Sunday, February 28, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2021

Now available...

 

 

I'm Not a Kung Fu Badass, the ebook, can now be purchased.
CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.

 

Book Description: 

I’m Not a Kung Fu Badass is John’s first poetry chapbook, 30 poems exploring the issues and forces that shaped him—love, race, mental health, and art. Often told from the viewpoint of a Chinese-American longing for acceptance, I’m Not a Kung Fu Badass offers an engaging journey thanks to John’s storytelling style, creative metaphors, and unguarded sincerity. Example poems below. 

 

64 Colors

innocence.
pure human goodness.

without a defender,
a mentor,
or artistic expression,
the hopeful idealism
of a 64-color childhood
dims to gray
one broken crayon
at a time.
 

 

“dash” American

When I was born
my family lived
above a laundry.
Our last name, Lee,
was just like Mr. Lee,
a ridiculous character
in a Calgon commercial.

Back then,
people like me
were labeled “Chinese.”
No one bothered adding
“-American” at the end.

Maybe if they had,
more people
would have treated us
like we belonged.

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

...

 

My manual typing skills need some work, but I wanted to capture this one using an actual Underwood No. 5 (1929).

Monday, November 9, 2020

My camera may have a tiny painter hiding inside it.

 


I saw this Bulgarian ship on Lake Erie from miles away, too far for my point-and-shoot camera. But it's neat how the fully-zoomed shot looks like an oil painting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

...

 

Typed on an Olivetti Lettera 36 (electric), thanks to the kindness of a stranger, Marilyn, who gave me the wonderful machine so it would see use again. Thank you, Marilyn!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

...


Beneath the Covers. Hiding.
by John Arthur Lee

We giggle beneath plush covers,
like children camping in a backyard.
Our glistening eyes reach for each other,
our warm fingertips touch.
“Love you forever,” we say, teeth shining.

Yet forever is the problem,
and fresh memories reincarnate around us,
like spectral ghouls whispering of death.

Our only defense is a hug,
a pairing of our terrified heartbeats.
So, secretly, I beg for help,
while praying He’s real and willing to listen.

Eyes still joined, too frightened to let go,
we shiver and pull the warmth of denial over us.
And for the rest of night one, we almost forget
the doctor's solemn nod.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Now available...

 
Hollywood Has It Backwards, the short story (ebook), can now be
  
 Hollywood Has It Backwards (a short story):

Whether we want them to or not, movies shape our expectations. Take dating, relationships, and love, for example. We expect unrealistic bliss from each of these because we have watched and enjoyed countless happily-ever-after endings.

But Marc, the narrator of this short story, learned to see right through Hollywood’s false promises and myths. Or so he thought.

When a pair of wondrous, blue eyes stare at him for the first time, his cynical armor crumbles and his life changes in ways that even the most seasoned Hollywood storyteller could not predict.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Scratched-lens landscape

I took this before I replaced the badly scratched lens window over my cellphone camera. The low lighting and poor focus resulted in a texture resembling film grain, not to mention a surreal mood.

Postcards for a Songbird, an AMAZING book.

I'm not sure what alchemy or magic Amazon uses to suggest books, but I found this Rebekah Crane novel thanks to their recommendation and I am so happy I did.

Rather than craft a much-too-long review, I'll just list the words, phrases, and incomplete sentences I jotted down when thinking about how to describe this book to my friends. Here goes: 1) characters so well developed that you get a physical urge to hug them, 2) sincere and intimate, yet simultaneously surreal, 3) makes you believe that the highest levels of love, admiration, and imagination truly exist, 4) artistry unmatched, 5) inspiring, 6) moving--no, soul shaking, 7) unlike ANYTHING I've ever read. And, finally, 8) contains wonderful extended metaphors that soar and land so gracefully.

Full disclosure: I do NOT know this author, but if I ever cross paths with her, I will definitely go out of my way to congratulate her. I think this book is AMAZING.

Here's a link: https://www.amazon.com/Postcards-Songbird-Rebekah-Crane-ebook/dp/B07HQHJFZ3

Thursday, January 2, 2020

I replaced the glass over my cellphone camera.

My cellphone's camera window had so many scratches on it (from 2 years of normal use) that my photos were routinely coming out blurry. It got so frustrating that I was ready to recycle the phone. Then I discovered a replacement window (on Amazon.com) and a how-to video (on Youtube.com) and I dared to make the repair on my own. And the results? See for yourself. I couldn't be happier and it only cost me $7.89! (All images were taken with my phone held steady against a table top.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

...

This was typed on an old Olympia Report Electric typewriter, a machine I received through kindness. Maria (an online stranger) and her husband Jerry gave it to me. It wasn't working at the time, but it was clearly taken care of in the past. Fortunately, I found a large O-ring to replace the damaged drive belt, and a kind man at a fastener specialty store gave me some screws to replace a few missing housing connectors. I cleaned the machine and replaced the ribbon, and now it's working better than I hoped. All thanks to kindness and a desire to keep something old and useful out of a landfill.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My last open-water paddle.

Pictured Rocks was beautiful. Amazing, really. But it will also be my last open-water paddle. About an hour into the tour I started feeling seasick. An hour later, I was hanging over the side of the boat, if you know what I mean.

A truly Superior Lake

Michigan's Lake Superior from a kayak.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

...


                                        Cynthia
                                                               by John Arthur Lee

The Spanish guitar sings. The audience quiets. She enters.
Dark hair braided and tied up. Flower above one ear. Her lean arms
rise and float, like weightless spirits. Her polka-dot dress swishes and spins,
its ruffled edges cresting like ocean waves.
Amid rhythmic clapping, she drums the wooden floor with her fierce
Flamenco shoes. And in the reverberations, I hear lovers’ heartbeats. A surging
train. The staccato of warring armies.

I remember the first time I visited her home. Old metal chairs, one violet,
one seafoam, greeted me on the porch. Inside, I found sunlit walls painted
lemon ocher, sage green, autumn orange. No clutter. No extravagances. Just the
photo of a yogi. A sketch by a relative. A newspaper clipping. An old table with history. Her lover’s guitar.
She reserved one room for healing. And there, in dim light with the sound of ocean waves whispering, she floated her hands above my heart in a mystical energy dance. And despite my doubts and suspicion, I found myself lying in the hull of a canoe, looking skyward, a grand eagle flying above me. And while the universe’s rhythmic power rocked my injured body, my bruised soul unwound. And I wept.

The Spanish six-string calls me back. Her polka-dot dress spins downward.
Her electric irises fix on me a final time. You’re worthy, she says wordlessly.
Leap without regret. Fly.
The guitar stops humming, and I see an empty floor before me.
Life’s dance has pulled Cynthia away, and like a star-fire comet, she orbits
beyond my seeing. Though, somewhere, I’m certain, her arms float above her,
and her healing hands still swirl the positive power of the universe.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Progress: Bound to Eve, Part Three

I'm trying to do a better job of updating readers on my progress with certain projects, and I'm trying to celebrate my little successes more (because when you write long fiction the big milestones are often very far apart).

So, with both of the above in mind, I'd like to share the following:

I recently completed another pass through the manuscript for Bound to Eve, Part Three!

Yes, there is a lot to be done yet, but I think the story is great and the details are taking shape nicely. In other words, I'm over the tallest hill now and picking up speed.

More updates will follow. And I'd like to thank everyone who keeps asking about the final book of the series; your interest keeps me inspired, especially when things get difficult.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Mackinac Bridge

This Michigan bridge is 26,372 feet long, so long that "the Mackinac Bridge Authority has a Drivers Assistance Program that provides drivers for those uncomfortable with driving across the Mackinac Bridge."

https://www.mackinacbridge.org/about-the-bridge/frequently-asked-questions/

Monday, August 19, 2019

Penn's Cave (near Penn State).



This photo is very snapshot-ish, I know. But it's not easy taking a photo in the dark while bobbing in a boat (and simultaneously worrying about bashing your head on stalactites). It sounds frightening, but it wasn't. It was amazing.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reclaimed by Nature

I would have gotten closer and taken a sharper photo, but this beautiful greenhouse was on the grounds of an operational prison--Rockview state prison (PA). I already felt like I was pressing my luck when I pulled off the road and walked toward it a bit.

 I have since learned that a museum bought the Victorian structure and will be moving it and restoring it.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

...

Chameleon
BY JOHN ARTHUR LEE, 2019

She layers on pigments without pause
and conceals the chroma of her original skin.
She hides the faded blues that clothed our town’s workers,
masks the mold greens that tarnished our old houses,
rolls over the myriad greys that peppered our patched roads,
and abandons all the colors of our shared history.

Her new friends’ tissue-paper hues cover her now.
But what about the metal-flake red and horizon blue of our bicycles?
The storm-green waves of our great lake?
The wet-silver fish we caught together?
The shale-grey rocks we skipped?
And what about the spectrum of light we summoned
when dreaming of heroines and magical fantasy worlds?
Are these too garish and embarrassing now?

Perhaps I know why past pigments frighten her.
Maybe, for her, childhood colors filter to faded indigo,
the hue of original harms and sorrows.
Some folks did treat her cruelly, after all.
Back when she dared to shine with prismatic light.

Perhaps holding fast to any hue hurts her.
Perhaps I’ll forgive her for layering on false chroma
and for letting others tell her which colors matter most.
Maybe I’ll understand one day—maybe.
For when I look beneath my layers,
I see indigo bruises too.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Now Available...




Manufactured Beauty, the short story (ebook), can now be purchased.
CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.
 

MANUFACTURED BEAUTY (a short story):
What will the world be like when advances in science and technology allow us to instantly remove all of our bodily imperfections, even our limited lifespans? And what will cheating nature cost us?

This short story explores that future with the help of a wrinkled old man, his faithful Border Collie, and two young women who worry about their “imperfections.”
 




Monday, June 10, 2019

My current projects.

An update on my current writing projects is long overdue. So, here it is:

1) Bound to Eve, Part Three. I am still making progress on this one, but the final book in the series, unlike the first two, has felt like a mountain climb. And forcing full-time efforts on this project hasn't yielded great results, only frustration. However, periodic bursts for weeks/months at a time has been both exciting and productive. Therefore, that's the way I'm tackling this one for now. So, if you're eager for book three, please be patient; I am dedicated to finishing the series with a book that is worthy and satisfying.

2) Fragile Hearts and Ride-along Giraffes. This book began as a National Novel Writing Month effort, and so far, it has been zipping along at a pace I'm not accustomed to (yet I am loving). I wouldn't be surprised if my test-readers receive a draft by October. Here's a one-sentence description of the book (early draft):
  
A teenage girl with a recently repaired heart risks everything to win the love of a troubled young man, but in the end, it is his broken family and his heartaches that race her toward disaster.

3) Manufactured Beauty. I hope to publish this sci-fi short story as a Kindle short read sometime this summer. Here is a description:

What will the world be like when advances in science and technology allow us to instantly remove all of our bodily imperfections, even our limited lifespans? And what will cheating nature cost us?
This short story explores that future with the help of a wrinkled old man, his faithful Border Collie, and two young women who worry about their “imperfections.”


4) I have other books (fiction and nonfiction), short stories, and poems under the incubation lights as well, and I work on these when I find myself needing a break from my current projects. I'm not sure how or when I'll share these, but I hope to when they're ready.

Another look.

This view helps establish the scale better.

Sometimes you see something worth turning around for..

The photo is overexposed (and slightly blurred); looks a little dreamlike. But it seems appropriate given how enormous this payload was.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What I'm reading: Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas.


I saw this years ago and put it on my list (but somehow forgot about it). I found it again recently and started reading it, and--Wow!--so far it's great. Bono's answers to questions, even uncomfortable ones, are often as lyrical and multi-layered as his songs.

If you're interested, here's a link: https://www.amazon.com/Bono-Conversation-Michka-Assayas/dp/1573223093

I've seen thousands, but...

 ...bridges still stir my imagination.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A little color, even in the dead of winter.

Around here, you don't see much color on trees in January and February. So this felt like a real treat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

About Two-Digit Stories















Two-Digit Stories was a small, Massachusetts-based publishing company with a focus on novel-length fiction. Unfortunately, the company dissolved in 2018.

Address any inquiries to the following email: two-digitstories@outlook.com

-

Friday, December 21, 2018

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Community and shared passion

After moving back to the Midwest and missing my writing friends, I started a writing group here at my local library.

Attracting, organizing, and facilitating a group has (like all things) proven to be more work than I anticipated, but the rewards have exceeded the costs by far, and I'm once again a member of a diverse group of passionate writers who share the goal of helping each other.