Further realization: Yeah, so’s everybody else.

Really: let us take my home, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Let us say that Greatness rests on a mere 1% of the population, exemplary products of the Refiners’ Fire.

That’s 68,925 people.

Let’s the cinch the net up further, that it’s a half percent—No! A quarter percent, 0.25%, i.e. the same percentage as the most optimistic outlook for coronavirus fatality rates.

That’s 17,231 geniuses.

Just for Massachusetts alone.

Makes for an awfully crowded awards ceremony.

With 8.8 billion people in the world, even if I were willing to arrogate to myself the title “Genius”–which I’m not, just feeling a tad exuberant tonight—it’s not all that distinguished a credential. Genius is everywhere. It’s like mold.

Let the statistics of genius torpedo the status games. In truth, I’ve been blessed to know the most extraordinary of people, people I would happily hail as geniuses—some of them recognized by the world, some of them not. It doesn’t matter. Rejoice in those you meet, in their uniqueness. Each person is a gift. The industries of creativity fade in time. The individual voice remains.

I await the hydrochloric acid. I intend to savor the taste.

Let me explain.

Part of the process of writing is giving your draft to someone for critical comments (“crits”). The reader might be a teacher, a writing colleague, a non-writing friend, or an editor. You hand over that into which you have sweat and bled, and wait for their reaction.

Often, the process is painful. You learn that what you thought was perfect is not—is far from perfect, is nowhere near perfect. The sensation is akin to taking a nice big swig of hydrochloric acid.

But it’s part of writing. In my experience (and I speak ONLY for my experience—one has to be very careful about giving universal writing advice these days) learning to receive and use crits is an essential part of becoming a writer. Writing is communication. To understand communication, you need to hear how it is received, not just how you intended it. Only readers’ comments can elucidate this.

At its best, it’s like two neurons. When one person says “this is what I meant’ and another says “this is what I understood,” it’s a spark of electricity across the synapse gap.

It can hurt. It hurts to pour out your heart and be told “that didn’t work for me.” I know that pain. I’ve seen writers hit that pain like a brick wall and simply stop, stop writing.

But here’s the thing: if you look at it right, that pain is a gift. It lets you understand the other person, the nature of the language, the nature of humanity. Crits are a window out of solipsism. A moment of contact with another soul.

Embrace the pain. It means you’re on the right track. Learn to savor the hydrochloric acid.

A few days ago, I sent out a draft to some people for comments. I eagerly await their critiques. I await that spark. I lift a glass beaker in toast to them.

Mmm. That’s good acid.

The first thing you write is anything. Put a sentence together, see if another one follows. Get a paragraph. Look at what you’ve written, check if it’s want you wanted. Polish. Keep going or start over.

On March 26th, 2014, I decided that, to encourage myself to write, I would establish a writing streak, a record of how many days in a row I had managed to write, and post it publicly. Today marks the 1,460th day of that streak. Four years.

After one year, I made my first short story sale.

After two years, I sold another story and began a novel.

After three years, I was deep into the novel and cruising toward completion.

And now after four years I have left the novel, am not writing any fiction, and do not foresee myself writing fiction ever again.

Writing fiction was, for me, a broad macadam highway, along which I walked with many beloved friends. Now I have left that road and am bushwhacking cross-country, through thickets and swamps, to an unknown and perhaps nonexistent destination. I call what I’m doing “philosophy,” but that’s not really a good term. All I can say is that I’m looking for some understanding of who I am and what I’m supposed to do, here in this interval of the Unprecedented Era. I came to realize that fiction was a hindrance to my doing that. I left the novel at the side of the highway.

But I’m still writing. The streak has been a great blessing to me. Many nights I’ve groaned, wanting to sleep, but needing to create something, anything. It’s become a habit, maybe my best habit. If I ever do find what I’m looking for, it will be at least to some extent because I wrote myself there.

This is the writing for Day 1460. Tomorrow I will have to write something else.

The New Dems were in power in Manitoba. The election changed everything and nothing. So sick was Harold of Winnipeg, of this company. Everyman a liar. The petty bourgeois of little Canada.

Well the girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin stinko
We think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday Night

“Goin’ south, then?” said Sam, his hippie friend. Sam sucked up acid by the handful, smuggled across the border—he knew all the draft dodgers.


The grain company, the railroad—one more mile for progress, one more dollar for the company man. He’d get his paycheck and have another beer.

We’ll drink the loot we borrowed and recuperate tomorrow
‘Cause everything is wonderful tonight-we had a good fight

Slip across the border to Chicago or Minneapolis. Lines of jobs out to the suburbs and back. Kiss a little ass and make your fortune. Go on down to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, get the sunshine, let your cares burn up with your sunburn.

“You know why Canadians don’t make trouble, don’t you?” Sam was high as a Manitoba wind.

“Because of the fucking British. Got to bow to the Queen.”

Sam’s mouth curled into an acid-laced smile. “No. It’s the cold.
Can’t tell the boss off. Half the year you’d freeze. Got to be polite, got to keep warm.”

From the top of the building, Harold look out past the Winnipeg
limits. To the prairie, the infinite flatness.

Any sane man would go South. To America. To warmth.

Harold descended the building. Started the car. Already it complained. Stompin’ Tom on the radio.

The songs that we’ll be singing They might be wrong but they’ll be ringin’
But all the lights of town are shining bright-and we’re all tight

Drove towards Grosse Isle. Drove further.  Out to where it was cold, it was hard, but he’d know who he was. Not south. Never south.

North. To the Shield.


    The Bermuda Triangle

    Illuminati: Cosmic Trigger

    Man, Myth and Magic

Bryan placed his plate on top of the stack of books. Danielle had insisted they eat at the dining room table, but she wasn’t around any more.

He forgot his coke. He walked back out to the kitchen. The house echoed with his footsteps. The place was really too big for one person. Four floors including the basement. Bryan knew he should move, but since Danielle had moved out, he didn’t feel much like doing anything except reading, working and watching TV. Fuck her; he could afford it. The rent was dirt cheap. The neighborhood was all crumbling pre-World War I brick, and nobody wanted to live here.

He got his coke and went back out to the living room. Only the aquarium light of the television lit the room. He adjusted the rabbit ears on the Zenith and planted himself on the lawn chair next to the front window. Danielle had taken the real furniture with her, but he hadn’t let her claim the TV.

Out the open window he could hear children playing in the June twilight and police cars going to meet a call. He turned up the volume on the set.

      Trapped. Trapped in a maze of hallways, without beginning or ending, alone.

Read More

Sometimes it takes a long time to write a book. Sometimes a very long time. And that whole time, you chafe on what else you could be spending the time, but–you hope, you gamble–the book is worth it.

Not an uncommon thought, I know, but I just wanted to say it. To God and to history, as with all else on this blog.

Tom’s house was shaped like a sandwich, between a flat, white roof, and a flat white floor on struts over concrete pilings. The living room filled the front half of the house, walled with windows showing the sea and covered with thick white carpet, save for a portion of the center floor that was glass, through which could be seen a tongue of sand that connected with the beach, making the house part of the beach. The only furniture was his father’s drinks cabinet, pressed into the back corner.

Behind the living room ran the single white hallway, and the first room was the kitchen. Besides a white stove and a white microwave, there was a small, circular white table and two white chairs. There Miss Thomas, his governess, made Tom his morning soldiers and his jam butties for tea.

Next to the kitchen was Miss Thomas’s room, and therein sat things Tom did not care for, like Miss Thomas’ photographs of her family in England, and so that door was always closed. Next to Miss Thomas’ room was Tom’s room. White, with the same white carpet as in the living room, and no windows, but a skylight. His bed was white and there was a white chest of drawers, with one drawer for his collection of shells, one drawer for his collection of rocks, and one drawer for his clothes. Atop the dresser stood a small, round white television set, and on that set he watched The Bugaloos and Space Ghost and Bugs Bunny, one hour every day and, in indulgence, two hours on Saturday.

Next to Tom’s room was his father’s room, sometimes. Tom’s father was a musician, like the Bugaloos, and most of the time he was off someplace making music, and that was very fine. When he was home, men would come to see him, reporters, from places like Rolling Stone and Creem and Crawdaddy. His father sat in a white chair shaped like an egg and the reporter tried to sit on the precarious sofa, and they would talk. The reporter asked a question and his father talked for a long time about whatever he wanted to and then stopped and the reporter asked another question. Tom sat by the edge of the doorway to hear his father’s voice.

His father would say

“I didn’t want to go solo. That’s a lie. The band was my life. But they forced me to choose…”


“I find California to be a much more open place than Britain. People are more willing to talk here, to question. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back…”


“Possessions are chains. I realize that now. Every time you own something, it’s as if you’re clamping a manacle on your leg. I’m getting rid of mine…”

and suchlike things, until it was time for his father to take the reporter out back to the garage, to see the gold records and the Rolls-Royce and the recording studio.

The only other time Tom heard his father’s voice was late at night, when his father would come in and sit on his bed, the moon shining through the skylight. He would take Tom’s hand, and Tom could smell the drinks cabinet, and shake it until Tom shivered, and say “Who’s my wizard little boy?”

Tom would reply “I am! I am!”

They would be together in the dark for a while, laughing. Then his father would leave and he would go back to sleep.

In the morning, Tom walked out on the beach. Sometimes Miss Thomas accompanied him, but more often he went alone. He dragged his feet through the sand, shifting between beach and surf, chasing gulls. He enjoyed being in the sea and on the land; he liked the in-betweenness. When he saw an interesting shell or rock, he kept it, but his standards had grown high, and there were few such now.

Sometimes he arrived at people. Down the shore, men and women in bathing suits, with dogs and frisbees, swimming and surfing, laughing and talking. He watched them from afar. Miss Thomas urged him to go closer, to talk with them, but he didn’t care to. He waved to them, and they smiled and waved back, and that was very fine. The afternoon was taken up with his collections, or television, or looking very closely at the sand under the floor of the living room. Eventually he returned to the beach, to watch the sun sink into the welcoming sea, and often as he did he would fall asleep, and Miss Thomas carried him to bed.

Shaking awake, in the dark. He could smell the drinks cabinet, and knew it was his father, and was glad. What noise was this?

“Forgive me,” his father said. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m couldn’t help her. I’m trying my best. Please forgive me!”

The moonlight glinted off water on his father’s face, soaking into his beard. His father was crying.

Tom didn’t understand. There was no crying in the house. He himself had given up crying long ago. He waited for his father to stop, to ask who his wizard little boy was, but his father never did.

“I’m sorry,” his father repeated. “I don’t know what to do.”

Tom could not say “I am!” to that.

Tom did not return to sleep. In the morning he walked into the kitchen, pushed aside his soldiers, and demanded an explanation.

Miss Thomas threw up her hands and said “You father was upset, is all. One of those reporters came, to write an article about the new album, only he wrote it about you. ‘The Loneliest Little Boy in California,’ was the title, and he talked about you, and the house, and what happened to your mother, and-oh, everything. It’s a shame, it is, that they can write those things.”

“The Loneliest Little Boy in California?” But he was not lonely. He was with the sea and the beach and the house and his father, and it was all very fine, or had been fine until this outsider had poked into things that didn’t concern him.

Tom was wroth with this reporter. For the first time, he was angry.

He resolved to be avenged of his anger.

People think too much of ideas. The archetypal question to an author is “Where do you get your ideas?”, but writers learn early on that ideas are easy, it’s execution that’s hard. Truth is, most writers I know get constant streams of ideas, so many that the real trick is, while trying to make something of Idea A, getting Ideas B-Z to shut the hell up.

So, like most writers, I have mental filing cabinets full of old, never-used ideas, stuffed so full that drawers won’t close, mouldering manila folders springing out in all directions. I’d like to use this blog as an opportunity to get out some of those ideas, in order to make peace with the fact that they’re never going to be used, and to be a memorial of sorts to those poor story hooks whose time never came and now never will.

“The Graveyard of Ideas” shall be the header.