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This morning, we lost one of the lovingest, fiercest, itty-bitty, little forces to be reckoned with since pets were domesticated.

Gypsy’s Vixen ala Mode–aka Gypsy, aka Mrs. Loud, aka Little Houdini–passed away suddenly at approximately 7:20 this morning, after a short and unexpected bout of weakness, labored breathing, and sudden fatigue.

Gypsy was unusually small, even for a toy poodle, but her spirit was as big as any Great Dane’s. She enjoyed giving high-fives, rubbing her head on things, eating cheese with her daddy, cuddling with her mommy, and minding everyone else’s business. She had the temperament of a hunter, often seeming to be unaware of her petite size, and frequently getting in over her head because of this oversight. But she always prevailed.

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Gypsy also loved having her head kissed, getting belly rubs, running like the wind, and giving hugs. Despite her sudden illness, she endured long enough to pass away in her favorite place–her mommy’s arms. And at 8:30 this morning, we took Gypsy to the place she knew as home, and buried her with her green flannel pet pillow and her favorite black and white blankie.

We adopted Gypsy in 2000 from a resident at the Heritage Eastridge rehabilitation and retirement center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her owner was progressing in age and having trouble caring for her. Although he called her Patricia, we changed her name to Gypsy partly because of the fact that ours was the fourth home she’d had in her short life, and also, we named her after the Fleetwood Mac song, Gypsy, which we are both fans of.

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(Gypsy with her mommy–her favorite place to be)

She is survived by Sven, her brother and companion of almost thirteen years. He will miss her dearly and her absence from our family will leave a hole that will never be filled.

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(Gypsy goofing off with her daddy)

We love you, Gypsy. We will always miss you and always love you. Rest in peace, Sweet Eyes.

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Although I try to keep this blog strictly related to writing, sometimes I like to veer off track a little. A couple of things have combined to inspire this particular post–mainly the passing of my thirty-sixth birthday a few weeks back–which apparently has caused me to ponder some things.

I don’t have children, and that is a choice I made at 22. At that age, doctors (or at least my doctor) refused to give me the snip despite my certainty that I’d never change my mind on the matter. I’ve made no effort since to get the cobra de-venomized–mostly out of laziness–and gratefully, I’ve fathered no children–that I’m aware of–in the meantime. That was almost 15 years ago, and I still haven’t changed my mind–but I will admit to having a kind of biological desire to pass something on.

So… on this long, hot, boring day, I’ve made a list of things I’ve learned–both from experience and from the experiences of others–that I’d like to think I’d take the time to teach my child–if I had ever had one.

Don’t judge me. Raising rhetorical children is no easy task. Why, I’ve spent almost an hour and a half on the little bastard today alone. This is my imaginary child, and I will raise it as I see fit.

But seriously…

101 Things I’d Like to Teach My Child

#1. Never let anyone tell you something isn’t funny. If you’re laughing, it is, in fact, funny.

#2. Age and wisdom are not necessarily synonymous with each other.

#3. Blood isn’t always thicker than water.

#4. If you set out to “get even,” don’t expect it to go as planned.

#5. Anyone who tries to isolate you from your friends and family is giving you the first warning of abuses to come.

#6. Insecurity is the root of the majority of all character flaws.

#7. Next to an absolute refusal to fail, integrity will take you further than anything.

#8. There are just as many people who will help you as there are who will hinder you.

#9. If you have no self-respect, it’s your own fault.

#10. Inspiration is a flake.

#11. Responsibility is a verb. Admitting fault is just the first step. Fixing the damage is key. If the damage is irreparable, accept that and learn from it.

#12. Never let anyone threaten you. And veiled threats are still threats.

#13. The underestimation of others’ intelligence is the ultimate practice of stupidity.

#14. Don’t maintain relationships with people who have no loyalty to you.

#15. Insecurity is absolutely a choice. And it’s a lazy choice.

#16. Yes, there are such things as grown men who need to talk to their mothers every day, and no, you do not need to be one of them.

#17. If you want to be respected, do respectable things.

#18. Before you criticize another person’s behavior, be sure you’re not guilty of the same thing.

#19. No matter how many times you watch a bad movie, it will still suck.

#20. Listen to people when they speak about their relationships with others. People tell you all the time who they really are.

#21. Choosing your company wisely isn’t self-righteous. It’s vital to good health and an industrious life.

#22. People come and go. Let them.

#23. Never think you’re so unique that the rules don’t apply to you, and never think bad people will make exceptions for you.

#24. If you want something, expect to work damned hard for it.

#25. There is a price for everything. Everything.

#26. If someone hurts you and apologizes for it, let the hurt go and forget the incident. If they do the same thing a second time, they are abusing you.

#27. Forgiveness is not saying something is okay. Forgiveness is the choice to let go of resentment.

#28. Sometimes you have to remove a person from your life in order to forgive them. That’s okay, but always forgive.

#29. You don’t owe anyone anything, and no one owes you anything.

#30. Don’t accept gifts from anyone who wants something in return.

#31. Envy is ugly at best and cancerous at worst. Never indulge in envy.

#32. You are not responsible for anyone’s feelings but your own, and no one has so much power that they should be allowed to dictate yours. Own yourself.

#33. Never let anyone tell you what to believe. Be silent, ask tough questions, and trust your instincts to tell you the truth.

#34. Make friends with people who possess the qualities you want for yourself. Step up, not down, and never let anyone tell you that’s arrogant or judgmental.

#35. Never let anyone invade your personal space, not even me.

#36. There will come a time in life when you’re given a choice between doing what others expect of you and choosing to be true to who you are. Choose to be who you are. It’s harder, but you’ll never know personal fulfillment if you don’t do it.

#37. It’s none of your business how people perceive you.

#38. Flattery only works when it’s genuine.

#39. Happiness is a feeling, and all feelings come and go. Acceptance is the closest you’ll ever come to a permanent sense of happiness.

#40. You don’t have control over other people and only fools think otherwise.

#41. There is a different between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Stupidity is a decision to remain ignorant.

#42. No matter what you love to do, there’s a way to make money doing it.

#43. You cannot control what other people think of you.

#44. Love is as much a commitment, a decision, as it is an emotion.

#45. Being at the mercy of your mood is one of the most self-defeating habits one can adopt.

#46. Never allow your children to openly criticize other adults. It makes everyone look stupid.

#47. Just because you have the constitutional right to express your opinions doesn’t mean you have to. Never let anyone tell you that you’re obligated to any cause.

#48. Life has enough drama. Avoid people who bring chaos and upset into your life.

#49. People who aren’t secure enough to introduce their friends to each other are questionable.

#50. You have control over your actions… and nothing or no one else.

#51. Don’t assume you can disrespect a person because they are in your house, and don’t allow anyone to disrespect you because you are in their house.

#52. You are not responsible for anyone’s actions but your own.

#53. Be leery of anyone who tells you how nice and trustworthy they are.

#54. The choices you make every day–large and small–will determine how your life turns out and who you become.

#55. If there is a devil, fear is his greatest tool, and if there is a god, forgiveness is his.

#56. Sometimes the line between honesty and cruelty is a thin one. Err on the side of kindness.

#57. Open as many doors for other people as possible. This is the best way I know of to get ahead.

#57. Addiction doesn’t die, it simply changes form.

#58. Always sincerely congratulate others for their successes.

#59. Very successful people have worked hard for it. Never assume they got lucky.

#60. Never say you don’t have time to read. We all know this is bullshit.

#61. Never, ever complain about your spouse. It makes you look foolish.

#62. Never assume doctors have your best interest at heart.

#63. There are things you can change about yourself, and things you can’t. Determine the difference and accept yourself.

#64. Never assume anyone is wiser than you.

#65. Figure out who you are before you’re thirty. Being a lost soul at fifty is laughable.

#66. Bitterness is a choice.

#67. If you work hard and accomplish your goals, the fear of age will not own you.

#68. You can’t replace a person with anyone else.

#69. If you feel like no one ever listens to you, try doing what you say you’re going to do. People hear integrity.

#70. The ego is weak, ineffectual, and it cannot sustain you. Go deeper.

#71. Humility is an indication of intelligence.

#72. You cannot be good at everything, nor do you need to be.

#73. Don’t enable others, and don’t allow others to enable you.

#74. Whether or not God exists, prayer works.

#75. Fear lies.

#76. Exercise is not over-rated.

#77. Soulmates exist.

#78. The universe is on its own time-frame. You won’t always get what you want when you want it.

#79. Don’t pick and choose biblical references. If you’re going to bring the bible into it, bring it all.

#80. There’s no such thing as casual sex.

#81. Before you set out to “teach someone a lesson,” ask yourself when the last time was that someone taught you a lesson.

#82. Make a list of daily goals and adhere to them. Over time, you’ll be amazed.

#83. Revenge only works on TV.

#84. Don’t throw the first punch… and don’t hold back once it’s been thrown.

#85. People know when they’re being manipulated.

#86. Think critically before forming an opinion. That way you won’t be that dumb ass who can’t seem to make up his mind about even his most basic perceptions and beliefs.

#87. If someone takes an interest in you, rest assured they want something, but don’t assume it’s something entirely self-serving either.

#88. The world will always want fantasy, glamour and romance. There are a million ways to work that to your advantage.

#89. Know the difference between business and pleasure and don’t mingle with those who don’t.

#90. If you want to go places, find out what people want and deliver it.

#91. Life is approximately 5% chance and 95% free will.

#92. The best way to age gracefully is to make it your goal to be a better person this year than you were last year.

#93. There will always be someone in your life who thinks everything needs to be done their way. Let them. It’s fun to watch them gape in stupid surprise when no one obeys.

#94. “Brushing your teeth” is a figure of speech. You need to clean your whole mouth.

#95. Trying to be unique is anything but unique.

#96. Don’t rush to lose your innocence. Once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back.

#97. People who have no heroes are either entirely without direction, or way too cynical.

#98. No matter the price, never let anyone own you.

#99. There’s always a choice. Always.

#100. Better to be naïve than jaded.

#101. Don’t allow people to misuse you. Simply don’t stand for it.


Leather Boots

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You’ll come to me at midnight

Indecent and discreet

You’ll leave behind the hostile night

And bring the fever of the streets

You’ll wear the city musk

That suits you so well

And the resounding leather boots

That betray your secret trail

I won’t ask you to leave

But I won’t ask you to stay

I know that you’ll be gone

Long before the break of day

And later, there will be no pleasantries

Or even childish disputes

No, your thoughts will be on someone else

Before you’ve finished lacing up your boots

* * *

© Jerod Scott

* * *

Leather Boots is the first piece that I ever had published, so I am especially proud of it, but I think the real reason this one is special to me is because it said everything I wanted it to say. That rarely happens. But it wasn’t easy to write.

 It spent most of its early life in a drawer in my coffee table. I kept taking it out and working on it because I knew it had potential but I was very discouraged with it for a very long time. 

Leather Boots is about emotional misuse. Boots have kind of become my trademark in writing—I even put them in my fiction—and usually, they represent protection, preparation… being on guard.  You can wear boots in summer, winter, spring or fall and never have to worry about the weather; they are kind of like the all-weather tires of footwear.  So, this poem is also about being on guard, ready for anything… but the boots do come off very briefly in the end.  That is significant to me.


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Nine months ago, something happened that I’d been working very long and hard for: Beautiful Monster got published. It was picked up by Damnation Books, a wonderful publisher in California that I absolutely adore. There was much to be excited about as Monster went through the process of publication, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I immediately started planning my future as a writer. I began revising The White Room, a manuscript I wrote before Beautiful Monster which needed some work before being an acceptable candidate for publication. On top of this, I began an equally exciting top-secret side project—that I can’t really get into at this point—that I’m totally stoked about. Things were going swimmingly—my days and nights absorbed in the fictional worlds of my own creation—until, about three months ago, something else happened: I hit a brick wall. And it wasn’t writer’s block.

This brick wall was far scarier than writer’s block because at least there are things you can do to lubricate a stubborn story. What I faced was something I never expected to: doubt… and not the doubt that I could be a writer—that’s a given—but the doubt that I wanted to be a writer.

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So, I stopped writing—which given my life circumstances at the time—wasn’t all that hard. I was in the middle of moving—again—and I’d met some fascinating writers from the old-school who made me feel like one of them. It was easy to coast for a while, but in truth, I wasn’t coasting at all. I was thinking. I was wondering how, after so many years of dreaming of this, of working toward this, I could possibly feel this way once those dreams were finally coming true. But that’s where I was at, and it wasn’t very fun.

After a while, the people around me started asking questions. They wanted to know why I wasn’t writing. I never told them the truth. I didn’t want to be influenced in any way because I knew this was something I needed to figure out for myself. I was working, just not in any way that was visible. In those months, I produced nothing that would help my career in any way, but I did strip down the layers of who I am, and I did figure a few things out.

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I figured out that the glitter is gone, the shine has dulled, and reality has cast its shadow over the dream. I have a different understanding of what it means to be a writer now—it’s not a better understanding—just a different understanding. I figured out that writing is—in truth—a lot of time spent sitting in front of a computer. It’s picking up the thousands of little pieces of a scattered story and spending hours, days, weeks, and months trying to fit them together in the most cohesive, relatable—and salable—way. It’s sacrificing a lot of time with friends and family. It’s being asked outright in public settings how much money you make. It’s work. It’s a daily decision to sit down and create something that may or may not ever even see the light of day. It’s the choice to devote a lot of time and effort to an entirely unknown outcome. It’s a risk.

I realized that the glamour of being a writer—if there ever was any—doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the world would like to believe. I’ve met my heroes, and they’ve now become my friends—people I talk to on the phone, exchange emails with, and discuss the most tedious details of my life with. This doesn’t make them unglamorous, this simply makes them real. It makes all of this real—and that’s not a bad thing—it’s just a different thing.

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In the beginning, when this was still a dream, I made some conscious choices. I would steer clear of any unattainable expectations. I would not put anyone on a pedestal or hold my heroes to superhuman standards… and in truth, I’m neither disenchanted by the path nor in any way disappointed in anyone I’ve met. But the dream, as it manifests into reality, is grating and unsettling… it feels a little like walking off a ledge. It made me decide I needed to take stock. I needed to step back and look at writing from a realistic perspective. I needed to then ask myself if this was ultimately going to make me very happy. So, that’s what I did… and the past couple weeks have finally brought things into enough focus that I can proceed in what I’m confident is the right direction.

Ultimately, nothing has changed for me except my approach to it. The dream is still intact. Somehow, I still want this, but now I know that only the love of this—and nothing else—is strong enough to withstand the demands and lack of certainty that writing requires. There isn’t enough ego to uphold this—there isn’t enough money to justify it—and there isn’t enough comfort to sustain it. But at the core of who I am, this is what I do—what I’ve always done—and it gets me closer to happiness than anything ever has before. And perhaps the greatest persuasion has been the incredible and unbearable gnawing, gnashing need to write even when I’ve given myself permission to break from it for a while. If nothing else, this has slowly convinced me that my writing days are far from being over. I’ve made some great self-discoveries these past months, but that hasn’t stopped the stories from tumbling in, the characters from blathering on, or the fingers from seeking the keys.

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I now have what I believe is a deeper, more accurate understanding of being a writer. It’s not pretty anymore, but it’s mine, and it’s real. I’ve learned that even when I’m “not” writing, I’m still writing, and so—at the risk of sounding melodramatic—how can I possibly not write? I can’t, but I do have a choice in how I proceed. I can either gather up the scattered pieces of story, glue them all together, and try to make something out of this that matters… or I can return to the days when jotted-down descriptions, disjointed dialogue, and fragmented portions of plot and poetry haunted me from hundreds of loose scraps of paper that invaded and overran any space within ten feet of me.

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For me, that choice is clear. After giving my soul a thorough strip-search, I’m realizing there isn’t really anything else I can do and be happy. The dream may be over now… the real world may have settled in… but there are still stories to be told.

And I’ll do my best to tell them.


~I’m older this time…

Wiser than I was the last time I walked these narrow halls

 And roamed these careless rooms

Where nothing of my own surrounds me…

Again.

The ghost of the other me–the younger me–

The me who caught the dream by its wings and trapped it in a mason jar…

That me drifts down the corridors of this towering house

And presses tight against the walls,

Merging with the darkest shadows of the unkempt, lamp-lit den,

And unfolds only in those fleeting, fugitive moments

Just before the bloom of sunrise licks the tips of the mountains~

As if to remind me

Of the thousands of days gone by

Since I was still

And dreaming for the sake of dreaming.

Thousands of days.

My eyes crinkle when I smile now,

And silver’s deft and silent fingertips have found the cleft of my chin.

 I don’t remember when I last anticipated the morning,

Or smiled back at my past-tense self

As we passed on the stairs.

And inspiration comes hard these days…

I write ~

But it’s not about me anymore…

It’s about you now.

Maybe it always was.

But this is what I wanted.

Yesterday,

I dreamed my heart hollow.

Today,

I pushed the dream down without even enough affection or care

To check it for a pulse.

And tomorrow,

Maybe then I’ll wake up…

But tonight…

I don’t want to dream anymore.

~June 19th, 2013~


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 The blackness of my heart’s in bloom

The room turns red with rage

I watch with steady, deadened eyes

Fury takes the stage

From the heat that surges from my skin

Rise mirages of control

But behind these eyes I’m wild and

Unworthy and un-whole

A ruptured firecracker makes

Less sound than my mind

Hot beneath the collar now

I am rancor, unrefined

A breath to steady my revenge

A smile to smudge the stain

A glimpse within those righteous eyes

Diagnoses me profane

A cigarette with trembling hands

And a silent vow outside

That ever if you walk my way

All grace will be denied

 © Jerod Scott

 


As I’m sure I’ve already mentioned, character writing is my favorite part of the fiction process. Nothing else–except maybe the finished product–is as satisfying to me personally as the moment a character begins to tell his or her story. Sometimes, they reveal themselves in slow sections, teasing you with their secrets and the private details of their personas. Sometimes, they come fully-formed in an in-your-face moment of undeniable clarity.

My intrigue with the process of character development is what keeps me writing, and it is what has prompted me to elaborate on it here, and dig a little deeper into some of the characters I’ve created, with the purpose of learning more about the mystery of it in general, and maybe even learning a little more about my own process. And, one of the most frequently asked questions any writer receives is about the development of characters, so I thought it might also be fun for the folks who have read my work to see the inner workings of my imaginary friends :)

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The first character that comes to mind, for some reason, is Brytt Tanner, Sterling Bronson’s dim-witted side-kick in Beautiful Monster, so I’ll start with him.

Brytt came into existence pretty early on in the plotting of Monster,  and if I remember correctly, it all started–as it often does–with his name. My co-author, Mimi A. Williams, met a man named Brytt in the workplace. The moment she mentioned the guy’s name, I knew I had to use it.

The first thing I knew about Brytt was that he was a stripper. I’m not sure why that was–again, probably the name. It just sounds kind of strippery, I guess.

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Next came his physical appearance. I figured a bulky, muscle-bound blond guy would be an interesting antithesis to Sterling’s dark, brooding good looks. I don’t like to create characters who look too much alike, and second, I’m a sucker for contrast. After ascertaining the basics of Brytt’s appearance, the next thing I did was start browsing the internet for his doppelgänger. This isn’t something I always do, but at times, I’ve found it helpful. So, I found a photograph of a guy that fit the mold, and referred to said picture when I needed to expound on details. I considered posting that picture here, but have ultimately decided against it. I think it’s best to let readers fill in their own blanks and use their own imaginations.

Not all of Brytt was pre-planned. He–like all good characters–came with a little of his own agenda, and one of the first things that surprised me was his dim-wittedness. I don’t know that I would have deliberately created him to be such a lunkhead, but as is so often the case, this is how he kind of “revealed” himself as I wrote him.

And it worked… which is also very often the case when you trust your characters to do their own things.

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It was also a surprise to me that Brytt was almost–but not quite–as morally corrupt, sexually deviant, and as dangerous as Sterling. In the beginning, Brytt was created, I think, simply as a means to give Sterling–who lives by himself–more opportunity for dialogue. But as the story progressed and began to demand artistic unity, Brytt began to play a significant role in the novel.

Brytt’s last name was tricky. A strange thing happened as we got further into the story. We started noticing a pattern… an absolute overuse–and abuse, really–of the letter C. We had Claire, Connie, Carlson, Cassidy, Carson, Carlisle, and probably several other names that began with the letter. I wish I could tell you why C became such a prominent player, but I can’t–I don’t know. Wierd things happen sometimes. So, after we made the discovery of the letter Cs undeniable overuse, Brytt’s last name–Carson–was changed to Tanner. Tanner, because at the time, I worked for a company with the word “Tanner” in the title. I’d been at the company for thirteen years, and figured it deserved some kind of recognition for paying my bills all that time. Unfortunately, Brytt probably isn’t really the most complimentary thing to be associated with, but for what’s it’s worth, I like him. He amused the hell out of me… and hey, it’s the thought that counts…

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I can’t remember if Brytt’s addiction to cocaine was a surprise or part of the plan, but this was the most fun, and most challenging thing about him. His constant “pit stops” kind of became his calling card, his personal catch-phrase in a sense, and it was interesting to describe the physical symptoms, like his glassy eyes and powder-congealed nostrils–and it was a total blast describing the actual snorting of the cocaine. I know… I’m kinda twisted that way, but it was fun. The snorting of coke is not glamorous. I wanted that to be very clear when Brytt did his thing, and it turned out being more hilarious than anything.

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Brytt is, believe it or not, one of my favorites. He was fun because he didn’t allow Sterling to take himself so seriously. Well, maybe Sterling took himself seriously, but Brytt made it impossible for me to take him–and the rest of the story–as seriously. Brytt is one of the reasons Beautiful Monster was so much fun for me. He moved the story along like a good character, he played by the rules by not demanding more stage time than his part required, and he forced me to learn more about the darker, sleazier side of life. I absolutely love him, and I have no doubt he will reincarnate, in some form or another, in my future writes.

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Beautiful Monster is available in paperback and ebook format at www.damnationbooks.com, and everywhere books are sold.

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