Almost Famous or He’s Finally Exhausted?

I am a perpetual, creative motion man. If I didn’t have a wife to spend time with and to let know that she’s important to me, I would probably write, make music, and code non-stop. It’s part of my bipolar disorder, but it’s also one of my innate qualities.

I’ve been in an intensive collaborative creative project for the last few months and will continue for a few months more. I am writing a podcast musical with a couple of songwriters. We just put out the first episode. It’s at the bottom of this post if you’d like to hear it. I did all the writing and the marketing and this Saturday I told my wife I was exhausted and in need of a break. Later that day, my wife got off the phone with her mother and said, “I was telling my mom about your project and that you were exhausted. She said, ‘He’s finally exhausted? I never thought that would happen!'”

It struck me as funny. I laughed at it. She’s a wonderful mother-in-law and likes to give a good ribbing from time to time, but it left me thinking. I know I’m exhausted, but am I exhaustING to other people? Is my perpetual motion a perpetual nuisance?

As someone who handles most of his own marketing, this is often a concern of mine. Are my friends just sick of it? Maybe less than I think, but I do think I can be a lot to take.

And what is at the core of all this nearly inexhaustible work ethic? Well, of course, I love writing; otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. I also believe in my writing. I think it’s worth reading, and I believe with the right visibility, my writing could catch on. I truly believe that it is a matter of time. This musical could be the lucky break. It’s a unique project that is getting a lot of play–much more than anything else I’ve written.

But I’m gonna be transparent with you. Deep down. What is this drive? I’m not even sure I know myself, but I often think about a party I attended in my twenties. My wife and I had formed a tight bond with a group of young couples from church. We called ourselves the DINKs (Double Income No Kids). It was such a fun group and was such a formative time for us all. At this party, a Cuban-born friend started doing a party trick: palm reading–something he’d learned from his abuela in Cuba.

With great interest, I watched him read a few palms. It was very entertaining and he frequently assured us that it was just a fun party trick and to not take it seriously. My wife went first. The only thing I remember is that her palm indicated that she would have a couple of other husbands on down the road. It’s been 27 years, and so far it’s just been me. Then it was my turn.

The party was starting to get boisterous. We were enjoying cocktails and munchies and had split into groups: the living room group, the kitchen group, and the palm reading group in the den. The lights were low and we were laughing and enjoying each other’s forecasts. My wife left her seat on the ottoman next to the chair Carlos was working from. He was a big man–tall, full-bodied–with a very neatly trimmed beard and a snappy haircut. He was a good speaker–quick-witted, engaging, smart.

He offered my hand and he put it in the palm of his own hand. The only light in the room was the lamp next to his chair. He turned my hand to the light and began tracing the lines of my palm–occasionally making sounds like “hmmm.” Every reading I’d watched was about relationships, children, and careers, but not mine.

He said, “Wow, David. This is really interesting. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

If my wife didn’t say it, I’m sure she thought it, “Heeeeeerrrrre we go. There is nothing ordinary about this man.”

He pointed to a longish line and said, “See this line? This is your fame line. David, in all the times I’ve been doing this yours is the longest fame line I’ve ever seen.”

I said, “Wow, really? You think I’m gonna be famous?”

He examined it a little closer and said, “Nope, but you’re going to be almost be famous.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I couldn’t tell you, but I think that you’re gonna get very close several times.”

Jesus. Almost famous. That seems worse than not ever getting close to famous! I’m almost going to be famous?!

I think that on some level, that sparked a desire in me; a desire to conquer Fate. Doomed to be almost famous, and so far, my palm has not lied. In my musical and writing endeavors, I’ve been close to success—especially with writing. I believe that I am close to a hit blog, a hit book, or a hit musical. So close! Almost famous!!! ARRRRRRRGGGG!!!!

I can hear my wife saying, “Why does it matter? Just enjoy it. Why do you have to be famous?”

My answer is, “Well, I don’t have to be famous. I just want to be successful. I want my work to be acknowledged, read, enjoyed, and profitable.”

But to be totally honest? I wouldn’t turn down a little fame either.

E-Vatar Episode 3 – THIS IS E-BODY! E-VATAR – A Podcast Musical

Episode 3 – "This is E-Body!"  – In their E-Vatar, Taylen joins a new friend, Clarke, for a trip to the club exclusively for E-Vatars.In order of appearance:Narrator/Peyton – Sean RooneyTaylen – Thomas Farnan-WilliamsClarke – Sam BriggsMusic and Lyrics by Brian Eads and Gregg StandridgeBook by David Wilson-BurnsDirected by John Burns
  1. E-Vatar Episode 3 – THIS IS E-BODY!
  2. E-Vatar Episode 2 – A New World
  3. E-Vatar Episode 1 – Peyton, I'm Coming Home to You
  4. E-Vatar Season 1 Trailer

Published!!!

I am so excited to announce the publication of my book, “A Whiff of Life and Death” with Kentstead Media!  I know that you will enjoy it!  It also makes me happy that $2 of every sale goes to shelter the homeless. This is what Kentstead has to say:


“This book by David Wilson-Burns is sure to engage your imagination, entertain your senses, tug at your heartstrings, and leave you with a tear in your eye and a smile on your face. David is gifted at character-driven stories, and you’ll no doubt finish this book a little in love with the very odd, very quirky Jim Bronson.”

A Whiff of Life and Death – PRE-ORDER – Kentstead Media (kentstead-media.shop)

whiff book cover.jpg

Bay City Runaway – The Web Serial

Bay City Runaway (1)As I navigate my way through the beginnings of a writing career, my number one goal is to be read. I have a publisher for one of my books, but my latest book is still unsigned: Bay City Runaway. I’ve published it myself on Amazon and a number of people have read it. But as is often the case with self-publishing, sales have dwindled to nothing. I could blow some money on a large marketing campaign to boost sales, but at this point, I just want readers.

I feel good about the book. I think it has an audience, but Amazon is the largest pond in the book world, so I’m going to do what I’ve done before and share my writing for free on various smaller platforms to raise readership.

My publisher is looking at this book and has no problem with me doing what I want with it in the meantime while they work on my current project. When/if the time comes to hand it over to them, I will take the book offline and give them exclusive rights to it.

You can read this book as a daily serial at the following websites including my own.

Bay City Runaway

Royal Road

Wattpad

Synopsis

David Wilson-Burns offers his gritty and emotionally potent debut novel, Bay City Runaway, a story of two runaways finding each other in their escape from abuse and tragedy.

James, a thirty-something software wiz with a drinking problem, runs away to San Francisco to escape a tragedy in his home state of Oklahoma. In front of his favorite pub one night, a teenage girl with a nasty bruise on her face asks for a cigarette. He sees her several more times and gives her food and smokes. She appears to be living on the street, running away from abuse. Late one night, the frantic teen, Amy, shows up at his China Town apartment. Having nowhere else to go, she seeks shelter and protection from her abuser, who could show up at any time. They form an unlikely and complicated friendship.Wilson-Burns’ moving and engaging novel brings to vivid life the struggling, lonely alcoholic, the precocious, street-wise teenager, and the sexually-charged complication of a would-be girlfriend, Kyra, as their lives become intertwined.

He also captures 1990s college life as he tells the story of how a new friend, Zach, helps James win back the girl he will marry, leading up to the tightly kept secret of the tragedy that puts him on a plane to San Francisco in 2007.

In gripping detail, Wilson-Burns delves deeply into how alcoholism can grow from little seeds into a tragic and disastrous bloom.

Wilson-Burns uses his expressive, straightforward writing style to create an emotional experience for the reader and brings a deep sense of redemption and faith in humanity into his characters and story. Those who have experienced alcoholism in their lives will identify powerfully with James and Amy’s struggles. He shows how love, friendship, and faith can redeem the running, lost, and hurting.

I’m Bruce Wayne

glass-of-apple-juice-on-placemat_mediumI’ve written extensively of my memories of Lonoke, Arkansas and Norman, Oklahoma, but my memory goes further back to Texas. In fact, my first memory is around one-and-a-half years old, and it involved Batman in a small way. We lived in a trailer home somewhere near Houston. One summer evening, my mother had some friends over for coffee. My twin and I were riding down the gravel drive of the trailer on little plastic scooters. No peddles, just powered by our sandaled feet. Mine was green and it was a nominally akin to a tractor.  My mother had cut the rubber head of a toy tom-tom drum into a mask just like Robin’s from Batman. I recall coming in from the humid night air to have her retie it for me a couple of times. This tells you how deep my roots with the Batman franchise grows.

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Upchuck Angel

When we marry, we bring with us our own scripts, experiences, preferences, and needs. It may take quite of few years before a couple can come to a place of sufficient understanding of each other. We may not even know our own needs at first, but marriage is a great platform for self-discovery as well. We also come into a marriage thinking the way we grew up was normal. We may learn, however, that we all grow up with some peculiarities and biases.

That brings us to the topic of throwing up. I grew up believing that throwing up was a private matter. In order to protect one another’s dignity, my family of origin left each other alone to suffer through the event–saving each other from embarrassment. There is no dignity in the way I and other members of my family upchuck. It’s like listening to an exorcism.

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Halloween Mask Surprise

cyclopsIt’s a little early to think about Halloween, but this story is ultimately about growing up with an extraordinary father.

Eighth grade is a weird time for Halloween. Eight-graders are caught between childhood and adolescence. They want to enjoy all the fun of a childhood Halloween and also enjoy the teenage and adult age fun of parties. It was the last year I tried to trick-or-treat.  Over the summer, I’d become a six-foot-tall bass-baritone. I wondered if I could still pull it off one last time.  I blew what little money I had on a hobo mask. Yes, this was a day when dressing like a homeless person for Halloween was acceptable. The mask was replete with a tattered cigar protruding from a weather-worn, unshaven rubber face.

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Language Geek (Logophile)

words1
id·i·om
noun
  1. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ).
et·y·mol·o·gy
noun
  1. the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

If you know me well, you know that I have a great interest in words and their origins.   For example,  I love knowing that “making the grade” doesn’t have to do with school grades; rather,

The word grade is short for “gradient” and the idiom derives from railroad construction in nineteenth-century America. Back in the non-high-tech age of the nineteenth century, calculations had to be carefully made to ensure engines didn’t encounter sudden steep gradients and this is how we ended up with “make the grade”. http://list25.com/25-startling-origins-of-popular-idioms/

But why am I so interested in the origins of language?  I’m hoping to know this by the time I finish writing this.

Stories

One reason it is important to me is that I enjoy stories.  I find meaning in writing them, reading them, and especially being told them.  Each word or idiom has a story.  Words have to start somewhere.  Sometimes the origin includes a date and publication where it was first printed, but words often predate printing.  English words often even predate the English itself.  They originate from the Norse or the Germans, or the Galls, or any number of related language cultures.  The idiom might begin with a charismatic person, an historical event, or a trade.  Idioms evolve as well.  No one means anything about railroad engineering when they say making the grade.  As the technology for building railroads became more obscure, so did the original story of the idiom.

Literacy

I read a lot.  A good writer carefully chooses the right word for the idea they are trying to express.  It’s called economy.   A writer will often choose one word over many if there is such a word.  And sometimes writers do the exact opposite.  Instead of using economic language, they use expository language so that we can more fully understand their idea.
And so, I care about how I communicate, and I care about being able to understand what others are saying.

So much of my writing is on Facebook.  I make choices about my language in social media.  I choose whether or not to confine my language to a common vocabulary to be understood by more people or to use richer language to play my part in keeping things interesting, more literate.  I believe that both are worthy ideas. We’ve stopped using punctuation, capitalization,  and good grammar.  Our Facebook vocabulary has become very limited;  limited to a 5th grade vocabulary and lots of slang.  67 percent of Facebook language is at a 5th grade level or lower. I’m not sure if this is bad or not. It is what it is.  My friends are much smarter than the average, but it is still very telling of the literacy of our society.

But why is that?  Are we becoming more populist with our language?  The more common and limited our language, the more likely we are to get our ideas across to a larger, more diverse audience. This is certainly noble, but maybe that’s not it.  Maybe we have simply become lazier, less creative, and less literate. I’d like to think it is the former, but I suspect there is some truth to the latter.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps I’m just a language snoot!

Precise, Original Language Suiting the Context

Although I like the stories behind idioms, I often take the time to express my ideas in original language.  Idioms have their place in my life, but sometimes original language makes brains work a little bit more, creating the possibility for deeper understanding.  An idiom can mean different things to different people. It can add color to speech, but it can also make speech worn out and dull.  Precise, original language can make writing and speaking more personal and more appropriate for the context.

Knowing the original, or broader sense of a word can enrich the use of the language. There are certain words that only get used in certain phrases; otherwise, they wouldn’t be used at all.   For example, “stark naked” or “stark raving mad”.  Other than in older books, this word is confined to nakedness and insanity.  We all know what it means, but we don’t use it.  I ran from the bear in stark terror.  The living room did not yet have furniture or drapes.  It was very stark.  These usages are becoming less and less common in regular parlance.

There are also words that we only use in it’s negative that we could use in the positive.  Unkempt is very common, but kempt is very rare.  It’s a great word for describing someone who is very neatly put together.

I’ve reduced the frequency of hyperbole in my language.  If you ask me how many times I’ve heard a song, I might say a million times.  But when I really think back, even though I’ve heard the song all of my life, I’ve really only heard it fifteen or twenty times. For example, “Horse with No Name” by America.  This is a ubiquitous song.  It’s playing non-stop in the world right now.  But I can’t have heard it more than 30 times.  I didn’t have the album.  I’ve only listened to it on the radio. 30 is really a much more interesting number than a million times.  It’s quantifiable. I can imagine someone sitting down in their living room and listening to it 30 times. It would take about two hours.

Knowing when to use an idiom is of consequence.  For example:  In a meeting at work, I might say “Hey!  You really hit the nail on the head.” Then I’m the folksy, friendly guy.   We all know what the idiom means implicitly, but what if I said, “You are absolutely correct! You have said precisely what needs to be said here.”  There is a difference in tone.  Instead of being the folksy, friendly guy, I’m the professional, smart guy. Companies look for people who have the ability to think creatively, originally, and precisely. 

In government work, more so than anywhere else I’ve worked, I’ve found that management uses so much idiomatic language, “buzz words”, that I wonder if they’re actually robots incapable of original thought.  What about the visionaries who created the idioms?  Which would you rather be?

Conversation Piece

Knowledge of words can lead to interesting conversation.  Not everyone cares about words the way I do, but some people find it engaging.  Of course there’s the tedious windbag, beer drinker in Cheers whose encyclopedic knowledge of the world is unwelcome in conversation over peanuts and beer.  But that’s showing off.  Some people actually share an interest in language, like the men in my family. There are other logophiles both casual and fanatic.

My love of words begins with my father’s sermons.  My father was a preacher and is very much a linguist.  In interpreting the scripture he often started with the Hebraic or Greek origins of words. I’m sure this was tedious to some people, but it wasn’t for me.  It was often my favorite part of the sermon.

I know I’m not like everyone.  Just ask my wife.  I don’t expect everyone to resonate with what I am writing here.  Nor do I think everyone should care about language the way I do, but I know I’m not the only language geek in my large circle of Facebook friends.

 

Other language posts

The Languages of Respect

Computer Programmer’s Perspective on the Oxford Comma

Fartle: Proposal for a New Word

Kewl:  When Social Boundaries are Challenged

Sort Of…

Computer Programmer’s Perspective on The Oxford Comma

In English language punctuation, a serial comma or series comma (also called Oxford comma and Harvard comma) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (usually and, or, or nor) in a series of three or more terms.

In programming, the way we group things profoundly affects what a program communicates to the computer.  In writing, grouping is just as important for clear communicate to the reader.  That is why the way we use commas is important.

With the following two sentences, I will demonstrate the difference in the results of grouping with a comma:

1.)  If he is dressed in a yellow clown costume, handing out hamburgers with clown makeup, wearing a red wig or wearing big red shoes, he is Ronald McDonald.

2. If he is dressed in a yellow clown costume, handing out hamburgers with clown makeup, wearing a red wig, or wearing big red shoes, he is Ronald McDonald.

In code, these sentences are drastically different.

Sentence 1.)  Without the comma,  the list can be “ands”until the end when there is an “either or”.  It reads (this) (this) (this or this) This is the controversial part, I realize, but in code this is definitely the case.  So he doesn’t have to be wearing both a red wig  and big shoes to be Ronald.

var yellowClownCostumer = true;
var burgersMakeup  = true;
var redWig = true;
var bigShoes = false;

var isRonaldMcDonald = false;

If(yellowClownCostumer = true AND burgersMakeup = true AND (redWig = true OR bigShoes = true)
{

isRonaldMcDonald = true;
}

Sentence 2.)  With the Oxford comma, the “or” applies to every clause, not just the last one.  It reads this or this or this or this.   If just one of the clauses is true, then he’s Ronald.

var yellowClownCostumer = true;
var burgersMakeup  = false;
var redWig = false;
var bigShoes = false;

var isRonaldMcDonald = false;

If(yellowClownCostumer = true OR burgersMakeup = true OR redWig = true OR bigShoes = true)
{

isRonaldMcDonald = true;
}

Of course this is up to interpretation, but that’s what is going on in my head when someone leaves out the last comma.

What is it like to be normal?