Background Noise

12 May

Background noise drives me bonkers.  Blither, blather, blah, blah, squeaks and talking heads and horns and kids playing, all diminish my concentration and render me useless.  As a writer, I need quiet. I need to be sequestered in a sound-proof booth until the writing is done.

My step-daughter recently bought me a coffee mug which has these words printed on it: “Fu*# Off! I’m writing!” That pretty much says it all about me and writing.

What’s weird about all of this is during my years as a teacher, background noise didn’t bother me at all.  Thirty kids in a classroom didn’t faze me one iota.  The chaos of a playground during recess was music to my ears.  But that was then and this is now, and I’m absolutely no fan of background disruptions.

And we seem to be bombarded by it more now than at any other time, or so me thinks.  Televised media and social media and increased traffic and congestion and, and, and, and, I long for peace and quiet more now than at any other time in my life.

Just shut the hell up!

And most of it is doom and gloom, and that sure as hell doesn’t help, a barrage of warnings and complaints and arguments and demands and my God, people of the world, could you just take a deep breath and let a wave of tranquility have its moment on the planet?

My folks didn’t complain.  I can remember that clearly. They did not have it easy, not by a long shot. They worked for every damned thing they had; they faced hardships; they had some serious reservations about politicians and lawyers and corporate heads; but they did not complain.

“You make your own way in life, Bill. Don’t expect help.  Complainers are people who are looking for sympathy, plain and simple, and in this household you’ll find sympathy between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.  Find a way to get it done and then do it.”

God bless my parents!  They were old school all the way, and there was nothing particularly wrong with old school in theory.  An independent spirit and a philosophy of hard work and determination will get you through some pretty tough times. So I was taught and so I believe.

But the problem with all-inclusive philosophies is they are destined to fail.  One size does not fit all. There are people in this country who are incapable of getting it done on their own, for a variety of reasons, literally millions of people who cannot get by without assistance, and that’s the rub with my parents’ philosophy of isolation and independence.

Just random thoughts as one day flies by, welcoming another, and I ponder my day under eighty-degree skies.

I hope you have a good one and, as always, I’m grateful for your visit and friendship.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Remembering You

23 Apr

The statistics just keep on pouring from the radio and television.

Allan Finder . . .

498 dead in New York City last night,  move on, a couple hundred in Detroit, Memphis had a bad night, look out, Boston, the numbers are rising, can’t get that damned curve to flow downward yet, but hope springs eternal.

Lorena Borjas . . .

And I hate to admit this but hey, someone has to, I am so accustomed to all of the death statistics that they barely register with me now. It’s like background music in a dentist’s office, you know.  I hear the sound but the actual tune is nebulous at best.

Bob Glanzer . . .

The thing is, and it’s something I’m trying to absorb today, is that each statistic is someone’s brother, someone’s wife, someone’s aunt or uncle or father or mother or child.  Each statistic is a loved one to someone, you know, and I think it’s crucial that we remember that fact.  I don’t ever want to reach the point where those statistics mean absolutely nothing to me.

Janice Rodman . . .

I think back to the Vietnam War, and how television really brought the realities of war to us all.  While eating our Swanson TV dinners, on our folding tv trays, we could turn on the news and watch as body bags were unloaded from transport planes, and witness,  up close and personal, the anguish on the faces of soldiers, thousand yard stare intact, as they grabbed a smoke on some numbered hill in the middle of some country none of us had heard of ten years prior and  God almighty, the pain we saw on those faces, and the burning corpses and amputees and rivers flowing red after the airstrikes.

Ron Hill . . .

And they built memorials for those soldiers, black granite walls for all to see, for all to remember, and hopefully for all to learn from,  but . . .

Time has a way of muting the memories, now doesn’t it, and I wonder if, when this is all over, we’ll go back to the way it was, or will we wake up, snap to attention, and let this lesson sink into our gray matter, change the way we go about our lives, and appreciate the sweet wonder of life itself.

And will the dead be remembered, those sons and daughters, wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, will there be memorials for them, the victims of a faceless enemy, one who crept into the night and filled so many with dread and nightmares . . .

Wishing you all good health and happiness

Love,

bill

We Can Do This!

9 Apr

We can do this lock-down thing!

Repeat after me: WE CAN DO THIS!

Let me tell you a story about my dad.

On January 22, 1944, Dad and 36,000 other Allied soldiers landed on the beach at Anzio, Italy.  Their landing was unopposed and basically undetected by the German forces.

Anzio Beach was reclaimed marsh land, and it was surrounded on three sides by hills.

The plan from High Command called for a swift landing, an even swifter establishment of a beachhead, and then an advance on Rome.  Somehow, though, the orders from High Command were either misunderstood or ignored by General Lucas, commander of the landing forces.  Lucas felt it important to fortify the hastily-constructed beachhead, so valuable time was spent doing that in anticipation of a counterattack.

That valuable time gave the Germans time to occupy the surrounding hills and begin dropping shells down upon the Allied forces, who were trapped on that beach for over a month.  For thirty days the Allied soldiers lived in trenches and hoped that the next shell did not have their name on it. Day and night the German big guns fired down onto that beach, and day and night the casualties mounted and hell on earth visited those soldiers in my dad’s corps.

Mind you, my dad enlisted in the Army because fighting in a war was a guaranteed paycheck, something my dad hadn’t seen in nine years because of The Great Depression.

We can do this lock-down thing!

Of course this pandemic is unsettling and difficult, but it sure isn’t like having explosive shells falling out of the sky.

WE CAN DO THIS!

Be safe, my friends!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Sister Hope

31 Mar

More naps these days

I’m tired of talking about COVID-19.  I don’t even like that name.  Whoever thought of it lacked imagination in my humble opinion.  Lol

How about a writing exercise?  You don’t have to do a thing.  I’m just going to play with words and see what happens.  It’s kind of nice to have all this extra time to hone my craft.

Should I go dark or upbeat? Let’s see what happens!

Uncensored and unedited, here we go . . .

A WRITING EXERCISE

I figured I had seen pretty much all there was to see on these mean streets.

I was wrong!

Nighttime arrives early on these streets, not so much an act of nature as a shadowing of evil.  Humanity changes when the light ebbs and the obsidian darkness blankets us all in West Oakland.

They call me Professor, a reference to a former life, a life derailed by black tar and a weakness of the soul.

Walk with me any night and you will see a new species shuffling among the detritus and waste of the forgotten.  Mules and pimps, snorters and sniffers, AB’s and ballers, gang bangers and peckerwoods, flying the colors, ridin’ the rails, strapped and ranked, all leading to tear drops and ten toes down in the Wild, Wild West of Peralta Street.

You want it, you got the cash, you can buy it, simple as that, my friend, angel dust to fallen angels, and a twenty will get you both when there’s a downturn to the market, a market run by the 98 Crew, the 500 Locos, and a dozen other affiliates looking to cash in on the two-headed cash cow, drugs and sex, as old a story as time itself, and lead flies often, bodies tumble in the gutter, rats feast, and the cops continue a hands-off policy for self-preservation.

In the middle of it all, one night, July 8th, so damned hot that night, stood Sister Hope, swear to God that’s what she called herself, right there on the street corner, wearing a flowing white dress, as pure as the snow sold in dime bags ten feet from where she stood, Sister Hope, smiling at all who passed her, greeting them with “Blessings and peace to you all,” and the locals giving her space, thinking maybe the crazies could be transmitted by breathing her air.

Late twenties, early thirties, golden hair flowing over her shoulders, an unblemished face, maybe five-four, one-ten at most, intimidating in her vulnerability, you know, none of the soldiers knowing what to make of her, and not willing to be the first to find out.  One, two, three, four nights in a row she appeared,  origin unknown, same corner, the whores standing aside, making room for her, and “Blessings and peace to you all” coming forth to all, a smile which could melt butter, bringing light to the darkness, and I’ll be damned, man, but for four nights the drive-bys ended, the rapes ended,  the muggings and beatings and degradation ended, and it was like a new universe, you know, like we were all beamed down into, what do the mystics call it, Nirvana, yes, some state of inner peace, strangest damned thing I’ve ever seen.  It was on the news, check it out if you don’t believe my chatter, four nights, four days, all quiet on the west side, cops totally baffled, not sure what to make of it.

On the fifth day, Sister Hope was gone.

 

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Hope you enjoyed it!  Remember, if you need a writing coach, I’m available.

Be safe and happy!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Making Lemonade From Lemons

24 Mar

I hate lemons!

I love lemonade!

It’s weird, I know, but I never claimed to be a “normal” guy.

I hate tomatoes but love tomato soup.

I could go on and on, but I really do have to get to the point.

More naps these days

I’m not a panic kind of guy.  It’s all about upbringing.  My dad simply looked at obstacles as challenges and nothing more.  Landing at Anzio and being pinned down by German guns for a couple months?  A challenge!  Broken back in a car accident?  A challenge! No education beyond 10th Grade and in need of a job?  A challenge!  He simply would not allow his only son to shrink in the face of adversity, not after all he faced in his life.

We are definitely facing adversity right now, aren’t we?

I hate pandemics!

I love a challenge!

If my dad was alive today, he would face COVID-19 the same way he faced every other challenge in his life:  Head-on, bring it on, always move forward and never let the bastards know you are concerned.

I laugh as I write that, but it’s the truth, it’s how I was raised, and it is how I’ll get through this pandemic stuff.

I cleaned the garage last week.  I worked in the garden this past weekend.  I have increased my writing since the pandemic occurred and, interestingly, my freelance writing business has increased.  My to-do list around the house is longer than my arm and I now have no external excuses to keep me from tackling it.

And, of course, I have four books which need to be written!

Instant attraction

Meanwhile, Bev is home, laid-off for six weeks, and she is working on herself.  She’s working on time-management and a healthier lifestyle in an attempt to lessen her natural stress levels and also to reduce her asthma problems.  She stays busy!

We are being productive!  We are not hiding under the covers hoping the Big Bad Wolf will go away.  There are things to do, things which can be done while practicing social-distancing, and we are doing them.

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”

Helen Keller

 

Lemonade from lemons!

I am not delusional nor am I hiding from reality.  I just see no reason to panic.  We were not created to live in fear. We were created to fly with the angels and, by God, that’s what I’m trying to do.

I wish you all good health and happiness.

If you are in need of a writing coach, email me at holland1145@yahoo.com.  I charge $50 per month, no minimums, and if I can’t help you with your particular problem I’ll let you know.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Random Acts of Kindness

18 Mar

Our home in the 60’s

A letter out of the blue, which I already shared on Facebook:

Bill — I know this is totally out of the blue, and I have no clue whether or not you’d even remember me, but I was that little kid a block up from you on North 18th…the one who was obsessed with baseball and moved away from the neighborhood when my dad went back into the Service in 1966 during the Vietnam days. While only 11 when we moved, your kindness and patience with me has remained a positive memory for all these years. It seems you would always be kind and play catch with me even though you were older and your skills were far beyond mine. I thank you for being such a positive role model during those early days. One never realizes the impact they have on someone else as life goes by, but we don’t live forever. So I wanted you to know you and your mom and dad are remembered fondly. Hope this finds you well. Warmest regards – Mike

I was touched, to say the least.  We are talking fifty-four years ago, the last time I saw little Mikey Todd, one block west of our home, a constant presence in those days, his baseball glove attached to the handle bars of his bike, knocking on our front door, “hey, Bill, could you come out and play some catch,” and more often than not I would, me being six years his senior but always willing to play baseball.

You just never know, do you?  An act of kindness; a warm gesture to someone in need of attention; it all matters, my friends, and that’s my message on this Tuesday – it all matters!

I’ve lived a long time, and I’ve known many people, and it’s a bit overwhelming and yet gratifying to know that I made a difference in the lives of some of those people.  And the thing is, we all do this. We have all done it.  We will all do it in the future.   We all make a difference in the lives of others.

In a time when it seems every single news story is negative, I think it is vital to keep in mind that humans, at their best, are incredibly loving and caring people.

I know all of you are!

Just a random thought for today.  Stay safe and healthy today and beyond.  Now I have a yard to work in and spring cleaning to do.  This social distancing thing is a piece of cake for an old recluse like me.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Characters We Remember

10 Mar

So Bev and I were watching our latest sinful pleasure last night, Poldark, and we got into conversation about what makes a show a great show.

Certainly the writing plays a big part in it.  Without great scripts I’m afraid any movie or tv series is not long for this world.

And the other thing we mentioned is the fact that we have to become invested in the characters.  If I can’t relate to the characters in some way, I lose interest very quickly.  I was reminded of the show Madmen, which aired for seven seasons a few years back.  I don’t think there was a single character in that show I would like as a real human being, but I found them all fascinating and so I watched that show religiously.

I try to remember that when I write a short story or a novel.  My characters don’t necessarily have to be believable, but they do have to be interesting and captivating.  Their personalities must demand your attention or I have not done my job as a writer.  In my Shadow series, the main characters are not people you would want over for a cup of tea, but damn I’d love to meet Striker.  LOL

Just something to think about!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Bestseller Within You

25 Feb

“Inside each man is a bestselling novel.”

Have you heard that saying before?  I paraphrased it, I’m sure, and I don’t know who is credited with originally saying it, but that has stuck in my mind for years.

Is it true?  I think in the broadest sense yes, it is a true statement.  I’ve written before that we are all extraordinarily ordinary.  There is a great story in each of us for sure, and that story, in the hands of a master storyteller, could be a bestselling novel.

Please note that last phrase, “in the hands of a master storyteller.”  I think it’s important!

I see sunshine and beautiful colors

Anyone can tell a story.  We have all done it.  Hell, anyone can write a book.  You just string about seventy-thousand words together in some organized fashion and you have a book.

But not everyone can write a book people would actually enjoy reading, and therein lies the rub!

Writing a good book, an enjoyable book, a desirable book, requires skill in story structure.  It requires a knowledge of pacing and foreshadowing and voice and setting and dialogue.  It requires vision and the ability to make that vision a cohesive piece of writing spanning multiple chapters.

I have heard it said before that there are no new ideas about books or songs. The major themes have been done, redone, and done ad nauseum for decades.  Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl meet obstacles, boy and girl live happily ever after.  Or protagonist meets a major challenge and somehow finds a way to overcome that challenge, blah, blah, and more blah, and that’s the simple point:  a skilled writer can take an overused story concept and somehow, through skill and creativity, make it so interesting that it seems brand new.

Can that ability be taught?  To a certain extent, yes!  I can take an average writer and make them a good writer.  I might even elevate them to the “very good” level simply by working with them on the basics of writing a book.  Can they elevate to “master?”  That, I’m afraid, depends upon their inherent talent.

Give me a shout out if you want some coaching.  Email me at holland1145@yahoo.com and let’s make that idea inside of you a coherent, interesting novel.  I look forward to the challenge.  I will work closely with you, for one month, for only fifty bucks.  I promise you that kind of deal only comes along once in a lifetime.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Bouncing Around My Brain

11 Feb

RANDOMNESS

I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other day, The Pharmacist, a powerful tale of one man who wanted answers about the shooting death of his son during an apparent drug buy in New Orleans.  At one point the audio captures the anguished ramblings of mother and father as they come to grips with the death of their beloved son, and I have to tell you, you would have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by that one scene.  I was in tears as I listened to the raw pain in their voices.

As a writer, that audio was an inspiration for me.  As a writer, it is my job, through the written word, to capture that kind of angst.

It is a formidable challenge for sure!  I fail as often, if not more, than I succeed, but the times I do succeed are a high unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I imagine it is the same for a song writer or an artist or anyone else dabbling in the Arts.

I was listening to the beautiful song “Vincent” by Don McLean.  The same reaction, tears, and absolute admiration, silent applause for a song writer hitting a home run with one mighty swing of his pen.

The painting by Munch, The Scream, is one more example.  It is impossible for me to see that painting without feeling the helplessness inherent in that painting . . . and some of the photographs by Dorothea Lange of people trying to survive during The Great Depression . . . there is one photo of a woman feeding her baby, the woman showing on her face the absolute gravity of the situation she is in . . . it is brilliant!

THE POINT

I guess the point is this:  The Arts are vitally important.  They provide a window for us all to see the Human Experience, and as a writer I am very proud to be a part of that effort, and I hope you are as well.  You may never be famous, but what you do is important!

Keep on keeping on!

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

You can find my memoir, “And the Blind Shall See,” on Amazon, and if you are in need of a writing coach, email me at holland1145@yahoo.com.  $50 for one month of individual instruction . . . you will not find a better price.

REVIEW

A review about my memoir which touched me deeply:

“I have been blessed to know Bill since 2003. I was blessed to meet some of his family, including his Mother, and he was there for me when my Mother passed away. His story is brutally honest. This is not fiction….just the story of a man’s life thus far. If your life is perfect, this may not be a story for you, but read it anyway. If you’ve hit a bump or two over the years, or are going thru some bumps now, by all means, you need to read this book. You are welcome to my copy, I’ll get another. We all go thru similar stuff, and it is truly a blessing to read how others navigate this journey. Truly from his heart, which I believe is the only way Billybuc would have it…..Peace and love, my brother. Thank you for being “you”.”

The book is called “And the Blind Shall See,” and if you purchase it, I thank you, and I hope you find something in it which speaks to you.

Have a great week!

Bill

 

What Do You See?

4 Feb

What do you see?

Look at the photo!  What do you see?

The tranquility of a Fall day, Mother Earth resting before the tumult of Winter, long shadows of early afternoon, the sun trying in vain to provide heat to this mountain valley, the river calm and peaceful, the distant mountains free of the snowy mantel which will be upon them soon.  A colorful palate, at least four shades of green, five of blue, the sunshine playing tricks on the eye’s mind, first you see it, then you don’t, nature’s magic show on display daily, no admittance cost.

What else?  Look closely!

Dying pines in the forefront, losing the battle against shallow soil, relentless winds, and a drier than normal summer.  Looking north/northeast, the shadows relinquishing that bit of information, the valley oddly empty of wildlife, an oddity for this area, known for wildlife and man coming together in a NO-FIRE ZONE, designated a protected area to infinity and beyond, and thank the gods for that designation.

What you don’t see

A dam-free river, one of the few remaining in the contiguous United States, looking much the same as it did in the early 1800’s when mountain men swarmed the area in search of beaver, the photo could be from that era or it could be from present-day, time standing still for generations to marvel at.

Flowing north, northeast, finally meeting up with the Mighty Mo, this is a river rooted deeply in the American story, known to the French who once trapped here as the Roche Jaune, the surrounding area known as Colter’s Hell, geysers and hot pools appearing mystical to early visitors.

The reveal

The Majestic Yellowstone River, flowing through Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park, one of the truly beautiful, unspoiled spots in the United States, free to all visitors, a gift from our ancestors, a gift to our children, may we always see the wisdom in conservation and preservation.

What’s the point?

Inspiration is all around us, for all of us who love to write.

A fun experience

I recently sat down for a video chat with my friend Shell Vera, a Fireside Chat about my writing process and about life.  You can see that video by following this link.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for spending some time with me.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”