Wednesday, July 19, 2017

First Pomodoro

And we're off! I'm using a Pomodoro timer to time this writing. And what is Pomodoro? It's a time management technique where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and then resume. Because it's so late, I will only go 25 minutes.

I've read a lot about Pomodoro. It sounds simple, but apparently a lot of creative people have found that it keeps their "muse" from becoming fatigued. I hate to use "muse" like that, but it's a shorthand expression that's too convenient. Thus does expediency encourage sloppy whimsy.

A few of my author friends work by schedules. I've always admired that. I find my mind wanders a lot. I suspect I have ADHD, but I've lived with it this long. I prefer to think it's simply my brain being busy. I hate that it decides to be busy at night so consistently. I would like more sleep. I have been taking naps sometimes, but I can never seem to time them correctly. Either I sleep too long and wake up feeling terrible or not enough and receive no benefit. Naps require skill.

Even as a kid, I wasn't a napper. I wanted to be up and looking around. A lot of things needed my attention. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Well, I do. And most of America does. According to the experts, despite our time-saving machines and routines, we're getting less sleep than any prior generation. I wonder if it has to with all the screens we look at: TV, computers, tablets, iPads, phones, etc. I wonder this even as I look at a screen as I type this.

Supposedly, the blue light of our screens disrupts our sleep patterns. According to Scientific American: "The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength." You can adjust your screen to emit more red light at night. They say it helps.

Anyway, I was determined to try out writing in 25 minutes intervals today. Time got away from me, as it often does, but I decided I would put in at least one 25 minute writing period before heading off to toss and turn.

Now, I'm thinking about all the power strip and clock and TV lights in my room. I might start covering them up. They seem bright when I wake up in the middle of the night. I wonder if anyone has ever studied the effect they have on sleep. I know they use more electrical power than we think. Many studies have shown that standby devices consume significant amounts of electricity. Same studies say we should have everything on power strips so we can turn them off at night. I would, but they have clocks on them. I might have to figure out a way to power the clocks separately from the other devices. Funny thing though, my power strips also have bright lights on them.

We live in a world of light these days. So much so that many people have never seen the Milky Way. Or rarely do. Even in my small town, there's enough light to obscure many of the stars. One of my friends is an amateur astronomer, and he drives out into the country and uses special filters on his telescope to attempt to compensate for the artificial light flooding the sky. I know professional astronomers have attempted to get cities to use special lights and shields so that the light is aimed at the ground instead of the sky. They have only had limited success. It would be great if every town and city did so, but that takes money and municipalities have plenty of other issues that need money and attention.

Well, my time is up. I will be using Pomodoro more, if only to give it a proper evaluation. For tonight, I'm ending this here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Awkward

So I went to dinner with a couple who had just returned from their honeymoon (his second marriage and her third) and they went to an island, which sounded wonderful...white beaches, palm trees, great service, the emerald ocean.

And I said, "Show me your pictures."

The wife glanced at her husband and said, "You wouldn't be interested."

"No, I love vacation photos," I said, which is true. I am a great armchair traveler.

The husband shrugged, messed with his phone, and then handed it to me.

I put on my glasses and looked at the first photo. Then I took my glasses off and handed the phone back as my face and ears began to glow Rudolph red while they laughed.

It turns out that my friends are closet nudists.

I've had some awkward moments in my life, but I do think that is a particularly notable one.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Revulsion

I'm reading this news story, and I come to last word of this sentence: "His admission about his New Zealand citizenship opened the possibility that the Commonwealth could pursue him to pay back years in salary and allowances, but Mr Ludlam said he was confident that would not eventuate." Eventuate? EVENTUATE? What in the name of Strunk and White is that?

Oh, I know it's a word. A word which I will never use and which arouses in me a true sense of revulsion.... Imagine, by the way, Hannibal Lector saying what I just said. That's the voice I used in my head.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Insomnia,
I always try to be a gracious host. I figure if someone makes to my house through the warning signs over the moat past the dogs under the razor wire, then they should be welcomed if only to lull them into a false sense of security before I send their sorry hides packing. However, you are here and should leave. Remember what Ben Franklin supposedly said about house guests: "Fish and visitors smell after three days." You're reeking like a Congressman's promise now.
Disregards,
Me

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Naps,
I need to apologize to you. As a child, I fought you terribly. You were my sworn enemy, and I vowed I would utterly defeat you when I was older. Well, I'm older now. As it turns out, you're awesome. I was wrong and welcome you now. Just thought you should know. Hope you will forgive me.
Regards,
Me

Monday, July 10, 2017

A good thing

I did a good thing. I stepped outside briefly, and three mosquitoes landed on me. I did the noble thing and helped them back into the karmic circle of life so that they can be reborn as a higher life-form on their journey to Nirvana...or I squashed them. Take your pick.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Of course

Of course, there are lot of people with anxiety disorders these days. It just makes sense. Have you watched the news lately? Just the morning report is enough to give the Pope the shudders.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Truth

A friend was telling me how good her five mile run made her feel, and so I asked if it was as good as hot peach cobbler topped with vanilla bean ice cream.

There was a long pause, and then she said, "No. And I hate you."

Friday, July 07, 2017

Child proof

I had to open a new bottle of meds tonight, and it had one of those child proof lids.... Apparently, I'm a child. But I'm a child with a hammer. I think Houdini himself couldn't have got into it.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bon chance mon ami!

My therapist is actually leaving the therapy field. It's so sad. His other patients must have been really tough on him. Why, sometimes he would weep during our sessions after a hard day of talking to them. Poor guy, I hope he's happy as a long haul trucker.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Roly-poly

Have you heard of the elephants graveyard? Where the elephants all supposedly went to die? Apparently my entry way is the roly-poly graveyard. Where are they coming from and why are they coming here to die? I give them a respectful burial as long as you define "respectful" as being being sucked up by a vacuum, which I think most of us do.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy July 4th!

Yes, we have problems as a nation -- and what nation since the dawn of time has not? -- but I'm proud to be an American, blessed to live in this diverse and amazing nation, humbled by the sacrifices of those who have given their lives to keep us free, and excited when looking forward to our future. The naysayers and political pundits like to highlight our shortcomings, conveniently ignoring our past and continuing accomplishments. We truly have changed the face of the world, and although we have made grievous mistakes, we have also been an unrelenting force for freedom and liberty. God has blessed us immensely, and may He continue to do so! Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Future needs

I think a robot car would be nice. I could nap or watch movies. People get upset when I do those things now while driving.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Pastoral visits

I have always found a great way to see my pastor is to be in some totally innocent, but seemingly compromising situation that I can never adequately explain. Although I really think he's used to me now. At least he doesn't toss holy water on me anymore. Which was quite refreshing at times.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Scene from the End of One Story

"Scene from the End of One Story"
By Stephen B. Bagley

...This is how one story ended...

Eve walked into Milligan's with her friend Bette, and as always, her eyes searched the restaurant for his shoulders and that ratty leather jacket and his soft worn hat that felt like velvet when she touched it. For seven weeks, she had searched all their places. The coffee shop, the bookstore, the library, the pier, the Seafood Shack. But Jeremy had disappeared from her life.

She didn't know how to live without him, but she was trying to learn how. She took a gym class, went out to movies with Bette and her other friends, and focused on work, turning out reports with an efficiency that even her boss noticed. A couple of guys--Kevin from Sales and Joel from Receivables--asked her out, and she said yes. Nice enough dates, and she had enjoyed them. Kevin even made her laugh, and Joel was sweet. But she kissed them good night at the door.

Bette threaded her way through the crowd, looking for a table. Eve followed, wondering when she would stop feeling that pit in her stomach when she didn't see him. She stumbled and caught herself on the edge of a table. The men seated at it smiled at her. She apologized, backed away, turned toward Bette, and saw Jeremy.

He didn't see her. He stood by a table talking to two other men. The crowd closed between them, and she lost sight of him. For a moment, she paused, feeling her heart beating hard. Then she pushed forward, leaving Bette behind, weaving her way forcefully toward her last chance.

"Jeremy," she said.

He turned and saw her. He started to smile, but it faded away.

"Eve," he said. "How are you?"

"Fine," she said. But that wasn't what she meant to say. She meant to say she was falling to pieces, her heart broke, her life in shambles, but the words wouldn't come.

"Where's Ben?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said. "Back with his wife, I guess. We're not together."

Jeremy nodded. "Sorry to hear that."

"I broke up with him," Eve said, wanting him to understand. "I sent him away. I remembered what you said. 'If he cheats on his wife, why wouldn't he cheat on you?' I should have listened."

"He cheated on you," Jeremy asked with a flash of anger in his voice.

Surely that meant something, she thought. "No, but I realized he would. I realized the love of his life was him." She laughed.

Jeremy took a deep breath. "Well, I'm sorry to hear things didn't work out. It's good to see you. I've got to go. I'm leaving New York in a couple of days. I have a lot of packing still to do. Got a job in Boston."

"Oh," she said. "Boston. Good. Good. Is it one you wanted?"

"It's a job," he said. "I've always liked Boston." He grinned. "Great clam chowder."

She laughed to keep from crying out. He's moved on, she thought. He's moving away.

"It's good to see you," he said. "You look...beautiful." He smiled. "Well, take care. Tell your parents I said hi."

"I will," she said. "You take care. Enjoy that chowder."

And he walked away while she stood in a crowd of strangers and she realized that would be her life--to always be alone in a crowd.

"No!" she said. She took three quick steps and grabbed his arm. "Jeremy, wait."

He turned back, his face surprised. "What?"

She couldn't find the words.

"What, Eve?" he asked again. "I need to go."

"Okay," she said. "Can we talk outside? Just for a minute."

He looked down at the floor. "I don't think that would be a good idea. Don't you think we've hurt each other enough? I can't take any more."

She swallowed. "Just for a minute. I need to tell you a few things. It won't take long."

He took a deep breath. "For a minute."

They found a bench in the tiny park across the street.

"Well," Jeremy said. "What do you want from me, Eve?"

"Nothing," she said, but her heart called her a liar. "I needed to apologize."

"No," he said. "No. I don't want to do this."

"Please," she said. "I just wanted to know how sorry I was. How I would give anything to go back and fix things."

"Eve, we're--"

"I know you're not in love with me anymore," she said. "I know we can't go back. And that you don't want to. You've moved on. Good. I'm glad. I want you to be happy." She could feel the tears behind her eyes threatening to overflow. "I wanted you to know I will always want the best for you."

He looked away.

She wiped her eyes. Time to go. Time to walk away. Time to let him walk away. Time to face the bleakness ahead. She needed a few moments to gather her strength.

He stood and took a couple steps away. She wanted to weep, but she didn't. This was the result of her decisions. She had made them, and she would live with them. She had enough courage to do that.

She rose. "I'd better let you go. I'm sorry if I hurt you."

He turned, his face shadowed. "I'm at a place in my life--"

"You don't have to explain," she said. "I understand." She shook her head and wiped her eyes. "We had something lovely, and I broke it. I didn't mean to. But I guess that doesn't mean a thing. I wanted you to know I miss you. Oh how I do."

"Let me finish," he said. "I'm at a place in my life where there are more good-byes than hellos. More people lost than found."

She watched him, almost afraid to breathe.

"Comes with getting older," he said with a short laugh. "You can't imagine how...lost I've felt without you. How empty. But then I saw you with him, and I was angry. It was better to be angry than empty. But now...."

He was silent for longer than she could bear, but she bore it anyway. Please God please, she prayed. Another chance and I won't blow it. Please oh please.


"Too many goodbyes," he said finally. "Not enough hellos. I don't want that for my life. I don't want to tell you goodbye." He looked at her. "Hello. How are you? I missed you. I missed you."

She sobbed and launched herself into his eager arms.

...This is how one story ended and a new one began...

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Thanks for reading.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Excerpt: "Thoughts at a Picnic"

(Excerpt from the forthcoming Floozy Comes Back)

By Stephen B. Bagley

Bittersweet is that moment when you slap down on an annoying fly on the picnic table and gleefully crush it on your palm and then you realize its guts are on your hand and it probably just finished chowing down on a poop platter thoughtfully provided by the 127 feral cats who haunt the park. So you wipe your hand on your napkin, wishing you had hand sanitizer even though you watched an exposé on Channel 4 showing how sanitizer could easily ignite and you shouldn’t use it near a fireplace or an open flame so it might not be safe since you’re sitting four feet away from the barbeque where they are sacrificing wieners to the flames.

You look back at the table and realize there’s that green-reddish smear from when you crushed Mr. Fly and you don’t want to see that so you move your plate to cover the remains, but the thought of it being there bothers you, and for a moment you think about that Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” where the murderer has hidden his victim under the floorboards of his house, but then he thinks he hears “the beating of his hideous heart!”

Hardly a nice thing to remember on a nice day like this with the sun shining and your friends laughing beside you, and you blame Mr. Simmons who told that story to your seventh grade English class and gave you nightmares because he did it so convincingly and kept looking at the students with such a mad look that it’s no surprise that he was arrested for public nudity at a zoo and went to prison for five years and the poor flamingoes never recovered and went around looking shell-shocked and losing pink feathers everywhere.

You look back at your plate, which now you can’t do without thinking of the corpse it’s concealing, and pick up your fork to have some of that potato salad that Kathy brought and your mind flashes back to that report Channel 4 did about food-born pathogens and how they lurk in every picnic food which should never sit out for more than a few minutes, otherwise they become something so lethal that they could wipe out entire civilizations, which might be what happened to the people who built Stonehenge. You can imagine them gathering for a rock-raising picnic, and a few hours later, they’re all gasping their last breath like that fly you crushed. But the fly’s death was so fast it probably didn’t have time for a last breath; one moment it’s on the table looking at the feast spread before it, thinking happy thoughts, and then it’s not thinking anything. This makes you feel better because, after all, you gave it a quick, happy death, which is not such a terrible thing, and many people might want such a parting from this life, although how they’d find a giant picnic table is anyone’s guess.

Still, you put the fork back down and pick up your ham sandwich—WITH THE FLY CRUSHING HAND! A hand that’s probably contaminated with the bacteria and viruses that the fly picked up when it dined on the poop of a cat which had escaped from a secret lab conducting research into bio-weapons and this...this innocent picnic is how the zombie apocalypse starts!

With mounting panic, you realize you’re sure thinking about poop at lot at this picnic and now you’re afraid you will always associate picnic with poop and you frantically start thinking of better things that happen at picnics: laughing, games of Frisbee® and softball, splashing in pools, playing games of tag with the grand-children, and once at a college picnic years ago a curvy blonde fellow journalist let you find her in the woods for a bit of friendly necking—wait, that’s not an appropriate thought for now.

You carefully take a bite of the sandwich avoiding the side that touched your palm, and it’s good. Ham, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, mustard, thick wheat bread.... Of course, if you were serious about your low carb diet, you wouldn’t be eating the bread at all. According to the carb commandos, grains are poison, POISON, and maybe that’s what actually wiped out the Stonehenge builders. Between raising multi-ton rocks, they were happily eating bread, French fries, ice cream, white rice, tacos, peach cobbler, potato salad.... Happy, heavy people who one day were felled by heart attacks, diabetes, and dreaded lard-bottom disease. All in all, there are worse ways to go if one has to go.

Which makes you think of an article you read recently in a science magazine about those people who think they don’t have to go and plan to upload their brains into a supercomputer so they can live forever, ignoring the fact that the original person would go ahead and age and die, leaving behind some monstrous thing that only faintly resembled a human, like a Congressman.

By now, everyone else is finished or finishing their plate of food and either getting seconds or thirds or deciding they’d better stop, and you have barely touched your food, which might make them think you’re on your second or third place when you’ve barely eaten enough to keep a fly alive...that fly again. Sigh. Now you’re regretting you killed the thing. Maybe you should have shooed it away, thus not incurring a Karmic debt. But you don’t believe in reincarnation anyway since you’re Baptist, and if it were true, then you’d only be releasing the soul trapped in the fly to move up into a better body, like maybe a boil weevil or a rodent. Unless it had been a bad fly, and then it would drop down in worth and become a telemarketer.

They’re cutting the watermelon now. You like watermelon and can easily make yourself sick eating too much given half a chance, but watermelon is basically sugar water held together by a fibrous matrix and loaded with carbs. You mentally add watermelon to the diet of the Stonehenge builders while taking a plate—a small plate—of the melon, vowing to yourself that you will walk several miles and burn off that sugar before it has time to damage your body even though you insisted the picnic was close to a parking lot because you didn’t want to walk.

The watermelon has seeds—the best ones do, in your opinion—and one of the black seeds moves! It’s another FLY! But you wave it off and examine the melon flesh closely, like you could see germs, and take your life into your teeth and hungrily devour the fruit.

It’s the end of the picnic, and it would hardly look right for you keep eating, so you regretfully drop your plate and cup in the trash, and stop at Delicias Mexican Restaurant on the way home for chips, dip, and a platter of enchiladas.

(Excerpt from the forthcoming Floozy Comes Back. Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without explicit permission from the author and publisher. Thank you for reading.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

If Only

Over the years, I've written a lot of poetry, so much so that sometimes I forget a poem and rediscover it after several years in my journal. I found this one the other day. I changed a few words, but overall, I left it as it was. Funny thing is that I don't even remember who--if anyone--I was writing about.

If Only
By Stephen B. Bagley

If only I could stop loving you
my life would be better now
in more ways than I can imagine.

If only I could forget
the taste of your lips,
your face as you slept,
those blue, happy eyes,
the silly way you smiled,
I wouldn't feel so empty now.

If only I could stop hurting
when I recall those days
of loving and laughing
and yes even fighting,
crying, and arguing--
I wouldn't run from love now.

If only I knew you, too,
had regrets when you
think of me--if ever
you do--and missed
me and our flawed love,
I could finally begin to heal.

If only you read these words
I'd know you'd finally know
I still carry the memory of us
and it's breaking my back
because you lack the courage
to share this heavy burden.

In more ways than I can imagine
my life would better now
if only I could stop loving you.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Thank you for reading.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Orwellian Scene

"An Orwellian Scene"
By Stephen B. Bagley

I once had a friend who was a survivalist. Let's call him Jacob, because that was his name. He stockpiled five years of food, a couple of months of water, guns and ammo, medical supplies, etc. Built a nice cabin in the woods with solar power and a windmill, although he still needed an electric line for all his power needs.

All through the Bush years, Jacob complained about how the government was trying to become a dictatorship. He foamed at the mouth when the Patriot Act was passed. He could actually recite the Act and give you point by point how it was taking away our civil liberties.

I thought perhaps he would calm down when Obama was elected, but no, he was even more up in arms. The National Health Plan, you see, would allow the government to embed nanobots into our brains and control us.

Then Trump got elected, and while I hoped Jacob would finally be reasonable, he was not. In fact, he claimed Trump was a tool of the Illuminati and would betray all those who elected him to further their goals of world domination.

Well, after that, I had no choice. I reported him to the Thought Police, and they picked him up yesterday. I will get a share of his goods after the officials take their percentage. It should be enough to bribe the Controllers so they will upgrade my nanobots to less painful ones.

I am proud and happy just as you are. We're not allowed to be anything else.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Live life well

Chilly, rainy day currently. We were forecast clear, sunny skies. No such luck. We needed the rain, of course, and it's not freezing, so the blooming and budding plants and trees are okay. Still, it's depressing. I enjoy such days in the fall, but in the spring, they feel sad.

Rainy days are generally depressing. Humans are--for the most part--creatures of sunlight. We're made to walk in the day and sleep in the night. We lived that way for thousands of years; only now are we up all hours. We may be losing undefined things by choosing our 24 hour day. Despite our desire to do more, live more, enjoy more, make more...we are doing less and feeling more frantic about it as the years--and our lives--speed by.

Sometimes, I think the greatest gift would be to slow down time, to live each hour as a day, to have enough time for walks in the park, enjoying the sun and wind while sitting on a stone bench, to feel the light on our faces like a benediction.

Time doesn't do that, though. Life goes on despite our attempts to hold on to each precious moment. Eventually, we live our lives in our memories. And then we don't. Other people take up the memories which become family stories and tales of times past until they are gone, too.

My point? Be happy now. Live in the present. Let all those "mores" care for themselves. Don't let your life not be lived. Walk in the sunshine now with me, even on rainy, cloudy days, and we will live life well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Remember these

I will not take these for granted:

A beautiful spring day. I felt the sunshine on my face like a blessing.

My computer. It gives me problems sometimes, but it keeps plugging along, outdated as it is. It helps me write and be creative in ways I couldn't have imagined when I was a kid pounding away on a Smith-Corona.

A roof over my head. It's a modest house, it needs paint and some repairs, but many poor people would love to have it. Many people have nothing at all between them and the bitter winds and the burning sun.

Food on my table. Millions of men and women, millions of children struggle with starvation. Truly I live in a land of plenty.

My country. It isn't perfect, but it's the best that humanity has ever been able to produce. I'm not one to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We'll fix the problems. We'll continue to grow and change and get better. That's what we do.

My dear friends. A close second to my family in my affections. I appreciate the laughter and lunches and talks about life, politics, and everything else.

My precious family. In the end, they're the people I love the most and who count on me and on whom I depend. We've been together a long time, and God willing, have many more years to go.

My personal salvation. I don't preach to people. I'm not built that way. But it would be a mistake to assume that my silence meant that I didn't take my spiritual life seriously. I hope that people can see by my life and by how I live that there's something more to this life, that we aren't alone by any means, and that even the smallest of us matter in this vast universe. I know I fail in this daily, but the struggle makes life worthwhile.

Every now and then, I have to remind myself to not take these things for granted.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Scene from a Cemetary

Scene from a Cemetery

Yesterday I walked among the dead.

Not my dead.

Strangers in an old cemetery a few miles from my house.

Thought I might take photos...that the spring sun might illuminate a particular stone or give a halo to an old weathered angel.

Instead I carried my camera and walked among the rows of graves. Stopping to read a date or name. My feet crunched on old brown leaves. The few trees were mostly bare except for a row of bedraggled evergreens along one side of the cemetery.

And I thought about life and how it goes so fast. How we can't hold our dead no matter how much we try, no matter how much we cry, they slip away when we're not looking.

I thought about those who have left us and how I miss them. My grandparents, my parents, aunts and uncles, cousins...my baby brother.... My mother was so sharp, so smart, she would see right through your soul, and my father loved to laugh and loved to make me laugh. All those losses. Is that why we're ready to go at the end of our lives? Do the losses pile on until our spirit is ready to fly, to escape the burdens of sorrow? Or maybe we're just ready to meet them again. Maybe we're tired of not being with them. Maybe we're tired of this earth.

I sat down in an old concrete bench beside an empty tree.

Across the rows, I saw a robin. A mockingbird called. I watched a lonely cloud make its way across the pale blue sky. And I felt the stillness settle into me, the quiet calm that I call peace for the lack of a better word. I stopped thinking for a while, stopping imagining, stopped remembering.

For a few moments, the horizon held me. That beckoning sky. The endless heavens beyond.

Then I took a deep breath of the cool wind. I smiled for no particular reason other than it felt better than not smiling. I stood, walked back to my car, and drove back to my life.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Scene from a Writers Group

"Scene from a Writers Group"

I got involved in an interesting discussion with some other writers the other day -- WAIT! Don't go away. This discussion involved SEX! I thought that would peak your interest -- about SEX in books. I had struggled through a book recently that featured fairly explicit SEX and had wondered out-loud what made that book "literature" and not just plain porn. (Names changed to protect me.)

"Because the sex was integral to the story," said Writer Aromance. "It wasn't just thrown in to titillate. It revealed the characters."

"Yes, it revealed they liked sex," Writer Begenre said. "But doesn't everyone? Sex scenes are put in books to increase sales. And give lonely writers a thrill."

"Are there any more cookies?" asked Writer Cookbookins. "I only got one."

"I don't read books with explicit sex," Writer Divine said. "In fact, I'm quite happy to read about a sweet kiss and then a sunset."

"Today's readers want more than that," Aromance said. "They want to feel the characters' passion. They want to experience the hot, steamy moments, the indescribable sensations." Aromance panted, head rolling slightly, eyelids fluttering. "They want details. Oh yes! YES!!!"

The rest of the group moved their chairs away from Aromance.

"Isn't reading a sex scene the same as renting a porn movie?" Begenre said. "Just because they're not watching a sexual encounter with their eyes and instead 'watching' it in their minds, doesn't mean that it's not for the same purpose."

"Well, I don't read romances for that!" Aromance said, scooting over to join them again. "I want to read about true love, and sex just happens to be part of it. We need to turn the air-conditioning on."

"There were enough cookies for two apiece," Cookbookins said, looking around. "Someone had to have three."

"True love is more than just sex," Divine said. "It's a marriage of spirits, of souls reaching out to each other."

"Those souls come with various pieces of plumbing attached," Begenre said. "I think fading off into a sunset leaves the reader hanging."

"Some things are better left to the imagination," Divine said with a sniff. "It totally kills the romance when a writer starts describing ... er ... how the pipes fit into the joints."

"We're going to run that plumbing metaphor into the ground," Begenre said.

"I blame TV," Writer Eongo said. "People have become accustomed to seeing everything right before them. They don't exercise their minds. So they can't even imagine people having sex!"

"You know, I brought those cookies to share," Cookbookins said. "I think it's a shame that someone is so greedy that he or she deprived another writer of their cookie."

"Eongo has a point," Divine said. "What's wrong with letting the reader know that the characters have had sex, but not showing the sex? When two characters make love, that's one thing, but when we invite the reader along, that's an orgy."

"Not really an orgy," Begenre said. "Or least I don't think that's one. It's been a long time since my college days." The others looked at Begenre. "I heard about them back then," Begenre hastily added. "But I think a good case could be made for it being voyeurism."

"I love ocean ones," Farawa said dreamily.

The other writers regarded the elderly writer carefully.

"Not voyages, dear," Begenre told Farawa. "Voyeurism."

Farawa frowned. "I don't think I'm familiar with that. I do like to travel, though, so perhaps I'm a voyeur, too."

Divine's face turned red. Eongo choked back a laugh.

Begenre patted Farawa's hand. "I'll explain later, dear."

"I guess readers' tastes are just varied," Divine said. "Some people like to read inspirational, morally uplifting books while others prefer filth and gutter-life."

A long pause ensued.

"Hmm, I hate to agree," Aromance said. "But she's basically right. Readers' tastes vary. Some people like stuffy, boring, moralistic, and simple books while others like to read about a complicated, adult, intelligent world view that reflects contemporary life."

A longer pause.

Divine smiled too brightly. "Perhaps we should discuss this afterwards, dear."

"Oh, let's, sweetie," Aromance said, smiling just as brightly.

"I brought cookies because I thought that would be easier to divide," Cookbookins said. "When I brought pie last time, someone took nearly half of it."

"To return to the original question, I think intent has a lot to do with it," Begenre said. "If a writer is writing the sex scene and the whole point is to simply give the reader a sexual thrill, then maybe it strays into the ... let's not say porn, but the titillation arena. But if the scene is for character development and illumination, it's firmly in the literature arena."

The clock chimed nine, and that was all the time we had. They filed out, leaving Farawa and me. She gathered up her large purse and her notebooks. I smiled at her and asked, "How was that third cookie?"

She winked at me. "Delicious."

(Copyright 2017 Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Scene from a Farewell Party

"Scene from a Farewell Party"

She had waited all evening. Waiting for the time to be right. Or a miracle. But he stood on the other side of the room. He never walked her way. And she knew he left in the morning for New York. This night was her last chance, but her last chance for what? She didn't know. She couldn't begin to hope, but she knew the perfect words she wanted to hear.

Most everyone else was dancing. Hopping up and down to a manic pop single, but the beat of her heart took all her attention as it drummed a rhythm of fear and hope.

All the way through high school and college, the time had never been right. She had been with Kent and then with Richard. He had been with Laurie, Joanne, and Jenny. But now they were both unattached. What kept this from being the time?

How long was she supposed to wait to hear those perfect words? Or had their time already passed? She knew some things got lost. People grew up. Passions faded. A fire couldn't smolder forever.

They had exchanged glances. Significant, perhaps, but nothing more. They had never been close friends, just friends of friends. They had kissed once in a gazebo in a summer rainstorm, but his cell phone had rang. Joanne was looking for him. Richard was looking for her. She ran all the way back to her cousin's house, soaked to the skin and spent the rest of the vacation suffering from a cold and hiding in her room. He tried to call her several times, but she never took his calls. They hadn't spoken since.

Another song started, more frantic than the last one, but she couldn't hear it over the slow drum in her chest.

Somehow she pulled away from the wall. Somehow she took a step and then another. Four steps, and she reached in the middle of the room. If this had been a movie, he would have met her halfway, but it wasn't. Among the dancers she was alone.

The next step was the hardest. But the rest were easy. She reached him, put out her hand, touched his shoulder.

He turned, his ready smile fading as he saw her.

She couldn't wait anymore. Now. Now before her courage failed her.

She pulled his face to hers and kissed him.

If it had been a movie, he would have laughed and kissed her endlessly. He would have said, "I love you," the perfect words she wanted.

But he didn't.

He looked at her for a long moment.

Too long.

Panic filled her. This wasn't a movie. This was real life, and their time had passed. She was a fool.

But then he reached out and crushed her against him.

He said, "What took you so long? I've been waiting forever."

As it turned out, those words were perfect, too.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Passion

Passion
By Stephen B. Bagley

If I could, I would seduce you
into poetry. I would run
feathery words over the bare
shoulders of your muse, touch gently
the moist secret places of your
metaphors, delicately brush
your lips with similes and plunge
rhythm and rhyme into your soul.

I would take you past the threshold
where passion and structure meet, where
one image means the difference
between indifference and glory.
If I could, I would do these things
and do them long and do them well
until when you heard poetry,
you would gasp, don’t stop oh don’t stop.

Excerpt from Undying by Stephen B. Bagley & Gail Henderson. 
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. 


Friday, March 17, 2017

Letter

Dear old friend,
      I'm just writing you a note to tell you that I'm done with regrets. When I hung up the phone, after you told me that you were getting married again, I thought, It's never going to happen now. We're not going to be together.
      For a moment, I cursed the bad timing that has always plagued us. For a moment, I thought of the crazy loving we weren't going to share. For a moment, I thought of laughter in a shared, cozy dark. For a moment, I thought, well, my heart will break. And I braced myself for the shock.
      But my heart kept right on beating. And then I realized it was okay. I had been in love with you so long, had become so accustomed to it that I hadn't even noticed that it was only habit now. Somewhere over the years, the passion had been replaced with friendship.
      I thought about it all day yesterday. I turned it over in my mind, examining this strong, healthy reaction that I hadn't expected to find. Somehow, some way, some time when I wasn't looking, I grew up. And it feels fine.
      So I'm done with regrets tonight. There's a whole world still out there. I've wasted too much time already. A part of me will always love you, but it doesn't love you any more. I hope you finally find happiness. You deserve it. And so do I.
Your friend,
Me

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sometimes

     Sometimes you're not enough. That's the one of lessons of growing up. You get to learn that some people can't be saved, that you're going to have to watch as someone you love makes wrong decisions and chooses darkness, that you can't do anything except hope the damage won't break them. 
      You can only do so much. Ultimately it's their decision about their lives. All the good advice in the world means nothing if the recipient won't listen. All the kindness in the world can't reach someone who won't let themselves be reached. You hope and pray, but they take that next drink or that next hit or one more time around with the wrong guy. They say they want to be rescued, but they've chosen their hell, and you can't save them. They don't want to be saved. 
      Sometimes miracles happen. People do step back from the abyss. It happens every day many times. It's the hope you hold on to. Even when you lose. 
      So you learn to take the victories you can, and you mourn the ones that fall, but there's always someone else walking along the edge so you don't have time to waste. 
      You keep trying because we all court disaster sometimes. But for the grace of God, you might be that one who's failing, who's falling, who needs someone to catch them, who needs someone to say, "Hold on. I won't let you go. Hold on." 
      Over the past few weeks, I've watched a friend choose something bad. He's lost his job and now his family, but he wants something he can't have and he's going to ruin himself in his attempt to get it. He's had books of good advice and libraries of warnings, but somehow he thought he'd be different, that he could walk along the hungry abyss and be unharmed. That he was different from all those others that fell before him. 
      Sunday night he called me and asked what he should do. So I gave the usual good advice (counseling, marriage therapist, N.A. meetings) and as I did, I realized that he was going to ignore me, that everything I said was not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that it was going to be okay, that it was going to work out. That he could keep what he had already lost by continuing to do what he is doing. 
      Because I really am his friend, I didn't tell him those lies that because they're not true. The call ended shortly thereafter. I doubt he will call me again. I'll continue to hope and pray for him and his family, and that's all I can do for now. But miracles happen. I want one to happen in his life before he suffers too much, before he gathers too much regret. 
      Miracles do happen. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Darker than you think

I've always had a dark(er) sense of humor. I don't know why. I certainly don't like it when people get hurt or any of the other gory/senseless/immature/vulgar events that seem to pass for humor these days. (Never liked America's Funniest Home Videos or their ilk.)

But...sardonic humor. Like that in William Goldman's The Lion in Winter. Or the biting insults in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woofe? have always sparked something in me. The intelligence in the cuts, the knowing wit dissecting its object with no mercy nor regard to anything except the devastating impact....

In my plays, there were flashes of that. Sometimes the joke twisted the knife if the audience took a moment to look past the initial laughter. Not often. For one thing, I believe in mercy, and for another, I liked my characters for the most part. I hated hurting them, but I did.

Maybe all authors are darker than you think. Maybe darker than you are comfortable with. What other being makes its living by writing with great skill about another's torment? Look away. Better to not know. Just take the laugh and leave us in the shadows.

Where we're watching you.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why you can't

For a long time, self-help gurus have preached a message about "having it all," "doing it all," and so on. In many ways, their message--reaching our full potential and trying for more than the average, trying to learn more, be more active--is a good one that we all need to hear and to apply, but...and it's a big "but" and I cannot lie...we have to understand how time influences our lives.

We don't get a lot of time down here. Almost nothing compared to the time that has gone before and even less to the time that is yet to come. "...our little life is rounded with a sleep," to quote from The Tempest. The question becomes how to choose what is important to us. What are we going to spend our precious time on?

The reason we can't do it all/have it all--to put it plainly--is we don't have enough time. So we must choose, and each choice turns us from one path to another path to another to another. It always comes back to our decisions, even if we choose not to decide--which is a choice of sorts.

I have always liked the wisdom in this: "If you don't know where you're going, then how will you know when you get there?" We have decisions to make. We decide. And we must live with those consequences of those decisions.

In our lives, every single day, we make decisions. If we want to be a better person, make a better world, we have make good decisions. Prayer and reflection will help with that. And maybe being conscious of how precious time is to everyone.

And that's all the time I have for talking about this today.





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Excerpt: "Taking Aim At Cupid"

Ordinarily at this time of year, I make a few disparaging remarks about Valentine’s Day, or "Passover" as I call in my house, but never within earshot of any of my Jewish friends as they do get the joke, but they don’t think it’s funny, and I hate it when they get all Samson on me.
But this year, I’ve decided to direct our attention to that clothing-challenged archer who wings around shooting people with arrows to make them fall in love with people guaranteed to ruin their lives. I don’t understand Cupid.

Oh sure, I get the metaphor that love is like a sharp weapon that pierces your spleen and makes you hemorrhage to death while your loved one runs off with your best friend, but beyond the obvious, what’s up with him?

He's strange. Has little tiny wings on his back.He flies around more naked than the birds who at least have feathers. He has nothing to protect him from the elements. (People thought that the mythmakers were saying Cupid carried a quiver, but actually they were saying he shivered.)

Supposedly, Cupid was the son of Venus (Goddess of Love) and Mars (God of Candy Bars). That's the accepted story, but other myths say he was the son of Heaven and Earth, Venus and Vulcan, Night and Ether, Venus and Mercury, Strife and Zephyr, and Venus by herself. The point of this is Venus got around, and the Renaissance mythographer Natale Conti says Cupid's parentage was uncertain. (Conti would go on to have a short-lived career in the Renaissance version of the Maury Povich show.)

It wasn’t until Cupid was in school that he learned his parents were mythical and didn’t exist. The other school children used to mock him by saying, “Your daddy's a myther; your mama's a mythssus." At this point, he took up the bow and arrow, but the school counselor disarmed him and sent him to military school where he was ignored because no one wants to look at a naked person all the time.

Not that his life was all bitter solitude. In fact, while carrying out one of his mother’s bizarre revenge schemes—Venus had depths of crazy that even my ex-girlfriends don’t have—he met and stalked a beautiful woman by the name of Psyche, who was a soul sister. (That’s a clever joke because Psyche is Greek for “soul.” Get it? Ha ha.... Well, fine. You try making jokes about love gods and see how easy it is.) He stalked her because he accidentally nicked himself with one of his arrows; there's some sort of lesson in that, but let's not take the time to figure it out.

If Cupid wrote a tell-all memoir, he would feature his mother. Here's this story as an example. When Cupid was a little boy, he stole honey from a bee hive, and the bees stung him. He cried and ran to his mother Venus. She laughs and points out he is also small like the bees and he delivers the sting of love so his pain is justice.Then she kicks him back outside. Listen, if that's not movie-of-the-week gold, I don't know what is. Move over, Joan Crawford, there's a new hanger-shaker in town.

Cupid and Psyche had their problems, of course, as any couple does when the man likes to soar around naked shooting people, but eventually they did marry and had a daughter whom they named Voluptas for no good reason. (She was also known as Hedone, which doesn’t seem any better. I can see Venus standing on the celestial porch hollering, “Voluptas Hedone, you get yourself back in this house right now!”) She hated her parents, mostly because her father’s lack of modesty meant she could never have sleepovers at her house. She left home at an early age and lived a wanton life, but no more so than any pop star or Congressman.

Mercifully, Psyche faded from history (or mythistory) at that point. Cupid, however, showed up a few more times, but marriage had changed him. He now carried two set of arrows, one gold-tipped set that brought love, and another lead-tipped set that brought hate. Some scholars think this is a pointed commentary on marriage. Other scholars wonder why we’re talking about this and think we should get a real job. The other scholars are often grumpy.

Anyway, I want you to think about all this when you get a card with Cupid on it. If you do and then find your Valentine’s Day is a bit less happy, then my job is done.

(Excerpt from the forthcoming Floozy Comes Back. Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without explicit permission from the author and publisher. Thank you for reading.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update

Sorry to be so quiet. Between doctors' visits, my medical problems, and life, it seems I haven't had much time.

However, in good news, I have been making significant progress on "Floozy Comes Back." My plan is to have the book finished--first draft state--by the end of February.

Then March I will spend editing, lengthening, writing new material, and proofing (with the help of my proofers).

April, off it will go to the publisher.

And if things go right, I will publish in May! I'm looking forward to holding another new book in my hands.