Sunday, December 14, 2014

Random Thoughts

I have a lot of time to think at work, but not enough time for me to actually link thoughts together. This results in me writing a lot of things down on scrap paper, which I take home. I accumulate piles of these rather quickly. Since it will take a long time to get all of these ideas organized, I thought I’d just share the random things I have in my most recent pile:

Before Ayn Rand coined the term “objectivists”, we just called them “selfish assholes”.

An economy based on debt is an economy of slavery.

I realize the reptilian part of your brain is always going to react to base sexuality, but why is it your more advanced brain functions go along with it?

Just as the first step to sobriety begins with admitting you are a drunk, the first step towards wisdom is admitting you are a moron. And like an alcoholic, you must never believe that you are cured.

If God is looking out for you, why do you need a gun?

If you’re not constantly looking at things from at least two viewpoints, you have no sense of perspective.

If you sell your integrity for the sake of winning a single battle, you have lost the war.

Work hard and don’t care about others. If I wanted a society of slaves, that is what I’d teach them. Oh, and support your military and law enforcement uncritically.

Suffering because others suffer is not the answer to suffering.

We have abandoned our responsibilities as human beings to technology and market forces.

We teach self-reliance on a personal level while we as a nation are becoming ever more reliant on other nations.

The statues of great men have always been the preferred targets for the droppings of pigeons.

You never feel like you are standing on the crest of a wave. One always imagines the wave to be larger than it is, that the upward trend has only just begun.

A truth told once is no match for a lie oft repeated.

It was such a long journey to get to where I am. It was a battle all the way, but the only foe that was ever capable of inflicting pain, my greatest impedance, was doubt.

I have no great hopes left for my country. I fully expect to wake up one day to find my fellow Americans have voted the Evil Monkey Party into office.

Imagine what we as a nation could accomplish if we worked on what we agreed on instead of arguing about what we do not.

Words are sacred because they are the vessels on which imagination sails.

Rare is the person who is looking for anything more than to have his prejudices confirmed.

Love the person you are. And if you do not, cannot love yourself, believe that you have the ability to change.

If you have a nice enough desk, sooner or later you’ll start to feel you’re important.

Republicans and Democrats are going to act like spoiled children warring in the back seat until we the voters decide to turn the car around.

You sometimes wonder how the flowers are able to grow amongst the weeds. But flowers are the natural consequence of a healthy environment.

God is not a God to fall back on but to reach towards.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Last Chance for a free copy of The Amazing Morse

I'm taking The Amazing Morse out of the free option for e-books on Amazon. I have no idea how long it will take to be taken off, so here's your last chance to get something I've worked really hard for without having to pay for it:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Things That Once Were

Editing is a good thing, undoubtedly. But there is nothing like the feeling of actually creating something without worrying too much about what one is creating. To be in the flow without the critical side of you constantly seeking to slow things down is akin to skiing down a mountain for the first time. And so with that thought in mind, I am giving you a blog post I have written completely free of any kind of censure. Take it for what it is:

I spent the day cleaning my basement as a way of avoiding writing. I haven’t written a thing all month, nor have I made a sale. It’s not that I’m despairing of writing, it’s just that I lack aim. Desire roils within me but every direction I take soon seems to be the wrong one. So I dig through the pieces of my past in order to find the man I am supposed to be.
I have gone through my books; so many of them have accumulated through the years. The 18 years since I graduated seem to me to have been one big long push. I’ve bought books intending to read them when time permits but it never has. I realize now that no matter what I do in life I will have only scratched the surface of what there is to know, to discover.
There is a bookmark on page 74 of The Blood of Abraham, by Jimmy Carter, a book dealing with the Middle East. I bought and began to read it when I was 20 in 1986, and that’s as far as I ever got. I also began Dostoyevski’s The Idiot about that time, but somehow managed to finish that one. I’ve found my highlighted copy of Erich Fromm’s Sane Society which I feared I had lent out and would never see again. I bought another copy, but there’s something priceless about a book you’ve taken the time to highlight the truly essential parts.
And there’s something special about the actual copy of a special book you’ve read when you were younger. I still keep the Lord Of The Rings boxed set I got for a Christmas present from my brother Rick when I was around the age of 10. The books, especially The Fellowship of the Ring, are no longer in one piece. But there is a picture on the top of the box of the fellowship as they walk away towards their great adventure. It is defining in my memory. You can only see the backs of the nine, but the memories the picture conjures up are still vivid. And so I hang on to that set even though I have another brand new one awaiting the time when I shall once again explore Middle Earth.
I also have 2 sets of The Foundation trilogy. Again, I cannot bear to get rid of the ones in which I first discovered the Trantorian universe. But I managed to pick up a set with the cover art done by Darrell K. Sweet. Perhaps it is wrong to judge a book by its cover, but the cover should try to live up to what lies inside.
Darrell K. Sweet’s work is what originally interested me in Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I was too young to afford the books when I first saw them, but I eagerly pounced on each as they would arrive at the local bookstore I’d frequent to by a comic book, something which at 25 cents a pop, was well in my price range. A while later, while helping my brother Bob move, I couldn’t help notice the three box set of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant in one of his drawers, still in shrinkwrap. They ended up being my Christmas present that year. To this day, I have no idea if they had been intended as a gift or if I made such a fuss over them that he felt compelled to give them to me.
It seems that 15 years in my basement has put some age on these dear friends of mine. There is a certain mustiness to them, a degree of dust that has accumulated, and some mold that I cannot dust off the tops. The dust cover of Jean Dutourd’s Pluche is barely hanging on, yet I cannot bare to part with it.
I cannot believe I have allowed the things I have held so dear to endure the ravages of time and neglect in this way. For all my good intentions, life somehow managed to separate me from them. But I have lived long enough now to realize that it is the way of all things. Things get pushed to the side, forgotten about, and sometimes replaced. We can only carry those we love so far before we are exhausted by the burden. I seemed to have been born with a sense of nostalgia, always desiring to preserve what came before me. But I am beginning to feel that I too am but part of the great caravan marching towards dust and nothingness.

It may sound as if I am despairing, but I’m not. I’m merely trying to make sense of it all. I’m simply trying to understand what it is I was put here for and what I can do with the time allotted me. I realize that in order to hold on to what you have you have to let go of what you once had. I do not wish to let go of my past. I’ve always felt that my principle aim in life was to remain true to the child I once was and the ideals he held deal. But I realize that life moves on, that sometimes what you are holding on to is merely a shell of what it once was. And so I search amongst the things of my past, hoping to grasp the essence of what once was so important to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stories Light And Dark

I've just released a collection of 10 short stories entitled Stories Light And Dark. We're talking less than 22,000 words, so some of the stories are quite short. They are a collection of dark-themed stories mixed with stories that reach towards the light. My original intent was to separate them into two separate books, but the truth is nobody much cares for the more spiritual ones :) Not only that, I love to mix them all together in order to leave the reader guessing a little bit as to which way the story will turn. Give it a look. For the moment, it's only available on Amazon:

The big "1" on the cover indicates that this is the first in a series of short story compilations I have in mind.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Enjoy A Free Book, Help A Guy With Cancer

So I have this writer friend named Brandon Hale. That’s not unusual, a lot of people in the writing community call Brandon a friend. He’s that kind of person, the kind that you like immediately and never have any reason to stop liking him.
Sure, it’s easy to say someone is well liked, but a bunch of his friends are putting their money and time where their words are. You see, Brandon Hale has cancer in the intestines, and his entire attentions for the past six months have been on fighting for his life. That means he hasn’t been able to write, or edit, or promote, or do any of the things a writer has to do to put bread on the table. And that is where the independent writing community is stepping in to help a friend.
Some incredibly selfless people have donated money to promote the first book in Brandon’s primary book series, Day Soldiers. It deals with a dystopian future where vampires and werewolves have declared war on humanity. While intelligently written, it is still good reading for the younger set.
The goal is to get this book to #1 on the free list on Amazon. We’re up to #21 as I write this, so we’re getting close. This would not only be a symbolic victory, it would get Brandon the attention that all of us involved believe he deserves.
All that I ask of you is to pick yourself up a free digital copy and maybe give it a look. You might even want to pick up the next book in the series, no pressure. And if you want to share the information with others, that would be great too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Road To The Association Cover

The Cover For The Association

So another book has been released and another cover done. They say you should never judge a book by its cover but they also say not to have more than two drinks in an evening: in other words, people do it so you better accept it. With that being said, I thought my choice for a cover for my third book in The Amazing Morse series would be easy. Early on I used the term “sleep of reason” in my book, and it seemed a natural title for it. I discuss the breakdown of the current cultural paradigms and the chaos that could ensue from that. The term “sleep of reason” of course comes from the etching by the Spanish painter Fransisco Goya, so it seemed a given that the cover should be some kind of reproduction of the famous painting. 

The full title of the etching, by the way, is “The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters.” I think that very well summed up a major element in my series, that demons and ghosts are creations of warped human life/energy/chi or what have you. Plus, the sleep element is also stressed in the title. My main character has the ability to see things in his dreams that come to light in real life. So all I had to do was get the artist I had for the first two books to redo the original.
Except that the more I wrote the more I started to think that maybe it wasn’t such a good cover for the book I was writing. While it fit in well with the overall series, there was nothing that tied it to this particular book. And I was already looking further down the road to the end of this series. There will be some climactic moment, some final book that draws to a conclusion themes and ideas that have been working their way through this group of books. I wanted to have that title and that cover in my hip pocket, to be used later at the correct moment.
It’s nothing new for me. Perchance to Dream was supposed to be the name for my first book (lifted from Hamlet, of course). The original idea for the cover of that book was this:

If you think about it, there are references here to Hamlet, a man staring at a skull contemplating death. But somehow the idea of The Amazing Morse got a hold of me. I liked the juxtaposition of  Amazing and Morse, a rather common name. I wanted to show the distance between Dave Morse’s aspirations and necessary showmanship from the reality of his life. It was meant to be somewhat ironic. Plus it kind of rolls of the tongue, what with the alliteration. And so I saved Perchance To Dream for the title of book number two, which ended up ruminating on death a lot anyway and included a Hamlet quote or two.
And so I now had to come up with a new name for my current book, just as for the first. I considered The Nineteen Cuts, and may have also briefly considered a few other names. Then I thought of The Association, named after the group that had fallen into evil and had ended up being the antagonists of the novel.
I liked putting the title of the book on a tombstone. The Association had died a century and a half ago, although their ghosts remained. The original picture that we used for the tombstone came from The JFK Prep, the history of which was a major source of inspiration for the book

Here’s my original mock up for the cover:

It was at that point that Suzie O’Connell became involved. She had done the non-painting portions of my first two covers. She has been doing so well with her writing that I didn’t think she’d want to be bothered doing my cover, but she was kind enough to not only do it but also put up with my constant input and requests for changes. Here’s a big shout out to you, Suzie. Thanks for all the help and the infinite patience. You can find more of Suzie's covers as well as her writing on her website: 
Oh, and remember what I said about the Sleep Of Reason for a future cover, Suzie 
And here’s the finished product:

P.S. It’s not something anyone would notice, but I nevertheless made Suzie replace a cross on the tombstone with a dagger. We authors are a demanding lot, you know.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Campfire Story

As a writing exercise, I was asked to write a story to be told around a campfire. This is the result. It can stand a rewrite, but campfire stories don't have that luxury, so I present it to you as it is in a single telling:

Campfires are usually good for two different kinds of stories. The first kind are those thought up by adults in order to scare children. They are usually encouraged by children who bait their elders by insisting the story is not scary even as their eyes slowly widen.
The second kind is told after all of the imagined stories have been exhausted and the children put to bed. These are the stories the teller is hoping will have some kind of reasonable explanation that they themselves have yet to find. They are the stories of unusual experiences that cannot be real yet cannot be denied. They are told in the hopes that some explanation given by someone who has heard it might be plausible enough to drive out the explanation the teller knows in his heart is true.
I will leave it to the reader to decide which type of story it is that I’m about to relate. Perhaps it is some mixture of both. Perhaps I blend the imagined with the truth in order to convince myself that what I experienced was nothing more than a story to be told to children seeking a good scare.
I met my wife, Amanda, in Chicago but she was a small town girl at heart. After we were married, she wanted to move back to her hometown to raise a family. And so it was that a city boy such as me ended up living in the heart of Packerland, Wisconsin.
The first summer had been nice, but it was reaching the cold half of Autumn, now, and our small town didn’t seem to do enough to keep out the dark emptiness of the approaching winter.
We had been invited to a gathering at her friend’s boyfriend’s house, to sit around a fire and have a few drinks. By the time I got home from work and we were on our way, it was already getting dark. I didn’t realize it would be that far out of town, and we ended up taking roads I was unfamiliar with through an endless succession of farm land. Pickup trucks passed me on narrow roads that I drove on cautiously. I was a fish out of water here, in a place where the rules were unfamiliar. Once you leave the town, the rules of the road become a little less enforced. It’s a combination of locals travelling quickly over familiar territory mixed with the occasional farm vehicle that can’t make it over twenty miles per hour.
I was stuck behind such a vehicle now, a large truck with a tarp over its trailer that did little to stop the silage from spilling out behind it. A pickup was behind me, anxiously waiting to get past the both of us. I tried to wave the pickup around, but he seemed to be waiting for me. Nervously, I pulled into the oncoming lane and gunned the engine. There were no cars coming from the other direction, so I just put my foot to the floor in order to get out from behind the truck that was leaking corn stalks all over my windshield.
Like I said, I didn’t see any carlights approaching, so I felt safe. So when my wife screamed, it scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know what to do until I saw the truck in front of me slow quickly, then saw the form of a deer nearly directly in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, tried to keep my car from hitting either the deer or the farm truck. It’s like the damn deer was looking to get hit, because it jumped right in my path. My foot was stuck so hard to the brake that it was like I was trying to will the car to stop. I heard the thud as the deer hit the right side of my car. It hit the ground, dragged itself up, and sprung off into the wooded area on the other side of the road.
“Thank God it’s all right,” I said.
“It’ll probably die,” said my wife, almost accusingly.
“I didn’t mean to hit it!” I felt bad enough, I didn’t need her making me feel worse.
“You didn’t have to pass that truck. You could have just let the other truck pass us both.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m not used to being out here.”
“Well just be careful from now on,” she said. “It’s rutting season and deer are a lot more active, especially around twilight.”
My wife came from a family that hunted, hell, she had killed a few deer in her time. I couldn’t understand how someone who hunted deer could be so concerned for them. I drove slowly now, not caring what other drivers might think. From time to time my wife would point to a gully or into the woods and I would see small points of golden light, the reflection of my headlights in the eyes of deer. Sometimes it was a single pair of eyes, other times it was several in a group. The fear of another collision made me yearn to reach our destination.
It was just about dark by the time we arrived at Brian’s house, a place that was alone on the landscape save for a barn and an oversized workshop/garage. Near the driveway was adeer carcass, another victim of traffic. But this one was far more damaged than the one I had hit.
“What happened to that?” I asked my wife. It looked like half its body had been skinned.
“I don’t know. A semi, maybe. Maybe it got run over by a Tiller,” she said, as she stared at the thing. The darkness seemed to blunt the disgust at the sight.
There were several vehicles—all but one were pickups—in the gravel driveway. As much as I was happy to have arrived, I did not want to leave the fully warmed car to step into the cold night. To be honest, I was just going for her sake. I was trying my best to fit in to my new environment.
We approached two men who were busy building an impressive pile of wood. Old lawn chairs surrounded the place where the fire would be.
“Hi, Brian,” said my wife, recognizing her friends beau.
“Hi,” said Brian, a cigarette in his mouth and a can of beer in one hand, a load of twigs in the other.
“Where’s Laurie?”
“She’s inside the house with Adam.”
“Oh,” Amanda said. “I’ll go say hi. Turning to me, she said, “You want to help them?”
“Let me go say to Adam,” I said. I really didn’t feel comfortable with a bunch of strangers. Besides, I really liked Adam, who seemed born to sports. We’d been to a picnic with Laurie and Adam in the summer and he did nothing but play baseball the whole time, a real natural.
We entered the house—a bachelor farmer’s house with minimal furniture and d├ęcor—to the noise of crying. Adam was only six, but he was all boy, so it took me a little off guard seeing him like this. Laurie was busy trying to sooth him but he was in a panic.
“What’s the matter?” asked Laurie, in a gentle cooing voice. But Adam was so worked up he could not articulate what was bothering him.
“What’s up, buddy?” I asked, hoping I could distract him from his worry. But he had no time for me, seemed to have trouble grabbing breath.
“It’s okay,” Laurie said, bouncing him in her arms as she would a much younger child.
“It’s…it’s out there,” he said between sobs.
“It’s all right,” she said. “It can’t hurt you.”
“What is it?” asked Amanda softly to Laurie.
“Oh, there’s an old burning barrel out back. Brian found a dead raccoon the other day and put it in there. I didn’t even think Adam could look over the rim, but he must have seen the thing. It was all burnt up, must have looked nasty.”
Amanda and I sat there looking rather awkward for a minute, when Laurie said, “You two get yourself a drink and go sit outside. I’ll be out as soon as he settles down.”
Amanda poured herself a wine and grabbed me a can of beer from the fridge and we went out to join the others around the fire.
People around these parts tend to be rather cliquey and not very well mannered. We found ourselves sitting by ourselves, nursing our drinks and listening to Brian’s two friends talking amongst themselves.
“Boiled up some sheep hearts,” one of them said. “I had the old lady try ‘em but she won’t eat ‘em. Better than goin’ ta waste, the way meat prices are nowadays.”
“Awful tough,” said another voice. The figures were mere shadows against a rapidly growing fire.
“Not if you boil ‘em,” said the first.
I cast a glance at my wife to see if this kind of talk was normal where she was from. She looked at me and with a glance let me know that it made her sick to her stomach as well.
Looking down, I noticed a small cat near my leg, acting as if it wanted my attention. I’ve always been an animal lover—which is why the comments about sheep hearts made me nearly ill—so I reached down and stroked the little guy, much to his approval. Barn cat, I thought. Cats like this one have to work for their living, eat whatever mice they find.
I stopped petting him but he nuzzled up against my leg. I reached down to pet him again, and in the light of the fire I noticed the pustule that was where his right eye should have been. I pulled my hand away in surprise and disgust.
“What’s wrong?” asked my wife.
“That cat. It’s disgusting.”
Amanda looked at the thing, still wanting to be friends with me, still trying to snuggle up against my leg.
“It’s a barn cat, James. Who knows what kind of things they get into.”
It continued its attempts to be friendly, but I just wanted it away from me. I nudged it gently with my foot, but it would not take a subtle hint. I shoved it harder but still it did not seem to understand I wanted it to go away. I’m not one to be rough with animals, but I really wanted it to just go away. I squelched my normal instinct towards kindness and gave it a rather firm kick.
“YEEOOOWWW!” it screamed loudly. The others around the fire stopped their conversation to look in my direction.
“I didn’t know it was there,” I lied.
“They been actin’ funny, lately,” said Brian, a beer still in his hand. I could tell by his voice he must have been drinking for a while now.
“How many do you have?” I asked, trying to be conversational, trying to make everyone forget I’d just made his cat scream.
“I don’t know. One of ‘em had kittens a couple weeks ago, but only a couple of ‘em made it. And others, they seem to come and go.”
I looked out at the field that was between us and the barn and noticed several sets of eyes reflecting the fire in the darkness, the flames moving in their stare.
Before long, Laurie came out of the house, a glass that tinkled with ice in her hand.
“Your sister said she’d stay with Adam for a while,” she said to Brian.
“He’s not normally like this,” she said to my wife, sitting down in the chair next to her. In a moment they were lost in conversation and I was left by myself to stare at the fire and eavesdrop on the conversations of others. Perhaps I would have pushed myself to be more sociable with a couple more drinks but it had been decided that I was driving that night.
The fire warped both the looks and sounds from the people who sat opposite of it, so that I began to feel as if I had drunk more than I had. I turned my glance away from the fire, looked to the porch of the house and noticed a little figure in the porchlight. It walked down the stairs and towards the fire, a woman walking behind him. It was Adam, and he walked his way calmly towards his mom, who let him up on her lap.
“You feeling better now?”
“Yeah,” he said, a little sleepily.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” she said, stroking his blond hair.
“I know. It’s okay. He’s not dead.”
“What?” said his mom, surprised by the boy’s response.
“He’s not dead, mommy. I thought he was dead, but he’s not.”
“Of course he’s dead,” Laurie’s voice betrayed the shock and concern she felt. “But don’t worry, he won’t hurt you.”
“No. He’s not dead. He talked to me. He told me he was okay.”
The concerned look Laurie had on her face earlier when Adam was crying was nothing compared to how she appeared now. There are things children say for no explainable reason, but this went beyond anything she’d experienced.
“Stop it!” she said, her anger covering her fear. “It’s dead. Isn’t it, Brian? Brian put it in that barrel himself. It was dead then and then he burned it. So stop that crazy talk, Adam.”
But Adam spoke with all the authority a six year old could summon. “It’s not dead, mommy. I told you it’s not dead.”
“Nonsense,” she said, standing up while still holding him. “I’ll show you he’s dead.
I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t really know Laurie or the others that well. But this was not ordinary behavior for anyone. I looked at my wife and could see the same concern on her face.
Meanwhile, Laurie walked towards the fence where there were several barrels. By this time, every one of us was involved in wanting a resolution to what was playing out before us.
She looked into each barrel, intent on showing her son the very thing that only short moments ago had driven him to hysterics.
“Brian, it’s too damn dark to see anything. Bring me a flashlight.”
“It’s in there,” he said, the thickness of his speech abating somewhat because of the need to deal with the situation. “No sense in setting him off again. It’s in there. I put it in myself.”
“Just bring me a damn flashlight!” Her level of excitement seemed to nearly match that of her son’s earlier.
Brian walked into the house quickly. The other two men that were with him wandered over towards where Laurie and Adam were standing. When I saw my wife rise to head that way, I followed.
“He’s okay, mommy,” said Adam.
“Shut up! Just shut up.” Laurie was clearly upset and I can’t say I blamed her. There was no accounting for the way Adam was behaving. Children don’t behave that way. He was calm, now, but there was no explanation for why he would be saying what he was saying. No logical explanation. I felt a chill run up my back, one I believed I felt with everyone else who was standing there.
The screen door to the house slammed noisily, Brian’s work boots sounding on the cold-hardened ground, the beam of a flashlight bobbing along the ground.
“Here’s your flashlight, Laurie.” There was noticeable anger in Brian’s voice “You’re just going to scare him again.”
“Just give me the flashlight.” When he arrived she grabbed it angrily from his hand.
She flashed it in the one to the right. I couldn’t see what was in it, but it was nothing that interested Laurie. She tried the one in the middle, then the left. I could see inside the one in the left. There were unburned pieces of scrap lumber in there, no ash that I could see.
“Which one was it?” asked Laurie, her voice twisting still higher in pitch.
“The middle one,” said Brian.
She pointed to the middle one with the beam of the light, all of us straining to see inside of it. Her hand was shaking now, so that the shadows moved about the inside of the barrel. The moving light made it difficult to be sure what we saw.
Brian grabbed the flashlight from her. She released it, feeling the need to grasp her son with both hands. She was a primitive mother now, protecting her child from the unknown dangers of the darkness.
“It was in this one. I’m sure it was,” said Brian, too convinced that he was right to permit fear to enter his thoughts. “I know it was,” he said, a little less certain.
It was still more of a riddle for him than a reason for fear when he dropped the hand that held the flashlight. That’s when I saw a dark line on the ground, extending from the middle barrel towards the fire where we had been a moment ago. A trail of black ash marked the bare earth below us.
“See, mommy,” said Adam, sounding like any normal pleased child. “It’s alive. I told you it was alive.”
I looked at Adam and there was a contented smile on his face, like a child discovering a lightning bug or butterfly. But the look upon his mother’s face is one I’ll never forget. She appeared as one intent on clinging to an idea that did not agree with her direct experience. Whatever was happening, her mind was going to stay with an explanation that she could live with. She stared at the line of ash as though it were a fuse which her gaze could light and burn to nothingness.
I’ve always been a person who’s overly concerned with manners, of making proper greetings and farewells. But at the moment I simply could no longer stay in this place for another moment. Everyone else stood still, glancing at the line, wondering what would be at the other end. But I grabbed at my wife’s arm. It was hard to break the inertia that held her to her spot, but I pulled her towards the car and she followed as one without will of her own. The eyes from the field still echoed the flames of the fire as we walked past, not all of them in pairs. I opened the door for my wife, who got in without speaking. I got in the driver’s side and started the car. I backed up as quickly as caution permitted, as slowly as fear would allow. It did not occur to me until we were safely down the road a few hundred yards that I had not seen the deer carcass where it had been when we arrived.

Laurie seemed to distance herself from my wife after that night, as though she didn’t want any reminder of what had happened. Perhaps it was her way of protecting her son. She broke up with Brian, too. I’ve seen him a couple of times at local stores, and we talk, but nothing about that night. It’s there, we both know it, but there’s really no way to broach such a subject. Not in the daylight. Not in the middle of our ordinary busy routines. It’s only around a fire, late at night, away from the ordinary world, that one can really discuss such matters.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'm Not Like Everybody Else Pt. 2

I earlier wrote a blog stating that I not only would not but could not write my books in order to appeal to readers of a certain genre. I don't think that's a bad thing, but I am, at least initially, prone to being misunderstood. I'm hoping that given time, people will come to know me and accept what it is I write. I fondly remember a dear friend of mine introducing me to someone else in this manner: "This is James, he grows on you." I like that, I like the idea that what you see is not necessarily what you get. Sometimes people put on a front. Me, I like to be a little more reserved, holding back what's best until we've earned each other's trust.

At any rate, my reviews so far have born out my guess that I don't fit readily in any convenient classification. Here are some quotes from readers on my various writings:

"This book is not your typical 'Horror Story'."  From Amazon review of The Amazing Morse

"This is a somewhat different novel of psychological terror and horror." Another Amazon review of The Amazing Morse

 "Odd and Compelling" "I guess the genre for this book is semi-paranormal, but for me, it was an essay on reality and simulacra disguised as a novel." Amazon review of Perchance to Dream

"Different."  Barnes and Noble Review of Ashes on the Water

"Refreshingly original too, a different kind of horror." Smashwords review of The Amputation

"original" Smashwords review of The Amputation

"Chilling and unpredictable." Smashwords review of Brandon Kratz

So there you have it. If you're interested in something that isn't easily classified, something that is more than a carbon copy of something that has already been done, I invite you to check out some of my writing, which can be found by typing my name into a search engine. Or you can just click on one of my book covers located on the right side of the page.

And since I took the name of this post from the title of a Kinks song, I find it fitting to end it with a quote from another Kinks song (Working At The Factory):

Never wanted to be like everybody else

But now there are so many like me sitting on the shelf
They sold us a dream but in reality
It was just another factory

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Association (The Amazing Morse #3)

I have just hit the publish button for Amazon Kindle and am awaiting it to be made available for sale. This is the third book I've published and for some reason I have even more butterflies in my stomach than with the other two. Perhaps it is that the more I publish the more real the idea of pursuing this as a career seems to be. The first novel was a dream come true, and while I had some wild flights of fancy about what I could achieve with it, I really didn't know what to expect. The second book, it's hard for me to remember that far back. It's only been a year, but what a year it's been. Looking back, the fact that I've managed to write a book this year has been quite an achievement. I know people who've written 8 books in a year, so it doesn't seem like my one book is such a big thing, but for me it is. It's been a struggle and a major commitment, but it has also been a bit of an anchor for me, a refuge from the demands of the outside world. It has taken a lot from me, but it has also given back. Writing is a process of discovery. One has to look into the deep recesses of the mind, heart and soul in order to put something you're proud of on the page. I hope that's what I've done; at the moment I'm a little too fried-out to tell. I'll post a link here when it becomes available. In the meantime, here is the cover:

The Association is now available on Kindle. You can find it here:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Question Of Balance: The beginning

What follows is the beginning to my newest novel, tentatively titled "A Question Of Balance". I share it in hopes of getting feedback. Sometimes, as an author, I wonder how far into my own little world have I gotten and if it makes sense to others. Maybe I'm crazy. But I think it's more important to be true to yourself than to write what you think others want to read. Let me know what you think:

The grounds of what used to be Chapel Hill Prep School were empty of any activity except for the tan van that seemed to creep up the gravel driveway. The place was open to the public, and there was now a thrift shop in what was once a dormitory. But it was too early in the day for it to be opened, just as it was too early to know if the morning frost would give way to nicer weather.
Arriving early was part of Dave’s plan. He wanted to be alone, or rather, he did not want any observers to the meeting he was hoping to have.
Dave parked near the thrift shop and walked towards the unused church that sat across from it. He didn’t know why, but he felt that it was the most likely place to find Johnny. Well, not Johnny, really. Although he looked and sounded like Johnny, it was merely a memory of him Dave hoped to encounter. Still, Dave hoped there was something to be gained by the meeting.
The door was not locked. Whoever owned the premises either trusted people or else realized stained glass windows could be broken as easily from the outside as from within. Dave entered and stood still for a moment while his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
Attempts were being made to repair the church, to bring it back to life as a place of worship. Its former glory had faded, the attempts at restoration so far resulting in nothing more than making things worse. Tarps covered all save the first two rows of pews.
As if he knew what he were doing, Dave went to the second pew, genuflected, and knelt down to prayer.
He had learned to pray of late. Where before prayer had consisted of recitations of prayers without any real connection, he now felt some actual communication was taking place, if only between his heart and mind. Something had opened up within him, some barrier had been removed. He was awakened, to whatever spiritual power existed in the universe, Dave was reluctant to use the name God. He was reluctant to put a name to it at all, more concerned with the actual experience. He closed his eyes and opened himself up to a reality in him that was normally quiet enough to be ignored, but never absent. It was like encountering a spring within him, that lightly bubbled, poured forth its waters endlessly. It was the source, the explanation and reason for everything. And it was so inconspicuous one had to silence all else for it to appear.
This was prayer, the realization that such a spring existed. Here was vitality, the life-giving water that poured through his soul, was his soul. It bubbled gladness in him, flowing, always flowing, carrying with it an endless supply of inspiration, eternal, everlasting. Like music that was constantly changing and neverending, it flowed, subtle yet powerful. Dave quieted all else until it bubbled up and poured throughout his body. He felt happy, felt as though he were home, or at least where he was meant to be.
Through shut eyelids, Dave slowly became aware of a blue aura emanating from his right. He slowly opened his eyes, as though slowing the transition from his interior reality to the outside world, smoothing the gap between the two.
Kneeling next to him was the blue aura of the ghost of a man he used to know.
“Johnny,” said Dave.

“No, Dave, simply his ghost. A greeting card written by someone who no longer is.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

First Sentences of Some of My Favorite Novels.

I recently read an article about the importance of the first sentence. All right, I didn’t actually read it, I skimmed over it. There was a picture of some author gazing thoughtfully off into the distance with earth sky and water in the background, and he threw out some ideas about how the first sentence of a novel can determine whether the book is worthy of a prize. Oddly enough, for someone stressing the importance of a first sentence, his initial thought seemed to me to clock in at somewhere over a thousand words.Perhaps it was just me. I tried re-reading a few times and then just gave up altogether. You can read it here, although I don’t recommend it: I really don’t see how you can judge an entire novel by the very first sentence, any more than you can judge it by the fourth sentence on the 87th page. Granted, there are some good opening lines, but many great books begin with a simple statement. In fact, I would much rather judge a book by its cover than by a single sentence.
But it did have me go back and check the first sentences of some of my favorite books, just to see if there was anything to it. What follows is a short list of first sentences from books I regard highly. I’ve left off the name of the book and the author’s name in order to play a little game. Can you name any of the books? Just to make it interesting, I’ll offer the first copy of my newest book, The Association, to whomever can name the most books based on the sentences provided below. The book will be released sometime in September. You can e-mail me your answers at

1)      The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap.

2)      She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the center of the walk like a mechanical derilect.

3)      A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.

4)      First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.

5)      On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge

6)      When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

7)      In 1815, M. Charles Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D---.

8)      The urge to embark on a work of creation after a period of sterility is like the desire to make love, very violent, but it can be appeased by failure.

9)      Just after passing Caraher’s saloon, on the County Road that ran south from Bonneville, and that divided the Broderson ranch from that of Los Muertos, Presley was suddenly aware of the faint and prolonged blowing of a steam whistle that he knew must come from the railroad shops near the depot at Bonneville.

10)   “I am inclined to think—“ said I.

11)   There lived in Westphalia, in the castle of my Lord the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, a young man, on whom nature had bestowed the most agreeable manners.

12)   Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his office.

13)   We are at rest five miles behind the front.

14)   The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

15)   On the 6th of January 1482, the Parisians were awakened by the noise of all the bells within the triple circuit of the City, the University, and the Town ringing in full peal.

16)   It was a pleasure to burn.

17)   “What’s it going to be then, eh?”

18)   Buck did not read the news, or he would have known there was trouble brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

It's a rather tough list, so don't feel bad if you didn't get more than a couple. As I said, not even most great novels begin with a memorable first line.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jason Becker, ALS, and Humility

While out for a walk tonight, I heard a man screaming from behind a backyard fence. It took me a moment before I realized why it was he was screaming. Like seemingly everyone else on this planet, he was having cold water poured over him in the name of ALS.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Lou Gehrig’s disease, but I have been ahead of the fad this time. My newest novel, The Association, due out in September, involves a character with ALS. While only appearing in the final chapter, it is her disease that drives the action of the entire story. In a desperate attempt to find a cure for her illness, her boyfriend ends up dragging himself and others into a trap with seemingly no exit.
While I’ve always been aware of Lou Gehrig’s disease since seeing The Lou Gehrig Story as a small child, it really hit home for me when I chanced upon the documentary, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

Did you ever feel jealousy towards another human being only to feel horrible about yourself afterwards? Years ago, I was driving home from a job I hated in my beat up old car, only to be passed by a shiny new convertible. I cursed my luck, wondering why I should work so hard and yet this person had more than I. 
And then I spotted it, the wheelchair in the back seat. And then I felt horrible for wishing I had what this other person had rather than being thankful for what was given to me.

It was a similar situation with Jason Becker. When I was in my early twenties, my dad brought home an old guitar he had bought from a garage sale. I took it as a sign that I should learn how to play it. I practiced a good deal at it, but never got very good. A big part of my learning involved picking up copies of Guitar Players Magazine, where they would have the sheet music for a lot of classic rock songs. Being a reader, I read all the articles on all of the guitarists as well.

And that’s how I heard about Jason Becker. He was the wiz kid, younger than me but already being heralded as a major new talent and playing for the likes of David Lee Roth. I hated him, which is to say I was immensely jealous of him. Already older than him, I had no direction in life, had achieved nothing. Here he was already a better guitarist than I could ever hope to be, was making truckloads of money, and assuredly had his pick of women. And hair. Did I mention he had hair? This was the era of hair bands, of outrageously long hair. And I, I was already well on my way to baldness. The eighties was not a good era to lose your hair.

So I harbored a good deal of jealousy towards this rock star I had never met, disliked his music which I had never heard. But like all petty grudges, it faded after time.

Fast forward to 2013. I was flipping through channels on the TV when I came across the name of Jason Becker, and took a closer look. The old jealousy resumed as I wondered whatever came of him. Perhaps he, like Joe Satriani and myself, had lost his hair too. A petty thought for sure, but not the greatest of my sins by a long shot. But then I turned to the channel, and I watched the documentary, and then my smallness hit me full-on. ALS had taken more from him than any human being should have to stand, and yet I cruelly had wished for some kind of cosmic justice to level the playing field between him and me. More humbling still was that Jason Becker still had the courage to continue with his life and his music despite the hand he had been dealt. I am a very small man indeed.

But that’s when ALS truly caught my attention. I’ve been watching videos on YouTube and reading up on it since then. And somehow it wove its way into my story about a group of priests who had been healers centuries ago. And through a story that involves ghosts and faith and murder, a love story is woven about a man who wanted to save his beloved from a horrible disease and prove to her the healing power of faith. It will be available in a couple of weeks, as soon as my beta-readers and my cover artist have done their jobs. In the meantime, you can read my first book for free by clicking on the picture of the cover of The Amazing Morse on your right. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out videos of people dumping cold water on themselves on Facebook.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Walk Around JFK Prep

I've already posted some pictures of JFK Prep but thought photos shot towards sunset might be a little more atmospheric. And although the working title of my book was The Sleep Of Reason, I have changed it to The Association, saving the former title for a more appropriate time. I've also given the site inspired by JFK Prep a different name: it is not my intent to have people confuse my fictional creations with reality and I surely don't want to encourage any thrill seekers poking around the area. The present owners of the property are kind enough to allow people to stroll the grounds and I would hate to do anything to change that.

The story of the area is innocent enough, but it is the kind of story that seems to call for some ghostly elements to be added. It is not just me, rumors and stories of ghosts abound, but they are only rumors and stories. And the area is interesting enough to get the imagination wandering. So with that said, here are a few pictures:

There appear to be Stations of the Cross situated about the grounds, but whatever stood within these stone structures are now gone.

The tomb of the founder of The Association and the town of St. Nazianz, Father Ambrose Oschwald. He was known as a great healer.

From inside a little chapel located upon a hill looking down upon the cemetery.
Father Ambrose Oschwald, who led his entire congregation from Germany to Wisconsin in 1984.
Looking down from the hill of the chapel

A path leads along the property to a small lake or pond, which is more like a bog at this point.

I'm not sure what the intention of this little monument was:

Pictures of the grounds from across the waters.

A creature we encountered on our walk. The look in its eyes suggests possession or perhaps a were-bunny.

I like the idea of one tombstone being out of step with all the others. Again, just letting my imagination run free (as with the bunny).

The mind invests meaning to what it encounters, that's what it does. I allowed my mind to work its own ideas upon what it witnessed at JFK Prep, and the result is my novel The Association, which shall be available sometime in September. If the waiting gets to be too much for you, feel free to check out my first two books in the series while you wait. The first one's on me.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moments Of Profound Understanding In Movies

On a forum long ago and far away, I once posted what to me were some of the greatest moments in cinematic history. It was only after posting these four clips in succession that I found a common link to them and felt the need to write about it. Let me know what you think:

After all, what possible connection could there be between The Karate Kid and a romantic comedy by Charlie Chaplin, what would link Victor Hugo’s 19th century work with a film about aliens secretly infiltrating and controlling our society? Had I not included a comment someone made on YouTube regarding They Live, I would not now try to convince anyone that any connection exists. After all, the clip I included is a fight scene, the one that inspired the “cripple fight” from South Park. The movie stars Rowdy Roddy Piper, the professional wrestler. It includes lines like: “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum…and I’m all out of bubble gum.” Nothing very profound here, right? But the reference to Plato’s Republic got me thinking.
Plato stated that most people’s perception of reality is akin to “cave dwellers” who merely see the reflections of the real, shadows cast upon the cave walls. If one of them were to leave the cave and see things in the light of the sun, he would initially be blinded and confused. Furthermore, if that person were to return to the cave and tell others what he saw in the daylight, they would consider his vision madness. This is the story related in They Live, where special glasses reveal the subliminal messages that are to be found everywhere: “Watch T.V.”, “Do Not Question Authority”, “Consume”. In the clip I included, Piper’s character has returned to the cave to tell others of his revelation, while Keith David’s character thinks him crazy. And like anyone else comfortable in his misconceptions, he is willing to fight for them.

In the Karate Kid, Daniel’s patience, trust, and desire are tested. Acting on faith and need, he puts up with the endless tasks Mr. Miyagi assigns him until he is fed up. He does not see Mr. Miyagi’s ultimate aim, and so he feels he is being used. Even when the meaning of his work has been revealed, it will take some time for the reality of it to sink in.

The flower girl from Chaplin’s City Lights also perceives reality as something other than what it is. She awaits her prince charming, the rich man that Chaplain’s Tramp has pretended to be. Since undergoing an operation that has restored her sight, she is on the lookout for the dapper millionaire who paid for the operation. When she sees the Tramp, she looks upon him with condescending pity, neither aware that it is he who gave her the money, nor the personal cost of his generosity.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who has been taught throughout his life that power and law are the only truths. When the bishop opens his house to him and shows him compassion, he cannot begin to understand where this generosity is coming from. It has no place in the world he has known, and so he falls back into the only way of behaving that he knows: that of selfishness and violence. But when the bishop exemplifies for him the teachings of Christ (“When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give him the other; when someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well”), Valjean can never again see the world in the same way again. Before, he was an animal without free will. Now he is confronted with the choice between the bishop’s example and the world he has always known.

In each of these scenes, a person’s shallow misperceptions are shattered by an almost spiritual (or very spiritual) revelation. Arrogance and ignorance give way to humility and the beginning of wisdom. We are in an age where filmmakers can create an entire world (Avatar), or destroy one (2012). But nothing in cinema will ever impress me as much as the look in a character’s eyes as a world more profound and beautiful than any they had ever known begins to take shape before them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Amazing Morse Is Free As An E-Book

I have decided to set the price for my debut novel, The Amazing Morse, at $0. The reason for it is to introduce myself to readers who may like it enough to pick up the second in the series, Perchance To Dream. The third book, called The Association, will be released in September.

I'm hoping also that by giving my book away, I may garner some positive reviews. This can prove risky because people tend not to value that which they get for free. So far I have acquired two negative reviews, but neither of them had anything of substance to say. Nobody has been able to pick on any specific shortcomings. I do have positive and honest reviews from strangers, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Reviews are for writers what tips are to waitstaff: we would not be able to survive without them. But more than that, they truly do make a writer's day. To know that one's hard work has been well received makes it all worth while. Never think that your acts of kindness are for naught.

And speaking of reviews, this is the most recent one I received for The Amazing Morse:

Evelyn visits her spiritualist. She knows Evelyn's future and the future of her other clients. Evelyn is bursting with joy, but the spiritualist knows there is only destruction in her clients' futures.

We first meet Daivd Morse sitting in his cubicle at work contemplating freedom and imprisionment, both of the mind and the body. As readers, we begin to see into his mind. Then, we learn of the horrible nightmares. Are they only dreams or are they replays of reality or are they forewarnings? Is he the monster of his nightmares? Certain words come to mind in describing this novel: demon, monster, surreal, evil, introspective journey, unsettling, horror; and above the rest: entertaining. This is a trip into darkness.

This is a somewhat different novel of psychological terror and horror. It is an enjoyable read.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cast Your Vote Against Cancer

Here's your chance to vote against CANCER. We have an anthology of vampire stories and all of the proceeds are going for a fellow writer who has a rather severe form of cancer and a ton of medical bills. By voting up The Bitten Anthology, you will be helping to raise awareness of the book and increase the money we can raise. You might have to search a bit, the book is currently at 349 but I'm hoping it will rise:

And if you really like vampires and really dislike cancer, you can buy the e-book here:

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Meaning We Can Find, We Find In Our Hearts

I’m looking out at my very modest backyard as I write this. I see large trees in yards beyond mine, as well as the various plants and flowers that my wife carefully cultivates. It is fully summer now, and all that nature can impart to our little backyard it is providing.
My dog died three weeks ago tonight, just about this time. Some won’t appreciate the bond that humans can have with animals, so if that is you, you might want to move along. But death is death, it leaves the living asking the same questions.
I think of myself as a writer. Sometimes I think a writer cannot fully experience anything until he has written about it. I write about death, among other things. Mainly, I try to write about the meaning of life. I want life to have meaning, feel there MUST be meaning to it. But pretty ideas and philosophies are put to the test when the reality of death is put in front of us and we cannot ignore it.
There is so much I want to say regarding the recent passing of my dog Bella. It may sound as if I am speaking of personal matters, and I am, but I hope to find universal principles from my experience. When someone, or in my case something, who is very close to you dies, there are many thoughts and emotions that flood through a person. Part of it is loyalty: I would do anything for her. Love doesn’t end with the death of the loved one. But I realize there is nothing I can do for her. I could feel guilty, or miserable, but that would do nothing to help her. She is beyond anything I can do for her, and I’m not done loving her yet.
Part of it is pure selfishness on my part. Part of grieving is dealing with being the survivor. That’s when the guilt sets in, when I realize that my grief is as much about me as it is about her. My grief should be directed to her, not at my own feelings. But again, she is gone. Forever.
Forever. The word hits hard on such occasions. Life is about possibilities, it’s about “maybe if I try hard enough” or “well, not this time, but maybe next time”. Humans aren’t made for ruling things out with absolute certainty. We’re born to be optimists, to believe that we can have whatever we want if we are patient, hardworking and believe. So saying goodbye forever is not natural. Maybe humans just delude themselves, maybe it is only in times of loss that we allow ourselves to see the truth. That everything we love can and will be ripped from us in time. Time is a wheel that crushes all before it.
Death is also a milestone, when we look back at the time we’ve known  someone. Fourteen years is a pretty long time, no matter how old you are. As a matter of fact, fourteen years seem more precious to someone who is older. With fewer years to waste, each year becomes more precious. I look back at who I was when I first came home with a little puppy in a cardboard box, think of all the time we spent, of all that has changed in my life in that time. And I see in her passing the passing of all things. Life ticks by us in sections, and here was one big section that is gone forever. One more piece in my collection firmly filed in the past.
I try to write about meaning, but meaning tends to desert us when we experience loss. Meaning doesn’t MEAN anything sometimes, it is an abstract notion that matters little compared to the very tangible losses we experience.
In the end, meaning is not an intellectual but an experiential thing. Reality is too large for us to grasp with our mind. It is only the heart that can truly understand the really big issues of life. I remember being a man in my twenties, visiting an aunt who was dying. I spent the night with another aunt, who was then in her eighties. We spent a good amount of time discussing the meaning of life. She was a good, intelligent woman, but she was about to lose her little sister. She didn’t have any more answers than I did.
Old age will not permit us to understand life and death anymore than youth can. But if a person lives life openly, he will know how it feels. If you leave yourself open to love, pain, and loss, that is as close as you will get to understanding. Do not hide yourself from such things by constructing philosophies or beliefs that seek to explain away what you feel. Feel and do not turn away from the feeling. Embrace whatever feeling you experience, because it as much as anything else is real. Feel, and the experience of it will give you whatever wisdom and understanding is granted to humans.
Shortly before I started writing this, I looked in my backyard and noticed a chipmunk feeding from the hummingbird feeder my wife has by the porch. A few moments later, I looked out the back window to notice a baby bunny sitting in the grass, as well as a bunch of birds bouncing around. I  soon returned to my seat just in time to see a cardinal alighting on our fence. With the myriad flowers, the world truly seemed alive. And it was all in my little backyard, the place that my dog Bella reigned over for over fourteen years. There was something about the abundance of life that was occurring that touched a place in my heart. And I understood. I’m sure it sounds silly to you, but I understood.