Is It Wrong?

Is it wrong that, rather than use an automated app on wordpress to screen out spam, I use the need to manually delete the comments as a reminder that I should be posting more?

Also: I use the funny little names that the bots invent for their comments as inspiration for character names in future works.

Waste not, want not.

Best, _Mark

Over Thirty Years Ago

You could see me, an undergraduate student, sitting in the small office that belonged to a Professor of Communications for Aurora University. His name was Walter Sublette. He was taking time to explain the craft of writing to me.

I honestly don’t remember why I had the appointment. Probably he had rejected something I submitted to the school paper (which he edited); and me, being who I am, demanded an audience. Yes, that feels right.

But he spent a good thirty minutes explaining Point of View to me.

Even at the time, I recognized it as a distilled masterclass-style lesson. He was a former Assistant Editor for Fiction at Playboy—in charge of their slush pile, as we say these days. He passed along a remarkable lesson in that cramped time-space.

I wasn’t a writing major. Nor did I aspire to a career in writing (except perhaps in secret desires). But he commended my skill. Said I clearly had a way with words. He took the time.

My reflex is to say it was all wasted. The wrong person at the wrong time. I was a person just beginning on the path of discovering myself. It was far too early in that process for the lesson to matter. Generally, I have to know myself before I know what needs to be written.

Also, it was the wrong time. Back then information was so rare that you could blink and miss it. And so I did. Not like now. Now, we have the Internet. Museums, thousands of museum’s worth of information at our fingertips. We can realize its importance later and look it up. Now, for example, I can Google and find out that Walter (he wanted me to call him Walter, I do remember that) wasn’t just a Professor, he was an Artist In Residence.

Now I do aspire to be a writer. And now I do understand POV. And, even now, more than six years after his death, I can feel the warm generosity that motivated the gift of his time.

So I say it was not all wasted. He is part of the reason that, now, here in my easy chair, I can be the Artist in Residence. If only for a few moments.


Sturgeon’s Law and Fall Reading Suggestions

Many years (decades? lordy, I’m old) ago I saw an interview with Billy Joel where he was asked: Did he think he was a “great” songwriter?

Rather than engage in false humility, he said: “Well, I think I am a good songwriter—but in an age of mediocre songwriting, that makes me a great songwriter.” Isn’t that great? I mean, what’s not to like about that answer?

I remember that whenever I think about how to estimate/rate/review any work of art. One of my favorite authors, Andew Vachss, as with most things, has a very direct and laser-focused take on this topic. Concerning writing:

The lie is that writing is a meritocracy. The lie is that the cream rises to the top. The truth is that it’s a crap shoot. It’s a blind leech in a muddy swamp that swims along until it gets lucky and strikes a vein so it has some blood to suck on. It’s not a fist-fight. It’s not a weightlifting contest. It’s not a sprint. It’s not any ‘may the best man win’ because there is no objective standard for judging writing. At all.

As a slight counterpoint, another of my favorites, Stephen R. Donaldson, said:

Back in the days when I taught writing, I used to say (sometimes strenuously) that ‘Good is subjective: bad is objective.’ Just to pick one trivial example. Confusing pronoun reference is an ‘objective’ problem: a writer who can’t keep his/her pronouns straight actively prevents comprehension (which, I think we can all agree, is *not* a Good Thing). The same principle applies on every level of storytelling. But the farther we move from the objectively bad, the more we enter the domain of the subjective. I call Patricia McKillip ‘the most elegant and evocative stylist writing today.’ Someone else (this is purely hypothetical) might call her work ‘effete and juvenile.’ To such a reader, I could never *prove* that I was right. Nor could such a reader ever persuade me. No, I’m afraid that *time* is the only reliable judge.

Continue reading “Sturgeon’s Law and Fall Reading Suggestions”

Life is just a fantasy

Please find below three more of my previously-published fantasy short-stories.

Besides these three, I also currently have another short-story, called The Beast, in print. The Beast is featured in Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 4, Book 2—which just came out last month. The Beast was borne of an exercise that I had done as part of Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass.

As for these three: Limited Omniscient is a UF piece from seventeen years ago. It was accepted by the now-defunct SDO Fantasy online e-zine.

Continue reading “Life is just a fantasy”



The doorbell chimes again, mocking me. Grabbing the half-empty candy bowl, I open the door–

“Huh!” I gasp.

It is HUGE. Its front paws planted on the porch: two golden, fur-covered columns, each thicker than my torso. They hold up the massive lion’s body. I feel the dragon’s tail in the shadows. Giant eagle wings scrape my eaves and blot out the festivities.

Between its teeth, I see the tiny plastic pumpkin bowl. Its cat eyes just stare.

I lock eyes with it for some time.

“Trick,” I decide.

I mean, how often do you get a chance like this?

Limited Omniscient

He was very nearly already dead when he came to see me. Not at all what I had expected from the High Father: the Great Winged Serpent Who Rules All.

My first glimpse of him was through my specially located peephole. He leaned heavily against his wooden umbrella. He wasn’t dressed in ceremonial garb, rather he wore a light windbreaker and khakis. Picture a Chicano George Burns.

His face was completely hidden behind his own wrinkles. But his smile was patient. It had taken me several minutes to come downstairs in the lift and answer the doorbell in my wheelchair.

I asked who it was as I opened the door. Without a word of greeting, he stabbed at me with an exacto knife– of course he was too weak and only succeeded in falling on me and clumsily knocking us both over, back into my foyer.

Continue reading “Limited Omniscient”