Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Joyous Day Called Christmas

A Joyous Day Called Christmas
James M M Baldwin

In the darkness of the winter solstice
Under the stillness of a moonless night
Comes a joyous day called Christmas

In a gorgeous spectacle of brightness
In A Luminous season of gladness
Comes a joyous day called Christmas

Among selfless acts to help the helpless
Amid gracious hope for the hopeless
Comes a joyous day called Christmas

While precious children lie restless in slumber
As a gifted songstress sings a wondrous hymn
Comes a joyous day called Christmas

As witness to a sinless child born of justice
In an ageless promise of righteousness
Comes a joyous day called Christmas

Friday, November 16, 2012

Life's Autumn

Life’s Autumn
James M M Baldwin

Silver sunlit rays traverse a lavender sky
A fragile hand clings to life

Purple clouds trimmed in gold hide a setting sun
Hope remains amid enthusiastic prayer

Copper hues dapple autumn leaves
Disease enforces its penalty

Birds speckle the sky departing for southern lands
Loved ones visit but return whence they came

A season ends
Death claims its prize

A distant star lights the dark
A wandering soul finds an eternal home

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ten Scariest Movie Villains

As a speculative fiction author, I dabble in horror. Two of my best are Twisted Fate and Dream Hunters. Though the second leans more toward science fiction, the dreams contained in the story are pure horror. Today I came across a list on AOL of the ten scariest movie villains. Some of them I hadn't heard of.
Here's the list.
10. Ghost Face from Scream
9. Angela Baker from Sleepaway Camp
8 Jigsaw/Billy the Puppet from Saw
7. Chucky from Childs Play
6. Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's It
5. The Firefly family from House of a Thousand Corpses
4. Michael Meyers from Halloween
3. Jason Vorhees from Friday the Thirteenth
2. Leather Face from Texas Chainsaw massacre
1. Freddy Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street

I wasn't familiar with the Firefly family or Angela Baker, but the video clip from Sleepaway Camp looks intriguing; a bullied child takes revenge.
Another list from YouTube listed as top ten horror movie villains (doesn't mention scary)adds Norman bates from Psycho, Jack Torrance from The Shining, Regan from the Exorcist, and Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs. They also had the Xenomorphs from Alien, but if your going to have that, you also have to put in the predator from the Arnold Schwarzenegger Predator movie. That one however may be less horror and more action/adventure. If I'm including action adventure, I might want to add Heath Ledger's Joker from the Dark Night and maybe even Darth Vader from Star Wars.

What do you think? Did I leave someone out? Who's your scary favorite?


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dark and Lonely

Dark and Lonely
James M M Baldwin

A skeletal shell
In a damp and musty grave
In a long forgotten cemetery.
Once the seat of knowledge
For a strong brilliant man.
Worms have left me vacant
Without thought
Without impulse
Without sensation.
Shakespeare's Hamlit
raised me in one hand,
Alas poor Yorick
I knew him well.
Poison liquid in a bottle
Puts me on crossed bones.
I'm out of my skull
Perhaps bone-headed.
In dishonorable proceedings
I am skullduggery.
In metal music
I'm 'Eddie the 'ead.
In Mayan Myth
I'm crystal quartz.
As Lord Byron's cup
I hold the wine.
Get it through
your thick skull.
A wooden shell
To incase the brain.
I never frown
A toothy grin.
My orbital sockets,
Adorned long ago with watery blue eyes
Now only stare;
Vacant, dark, unblinking.
In life, muscle and skin gave me emotion
Joy, anger, passion
No longer.
Sunken cheeks
Exposed teeth
Have left only one expression:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Writer as Artist

In an e-conversation, a friend of mine, Doug Sasse, asked if I've noticed the similarities between writing and drawing?

This really got me thinking because, as an artist and a writer, I've often pondered this.

In both mediums you are telling a story. You put thousands of little marks on a blank surface to produce a final product. Both forms take hours to produce. You know what they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." But there is one major difference between the two. With writing, the reader spends hours, days, sometimes weeks absorbing your work. On the other hand, with a painting or drawing, you spend hours and hours producing the work and the viewer usually gets the entire story in a few seconds. Sometimes they might spend a minute examining the work, but never much more.

Continuing our conversation, my friend clarified his opinion on the subject with the following.

Both mediums start with an idea or a subject. You sketch in broad strokes, blocking in the structure. Structure is important in both mediums. Each element has to not only stand on its own, but work with the other elements to be successful. I think they call that Gestalt. Drawing uses different values of light and dark, just as does character development. But then once the basic structure is in place, you refine, refine, refine, until you've completed all of the details. Drawing is a right-brain exercise; writing is, to a large extent, also a right-brained exercise, requiring intuition and creativity. In the end, both mediums create something artificial that, ironically, enhance its creator’s ability to see the world, while providing the viewer a greater appreciation of reality.

I'd like to thank my friend and fellow Nebraska Writers Workshop participant Doug Sasse for initiating this dialogue and giving my cause to think.

What do you think?


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rain on a Tin

Rain on a Tin Can
James M M Baldwin

Some scoff at my empty cans
"They're an eyesore"
"They're garbage"
"They're ugly"

Some complain about the rain
It'll drench my clothes
It'll ruin my new shoes
I just washed my car

The rain brings my empty cans to life
A gentle pinging lullaby
A distant rumble adds the bass
The rhythm slows and rises with the storm

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rabbit Hole vs. Worm Hole

When the going gets tough, some people bury their head in the ground like an ostrich. (I don't know if ostriches actually do that but I saw it in a cartoon once) Sometimes it's easier to hide from a problem than confront it. A rabbit will lay perfectly still, hoping to avoid conflict. But if trouble gets too close, it will go for its hole. The rabbit is quite smart. Remaining undetected is better then becoming coyote dinner. The rabbit however, will always be a rabbit and more than likely will eventually become the dinner for some carnivore. Rabbits don't usually die of old age. As they slow down, they're no longer able to outrun the predator. The rabbit's main defense against extinction is to make lots of little rabbits before the unavoidable day of painful demise.

Instead of remaining inactive and waiting for your chance to escape into the rabbit hole, and eventually becoming eagle chow, there's another option. The worm hole. No. Not the tiny holes made by slimy legless creatures, but the wrinkle in time and space. In a precursory move, if you jump into the worm hole, you'll arrive at a new destination. The problem will have never existed. It won't have time to follow. Your exotic new destination might have its own problems. A new predator might be larger and have sharper teeth than the coyote. But at least you made the decision to act on your circumstance and did something to change it.

Now, if I only had the courage to take my own advice. Which are you more likely to do in times of trouble? Rabbit hole? or Worm hole?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy People, Happy Village

Happy People, Happy Village
James M M Baldwin

Blue covers the heavens like an upside-down sea
Wooly clouds gather like guests at a tea

A white sun coaxes the dull to a colorful array
Stubborn buds burst into a fragrant display

Emerald waves roll toward distant green meadows
Swaying arms sway from a row of old willows

Oaks and maples line a creek, sparkling like glass
A bushy tailed squirrel forages for seeds in the grass

Birds sing a merry song, filling the trees
Butterflies float on a gentle fragrant breeze

A bunny chews in a field of bristly pink thistle
A dragonfly darts like a heat guided missile

Giggling young girls jump rope, skip, and sing
Dressed in sundresses of green, white, and pink

Bare-chested boys play ball as they stroll
Shouting for joy as they tumble and roll

An unsteady woman walks a large hairy beast
It pulls her along, she holds tight to its leash

Young lovers exchange a passionate embrace
Overeager to complete the love that they chase

A child stops playing… she points at the skies
A comet strikes Earth… and everyone dies

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hawk or Squirrel, Hunter or Hunted

This morning I noticed a squirrel standing tall in the middle of my yard. A few seconds later, a Red Tail Hawk swooped in and tried to catch it. The squirrel leapt into the air and avoided certain death. The Hawk landed a few feet away. After several more attacks, and a gymnastic-like presentation of leaps and flips by the bushy-tailed rodent, he escaped into a nearby crabapple tree. The Hawk flew up, landed in the tree, and bobbed its head about looking for the its breakfast. The squirrel escaped by jumping branches through several neighboring trees, leaving the hawk spinning its head in bewilderment and hunger. The hawk eventually flew off and landed on some nearby wires to scan for its next target.

At first I associated with the squirrel; dodging the attacks of life's obstacles. I smiled when the furry little fellow escaped to safety. But as I watched, I realized I was more like the bird on the wire, searching for success and often coming up empty. If he gives up, he'll go hungry. Would God let the Red Tail starve? With no choice but to keep scanning, he'll continue searching for the opportunity to succeed.

What about you? Are you more like the squirrel or the hawk.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

WOW! It's hot out!

Wow, it's hot out!
James M M Baldwin

The Thermostat shows a rising thermometer
Heavy wet air, an increasing barometer

Summer sun shines hot as a blaze
Distant hills hidden in humidity's haze

Oppressive, muggy, blistering heat wave
A scorcher, sweltering, sultry dog days

Firecrackers on the Fourth of July
Hot from the oven spiced apple pie

Egg on a sidewalk without a fryer
Out of the pan and into the fire

An Indian dish with too much curry
A Mexican feast consumed in a hurry

A breakfast of hot red chili peppers
August Fifteenth in a turtle neck sweater

Tongue on fire, five alarm Barbecue
Lips blistered, steaming hot cup of brew

Singed seared smoked stewed steamed simmered and broiled
Fat-fried braised poached grilled baked blackened and boiled

Hot summer night around a campfire
Hot dog on a stick as black as a tire

Death Valley Sahara Mojave desert
Stuck without shade in a black tie and dress shirt

Feline paws on a hot metal roof
A camel with humps, hot sand under hoof

Get out of the kitchen, can't stand the heat
The pressure is on; you’re in the hot seat

A discussion becomes a heated exchange
In the heat of the moment, a hot tempered Rage

One-hundred four, a dreadful fever
Burning words from the master deceiver

Hades bell rings the toll of death knell
Your soul has the chance of a snowball in hell

Heatstroke is threat’ning, but don’t be afraid
Thank God for air conditioning and ice cold lemonade

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writer's Rut

From the title, you might presume this post is about the drudgery of writing. Like wagon wheels caught in a rut, trudging on in one direction without hope of rest, moving toward an uncertain destination. No, this post is about something different. This rut is more like the male buffalo during mating season. Late last year, I had so many story ideas kindling (no pun intended) on the fires of my mind, that I could not finish any one of them. They were like the two buffalo, butting heads, fighting for the chance to be the alpha male. That's how these stories were; locking horns, trying to take precedence over the other for control of my mind. The fighting continued until several stories sat at varying stages of completion, and none finding their end. I finally made the decision to put all of those new stories aside, and concentrate on editing, promoting, and publishing stories that had already achieved the top dog status of completion. All of those other stories are still in there, somewhere, jockeying for position among the racing electrical impulses of my brain. They will come out eventually. But for now, I'm still editing a novel for submission. So, if I'm writing, and you happen by, and you hear a dull thud echo from within the deep recesses of my gray matter, don't be alarmed. It's just the buffalo in rut.


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Gilded Conference

I recently attended the Friday night readings on the opening day of the Spring Nebraska Writers Guild Conference. Here is my synopsis of the evenings proceedings.

The Gilded Conference
James M M Baldwin

A man spoke of aliens, He went on a bit long
His plan well thought out, But something went wrong

Sally took us back, The old west it was sure
To gun fights and saddles, And reckless murder

Jack's song, His explanation too much
Yes it was humorous, And well worth the punch

A Bipolar memoir, Some technical stuff
Not much about treatment, More feelings and such

Lisa's gripping screenplay, Left my stomach in knots
The emotion ran high, Should be awarded for all that its got

Escape Velocity, Flash fiction from Mac
Jimmy can do it, To Saturn and back

Connie's quirky novel, Dee a short story, Mary's tale of school snakes
Janet's Lockets and Lanterns raised up the stakes

Then Dana, Poor Dana, Sleeping toddler she wrote
Not a dry eye in house, And lumps in our throats

Marilyn recited a poem, Of Sixties and Sex
Ignoring advice from her mother, A rating need added the letter of X

Mary Jo entertained, With wielding of wit
No punches were pulled, Good bad and ugly was surely a hit

Lynn set out to conquer a quest, Connie, the morn after, destroyed a whole town
Ronda's dark tale left mysterious clues, Sabrina got hers in before things wound down

And finally yes finally, Lisa read without doubt
Of spelling a bee, The letter p not left out

To all involved, Deserved Congratulations
Opening night a success, Applause and ovations

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chasing Reflections

This morning I watched a Scarlet Tanager attacking its own reflection in the widow of a shiny red truck. Its bright red body caught my eye as it sat on the outside mirror. Maybe the little bird thought the truck was a giant rival. After repeated attacks, the red bird flew off and sat on a fence chirping its anger like a hoarse robin. I had to look up what kind of bird it was on I had never seen one before. I also had never seen a bird challenging its mirror image.

It made me think about my own reflection? What do I see when I look in the mirror. Do I see who I really am. Some days I see someone unattractive and other times I see someone I'd like to be. Sometimes I like to pretend that my reflection lives in another dimension and when I walk away, he'll go off and live his own life. Although my reflection changes only slightly from day to day, perception can play a major part in how I see myself. So rather than be like the Scarlet Tanager, I'm not going to attack my reflection but realize that who I am comes from within.

How do you feel about your reflection?
How does your reflection treat you?


Monday, March 19, 2012

Shakespearean Coined Words

Advertising, circumstantial, compromise, design, employer, misquote, luggage, worthless and swagger are all words coined by Shakespeare.

I often get flagged by MS Word's spell check for using words that I think should be words but according to the MS dictionary they are not. I have a work in progress titled "War for the Unsouled," which technically is not a word but so for I've kept it because I like it. Maybe "soulless" would be better but I think my word fits my point better. I am not claiming to be on equal footing with the aforementioned William the Great; however, I am a self-ordained minister of the Coptic Unorthodox Word Usage Church.

Have you created any words in your writing? Anything you think that might catch on as much as the Shakespearean words?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You Want To Be a Writer

So, you want to be a writer? Okay. Let me ask you this. How thick-skinned are you? You're going to need to be like a duck and let everything roll off your back. You need to be prepared for rejection by the fistful. Are you prepared to spend years of intense work and loss of sleep while you balance your writing and your day job. Don't forget you're going to need a day job to support you while you toil away, year after year perfecting your craft.

What can you do to improve your chances. A college degree in writing is a good idea. Although it's not a guarantee. Then there's the reading. You're going to need to read a lot. You need to read books in the genre you're going to be writing in as well as books about writing. And there's no shortage of books about writing to choose from. There are a lot of things you need to know that you just can't pick up by reading. You also need to find a group of knowledgeable writers to help you hone your craft on a personal level.

You're going to need all the knowledge you can gather before you even start to write. Once you decide what genre you want to write in, you need to decide who your audience is. If you know who your writing for, it will be much easier when it comes time to market your work

Oh yeah, don't forget about luck. Almost every rejection letter I've received wishes me the best of luck. By now, with the number of rejections I've received I should have a whole truckload of luck saved up. Now if I could just access it. So as you journey down this road of writing, let me wish you all the luck in the world. You're going to need it.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Form Rejection

I wrote my first query letter in 2004. On January 27th of this year, I received my 127th rejection on numerous different projects. Not going into the emotions involved in receiving a rejection letter, have you received a one? Not only that, but have you ever received this exact same rejection?

"Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, I'm afraid this project isn't right for me, but I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation."

Of all the letters I've received, nearly a hundred of them are almost identical to this one. Obviously it's a typical form letter, but what a cop out. I research agents to find out which ones represent my genre. There seems to be a lot of agents casting a wide net, making it easy to fall prey to the dreaded form.

I've read some agent blogs about advice they gave to a writer via their query. How the obstinate writer refused to take their advice and never found representation, or how they took the advice and easily found representation and publication, or how they resisted the advice for years until eventually relenting and finding acceptance. Really? Does this actually happen? Apparently not to me. I would even appreciate a "you stink, get out of the business" letter. Better than a form. I'd love to hear from anyone that has ever received advice from an agent or editor based on a query letter.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

High Hopes Once Again

Last week I diligently upload a novel to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA). This will be my fifth entry into the annual competition: an effort that is not without emotional angst. Honestly, what would be the point of entering if I didn’t at least have some hope of winning, or at least making it through to subsequent rounds of judging?

The first year I entered I did not advance beyond the first round: a round which does not actually look at the novel but merely a three hundred word pitch. Yes I was disappointed but continued to submit elsewhere. The second year I was informed that I had made it through the first round, only to be notified a few days later that they had made a mistake and I had not advanced from the pitch round. Having the rug jerked out from under me hurt worse than not making it at all. They made up for their mistake by offering me a five dollar Amazon gift certificate. That made me feel better (NOT). The third year found me cautious when I received news of my advance to the second round where they judge the first 5000 words of the manuscript. It was true this time, but I did not advance to round three. I did receive a prize, two critiques from the amateur reviewers they have judge the first round. They had some good things to say but they also helped me see what I had done wrong. So after reworking the first section, I entered the revised manuscript in year four, only to find I did not advance beyond the pitch round once again. How could the same pitch advance one year only to fail the next?

So basically, here I am at year five; still holding out hope but not holding my breath.

What do you think of writing contests? Worth the stress?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

World's Most Expensive Book

Not having any success trying to sell my books at .99 cents per copy, the following headline caught my attention. "Worlds Most Expensive Book Goes Up for Sale" That peaked my interest. Could it be an original handwritten copy an unpublished William Shakespeare play. Maybe it would be the earliest known written version of Homer's Odyssey. I clicked the link. The new headline read. "Birds of North America will be Auctioned for Between 7 to 10 Million Dollar." Surprise. IT WAS A PICTURE BOOK! I should have known. Don't get me wrong, I understand why this rare, multi-volume 3 1/2' tall hand colored version of every species of bird known in North America in 1800 is so valuable, but come on. This is more art than it is book. I wonder what the most expensive book of WORDS ONLY might be. I doubt it will ever be an electronic copy of my ebook story "Black Wolf." (available at for only .99 cents.)