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Thursday Thoughts: Poetic License

Thursday Thoughts vs. Thursday Ideas. Why do we like alliteration? Probably the same reason that we get annoyed when the gas pump goes to $20.01.

We manipulate language, like music, to create a pleasing sound. Kids love saying rhymes, lyrics and poems usually rhyme, and when they don’t, it can be a bit unsettling. It can also be exciting when things done happen in the way we expect.

There are ways for poets to get away with “almost rhymes”. I believe it is call poetic license, which is short for “I can to whatever I want because I like it that way”. This can also be applied to how a poem is crafted into its individual lines. For example, here is a funny poem from my first book:

Give it a read and we’ll discuss my thinking.

The Sock

Is there anything lonelier than discarded clothing?
A sign of disappointment, of rejection, of loathing
Threadbare and stained, no fight left within
Wondering what events caused this great sin
Did you wear out your welcome, what did you do?
Was it a weakness of cotton that allowed the big toe to come through?
Was it your owner’s odd gait that wore through the heel?
Taking the blame, how did that feel?
Was your partner discarded or saved for another
Pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

For the most part, the poem has a simple rhyme scheme: AABBCCDDEE. I’ve had readers question the last two lines. Firstly, another and color don’t really rhyme. I’ll pull out the poetic license card on the one-they are pretty close, well close enough. Secondly, what’s up with last line? It doesn’t make sense. Well, it does to me. Kinda.

It took a lot of crafting to get it to say what I wanted it to. Read it this way:

Was your partner discarded or saved for another pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

See what I mean. Kinda…I find that it feels like it is hitting the crest of a hill on the word another, then falls away quickly on the last line. I’ll give you a moment to try it. Like I said, it took a bit of manipulation, and it’s not perfect. But guess what? That’s that way I want it.

The power of poetic license.

-Leon

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Returning to Roots

(Repost of a blog post from November 2019)

When I was growing up, my father would read or make up science fiction stories when I went to bed.  As I got older, I began to read short story anthologies and novels from some of the pioneers of science fiction writing. I was filled with wonder at the fantastic visions of the future. Just like a child’s imagination is unfettered by boundaries, these writers were able to make the unknown their own.

I grew with the writers, following the up and comers with their new approaches, styles, and understandings. More discoveries made for more scientifically accurate writing, and gave the next generation of authors the opportunity to stretch the boundaries of belief even farther. The advances in science however, revealed the folly in some of the earlier ideas that were put forward, making some of the stories that I was so fond of just a little more absurd. While the new technical knowledge gave credibility and possibility to the stories, I missed the early days when any idea was considered  fair game.

I decided to write a series of short stories in the style of the early years of science fiction, where scientific knowledge wasn’t king and imagination drove the author to create something that a young boy could read and dream about travelling to the stars and having fantastical adventures, while falling asleep to the voice of his father… 

(Addendum to post – November 28, 2020)

So, that was a year ago. When I wrote it, I was close to publishing my first book, a book of poetry. I had a few science fiction stories written, but at that point, I don’t think that I was planning on publishing it anytime soon. But, here it is:

While my poems were a therapeutic activity, which I decided to share because I thought that others could relate to many of the themes, or to simply entertain, my science fiction writing was pure imagination. Some of the stories came out fast and furious, others took longer to hone. My stories tend to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later (say what you will about my attention span). My early reading memories were of short stories-Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man comes to mind.

Not to leave poetry by the wayside, I included a series of poems I call Found. I envisioned these writings being stumbled upon by a traveler in a post-apocalyptic world. Remind you of the book: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr? As I was writing them, I realized that too.

Here is a sample:

Found

I can feel it seep

Through my boots

         the heat

My skin, it crawls

My hair,

         it falls

The pain, it lingers

Till I can barely feel

         my fingers

Vision is weak and fading fast

I do not know how long

         it will last

Too tired to move, I take a seat

Nothing left to drink

         or eat

So, I leave my body and this note to be found

Beside this shallow grave

          in the rocky ground

And if the horror you can face

Please lay me in my final

         resting place

When I was putting the book together, I couldn’t think of anyone but my dad to thank, so I wrote this dedication: To my father, who gave me the imagination to dream about the stars.

Thanks, Dad.

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Creations from Quarantine

Today I am going to share some of the poems that I wrote this year. Most writing, like music, art, and all the other expressions are meant to be shared-I say most because there are some on my creations that are just for me to enjoy.

2020 is a year that will not be forgotten, although many of us probably would like to. We are all waiting for that arbitrary date of December 31, 2020, so that we can put this year behind us. Things will change-hopefully, and the world will move forward.

Here are some of my creations inspired by 2020.

Written after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests:

I wrote this after seeing news stories about the environment during the lockdown. Smog levels in major cities were falling, you could see the summit of Mt. Everest for the first time in many years, wildlife began to take back parks, trails, and harbors, and bees were enjoying all the wildflowers that normally would be mowed. It got me thinking about the positive effects of the lockdown measures.


My cartoon, “The Miniscules,” were affected as well.

I wrote a few blogs on my website-mostly satirical/humorous. Here are some favorites:

How to Shop Without Looking Like a Doomsday Prepper

Spring Cleaning: Isolation Edition 

Shopping…sigh…

Fitter or Fatter

And finally, lockdown inspired music. Despite the name, it’s a lively tune!

I hope you have enjoyed my 2020 recap!

-Leon

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Things I used to…draw

Don’t ask me why I was thinking of this, but I was thinking about things I used to draw as a kid. Usually during class. Usually in my scribbler. Sometimes on my desk. I don’t want to give away any clues, but most of my desks in elementary school still had holes in the upper right-hand corner. Their intended purpose was unknown, but it made a great garbage hole.

The top of the desk had a pencil groove, which didn’t do much good if you lifted the lid. It did, however, provide a handy area to fill with pencil graphite (we still believed it was lead) and coat any of your fingertips with a shiny, gray powder.

Anyway, these are some of the things I remember drawing:

There were some favorites, though. Full points of you guess them all.

– Leon

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Monday Music (on a Tuesday…Tuesday Tunes?)

So I dropped the ball this week. I was going to start posting some of my music on Mondays, but got distracted and wrote a cartoon/humor related post. I think perhaps I will use Tuesday as my music related post (should I still tag it as Music Mondays? Can I?)

Short back story: I play guitar.

Not such a short back story: I have always enjoyed music. I took piano lessons as a child/teen, as well as guitar lessons (wanted to be a rock star – How’d that work out you ask?). After bouncing around college for a few years I decided to pursue music studies, and after 6 years I received my Bachelor of Music, majoring in classical guitar. I wasn’t a great performer. Nerves, stage fright, and blanking memory doesn’t make for a successful career.

Life got in the way. I forgot/lost many of my early acoustic pieces, but then began to write again.

As with performing, recording is a difficult process-perfection isn’t an option-but I am starting to get a few compositions recorded to the best of my ability. I hope that you enjoy them too.

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Miniscule Mondays

I took up sketching a few years ago. I am always amazed at the talent people have to create realistic drawings. I never focused on a specific subject; I just started to draw what came to mind.

Some examples:

I think that I’m a funny person. I like to make people laugh. I also have an odd sense of humor, which led me to try to draw cartoons. But alas, it was not to be. I never quite liked my creations, and it was the content of the humor which was more important to me than the visuals themselves.

That led me to create “The Miniscules,” who find themselves in odd situations (due to their minisculeness), and later, comment on some of the current events. But wait, you are thinking. Isn’t miniscule misspelled?

Well, according to merriam-webster.com:

The adjective minuscule is etymologically related to minus, but associations with mini- have produced the spelling variant miniscule. This variant dates to the end of the 19th century, and it now occurs commonly in published writing, but it continues to be widely regarded as an error.”

So, to answer your question, Yes-kinda. Does it detract from the loveableness of the characters? To answer my question, I hope not.

Now the dilemma was: Where to put them? I’m not a big social media participant, but I had an Instagram account just waiting to be used to 3.54% of its full potential. I created Miniscule Mondays, where, if you haven’t already figured out, I post a Miniscule… OK, I don’t have to explain.

Just get to the cartoons, I hear you say. I have all (most) of them posted on my website, but here are three of my earliest:

Here are a few of the pandemic inspired:

Finally, a few of my favorites:

I hope you have enjoyed “The Miniscules.” Stay tuned for a “Miniscules: Origins” movie. There is a teaser trailer on my website as well.

-Leon

Instagram: @lines_by_leon

PS: Here is today’s:

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Funny Fridays: Humor/Humour

I like to think of myself as a humorist/satirist. Making people laugh was a goal of mine from a young age. Many of my stories, blogs, and poems have a humorous tone to them. I’ll start this weekly segment with some reposts of my writings.

Humor/Humour

What is funny? Anything that makes you laugh, I suspect. Or chuckle, snicker, chortle,  giggle, or smile. The measure of real humor is something that makes you laugh when you are alone. Think about it. When was the last time that you laughed out loud all alone? For most of us, it is rare, if non-existent. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. One feels contented after a good, long laugh.

I remember a time when I was sitting in the mall with my sister reading a newly purchased Calvin and Hobbes book. I remember it fondly because of the tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard. There was the occasion when I couldn’t place my drive-thru order because I couldn’t talk through all my laughter (I don’t remember why, though). Then there was the time my mom said something that no one expected her to say…

You can’t feel angry when you are laughing. Or sad, or alone, or helpless…Pain disappears for a while (not counting the pain in your side). You can laugh so hard that you cry, and those tears can wash away any sad thoughts- at least for awhile. Laughing is contagious. Try to hold a straight face while others around you are partaking in the joy.   

I like to make people laugh. It makes me happy. Most of my writing these days has a humorous edge to it, even with some of the more serious topics. Some of my ideas were the catalyst for my cartoon, The Miniscules.

People’s sense of humor evolves. What was funny as a child (farts) is not necessarily funny as an adult (notice that I said not necessarily, I bet you know someone who still laughs at them). Children get some of their sense of humor from their parents, and they also get it from peers and pop culture. Schools can be a breeding ground for hurtful humor, but I know that our educators do their best to teach what is acceptable.

Humor is constantly changing. What was thought of as humorous in the past is no longer acceptable. Many comedians went through times (some still do) of pushing boundaries and limits, using race, gender, sexual orientation, status, profanity, and taboo subjects in order to get a rise or laugh out of the crowd. People supported this hurtful, questionable content, demanding more profane, edgier routines. 

I know. I was there. I admit, I laughed. Now I don’t.

Comedians now have to adapt their craft and evolve with the times. Many will fall and fade, while others will use their talent to give us the laughs we deserve.

One last thought: Has anybody ever actually laughed at a “Knock, Knock” joke?


Poem

I played around with several items: underwear, pants, shoes, before deciding on the lowly discarded sock.

The Sock

Is there anything lonelier than discarded clothing?
A sign of disappointment, of rejection, of loathing
Threadbare and stained, no fight left within
Wondering what events caused this great sin
Did you wear out your welcome, what did you do?
Was it a weakness of cotton that allowed the big toe to come through?
Was it your owner’s odd gait that wore through the heel?
Taking the blame, how did that feel?
Was your partner discarded or saved for another
Pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?


Cartoons

My attempts at cartooning failed (in my eyes) due to the fact that I just couldn’t draw people very well, and when I could, I could not keep consistency. This was my solution.

The Miniscules: Three of my earliest

Story: Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile (Short Story from: The Knot at the End of the Rope)

-Science fiction has a history of humor, from authors like Asimov, Vonnegut, and Adams to shows and movies like Red Dwarf, Galaxy Quest, and The Orville. I actually laughed out loud when I thought of this story (and so did my editor). Here is a free reading link to it on my Medium.com page:

Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile

That’s a wrap for this Friday. I hope that I have entertained you!

-Leon

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Thursday Thought: Why Aren’t People Polite?

I suppose I should say, why aren’t people more polite, because there are more polite people in the world than not, right? I hope so.

Politeness is an art. It is a skill. It is a learned behavior. Ahh, that’s the root, isn’t it? Politeness is learned, and like anything, you must choose to learn it. And practice it until it becomes second nature. Ever try to learn something that doesn’t interest you?

Think back to your school days, or if you are still in them—listen up. Didn’t like math? You probably got a B or less. Think that Language Arts is boring? Well, you won’t be writing any novels, will you? Dreaded Phys. Ed? Squeaked by, didn’t you? But if you try to do better in something, you will improve.

All behavior serves a purpose. If you can get what you want without being polite, then why be polite? If it makes you feel good to open a door for someone or say “Excuse me” if you bump into someone, then you are going to do it. If you can make someone’s day by being polite, isn’t that worth it?

You are not going to injure yourself or feel bad by being polite. Will it inconvenience you? Probably not, but it might in rare cases. Is doing the right thing worth it? I think so, but if not, it’s still the right thing to do.

-Leon

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What’s in a Name (or a Picture)

One of my favorite radio shows is Under the Influence by Terry O’Reilly. It is on CBC radio, which is Canada’s version of NPR in the USA. As with most shows these days, you can get it on a podcast. What makes it my favorite? I always learn something interesting about the advertising business.

When trying to decide on how I was going to brand myself, I had to think about how I want to be remembered. The title of my book, Lines by Leon, is a reference to the many lines that I have created. Lines of poetry, plotlines in a story, lines in a pencil sketch, and lines of music. The alliteration was a bonus. It was because of that that I choose it for my domain name. I was able to use it for my Twitter account, but not for my Instagram. Why not? It was taken – by a talented artist who had posted a few sketches 3 or 4 years ago, and nothing since. I messaged him (twice), asking if I could use it, since obviously he was not, but I received no response. I was primarily going to use it for my comic, The Miniscules, so I used @theminiscules, but decided later to keep the brand name consistent over all platforms. My only option was lines_by_leon. Not the end of the world, but I dislike wasting underscores.

My logo, taken from my book cover, is from the sketch that I did called Hopes, Dreams, and Wishes:

It represents how elements in our lives may seem out of our control. Often, it may seem that they are at the mercy of the winds but chasing them sure is fun. The original was quite faint on the first scan:

    So, I darkened it up with Photoshop:

I then moved some of the bubbles around to create a longer illustration for my bookmark:

I printed a bunch to give away in my books and for promotional use. I decided to get the original illustration printed in cardstock for framing. I have them for sale on my website.

It still calms me when I look at it.

Sometimes when I sketch, I just wind up doodling. I started to draw some stylized stick figures:

I thought they were quite funny, so I decided to take this one and use it into a mug:

As a musician, I turned to orchestral instruments:

Then cycling:

Pets? Why not:

So, now I have images to market. After researching printing and shipping costs, I decided to go with Zazzle.com. They do all the printing and shipping (and get a better shipping rate for volume). Otherwise I’d have to price my products too high. That’s never good.

How will I be remembered? I’d like to be remembered as a writer and an artist with a sense of humor, and a dreamer still searching for the one bubble that can be caught.

Till next time,

Leon

Lines_by_Leon: Designs & Collections on Zazzle

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Interview, Part II: Leon Stevens, Reader, Interviews Leon Stevens, Author

I have done a few interviews on some book blogs this year and have always enjoyed it. But then I thought, what would I say in an interview as a reader? Solution? Interview myself! So I did. As you can see, this is Part II, where I interview myself as an author this time.

Leon Stevens · Leon Stevens, Reader, Interviews Leon Stevens, the Author

Today we have the pleasure [eyeroll] of sitting down with Leon Stevens, the author. How have you been?

   – Considering all that has been happening, I have been OK. You?

You know the same as I do. We share a place, remember?

   – Just being polite, you know.

Moving on. You have some exciting news to tell.

   – Had.

What?

   – I had some news. Like a month ago.

Would you like to share it?

   – That’s why we are here, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. Let me spill the proverbial beans then

   – I’m not going to clean those up.

[silence]

Do you want me to say it or not?

   – Go ahead.

You published your second book this year, a science fiction book, I believe?

   – That is correct. It’s called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Interesting title. How did you come up with that?

   – It’s the first story in the book, and the rest tells you what is in it.

But what does it mean?

   – You will have to read and find out.

I did. You know that.

   – Then why are you asking?

I thought that other readers would like to know.

   – Well, it’s all about how choices that life gives us are not always good things, I guess. It is the shortest story in the book.

You like writing short stories, don’t you?

  – My stories always seem to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later. Say what you want about short attention spans…

Do you have a favori—Wait! Where are you going?

   [from another room] – I thought we were done.

No. We are not.

   – Want some coffee?

Sure. Are you using the press?

   – Is there any other way?

Nope.

[elapsed time: 15 minutes]

   – Here you go.

Thank you. Shall we continue?

   – Fire away.

[sipping sounds]

Mmm, good coffee.

   – Thank you. It’s one of my favorite things.

Before the break, I was asking if you have a favorite story?

   – That’s tough. Each story has its charm in how it came about and what ideas I was trying to convey. But if I had to choose—

You do.

   – As I was saying, if I had to choose, it would be Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile.

Because?

   – Probably because it has elements of humor. It made me laugh when I thought about it. My editor said that she laughed out loud when she read it. Now, that’s the sign of good humor writing.

Do you consider yourself a humor writer?

   – Quite a bit of my writing has elements of humor, so yes. I like to make people laugh.

There are quite a few post-apocalyptic stories in the book as well, along with poetry. Poetry? What’s up with that?

   – I don’t know which came first, the stories or the poems, but I recall coming up with the idea that sometime in the future, writings from after an apocalyptic event would be found. So naturally, I named the series Found.

That sounds like the premise of the book, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr.

   – That’s not far off. I didn’t mean it to be, but as I was coming up with the poems, it was a book that came to mind. It is the first post-apocalyptic book that I remember reading.

You write many different styles. Do you think that will limit your appeal by segmenting your readership?

   – Well, I do now. Thanks a lot.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.

   – Limiting my appeal? Or writing different styles?

I thought I was asking the questions here…

   – Can’t we have a spirited discourse once and a while?

How long have you been waiting to throw in that word?

   – Quite some time. Impressed?

Very. OK. Back to my point. I’m just worried that your poetry readers won’t like your science fiction stories and vice versa.

   – I’ve thought about that. But if I am inspired to write something, I don’t want to limit myself. I still write poetry. It took me four years to publish my first book of poetry—I’m not going to be able to put out another right away. I hope my readership will embrace my eclectic writing.  It is about entertaining and keeping readers engaged.

And how do you do that?

   – I began to write a blog, which became more of a satirical/humorous take on life. Then when I started my newsletter to keep my readers updated on my writing journey—

Writing journey. I like that.

   – Thank you. Anyhoo, I try to keep my weekly newsletters informative and entertaining. I hope that people read and appreciate them.

Ever thought of doing a podcast?

   – I wouldn’t know where to start. Do you?

Not a clue. Last question: Who are The Miniscules I keep hearing about?

   – You’ve heard about them from other people?

Not really. I just thought that we should mention them.

   – Oh.

They are dear to your heart, are they not?

   – No. Not really. I’d miss them if they went away, though.

But they’re not going anywhere, right?

   – Nope. They still have lots to say.

Well, thank you for taking to time to answer some questions. Any final thoughts?

   – You’re going to clean up those beans, right?

Yes. Not to worry…

   – Don’t forget to take out the garbage when you go.

I’m not going anywhere. I live here.

   – Oh, right. Another cup of coffee?

Please.