I love March Madness…
I've always believed words mean things, and "devastated" has been misused a good bit lately. For example, I know of smart people who said they were "devastated" by the death of Princess Leia, and "devastated" some more when her mum, Debbie Reynolds, died the next day. Now, those deaths are sad, but, really, how can one be "devastated" by the death of someone who, basically, made movies? The word means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "severe and overwhelming (my italics) shock or grief."
I thought Princess Leia was cool, but she was fictional, created for entertainment purposes. Same for her mother's roles. It was sad that there was a history of mental illness and substance abuse, truly. But for someone who didn't even know these people to be "devastated" when they died? It baffles me. Time to move on, I think.
Recently, my favorite college football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, were demolished in the Outback Bowl by Florida's Gators. The final score was 30-3. When the game was over and I had clicked off the TV, I just sat there. My long-suffering wife took one look at me and asked, "Are you okay?"
"No," I said. "Devastated."
Photo cred: Chris O'Meara AP Photo
Some famous author once said that when a writer finishes writing their novel, a sort of depression sets in, not unlike the postpartum blues women suffer from right after having a baby. I can't relate to postpartum depression, nor can I say rightly that I get down after completing the last chapter of a novel. you see, I just finished the last chapter to my work, a 97,000-word "upmarket commercial" effort. And I did not get depressed. What I wanted to do was immediately start revising, so I did, looking specifically for two of my blind spots - passive voice and "echo," a term we writers use to describe using the same important word twice within close proximity of each other. That proximity blind spot can be annoying, a speed bump interfering with the reader's flow and proximity to a smooth narrative.
So I did that, weeding out my blind spots. What's next, you may ask?
When Stephen King finishes a novel, he sets it aside for a month or more and does something else, such as going for long walks or watching Boston Red Sox games, or reading what other writers are publishing.
My urge was to get back to working on my fourth Thomas O'Shea novel, since the first two are published (Signs of Struggle 2012 and A Far Gone Night 2014) and a third (The Face on the Other Side) is scheduled for an early 2017 release. So I plan to get after number four in the series, Of Mists and Murders.
I am a professional writer, so I have a compulsion to write, and I am itching to produce that next O'Shea novel, and it nags at me. But first, I am going to follow King's example and take some time off, starting with a long road trip with my bride, watching college football on TV (especially my Iowa Hawkeyes), and enjoying the changing of the seasons leading into my favorite month - October.
I will, however, keep a notebook in close proximity at all times, just in case I need to jot down a piece of dialogue that comes to mind, a vivid setting, or a conflict among my characters I had not thought of previously.
So, no more blogs for a while, but please look to hear from me and my writer's journey when the leaves turn to gold and orange and red.
I have reached my limit on t-shirts. I finally paid attention to why my t-shirt drawer was so stuffed, as was the other t-shirt drawer. Not counting white t-shirts that I wear under regular shirts with collars, I have 15, FIFTEEN t-shirts with various statements on them.
Here they are: Boston Red Sox, Boston '13 World Champs, Boston Red Sox World Champs (in Hebrew), "I might live in South Carolina but I keep my sox in Boston," Newberry College, Narnia College (a favorite), Eastern Connecticut State University, black IOWA, white IOWA Football, Beware of Dawg (U. Of Georgia with famous picture on the back of Uga going after the Auburn player), black Wales, Israeli Defense Forces, POEM (Professional Organization of English Majors on back), "If you can't see Paris Mountain you're too far from home" (we live back up against Paris Mountain), and "Careful or you'll end up in my novel."
That's it, FIFTEEN t-shirts with a message. I intend to donate at least half to a charity. Some are so threadbare I'll recycle them into the trash. It will be hard, but no one who lives in a cozy cottage needs to have that many t-shirts taking up space. When that's done, I think I'll get a t-shirt with "Efficiency" across the chest.
"Oh no, they can't be teardropsFor a man ain't supposed to cry." - Dee Clark
And that's the way I was brought up. Guys don't cry. Period. When we had that Indian attack just as we got out of our Conestoga wagon to settle down for the night on the Great Plains, and I got an arrow in my shoulder? No crying. Gritted my teeth as taught and barely flinched when my dad pushed the arrow on through, snipped off the arrowhead, and pulled the shaft back out. I thought about sniffling a little when he poured in the mercurochrome, after all, I was only 8, but I fought it off. No crying! And proud of it.
So, a few weeks ago, at the soft urging of those who matter in the media, I decided to get in touch with my metrosexual self, my inner feminine side. I allowed myself to cry, urged on by our society's new and enlightened expectation of guys. I saw a butterfly and pointed and burst into tears. So beautiful. I watched the Hawkeyes destroy Davidson in The Big Dance. Sobs. I saw a newborn baby at church - uncontrollable weeping.
But that was the problem. "Uncontrollable."
Someone has to control themselves at all times or society will fall apart. Have you noticed how screwed up our country is these days? It's because men have become goober-faced wimps, swayed left and right from being urged to show emotions (soccer is another key turning point in American weakness - I mean, men and boys running around and kicking each other in the shins? But I digress.). I have now renounced all crying. Emotions are unreliable and I'm thrilled that I don't have any. They can get you into trouble. They lie. They deceive. They kid around with your innards.
So don't hang around and expect to see me get all squishy when something terrible or wonderful or routine happens. Ain't supposed to cry, Dee Clark sang. Damn straight. Gotta be some control somewhere.
Valentine's Day is looming and so I'm going to come right out and say it: I am a romantic. The Oxford English Dictionary's second defintion of romantic is, "of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality. . . " Further, the OED defines "idealized" as "regard or represent as perfect or better than reality."
My idealized view of reality has many faces. For example, I believe certain scenes in movies are real. The battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings, for example, are real and make my heart swell every time I see them. They make me want to participate. I believe, and I don't want any additional footage trying to convince me that special effects, camera angles, and choreography were involved. I DON'T WANNA HEAR IT!
Another face of my romanticism works for me in literature. For example, I believe every word of The Life of Pi. I believe the story. I believe Richard Parker was a real tiger and that he and Pi made it to Mexico and Richard Parker strolled off into the jungle and found a girl tiger and they had cubs and a nice habitat and pizza delivery. So don't tell me Richard Parker was a symbol for something else. He was a tiger.
Also, I tend to be a romantic when it comes to sports. I believe my Iowa Hawkeyes will win next year's BCS championship and this year's Final Four. And the Red Sox will win the next World Series.
Finally, I must say that my romantic view of my long-suffering wife is based on facts that interface perfectly with "an idealized view of reality" and "perfect or better than in reality." You can look it up.