Easier

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

The War of Art is a great book, damn near invaluable, not only for artists (of all stripes), but really, anyone who wants to do something with their lives other than eat, work and reproduce, work some more and die.

Think like this: what’s easier to do? Is it easier to…start an argument on Facebook than work on your query letter? Get caught up on others’ silly problems than do your revisions? I’m paraphrasing what Steven Pressfield says in the book, so I’ll end this little commercial with a link: The War of Art

He writes a blog series, Writing Wednesdays. It’s good stuff, much more worthwhile than say, sharing a silly Buzzfeed/Thought Catalog list or the daily outrage the online tabloids manufacture to drive pageviews.

Little Red King – Query Letter

I think we’re getting closer. Jia you!

After graduating college, 22-year old John Ingram doesn’t know what to do with his life. He wants to leave behind his terrible degree, the terrible economy and his broken family, and when he sees an ad seeking English teachers in China, he jumps at the chance.

The ad leads him to Wuhan, his home for the next nine months. Wuhan turns out to be better than he imagined: he makes good money working only twelve hours a week, his students treat him well, even the most banal interactions provide a story to tell, and Michelle, a Chinese graduate student, makes him forget the life he left behind.

Michelle is hesitant to date anyone, especially a foreigner, but John is persistent. A banquet leads to a date, a date leads to a quick kiss on the shores of Wuhan’s South Lake. Michelle is looking for a serious relationship, and John has decided to be with her, even if it means staying in China the rest of his life.

But when another teacher sexually assaults a student, John is fasely accused.

Deportation looming, John must decide whether his life here is worth fighting for or risk returning to the terrible degree, terrible economy and broken family he left behind.

LITTLE RED KING is 120,000 words.

New fiction: The Traveler

Some flash fiction, available in Dual Coast Magazine:

The traveler pulled out a chair and sat down across from me. I looked up.

“Tonight’s the night?”

The traveler was quiet. He was here before me, and I always figured he’d be here long after I left. Two years ago, he pulled the chair out like he did tonight, ordered the bottle like he did tonight, and took a sip, careful not to let his beard fall into his drink.

Two years, and I guess I don’t need an answer.

Tonight is the night.

Read the rest here.

Boat Goggles: Porn Star and The Mole

First, the clinical definition:

The American Medical Association defines Boat Goggles as the condition in which men and women find attractive people they ordinarily wouldn’t spare a second look. A result of confined spaces and a limited selection pool, Boat Goggles has been known to turn ‘fat’ into ‘plump’, ‘big’ into ‘curvy’ and it has also been known to turn split-second decisions into lifelong regret. (See also: Drunk Goggles)

***

Porn Star came to the library tonight.

She’s part of a squadron, a red jersey, Crash & Salvage. Up until now our mighty warship USS Theodore Roosevelt has held 2,000 people. The squadrons — pilots, people who work on the planes — they bump that number to 5,000. It’s had a wonderful effect on the chow lines, not to mention our six working washers.

Porn Star has blonde hair, unkempt and surely out of regs. She wears her sleeves up, showing arms covered in tattoos, and she walks with a twitch, a deliberate twitch, so deliberate it might be comical.

Were it not for the Boat Goggles.

I see signs of her passage in advance. Heads turn. At the start of the cruise, they turned slightly. Yep, that’s how it starts. The Boat Goggles don’t fit well at first. They’re uncomfortable, the frames too tight.

Then a week passes.

Two weeks, three, marching through this labyrinth of pipes and steel walls, and the Boat Goggles feel more comfortable. Pretty soon, you don’t even notice them.

So you turn your head too. You have no subtlety, but that’s okay. Neither does she.

In she comes. There’s a logbook on the desk where you sign in, and she takes her time, bending over despite the desk reaching her neck. She devotes so much time to ensuring that her letters fit perfectly in between the lines. Attention to Detail.

From there she twitches into the TV room.

Another morning, you’re transiting the mess decks, and you see Porn Star sitting at a table with a bunch of guys. She’s showing them her tattoos.

She has a lot.

***

Before I get out of here, let’s talk about The Mole.

She had a mole on her cheek. Short, chubby full-figured, she was a CTI1 temporarily assigned to the TR, to gain an understanding of the “real” Navy life she’d undoubtedly picked CTI to avoid.

She was working with the CTTs2. Curious about ship life, she asks, The fanrooms are where people go on the ship to get busy, huh?

The guys talk about this at night in the berthing. She said that, yeah dude, she actually said that! No, she’s okay fucking hot.

Who can fuck her first? It doesn’t matter.

This long at sea, you’ll gladly go last.

***

Throughout this feverish tangle of sheetmetal, swabbed decks and wet paint, men and women work together twelve hours or more a day.

The Boat Goggles fit so well. Human nature will reign as the long days continue, as the last of the recruiter’s lies die for the new Seamen checking in to operate multi-million dollar equipment and sent to do a commander’s laundry, as the mighty warship USS Theodore Roosevelt qualifies to deploy, 90,000 tons of bottled lust.


  1. Cryptologic Technician Interpretive. They do foreign languages. 

  2. Cryptologic Technician Technical 

It’s not a memoir

Couple Seven Year Laowai reviews are up.

First, from Sharlene Almond:

A true story based on Travis’ life when he worked as a teacher in china …Because it is quite short and more of a short biography than a novel, it is difficult to get fully immersed into the storyline.

And Big Al’s Books and Pals:

I’m not sure what to make of this. Is it fiction? (The author called it literary fiction when it was sent to me and the disclaimer at the beginning says it is fictional. The book retailer sites have it classified that way.) Is it a memoir? (The book description makes it appear so and it reads like it). The author’s bio makes either seem possible.

Notice a trend?

It’s not a memoir. I’m not fifty-year old alcoholic ex-Math teacher, and I did not spend seven years in China, I was there for roughly two and a half.

This isn’t Valley of the Dolls. 7YL is a small part of Little Red King, a much larger story, and it is not a memoir. If it were, if I included every little thing I did in China, the book would be over 4,000 pages long and nobody would ever read it.