Jeremy D Brooks

Random Yappings

…the rest left to the din of Hell.

by on May.31, 2011, under Random Yappings, Writing

Time is something I no longer have in any kind of quantity. Well, OK…that’s dumb—let me qualify that: free, spare time. We all have the same number of hours in a day. Most of mine are accounted for. Divorce, to date, has wrecked me as a writer. It’s devastated other parts of my life, too, but this is my writing blog, so, I’m grousing about writing.

As I look forward to better days and wait for the pinpoint of light off in the distance to slowly grow into a dime, then a mousehole, then, eventually, a man-sized escape hatch, I find myself thinking about old writing for inspiration. To that end, here’s the first and only poem I’ve had published…a scratchy, disjointed piece called The Woodsman’s Son, originally published in 2009 by New Myths.

———–

The Woodsman’s Son

A long-forgotten, cast-off nut embedded just an inch below
the frozen ruin of terra crusta; the wind, the ash, the blackened snow
My sleep has lasted half an age
This barren ground will be the stage
The time will soon be here, I know; I feel the ground beneath me glow

Lightning crashes, frantic winds blow warming snow through valleys vast
with thunderclap and hoofbeat rain, the pounding showers–here, at last
I’ve waited since the autumn’s dusk
For warming rains to pierce my husk
“Please, give me strength to push up past! Thrust through the earth in leafless mast!”

Arching to the sky, I reach; with em’rald canopy I sail
With knot and thorn like shield and sword and bark as strong as iron mail
As hard a core as can be found
As deep a root within the ground
Behemoth from an ancient tale; a wooden beast of breathless scale

Artesian waters crack the earth; they buck and bray and thrust and run
Warm western winds bring seed and mulch; wan, threadbare clouds release the sun
Green carpet, grass of shining gold
Frail amulets of hues untold
This world, I thought, can’t be outdone; it must be master-planned by One

The complex pieces of the forest rose alone, yet fit so well
So to my oaken mind there is no other purpose I can tell:
“We rose to heed our Master’s call,”
“He put me here to herd you all”
“I’ll guide the good toward Heaven’s knell; the rest left to the din of Hell”

I watch them all: the beasts on land and fishes in the babbling brook
A shepherd’s life begets him naught, until the day he drops his crook
My Lord, He will not let me rest
My life, you see—it’s just a test
I’ll toil ’til he shuts my book; an idle limb: the Devil’s rook

The choices that we think are ours—of leisure, labor, laughter, love,
Are multi-colored threads that guide us through our faith; or lack thereof
But if you listened, you were told
Without a doubt which thread to hold:
A tether you’re unworthy of: the golden line from up above

But sometimes Father, in His grace, will twist the threads and blur the path
And make me want to put my faith in things like science, logic, math
I close my eyes and bite my lip
And curse the books that made me slip
Remember that his love is wrath; baptism in a sulfur bath

To further steel my heart, one year My Lord sent me a carnal dare
A shapely nymph of silken wood and slender roots…sweet pollen air
To love her, I would give a limb
But, prior, gave my heart to Him
Regret? I think I’ve earned my share; a fool thinks that his pain is rare

But pain for piety is fair.

A century or more I reigned in this domain of mostly good
My Master called me home one day; before His mighty chair I stood
“I’m grateful for the chance, O Lord”
“To stand in service as Your sword”
“I swear it on my life: that if I could, I’d give my trunk and wood”

With thunderous laugh and lightning clap, He raised His axe and held His side
“A virtuous speech, indeed, My son; but in My eyes you daren’t hide”
“I’ve watched you grow up from a seed”
“I’ve scrutinized your every deed”
“It’s time, I think, to test the tide, and show your Father what’s inside”

I tore my bark and turned my right-side out–and, so, my outside in
And showed my Lord, for once and all, my splintery hide was clean of sin
And let my sap, like amber tears
Pooled at my roots for faithful years
“Please, tell me, Lord, how good I’ve been; and when the seven horns begin”

“I pray You: take me home again”

And with that solemn line He stood, and bid me lay before His throne
He laughed and swung, and chopped, and hacked, and split my body to the bone
“You brambled fool,” He said with glee
“You’re stupid–even for a tree”
“Ignorance led you, fear of the unknown; you were tasked with two things: to be planted, and sown.”

“You had seasons to squander ’til the day you were hewn; but the life that you wasted–that life was your own”

—————-

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Contemplative Silence

by on May.06, 2011, under Random Yappings, Reading, Writing

Sorry.

I know it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve last posted. I really, really meant to put something thoughtful and important up here on a regular basis. I really did.

Since my last post, my life has taken a spin that I could have never anticipated.

I’m not looking to air laundry in public, nor am I seeking sympathy. The only reason I am posting this after near a month of silence is that I feel some obligation to my very small group of readers/followers/online friends, and I am deathly afriad of being written off as permanently offline:

After 13 years, my wife and I are parting ways. I haven’t the heart or stomach to provide details at present. Perhaps later. If you need to know, you know where to find me.

Reading has been scant (pushing through Hunger Games, which I love), writing has not happened for close to three weeks.

I have, however, had a great time with a local group of screenwriters in a crit group that meets on a soundstage dressed to be a teenage girls bedroom. That has been a great experience, and I will share much, much more soon.

For now, I just wanted to say Hi. I’ll be back. There WILL be a sequel to Amity, and Presidius and the story of Sonny Bull will be told, in due time. I just need some time to put my life back on track and, most importantly, make sure my kids are OK (which they are…their mother and I both care a great deal about them, and they are doing just fine…no worries there).

Thanks to all of you..

Jeremy

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Ignorance and Tolerance, Never Shall the Twain Meet

by on Jan.05, 2011, under Random Yappings

An expression only has meaning within the stream of life.

I only took two English classes in college—ENG101, and business communications (I did MBA, not MFA)—and that quote was the favorite of my 101 teacher. He was a thin, hippy-type guy, bald on top with a long ponytail, an exuberant man with flapping arms who made it dead clear that he was willing to consider GPA bumps for sexual favors. Creepy. Probably unemployed by now. He repeated that phrase so often that it’s stuck in my head some fifteen years later.

An expression only has meaning within the stream of life.

Simple, but true. Words have power and meaning, but only in context. Words without context are dictionary filler.

That, I submit, is the core reason why the plan to revise Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is so ridiculous. No, not ridiculous: dangerous and stupid.

New South Books, an Alabama-based publisher whose charter is to reflect the culture and history of the Southern US, made the announcement this week that they plan in releasing a revised version of Twain’s book, replacing two “hateful epithets” with softer words. They cited the support of a “Twain scholar” for added justification, and stated the purpose of the removal was to “…counter the ‘preemptive censorship’ that [Twain scholar] Dr. Gribben observes has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists nationwide.”

So, the stated goal is to appease those who would censor literature by (wait for it) censoring literature.

An expression only has meaning within the stream of life.

The words in question are “injun” and “nigger” (as in Nigger Jim, one of the main characters of the book). Hateful words? Yep. Outdated epithets of ignorance? You betcha. Do they have context within the story Twain set out to tell? Absolutely. Does it change the story to replace them with nicer words? Yes.

Those words shock. Even typing them into this post somehow feels wrong. I’ll type “fuck” all day long, but to type those words just feels dirty, especially the latter. With all of the discussion on them, I’ve not seen a single person actually spell it out. And that’s the point, today even more so than when Twain wrote it.

The most under-rated moustache grower of the past century.

It’s been a long time since I read the book, but here’s my read on it. Huck befriended Jim, a runaway slave, and traveled with him on a raft. He seemed pretty oblivious to Jim’s official status as a sub-human servant (by the standards of the townsfolk and society-at-large). Huck befriended Jim because he liked him as a human, not caring about his “official” status; but, at the same time, he called him by his “epithet” name and treated him like a lesser person, because that was what society trained him to do—treat blacks like animals. Hence the importance of the word: through Huck’s innocent eyes, Jim was a person, but society’s biases had already tinted how he saw/treated blacks/indians. It reminds us of the dangers of poisoning the well of youthful innocence and compassion with hate.

Here’s the end-game: the revised book gets ignored by most of the world as a misguided revisionist work; at the same time, conservative school systems and municipal libraries adopt it as the “accepted” version of Twain’s classic. Children in Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, etc are only given access to the revised version, and aren’t even aware that there is a “real” version until they are older, if ever. Other publishers catch on and offer whitewashed versions of other oft-banned books. Big Brother becomes the good guy in the War on Terror™, Heather’s two mommies are platonic friends, and non-revised books are burned for the good of the children in a non-ironic way in Fahrenheit 451.

Twain’s works are in the public domain, and New South are well within their rights to do this. Which is fine. In a perfect world, nobody would take this seriously; but we know that’s not the case. We live in a country where the textbooks are being revised to have a strong theist slant based on the biases of one large state, and libraries still ban books becasue they think that certain words, if read by youngsters, will be damaging. They forget that

An expression only has meaning within the stream of life.

Life has ugly in it, and pretending otherwise doesn’t make it go away. Understanding the ugly and discussing it openly does, eventually. Words are not the problem. Making them into something they are not is.

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Hot Buttered Rum

by on Nov.30, 2010, under Random Yappings

All future holiday gatherings will be held in equatorial zones.

After hours of driving across mountain passes in blinding snow while fighting a cold and fever, I remembered why, despite my constant griping, I moved to the desert. No goddamn snow.

But, I’m back in one piece, no dents on Amy’s new car, and all is back to normal. Although I’m still sick. Poor me.

And, as a bonus, I made it back in time for Barry Napier to post my interview in a new segment he’s starting called The Pub Interviews. Bring your favorite lampshade and pull up a stool.

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Sellin’ Out and Hatin’ on the TSA

by on Nov.16, 2010, under Random Yappings, Writing

Barry Napier asked me a very timely, deceptively simple question last week: What are you working on? I’d been thinking about that a lot, pretty much every time I opened up my WIP folder—which story folder to open?

After finishing Amity earlier this year, I’ve started and abandoned a lot of projects; mostly novel ideas, a couple of short stories. The question almost became existential as a writer…

  • A difficult, lengthy, potentially very satisfying book rooted in philosophical skepticism and politics.
  • Another book set in the same world as Amity…familiar ground, but I don’t know if I feel the need to do this yet.
  • A lighter book with potential commercial appeal, fun and potentially less emotionally draining to write than the other two choices.

After a couple of weeks of knocking around all three manuscripts, outlines, and character sheets, I’ve decided to take on the last option: something that I may have a chance in hell to sell. Or not. Who knows anymore. Regardless of it would end up being a mass marketed work or self-published, it’s structured to support an ongoing series of books and short stories, and, of course, t-shirts, coffee cups, mousepads, and breakfast cereals (adult breakfast cereal, the kind you open with a bottle opener).

I just broke 21k, and it’s been fun so far.

~~~~

Picture this image with face of you or someone in your family. Seriously, this is legal. WTF.

Is it just me, or is everybody pissed as hell at the new TSA procedures?

To put it plainly: I fly 8-10 times a year on business, and I really don’t want to have to choose between being photographed nude or having my genitals fondled by a government stooge. I very much dread the next time I have to take my kids on an airplane and have to make that decision for them. This is a strip search, plain and simple.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place full of nutjobs who will gladly kill themselves to take a few of us with them.

No, these scanners don’t make us safer. There is no evidence to that effect.

No, the TSA has not stopped any terrorist threat since 9/11, unless you count dumbasses who try to bring pistols in their carry-on luggage (there’s a procedure to find those) or nefarious authors trying to smuggle marmite Australia. The types of threats that this was designed to catch–underwear bombs, etc–have all originated from outside of the US. The UK, incidentally, has deemed the photographs of children taken on this scanner as child pornography. Think about that shit for a second.

No, this would not find explosives hidden in a body cavity. Nor would the “enhanced pat-down”.

Yes, a crazed jihadist would gladly stuff his rectum with C4 if it meant doing right in the eyes of his leaders.

Yes, former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff is a lobbyist and heavy investor in the company that makes the scanners. He’s the guy who originally pressed the Congress to allow and fund these devices. It doesn’t take a political scientist to see why they are being placed in every airport in the US. Your nude pictures are making Chertoff rich, which kind of makes him like Hustler Magazine’s founder Larry Flynt…right?

If you’re flying next week (or, really, anytime in the future), consider opting out of the nudie-scan, and letting the public see what the TSA considers reasonable treatment of US citizens. Or, join the kilt-n-freeball protest.

I’ve emailed my Senator…how ’bout you?

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Guest Spots and a Halloween Preview

by on Sep.30, 2010, under Random Yappings, Writing

I have two guest essays out in the blogosphere this week:

A discussion on self-publishing at the Casa de Mercedes, and my thoughts on self-editing over at Kate Taylor’s blog.

Stop by and say hi…

~~~

Can ya smell what The Rock is cookin'?

As expected, sales are slowly rolling in for the book. Very slowly (I’ll share more when I have relevant data). Right now I’m digging into the stumping part of the show, which for a writer is like going to the doctor for shots with big, rusty needles.

I did get a decent review over at {Indie}pendent Books…very cool of Jenna and company to do that. I really hope to get to their Indie Book event next summer, but it’s in NYC, and the flight and hotel alone would be close to a grand. If you’re in the area, or can afford the flight, it’s a conference to keep on your calendar.

~~~

I have a few more guest blog spots lined up over the next several weeks. I promise I won’t spend every day talking about this damn novel. In fact, I’ll have a new topic over the next few weeks: Halloween props. Think I want wacky with the props last year? Wait until you see this batch.

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Jamie Eyberg

by on Aug.18, 2010, under Random Yappings

I was sitting in the Denver airport about four hours ago when I got the news via Facebook:

Jamie Eyberg and his wife were taken in a tragic accident this week.

This is tragic on so many levels.

When I took my first steps toward getting published a couple of years ago, Jamie was one of the first writers that I befriended on the internet. He was always unfailingly kind and supportive. When I took up Halloween prop-making, Jamie lent his experience as a craftsman on some of my builds.

He was a talented writer taken before his prime. We all know Jamie was well-published in horror and dark stories, and he was expanding his portfolio to include YA and had drafted a children’s book that I beta’d for him last Spring.

Jamie and Ann leave behind two young children.

As a father, I can tell you that the only thought more heart-wrenching than imagining your children passing on before you is the thought of your young children being left without you.

My thoughts are with Jamie and Ann’s families–especially their children–in an unimaginably difficult time.

It’s tragic and raw and it’s fucking terrible, and those are the only words I can think of.

The funeral home has a memorial page and guestbook for the Eybergs along with information on a memorial fund established for their children.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-R Frost

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I Am Joe’s Guilty Conscience

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Random Yappings, Reading

I admit it: I am a total Kindle hypocrite.

I have been tearing Kindles for months. I like the device itself, but I strongly disagree with Amazon’s implementation of DRM and their clandestine information “sharing” system, wherein they can snoop and report on your reading activities: not only what you’re reading, but how often you read, what time of day, for how long, what you highlight, and the content of notes you leave. They also, apparently, have the ability (and, buried somewhere in the EULA, the right) to remove content from your Kindle.

When society collapses, this can be used to grind cornmeal.

I think we can all agree that ebooks aren’t going away–at least not until the Palahniukian apocalypse hits and we’re hunting bison in the Walmart parking lot with clubs and pointy sticks and 17 inch CRT monitors on makeshift trebuchets. I, as I announced last week, am ready to take the ebook leap in some form or fashion (most likely in self-pub form); it would be pretty dumb, I think, to jump into those waters without having a direct, first-hand sense of what kind of critter I’m trying to work with.

So, once AMZ announced the new Kindle units and the subsequent price drop, I ordered one. It only hurt for a second.

Why not a Sony or Nook or one of the low-end Borders units? Simple: Amazon owns the publishing distribution world. Enough said. I’d love to have one of each device, and I really feel strongly about having an epub-compatible unit some time in the future, but for now, Kindle 3 and its MOBI/PDF capability is it.

And I can’t wait. It isn’t slated to ship until the end of August (I ordered the same day as the announcement and got in on the first batch), but I’m really anxious to get my sweaty mits on it. I even have some magazines picked out to convert from paper subs to auto-push electronic.

Review forthcoming. If you come to Vegas, I’ll even let you touch it.

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A Stack Dump of Me

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Random Yappings, Writing

Did you know that Mercedes Yardley featured me on her blog last Friday as a part of her Writers in Masks series?

Well, you do now.

And, the more you know…

Writers In Masks: A Retrospective

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Kennae Geht a W00tW00t?

by on Jul.07, 2010, under Music, Random Yappings, Reading, Writing

What a lazy-ass week it’s been…the kids were visiting grandparents for a week, and I pinched a nerve in my back—the perfect storm of not-doing-shitness. And, I didn’t. Well, OK. I did stuff, but I didn’t go to the gym.

We went out to dinner several times, saw a few movies (found Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in a little theater for a buck fifty!), ogled some of the weirder things in town like the new Aria Resort and the First Friday art festival (only took us six years to get there).

Marian Call is not--I repeat NOT--the shiny guy on the right.

Probably the most unique thing we did was saw my Twitter-friend (a strange new classification of relationship in which almost all of my human interactions now reside) Marian Call perform at a tiny hair salon cum art gallery downtown. Marian is a self-funded, unsigned (on purpose, I think) nerd-folk-jazz musician from Alaska who is touring all fifty states this year with a PA, a rain stick, an eighty year old typewriter, and her car.

To be honest, jazz/folk isn’t really my bag, daddy-o…but, I can honestly report that I loved it…really. She has an amazing voice, a tight, professional sound, and is a great songwriter. Her guitar player Scott was equally amazing, and I was a bit sad when they played their last song.

She has an entire album dedicated to Joss Whedon’s Firefly. ’nuff said.

I highly recommend you take a minute and check her schedule and see when she’s in your burg…buy her music, and give her the love that independent artists with tons of heart and grit deserve.

Plus, she’s just been invited to perform at W00tstock, and to sit on the Geek Girl panel at SDCC. Go see her so you can say you knew her way back when.

‡‡‡‡‡

The WIP is still ticking along…I hit 1200 a few days, and zip other days. Zen. Enjoying it very much. But, as I write it, I keep seeing things that I should have done in Amity, which makes me question how good Amity could possibly be. I hate losing confidence in my own work, but I don’t want to release something that reeks of shite. I don’t know. I still have about fifty agent queries out, so time will tell. I may re-read it, and decide I still love it.

‡‡‡‡‡

And speaking of geeks, I snuck in Craig Ferguson‘s auto-biography on July 4, in between a hike and watching fireworks. A quick, inspirational read…very timely read for Independence Day, as it turned out. Ferguson is, it appears, as much one of us writer-folk as he is a comedian (he has another published book, I guess). That makes him family. So, go get him a bowl of soup, for Chriminy’s sake!

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