Ice Pick Soup

VeronaTake a time journey to legendary Verona. Meet the Intuinoobs, Bubblers, spies, poets and catacomb crawlers. Return via a premier stage play in Newfoundland and have dinner in Kansas. Briefly step into the night line life of Alexis Mandell.

Short story, fiction, 13K words. Free. PDF format.

Download it here: Ice Pick Soup

Back then it didn’t matter who you were. It only mattered what you wore and how much you could drink on a given Thursday. – Unknown Poet of the period.

The best things in life are short, including people. – Orion Smiley, from the home land.

If you must make a point, never make it so sharp as to puncture yourself. – Verse from a Vin Intuinoob drinking song.

The Ice Pick Soup Saga

Summary of the Collected Works

A Note

Gregor and I have been invited to spend some time in Sogni, near legendary Verona. We will be meeting with the Intuinoobs, Bubblers and a number of other local characters, including catacomb crawlers. We can be contacted at:

Digipoint Locator ID: 395864385109:AA1:4004

using the approved trade craft and beamer protocol. We will also forward updates to this location as appropriate. In the meantime, thank you very much for the past year of fun and friendship.

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Writers and Their Rejections

Rejection Therapy logo

Most of the writers I’ve known over the decades had one goal in mind – publication. They reached for the gold standard of traditional publishing. Most of them never got there. It usually had little to do with their talent.

Many of these writers deserved better. They should have been published. Their work was excellent, polished and moving. But, somewhere along the line, they gave up. They reached an impenetrable bulwark that sidetracked their work and talent. It was the wall of rejection and, for some very talented writers, it was too much to overcome.

Rejection is a tough issue for anyone. In the world of writing, it’s inevitable. For those writers who set the gold standard of publication for themselves, it sometimes became the breaking point. Understandable, right?. However, for those writers who eventually made it through the desert of rejection, there was a potent reward waiting.

The question is one of perspective, self-confidence and experience. It all boils down to how you value rejection. Here’s one way to look at the issue.

Agent rejection. Agents live on the work and talent of writers. That’s the nature of their business. Good agents are looking for long-term relationships with their writers. There’s a reason for this. Once that first book has been published, the chances of future publishing opportunities increase exponentially. Beyond that, getting published opens up doors of opportunity in related areas. Good agents understand this kind of critical mass. It’s why the best of them thrive on long-term relationships.

The bad news is that top notch agents are rare. Most are only interested in signing a writer whose work can be quickly published. For these agents, it’s a numbers game. So, you’re just a number if you sign up.

Now, ask yourself this: Do you really care about being rejected by an agent who doesn’t care about you? The answer should be obvious. Their rejection is, after all, just the opinion of an individual who has no vested interest in your writing career. That kind of rejection is a blessing.

Take a look at Online Publishing and E-Hyphens and E-Agents for a bit more.

Disney Rejection Letter, 1938 (detail)

Publisher rejection. Rejection by other than a recognized publishing house is just as meaningless as rejection by the disinterested agent. Online publishers are everywhere. If the house is not established, not recognized by readers and writers, their rejection means nothing. It’s just another opinion from yet another person who has little or no interest in your writing career.

Even rejection from a major publishing house means little. There are countless examples of publishers rejecting famous authors. The publishing industry is littered with this wreckage and misdirection. If you spend some time reading about the careers of famous authors you’ll quickly see the kinds of monumental mistakes often made by major publishing houses. These stories are legendary and common.

Rejection by critics. OK, you’re published. Here come the critics, frothing and foaming at the mouth. Maybe you get panned. Is that rejection? Of course not. It’s nothing more than an opinion, typically written to please the critic’s readers. It’s wise to remember that critics are not writers. Many are frustrated, unsuccessful writers. They are hawking opinions designed to please their own readers. That’s their job. They are nothing more than opinion sellers, and you know the old warning about opinions, right?

To see the critic review game at its most ugly, take a peek at Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket.

Rejection by readers. Yep, this is the one that really matters, if publication is your primary goal. It must be measured in only one way – book sales. The “review comments” below each book title mean little. They may make you feel good, angry, frustrated, whatever. But, in the final analysis, these comments are frosting, bitter or sweet. What counts is whether or not your book is selling. At the end of the day, it’s the reader that counts, and his or her opinion is expressed in terms of books sold.

There is only one exception to the rejection game – you. Yep, you count. Your opinions matter. The reason you write is important. Your goals are important. If you’re a writer, there’s a good reason, and it’s always personal, always important.

Forget rejection. Don’t obsess about opinions. Devalue the importance of acceptance. Find out why you write, what it means to you, where it fits in the symphony of your life. Rejection will always be at your doorstep. Just step over it and move ahead. It’s not always the best writer who reaches the finish line. It’s often the most tenacious.

Finally, here are a few articles that may be helpful. Keep in mind that publishers, agents and critics would have no purpose without writers.

The Undiscovered Writer

The Established Writer

Writer vs Author

The 27 Club

Robert Johnson, first member of The 27 Club

You don’t want to belong to The 27 Club. It’s very exclusive and its members are all dead. They all died at the age of 27, usually from unnatural causes, most from drug or alcohol abuse.

The club is much larger than the members mentioned in this article. However, these are arguably its most famous associates. Each was a master of his or her art, and each achieved a good measure of fame while alive. After death, fame became legend.

It’s something to think about if you’re not yet 27 and searching for those 15 minutes of fame. If you made it past 27, take a deep breath and be thankful.

Our short list is in date order, beginning in 1938, and just looks at musical artists.

Robert Johnson died on August 16, 1938, a master of the blues guitar. He was poisoned. Johnson is generally considered the first member of The 27 Club.

Nat Jaffe, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, died on August 5, 1945, from complications of high blood pressure. His was one of the few “natural deaths” in The 27 Club.

Jesse Belvin was an R&B vocalist, songwriter and pianist. He died on February 6, 1960, in an auto accident.

Rudy Lewis, vocalist for The Drifters, died on May 20, 1964, from a drug overdose.

Brian Jones, a founder of the Rolling Stones and guitarist, died from drowning on July 3, 1969. He had been pushed out of the band the previous month.

Alan Wilson was the lead singer and songwriter for Canned Heat. He died on September 3, 1970, of an overdose.

English: Jimi Hendrix at the amusement park Gr...

Jimi Hendrix, possibly the greatest guitarist in history, died on September 18, 1970. He succumbed to a combination of too much wine and sleeping pills.

Janis Joplin, one of the greatest blues singers of all time, died of heroin poisoning on October 4, 1970.

Jim Morrison was the lead singer and songwriter for The Doors. He died on July 3, 1971, from a heart attack, probably brought on by a lifetime of alcohol and drug use.

Pigpen McKernan, one of the founders of the Grateful Dead, died of complications from alcohol poisoning on March 8, 1973.

Dave Alexander was the bass player for The Stooges. He died on February 10, 1975, from complications after a lifetime of alcohol abuse.

Pete Ham played keyboards and guitar for Badfinger. He hung himself on April 24, 1975.

Chris Bell was the founder of Big Star and its chief songwriter. He died in an automobile crash on December 27, 1978.

D. Boon was a leader in the punk rock movement, singer, and guitarist for the Minutemen. He died in a car crash on December 22, 1985.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a cohort of Andy Warhol and the founder of Gray. He died of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988.

Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left)...

Kurt Cobain, singer and songwriter for Nirvana, died by an apparent suicide on April 5, 1994.

Kristen Pfaff was one of the few female bass players to achieve individual fame. She played with Hole and died from an overdose on June 16, 1994.

Richey Edwards, a founder of the Manic Street Preachers and songwriter, died on February 1, 1995. It was thought to be a suicide.

Bryan Ottoson was guitarist for American Head Charge. He died from an overdose on April 19, 2005.

Amy Winehouse, singer and songwriter, died on July 23, 2011, from alcohol poisoning.

Modern Writers Rock!

Modern & Futurism

I’m completely in awe of the modern writer.

When I began my writing career dinosaurs were still roaming the earth. This was well before the age of computers. Longhand was the preferred way of drafting, typewriters were the critical tool. Manuscripts were sent back and forth by mail. My agent and I would talk by telephone or the occasional letter. Later, we both mastered email and thought we were very modern. Publisher meetings were face-to-face. Now, all of this feels so archaic, so yesterday. Those days may seem romantic to some, but they are so used up. It’s good to move ahead.

Back then, writing was a solo business. I worked alone, out of contact with others when I was writing novels. For nonfiction, I beat the streets and the telephone. My contacts were limited to interviews, mostly. There was no need for much social interaction, except for the occasional conversation with a fellow writer. Today, everything is different. The modern writing life demands more dimension, greater diversity, and involves more skills. Today, the recluse writer cannot make it in the business.

I like the changes. I think today’s writers are more rounded, more complete in working their way through the perils and pleasures of writing. They are involved in the real world, not just the closed universe of writing. They are members of a large and vibrant community that stays in constant contact. The writing life is no longer a static landscape. It’s alive.

It’s also obvious that social networking is critical to modern writers. This is a big change from the old days, and I think it’s a major step forward. Writers are now expected to crawl out of their dens and interact with the real world. Communicating with others is critical to successful writing. Gone are the days of the unsocial writer. This is great for both writers and their readers.

Today’s writers need to understand more about the publishing end of the business than my generation ever considered. That’s also a plus. Publishing used to be quite a secret society, penetrated only by successful writers who had good contacts in the business. Now, publishing is an arm of writing, a part of the process that modern writers need to work through and accommodate. It means that good writers also need to get a grip on important business aspects of their careers. Another step forward. Modern writers play a critical role in their own success. Yesterday, they were rarely more than bystanders.

Back in the day, marketing was mostly the purview of the publicist and the publishing company. Today, it’s the shared responsibility of the writer. So, the modern writer is closer to his or her market, more familiar with how book visibility can make or break a career. This means that writers can directly impact their sales in a positive way. That couldn’t happen back when. Us dinosaurs waited around to see what happened, for better or worse.

Today, there is a demand for many important skills necessary to succeed. The modern writer has new tools of the trade, powerful ways to network, insanely easy software to help at each step along the way. These tools are critical to a writing career and the modern writer knows how to use each of them. In the dinosaur days, these tools didn’t exist. We all fumbled around, trying this and that until we hit the right combination. The power that these modern tools bring to today’s writers wasn’t even on the radar yesterday. Back then, our skills were much more limited and our eyes never turned to the power of networking.

The list is a long one but the point is simple.

Our modern writers have tools and opportunities that weren’t even in dreams back then. Of course, this also means more work for the writer, more competition and much more involvement. All of this is a good thing, I believe. Today’s writers are more well-rounded, more outward-looking, and have much more business sense than my fellow dinosaurs. In other words, they are more complete individuals.

So, I’m in awe of today’s writers. They bring much more to the table than the ability to sling words together in a pleasing way. They bring completeness to the process. These writers seem more whole, less cloistered, from the geezer-writer point of view. As individuals, they seem more balanced, involved and approachable than my fellow dinosaurs. I like it.

Forget the nostalgia of the recluse writer of yesterday. Give me the modern writer and I’ll show you someone real, involved and aware.

The Weirdness of Writers

Old Man

I’m an old geezer so I can say whatever’s on my mind, right? Isn’t that how it works? Since I’m a writer, I can even make it all up.

This is the weirdness of being a writer. Here are the details:

We live in our heads. That’s right. Forget the world outside. If it’s worth the experience, it lives in here, upstairs. OK, there’s also some intrigue out there. Lots of inspiration from the real world. But, it all needs to get sucked up, rolled around, re-worked in our heads. That’s where we find the action. Doesn’t everyone?

We think in images but cannot draw. Just like you, we see pictures in our heads. We probably can’t express them in a better way than words. A few of us are multi-talented and can do more. These are the true artists. For the rest of us hack writers, making those pictures come alive in words is where it’s at. Descriptions count, a lot. The more vivid, the better.

We like word sounds. Words make sounds. Sounds make pictures, pictures make words. Get it? We like to describe sounds, often in vibrant detail. Check out your favorite writer. See all the sounds he or she describes? Sounds have character. Sounds set moods. Sounds are everywhere. How could any worthy writer ignore sounds? People, too. We call them “characters.”

We’re not that fond of reality. Sure, the world is good. But the attic is better. No cumbersome reality upstairs. Time doesn’t matter. We can do whatever we want up there and nobody can touch us. We create worlds, destroy them, rebuild them, morph them all over the place. That’s our reality. How could the outside world ever compete with that? If you don’t like it, just re-write it.

Nothing is static. Make it once, overhaul it, throw it away, resurrect it, revise it, revamp it and do it all over again and again. Everything changes when you write. Without change, writing is just work, just another four-letter word. Mountains breathe, rocks walk, creatures come and go. It’s a fast-moving landscape up there. Never boring.

quiet

We need quiet. Well, sometimes we need music. The point is that we aren’t too fond of excessive stimulation from others. We need space. We need solitude. We thrive on that special peace that offers the challenge of working alone. Move the quiet times to the front of the line. It’s best to not mess with us when we’re writing.

We are all romantics. We want the world our way, even if we end up destroying it. We thrive on the feelings and moods behind our words. We tend to be very passionate about the people and things in our heads. So, we romance our heads, our unconscious, our moods and feelings. Isn’t this romantic?

English: True Love Couple

We have very understanding mates. If we’re living with another, that person must be very special. Who could even consider living with a writer and still maintain a “normal” life? The weirdness of a writer naturally spills over into the reality of living. Anyone who lives with this strangeness deserves the Lifetime Award of Extreme Tolerance and Understanding. Otherwise, that mate must be another writer and all hell is on the horizon.

We are obsessive. We just can’t stop writing. Period.

Virginia Woolf’s Last Letter to Her Husband

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...

In March 1941, Virginia Woolf wrote this letter to her husband, Leonard. It would be the last letter to her beloved. On the 28th of the month, she committed suicide.

Woolf suffered from severe depression, an ailment that plagued her previously over the years. She would be unable to recover from this setback, and she knew it in her heart. Woolf had worked through too many difficulties in her life and admitted to her husband that her will to continue was gone. A terrifically sad end to an enormous talent.

Woolf filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the River Ouse, which ran near her home. Her body was not discovered until the following month.

Here is Virginia Woolf’s last letter to Leonard. Heart-wrenching doesn’t even begin to describe her words. It is one of the most moving, painful letters ever written.

Dearest,

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

V.

From a Mule to His Rider

Grey Mule.To claim willfulness and intelligence is to waste words. To offer reasons or excuses is useless, barren.

Neither will do.

To assume I am slow and steady is to misread me. That is what leads to the surprises you seem to find so discomforting. Slow is the walk when you lead me somewhere of your liking with nothing more than assumptions and commands,  no matter how pleasingly uttered. Steady is nothing more than my practice in patience because we do not always communicate perfectly.

I am always waiting.

That is my nature.

What is yours?

Stubbornness is your word for an unrealized single purpose and toothy goal. My want is nothing more than to be. You may view my resistance as a weapon. I see it as a plea.

I will be your partner but never your property. Watch my movements, my glances, my quiet moments in the pasture. Be still, listen, watchful. This is how you will come to know my soul. Do this and we can be friends.

Let me breathe, seek out my own purpose, grow in wisdom and experience, be old and gracious.

Do this and we can be friends for all my years.

Respect my journey and I will take you anywhere on yours.