Barth’s Bus Stories: I Got It

8 May


May 8, 2015

Teenager Next to Me: [talking on phone] To the mall. With the guy. The guy. It’s all he wants to do. Hours at the Mall of America arcade. His mom makes me spend my money because she can’t afford it. Four hours last Friday. I’m working later. Took leftover quesadillas from work and ate them last night after work and gave them to abuela and we both vomited before bed. So we need a better something. I mean better food. Because we don’t need school we need money. Made her sick. You’re not listening to what I say. You don’t really even listen. You’re working, yeah, but I could say anything to you. It’s me. I got it. Leon says hi. Trey says hi. They miss you. [Very long pause] Mom, it’s just what they said.

Barth’s Bus Stories: Up the Steps?

6 May

busfeet2May 6, 2015

Attractive African-American Woman at the front of the bus is about to exit at the light-rail stop on Franklin, but pauses and asks the bus driver something. Then she turns to address all the bus passengers.

AAAW: Any y’all know where the American Indian building is?

Three African-American guys burst from their seats to answer her.

3AA Guys: It’s up that way a block. No, go up the steps! Yeah, up the steps and cross the tracks!

AAAW: [taken aback by all the of voices at once] What now?

3AA Guys: Up that way! Up the steps and across the light-rail tracks! You’ll see it!

AAAW: [smiling back at the three fetchingly] Up the steps?

3AA Guys: It’s on the corner up there! Just walk up the sidewalk, you’ll see it. Oh, he don’t know! Go up these steps! No, just go up the steps! No, the steps are so steep. The sidewalk is easier!

AAAW: [flipping back her hand, pointing back over her shoulder, in a “little ol’ me” sorta way; still smiling] Way up on the corner?

3AA Guys: You can’t miss it! It’s just right up there! Don’t worry, you’ll see it. Just walk right over the light-rail tracks when you get up there!

The woman thanks them, exits the bus, and walks up the steps in a deliberate sashay.

Oldest of the African-American Guys watches her as the bus pulls from the curb.

Last Guy: [to himself in a quiet rumble] I don’t know where you going and I don’t care where you been…

Novel Progress on The Mad Queen’s Game

5 May

Queen Juana 1 of Castile

I had to make a big decision on the structure of The Mad Queen’s Game that cuts out a major plot line. It adds up to removing half the book.

This cut is a good decision — the two narratives don’t actually fit together, but I thought I could do it with sheer will power and creative force. Silly me. It turns out what I suspected from the beginning is correct, that the second narrative is actually redundant thematically. I pout in shame for not listening to that.

Of course, the material would make a terrific book in itself, a parallel story that’s more swashbuckling and adventurous in the same world. So it’s not lost time, really. I think the way to avoid this in the future is to:


Keep it Simpler, Anderson. Repetition without advancement of theme or mood might mean something needs to be cut. Watch for that early on next time.

2) Outline to Streamline

When in doubt, put the most effort into streamlining the plot. You’re just fine at complicating things later. No need to put more effort into that than you need to early on, Barth.

3) Breaking New Ground is Always Best

Sniff out the fun and new. That’ll allow you to see the plot more clearly earlier.

In other developments, I found a GIF of my main character from a 2001 Spanish movie called Juana la Loca.


Juana the Mad whapping Philippe the Handsome

My book, The Mad Queen’s Game, is about Juana of Castile (Spain) who is slapping her incredible prick of a hubby in this GIF. Yay!

My Juana is very different than the Juana in this movie but it’s still fun to see how she’s presented, especially in her homeland. My Juana is not a basket case for a man, as she turns out to be in this flick: My Juana is mentally ill (and in my opinion she suffered from severe depression if not something stronger) but she had to suffer a mind-blowing Greek Tragedy-level of grief that didn’t have much to do with this dweeb in the GIF.

That said, there’s a lot behind this slap. He deserves a hot one across the chops, and after two years of research, I wanna slap this incredible prick, too.

More: My “Mad Queen’s Game” Pinterest page where I keep images from research about characters and the period (turn of the Sixteenth Century) for inspiration, if you like spying on that sort of thing.

Adventures in Ambien: Fruit-Stacking and Bunnies

4 May

Fruit-stacking by author Barth Anderson

I stack fruit when I’m on ambien.

I don’t remember stacking the fruit but stack this fruit I did.

There’s more. So much more than fruit-stacking. I cannot tell a lie. I did more than stack fruit.

The fact is that my children don’t like to eat anything animal-shaped so there was an entire chocolate bunny rabbit sitting helplessly in the refrigerator from Easter several weeks ago, when my children refused to eat it, indeed, bursting into tears — both children — at the mere thought of it, the hellish conflict they felt between their compassion for adorable little animals and the delight they feel upon receiving two whole pounds of Fair Trade, organic, gourmet milk chocolate.

I’m not sure where they get that compassion, because once safely swinging in the hammock of my ambien, their loving father suffered no such hellish conflict about the bunny. In fact, according to the evidence, he apparently went at it with a big serrated knife (Exhibit A: chocolate shavings all over the kitchen counter, the floor, my pants, one of the dogs) and starting with the face ate nearly all of the poor little defenseless bunny in one fell swoop, with only its cute little feet remaining in a crinkly bag the next morning like so many ejected owl-pellets.


But hey. Nice fruit-stacking, right?

Barth’s Bus Stories: Big John

27 Apr


March 28, 2014

Loud Man: [entering, in a bus-shaking voice] Get your hand outa my pocket! Y’all got a pickpocket on board! I’ll beat that man up for you if you want me to. He’s a black man. Ah, ha, ha, ha, you’re all right. I’m loud. I’m too loud and I know it, but I can’t help it. Yes! My name’s John, everyone. How’s your day, brother?

[Woman on Cell waves to Loud Man]

Loud Man: What? Hey, baby. Oh, hey, how you doing, baby? Good to see you. Sorry I’m so loud.

Woman on Cell: You made my boyfriend mad!

Loud Man: I did? What I do?

Woman on Cell: He heard you.

Loud Man: He did? On the phone?

Woman on Cell: He heard you!

Loud Man: I’m sorry, baby. I can’t help it.

Woman on Cell: He said, “Why I’m hearing a mad voice?”

Loud Man: Tel him it’s just Big John. He can come find me [singing] Girl, I love you one thousand times. [To a man he boarded with] That one’s my man. That one, the one in the hat. The high yella. I said you a high yella! Come back here and sit by me, brother.

Woman on Cell: You take care, John. [exits]

Loud Man: Bye, Baby. [singing] I love you one thousand times. Remember…

Barth’s Bus Stories: Sonny

24 Apr

bus passengers

September 25, 2014

Guy: Does this bus go to Lake?

Barth: No, it goes to Hennepin.

Guy: Hennepin and what?

Barth: Franklin. Hennepin and Franklin.

Guy: But after that?

Barth: After Hennepin?

Guy: Yeah.

Barth: It turns around. It comes back the same way.

Guy: Does it go to Lake?

Barth: No. Nowhere near Lake.

Guy: Damn.

Barth: Where are you headed?

Guy: Meeting a woman. I shouldn’t. She’s no good for me. But she called and started crying and–

Barth: [desperate to avoid TMI with a stranger] NO! No, no. I mean where in Minneapolis are you going?

Guy: Lake Street.

Barth: Lake and what?

Guy: Lake and Bloomington.

Barth: Ok you’re headed in the opposite direction.

Guy: Where is this bus going?

Barth: Hennepin.

Guy: Hennepin and what?

Barth: Look just stay on this bus and it’ll loop around back to Franklin and Bloomington. You get off there and take a 14 up to Lake. Make sense?

[Guy nods knowingly]

Guy: Your beard is amazing.

Barth: …

Guy: So many colors.

Barth: Yeah.

Guy: It’s mesmerizing.

Barth: Ok.

Guy: My name’s Sonny. I was born Bulgaria. Can you believe that shit?

Barth: Bulgaria.

[Sonny and Barth fistbump]

Sonny: What’s your name?

Barth: Barth.

Sonny: Do people call you Marty?

Barth: What?

Sonny: What do people call you?

Barth: Barth.

[Long pause.]

Sonny: Hoooooo, brother. I shouldn’t be out. I gotta go into treatment tomorrow.

Barth: Bummer. Who’s making you go to treatment?

Guy: Me. I’m doing it because it’s time. (Lets out a big sigh) I’m pretty wasted, Marty.

Barth’s Bus Stories: The A-Team

24 Apr
busfeet2September 9, 2013

Poured a coffee, ran out the door, and got to the corner at the same moment as a middle aged African American dude with dreds. Didn’t even have time to say hi. The #5 rolled up just then, as if on cue. He stubbed out his cigarette butt and fist bumped me. “I LOVE it when a plan comes together,” he said.