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For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee, mustache and goatee.

Today I announce the least sought after outcome from a game of Clue:

The Missus killed the mustache and goatee in the bathroom with an electric razor.

Oh sure, it wasn’t her hand that held the razor against my face and tore away my dear, treasured friends. But hers were the hands pulling the strings that lead to this sad act.

It all started a few months ago, when I stopped shaving.

Now many who know me would argue that given my utter inability to grow a proper beard, shaving is merely an act of wishful thinking, me play-acting at being all grown up and able to front thick, lustrous facial hair.

I can’t.

I freely admit this.

I can work up a good bristle after a few weeks, but even that is embarrassingly sparse.

But every few years, in a fit of deluded optimism and an over-developed sense of manliness (usually after partaking of too many Rocky Mountain oysters), I stop shaving in order to try, once more, to hide my weak chin.

It usually ends within a few weeks, when I have nothing to show for the effort except worried expressions from friends and coworkers who are wondering if I have some sort of skin disorder manifesting on my face.

Not so this time.

This time I endured the worried looks, and then, when the weeks passed into still more weeks, the derisive giggles and lopsided, poorly hidden grins every time someone saw me.

And then, when the still more weeks passed into months, something amazing happened.

Enough of my beard grew in that I could plausibly claim to have a goatee. And maybe, just maybe, if you squinted at my upper lip while passing me by at a sprint, a mustache.

Wasting no time, I began to stroke it thusly during meetings, usually immediately preceding a thoughtful comment or penetrating question asked by yours truly.

And lo, there was much rejoicing within the cramped confines of my ego.

Yes, there was gray hair, but still, it was a youthful goatee

The dearly departed: Had I waited an additional six months, the rest of the beard would probably have come in on my cheeks. Alas, it was not to be.

I was happy.

I felt manly.

I had attained completeness.

But the Missus, she was working against me the whole time.

Oh sure, at first she said nice things. And didn’t even giggle.

Much.

But then one night, as she rubbed her temples and complained yet again of her splitting headache, she asked that question so dreaded by any bearded man who has a spouse or significant other:

“As much as I’ve enjoyed dating the evil Ian, are you planning to keep that?”

Nothing so direct as, “Lose the beard or you’ll never get any ever again.” Now that I had a goatee and mustache, I was far too manly for such a tactic to work on me.

But the Missus, she is clever. With those little words, I began to have doubts.

Was there something wrong with my goatee?

Had she noticed what I always suspected about the mustache, that it was a mere wispy shadow of the thick, burly lip brow I imagined myself capable of?

If the Missus was willing to admit my facial hair fell short of her ideal be-bearded man, what about my other friends? Those who said it looked cool – were they just lying to spare my feelings?

And more importantly, were those really lice I saw climbing around in my goatee, or just a side effect of going off my meds for a month?

So, naturally, I was already in a fragile state this morning when one of my toddlers came up to me, no doubt at the Missus’ instigation, touched my mustache, then my goatee, and said, “Daddy, make that go away so you’ll be like the three of us.”

And by ‘three of us’, he mean himself, his brother, and his mother.

All three of whom have an alarmingly apparent lack of facial hair.

Actually, I worry about my sons. I don’t exactly have the ‘beard you can cut glass with’ gene, and assuming they get 50% of their facial hair genes from the Missus, they will be even less adept at growing the chin rug and cheeky carpet.

That thought keeps me up at night. The only way I can get to sleep is latching onto the hope that someday, within my kids’ lifetime, Science may perfect the beard transplant.

Until then, I will always fret.

But that comment, about being like them, was the nail in my beard’s coffin.

So, with a heavy heart, I poured myself a whiskey, my beard a last brandy snifter of Diet Tab, and then quietly, unassumingly, with nary a tear in my eye, made my way into the bathroom.

Yes, it was my heavy hand that raised the electric razor to my face, my quivering hand that shaved off the beloved, hard-fought for hairs, my shaking hand that lovingly gathered my fallen comrades into a warm, moist towel and buried them in the backyard.

But it was my puppet-master Missus pulling the strings.

I have to go now. The Missus has just informed me that her weeks-long splitting headache has finally lifted.

Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about losing the beard. After all, it was awful itchy.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! Despite me being beardless, my books are still available!
 

The Santa Claus Gang:

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE, and a fine showcase for my artistic abilities!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

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Lack of sleep will boldy take you…where no one has gone before! /SWISH/

Sleep deprivation.

It has a way of running you off track.

Making you grumpy.

Impairing your ability to drive.

Most people would say this is a bad thing.

Heck, even I, when my kid screams at 3am like the boogie man is at the foot of his bed and insists he cannot return to sleep unless I sit by his side for the next hour, have been known to utter under my breath, “This is a bad thing.”

But that’s just the sleep deprivation talking.

And why else would we have airbags except for sleep-deprived drivers?

Where was I? Oh yes, Ayn Rand.

I have it on good authority that Ayn Rand was most enamored of the work she wrote while sleep deprived.

Based on what I’ve sampled, I can only surmise she wrote everything while sleep deprived.

And now the more conservative readers of this blog are about to object.

Shut up, conservative readers. I’m about to sing the praises of sleep deprivation writing.

I used to have dreams of being a serious writer.

A literary novelist.

A man of letters.

And numbers (preferably prefaced with a ‘$’).

Alas, it was not meant to be.

The closest I came was to being a man of numbers with a ‘¢‘ at the end of them.

And if you’re familiar with the terms of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, a ‘¢‘ at the end of your numbers means you aren’t getting a royalty check.

Instead, I decided to write an absurdist noir sci-fi thriller.

It’s hard to write an absurdist noir sci-fi thriller when you’re well rested.

It’s hard to write one when you’re tired.

Or drunk (keep missing the keys).

Or bent (don’t SCUBA dive with a computer unless you know in advance it’s water proof).

It is easy, however, to write one while sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation allows you to make intuitive leaps while circumventing that pesky reason thing. This is important, if not downright critical, for any absurdist elements you are trying to incorporate into your plot.

But I would argue that sleep deprivation helps for less lofty works of literature than absurdist noir sci-fi thrillers.

Sleep deprivation will unburden you from the tyranny of logic, from the insidious restrictions of continuity. It enables the sort of ‘outside the box’ thinking that is so popular in the business world, such as at companies like Wang Laboratories, Pets.Com, and AOL-TimeWarner.

Now I’m not saying that you can stay up for eight days in a row and crank out a masterpiece like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

You can crank out the first draft of the Wheel of Time series in that time.

You then need to rest up, get lots of sleep, and edit that first draft.

This, you will be surprised to learn, is the real reason why it has taken so long for all of the books in the Wheel of Time series to come out. Jordan, and his successor, needed to do a lot of sleeping in-between books.

Writing and editing are two distinct phases in the writing process, and it’s best if they don’t mix. They’re like the Jets and the Sharks – when they run into each other, violence and catchy tunes tend to erupt.

I'm not evil, just a stickler for grammar and logic

The odds of this making sense while the reader is sober are currently at 0.0043%.

Sleep deprivation turns off what I call the “douchey Vulcan killjoy gatekeeper of awesome ideas,” or what NaNoWriMo calls the “inner editor.”

(Sadly, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons aren’t allowed to use the word “douchey” in their regional emails, so the management suggested “inner editor” as an acceptable substitute. This completely waters down the magnitude of evil conveyed, accurately, by the phrase “douchey Vulcan killjoy gatekeeper of awesome ideas,” and I for one refuse to pull my punches.)

Sleep deprivation gets that Vulcan drunk off his (or her) ass, allowing flawed concepts and failed logic to slip by unnoticed, or at least with no more than a reproaching arch of the eyebrow, and onto the page.

How do you think the concept of imaginary numbers came about? I’ll tell you this: it did not involve a well-rested mathematician or a sober Vulcan. Square root of -1 my ass!

So you stay awake far too long, pound out a first draft unencumbered by sanity, and then, and only then, you sleep.

Sleep allows the Vulcan, or for the more timid among you, the inner editor, to sober up.

This is important. Do not skip this step if you’re a writer!

In the editing stage, you need that pointy-eared, green-blooded fiend refreshed and alert. He’ll make himself comfortable on your shoulder and the two of you will read that first draft.

You’ll fight and struggle to understand the intent.

You’ll moan and shake your head in wonderment and horror.

You’ll strive and strain to fit the imaginative, innovative workings on the page into a context that makes sense.

If you’ve slept enough, you will succeed.

If you haven’t, I recommend sleeping on it.

Turns out, the sleep deprived writing is the easy part. It’s the editing, the putting the puzzle together into a clear picture, that’s hard.

She didn't shave her pits, either.

Is this John Galt?

Really hard.

And it is this stage, the sleeping and sobering up and thinking about what you wrote and how to shape the raw material so it makes sense, where, I believe, Ayn Rand dropped the ball.

But that could be the sleep deprivation talking.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
 
My books are available!

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 
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Posted by on 22 August 2012 in Noir, Writing

 

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