A few words about people…

No matter the organization. No matter the association. The group. The crowd. The click. Somewhere embedded within, there is that person. Maybe even more than one person. He, she, they are just a little different from the others, and no one can really put their finger on just why that is.

My family, and I mean extended family, is comprised of a myriad of personalities, and hold an equal number of personal beliefs, opinions, and practices. Most are harmless, if not entertaining, while others probably should have a twenty-four guard (just kidding).

Fulfilling a thirty year military career, I encountered some pretty strange individuals. There were people with medical degrees (of course; I served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman), but I also met my fair share of flyers that held degrees in everything from education to business to theology. Again, most fun loving and great to be around. Some? Not so much.

My family had a tragic encounter with law enforcement. The men and women sworn to serve and protect. And allow me to interject that in our family, we have law enforcement officers, but our experience with three was not a good one. Suffice it to be said, three deputies shot my son while he was experiencing a medical crisis.

After my military career, I elected to pursue public education. And all I’ve said to this point held true. Ninety-nine percent of the teachers I worked beside were the most wonderful, caring, dedicated individuals. But, there were those teachers and administrators, who did not know how to behave around teenage girls.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop the list with our illustrious and comical, at times tragic, politicians. I really don’t believe I have to say much more here considering the news coverage they receive regarding their little trysts with girlfriends, boyfriends, etcetera, etcetera.

Which leads me to the main point of this post. I will be releasing a publication soon which will address violence against women and domestic abuse, globally. One cannot write about such a subject without proper and broad research which includes delving into every conceivable social group, sub-culture group, declared entity, however you wish to identity such collections of people. And trust me, researching this topic led me to some pretty interesting sites with plenty of vivid graphics. My works cited page will be extensive, and while my work will be categorized as fiction and does not include citations, I do intend to publish my works cited via a Blog post.

My list of readings will serve two major purposes. First, my readers will know, upon reading my words, that while fiction, the topic I address is very real. Second, if anyone questions any comment, opinion or fact uttered by one of my characters, they will have a source list available to conduct personal research; and I do most definitely encourage all my readers to read further on my topics, if for no other reason than personal edification.

Having said that, allow me to add this. One of the MANY groups I delve deeply into is the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transgender, and queer (LBGTQ). One fact that led me repeatedly to this group was the ever present concept of hegemonic masculinity, the how and why men maintain social control over not only women, but any group they consider inferior to them. Hegemonic masculinity led directly to misogyny, which led directly to the church, and from there this book just took on a life of its own.

Why do I mention the LBGTQ directly? Simply because misogyny is linked directed to homosexual men.

Before you blast that comment alone, please allow me to go back to my opening comments. Every group has its deviant personalities. The teaching profession harbors child predators. Our legislature harbors womanizing perverts. The LBGTG, indirectly that it may be, by virtue of its declared title, harbors closet homosexuals who, for social, marital, corporate, and political influences and bias, cannot easily come out of that closet and live the life they truly yearn to live, to freely and openly experience the sexual existence they were meant to live.

In short, these homosexual men are prisoners in a life they despise, sharing a bed with a gender they don’t like, and unfortunately, this makes for a very angry and dangerous man; a misogynous man.

On my Facebook page, I attempt to include every social entity out there. The LBGTQ is one of those groups. (Still haven’t brought myself to “Like” the ZETA Association! J) In my work I attempt to make clear the distinction between the misogynous homosexual male and the rest; but, what I do not do is water down the issue to patronize any gender, social, political, or religious group or entity.

Life is what it is.

“Give a man a fish…

…and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Those Chinese knew what they were talking about. This proverb will outlive us all, and probably do more good. I prefer this over the Golden Rule, “do unto others.” Still, as with everything else in life, its hit and miss.

Of course, I don’t speak of literally teaching a person to fish, rather about educating and motivating to succeed in general. My written work addresses many issues which plague and “hold back” otherwise exceptional people. As a high school teacher, I saw so many “lost” and disillusioned teens. So many lacked the basic motivation and drive to pursue even their most basic education, it was disheartening, almost depressing. I watch so many of my own family members stop pursuing school after high school (I’m elated when I hear of one of them returning, even later in life).

When one drops out of high school, I see it as simply giving up on life. You see, we have a large family; one might say, a large not very well off family. When even one stops reaching for a better life, when one child gives up, it impacts the whole family. They don’t realize it, but it does.

Here is another adage for you, “There is no such thing as a free lunch!” Everything in life has a price. Simply put, an individual’s quality of life depends on how hard they want to work. Back to my high school students. There were the two classes of kids: those with, and those without. But what the kids “without” didn’t realize was, those kids “with” were in reality no better off than themselves. A fourteen year old has not “made it” in life. They may be flashing the iPhone and the Abercrombie & Fitch clothes Mom and Dad have provided them (for now), but that will not extend much pass graduation. Nobody wants to be that 40 year old still living with Momma.

I have family on two continents; and, it is surprising how similar those two families actually are. When my wife and I share stories, it is funny how they are so very much alike. We both grew up in essentially the one room shacks, with multiple people sprawl wherever they would fit. Both of us tell stories of days when there was simply no food to put on the table. Both of us describe the days when a simple thought was difficult because of the hunger we were experiencing. But we also share the stories of how we both got off our asses at very early ages and did what we had to do not only to ensure our own survival, but to make sure others ate as well. I think it’s safe to say, at our present age, we will never, ever experience hunger again, nor want for anything (knocking on wood).

It would be so easy for my wife and I to simply “give” every one of our family members that fish, that day (metaphorically and literally speaking). We could do it. We could buy sacks of rice; kilos of fish, pork, chicken, beef, all the vegetables they could eat. But tomorrow, they would be hungry again, and let’s face it, we may not be here tomorrow.

No. We do not feed the masses. We push the youngsters to continue their education. Sometimes we help with that only because that falls under the “teach a man to fish part.” Still some refuse to even do that. We have our share of high school drop outs, and we have our share of college drop outs. Even the heart breaking kind; those who lack that one semester, and even that one class for their diploma; but that’s okay. We never give up on anyone. We never lose heart, only because we know, one of these days, those hunger pangs are going to hit home. Living in that crowded one room shack is going to get old. Waiting for someone to feed you is not going to cut it. The extended hand will remain empty, and the reality of life will become clear.

I said it was a hit and miss proposition, and yes, we have those who are struggling, doing without, but signing up for that next course. I’m not saying we have favorites in this family, but these motivated and focused young ones do have our attention. And finally, we have those (the graduates), who no longer need our fish, only because they now have the knowledge and the skills to catch their own (and are). Nothing is more satisfying for a parent, grand parent, aunt or uncle than knowing a child they watched grow up, no longer needs their help (or fish). They are going to be okay.

Some people call it tough love; some call it abandonment; we call it teaching kids that a person isn’t dealt a bad hand in life, a person simply live the life they choose for themselves. So when someone pouts because we say no to buying them a “smart” phone, or a “notebook,” it doesn’t faze us. If a child can learn how to fire off a gazillion text messages and master Facebook, they can enroll in a class, learn a trade or profession, and buy their own “smart” phone, because in this life, “standing by” believing that daily fish is coming is foolish indeed.

A Word 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 story line 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 story line 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.