10-Word Story Challenge #3

November 14, 2017

I’ a little behind (okay WAY behind) in getting these out, but I’m still doing them. These are published here as posted on my Facebook page. All stories are credited to the author; unmarked entries are my works.

Blind Dates

“Her rusty blonde hair matched her seeing eye dog’s.”

“Is this her?” He thought. “Please, not him.” She thought.–Gregory M. Bruce

“Oh, great! Short in stature and on manners. Cheap, too!”–Gerri Hancock

“After creepy intimacy, neither knew the other’s name, nor asked.”–Heather Munn

“Through dinner and drinks, we never glanced past our phones.”

“I like red”. “I like green”. “We complement each other”–Rod Cummings

They didn’t say another word. They knew it was over.”–Gregory M. Bruce

Their love was truest because neither could see the other.”–Rod Cummings

Dad! You’re my Tinder Date?!?!?!”

It was a blind date, but I needed the blindfold!”–Marc K’urlii Eytina

As she gazed upon his face, rage swelled within her.”–Joel Araujo

It was clear that he could turn heads and stomachs.”–Gerri Hancock

“Exactly what made you think she was MY type?”

“The lobster and wagyu surf and turf, please” “Goodbye ‘–Rod Cummings

She turned the corner. Was blind, but now I see.”–Scott Will

“Cousin Jenny! Why are you–?” “I think I’m your date?”–Rod Cummings

“The waiter, in an act of pity, comped my meal.”–Gerri Hancock

“She was cute, but her mother was HOT.”

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NaNoWriMo, Hmmmm?

October 23, 2017

It’s that time of year again when I need to figure out if I’m going to take part in the National Novel Writing Month­—or NaNoWriMo—at all this year; and if I am, figure out what I’m going to do. This year it’s a fairly easy answer to the first part, Yes, and I know what project to work on.

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to turn an old web series video project into a full length theatrical play. I had enough of the series started to give me pat of the first act, and I had to get the rest done. For the better part of a year, I’ve been stuck on the first scene of the second act, making very little headway. I went back to look over some of my original notes (SUPER helpful) and, since I now have a better idea of where to go with the play, I decided to jump start the process by committing to at least one page a day for the NaNoWriMo. It’s there to spur on creativity and the writing process for millions, so I might as well take advantage of it. Is it a novel? No, but a good play reads like literature and I’m moving ahead with that.

Actually, I didn’t know about Script Frenzy for screenplays and plays back about ten years ago. They do their writing for April. At the time I wasn’t in the state of mind to take that on, and it has now been defunct since 2011—pretty much near the height of my mental collapse. The NaNoWriMo is still going strong and any writing is good writing, so might as well take advantage of it while I can. I will be avoiding the NaNoBloMo—National Blog Posting Month, same November month—as I don’t want to overload myself.

We’ll see how all this goes. Not going to post updates or page/word counts as many do, but I will definitely assess things at the end of the month.

10-Word Story Challenges

August 30, 2017

Lately the 10-word story prompts have been really spurring on my creativity. Trying to get a story in ten words or less is pretty fun and can be challenging (for a real challenge, try the 6-word Science Fiction challenge). I was doing this with friends on Facebook with a theme to follow. I will in the future post one theme only per post, but since I was late getting this together and as one challenge had more turnout than the other, I’m listing two themes today. Most entries are written by me except where indicated. Hope you enjoy these from me and my friends.

School Experience:

One year older, new grade, new school, same old target.”

Two jobs to afford private school. He’ll appreciate it later.”

Learning would be fun if it weren’t for the people.” –Scott Will

When the day finally came for her ascension, she panicked.” –Marc Eytina

Screenwriting Bachelors. One sale kills debt. Who ordered venti frappucino?”

Birthday Party:

Robert cried at the ‘Happy birthday Roberta’ cake.”

Surprise!! Happy birthday Jim! Jim? Someone call 911.”

Blood. Placenta. Screams. Yup. Just like my birth day.” –Rod Cummings

Why are you naked? I thought it was my birthday.” –Antonio Jacobs

““Candlelight dinner. Two hours waiting. Solo birthday toast again.”

Things were fine until the piñata. Emergency rooms suck.”

Birthday wrapping without Biggie here ain’t no rap at all.” –Gregory Bruce

Cake was never the way Josh celebrated. Not after Copenhagen.” –Marc Eytina

I said I’d THINK about a puppy. I did. Enough!”

“Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to-” sigh. Click. BANG.” –Rod Cummings

Birthday shopping for someone with nothing and doesn’t want anything.” –Gregory Bruce

Make a wish. Poof! Things look different through your eyes…” –Antonio Jacobs

‘Quick! Open mine next!’ ‘No thanks, Schroedinger, I think I’ll keep it closed for now.'” –Rod Cummings

The cake. The bloody knife. Nobody singing. Bobby’ last birthday.” –Gregory Bruce

‘Surprise!’ They cried! ‘Wrong house!’ I replied” –Rod Cummings

Why does this sparkler candle say ‘dynamite’?” –Rod Cummings

Seriously, what’s a baby going to do with myrrh?”

I should have words to talk about the Nazi riots and terrorist acts in Charlottesville, Virginia like all my other friends, but I don’t. I don’t, not because I’m immune to the goings on (definitely not as a person of color) or because I don’t care about it (I do of course) or even because I’m inundated by too many negative news about racism (who isn’t these days?). I don’t because the day of the events in Charlottesville, I was sheltered by events at the Boston ComicCon.

While antifa groups were clashing with Nazi Klansmen, my daughter and I were trying to figure out how to go to two separate events simultaneously. When a car plowed into peaceful counterprotesters killing Heather Hayer and wounding 19 others, we were listening to Jim Cummings (voice of Winnie the Pooh) talk about his encounter with Mel Blanc. While friends were posting our “President’s” lack of concern/concern over the events, Sophia was talking to people easily about their love for particular anime. Where people were trying to reclaim their “greatness” in being white, we were watching female Aquamen, Black Batmem, and a few Rocky Horror Frank-n-Futters all wandering the expo center looking for Pop vinyl figures and T-shirts. I even ran into the comic artist Buzz, who is a friend from high school, and he gave my daughter an autographed copy of his Best of Art book. It was a perfect environment for my daughter to learn what was good in the world: love of art, music, culture, fun, games, costumes, and appreciation for the art and passion of others.

Yes it was a horrible day for our country, but my daughter and I, and all those others at the con were sheltered from almost all of it for a while. I say sheltered because I know geek culture isn’t immune to problems of race, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, and other such problems (e.g GamerGate, diversity in movies/comics and the backlash, etc). But within geek culture the tendency is towards acceptance and openness that is sorely lacking in society in general. And yes we have our Nazi-Geek-Gatekeepers as well to contend with, and we hate them, too, but they are often more annoying than dangerous (also they are often in worse physical shape than most, so they are easy to fight or flee as the situation calls for). For the most part it is great to see groups from all races, ethnicities, countries, genders, sexual orientations come together around art and culture in a way that is positive and caring.

I am not trying to make light of what happened in Charlottesville and other such places, but I offer a way to counter those responsible. They are the cloistered and closed-minded that feel they are losing their society when it is actually growing around them. Education and experience of the new and unknown will always grow our sensibilities and empathy. And I don’t mean that the art of comic books or the culture of science fiction will save us, but consider this: societies are always defined by their art, music, and cultural similarities. Such is the same with geek culture. As such, it is art and culture that binds us together in large swaths of people and open-mindedness that will carry that hope into the future, and this is what will sustain us and our souls. It is when we nurture that fascination to discover new art and stories that expand our understanding of the world that we grow as people, thus growing as a community. This is what I see BLM, LGBTQ, women, antifas, and all marginalized groups fighting for: to grow the community to include—not exclude—everyone. We should always stand against racism and fascism in all its forms; but we must be open to culture to know what we are fighting for.

Redux

August 7, 2017

I hate feeling stuck, especially with writing, but that’s where I am. I’m taking an older project that was supposed to be a web series and adapting for a stage play. The first act is done, but I’m stuck at Act 2, Scene 1, and it’s driving me nuts. I knew how I wanted the act to end and I got it there, and I know where the rest of the play is supposed to go, but where I a now is unsure. I don’t know where I am and how to move forward (story of my life, I guess). Part of it is I’m used to stopping and starting on a dime, moving on from the end point. Not this time. I’m going back to what I wrote and read it from the beginning, plus rereading my character bios just so I can get reacquainted with the material and get where to go. I don’t like it, but it’s necessary.

Some of the blog writing is helping me climb out of this writing rut. Plus there are a couple of inspired prompts that got some creative juices flowing again. It’s been a while and I am apparently much rustier than I thought. I need to rework some muscles and stretch out after a long absence.

Summer Fun

August 5, 2017

Yes, I’m really lost these days and not enjoying a lot of what my life is like today. But I can’t keep writing the same blog over and over again thinking it will do me any good. It helps to get it out, but that’s what therapy is for. I’ll probably blog about stuff like this again because, for better or worse, it is a part of my life I have to deal with. However, right now I feel like I’m dwelling on it too much, so for something different.

Sophia finished her summer Arabic Intensive last week. In late spring, she told e she didn’t want to go to the same camp as she did last year because she didn’t like all the activities she was doing (I think mostly the active physical stuff). That surprised me because she seemed to like it at the time and she said she had fun. Now I was suddenly scrounging for another place for her to go to for part of the summer. I told her we’d try to find something she’d have fun doing; the next day she brought me the application for the Arabic intensive. It’s si-days a week over almost all of July learning to read, write, and speak Arabic. I asked is this really your idea of having fun for the summer, and she said yes. So she signed up, she was accepted, and, the Tuesday after graduating middle school, started digging into Arabic.

Despite being quiet all the time about anything and everything, I always asked how she was doing in the sessions. She’d simply say fine and hop on her computer. If I pressed her for details, she was kind of vague about answers. So I let it go and it became a routine for July. The last Saturday session before the intensive ended, she burst into the house carrying three different plastic shopping bags, and yelled “I bought fruit!” The weekend before was their big field trip to the Islamic Center in Roxbury—which I was hoping to hear more about, but no such luck—but that Saturday they went to the farmer’s market is Haymarket in downtown Boston, which had a lot or Arabic and Middle Eastern sellers. They were given a dollar to spend on whatever, and buy and talk to the sellers in Arabic (I gave her allowance that morning so she was able to buy a lot). When she got home she couldn’t stop talking about buying fruit, talking in Arabic, telling me about different character usage in words, and a whole host of other things about the Arabic language that I didn’t understand at all, but she went on for about 45 minutes nonstop. It clicked with me about the farmer’s market because the marketplace is customary in Arabic and Islamic countries, so it made sense that they expose her to some of that directly—though she couldn’t haggle with these sellers as is fairly customary in Arabic markets. We talked about that too and she was pretty much on air the whole time.

The intensive was pretty good for her. She gets some language credit for high school, but she will be taking Japanese when she gets to Boston Latin Academy in the fall. Needless to say she had the right way for her to enjoy the summer.

It’s hard to say which I’ve been losing more of: my courage to write or my will to write. I can’t say it’s a lack of ideas, although writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of ideas. In all my life, I’ve never been unable to generate ideas; my head is constantly filled with them. While overload of ideas might be a problem, I’m not sure that the case with me at this time. Thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to lack of courage and lack of willpower. They are subtle, but there are differences.

Courage is easier to define. It’s having the balls not just to write whatever comes to mind, damn the critics—both inner and outer—but also the balls to do it regularly. It’s not the same courage that it takes to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and fight for your country; it’s the courage to put thoughts to paper or posts to prevent countries from going to war. That and every bit of sentiment and emotion from there on down. Willpower is the practice itself. It’s the daily effort to stare down a blank page or screen until your eyes bleed or you start writing, whichever comes first. The more often you do it the easier it gets and the more reflexive it becomes.

Mine has always been a struggle between courage and will. There are days I have the time and abililty to write, but my inner voices have me silenced. Other days I know exactly what to say, but get swamped, exhausted, distracted, or all three at once. The end result is the same: months without any writing output and occasionally forced to produce on a deadline. And all that while writing becomes fearful, less instinctive, and less productive.

It’s not effortless to write this, but it’s not easy. This isn’t what I should be writing now, but it’s what I can put out now. I’ve been underusing muscles, not only in the gym, but in my mind. My knees are bothering me, but that can be healed with rest and physical therapy. My stagnation is bothering, but the only way to fix that is to write a little bit at a time. Hopefully I can heal myself, body and mind, eventually.

Gifts to the Stranger

December 1, 2016

Sorry. I didn’t realize “Giving Tuesday” had become an actual thing. Maybe it’s because it’s tacked onto the end of a long weekend—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—of hyped consumerism run amok in different forms that it gets lost. Strangely that seems to be the only way to attract attention to philanthropy; we should always be giving of ourselves. But that’s a rant for a different blog. This one’s about Christmas giving.

A few years ago, I was near rock bottom. I had no money, some part-time work, some unemployment checks, was spending all the rest of my time looking for work, while still being a weekend father, and fending off attacks from my daughter’s mom to make this Christmas bigger and better than the last one as it has to be every year and expects me to pay for it all. At the time, I used to make slide productions of my daughter over the previous year in photographs set to music. But with all that was happening, I had no energy, time, or working equipment to do it. What I did was this: I wrote everyone to say that I had no money for myself much less for gifts to buy and/or mail to everyone, and because I couldn’t give anything I wanted nothing in return. Instead I took a page from my friend Reverend Hank Peirce (who got it from another minister) and asked my friends to please donate some money to their choice of a number of worthy causes (e.g. Doctors Without Borders, ACLU, Oxfam, etc). They could do it in my name or their own, but they should give to help others as more befitting the season. Do something nice instead of scrounging for perfect gifts.

This year I have a better part-time job, am a full time single father, have a decent cushion of funds (barring any serious emergencies) and am less panicked about the holiday. However with the way this year has gone and how events are turning out that are beyond our control, there are many who feel as scared as I was then (if for different reasons). So this year, I’m reaching back to that time to do something good. The gift I will be giving out are donations to charitable organizations—here and abroad—that help make life safer and possible for those who need it. I ask that if you wish to give a gift to me, donate to one of the groups listed below. It can be as little or as much as you want, but give to help others.

I was very proud of Sophia when she asked, quite sincerely, “it it’s Jesus’ birthday, why are we getting gifts?” It showed me that a lot of what I taught her had sunk in. With that in mind, remember that this season is about generosity to others and sharing with those in need. There are a lot of needy people out there, but the people generous spirit outnumber the needy. So give freely and make this a great holiday for you and yours, as well as the stranger whomever they are.

Click the name to go to their website:

ACLU

Standing Rock Sioux/NoDAPL

Southern Poverty Law Center

Planned Parenthood

Doctors Without Borders

Black and Pink

Heifer International

Oxfam

Amnesty International

This past Sunday I had the honor to be a major part of the Martin Luther King Service at our church.  I did a sermon about King last year the week after MLK day, kind of extending the holiday, but this was my first time to be a part of the MLK church service. I got to read a lot of poetry–Langston Hughes and a Javon Johnson slam piece (which was AWESOME!)–but I also did something in tandem with the minister to talk about racial identities and privilege. Read interspersed was so revealing and hit home for a lot of people. I will try to get permission to use her portion as well, but for now I really wanted to post what I had written for my stuff. Was very exciting getting this together.


I am adopted and claim all the nationalities of all my parents.

I am Colombian, African, some South American Indian, Puerto Rican, and Jewish of Russian/Polish descent.
Some of these are known and sure, others are best assessments from forms I can gather.
Like many people of color, I can only trace my ancestry so far before the trail runs cold.

I am a Native New Yorker born and bred from 25 years in three of the five boroughs of the city.
My parents—my father a Catholic and my mother a Jew—married in a Unitarian Church and I was raised in the religion all my life, a rarity in this denomination.
I went to a private Quaker school for grade school and a public art school for high school.

My parents were both highly educated people.
My father had a Doctorate in Romance Languages and was tenured at Queens College where he taught in the Romance Languages department, mainly Portuguese, for most of his adult life.
My mother got her Masters of Divinity in Religious Philosophy from Union Theological Seminary, but never used her degree in her career.
She worked in rape crisis centers in the 1970s, for the New York Board of Health in the 1980s and eventually municipal union District 37 from where she retired.
My younger sister, also adopted, is the only sibling I have and the only one of the nuclear family without a college degree.
I myself have two degrees—a Bachelor’s and a Masters—and have taught adult education ed at colleges.
But you would never know this by my appearance.

I am a product of 1970s and 80s New York culture and politics, of latch key kids, of divorced parents, of too much TV, of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, of the changeover from comic books to Graphic Novels, of AIDS marches and homeless protests, of worn down Beatles albums and Broadway soundtracks.
My upbringing was middle class and somewhat fortunate, but because of my skin color it can never be called privileged.

I know this because when I look at the records of my birth parents—both Colombian—they listed themselves as “White”; yet when I look at my hands, I know they were not. They considered themselves white because in that society, you are “less than” if you are colored. But when my mother came here to put me up for adoption, she was noted as Hispanic.

Because I am a person of color:

    • While I know I’ve always been hired based on my ability, I can never be 100% sure ethnicity was a consideration.
    • While I know I’ve never not been chosen for a job because of my race, I can never be 100% sure.
    • When asked to speak publicly, I know it will be based on my ability and knowledge, but I can never be 100% sure if it’s not to speak on behalf of my entire race.
    • I have been followed around by security in store in a neighborhood I lived in for years.
    • People automatically assume I speak Spanish (I don’t and know very little of it)
    • I still struggle to find quality representations of my life in TV, movies, and entertainment.
    • When talking one-on-one about influences on my art, people are surprised when not every person mentioned is of color.
    • When talking in a group about influences on my art, I have to include artists of color because they will otherwise not be represented or recognized.
    • I have to teach my daughter to be aware of how systemic racism can affect her in addition to how gender inequality can affect her, both for her own protection.
    • I do not always feel “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

There are great things about my heritage and culture to show, but not given the privilege to accept or reject all the negative aspects of them—deserved or undeserved.
I am multi-racial and multi-ethnic, and racism affects my spirit.

In fifth grade I took an English class in science fiction. While we read a complete anthology of great sci-fi writers, the only story I still remember vividly to this day was “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. I’m not sure if it was the story and its construction, the use of language to create wonderful imagery, or the wicked twist on the title at the end, I just loved that story. Bradbury is still one of those authors that I think of when you say the words “Science fiction”. More than that he was an inspiration to writing. I was a kid who wanted to do everything and here was an author that wrote about doing anything and everything. He also wrote everything–short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, teleplays, memoirs and essays. He’d written in almost every form you could think of and he did it well. He was original, disciplined, imaginative and daringly creative. His contemporaries were among the heaviest hitters of their time — Asimov, Vonnegut, Ellison, Heinlein, Serling — and they all are influential. Bradbury was a craftsman and an artist and now he is gone. Dead of a stroke at age 91.

Rest in Peace Ray Bradbury. You are sorely missed.