Archive for swords

Working Class Heroes, Their Boomsticks and Their Dreams

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/12/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

What happens when you try to fly solo?

I start my blog entries like that these days.  The above question looks very straight forward. I want to know what happens to the person who decides that they’re going to make a go of life on their own. I want to understand how an individual functions when they try to pull themselves out of mediocrity and live their dreams.

We live in a curious time in American History. Western culture demands that the average individual seeks guidance as a youth. A person is supposed to depend upon their parents for warmth, shelter, wisdom and love. Moms and dads nurture their children by providing the basics as well as opportunities for their education.

But children grow up. Expectations change. Life becomes high school (or is it the other way around?) Children are taught to believe that they are supposed to broaden their minds with books and technology. Yet they are also supposed to round out their learning experiences with intense athletic pursuits or “extra curricular activities.”  Meanwhile, if adolescents succumb to the bombardment of commercials, internet ads, or peer-pressure situations in which they find themselves, they learn that silence is no longer golden. To survive, one has to be a social butterfly, not just in real life, but on the internet. Social Media websites commit younger and younger people to creating a secondary persona that either modulates or inhibits their popularity in school or in other social situations.

A self-reflecting adult might scratch their head at the contradictory messages they received  about life. I was raised as a child of the eighties. Adults of our generation were taught that education was the key to financial success. I used a have an enormous, light-up  picture on my wall with three fancy sports cars in a three car garage by the beach. The motto that was emblazoned at the top of the picture screamed “Justification for a Higher Education.”  Enough Said.

Except not everyone who gets a higher education automatically get those sorts of things. Even going to a top tier college in the country guarantees nothing if you don’t get to know the right people and you don’t focus on the things you love. Anybody who tells you that time is money hasn’t had to look for a job for the last five years in this country.

“The economy is in the crapper.” Those were the words of someone who interviewed me for a sales position years ago. They still pretty much hold true.

Somehow despite all the contradictory forces screaming for our attention, we’re supposed live our dreams. We’re told that we’re better off pulling ourselves out of mediocrity by our bootstraps. We’re also reminded by oversimplified hallmark moments on television shows and food advertisements that we somehow can’t do it alone.

We have to do it by ourselves, but we can’t do it alone.

That includes living our dreams, doesn’t it?

I’ve been sick for the last week and a half. This is the cold that never ends.

Major illness tends to sharpen one’s focus when they begin to recover from it. I, for one, will make it through a major cold like this one and begin to take stock of how well I’m doing living my dreams and meeting my personal goals. Since my largest one by far is writing, I have to remind myself that I can and will write every day.

But like the rest of this story, I’ve come to learn that I can’t really make my dream a reality all on my own. While I try to get my name out there by submitting more and more of my work to various publishers for consideration, I’m getting to the point where I spend a lot of my time with my nose to the grindstone. I push so hard to get more and more writing done, it feels like I’m only picking my head up to notice that everyone else walked off to some social gathering. I’m perfecting the swing of my samurai sword, and everyone else walked to the river to drink beer and sake.

From a professional standpoint, my current solo method seems like a piss poor way to garner real opportunity. From a personal standpoint, I feel more and more like a lone warrior. What happens to warriors who stay alone for too long?

They go nuts and start saying things like “This is my BOOMSTICK!”

Now that I more or less know where I am from a professional and a social standpoint, the question I have to ask myself is “What now?” It’s one thing to understand how much one misses social connection when they’ve been ill for more than a week. It’s quite another thing to realize that this uniquely Western notion of “independence” is not quite all that it’s cracked up to be.

Nobody ever really meets their goals without help, even on a minute level. I’d love to sit here and tell you that I got my first short story published because I woke up one day and inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning. But that isn’t even close to the truth. I got that story accepted by a publication only after my first attempt with them flopped. I never even asked the editors why I was rejected. I got really annoyed and decided to up the ante. I thought I was a warrior recovering from wounded pride.

But this isn’t about revenge, proper action or silt. I would not have even bothered to finish the story had it not been for my friends, writers or otherwise, who were there to encourage me from day one. My friends are still around, though it’s been a while since I’ve been willing or able to talk with them.

It’s also been a while since I’ve felt like I was a part of a real writing community. I don’t know if I need that feeling again so that my writing can reach the next level, or if I want to be a part of a community so that my social skills don’t fade while I write my next manuscript.

At any rate, here I am world. I’m not quite recovered my from my eternal snot fest. And yes, I know that that description of my illness will make everyone want to stay around me. I’m going to start small and post this blog entry. I’m reentering my former social media sites. I’ll keep on writing, of course. Maybe I just won’t use all of my words to add to the chapters of unseen stories and manuscripts.

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Too Sick to Write or Too Sick Not To?

Posted in The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/07/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

A funny thing happened to me in bed two nights ago.

And this is the point where you roll your eyes and ask, “Are you serious?”

Considering that I am now recovering from a cold, I couldn’t be more serious if I tried. Post nasal drip has a way of embarrassing a young writer even in front of the characters in his or her head.

The best part is I then get to put the “Snotgate” incident in one of my other short stories for fun. Quick, what are some original descriptors for “a big ole strand o’ snot?” 😉

The best part I can say about being sick (other than the fact that I am being taken care of at the moment by a very sweet and sexy girlfriend) is that I come up with arguably some of my most insane or brilliant writing ideas when my brain is being turned into “Grey-Matter Stew.”

Why is this the case? I have no idea. It can be argued that some of the most brilliant creative minds in the history of art were some of the most wounded or “ill.” Van Gogh wanted to give his girlfriend a new earring for Christmas once, right? The only problem was the earring was his actual ear. Other than that, kudos to him for his insane passion and devotion – the SAME madness, one could argue, he applied with frantic candor to his famous works of art. Who could look at “Starry Night” and NOT know that this man, brilliant as he was, had some issues? Do you think Munch painted “The Scream” because he was a “happy-go-lucky chap?”

Could “mind altering conditions” of insane variety be responsible for other creative masterpieces? Of course they could! Nobody can argue that Earnest Hemmingway and Virginia Wolf weren’t perhaps some of the most mentally unstable people of the 20th century. There isn’t anyone who would say that Walt Whitman was the most “well-adjusted” fellow, even though some of his poetry is considered worthy enough to be included in classical education curriculum.

And I don’t know what to tell you all about musical names like “Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix,  Radiohead, Prodigy, and Lords of Acid.”

And if you think cinema is getting out of this blog piece unscathed, I got two words for you. Star Wars.

Enough said.

So what am I, an aspiring writer with a penchant for horror and action adventure stories going to contribute with my own illness-inspired insanity?  I won’t really know until enough people read my writing and take a shining to it. (“Heeeeere’s Johnny!”) What I can tell you is that at roughly two in the morning, my fever-melted brain decided to cogitate on the way that the plot of my “ancient Chinese action/adventure-horror” manuscript was evolving. Maybe it was time for me to play “chapter and paragraph” Jenga in order to make sure that two story arcs were unfolding in an interesting and creative enough way so that when the final chapter of the first half of my book was written, everything could come together in one exciting “KABOOM” moment.

And what the hell, you might ask, would constitute a “KABOOM” moment for a bunch of action heroes, mythical monsters,  and their supporting characters in Ancient freakin’ China? Don’t bother asking Marvin the Martian. He isn’t writing this book.

I don’t want to give anything away. But I will say that I can write a hell of a sword fight scene now that I’ve read a book on Chinese sword fighting techniques AND I’ve had a couple of beers.

Does that mean I encourage the ingesting of mind-altering substances whenever authors decide to sit down and commit their fingers to keyboard? No. Frankly, I think that ultimately sets a dangerous, self-limiting precedent, and it doesn’t give you anything interesting to say in those “twelve-step” meetings.  But I don’t discount the possibility that every once in a while, an artist’s body has to be pushed to some rather uncomfortable limits in order for their mind to shut down what’s not important. Once that happens, an artist can focus on the creative essence of their work, and they may come up with some interesting scenarios, ideas or techniques that they never would have pondered if their minds weren’t simmering in “Grey-Matter Stew!”

“Halleluyah. Holy shit. Where’s the tylenol?”

Chapter 11 Arriveth.

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/29/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

As promised, Chapter 11 of my Serial, ‘Unbreakable’ is finished and posted at Jukpopserials.com for your reading pleasure.

Much has happened in the last few days. An unexpected bit of news has left its mark. But I will keep writing. That is really my best choice at the present.

Enjoy.

 

 

Samurai Mode

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 08/10/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

What have we here?

I wake up. Twelve hours have gone by since I crashed. The funk of the work week had to leave my body, so I showered. The weight of the work week had to leave my soul so I slept.

But my body still hurts. My mind is still full.

And when I open the door to my room, my old man gives me this look like he’s expecting my wrath to explode like napalm. He isn’t scared. He’s braced.

I don’t care. It’s time to go about my business.

The bathroom is hot and it smells. I feel like a layer of grease just settled over my body. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the sizzle of bacon. I would shower again, but the hot water has been turned off. Swell.

Errands need to be run. Bills need to be paid. And .. Are you fucking kidding me? Someone needs to be taken care of again.

I don’t do that anymore. It’s been made clear that I have no authority here. I’d flip them all the bird, but I’m in some sort of hurry that I can’t even explain.

After a short time on the internet, I find some coffee and get dressed. Like a bat out of Hell, I fly from my home, determined not to look back. I got up late, and it still feels like I’m the early bird of my house. I don’t understand it. It feels pathetic somehow.

The first order of business is to go to my bank. I don’t realize it until I step outside, but the humidity hasn’t gone away. New York feels like a Turkish Bath, except for the fact that I can’t walk around in the buff.

I don’t know why, but the humidity just makes me want to move faster. If I have to sweat, I might as well do it while accomplishing something. It’s the same mentality I had yesterday at work. There was no AC there either. The promised repairs on the system hadn’t been made. I wasn’t surprised.

I had a mountain of work to do. I leveled the mountain. I did it with an economy of motion. I did it with few words. There were no surprises.

That’s what a warrior does.

My mind hasn’t left warrior mode. I move across the street with as few steps as possible. I am aware of people only as moving obstacles. I see them in my periphery as I zoom by. Appearance matters little. Speed is of the essence.

But it’s my first day off of work for the week. My mental state flies in the face of that fact. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I understand this. Somehow, I’ll get to the point where I’ll relax.

Now is just not that time.

I make my way to the bank and wait on the line of people. I look behind me once I step inside the building. People walk inside, intent on the same thing I am. They all seek to interact with a machine. That interaction will be the longest one some of these people have with anything outside of their own essence. Why this occurs to me at this moment escapes me.

When my turn comes, I do what I need to do and I leave. No muss, no fuss.

I hold the door open for about nine different people before I even get to walk back outside. Somehow I beat the after work, pre dinner bank rush. I smirk as I step out onto the street again.

But I don’t run my errands right away. There is something else I need to do first. I don’t bother to make sense of it. I just know what I’m feeling. I’m pent up. There is aggression in my steps. There is tension in my muscles. My clothes feel like just another layer of skin. I am already naked to the rest of the world.

Almost.

The exception is my eyes.

I think about this as I thread the needle of my soul through countless other pedestrians on the New York Streets. My glasses are compact, graduated transition lenses. In the sun, they darken. At times, I forget this fact. I somehow hang onto to it today like a lifeline. Why? What is it in my eyes that I don’t want others to see? What am I hiding in the supposed windows to my soul?

As if in response to this thought, a woman stares my way. She’s wearing a form fitting blue sun dress. She’s also wearing shades. The corners of her mouth twitch upward. I can’t help but return the gesture, even as I rush by her like a bullet train with a cracked out conductor.

Is this how New Yorkers interact now? Maybe it’s always been this way.

My father tells me stories about running into friends on the street all the time. I’ve walked with him for years. He used to be like me. When there was a slew of things to do, he did them with a brutal sort of efficiency.

But he got older. Silver and grey encroached on his beard like a reverse oil spill in the Hudson. Somehow, along with that silver came a propensity to slow down and look at every random thing he could in every store that he ever shops in.

It drives me to the point where I grind my teeth and want to stomp my foot in frustration.

Running errands with him will always be this way now. I’ve had to learn to accept it. I’ve also had to learn to say no when I know that the frustration will make me want to kick him in the shins. I don’t know that it’s his fault. He’s retired. He spent 21 years of his life doing a job that I can’t even imagine doing. He’s earned the right to slow down and smell the technicolor flowers.

So why can’t I do that?

The work week has come and gone. Granted most of my work has been fast and somewhat hard on the physical body, I can handle it very well.

But I’m not a spring chicken. I’m in my  thirties, still trying to figure my shit out. I’m trying to launch the life that I want. I don’t want the life that others think I should have.

It’s difficult to get people to understand that part of me.

I’m reconciling all of this as I continue to speed through people. They simply look like columns of light to me shooting out from a flowing blue stream. I can shuck and dodge my way past objects like that.

At times, I don’t want to deal with people, but it’s easier to get lost in a crowd. That irony will always be with me in New York City.

Today is no exception. My quick footwork gets attention from some. The way I’m dressed gets attention from others. I meet people’s gazes, glances, or glares with equal measure. I don’t shy away from anyone’s attention anymore. When I consider that I am editing a book that I hope to get published someday, I can ill afford to be shy much longer. When I consider what I’m writing about, spotting the Naked Cowboy on Times Square in his tightie whities might not be such a big deal. Being a New Yorker almost makes my direct personality a necessity. The reputation that New Yorkers have for being blunt is well deserved.

I came home for a reason. It had nothing to do with family. It had nothing to do with the economy or with my aversion to Midwestern living.

I returned to reclaim my muse. But to do that, I needed to reclaim who I am.

That process is never easy. It’s taken me a year of living here to remember the parts of me that I loved. Like a defragging, I’ve had to sort through and remove the other parts of me that no longer serve.

The most straightforward part of my psyche is also the most unnerving. This is my inner Samurai.

In the moments where I speed walk along Times Square and find the wormholes that let me punch a hole through the world, I am in Samurai mode.

In Samurai mode, I don’t waste time. People have called me ninja. I used to think this was cool. But I realize now that they only call me this because I move when they’re busy standing still. I act when they are busy reacting.

I get from point a to point b when people aren’t even paying attention.

If I do this to you someday, it won’t be because you blinked and I seek to dazzle with preternatural speed. I’m simply in my Samurai state. Since it seems I can’t walk down a NYC street without being noticed, I can’t really be a ninja anyway. But I can still move too fast for you to catch. I forge ahead with purpose. I exude the strength of my will. It seeps from my pours. It crackles like electricity. It strikes like forked lightning through a turbulent sky.

I do this because I must. I have to get beyond the confusion and mediocrity of my past. I need to surge past the static waters of my immediate surroundings.

I will make my way to the future. If it means we befriend each other along the way, then so be it. You can either raise your weapon and join me on the road to your own future, or you can stay out of my way. In samurai mode, I feel no compassion. I sense no sadness from others because it doesn’t register. I have no mercy. Those things slow me down. They keep my wheels spinning at the times when I want to be skimming over water or soaring  through the air.

In samurai mode, I won’t stop to mourn you if you fall.

If nobody else will unclip my wings, I’ll use my sword to unclip them myself.

I will draw blood from God himself if he tries to stop me.

Writing Samurai

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/17/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I’ve become a writing samurai.

The samurai part is what happens to me when I’m told I’m not good enough. I fight to reclaim the honor that  I feel was stripped from me. I do it fast, and I try to be as efficient as possible.  No motion will be wasted. No time will be spared for excuses from myself or from others.

You can all guess what the writing part refers to.

But the reason for my change of attitude is more complicated than I thought it was.

I thought I was making this shift because I’d submitted my writing to one publisher and had been summarily rejected.

“Thanks, but no thanks.  We’d be happy to have you try again.”

If  I hadn’t been so shocked at the rejection, I, like some of you, would have noticed the last words of the previous sentence.

I decided to try again anyway, to show these bastards what they missed the first time. (cue maniacal laughter!)

I wrote with a vengeance. I edited. I wrote some more. I had friends read and edit my work.  I read it aloud to myself.  I read it again to two of my friends when I thought I was ready.

And then when that was done, I edited some more.  I read it aloud one more time.  I even had a friend read it back at me in her voice so that I would not miss a beat.

All told this weekend, I put something like 14 hours into this project, and that was after I’d finished writing it on Friday.  The story that I worked on and submitted tonight by the way (yay me!) had become more than just a quest to reclaim my lost honor.  It had become an obsession.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have my supporters.  J. Marie Ravenshaw and Edward Lorn will always have my gratitude for their assistance in bringing madness to my method … I mean method to my madness.  Muahahaha!  They have both read and reread this piece.   Both have offered words of encouragement, constructive criticism.

Both have actually spoken to me without asking me to be their therapist.

Neither has asked me to put up with their problems on a daily basis.

Neither has proffered lame excuses for not dealing with any of the problems they may face with their lives.

Both will continue to be with me when others have long since abandoned me as mad. They will share my journeys as I dive into my fantasy worlds and resurface with stories to share.  Perhaps some of these stories will make it to the general public.  I hope so.

I’m sure as I move along in this world, I will discover others for whom this is true.  And there are some other people in my life already with whom I share the deepest parts of myself.

But I am going to be honest.  Most of my closest allies on this planet right now may not be blood related.

None of the people with whom I currently live know that writing is my passion.  They hear about it as we talk of other things, but I have shown them nothing of my work.  I have not shown them the sword with which I slay Ninja Dragons and impress the winged ladies of my life.  What they know about me is constantly drowned out by the vicissitudes of regular life tinged with a madness that I cannot bare to put into words.

True madness can be brought about by several things, in my opinion.  I have learned about severe mental illness thanks to my forays into the mental health professions.  There is nothing quite so shocking to me as watching a person lose their ability to function in the world thanks to something that is beyond their control and affects their brains.  When your mind becomes your own worst enemy, nobody has to wish you harm or physically intimidate or abuse you.  You do it all to yourself without even realizing it’s being done.  I would not wish something like this on my worst enemy.

Sometimes just waking up and facing life itself can leave me feeling about as useless as an asshole on my elbow..

But there are other forms of madness that can arise, over time, from other things that are self inflicted.  I have had the unfortunate necessity to learn of this too in the last few years.  I won’t go into details now, but there is something to be said about watching someone else on a certain narcotic or other substance.  There is a journey to be undertaken by the observer as they watch someone they love destroy themselves and the family and friends with whom they are surrounded.  It is a fascinating and alarming trek to undertake when the person you once knew as the light of your life has immersed themselves in a darkness from which they refuse to be pulled.  I will only extend my hand so many times when it is repeatedly slapped, burned, or bitten.

And I am not a Pavlovian dog.  I will not lay down and allow myself to be electrocuted because of some Skinnerian principle of learned helplessness.  If I can’t find a way past the electricity on the floor, I’ll piss on the damned floor and watch it sparkle before I start hopping around, looking for the fuckers who turned on the juice.  And you better believe I’d bite their nuts off before I ran off into the sunset with a pretty bitch at my side.

I have to say goodbye to someone this year.

They are not dead in the physical sense.  But they have died to all sense of reality.  They have taken themselves out the world in which we live, and they have remained enshrouded in the fug of their own ignorance and impotent rage.

That is something that I would not wish on anyone, friend or otherwise.  Yet it is also something that I can damned well live without.

The samurai in me has been at war with my inner healer.  My inner healer wants to talk some sense into this person and remind them that it is not too late to get some semblance of a normal life back.  I want to tell them it is not too late to reclaim one’s soul if one will only remember that they have one in the first place.

My inner samurai has emerged though, and all I want to do is cut through this person like a weed, brushing them aside so I can move on with my own life.   I feel  no pity for this wretched excuse of humanity.  I feel no remorse as I draw my sword and cut them down with my words.  I feel no mercy as I slice off their choking hands at the wrists and toss them aside like garbage.  There is ice in my veins when she tells me that I am broken and I simply stare, willing them to look in a mirror.  I want to quote Clint Eastwood at them and ask what happens at night when the demons come.

But I need not waste my breath.  I hear them crying melodramatically in the darkness.  I scoff and shrug my shoulders.

Fuck ’em.

But we are fast closing in on the real reason that I spent so much time on this latest writing project.

Every effort that I make to further my dream to write fiction for a living has taken me closer to my inner bliss.  But it has had another affect.  I am removing myself further from the suffocating miasma of this person’s existence.  I am shielding myself from their sadness, their self pity, and their ultimate rage.  I can no longer be this person’s whipping boy, their Pavlovian dog, their indentured servant, their prisoner, or their anything.  I am not and I have never been anything more to them than a target upon which they could foist their self loathing and inadequacies.  I have never been more than a scratching post when they seek to dig their claws.

But I simply refuse to do it anymore.

If I’ve learned anything from my writing other than how to hone my technique and how to concentrate when World War Three erupts around me in such dramatic, “I am the night fashion,” is that practice makes perfect.  The only thing that people need to understand about following a dream is that it takes hard work.  The dream, in this case, is the journey, and not the destination.  The dream is what you begin to become, the spirit that seeps into you as you invite true happiness in.  And there is nothing on this planet that can take that away from me.

Perhaps personal growth and change  is one of the harder parts of learning to write.  I share my story because I want to inspire other writers who may be struggling with accepting that it is their dream to write, whether it be for fun, for a living, or just to escape the insanity of their otherwise chaotic lives.  As I’ve said countless times, we write about what we know.  I have reminded myself this weekend that I know just as much about seeking happiness and meeting a goal as I do about having the love and happiness sucked from my life by things that may or may not be out of my control.  I realize that the best way to meet life is head on.  Take that Succubus or Incubis by the horns and get the happiness you’ve fought off all those other demons for.  Claim that love that you’ve denied yourself because other self-pitying naysayers and hatemongers told you that you couldn’t do it.  Become merciless your purging of such negativity from your world.  You’re the only one that can do this.  You’re the only one that can heal yourself.

I must once again take up the sword that I laid by the river’s edge all those years ago.  And I do it gladly.

I will take back the happiness I lost.

And by the way, I’m not asking permission.

 

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