Letters: An Inevitable Conversation

Japayuki: A Novel

Monday, April 28, 2014

This exposé of gross dereliction and political misconduct on the part of Bexar County, Texas, reflects a growing trend in this country. Joseph is afflicted with Huntington's disease, a terminally illness which causes dementia and psychotic episodes. A National Honor Society member, a musician, an athlete, Joseph is confronted by three Bexar County Deputies while sitting in the family car. The deputies, aware of the boy's affliction, understanding the family only seeks medical assistance, chase the boy from the family home. Cornering the boy against a neighbor's fence, where he throws his arms into the air, the deputies shoot mulitple times striking the boy three times. All takes place as his mother watches helplessly on. But that is only the beginning of the family's nightmare. Joseph is charges with attempted capital murder, taken from his medical team, and tortured in the county jail.
A Smashwords.com e-Book

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reading is Essential

As a high school teacher I had the honor and privilege of working some of the most dedicated and hard working students imaginable. No, I’m not speaking of the brainiacks, or the gifted and talented; I’m speaking of the special needs students. These young people struggled in ways you and I can only imagine. They were grossly dyslexic, hearing impaired, auditory impaired, and vision impaired, and suffered with conditions that hindered their lives daily. One young student was legally blind, but she wore her “coke” bottle glasses religiously, and was never seen without her novel in hand; that book was plastered to her face, but she read. Whenever I read to them, whether “Of Mice and Men,” “The Pearl,” or the “Old Man and the Sea” they would struggle to follow along in the book, stopping me often, begging to know our page number and chapter, so they could catch up. The true heart wrenching cases were those who suffered with dysgraphia. Try as they might, the simply could not get their words down on paper. And so my pain and suffering comes from watching capable readers, able readers, not reading. We may be thrilled with our “technology” today, but trust me, the day is coming when we will all be thinking, “what the hell did we do to our kids?” As parents, we have a responsibility, or we used to, and that was simply to prepare our children for life. Well, life demands readers. In this day, there are those who are prolific readers and writers, and there are those who are illiterate, guess which ones will dominate in the coming ages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Truth About Fiction

There will come a time in your life, maybe it already has, maybe it will come tomorrow, but the time will come, mark my words, when you will sit back into your favorite chair, ice tea in hand, and it hits you: you have a story to tell. But, not just any story. Maybe not an easy story to recall. Perhaps just the thought of the formulating, developing storyline makes you smile due to the humorous events involved; perhaps recalling the events that absolutely must be included causes you to choke up, or clench your hands in fists of anger. All you know is the story must be told and no one, absolutely no one can tell it but you.

In either case, humorous or heart felt, you want, of course, to protect the innocent, but at the same time ensure the guilty are fingered; but, this must be done in a politically correct manner. If you come across to judgmental, you are sure to turn your potential readers off; you are no longer telling a story, you are reading a verdict. If you are blatantly one sided, you are just voicing your opinion on a topic. So you have to balance the good with bad, the facts with fiction. Remaining impartial can be difficult, but it is the only way to truly tell a good story.

Fiction of course if the storytellers best friend. Creating that fictitious character just so is an art in itself. You know you've succeeded when you have all your friends and family members asking: is she talking about me? Is that ‘Billy’ character based on my life? If that happens, then you are doing your job as a creative writer. The key to a good story is keeping your characters real and believable. People must be able to say, “I know that guy! I swear, I know that woman!” On creating one of the characters for Letters, my current work in progress, I had four people (privileged to read my initial outline and draft) immediately identified a co-worker as the model for a particular character; they were all wrong. While I do ‘borrow’ likable and/or despicable characteristics from actual people, I do not totally base a fictitious character on a real person. For one thing, it wouldn't be a fictitious character anymore, and more importantly, the character wouldn't be mine.

Likewise, your setting must be just as real and familiar. As your readers walk through the park along with your characters who are conversing, they should be able to say, “I've been in that park! I know that fountain, that bridge!” This happens when your adjectives flow with the pace of the story, painting a clear and vivid picture with every scene. Your reader should be able to close her eyes and see every bright and colorful detail of the spring picnic, or feel the cold and dampness of the dark and stormy night. In other words, the storyteller that can capture and hold a reader from the opening chapter to the last page is good (and rare). The storyteller that can have a reader find themselves at the last page wondering where the next chapter is, is exceptional (or just plain unorganized).

One final technical point. Dialogue. I would guess my stories are 85/90% dialogue. I provide the setting and characters and plot, then let the characters take the reader through the rising action, the climax and the eventual falling action to the resolution (if there is one). Dialogue is where the storyteller can let her characters run a muck. They can say anything in any way they wish, and it’s okay. All the conventions for writing are out the window, so that Billy Bob can rant, “Bubba ain’t gonna lauw dat ta hap’in gin, heh!” And no one can say, “Oh my! Excuse me? That is not correct diction.” Hell, if Billy Bob can get it out of his mouth, it’s as correct as it’s going to get! Important note: describe your characters incidental fidgeting and facial expressions as they speak; it’s okay to interject little bits and pieces of descriptive actions if it will allow your reader to better engage with the action. “Robert nibbled on his right pinky as he pondered his next line. He suddenly jerks his hand away, grimacing and sticking his tongue out as far as it can go; he has realized he hadn't washed his hand after cleaning the cat’s litter box. “Shit!” he spits running towards the bathroom to find his tooth brush.”

I tell you all that to tell you this. I include in every Foreword the explanation that I do not write about talking animals, nor little boys that fly around on broomsticks. I don’t write about secret agents, cloaks and daggers, or space, the final frontier. I write to hopefully present and address a pressing social issue in a storyline that will engage even reluctant readers, a.k.a. young at risk teens and busy, stressed out working adults. While I applaud the writers of fantasy and romance and every other genre out there, I need to know that anyone who reads my words will learn something new; perhaps something they can use in their own lives, and/or share with someone they know. In order to accomplish this goal, I go to great lengths to research my topics thoroughly. My works cited page for Letters grows daily and as of today, list some 108 entries. In that the topic is violence against women and domestic abuse, my challenge (as a man) is to describe the incidents of out and out torture and murder of women in an unbiased, unemotional way. In this work, I question as to whether or not I was able to accomplish that task; I’ll let you be the final judge of that. I considered taking the tempered down road, but remembered that had been done; Hawthorne lightly addresses the witch hunts of the late 1600’s in The Scarlet Letter. The simple fact is, violence against women is a blatant, brutal civil/human rights violation that is never properly addressed. It’s a taboo topic that even medical professionals, medical doctors and psychiatrist shy away from. I do not hold anything back. I know I will be called out on all I write and publish, but so be it. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

As for me and my house…

Recently, I have found myself delving into my “faith” more than ever before. I have always been the inquisitive type verse one who blindly accepts the teachings of others, and when we talk about the areas of religion and politics, that raises an eyebrow or two. My parents were Democrats, so naturally I was expected to be a Dem also. My entire historical family tree was Catholic, so I was expected to be at Sunday Mass. And for the most part, I caved in and attended despite knowing well the history of the Catholic Church. Men after all are simply men; some do actually attempt to make a difference, while most are content to just follow along like chattel to an inevitable death. In my predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and in my predominantly Hispanic schools, to ask questions, especially the types of questions I asked, was to risk upsetting the dominant white political structure; to ask the “religious” based questions I asked was out and out blaspheme. But I always knew I wasn't upsetting, or worse, insulting God. She loved me! I knew She did. And I knew, early on, that all men are corruptible, from the school teacher, to the politician, to the priest. I somehow made it through school, and on graduating, I left home immediately, enlisting in the Navy. I was now in heaven. I explored the world in more ways than one. I didn't just visit other lands, I ran through them absorbing as much about the country and the people as I possibly could. I attended every kind of religious service I could get into. In Italy (of all places), after attending one of the most ordinate services I had ever, I heard whispers of “another” Mass later that evening. The unsanctioned Mass was in a private residence with many in attendance. It was unsanctioned because it was one of the foundational Catholic charismatic movement meetings complete with waving hands, dancing and singing, and speaking in tongues; it had it all. The only thing I could liken it too was a Pentecostal service I had attended. Now those folks knew how to praise God! I learned quickly that there is a big difference between the churches of Man, and the church of God, that is, people who could gather anywhere and just believe and rejoice in Her!  The structured and incorporated religions on the other hand, simply want to sell you God and Jesus, and thereby salvation; pledge your membership, pay your tithes, sponsor a potluck now and then, and you were home free. But again, men are corruptible. It is in their nature. It is an inherent trait that some men use well, especially those who are charismatic enough to make God work for them. The creation of the Catholic Church, the ordination of the first Pope, and the eventual commercialization of the church was not surprising to read about; the Protestant break-a-way credited mostly to Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses, likewise made for interesting reading. Of course, the inevitable appearance of the mega churches and their mega rich and famous, multi-millionaire celebrity “pastors” and their diva wives are the ultimate in (tabloid) reading. But this was the lighter side of my religion research; this was the readily available fodder. Digging deeper, wading through the ancient doctrines and published papers and letters I found what I had only heard about. The formation of the organized church by misogynistic, money and power thirsty “church fathers.” A church that came to dominate nations wielding the cross as a deadly weapon. Now, the darker side of “religion” developed clearly, and as you will read in Letters, is the foundation for today’s continued misogynist attitude, not only in the church, but in society as a whole. It is why men continue to practice violence against women.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Good and Evil: The Battle for Souls

I will quickly conclude my previous series of post with a final statement regarding the case of sexual assault on a minor female student at a San Antonio high school. I have turned the case over to the San Antonio Police Department, the District Attorney, with information copies to the State Attorney General, the Department of Education, and the Justice Department. I have done all I feel I could do other than picket in front of the school demanding justice. If the department and agencies mentioned take no action, then there is no justice for children in the State of Texas.

Now on the my effort of joining so many others in raising awareness of growing domestic abuse and violence against women. I posted a status update on my current work entitled Letters. I wrote that while I am surprisingly ahead of schedule with the initial draft, I feel confident that the release date will definitely be this summer. However, I also noted that the work took an equally surprising turn. On drafting the first segment, the work took on a life of its own and in little over thirty days, the first draft of the complete work is essentially done.

One of the twist which just seemed to work into the draft was the inclusion of the occult. Events recorded throughout history, events involving the church, could not be left out.

In my previous post I explained that I would be offending, upsetting, angering many; I was not just speaking of the living, for I have no fear of the living. After posting my last entry, my suspicions were confirmed.
In that I “draft” not on a laptop, but in my mind, as I work in the yard, wash clothes, or stroll through a palengke,  yesterday, I drafted as I walked through a public cemetery in Oas, Albay. I was with  Dhes, her father, and a young girl named Helen. The cemetery is classic Spanish Catholic with all the ornamentation and architectural highlights. The “rich” families have their mausoleums; the poor a hand scribbled name on a stone.  As we strolled, looking for family names, a shadow caught the corner of Helen’s eye; then, movement within a open encasement which had been mysteriously burned out.

Needless to say, the girl was upset. She ran to Dhes, who also felt that tingling down the spine typically reported on such an experience. As we left the area, some rocks were tossed in that same vicinity. Now, before I proceed with the continuation of this event, I want to ask you one question. Have you ever slept, enjoying a dream, only to be awoken by someone? Then, no matter how hard you try, you cannot return to the dream you were enjoying so much. Well, last night, after our cemetery experience, I fell into a deep sleep, and as I have been for the past couple of weeks, my dream took me home to 1109 S. Hackberry Street. Each dream is very vivid; I walk down the hallway; I stand in the back room, my room, and in my mother’s room. I’m often in the kitchen, looking through the dining room, into the living room. While I can hear others, I can see no one. Last night dream began in much the same way, only this time there were others; the people who presented were not family, rather strangers dress in odd clothing, one man in an old military uniform. They were upset with me; they were accusing me of bringing an entity down on them. I stood my ground, and replied to their accusations that I was in control not the entity. I then began to condemn an obvious, yet unseen presence. One of those present warned me with a finger pointed towards the ceiling. There furniture was affixed to the ceiling and on my condemnation once again of the entity, the furniture fell onto the floor.

Now, the dream was so real, I next awake to Dhes shaking me, awakening me front my violent encounter with the entity. She tells me I’m yelling at something, someone. I’m freezing, which is not typical on a Philippine summer night. So, covering up, I fall back into my sleep and open my eyes again in my mother’s house. This time, three of us are sitting in the living room. We are served food and drink by a girl I do not know. Just as she serves us, she disappears into the house. One of the men with me becomes disoriented and we have to help him out of the house. As we attempt to lead the man through the front door and onto the porch, the entry way is illuminated. Again, I condemn the entity present and again Dhes is shaking me awake.
This time, we get up and walk down the stairs to the restroom. She is asking as to why I am yelling in my sleep so much, asking about my dream, but I cannot answer. Again, we fall asleep, and again my eyes open within my mother’s house. I stand alone in the hallway. The house is dark and cold, but quiet.

I understand the dreams. I know the entity I am confronting there. I know it well, and moreso, I know why the encounters. I know that probably the presence in the cemetery in the Philippines was linked to the house in San Antonio, Texas. And I know, it’s all coming to a head with the publication of Letters.