HW: A Political Lesson

Their smiles are double-edged,
Posturing from the podium.
Contempt poised to slice.

Who’s your sneakiest teacher? Not your favorite, but the sneaky one who planted seeds in you that bloomed years later?

I was a fan of The West Wing, though the best reason eluded me at first. The writing was tight (hello, Mr. Sorkin), the acting was excellent, and the sets were fantastic, but I was drawn to the mechanisms of government. The whole three branches and checks-and-balances thing resonated. Dorky, yes, but I finally figured out that my interest could be traced to my junior high school social studies teacher.

Civics and social studies. We had classes in junior high (no stinking “middle school”) and high school, and Ms. Dugger’s class in high school was great fun. She was near retirement, I think, so she let us seniors run things. I don’t remember learning much. On the other hand, Mr. Troy’s American social studies and history class at Carson JHS is where I became a government nerd, though I didn’t know it at the time. His lessons came together years later when I watched President Bartlet and his administration.

I wish I could give you more specifics on Mr. Troy’s pedagogy (great word), but the one thing that sticks out is that he didn’t lecture as much as he guided questions at us. And we had to be prepared. For instance, the real reason the United States made the 1854 Gadsden Purchase with Mexico was to have the flat land at the south end of the Rockies for the railroads going west. Turns out we went through the Rockies instead of going around them, but we kept the land that became the southern ends of New Mexico and Arizona.

So how does this tie back to the haiku? Mr. Troy taught us about the government our elders wanted us to believe existed because that was his job, but he was clearly was a child of the Sixties. We picked up on his cynicism and sarcasm about the functioning of our government. Had he lived during the last administration, I suspect he would have reminded us that the mechanism of government works only when reasonable people agree to work towards a middle ground. There was no middle ground in the last administration, so here we are and here is the haiku.

As for technical notes, I resisted inserting bloodier language, though tempted. Probably a good idea, considering the events of January 6. I do hope that this vicious cycle of political theater passes soon. It’s not helping our country at all. Mr. Troy would have agreed.

Podcast: Elephant in the Room

The one where we delve into sex in the G-rated literature and media environment. We discuss the history of sex in books, the use of innuendoes, cultural shifts, growing up on Harlequin romances, and gender roles.

Triggers: Sex, Domestic Violence

Here you go. As always, please scroll down to sign up to subscribe. Thank you!

Let’s Talk About Sex

Okay, get your minds out of the gutter, kids. LOL.

We’ve been quiet this week on The Worldwide Headquarters because of Real Life and Day Jobs, so we’re going to kick off a three- or four-episode series of podcasts talking about s-e-x in writing.

We’re going to follow the MPAA compliance ratings and start off with our “G-rated” episode tomorrow (Sunday, June 13, 2021). The other ratings (PG-13, R, and X) will follow down the road. Should be fascinating.

As always, you can check out our podcasts page and scroll down to subscribe to these blog posts. Talk to you tomorrow!

All You Need Is Love

The one where we talk about the most dangerous thing: True Love. We discuss the many challenges and rewards of bringing personal romantic experiences to our novels and other works. We quote Thomas Mann and we sing for a few seconds (sorry about that). Have a listen and let us know what you think. As always, scroll down and subscribe so you can be the first to hear us blather on. Thank you!

Triggers: Relationship Violence, Death, Divorce, Love

Spoilers: Lucifer (Netflix), Empire Strikes Back, Ghost

Edit: Here is the Thomas Mann quote I managed to blunder through:
“Love stands opposed to death. It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death. Only love, not reason, gives sweet thoughts. And from love and sweetness alone can form come: form and civilization, friendly, enlightened, beautiful human intercourse — always in silent recognition of the blood sacrifice.”

HW: Heartbeat

Ear to chest, i hear
Her Heartbeat entangle Us.
While It Beats, We Live.

Emotions are hard, especially ones that open windows to our true selves. Most times we’re on autopilot in daylight. We dress pretty, groom our motley selves, and generally act in a manner both publicly and professionally acceptable. Autopilot, then, is good and safe. It’s not often vulnerable.

CC and I opined the other day that the two hardest emotional subjects to scribe are Death and Love because, in part, our actions and reactions in those situations reveal us. No barriers, no walls, nothing gets in the way of people seeing you for who you truly are.

But even worse than Love, which comes in 100+ flavors, is True Love. When we are so smitten, we gamble, we negotiate, we procrastinate because we know we could get hurt bad. Sometimes we make the mistake of increasing our force shields and end up pushing that best person away.

Some of us get lucky because we’re smart enough to lower those barriers, and we let that someone special behind our wall. Then we pray. Lord, we pray out loud that they’ll accept us for who we are, warts and all.

True Love is the greatest thing of all (except for a nice MLT, of course) and worth the long roller coaster ride that takes an eternity.

One heartbeat at a time.

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A Modest Proposal

Memorial Day can be emotional three-day weekend, starting with the empty chair at the table that will never be filled. Wishing someone a “Happy Memorial Day” risks walking into an emotional minefield of sorts. Some will use the day to advance political agendas, and others just want to have a guiltfree barbeque to escape from their real lives. As a holidays go, it’s a mixed bag.

CC and I chatted about this day and other days dedicated to veterans, and she rightfully said there are no days dedicated to dependents like the spouses, partners, children, and loved ones of those on the front lines. There is no national holiday set aside for the Blue Star and Gold Star heroes who support our troops.

A modest proposal, then, maybe to refocus on important things: while we plant flags on graves, we as a nation expend an equal, if not greater, amount of energy to remember those left behind. Reach out and let them know they are not alone. Tell them that while we’re pouring one out for a fallen soul, that we are also there to help ease the burdens of those that must carry on. A phone call or a hug or something that let’s them know they are not alone.

Well, I can dream.

For now, I hope y’all remember all of our heroes on this solemn day. Somebody somewhere misses them. And if that happens to be you, you’re in my thoughts this day.

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The Dying of the Light

The one where we get personal about Death, along with the challenges of presenting the great equalizer in fiction. This episode is our most intimate podcast to date. Have a listen and let us know what you think. As always, scroll down and subscribe. Thank you much.

Triggers: COVID, Death.

Spoilers: Harry Potter, Twilight, Supernatural, Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula.

The Seinfeld Episode

The one where we don’t talk about much at all, other than old casinos, being kind, and developing characters through watching people. No spoilers in this one, folks.

Have a listen, and don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for notifications. Take care of you, okay?

HW: A Bridge Too Far

With my last cold breath,
I cross a colorless bridge.
I will not be back.

Almost a suicide note, huh? But that was not the motivation. I purposely went dark while drafting it as I remembered lost family and friends, one of whom had passed from colon cancer in the December before this was written. She always made me smile, and I would have liked to have said goodbye, but was never given the chance. The thought still makes me angry. Time passes and, boom, the chance for closure is gone, and you find yourself saying goodbye to a picture on the back of a funeral home pamphlet.

So why the “colorless bridge” and not the “rainbow bridge”? Not all of us live a life that’s worth remembering or revisiting. A shitter, in other words. And the colorless bridge transitions into “will not be back.” Some cultures and religions believe in reincarnation with all their being, but I could see someone pushing back on the chance. If they didn’t get it right the first or second or whatever time, why would they come back?

Yeah, this one was a picker-upper, but writing it helped purge some ghosts from my psyche. Maybe it will help you, too.


Technical note: The above haiku was not the next in line from my book draft:

Whispers from afar
Of a slow dance, a kiss, love.
Real or not, I smile.

Way softer than the first haiku, yes, but I don’t remember the idea or motivation behind it. A chance encounter at a high school dance? A dream I had the night before? A happenstance of words? All possibilities and more, but the one good reason is lost in the mists of time. And I like this one better than the first, even if I don’t remember why I wrote it.

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If you listened to yesterday’s podcast (please do) or follow me on social media, you know I have an unfortunate habit of falling down and going boom. God does grace some of Her blessed creatures with a superior sense of balance, but She also averages things out so, I’ve ended up in the deficit column, I suppose.

I spent much of elementary school with scabbed up knees, and the scars look something like a Tolkien map to this day. In the Air Force, I slid into second base in shorts, and that may have been one of the first time CC had to apply her medical skills to my poor body. During my running days, a big German Shepard took me down by running between my legs because he thought I was playing a game. I tested the resiliency of a concrete wall during a test drive of a bike. And on and on and on.

In my life, falling down is evitable, but I always get up.

Since this is a writing blog, that’s the key sentence. I’m dealing with the world’s worst case of writer’s block, but it won’t last. Given time, the rips and tears in my writing soul will scab over, I will stand up with a fully formed book in my head, and I will mercilessly pound away at a keyboard.

If my physical crashes have taught me anything, it’s that time, healing, and CC’s gentle care will solve most wounds and challenges. I’ll get back to writing someday. Just you wait and see.

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