I’ve been editing my novel, Venus Rising and ideas for poems keep popping up. This one is called Waiting.


You wait and see he said.

Only fools wait his mother scolded, and they never see.

You’ll see I’m right. I’ve been right before and I’ll be right again. The moon is only half. Wait until it’s full if that’s all it takes. She’ll be here. Wait and see.

A son likes to vex his mother the older woman complained. She’s left and she is gone. Once the bird leaves the nest…

She’s not a bird and this house is not a nest. She’ll return. I can be as patient as the waxing moon. It waits as I do.

What’s the moon waiting for his mother wanted to know.

Its other half.



Another Poem

In a past post, I said I’m not much of a poetry guy; but damn it, another one popped into my head. So here it is.


Sixteen dreams not in slumbering ether, but by waking day, unlocking restless possibility.

While insects toil to tear youth’s tender root,

its fancy leafs beyond their barren field.

And in the glare of noon, it glories, and blossoming there,

it manifests.

On Literary Journals

Editors at publishing houses, big and small, often suggest submitting to literary journals as a way to start getting your work published. What they don’t tell you is the game is fixed. Your chances of getting selected are very, very slim.

Many journals have guest editors who invite authors to submit stories or poems for each edition. This whittles down your chances even more. I read an interesting article in the Atlantic about these journals and how they’ve degenerated over the decades. They rarely pay the author anymore when a story is accepted, but instead give a one or two year subscription to some of the most pretentious and boring writing ever committed to paper. The writing is chock full of what David Foster Wallace called linguistic calisthenics. A brief aside: Sad the guy killed himself. Not only for the obvious reason but because the faults he was starting to recognize in his own writing (short on any true feeling, trying too hard to be  clever or avant garde) applies to so much contemporary writing (painting too); and he had a platform big enough for people to listen. I’m going to have to give Infinite Jest a try, and I’m hoping it lives up to its reputation. And, at any rate, all my favorite writers, with the exception of Houellebecq, are dead, so maybe I’ll be able to add him to the list. Man, that even sounds morbid to me! And I wrote it!

Back to the article in the Atlantic. The woman who wrote the article (a published author, by the way) contended that the whole thing with these journals has degenerated into a revenue generating scheme. Submittable may only charge 3 dollars per entry, but most authors will shotgun their work to as many as 20 or 30 journals, so that their outlay is 60 to 90 bucks per story or poem. She contends correctly that that is a hardship for many young, struggling writers and may push out a good writer who knows the odds are against him, especially if he travels outside the creative writing crowd of the university system. And don’t forget, many of these journals have a very small readership; so, even if accepted, very few people are reading your story or poem. But if you do decide to give it whirl, let me make a few suggestions:

1- Be pretentious, the more the better. I can’t stress this  enough.

2- Clever, clever and more clever! Clever in your use of simile and metaphor and clever in your phrasing. C’mon, I want to hear the gears turning in that head of yours. Don’t worry if the simile makes no sense or is arbitrary, just so long as it’s clever. An example from a recent, trashy best seller: “The corned beef sandwich was pink and overstuffed like a wedding invitation.” Maybe I get invited to the wrong weddings or order the wrong corned beef sandwiches, but that simile couldn’t be more contrived.

3- Self-righteous moralizing on social or political issues is a big plus. Try to do this with issues such as race, gender bias or bullying. You can try to be subtle but don’t worry about getting too heavy handed with the messaging; they love that stuff. This is particularly true when submitting to literary journals associated with Universities. By the way, I’m not saying racism, gender bias and bullying are OK, I’m just saying don’t hit me over the head with it; unless you’re submitting to a journal, then by all means–go for it.

4- Be politically correct! Again, this is particularly important when submitting to university journals. I know–there is no such thing as a politically correct artist. If you’re concerned about political correctness, then you’re not an artist. I hear you. But hey, fuck that! Do you want to be an artist or do you want to get published? Imagine if political correctness had a stranglehold on past generations. I can hear Manet now, ” Hey Degas, maybe it would be better if I painted some clothes on my Olympia.” Or Henry Miller, “Hey Anais, I better clean this Tropic of Cancer up!” Of course, today it’s OK to throw some sex into your writing. That way you can appear to be politically incorrect without really being so. Just make sure it doesn’t sound too misogynistic. It’s tricky but if you cross that line, all hell will break loose.

5- In the bio section, mention that you have an MFA in creative writing from somewhere, even if you don’t. Trust me on this. Do you really think they check that shit?

6- And don’t worry if the arc of the plot seems preposterous and unrealistic. As long as it’s pretentious, politically correct and clever, you’ll be fine.

Well, I hope this helps. Good Luck!

An excerpt from Venus Rising

Here’s another excerpt from the novel I”m still editing. This passage describes the  morning after Nick and Minna become lovers.

The next day stumbled out bright and clear, pushing back the ragged edges of another of February’s long nights. Discreet shafts of sunlight pierced the curtain, revealing two small cracks staggering along the far wall. Minna got up around seven and went over to her dresser.  She thoughtlessly fashioned a ponytail with two twists of a rubber band, her every movement displaying an erotic charm unmarred by self-awareness. Watching her, I struggled to comprehend the mysteries of her body. It possessed a fiery, inscrutable logic. Hers was a smoldering sensuality lying beneath a bouquet of spring flowers. A beautiful, delicate line described her body from head to toe, a body so intensely perfect that it almost hurt to look at it; a dangerous, delicate torment, like staring at the sun. A glimpse should have been enough, but I kept burning the image into my brain, afraid that it might not last, might suddenly vanish. She inhabited a body that encouraged this young artist to wonder and dream, or wonder if it was a dream. That high, firm ass alone was sorcery. Nature’s finest artistry on display!

Caught in the last, bittersweet months of nineteen, Minna drifted seamlessly between modesty and audacity, between diffidence and confidence, between girl and woman. She appeared flawless (all the more remarkable in the unforgiving morning light) and, not for a moment, did I attribute my judgement to inexperience. Minna’s body was a revelation, a honeyed nectar that had, until now, lay hidden in some rare Amazonian orchid, and I was getting drunk on its juices.

I congratulated myself on sleeping with such a beautiful woman…and my first time! Minna turned to find me lying propped up in bed and lost in appreciation.


“Nothing, I’m just looking.” I lay back against the pillow, hands locked behind my head and smiling like a dope. She jumped on the bed and threw herself on top of me. I instinctively brought my hands from behind my head and embraced her. She gave my cheek a quick peck while gently shifting her weight.

“And do you like what you see?”

“Yeah, it was OK.”

Minna laughed, then pushed out her lower lip, feigning disappointment.

“You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

“You’re just saying that because you’ve never seen a girl naked before.”

Fair enough, but in a few years I would see every type in life classes at the art academy: tall, short, fat, thin, and many that were beautiful, but none whose beauty eclipsed Minna’s.

“Would you do something for me?”

Minna smiled. “What?”

“Would you pose for a drawing?”

Right now?”

No, not now…sometime though.”

“What kind of drawing?”

“A figure drawing.”

She hesitated. “Does that mean I have to be naked?”

“I’d like you to. Why…would you feel funny?”

Minna paused again, teasing me with her indecision.

“No, I don’t care…I’d be curious to see it.”

“Posing can be kind of boring, you know.”

She considered for a moment. “No, we’ll make it fun.” She kissed me again. “Do you wanna get breakfast before the dining hall gets crowded?”

“Or we could just stay in bed?”

“We can come back for that,” she laughed. “I’m hungry!”

It’s been awhile

Some people have asked me why the subtitle: Greetings from the Cultural Wasteland. I’ m an artist living in North Carolina-“Nuff said,” Right? But let me cite a few examples that might clarify, shine a light on things.

A few years back, I entered a juried exhibition sponsored by the Raleigh Fine Arts Society. The juror, a painter from Virginia, accepted the work for the show. It was a figure painting, a nude, front and center, but no more provocative than what you might see in any art museum in the world. I went to drop the painting off and two ladies from the society exclaimed in restrained horror: “We can’t show that!” After a big go-round, they agreed to display it at the opening, but only at the opening. I had to then come and take it down. I arrived at the tail end of the opening to find the painting hung behind a staircase in the dark. Needless to say, I asked to be removed from their mailing list. The two upsides to the episode: I got my 35$ entry fee refunded, and I started to think that I must be doing something right. After all, without trying to offend or shock anyone, I still did; though admittedly, it’s not hard to offend some of these bible thumpers down here.

This second example is a bit more painful, a real dagger. If you’ve seen this blog, you know that I’ve written and published a book of short stories. I asked the owner of the gallery where I exhibit if she would send an e-blast out to her list of clients announcing that one of her gallery artists has a book out. At first, she was excited that I had written a book and said she would be happy to send the e-blast. Then a friend told her that she had to be careful, that if any of her clients read the book and found any part of it offensive they might object. So she refused without so much as a word to me-nothing to discuss. She was too afraid she might offend the delicate sensibilities of some of the country club ladies that patronize the gallery. I admit a couple of the stories in the book contain some passages of mature subject matter, but that could have been easily remedied with a simple disclaimer: The book contains some material that may not be appropriate etc. etc. And let me be clear, the book is in no way overtly salacious or sexual, but there are those few passages.

So you see what I’m up against. Perhaps cultural wasteland is too kind.

Writing Advice–Ignore it

I’ve been doing some editing of my book of short stories and saw a website of do’s and don’t’s of fiction writing. Here’s a don’t–don’t pay any attention to their advice. What a bunch of academic, standardized tripe! And all advising the same things to avoid. Clearly, these people have been indoctrinated in creative writing workshops or classes. Oops! One demerit. I used the word, clearly. They advise against it. Also, don’t use frequently, often, really, very, or half the prepositions in the English language, and too many verbs to list here and oh, I also shouldn’t have used the word also at the beginning of this sentence. Two more demerits, or is it three? I will admit that using the word really to modify adjectives is kind of lame (by the way, don’t use kind of either). She had really pretty hair, or, the sky was really blue–yeah, that’s lame. But occasionally, it’s use for modifying a verb is effective, as is its use in dialogue. An example from my book: When she left, Ricky asked Pete if  he really wouldn’t hit Frank if he started something. Pete said, and he said it like he meant it, “If he comes back, I’ll beat the shit out of him.” That made us all feel a lot better.

You’re not supposed to use a lot a lot either; so keep that in mind. And feel is one of the verbs you shouldn’t use. Christ, I can’t even write a blog. And don’t write: began to something something or started to something something. Just say, he somethinged. Oh shit! You’re not supposed to use the word just either. One more demerit.

A few lines from the same page of Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust (though not in order): …she began to tell what had happened. Instead, she turned her back on him to examine herself in the wall mirror. She realized that he must be pretty sick. She didn’t turn around… The fun they used to have…. She used to ride piggy-back…

The words in bold are words or terms that these idiots say you should avoid using. Yes, that includes turn or turned. Before you ask, NO! in his sentence: …she began to tell what had happened, the action is not interrupted. On the same page, she began to sing and began to sob–again actions uninterrupted. West also (oops! another demerit) uses almost and always a few times on that same page–two more no-no’s. By the way, The Day of the Locust was ranked #73 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English language novels of the twentieth century, but what do they know.

A few more examples: Don’t use then, don’t start a sentence with there was or there is. Somebody needs to let Charles Bukowski and Hemingway know about those writing no-no’s. Oops! not suppose to use need either. I’m not making this shit up. Oh, and don’t use not either. I’m serious, these are all words you need (damn it) to avoid.

Is it any wonder that the work coming from the creative writing crowd all sounds the  same: pretentious, contrived and affected. So let me give you a little advice. Stop spending tens of thousands of dollars to sit around and listen to pedagogues for four years. Instead, go to a library and read the good stuff. And use those thousands to travel or live la vida loca. Then maybe you’ll have something to write about other than college life or your failed relationship. Oops! I used then. Are you allowed to use maybe? Maybe I’ll look it up.

To the Breech once more

Who should I go after today? I re-read some of my posts and I seem to gripe a lot about what’s wrong with our culture. But Christ, somebody’s got to do it. Everyone’s so afraid of being politically incorrect these days that they’re afraid to state the obvious. Isn’t it possible to see the wrongs in our culture and comment on them without being cruel (unless they really have it coming). Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: retirees and middle-aged ladies getting in touch with their artistic side. Do us all a favor and don’t!

Where were all these people and their artistic urges back when they were in their twenties? Oh, right, back then, they were too busy getting in touch with their nice houses, the nice cars, the expensive clothes and vacations and living a nice comfortable life. They only decide to become artistic when they retire or get laid off or become empty nesters. Now they need a hobby and one that might provide them with a few extra bucks. So they paint schlocky paintings for the country club ladies or the interior designer set, and come and go speaking of Michelangelo. Here’s a common theme among them: After twenty-five years in the insurance industry (insert any occupation) I decided to return to my first love-painting. I took an art course as a freshman in college and loved it, but—and this is where the bull-shit starts.

Look, I got no problem with these amateurs taking up a hobby, but keep it at that. You’re not an artist because you took a few painting workshops; you’re not even a good painter. Honestly, the hubris of the baby boomer generation never ceases to amaze me.

But you have to lay some of the blame with the society that not only allows but encourages this sort of thing. And let’s not forget the art galleries that exhibit this junk hoping to pick up a few dollars from the interior designers who in many areas of the country are the arbiters of taste and buy more than individual collectors.

I hope one day to write something positive about our culture. Maybe next time, if there is a next time. This blogging thing seems a bit self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing; don’t you think? Till next time-maybe.

On Writing

Here’s something I’ve learned: the best writers, the great writers don’t pepper their work with a lot of obscure or six syllable words. Instead, they employ a plain, simple language but in an unexpected and creative manner. The constant sprinkling of big or arcane (is arcane too arcane) words only gums up the works, gets in the way of what you’re trying to express.

Having written a novel and book of short stories has deepened my appreciation for the great wordsmiths. I get a kick out of the way Joyce or Fitzgerald or Wolfe (to name a few) can turn simple language into the beautiful expression of a thought or emotion without sentimentality.

And here’s something else for all you fledgling writers out there: quit trying to be so damn clever. In any art form, clever is never good and, like the use of obscure language, just mucks thing up. I sometimes look at these on-line literary journals and let’s be honest here; many are just glorified blogs run by recent grads with an English or creative writing degree who now work at Starbucks and need to justify spending thousands of their parents dollars on a worthless degree. “But Mom and Dad, I am using my degree; I’m editing my own on-line literary journal! Now, would you like extra sugar in that coffee?” Anyway, with most of the short stories I read on these sites, I can’t get beyond the first few lines.They’re trying so hard to be clever that they lose me before I can get started. A quote by T. Wolfe: “And it all boiled down to this: honesty, sincerity, no compromise with the truth–those were the essentials of any art–and a writer, no matter what else he had, was just a hack without them.” You tell ’em, Tom. It’s true in art because it’s true in life.

So to all you English and creative writing majors working behind the counter at Starbucks–quit trying so hard to be clever and start being honest and sincere. And quit trying to impress everyone with style or your vocabulary. Anyone can buy a dictionary. And style needs to evolve naturally, otherwise it becomes contrived and mannered. Try forgetting most of what you were taught in those classes. Then the next time some soccer mom orders that cafe grande latte mocha with extra mocha, it’ll be someone else serving it up. And if not, at least you’ll know you’re fighting the good fight. Till next time, muchachos y muchachas.

A Lament on Tattoos

Hey, when did people who ink tattoos become artists? I say, let’s go back to the days when bikers and sailors got drunk and then got inked by guys almost as drunk as they were. I doubt those guys were sitting in a bar and turned to their drinking buddy and said, “You know what’s missing in our lives, Bob? Art! We need to get some art into our lives. We’ve been living like animals. Whatcha say we get some tattoos?”

The only tattoos I’ve ever seen that weren’t kitschy abominations were those worn by tribal warriors of the Polynesian islands. Simple geometric patterns inked in a plain, blue black. They decorated their bodies as a ritual for war. I don’t think they were trying to express their inner artist or get in touch with their feelings. You’re not expressing any great truth or emotion with a tattoo. As a matter of fact, you’re not expressing anything, other than bad taste.

Of course, nowadays everybody is an artist; so why not? But isn’t tattooing a skill, not an art? (a highly marketable skill these days). But even if you believe it an art, the person receiving the tattoo is not expressing anything. The person doing the inking is creating, not you; you’re just the canvas. Might as well say Rembrandt’s canvas was as creative as the artist. And having your girlfriend’s name inked on your arm doesn’t mean you love her anymore than I love my wife. If I had my wife’s name tattooed on my arm, she’d probably think it stupid, and the first thing she’d say, “How much did you pay for that?” Just another reason to love her. Someone once asked the actor, Tony Danza, if he regretted getting his tattoo. His answer, “Sure, it’s like wearing a sweater you can never change.

I grant that some tattoo “artists” are better than others, but so are some plumbers or electricians. It doesn’t make them artists. So again, let’s all quit kidding ourselves. Getting a tattoo isn’t the culmination of some great creative impulse. It’s just a bad decision, best made when drunk. I guess it makes sense from the tattoo parlor’s perspective. After all an artist can charge more. Just face it, the people doing the inking are selling you a bill of goods and laughing all the way to the bank. Maybe they are artists–con artists.