Have you ever had a friend tell you they are proud of you, or tell you that you should be proud of yourself or your accomplishments?  On the few occasions it’s occurred with me it always throws me off.  It seems like something a parent should say to a child, or something you should say to someone that you feel may have low self-esteem.  Tell them you’re proud of them―make them feel good.

This happened to me recently and I really had to think about what they were saying because my first response was something like this.  “What the hell do you mean you’re proud of me?  You think I need a compliment or something?”

Sometimes I have to point my finger at myself and realize it’s me that has the problem.  Why should I be the only one that’s proud of my accomplishments?  It may go much deeper.  I think being proud, or having pride is an odd concept that gets intermingled with self-esteem.  Often those who appear the proudest of themselves are using it as a cover for their own low self-esteem.

So how does one find healthy pride?  Not being an expert on this I have concluded that healthy pride has more to do with self-honesty than anything else.  Few of us are capable of carrying out a self-assessment in an honest manner.  Not because we don’t want to, but because we can only use the tools we have and those include all the self-protective mechanisms we’ve spent years working on.

Perhaps, pride is a humble acceptance of those talents that others have identified in us, and that we personally know come from our true selves and not some manufactured identity or mask we create so that others will believe something about us that is not true.

Unfortunately, that narrows the field of those with true pride.  We live in a world of people who strive to emulate identities they have found on the internet, or in movies, or perhaps their favorite rock band―A world where many people define their own happiness on whether a team of professional athletes on a sports team wins or loses―a world where few have identified who they personally are, but strive to be something they are not.  Are these people being honest with themselves—about who they are?  Or are they hiding their true selves by pretending to be something they are not?

I realize this is an uncomfortable thought but the reason I’m bringing it up is because I believe in order to create literature, art, or music, beyond simply crafting it, 100% self-honesty is required.  True art will be the result of self-honesty, and pride will be a non-evasive by-product of knowing that one has produced that art, regardless of whether anyone recognizes it or not.  The ultimate compliment comes when someone is proud of being associated with what your self-honesty has produced.  You too will know when that compliment is an honest one, or simply someone blowing smoke because they feel they have something to gain from you.

I suggest looking deep into your upbringing, all the good, the bad, the dysfunction, the pain, and the happiness and find that true self.  I know this is not easy for me, but it is something I’ve committed to strive for.  Forget about someone else’s successes, failures, and experiences and find your own. Then you will produce your best work and be proud of it.  So will those around you.


The Emoji Literature

This may seem a trivial post, but I don’t believe it is. My vehicle has a Bluetooth operation that allows it to read my texts. I find it verbalizes emojis. An example is if someone texts me with a sentence like “Thank You (smiley face emoji).” I hear an emotionless woman’s voice say: “Thank you, Smiley Face” .

Recently Facebook took a new step in evaluating posts. Where it used to be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down they have now added emojis to the evaluation key. So what does this have to do with literature? I’m not sure yet, but something tells me it will have an effect. Internet chat started, and texts facilitated the odd means of communication that we have now including TU, CU, OMG, LOL, IMHO, LMAHO, TTYL,TMI, SLAP, B3, IDC, BFF, and more than I can count, but now we also have the emoji configured every way imaginable.

Even as an old guy I can accept this, but when my emotionless voice message interpreter in my vehicle says to me “I’m at *$, LOL, Where U, **// 459 4EAE,” it still throws me off. Now that we have an emoji every couple words I’m more confused because the emotionless female voice in my vehicle says things like “I’m at *$, happy face where U frown face, **// 459 blush face 4EAE”.  Then I ask myself why I can’t understand this simple English language.

I recently read that a 12 year old girl faces charges for posting gun, bomb, and knife emojis on Instagram. As text acronyms and emojis filter into our everyday language it will be interesting to see where and how they land in our literature over the next ten or fifteen years.  Perhaps there will be a crime novel such as “The Emoji Killer”.

The Mountain and the Novel

I love to climb mountains and I love to write. Writing a novel is so much like climbing a big mountain that the only just way to compare them is to lay out some quotes from both mountain climbers and writers. If one replaces the word mountain climbing with novel or writing or vice versa, it all makes sense.

Writers Quotes found at: http://pasikarppanen.net/quotes/q-writ.htm#Writing is hell

Writing is not a genteel profession. It’s quite nasty and tough and kind of dirty. Rosemary Mahoney

Writing is the flip side of sex – it’s good only when it’s over. Hunter S. Thompson

Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter. Jessamyn West

If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. William Zinsser

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder.  Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching. Harlan Ellison

Mountain Climbing Quotes found at: http://winterclimb.com/articles/item/1-climbing-quotes

Nothing substitutes a large apprenticeship, a heap of experiences which converts into the base of intuition. Doug Scott

It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks. – The 3 rules of mountaineering

Just a reminder – a guidebook is no substitute for skill, experience, judgement and lots of tension. Charlie Fowler

If we ever have children and they become climbers I’ll tell them, “Stay away from expeditions. They’ll make you poor and neurotic. Greg Child

I don’t want to write about climbing; I don’t want talk about it; I don’t want to photograph it; I don’t want to think about it; all I want to do is do it.” Chuck Pratt

If you’ve climbed the first 140 meters it doesn’t mean that you’ve succeeded; you are going to succeed by climbing the last 10 meters. Alain Robert

I’ve tried many sports, but climbing is the best. The beauty of this sport is that no matter how good you get, you can always find a way to challenge yourself. Randy Leavitt

Thriller Survey

This is a quick survey for crime and thriller fans.  I’m very interested in hearing from anyone who enjoys reading the following authors.  Specifically from the authors below, let me know two things.  First:  Which one of these authors is your favorite, Second: List each author for whom you’ve read at least one of his books.  (and just for fun let me know if I used “whom” correctly in the above sentence, and of course, anything else that’s on your mind.  Thanks!

1.) Dave Baldacci  2.) James Patterson  3.) John Grisham  4.) Robert Ludlum  5.) Lee Child  6.) Michael Connelly  7.) Harlan Coben  8.) Richard Price

Have Fun with This!

Have you ever been reading a story when a sentence the author wrote stopped you in your tracks?  Occasionally I come across a book that has great lines, the kind that you remember and other people remember.  I love this type of reading because I get excited to see what the author will come up with next.  Another reason I like them is because they kick me in the rear to step up my own writing.

One of my favorites is “The Last Good Kiss” by James Crumley.  It’s a great piece of writing and full of quotable lines.  Here’s one of them:

“Stories are like snapshots, pictures snatched out of time, with clean hard edges. But this was life, and life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to tomb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun.”  –James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Here’s another Crumley line:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” –James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

When I really don’t feel like writing, I sit around and think up sentences that I might use at some time in some story.   I think about people I’ve seen, Situations I’ve been in or observed and try to describe them with one clever sentence.  Mine probably won’t end up on somebody’s notable list but I really enjoy the exercise.

Here’s a few to ponder.  I used some of them in my as yet unpublished novel, but most of them are just waiting for the perfect time and place.  Let me know what you think.  I’d be interested to hear if others do anything like this.

Dale’s Random Brainstrom quotes:  Have fun with these.

“It’s hard to realize that our own actions are just the sum total of the wills of those around us.  They push us one way and pull us another, and eventually the melting pot of wills moves us to action.  I mean, do you really think you know anything that you didn’t learn from someone who came before you?”

“He started all this shit but the problem was he had no balls.  Talk’s great, but if you can’t stand over the turd you laid, you’ve got no business taking a dump.  At least that’s how I see it.”

“It was like every other shield in life, you don’t know what’s on the other side unless you lower it, and if you keep it up you never know.  Funny, he thought, some people don’t even realize they’re living behind one.”

“Her pretty face held her two steps above the town whore.  At one time or another she’d been married to every guy in town that had more than a rag bag, taking a morsel or two with her before moving on until she gradually built up a small fortune.”

“The guy was a dick, you know the type, a high school quarterback who was the town hero at the state tournament and ended up throwing bags in a fruit warehouse.  I don’t know why I liked him.”

“He had small man’s syndrome so he got his black belt in karate.  It seemed every time he took a drink in a bar he’d look for a big guy and coldcock him with one of his moves then brag about kicking some guy’s ass after warning him not to cross him.”

“The situation was starting to remind him of his first fuck.  It was just one of those things he wasn’t ready to let go of for a while.”

“He’d realized that he was only independent in his job, and though he’d considered himself a patriarch, it came to him that he hadn’t a clue how the bills got paid, or even how the garbage went out. It seemed she was running the show.”

“She was one of those nasty girls, the ones you see in health clubs with tattoos clawing their way out of their asses.”

“When he saw her sunken eyes he realized the results of his actions were worse than shooting heroin straight into her veins.”

“Put your tits away mam. They’re not going to put the fire out and I’m afraid someone’s gonna get hurt if you keep swinging ’em around.”

“The winners always pissed him off.  They were the ones with the sixth sense.  The one that tells you what the consequences of your actions will be.”

A Work in Progress

Last month I submitted my first short story for publication.  I decided to submit short stories after having several agents tell me that my novel was well written, and engaging, but would probably not find a publisher since I was a no-name.  After that my strategy became to publish some short stories before submitting my novel again.

I’m excited to announce that my short story was accepted for publication in an online literary journal, “gravelmag.com”.  Gravel is published by the MFA program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.  My story will appear in the October issue. I’ll probably put out a link and share it once it’s published.  It was a personal story, nonfiction.

Here’s what I noticed about this piece after it was accepted.  I found several sentences that I was (even more) unsatisfied with my punctuation.  The one word that I never felt was quite right in the story now seems like it doesn’t belong at all and glares at me as if it’s in bold print.

I have since submitted a short fiction story and found myself editing between every submission such that everyone receives a different version.  I used to write software, and it was never finished and that’s how my stories feel.  Anyone who uses the WINDOWs operating system knows that it gets updates every week or so, and then eventually they just build a whole new version of the same story.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could build auto updates into our published stories?

I believe a story is like that.  It seems that if we sit on a story for a while we update it with new thoughts. I often wonder if it’s due to evolving thoughts as the world and our perspective change, or just from letting the story simmer.  I’m afraid if I ever do get my novel published I’ll want to change the story before it hits the press.  I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad problem.