Sunday, October 27, 2013

Simulacrum . . .

A few days ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I happened across one of those anonymous memes, cutesy script on a purple background, extolling the virtues of what the unknown author -and by extension, the poster- claimed were the province of a "real woman."

In less words than are used to describe a pasta entree at the local franchised Italian restaurant, the nameless meme-maven stated that a real woman eschews drama and avoids wasting time on people that "don't matter." Noble attributes to be sure, but hardly sufficient proof of authenticity. But the Hallmark-lite pablum, composed by someone with a trial version of Photoshop and too much time on their hands, isn't what struck me.

I'm certain the mastermind of this web-based fortune cookie had the best intentions, maybe even splashed a few tears on the keyboard, but I believe each subsequent like and share diminished whatever sentiment this person originally meant to express.

Which brings us to the wall on which I found this gem.

It's understandable that the sharer, barely possessing the necessary language skills to slog through the spaghetti menu options, might view this as some sort of relationship Rosetta Stone, without comprehending the definition of "real." It's true that, lacking the emotional maturity of a Barney aficionado, the wall owner saw this as a proxy for seduction, a way to express feelings so foreign so as to defy explanation.

However, even this left-handed explanation gives more credit than is deserved.

It's a shot across the bow from a shooter so buried behind last year's flannel shirts and Bermuda shorts that they can't visualize the target. It's a claim of honesty from someone too afraid to acknowledge their wants & desires, and the lies they've told to acquire them. It's a billboard hung behind a wall covered by a smokescreen masked by a rampart, intended for a consumer who promises payment without ever intending to complete the purchase.

The antithesis of "real."

I experienced years of similar reality. I endured decades of pointless drama. I came to understand how little I mattered in the realm of the "real."

But now...

A forgery loses it's sheen when hung next to an original. A mimic fails when heard simultaneously with the real voice. And a lie crumbles into the dust of its creation when confronted by the truth.

And after what seems like a lifetime, I've encountered the real, the authentic and the truth, and I can't believe I ever let myself be fooled. I know a "real woman" and she doesn't have to cut and paste her words onto a pretty purple background. In fact, she doesn't have to say anything at all.

I won't hide this revelation behind a privacy setting that isn't fooling anyone. In fact, I'm tempted to shout it from the rooftops, acrophobia be damned, but that's a tale for later, once the manuscript is finished.

I'll settle for this, and ask you to do the same; I'll sign what I have to say.

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

6 Reasons You Should Read Legerdemain . . .

5) Regardless of your e-reader of choice, the price of Legerdemain is about the same as the price of a gallon of gas, and while Legerdemain won't get you from Point A to Point B, you'll enjoy the ride with Philip Ducalion a lot more.

4) You've always wanted to read something of mine (that's right, I'm talking to you), but you have a hard time with the scary. Relax. Even though it features two characters from my previous novels, Legerdemain is an Oogie Boogie Free-Zone.

3) Fans of Leroy Jethro Gibbs will love Philip Ducalion, and at latest count, there are quite a few fans of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

2) You always wondered about that smart-ass detective who showed up in the middle of Oogie Boogie Central, didn't you? Legerdemain has the answers you've been wanting.

2b) Two words: Keith Pridemore

And finally:

1) When you don't read Legerdemain, I don't receive any royalties. When I don't receive any royalties, I can't afford to pay my rent. When I can't afford to pay my rent, I have to find another place for me, my wife, my daughter, our dog and our three cats to stay. And, when I have to find another place for me, my wife, my daughter, our dog and our three cats to stay, I'll probably come knocking on your door.

Don't make me come knocking on your door.

Read Legerdemain. You'll be glad you did.

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Requiem . . .

My brother Mikey's eulogy:

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
          If me quoting scripture surprises you, imagine my surprise at the comfort these words have given me over the past few days.  I couldn’t remember the exact wording without looking it up, but the spirit of that passage has run through my thoughts, again and again, ever since Friday morning.
          It’s something Mikey would do. “I’ll go on ahead,” I can imagine him saying.  “I’ll get things ready for you.”  It’s what I picture him doing now, in the company of family and friends who have gone before, easing the way for those of us who are sure to follow.
          Mikey left us too soon, but not as soon as he could have.  When his struggle began, our parents didn’t think they’d have him for ten years.  Once he reached his teens, twenty seemed like an impossibility.  When we almost lost him at 23, no one would have taken bets on 24.  Or 30. Or 40.
          Mikey’s life was the dictionary definition of a miracle, coupled with the admonition that God helps those who help themselves.  He could have given up at any time, and surely no one would have blamed him if he had.  But “quit” wasn’t part of his vocabulary.
          At Mikey and Lori’s wedding, I spoke of the roads that led them together; the hardship and pain they both had endured that eventually brought them to exactly where they needed to be, in order to find each other.  Today, I’d say the same holds true for the rest of us, everyone who suddenly finds a Mikey-shaped hole in their lives.
          His road led him into all of our lives, and many of us wouldn’t have had that privilege if it weren’t for his indomitable spirit.  There would have been no Youth Commissions.  No Mike McDaniel, or even Roger Ribbit. There would have been no Mikey and Lori, if Mikey had refused to continue fighting. 
          The overwhelming expressions of love and respect and remembrance over the past four days stand as a testament to Mikey’s greatest strength, the one no illness could touch or disease weaken.  He always went on.  For every tough hill he faced, there always seemed to be another, higher hill on the other side, and yet he kept climbing.  For every battle he won, there always seemed to be another war to wage, and yet he kept fighting.  And every time he got knocked down, every time he struggled to regain his feet, every time life threw more at him than any ten men could bear, he still believed.  Believed that he would eventually beat the afflictions that threatened him.  Believed that he’d come home again to the wife who cherished him, the family that loved him, and the friends who treasured him.
          Believed that there was always a reason to get up in the morning.
          And because he believed, we believed, and that’s why we’re so shocked at his passing.
          And as hard as it is, as hard as it’s going to be in the days and weeks to come, we have to do the same.  We have to believe, like Mikey did, that there’s a reason to get up in the morning.  We have to find that part of Mikey in ourselves that refuses to let this tragedy beat us.
          We have to believe.
          The 30th Psalm reads, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  We grieve.  We cry.  We rail against the night.  We weep in the darkness, but joy cometh in the morning.
          And, it’s always morning somewhere.

The services are done. The families have gone home. The calls have stopped and the cards have slowed to a trickle. As it inevitably must, life, once again, goes on.

Except, it hasn't.

It's only been four days since he passed and one day since we said our final goodbyes.

Except, we haven't.

I've tried to comfort. I've attempted to console. I've swallowed and pushed back and held at bay, telling myself there will be time to grieve once everything is finished.

Except, I can't. At least not yet.

The storm is coming; I'm not naive enough to deny it. I just don't know when. 

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two Seasons of SportsNight . . .

. . . devoured in less than a seven-day span. I think we all know what that means.

Well, at least I know what it means, or-more specifically-what it means for Keith Pridemore.

Narrative thread? Yup, finally doing it right.

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

If Santa Brings You a New Kindle or NOOK . . .

And you need to start filling it, you might want to try either here for Amazon or here for Barnes & Noble.

If you already have one, then what the hell have you been waiting for?

And by the way, Merry Christmas to all (and if you know me at all, you know that this is the first time I've said this in three decades without a sneer, or a sudden need to hurl).

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Designius Abyssia . . .

This short story hasn't seen the light of day since 2003's The Fear Within, but I always liked it. Short and Scary Stories is hosting it, and it's pulled in a few positive reviews already.

You should check it out here.

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Exactly Is Oogie Boogie Central?

I probably should have thought about answering this question ten years ago.

The simple answer is this: Oogie Boogie Central is the title of my first novel, and the de facto title of the series of books that follows it. However, the problem with simple answers is that-usually-the simple answer is really no answer at all. So, let’s examine the complicated response.

I’ve always been fascinated with Multiple Personality Disorder, or at least the fictionalized version of it. As a literary trope, its potential seemed limitless; as an exercise in imagination, the premise was intoxicating.

Unfortunately, the act of creating a novel around the concept of MPD proved more of a challenge than my enthusiasm anticipated.

The remnants of my early, aborted attempts at exploring this theme reside in the ethereal afterlife where broken hard drives and obsolete 5 ¼ inch floppy disks go to die. If memory serves, these efforts at universe building began with a traumatized toddler and ended with a Spec Ops unit (and in between, I have a vague recollection of a multi-generational tale set in the near-future, in which an aged MPD patient/superspy named Omega tells his tale to a young writer. Of course, by novel’s end, the young reporter assumes the mantle of Omega).

Here’s a lesson for all would-be writers out there: The first dozen things you write should never-EVER-see the light of day, no matter how easy or acceptable self-publishing has become.

After failing miserably and spectacularly, I tabled my exploration of the controversial psychological disorder and moved on to more traditional fare. I flirted briefly with fan fiction, undertaking a group project to craft a story about the return of Noah’s Ark, set in the world of the Millennium TV series. And, while the story was never completed, my contribution didn’t go to waste.

At the beginning of that five page chapter, my muse introduced me to Philip Ducalion, a lieutenant in the California Highway Patrol. By the time I sent those thousand words to my fellow contributors, I knew my smart-ass Lieutenant had more to say than just, “Where did this goddamned ark come from?”

I soon discovered that Philip Ducalion worked for a television program titled Whodunnit?, one of the plethora of unsolved mystery programs that inhabit the higher numbered cable and satellite channels. He had been a police detective until an encounter with a murderer robbed him of his family and career. He agreed to work for Whodunnit? in order to pursue the man that destroyed his life.

Ducalion lacked any mental filters, the biological circuit breakers that keep thoughts unspoken. He had a partner named Keith, a computer wizard and conspiracy nut who owned a bookstore in Charleston, West Virginia. His first recorded adventure took him and Keith to Pennsylvania in pursuit of a child abductor, and in the end . . .

In the end, I realized the Ducalion novel was a steaming pile of hot mess, and moved the entire file-all twenty chapters-into the Abandoned folder. The deletion was painful, but the heartbreak was ameliorated by a sentence stuck on an infinite loop in my head.

The Frenchman was the first one to notice the Hunter.

Thus, was born the Colony, seven departed spirits whose souls resided in the mind of a young man, a young man known as a Gatherer. He resided in Charleston and worked in a bookstore, surprisingly managed by a computer whiz and conspiracy nut named Keith. Keith’s assistant was a woman named Sharon, whose husband-and Keith’s best friend-was a department store detective named Milo Tucker.

The main story unfolded relatively easily. The characters spoke to me in clear voices, and protested only when I tried to lead them in directions they didn’t want to go. My version of Charleston was identical to the real one, except for a fictitious subway system and the existence of magic.

The first draft bore the working title of The Colony, a functionary, if pedestrian designation. All along, I knew it would have to change before I began submitting it, but I couldn’t think of anything better.

Enter the real life Keith Pridemore, and a conversation that went something like this:

“I don’t know what to call the book.”
“What are you calling it now?”
“The Colony.”
“You’re right; that sucks. What’s this thing about again?”
“The same thing it’s been about for the last two years. You read the first half. Remember?”
“I remember. It’s full of oogie boogie shit right?”
“Dude, it’s got so much oogie boogie shit in it I ought to call it Oogie Boogie Central.”

Followed by a moment of silence during which light bulbs flared over both of our heads.

Oogie Boogie shit is defined as: anything beyond the norm, including-but not limited to-the Mothman, shoplifters, headless psychics, a confederation of fifty-five mystical protectors, rogue mages, gangsters averse to sunlight, body-hopping, supper clubs that exist outside of reality and a crusty Obi-Wan Kenobi type with a predilection for porches.

And that’s just in the first two books.

And, while I was writing Central, I decided there was a place for a retired police lieutenant lacking mental circuit breakers, and Philip Ducalion finally made his print debut. He also appeared briefly in Oogie Boogie Bounce, and it was during that cameo I decided his time had come.

What does that mean? It means that while we all take a break from the Oogie Boogie universe (available now on all eBook platforms), I’m about to answer the question asked by most readers of Central and Bounce:

Who the hell is Philip Ducalion?

Coming soon to an ereader near you: Bang Bang Machine.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .