Farewell, Dear Phouka

September 13, 2017 § 7 Comments

What’s left of Hurricane Irma lingers over southern Ohio, weeping her gray tears. It’s fitting weather; just past midnight, I learned that my friend Bardi had died.

I laid awake for another hour or so, walking the dark paths one walks when discovering such news late at night. Remembering Bardi, reflecting on his life and his death. Sad and angry by turns, and wondering if I’m on the same path. He got laid off and lost his health insurance and got sick and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it killed him.

If I lose my job, that could easily be me. It could be you.

Bardi’s family is planning a wake in true Irish style, as well they should. His son said anyone who attempts to make it maudlin will be shown the door. In that vein, I’ll keep this small remembrance on the sunny side of the lane.

I won’t claim to know him well, but I knew him a while. We met in the mid-90s, when we both joined in a Star Trek fan club. We met again, years later, drawn together by NaNoWriMo and Firefly and a mutual love of Irish music. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t remember him at first, but he remembered me.

I knew him by a few names — Timothy J. P. O’Riley and Taedgh O’Riley — but I and most who knew him called him Bardi. Short for Bardiphouka, his nom de net.

The thing I think of first when I think of Bardi is his writing. He could write a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo easily, and often wrote double the word count. I think one  year, he wrote two novels in that month.

Every April, he did APAD — A Poem A Day — on his blog. Once, he told me he had a fan club in France, and they bought him an iPad in appreciation for his poetry. An iPad for APAD.

He also wrote songs and made music. I remember sitting in his den as he played a song he wrote for my friend Annie, plucking it out on an acoustic guitar, singing. He was particularly proud of a song he wrote called “Topper Takes a Toe.” (I think that’s the name of it; regrettably, I never got the chance to hear it.)

Bardi was that rare kind of individual you simply can’t capture in a nutshell. Quiet, kind, an eternal romantic. A gentleman in an age where gentlemen are scarce. He loved unusual hats and unusual turns of phrase. He liked to make people laugh. He gave because he enjoyed giving.

For my 50th birthday this year, Bardi posted this on Facebook:

Today is Random Acts of Kindness day. Also Dave Borcherding’s birthday. Which in a way was a random act of kindness to all who have come to know him.

It was possibly the nicest thing anyone said about me on my birthday.

2017 has been a bastard of a year, to the point that I’m constantly bracing for the next loss. Nevertheless, losing Bardi was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s been one hell of a gut punch.

Goodbye, my friend. I hope you’re dancing a jig with a beautiful lass on Fiddler’s Green. I didn’t see you nearly enough, and I am the poorer for that. And the world is poorer for no longer having you in it.


Bardi with our friend Brooke, New Year’s Eve 2012. (Photo Credit: Steve Blanzaco)



Knocking off the Rust, Sharpening the Blade

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

The wonderful Maureen McHugh once told me, “Writing is a skill, like basketball; not a body of information, like biology.” Her point being, you get good by writing, not by studying it, or thinking about it, or reading other writers talking about it. You grab the ball, get on the court, and start dribbling.

I like to think of it more like carpentry. Pulling and hauling, grunting and sweating, sawing and hammering until a dead tree starts to look like something else entirely. « Read the rest of this entry »


October 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Choices are on my mind his morning, as I sip my coffee and feel the synapses begin to fire. It’s chilly in the house, but summer is staging another strike. I just ducked outside to look at a passing airplane, and it’s wonderfully warm; the perfect day for riding rollercoasters, which I will be doing with my wife and friends today, before we costume and go to a Halloween/birthday party tonight.

But choices. We make choices in almost every moment, and each choice alters the course of our life in some way.

Some choices are so small we don’t even notice we made them, yet they have a butterfly effect nonetheless: turn left instead of right, and avoid an accident; choose one word over another and cause a misunderstanding that damages a relationship.

Others are larger, more gut-wrenching decisions: to leave a job, or keep a difficult secret, or say goodbye to a beloved pet, or end a friendship that you realize is no longer a friendship.

One right choice can push your life in an amazing new direction; one wrong choice—no matter how small—can bring it all crashing down. Choose well. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: How to Tell a Great Story

August 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

I came across an article this morning with the terrible title “A Writer’s Guide to Hacking the Reader’s Brain in 5 Steps.” Because everything has to be about hacking these days. “Hacking Your Diet with Oreos and Bacon Fat,” or “Hacking Your Cerebral Cortex to Never Need Sleep (Without Becoming a Murdering Hobo),” et cetera ad nauseum.

A better title for the article above is “How to Tell a Great Story,” or maybe “5 Steps to Bringing a Story to Life.” Or maybe those are just as terrible.

Regardless, the article is very good. You can skip the first half of it if you’re in a rush and just start at this bit: « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Serendipity

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Full disclosure: I have never read anything by Malcolm Gladwell and can’t even name a book of his off the top of my head. Punching his name into the face of the hive mind, I see he writes non-fiction, which explains the dearth of Gladwell titles on my Goodreads list.

I saw the quote below today, though, and it hit me at just the right time. I’m feeling guilty for a total lack of movement on the novel-in-progress, especially since I spent a great chunk of hours yesterday working up a D&D game to run next Saturday. Part of the reason I’m not making eye contact with the manuscript is that I’ve been feeling it’s irredeemably awful.

So Gladwell’s words simultaneously give me hope and make me want to saw my head off with a bread knife. Because the thought of trudging through five more drafts of this book, regardless of how good it might be on the other side, is just more than I can bear right now.

Of course, Gladwell stops short of saying anything about the drafts after Number Eight. Maybe nine through sixteen are mediocre, seventeen through twenty-four are almost good, etc. Where does “publishable” fall on that timeline? Where does “great” show up? Draft 64? Draft 80?

I suspect innate talent enters into it at some point. Writing may be a skill that can be honed with practice, but something tells me you don’t become Shakespeare just by rewriting your manuscript 120 times.

-The first eight drafts are terrible.-

A Blast from the Past

July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

All issues of bOING bOING, The World’s Greatest Neurozine, are now online. This means that you can read my first (and only) published magazine article!

A little background: I was obsessed with the promise of nanotechnology in the 90s. I thought K. Eric Drexler was a techno-prophet who would lead us to the Promised Land of nanosalvation.

I can’t remember how I glommed onto bOING bOING, or even what made me write and submit the article. But my weird little article on nanotech fashion got reprinted in Carla Sinclair’s Net Chick: The Smart-Girl Guide to the Wired World, and just last year I found out it had been referenced in a book called Full Metal Apache.

Also, Carla Sinclair appeared in Playboy shortly after the article was first published, so I kinda knew a Playboy model. 1990’s me thought that was pretty cool. (Actually, I still think it’s pretty cool, but since I never actually met her, it’s probably not.)

If you want to read the article as it first appeared, though, now’s your chance. Click and be underwhelmed!

boing boing

Independence Day

July 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s Independence Day in America, which means we blow shit up to terrify pets, trigger PTSD in combat veterans, and reduce the national allocation of digits and limbs. Because freedom.

Tracy and I went to a shindig last night at our friend Jason’s new house, and his neighbors were setting off bombs every few minutes. Tremendous, house-rattling explosions. Definitely not the Black Cats we used to light in strings when I was a kid; these were commercial-grade munitions. Right. Next. Door.

Before you think I’m some strange curmudgeon who hates fireworks, let me say I love a good professional display. Cincinnati puts on one of the best aerial displays in the nation every Labor Day, and while the crowds it attracts are a little too large for my comfort, I love watching the display on TV.

Idiots with high explosives next door gives me a uncomfortableness, however. I don’t want my day spoiled by some hold-muh-beer’s fingers landing on my patio, or his errant mortar shell setting fire to my house. But that’s just me.

Aside from the amateur bombardiers, the party last night was fantastic. Jason scored a helluva house and filled it with some of the best people I know for a night, and it went a long way toward recharging my soul. I even remember most of it, and there’s only a few things I probably should apologize for. #winning

Today, I break out the Magic Notebook and start constructing a new outline and sketching characters. At minimum, I want them to tell me their secrets and their scars. Once I have that, I can start to figure out how to fix this hot mess.

I may also do some reading. My to-read pile is getting a bit large, and I have another book coming in the mail tomorrow (Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet; if the book is as good as the title, I’m going to really enjoy it).

If you’re wondering why I no longer do my “Writing About Reading” book reviews here, A) thank you for being a reader of this blog long enough to know about them, and B) I moved those to Goodreads. Friend me there, if you want.

Okay, off to the mines. Have a good Fourth. Don’t blow yourself up.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the writing category at Kicking the Pants.