Monday, December 17, 2012

An Infamy Shared...

By her own account, Nancy Lanza was the mother of a disturbed boy, a painfully shy misfit, an odd piece in the puzzle that is our society.  Did she help him to overcome this?  Did she make every effort to support him in his efforts to find a place for himself among us?  To teach him that ‘different’ is really just another word for ‘special’ or ‘exceptional’?  That he too was somebody who counted?  Did she honestly believe that taking such a boy out of school, isolating him even more, and introducing him to guns and rifles was a reasonable or logical alternative?  A viable means of socialization?  Or was it just another activity a mother and her emotionally unstable son could share?  We may never know what she was thinking.  We may even find out that she did try to get Adam help, did do her utmost to teach him how to cope but there is no denying that, by putting a gun in his hand, Nancy took the grenade that was Adam and pulled out the pin.  He could do nothing other than explode and explode he did.  

There are probably a great many grenades among us and, too often, we don’t even know it.  But Nancy knew!  She knew damn well!  I do not excuse or defend Adam, but it must be acknowledged that it was likely his mother’s actions which were instrumental in flipping the switch.  She aimed the lightning bolt directly at her son and breathed another kind of soul into him.  Carnage ensued.  So who is to blame for it?  The monster or Dr. Frankenstein? Or both?

There are those who advocate that we should have more, not less guns, that arming ourselves to the teeth is the way to go.  Nancy did just that.  She armed herself with the result that Adam, who heretofore had done nothing remotely violent in his life, was handed the ideal tools to become one of the most infamous criminals we have ever known.  

A.J. Aston

Friday, December 14, 2012

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill Blah, Blah, Bullshit!

True, guns don’t kill people.  Angry, deranged, disturbed, people do.  People with a grudge, people with something to prove, people wanting notoriety, people with an agenda.  But all those madmen (of the 43 mass shootings in this country in the last twenty or so years, only one was committed by a woman) would not have had the capacity to be as deadly if they had been unable to get their hands on guns and rifles and AK-47’s.

In light of what has happened in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, all other issues, concerns and arguments, everything which, till today, has occupied and/or divided us, pales into insignificance by comparison.  It is why I have removed the petition on higher taxes for the rich from my blog.  I can’t see that it matters, not just now.  I was, for a brief moment, tempted to replace it with one calling for stricter control of firearms, but this is not the time.  This is the time to think of the twenty children and six adults who lost their lives to bullets, shot out of guns in the hands of a person who should have never, ever had access to them in the first place!

My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, their friends and colleagues, to the residents of Newtown, and indeed, to this nation.

A.J. Aston

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To The Pledge or to The People?

Correct me if I’m wrong but I was under the impression that in these here United States of America, politicians owed their jobs to the electorate, namely all of us, not just some of us.  In return for such employment, said politicians are charged with the duty of carrying the voices of the people to Washington, there to speak on our behalf, rich and poor alike.  

For months now, the debate has raged on the subject of the effective tax rate the super rich pay in comparison to the rest of us lesser mortals.  The President and Democrats are for leveling out the playing field, while the Republicans and John Boehner are against.  

The most compelling reason for a tax hike on the wealthiest among us is, to my mind, a very basic one and that is the issue of equity.  Present tax rates are just not fair!  

An argument against, and spoken least often about, is one which I find quite baffling, not to say highly questionable. It is, (insert ominous music here) The Pledge.  You know, the one which was signed by ALL but 16 of the incoming Republican members of the House of Representatives and ALL but 12 of the Republicans currently in Congress?  Signed at the behest of Grover Norquist of the ‘(Not all) Americans for Tax Reform’?  The one where the signatories promise never, ever, ever to raise taxes, particularly not on the top one percent of earners in this country?  The pledge which Grover maintains is as solemn, if not more so, than, say, wedding vows?  (Actually, he may be right on that score, judging by some of the scandals coming out of Washington, but I digress….)  

Yeah, that’s it, that’s the one!  Keeping in mind that some of these pledges, as you may know, were signed as long as twenty years ago, or a fifth of a century, a generation, a bloody long time ago, I feel compelled to ask:

  How did the people who signed this pledge THEN, know what the people who elect them into office might want TODAY?

Before you answer this question, let me remind you of the oath which all members of Congress must say, out loud, for all to hear, right hand over left heart:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t see anything in there about supporting and defending the pledge to Grover Norquist above and before the Constitution, that little, not insignificant piece of paper which is the framework of this country, the principals on which all else was and is built, the basic premise of all government and it’s elected members, you know, the ones elected by the People, for the People? It don’t say nothin’ ‘bout no Grover….

So, then, ah, who are these Republicans really working for ‘cause damned if I know….

I think they need to be reminded, I think they need to hear from their actual employers, from us!  One way to do that is to sign the petition, the one at the top there, in the upper right hand corner of this blog?  Yeah, that’s the one!

Please sign, won’t you?
Thank you muchly!
A. J. Aston

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt…

I wrote that line!  You are all my witnesses in case anybody asks, right?  It’s a fact!  You just read it, on MY blog, in black and white! Can’t denial that!  

I’m sure a few people out there will go around saying that I wasn’t the first one to do so, but my answer to them is, ‘Get a life!’  I mean, really!  Why make such a fuss?  

O.K., O.K.! Fine!  So it was Mark Twain who wrote the line before me but hey, that was sooo long ago…..

Speaking of denial - I hate Phillip Roth!  There, I said it!  Yes, I did and I do.  Any writer slash hoping to get published and become an author type person person, should detest Phillip Roth!  Why?  I’ll tell you why! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A. J. phone Him...

                                                             I called God.  Picked up the phone and dialed G - O - D.  Numerically, it’s 4 - 6 - 3.  (Depending on where you are, you may have to dial a ‘1’ first.) 

The call was answered on the second ring which really, I mean REALLY, freaked me out!  To be perfectly honest (as opposed to my usual kinda honest), I didn’t expect Him to pick up. 
A voice boomed, “ALMIGHTY.” 
(Tip: Always remember, when calling Him, to keep the receiver a little distance away from you.  My eardrum was almost blown out, except that I dropped the handset right when He answered.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homage to a Brilliant Book

Overcoming my reluctance, I finally went to see a book matchmaker because, well, though I had been with a lot of good reads lately, I was looking for the Book Perfect You know, that special ONE?  The one that comes along only once in a while, and when it does, it just knocks your reading glasses off?  The one that makes you laugh out loud, shed a tear (but in a good way), gives you advice and support when you need it, is honest and straightforward, doesn’t try to sell you bullshit?   I know, I know, It was a lot to ask, but I  had my dreams….

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back on Board….

After my bout of reading sickness, brought on by the gift shop-dispensed trip packet, I crawled back from the railing to the lounge chair and, pulling the blanket up to my chin, I lay down and closed my eyes.   Time to review.  I recalled all the instances when my virtual travels took me to the places this ship was going to visit, locations where I stuck around long enough to get a place of my own.  I had addresses in almost all the ports - Website, Facebook, Blog and even TwitterYouTube was the only areal where I stayed in a hotel, as I was only ever there as a visitor. Problem is, all my residences were either very small (since I hardly stayed there) or terribly out of date and in need of a complete rebuild. 

I thought back to my first foray into Blog and how, being relatively new to this huge glogosphere...ah, sorry...Freudian typo….I mean blogosphere, I kept on checking the stats of my blog several times a day, pleased to see that the number of ‘views’ to my site was climbing with turtle-like jet speed.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why is Sex so Damned, uh, Funny?

The voyage interrupted....

All the social media-ing was taking so much of what little free time I had, that my manuscript was starving to death.  It was in urgent need of sustenance but I kept putting off the feeding.  My voyage had to take a brief time-out but I,  stubbornly and consistently, came up with excuses for not leaving ‘the mother ship’.  There was a very good reason for that; well, at least I saw it as such.  You see, I had come to a point in my story where I had to write the dreaded ‘carnal scene’.  

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I find sex itself repugnant.  Lord, no, not me, I’m all for it, I am!  It’s just that writing about it is difficult because I find it impossible to type and laugh hysterically at the same time!  I keep hitting the wrong keys.  The cursor on my screen seems to be stuck in reverse from all the deleting I have to do.  Writing on most every other subject is a walk in the park compared to describing, in the most vivid of detail, the physical, shall we say, ‘attributes’ of various body parts, not to mention the machinations of two people engaging in ‘sexual conduct’.  No matter what words I use, the end effect is always either coldly clinical or ridiculously cliché.  It took me about three hours just to write the following:

She, as if mesmerized, grasped his pulsating shaft with her left hand and kissed the swollen tip which had turned an almost impossibly intense shade of raw flesh. With the concentration of a child holding an ice cream cone, licking here and there where the frozen substance threatened to drip, she drove his senses wild!”

Oh please!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It Weren’t the Waves What Made Me Retch…

My voyage continued….

The sea eventually calmed down but it was a little nippy.  Documentation in hand, I sneaked up to a deck reserved for the “Aspire” passengers and found an empty lounge chair. The 'gliterati' in "Success" have small, individual hovercraft to recline on but you need a code to activate one of those suckers.  In all fairness I have to say that, for those of us in third class who wished to spend time outside,  empty lobster crates to sit on were provided, but I preferred to park my butt on the soft cushions in second and cover my legs with the thick warm blanky which also came with each chair.  Pulling out my reading sunglasses, I continued with the literature the bitchy gift shop lady had given to me a couple of days before.  

Now, where was I? In case you are worried about the expense, dear reader….’ blah, blah, blah…Most of the places we are about to describe to you provide public housing, free of charge!”  Ah, here we go.  The text went on to say:

 The next areas we will talk about is Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Website and Blog which are extremely large and sprawling urban conglomerations whose populations continue to grow exponentially.  Because of this phenomenon,  government and administration of these places had to be set up and run by very particular individuals possessed of a special skill set.  Curiously, it also made them unable to speak to one another face to face so that, as a consequence, all communication between them always took place in written form only.  So much so that, over the years, evolutionary forces which are, of course, always at work, caused new generations of these administrators to be born without vocal cords as they no longer had any need for such.  The talents which made these, shall we say, ‘evolved’ life forms ideally suited for the positions they held, are the very same ones which also predisposed all of them to suffer from KADD - Keyboard Attention Deficit Disorder.  

As a result of all of the above, the official language of the conglomerations we will be stopping at is Compish.  Visitors and tourists can use their native languages but those who wish to set up a residence (and you, dear reader, are one of these!) must, at the minimum, have a rudimentary understanding of Compish if you hope to get anywhere.

To assist you in recognizing what Compish looks like, the following is an example:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"
<html xmlns="">
<title>Title of document</title>

The KADD afflicted individual who wrote the above attempted to say something about public transitions but found it damn near impossible.  After writing only a very few coherent words, a typical KADD sufferer is compelled to press various keys on the computer keyboard at random, without rhyme or discernible logic, clearly visible here.  Naturally this initially caused indescribable confusion, (as you can well imagine!) so a language was devised to standardize this random babbling.  Compish came to be.  It is said that it has it’s roots in Pig Latin or Piglish, if you will.

Yeah, but, obviously, this particular porker is hopped up on steroids! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ship of Fools Sails Out to See…

 It took me a while to learn how to get around this mighty ship I was on.  The many narrow passageways all looked the same. I felt like a tiny mouse in a huge steel maze and hoped there were no traps along the way. 

 On one of my attempts to reach the upper decks, I passed a bulletin board which was designed to aid all those on their “maiden voyage” (a euphemism for third class passengers) to find their way around, as well as to outline the trip's itinerary on the way to the kingdom of the published.  It stated as follows:

“Ship of Fools” ports of call:

English language destinations: 
Village of Query
Synopsis Town
Outline City

Non-English destinations: *

*Please keep in mind that setting up residence in these locations does not require knowledge of local language and custom but it is strongly advised! 

Huh?  What language?  Which customs?  Residence?  What was all this?  The sign went on to say:

For further information please consult the trip packet 
available in the gift shop on the poop deck.
Thank you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The C.I.A. is Looking to Hire a New Director

"Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free."

Today the Central Intelligence Agency announced that it will be actively seeking to hire a highly motivated person for the position of Director General.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Trip to the Promised Land?

Having decided to embark on a voyage whose destination was publishing success, I foolishly neglected to read the all important brochure first.  Instead, with naive enthusiasm and the innocence of an unsuspecting child, I painstakingly collected and arranged words, like pennies into dollars until, after months of hard labor,  I had enough for an entire manuscript a.k.a the price of my ticket.  Happily arriving at the dock on the appointed day, I was indeed allowed to board, only to be unceremoniously directed towards steerage which, I was told, was all the accommodation my ticket entitled me to.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Adding insult to %$@#*!? injury….

Some years ago I visited my good friends who lived in Ghana.  Having never been to the country before (and not availing myself, beforehand, of any information on the subject), I expected that the capital, Accra, would probably be similar in appearance to Nairobi, Kenya, a city I have never had the pleasure to travel to, but which I have often seen on television for one reason or another.  As it turned out, I could not have been more far off in my assumptions (which, as we all know, make an ass out of…..etc.)  Accra was nothing like Nairobi, at least it wasn’t then and I’m talking a good fifteen years ago.  There were no elegant sky scrapers, no exclusive shopping district, no tree-lined avenues.  Mind you, I was not disappointed, not at all.  I was just, well, expecting something else.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Julius - a short story

Brice Sommerville was the original Sommerville.  The founder of the Sommerville dynasty, this tall and impressive looking man, made his considerable fortune in shipping, his success being a tribute as much to his business acumen, as to his choice of an exceedingly well endowed (lamentably, only financially speaking) bride.  The marriage produced two sons – first Simon and then, two years later, Roger. 

Simon was charismatic, good looking, outgoing and clever.  Roger was an introvert who inherited his mother’s diminutive build and mousy disposition.  Simon was charming and fun to be with. Roger wasn’t.  Simon loved his brother, Roger resented him in return.  At school, anyone who tried to bully Roger incurred the wrath of Simon.  Since the two boys were inseparable, like it or not, Simon’s numerous friends were made to endure the company of his younger, painfully dull brother.  Roger spent his childhood and adolescence under Simon’s protection, and permanently in the enormous shadow Simon naturally cast.

When Brice Sommerville suddenly expired from a massive heart attack, it was natural that Simon, the eldest, took over running the empire.  He was suited for the job and added further revenue to the already bulging Sommerville coffers.  He immediately (and gladly) appointed Roger to vice president of something or other. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for evidence to mount that the newly minted VP's aptitude for business was nil.  On his best day he was incompetent, to say the least.  Though no one dared to say anything, Simon nonetheless quickly realized that his brother was, in a word, useless. To remedy the situation, he slowly and quietly diverted all responsibility from the position, leaving Roger in place as vice president, the post now largely ceremonial.  Firing was not an option.  It would cause a scandal, not to mention that it would hurt Roger's feelings.

The discreet process of getting harm out of Rogers’ way was so successful that, few inside the company, and no one on the outside, knew that anything had changed.  Roger was still viewed as a full-fledged officer of the company, and he was accorded the privilege his position and status commanded.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The case of A. J. Aston

Docket Nr. 276,643

(a.k.a. Aja Jakubowicz-Berger)

Plaintiff’s complaint is as follows:
I am a busy person.  Very busy.  In the morning I take two showers, brush two sets of teeth,  I dress twice, I go through two breakfasts, make two beds, go to the toilet twice, take two sets of medications.  Throughout the day, this dual action continues (e.g. two lunches, two dinners, two evening ablutions, etc.), augmented by activities which are, shall we say, singular - things like house cleaning, food shopping, paying the bills and, lest we forget, writing my book (keeping in mind that the words I initially put down then insist on crying out to be re-written, not just once but many, many times over). 
In short, I lead two lives.  No, I’m not schizophrenic nor has my personality split, at least not that I’m aware. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the name of the English language…..

Just in the last three months, I have bought fourteen books.  Most deal with the subject of what to do to improve my chances of getting published, such as “77 Reasons Why Your Book was Rejected” by Mike Nappa or “No More Rejections” by Alice Orr, then progressing on to “How to Land and Keep a Literary Agent’ by Noah Lukeman, and ending in marketing instructions, as in “Publicize Your Book” by Jacqueline Deval.

Four of the books I purchased are by Mr. Robert Hartwell Fiske. These have nothing to do with publishing, instead focusing on English language (mis)usage.  In one, “The Dimwit’s Dictionary”, Mr. Fiske, a self-proclaimed ‘grumbling grammarian’, has compiled a list of what he calls ‘dimwitticisms’ - infantile words, grammatical gimmicks, ineffectual phrases, moribund metaphors and plebeian sentiments, to name a few.

After I finished reading, I opened one of my manuscripts and, with the help of  the ‘search’ window, painstakingly wrote in each expression or word from the dictionary and pressed ‘enter‘ only to find, to my dismay, that I was very guilty of their use, in (too) many cases to excess.  Though this meant I had yet more work to do on a text I thought was quite ‘polished’ already, the changes I was forced by my own embarrassment to make, improved the quality of my prose enormously, at least to my eyes (though such qualitative judgement should likely be left to others to make).  The other three books called “The Dictionary of Disagreeable English”, “The Best Words” and “Silent Language & Society” were also very instrumental in pointing out just where I had gone wrong. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Hell's week....

Sandy’s opinion of Halloween...

To all those affected by Hurricane Sandy, I wish you a warm, dry and safe shelter, strength to persevere and overcome whatever you must, and an unwavering conviction that things will get better! 

A.J. Aston

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What the hell do THEY want from my query letter?

After making revision number six thousand, eight hundred fifty-two on my book, I came to the conclusion that if I continue polishing the words, they’ll rub right off the page.  Leaving well enough alone, I was ready to tackle the dreaded query.  

The Internet is packed with articles on the do’s and don’ts of query letter writing.  There seems to be uniform agreement that queries should not exceed one page,  should be single spaced, no less that one-inch margins all around.  The header should contain all your contact information, followed by the name and address of the agent and then the salutation.  After that, the tips on writing a query letter diverge like a spaghetti model of an approaching hurricane.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Decisions, decisions…..

So, looking at the little free time I have, I am faced with a decision how to best utilize this precious commodity.  The publishing ‘culture’, in its infinite wisdom, has “given” me a choice:

  1. I could write another entry in my blog.
  2. I could spend a few hours on Facebook, signing up for every writing group that I can, soliciting followers with solemn promises of faithfully following them, thereby increasing the length of both our monkey chains.
  3. I can tweet to God and the world about things unimportant, immaterial and downright banal - to be able to show agents and publishers the ‘army’ of people who have nothing better to do that to hear about my boring existence , anticipating every tweet with bated breath.
  4. I could learn how to create a website for myself, given that I cannot afford to hire someone to do it in my stead. 
  5. I should write several entries my website will need to contain.
  6. I should send out query letters to agents in the “Guide to Literary Agents” I invested in, focusing first on those who accept e-mail submissions, saving me printing, addressing envelopes, postage and a trip to the nearest mailbox.
  7. I must write a query letter and synopsis to go with my other manuscript
  8. I have to compose ‘blurbs’ for both manuscripts 
  9. It behooves me to learn about self-publishing in case I decide go that route with one of the two.
  10. I want to continue to write my third manuscript which I would like to finish before  the end of this century.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WARNING! - There is a conspiracy out there!

The publishing world had to do something about a major problem facing the industry - too many damn ‘wanna-be’ writers!  Slowly but surely, everyone was being buried under an avalanche of query letters, synopses and unsolicited manuscripts (with or without cover letters). 

To resolve the growing threat to their mental well being, a brilliant solution was found, code named PLATFORM.  A rule of law was established as follows:

Henceforth, all “would be” authors will be required to have massive visibility on the Web.  This will be accomplished by means of a Facebook page, a Twitter account, at least one blog and copious participation in several writer’s forums!