Art and Angst and Aunt Toots – Mackey Chandler

*This post arose out of a conversation I was having with Mackey.  This is my comment on it, in addition to what he has to say below:

I like it, but I think you’re forgetting ONE thing — the tide of crap
really has already receded a lot.  See, the aunt Toots of he world when they
fail to become millionaires stop posting.  Then also become full of pride in
not selling.  They will go on and on about how they’re too artistic (or too
holy) to sell.  And that’s where “you sold out” became an insult. – and now I’ll get out of the way and let Mackey  (who is selling very well indeed) tell it.*

Art and Angst and Aunt Toots – Mackey Chandler

A friend recently reposted a comment about the stupidity of thinking art is corrupted by paying the artist. I got the impression they thought fat happy people never make anything pretty. It takes the angst of a gnawing empty stomach to drive the writer of great lit*er*a*ture. The stress of cruel prejudice to create the Blues and Jazz, and the horrid squalor of New York City tenements or living in Akron Ohio to push a rock band to greatness.

Let me say historically art has always been tied to money. The great and famous paintings we see in public art museums were mostly commissioned by the church or a few really wealthy nobles. Let me assure you the peasants and serfs didn’t have oil paints in their hovels or murals decorating their walls or ceiling. Art might have been a fancy line of color in the cloth they were weaving or a little different pattern in basket they made to carry food. Only the rich could afford to have a huge hunk of marble delivered and feed an artist for months while he hammered and chipped and filed and smoothed to make a statue.

This means that the art we see was very restricted in subject. Since the church was paying the bill the paintings tended to saints and scenes from scripture. Although having no idea how natives of the holy land looked or how they dressed, some of the painting really need labeled for you to know it wasn’t some Dutch or German merchant instead of the Good Samaritan or John the Baptist. Books were rare and again tended to be religious or history. The history stroking the egos of the nobles and their ancestors. If you want an example read the dedication and forward to the King James Bible. It goes on and on kissing up to the King. After all he fronted some serious change for all these churchmen to try to make the Latin translation of Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic texts make sense and agree with church doctrine in the then current English.

Adventures and fiction were pretty much the reproductions of Greek stories that say more about the strength of wine in a warm sunny climate than any real historical truth. Some of the monsters are easily the equal of any alien we can dream up. Given the church we find that romance and outright porn seem to have a foothold in the Orient with different philosophies earlier than Europe. Especially anything with illustrations. I admit I would like to see what Medieval copyists could do with Asian porn for illuminated texts. Think anime.

Populist art had to wait the spread of printing presses. Even at the time of the American revolution the spread of subversive papers was limited, if only because it was mostly the well to do who could READ. Once presses became common for printing advertising flyers and boiler plate newspapers they could be used for things like ten penny novels. Before and after the Civil War (War of Southern Rebellion or War of Yankee Aggression depending on your ancestors) papers included serial stories to hook readers. Those serials could later be printed as cheap pocket books selling from five to fifteen cents. Just keep in mind a dime back then could buy you a pound of flour, two mugs of beer, an egg, or toll over a private bridge. Once a series of dime novels were written they would be consolidated in a ‘thick book’ – which reminds me of some current authors who constantly remix their shorts in various combinations as new books.

Art for your wall as prints or postcards or had to wait for lithography to become common at the start of the last century. That’s why people starved for something visually stimulating put up advertising posters for goods or traveling shows and political sheets in their homes. I’ve always thought the pictures of JFK so many black people had in their homes in my generation echoed this.

Just because art got cheaper didn’t mean it was GOOD art. That’s why some of the books were called penny awfuls or penny dreadfuls. Common subjects were stories of the western frontier or travel and military adventure in foreign lands. Often written by people living in New York City or Chicago who had never been past where the streetcar ran.

It’s true that modern society with its riches has opened the door to more artists. We are past the point ‘starving artists’ literally were in danger of going to an early pauper’s grave. And yet I am left wondering. Where is all the art from people on welfare or Social Security disability? We just had a lady die, Maya Angelou, who had a horrible early life. She grew to express it well enough to let others at least partially see what others suffered. She also acted during the civil rights movement to help not just herself but others. Yet where are all the other abused, disenfranchised voices? I deeply suspect she would have produced greatness even if she’d had a wonderful childhood and a comfortable life.

I’m personally happy the computer has opened the door even wider than the printing press. Without it I probably wouldn’t be published. Or if I was it would be so late in life I would have had far fewer books and I’d have been paid much less.

And yet…

Some of the e-books are very much like the penny awfuls. You do have to learn to filter or let somebody review and help you.

Let me tell you about my Aunt Toots.

My favorite uncle like my father had many brothers. My dad’s were down in Alabama so I didn’t know them. My uncle Ben had brothers locally yet I rarely saw them. I remember once he did take me to see my his brother Buck and his wife Toots. I can’t remember their real names because uncle Ben was… eccentric. He never called anyone by their real name. I was ‘The Will’ (Wilson my middle name), my mom was ‘Crump’ (?), my dad was ‘Cake’ (used to be a baker). A famous scientist who he had take me in to see a running research reactor and gaze down in the water at the beautiful blue Cherenkov radiation was ‘Hambone’. The Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, His Excellency blah, blah, blah of about twenty names was… ‘George’.

When I was about 13 or 14 he took me to visit Buck and Toots, and their boy a year or two older than me. They were not eccentric. They were flaming nuts. The boy immediately showed me a rifle he’d assembled from parts, noting it had no serial number and if he killed somebody with it they’d never trace it. “Oh, and would you like to go walk in our woods with me?” Uh, no thanks.

Uncle Buck went all over the US to play in horseshoe tournaments. The one living room wall was covered with loving cups and plaques. Every time my uncle Ben visited he would whip Bucks butt playing horseshoes. He never went to a tournament saying it was a silly waste of time for a grown man. Buck had that wild eyed stare of the fanatic.

Aunt Toots was the prize of the bunch.

She wore a poodle skirt and bobby socks and every gesture, every step was theatrical. She would have been in her late thirties or early forties then. We sat and tried to have a conversation. She talked non-stop. I mean, if somebody sat forward or cleared their throat she looked actually afraid they’d say something. She gasped for air so she didn’t allow a pause for an opening. After about an hour she ran out of oxygen and her eyes rolled up in her head and she face planted on the carpet out cold. She simply ran out of air because she wouldn’t shut up. Buck didn’t even look surprised. Get the picture of this lovely family? There’s a reason I painted such a full picture.

Aunt Toots was a writer.

After “The Men” went out to weld something I stayed behind. I knew they’d weld with no protection and burn the crap out of their arms. I stayed with aunt Toots who felt she had to entertain me. She took me in her sewing room and showed me her manuscripts. Three full massive file cabinets of hand typed manuscripts as tall as I was. I’d never known a writer.

She showed me a couple and I read excepts. She’d been writing twenty years. They were all children’s Christian literature. Turns out she was a Sunday school teacher. She’s write a story for the week and read it to her class. Parents inflicted this on their kids to have a little free time every weekend. In fact in Akron Ohio they have what is known as the ‘Bus Ministry’. You can judge the success of a church by the size of its fleet of busses. Parents would give their kids a buck or fifty cents and send them off for spiritual enlightenment so they could go back to bed, get some more sleep or make the poor kid some siblings. Aunt Toots was as enlightened as they got for a buck.

Being young and having no tact and already seeing what she’d shown me was pure crap I asked the awful question. “So, how many of these stories have you sold?” – Not*A*One. She was however convinced that once she sold ONE, the floodgates would open and her back-log of thousands of stories would be worth a FORTUNE and she’d be on easy street. (facepalm)

Today it frightens me to think of her uploading five or six THOUSAND stories/sermons to Amazon. I mean, there must be a market in old maid Sunday School Teachers who would just LOVE her work. But some poor people would probably buy them by mistake. She was the sort who today would call the police and swear out a zero tolerance criminal complaint if one of her five year old students kissed a little girl on the cheek. If he kissed another little boy on the cheek she’d have him roped to the flag pole piling faggots at his feet in short order. Even then I wondered how they had ever had a child. The only thing I can imagine is that they did like their sauce a bit.

Given their age they missed Amazon by a couple decades. I’m sure aunt Toots’ manuscripts are compressed in a landfill somewhere, waiting for future archeologists to find them and open a new window on twentieth century Mid-western culture. I’m certain however if you do a careful search you can find aunt Toots spiritual successors on Amazon or other e-book sellers.

Back when the rich churchmen and nobles bought statues and oil paintings they had their own filters. Unlike today when people go to New York galleries and buy junk welded together or paint thrown at a canvas by monkeys as investments, if the painting made the Duke look like he had a big nose, or David was a bit too Jewish looking then the artist probably didn’t get paid. For sure he didn’t get a new commission.

When you browse through Amazon DO use the look inside feature. It’s to the point now where it’s just too easy to see a book only costs a buck or three and you can just click on buy it with one click and take time to look at it later. There are gems hidden that deserve being bought to encourage the artist. But please, please, the aunt Toots of the world don’t need encouragement.




143 thoughts on “Art and Angst and Aunt Toots – Mackey Chandler

  1. Wow. And with that lead up I hesitate to make known I’ve received payment for my first commercial fiction sale. I’m sure Aunt Toots was more accomplished, but I can at least afford a cup of coffee off the proceeds.
    Yet I’m still convinced that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, it’s that little line that reads “Pay To The Order Of …”

    1. My very first THEORETICAL payment for writing was $12 and they never paid. From the SF student magazine at BYU. Our Mormon best friends offered to write them and shame them, but by then Pirate Writings (as it then was) had bought and paid me $50. Following advice to blow the first check for luck, we went out and had dinner somewhere like Applebys (I don’t remember!) with the kids.

      1. They never paid you? Bums. I remember that magazine (or what I strongly suspect is that magazine), though I can’t seem to remember the name of it anymore.

        1. The name you are looking for is The Leading Edge, junior. I never knew Sarah was published in TLE! What issue was that? (I have some experience with TLE myself, as an author and a staff member.)

          1. Nope. I think because ti was published just before summer vacation.
            I’m now trying to remember the date. 94? 93? Somewhere around there.
            Because of this, a collaboration with a Mormon friend and general hanging out with Mormons (I don’t know. It just happens. We go out in a big group and I’m the designated drinker.) I often appear in lists of Mormon authors. It goes nicely with appearing on lists of Jewish authors and Catholic authors. I don’t think protestants keep lists, but if they do, I’m probably on those too.
            I sold them my craziest story “The Problems of Xenobiology” — sex with aliens.

            1. Most of the not-a-specific-flavor Protestants I know are kinda touchy about being “Christians.” Usually you only get on those lists for something specifically Christian, though.

              Just imagine what happens to a shop clerk when they tell a trained teacher who is a Catholic that they do not carry Catholic Bibles because they are a Christian book store. Especially when it was long enough ago that mom had all the dates in her head. 😀

              My grandmother was Protestant, but she was also…whatever the Scottish folks were, I can’t remember right now. (Religiously! Not generally! That was not an invitation for descriptions like “thrifty,” “cantankerous” or “tough” in any of their more accurate cutting or more polite forms!)

              1. Calvinist?

                Oh and as a Protestant I’ll state that Catholics most certainly are Christian, they just like a bunch of unnecessary frills on their religion. 🙂

                1. As a High Church Episcopalian coworker put it, “We really like bells and smells.” (And if you want to see something ecumenical, have a small “early music” ensemble [Mennonite, Nazarene, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Church of Christ] singing at an Episcopal ordination on that church’s patron’s feast day.) 🙂

            2. 93/94 is after my time. I was involved with TLE in the mid to late 80s. I wonder if 93/94 is when Brandon Sanderson was involved with TLE? Hmm….

    2. Or that little email from KDP saying ‘You’re getting a royalty payment’. THAT’s a wonderful surprise!

      (Yes, I can afford a Coke and a burger! Maybe two! Woot!)

      1. That’s the email I’m talking about – it translates as PTTOO.
        The cool deal is that the short I posted was more as a practice run, to see how. Then I had major health issues (heart attack and 5 stents counts as major, I think) and had a rough time getting back into the swing.
        A Delicate Touch languished alone for months upon months.

  2. Doesn’t help– I am thinking that Aunt Toots creeps into a lot of prose. *sigh Unfortunately, I think she crept into Lit-er-cher i.e. poetry.

    1. I started a writers group back in ’93/’94 or so, We selected people interested in story writing. Didn’t really do poetry, until a few years later when the group had expanded and I was no longer leading it. I think there may be one conservative/libertarian member left, and he’s doggedly stubborn. Libs corrupt everything they touch.

    2. That may be why so few post-1945 poets do anything for me. Or for a lot of people, just based on what I hear and read. There’s no fun in poetry, at least not in “deep, meaningful” poetry. (Not that Browning, Kipling, Goethe, and others didn’t have a few duds.)

      1. As a poet– there is a lament wailing in my head for the loss of poetry– as a pragmatist I agree with you. Much of the poetry today is free verse or someone trying to shove prose into poetry so a lot of the devices are lost. When I tell a newbie poet that free verse should have a rhythm… they think it is a form– not so… Oh G- would someone turn off that lament?

        1. Exactly, Cyn. I guess I was trained old school. Even when I write free verse, it has meter. (Not that anyone’s going to see my poetry unless it is what I write to fit into the books. There are more than enough odes to dead trees floating around the ‘net as it is.)

      2. That’s because all the poets with talent went where the money was–pop music. The ones left behind went to work in academia.

        1. Yep, that was what I was going to point out, all the good poets of today write song lyrics, because that is how they put food on the table.

          1. A pause in memoriam of the passing of poet Gerry Goffin, whose immortal question —
            Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)
            — remains in the hearts of us all.

            Sadly, I am compelled to acknowledge that:

            Nashville cats, write clean as country water
            Nashville cats, rhyme wild as mountain dew
            Nashville cats, been writin’ since they’s babies
            Nashville cats, get verse before they’re two

            Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two
            Verse writers in Nashville
            And they can rhyme more lines than the number of ants
            On a Tennessee anthill

            Yeah, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two
            Note pads in Nashville
            And any one that unpacks his pen could rhyme
            Twice as better than I will

    1. Meh. The great thing about Amazon is that if nobody buys your work, it sinks to the bottom without a trace and the alsobot never dredges it up. If a few people buy one of your books and hate it, they won’t buy any of the others; so when the Aunt Toots of the present day spams KDP with all her rotten stories, each one actually serves as bad advertising for the others.

      Having a lot of product on Amazon is only helpful to your sales if the product is at least minimally good.

      1. But with so much of it out there, more people are more likely to actually purchase. If through dumb luck and chance, if not intent.

        1. Again, it doesn’t matter, because if your books are that bad, people are extremely unlikely to buy more than one by chance.

          When a good writer has a lot of books up on Amazon, some people will buy one, say, ‘Hey! This is really good, I want more!’ and buy several (or all) of the others in one fell swoop. This pushes all that author’s books up in the rankings, and pushes the author himself up more sharply, so that the alsobot is more likely to recommend those books to other customers. This can lead to a rapid snowball effect and propel an author into the ranks of the Big Names on Amazon in a hurry.

          When a thoroughly bad writer has a lot of books up on Amazon, the few people who do buy them will say, ‘Yeesh! This is terrible! No more!’ They then will avoid buying anything else by that author, and they certainly will not go out and buy all of the author’s other terrible books. Result: no snowball effect, and the books languish at the bottom of the rankings. And once a book reaches the bottom, the chances of anyone even seeing it to buy it by accident are very small. It will show up in search results, but at the very end of a list that may be thousands of entries long. Hardly anyone will even click through to the last page of the list to find it.

          It is, of course, possible for a good writer’s books to languish in the same way, but the remedy for that is to release more good books, improving the odds of starting that snowball effect. Releasing more bad books doesn’t help at all.

          1. Yes, but there’s also a happy medium of people whose writing stinks, but is good enough to appeal to some. You find these among the Aunt Toots of the world as well as among terrible gritty action writers, terrible fantasy writers, terrible romance writers, etc. Somewhere out there, somebody probably likes the junk as well as the person who wrote it did, and they are the customers for that writer.

            No skin off my nose.

            1. Have to agree. That’s the best thing about Amazon — even if the writing stinks, it may appeal to someone. The problem then becomes writing for that one person…

      2. Yep.
        What is truly amazing is that stuff like putting Wings on 99c now has this book selling A LOT at 9.99.
        It’s discoverability. but if you’re god you STAY discovered.

        1. Well, if you’re *god*, you create your readers. [Very Big Evil Grin While Flying Away Very Very Fast]

          1. Well, if In the Beginning was the Word… isn’t the next step to get the Word out to readers?

          2. The idiot keyboard has a limitation to avoid double letters. Unfortunately I type too fast for it. this is not a brag, btw. It’s set for geriatric, I think.

            1. I was sure there was a good reason for the mistake but it still stuck me as a funny mistake. [Smile]

              1. Make sure and pull that mistake out straight, so you don’t rip the hole bigger.

            2. You can fix that by entering the Control Panel and looking for Keyboard options.

  3. And here I thought I had the most eccentric relatives (mine are the fun kind of eccentric, though).

      1. I grew up in rural Louisiana, and most of my neighbors were relatives. It really hurt when I tried to get a Top Secret security clearance. The people wouldn’t talk to the FBI agents doing the questioning. I finally had to appeal to my dad to intervene, and tell everyone WHY the FBI was asking questions. I got my security clearance about two months later.

      2. (puts money in Buy Sarah Drinks fund). Yeah, yeah, but how many of the funny stories include “.. and I thought we were going to die.” (WWI vet Great-uncle. Best. Stories. Evar! Guest appearances by Pancho Villa and Pershing!)

      1. only third? Well my Grandpa and his sisters were barnstormers, so all the rest have a lot to live up to, but the great grands were a bit off as well, and my nephews are continuing the tradition so we can only wonder about my Nephews’ kids

  4. OK. Mackey wins the “Weird Relative Contest” for the year. Sorry, Grandmother Mac, you’ll have to stand in line. :: sigh :: I have a folder of her poetry. Some of it is . . . not too depressing.

  5. Heck, I get recommendations for books a lot faster than I have time to read them.
    I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

    Since most of what I read (and as far as I know. most other people read) is from recommendation or previous experience with the author, I’d never even know that the modern equivalent of Aunt Toots had published anything.

  6. I remember the TV ads for the “Starving Artist” painting sales that used to come through town back in the 1970s-early ’80s. I was too young to go, but based what I remember from the ads, there might have been a reason why you could get a Yard-O-Art for $10-25 or so. And then I read a little art history, and learned that Rubens (and others) had done Yard-O-Art too, with more mythology (and voluptuousness) and fewer happy trees, for slightly higher prices. That sort of terminated any faith I had in the legend of the importance of malnutrition in generating great works of Art.

    And there’s all the semi-legendary stories about academics who write critical studies about gender and labor relations that are groundbreaking in their deconstruction of the economic and/or sexual other . . . and who make their fun money churning out cheap romances under a pen-name.

    1. We have a few ‘Starving Artist’ shows here every year – usually in hotels. The TV ads amuse me by their description of the paintings – SOFA SIZED!
      Yes, I always buy my art to dimension. As somebody said already – by the YARD. Or big enough to cover the hole in the plaster…

        1. Sadly, this sequence does not feature the discussion over whether bad art should be valued according to how bad it is or how much of it there is …

          Still, worth a watch. Giver ‘er a go, there’s a lad.

    2. Japanese manga-ka (i.e. comic book writer) Masamune Shirow is renowned for something kind of like this. iirc, what he considers his “real” job is marine biology. The comics that he writes under an assumed name (little trifling things that no one has ever heard of like Appleseed, Dominion Tank Police, Ghost in the Shell, etc… *cough*) help to pay the bills. As do all of the pics of scantily or not at all clad women (usually wrapped around weapons and/or high-tech hardware) that he releases in collections such as Intron Depot. And then there’s the hard core porn that he releases under yet another pen name that does even more to pay the bills…

  7. Hmm. the apparent “tsunami of swill” seems to be an overlap of good, mediocre, and bad.
    Once you skim off the 1. Good but cross-genre, 2. good but conservative in message or tone, 3. good, but in a genre declared “dead”, 4. Good, but no slots open for that this year, 5. Good, but the agent is busy, etc… the slush pile is much smaller, and they’re doing well as indie.

    Then there’s the mediocre – and mind you, while taste is always subjective, there is a recognizable strata for beginning authors who will be good – in about two to five novels. Fanfic used to be a common incubator , as authors would take other worlds and try to work on both the technical details and the telling an exciting story. Other authors had their “trunk” novels, the ones they wrote before they got a handle on their craft, that never shall see the light of day. With the ability to publish, some trunk novels are getting out there. And some sink like a stone, some swim because the good story carries the flaws, and some struggle a while before sinking low.

    Once those are out, though, the writer writes more. And feedback and practice are what make them good. (Sometimes the books even move out of mediocre, as the now-good writer goes back to the early work and edits the story til it shines.)

    That leaves less a tsunami than a bore tide. And those aren’t even good surfing.

  8. I’ve found that the problem with Amazon reviews is that the number of them seem to matter more than the rating. The Deep Dark Well is ranked a composite four stars with 61 reviews, and has sold 5,100 copies. Afterlife has a composite 4.8 (actually 4.9. but the Amazon average rating doesn’t go beyond 4.8 unless its just a 5) across 11 reviews, and so far has sold 300 books, though I’m always hoping it will catch on. Another thing is that a few reviews mean essentially nothing, as two 5 stars and a 1 star from one snippy reader gives a 3.6, average, even though two thirds of the readers thought the books was great. Drop that same one star into a hundred reviews and it means nada. Also, the more reviews the more statistically significant the score is. I now have over a thousand reviews across all my books, with a 4.4 star average, which means they’re probably pretty good (or I have somehow fooled a lot of people). Which leads to confidence in writing the next book.

    1. Of course, because it takes effort to write a review. Most people won’t bother unless they find the story memorable in some way.
      “I loved it! And I must tell this to the world!” and “I hated it! And I must tell this to the world!” are two sides of the same coin. Taste is subjective Something a SJW hated is something I just might love. (And vice-versa.)

      Case in point: I absolutely cannot *stand* Myke Cole’s “Shadow Ops: Control Point”. The protagonist is unwillingly conscripted to fight a secret war, but is unable to adjust to the mindset of military life. Which would be fine, IF the character hadn’t been a military lifer before being conscripted. I can’t get past this. My willing suspension of disbelief hits a brick wall. Other readers don’t even notice it.

  9. I have to disagree with this quote: “ Where is all the art from people on welfare or Social Security disability? I wrote my first three books on Social Security Disability. I was also over 60 at the time, and SSDI has been replaced with just plain Social Security. I’m not great at advertising, and my stories aren’t quite in the same league as Sarah’s, but some people, including a few that regularly comment here have read and enjoyed them.

    I write because I enjoy it, and it takes my mind off the many physical problems that interfere with my doing other, more energetic things. Thanks to this blog and a couple of others, plus feedback from some of our other writers, my works are getting better (I think!). I’m also having more fun writing them, which is the best thing of all.

    1. Depending on how the local version of welfare works, you probably can’t keep it and keep making money, or even keep a bank account (in some states). So either welfare folks are writing under pseudonyms and other people’s bank accounts, or they have to get off welfare when they make some money, or they have to tell welfare how much money they’re not claiming this month because they made normal money.

      And there’s J.K. Rowling, of course.

      But of course, when you’re on welfare, unemployed, sick, etc., people are often depressed as well, which makes it hard to do anything. Not impossible, but difficult. Headwork is especially difficult, because it can lead to brooding. So I don’t know that welfare is ever going to be an art-producer the way that prison can be. (Although I suspect the prison writer thing is all about boredom plus butt-in-seat.)

      1. AND medications are not conducive for the clear head you need to write. Headwork is difficult in this situation because what you think is important is not usually… hallucinations are common… etc.

      2. Actually, you can make up to $6000 a year without it impacting your Social Security. Anything above that, they supposedly take $1 for every $2 you earn. In truth, it’s more like 1:1.

    2. hear! hear! I write because 1-I must, 2-It gets my brain working after being on so much chemo, 3-it’s entertaining– amazing to me that the stories that were really entertaining in my head as I was writing them are not selling (it makes me think that people out there have shriveled imaginations), and 4- I make enough to pay for meds. 😀

    3. I think the point was not “nobody getting non-work support makes art,” it’s “if the reason most folks don’t is because they have to work to survive then why, when we have a large population here that don’t, is there no corresponding flood of art.”

      1. If you’re too lazy to even THINK about getting a job, you’re far too lazy to do the hard work of creating something someone else would be interested in.

        1. Most likely, yeah.

          And even if you limit it down to the folks who really can’t work, some folks just don’t have the spark. I make stuff to solve problems, but I thus far bite at stories.

  10. I posted- it went into the ether. So I am trying again. If it comes up or if a regular article submitter thinks it’s worth a look for a possible daily article go ahead and remove. It just made me so frustrated/angry when I saw it I needed to vent. Not a Sunday School Teacher; but, the Public School Teacher. I think Aunt Toots was better. “”

    1. Hmmm, maybe 15 out of their 101 that I’d recommend to anyone but a die-hard Odd, fiction or nonfiction. And that’s assuming I’m talking to an adult, not a high schooler. “Ender’s Game?” Sure. “A Night to Remember”? Hildebrand’s book? Perhaps. “The Color Purple” or Russian literature? Um, no. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is required reading for so many colleges now I wouldn’t even mention it as summer reading.

      1. Les Miserables, I might recommend for an odd (I enjoyed it), but Kafka? Really? Do you want to raise the teen suicide rate?

        1. The abridged version of Les Miz would be fine for some high school students, I think.

          The unabridged version, on the other hand…

          1. I liked the long version when I read it in High School but 1) I’m really Odd and 2) I did it for fun. I also read all of Moby Dick because I liked the whaling bits. {If you can find it, H.C. Holloing’s book “Seabird” about whaling and sailing is a magnificent book for older kids and grown-ups interested in the age of the whalers and clipper ships.}

  11. A while back, someone mentioned that a particular novel was temporarily free over at Amazon. I’d seen it on the shelf at B&N a few times in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, and noted that it was the first of a series (of four novels, iirc). So I went ahead and picked it up. Why not? It was free after all.

    The writing wasn’t bad, per se, aside from the fact that there was no real plot. Things happened, and events were strung together, but there was never any real sense of where the story was going. And probably as a result of that, the ending was rather abrupt.

    Needless to say, I promptly decided I wasn’t at all interested in any of the other books in the series.

    1. Funny. A month or so ago I was at the regional B&N, looking at sci-fi, and saw something with an interesting title. I skimmed the dust jacket and thought, “Hmmm, I’m not getting a ‘read me now’ vibe” even though the premise sounded like it had potential. So I went over to Amazon and looked the book up. Oh no way. Apparently even fans of the author’s other books didn’t like this one because it had too much grey goo “why can’t we all get along and sing ‘It Only Takes a Spark’ and war will be no more.” I’m not going to get either that book or the (just released) sequel, either.

      1. If it only takes a Spark to bring an end to war; that must be one heck of a bomb the fuse is attached to.

        1. I don’t know that I’d call Klaus von Wulfenbach a *bomb*, but he certainly ended war…for a while.

                1. There is no equivalent because male and female are not exchangeable, they are complementary. It is a documented fact that male IQs drop in the presence of a beautiful woman — hence the term bombshell. Women do not have the same visceral response to appearance and thus there can be no equivalent.

                  You might as well write about a woman getting an erection (please do not try to equate nipple stiffening with erection, you would just embarrass everybody) or a man getting his boxers soaked.

                  If you absolutely must find an equivalent, try adonis (lower case) for a person of stunning physical perfection.

                  1. “Adonis” still doesn’t really grasp the connotations of “Bombshell;” obviously the expression of it is different, as is the reaction, but there should still be a word.

                    Otherwise we’re left with kinda incoherent “ooooh” sounds.

                    1. There can be no equivalent term because there is no equivalent effect. Women do not suffer a sudden IQ reduction of one standard deviation simply from looking at a man, no matter how physically charismatic he is (see Agent Carter’s reaction to newly transformed Steve Rogers in first Captain America film for credible presentation of such response.)

                      Women are not so readily stupefied as men, thus there can be no equivalent of bombshell.

                    2. I heard you the first time, I simply do not agree there is no male version of “stunning; very good looking and glamorous.”

                    3. Your lack of agreement does not negate the fact that women are not stunned by very good looking and glamorous men, at least not in sufficient number that the language has had to evolve to describe that effect.

                    4. Since you’re the one stuck up “stunning” meaning “causes a drop in IQ,” not my problem.

                      Women don’t react the same as men. Duh. Nobody claimed they did.

                      A mildly amusing joke about a single word meaning “stunning, glamorous” gets dragged down into you lecturing rather insultingly about how girls and boys are different, apparently because of what you think is required for a gal to be a “bombshell.”

                      Congratulations, you not only stomped on the joke, you then gutted it and insulted its parenthood while arguing with stuff in your head.

                    5. Really? That was a joke? What, pray tell, meaning would “stunning” have other than “causing, capable of causing, or liable to cause astonishment, bewilderment, or a loss of consciousness or strength” in the context of bombshell?

                      Ah well, now you know how it feels. Perhaps you ought to have left the joke to stand on its own rather than trying to explain it. And you might consider being less quick to stomp on other people’s jests just because they don’t amuse you. Or is everybody with whom you associate required to share your sense of humour? Such a privileged life that would be; I don’t think I would care for that myself, but that’s what makes horses race, wot?

                    6. I was thinking maybe “Jawdropper”?

                      Hunk is pretty good, though.

                      Dang it, women just find too many things attractive and someone that flips all of your switches may leave me cold and going “huh? HIM?”

                      Can happen with guys, too, but not very often….

                    7. Lots of my friends like the long haired stubbly look. I don’t. I prefer guys who are clean shaven and have a quiet but very strong presence. Thor vs. Captain America. I will never understand the appeal of the bad boy.

                    8. I’ve got a theory that there’s an impulse to want a mate who is dangerous, but in modern times the part about “and will use it to protect me and my family” gets dropped off. Maybe because things are so relatively safe?

                      Captain America is dangerous, he’s a super soldier. There’s just no way that I could ever see him being a danger to me or any other good person! In my favorite iterations of Wolverine, likewise– he’s a scary, hairy violent guy who you could hand a toddler and never worry about the kid being not just safe, but protected to the absolute of his ability.

                    9. women just find too many things attractive and someone that flips all of your switches may leave me cold and going “huh? HIM?”

                      Didn’t somebody already essentially make that point? Women’s triggers are too diverse and complex and the effect of their being tripped is too different than with men.

                    10. If they were intending to make that point, they failed due to pretending that “a male version of a bombshell” meant “a male who causes females to have the same physical results of attraction” rather than “a male who is (definition of bombshell),” then feeling the need to escalate.

                      Hope the “being an ass” urge leaves you soon, because it’s rather unpleasant for those who are having interesting conversations to deal with you.

                    11. “Pretending”??? Perhaps you communicated what you were trying to say … poorly. Presuming that the male version of “bombshell” is “a male who causes females to have the same physical results of attraction” hardly seems a stretch. For that matter, the attempt to clam that said definition is significantly other than “a male who is (definition of bombshell)” seems to be making a distinction without a difference.

                      Especially as the definition of bombshell is something or someone having a sudden and sensational effect.

                      Generally my experience has been that when I find somebody on the internet is uncharacteristically “being an ass” it is because, to at least some extent, I am being “a dick.” You might want to look to the timber in your own eye rather than trying to write others out of “your” conversations.

                    12. BTW — it might be worth recognizing that a primary reason there is no male version of “bombshell” is that the Celebrity Production Complex does not sell male sexuality in the same way that it sells female pulchritude. They keep coming up with such terms as “bombshell,” “knock-out,” “stunner” and “sex symbol” because that is how the industry chooses to promote the actresses in order to capture the public’s attention. For whatever reason the CPC does not see fit to sell actors through the same sort of appeal.

                      Thus such promotional efforts on behalf of men rely on subtler cues, such as “dreamy,” “dreamboat” or “hunk” to subliminally promote an actor’s sexual attraction.

                      In all likelihood this may arise from nothing more than the fact that press agents originally were primarily men, uncomfortable promoting another man’s sexuality, probably out of some concern they might be thought gay in a country that was still mostly blue-collar.

                    13. Don’t know what prompted the realization, but I think the word you’re searching for is “heart throb” — even if the actual throbbing is occurring somewhat elsewhere.

                    14. I still remember seeing Titanic with my 21 year old girlfriend back in 97. When Leo comes out of the room in his tux, there was a collective oooh from every XX human in the room. I swear I heard my girlfriend’s nipples harden. 🙂

                      Also the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a few years later when Radcliffe sheds his shirt, revealing a fine developing body and a twiter went through a much younger portion of the female audience.

                    15. In ’97 I really should’ve been a good target audience for him– barely a teen– but my only response was “Oh, dear, someone needs to feed that poor boy.”

              1. Perhaps “studmuffin” although the term conveys an at least slightly derogatory connotation.

                Due to psychological differences between the sexes it might be most appropriate to look into the vocabulary of homosexual men to find the optimum word. I believe that they share with “normal” men the tendency toward visual stimulation, the difference being an issue of what they are stimulated by.

                    1. Stiff, firm crusty exterior, tasty soft center. (Or perhaps, as some would argue, sourdough.)

                      Shaped like a batard or baguette, not those dinky little French rolls.

                    2. Typically these are “health & safety” regulations, such as putting the bread into a plastic bag virtually right out of the oven, trapping moisture and preventing the crust from hardening.

                      These regulations are necessary for the safety of consumers who might otherwise make foolish trade-offs, such as thinking that avoiding the minor risk of a little food-borne bacteria does not adequately compensate for bread with no crunch to it.

    2. Wha-? you picked up the last volume of George Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire endlessology?

  12. We have the same problem in the music business. Especially once computer based recording and looping programs came about.

    I have no problems with people exploring their artistic proclivities and, as amongst writers, the technology has helped lower the barriers to entry for the talented. So I believe that it is a net win. The consumer will just have to sift through more dross to find the gold.

  13. I actually had a real Aunt Toots. She was nothing at all like Mackey Chandler’s. She was a runner up for Miss Minnesota in 1938, joined the WAC’s in the second world war, flew airplanes as a delivery pilot during the war, sang with the Andrews Sisters during USO shows, and, in general had a full and exciting life, dieing at 85.

    Oh yeah, she got the Toots from her fighter pilot husband during the war. And nobody ever called her anything else.

    I still miss her.

  14. A now retired friend of mine used to work in a Social Security district office, and he once told me about a handicapped woman he once talked to. She had written a book, titled something like “How to Dump the Louse,” which was basically a relationship guide for handicapped people, particularly women. It may have been a classic case of “write what you know,” but there was a real need for the book. Many handicapped women are emotionally vulnerable and often have self-esteem and confidence issues, and there’s a certain class of men who take advantage of that, caring more for their disability checks than for them as loving partners. Thus the book, making the case that being stuck in a bad relationship really isn’t better than no relationship. Long story short, the woman had sold the book, and actually made some money (I think the figure was something like $12,000). Problem was, she was still getting disability payments for not being able to work at all, and she had just demonstrated that she could do some kind of work and be paid for it. So there was the headache of explaining the realities of publishing to the powers that be, that it was one-time-only windfall she couldn’t hope to do regularly and make a living from it, and she still needed the regular disability check. I don’t know how it all came out, but my friend told me the last he knew, she was at work on a sequel, “The Louse Is Back — Now What?”

    1. My problem exactly: but I don’t dare publish until September because 1) I’m not finished (good reason), and 2) I tried and tried to explain the disconnect between writing a book in little chunks over more than 14 years, and ‘working’ a job at $X/hours. Plus, if SSD dumped me, so would the private disability insurance – and they would do it if I earned $1 writing.

      I would love to find out how that woman got through SS’s ‘brain’ – though it will be moot for me in a couple of months. There are plenty of disabled people who can write – but can’t afford to do so and risk losing their small but regular checks (the ones they use for things like food and rent). I’d be happy to write it up and blog about it.

      1. This is one of the (many) things wrong with our social security system.
        I don’t object to giving people a hand up — in fact I think a civilized society should do so. — but I hate the idea of the government doing it, because it turns a hand up into a prison… one of those things that seems almost impossible.
        I have a friend in a similar position and facing health issues.
        Take care of yourself.

        1. I’d fight harder if I had the energy – matter of principle – and if I weren’t about to graduate from the system.

          They are discouraging the very people who should be encouraged – writing IS one of those things you can do from home. But its nature is to be erratic, and to take, as you know, a completely unpredictable amount of time (especially if you’re disabled – and your brain doesn’t work reliably). You can’t assign it a value/hour, and certainly not a priori, and how do you tell Amazon to stop selling your book each month when the amount collected from ‘royalties’ is approaching the amount that will lose you your medical benefits. Writing is art, not contract work (certainly not fiction).

          Frankly, as I’ve said forever, I’d MUCH rather WORK. It’s easier. And more rewarding.

          1. Eh. Same here, but the writing won’t leave me alone and that in itself is an issue.
            The problem is if you say took your story free to stop from earning, it would perversely likely earn you more.
            And I have no idea how to explain things to bureaucrats. Usually I start seeing red and yelling.

  15. “Where is all the art from people on welfare or Social Security disability? ”

    Isn’t this exactly where the British musicians come from? I mean, traditionally? Collect the dole whilst building your craft?


  16. Reading the post I was struck by the though of just how wealthy the ancients were, wealth being relative. That they could afford all that great art.

    1. It’s not that they could afford all of that great art because they were wealthy, it’s because they had a couple of centuries and all of the not-great art disappeared.

    2. There’s a story that the painting known as “The Lady with an Ermine” is the only thing DaVinci delivered on time and on budget. Something about not irking your boss when he’s a Sforza (or Medici, or Viscontti, or d’Este).

      And then there’s the artist known as Il Sodoma, who had a falling out with an abbot about payment and left the Daughters of Egypt nude. Apparently this was not conducive to orderly chapel services, and the abbot decided to pay a little more for some draperies. *wicked grin*

      1. That reminds me of a story about “dying the carpet to match the drapes” that’s so dirty, I’m ashamed to think of it myself. I should have slapped Mrs. Teasdale’s face when she told it to me.

    1. As did I. Several of the “reblogged this and commented” type.

      I was wondering if WP just decided to hold on to those for a special occasion…

  17. My Grandma was known as Toots. She is the Aunt Toots to the fella who played Toad in American Graffiti. When he did the movie “Boris and Natasha” he had a character named Toots in her honor, and it contains the line “Damned Kalishaks” to poke fun at our family.
    Grandma Toots didn’t write (that I know of … the family was creative. 3 of her brothers were animators) … she wove rugs, baked wedding cakes, and made easter eggs from sugar (ranging in sized from about goose egg sized to football sized) with little dioramas inside them made from frosting. The whole things were edible but most folks never did that.

  18. I remember a discussion I had with a Bohemian type “wanna be artistE” friend back in the 80s, during the Robert Mapplethorpe/tax money for obscenity controversy. He told me that tax payer money was needed for art because artists needed to be free to produce and not beholden to anyone for money, so they wouldn’t have to compromise their artistic integrity. I practically laughed myself silly as I said, “Oh yeah, and all those gay, bisexual, atheist and agnostic artists who created all that religious art and did things like St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel, they didn’t compromise their artistic vision for a paycheck or a full belly, now did they? That’s only a modern art problem!” He had no answer.

    1. … not beholden to anyone for money …

      Except, of course, for the John Scalzis, Jim Whines and Ellsworth M. Tooheys who have manipulated their way into control of the Artist Certification Bureau and determine who does — and who does not — qualify for Artist Grants.

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