Happy Labor Day!

WHAT’S PLAYING: Tricky “Excess”

To all my hardworking friends out there.

LABOR_DAY

Be safe and enjoy your long weekend. You’ve earned it!

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Writing Lessons from Mom – Conflict

WHAT’S PLAYING: Pink! “Fucking Perfect

I have a terrible temper. My dad says I’m just like my mother—a 6-foot stick of dynamite with a 2-inch fuse.

 

Despite our shared anger management issues, you’d be hard pressed to lure my mother into an argument. To understand why, you have to go back a couple of hundred years…to the days of the traditional Choctaw duel.

This wasn’t your typical pistols-at-dawn affair. Choctaw duels were a bit more decisive.

The disputants would face one another across the village square, and then their assistants—usually a brother or close friend appointed for the occasion—would split their heads open with an ax. The dispute was resolved, and the community didn’t have to put up with incessant bickering.

My people are nothing if not practical.

Another incident of Choctaw dispute resolution involves the legendary chief, Pushmataha. Having been insulted by General Henry Knox, Chief Pushmataha bought a barrel of gunpowder and fitted it with a fuse. He sat on the barrel, lit a cigar, and invited the general to sit beside him. Knox declined and never insulted Pushmataha again. Nor did any other American general.

 

Despite this culturally inspired aversion to conflict, I often find myself embroiled in pointless arguments.

You see, I like to be right. Moreover, I like to prove that I’m right. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trolling the internet or leafing through obscure reference books just to win an argument that any reasonable person would have already forgotten.

While this almost psychopathic need to prove myself has played holy hell with my personal life, it’s served me well in my writing.

As any writer will tell you, you can’t have a story without conflict, whether it’s inner, outer, preferably both. You have to have conflict in order to tell a decent story. It’s that simple.

What it isn’t, however, is easy. I’ve learned the hard way that handling conflict well in real life does not translate to being able to do the same in writing. Like my ancestors, I’d much rather write (or be involved) in a physical altercation, than explore my characters’ (or my own) feelings.

 

 

Still, dealing with emotions and the different faces of humanity is part of what it means to be a writer. So, while my relatives are solving disputes with the threat of skull bashing and explosions, I’ll save my more violent tendencies for the page.

But, if you see me stalking towards you with an axe in one hand and a reference book in the other….

Run.

Happy Independence Day!

WHAT’S PLAYING: Rod StewartI’d Rather Go Blind

To all my American friends, Happy Fourth of July! Here’s hoping your holiday is fun and, most importantly, safe.

Throw an extra burger on the grill for me.

Stories from My Grandfather – The Origin of Poison

WHAT’S PLAYING: Brule “We the People”

A long time ago, when the world was new, a certain vine grew in the shallow waters of the bayou where the Choctaw people went to bathe or swim. This vine was very poisonous, and whenever someone touched this vine, he or she would get very sick and die.

Now, this vine liked the Choctaw people, and didn’t want to cause them so much pain and sorrow. But, since it grew beneath the surface of the bayou, it could not show itself to them. So, it decided to give away its poison. It called all of the chiefs of the small people of the swamps—the wasps, bees and snakes, and offered them its poison.

The small chiefs held a council about the and, since they were defenseless and often stepped on by others, agreed to share the vine’s poison.

Bee spoke first. “I will take a small part of your poison, which I will only use to defend my hive. I will warn people before I sting them, and it will kill me to use my poison, so I will do so very carefully.”

Wasp spoke next. “I will take a small part of your poison, also,” he said. “Then I will be able to protect my nest. But, I will warn people by buzzing close to them, and I will keep my poison in my tail.”

Water Moccasin spoke. “I will take some of your poison, but will use it only if people step on me. I will keep it my mouth so that when I bare my fangs, people will see how white my mouth is and know to stay away from me.”

Rattlesnake spoke last. “I will take all that is left of your poison, and will also hold it in my mouth. And before I strike someone, I will use my tail to warn them. Intesha. Intesha. That is the sound I will make to let people know that they are too close.”

And so it was done. The vine gave up its poison to the bees, wasps, water moccasins and rattlesnakes. Where once that vine had poison, now it has small flowers.

From then on, only those who were foolish and did not listen to the warnings of the small ones, who took the vine’s poisons, were hurt. Now, the shallow waters of the bayous are safe for the Choctaw people.

Outmaneuvering Presidents and Politics

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Natasha Bedingfield “Single”

Today is President’s Day, usually one of my favorite days. It’s a paid holiday from work. And I don’t have to buy any gifts. Win-win.

Except during election year when the political panderers come out to play. (Yes, I know that’s a horrible alliteration. What can I say? I’m feeling alliterative.)

Surveys from Washington, polling calls, and worst of all, those friggin’ robo calls. You know the ones, those pre-recorded “personal messages” from various candidates? Makes my blood boil.

The worst part is that once we’re out of the primaries and into the real election, it’s going to start all over again.

This year, I’m making a list of every political call I get. Once Election Day rolls around, I’m going to sit down and total the number of calls, and then vote for the candidate who bothered me the least. (I even changed my outgoing voice mail message to say so.)

I am not a political animal. I don’t care about platforms or promises, and I believe that most politicians are sociopaths and con artists.

(I’m also feeling bitter.)

I work hard. When I get home, I want to write, read, or veg out in front of the TV. What I don’t want to do is field half a dozen calls a night for causes I don’t care about from people I don’t know.

So, if you’re sick of hounding political phone calls, join my movement to end them. We’ll be ready for our first recruits soon.

Just as soon I as figure out how this damned robo call software works.