book promotion, Uncategorized

Writing DaysZ 9

It is amazing how many activities, rituals and products are credited with accomplishing something they have no effect on. The nostrums and quackery of the medical, diet and belief industries are well documented. But the social and political rain dances continue as if no one recognizes the sham.

Bob Vs The Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to

Rain Dancing

+++They rode through the Alabama night, subdued by the latest attempt on their lives. Old Spice sat up front, his short alien legs dangling safely over the edge of the railcar. Only Lizbeth seemed perky. Spice had set the ventriloquist dummy on his lap from where she pointed out sights no one except he could see in the dark. “There’s two more at it. A lot of humans wrestle after going to bed.”
+++“Huh?” asked Bob.
+++“It helps us to sleep better,” Piper giggled.
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who nodded and asked them, “You have only one, right?”
+++“One what?” Bob asked.
+++“Sex organ.”
+++“There’s your problem. You have to share.”
+++“My Earth-adapted body has both required organs,” Spice explained, “We didn’t want to offend any of you people. So, when we want to, we just -”
+++“OKAY,” Bob finally got it. “I get it. What about that GPS chip?”
+++Spice whispered to Lizbeth, who answered, “He disabled it. Stene can’t use it to track our rail car anymore. But, he does know we’re on a rail car and despite our hats -” her head abruptly swiveled up to Spice’s wide brimmed hat. “I didn’t get a Smuggler’s Hat! I’m not wearing a hat that reflects whatever is below with me edited out. I’m exposed!” She kicked him.
+++“I doubt that satellite cameras have ventriloquist dummy recognition software.” Bob wondered why he bothered to point out the obvious to a ventriloquist dummy. “The real problem, Spice, is that the rail car itself is no longer safe.”
+++Spice pulled the doll closer to him and leaned forward to cover her under the brim of his Smuggler’s hat. She hugged him. “I know,” he said. “But, we’ll be safe there for the night,” he pointed ahead to where the lights from Birmingham unmistakably lit the sky. “Too many people around for a missile strike.”
+++“That didn’t stop Stene from blowing up a busload of Doctoral grads.” Piper sounded unassured. “And that group of businessmen back there. Or, keep a helicopter SWAT Team from rappelling down on us.”
+++“Those attacks were in secluded places, Piper. Stene doesn’t want publicity. If his employers learned he killed me, they’d cancel his contract.” Spice paused. “He’d lose his back pay. I’m still researching, but I think Stene’s been on Earth quite a long time. He must have a fortune coming.”
+++“How is it,” Bob asked, “That you didn’t know two other Aliens were already on Earth? You guys obviously prepared. You speak our languages. You altered your bodies to appear human – kinda,” he trailed off, watching the ventriloquist doll reach around the spherical Alien to scratch his nose.
+++“I missed most of the mission training. I was a last-minute addition to the group.” Spice’s voice lowered contemptuously, “At my father’s request.”
+++“Your father must be important,” Piper prompted.
+++“Important!? He’s the Emperor!”
+++Piper’s mouth opened. Before words could form, Bob asked, “Of what?”
+++“The galaxy, of course. My father’s the Galactic Emperor of the Milky Way. And that’s pretty good in the grand scheme of things.”
+++Piper exhaled. “Yes.” She sounded numb. Before she said anything else, Spice changed the subject.
+++“I need to check Ty’s website.” He turned both eyes inward. “Hopefully, those guys found a safe place for us to spend the night.” They rode quietly until his eyes reemerged. “Ty’s website is saying we should stay there,” he pointed ahead at a building. “It’s full of people coming and going all night.”
+++They stopped the rail car at the tracks’ closest approach behind a run-down motel and picked their way across a trashed lot to a back door marked “Exit Only” where Bob suggested, “We wait here and let Piper book us a room?”
+++“Me?” She looked around, clearly unhappy. “I once did a piece on a drug-infested neighborhood that looked like this place.”
+++“Don’t worry,” Bob lifted his shirt to show the butt of the revolver he’d picked up at the way station outside of Gay Camellia, Alabama. “Just tell the desk clerk you’re a liberal newspaper reporter in the company of a funeral circuit speaker and an Alien with a ventriloquist dummy. And that we’re running from people trying to kill us but we’re protected by the Foreign Policy/Industrial complex.” She regarded him as if the elevator door had opened on the wrong floor.
+++The desk clerk watched Bob watching Piper from the entrance and the room was booked without fuss. “I ordered Pizza,” she told them as they walked to the room. “But now, I’m out of cash. Credit cards don’t work anymore, you know.”
+++That evening, there was much talk about their chances of reaching Colorado but no more of Spice’s family. “I can’t say more.” In the morning, the website told them to take the rail car into the city to meet a large group of people going to Memphis. “Safety in larger numbers?” Spice wondered hopefully. The breakfast buffet in the lobby of the little motel was surprisingly well stocked and quite enjoyable until Piper noted the staff returning food left on the tables to the buffet bar. Still, Spice made them pocket some as they left. “It’s not going to get any better, you know. Soon, nobody will be leaving food on the table.”
+++Heavy traffic now a thing of the past, the rail car entered Birmingham unobstructed, crossing deserted streets in the chilly morning air until, on the north side, they spotted a bonfire. “Must be them.” As the car approached, Bob considered the people gathered in a dirt field beneath Interstate 65, some of whom stood on the tracks waving signs at them. Despite the variety of signs, the groups seemed organized. At the last moment, the wheels locked up and the car screeched to a stop, helping them off. “It’s designed to not run over things,” Spice explained to Lizbeth, who repeated the explanation to Bob and Piper. “Hola!” Spice waved to a bald woman in a pink dress. “Radiation?”
+++She smiled hesitantly, “Yes.” Then her smile brightened with purpose, “But, that is why I am here.” She waved her sign which read, “Stop Cancer.”
+++Spice leaned forward and grinned widely at her, saying warmly, “I wish you all the intended results of your brave endeavors.”
+++“That’s very sweet of you, Spice,” said Piper, placing her hand on his rounded shoulder and pulling him upright as the woman backed away. “But when conveying warm wishes, it’s more appropriate to smile, not grin.”
+++Spice looked rejected but Lizbeth spoke up, “Who’s that?” She pointed to a procession of people carrying lighted candles and flat white boxes winding towards the bonfire.
+++“Oh, they’re back! That’s the candlelight vigil for The Unknown Dead Person,” answered the woman. She tapped a man next to her and pointed, “Hey! Look.”
+++“Pizza’s here!” the man yelled. Others took up the cry and converged on the procession.
+++A woman, maybe in her fifties and dressed like a society matron from a 1950’s movie, sat on the rail car with them and shared her pizza. “My late husband’s money is doing good here.”
+++“You paid for this?” Lizbeth questioned.
+++“Just to be around all these wonderful people!” the woman nodded. “So many deserving people supporting so many useful causes. It makes me feel involved,” she confided. “And,” the woman looked directly into Lizbeth’s eyes, her tone and her face overflowing with love and hope, “We are saving the world.”
+++Lizbeth’s head swiveled to look directly into Spice’s eyes. “It’s hormonal.”
+++“Well,” said the woman. Rising, she handed Lizbeth a business card. “You can read all about us on our website.”
+++“LEM. Love, Empathy, Meaningfulness,” Lizbeth read, “See our website at”
+++“Come.” Spice slid off the rail car and walked into the crowd. Bob and Piper stood, shrugged at each other and followed him. “We have to find the right group. Unless you want to walk to Memphis.”
+++Apparently, the Topless Women for Gender Equality was not the right group, although Bob seriously considered them until he caught Piper glaring at him. All the groups were eye-catching. A handful of people dressed in lady bug suits carried signs protesting the slaughter of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “It’s not their fault! Love Don’t Kill! Save a Species!” The largest group, POP or, People Opposed to Potus, just hated the American President although a couple of questions from Piper revealed that not all of them cared who that was at the moment. The woman paying for all this appeared briefly to hand a newspaper clipping to Lizbeth. “See! Lots of important people care!” Then she was whisked away by MOB, Moms Outing Bullies, wearing blood-stained black and blue sashes that read, “Bruise the Bullies!” Someone had converted a Port-a-Potty on wheels into a vendor stand. Spice stopped there. “What is that news story about?” he asked Lizbeth.
+++“It’s about that earthquake in Chili last month. Their President tweeted her support to the earthquake victims. She cared.” Lizbeth deadpanned.
+++“Buy a wristband?” the man standing in the door of the Port-a-Potty addressed them. “It’s for a good cause.”
+++“What cause?” Piper, ever polite, smiled at the man.
+++“I left that blank. See?” He showed her a magnetic clip-on wrist band with a smooth space on top. “I can engrave your favorite cause there. Mine’s plastic bags. They’re choking our environment.”
+++“What are the reusable bags made of?” Spice wanted to know, “And how does one dispose of them?”
+++“What?” The vendor turned his attention back to Piper, holding up a display board of wristbands in shades of red, yellow, black, white and brown. “They come in all race colors.”
+++“Hear that?” Spice’s ears perked up.
+++“How’d you do that?” the vendor stared at Spice’s ears. They had elongated noticeably and the tops quivered.
+++“Who knows, he’s an Alien. Hear what, Spice?”
+++“That roar, Bob.” He beamed and beckoned at Bob and Piper. “Come, there’s our ride to Memphis.” He led them towards the sound of Bikers For Peace revving up their motorcycles at the entry ramp to the highway.

Stegodyphus is a spider species whose young eat their mother. They liquefy her insides and drink them. It’s good to eat. It’s good to take what you need. Some behavior is too basic to be understood as human or even animal; it is life. Death creates new opportunities for survivors.

Arachnids of Happiness
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-8, go to

About Writers, book reviews, reading, writing technique

The Wonderful World of Susanna Clarke


I had read a portion of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell very quickly, to get a feel for the work, to see if I was ready to devote myself to eight-hundred pages. I am! I am rereading more carefully, and I have watched a few episodes of the Netflix series, to see how it translates to the screen.

I have to say that the thing that I most enjoy about the story is not the plot itself. I am hooked on the execution. It is fleshed out with wonderfully dense historical tidbits, faux references to this storied magician or that one, notations of their books, publishers, and publishers’ addresses, background on various factions of magic, a ballad even, all set forth in scholarly-looking footnotes. All of this delights me no end.

I enjoy the atmosphere of the piece, the intricate description, stately phrasing of a gravitas wholly in keeping with the theme of Magic Restored To Its Proper Place In England. For me, the true magic of the book is the narrative style. There is a great deal of very impressive telling:

“Excellent reasons which had seemed so substantial a moment ago were turning to mist and nothingness in his mouth, his tongue and teeth could not catch hold of even one of them to frame it into a rational English sentence.” Such a stylish encapsulation cannot be conveyed on film, and what a pity.

“… and as our narrative progresses, I will allow the reader to judge the justice of this portrait.” Clarke intrudes fairly often, another lovely period touch. The enormous footnotes may not range as far afield as mine do in Sly, but they are entertaining and I will eventually read them all.

The Netflix movie is absolutely gorgeous, but it does not capture the spirit of the book. It is the artistry of the narrative that has made it a classic. A world has been created on these pages, that drags us to a time and place in a way that the film does not. Who has read Jonathan Strange? Do you agree? Or does the lyrical phrasing and overload of tangential information (that I eat up) put you off?

The Netflix series lacks distance from the here and now, that all the walking through mirrors doesn’t remedy. It lacks the flavor of the print piece. This (gently) mannered prose is a mesmerizing step back from reality, and it plays a large part in the enormous pleasure I get from the story.

The film is beautifully done. The sets are stunning. The casting is wonderful. The story is faithfully told as far as the bones of it go. But the filmed version lacks the magic of the book. The book is a breathtaking example of total-immersion world-building. I am enthralled. I am taking notes right and left on matters small and large.

You may expect a new bit on Sly practicing (working with his tabby markings) to affect a disdainful raised eyebrow, in my updated chapter one. Thanks for the seed idea, Susanna Clarke. Many phrases have sparked spin-off business of my own. For me, this book is a treasure trove of possibilities, particularly in relation to Sly’s bookishness, which is always fun to contemplate.

What rare world-building can you recommend? I’m into it!

book promotion, book sales

Self Publishing is the Way to Go

I’m not crazy. Having a publisher promote my book onto the NYT Best Sellers list is almost preferable to winning the lottery. The odds are similar. But, that’s our world now, ain’t it; not enough publishers and most of them incapable of promoting any book onto any best seller list?

So skip the middleman and upload directly to a major retailer’s book site. How is that worse than not getting a publisher to promote your book?

My point is, publishing is easy. Getting the book to retail is easy.
Marketing is the difficult part.

What businesses exist today that will market our books?
A quick Google yielded
JKS Communications:
Smith Publicity:
Author Marketing Experts:
Do you know anything about these, or similar companies?

Do you know of any company that markets books for a commission?


The Unforgettable Couple

Being conscientious about spreading my online presence far and wide, I naturally have a Goodreads author page. Not a lot happens there but the other day I received my first question. I wondered who was so kind as to want to know my opinion on anything, but when I looked, I was informed the question came from… Goodreads. Perhaps they have an algorithm that spots lonely authors and tosses them a question every now and then. I thought it was very decent of them, anyway, so actually took the trouble to reply.

The question was, ‘Who is your favourite couple in fiction and why?’ It took me quite a long time to come up with an answer because all the couples I could think of came from my childhood and weren’t really couples in the conventional sense.

The closest I got to an actual ‘couple’ couple was:


Hmm… Not very literary, I thought. So after racking my brains a bit, I came up with Oscar and Lucinda, from Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. That’s extremely literary. And they are actually a lovable, eccentric, tender, tragic, unforgettable couple. Oops – did I say unforgettable? The thing is, when it came to explaining my choice, I could hardly remember a thing about them. And I thought of Carl’s apothegm of wince n° 85: “I never remember what I read. So why read? Waste of time.”

Of course, it isn’t a waste of time because (a) the book was fabulous when I read it and (b) now I can read and enjoy it all over again. But it does say something about memory and getting old. Still, I won’t go into that here.

What about you? Any favourite couple in fiction?

Research, world-building, writing technique

So You Want To Build A World

“You see, to be quite frank Kevin, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It tbpolaroidwas a bit of a botch job you see. We only had seven days to make it. And that’s where this comes in. This is the only map of all the holes. Well, why repair them? Why not use ‘em to get stinking rich?”

–Randall from Time Bandit


So you want to build a world, eh? Are you ready to be God? Because that’s what you’re doing. Creating a world, populated with millions of beings. They’re your responsibility now. What happens to them—well, that’s on you, isn’t it? And more than that, you owe it to your readers to create a functional world, an elegant mechanism guided by a clear plan and exquisite craftsmanship, a Swiss watch kind of a world.

Or—maybe not.

I know. A lot of writers LOVE world building. They revel in creating dossiers, elaborate histories, mythologies—even whole languages. It’s part of the fun. And backstory can certainly add depth and richness to a narrative, making it more believable, more real, more engaging.

But how much is really necessary? All fiction writing is world building. You set the stage, you paint the backdrops, you provide the props. You populate that world with living, breathing people, give them history, put flesh on those dry paper bones so that they rise up off the page. And no matter how closely your fictional environs hew to the real, recognizable world, it is new. You built it.

Of course, mostly when writers talk about world building, they mean a different world, and more often than not, they mean speculative fiction. I’m including fantasy under that label, as well as science fiction. Fantasy, of course, is replete with maps and legends. Sci-Fi is lousy with parallel histories (what if the Dutch empire never fell?) and distant planets where the not-quite humans behave in curiously human-like ways.

It’s tempting to want to create full and complex histories for your worlds, those impeccable mechanisms, but how much of that is really necessary? Elaborate backstory may engage you, the author, but how much does the reader really want? Or need?

Generally, it’s the small details that grab our attention and lock us in. When Robert Heinlein, in Beyond This Horizon, wrote the famous sentence “The door dilated,” the intention was to inform the reader—in a casual, unobtrusive way—that we were in a future world. The door opens like the dilating iris of an eye, and no one comments on it or wonders at it, because it is not, in this fictional world, remarkable. It’s rather a joke these days—because honestly, what a ridiculously elaborate way of opening a door—but that tiny sentence accomplishes a lot, and does it with panache.

And that’s admirable. I’m not opposed—at all!—to complex writing, but the ability to draw a reader in with an elegant, concise bit of description (three words!) is something we can all envy.

I’d like to hear about any examples of world building that you found particularly effective and inventive and memorable. I’ll start with a few of mine:

In Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand by Samuel Delany, the novel’s most prominent alien species doesn’t just enjoy food at mealtimes, they also enjoy licking small rocks. Rocks are served with meals, and the natives savor the taste of different minerals. The novel’s human protagonists also take part in rock licking, because it’s polite. Stars in my Pocket is a big, complex novel with scads of world building—but it’s this one detail in particular that remains with me, even decades later. It wasn’t important to the plot at all, but that single, concise detail locked me in. I knew I was in another world.

(This example also highlights another important point: don’t neglect the mundane things of life. Food is primary to all life as we know it, but all-too-many science fiction writers reduce food-of-the-future to cubes of protein-rich gelatin or synthetic versions of chicken curry and sweet-and-sour shrimp. Dull. Unless your world is a grim dystopia where dull food symbolizes the dreariness of life, have some fun. Eating is too sensual and visceral an experience to be wasted on drab victuals.)

Another example of notable and elegant world building: in Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series Firefly, characters speak English, of course (it’s American television, after all) but they are always dropping in bits of Mandarin. It’s never explained, never even really commented on. Everybody just knows a lot of  Mandarin, particularly swear words. All of which suggests—simply, elegantly—that the political landscape of the Earth has changed a lot. (There are websites out there dedicated to translating the Mandarin bits of Firefly, much of which is hilariously weird and inappropriate, from “Filthy fornicators of livestock!” to “Stupid inbred stack of meat.”)

If I’m making any kind of an argument here (and that’s certainly arguable), it’s that less really can be more when it comes to world building. You don’t need to provide a treasure trove of details, just a few that sing out to the reader. They’ll fill in the rest with their vivid imaginations. And you don’t need to work out everything to be convincing. We live in a world where we frequently experience confusion and uncertainty. If you really think the world is a rational, well-ordered place, I’d suggest that maybe you aren’t paying enough attention. It’s comforting, I suppose, to believe that some kind of higher order underlies the fabric of creation, but—rules of physics and mathematics and biology aside—there isn’t a whole lot of empirical evidence to support that belief. Your world might be more believable if it mimics this uncertainty, if everything doesn’t fit together just so. The universe, as Time Bandits tells us, is a bit of a botch job. And God (god? who?) is, undeniably, inscrutable. Since you are God now, I invite you to follow his (her?) example. Nobody likes a tight-assed, control freak deity. Let your world breath a little.


Apothegms of Wince: The Masses Speak of Things Bookish & Grammatical

For over three decades now I’ve been recording in a series of journals the most astonishing utterances one could ever hope to hear as one goes about the daily business of surviving on planet Mayhem. Some of these were said directly to my face, most were overheard as I eavesdropped on the conversation of others. I have winnowed down thousands of quotes from young and old, educated and miseducated, the intelligent and, err . . . somewhat less intelligent in order to focus on 100 jaw-droppers primarily concerned with writing, reading and literature. If you think most people hold these subjects in high regard, well . . . all I can say is that you haven’t been listening very closely to your fellow man or woman.

Although not notated as such please understand that every brain stem utterance, non-sequitur, reality-wrenching misstatement, microburst of ignorance and/or illogic reproduced here is to be understood as being end-capped thusly: [sic]

And if some of these ring familiar (see especially those utterances coming from the mouths of novice writers), all I can say is that the complexity and uniqueness of human experience apparently only goes so far: certain patterns repeat, so it would seem—everywhere.

In no particular order, then:


  1. “Reading?! I’ve no time to read; I’m in college.”
  2. “I decided to be impressive and use a semi-colon.”
  3. “I hate any book that has more than 300 pages in it; it’s so unnecessary.”
  4. “If you really want to call attention to a word or phrase tilt it.”
  5. “Unless your name is Virgil or Julius Caesar you shouldn’t be writing in Roman.”
  6. “Reading is so gay.”
  7. “The problem with most contemptible bourgeois literature is that it shamelessly propagandizes for autocratic hetero-normative values.”
  8. “I never read books written before I was born; people were so stupid then.”
  9. “I’m suspicious of science fiction; it keeps coming true.”
  10. “You know the symbol I mean: the ‘a’ with its tail wrapped around itself, like a dead possum?”
  11. “I like gun violence in the books I read; shrapnel is so random.”
  12. “The Canterbury tales weren’t written in modern English; they were written in Old English–which is French.”
  13. “I can’t read books by women; their names on the cover stop me.”
  14. “Of course women now comprise 70% of the book-buying public. Why is this so surprising? Video games do a much better job of scratching the male itch once catered to by Conan comics and Mickey Spillane paperbacks.”
  15. “The greatest writer in the world is Stephen King.”
  16. “The worst writer in the world is Stephen King.”
  17. “I can’t read fantasy; it’s so unreal.”
  18. “The thing about a good western is that all the right people die in it.”
  19. “All characters ever do in Shakespeare is talk, talk, talk.”
  20. “Greek mythology is perverted; no wonder they died out to the Mongols.”
  21. “Reading ruins your eyes and everything else.”
  22. “I only read books I can’t understand. I believe in improving myself.”
  23. “You think you’re a writer just because you use words?”
  24. “You can’t call it a mystery if you’ve finished the book.”
  25. “Libraries are arrogance centers.”
  26. “The Bible is the only book anyone needs. The correct version, of course; the _____ version.”
  27. “The only punctuation I use is the period, comma and question mark. Oh and those two little talking slashes.”
  28. “I don’t like to be shouted at by exclamation marks.”
  29. “My boss was mad at me because he thought I was mad at him: I typed in all capital letters. I told him I knew his eyes were bad.”
  30. “I couldn’t finish the book; my mother stole it.”
  31. “I caught my boyfriend reading my romance novel. He said he was jealous and wanted to know what I was up to.”
  32. “Did you read those Anne Rice s&m novels? There was so much bisexuality in them! I didn’t.”
  33. “Boldface is helpful if you want to move beyond subtlety.”
  34. “They call it literature because teachers like it. If kids like it they call the principal.”
  35. “Books are a blunt instrument; there are much faster ways of inducing clinical depression.”
  36. “I thought I would like Poe but then he Frenched me.”
  37. Moby Dick is boring! Boring, stupid and boring! I wish I was dead.”
  38. “My dad says I’ll appreciate books like that once I’ve lived long enough to understand what the author is trying to say. I said why doesn’t he just fucking say it?”
  39. “I don’t like authors who use flowery words. Like containment.”
  40. “I don’t understand a thing about poetry. Or why it’s called poetry.”
  41. “Norman Mailer’s not so tough. He’s dead, isn’t he?”
  42. “Your story needs a rape scene.”
  43. “The book exploded my brain.”
  44. “I’m going to write a bestseller next summer when I start writing. Like Tom Clancy.”
  45. “I guarantee you this story idea will make you rich; all you have to do is write it–then give me half the money you make. I’ll need you to sign a contract, of course.”
  46. “Say something in writing.”
  47. “You’re a very good writer. I didn’t read your story.”
  48. “I don’t have time to worry about lining up every dot and letter; that’s what editors are for.”
  49. “She criticized me by helping.”
  50. “What’s the fastest way to get an agent if you don’t need one?”
  51. “Will you read this and tell me what you think? It’s great! My first story. And it’s all true!”
  52. “Is the book fiction or nonfiction? Hmm . . . Neither sounds right. I think it’s that other category; they’re reading it in school. History?”
  53. “She marked my paper up to belittle-ize me.”
  54. “It’s a word that sounds like another word: a hama-nuh-nah-muh-moon.”
  55. “I couldn’t stop reading the book so I put it in the freezer.”
  56. “My dog hates that book.”
  57. “The teacher was very clear on this—if you have a parenthetical thought, forget it.”
  58. “I never read footnotes; they’re Aunt Celery to the text.”
  59. “Dictionaries are full of something, alright.”
  60. “Smug people buy thesauruses.”
  61. “This book shouldn’t be on your shelves; it’s offensive. Call the manager.”
  62. “The thing I’ll never get about writers is why they keep writing. Don’t they understand they’re irritating people?”
  63. “It’s a very good book; you’ll like it. The words are so normal you don’t even notice you’re reading!”
  64. “The whole thing ends with sharks eating the goddamn fish and I was so disgusted I started sobbing.”
  65. “The elves in Tolkien are meant to symbolize the Irish.”
  66. “A good Lovecraft tale ends in a dead professor and a muttering elder god.”
  67. “I think Andre Norton is a woman. I’m serious.”
  68. “Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men is the greatest book I ever read. It was so short; I really appreciated that.”
  69. “A novella is a book that ran out of steam.”
  70. “Sure you can read a book and not be a dork—it’s called sports or mechanical.”
  71. “He insulted me with words I’m going to look up.”
  72. “I started reading and woke up on the floor. You see what happens?”
  73. “And the ironic thing about Dante’s Inferno is that you get to the center of hell and you’re just glad it’s over.”
  74. “Yeah, but if Huckleberry Finn had kept going into Mexico, Mark Twain would have more Hispanic readers, that’s all I’m saying.”
  75. “You know what they say: use a bookmark, not a small rock.”
  76. “I never read the author bio before I start reading the text; I’ll lose respect for the book.”
  77. “Novelists think they’re so clever.”
  78. “The title The Red Badge of Courage should be re-appropriated for a YA feminist novel of menstruation.”
  79. “Every time I see the words The Naked and the Dead I think about zombie orgies.”
  80. “I don’t waste my time on short stories; the author didn’t.”
  81. “She’s like, _________ and I’m all _________. I know, right?!” [Repeat this sentence structure five times in a row.]
  82. “John Gardner was a brilliant writer who crashed into a tree.”
  83. “When someone writes a screenplay it’s called a movie. When they turn a movie into a book it’s called desperate.”
  84. “It’s amazing! They’re just letters on the page, but when the letters turn into words and the words attack you . . .”
  85. “I never remember what I read. So why read? Waste of time.”
  86. “I abhor sexist language like his, her, policeman, cock.”
  87. “How did a crucified Jewish messiah wind up with a Greek name and a Roman Empire? God’s will.”
  88. “Emily Dickinson hid in an attic because she didn’t know what her poetry was talking about.”
  89. “It’s an oxymoron, like Burger World.”
  90. “What’s that word for a sentence that reads the same backward or forward? Hippodrome? Emperor Palpatine?”
  91. “I turned all the books in his library around so that the titles faced the back of the shelf.”
  92. “You never read anything by Rudyard Kipling? You’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, right?”
  93. “The essay is a form better left unwritten.”
  94. “I don’t call it cheating; I consider it rapid studying under pressure.”
  95. “I don’t need to read the book to know what I think about it; I’m educated.”
  96. “The book is called—what’s that title with three words in it?”
  97. “The problem with Shakespeare is that he wrote in Elizabeth Town dialect.”
  98. “It’s supposed to be a dirty book but it’s all cultural. I sweated buying it for nothing.”
  99. “She insisted I read the book. We’re not talking now.”
  100. “They said the book would change your life. So I read it. Same ‘ole life.”

The Yellow Kid Rides Again?

In reply to Old Spice: Fictional characters, and their influence on humans. (With considerable assistance from Wikipedia.)

These are my opinions and not necessarily the politics of this site.


The Yellow Kid. Looks like he’s left off with the Propecia. Behind him, immigrants being railroaded to wheresoever. Is that Ivanka and hubby being dragged behind?

I find many parallels between the so-called Orange One (I see his thatch as more yellow than orange) to The Yellow Kid of Sunday supplement fame. The Yellow Kid was, from what I glean, a harmless sort, but other details are amusingly relevant to Our Golden-Shower-of-Propecia-Encouraged-Hair Leader.

A bit of background:

The Yellow Kid was the name of an American comic-strip character that ran from 1895 to 1898 in Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World, and later William Randolph Hearst‘s New York Journal. Created and drawn by Richard F. Outcault, it was one of the first Sunday supplement comic strips in an American newspaper.

He was a bald (having to do, it has been suggested, with the prevalent lice of his milieu) barefoot boy who wore an oversized yellow nightshirt (Trump with his really long tie? And I’m sure I’ve seen him in a bright yellow tie, marvelous-marvelous) and hung around in a slum (with Trump, a moral slum) typical of certain areas in late 19th-century New York City. Yellow’s Alley was filled with equally odd characters. (Trump’s soonalasto-be-cabinet, and his staff.) He habitually spoke in a ragged, peculiar slang. (Sounds on the money to me.)

Yellow journalism: 

The two newspapers which ran The Yellow Kid quickly became known as the yellow kid papers. This was contracted to the yellow papers and the term yellow kid journalism was at last shortened to yellow journalism, describing the two newspapers’ editorial practices of taking – sometimes even fictionalized (ROFL) – sensationalism and profit as their priorities.


The Yellow Kid’s image appeared on mass market retail objects such as billboards, buttons, cigarette packs, cigars, cracker tins, ladies’ fans, matchbooks, postcards, chewing gum cards, toys, whiskey and many other products. (Steaks, golf clubs, universities?)

He was the first to demonstrate that a comic strip character could be merchandised profitably. (I’m not so sure about the steaks, but certainly politically.)

Historians attribute The Yellow Kid success to the fact that he was a children’s character marketed as an anti-establishment symbol packaged for mass consumption. (Anti-Washington gull – not to be confused with gall, though that applies also – marketed to the simple-minded.)

Outcault having been lured to the Journal, the strip continued to be drawn for the World by another artist. Pulitzer and Hearst both fought to give their competing Yellow Kids more and more page space. The Battle of the Yellow Kids represented a trend in the decline of journalistic integrity (decline of journalistic integrity. Check.), of which both the World and the Journal had been guilty for years.

One vocal critic, New York Press editor Ervin Wardman, had tried many times to pin a name on the papers’ sensationalistic, exaggerated, ill-researched, and often untrue reporting, calling it new journalism and nude journalism. With the epic battle of the comic strips, he had a name that stuck: Yellow-Kid Journalism, which was eventually shortened to Yellow Journalism.

From now on I call DJT The Yellow Kid. (Carl calls him Mango Mussolini.) I like that one too. Us flotsam from the sixties might enjoy: Not-So-Mellow-Yellow.

Donovan’s lyric with revisions (I don’t think he would object):

I’m just mad about Bannon, Bannon’s mad about me. I’m just mad about Bannon. He’s just mad about me, the not-so-mellow-yellow (Quite rightly!) tremendously smart fellow. (That I be!)

I’ve decided that my verse needs some thought. It’s too much like the rabble-rouser stuff I put into Sly’s mouth. I’m laying it aside for now. I do get carried away with myself at times.


book promotion

Characters Matter

Above: Photo of Hybrid Human and Fictional Character
Below: Post by Old Spice, Earth Mission Commander

Just when I figured I had you humans thought out, up pops a Zombie. Which, according to the report just handed me by Lizbeth, my assistant ventriloquist doll, turns out to be part of a second Intelligent Life Form co-populating Earth with Humans. Fictional Characters are everywhere influencing what Humans say and do. They are quoted, they are held up as shining examples to emulate or villainous evil to destroy or simply endearing personas.

Fictional Characters may be anything imaginable. A woman becoming a Detective, a Girl and her flying carpet, a fighter pilot wreaking Major Havoc. Some are laborers, loggers, tradesmen –Ordinary Folk. There are Gods in agony and Lethal hackers There’s even a cat out there somewhere though I’m told he’s Sly and can be hard to spot.

The impact on Humanity of Fictional Characters is to alter individuals, create cultures and build civilizations. Kids play with imaginary playmates. Cultures are created around gods and myths. Heroic figures guide the rise of civilizations.

Humans are easier to understand when their imagination is weighed equally with their intellect and emotions.

And that’s why I’m here. To study Humans. Those rumors about my family banishing me to Earth over an incident involving my father’s mistress are misleading. My job, with Lisbeth’s help, is to understand Humans and the Fictional Characters they live with.

Tell me, as a writer, what Fictional Character(s) live in your head?