Category Archives: The Unexpected!

Writers Beware

There’s nothing like getting a bit of information just in the nick of time.

A week or two ago I was approached by someone who said he was doing a book of interviews with Science Fiction writers, a state-of-the-genre and art-of-the-craft sort of thing. I thought about it, Googled the guy but didn’t look in depth, and decided to do it. When he emailed me the questions, it was clear he’d been over my web site and asked some pretty intelligent questions. But me being me, I didn’t jump on answering them right away because I’m still trying to get the final edit of the latest novel done.

Then, this morning, an interesting article turned up in my Google Reader account from A.C. Crispin’s estimable Writer Beware! blog (which you will also find listed in my Writer’s Resources sidebar).

I don’t want to spoil the surprise – you can read the article here.

Suffice it to say that his reputation has not necessarily preceded him, but it is certainly catching up with him.

Oh, yes – I withdrew from the project. With a reminder to myself to Google a little more deeply next time.

Thank You

Yesterday morning I posted a bit of one-off humor. Nothing unusual. I’d done it before without much response.

But some of the powers that be at WordPress.com somehow saw it and were apparently amused enough to put it into yesterday’s Freshly Pressed queue… and I wasn’t quite ready for what came next. Thousands of folks came in to see what a guy had to say about chick flicks. Many left great comments. Others lniked to the page or favorited it or passed it on to someone else in an email. The end result was 2,484 page visitors, 3,565 site hits – and all of you combined placed the page on the WordPress Top 100 Blogs of the Day (check out that familiar lookin’ #70).

You did this!

So I want to thank you all for stopping by to check out my meager attempt at humor. Everyone who read, commented, forwarded, recommended and looked at the page made it an unforgettable day, and I want to thank you all for being a part of it. And thanks to whoever it was at WordPress that pulled my post out of anonymity.

Also, thanks especially to my friend whose sidebar about chick flicks on this blog provided me with the fodder for my little excursion into lunacy.

Tomorrow, back to blogging as normal. If you can call it normal.

Are You Master of Your Domain Name? Are You Sure?

So there you are, sitting and doing your thing with your very own domain name.  Fudge-for-the-masses.org, i-heart-dirt.com, it doesn’t matter.  It’s yours, all yours.  And as you sit back getting ready to write your latest post, it is with smug self-assurance because you paid the powers-that-be at an Internet Domain Name Registrar, and all you have to do is periodically send them money to re-up and all is smooth sailing.

Yeah.  Right.  That was me.  Yesterday.

Today I’m a totally different me.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I happened to notice that Blogger was no longer going to support custom FTP URL’s at the start of this month, of which mine happened to be one.  Well, no problem, I thought.  I’d been wanting to redesign my website for a while.  I’d been looking at WordPress.com, and I was planning to go with a template, because while I know HTML and some CSS, I am far from what you would call a graphic designer.

I got my files together and imported enough of them that the new site would make a decent showing, with the plan of adding the missing pages as time went on.  Then I found my account number with the company I did my registration through and gave them a call, expecting a walk in the park.

More fool me.

Apparently my beloved Domain Name, which I originated and paid my own money for back in 1998, and for which I did an extended renewal in 2006, does not appear to be mine.  The Primary Contact is a construction company in the Carolinas, and the Account Technical Contact is some guy who is most definitely not me.  In answer to my “What gives?”, I was told by the rep, “Sometimes this happens.  The records get scrambled.”

Curiosity piqued, I asked another question.  “Is this a common occurrence?”

The answer, which came sotto voce: “It’s a lot more common than we like to admit.  The records are not in the good order that everyone thinks they are in.”

So now I’m in a mad dash to prove that I’m me so I can get my domain name back.  I’ve got to take care to make a just-so photocopy of my driver’s license so it faxes with no problem, and I’m scrambling to get a copy of a utility bill or insurance or credit card invoice because I need to prove “the business” (being Joe Clifford Faust) is mine – something easier said than done since I pay everything on the Internet now and have pretty much gone paperless.  But I will prevail.

Meantime, if you’re still sitting comfortably with your Domain Name, you might want to check and see if you have your driver’s license and a utility bill handy, and then dial up a course for the company who sold it to you.

Because things out in interwebland ain’t all they’re supposed to be.

Florida State of Mind

Let me preface this by saying that I never really had any desire to go to Florida. Muggy heat, retirees, expatriate Cubans, hanging chads. I had some friends who lived down there, but hadn’t talked to them in a couple of decades other than some passing emails. If there was a state in the union I wanted to visit less, I couldn’t think of one.

Then my nephew fell in love with a Florida girl.

Well, it looked like I was going to Florida. In June. I decided to just bite the bullet and go. I didn’t want to be the Bad Uncle, and besides, it’d be a vacation with my wife. We’d just happen to be part of a party of twelve family and church members.

So off to St. Augustine we went. We got my nephew all weddinged off. We even got a couple of days to play tourist after the wedding.

And I, much to my surprise, fell in love with the place.

Some of the highlights:

  1. That 8 pound flounder my father-in-law caught on his Father’s Day fishing trip on the Intercoastal… and the way my wife cooked it.
  2. Anoles and lizards… everywhere.
  3. Watching egrets and sandpipers feeding on the beach.
  4. Going to the nearby pond to check out the turtles… and having 25 in three different species show up hoping for bread crumbs.
  5. Watching egret chicks hatch at the Alligator Farm.
  6. The Alligator Farm, period.
  7. Standing alone on a beach… and seeing a whale offshore.
  8. Other Florida flora and fauna too numerous to mention.
  9. Finding a box kite at a local kite store.
  10. Tacos in a Bag.
  11. The 2 am beach walk with our son.
  12. The wedding itself, beautiful on a patio above the beach. Best. Wedding. Food. Ever. And the most crying was done by… the groom.
  13. Driving around town at 10 pm looking for a seafood restaurant that was still open and discovering The World Famous Oasis.
  14. Going back to The Oasis with our in-laws the next morning for breakfast.
  15. St. Augustine… the nation’s oldest city.
  16. The wit and wisdom of the sightseeing train drivers.
  17. The scandalous picture my wife and I took at one of those “old timey photograph” places.
  18. Chocking up some good face time with my wife.

Not bad. Not bad at all, even when you factor in that incident where I went into the Atlantic with my cell phone in the pocket of my swimsuit.

Yeah, Florida. It’s a good place to stop.

Stage Persona Non Grata, or, Can I Find the Real Me?

One of my duties, so to speak, with Random Acts of Music is The Henry and Joe, a talk show starring Henry J and myself, done for his internet radio station, Random Acts of Radio. In this show, we roll tape (well, actually, spin hard drive) and talk off the top of our heads for around thirty minutes. Sometimes we even stay on the music-related topic that I introduce.

The most recent show we taped, #13, was about the seeming inability of American acts to write fun, upbeat songs. And somehow or another, while discussing this subject, we got onto the subject of stage names and the personae that go with them. Henry said he liked my stage name, Mr. Faust, and wondered aloud what kind of stage persona I was going to have.

I thought, good question. I thought I was just going to be me.

Then I realized something that might be the key to this near-paralyzing stagefright I’ve been dealing with when I get up to play.

I’ve been thinking what an odd anomaly it is. After all, I’ve gotten up to speak in front of churches, civic clubs, classrooms, and skeptical clients and held forth on a number of topics. Sometimes I’ve had notes, other times not. Especially when I talk about writing. I just turn on my mouth and go. And though I have butterflies before hand, they leave when I get up and start speaking.

Ditto when I lead singing at church. Some butterflies, but nothing that doesn’t leave when the job starts.

And ditto ditto when I’m on stage in a community theater production. The worst jitters I get are opening night, and while I might be jumpy before going on for a big scene even on closing night, I always manage to go out and mostly get the job done.

So why the case of shakes that gets so bad that I can hardly strum?

I think Henry inadvertently hit on something when he asked me what my stage persona is.

I don’t have one.

See, in all of the other situations, I know who I am or what my mission is. I’m Joe Faust, an Elder in the Church, giving a lesson or leading the congregation in worship. I’m Joe Clifford Faust, author, spewing out information about writing. Or I’m somebody else – Norman Bulansky or Victor Velasco or Bob Ewell, and my job is to make the audience cry or laugh or hiss.

But when I’m out there with my guitar, well… in the words of the Firesign Theater, Who am us, anyway?.

I guess it’s just me. Joe. With a guitar.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before. At Church I have a goal in mind, and in every other situation I am technically somebody else. No wonder I’m scared. I don’t know how to be just me in a situation like that.

So I need to be somebody else. I need a stage persona.

That shouldn’t be so hard. Look at Johnny Cash – the Man in Black. Look at both David Bowie and Madonna, both of whom went through stage personae like they were tissues (facial or bathroom, take your pick). Ever seen David Byrne in Stop Making Sense and then seen an interview with him? In the former he commands the stage, in the latter he’s jittery and awkward, and doesn’t make eye contact with the interviewer.

The odd thing is, I might have been subconsciously reaching for something like this but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And it might have even started with everything I went through trying to pick out a stage name.

However, I’ve had other things trickle through my mind over the last several months. I went through a period where I thought about getting a hat to wear on stage. I have a ton of baseball caps – I thought about wearing a different one every time I play. But that idea didn’t click for me (although I do wear them a lot – maybe wearing one would be too much me on stage). But I couldn’t find anything else I liked that wasn’t stupid (Pith Helmets) or that weren’t being used by others with great success (Berets and Fedoras and Pork Pies).

I thought about clothing, but I’m not exactly a clothes horse or someone with an extensive wardrobe. About the only thing I could do would be wear all gray – I gravitate toward that color. But that would kill my wife, who (no doubt, correctly) thinks I look better in other colors.

Quite by accident, I realized that every time I have played Muggswigz, I have appeared with a different guitar. No. That could get ridiculously expensive, and I’d never get it past the aforementioned wife.

After the incident taping The Santa Song, I theorized that wearing sunglasses might obstruct my view of the audience and make me less fearful. But that’s kind of silly, too, I think (and again my wife would complain because I’d be covering up what she calls my expressive eyes).

(It occurs to me that if I got a divorce, I could become this grey-wearing, fedora-topped guy in sunglasses playing all the coffeehouses – but I’d no doubt be miserable as a result – the classic tortured artist, I suppose. On the other hand, maybe that’s the problem. I’m basically a happy guy. Maybe I’m not tortured enough. Perhaps my wife and I could start shooting heroin together like the Cobains.)

Probably the best thing I could do is just keep playing in front of people and learn how to be myself in the process. I’m not sure I like that idea. I’ve gotten rather used to the idea of being someone else in situations like that. And I had no idea how prevalent that has been in my life until now. I am thinking of the personality change I underwent when I ended up getting married to a gregarious girl from Ohio. I went from being outgoing to much more the quiet observer. I explain it this way: when our personalities started to click, I let my wife be outgoing for me because I realized that inside of me was an introvert who was just dying to stay in.

And now that introvert is supposed to get up on a stage with a guitar and be himself while playing songs for people. Especially since I’m not sure who the real me is.

Heh, yeah. That makes sense.

About as much sense as leading worship service. Or being in plays.

Well, they say that introverts have a switch they flip to be able to do things like this. I obviously have one for Church Leader, Actor, and Guest Speaker. I just need to find the one for Singer Songwriter and learn how to trip it.

It’s got to be there somewhere.

And if I can’t find it? Then I’m going to write a letter to David Bowie and see if he has any unused personae laying around.

Search Engine Term of the Day (#2)

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It’s Not Your Normal Legacy, But At Least It’s Not A Stained Blue Dress

I’m not one of these guys who worries about leaving a legacy behind. I haven’t thought about it much at all. Maybe it’s my Christian outlook – I know I’ll keep going on the other side. Maybe it’s because two permutations of my own genes are already walking around on the planet, so I know I’ll be remembered for at least a few years after I’ve departed. I never really worried about my books being around forever, which is a good thing, since I’ve seen things like Ferman’s Devils being taken out of print before Boddekker’s Demons hit the book stores.

Still, I found out a short time ago that I do have an odd legacy floating around out there.

It seems that sometime during the late 80’s or early 90’s, there was a student who hated a teacher. Pretty typical story so far. We all have them.

Only this student decided to lash out. He remembered reading about a technique of harassment in a book, and after an afternoon at the library, carried out his plan. Soon the teacher was getting so many magazine subscriptions that the post office refused to deliver them – he had to come and pick them up.

The only flaw in this student’s plan was that he had an accomplice. Now, my father taught me early on that two men can keep a secret if one of them is dead. But this student did not know that. His accomplice got a little bit too self-congratulatory, and pretty soon the cover was blown. The student and his accomplice were caught and almost – but not quite – suspended from school.

Apparently, this little trick became the stuff of legend at the student’s school, because a few years later, after the student had departed, the same thing happened again – to the same teacher. And who knows – maybe every few years at this school a teacher of wrath becomes buried in periodicals.

By the way, the book in which this very clever student read about the harassment technique was called… The Company Man, by yours truly.

The reason I know about this is that the student recently emailed me and ratted himself out. I’m still trying to decide if I’m outraged or delighted. Call me bemused. And grateful that Andy Birch wasn’t a serial killer.

Meantime, this student has become very successful with his own business… delivering pizzas. If you haven’t read it, yes, delivering pizzas is an important thing in the Company Man universe. Although I know I can’t take credit for his career choice, the irony is certainly not lost on me.

As for me, I’ve found out that time is the best avenger. No, I’m not talking about foes getting old and dottery. For some reason, the kind of people that really rouse my ire are the kind that self-destruct. A boss who was less than ethical and treated me less than fairly and ended up firing me (although I might have deserved it – might have) later had his life uprooted when he was arrested for shoplifting something really, really stupid. And many years after I left town, my Teacher of Wrath spectacularly flamed out when he was caught in a compromising position with the teacher wife of another teacher – in a camper at the local fairgrounds.

Honestly. This is great stuff. If I wrote it into a novel, the editor would make me change it to something more believable.

The lesson? There are three. Time wounds all heels. Don’t get on my bad side. And Karma is a bad, bad mistress.