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 . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Molly, Anansi & Me . . .

If it weren't for Molly (our 4 year-old Lab, St. Bernard, shelter-dog mix), I probably wouldn't spend any more time outside than it takes to get from the house to the car and back again.

Except for the occasional smoke.

During daytime hours, we hit the back porch together, and when Molly runs off into the yard to TCB, I usually light up and ruminate about life. Now, I'm a pacer from way back, so I stroll back and forth thinking while Molly runs in circles, making qualitative judgements about why one plot of grass is more deserving of pee than another.

Sometimes, such hefty decisions give me the opportunity to hotbox two cigarettes.

But lately, at night, my ruminations have given way to an inexplicable obsession with that fellow at the top of this post. He's never around when the sun's up, but as dusk begins, I notice him perched in the seemingly empty space between one our porch pillars and the adjacent shrubbery. He's always in the pose you see depicted here, as if he's heard there's a new Spider-Man movie coming out and he's looking for an audition.

Come morning, he-and his symmetrical condo-are nowhere to be seen, until the next night, when he's open for business once more.

What fascinates me is this: There's no sign of he or his web in the AM, but in the PM, he just seems to appear. I never catch him in mid-construction; it's as if he has that web packed in a case, ready to unfold on an evening whim. And while I'm no arachnologist, I have to believe he deconstructs-then reconstructs-this contraption every twelve hours or so, just to make his daily bread.

That's saying something, at least to me. It's also why I tend to toss a bug his way whenever the opportunity presents itself. After all, teachers need to be properly remunerated.

And it's cool to watch him wrap his meals.

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

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Magic Equation . . .

I do not consider myself mechanically inclined, but I tinker. I'm not a handyman, but I can research and apply like nobody's business.

In short, I know just enough to get myself in trouble.
I was blessed with a father who can do -and has done- nearly anything. I know every son says that about their father, but usually, such pronouncements stop about the time a child reaches legal drinking age.

I passed that exit a long time ago.
My first car was a 1967 Chevy Impala SS (props to those who realize Milo Tucker and I have more in common than I'll usually admit) that cost a whopping $100. The low price tag brought with it a bevy of mechanical opportunities, but thanks to my Jack of all Trades paterfamilias, most of those repairs usually only set us back the price of parts.

I learned a lot watching Dad lean over the fender and rummage around in the engine compartment. It was during these sessions that my father revealed The Words of Power (women reading this may be scratching their heads in confusion, but all the fellas understand). All I'll offer as explanation is this: There's a reason your father/husband/boyfriend curses like a sailor when doing anything that requires a hand tool, or when the car won't start. You may think we're simply losing our temper, but we're actually invoking the universal powers that govern all things mechanical.

Ask your dad if you don't believe me.

Mystical abilities aside, the most important thing I ever learned from my father was the equation A+B=C, and its corollary, A=C - B. This lesson has nothing to do with arithmetic, but its application has saved my ass more times than I can count.

The trick is to find, then correctly identify, the value of A and the value of B.

I watched my father stare at an engine, or a section of drywall, or an appliance, and didn't realize his calm contemplation was the hardest aspect of the job. Sometimes, he'd trace a line, or a wire, or a board, with the tip of a screwdriver; sometimes he'd rock back on his heels and light a cigarette. It took many years for me to understand that what appeared to be indecision was, in fact, the most important part of the process.

He was finding A and B.

As an adult, I utilized this talent for years without fully appreciating its Genesis. At it's most simplistic, it aided me in my early years of computer studies, allowing me to grasp the concept of "If/Then" faster than most of my BASIC programming classmates. If this, then that, and so on, and so on, and so on.


Currently, the equation is easier to solve than it was during my formative years, thanks wholly to the Internet. To me, the glory of the Information Superhighway is contained in the amalgamation of mundane minutiae.

Or, the collective wisdom of all the Dads in the world.

The other night, my wife informed me one of my headlights had burned out. On my '67 Chevy, five bucks and a tussle with a screwdriver would have corrected the problem. I stopped at the Parts Store the following day and bought a new bulb, dropping four times the cash in exchange for one-fourth the hardware.

I asked the clerk if headlamp installation was part of their service paradigm, and after he finished scratching his ass, he told me not if it meant removing the battery to reach the headlight assembly. Now, as an automotive layman, I took his statement as proof that battery removal was necessary for lamp replacement. Popping the hood when I arrived home seemed to confirm the hypothesis; modern engine design has put even the simplest repair beyond the reach of the casual tinkerer.

I mentioned this to Dad, and while he was sympathetic, he seemed unconvinced. He was also concerned that disconnecting the battery might wreak havoc with my car's electrical system. I agreed, but didn't see any other option; there was a big block of molded plastic, lead and acid blocking my access.

Then, I remembered the equation.

I fired up the laptop and put my Google-Fu to work. The first link to appear directed me to a home-made video detailing the steps necessary to changing a headlamp. I clicked it and was rewarded with a three-minute tutorial designed to piss off any certified mechanic looking to score a $90/Hr labor fee.

Two screws, a yank, and a twist. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ten minutes to success, and I didn't even get my hands dirty.


I called Pop with news of my mechanical success, and we spent the next twenty minutes extolling the virtues of online information. It seems he's got a problem with his riding mower, and he's been Googling possible solutions. I realized this was the modern equivalent of tracing wires with the tip of a screwdriver, or rocking back on your heels and lighting a cigarette.

The conversation also served to confirm my father's position as a Jack of all Trades. Here's a man who recently celebrated his seventieth birthday and never went to college, but he's taught himself to Google with the rest of us.

That's the lesson I'll carry with me forever.

That, and always try the cheap fix first.

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

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Because I forgot to Mention it Earlier . . .

If you're craving Vents you haven't read, you can always head over to Horror World and click on the Column link. There's a new one from me: Eulogy in Absentia . . . .

Check out the Archives while you're at it. I think there's 3 years of Vents lurking in the cyber-stacks. You may get a laugh or two you weren't expecting, and that's always a good thing.

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Near Return of the Prodigal . . .

It's been a while, hasn't it?

There's so much to tell, but those tales will have to wait. So much to explain, but explanations aren't on the menu this evening. Endings and beginnings. Trials and tribulations. Tragedy and triumph . . . well, maybe not so much on the triumph front.

But maybe that's getting ready to change.

In the coming days, we'll talk about Kindles and Nooks. Borders and Barnes & Noble. But Then Again, You'll Have This . . ., and Business Up Front, Party in the Back. Oogie Boogie Central and Oogie Boogie Bounce.

Oh yes, we'll talk about all of this and more.

For now, we'll confine ourselves to two, brief topics.

First, when our family switched from cable to satellite, we received 3 months of free Showtime, and the biggest benefit of this has been our discovery of Dexter. Through the wonder of Video-on-Demand, we've devoured the Fifth Season in just a few days and have already started shopping for the earlier DVDs.

I read the original novel, and liked -but didn't love- it. I watched a few episodes back when CBS experimented with airing some heavily edited episodes several summers ago. At the time, my feeling was meh.

A perfect illustration of the dangers of adaptation.

It's been a long time since I fell in love with a series so quickly and so completely. I can't believe I almost let this one pass me by.

Problem solved.

And, as I've written before, sampling the muse of another can awaken your own, and, once again, I've found this to be true. Last week, I sent the first half of Oogie Boogie Breakdown to several kind Beta Readers and this morning, I received the first response.

I've had my doubts about this manuscript, so many that I have nearly as many words in a Breakdown abandoned folder as I do in the draft itself. If nothing else, it'll make for some interesting bonus material when -not if- Breakdown sees the light of day.

My first early reader was more honest than I expected, more perceptive than I hoped, and kinder than I deserved.


The juices are flowing again, and I predict they'll be spilling from my fingertips soon. In the meantime, I hope you'll check back often to see what trouble I can get myself into now.

I promise it won't take another two years to return.

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