See Me In Black

I have a mental illness you may know as clinical depression. There. I said it. To the world. Well, at least my small part of it. Now all tens of you know.

It’s not a pretty thing, oh no, my friends. When I’m in dark deep end of it, I’m a walking cliché of symptoms: deep sadness, death of motivation, repetitive thoughts, sleeplessness, sleepiness, severe introversion, irritability, fear, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, etc, etc, etc (holy crap, just writing those makes me feel ill!) I’m really not here writing this to list the symptoms, that’s what Google is for. Despite being in therapy off and on for the past fifteen years, I still Googled the symptoms and it was quite strange to tick off every one of them, I must say. What I am here for, is to simply get it off my chest. I am also reaching out to other similarly afflicted writers, because I think there are a lot of us out there, more than we know, and that, like me, keep it under wraps. I don’t know if this is going to do anyone any good, or even if it will do me any good. I’m going to put it out there, and go whew. Be prepared for rambling diversions.

A small bit of history: I first recognized something was wrong, and sought help, about a year before my first wife died. I wasn’t a surprise. It was coming. We both could see it getting nearer, though we didn’t talk about it. We fought her illness and complications barely keeping hope alive. I was her caretaker, but despite the love and support we gave each other, it was wearing my emotions and strength thin. I knew I had a problem, when one day, sitting in another waiting room of one of countless visits to an endless list of medical specialists, my vision closed down to a turning red tunnel as I became detached from the world. Ihad to use every fiber of mind and muscle to keep from running, screaming out the door, through the clinic, across the parking lot, running to Thor-knows-where, and never to return. I was on the verge of a full-blown massive panic attack. I knew at that moment that I needed help. I found a therapist and within ten minutes of our first visit, she said, “Okay. You need medication.” I’ve been on medication of different varieties ever since, going into therapy when things were at their worst. It’s been fifteen years when I was first diagnosed and I’m still living with this deep-sea, mental monster.

But let me sooth any fears you may have for me at this point. I’m doing better, really. I’ve got a good doctor and therapist and I’m learning new skills to deal with my dark ever-friend. It ain’t easy and some days, or weeks, are better than others. And this past nine months has been an emotional hole for me that now I’m only starting to crawl out of. My therapist says I’m doing well, and I’m taking her word for it.

(Ya know the movie, “As Good As It Gets”, where Jack Nicholson lays his face in his hands and says, “It’s exhausting talking like this.” That’s how I’m feeling right now as I type.)

Okay. That’s the confession part of it. I can say no more. Next comes what my depression has to do with writing, or more importantly, the non-writing, in–

See Me In Black: Block to Wall

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Fire-Writing: Get It Right

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I was a professional firefighter for twenty-four years. And like anyone that has worked in a specific profession and seen it depicted in film or book, you sometimes cringe knowing it gets more things wrong than right, and throwing a red flag, calling a Bullshit penalty. I’ve seen fire and the fighting of it in film or book done so badly–defying physics and reality with such uncaring stupidity–it lifts me so completely out of my suspension of disbelief that it near ruins the whole story for me. Now you may say that it’s a pet peeve of mine born out of my very specific experience and that I should just go with the flow, but it’s my belief that none firefighter readers are smarter than that, and have seen a structure fire or two or experienced one directly, that when they read or see a film depicting weird fire their subconscious knows it’s wrong and they immediately see “Hollywood” or the ignorant writer. Fire is a scary thing, and fighting it, or being in close proximity, is way more deadly than shown in fiction. Just doing a little research could bring the intensiveness of reality into a story and make for much greater suspense.

That being said, about a year ago a wonderful writer friend of mine was working on a story scene involving a structure fire and she asked me to look over the chapter to give her advice. (She also suggested I write a primer for writers on fire, but I just haven’t gotten around to it). I did so and wrote a detailed overview of what she wrote, which is what you will read (I hope) below. Though it is specific to her scene, it holds many general facts that I believe will do a lot of writers good to enhance their blazing scene and story when depicting a fire.

By the way, she did very well. 🙂

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housefireTHE FIRE ITSELF (hmm sounds like a good title): Ok, Fire Behavior (yes, it has a behavior, a rather sociopathic one). Having no previous knowledge of the burning building, here is what I understand from what you described…Two story building (wood house? apartment building?), no other structures nearby but with trees around it, and the fire started on the first floor. I assume the latter one because you describe fire in the main hall of the first floor. If the fire had start on the second floor and hadn’t been burning that long, say 5 to 10 minutes (is it in town or the outskirts?) the first floor would likely not be involved as fully as you describe. Since it is, the fire started first floor and moved up to the second. Heat, smoke, and fire follow the least path of resistance when spreading, spreading faster up in a widening V-Pattern, traveling down at a much slower rate. Remember that rule. All that is hinging on the assumption it wasn’t arson. Then we have a whole different scenario.

Your character looks through the door window and sees flames. That’s good. Your fire has vented (has moved to the exterior) itself on the second story (the higher the better) going out the windows, I’m presuming. When a fire vents, it causes a chimney effect, pulling all available air, including smoke, up through the structure to be released at the venting point. Therefore, the first floor is being cleared of smoke from the upward pull, making the fire clearly visible. If the venting hadn’t happened, the smoke would be trapped and building incredibly fast, filling every space as it builds down (remember before mentioned rule, with this addition: smoke rises, and mushrooms out, building down if trapped). Such conditions make the fire hard to see, most of the time impossible unless you’re very close to it and that’s a scary and deadly place to be!

THE FIRE SCENE DURING AND AFTER: Because there can be a wide range of behavior for firefighters, I can’t say what you described is wrong, or rather, not possible. Training across the nation is standardized and federally imposed, but because of lack of training on a department from budget cuts, or lack of experience, (Professional firefighters and rural volunteers can fight fire differently), sheer stupidity, or crazy bravado, firefighter behavior can vary. All I can say about the firefighters you describe is what a bunch of dumbasses! Anytime firefighters make an initial entry into a burning building with fire clearly visible, whether to recon or fight the fire, they don’t go in without a fully charged hose line with them to protect themselves if anything. The two guys going in are idiots not doing so. The firefighters spraying the side of the house aren’t doing much good with that! The damn fire is inside! And if those two that stick a hose in a window they would be endangering the two inside by possibly pushing fire, heat, and steam onto them! Time for live fire training for the crew. Professionally, what they would be doing, the two going inside would take a hose (ya don’t go to war without a weapon) with them to assess and possibly attack the fire at its seat (where it began) for an interior attack. And the two outside, would pull another line (if available) to cover any structures too close to the fully involved building (the tree attack was logical), or spreading around the building looking for escaped occupants, or those they can rescue with a ladder and any power they can turn off or gas meters to shut down.

One small thing, that conversation between the firefighters would more likely be a radio transmission from the officer of the crew (and initially in charge of the scene) to dispatch and all responding units as to conditions. I suggest adding, in reference to the lack of access to possible victims, “second floor fully involved”.

Because of the level of involvement of the building, the firefighters would be going into a defensive mode (rescue, protect structures nearby, and limit spread) instead of offensive (rescue, interior attack). Fully engulfed means it’s a goner. Any possible live victims inside to rescue changes things somewhat, and makes firefighters more aggressive.

THE AFTERMATH: You did a good job there, the quiet and the breeze. There is often popping noises as wood or warm objects cool down and retract. Because of the amount of water usually poured onto a fire of this extent, the dripping of water is everywhere. The air is thick with humidity and very close. Makes for one creepy scene. One cool atmospheric thing to think about is air temperature…if its cold outside, there will be steam rising about where things were hottest, making a light fog inside that usually rises.

interior w flashlightssmall

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A few more things:

Movies and TV are the worst at depicting fire. Structure fires produce a LOT of dense multicolored smoke. A clean fire is what happens on your stove or heater when all the fuel is being consumed.

A free burning interior fire puts off large amounts of toxic smoke in an atmosphere that can be around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. One breath can drop a person like a bullet to the brain. So showing someone, a firefighter or civilian, running into a burning structure and into a blazing room  without protective gear and breathing apparatus to rescue someone is…Total. Bullshit.

Here’s just a taste of reality taken from a firefighters POV…

A naturally caused fire (a fallen candle, electrical, etc) does not jump around to multiple spots burning here or there. It spreads exponentially from one spot, becoming one complete consuming monster. I loved the television series, Rescue Me, mostly for the humor and the pretty close depiction of firefighters and how they interact. But when they had fire scenes, and they walked down halls or through rooms without their masks on, walking past this little fire and that little fire (and without putting them out; one does not want the enemy coming up from behind and blocking your exit) till they opened the door to the BIG fire, well, I could only do a facepalm. Arsonists will sometimes set multiple fires in a structure, producing fires in various places, and that’s about the only time a firefighter will see that.

Well, that’s enough from me now in that subject. I hope it was enlightening to my writer friends out there. If you like and want to know more, just post a question and I’ll try to answer it. Or if your writing a scene involving fire or firefighters and want my advice, I’ll be more than happy to take a look at it and burn it to ashes!

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Baby Steps and Growing Pains: Learning to Write Good…I Mean…Well

baby-writingI’m a baby writer. I don’t write about newborns, I mean, what’s to write unless they’re the Omen? Nor am I a literal baby, needing attention, selfish, cry a lot, need to be held and pampered, suckling breasts and belching milk, pissin’ and poopin’ in their pantalones baby. I’ve always been that way. What I am, is a fledgling writer, learning the craft of writing one story at a time (standing, then walking and falling, at times running faster than I’m able), eyes wide to the wonders and terrors of publishing, questioning everything I do, wanting to go everywhere at once. Starting a new career as a relative toddler in a field is hard on a guy in his (cough) mid-fifties.  But there is one consolation. Who hasn’t said they would love to be young again, knowing what they know now? As I said, I’m essentially a baby writer, but with an adult mind (I know some ladies that would disagree) and I no longer believe I know it all, and my shit does stink. I do seek and listen to advice with a proper skeptical mind as I’m not the blind follower of superstars as I did when I was young. I prefer standing on the shoulders of those that have gone before then try to prove my badassery, and learn lessons already learned, by running blind through the minefields where others have already tread.  I also have a keen eyes for bullshit.

Saying that, in the past 3 years, since I’ve started taking writing seriously, I’ve learned how to learn, my craft taking leaps and bounds, never thinking for a minute that I am there. It is painful, the rejections after the hard work, the realizations that sometimes (most of the time really) my writing is less than…um…pristine, for lack of a better word. No. A better word would be shit. But I don’t let that knock me down. I shake my fist at my mind and my computer and say, “I’ll show you…you…baby writer! Growup and get a job!”

Okay, I’m going to give you a little taste of what I see as progress from three years ago to today.

First is an excerpt from my first attempt at a novel (unpublished, the cover is a mockup), written at high speed for the 2010 National Novel Writing Month competition. It is called…

ImageHELLBUG (excerpt)

It was as it had been left some one hundred and thirty years ago, when Charles Tabor’s  heart stopped and he drew his last breath and left a young girl to scream her way to death. The dry air  in the room had left them mummified; Charles in a perpetual grin of pain, the girls mouth agape her lips pulled wide from her teeth in an eternal scream, her blonde hair barely clinging to her skull. All was the same except for the large chunk of stone that lay near the far wall.

     “This is one hell of a find, I’m telling ya. How old is this? How long you think they’ve been here?” John was excited. In all his years of caving never had he stumbled across something like this.

     Chris stumbled in too with Lisa and Patrick just behind. Patrick and Chris exclaimed following wo’s as Lisa swipe something imaginary from her rear. “I know you had a good view of my ass, but no reason to cheer,” she said her eyes on Patrick. But his eyes were up, scanning the vast carved room.

     “Wow, what is this place?”

     “It appears to be some kind of ritual room,” said Mal. She was walking around the altar, her head beam light on the mummified girl. “Possibly Satanic.”

     There was a collective gasp from the men. “Really?” said Lisa. “And how do you no this, Miss Know-It-All?”

     Mal turned her head, illuminating the pentagram and the symbols, and the five mounds of melted wax. “And of course, this body is a clue. Don’t you think, Lisa?” Lisa’s eyes widened at the arcane sight, then she shrugged. “Anybody could see that.”

     John was crouching over the remains of the fallen back body. He touched the silk shirt on its emaciated arms and it fell apart at the touch. “Careful,” Mal said, as he checked the bulge in the vest pocket. The cloth pulled easily away and crumbled from his fingers. He picked up the shining gold watch and gripped in his palm. It’s short hand pointed straight too twelve with its long hand barely at two minutes past. He turned the spring winding knob atop it and slapped his palm against it. Its second hand didn’t move. “Damn.”

     The two boys and Lisa stepped into the circle to get a closer look. Chris stopped, holding his hands up as it feeling for something invisible.     

     “Did you feel that?”

     Patrick looked a him, clutching at nothing on his face. “Yeh, what was that. Felt like a big spider web.” Mal and John traded a look; that had felt it too, a tingle across their bodies as the had crossed the circles perimeter.

     Lisa was taking off her harness. “God, is it hot in here or what?” she said, dropping the harness to the floor. She un-zipped the top of her tight synthetic caving shirt. Two lights converged on her double mooned cleavage, then just as readily left. Lisa giggled and shook her hair back.

     Patrick turned and step past Chris, the back of his hand patting Chris’s stomach. “You could’ve fooled me,” he leaned in and whispered. “Dude,her nipples are rock hard.” Chris nodded, his eyes shifting to Lisa and looking away, trying hard to not let his head lamp give him away again.

     The three walked around the altar. This is where that musty smell had emanated, the heavy smell of the dusty dead swirled around them. Chris made the observation that the bodies looked untouched by vermin, their corpses intact and biteless. There was not a roach in the room, or spider for that matter. The room was as lifeless as the granite.

Besides the bad punctuation, passive voice, repeated words, which is easily corrected, is the POV. As you can see, it’s all over the map, from Omnipotent to bopping around the characters like a mad rabbit. This is from early on in the book, and it only gets worse, replicating and splitting like horny mad rabbits as it gets deeper into the narrative. I didn’t see it then, and it took an editor to point it out. And I noticed on my own, it has no singular voice to give it life, making it jump off the page.

So I spanked myself for thinking I was such hot-shit right out of the gate, took it as a lesson, and trunked HellBug for the time being. I realized I had taken on too big of a beast, and needed to focus my narrative and work on the craft. So I took on short stories, a much smaller and easier beast to handle, but no less a challenge.

There’s a reason that creative writing instructors have their students compose their first stories in first person; it focuses the point-of-view to a single person and takes you directly into a characters head. I worked on first person narrative, simplifying my writing, trying to make me disappear and let the character shine. It paid off. My first story accepted and published was for an awesome collection of stories and writers called, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous (Angelic Knight Press). Told first-person, I was starting to feel a stride…

ImageThe Long Death of Day (excerpt)

     “It’s beautiful,” she said.

     Her name is Selena and she is the love of my life. We laid together on a hillside in the cool grass, her body warm against me, and head on my shoulder. The comet’s tail fanned out across the sky like a great white wind-blown horse tail. Though traveling at immense speed, it seemed frozen in the sky just for us. For thousands of other lovers, too, I suppose. I pulled her tight against me and whispered something weak, as lovers do, comparing her beauty to the stars and how it didn’t compare. I believed it then. Still do. Her face, before the darkness and death’s arrival in the sky stole her radiance, is the only beautiful image that remains for me now. I hold it to save me from the swallowing maw of insanity. It’s all I have left.

     She patted my chest and called me a silly sweet man. Like most women I’ve known, she never believed herself to be attractive. Sometimes she chided me for saying it or sighed and shook her head, thinking I lied to get in her pants. It wasn’t a lie and I had no agenda. To me, Selena was beautiful; that smile and those eyes made my heart thump harder every time she gifted me with them. And her heart, her soul, touched me and kept my cynical spirit from turning darker and brought out a love in me that I had no idea existed. But that night she accepted my compliment graciously and, I hope, believed it just a little.

Focused and starting to have a heart; I think I’m starting to get something right.

Then came my second story published, but this time it’s in third person. When writing it, I knew I had to  carry that feeling of first person in the narrative, but taking a step away, looking at the character, instead of through the character, and retaining his voice, his view of the world. To accomplish that, I wrote the first draft in first person to keep me from drifting, then switched it to third person in the second draft. I think it worked out. The following excerpt is from my story contained in the zombie erotica anthology, Fifty Shades of Decay (Angelic Knight Press)…

Reveal.50Shades (2)Love Stinks (excerpt)

Now dead and struggling to eat him, Stellar was all his.

After breaking into the secured house and a bit of a tussle, Edwin had Stell spread-eagle on a St. Andrews cross, arms directly overhead with her wrists leather cuffed to a cross-beam. Oven mitts, with a stitched SEXY on one and CHEF on the other, covered her hands and had been duct taped to stay on—getting scratched by those long ragged nails would not be good. The usually vibrant red hair had turned to rusty iron and lay on her shoulders like al dente noodles. Her porcelain white skin had turned a steel hot summer sky, giving her a jewel-like quality. Those trademark 36D breasts stood round and perfect, as natural as God’s fruit, with gray tinged, tight aureoles set-placing her forever erect, inch long nipples. Edwin had found her wearing only a pink G-string and left the lingerie on for now, preserving some of her dignity. Not a mark marred her, not a cut, bite, or bruise; the empty bottle of Thorazine and Jack Daniels in the dictator-size bed testified to her way out.

Stell bucked against the constraints, her moaning and growling muted by the red ball gag. She stretched her neck out, still trying to get a mouthful of him. Unable to resist, Edwin pulled the small red satin crotch-swatch out; Brazil waxed and smooth as the satin, her bared blue vulva disappeared between her legs. The thought of those lips lubed and wrapped around his erection caused his cock to turn and stretch in its slumber.

Edwin felt surprise at the combination of disgust and his swelling penis, at the thought of sex with the undead. He was not into necrophilia, no way, no how. Technically, the total submission of the dead-as-a-rock is what turns on necrophiles, and Stell was anything but that— dead, but kicking and scratching and very bitey. Who was he to demand she change for him? Edwin loved her unreservedly and his need to be intimate with her was too great. Edwin could overlook a small thing like a heartbeat.

Another step closer away.

Feeling more aware and confident in what I was doing, I decided to tackle the big beast again; the novel format, with multiple characters. A short story idea had been rolling around in my head for some time, taking the zombie apocalypse out of the usual urban American/Euro setting and slapping it smack down in the middle of the boonies of Tibet. Then I saw that it could be a bigger story, a novel size one. How would a Buddhist Monk and a young Tibetan boy view the undead, and what would be their version of survival?

680302_490607197626294_94479491_oHungry Ghosts (excerpt; unpublished)

(The boy, Chodren’s POV)

The twilight was fading, and their faces glowed yellow and flickered with the light of the fire. The breeze carried fire-bug like embers up and away, disappearing to set in the sky as stars. To the east, a full moon rose just above the horizon. Chodren looked into its large face.

“He’s coming soon, isn’t he, Dorje?”

The monk looked to the horizon and nodded his head.

Cheung yawned. “Who?”

The boy crossed his arms, feeling a chill despite the warmth of the fire and looked at the Cheung. “The Medicine King, of course.”

Cheung chuckled with a slight roll of his eyes. “Oh. That.”

“Do you think, Dorje,” Chodren said, turning his eyes to the monk. “Do you think he will heal them? Maybe Tenzin, too.”

Dorje looked into the bowl and paused with a finger-full of rice halfway to his lips. He seemed to be far away, thinking of something else. Sad for his master, Chodren thought.

“Dorje?”

“Perhaps. I do not know. It is a small hope,” he said and continued eating.

Cheung snorted. “What a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Kid, that star that you think is some magical ancient guy, isn’t. Hell, it isn’t even a star it’s a damn planet. Venus. Been there long before man came along and it’s never done anything more than blink at us.”

Chodren frowned at that, not knowing what to think. Cheung knew things he did not, but even so, his words seemed cruel. Cheung sat up, pointing at Dorje and Gu-Lang with his cigarette.

“I heard you praying in there, the old man too. Praying to whom? For what? A miracle? Fuck, there isn’t no miracles and what happened proves it. All your prayers and prostrating and belly gazing didn’t do a damn thing, did it? The old man died and became one of those things and you had to take him out.”

Silent, Dorje ate. Gu-Lang glared at Cheung, her eyes becoming cruel slits as she blew out a cloud of smoke.

“Had to face reality, huh? Had to do what you had to do because there wasn’t a god around to help out. That’s fucking reality, boys and girls. There’s only us and sometimes we got to do cruel things to live. All there is to it. Chairman Mao knew that. That’s why we’re here, China and the army, to show you ignorant people the truth. What a waste.” Cheung shook his head. “What did you have to do, huh? Something pretty nasty I bet. Poor stupid old man, spends his whole life checking out the workings of his navel only to end up a monster with a knife buried in his skull and brain. What a waste. I say he deserved it.”

Gu-Lang’s cigarette flicked from her fingers and flew like an angry meteor, striking Cheung in the face and exploding in bright embers. He flinched and cried out, and she was on him. She jerked him to his feet by his collar and rushed him backwards, slamming against the wall. Plaster crumbled as his head smacked. Dorje’s knife pressed against his throat as she held him helpless with her forearm.

“Fuck! You could have blinded me!”

Chodren stood, fear and confusion enveloping his face. “Stop!”

Cheung blinked in Gu-Lang’s close and angry face. The knife pressed into his neck. He blew ashes from his mouth and grinned.

“Yeah. Stop, bitch. Or do you think you can cut my throat before I pump three bullets in your gut?” His pistol out and pressed into her stomach, Gu-Lang showed no concern.

Chodren looked to Dorje for help, but his eyes were on the fire as he ate bite by methodical bite.

“Do something, Dorje, they’re going to kill each other.”

Dorje swallowed the last morsel then wiped the bowl clean with the cloth, and hid it back into his shirt. His tongue ran around his teeth and he smacked his lips. A sigh and he looked to the rising moon. Their shouts had carried, causing a rise of dead moans to echo back, sounding like mountain ghosts. Thuds came for the entryway door.

The monk said, “Do you think she will die by your gun before she cuts your head off? I have a feeling this is something she’s done before. And she seems very determined to me.”

Everyone is going crazy, thought Chodren. The image of them killing each other and leaving him alone to fend for himself made his heart thump and breath quicken. He looked back to the clinched pair. Gu-Lang had not given an inch; instead, she held the knife tighter against the smiling soldier as her bracing arm came down and gripped the gun.

“Easy now,” Cheung said, his smile faltering. His finger slipped into the trigger well.

She lifted it to her head, with Cheung keeping his hold, and pressed the barrel onto her temple. Now she grinned, opening her eyes wide.

Cheung looked worried. “What the fuck are you doing you crazy bitch?”

Dorje spoke, his eyes still on the moon. “She is trying to tell you that if you’re going to kill her, you had better do it once. Otherwise, she’s going to kill you, living or dead.” Dorje looked at him as if he were looking at a tree. “Look into her eyes. Determination can overcome many things.”

Unable to keep it in any longer, Chodren spoke, the words flying out of him.

“All of you are acting crazy. You can’t be like this, fighting like wild dogs. What will happen to us? What will happen to me? Please stop. I don’t want to see you become like my…sister…or my…mother. I can’t fight them alone. I don’t want to be alone.” Anger clinched his face and he picked up a thick branch from the fire, glowing and aflame at the end. “If you don’t stop right now, I’ll beat you on your butts and teach you not to act like animals!”

All three were staring at him now; Dorje expressionless, Gu-Lang’s eyes wide and tinged with reproach, and Cheung sneering in relieved surprise.

“Jeez kid, don’t blow a gasket,” Cheung said and flicked the safety on. He looked back at Gu-Lang and raised his eyebrows. She released her grip on the pistol, moved the knife away from his throat, and stepped back, but not before giving him a warning shove. Cheung returned the pistol to the holster.

Chodren tossed his stick back into the fire. “Now sit down and act like grown-ups and be nice.” His legs were shaking as he plopped his butt back to the ground, relieved. They did, keeping a wary eye on each other. Gu-Lang returned the blade to its wooden sheath and handed it to Dorje, who looked again to the moon, now higher in its nightly arc, and below it, peeking just above a distant peak, a bright winking light.

“The Medicine King has arrived,” Dorje said.

And…

(The monk, Dorje’s POV)

Dorje sat back and rolled up his window. “We are in a fold of the mountain. Not far ahead after we take this turn we will be on the outside, in open space for a good distance.”

Cheung looked at him. “Really? And how will that help us? Make it easier to plunge off a cliff?”

“Certainly,” Dorje said matter-of-factly, “that is a possibility. But I do not see how that would help, except to send us sooner to our next lives. Are you prepared for that?”

Cheung looked dumb-founded. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Another shrug from Dorje and he said, “I know that radio waves are easily blocked by hills and mountains, and that perhaps, when we exit this chasm and reach the sky side, we may more easily transmit and receive radio signals.”

Cheung huffed in disbelief. Dorje smiled. “You are surprised. Do not let appearances fool you. We monks do not spend all our day in prayer, as Tenzin can attest. Actually, science was my favorite subject.”

Tenzin stopped his song and chuckled. “Oh yes. So many questions from you, such a wonderful doubter, his teachers would run out of answers.” Even in the dark, Dorje could see the dotted reflections of sweat beading on his friend’s forehead.

“A monk and a man of science, huh?” Cheung said.

Dorje pushed the scan button on the CB and watched the line of red LED lights race back and forth. The radio went silent.

“The path of the Buddha does not conflict with science,” Dorje replied.

Tossing the microphone in Dorje’s lap, Cheung sat back with a smug grin. “So, monk-of-science, what do you think is happening?”

“It is difficult to say.”

“What? The words are too big? Or is it some Buddhist shit about demons and possession? Go ahead, you can’t scare me.”

The thought of the boundaries of the spiritual realms breaking down and the hungry ghosts, crossed Dorje’s mind. It had been the first thing he considered, but now it seemed too simple, too childish. Such an event would be cataclysmic, involving the crossing over of billions of separate beings from multiple worlds. This seemed too finite and localized. Besides, how could one being know the answer and of what good would it do?

Dorje sighed and looked toward the boy, making sure he still slept. “Perhaps it is a virus or bacteria causing the madness. Or some sort of mass hysteria.”

“A virus?” Cheung said. “So fast? Why aren’t we going crazy? And why here and why now?”

“All good questions. It could be in the water. Or the air. That would account for the instant contamination of so many.” Dorje recalled the lack of pulse in the neck of the thing in the village square. “And we could already be infected and the right condition has yet to manifest to trigger the sickness for us.”

“But why here in the middle of nowhere?”

Gu-Lang looked in the rear-view mirror at the soldier. She glanced at Dorje with narrow eyes and gave a pinched pull at her shoulder. Dorje looked at her questioningly, then nodded when he got the inference. He did not like the idea, but governments had done such evil to its people before; secret experiments in isolated locales. The thought sickened him. To express it now to this boy, this soldier of China, would not be prudent.

I’m learning, I think. You tell me.

******

The two books above can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Just click on the pics and you’ll be taken there.  They can also be found in other ebook formats at Smashwords…

Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous

Fifty Shades of Decay

Trickle of Conciousness: A Random Series of Mindless Minutiae

ImageCAUTION: THE SEQUENCE OF WORDS YOU ABOUT TO READ (except these) MAY BE SHOCKING, PROFANE, INFLAMMABLE, ABSURD, OUTRAGEOUS, SENSELESS, SMELLY, TASTELESS, AND MAY CAUSE LAUGHTER, DERISION, ANGER, WEEPING,  DUMBFOUNDEDNESS, HEADACHES, NIGHT TERRORS, DIARRHEA, BLUSHING, GENITAL RETRACTION, GENITAL ENLARGEMENT, ACNE, FALLING UP STAIRS, LOSS OF FAITH IN HUMANITY, OR FINGER CRAMPS BECAUSE YOU CAN’T CLICK FAST ENOUGH TO GET AWAY AND ON TO SOMETHING MORE INTERESTING ON THE INTERNET. THIS WARNING MAY BE DISREGARDED AS IT COULD BE HYPERBOLE AND SIMPLY MEANT TO GET YOUR ATTENTION.

Still here? Brave reader. I’m writing this simply because I want to…

Really, I don’t want to talk about myself cuz I ain’t that interesting. That was my musical digression. There may be more digressions, so get used to it. But really, I’m writing this because I’ve been editing my novel, HUNGRY GHOSTS (remember that title), and have not been writing anything new. And editing is borrrrring.  I needed to write something, set my imagination free for a bit, let my words fly from my fingers, and just let my mind take a crap. You did read the warning above, right? I’m writing this off the cuff, so I will not be checking for typoS, punctuation: speeling, or grammar errors in which I use my grammar-check for. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m a writer and that shite is our bane, and checking and correcting is like an ADHD compulsion and It. Never. Ends.

So, profane up to first bat…

( From here on, unless otherwise specified, “snickerdoodle” will be substituted for the feline version for a woman’s genitials)

Today I read a post on FB from a friend overhearing an exchange in a supermarket. A man and his wife (I’m assuming) are looking at fresh seafood, and he asks the seemingly rhetorical question, “I wonder what that tuna tastes like?” A lady passing behind them answered simply, “Snickerdoodle.” If I had been there I would’ve spat the milk out my nose from the carton I was drinking from. Ignoring that, my comment was of my astonishment at a man not knowing what tuna tastes like. Assuming he had tasted tuna before, I thought it was a question below stupid. I mean, it’s like asking, “I wonder what that banana tastes like?” It tastes like damn banana, Micro-Brainiac! *smack*. My friends response was, “well, he knows now.” Granted, he MAY have never ate tuna before, but the ladies answer is soooo off base and does tuna AND snickerdoodle a great disservice. Tuna does not taste like snickerdoodle, nor does snickerdoodle taste like tuna. That comparison has been around since, hell, I don’t know, but whoever started it had their taste-buds destroyed at some medieval chili cook-off in the middle of Ghost Pepper country. If tuna tasted like snickerdoodle I would think it’s gone bad and my cats would get a treat. And if I ever caught just a whiff of tuna from snickerdoodle, I think I would call it a night, and feint passing out, drunk or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love tuna, make sandwiches often, and I love snickerdoodle even more, but if one tastes like the other, something is off, and red flags go up. Each taste great if fresh, but should not imitate the other. No guy (or gal, for that matter) while feasting on snickdoodle, answered when asked by said snickerdoodle owner, “Does it taste good, baby?”, paused in their lathering, and responded, “Like chicken-of-the-sea!” I’m not fond of having my plate removed before I’m full, nor getting a black-eye and/or a busted lip. Usually the answer is, if one can talk, something akin to, “Like posey nectar and honey, my dearmumblemumblemumble.” It’s a lie, but who can think in the middle of animal lust? So, it does beg the question: what DOES snickerdoodle taste like? Saying a banana taste like a banana, isn’t enough, I realize. It’s hard to put into words, even being a writer. I can only say snickerdoodle tastes like…

Image

Musk Ox. Ovibos moschatus. This majestic and powerful beast, “…noted for its thick coat and for the strong odor…”, makes its home in the Artic, primarily in Alaska and Greenland. Hunted like everything else man has a hankering to throw a bullet at, its meat, when fileted and marinated properly, is tender and tastes neither gamey or wild, but has a delicate flavor, much like…posey nectar and honey.

Well, I feel better now and I’m tapped out for the moment. It was fun and I need a Jack shot and a cigarette. I think I’ll do this again, so watch out, that is, if I don’t get burned at the stake before I can.

Till next time, I’ll take that shot and leave you with one of my favorite rock songs from the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band In The World (don’t bother, I won’t debate it) with vocals and lyrics from a street poet that just kept getting better and better at his craft. *Raises my shot glass* Here’s to Bon, May He Rock Forever. (I’d say RIP, but it’s so cliche, and I don’t think Bon could do it.)

TO BE CONTINUED…

My Writing Journey (So Far): What NaNoWriMo Taught Me

mad-writer

If my writing excursion was a journey for adventure and I had to tell you where I was at this moment, I would say that I just passed the City Limit sign. The comfort of home is still close behind and I could easily say, screw this, and turn around. But, being the fool that I am, and one that likes to explore the dark unknown, I don’t think I will. So, I’m tightening my shoelaces, hefting my computer up my back, and setting my toes for the horizon and the dark high peak that sits there, so distant.

This journey started in September of 2011 when my old dear friend and writer, Dennis McDonald, told me of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and threw down the gauntlet. We were to compete, not against each other but together, to create a 50K novel in thirty-one days. Before this, I was in limbo; my first wife of 25 years had died ten years before, had retired from a 24 year stint in the fire department,  and I had failed, miserably, in a second marriage. I had no direction, little to do of interest, and just generally felt a bit lost. But I had always been a creative type. I’m a musician (had a great little rock band for a summer), produced near a hundred television shows on a Cable Access station (producing , co-writing, and playing a TV horror host, and even wrote, produced, and directed a horror film there) and at the time I had no creative outlet. So I told my friend, “You’re on.” I had an idea that I had rolling in my head for some time and this seemed like a good reason to pull it out. In the 31 days, I sweated and toiled and bled every day to crap this idea onto the page, and on the last day of the competition I had 50,500 words down. Ten days later I completed the manuscript at 65K. And damn, that felt good. I had just written my first novel.

I spent the next few months cleaning it up, letting a couple of friends read it, and proudly I sent my baby, entitled Hellbug, off to a professional editor.  And that’s when reality slapped me upside the head. Hellbug, I discovered from this honest and forthright editor, was a schizophrenic mess of changing points of view, wandering plot, with too many characters, creating a defused read. I was an “amateur”, with my book needing a complete rewrite. Though the critique hit me hard in the negative aspects, I was told I had a strong writing ability and lots of promise, which was kind of like getting a dollop of whip cream and a cherry on top of my pile of shit. Gee thanks, I thought at the time.

But he was right, and I had to face that. I was an amateur, a baby learning to walk. Sure, I could go a few steps, but I was wobbly, unable to get from Point A to Point B without falling on my face or my ass. I had to strengthen my legs, and learn to walk flat land and then some hills before I ever could face the mountain of a novel. I was going to take this as a big lesson, lick my wounds, heal the bruises, and dust off my ass to try again, but this time, with open eyes. I had to hone the craft of writing, so I decided to work small, taking the suggestions of the editor, and write short stories and work to get published. And it worked. After six months of rejections, I had a short story accepted and published in Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous  alongside some very prominent horror and fantasy writers. Then another published (Fifty Shades of Decay), and now a third recently accepted. I could do this.

My point is this: NaNoWriMo taught me a lot. It set my mind free. I had attempted writing fiction before, but it was difficult to get fifty words down in a day. I would obsess over every word and line, wanting to get them perfect the first time. And I would give up. This writing thing was just too damn hard! How did anyone get anything done?!  My imagination felt jailed, yearning for escape, blocked by invisible prison guards. My dreams in sleep had always fascinated me (I’m the only person I know that enjoys their nightmares, sitting above them as the terror unfolds, thinking, “This is so cool, let’s see where this goes). Not just the content, but how my mind could just make such stuff up and spit it at me with such ease.  I wanted to learn to do that while awake, but had no idea how. NaNoWriMo, under its heady demand, opened that floodgate. I wrote without editing what I just wrote, let the story take hold, and let my dream-mind do the work. Instead of being obsessive about the words, I became a conduit for the story, letting my fingers take care of the words. I realized, once one knows how to write a decent sentence, you stop worrying about it, and really start creating. Granted, what I did create was a mess. What I took from that was I needed to plan, to be able to see the big picture, to create a focus beforehand with walls to keep me from wandering, and then I could set my imagination to run free within those boundaries. Doing so, I was in no way compromising myself, but learning the craft, so whatever art that is there, can blossom.  I can now write 1000K in a couple of hours. The work of writing is still hard as hell, but has become much easier.

And yes, I started another novel, pausing only to write the last two accepted short stories. I had to jump back on that big horse again and attempt to teach it who’s the boss. But this time, with more focus, sharpened writing, and a sense of purpose. The first draft of Hungry Ghosts, a zombie apocalypse novel set in Tibet, is now in the hands of trusted beta readers, secluded from my eyes for the next four weeks, and is going to go through the furnace and hammering of a samurai sword. And yes, oh editor, (if you’re reading this, you know who you are) you’re going to see me again.

Hellbug is now in a drawer, and sometimes I hear its clawing and buzzing. Yes, yes, my little friend. Be patient. I will bring you out to play again. You’re just too cool of an idea to keep hidden away in the dark. But not now. Stay in your cocoon a little longer. Grow some proper wings, and I will teach you to fly. Freedom will come. But not now, my little evil buddy, not now.

Hellbug mock cover

My imagined cover for Hellbug