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“Life Is Not Fair….”

Life is not fairby Glenn Starkey.

Television has become as comical to me as it is frustrating. On those rare occasions when I may relax and enjoy a program without the guilt of neglecting my ‘to-do’ list, I scan through the cable channels, pause on one and find myself saying, “Life is not fair.”

Have you taken a serious look at the variety and popularity of shows that are available? I’m always left wondering, “How do the people in these television shows find these jobs?”  I know you have at least seen the commercials for these shows. Imagine the various resumes these ‘stars’ have:

“….For years I chased Sasquatch through the forest. Never found the big bugger, but came close. I stepped in his poop one time. I did catch a bad case of poison ivy though!”

“….I was the star of a show where I raced against the clock to gorge myself with plates the size of Texas, overflowing with spicy, fried foods! Some had peppers so hot I could start a campfire when I passed gas!”

“….Before I went to rehab, I was the star of show where I traveled the world drinking and reporting on booze in every bar we could find. I can only remember some locations; most are black spots in my memory.”

“….For seven years my team and I traveled America in search of ghosts. We only found demons though and performed over three-thousand exorcisms. Nebraska and Iowa are safe now because of us!”

There are also other superb shows to choose from such as the rich, irritating housewives from various cities who spend their time arguing and shopping; the twenty young, beautiful women cat-fighting over a single guy who they had never met before yet want to marry because he is their ‘true’ love; and of course, the house filled with cameras for voyeuristic pleasure to watch young men and women connive to be the last person remaining.  The list goes on and sounds worse as you define the shows in basic terms.  It’s the dumbing of America. Excellent role models for our youth. These stars and starlets will have fine resumes of their careers.

But what about the unknown people who daily star in our lives with little or no recognition or a good-salary spot on a television show?  Their work resumes would be simple:

“….I taught school.”

“….I fought fires.”

“….I drove ambulances.”

“….I patrolled the city streets.”

“….I carried a rifle and a hundred pound pack across Iraq and Afghanistan.”

So, the next time I see a television show where a man’s sole job is to travel the world to reel in a monster fish or I see screaming legions of Beiber-fevered teenagers adding to his billion-dollar plus yearly income, I will once more say, “Life is not fair….”

Fortunately, I never expected it to be.

 

photo credit: unknown photographer

Black-Eyed Friday

“It’s mine…No, it’s mine…Get away!…No, you get away!”

BLACK-EYED FRIDAY

by Glenn Starkey (@GStarkeyBooks)

Prior to Halloween I walked through a major store and observed Christmas products already intermingled with Thanksgiving items on the shelves. Goblins, pilgrims, and elves are a confusing menagerie of images when you are supposed to only be buying a bag of candy for “Trick or Treaters.”

By Thanksgiving though, Christmas ornamentations were fully hung in the stores along side of “Black Friday” shopping countdowns. Now cardboard elves were staring across the isles at cardboard pilgrims standing beside native American Indians holding turkeys. And Black Friday advertisements loomed on the horizon as if announcing the coming of the end of the world!

Somewhere along the line in America we leaped from Halloween to Christmas, leaving Thanksgiving a blip on the calendar, its significance almost buried beneath the avalanche of oncoming sales the following day.

When we awakened from our naps brought on by the usual Thanksgiving over-indulgence, and the annual televised football game ended, something magical occurred. Within the snap of a finger we were catapulted into a Christmas mindset, the season of “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men.” We had just been shot through a time-warp from witches to pilgrims to elves, yet realized the transition would not be complete until we are past the infamous gladiatorial shopping day—Black Friday. Yes, it is the single day of the entire holiday season in which we cast out all good will toward our fellow man (or woman as seen in the news) and take no prisoners at the mall!

While some people chose to forego the meaning and celebration of Thanksgiving all together and literally camped outside the doors of major retail stores, others chose to leave directly from their Thanksgiving dinners to be in line at midnight when the doors opened.

(Now play the soundtrack from THE TERMINATOR) And at the tolling of the bells, the doors swung open, the stampedes began, and the brotherly love of Christmas transformed into a gladiatorial battle…Insanity fueled the masses… By that evening, television news stations were reporting a woman pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers that had closed in about her; a shopper Tasered another shopper during an argument over a toy; a woman accidentally struck another woman’s two years-old child while in a fight over a video game, leading to further fighting between the women; police were forced to wrestle a violent shopper to the ground because he had ripped something from another person’s hands, and a 61 year old man fell dead in a store and customers stepped over his body to continue their shopping …. The news reports kept coming, growing stranger by the moment.

And by late that night, the wild-eyed, wounded combatants and weary campers returned home (or were awaiting release from jail) with precious bargains in hand, ready now to celebrate the true essence of the season and spread “Peace, Love, and Joy” among their fellow man for a few weeks. But to honor this special day and those with such Christmas spirit who found it necessary to kick, bite, punch, pepper-spray, and Taser their fellow shoppers, I believe we should now call it “BLACK-EYED FRIDAY.” Hopefully, their handcuff marks, bruises, and black-eyes will have healed in time to sing Christmas carols and rejoice with “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men.”

Having swept through the holidays like a fast-forwarded movie and the whirlwind of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black-Eyed Friday, and Christmas activities drawing to an abrupt halt, on Christmas Day there will be people who sit in their chairs wondering why they are so mentally exhausted, glad it’s all over for another year.

What a pity. What a sad commentary it is in many ways. But as I have learned through the years, there are still good people in this world and the true essence of Christmas will not be lost.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Everyone has a story, whether good or bad.

 

The innocence of a child....

Everyone has a story, whether good or bad.

by Glenn Starkey

 

I was prepared to write about the mental exhaustion we feel from months of constant editing, proofing, and preparing our books for print or e-book publication, but a Facebook posting I read this evening abruptly changed my thoughts.

In brief, the posting was from a young man, 19 years old, asking whether it was wrong to carry such dislike toward his father for neglecting him through the years, leaving his mother, their family, and starting another family—and still seemingly ignoring him. A reply from his sister, one year older, came immediately, echoing the same emotions toward their father, only with stronger animosity. Knowing them I felt a deep hurt because of their pains, yet realized regardless of what replies they received, only the passage of time could heal their wounds, if ever.

Unfortunately, divorces occur in families, and all too often leaves everyone bitter, resentful, and scarred—especially when children are involved. In Vietnam I witnessed the effects of war upon families. As a police officer on the streets I responded to more violent family disturbances than I wish to remember. My wife works for a law firm that handles divorces. Each evening I see how disturbed she is when children have been swept up in parental battles.

There are no perfect families. Everyone has a story, whether good or bad, that can be told about their families. All too often though, many of the stories range from alcoholism and physical abuse to abandonment and worse. Those events have a long lasting impact on children that is often not discovered for years then becomes one source of adult life problems.

I’m not a psychologist or a licensed therapist, but I once heard of a method for helping someone who silently carries such hurt from their youth: write it all in a journal and then burn it.

If truth were known, every author has placed a piece of themselves in their novels. I know I do, and it’s done without intention. But baring your heart in a private journal, writing every vile thought and memory you’ve held secret and captive within, and when complete, burning the book, works to some degree to cleanse the soul. It is the statement and release of those inner demons which is most important.

Of all things though, we as adults, as parents, should always remember that our children must be protected and feel loved by us. We are responsible for nurturing their overall mental development and confidence that will carry them through their lives.

There are enough hardships and obstacles in life without carrying additional baggage from our past.  We cannot undo the past, but we do have control of the future—and the future is today.

When the last sands of my hourglass are about to fall, I hope my son will have a good story to write about his lifetime with me.

How do you feel?

Regards,

Glenn

@GStarkeyBooks

photo credit: Jake Starkey

Wannabe, Aspiring, or Accomplished Author?

 Wannabe, Aspiring, or Accomplished Author: Which are You?

I suppose the answer comes from your point of view. Sort of like the story of the three blind men standing about an elephant. It just depends on where you are as to what your description of the elephant will be. So, if our writing is the elephant, and we are all standing around it, we each will have a different view.  (I realize this is heady stuff, but bear with me.)

The “Wannabe” authors come in many varieties.  One half of these people are the “groupies” who would like to write, but in truth, prefer to be with authors, discuss books, ideas, and enjoy the conversations and overall camaraderie.  The other half will tell you they want to write a book but don’t have time, still have children at home, haven’t yet found the right idea, been working on an idea for twenty years, or are waiting for their winning lottery ticket to arrive in the mail.

The “Aspiring” authors are actually writing, re-writing, editing, may be still confused about their novel’s true direction, and are trying their best to complete a manuscript.  Possibly they have been working on their book for years, but they are steadily plugging away, one word at a time. Always though, dangling before their eyes is the golden carrot called “publication” which they are constantly striving to obtain.  Of course for this discussion, we must include those persons who write just enough to have a chapter so they can announce themselves as being authors, yet will never finish the work for whatever reason.

And last but not least we have the “Accomplished” writer.  Here are the Gods of Literature who have one or more published (Indie or Corporate House) works out for purchase by people other than their immediate family members. They can display scars upon their backs from bad editing, belittling rejection letters, agents’ laughter, and snobbish reviews. We might also include those individuals who are in the process of getting their first novel published, but it is right there, ready to go out into the world and become “The Great Classic” of the ages.

Does all of this so far sound a bit rough around the edges with a pinch of truth sprinkled in?

Well, yes, in fact it is. We hear these “titles” used every day, fit ourselves into one of them, and cast others into them as well.  There is a little truth in each classification I wrote.

Do I completely believe each of the definitions? No.

For fun, let’s shoot some holes in them all while seeking the basic truths.

The “Wannabe’s” are probably the majority of people in society that have picked up a book to read for enjoyment.  They secretly harbor the idea of writing, not on a serious level, and simply enjoy the feeling of being carried away to the multitude of worlds we as writers create.  They are a writer’s best friend—the reader. I love them. Every writer loves them. These folks ask us about our books, how we do this and that, where did the idea for the novel come from, and a thousand other questions.  They give us an adrenaline rush, swell our chests with pride, and give us a sense of self-worth for the hard work and long, solitary hours we put forth. I do not see them as “writer groupies” because they enjoy being associated with authors. I see them as new friends.  But there are those “Wannabe” authors who use the excuses of time, family commitments, and their jobs as preventing them from writing.

Sorry, those excuses don’t hold water.  Why? For one, look at the series of Harry Potter novels.  I read an interview about J. K. Rowling that told of her being a single-parent, raising her daughter, working to support them, was financially strapped, and writing at any and every opportunity she received. She had an idea and kept hammering away at it. Then one day, “Harry Potter” strode forth into the world, setting a writing standard others wanted to follow. That is only one example.

Every day on Twitter, I read bio’s from women which states the same things; single-parent, raising children, working—and writing their first or second novel. There are people writing who have physical disabilities too, but they are writing.  I know I’ve left out some industrious and courageous writer somewhere, so I apologize.  The point is that if you want to write, or if you want to do something badly enough, you will make the time.  I applaud everyone who is out there pounding their keyboards—especially women raising children! If embarrassment about your writing skills is holding you back, well, that is what editing is for!  You can always find someone (a friend or a local school teacher) to help you edit a book. If you have a good enough story, tell it.  Write your book. Write your story.  You never know what may come about.  But you have to write if you want to be a writer.  What I’m pushing here is be honest with yourself, “Do it or stop telling everyone that you wannabe a writer.”  To thine own self be true.

Now, let’s move on to the “Aspiring” writer.  God bless this group because I believe we are all in this classification.  We write, edit, argue with ourselves over what we wrote, have doubts, hope others will enjoy it, and keep writing until we hit “The End.” The work doesn’t stop there of course.  We will push it on for publication, and endure the trials of marketing.  Each time we begin a new novel, we become an “Aspiring” author.  There are no guarantees that the new book will be good even though you received high accolades on your last one. With each new book we are reaching for that golden carrot of publication. (I will state though that for some authors it is a shorter reach….) But a portion of this group are the writers who barely complete a chapter then stop.  He or she has reached a sufficient point to display some pages if asked, yet for their own reasons will never complete the book.  For this segment of the literary community, I say, “If you started writing a book, finish the work.”  Maybe you will never write again, but by completing the book, you will learn a lot about yourself and better understand the journey others have undergone.

And finally we arrive at the last category—the “Accomplished” writer.

Does having a mile-long list of published books make you an “Accomplished” author? Is having an agent or being published by a big house what makes you so? For the sake of argument, you could say you accomplished the publication of a book. That would be truthful. After all, you are a published author. But from my humble view atop this soap box, I believe we may be published and highly recognized by the public, but we are constantly in a race against ourselves to make our next book better than the last—and the pressure on us to do so has definitely magnified. Our readers demand better and better writings from the authors they love. We raise the bar on ourselves. I feel we must constantly strive to write better, improve our craft, and improve ourselves.  I would never say I’m an “Accomplished” writer because I want to continuously improve. I haven’t reached an author’s pinnacle whereby I can sit back and say that everything I write is magnifico!  So, in a nutshell, I’m saying we should be careful with our usage of the classification. To some degree it has a ring of arrogance we should avoid.  But we should rightfully always be proud of our accomplishments in publication, and our achievements or awards in writing.

Before I step down from my soap box, I want to include a couple more aspects to consider in our struggle up the food chain to supreme publication.

Remember, we all started at the bottom, hoping to one day write a book. (Think back about the first line of the first chapter of the first book you wrote. Painful, wasn’t it?)  In recalling those struggling days, we should always provide encouragement and assistance to anyone that needs help with their aspirations to write. Talk to people, never down to them. Throughout your career, keep your feet on the ground, but reach for those shining stars.

Whether in my career as a writer or during my years as a security manager for a global oil corporation, I’ve probably met about every type of person there is.  One of the greatest authors I know, David Morrell, “First Blood,” (and many more books) talks to you—and his circle of friends are a “Who’s Who of Literature” listing. On the other hand though, I’ve met authors, barely published, who were condescending, and will never have the publishing numbers of just one of David’s novels. And don’t even get me started about some of the arrogant, global corporation management folks I’ve met because we could be here a long time.

So, we now draw to the end of my first blog. I can breathe now. My thoughts were from the heart and with great respect for my fellow authors of all standings, published or not.  I will always have a sincere appreciation for those writers who offered their heartfelt encouragement to me when I first said, “I want to write a book.”

Don’t fit yourself into categories or classifications. The best you can possibly refer to yourself as is simply being “a writer.”

I wish you all the best in your writings and projects.

Glenn

p.s.

For my next blog topic I’m considering “Do-It-Yourself Root Canals” or “Lobotomy, The Easy Way.”  Have a nice day.

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Glenn