the violence

I heard they have a plan in America

to replace all the human beings

with self-driving cars with neflix subscriptions

in a landscape of drive-thrus stretching from

sea to sea

the most efficient system ever

to eat their own people alive

“thank god for the river or those people from down south would overrun us”

she said, watching them pull three point turns

in the parking lot of homeland security

that night after we’d blown the rainbow bridge

cruelty has purpose

the violence just is

a live grenade in a hospital lobby

a ship on fire

all hands on deck

“I don’t understand why you’re so unhappy”

he said when I showed him where the swimming pool tiles had cut my face

like I was meant to thank him

that was the day we lost Bruce

what did you expect

a guy like him

getting lost in his own neighbourhood

though all the houses do kind of look the same

a wall of tanks

shedding sparks on the way to put out a fire that isn’t burning


Line poem 5

(A Minor Delay)
























(21:12 Nov 20, 2022)

People you meet on vacation

a row of palm tress perfectly reflected in a still body of water

One of the few philosophers of the 21st Century known to the general public, Alain de Botton is renowned for his detailed explorations of the minutiae of daily life (for a given quantity of middle class white Europeans, but more on that below.) If The Art of Travel is an indication, he is also the sort of person I hate meeting on vacation.

He’s the Show Me state, arriving grumpy and rumpled from his voyage to stand before the purported spectacle he has dutifully come to observe and demand that it enthrall him, turning away spitting into the dust when the vista/church façade/thing in the guide book cannot overcome his exhaustion, his highway numbness, his sense of entitlement. All I could think was, brother, you’ve got to get out more.  

De Botton’s enduring thesis appears to be that, since travel is never quite what we expect it to be, we shouldn’t do it at all.  Perhaps because he draws inspiration from some of Europe’s greatest grumps. Anyone who’s travelled a lot may have noticed that no type of person is more consistently displeased by the facts of travelling than middle-aged white men, yet these are de Botton’s only voices of reference. 

Men like Charles Baudelaire, who crafted many beautiful sentences in his writing, evoking our emotions with a master’s touch, but who personally was a miserable shit who despised the world and sought constantly to escape from it.  Ought we really to take his word on the value of going abroad?  A man who was so disgusted by a layover in the tropical isle of Mauritius that he cancelled his entire trip and went home? That’s not exactly the mark of a staggering genius.

“Yeah, Charlie, looks like it sucked. How many days of sunshine did you say they have?”

Yes, there are moments of more interesting thought, but I was in truth too busy travelling (and enjoying the shit out of it) to read much of the rest of the book. I do know that it has confirmed my intention to never, ever go on an ocean cruise. Because if I encounter a fellow traveler of De Botton’s temperament, I want to be able to walk away.

What I read on vacation

against the backdrop of a bright blue ocean, someone lays on the pale sandy beach reading a paperback bookbeach

I went on a trip the end of April with the serious intent of reading some light fiction. I write it, so keeping up with what other writers are doing is kind of a job requirement, but I sometimes just don’t read at all.   Unfortunate but you know how it goes, *insert modern life* and all your plans are suddenly negotiable.  Regardless, I did do a fair bit of reading while away.  I’m not including buy links, just look ‘em up yourself. You got the internet on that thing, right?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A nice book about how to die well.  I contemplate own mortality with more frequency than most people (don’t applaud, it’s maybe a bad thing) so nothing in here stunned me, but its gentle solace is a perfect fit for these grieving times.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Did Not Finish at 40%.  I might have finished it if it was the only book at a beach cottage when the weather was bad.  I’m not big on murder mysteries and we’ll leave it at that, because I have Many Feelings about this book, its plot, its characters, and other books like it which I don’t want to voice. Inevitably, there’s a movie now.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A brave little novel that tries really hard to not be a Cancer Story by being a book about books, yet is still inescapably a Cancer Story. But good, though I found the dialogue a bit forced. Yes, the characters are well-read for their age, but my own 19th Century aristocrats barely talk that high falutin’.  The author character was a nice touch, but again, another book I only read because it was on the shelf at the vacation rental.

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

I have no logical response to Alexis Hall ‘s romance novels. They’re all amazing IF you like his style, which is exuberant and passionate and unapologetically queer and very “head-space” with lots of ruminations by the main character. I will resist the urge to discourse on the historical antecedents of this sort of novel, but rest assured Hall does it on purpose.

What we end up with is a scorching POV of a man with serious mental illness and his star-crossed lover from Essex which is evidently the UK equivalent of the Jersey Shore. I told Hall himself that I hadn’t read a finer regional accent in prose since Irvine Welsh, and I now call everyone a ‘donut’ when they mess up but adorably. Ten million stars. It’s about to get reissued with (ahhh!!!!) bonus content and for the first time ever I am going to buy a book I already own.

His Lordship’s Secret by Samantha SoRelle

Born in poverty, ascended to wealth, Alfie hires his long lost friend Domenic to protect him from whomever is trying to kill him.  Events Ensue in a twisty and quite macabre Regency-era plot with interesting class commentary and solid period detail. I love a “dress you up” trope, which I didn’t expect to encounter but which aligned perfectly with our historical fashion-themed vacation. All in all, a nifty self-published novel in the growing canon of Queer Historical Romance

The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

Barely news (there’s a pun in there) to anyone who reads MM Contemporary Romance, but I am a decade behind thanks to an extended reading drought. Aaaaaaaanyway, I don’t typically like present tense in novels, but I grit my teeth and kept on with this one, because what else do you do on the plane? I was rewarded with good, gritty characters and a strong love story that hits a lot of comforting tropes without being too stereotypical. And the sex scenes are lit.

Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater

An author who is finally getting the acclaim she deserves. Like her prior Regency fairy tale Half A Soul, this was a joy to read, with wonderful, complex female leads and a heart-breaking yet ultimately redeeming love story driven by genuine personal growth on everyone’s part. I adore her rendering of the realm of Faerie, 10/10 would visit but very cautiously. This story also aligned with our fashion-themed vacation, being mainly to do with magical embroidery e.g. the ten thousand stitches of the title.  Bravo Ms Atwater!

“Oh, I’ll think of a title later”

In his essay collection The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes of his surprise at having “inadvertently brought myself with me” on vacation. The flip side to this is that after any trip you inevitably come home to find your normal life is still there, its problems unsolved, its rough edges waiting to snag you once more and wear away the joy you hoped to keep as a souvenir of your time away.

Musing on my struggle to return to my writing habits this morning, I had the thought that I may unconsciously be trying to give myself so much to do that I once again find writing a respite from my “job.” When I was normally employed, I used my plentiful down-time to write several novels. Now that I am trying to make writing novels my employment, I find it hard to find the time to, well, write.

Let’s do the math: presently I’m trying to run two blogs, four social media accounts, two websites, develop a daily sewing habit, and possibly start a gentlemanly accessories company. And somewhere in there I am meant to write books. Oh yeah, and I have a family and a personal life and also like to sleep now and then.

No wonder I’m spinning out.

Or am I merely incubating?  Is the lack of “progress” (we can unpack that word some other time) actually a problem, or part of the solution?  

At the start of All This Madness i.e. February 2020, I gave myself five years to turn my fairly compulsive writing habit into a bankable career.  Five years is good a benchmark for the survival of any small business, and make no mistake, self-publishing is very much a business.  But if you ask an entrepreneur in any kind of business, they are likely to say the first few years are the roughest. I am burning through my savings, despairing that I’ll ever have the time to do all the things that need to be done.  Yet I have great faith in my product, which is to say my writing and my (God help me) personal brand of bumbling-yet-debonair-gender-scoundrel.

What I need to remember is that blogging is a form of writing practice. The point of the Commonplace Book is that it records your ordinary days but in a more coherent form than journaling, which at its best is a form of automatic writing: unplanned and uncensored.

This is not that. And maybe I could have spent these minutes on “proper” writing, but in this little slice of time between appointments, a quickie may be the best I can offer you.