Posts Tagged ‘Neurotic’

storyWell, here we are again. Another year over and done, and a brand, spankin’ new one just ripe and ready for the plucking. Or so it would seem. Honestly, I’m just happy to see 2015 in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t a terrible year, but it was overstaying its welcome by around September. And now we prepare to take another trip around the sun, 2016 promises to be a good year, to eat all its vegetables, and to not make too much of a stink over an upcoming, dreaded milestone.

So yeah, I took a few months off, because I found myself at a point in which I felt I had little of value to say. Do I now? I dunno, but I feel like writing again so, you know, there’s that. And there’s also a renewed sense of purpose and direction, fueled by encouragement. Who’d have thought?

I was looking at my overall sales for Unworthy, and found that it’s doing some business. I’ve sold copies in the UK and Australia, which just has me shaking my head in disbelief and happiness. For such a uniquely American story, I guess there are some themes and ideas that cross the various cultures. And while neither Mr Fincher nor Mr Zombie have yet reached out for the film rights, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, yeah?

I digress.

I’ve begun work on a new novel, and I’m pretty stoked about it. While I’m far too superstitious to give up the title or what it’s about just yet, I will say that this will be a far more personal story, and I can already see that we’re going to be swimming in some very dark waters (sorry Mom, I’m just wired this way).

So stick around, won’t ya? I promise I’ll be better at keeping in touch (like we’ve never heard that before), have some updates along the way, an excerpt or two, and maybe even some awesome news.

Stay sick, and keep reading scary stories. And hey, if you’re reading this and happen to have read Unworthy, drop me a line or leave a review, would ya? We’d sure appreciate it.

Hope you guessed my name. Let’s party!

Ebola. The name’s Ebola, and the mere mention of it sends the mind into paroxysms of fear. For good reason: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a particularly nasty illness, with symptoms straight out of a horror story. The mysterious disease that may have come from a cave in deepest, darkest Africa, which causes uncontrolled bleeding through all orifices, through the pores, the eventual liquefaction of internal organs, resulting in a painful, violent death aren’t symptoms that typically lend themselves to romantic notions; it is a mean, dirty way to go. It conjures up images of Richard Preston’s terrifying 1994 book The Hot Zone and its portrayals of the Reston, Zaire, and Marburg strains of the virus. Ebola is real, and it is a threat.

And now, it’s landed here in the US. To briefly recap, two volunteers from a Christian organization, working in Sierra Leone with Ebola victims, contracted the disease, which is a risk one takes with this sort of work (one could also snarkily note that as missionaries, coming down with the disease must be a rather ironic expression of God’s will, and who are any of us to question it?). Rather than leave them there, however, like everyone else in the area who has the disease, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta have brought these two people home to treat them. Needless to say, there is a bit of outrage over this: a seeming majority of Americans, doubtlessly educated by the movie Outbreak and quacks like Drs Mercola and Oz, are up in arms that our government would be so reckless as to transport people we know are infected and showing symptoms of the most terrifying sickness yet discovered, via airplane, to a continent with no known instances of the disease. It just seems like an awful lot of bad decisions are being made, and we don’t have any say in the matter. And I kinda thing we should.

I don’t begrudge the worries many people feel about this; after all our government, if we’re being brutally honest about it, hasn’t shown a lot of skill at keeping sensitive things under wraps and, this time, it could be the end of all of us. The fanatics are busily dusting off their “End is Nigh” signs, the preppers are at Costco stocking up for life underground, the conspiracy fantasists are choking the internets with “I Told You So” posts blaming the Knights Templar, Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, chemtrails, the “Kenyan President” and who knows what else for this sorry state of affairs while not-so-secretly hoping a mass extinction event will happen, if for no other reason than to substantiate the lives that they’ve wasted while looking between the lines for their beloved, invisible boogeymen. Add to that the ever-increasing number of people who just want a ringside seat to watch the world burn, and you’ve got quite a party on your hands.

The latest additions to the conspiracy brigade is the army of Mommies who believe that childhood vaccinations cause autism, simply because the idiot known as Jenny McCarthy, whose only claim to fame is getting naked for money in Playboy magazine, told them so. The theory that vaccines cause autism has been roundly stomped out, no proof whatsoever that this actually happens, but the idiocy remains. If a vaccine for Ebola is ever developed, be assured that these folks will have no part of it.

The truth of the matter is that Ebola isn’t all that easy to catch. The primary vector for transmission appears to be via bodily fluids or blood, so avoidance is rather simple. Those in contact with infected persons need to exercise extreme caution when in the presence of them. The disease itself is not airborne but, since coughs and sneezes usually eject fluids, there is a possibility that this type of transmission can occur. Essentially, quarantine even those suspected of carrying the virus, treat them as Level Four contagions, burn the bodies of the dead, and all will be well.

And yet, there’s the still, small part of me that worries. What if there’s an accident? What if someone catches it by mistake and in a moment of hysterical selfishness, runs? What if the ventilation system is compromised, as it was with the 1979 Sverdlovsk accident? What if there’s a rogue researcher deep in the bowels of the CDC, just waiting for the time to be ripe to launch their Doomsday vendetta against the world? What if a shadowy somebody makes a researcher an offer they can’t refuse for the contents of the candy jar? And why on earth do they take samples of every awful pathogen known to man and keep them in storage? I want to believe that it’s in the name of stalwart research and working to eradicate disease, but as long as there are people involved, accidents will happen. Personal fears and prejudices will dominate and those on the raggedy edge between genius and madness will follow agendas the rest of us can only guess at.

What it comes to, as it always does, is for all of us, for it is in our best interest, is for us to educate ourselves responsibly, take whatever precautions that make you feel comfortable, discard fantastical or conspiratorial thinking for the garbage it is, and to respectfully demand transparency and accountability from the organizations that work for us, and to trust them until or unless they give us real, sufficient reason not to. Facebook groups won’t change it. Internet forums and bulletin boards only feed the crazies. Do not pay attention to Jenny McCarthy, who is an idiot.

Read and absorb the excellent information that the Centers for Disease Control is making available, and understand it’s bad business to allow the entire population to be wiped out. After this scare is over, we’ll all go out for a pint and have a laugh about all of this. Or we’ll all be dead and none of it will matter anyway. Either way, won’t you feel silly for not having read my book?

 

UnworthyBig day. Epic day. This crazy little journey that began five years ago is either over, or is just getting underway. Depends on your perspective, I guess. Anyway, the thing is this: my novel, Unworthy, is out, published, and available. This is one of those deep and quiet moments, sitting here in my den with Maggie at my feet and Thin Lizzy on the radio, when I realize that it’s actually done. I can’t go back and tweak and futz with the story.

The story will be available at Amazon in a couple of days; however, it is available now via the publisher. Click on the book cover at left to go get it!

Recently, I became aware that Colin Hay (formerly of Men At Work and the Land Down Under), now a resident of Los Angeles, has had a rather prolific solo career and a rather good one at that. The music and accompanying lyrics tend toward the introspective, and speak of a man who has found his place in life and discovered that most elusive of treasures: contentment. While many of his songs strike a chord with me, the one that stands out the most is that for which this post is titled.

Waiting For My Real Life to Begin is about a guy who believes that “Any minute now, my ship is coming in,” who spends his time checking the horizon and waiting for life to come rushing to him which, of course, it never does. There is a second voice to the song, that of the woman who loves him, telling him to “Just be here now, forget about the past, your mask is wearing thin.” She knows what he is too terrified to admit: that he is mired in a swamp of regret, bent and broken by the past, and uncertain of the future.

For most of my adult life I was that guy. I drifted aimlessly, waiting for life to come knocking at my door which, of course, it never did. I bounced from one job to another with no plan, endured a bad marriage and survived a bad divorce, all the while waiting for my ship to come in which, not surprisingly, never happened. Somehow, I managed to grudgingly learn a thing or two along the way and met someone who saw my potential, inspired me to lay claim to my own life, and advised me to forget about the past because, apparently, my own mask was wearing thin.

Which is all so easy to say; so easy, in fact, that it sounds more than a little trite. Those years of drifting were sometimes fun and sometimes terrible, but the thing is, what no one tells you, is that time passes so damn quickly, you really will miss it if you blink. When I was young, older people (friends, co-workers, etc) would tell me things like “Don’t worry, you’ve got all the time in the world,” and “You have so much time to figure it out.” The rub is, however, that these statements are absolutely, positively, completely, horseshit.

Go to sleep one night at the age of eighteen, and wake up to find you’re twenty-seven. Celebrate your thirtieth birthday, and you’re blowing out forty-two candles. That’s how fast is happens, and once those years are gone, they are not coming back. Your friends become parents and then grandparents; people you knew from childhood die of cancer and AIDS and car crashes and some commit suicide because life can be awfully damned hard and not everyone can take the pressures of it and then one day you’re burying a parent and wondering how in the hell everyone got so old, so fast, head spinning in disbelief at the absolute ridiculousness of it, and waking up with stiff knees and a sore back, deciding against going on the fun rides at the county fair, and not understanding the music these kids listen to nowadays, and what the hell is the deal with those sagging pants anyway, and why don’t I have a proper career and when exactly did I become so broken, so defective, so caught completely unaware of this grownup world around me?

That is how quickly it happens. Sitting there, waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. Because I didn’t have focus, didn’t have a plan, didn’t have a goal, didn’t have a direction, didn’t have faith in myself, something, anything. Don’t wait for tomorrow, because it comes way too soon. So into this madness comes The One Who Makes It All Make Sense, and it’s as though the light came on for the first time and it’s so beautiful and so brilliant that one can barely stand to look at it, but I look at it, I look at it constantly, and I begin to see, really see, and it’s all so amazing, so wonderful, that I can’t help but be here now, for now and for ever, because this is here and now is when and it all just falls together. Turns out I needed someone to gently point me in the right direction, and she did just that, because sometimes some of us need that simple thing, that push, that nudge, that one little thing that changes everything and makes everything wonderful.

And now, having found the wherewithal to not be broken, to not be defective or inert, I have found my path, my calling, and it finally, I can see a ship on the horizon. My real life has finally begun.

Click on Colin for a nice surprise!

See, here’s the thing, the thing that really means this is happening. I just uploaded my book to the formatter who will then, you know, format the story and then, it’s ready to go. Ready to go. Ready. To. Go.

Up until around right now, it’s all been rather abstract. Yes, I started and finished writing a story, although I still hesitate calling myself a writer because, well, I don’t know why. The polite small talk, the “Ah, I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” and “Oh, I have such a great story idea,” all of that stuff, it really didn’t impact me much. Kinda felt like I was pretending, especially when I have had trouble accurately describing the story to people. And finishing things isn’t exactly my strong suit, so there is that.

But now, now dammit, it’s real. It’s real because I started and finished it. It’s real because it’s finally out of my hands and in the system and after that, it will be available for people, strangers even, to buy and read. It’s real because eight years after he said it, my father’s suggestion (that I try writing for a living) is actually happening and damn, I wish I’d gotten there sooner so he could have seen it.  So, in a large sense, it’s over. All the planning and plotting, the scheming and scribbling, the whining and the yelling, is over. Over.

And now people I know and people I don’t know will be able to read it and judge me and my story and the way I chose to tell it. If that’s not reasonable grounds for a proper freakout, then I don’t know the meaning of the word.

As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, I grew up in California; born in the mid-60s, my cultural awareness started in the early 70s. By the time I reached junior high school in 1978, I was familiar with a wide variety of music. Mom was into the Stones, Janis Joplin and classical, while Dad loved jazz and country – not the bullshit that’s passing for country today – the real stuff, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Don Williams. In the car, most of the non-Spanish language stations were AM pop which, for my money, was the Golden Age of pop music. So, I’m pretty well rounded when it comes to music.

When I was in junior high, I also began attending a Christian church, a precursor to the so-called mega churches of today, and in the special junior high Sunday School group, they counseled us endlessly on the evils of secular music, how KISS was an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service, how Santana was just another way of saying Satan, and that Supertramp was going to Hell for that passage in Goodbye Stranger where the singer says the Devil is his savior, never mind that the lyrics are taken completely out of context and the real meaning of the song is entirely different.

In other words, us impressionable kids were being taught about the evils of the world, via pop music, by a bunch of fucking idiots.

However, no band was held in lower regard for their wholesale embracing of darkness and evil than…The Eagles. Because Hotel California is totally about Hell and what an awesome place it is, and also because of the infamous back cover photo and the ultimate evil it beheld: the shadowy visage of Satan and/or Anton LaVey, the legendary eccentric and founder of the Church of Satan, and with whom I coincidentally share a birthday.

Seriously.

Seriously.

I want to add that many years later, I actually met Anton LaVey at a gun show in San Francisco, and for what it’s worth, he was a cordial, nice, and genuinely funny guy. The thing is, when you forbid a bunch of pre-teen boys something that’s so bloody evil, that’s exactly where they’re going to end up. So we listened to the album, basking in the glow of all that evil, much to the consternation of our Sunday School teachers who were, as I’ve previously mentioned, a bunch of fucking idiots.

This was also a source of serious concern.

The upshot is that the very people who were trying to condemn The Eagles were the ones responsible for my knowing of them. Being the 1970s, in California, The Eagles were exceedingly popular. They were all over the radio, with their kickback songs of about takin’ it to the limit while takin’ it easy, having a Tequila Sunrise with the New Kid in Town, while livin’ in the fast lane with a Desperado who was a Victim of Love and thought it all might be Wasted Time. The Eagles’ Greatest Hits is the third best-selling album in music history, beaten only by Thriller and Dark Side of the Moon.

So…I was an Eagles fan. I owned The Long Run and their live album, and as time went on, their music became a staple of the local rock and classic rock stations, sowing their seeds of cynicism and the deep bummer of being globetrotting, cocaine-fueled rock stars. I never really thought much about it; my buddies liked The Eagles (I bailed on the church thing pretty quickly), and I gave the matter little thought.

Except that years later, I realized that I was switching channels whenever an Eagles song came on the radio. When Hotel California started playing somewhere, I mentally counted back the number of days that had passed since the last time I’d heard Hotel California (a number which rarely went into double digits). Obviously something was amiss, but then something miraculous happened. But first, a digression.

By the late 1990s, the Coen Brothers had solidly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the film industry. Since Blood Simple, their 1984 debut, they had given audiences Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Fargo. My love for their work and their highly stylized filmmaking marked them as true originals. In 1998, however, they released The Big Lebowski, a movie which, I admit, I just didn’t get at the time. Truth be told, I don’t understand the enormity of its cult following, except perhaps the stoners out there find a hero of sorts in Jeff Lebowski, a man-child who lives in a dumpy LA apartment, flakes on his rent, and has to bounce a check for a carton of milk. Whatever; I’m not judging. In the years since, I’ve warmed to the film considerably, seeing it as a sort of existentialist mystery, an LA story, and a meditation on weed, bowling, and whatever else; possibly nothing at all. However, what stuck with me from the start was one line in the movie. One line.

With that, my mind was blown. Somehow, I had never realized that, despite all the airplay, despite the record sales, that there might actually be people who didn’t like The Eagles, that it was even possible. Somehow, I just figured it was part of living here; that we were all fans by default. It simply never dawned on me that we had any choice in the matter. I realize this makes me look not terribly bright, but that’s the truth of it. It took The Dude for me to see the light.

I hate The Eagles. I hate their tepid, mediocre, soulless country-rock, I hate their world-weariness, their intellectual posturing, their gutless riding of Gram Parsons’ coattails, the idiot disco of One of These Nights, their cover of Tom Waits’ Ol’ 55 (how dare they!), the pissy infighting of spoiled millionaire rock stars that led to the breakup, Glenn Frey’s entire shitheaded solo career, and their inevitable reunion tours. But mostly, it’s the music: an coworker recently told me that the reason I don’t like The Eagles is because musically, they’re just not challenging. “You hear a song of theirs once, and you’ve heard everything there is to hear,” she told me. “There’s nothing beneath the surface, no subtext, no deeper meaning.”

And thus The Dude showed me the truth. Hell, I don’t even have to have a reason to hate the Eagles; I can hate them like I hate Foreigner and U2 for the simple reason that they just suck.

That’s my story.

 

I’ve spent nearly a year in an effort to get my first novel published; many highs, many lows. Some initial interest, and some mostly positive rejections. In the mix were a couple of total dick rejections, which I really don’t get. If the story wasn’t to your taste, so be it. Move on. You knew it wasn’t Young Adult sparkly vampires going in, so don’t sandbag me for it not turning out that way. Just…be nice. It’s rather easy. FYI, agents in the UK give the best rejection letters: very polite, often in good humor. Polite, in other words. Their stateside counterparts could take a page or two from their playbook. Onward.

The part of this that has been difficult, which really drained me, was submitting my beloved manuscript to strangers, and hoping they’d like it enough to offer me money and then subject me to their editors. My labor of love, that for which I shed blood, sweat and tears (attributed to hangnail, hot summer, and stubbed toe), while sometimes actually listening to Blood, Sweat and Tears, this weird story borne of some rotten personal experiences (current and former staff of that particular church I attended as a youth, be forever thankful I’ve chosen not to name you; drop to your knees and thank the god that protects people like you), and forged during some of the most stressful times of my life.

And the waiting. The interminable waiting, and everyone asking for updates – for which I’m thankful – but jeez, how the hell are we expected to continue our regular lives, knowing that at any moment (but probably not this one) that magical email might arrive, the message that will Change Everything. Day, after week, after month. Patience has never been my strength, and I’d like to believe that I have improved in this area, but knowing that I probably haven’t. I can’t imagine the old way, sending a printed manuscript via the mail then waiting, waiting, for the mailed response. I’m having palpitations just thinking about it.

Oh, and in the midst of this was the comedy over the title. But that’s been resolved, and I’ll announce it soon. But not today.

Through all of this, what I’ve dreaded is placing my future in someone else’s hands. So I’m not going to take that route after all. I’m going to do what I originally planned, and that is to self-publish. It’s become an actual thing, no longer the exclusive domain of the horribly un-publishable. The industry is changing, and an ever-growing number of agents and publishers are taking a closer, more serious look at self-pubbed books that chart well. And speaking of charting well, that’s down to me, and hopefully you as well. Which is to say, if you read my book and you like it, please tell people about it. Write a nice review at Amazon or iTunes or B&N; it would mean a lot to me. If you don’t like it and feel compelled to write a review, that would be awesome, too.

More than anything, I want to just get this story out there, out of my head, so I can start on the next one. So if you’ve come this far, give it a few more weeks. We’ll get there.

Halloween has come and gone, and this past weekend we set the clocks back. Now we’re in the dark half of year; short days and long nights. The Celts felt that this is when the veil between the living and the dead is at its most transparent, when the spirits find it easiest to come into our world, when we should pay respects to the ancestors and those among us who have passed. They had a whole celebration about it, one that I find fascinating good. I’ve lost three people this year; a neighbor, a co-worker, and the father of an old friend, who I’d known for about thirty-five years. Good people all, and I miss them. I hope that they are well and happy in whatever follows the life that we know.

Because I find that I am not nearly as certain as I have been about all this, which is interesting. In the last decade, I’ve been in a fairly solid place of non-belief or disbelief in things spiritual, read the appropriate books, weighed the appropriate evidence, and felt that I’d come to a reasonable conclusion. Of course, that’s the wonderful thing about making up one’s mind: things change. If one keeps their mind open, change needn’t be scary or confusing; rather, I’ve always welcomed that which causes me to reevaluate my thoughts and opinions, testing the strength of my resolve and challenging that which I hold as truth. Not fact, because fact is absolute. Truth, however, is subjective and capable of changing.

We (and by we, I mean Epic Steph and I) have had some experiences in the past year that have us thinking differently on the nature of life and the after-life. I’m not in a position to comment further, but suffice it to say that enough has happened, has been documented, to give us considerable reason to think. At first, I gave the experiences little real thought; they didn’t easily fit into my view of things, and I found it easier to deny or debunk, because that required less work, less thought. So it goes.

Anyway, awakening this morning to a sky darkened with heavy clouds, I found myself in a state of introspection and realized it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to the site. On the book front, there’s not much news: the manuscript is still under review with the publisher, and it’ll be a few months yet before I expect to hear from them. I have ideas for new stories, but none of them felt compelled to come out to play today. Being that it’s now November, the next few weeks will be spent doing various small home improvement projects in advance of the holidays. Aside from a couple of film pieces, I’m not anticipating much writing getting done before the year turns.

Writing, to me, is heavily introspective, and that doesn’t always fit well with the whole “Think of others” vibe that the winter holiday season is supposed to be all about. So, while there will be occasional posts and probably a rant or two about hammers and appliances and stuff, I doubt any new novels will find their genesis for the next two months.

Talk about a week of ups and downs. After feeling completely sandbagged by a certain rejection (for no good reason, aside from hubris), I managed to claw out from the abyss and get my head straight. That same morning, I received another rejection, which of course was the universe performing an irony check. But…shit, man, I just rolled with it, because the alternative was to get all bummed out again that did me no good at all. So I rolled with it.

And later that day, I got a message from an independent publisher. They had reviewed the sample I sent them, and have requested my full manuscript. Which I just sent.

Needless to say, there’s a bit of excitement afoot. I realize that this is just the first step in a process that will ultimately take many months, if they decide to proceed with the story. But no matter how you slice it, this is a positive response, the first, and that’s kind of a big deal. Updates will follow!

This is my brain on ideas.

The battle for getting published rages onward. I was the recipient of what some might call a karmic smackdown last week, something I’m just now beginning to crawl out from under. There was this publisher that was taking open submissions for their 2014 release schedule, and I reckoned my manuscript was a shoo-in. Such flights of hubris aren’t my typical modus operandi and, accordingly, I was not selected. And I went straight into a funk, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in a hell of a long time.

It’s good to find oneself back on the ground, bruised but not broken, and hopefully stronger for the experience. So, while the majority of my query letters haven’t yet been answered (which means they also haven’t yet been rejected), I figure it’s time to get to work on the next story in case, you know, someone wants to throw a multi-book contract at me and I can say, “Heck yeah I’ve got other stories – check this shit out!”

I’m told this is how it can happen. I do have a gripe, however, and it’s about what I’m seeing a lot of in my search for representation. It’s the Young Adult trend; nearly every agent is clamoring for YA material of late, all hoping to get a piece of that sparkly vampire / young wizards / dystopian kid-battle market. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s wonderful that young people are reading in large numbers, and I quite liked the Hunger Games books, and it goes without saying that I love the Harry Potter series unabashedly. Twilight, however, can ____ my ____. And I guess now is a better time to be shopping around a manuscript than during the ‘chick lit’ fad of a few years ago, and the creepy soft-core-S&M-Fifty-Shades thing seems to be losing steam as well. Eh, screw it. It’s no different than the zombie craze that I mostly enjoyed, so again maybe patience is the key to this. When the genre wheel spins again, maybe it’ll be my time.

In the meantime, I’ve laid down eleven hundred words on the next story. I like it, and I think it’s going to be good. Seriously messed up, but good. I’ve become rather obsessed with a thing in the news of late, really disturbing stuff that I honestly cannot wrap my head around, and it dovetails nicely into a general idea I’d been noodling around for a couple of years and I think its time has come. Stay tuned, kiddos.