Trumpism 101

Politics is a fact of my writing life these days. Events are too momentous to avoid and the noise of political chatter too loud to be ignored. So I did what I do about most things that bother me – I wrote. And Donald Trump’s presidency bothers me.

Donald J. Trump is The Man Who Would Be Famous; to be known as the ‘greatest whatever’ is the single purpose of his life. Intellectually challenged, he rode his determination and the support of a doting Dad over and through a succession of failures and financed reboots until he found his niche in the fantasy world of reality television. Inverting the premise of the Truman Show, Donald J. Trump rode the escalator down a parody and into the Presidency of the United States of America. He couldn’t believe it, at first. All he had to do was continue playing the character he’d developed for his reality t.v. show, now in this extended run for four wonderful years. And there was, at last, money to be made. Reality would mimic Fantasy.

Trump’s abandonment of our former allies is neither sudden nor impulsive. It’s part of his secret agreement with Russia and subsequent deal with Erdogan. Trump’s America has withdrawn from the Globalist deal into extreme Nationalist Isolationism. We’re out of global accords (Paris and NATO) and re-negotiating all existing trade treaties. Putin is happy to preside over the restoration of the Soviet empire and with Russian support, Erdogan is happy to find a new role in the realigned Europe. It’s all predicated on US withdrawal and has been very carefully orchestrated so far. Following the money reveals financial incentives, in both Turkey and Russia, for Trump’s behavior and decisions.

Trump’s base believes in his doctrine of ‘America First’ which amounts to what you and I might call Isolationism; it’s sustained by a rich aggregate of popular ‘conspiracy theories’ about Government activities. Post nine-eleven, many rational citizens have lost confidence in elected officials. Trump’s loud, crude, anti-government rhetoric plays well with this base. They are confident as well that he’s correct in his belief that America can ‘go it alone’ so – his betrayal of the Kurds; his green-light to Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions; his withdrawal from the Paris accords; his obvious disdain for NATO and the UN; his ban on immigration and, finally, his theatrical invocation of the ghost of a glorious American past, together constitute a platform on which his anti-intellectual movement, Trumpism, is standing.

Trump himself may be now in his own Führerbunker, but the grievances that give coherence to the diversity of his base will not go away. Time will turn him into an eccentric and aberrant folk hero.

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The Self Publishing Dilemma

Many years ago I was advised to always look it up.

“When you’re reading,” my father told me, “you must never pass over a word you don’t understand. Always stop, go to the dictionary, and look it up”

It was good advice and I took it. Over the years it’s gotten easier to look things up; when I’m reading an ebook (yeah, that’s a legitimate word, without the hyphen) there’s seamless access to the dictionary. So I indulge and I continue to be amazed by the language, and its oddities. Like the word anodyne, for example.

At home we’re currently reading Rosie Carpe by Marie NDiaye, in translation by Tamsin Black; NDiaye is a great writer, and I wish I could read the book in the original French. Anyway, Ms Black offers the word ‘anodyne’ in her translation and it puzzled me at first. Here’s the passage from the book.

Rosie, serious and anodyne in her blue clothes, watched all this without a word and this time did not show that she still got as much pleasure from opposing the Carpes.

I was familiar with the word as a noun; an anodyne, in my vocabulary, was a pain-killer but this was anodyne the adjective and I was frankly stumped.

So I did what I always do and went to the dictionary. Where I learned that as an adjective, the word indicates something, according to the online Oxford, that is

Not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull – ‘anodyne music’

There was something learned and much to wonder about.

First there’s the matter of the original usage, in French, by Ms Ndiaye. I’m going to need some help on this one. All Google gives is the word calmante which seems to be a noun. Any native French speakers out there? This looks like an example of brilliant translation, in which the line between translator and author, while not erased, yields to a very close collaboration. Kudos to Ms. Tamsin Black.

Beyond that, the encounter with the adjective provoked some misgivings about myself.

It’s about the self-promotion thing that’s an essential part of self-publishing. Perhaps my personality is too anodyne to engage the public, with the necessary enthusiasm, in talking up and about myself. Of course I think that I can write well but whether I have written well is an open question, one that I can’t trust myself to answer objectively.

“So fake it till you make it,” my cliché ridden friends tell me and that may be the best advice on the subject.

But there’s another, better solution, and it involves you, esteemed Reader. You can tell me what you think of The Obeahman’s Dagger. If you’ve read the book, please leave a comment here, or better, leave a review anywhere – Goodreads maybe?

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a link on Barnes and Noble. If you need a free copy I’ll be happy to provide one.

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Reboot

About three years ago I completed and self-published my first book, The Obeahman’s Dagger. I did it all – writing, editing, proof-reading, cover design, and layout and when it was done, I was a very proud writer/publisher. A Kirkus review pointed out some weaknesses but gave me a good grade overall. Another professional opined that I should have used a professional editor but that all things considered, I’d done a remarkable job. She congratulated me with an E for effort.

By this time, say about seven or eight weeks post publication, I was experiencing the reality of what I’d done, and it was not a pretty sight. I began to see that I’d done a terrible job and had actually published a draft. What’s that they say, worse than a crime, a blunder? Yep, that was what I’d done. Blundered.

Now if you look again at the list in the first paragraph, you’ll see that I did no marketing. And the second paragraph will tell you why. I had no confidence in the quality of the book.

So for a long time I just left it there, an admission that I wasn’t up to the task. I didn’t know how to write fiction and before I did anything, I knew that I had to take care of that bit of business.

Back to school then, to learn something new.

Gotta say that there were several inputs in this initiative – a number of books on the subject; an online course in Creative Writing from Wesleyan University via Coursera; and participation in two writing groups, Buffalo Writers Meetup and the North Tonawanda Writers Group.

About a month ago I decided to rewrite The Obeahman’s Dagger and to redo the cover. The new edition is up and available on both Smashwords and Amazon.

Here’s a description of the book:

Set in the Caribbean island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, this is the story of David Chelmsford, a young journalist drawn unwillingly into an occult adventure in the realms of West African Vodun and its Trinidadian equivalent, Obeah.

David Chelmsford is unhappy with the corruption, crime and drug abuse in his country. He is upset with the degradation of the annual Carnival and the loss of the beauty of the old traditions. He wants to write something better than the drivel that is inflicted on the public year after year during the Carnival season. When his photographer colleague stumbles on a police record that documents the existence of an active serial killer, operating in the confusion of Carnival, he is excited by the story and suggests to his editor that the paper report on the disappearances of young women every Carnival, as suggested by the file his friend unearthed.

His editor rejects the proposal insisting instead that his Carnival assignment is a story that will document the experiences and impressions of an American tourist who is in Trinidad for the annual Carnival. David accepts the assignment while remaining determined to follow the story about the serial disappearances on his own.

Both assignments collide violently when his designated tourist becomes the present target of the serial killer and David must go toe to toe with a powerful and ruthless opponent, one skilled in the arcane magic of Vodun and Obeah.

And here’s the new cover:SmashwordsCover

I would absolutely love to get reviews – good, bad or indifferent. Give me one star or five, I don’t care, just please let me know what you think. You may use the comment on this blog to request an Amazon copy.  Happy to review your book in return.; I will review books for free copies.

I prefer science fiction, occult fiction, literary novels or non-fiction but I’ll read anything. My bias will not usually affect my judgement. I can’t promise to read everything I get; think my limit is about two reviews per month. The rest will go on a wait list, in order received. Contact me if you want to send print copies, though I prefer e-books. Less clutter.

If you’re concerned that my review might be less than brilliant, request a private assessment before I post the review for public consumption. Don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’ll post here, on Goodreads, and wherever else I can. You need a verified purchase to post a review on Amazon.

Thank you, amazing reader.

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About Me

I am not a narcissist but I think it’s time I told the readers of my blog a little bit about me. I’m an outsider, an observer, a thinker and (after all this time) finally, a writer, with one self-published novel to my credit, The Obeahman’s Dagger. I’m working on a new book, The Omega Hypothesis, a sci-fi genre story set in a dystopian future. The young protagonist’s search for her treasonous father is closely watched by the Secret Police and when she is caught up in the struggle for possession of the Omega Hypothesis, she is catapulted into a war for Freedom in America and the world.

I had imagined that I’d have completed the novel by now but the thing keeps growing and changing as I write, and read. For example, I’m presently reading, for the umpteenth time, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is a problem because the excellence of Bradbury’s writing makes me cringe when I read my own stuff. Then I go back to my manuscript and rip out pages, sections, chapters and decide that I must do better. When do I stop?

When I’m satisfied, that’s when. In the meantime, I have to eat. Like Bradbury, I have a very understanding and supportive mate who is willing to support what must seem to her like my addiction to writing. I spend a lot of time on it and we all know that time is money. Except in my case. Thanks to the Internet though, I’m able to make a small contribution to our income – I recently set up an online store through which I’m able to sell items we find at estate sales and thrift shops. With my handyman skills and tools, I’m usually able to repair and refurbish the vintage appliances and sewing machines we find.

So I’m back at my writing desk, working on making The Omega Hypothesis the best book I can. The draft I’m discarding is over sixty thousand words; I hope I don’t have to throw it all away but I will if I must. I’m already seventy years old, a fact that I do my best to ignore but secretly I’m just hopeful that I will have enough time to finish the book before I get the call.

I feel a bit like Schrodinger’s cat just now.

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Yes, But do They Believe Him?

Everybody knows that the President lies. The big question is whether and by whom he is believed. At a recent rally in Wisconsin President Trump told a story:

The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

This, he told his audience, is what routinely happens under Democratic leadership in the state; it appears that a majority of those present applauded his remarks.1 What were they endorsing? Did they think for one second that it was a true story? Or is it that it no longer matters what he says as long as he says it? So is it then that he has established a narrative, about himself and his vision, that they have embraced and telling outrageous stories is part of that Truth? Let’s step back a bit, away from Donald Trump, to take a look at how our Government has being doing the people’s business. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?

I invite you to examine the story of Prisoner 760 as written by Ben Taub in The New Yorker of April 22. The Government was convinced, without substantial evidence, that Prisoner 760 was a ‘high-value’ prisoner whose information was vital to ‘national security’ and it was expedient to use any and all means to extract that information from him. His insistence that he did not have the answers they sought, and expected, was received by his interrogators as evidence of the strength of his resistance and cause for increasing the torture in order to force him to confess to what they already knew that he knew. They were searching his mind for a known unknown. The account is available – a google search for “prisoner 760” brings up several sources, most behind paywalls, but it’s on the wikileaks page for free.

What I wish to point out is how the Government lied about its handling of prisoners, ‘enemy combatants’, after the tragic, infamous attacks on American civilians on September 11, 2001. All involved parties knew that while the official policy was that civilized people like us do not torture prisoners, behind closed doors, we were doing just that. That disconnect, between official and unofficial policy, has always existed and continues to this moment. Everybody knows this to be true, as well as they know that Trump tells the biggest and greatest lies of them all. He appears on the public stage, wearing the mask of the Truth-Teller, claiming the identity of the ‘anti-politician’ while he employs the worst and most cynical of political tactics to hold on to the highest political office in the land.

The Messiah appears in that ironic space, and he is an old white man, rich, lecherous, and boastfully ignorant. And just a little bit criminal, as are all our heroes.

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In my little town

A small vegan grocery store opened nearly a year ago, on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda, my little town. When it opened I thought that it represented something that was happening in the community, a kind of revival at the core. It seemed to me part of a sustainable initiative that would bring real benefits to everyone and improve the general quality of life.

I’m not a capitalist, not a socialist, not a communist. People will do what they must to live together and they will do as they please to secure their lives, their property and their kin. The rulers will rule as long as we will bow. When we storm the bastille they will tremble and run for their lives. The power is ours to wield, or not. We owe our lives to each other. That is the whole truth about the politics of everyday life.

When that small vegan store opened for business in March of 2018, I felt the centre of gravity of the community shift slightly. The results were real, observable even within my own family.

We were not vegan then; we still aren’t today. We’re not even committed vegetarians.

But we were all drawn to the idea of veganism, as individuals and collectively, as a family. In our discussions about food, we all agreed that we were not comfortable with factory farmed food in general; meat products were especially distasteful. Please understand that I’m not particularly squeamish about food. I’m a country boy who grew up seeing my father kill and clean a yard fowl for our dinner, or gut and clean some fresh-caught fish for the frying pan. I’ve done those things myself, in my turn, during those young years of my life.

These are different times. I live in a city now and there’s no room for yard fowl, no easy access to fresh-caught fish from an unpolluted ocean or river. There’s no farmer next door, no cows and goats in the backyard field. We keep a kitchen garden and a small compost heap in our tiny backyard where the plants struggle to find sufficient sunlight to grow strong and bear fruit. But it’s an important gesture and we make it, every year.

So when the vegan food store opened on Oliver, we felt like a small sun had come down in our midst.

You must understand that to an objective observer, all this would be invisible. We were feeling all these things but the only thing we would ever buy from the store was non-dairy ice-cream, pretty much. (I must say – you have to try it. Just the best.) But there was change happening inside the family, catalyzed by the presence of the The Vegan Grocery Store on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.

Slowly, as if in response to the shift in the centre of gravity of the neighborhood, meat products slowly disappeared from the weekly grocery list; it’s still an ongoing process and I have no idea where it’s going to end up.

What I can say is that we’re educating ourselves about the situation of the planet and we’re trying to figure out what we can do to effect a remedy. A plant based diet is probably best for us and for the planet but old ways are hard to change. It’s complicated.

And although I’m still not vegan, I’m really, really happy that The Vegan Grocery Store is still open on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.

Go get some of that non-dairy ice cream. You’ll love it.

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Memento Mori

Believe nothing. Many years ago a fine teacher and friend handed me that piece of advice and I thought it then a perfectly good idea. I still do and it has served me well, bringing me to my present state of mind and understanding of the world around me. It’s really about people, mostly.

My world is produced by the way I interact with the people around me. Your world is produced by the way you interact with the people around you. Our world is produced by the way we interact with the people around us. Of this we can be sure – everything else is open to inquiry. The physics of the quantum Universe establishes that clearly. The material world is a Grand Uncertainty.

This is difficult for most, impossible for some, to accept. The world is shouting, screaming at us, memento mori, fool, but we pretend not to hear. We require certainty, security in our whatever it is that we think we have, and will have, for all eternity.

Love me forever, we say to our wives and husbands, for our love will never die.

Does that hurt? Is reality painful? It doesn’t have to be, my dear one. It really is all in your head. Except for the part about dying, it’s all created in and out of your mind, your will, if you choose to exercise it.

What I’m saying here is we can save the world. We have that power, to act, always. There is an external reality because we’re not alone. We come and we go, some say multiple times, and the world goes on. Life is a Grand Chain of Uncertainty that is subject to our collective will and wisdom.

You, my dear, must choose. There is no belief that matters. Only the reality of your relationships and your choices.

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Work Ethic

This post is not a plug for Writers’ Relief. I have not used the service and I’m in no position to recommend or repudiate it.

I’m presently working on my second novel; its working title is The Omega Hypothesis. My first, The Obeahman’s Dagger, was a fairly good literary effort but came up a dismal failure in sales. Well written, but no page turner and it was not aggressively marketed. Most critics assert that marketing is more difficult than writing and that a good book without great marketing will never enjoy good sales. The converse, they argue, also holds – a poor book can be marketed to financial success. I disagree.

Of these two factors, in accounting for the book’s market failure, I give priority to the writing. The writing was weak and the chain broke.

I will not repeat that mistake.

So to perfect Omega I’m determined to get professional help. I understand that this is a cost and if I can find a publisher, I’d be happy to do a deal. In the meantime, I’m researching all offers of professional editorial services, which is what brought me to the Writers’ Relief.

Writers’ Relief offer support services in two ways (‘Two’ is a bit of an oversimplification but I’m not trying to sell the service so for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick with ‘two’) – full service and a la carte.

With the full service you get all kinds of help (there’s the complication) and you’re expected to write, write, write. This is for the fully committed writer, the one determined to work for success. With the a la carte service, you pay a flat fee and they will determine the 25 best publications for your work, saving you many hours of research, trial, and error.

What I find interesting is that to access the full service your writing must first be evaluated and accepted by a review board. The a la carte service is open to anyone willing to pay the (relatively) small fee. (At my last look it was $150.)

Is this some kind of scam? If it is, it’s a pretty strange kind of scam, one that refuses potential victims.

Remember my flop, The Obeahman’s Dagger? Have you guessed yet what I’m about to tell you? No? Yes?

Well I submitted The Obeahman’s Dagger to Writers’ Relief – it was rejected. No market for a book like that they said, adding kindly, not even for one as well written as The Obeahman’s Dagger.

I may or may not use Writers’ Relief in the near future but they’ve taught me one lesson already – if you’re writing, write.

Here’s a quote from their website –

Our Full Service clients who are making regular submissions are “screened” by our Review Board. But our A La Carte clients, who submit irregularly as they please, do not need Review Board approval.”

What I find instructive is the phrase ‘submit irregularly as they please’ – the implication is that if you want to get published, to be taken seriously as a writer, you must write regularly, and well.

Contrary to the popular opinion, marketing is the easy part.

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Don’t Read My Blog

Not today, anyway. Yes I’m still writing, working now on a collection of short stories that I intend to self-publish, in three editions — digital Kindle, Kindle audiobook, and print version with CreateSpace. But today I want you to follow the link, here, and read an opinion piece that should be considered by every American citizen and by anyone in the world who values the collective welfare of the planet.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with more about my writing. Today, we believe the women.

Thank you for your support,

Neil.

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the center holds …

I think I’ve lost control of my blog. It was supposed to be about writing, the writer’s journey, all about language and technique. It was supposed to be honest and open about my process, a first person account, a personal journal for all to read. Maybe I went to far down the road of honest and open. Or maybe this is my writer’s journey.

The other day, we went for a bike ride, me and the kids, down the scenic trail that follows the Niagara River as it flows past Tonawanda, New York. We saw things we’d never seen before.20180726_160359

“Did you see that,” said twelve year old Hazel.

“Yeah, What if you saw something new every day of your life? D’you think that’s possible?” I said.

“Of course,” she said.

“Do you see something new every day?”

“Yes. Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?”

“I suppose they do but they’re not paying attention so they don’t realize it.”

“Well I see new things all the time,” she said.

“That’s the attentive life I guess,” I said. “You know, that sounds good, The attentive life. Think I’ll put it in a blog.”

“Don’t be preachy,” she warned.

“Who me? Never. That’s boring. Nobody wants to read preachy.”

Smart kid. Reader, if I get that way, stop reading immediately.

20180726_160104

Sharon and I live as simply as we can. We don’t want or have a lot. We spend a lot of time with the kids and with each other. We work together on our little Ebay business, selling the interesting things we find at Estate sales and thrift shops. We’re recyclers, cleaning and fixing and reselling. Mostly vintage sewing machines and appliances but often other stuff like printers or household items. We home-school the kids and I write. Lately it’s been getting harder both financially and emotionally.

‘Emotionally’ isn’t the word but it’s as close as I can come in standard English. ‘Empathy’?Or maybe there’s a German word that goes something like schadenleid,  a feeling of sadness in other’s sadness, a sort of antonym to schadenfreude. If there is, then that’s what I’m feeling. I’m not saddened by life; I’m a lucky guy, with lots of good genuine friends and some beautiful children, from two marriages. I live free and am reasonably healthy. Nothing really bad has happened to me – the bad stuff was my fault and mostly avoidable. But the milieu has changed.

Israel and Palestine, Gaza; the destruction of the Socialist experiment in Venezuela; the American Empire bombing and droning the regimes it didn’t like; Homeland Security; racism and policing; racism and the President; the open resurgence of the KKK; homelessness and child poverty; the deterioration of Health Services – a tsunami of badness, with a sick President surfing the wave to more power. All of that is leaking through my castle walls.

So, dear Reader, forgive me if I impose on your goodwill; I find it necessary to incorporate all of this, to open my doors to everything out there, to feel and experience it all. And to write about it.

When I’m done with this blog entry I’ll go back to the novel I’m presently working on – science fiction about a child’s search for her father. Maybe I’ll put a chapter up here at some point, so you can tell me what you think.

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