot and I’m still of the old school mindset where I prefer physical books to reading on an electronic device. I love their texture, smell and heft. I love curling up with a real book. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that, as a graphic designer, writer, digital artist and blogger, I spend a good deal of my time staring at a computer screen, so when I want to unwind with a book, I don’t want to stare at another computer screen.

Another part is that I absolutely abhor digital rights management. If I buy a book, it’s my book. I should be able to loan it to a friend, deface it, burn it or read it again twenty years from now. You can’t do that with e-books. Fuck that. If I buy it, it’s mine, dammit.

That said, my books are becoming a bit of a storage problem since I am always buying and never getting rid of them. I have three giant bookshelves and each of them is stacked full of books. There is no room for more. It’s come to the point where I’m just stacking them on the floor like so:


The rest of the books on my bookshelves are sorted roughly by author and country, while these are just willy-nilly stacked. What’s worse is that I’ve read almost all of them with the exception of the Asian cinema books since those are more browse-y than read-y; the book on Hamas, which I don’t feel like reading at the moment, because it will probably just piss me off; and the book on learning Finnish, which I bought at a thrift store a thousand years ago, thinking that I’d like to learn my ancestral language. That notion was quickly dispelled when I saw just how many vowels there are in the Finnish language with diacritics. As a stupid American, I have no idea what to do with an umlaut.

My options are go out and buy more books that I have no place to store, or go ahead and give this new-fangled reading on an ipad thing a try. I have an ipad. I mostly use it for surfing the net and playing games. Perhaps, in the interest of not becoming a full-blown hoarder qualified to be on a reality television show, I should try e-reading.

To that end, I’m asking for reading suggestions. If you’re into e-reading, where do you get your books? Keep in mind that I won’t buy anything from iTunes (see the paragraph on digital rights management above) and I prefer not to pay money to publishers for books that were written a hundred years ago when the author is long dead. Actually, I prefer free, which is why I’m a big fan of the public library. Support your public library, folks.

Suggested reading is always encouraged, electronic or otherwise. What’s the best book that you’ve read in the last year?

Dwarves & Grief


You may have noticed that pretty much the only posts on this blog these days are either part of a fictional story no one really cares about or my thoughts on grief and how much it sucks.

I suppose there’s a good psychological reason for this. The grief post are there, because, well, I have a lot of it since Male died. The Dwarf–as I’ve come to call it because its real title is ridiculously long and àpropos of nothingposts are there, because the only people I seem to want to spend any time with lately are the ones in my head.

I like visiting their world. I like my characters, I like making them do things, and I like seeing how it all fits together.

Even when I’m not writing The Dwarf, I’m thinking about it. Yesterday, I updated the cover for the book to this:


Why? Well, I don’t know. I just did. I wanted it to look even more reminiscent of an old film noir, even though the story isn’t really noir at all. I suppose the gumshoe aspect of it makes me automatically think film noir.

I also went through the whole thing and edited it yesterday. I added another character, Shamus the dog. He belongs to Betsy. I added this to the end of part 4:

Bets and I drive back to the sweet, sweet city in her ludicrous compact car. I show off how bravely injured I am. She almost slams the car door on my legs. Always the nurturer. Her car suits her about as well as her name. On the other hand, her gigantic slobbery dog who insists on putting his gigantic slobbery head on my shoulder the whole trip home because he loves me so much, fits her perfectly. She says it’s a coincidence, but of course, she named Shamus after me.

How many of you get the joke about her dog’s name? Is it a little too obtuse?

I know Walker really well at this point, but I haven’t worked on Betsy all that much. Probably because I’m writing the story from Walker’s point of view and because she’s a lot more similar to me than Walker. Reading through what I’ve already written, I found her to be a little harsh for no real reason, so I softened up her dialog a bit and gave her a dog since you can’t be an entirely bad person if you love a dog. This is reminiscent of myself since I tend to be rather unapproachable to people, but turn to mush around puppies. I like most dogs better than I like most people.

Both of my main characters are based on aspects of myself and aspects of Male. They both have qualities of each of us. If you put Male and me in a blender, and poured us out into two other people, those people might be Walker and Betsy. Writing this story, is allowing me to work through the grief of losing Male, because I can keep parts of him alive through my characters. So much of him is in here. I miss his sense of humor.

I fleshed out the rest of my characters as much as I could and even gave them stand-in visual representations. Not that they really look like this, but I’ve found that it helps writing if I can picture roughly who they are. I suppose if they made a movie of my book, this is who I’d cast in the parts (never mind the fact that some of them are dead or make-believe).

And so on. Strange that most of the visual representations I chose were from classic Hollywood. I guess that also fits with the film noir style title. Walker is more of a cross between Errol Flynn, Toshiro Mifune and Cary Grant. Take Cary’s suaveness, charm and humor; add in Toshiro’s swagger and toughness tinged with sensitivity; and Errol’s affability, smile, and refusal to grow up or take anything too seriously, and you have Walker.

As a result of the way Storymill, the creative writing software I’m using, allows you to not necessarily write in an entirely linear fashion, I wrote a scene that I wanted to happen in the middle of the story, a few thousand words from where we are now. That scene led to another, and today, I wrote the book’s ending. I know exactly how the book will end, but I still have no idea how it’s going to get there. This is what my book looks like now:

Screen shot 2015-05-14 at 2.06.41 PM

Between Competing Goons and The Love Duck, and Fuzzy and Squishy and The End (what’s with these scene names?), I have a whole lot more book to write. I’ve got the beginning, a bit of the middle, a very tenuous end, and an idea for the next book in the series, which is going to be a prequel. I’m getting way ahead of myself here, but I’m very happy with the way this story is progressing. I seem to have little difficulty writing it and it helps with the grief. Now, if only I knew what I was writing…

For now, I’m just going with it. It seems to be working for me, since for the first time ever, I’ve written over 10,000 words on the same story. Not even during NaNoWriMo have I written this much on a fictional story without running out of steam and without hating it, so yay me.

Screen shot 2015-05-14 at 4.49.50 PM

Maybe someday, I’ll write something with a broader appeal again, but for now, I’m afraid you’re stuck with The Dwarf and grief posts.

Have you ever written in a non-linear way before? Do you know how your stories end as you’re writing it or do you wing it? Have you ever written or read the end of a story before the rest?

5 Favorite Things


I was talking to a coworker about cars and I mentioned my favorite car that I’ve ever owned. His jaw dropped and rightly so. This conversation got me thinking about other favorite things, so I thought I’d do a list of them (or for those countries inordinately fond of sticking extra Us in things that don’t need them: favourite).

Favorite Car

The best car I ever owned was a 1970 Buick Skylark GS 455. When I bought her, she was already thirty some years old and not in the best aesthetic condition, but mechanically sound. All I had to do was replace some belts, and give her a tune up and oil change. She ran like a brand new car.

I named her Tank, because that’s just what she was. Tank is now featured in my fictional series The Dwarf Making Sweet, Sweet Love To The Skeleton.

I don’t have any pictures of her here, but she looked very similar to this one, but my hood and wheels were different:


And this was the drawing I did of her rear end:


I loved the hell out of that car. Even in her primer gray, imperfect state, she was a beauty. She had a massive engine with that low rumbly sound that classic American muscle cars of her era have that set off car alarms.

People always tried to race me at red lights. I’d look over and laugh. Not even trying, Tank was faster off the line than any car I encountered. Off the line, she beat everyone. I didn’t race any farther than that, because red light racing is for people with something to prove and neither Tank nor I had anything to prove.

It pissed off all those dudes in Porsches and Mercedes that tried to race me. They’d catch me up and go roaring past after about five to ten seconds. Whatever, jackhat. I wasn’t even trying to race you, because it wouldn’t be fair to compare the biggest (455 cu. in.) and most powerful (510 pounds per foot of torque at a mere 2800 rpm) big block V8 engine produced during the classic muscle car era to whatever puny thing you’re hiding in your widdle European sports car. Puh-lease. Just the sound of my engine could vibrate your car to pieces.

Yes, mine’s bigger than yours… and I’m a girl. Deal.

For those of you who have no idea what a pound foot of torque means, here are the stats for my current car, a BMW 3 series: 153 cubic inch V6 engine with 175 lb/ft. at 3500 rpm.

And for shits and giggles, the Ferrari 458: 270 cu. in. V8 engine, 398 lb/ft. at 6,000 rpm. My GS engine was 40% bigger with 112 more lb/ft of torque available at less than half of the revolutions per minute than a Ferrari.

The GS is bigger and heavier than a Ferrari or BMW, yes, but also more way powerful. Give me classic American muscle over a tiny European sports car any day. I suppose you could call my current car a widdle European sports car, but I think of it more as a mid-sized European sedan that has enough power to get out of its own way.

Eventually, I sold Tank because she deserved an owner who had more money to sink into her than I could, which was no money. Basically, I sold her because I wanted to give her a better home. Every once in a while, I get an email from the guy I sold her to showing me what improvements he’s done. Fortunately, he loves her as much as I did. He even kept the name Tank.

Favorite House

This honor goes to the house I grew up in. I lived there for the first fifteen years of my life. Even though one of those years involved sexual abuse at the hands of a sadistic pedophile, it wasn’t the house’s fault.

Originally, it was a three bedroom, one and a half bathroom house. When my grandfather died, my parents built a two-story addition on the back with two more bedrooms, another full bath, a full living room and a kitchen.

My parents optimistically thought that my grandmother would live a separate life in her own separate living quarters. It didn’t quite turn out that way. The doors between the two residences were never closed and it just became one massive house with two kitchens, two living rooms, five bedrooms, and two and a half baths.

You could start in one room and go around in a huge circle up and down stairs to make it right back where you started. For a kid, tearing around all that space with all those stairs was absolute heaven. I was very sad when we finally moved.

Favorite Pet

I’ve been very lucky to have some awesome pets in my life, but the best pet I ever had was my first cat. He was the most chill, laid back cat I’ve ever met. I named him Tigger, because at five years old, I was brilliantly creative and obviously not at all a fan of Winnie The Pooh:

Being Tigger is what do what Tiggers do best.
Being Tigger is what do what Tiggers do best. (Winnie The Pooh, A. A. Milne)

He used to let my sister and me do anything to him. We have pictures of him lying on his back in a baby stroller dressed up in baby clothes complete with a bonnet. What other cat would let you do that? My current cat would maybe tolerate that for all of ten seconds. Good luck having a cat stay like that long enough to take a picture.

Not Tig though. Tig would let us do anything to him. Fortunately, other than dressing him up, my sister and I weren’t maniacal animal torturers, still he was the most patient cat ever. He lived about twenty years. I cried like mad when he died. I still miss that cat.

He ruined me on the concept of cats by making me think they are all as cool as he was.

 Favorite Book

I don’t necessarily mean best book or my favorite book as in what’s in it, but favorite book as in a physical object that I move from place to place with me.

On or in my bedside table, you will find a dog eared, worn copy of this book:

This one’s in much better condition than mine. (itsnicethat.com)

It lives there. I don’t read it all the time, but every once in a while, when I don’t feel like reading whatever book I’m reading, I’ll pick it up and flip around in it, reading it for the nth time.

It’s my favorite book, not just because I love the words, but also because it’s symbolic. You see, I’ve never been a big fan of poetry, and at one point, I was a book snob, meaning I wouldn’t read anything unless it was about 100 years old or older. I figured that anything that had stuck around that long had to be worth reading.

A boyfriend gave my some Bukowski prose. I fell in love with Bukowski’s style and got all of his other prose, but I still had no interest in the poetry books.

A friend of mine, knowing I’m a Buk fan, gave this book (not this book, but the copy I had before the one I currently have) to me as a housewarming present over ten years ago. I was smitten. Since then, I’ve tracked down a lot of other Buk poetry.

I keep The Last Night of The Earth Poems close to me as a reminder that sometimes your favorite things come in unexpected packages. Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. Also, I happen to love the hell out of this book. It’s my favorite of his poetry.

Show Biz, Last Night Of The Earth Poems, Charles Bukowski.


Favorite Place

I’ve written about this in the post Seeing Stars, so I’m just going to quote myself:

Where my parents live, in rural, northern Michigan, it seems as though you can even see into neighboring galaxies. There are so many stars, and they all shine so brightly, that it’s hard to tell one constellation from another. The night sky actually looks three-dimensional; you can almost tell which are closer and which are father away. The stars are so visible that you don’t even have to crane your head upward as they peek right over the horizon. It makes you feel as if you’ve been thrown back in time to an era before science.

I used to spend every summer there at that cottage on the lake. To this day, my favorite place to be in the whole world is lying horizontally on the end of the dock, outstretched over the clear, freshwater lake. If the water level is high enough, you can lie on your back and lazily drag your hand through the tranquil night water as it gently laps beneath you. As you breathe deeply of the clean, summer night air that smacks of pine and cedar, the only sounds you will hear are the distant chirping of crickets and twittering of birds. Overhead, there is a circus of stars, all performing at their twinkling best for your benefit. There is nothing that will make you realize the vastness of the universe and your own irrelevance to it all better than that.

What are your favorites?

15 Books

A shelf on which books can be stored.

Not A Punk Rocker posted a list of “15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you.” Since nothing of excite has been happening of late, I’m stealing it. Like NAPR, I’m not tagging any of you, because screw that. If you want to steal, steal. If you don’t, don’t.

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me so I can see which books you love. (Mine are in no particular order.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy By Douglas Adams

This book will always land on my favorite books of all time list, because, obviously, it is one of the best books of all time. If you haven’t read it by now or you don’t think it’s one of the funniest books ever written, you’re probably under the age of twelve or a robot.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

This was the first book I ever read by Buk, which is fitting since it was his first novel. I’d never read anything like it before and it was love at first read. I made it my mission to read as much of his work as I could. It’s a huge undertaking since he wrote a lot. I own over 20 of his books, which seems like quite a few, but it hardly scratches the surface. He wrote every damn day.

One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I read this book in high school, and like Buk, it opened a new world. I’ve since read most everything he’s written and I own a lot of them:

There are more that this picture didn’t capture.

One Day In The Life is not the best book by Solzhenitsyn (that honor goes to The Gulag Archipelago) nor even the best fiction (that’s The First Circle), but it’s still one of my favorites.

One day, I hope to remember how to spell his name correctly on the first try. It’s not very likely though.

Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This and A Light in the Attic were two of my favorite books as a kid. I read them more times than I can count. Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout would not take the garbage out.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

I read this book in high school, too. Then I tracked down most of Camus’ other works. For a brief period as a teen, I was a Camus fan and fancied myself an Existentialist until I decided that I didn’t want to follow anyone else’s ideas, but would rather form my own. Still, I have a dog-eared copy of this book and a few others by Camus, as well as some Sartre in my house.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

For a long time, I was a book snob. I wouldn’t read anything unless it was at least fifty years old and preferably written in another language. I figured that any book that had stuck around that long was probably worth reading. I’ve since relaxed my standards, because I kind of ran out of classics to read and, well, that’s just dumb.

Neuromancer was one of the first modern science fiction books I read and it blew my tiny mind. This book is still groundbreaking.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

And, speaking of mind-blowing, modern, science fiction, Cryptonomicon is my favorite. It is obscenely long, didactic in parts and dated in others, but it’s rare that I read over 400 pages of something without stopping. I could not put it down. I love this book so much that I’ll probably never re-read it.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Gogol was part of my Russian phase spawned by reading Solzhenitsyn in high school. What struck me most about this book and why I will always remember it is because it’s funny. Yes, funny. Not in a Douglas Adams, laugh out loud way, but in an understated wry way. It was amazing to me that a book about serfs (a “soul” here means a serf, so the title of this book refers to dead slaves) written in Russian in 1842 could be droll. It made me realize that comedy is timeless and universal.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Another mind-blowing book. Burgess invented his own language in this book and it totally works. I read the version without the glossary in the back (honestly, I think everyone should read that version since having a glossary is lazy). Burgess was such a talented writer that he was able to imply meaning on context alone.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Another high school read. I think everyone read this in high school. It perfectly blends surreality and reality together in a believable way. You identify and sympathize with poor Gregor Samsa. This was probably the first book I read that made me realize that was even possible.

1984 by George Orwell

I am pretty sure that I first read this book in the year 1984, or close to it anyway, when I was a wee lass. Like Burgess, Orwell created his own language for the reader to suss out based on context alone. It’s not quite as broad as Burgess’ language, but just as effective. 1984 and Animal Farm are brilliant allegory. I still love this book, though nowadays, I prefer Orwell’s other books like Down And Out In Paris And London and Keep The Aspidistra Flying.

Journey To The End Of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

This was a Charles Bukowski recommendation actually. Buk often talks about “poor Céline” and writing “one perfect book” that he was never able to surpass. This is Céline’s perfect book. It follows an itinerant protagonist (himself) around the world through various adventures on several continents. It is a fascinating snapshot of the era.

The Woman In The Dunes by Kōbō Abe

I love the sparseness of Japanese fiction. Japanese authors never waste words. They intentionally arrange them much like a Japanese rock garden. The Woman In The Dunes is one of the best. Just like The Metamorphosis, it blends surreality with the real world in a way that is entirely believable. You never question the facts for a minute. Honestly, the movie version is just as good, but I would recommend reading the book first.

As far as Japanese fiction, I also highly recommend Fires On The Plain by Ooka Shohei, which almost went on this list.

Under The North Star trilogy by Väinö Linna

Within the last decade or so, I got on a Finnish literature kick, since they’s my peoples. Among the very best Finnish literature I read was Linna.* The trilogy starts with one man, Jussi, in 1880 and follows his family through the First World War, the Finnish Civil War and the Second World War. It is an absolutely fascinating and entertaining read. I mention it often on this blog.

*The other very best were The Unknown Soldier by Linna and Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi, the national author of Finland.

Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler

This was also a high school read, or shortly thereafter, when I was still in my snobby lit phase. I could pretty much recite the intricacies of the plot verbatim. I could tell you the characters and what happens, which is rare for me, since my memory problems don’t usually allow those kind of details. Rubashov and Harelip will always be stored in my memory banks. I haven’t re-read this book in a long time, but I still think of it very fondly.

Alright, you’re turn. What’s on your list?

FOG Awards: Readers’ Choice


The other day, I gave out some lousy awards for literature that didn’t even come with a prize to some mostly dead people. Congratulations, you win nothing!

Not surprisingly, my picks were rather contentious and not many of you agreed with most of them.  Because I am a duck swimming upstream like a salmon, my tastes don’t often match the rest of the world’s.

I knew your opinions would differ and that’s great! We here at FOG are very much in favor of differing opinions and expressing them, so I gave you an option to vote for your own choices.

The voting was really just a sneaky way to get more reading recommendations. I’m very ninja like that. I’m sneaky, but I’m also a benevolent fish who wishes to further the cause of reading for pleasure, so I’m going to share your picks.

Best Wordsmith

The Nominees…

Kurt Vonnegut
William Shakespeare
Joseph Conrad

Readers’ Choice…

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 9.54.52 AM

At least some of you agreed with me, so that’s nice. I’ll be honest here, I’ve never read any Salman Rushdie. I really should.

Best Science Fiction Author

The Nominees…

William Gibson
Ray Bradbury
Neal Stephenson

Readers’ Choice…

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 9.57.49 AM

I knew this would be a very controversial category. It pained me to leave some of my favorite authors off the list myself. Nice choices, readers!

Best Mystery Author

The Nominees…

Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett
Elmore Leonard

Readers’ Choice…

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 10.06.10 AM

One of two categories where you agreed with my choice. Nicely done. I am surprised there wasn’t more Hammett love though.

Best Comedy Author

The Nominees…

Terry Pratchett
Douglas Adams
David Sedaris

Readers’ Choice…

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 10.07.45 AM

This was the category I was most looking forward to recommendations since I love me some funny. I’m not sure who Fo is or even if that’s a real thing, but I’ll have to track it down.

Best Poet

The Nominees…

William Shakespeare
Charles Bukowski
Maya Angelou

Readers’ Choice…

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 10.10.16 AM

The other category where you mostly agreed with me. Yay!

Best Non-Fiction Author

The Nominees…

Joan Didion
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Antony Beevor

Readers’ Choice…

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Solzhenitsyn is a solid choice and probably one I would have made myself had I been thinking with my mind, not my heart. The Gulag Achipelago is one of the best written, most thorough and heart-wrenching non-fiction series ever written. I adore Solzy and have a ton of his books. photo-9

I’m honestly surprised none of you mentioned Stephen Ambrose or Doris Kearns Goodwin since they almost made my list. I didn’t include them since they mostly write about American history.

Excellent choices, readers. You guys rock. It looks like I have some tracking down of excellent reading material to do. If you missed out on voting, recommendations are always welcome in the comments. Thanks to everyone who played along!

The FOG Awards: Literature

Awards Image

Since no one bothered to vote for me as a BlogHer Voice Of The Year even though I wasn’t nominated and never do anything even approaching promotion, I’ve decided to create my own awards. Today’s FOG awards will be given out to literature in all its forms.

Best Wordsmith

The Nominees…

Kurt Vonnegut
William Shakespeare
Joseph Conrad

And the winner is…

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank–but that’s not the same thing.”

“Droll thing life is–that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself–that comes too late–a crop of inextinguishable regrets.”

“Of all the inanimate objects, of all men’s creations, books are the nearest to us for they contain our very thoughts, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to the truth and our persistent leanings to error. But most of all, they resemble us in their precious hold on life.”

“It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half-shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it’s just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome.”

“Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.”

Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad

Practically every sentence this man wrote is delectable. Reading Conrad is like the wisest person you know–your great-grandfather or some other distinguished, reverent gentleman with more knowledge and life experience than you think you’ll ever have–telling you stories about life. And the kicker of it all? English was not his native tongue. He took the English language and made it his bitch.

Best Science Fiction Author

The Nominees…

William Gibson
Ray Bradbury
Neal Stephenson

And the winner is…

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”

“Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways.”

“What people do isn’t determined by where they live. It happens to be their damned fault. They decided to watch TV instead of thinking when they were in high school. They decided to blow-off courses and drink beer instead of reading and trying to learn something. They decided to chicken out and be intolerant bastards instead of being open-minded, and finally they decided to go along with their buddies and do things that were terribly wrong when there was no reason they had to. Anyone who hurts someone else decides to hurt them, goes out of their way to do it… The fact that it’s hard to be a good person doesn’t excuse going along and being an asshole. If they can’t overcome their own fear of being unusual, it’s not my fault, because any idiot ought to be able to see that if he just acts reasonably and makes a point of not hurting others, he’ll be happier.”

Neal Stephenson

Neal wins my award because he wrote not one, but two of my all-time favorite books: Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon. I love him immensely and will read anything he writes, even if it’s awful.

Best Mystery Author

The Nominees…

Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett
Elmore Leonard

And the winner is…

“From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

“I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights.”

“He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning, I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.”

“There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art, science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science, art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.”

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler

Not only is Chandler my favorite mystery writer, but he’s an incredibly underrated author in general. It’s too bad he got pigeonholed into a supposed “throwaway” category of books, because the man was ridiculously smart and incisive. While I love Hammett, he really only has one exceptionally good book, Red Harvest. Chandler, on the other hand, has many. All of his books, and even his notebooks, are worth reading. Perhaps it’s just because we share the same city, but I love his dry wit and straightforward crankiness.

Best Comedy Author

The Nominees…

Terry Pratchett
Douglas Adams
David Sedaris

And the winner is…

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”

“It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.'”

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams

There is no question in this category; Douglas Adams is the funniest author on earth. There are other droll, witty, funny books I love, but none of them come close to the amount of love I have for Adams, particularly the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books.

Best Poet

The Nominees…

William Shakespeare
Charles Bukowski
Maya Angelou

And the winner is…

“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”

“There’s nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death, but the lives people live or don’t live up until their death. They don’t honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can’t hear it. Most people’s deaths are a sham. There’s nothing left to die.”

Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski

Buk is probably my favorite author ever, although, really, it’s impossible to choose a favorite out of the billions of words ever written. He’s the only author whose poetry I prefer to their prose.

Best Non-Fiction Author

The Nominees…

Joan Didion
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Antony Beevor

And the winner is…

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

“The ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language.”

Joan Didion
Joan Didion

When you read Didion, you feel like you know her, like you’re sitting down with an old friend and listening to her tell a story. She’s got such a natural way with words. I read a 1,000 plus page book by her and it didn’t feel that long at all. I wanted more.

Well, I’ve run out of time today, so we’ll end this post here. I don’t even have time to create a proper award image. Perhaps I’ll do more awards in the future. Perhaps I’ll forget all about this.

You don’t have to agree with my choices. Vote for your own:

Favorite Children’s Lit


This week is children’s lit week at Tipsy Lit, so I thought I’d talk about my favorite authors and books from when I was a kid.

Nothing meant more to me as a kid than books. If I had to trade all of my toys for access to the library, I would have done it in a heartbeat. As much as I loved my Star Wars action figures, I would have given them up to continue riding my bike up to the library. I blame my vivid imagination on all the books I read as a child.

When I was a kid, my family would spend all summer up at the cottage on a lake my grandfather built as a hunting cabin. It was nirvana for a child, except for the fact that I had to leave all my school friends behind for the summer and there weren’t too many other kids to play with. For most of the summer, it was just me and my sister. She is nearly four years older than me, so we rarely wanted to do the same things. That left me and my imagination on our own most of the time. The library was my refuge.

When I was really young, it was all about the busy world of Richard Scarry. He had the best montages with tons of little animal characters running around Busytown. He crammed so much detail into his pages that I would stare at them for hours, trying to take it all in.

A shot of Busytown by Richard Scarry.
Busytown by Richard Scarry.

Dr. Seuss was another favorite. He still is. I was recently able to introduce a child to Dr. Seuss and it made my year. I gifted my friend’s four-year old son with my own copy of The Big Book Of Seuss. I haven’t replaced it yet.

A montage of Seuss.
The land of Seuss.

I also gave the four-year old my personal copy of Curious George by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey. I loved that mischievous little monkey as a kid. I really wanted my own George. I had to make do with a cat and that was really lame in comparison.

Oh, George.
Oh, George.

And how could we forget Winnie The Pooh by A. A. Milne? I named my first cat Tigger after that series. My dog’s nickname is Piglet. I call my depression Eeyore. I related to Christopher Robin spending all that time on his own with his animal friends.


When I was in third grade, my favorite book was Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I couldn’t wait to be in fourth grade.

Tales_of_a_Fourth_Grade_Nothing_book_coverI discovered Shel Silverstein. Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic were my favorites, but they were all good. They took me to visit interesting characters with strange traits, like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.



I had so many favorite books that it would be impossible to list them all here, but some other favorites include:

200px-ALEXANDER_TERRIBLE_HORRIBLEAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz

220px-CharlotteWebCharlotte’s Web by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams

250px-Harold_and_the_Purple_Crayon_(book)Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Harriet_the_Spy_(book)_coverHarriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

jungle-book3The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (specifically Rikki Tikki Tavi. I had a cat named Sherekahn after this book.)

TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (I had a cat named Aslan after this book)

by Ludwig Bemelmans (I had a dog named Madeline after this book)

220px-ND1tsotocNancy Drew Mystery Stories, character created by Edward Stratemeyer, ghost written by a bunch of people

200px-Phantomtollbooth The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

pippi-longstocking-coverPippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

200px-Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902aThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

220px-Richard_Adams_WatershipDownWatership Down by Richard Adams

300px-Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


Those are some of mine. I’m absolutely positive that I’m forgetting some. What were your favorite books as a kid?

Writing Like Buk

Charles Bukowski

I don’t write poetry, yet, I’ve written two poems in the last week. The first one was bad and this one is bad. Today’s daily prompt is to write a passage in the style of one of your favorite authors. I’ve attempted this before actually. I wrote a passage in the style of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger.

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, I typically answer that I couldn’t possibly answer that question. It depends on context. I have favorite authors in fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry, and in almost all genres. There are books I adore because of the clever writing and others that I adore because of the clever stories. Asking for just one favorite author is just as impossible as asking my favorite band.

That said, my favorite author is most likely Charles Bukowski. I am not a fan of poetry. I will choose prose over poetry 9 times out of 10. The reason Buk is one of my favorite authors is that he’s the exception to the rule. I actually prefer his poetry to his prose.

A friend of mine told me that I write like Charles Bukowski “if Bukowski was ironically funny.”  I said, “But, Bukowski is ironically funny.” “Not in the way you are,” he said.

I’ve been told that I write like Bukowski more than once and I always take it as a compliment. I suppose, in a way, it could be viewed as a dig; one could take it to mean that I don’t have my own style and I’m just aping someone else, but I don’t believe that. It is entirely true that I would, without hesitation, list Buk as a huge influence on me, but so are George Orwell, Raymond Chandler, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Joan Didion and Douglas Adams.

Anyway, since people seem to think that I write like Buk, I thought I’d actually take the opportunity to intentionally write like Buk. Here are the pitiful results:

I lie
there in the dark
listening to Los Angeles.
The city stretches,
and wakes up
Its sounds drown out the birds
And the birds
and I
cannot sleep.

We exist
there in the morning light,
the birds and me,
listening to the noise level rise
and a house fly
banging against the window
on the wrong side,
trying to get out.

I close
my eyes
to the morning light.
Cold on the outside,
warm inside.
working up the nerve
to start
another wretched day
in this festering teeming mass.

I lie
there for a while
listening to the birds,
working up the nerve
to be as free
as they are
but I never will.

Epical Art


In the book Stephen Hero, James Joyce’s titular character defines beauty and the artist’s comprehension of his/her own art. Stephen writes an esthetic thesis with theories borrowed from Thomas Aquinas and Plato. In it, he states that there are three kinds of art:

“He proclaimed at the outset that art was the human disposition of intelligible or sensible matter for an esthetic end, and he announced further that all such human dispositions must fall into the divisions of three distinct natural kinds, lyrical epical and dramatic. Lyrical art, he said, is the art whereby the artist sets forth his image in immediate relation to himself; epical art is the art whereby the artist sets forth his image in immediate relation to himself and to others; and dramatic art is the art whereby the artist sets forth his image in immediate relation to others.”

I find this concept fairly fascinating. Most of us who create art, in whatever medium we choose, probably don’t think to categorize it in such a way. A blog post, by its nature, is epical art since it comes from me with you in mind. If I wrote a very personal piece and chose not to publish it (which I’ve done, but ended up publishing anyway), it would be lyrical art. If I wrote a treatise on how T-Rex are obviously far superior to unicorns, expecting that you would argue amongst yourselves in the comment section, it would be dramatic art.

Most of us probably don’t think of blogs as art. At least, I don’t. With the exception of the fiction I write on here, I don’t really think of these words and this blog as an art form, or at least, I never thought of it that way before. Honestly, I don’t really think of the little animal doodles I do as art either, even though they are closer in nature to the traditional concept of art. I think of them more as doodles to pass the time.


I tend to think of this blog, for the most part, as doodles to pass the time, too: word doodles, if you will. These blog posts, while some are indeed very personal, are just a snapshot, a slice of life. I don’t really think of myself as a writer. I write, but that doesn’t make me a writer. I’m curious as to what Stephen and Joyce would say on the concept of blogs. How would they categorize us?

I don’t write often about the mundane details and happenings of my life; I write more about things, concepts, emotions that get stuck in my head, like this one. I have to pry them out with a keyboard for you to read. I was doing that before you were even there to read them, which in a sense, made my blog lyrical art before you found me.

I find the definition of art in all its forms fascinating, just like Stephen in the book. What constitutes art? Is someone who creates difficult pieces on an Etch-A-Sketch any less an artist than Michelangelo?


While that piece looks like something mass-produced that you’d find in the office of a used car salesman, does the difficulty level of the medium make it more artistic? Does the mere knowledge that that drawing took 70 to 80 hours to create factor into it? If it was a simple pencil drawing instead of Etch-A-Sketch art, we probably wouldn’t be looking at it.

And then there’s subject matter. I create little animals doodles. When I was creating physical instead of digital art, I drew people. I never created anything with a message. My art is not political or contentious in any way, unless you want to say that my drawing of a raccoon isn’t realistic, which is true. My blog posts tend to be much more controversial. There have been meaningful debates on this blog on politics, religion and news happenings. Is a post that I wrote about the Boston bombings less art than the children’s story I wrote? Both of those posts came from my brain and I had to work to arrange the words into meaningful sentences.

When we create something, like this blog post, do we think of where the words come from? When I write, the words form in my mind and nag at me until I write them down. I’m not sure how it works for the rest of you, but most of the time, for me, the words will form in my brain long before I write them down. I read that bit in the book several days ago and have been ruminating on it ever so slightly since. It perched in the back left corner of my brain like a molar until this morning when I decided to write this post.

These are all questions for the ages. There are no clear-cut answers. Theologians, philosophers and art majors have debated these questions throughout time. There are no easy answers. I think that, regardless of medium or intent, if it moves you to feel something, whether it be dread, anger or joy; if it makes you think or feel, it is art. In that sense, nature is the greatest artist of all.

What’s your take? As a blogger, do you think of yourself as an artist?