I had a dream last night. Not the usual
one where I’m wandering through a thick fog wondering where I lived and where
the hell my clothes were and gee, I sure hope this fog holds up cause if it
starts to break up and folks see me… No, not that one, but the predictive kind,
you know, like that old French guy, Nostradamus, had.

I’d been doing a lot of thinking lately,
worrying actually, about the state of the written word, the quality and value
of literature (apart from its strict economic value), the values and politics of
the people who run publishing and, of course, my own writing and efforts to sell
my books.

It seems as if in the new publishing
dynamic, minor writers like me, striving for recognition and sales, have become
kind of like a bunch of mice suddenly dropped down onto a wooden stage amidst a
very earnest troop of obese cloggers. This particular thought and others kept
me up late into the night, trying to talk to myself over the racket and
occasionally reaching around to make sure my tail wasn’t sticking out. Finally,
exhausted, I dropped the bottle of Jim Beam, fell onto the bed and had a dream.
It went like this…

I awoke as the first ‘Novelist’
President. The country had already had the first black president, the first
woman president, the first albino president, the first gay president, the first
president with Tourette’s Syndrome (we lost LA over that one and the Chinese
are still not talking to us), the first Korean/French/Uzbek-American president –
and by then the people were hungry for something really different. They had
long tired of all the yada yada Repub/Demo endless arguing back and forth over
2,000 page bills that nobody had time to read and they’d wanted hecka hope and
hella fast change, and so they had gotten rid of the legislature. Then the last
President got rid of the judiciary when they challenged the legality of his
summarily making himself Rolling Stone‘s
Man of the Year. And so by the time my dream delivered me up I was more like a
dictator, which bothered me a little bit, but I’d always secretly felt like I
deserved to be President and so I kept the title.

Initially I contented myself with
staying in bed in the White House all day to endlessly edit my latest book. I
ordered out a lot, having the Air Force guys and gals fly in Tapas from
Seville, Kobe Beef from Japan, Cheesesteaks and TastyKakes from Philly,
Bordeaux, from France, that sort of thing. I did some reading up on ex-presidents
to see how they spent their time. I tried an afternoon of chopping wood
until I got blisters. (What up with that?) I tried my hand at golf but ended up
spending most of the time doing donuts on the greens and writing my name in big
muddy letters. Eventually I got bored with that too and amused myself by having
Joe, the Vice President, get down and give me 25 pushups every time he forgot
to call me ‘Your Lordship.’

I soon grew drunk on the powers I had
and all that Frenchy wine and I felt like writing. Then I recalled how hard it
had been before, specifically how hard, almost impossible to get published, to
get your book carried by the big distributers, to get reviewed, to be stocked
in the big stores… God! I grew angry and I decided that now that I had all this
power I was finally going to do something about that. The way I saw it, the
mergers and acquisitions stuff in the publishing industry, their obvious biases
in what they selected and pushed, had gone too far and now there were way too
few editors, too few acquisitions of quality books, instead of
political/celebrity/jock has-been tell-alls, a quickly dwindling supply of
readers, and too many newbie writers crowding the field.

I decided to start with the readers.
Why? Because I was the President and I could damn well start anywhere I
pleased. I wanted to see what could be done to increase the numbers of readers.
So, to fix the reader situation, I first looked at libraries and schools. Later
I would look at the problems with book stores, publishing houses and with other
writers.

LIBRARIES

Back before this dream I used to go to
the library every Wednesday afternoon to pick up my daughter, Dee, after school,
and so I knew what goes on there. The way I see it, there are three major
problem areas in libraries: Internet, DVDs, and tools.

Internet: They
have about seventy five computer terminals at Dee’s library and every afternoon
they’re all taken up by grade or middle school students, with a sprinkling of
child molesters downloading kiddie porn and the occasional jihadi sleeper cell
terrorist sending coded messages back to Waziristan.

The youngest kids, boys mostly, play
video games where they shoot vampires with shotguns or spray large packs of
zombies with machine guns. The girls seem to be mostly on the social network
sites, myspace, facebook, yourface or myface. Many type furiously as they IM
back and forth. (I M beecoz I B IM-ing)

I have yet to see one student on
Geography dot com, or Math Is Totally Kewl dot org. Why the hell not? Wasn’t
that the idea… that the government was going to spend tons of money, ours, to
make sure that these kids had access to the latest technology so that they
could become smart and brilliant and BUY AND READ lots of books, maybe even one
of mine?

Well that obviously has not happened so
it’s all coming to an end now. There will be no more Internet access in the
libraries.

DVDs: Nothing
complicated here. These things are one of the biggest reasons people read less.
I’m sorry. Yeah, I know there are copyright warnings and there’re the credits… But
I don’t care. Clear them out! There will be no more DVDs allowed in the
libraries.

Tools: Egad!
Tool borrowing? Yes. Believe it or not, there are actually libraries that lend
people tools. This is a no-brainer for crying out loud! What the hell does a
power saw have to do with drama or art? What’s next, spouse borrowing? There
will be no more tool borrowing in the libraries!

Enforcement: As your President I hereby decree that librarians
who fail to enforce these new laws will be made to get down and do 25 pushups for
the Vice President.

SCHOOLS

As a parent and someone who has strolled
through elementary and middle school hallways over the years, I knew exactly
what must be done here.

Book
Reports/Study Hall
: Middle school girls who choose Twilight for their book
reports will be made to read the collected works of Cotton Mather and write a
book report on same for the Vice President.

Middle school boys who choose Where’s
Waldo?
for their book reports will be made to read the collected works of
Tip O’Neill and write a book report on same for the Vice President.

Internet
and/or cell phone abuse
: Students caught buying book reports on
line will be forced to forfeit their allowances to the Vice President for one
year.

Students caught texting on cell phones
during study hall when they’re supposed to be reading will be made to get down
and do 25 pushups for the Vice President using only their thumbs.

BOOK STORES

As a writer who has done signings way
back in the day, who loves to read, and regularly frequents bookstores, the few
that are left, this one was a no-brainer and left me wondering why nobody had
thought of it before. With it I could open up a lot more shelf space for other
writers, including myself.

Bookstore clerks who stock more than ten
copies of James Patterson’s, Dan Brown’s or Stephenie Meyer’s latest will be tarred
and feathered by the Vice President (using LePage’s Scrap Book Paste in lieu of
tar) in front of the in-store Starbucks
coffee franchise.

Bookstore clerks who stock more than ten
cartons of James Patterson’s, Dan Brown’s or Stephenie Meyer’s
latest will be scourged at the gibbet by
lottery-selected Indie writers who sell less than ten copies a year, in front
of the in-store Starbucks coffee franchise after an in-store announcement. (Hey,
what can I say? I also write historical fiction. See my latest, White Seed:
The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke
.)

PUBLISHING HOUSES

As a writer who’s known the frustration
of having certain people in certain positions in a certain industry drop the
ball, renege on promises, and make lots of lame BS excuses along the way… oh, don’t
get me started!

Publishing house editors who sign overly-ambitious
political blowhards, depraved Hollywood lotharios political vixens, singing
sluts, potty-mouthed rappers and preachy, drug-addled rock and roll fools … to
‘write’ books… will be pistol whipped by the Vice President.

Publishing house executives who withdraw
PR funds designated for real books written by real writers because they now
have to use that money to pay overly-ambitious political blowhards, depraved
Hollywood lotharios, political vixens, singing sluts, potty-mouthed rappers and
preachy, drug-addled rock and roll fools …seven figure advances… will be machine
gunned by the Vice President at the nearest and next Writers’ Chautauqua.

OTHER WRITERS

Well, I’m sorry to say that just as I
was getting around to deciding what I was going to do about the legions of
newbie writers coming on-line, I woke up.

Paul Clayton, a crusty crouton in the diverse tossed
salad that is 21st century California.

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