Thursday, December 18, 2014

You'll Like It When You Get There

by Annabeth Leong

I remember being 27, married, with the sort of job that could have become a career, going up in the ranks of a volunteer organization I participated in, publishing stories here and there. I thought I could see where this was going. It was time to think about buying a house, having a kid, getting a promotion, taking on more responsibility at that organization, and writing more and better. I believed in goals. If I wrote 1,000 words a day, the following year I wanted to write 1,250 words a day.

Two years later, most of that was gone. I had walked away from the marriage, the job, even the city I'd been living in. I no longer participated in that organization. I still wrote, but not under the name I used to use.

I basically hit the red button on my life. Under that other name, I used to have social media accounts and some growing reputation as an expert about certain things. I had invested in various pursuits, and was reaping the respect that came from that.

The events that led to those changes, combined with everything that's happened since then, have made me a little skeptical about goals.

Here's the question I never asked myself back then: All that more, where does it lead? Do I write 1,250 words, then 1,500, then on and on, until I'm someday writing 400,000 a day? (haha) Obviously, one can be smarter than that about setting one's goals, but for a long time, my only sense about goals was that they were supposed to be "more" and "higher."

I remember calling my mom when I signed my first contract for a book that would go into print. "Great," she said. "Are you going to try to get published somewhere better next time?"

And, philosophical person that I am, I wonder what "better" means.

The only possible answer to that is what's better to me, but that's so hard for me to answer. Going back to that life I used to have: did I want any of those things I thought I was supposed to do?

Years later, with another person, I started trying to have a baby. I'd been told that's what all women want. When I raised doubts about my maternal instincts (I have held a child exactly once in my life, and have to restrain myself from referring to babies with pronouns reserved for inanimate objects), I heard that hormones would fix all that. If I had a baby, I would want it. I would like it. People seemed extremely invested in convincing me that I wanted this even when I didn't think I did. More than that, they seemed extremely invested in issuing dire warnings about how deeply I would regret it if I didn't have a baby. I would wind up old and ugly and alone and very, very sorry. I would see my selfishness and wish I'd had a purpose in my life besides myself.

Anyway, once I started trying to have a baby, I found myself avoiding sex at any cost. And when I thought about that, I began to uncover the key piece of buried information: I absolutely did not want a baby. Believing that I actually wanted one when I didn't think I did was crazymaking — that stuff I'd been told basically asked me to assume I was insane, that I didn't know shit about my actual personality and wants and feelings. The fact that I'd been trying to believe it anyway for years — well, that had done some damage to my ability to know what the hell was going on with me.

Even now, it's hard for me to say that having a baby is not a goal for me. I was hanging out with an otherwise awesome woman not that long ago, but when she asked about children and I told her I didn't want one, she began insisting that I must freeze my eggs for the inevitability that I will regret this decision in a few years. I'm scared of writing what I'm writing now. All I can do is promise that I've given it a lot of thought and I'm sure about what I feel and what I know about the sort of person I am and the things I want to do with my life.

Goals — real goals that are true to me — are hard because it's hard for me to know what's true to me. A lot of things fell along with the baby goal, most notably my sense of my sexuality (A painful discussion that I've been revealing here in bits. What I'll say about it now is that it's another place where people seemed to feel free to tell me what my sexuality ought to be. I listened to them too much and for too long.).

I'm a bit ashamed of saying I'm so susceptible to what I've been told. When I identify a true goal of my own, it often seems unworthy, impractical, too rebellious — various definitions of wrong.

So the big goal, which is probably too vague to be praised by the experts in such things, is to figure out what I actually want and do that. To care about what I actually want. Corollaries: authenticity, honesty, courage.

I know I am supposed to make goals measurable. I am supposed to assess whether I am progressing toward them. I need to make sure they're achievable and realistic. I used to make personal five-year plans. But I don't have the heart for that anymore. I can't look at my heart and ask if it's realistic. Sometimes, I can't look at my heart and make any sense of it at all.

So I write it down. Not because it's a goal, but because that's what I do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Or Not

by Daddy X

O my—goals. I’ve never been fond of goals.

Short term goals--sure. I’ve managed to stay busy and productive all my life, working in a variety of situations. It’s what has made my life the wild, eclectic trip it’s been. Stumbling and lurching from situation to situation, career to career with nothing but a drive for something new and doable (plus a hungry belly) to guide me through to the next opportunity. Freedom has always included making my own way in the here and now. I rarely had the luxury of making plans for the future.

Long term goals—not so much.  Except for our marriage itself, vast changes in lifestyle have taken place for Momma X and me because of our collective ability to not only think out of the box, but to sniff out opportunity as it presents itself and act upon that information. I’ve had the business cards printed before the interview, lied on resumes, learned something about the interviewer before he/she knew anything about me, and did virtually anything I thought might make me and my ‘brand’ stick out. Hell, everybody embellishes a resume, using whatever devices to make their own qualifications appear to hit the nail on the head. It’s about acting on opportunity.

In restaurants I wanted to work at, I would go and have dinner a few times, get to know the menu and the owner. I’d hang out at an interesting bar. Become a regular. When a position opened, they already knew me. Often, I found out about a job just as it came up. Maybe I even heard somebody was leaving before the fact.  

I’ve always been leery of plans. Plans seldom if ever go as scripted, considering the random quality of life itself, throwing curves and monkey wrenches at our involvements with such capricious intensity. I’ve seen too many plans come apart in situations where people have left themselves no other choices. Not for me. Secure escape hatches with several options help me stay alert and quick on my feet.

It’s a great perk to make one’s living doing something we love. That’s basically what I’ve always done. Since I could never afford to court hobbies on a level that I wanted to pursue them, it was necessary to turn my hobbies into businesses. That’s how my cooking career began. Also my antique business.

Of course that’s not to say all of my enterprises were successes. Forget “Willy-Nilly Construction, Instruction, and Destruction Company” or “Let Me Take You For a Ride”, (when I bought an old classic car and advertised drives through the Wine Country) and “The Visiting Chef”, (which actually led to my first restaurant job). And let’s not get into the snail farming. Poor Momma X still has nightmares about that one!

Currently I have a collection of stories in the works with an April 2015 target date. For now, that’s my most significant short-term focus. Beyond that, I guess my only real goal for the next year is staying alive and healthy. Heh. Come to think, that’s not much different than when I was younger!

Not that I ever tried that hard to stay healthy. (See bio in ‘About Us’) Alive, yes. At least that goal has been fulfilled—so far.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Set Goals, Smash Them" by Suz deMello

I'm new here on Oh, Get A Grip! so I might as well let y'all know who I am and what you're dealing with.

I saw the above graphic on Facebook a short while ago and downloaded it immediately. It's printed out and in my office placed so that whenever I look up from keyboard or monitor, I see it. It's on my screensaver, and if anyone asks me what's up, I send it. It is just sooo me right now.

Without much pre-planning, ten works of mine have been published this year. Not all of them have been new stories, but all of them are good. Without ego, I can say that I maintain high standards and regularly meet them.

But this year--even I surprised myself. The earlier part of the year was dominated by my Ellora's Cave publications: Queen's Quest, Rakes in Tartan, Sherlock's Scandal (which became an Amazon bestseller), Kinky Toes, Blood is Thicker..., and Bridling his Vampire.

I had anticipated that the rest of the year would be fairly mellow, with me working on the last novel of my Highland Vampires series.

Wrong. This is where the "smashing goals" part comes in.

November through early December were insane. I had shepherded a new anthology group into life and we were busy writing, editing and planning our first publication, a boxed set of holiday tales called the Naughty List, which includes one of my short stories, Viking in Tartan.  The boxed set was published on December first and is doing well. 

I had been working on a writing manual, Plotting and Planning, for awhile before I remembered that November is NaNo month. For those of you who have never heard of it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, when thousands form support groups to write an entire book in only one month--a task that's entirely beyond me as I am just coming out of a prolonged period of writer's block. 

When I realized that NaNo month was upon us, I scurried to get Plotting and Planning prepared. For the first time, I used an outside company for uploading and am processing that experience. I decided I wanted to put out a print copy of both my writing manuals for the Christmas gift-giving market. The ompany doesn't like to do printed books, stating that they don't make money from print books.

So I did it myself, acqainting myself with Photoshop. There were a number of snags along the way. An online class I took on PS proved to be a useless time sink. Createspace's conversion process alters the book design undesirably--I'm still working to overcome that glitch for the large print version.

I'm very proud of About Writing. It has a lot of what I've learned since 1996, when I started this particular creative journey.

Despite the hassles, I like the independence and control over the finished product I get from DIY book publishing. 

I also like working with groups. I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to the latest volume of What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey--it's volume eight. I provided a fictionalized memoir of my experiences in BDSM. Perilous Play and the rest of the anthology have done well after its publication on November 23d.

Set goals, smash them... Yep, I think that anticipating six works in 2014 and ending up with ten qualifies.

What's next for 2015? Who knows? Given what happened in 2014, I make no predictions.

Here's a little more about me:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written
seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

--Find her books at
--For editing services, email her at
--Befriend her on Facebook:
--She tweets @Suzdemello
--Her current blog is

Monday, December 15, 2014

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Sacchi Green

My modest goal as a kid was to be immortal. Well, maybe not a kid so much as an adolescent, but close enough. That didn’t mean living forever in the flesh, which never seemed like a good idea, but immortal in the way writers like Louisa May Alcott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen seemed to me to be. I read voraciously, but socialized only moderately. There may have been some cause-and-effect going on there. And wanting to write books worthy of becoming immortal  definitely had an element of “showing them” even though I knew already that “they” would never consider literary brilliance as preferable to being attractive, feminine, and popular.

At any rate, I planned to be a writer, but without an actual plan. I wrote plays in elementary school in which my reluctant (and even resentful) classmates were forced to participate when holidays rolled around. I wrote bits of poetry in lieu of doodling during boring classes. In high school I won a couple of essay contests. But that was only playing around with the tools I’d gained from so much reading. In college I got by in the same way, but acquired more tools and more data in the memory bank. One very perceptive professor said that I could write a “tour de force” without having anything particular to say.

My goal kept on being a “some day” affair for a very long time. I’ve gone on at far too much length about that in previous posts, so I won’t go there now. I did, after amassing a good deal of life experience, find things I wanted to write about, and managed to publish short stories often enough to encourage me to keep on writing. It turned out that what I had to say was more along the lines of light entertainment than deathless truths, but having some minor success in fantasy and science fiction, and then some moderate success in erotica, was (and is) seductive. So is editing anthologies. I sometimes think of writing and editing fiction as a form of sculpture, bringing together just the right elements, carving away whatever obscures the true line, balancing the curves and hollows, the smooth and the rough, making a shape emerge that’s more than the sum of its parts, or at least does justice to its parts. I admit that this is an ideal seldom even approached, but that’s the way goals tend to be.      

By now I’ve given up on the goal finding immortality through my writing. The kind of fiction that could escape being out of print and forgotten after four or five years is not the kind of fiction I’m drawn to write. Pretty soon, with the accelerating flood of work being published, almost nothing will be able to rise above that flood for very long. In spite of this flood, though, it turns out that traditional publishers don’t live forever, either. The publishing world as we knew it has been quaking under our feet.

Early in my editing career I worked with several small publishers who folded more or less under me, good people with admirable goals who couldn’t manage the business part, which, for the idiosyncratic type of work they wanted to publish, was probably inherently unmanageable. There were some medium-sized publishers in the erotica genre who did seem to have a grasp of what it took to survive, but eventually sank under mergers and acquisitions by conglomerates that decided books weren’t profitable enough. I eventually achieved a goal I’d had for some time of doing free-lance work with a publisher who did have good business sense (however frustrating that might be when I wanted to do something that wasn’t likely to sell well) and was known for the quality of its products. Their books are carried in major bookstores.

Seven years later, “major bookstores” are on the verge of extinction. Barnes & Noble continues to close its branch stores, and has been returning vast numbers of books to publishers for refunds, books that have often been languishing in their back rooms and warehouses for years without making it to any shelves. Publishers are taking a major hit. At the same time publishers who started up their businesses years ago, who were groundbreakers for genres like erotica, are getting older and wanting to retire. Who could blame them? So one of my publishers (I work mainly with two—let’s not name names, even in comments) has been sold to a company that has been buying up quite a few small presses. The same staff (slightly reduced) is still there, doing their usual good work, but there’s some inevitable chaos during the transition, and a major slowing down of production to the point where I’m beginning to worry about attracting good writers when I have two completed anthologies waiting in the pipeline, one of which may just barely make it into print late next year, with no estimate at all of when the other will get some traction. I have an impression that the number of new releases is being decreased, while some of the backlist is being re-introduced. This may well be a good business decision, and I have hopes that things will work out just fine eventually, but it’s still unsettling.

These days my goals have become short-term affairs. I’m still addicted to editing anthologies when I can, and I have a new call for submissions out now for something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The somewhat overheated working title is Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire: Lesbian Historical Military Erotica, for my alternate publisher, and you can find the guidelines on my blog,, or on

As for immortality, I think of that now as a more nuanced concept. Anything we do that affects someone else’s life can make a difference in the future, even in the tiniest ways, kind of like the butterfly effect. I know a few people have been touched by my writing, and there are probably a few more that I don’t know of. More significantly, I’ve helped some beginning writers and encouraged them to keep on writing. That’s a goal I didn’t think about, back in my callow youth, but it’s become important to me, and best of all, it’s achievable. Why ask for anything more?  

Friday, December 12, 2014


Spencer Dryden

A thirty-fifth anniversary looms ahead. Let me be the first one here to mention it. On February 22, 1980 one shot  from the stick of Mike Eruzione changed the course of USA Hockey. It was the deciding score in the defeat of the powerful Russian team —"The Miracle on Ice". It lifted the nation's spirits, which were sorely flagging due to prolonged recession and the helplessness we felt from the endless stalemate over the hostage situation in Iran. Other analysts have said that it rekindled a spirit of American Exceptionalism that ultimately elected Ronald Reagan. I don't know about that one. All I know was that it was played on a Friday afternoon. It was so unlikely that the USA would win that it wasn't broadcast live.
For all the accolades that flowed in the aftermath, fundamentally, it was a terrible shot, and therein lies the lesson. Eruzione was skating backward, his weight was on the wrong foot and he wasn't at a good shooter's angle. The shot itself was a tickler rather than a laser. Analyst Ken Dryden, called it "a good low shot", but the most one could hope for was a rebound from a kick save.  The miracle on ice was that the shot found the back of the net. It should have been a routine save. Eruzione got just enough of a screen from the Russian defenseman that the puck handcuffed the goalie Myshkin. It was behind him before he knew where it was.  And the rest is history.
The immediate lesson of the Eruzione goal is: shoot the puck. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all time scoring leader, has said, "The scoring percentage on shots not taken is zero." That simple nostrum is as hard to follow on the ice as off. There's no rejection for a shot not taken.
One of my goals in 2014 has been to shoot the puck - in author's terms, make regular submissions. Throughout 2013 I had built a decent inventory of my male-centric brand of erotic fiction. But they were just sitting there as if awaiting some sort of anointing. I tweaked and tweaked, trying to imagine what I might be missing. I write to entertain myself, but that doesn't mean anyone else will be entertained.  I think I read close to one hundred stories of varying lengths, mostly shorter works, trying to get a feel for what worked. I thought my stuff was better than a lot of what I was reading. Still, I balked.  
My hesitancy was due in part to what I was seeing on the market. Actually it was what I wasn't seeing. Except for that cave place that claimed it was for men, there was no publishing house I could find that published male-centric erotic romance. Other male authors in the genre that I found are self-published. I didn't feel ready to go that route. There is a trope in erotic romance of employing a split POV. Part of the book is the man and his thoughts, part is the woman's. Often the only tension is their misunderstanding. I don't like those stories as a reader. My POV is strictly male. Female character's inner workings are revealed only through action and dialogue.
Then  fate intervened. In October of 2013. I had a emergency surgery for a kidney stone too large to pass. I learned what a ten was/is on the pain scale. Let me say in all humility that if men had babies we'd be extinct by now. In the aftermath, I mused that men my age can wake up feeling fine and by five PM they are on a slab at the funeral home or in the nursing home sitting in a wheel chair with a drool cup.
In January of 2014, I turned 64. It was time to jump over the boards and get in the game. I put my fear aside and starting shooting the puck. Three of them have found their way to the net. While Eruzione's little wobbler was a game winner, mine have been anything but. Still, I've learned more about the craft of writing since getting on the score board then I was learning on the bench. Critique groups are good, crit partners are essential, but the true measure of your work comes after it's out there with a cover and can't be hauled back to the bench.
I'm getting better. I'm not really a better writer, but I am becoming a better editor. My stories are often criticized for being too short. I told one commenter that if I knew what to add I would have done it. The stories were the perfect length for me, but not the perfect length for the reading audience who seem to be looking for an elongated emotional experience. I'm working on staying longer in the moment the way Lisabet and Giselle do so well. A few extra lines of dialogue, some additional back story carefully woven in, more descriptive material, drawing out pivotal scenes, adds depth rather than length.
It was only after being published the first time that this whole "author platform" came into my awareness. It's like I have to be the cheerleader, sell tickets, refreshments, clean the toilets, act as sports information director, and play-by-play announcer. I haven't been able to balance the creative and the promotional so I have taken time away from writing new material to build my platform. It's wobbly at this point, like a first time on skates.  I have one more work due out in February then I think I'm going to crawl back into my refrigerator box dwelling and start writing again.

I write stories about male fantasies for a straight male readership. My big challenge for 2015 is to find ways to reach directly to a male readership instead of trying to reach around female readers. I know it's not a big market now, at least for erotic romance, but it is a potential growth market.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Oh almost forgot. Mike Eruzione recently auctioned the jersey he wore at that game. The winning bid was $657,000. I wonder what the Russian goalie, Myshkin got for his jersey? ( Wait for it...) Not one red cent.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Change by Giselle Renarde

One quarter, three nickels, three dimes
See all that money? I found it on the street last week. Okay, that's a lie. Two of those nickels were on the floor of the bus. I am not above picking up bus floor change. I will pick up any change. It's free money.

Two years ago I set up the Street Change Challenge. Sounds like a charitable initiative, but it's not (except inasmuch as I am a charity case).

Can't make this shit up.
Here's what happened: in November 2012 I received a royalty cheque in the amount of $1.90.  Yes, one dollar and ninety cents. That covered three months' earnings from one of the publishers I was working with at the time. They recently returned my rights on the three short stories they had under contract.

I wonder why.

Haha, no I don't. They told me why and they weren't douchey about it: I hadn't sent them a new manuscript in years and old stuff stops selling after a while. Returning my rights made good business sense for me and for them. No hard feelings on my side, and I hope none on theirs.

A royalty cheque for $1.90 was nothing unusual for me, unfortunately, but that particular cheque got the cogs cogitating. You can't get a coffee at Starbucks for $1.90.

Writing isn't a hobby, over here. This is my career.  Pretty dismal.

But it inspired my tongue-in-cheek Street Change Challenge.

In 2012, I proclaimed that if I found more than $1.90 on the sidewalk in three months, I would quit writing and turn to picking up coins as a profession.

In 2012, we still had pennies in Canada.
I never did report my findings, so I'll do it now. Actually, it was a close call that came down to the question of whether or not Canadian Tire Money should count toward my total. It's not true currency, but that red loyalty program bill was the tie-breaker. Without the 10 cents in Canadian Tire Money, my total came in just under $1.90.

The Street Change Challenge was kind of an exercise in ridiculousness. It doesn't take any special skill to pick up change off the sidewalk. Does it not take skill to write a book?  Shouldn't a person who writes books for a living earn more than someone casually picking up nickels off the floor of a bus?

I love a good deal. I love getting something for nothing. I'm happy to go out of my way to buy stuff on sale. I regularly walk when a subway ride would be faster because the $3 fare is too high. Hey, if it's more than $1.90 I can't afford it!

My girlfriend often asks me, "Why don't you pay the subway fare and spend that saved hour working? Isn't one hour of your time worth more than $3?"

My initial reaction is NO, but I don't tell her that because she'll say I'm devaluing my time and thus denigrating myself... which is probably true. Sometimes when I'm chasing the lowest price on milk (keeping my eyes peeled for loose change on the sidewalk), I ask myself, "Would my time be better spent writing?"

I've decided there is no measurable answer to that question. When you're a writer, you can't calculate what your time is worth the way people with hourly earnings can.

Writing is a crapshoot. You can quote me on that, and I hope you do. Writing is not a job--it's a gamble.

It happens that I'm not a gambler (I don't even buy lottery tickets), so it's kind of weird that I do this for a living. There's no way to predict whether a book will hit it big or sell ONE copy (the one you bought yourself). I like certainties. I like math. I want to be able to calculate the value of my time, but it's constantly in flux because this industry changes so damn fast.

When I started writing erotica in 2006, I was a short story writer answering calls for submissions for print anthologies. If you're an erotic fiction writer, you know what that world looks like these days.


You probably signed contracts two years ago for anthologies that are stuck in the queue of a halted production schedule. Generally speaking, contributors don't get paid until after the book is published. That's a long time to wait for $50.

Math is my friend. I can't help calculating what I might earn self-publishing a short story in the time it takes a print book (that my work may or may not be selected for) to make it to market.

But, like I said, it's a crapshoot.  In order to do the math, you need to be able to count on something, anything... and you just can't, in this industry.

Two years ago, my goal was to find $1.90 in change on the sidewalk. Nowadays I'm concerned with paying the rent and putting food on the table. I'm working with fewer publishers. I only send work to houses that make me money, otherwise I self-publish--something I thought I'd never do back in 2012.

I realize now I spent too many years sending manuscripts to publishers that earned me next to nothing. I didn't listen to the math. I felt a sense of loyalty because they'd taken a chance on me early in my career, or because they were nice people.

I don't do that anymore. I know I sound like a total dirtbag, and maybe I am a total dirtbag, but who benefits if a book doesn't sell?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Outburst of Random Grumpiness While Waiting in the Mall

      They put a pole in my hands and the years fill up with photos.  My mother with her fishing pole.  My father with his fishing pole, a pipe in his lips.  All eyes on the water.
These old drug store pictures I remember, but I hardly take pictures anymore.  Where did the magic go?  The old mojo?  Today the cameras are idiot simple, take sharper pictures than the finest Leica M3 or Hasselblad ever did, but have no romance.  They make no demands and express no desire to be touched, offer no intimacy of delicate gears, knurled knobs, fine glass viewers, numbers, conversations of distance and depth of field demanding knowledge.  Where is the companionship of a familiar and well used possession?  These are modern machines, designed not to need respect or even understanding and we do not love them in return.  When they fail us we throw them away without sentiment and replace them cheaply. 

Relationships too when they fail are easily replaced with an app and an application.  Apply online to, when your first relationship fails we take the next in line.

In the mall here, watching the girl ringing up the customer in the China Wok concession I wonder who she is.  These girls, Asian or Mexican are rarely pretty.  I look at her plain and honest face long and long and wonder where she comes from.  Probably some small town in China, maybe the mainland with any one of hundreds of dialects.  Is she in school?  Is she homesick? No doubt, but her face shows no hint of defeat.  And does she have a photo album where loved people hold fishing poles?

I haven’t looked at my own photos in any serious way in years.  Once they meant the world to me, they still do theoretically, but I don't commune with the ghosts like I used to, as with dragging years I get closer to becoming a ghost myself.

These days I prepare myself for death.  Not meanly, or impatiently.  More like one choosing clothes for the suitcase.  Death is not a young man's game.  But goals and ambition are not always an older man's game.  Things change.  You reach a point in your life where you feel the big adventures are over and you want to make sense of what has happened.  To pull it into a line and tug it tight and try to comprehend it in a single glance. 

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?  All is vanity and the chasing after wind."  You know you're getting closer to the grave when your favorite book in the Bible is Ecclesiastes.  But there is something to be said for that.  All the great projects of my professional life and youth, the things which seemed so fearfully important at the time.  They're gone.  Time has washed them away.  Everything passes away.  Even the people we love eventually exit the stage of our life, pass downstream and over a waterfall somewhere off.

In one of my stories Father Delmar writes to Nixie "When I was your age I wanted to be a saint."  That's me speaking too.  That's me.  My first and most ambitious goal in my green years was to be no less than perfect, to reach enlightenment.  I was asking the wrong question, I should have been asking - why?  What would it look like if you did?  What would it matter?

And there is vanity blooming in me as I grow older,as a friend gently pointed out to me recently. It shows. I fear for my hair color.  The size of my belly.  The wobble of my gait.  The dead reek of my breath. The slouch of my standing. What do the ladies think of me?  What do they think of me now, these ladies?  What will they think of me tomorrow evening?  Ladies?  Think of me? Why don't you think? Ladies?  Laugh at me? Secretly?  Mermaids - sing to me. Please please sing.

I try to comprehend the past like a man lost looking blinkingly at a trail map trying to match up the compass and the trees.  Holding up my hand to forestall the very moment. The Chinese girl goes on ringing up customers.  She is in the moment like a Buddha.  If she's homesick she isn't aware of it, moving in the endless fugue of Now the way animals and babies do. 

Fixed on her face like a star, I want to feel the voice and heartbeat of each person in the crowd.  I want to feel the larger activity buzzing in the hive of shops.  The tiny dramas taking place.  A man by the Orange Julius holding his cell phone to one ear, a finger in the other, his face looking as though he is, at this very instant, hearing something that will change his life.