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Time to update the tagline!

As part of “personal branding,” some people use a motto or a tagline to briefly convey what they do. It’s like a mission statement that fits on a business card.

In 2016, I was straddling a variety of activities and wasn’t sure how to summarize what I did. I aspired to write books, but I hadn’t published anything yet. I needed a provisional, transitional tagline that I could use for the coming year, mainly to inspire myself and self-direct to my next step. Working with a coach, I came up with “Identifying the good, amplifying the useful.” Vague, yes. But it accurately reflected my self-understanding at that time.

I strive to make the world a better place, so affirming my orientation toward anything “good” and “useful” referred to my ethical motivations and my desire to connect with others and deliver something of value to them. My typical strategies of “identifying” and “amplifying” relate to my habits as an avid reader and prolific writer.

Eventually, I added the Spanish version: “Identificar lo bueno, ampliar lo útil.”

Three years later, I felt that “identifying” and “amplifying” weren’t very clear ways to describe what I do all day, and it occurred to me that “GOOD AND USEFUL ENDEAVORS” might look cleaner on my website. Visually, it fit better under my name, “TUCKER LIEBERMAN,” as a subheading. But this shorter version of my tagline didn’t mean anything. Without the action verbs “identifying” and “amplifying,” my involvement in these mysterious endeavors was made even less clear.

Tucker Lieberman: Good and Useful Endeavors.

I remembered that it was time to entirely update the tagline. After all, I had initially only intended it to serve me for a year, but, since then, more than three years had passed.

What had I done during those three years? Why, I’d written and published books.

So, my new tagline is that I’m the author of my latest book. The book is, I hope, a good and useful endeavor. I hope readers will find that the book speaks for itself in that regard.

Tucker Lieberman: Author of ‘Ten Past Noon’

And my email signature? I’d already added my published books to it. Does the email signature still need a vague motto that no longer motivates me or explains anything? Indeed it does not. The tagline goes away. The books stay.

Tucker Lieberman (he/him) Author of…

I will remember to keep my tagline current. You, too, should feel permission to create, update, or remove your own tagline when it is time.

P.S. Want to be informed when my book, Ten Past Noon: Focus and Fate at Forty, is available for sale in March 2020? Join my email list.

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‘Painting Dragons’ on 99-cent Kindle promo!

Beginning this Saturday, 16 November 2019, at 4 a.m. Pacific time,

Painting Dragons

What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains

will be only 99 cents for Kindle!

Put the URL in your calendar so you don’t forget: https://amzn.to/2pU7lo1

The price goes up the longer you wait. For example, it will be $1.99 beginning Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Pacific, which is still a good deal, but you may as well move fast and get it Saturday! Thursday, 21 November is the final day of the discount.

Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains
Painting Dragons by Tucker Lieberman
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A ‘retcon’ overwrites the past; a ‘procon’ overwrites the future

“Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short,” to use Wikipedia’s definition, “is a literary device in which established facts in a fictional work are adjusted, ignored, or contradicted by a subsequently published work which breaks continuity with the former.” If the hero’s sidekick dies in Book 6, leaving fans disappointed with Book 7, and is resurrected in Book 8 (with or without explanation), that’s a retcon. Retcons can also be more subtle, as when the fictional world undergirds itself with a revised history.

Does it ever happen the other way around? Can the contradictory or problematic detail happen first, while the authoritative detail appears in a subsequently published work? Would that be a “proactive continuity,” let’s say a “procon” for short?

Rodin's statue of "The Thinker" with a thought bubble that says "Hmmm."

It seems that this is impossible. At least in fiction, the detail that happens first has to be the authoritative detail until further notice; there can’t be any contradiction until the subject is dealt with twice. Right?

Election-rigging in Azerbaijan: A chronological failure in the narrative

Ah, but let’s consider Azerbaijan’s 2013 election! This is not fiction; this is a thing that really happened. When President Ilham Aliyev ran for re-election under a dark cloud of suspicion, the Azerbaijani election board released an iPhone app to display the vote tally so the public could feel confident that the election was legitimate. The app release did not go as planned. It displayed the election results one day before anyone had cast a ballot.

This incident is described on the first episode of Power Corrupts, a new podcast written and narrated by Brian Klaas that launches today, May 2, 2019, on iTunes, Spotify, RadioPublic, and Stitcher.

power_corrupts“I mean, for the guy who accidentally pressed that button—you had one job, right?” Klaas says. Though Aliyev retained his presidency, he lost what little pretense to integrity he still had. “Pro tip for all the dictators listening out there: if you’re going to just make up election results, try not to release them until at least some people have voted.”

Lesson for writers

When election results are released the day before the election, they contradict the world of which they are a part. They cannot be true. They attempt to influence an uncertain future whose possible outcomes someone already rejects. They attempt to control the future proactively. As I see it, this election-rigging incident is a real-life example of proactive continuity. (I made up that term. Let me know in the comments whether you think it works.)

People do try to change facts both before and after they happen. People want to control the future sometimes more than they want to erase the past.

I imagine it can be done in fiction, too. It may be part of what we mean when we identify an “unreliable narrator.” A novelist often deliberately embeds implausibilities and contradictions; they are part of the character development. Such unreliability can confuse or distract readers who are unforgiving or otherwise not along for the ride.

Leaving aside arts and entertainment and again considering real life, it’s important to remember that, when real people are deliberately unreliable—for example, by reporting results of an election that wasn’t held—they’re gaslighting, and that’s a tool of dictators.

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Poems about grief (Part 3 of 3): What happens next

Last year, I happened to read a number of poems that, to me, describe what grief feels like when one is going through it. They speak on other subjects, too, but I saved and organized them around the theme of grief. I’m not going to tell you which lines spoke to me. What matters is that these lines speak to you.

Mary Oliver “In Blackwater Woods”
Sandra Lim “The Vanishing World” The Wilderness
Aracelis Girmay “Elegy”
Diane Seuss “Self-Portrait with the Ashes of my Baby Blanket” Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl
Ocean Vuong “Notebook Fragments” Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Katie Ford “Psalm 40” If You Have to Go
Nomi Stone Waiting for Happiness”
Jenny George “Mnemonic”
Timothy Donnelly “Explanation of an Oriole” The Cloud Corporation
Muriel Rukeyser “Poem White Page White Page Poem”
Ingrid de Kok, “Transfer” Transfer, Reprinted in Poets & Writers Magazine, Sept/Oct 1998
Cortney Lamar Charleston, “Turn the River”
Euripides Orestes (translated by Anne Carson)
Lawrence Raab “Last Day on Earth”
Ross Gay “Ending the Estrangement”
Jericho Brown “Crossing”
Mary Jo Bang “You Were You Are Elegy” Elegy
Rainer Maria Rilke “Archaic Torso of Apollo”
Camille Rankine “Still Life with House Finch” Incorrect Merciful Impulses
Andres Cerpa “Letter” Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy
Kathryn Starbuck “A Gift”
Jorie Graham “The Way Things Work”
Joy Harjo “I Give You Back”
Erin Adair-Hodges “Once I Was a Thimble But Now I Am a Bell” Let’s All Die Happy
Cameron Awkward-Rich “Cento Between the Ending and the End”
Jay Hopler “Like the Stare of Some Glass-Eyed God”
Seamus Heaney “Scaffolding”
Mary Karr “Wisdom: The Voice of God”