Friday, November 27, 2015


It’s the time of year when people seek out the flesh and blood of their past. In some instances these meetings end up in fights, bloodshed and general civil unrest. In other cases, everyone has a nice time and goes on about the rest of the holiday season no worse for the wear.
            If you believe the mass media, movies, music and television shows, this is the time of year where people stress out, party too much, make fools of themselves and then through some miracle, all is forgiven and everyone sort of lives happily ever after.
            This is not about any of that. Nope, simply because it is a well known fact that in my life I am not a big fan of reunions of any sort. I try to avoid them. Especially this time of year. So, when plans were being made for the holiday of overeating, me and my family sort of fell through the cracks. Sure, we could have gone somewhere, a friend’s house, a distant relatives home or, even to some large, national, eat all you can for a hundred dollars restaurant.
            But we didn’t. We stayed home. Just the three of us, and this is what it is all about.
            We slept late.
            I made breakfast of bacon, eggs, cheese, juice and milk.
            We watched a parade on television and came up with different scenarios on how to release the captive but wild balloon creatures back into their natural habitats. Also, we hoped and prayed for the death and destruction of the talking heads on the black box. We enjoyed the marching bands and scoffed at all the lip-syncers in attendance. Then we watched a bunch of dogs get judged on the national airwaves.
            During all this, I cooked up a feast that seems a bit obscene. Albeit, delicious. Then we ate, did dishes, turned on a football game and took naps.
            When we woke up, we repeated this behavior.
            Near the end of the night, we realized we needed some condiments from the store. We were unsuccessful at the first two stores we went to. They were closed. So we ended up at a large box store with the entire population of Virginia.
            People were fighting, yelling, screaming and being the worst selves they could possibly be. I shook my head, grabbed my groceries and tried to get out alive. Which I did. So, I treated myself to a milkshake. (Yeah, I know, already ate too much.)
            The rest of the night was spent in food induced bliss while sitting on the couch trying to stay awake. By midnight I was fast asleep, for the fourth time.
            It was a perfect Thanksgiving. Food, no stress on my behalf and everyone in the house was content, fed and happy.
            So, when I woke up at two in the morning with my brain going ten thousand miles an hour, I knew I needed to write something. So I jotted down some notes, and went back to bed. Here are my interpreted for the public versions of those notes.
            I’m grateful for my family. A family that understands my need to seclude myself on my porch with my laptop and cigars in order to sort out my thoughts, a family that knows, even when I’m surly, grumpy, manic, tired, joyful and absent because of work, I’m doing it all for them.
            I’m grateful for my friends. The ones who tell me like it is to my face. The ones who read my stories and my blogs and tell me where I’m off base, goofed up in the head or just plain nuts. And the friends who don’t read my schlock and still tell me all those things. Friends who actually answer my texts, emails and phone calls when I make them to their respective contacts.
            Lastly, I’d like to thank my church family. The ones that are there for me and my family when we are in need, when we are struggling or even when we are just doing fine and don’t need anything in life. They unknowingly offer us comfort and a sense of belonging whether we know it or not.
            These are the things I’m grateful for. Have a great week and I hope your Thanksgiving was a memorable and joyful one.
            P.S. I wrote a blog last week and didn’t post it. It just didn’t seem to be the kind of blog I wanted to share with the general public.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Long Short of it All

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve read just about everything I could get my hands on. From classic literature to horror and everything in between. Yes, including some romance tales. I didn’t really have a choice in that subject because I was pretty much raised in a house of women and when there was nothing else to read… well, I read what my family was reading.
            However; when I discovered I was old enough for a library card, be it at the public library or the school library, my appetite for reading increased exponentially. Yet it wasn’t until my sophomore year in High school that I discovered the joy of short stories. The book that started this passion rolling was from my English Lit class. I wish I could remember my teachers name but I can’t, he did however give us large, hard covered tomes bound in a denim like cloth. It was almost too big to carry. The damn thing must have weighed six pounds.
            The first story he assigned us to read was “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. Now, up to that point in my life, my only exposure to Vonnegut had been Slaughterhouse Five, so when I read that particular short story about a future filled with dystopian equality and a rebel fighting his entire life to prove how wrong things were and to ultimately pay for his decision with his life, well, it just blew my hair back. After class, I quickly made my way to the school’s library and checked out every Vonnegut book in the library and over the course of a week I read them all.
            He, Kurt Vonnegut, became my all-time favorite writer. So much so that to this day, when perusing the shelves of used book stores and library book sales, I tend to purchase any copy I can find. Which has landed me several first editions of his work. I’ve still yet to get my hands on a signed book by him even though I’ve found them for sale, I just never have the money for them.
            Yet out of all of his works, it are his short stories I love the most. I read them all almost every year. I don’t do it all at once. No, I scatter them out through my days and savor each and every word he put down on paper. They are like plasma to me. So rich, so full, so mentally invigorating that each one has a special place in my heart.
            Which led me down a path of detective work. I sought out other writers I liked and their collected short stories. Any time I found one of those books, I immediately obtained it and read it cover to cover. Be the topic science fiction, horror, literature, and what I’ve come to know now as speculative fiction. They were all good and I never felt cheated by the tales not being longer. Even when I wanted them to be longer, I somehow understood that the author had told the tale he wanted and that was enough for me.
            That is when I started finding hints to other stories scattered amongst the short stories I was reading. It seemed to me, that the writers liked to take main characters from one tale and use them as secondary and tertiary characters in other stories. When I figured that out, I knew the stories never really ended… they just kept going with different protagonists. I was gleeful.
            Which brings me to five years ago, when an old navy pal of mine encouraged me to write, I didn’t sit down and think whether I’d be a novel writer or a short story writer. Nope, I just sat down and wrote the story I wanted. I let the story tell itself through me. And what I wrote were short stories. I didn’t realize at the time that the short story market was almost zero and so competitive that for every story published a thousand others slowly die of rot on computer files across the globe. To tell the truth, I didn’t really care then and I don’t really care now.
            Nope, I still write the tales and let them dictate the length. Also, I use what I’ve learned from the great writers of my youth. Write with as much passion as you can and don’t use too much unnecessary descriptive narrative or unnecessary dialogue. Get the tale written, down and dirty.
            Which is what I seem to do. For you see, last week I was invited into another anthology. When I read the pitch, I knew it was something I could do. So I readily agreed before I even had an inkling of an idea for a story. Yet, not thirty minutes later the idea had formed and I knew I was on the right track.
            Four writing sessions later I had typed “The End” on a ten thousand word short story. And, I’m happy with it. The only thing left is to have the editors go over it with red pens and then make the proper changes and the get it off to the publishers. Then the waiting game really begins. The release date and the paydays.
            However; I’m not too concerned withthe pay, no, I’m more concerned with getting a copy of the book in my grubby little fingers. Not for pride or bragging rights, no, I want to read the stories of the other writers in the anthology. I want to delve into the minds of my fellow page mates and see what they wrote and how they wrote their tales. I want to be stunned, amazed and impressed with the talent and skill of my fellow wordsmiths.
            Don’t get me wrong, I still read novels. I have fourteen bookshelves overflowing with books to prove that. It’s just that when I’m reading a novel, whether for the first time or the second time, I tend to read a paragraph or chapter, then reread it only on the second go through I skip over anything I feel is unnecessary. Which makes for quick reading on the second go around but takes me twice as long on the first reading.
            Now, this is not a criticism of any writers writing, no, it is just me putting myself in the writers place and trying to strip away everything I feel doesn’t need to be there and rewrite it in my own head. Some books you just can’t do that to though. For example, the unabridged edition of Stephen Kings “The Stand” or “It” are true masterpieces and I love every last word in them. Of course most of his work is like that. His “Firestarter” book is still one of my favorite and I’ve read that at least a dozen times.
            So, in conclusion, I like novels, I like short stories and I truly love the written word. It’s powerful and sparks a person’s imagination in ways that are rarely reached. I don’t know if I will ever write a full 300 page novel. I hope to one day. But for now, I will stick with the fact that I write the way I write and I allow the stories to flow from my muse and onto the page in a manner that is as true to the story as can be.

            Have a great week, now, go read some short stories.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween Special

Tom Welling once said “I have so much chaos in my life, it’s become normal. You become used to it. You have to just relax, calm down, take a deep breath and try to see how you can make things work rather than complain about how they’re wrong.”
            I can relate to every aspect of that quote. From the chaos of my life to wanting to complain about people and things that are wrong. However; it took me traveling halfway across the country, on a semi-unexpected trip to actually realize how tense and stressed out I’d become over the past year.
            Actually, truth be told, I have not had a real vacation in quite some time. Sure, I’ve been getting a lot of days off from one job this past year. Only because I earn too much time a month to be able to stay under the mandatory leave carry over date. Also, I should say first and foremost. I don’t really care for time off. Simply because I like to be productive and I know there is plenty of work waiting for me and I should not put it off. Yet, last Thursday morning, I found myself climbing aboard a plane and headed for the great Midwest of the united States of America.
            The trip was uneventful. I had one transfer and both seat-mates were more than happy to not talk to me. Not that I am much of a talker. My communication is primarily through my blog. Which you are reading right now. So, kudos to you. When I arrived at my destination, my relaxation finally kicked in. I knew I had no financial or work pressures on me. My family, who I was there to see, were more than happy to allow me any amount of time I needed to decompress.
            Which I did.
            In the course of three days, I soaked in a hot tub no less than five times. I smoked at least six cigars and I ate more food than I had in probably a month. I also visited a car museum which housed no less than twenty original Hudson’s and one Tucker. I bonded with my mother, my sister, my niece and even my brother-in-law.
            I tried to convince my family that on Halloween they should watch horror films and tried to introduce them to “The Evil Dead” by Sam Rami, but they opted out for more saccharin films about the upcoming Christmas season. I balked. I protested and in the end, I went outside to smoke a cigar. Yet, I enjoyed every moment of this happy-go-lucky-fantasy-land.
            This all being said, one high-light of the trip was taking a journey with my mother to Dearborn, Michigan to see some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in the horror community. The “RudderRabbits”.
            At first, on Friday, when I informed my family that I had been invited to a Halloween party not thirty minutes away from where I was staying, I thought they would balk. To my surprise, they didn’t. My mother even asked to go with me to meet some of my more dark friends. When she expressed concern about where we were going and who these people were I quelled her fears by saying “In the horror community, there is a saying, If you don’t like the Rabbits, then you won’t like me.”
            She, my mother, calmed down.
            On Saturday, when it came time for us to hit the road, I don’t know who was more excited, me or the woman who gave me life. I bet it was my mom.
            Upon our arrival at the Rabbits house, my mother immediately picked out the black flamingos with the skeletal outlines. She was impressed. I just smiled and knew she would have a good time.
            Now, I should preface the rest of this story by saying that only one of the Rabbits knew I was coming. If you don’t know, there are at least four Rabbits at any time living and breathing in the horror community. Each one as awesome as the next. However; the primary Rabbit had no clue that I was going to be lighting his doorstep for the Halloween party. When I walked in, Mrs. Rabbit smiled and called my name, so did two of the smaller Rabbits. When the elder and masculine Rabbit turned around in his chair and his gaze fell upon my face, well, all I can say is that he was completely surprised.
            The grin on his face, the twinkle in his eyes and the almost clumsy way he got out of his chair and almost knocked it over told me how stunned he was. I just smiled and gave him the biggest hug I could possibly give. A few minutes later we were in his sanctum sanctorum. His book room. Not just me, he’d invited my maker. She, my mother, was more than happy to stand by and watch us drool over limited, lettered and first printing books by some of the best horror writers of the twenty-first century.
            My mother expressed interest in some of the things we were saying and Mr. Rabbit quickly dug through his shelves, pulled out a tertiary copy of a book he had and handed it to her. “Enjoy. It’s an amazing story.” He said.
            My mom, perplexed and stunned by the generosity of my pal, took the book and thanked him. I took the book from her hand and added it to the pile of books he’d set aside for me. A pile that I’d not asked for nor even expected. A pile of books that I’d simply expressed interest in.
            Later, on the ride home after three hours of basking in the joy and energy of books, horror and kids dressed as fantasy ponies and adults dressed as classic horror figures, my mother admitted to me that this was one of the best Halloweens she’d participated in. The kids, the friendship, the laughter and even the embarrassing stories she told about me as a young lost youth in Washington, DC. Had made her realize that even though some people read and watch things that are dark and disturbing, they care about things that are important to the further existence of life. (That is a summary and not a quote.)
            When we arrived at our destination, we were both happily satiated and filled with comfort and joy. Our Halloween had been one of the best we’d experienced in years. For me, it has been over twelve years that I’ve been able to immerse myself in the wonderful and horrific world of death and hopelessness that awaits us all.
            So, in conclusion, I want to thank my family in Michigan for giving me a great vacation and my pals, the Rabbits, who have renewed my full enjoyment of the hubris of humanity. You, the Rabbits and my family, are totally awesome. I only hope that other travelers on this mudball will know how awesome both of you are.
            Okay, too many words and not enough space, have a great week and I hope you all had a great Halloween!

            See you next week.