Category Archives: Philosophy

A Thick Skin Wins the Match


There was an article in Archeology Magazine a few years ago about the diet of Roman gladiators and how it helped them maintain a fat layer to minimize the damage from being cut.  Basically, they consumed a vegetarian diet high in carbohydrates which supposedly maintained this fat layer.  for superficial cuts, the fat layer would help prevent serious injury.  Who knows if it’s true, but the idea has merit.  Who wouldn’t want extra protection when someone is swinging a sword at you?

This reminds me of a very true expression you hear about writing:  If you want to be a writer, you need to have thick skin.  While writing a book isn’t as treacherous as entering the Roman arena and someone eviscerating your story isn’t the same as someone trying to slice you in two, a metaphorical thick skin comes in handy for a writer (that’s why we like chocolate so much — it’s for our own protection).

I’ve worked with a variety of writing groups over the years, some online and some in person.  There are always writers who politely thank you for your input, no matter how brutal they felt it was, and then there are some who haven’t eaten their porridge.  They haven’t worked on developing their thick skin, and they are not ready to listen and learn.

Bottom line, if someone is volunteering their time to give you feedback, at least listen and consider what they are saying.  Thank them, take what is useful, discard the rest, and move on.  Getting defensive and combative is not a productive use of your time.  Of course, I can say this now, but it is not easy when you first start out and have not developed your protective fat layer. (Thick skin does sound better, doesn’t it?)

It took me awhile to realize that writing is a group activity.  The only way to improve and learn the craft is to work with other writers in one fashion or another.  It’s like sparring with your fellow gladiators in the practice yard.  The purpose is to practice and learn from each other.  It does you no good if they’re hitting you will pillows instead of practice swords (unless you do this), and if you can’t take a smack or two, you’ll never get any better.

So smile and thank the people who are trying to help you.  Eat your porridge (of course I prefer Reese’s Cups) and let those superficial cuts slide off you like so many pinpricks on a gladiator’s fat layer.  You’ll come out stronger for it in the end, and maybe even prevail in the writing arena.

And if you run across one of those bullies who likes to draw blood without trying to help you get better, just walk away.  When you meet them later in the arena, they’ll still be at the same skill level and you’ll have grown into a lean (fat?) writing machine.   And we all know how that fight ends.


1 Comment

Filed under Critique Groups, Philosophy, Writing

Silence is Golden

This year I’ll have been married for thirty glorious years.  Yes, with the same woman.  We know each other better than peanut butter knows jelly.  Our secret to staying together is that we have a system worked out.  I know she’s going to tell me how to do something (everything), and she knows I’m going to ignore her sometimes (most times).

Unfortunately, our system has been on the fritz for a couple of months.  My wife’s been sick since Thanksgiving with the crud that’s been floating around Charlotte and has lost her voice for much of that time (and much of her energy).

You can imagine my dismay with the situation.  I keep glancing at her out of the corner of my eye (while playing on my PS4), waiting for the inevitable instructions that never come.  It’s unnerving I tell you.  I’m paralyzed with inaction (or maybe I’m lazy, you decide).

Well the other day, she walked up to me with a big smile on her face and said, “I have my voice back.”  Her elation was unmistakable.  I tried to match it with my own.  “Awesome, I’m glad you feel better.”

Seriously, she is my jelly (you didn’t think she was the peanut butter!) and I worried about her, but . . . I guess every marriage has its ups and downs.

Silence is Golden they say, but nothing is more comforting than a familiar voice on a cold night (Even if it’s telling me to turn off the Play Station).

And she said I couldn’t be trained.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, musings, Philosophy, Romance

Ah Rats!


Credit Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum

I ran across an article a couple of months ago about a new species of rat discovered in the Solomon Islands.  This rat can weigh more than two pounds and grow up to a foot and a half in length.  Apparently, it lives in trees and eats coconuts.  Not only eats them, but cracks open coconuts with its teeth.

Wow, that’s a lot of rat!  I admit, the thought sent a shiver down my spine.  Not that I’m afraid of rats, but because I just don’t like the little rat bastards.  I have a dislike for all rodents, especially rodents that can hold their own against a dog or cat or gets between me and a girl.  Have you ever seen a possum?  Yeah, it’s a marsupial, but it looks like a nasty giant rat.  People around here eat them, and I say good riddance.

I guess my dislike for rodents comes from growing up in a house where the mouse population outnumbered the human residents.  My family lived in a rural area of eastern North Carolina that bordered the woods.  Every winter, the field mice moved in to stay warm, and it was my job to keep them from overrunning the place.  Even with a half-dozen mousetraps, I couldn’t keep up.

For the record, the best way to keep mice out of the house is to seal any openings where they can get in.  I found that putting steel wool in the holes keeps them out.

Maybe because of my time as the official family mouse catcher, I just can’t understand people that actually invite the little pests into their home.  Okay, gerbils are kinda cute, and guinea pigs seem pretty harmless.  Of course, then you have the sugar gliders and flying squirrels.  Before we’re done, there’ll be a whole rodent circus living in the New York sewers along with the alligators and anacondas.

I can almost understand these other “cute” rodents as pets, but who in their right mind would have a rat for a pet?  Can you imagine these coconut eating vermin being walked around the block on a leash? (Laugh if you want, but it’s coming.)  There’ll be special coconut rat food and everything.  Why not something more practical like a pot belly pig.  At least you can make bacon out of it in a crisis. (Oh, did somebody already think of that.)

I didn’t realize that people kept rats as pets until I was about twenty.  Of course, by that age, I had abandoned mouse catching for bigger game—girls.  Girls are a lot harder to catch (and you’re not allowed to use traps or likely to find them in your attic), but I did catch one around that time.  She was pretty, and funny, and made out with me in the back of my friend’s car.  It was a match made in heaven until she invited me back to her apartment to meet her friends.

Wouldn’t you know it, her best friend in the whole world was a rat.  Yes, an actual rat with beady eyes and a long scaly tail.  I remember sitting beside her on the couch, with that ugly rat sitting on her lap being petted like a prized Chihuahua.  She so much wanted us to be friends, while I had visions of a rat trap running through my head, and the beady-eyed bastard could probably smell the mouse blood on my soul.  Have you ever been cock-blocked by a rat?  It does wonders for the self-esteem.

Humans and rats have been in competition for years.  We can’t seem to wipe them out, and you know how I feel about making them pets.  It’s time to find another option.  I say let’s eat them.  The people in my part of the US will eat possum and squirrel.  People in South America eat guinea pigs too.  It wouldn’t have broken my heart if someone had eaten that damn girl-stealing rat bastard either.  I would have lit the fire and turned the spit.  If you ate one of these new giant tree rats would it taste like coconut?  Coconut-braised rat—Now there’s a rat trend I could get behind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, musings, Nature, Pets, Philosophy

The End of NaNo

And NaNoWriMo ends with the Charlotte Creeping Crud.  Why am I not surprised?  I spent the last three days of November trying to fight off this latest bit of nastiness floating around Charlotte.  I am tempted to blame my lack of 50,000 words on this, but it would be a convenient excuse.  To be honest, I just don’t write that fast, and I refuse to give up everything else to win this prize.

I hit the 25,000-word mark for NaNo.  This is about average for me.  It brought my total word count on The Queen’s Man to 55,000.  My goal is still to finish the draft by the end of the year, but we’ll see.  This book is in the publishing queue for 2019, behind The Eastern Factor, which will be released in January, and Half-hand, which is planned for late 2018.  I have a little time to get it finished.

On a happy note, I received The Eastern Factor back from the editor earlier than I had anticipated.  I’ll be going through the final revision, and setting up the book files in the next couple of weeks, which will give me some time for ARC reviews before it is released.

I like to participate in NaNoWriMo because it helps me to focus on my latest project, but winning isn’t normally in the cards for me.  My writing philosophy is more along the lines of slow and steady than fast and furious.  I wonder if people would go to see that movie?

The Slow and Steady: Tokyo Slow-Mo.

Kinda catchy, right?




Filed under Books, NaNoWriMo, Philosophy, Writing

I am a Loser


Some lady yelled “Loser!” at me the other day.  I don’t know why.  I was driving well within the speed limit.

Then I got to thinking maybe she was right.  My mom always told me that I’d lose my brain if it wasn’t attached.  Come to think of it, my wife tells me all the time that I’ve lost my mind.  Hmmm.  They can’t both be right, can they?

And I realized:  the older I get, the bigger a loser I become.  I’m constantly losing my keys, or my glasses, or forgetting where I set down my glass of water.  Just the other day, I lost my glasses, and then I found them on my head.  Good thing they were attached.

So calling someone a loser is considered an insult, but is being a loser a bad thing?  You win some, and you lose some, right?  We’re all losers at some point, and hopefully we learn from the experience.

So when someone calls me a loser, what they are really saying is that I am full of hard-earned wisdom.

Yes, that lady the other day saw me as a wise man, like Socrates or the guy that invented the Reese’s cup.  That was one perceptive lady.




Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Society

Holiday Rain

When your eyes well up

they remind me of a day at the beach

with small children shivering

underneath the dark clouds

of suppressed emotion.


Then you give me that look,

and it’s like an afternoon shower

on the fourth of July.

Guests scurry inside,

leaving muddy tracks

across the carpet of my regard.


With trembling lips

you unleash the storm.

Faces press against the window

bemoaning the loss of sunshine,

and our lighthearted romp

through life’s mysteries.


Your tears are like holiday rain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Philosophy, Poetry

Politeness is a Virtue


I just finished reading The Way of the Samurai by Inazo Nitobe.  Nitobe was of the samurai class in Japan but was western educated.  He wrote The Way of the Samurai in English in 1900 around the time Japan was westernizing.  Nitobe does a good job of explaining the philosophy of the samurai as it relates to western civilization.  Specifically, he compares the ways of the samurai warrior to that of medieval knights in Europe, and compares Japanese culture and philosophy to the christian west.

Not surprising, he describes the Japanese as being more culturally focused, whereas westerners are more individually focused.  He does this without judgement.

The bulk of the book is taken up with explanations of the virtues to which the samurai adhered.  These virtues are: Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Sincerity, Honor, and the Duty of Loyalty.  As I read this book, the virtue that resonated with me the most was Politeness.

If you watch Japanese anime, news from Japan, Japanese shows, or know someone Japanese, politeness is probably one of the first things you notice.  The Japanese are polite, and it is a sharp contrast to American culture.  It could be argued that politeness is disappearing from American culture.

According to Nitobe, “Politeness is a poor virtue, if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the feeling of others. . . In its highest form, politeness almost approaches love.”

So it seems that the samurai virtue of politeness is not much different than the Golden Rule that we were all taught as children.  You know, the ole mind your manners and love your neighbor shtick that seems to be going out of style.

For a true samurai, using his sword was the last resort, not the first instinct.  Virtues, such as politeness, came first.  Hmm, maybe we could try that for a change.


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Culture, Philosophy, Society