December 3, 2013
“It blows my mind to think that ‘LOL’ is probably spelled differently in Spanish.” –Me
It doesn’t really blow my mind; that was just an attempt to be funny on Twitter. My little snippet was tantamount to verbal diarrhea. It’s an interesting thought though, because most of my Spanish followers type “LOL” at the end of their Spanish tweets even though the acronym is clearly English. Technically, they should use “RAC” for “riendo a caracajadas,” but whatever. I guess our American shorthand is insidious enough to infect other languages.
But after I tweeted the above mentioned nonsense, a troll came out of nowhere and responded by saying “you have a very tiny mind.” Of course he immediately blocked me so I couldn’t respond, you know, because he’s a real man. And it pissed me off because I wanted to post something supper witty like “I know you are but what am I?” but his hasty departure robbed me of the chance. So I looked through his tweets because anybody who could so flippantly insult me should have some badass wit, right? Here’s the first one I found:
“I’m all for reparations if it will get black people to stop saying ‘nigga.’” –Moe McLendon
Holy shit. How does one say “OMG” in Spanish? I guess I was wrong. Moe McLendon turned out to be a fat-ass ineffectual fuck-tard as opposed to the witty guy I was hoping to find. But that’s usually the case with trolls. In case you didn’t know, a “troll” is anybody on a social media site that intentionally insults something you say to make up for the fact that they were born with an innie instead of an outie (you know, down in their pants where it counts). These walking penises usually hide behind a fake profile picture to minimize the backlash from their offensive comments, and that’s exactly what Moe McLendon does, but I found a picture of him on his wife’s Instagram:
You know, I’m finding it really hard to be pissed at this guy despite his assholeishness because he’s got some serious style. I bet the inside of his trailer is uber pimp. And just in case you don’t think fat white guys should use the “N” word, you can tell him yourself via Twitter @CineRobert
If I had to guess, I’d say that Moe suffers from clerk’s syndrome. Man, “Clerks” was a great movie, and it taught me a good deal about human nature. Just in case you’re not familiar with clerk’s syndrome, I’ll fill you in. Basically, gas station clerks develop a certain amount of resentment towards customers over the years. They eventually begin to look down on them despite the fact that most of their customers do more for our species than your average gas station clerk. The customers are doctors or teachers or educated professionals. Yet they all look the same to the clerks who talk shit about them as soon as they pay for their burrito and leave. Customers can be annoying with their repetitive complaints and quotidian bullshit, and ultimately, the high and mighty clerk realizes that they’re better than the sheep that ring the hallowed bell on the gas station’s front door.
You see the same thing with the “geniuses” at the Apple Genius Bar, and with the “geeks” on Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.” They deal with the average Joe so often that they start to think that the average Joe is beneath them. I had one of Best Buy’s Geeks get pissy with me because I had questions as to how I should apply the screen protector onto my iPad. How dare I bother him with something so trivial! The snide little bastard rudely answered my questions and never realized that I make five times as much as he does, or that he had reached the pinnacle of his existence.
I have no idea what Moe McLendon does for a living (it probably involves the bathroom at a truck-stop) but I know clerk’s syndrome when I see it. I usually ignore the trolls on twitter because I know what they’re doing. They’re reaching up out of their pit and trying to pull me down into their negativity where all the petty little people live. I usually ignore them, or respond with positivity when I’m not blocked, but today, I’m going to take Moe’s hand and let him pull me down into his bullshit to see how the lesser half lives.
Moe, here’s the response I would’ve given you had you not blocked me: I know you are, but what am I? RAC!!! If I was sitting next to you at the bar when I said what I did about the Spanish LOL, would you have told me that I have a tiny mind in person? No. You would’ve said it to yourself, or mumbled it into one of your chins because you, Moe, are a pussy. It’s easy to be brave behind a fake avi and say things about other races. It’s easy to insult and run, so stop congratulating yourself, because you’re not nearly as profound as you think.
Moe runs a YouTube channel that features short, animated videos staring an octopus with a unicorn horn. It’s pretentions as hell but I have to admit that his work comes close to art. Some of his videos have even had as many as five-hundred views. I don’t like the videos, but maybe that’s just because Moe doesn’t like my tweets. I can be pretty petty when I set my tiny mind to it. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so maybe I’m even doing Moe a favor by posting a link to his site: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOctocornNetwork
And in truth, I’m not really being fair to Moe. It’s just that I’ve encountered a few trolls this month and I’ve grown tired of their antics. Usually, they do it for publicity. You see, I have well over fifty-thousand followers on twitter, and if a troll can bate me into a back-and-forth volley of insults, all my viewers get to see it, and then maybe the troll gets a few more followers of his own. It’s a rather sound tactic when you think about it. I know I’m not supposed to let it get to me. I’m supposed to remind myself that I have a bulging intellect (wink, wink), an abnormally well-paying job, a healthy family, and a damn good life. I’m supposed to let a troll’s idiocy bounce off of my confidence and go about my day. But it’s hard. No matter how secure you are, a stranger’s insults still sting a bit.
Some tweets are more susceptible to trolls than others. If you ever talk yourself up, those furry little assholes come running. They want to bring you down because it’s easier to look up at those above you with a derisive sneer if you have someone standing next to you. And if you ever tweet about working out, watch the fuck out. You might as well walk over a bridge like a Billy goat gruff and prepare yourself for a full on troll invasion. My wife once said something like “twitter is a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes and to be accepted by other assholes.” It’s not entirely true, but it’s close.
I posted a picture of the weights in my home gym last week, and about five minutes later, another “artist” troll immediately responded with something like “oh wow! You go to the gym! Who fucking cares!” He even used a hash tag which is the social media equivalent of drooling in the middle of an insult thanks to inbreeding. So, just like I did with Moe, I looked at the troll’s pictures. Surely this guy was going to have tons of artful pictures that’d put mine to shame, right? Nope. There were hundreds of pictures of women’s shoes that he’d painted. He was trying to sell them via his art blog. I guess it makes sense that a grown man who finger paints women’s shoes should be able to insult a man who works out. Err… um, actually, no it doesn’t.
But I get it. I’m pretty sure that Cross Fit is actually a cult, and all the pictures of people doing pull-ups are a bit annoying. However, two years ago, I was coming close to weighing 220 pounds. I looked like… well, I looked like a younger (more attractive, better dressed, not so fat) version of Moe. I took steps. I started dieting and working out like a psycho and lost more than sixty pounds. I’ve since been putting on muscle. I can see my abs. I can run 5K races. And frankly, I’m damn proud of it, so of course I’m going to post the occasional picture because they chronicle my achievement. If you don’t like it, don’t look. Hell, just un-follow me. I don’t say snarky shit when you proudly display your foot fetish, so you should keep quiet when I talk about something healthy. It just makes sense. In this specific instance, I replied that I was too big of a pussy to go to the gym, and that I liked the shadows in the picture so I posted it. The troll laughed and erased his comments. I killed him with kindness; he still follows me.
My point in all of this is that there’s really no point in being a troll. You’re not scoring any points or affecting any change. I know for a fact that my wife is laughing her ass of right now because I’ve posted my share of smug idiocy, but I’ve been trying not to. All these little comments trolls leave are permanent. They’re little electronic ripples spreading out in the wake of their insults, and even though the hurt is small, it still exists. A troll’s legacy is a virtual epitaph that reads “here lies an asshole.” You can only play devil’s advocate for so long before you’re not “playing.” But I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything else, because I constantly spout my nonsense like an asshole into a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes. Trolls just come with the territory.
December 1, 2013
Short Speculative Fiction
I opened a rejection letter yesterday; they don’t come as often as they once did, but they still sting. I’ve become abnormally good at almost getting published, so I usually get the “we loved it and you’re on the short list” letters, which I like to refer to as “eventual rejections,” and I get a flat out “yes we’ll take it, here’s your ten bucks” once or twice a year. But the main reason I receive fewer rejection letters is the fact that I’ve chosen to self-publish and post most of my work on this blog… See how I made it sound like a choice? That was me trying to make you think that I could go the traditional route if I wanted to because publishers are constantly kissing my ass. Spoiler alert, they’re not.
Anywho, most of the publications from which I’ve received rejection letters have fewer subscribers than this blog. The truth is that I get more exposure this way; I only make the occasional submission to a third party because I crave the validation. Yes, it hurts like a bitch when some magazine with thirty regular readers says “thanks, but no thanks,” but it’s nearly orgasmic when they say yes.
It’s gotten to the point when even if I receive a rejection letter, the editor always sends a nicely written note with a few critiques and a reason for the rejection. This last one said that “the story felt rushed” but that they loved my style, and that I should submit again ASAP if I had something written in a slower pace. Actually, it was a damn good critique. I reread my piece and came to the same conclusion. But here’s the bitch: this particular publication has a five-hundred word limit for submissions. Holy shit.
“They” say that the hardest part in writing a good short story is keeping it short, and “they” are damn right. How the hell is one supposed to tell a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, complete with believable character development, in five-hundred fucking words? Of course it’s going to come across as rushed.
The trick, I’ve been told, is to boil it down until all you have left is unalloyed story. There’s no room for maudlin prose or overly descriptive bullshit. One must rely on simple fiction and pure plot to be a successful short story writer, and according to my most recent rejection letter, I don’t always pull it off.
Another thing that “they” have been saying is that “the short story is dead.” I can see where they’re coming from, but I’d like to think that short fiction is simply resting in a lull of sorts because the full length novel is just so damn trendy. I might be full of shit, but whatever. Honestly, I enjoy short fiction, and I absolutely love collections of short fiction. I might be a bit solivagant in this love, but so be it. Short stories are like perfect little vignettes of make-believe into which a reader can delve briefly without commitment. And collections are even better because if you start into a story that doesn’t feel right, you can always move onto the next piece. I don’t want you to think that I’m promoting a short attention span, it’s just that every once in a while, a trip to the buffet is better than a single entre meal. Get it? That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate the fourth segment of this look into burgeoning authors to writers of short, speculative fiction.
The first author I’ve chosen to feature is Rob Walker.
He’s a writer and filmmaker living in Colorado. Rob is perhaps best known for “Victorian Cut-out Theatre”, an animated comedy series featuring monsters, deranged billionaires and time travel which is distributed through Cinevore.com. He also writes for the pop culture website Nerd Reactor. You can read his blog at www.robwalkerfilms.com“
The House on Maple Street
In a normal state, in an average town, on Maple Street, there was a house. The house was guarded over by two long dead trees. These trees, being long dead, had no leaves. In place of greenery, however, there were several crows. So many crows, in fact, that if you were to view the house on Maple Street from a distance, you would swear that these strange trees were in full bloom. But you’d be wrong.
If anyone had ever taken the time to measure the inside of the house on Maple Street, they would have found that it was a foot bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. That sounds impossible, but it’s true. And contained within the house were twelve rooms, one for every month of the year. Thirteen including the cellar, but no one ever did.
The house on Maple Street had been designed by Edward Clemmins in 1928, for George and Emily Bryant. Clemmins was considered a genius by many of his contemporaries and was responsible for designing the bakery in New York that looks like an elephant… you know the one.
Shortly after finishing his plans for the house on Maple Street, Clemmins shot himself in the head. They say that he knew that this house was cursed from the beginning and couldn’t live with the knowledge that he would be responsible for such a place. I think maybe he was just sad.
George and Emily Bryant moved in upon the completion of the house, and set to creating a family. After a year in the house they bore no children, and soon Emily disappeared. Many thought that Emily left George in the middle of the night to avoid the shame of a public divorce. Neighborhood children thought that George had murdered his wife and hid her body in the cellar. Nothing was ever proven. Before hanging himself in their bedroom, George wrote a note with one word on it: “Whispers”.
George might have been referring to the stories told behind his back after his wife’s disappearance. However, his friends say that before his demise, he complained about hearing Emily’s voice echoing throughout the house, like she was close, but he could never find her.
The house sat empty and had no visitors until 1930, when famous spiritualist Madame Devoe paid the house a visit, to cleanse it of what she called “disquieted spirits”. This visit lasted fifteen minutes before Madame Devoe was stricken blind. She retired from spiritualism shortly after. Though blind, she led a relatively happy life with her daughter in Florida until her death in 1975.
As so often happens with buildings of similar reputation as the house on Maple Street, local children would often dare each other to go inside, or at the very least knock on the door. One such event happened in 1963 when ten year old Jimmy Boyd entered the house on a dare. By many accounts, he was the bravest of the children. Five minutes later he emerged claiming that a beautiful woman that lived in the house offered him cookies if he would stay with her for a bit. After three weeks, Jimmy’s raven colored hair had turned white. This extreme and early change in hair color earned him the nickname “snow-top”. If you find him, ask him about the woman. He’ll be more willing to talk if you bring him a plate of macaroons.
Over the years, the people in town thought of tearing down the house on Maple Street. Everyone agreed that it was unpleasant to look at, and no one could ever sell it given the history. Town officials never did tear it down, though. So it still sits on its yard, all twelve rooms, well unless you count the cellar. Guarded by two long dead trees and several flocks of crows. A group of crows is called a murder by the way, I wasn’t sure if you knew that, but it’s true.
The second author I’m featuring is KendallJaye Collard:
“I live in Springfield, IL with my husband and daughter. I am in an unhealthy relationship with a 1967 4-door Chevy Impala hardtop. Cancer survivor, wine drinker, and protected by rock salt.
I can be reached at email@example.com and can be found lurking around Twitter @KJCollard.”
Failure No. 12
I’m all groggy. Something smells like industry. Something metallic. Like iron.
I realize it’s blood.
I sit up and try to open my eyes. It’s blindingly white. Like a million watt light bulb pointed directly into my eyes. My head should hurt but it doesn’t. What the fuck happened to me?
I squint and try to open my eyes again. It’s still so very white, but it’s okay. The white isn’t from a light at all. The white just is. I’m so confused.
Then I realize I don’t just smell blood. I taste it.
I rake the back of my hand across my mouth. I look down to where my hand should be. There is nothing there but white.
Then ever so slowly, outlines happen. Nearly paper thin lines of black simply appear and grow. The outline of my hand. The outline of where blood is smeared across the back of my wrist. There’s not even a hint of color. It’s like a blank page with a few calligraphy pen marks. The lines of the liquid blood far thinner than the lines defining my hand. How strange.
CLICK Hello there. Do you know your name? CLICK
A voice. Where is it coming from? I look around, and white things start to come into focus. Black outlines defining a ceiling corner. The walls. The chaise I’m lying on. But there is no shading. No colors.
CLICK Hello. Can you hear me? CLICK
CLICK Do you know your name? CLICK
“Yes. But… who…”
CLICK Just answer the questions for now ma’am. Everything will be answered in due time. What is your name, ma’am? CLICK
“My name is Cawks. Where am I?”
CLICK You’re very safe. Glad to meet you Cawks. My name is Beeks. Do you know where you are from? CLICK
My head should hurt. I’m bleeding. Why doesn’t it hurt? “Um… No. I can’t… recall.” More lines materialize breaking the monotony of white. This is an interrogation room. A pane of glass on the far wall. I sit up on the chaise and hang my feet over the edge. The velvety touch of the fabric tickles my fingertips. But it just looks white. I look across the room and notice a table being drawn before my eyes.
CLICK Where are you from Cawks? CLICK
“I said I don’t know. What’s going on here?” I stand up and trust that a textureless floor will support my weight. But why wouldn’t it? The chaise did. And the floor responds in kind. It’s cold on the pads of my feet. My bare feet.
I look down at myself for the first time and see more than just my blood smeared hand. I see the outline of feet, legs, arms. All the normal human body parts. I realize I am naked. The outline of the tiny vent in the corner breathes a sigh and the rush of chilled air goes across my skin. I feel panic rising.
“Beeks, where are my clothes?”
CLICK Cawks, I need you to go over to the table for me. CLICK
I look back again at the table. I walk across the floor. My feet go one in front of the other. The table inches closer, and the chaise moves farther away. All still white. I see the outline of the speaker come into view. Beeks.
On the table is an assortment of weapons. Their outlines are familiar to me. But I’ve never held a weapon. Why can’t I remember where I’m from?
CLICK Cawks, I need you to pick up the one you like best. CLICK
My eyes roam the table. So many to choose. “Which one?”
CLICK The one that suits you. CLICK
I let my eyes roam over their forms. Pistols. Rifles. Slingshots. Knives. My eyes stop at the longbow. I cock my head to the right. Suddenly I smell the wood and the oils used in it. “The Bow, Beeks. I like the bow. Can I hold it?”
CLICK Of course Cawks. It’s yours, after all. CLICK
I gingerly lift the strange white bow. It is firm in my hand. It feels like it should. Even though there is no wood grain to identify it, it feels familiar. Comforting. The outline of the bowstring somewhat thinner than the hard outline of the bow itself. There are no arrows here, but I snuggle the grip deep into my left hand. I hold it as if to take aim. I pull the nocking point back across my cheek. It feels like home.
“Beeks, why are there no colors?”
CLICK What do you mean? CLICK
“It’s like a blank sheet of paper. Like someone is using a pen or charcoal to draw lines. There are no shades or colors. I can only feel the textures.” I release the bowstring as I exhale.
A sudden crushing. My chest. I can’t breathe. “Beeks?” I drop my best friend on the ground. I grab at my chest. “BEEKS!”
“BEEEEEKS! I CAN’T BREATHE!”
My eyes fall on the chaise. I stumble my way there and fall heavily upon it.
Just a nap. That’s what I need. Just close my eyes. Just a little sleep.
Somewhere in the United States three scientists continued their conversation.
“Cracking job on the tits, Reeve.”
“Thanks, Jude. I’m kind of an expert,” she replied as she crassly grabbed her own. “Sorry about the optics being off. Bummer man.”
“It’s okay. I’m really close. There’s a blood leak on start up, too. And Beeks hasn’t quite mastered the memory implants anyhow.”
Beeks shook his head. “Can’t stop until She’s perfect. Then we’ll make a million more of Her. Hated putting Her down though. You’d think it would get easier.”
Reeve slapped him on the back. “C’mon. Let’s go get lunch. We can clean up the mess when we get back.”
The three scientists laughed heartily and headed out the door.
November 22, 2013
I walked into the Southwest Book Trader and was nearly knocked on my ass by the smell of one hundred thousand used books; they were stacked everywhere. That many books seem to sweat when they’re all in one place. They create a musk of their own that wraps around you like a musty trench coat. The Southwest Book Trader is an old house in downtown Durango, Colorado that’s been converted into a used bookstore, but it’s a bit more than that. I walked through the rooms looking for an old book by David Eddings, and it took almost a half hour to find it. But the fact that they had an old first edition, with yellowed and dog eared pages, is a testament to the depth of selection through which I swam. I’m not a big man, and I barely fit between the overflowing bookcases and pyramids of print. I laughed at one point, after I realized I was in what used to be the kitchen, because I could see the kitchen sink faucet protruding out from a stack of books on politics. I checked the price on my first edition, two whole dollars, and then walked up front to find the owner.
I found him up front wearing a fly fishing vest and a hat that would’ve made Indiana Jones jealous. He was in his late fifties and sitting at the cash register. I could only see his head and part of his torso because books were stacked all around him; it was like he had built a fort out of paperbacks. He didn’t look up so I spoke first. Our conversation went a bit like this:
Me: “Damn. This is one hell of a cool collection.”
Him: “No it’s not. I have a warehouse that’s filled to the ceiling. I have over one million books and it’s a sickness. Don’t compliment something you don’t understand.”
Him: “Did you find what you were looking for?”
I reached over the moat of his book fort and handed him my Eddings first edition. We started talking. The conversation ended up lasting for an hour. I told him that I was a published author and shared a few of my more malcontented opinions vis-à-vis fifty shades of bullshit and sparkly vampires, and we became friends. This man who hoards books and doesn’t make eye contact is one of my new favorite people.
My only caveat with the whole experience is that when he looked at the book I was buying, he smirked and said something under his breath about “escapist literature.” He said that he had read everything in the realm of SciFi and Fantasy until his late teens, and then he had turned his back on the genre. He gave up on escapist literature and has only read nonfiction since.
In case you’re wondering, “escapist literature” is a style of writing, usually centered on alternate realities chock-full of swords and sorcery, into which a reader can submerge themselves thereby escaping from reality. Frankly, I’ve never read any fiction that didn’t offer a bit of escapism, but whatever; that’s an argument for a different time.
Have you ever wondered why nerds delve so deeply into their interests? Have you ever wondered why there are scores of fans who bounce from convention to convention in a never ending nerdgasm? I’ve met a few that escape so entirely from reality via fandom that they’re fluent in Klingon. Seriously; they actually speak the shit. And I get it. They’ve found this different universe that accepts them as loyal fans. They can read book after book that glorify outcast protagonists who can defeat the bullies of the world with wizardry. In these books of escapist literature, it doesn’t matter if you’re portly or pallid or a pariah walking amongst the pretty people; if they fuck with you, you could always conjure a ball of fire or set your ray gun to stun and deal with the bastards.
I like to tell myself that I like escapist literature for a different reason. You know, it’s because I have an acute imagination. It’s because I read these books and fully create these universes in my mind and simply enjoy them as an observer. Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with the fact that they help me separate myself from a nearly debilitating anxiety that dogs my steps like a shadow. I swear. And who knows, maybe my new favorite person who hoards books and doesn’t make eye contact came to grips with his need for escapist literature at a young age. Maybe he was ashamed of that need, and then threw himself into nonfiction and warehouses filled to the rafters with other people’s writing. I don’t know. But I do know that I’m not a huge fan of nonfiction. It’s usually depressing and ugly, and it usually brings me right back to that place from which I was originally trying to escape: reality.
The first author I’ve chosen to feature in this third segment is Brian Sanner. If you’d like to contact him directly with comments after reading his work, he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org He’s a badass scientist who’s currently working on his PhD so he can someday build a bionic suit that’ll allow him to shoot lightning out of his hands. Honestly.
When the wind shivered through the trees, their limbs rattled like the bones of the watchmen huddled against the gatehouse wall. Winter is a miserable time to wear armor. The metal inhales the cold and breathes it back more intense than before. Layers of leather and fur help at first exposure, but the cold is insidious and constant and without end. It twists and tickles its way through the layers and sets there, solidly, like a press.
On a night like this, when breath steamed and frosted in beards, it was no wonder the guards stayed close to their torches, spears propped against the palisade while they hid their hands beneath crude cloaks of stitched animal hide.
The wind sighed again, sliding layers of dry snow crystals over the hard, icy roadway beneath. This road led west,
along the windswept hills that, in the warmer seasons, would be populated by scraggly tufts of grass and jagged rock, home to the small creatures that burrowed in such, and the larger that preyed upon them. Men were few and scattered in those hills. The land was too poor for those with honest intentions to bother. The hills were home to jackals and highwaymen, and there was little to tell the two apart.
The building was nothing more than a trading post. A pit stop along the road. Far enough out that most would stop here. Miserable enough that they would soon move on. There was not much to be had here, but here was a place that anything was worth having. Close enough to nowhere that even a ramshackle roof was better than none, and a stout wall between a man and the darkness was a welcome relief.
This night was too cold for highwaymen or peddlers either one. So why have two guards on the gate of a six-foot palisade that a half-dozen determined men could overcome in an hour?
The second author I’ve chosen to feature is Mary A. Fox. She lives in England, with her husband and her four children. She is an avid reader who started writing her own stories when she was twelve years old, inspired by a middle school teacher who ran writing workshops. Most of Mary’s stories are set on the wild Atlantic North coast of the picturesque county, Cornwall, in the South-West of the UK. Mary is the author of five novels in the Porth Kerensa series and a handful of flash fiction stories. Her work can be found on www.wattpad.com/mezmerised
The Running Girl
Back home they called me the running girl. Some of them called me Forrest, but mostly I was known as the running girl. When I ran past them every evening some cheered me and some jeered me. None of them asked me my name and no one cared why I ran, which suited me fine. After a while they didn’t even notice me anymore. I became part of the background. I was invisible to them.
One day I disappeared altogether.
I often wondered, on my frequent attempts to get back, if any of them ever noticed my disappearance. If eventually, somebody said, “What do you think happened to the running girl? Where do you think she went?”
They won’t believe me if I make it home and tell people what happened to me. They will look at me as if I am crazy and probably lock me up in a padded cell.
Anyway it’s a moot point because I can’t find my way back. Lord knows, I’ve tried.
I was running and I stumbled. My toe caught in a pothole as I jogged up the coast road and I fell. But it wasn’t a simple fall. It was as if something reached through a rip in time and space and pulled me from my reality into theirs. The air around me shimmered, crackled and sizzled. The oxygen seemed to be dragged from my lungs and the brightest light I’ve ever seen dazzled me as I sprawled headlong into the unrelenting darkness behind the light.
And I screamed.
I could try and document the months after my fall, but I’m not a wordsmith and I don’t have the vocabulary to tell you how confused and lost I felt for a long time afterwards. It took me months to truly believe I was irreversibly trapped out of my own time and reality. I spent every day looking for my way back, but I couldn’t find it. It was as if whatever had ripped a wound in the fabric of the world healed instantly behind me, leaving me stranded.
I am a visitor from the future, living before my lifetime.
David doesn’t like it when I call myself a visitor. He says I have been here for two years and I should accept that it’s my home now. We don’t talk much about where I came from and we’ve never told anyone else that I literally fell out of thin air into his arms. He told the villagers he found me on the beach, unconscious and washed up from a shipwreck, and he rescued me. Sometimes I wonder if he pretends to himself that’s what really happened, simply to retain some sanity. Has he convinced himself that I truly am flotsam?
He told me once that he used to walk the coast road every night in the hope he would see me, the shimmering ghostly woman who haunted the road he lived on, running with the wind streaming through my long brown hair. He said I shone when I ran; that I was translucent like a beautiful wild running spirit and he couldn’t get me out of his mind. He said I captivated him and every night, when he watched me, he wished that I was real, until one day I was. I told him he sounded mad.
He said, “You’re convinced you’re from 2006, and I watched a ghost appear solid and real out of thin air. We’re both mad.”
Then he made love to me again.
I ran every evening for the first two years, desperately trying to find the way back to my own time. I retraced my steps until I thought it really would drive me mad as I hopelessly searched for the time chasm I had fallen through. I wept when I ran and David stood, in our small garden, watching me jog and cry. He stood with tears in his own eyes, waiting for me to come back and when I was too tired to run anymore he would wrap his mother’s shawl around my shoulders and lead me gently indoors.
He soothed me and he cared for me. He adored me and one day I realised I had fallen again.
David is kind and gentle. He loves me and he keeps me safe and calm in a world I still don’t feel a part of, despite the passing of the years. He’s even asked me to marry him. Maybe he thinks it will be enough to give me some ties here. Perhaps he hopes it will stop me trying to run away from here. I lost myself in
1849 and I found the love of my life.
But will it be enough?
I suppose one day soon I’ll marry him. Especially when I tell him I’m going to have our baby. I should tell him, but I still haven’t got my own head around it. I’m going to have a child over one hundred years before I’ve even been born. Perhaps I will name our child Paradox.
It’s unlikely now that I’ll ever go back, even if I found a way. David found the only way to stop me running.
But until he knows, I’ll carry on with my lonely jogging up the coast road still looking for my way home; running forever, like a DVD left on repeat.
The villagers call me the running girl. They don’t know why I run and they don’t care. David cares though. David cares too much; he always has. Sometimes I look at him and I believe his obsession with the shimmering, running spirit girl he watched every night is what pulled me here in the first place. He calls it Fate…something that was meant to be because it transcended time. I think his yearning for the ghostly girl grew so strong that he managed to drag me across time and space into his own reality.
I think he believes it too.
I still run sometimes. When David is working out in the fields and our daughter, Anne sleeps. I don’t run for very long though, and I tell myself I’m only keeping fit.
This is my home now.
Kim shook her head at Regan’s suggestion they walk home. “The coast road is haunted. There’s no way I’m walking up there at this time of night.”
“What are you talking about?” Regan scoffed, laughing. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Ever since that girl disappeared into thin air, people have seen her running along the road she went missing on,” Kim replied seriously. “Don’t you remember it? About seven years ago a jogger vanished. They say she haunts that stretch of road between Padstow and Porth Kerensa and now she’s doomed to jog down the lonely coast road forever more.”
Emmy smiled at Kim. “You know there hasn’t been a sighting for a couple of years now.” She sighed. “Poor girl, no one ever found out what happened to her. It was as if she simply vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.”
“Except for her ghost,” Kim replied, shivering.
“What was her name?” Regan was sombre now, feeling guilty that she had mocked Kim.
“I can’t remember her name,” Kim replied, sadly. “But the press called her The Running Girl.”
November 19, 2013
Thirty percent of all readers instantly contract narcolepsy when they hear the term “narrative nonfiction.” Seriously. Boredom erupts within their souls and they immediately pass out due to an overdose of dry non-excitement. The term has always made me think of Abraham Lincoln for some reason. I hear “narrative nonfiction” and my mind conjures scenes of antiquity which play out through a sepia tone filter wherein everybody is old and insipid and boring as fuck. But if you do it right, if you paint with humor and refuse to pull punches, narrative nonfiction can be an art. It can be something that draws out emotion and holds it up in a painful or loving light. It can be something better than fiction even though pretend worlds come complete with space ships and ray guns, because this life, this narrative nonfiction that’s ugly, perfect, and always around us, is more captivating than any amount of made-up bullshit. You just have to know how to write it, to make it stick to your paper, and how to make it captivating enough to keep the spread of narcolepsy under control.
I want to write fiction. I want to spawn characters with which you can identify. And then I want a rich old Jew to buy the rights and make a movie or three and I want ten percent; that comes out to roughly forty-five million dollars. But lately, my fans (and yes, that was plural) have been telling me that my narrative nonfiction is far better than my fiction. I say thank you, but I flip them off as soon as they turn around. Do you have any idea how much money one can make writing stories about what actually happens? Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure it’s not forty-five million dollars. Whatever. But I do love it. There’s something liberating underneath all of it. I’ve written about dark times in my life, and when the strangers impart their compliments, it’s like they’re saying “Hey, thanks for experiencing that for us. Everything’s okay now.” It feels awesome. Ergo, I’ve decided to dedicate “part 2” to narrative nonfiction writers… wake up.
In my first segment, I said that I was going to focus on writers that’d never published anything so I could give them that proverbial kick in the ass to get up, get out, and get something (Outkast is the best rap group of all time) but I’m not going that route in this segment. I wasn’t able to find any latent nonfiction writers who hadn’t posted anything, and frankly, both of the writers in this segment are ridiculously good so I’m changing shit up. I don’t think these two have sold anything and they’re not “famous” (mostly because people demand sparkly vampires these days) so there’s that; my restrictions for “burgeoning writer” have been met. And I’m excited as hell to feature these two on my blog; both of these writers will eventually find some degree of success because they’ve got crazy talent. Each of them has that ability to observe the quotidian, and then transform what they see into insightful prose. This is another one of those “I found them first” moments.
The first writer in is Audrey Farnsworth; she has this crazy ability to boil down an experience into pure comedy. Most writers use “funny” as a condiment, but Farnsworth makes it the entree.
Bio: “Audrey Farnsworth is a comedian and writer currently in the midst of moving from her hometown of Tempe, Arizona to Los Angeles, which is terrifying to her. She’s been a director and member of several sketch comedy groups. She does stand up. She writes about things wearing hats that probably wouldn’t, normally. She hopes to succeed in her comedic endeavors. Time will tell.”
Going to the doctor can be very nerve-wrecking. You’ve got a problem, you know you have a problem, but once you’re sitting in that little room all by yourself, you start to get into your own head, perhaps forget your own name, and by the time the doctor actually enters the room, you forget completely why you’re there in the first place, as well as any and every question you wanted to ask.
That’s why it is important to make a list of questions beforehand. Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of people do this, and the doctors are used to it because they get it all the time. How are you supposed to remember a bunch of questions and also your name and how to walk and breathe? That’s absurd.
Even if it’s only a yearly checkup, it’s important to ask questions. What are good questions to ask anyways, you may be wondering? Listed below are some more important examples.
- At what age should I begin regularly exercising?
- What time should one stop eating at night, as not to gain weight?
- What does a beak feel like?
- Am I a healthy weight for my height?
- Is there such a thing as a goat, really?
- What is “3?”
- How many times is too many times for someone to accidentally pee on your own stove?
- If it’s over 6 feet, is it still considered a candle, or is that a torch?
- How do you know if you’re Bret Micheals?
- What attracts ghosts? Tomatoes?
- Sometimes I think my hands are tambourines?
- If you see a wolf, and are not filled with fear, are you a wolf now?
- Are these really called “hands,” or is there a better name for them?
- If my boss asks me to tuck in my shirt, and I don’t want to, so I cut off both of my legs, will my insurance cover it?
- Is there an actual function for glasses, or are they just necklaces for your eyes?
- What do you do if you can’t find your house? Go to someone else’s?
- How do you know if there is an eel living in your brain? Will he tell you, or do you have to guess?
- Are my parents actual pigeons, or did I dream that?
- Is there a Soft Rock Cafe?
- When is it O.K. to vacuum a stranger?
- Can you be allergic to the word “hatch?”
- Are pine cones Easter eggs that have “gone rogue?”
- Is hair loss genetic?
- Is having a stomach that is inside genetic?
- Are tubas actually just recordings of sad whales?
- Can someone actually be born wearing a hat?
- Are cars with blue tinted headlights only driven by angels?
- What is the average age of a healthy human being?
- What do you do if someone reacts negatively to the collage you made of their dad?
- What to do if you ask someone “How are you?” but they ask you at the same time? Move in together?
- Has anyone invented ham cake yet? Can I invent it? Can you?
- Is a chaplain just another name for a magician, but a funny one?
- Can you teach a falcon how to drive a car, and if not, can you please explain how I got here today?
- Does “CD” stand for “Burger Police?”
- How do I join the Burger Police? They accept humans, or just burgers?
- If I kill myself, could I choose to be reincarnated as a burger?
- Does a platypus know how fucking stupid as shit it looks?
- Heads… what are they, really?
- If you throw up a whole microwave, can you return it to a store, without a receipt?
- What is a receipt?
- What is a microwave?
- How many moms are loitering outside of any given Red Robin, right now, or ever?
- Can pants be shirts?
- The hell’s a “vest?” A car? Is it like a Jeep?
- Jeeps aren’t actually real, are they?
- So, who’s all a ghost here, in this office? The ones with clipboards?
- Do you like your mouth? I’m not sure if I like mine much?
- Will you tattoo an actual taco to my mouth, right now?
- What are the signs of diabetes?
- I’m 85% positive that one of my arms is a flute? Can you try playing it?
- Can my bathroom be my boyfriend?
- If I plug my ears long enough, will they just get off my head, already????
- Can I open up a Mervyn’s, inside of my heart?
- Is climbing inside of the pants you are currently wearing an appropriate response to someone asking you on a date?
- Where can I hire models for my clothing brand who are actual buildings? Here?
- How many falcons do you know with masters degrees? All of them, or?
- Did you go to high school?
- What can guys who wear their sunglasses on the backs of their heads NOT do perfectly???
- *clicking sounds with questions marks at the end*
Obviously, this is just a template. Everyone is different. To your health, friends.
I chose to end this piece with this second writer, Ashley Byrd, because her writing left me with an odd feeling that lingers; I’d like it to stick with you when you go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you started reading this. She shares her trials, and as a reader, it makes you feel a bit voyeuristic; we’re currently suffering through a paucity of writers who have the balls needed to pull that off.
Bio: “I spent my teens and early twenties making mistakes. I spent my mid-twenties and late-twenties making up for those mistakes. Now, here I am, thirty and still a mess.
After two degrees and nearly eight years in the corporate world, I’m ready to start over. I’m ready to be free.
I’m ready to write.”
so now i’m a serial killer
I was sitting on my porch the other night when my neighbors came home. Now, we share a driveway so when they pulled up it was just three feet away from my face. I couldn’t very well run inside because that would be rude, right? Running into your house when your next door neighbors have clearly spotted you is just plain impolite, right? When they got out of the car we exchange some awkward “hello, yeah, it’s real dark out tonight, oh yeah because it’s nighttime” chit chat. It probably wasn’t awkward for them as they are most likely normal human beings unlike myself. I am a huge, awkward, babbling dork in any social situation with humans I’m not familiar with.
Standing around with new strangers I meet one night…
“HA! HA!.. yeah, like you probably have a big vagina. HA! HA! You know, because you have kids! HA! Ha!”
–in my head—oh God that wasn’t funny, be funny, be funny—
Cue I circle a big vagina in the air, step in say “Hi!” and step out. You know, because I’m a huge talking vagina.
Me: “HA! Ha! Ha…ha. I’m totally kidding you know, I’ll bet you had a good episiotomy. For sure your vagina is probably much nicer than mine.”
Others: –one by one slowly start to make conversion with other people around us and push me out of the circle where I stand going on, talking to myself.—
Because I can’t stop myself, because I’m a big, fucking unfiltered awkward shell of a once human being.
Hours later I see my newly-made friends and am like, “hey, yea, remember me, made the vagina joke earlier. Ha! Oh, you’re going over there? Oh yeah, yeah, I’m going to yeah, go just over here, yup.”It was a black tie wedding.
Anyway, as my neighbors walk towards their door I can hear the girlfriend say, “Did you get the water back on?” and her boyfriend reply, “No.” I hear some moans of disappointment and/or disapproval from the female neighbor. At this time, I’m a little buzzed, not intoxicated but a bit tipsy. So I decided it would be a GREAT idea to let them know “HEY! You can use my water! I have water here neighbor! If you want to use it or something, not with me of course but, yup. Water, over here, my place.”
I don’t say that of course, but I write them a note that goes a little something like this…
“HEY! It’s your neighbor! The girl next door. Listen, this may sound crazy, but I think you guys said something about not having water? Well, you are more than welcome to use mine.” Then I write my name and number, but before that I decide it would be a really smart idea to write at the very top of the note in capital letters, “I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.” Because I’m smart AND funny. Surely, my neighbors whom I’ve met twice get my sense of humor. So I waddle over and tape the note to their door.
Let’s be clear, I can hear a roach from a mile away, but people are another story. I really am a bit hard of hearing and unless you speak loudly and pronunciate, you can usually hear me say loudly to people “USE YOUR WORDS.” I awake the next morning and realize this, I also realize that I was kind of intoxicated as well and MUST GET TO THAT FUCKING LETTER A-SAP.
It’s 7:00am, their car has not been touched, maybe haven’t left the house yet. I run to the kitchen, peer out the window and the letter is fucking gone. It’s gone. I start playing a scenario in my head as to what is going through their head, “She’s so sweet. What a good neighbor. Was that bitch coming on to you? What a freak!” Stuff like that. Then I also start to think that maybe they never even got the letter. They usually leave work after me; they couldn’t have gotten the letter? It did rain a little last night, did it blow away? Then I decided to just let it be; after consulting with some friends, they assured me it was a sweet gesture and my neighbors will probably call and thank me. I have come home several evenings expecting a handwritten thank you card.
It’s been two weeks. I still have no idea if they intercepted my serial killer letter.
November 17, 2013
Part One: Two Poets
I once wrote for myself. My prose was quiet and closeted at best. In honesty, my writing was arrogant and cumbersome. I took my thoughts and forced them into words; my first drafts were belabored pieces of shit, but I liked them. It felt good. And at the time, that was all that mattered. I called myself a writer, but only because I wrote when nobody was looking. The thought of sharing my work petrified my soul. I would’ve rather posed as one of those full-frontal nudes for a beginner’s portrait class than to share my nonsensical ramblings.
But then I got over it. I realized that my proclivity towards reclusive writing was worse than useless. My fear was bullshit. I tried, and then tried harder to come up with something that a stranger might enjoy. I started writing short stories, leaning heavily on crutches made from artifice, and then I shared my work. Friends and family read it first, and then I went so far as to contact agents and publishers. I wasn’t taken seriously. The amount of praise that came from my friends could be graphed as a direct function of their sobriety. My family said that they loved everything, but these were the same people that put my finger paintings on the refrigerator. The agents and publishers ignored me via blanket rejection letters. So I tried harder, and I hired an editor.
Her name was Catherine, and I’m still writing because of her help. Actually, “help” isn’t really the word for it; maybe “tutelage” or “mentorship” or “patient ability to mold my idiocy into something legible” would be more fitting. Either way, I started to grow. The blanket rejection letters turned into personalized critiques from some of the best publications out there, and then finally, I got my first acceptance letter. It came from Tales of the Talisman a few years back, and I still have it locked in my safe. Hell, sometimes I take it out and cling to it as if it’s a lifesaver that’s keeping me afloat amongst the flotsam of all my failures.
I remember the day that my “contributor’s copy” of Tales of the Talisman arrived. I opened it, breathing in that pulpy smell of a new magazine, and then thumbed through it looking for my story. “Holy shit,” I thought as I found it, “they even commissioned a piece of artwork to go along with my writing!” It was a crude drawing, but I was honored. I received a ten dollar check with my first copy, but I felt like a gazillionaire because somebody paid me to write.
Since then, I’ve been published in other magazines and newspapers. I’ve put out a couple books. I’ve been paid for my work. I’ve been asked for critiques by authors who get paid real money to write. I’ve been on the back of books that one can buy in actual book stores. I might not be a “serious writer” yet, but I’m taken seriously by people who are, and it feels incredible. I love this art and I want it to be the foundation upon which I base my professional identity. Realistically, I’d say that I’m five years away from being a professional writer, and none of this would’ve happened without that first realization that my fear was bullshit. I took something that I wrote, I clicked “print,” and I handed it to a stranger. It was difficult, but it bore fruit.
I took my work to social media, because it seemed like the obvious step. I started a blog, and I logged on to Twitter even though I once said that I’d never do either; I’m now addicted to both. The “narrative nonfiction” I post on my blog is earning more accolades than any of my fiction. I have over four hundred diehard followers across the globe that religiously read everything I post, and I literally love them all.
However, Twitter was the impetus behind the post you’re reading right now. I’m not exactly sure how I did it, but I have close to fifty-thousand followers, and it’s taken me less than two years to get there. I always have my wife proof read these blogs before I post them, and I know for a fact that she’s slowly shaking her head as she’s reading this. It’s altogether possible that I’m addicted to Twitter, and she thinks I’m a bit childish about the whole thing (but only because I stare at my smart phone for hours at a time like an idiot). Anyway, a huge portion of my followers are fledgling writers, many of which have only been writing for themselves as I once did, so I decided to do something about it. I sent out a tweet asking newbie writers who’ve never been published to contact me. I offered my blog as that first place where they could share their work.
The response has been deafening. I had at least fifty writers try to take me up on my offer in the first hour after my tweet; I’m going to do my best to give a few of them the chance to put their work out there so they too can label their fear as bullshit. And I felt that fear in most of them; they’d preface their work with qualms like “this isn’t that good” or “I’ll send you something else if this sucks” but I’m not choosing what makes the cut. I’m going to pick ten authors at random, so long as I get an even mix of male and female, young and old, and then I’m going to publish the first work they submit. Most of these authors don’t have websites or blogs or any publication credits to their name, but that’s what I want. I want to foster their resolve; I want push them off the diving board.
These first two writers are poets. The first, Jordan, loves to write, and most often, she writes about love. Writing is important to her. Her first piece helped her through a time when her mother had breast cancer, which is something I went through as well, and her second piece is about love and pain, which we’ve all been through. The second writer, Michael, has a free flowing style that’s almost “stream of conscious;” he might be a beatnik. If you’re on Twitter, please follow both of these poets. And if you’d like to contact either writer directly, their emails are posted below.
Jordan N. Sullivan
Got my back against the wind,
as I walk I break and mend.
Learning the biggest lesson-without a miracle,
it would certainly end.
“Never give up,”
that’s what momma said, teary eyed fighting in a hospital bed.
At times she was weaker,
blankets covering her bare head.
So I made a deal
to keep her with me.
I prayed really hard
and let live or let be.
Somehow my prayer,
out of all that there are,
was heard from afar.
She taught me a lesson
not many can teach.
Handled my soul and places I couldn’t reach.
Her body was broken, but spirit un-breached.
A single tear softly fell.
Down the glowing cheek
And she felt broken.
have I ever seen her so alive,
Stripped down to her raw core.
He had broken the shell she used
As a protective wall crumbled,
She will find love again.
And this time she knows more.
This is where
her story actually began.
I’m a casualty to lust, inflicted with this flesh, the burning embers I’m feeling will fade out like the rest. And another prince will arrive gallantly at the moat, wishing he thought more wisely, instead of a white horse, had brought a boat.
Smoke filled space lacking grace, and voices rise to give orders to another trace. Alcohol hollowed races in my veins to displace another thought. This is my howl to the night life; this is my ode to the faded and jaded left fight, thirty-something’s sipping poison knowing their right. Searching for ambition and position in another lack luster sex spree, some men give it away for free, but me? But me? I want the divine everlasting sweetest spirit, slow dancing in the pivotal inspiration twenty-four karat soul. Crushing on shirtless bartenders won’t get you tender unless you spend your life savings on an induced fender bender. Silver is the tongue, golden in his smile while the tips last awhile, he forgets your name. The song plays cycle in circles this tired malaise, bearing witness to the sexual revolution out of ATM ashes seeking a resolution.
November 4, 2013
He’s not the devil, but that’s what I call him. We’ve been battling in my sleeping subconscious for as long as I can remember. He’s just an asshole who embodies evil. He chased me through mazes when I was young. But then I learned how to fly and I rendered his mazes obsolete. My powers have matured, but his haven’t. His only option has been to become trickier… and trickier he has become.
Last night, he figured out a way to cap my powers. I’m not sure how he did it, but it pissed me off. I could levitate things, so long as they weren’t too heavy. I could light things on fire, so long as they were easily combustible (like crumpled parchment). And that’s it; I had impotent telekinesis and pyrokinesis. It’s better than nothing I guess, but this time, the devil was trying to take my youngest daughter. I wanted all my powers. I wanted to be a god, or the father of gods with his basket full of lightning bolts, so I could slay this asshole that was trying hurt my child.
Then it hit me. I’d just combine my two weak powers into something formidable. So, as the devil descended towards my daughter with a torrent of burning light and death, I fought back. I conjured an armada of flying paper airplanes, millions and millions of them, and willed them towards the devil’s chest. A moment before my planes struck, I concentrated with all I had and lit them aflame. The planes were small and their flames were weak, but they were many. My weapons smote that asshole and rent countless flaming holes in his chest. I was winning. So the devil retreated and filled my dream with smoke and confusion. I found my daughter and my son, both covered in ash and soot, and took them to safety. I would’ve killed the devil but I didn’t get the chance. He left too soon. That’s how it always is.
That’s when I woke up safe and perspiring in my bed. My daughter had been awoken by a bad dream of her own and was lying next to me with her eyes open. She wouldn’t tell me what her dream was about. I said “okay” and let her drift back into a deep slumber. But something was nagging at me; something about the dream was off. And then I understood. I don’t have a son. Shit. The devil used my love against me and fostered a false compassion. His only avenue of salvation was to disguise himself as a child so I’d spare him. My armada of flaming paper planes would’ve killed him, and our eternal battle would’ve ended. And I bought it. Hell, I even saved the devil from the smoke and confusion and brought him to safety in the end. It’s like I told you; that asshole is tricky.
November 2, 2013
I sat down and did a drum roll when I was nine; it took about ten minutes to make it sound tight. My house was cold and empty around me like a refrigerator on food stamps. I remember the feel of the bouncing sticks in my hands and the loose rattle of their percussion. I remember thinking “huh. That’s just as easy as it looks.” I had a practice pad and a pair of Vick Firth drumsticks; both came from my father. I guess I looked listless in his eyes because he forced me to “choose an instrument” in the fifth grade; I chose the drums because they looked the easiest. Our elementary band had an odd little assembly after school. All the available instruments were laid out on folding tables. Most of them were spoken for. The director had a couple seats left in his saxophone section. He needed three trumpet players. The open flutes and clarinets were out of the question even though they looked awesome in their velvet cushioned shininess. But the lone drum looked fun. My dad didn’t buy it right away because they didn’t “take credit cards,” but I went home with a practice pad.
I was a struggling fifth grader and didn’t have much going for me. I was “husky,” as my mom called it, and addled by fast food malnutrition. I hated the term “husky,” especially when she’d shout things like “where’s your husky section?” to JCP employees that were yards away. I had poor hygiene, unfortunately, but when you’re left to your own devices in the middle of an arctic isolation as a nine-year-old, showers take a back seat to late night movies. My grades were abysmal, and socially, I was an Alaskan Pariah. Frankly, shit sucked. But that practice pad didn’t. It responded when I hit it. That pad did as I said and took my frustration. If my divorced parents argued, I did a drum roll. If the propane ran out, I learned a new pattern. When it got cold, when I got hungry, when the depression or anxiety tried to kick my ass, I played back.
The practice pad was eventually replaced by a Ludwig snare. I started to get good. Abnormally good. I learned a few basic beats on a drum set in middle school, then asked for a set and got one; my mom spent fifty bucks. The pattern continued. If life started being a bitch, I’d learn a new beat. It got to the point where I thought I was a badass. I tied my identity to my prowess upon a drum set’s throne. Through that identity, I found acceptance. It felt nice. This thing that I had fostered became the largest part of me. Now I was “Jesse the drummer” as opposed to whatever I was before.
But in the seventh grade, we went on a band trip to Chugiak, Alaska. There was this preppy little bastard in Chugiak’s band that came up to me after I had been playing on the school’s set. He was wearing a blue polo and had someone’s phone number written on the back of his hand in neon marker. He smugly said something like “hey, that was pretty good. Mind if I try?” I said “sure.” What could it hurt? I was a badass. That preppy little bastard sat down and played. He was better than I was. I remember just wanting it to end as he embarked upon solo after solo. His playing gathered a crowd. They cheered when he finished. A few kids that’d been there to hear me play literally pointed and laughed. I shit you not; it destroyed me. This preppy little bastard didn’t have strife like I did; he didn’t have anything he needed to “play through.” It wasn’t fair.
My parents shared joint custody, and the next time I went to my mom’s house, I demanded drum lessons (I knew I’d never get them in the vacuum of my father’s house). She found a student at the University of Alaska that was working on his master’s in music theory. His name was Doug. He was a professional drummer, and he agreed to teach me. Lesson after lesson, I did my best to enslave my talent and learn everything this professional drummer knew. It took me six years. It got to the point wherein it was no longer “playing” when I sat behind the drums. I still used them like before, to cope with things like fear and hate and my mom’s cancer, but now, I was mastering the drums. If I thought I was a badass before, now I was a battle bloodied ninja. I threw away that fifty dollar drum set, and my dad bought me a seven-thousand dollar drum set. He did it to appease the angst I had towards a new stepmom to be, but I didn’t care. I put that drum set in the loft of an outbuilding at our house and played it through the winter’s darkness year after year.
As a senior, our band took a trip to the Alaska State basketball championships. This time I was in the “pep band.” We usually sat behind the cheerleaders at games and played fight songs and shitty covers of Nirvana; anything to pump up the crowd. Our team was slated to play Chugiak first, and Chugiak had a pep band as well. As I looked over to the other side of the gym, I saw that preppy little bastard sitting behind the drums. He saw me and smirked. He hadn’t changed. The game got going and their band got to play at the first break. After their first song ended, their director gave the preppy little bastard a nod and he started into a solo. I was dumbfounded. The preppy little bastard sounded like shit; he hadn’t gotten any better than he had been in the seventh grade. His plush life in an unbroken home hadn’t given him any fuel. Complacency had kept him where he was, and he was content with the impotent cheers that his subpar playing earned.
It was our turn. We played our first song, and as it ended, my director, an incredible man named Mr. Chud, gave me a little nod. This time, I knew everything a master drummer knew. I had locked myself in the loft of an empty garage with nothing but a monstrous drum set for hours and hours and days and days. I had studied under a Jedi master and tried to learn everything there was to learn. I poured all of it out. I beat the unholy hell out of those drums. I splintered a stick and bloodied a knuckle; the scar is still there. I remember the hollow echo of that gym when I finally stopped playing; I could hear my breath and my beating pulse and not much else. Then the crowd erupted. The cheer leaders did their little dances and everyone stood, including Chugiak’s pep band. But that preppy little bastard didn’t move. He just stared at the sticks in his hand as if he held solace instead of hickory. I stood up and flipped him off. The cheers turned to laughter.
I know. It was a horribly trite thing to do, but I thought “fuck that guy and his preppy ass existence and his utter disregard for what drumming is…” But now I look at it differently. To him, drumming was one thing. It was playing to impress, to get cheers and girls, and that’s it. To me, it was a religion. We’d travel and play and compete and I’d never lose. There were a couple of drummers out there that were better at jazz, but when it came to everything else, I was on top. At the tail end of my senior year, we took a trip down to PLU in Tacoma, Washington for an “All Northwest Conference” band competition. And out of all the drummers there, everyone from Alaska and Washington and Oregon and Montana, I was the best. I got that coveted “first chair” title in the combined percussion performance, and somehow, that seat sated a latent desire for triumph.
I haven’t taken it too seriously since. I don’t “play” as much as I should, but I’m teaching my daughter and that feels even better (even though at one point, I didn’t think such a thing was possible). She has the skill and the talent, but she lacks that dark desire and drive I earned through pain and isolation. And that’s fine with me. The wife always gets on me to play with other people. She says I should get out, that I should just “let go” and find some people with guitars and basses and form some sort of middle aged man band. But it’s difficult. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times, those guys with guitars and basses are on a completely different echelon of music. I tried playing with an old neighbor once, but he stopped halfway through a song, told me that he was intimidated, and we drank beer instead.
I’ve tried to explain it to my wife but it hasn’t worked. I’m sure I came across as arrogant or even afraid, but it’s hard to put into words, even now when that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. It’s like this: I could get lucky, I suppose. I could find someone with a guitar who mastered it instead of played it, and we could mesh. Maybe I could find someone that’s right there with me, and I’d have an outlet for all this adult bullshit, but those guys are hard to find. They don’t like playing for others either. They don’t step out to play with random drummers because ninety-nine times out of one hundred, it sucked when they took the chance. To them, to us, this music is as private as it gets. It’s a shield, or maybe a weapon, that we forged in a private heat that’s painfully embarrassing. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s apt. When drumming is so important to me, so close to whom I am, it’s hard to share it with strangers. It’s a lose/lose situation. The rejection, which admittedly wouldn’t come, is petrifying, but so is the applause. Because even when people cheer, it feels like they’re clapping for my pain. It feels like they can see me, see me young and alone and dirty and “husky.” So I don’t play in public, and I probably won’t unless I come across another preppy little bastard who thinks he can play.
October 7, 2013
Teenage boys are dumb. Most of them are far too busy playing with fire or staring at bright lights to read. That’s why I’ve been saying for quite some time that “YA Fiction” should be rebranded as “YW Fiction” you know, for “young women.” Some boys read, sure, but if you’re going to write “YA Fiction,” you need to know your audience: brooding, introverted, artistic, intelligent girls. They’re the ones that sit in class comfortable in their zip-up hoodies. They love their music and their thoughts and they’re a step above the other teens that mill around them drowning in their preoccupation with fashion or the “he said she said” of teenage life. These are the girls you’ll be writing for if you delve into YA; they are your audience. And nobody knows their audience like DelSheree Gladden. She proves it in “Wicked Hunger.”
I’m not quite sure how she does it. The story is written in present tense, which is modern and keeps you in the moment. That part I get. The protagonist, an angsts ridden teenage girl named Vanessa, would be easy to identify with if you’re in the same boat. That part I get as well. But Gladden is able to convey a brooding mood and sense of tension through her prose and, I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint how it was done. The best part is that it felt organic; Gladden didn’t overly rely on artifice. Most of the story comes from Vanessa’s point of view, so her troubles and needs and fears aren’t filtered through narration. I really liked it.
Lastly, I’d like to commend Gladden for the darker hue with which she writes in her latest series. Most “YA” authors tone it down. I suppose they’re afraid of writing something too dark for someone too young, but giving in to that fear is tantamount to dishonesty. Young adults deserve literature that doesn’t pull punches at the expense of the story, and “Wicked Hunger” delivers perfectly. I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of “YW Fiction.” You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615832989/
Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious. Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens. She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories. One of them is right about Ivy… But if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip and they’ll all be dead.
September 18, 2013
Hear them shriek.
See them live.
Watch them love / die.
Come one / come all.
They’re on parade today.
I might’ve been crying wolf in a few of my other reviews. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to give fewer than five stars in an Amazon review because we self-published or indie authors just try so damn hard. But it might’ve tarnished my credibility. So when a book like Dead Animals comes along, and I start shouting about how freakishly awesome it is, I guess a few people might say “whatever, that’s what you said about that last book which was just okay.” That sucks ass. So if ever you take one of my reviews seriously, please let it be this one: Dead Animals by C.S. DeWildt is the best indie-published collection of noir short-stories ever written.
I bet it’s frustrating to live inside DeWildt’s skull. You see, his writing is perfect, but it’s dark. It’s the antithesis of mainstream because he doesn’t pull punches when he writes. If his thoughts are profane, they go on the paper; if the story is dark, he writes it instead of going a route more readers might follow. His writing is simply honesty in art.
DeWildt has had countless stories published here and there. His novella (which I wrote about here: http://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/candy-and-cigarettes/) was a success with the critics. His most recent book, Dead Animals, also seems to be doing well. But he has to know that he could rule it all if he wrote something flowery that’s full of bullshit and artifice. He could go the sparkly vampire route while keeping his prose as is, and then boom: we’d all be lining up to see some watered-down PG-13 version of his writing.
That has to suck. Personally, I’d sell out for about seventeen dollars and a half-ass publicized book signing at The Salvation Army. But then again, maybe DeWildt’s writing would lose whatever it is that makes it so rad if he toned it down. I don’t know. But I do know that he is an instant cult-classic author, and that I’m a die-hard fan.
Lastly, DeWildt asked me to write a short review for the back of Dead Animals and of course I said yes. I just received my signed copy in the mail and it felt incredible to see my name on the back; it’s an honor to be taken that seriously. I’m in his debt, and I hope you’ll take my advice and buy Dead Animals here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Animals-ebook/dp/B00EG8GHFY/
September 16, 2013
My daughter will marry any man who brings her bacon. It’s disappointing. I was hoping that she’d require something more, something deeper. Maybe she’d fall for a brilliant romantic or the quintessential baller who’d keep me comfortable in imported cars just to please my daughter. But it didn’t happen that way. And what makes it worse is the fact that my daughter is five, and her fiancé is well into his fifties. But to be fair, I guess I should mention that he didn’t mean to propose; he simply slid a piece of bacon across the counter after he heard my daughter complain about the wait. She took one bite of that cured pork and said “Daddy, is that man married? Because I want to marry him.” His name was Gary, and he owns The Durango Diner.
It was one of those odd weekend mornings where everything slows down and colors change under a lazy sun. The wife and I took our five year old monster out to breakfast. And I call it “breakfast” because that’s what we ate. A punctual man would’ve called it lunch. We parked on Main amongst the motorcycles and tourists and walked into the Durango Diner. It’s one of those no frills places with a few tables in the back and a counter that faces a dully reflective grill. Everything is covered with a deep patina of time and tradition. The people are rooted in reality and the food is simple and cheap; simple and cheap, but ridiculously good. There’s even a white storm trooper helmet hidden amongst the décor, and if you’re a fan of “I spy with my little eye,” it makes the perfect target.
They make a green chili sauce, and I can’t prove it, but I think the main ingredient is heroin. The stuff is addictive, plain and simple, and I buy it by the jar just so I can take it home and slather it on everything like a true junkie. And I mean everything. I once considered freezing it in popsicle molds. Who knows; maybe it’d work as a desert? Whatever. The wife ordered bacon and eggs with hash browns. I had huevos rancheros with an extra-large side of green chili sauce. Our monster wanted bacon covered with bacon and a side of bacon. We sat and waited for our breakfast as the restaurant breathed around us. Flatware and thick white porcelain plates made their noises in the background as the staff bussed here and there. The air smelled like food and steam and humanity.
Our monster became impatient because her bacon didn’t spontaneously generate in front of her as soon as she ordered. She demanded food, with a miniature fist upon the counter, and Gary heard her before we could pacify her with a game of “I-spy.” He took a single strip of bacon, steaming and crispy, from the cooling rack and handed it to her with a smile. Her frown turned upside-down and she gave him one of those little girl smiles that can melt hearts. He smiled back and I knew at that moment that he was a father too; you simply can’t fake a smile like that. My daughter shook his hand and they exchanged pleasantries. He turned back to the grill and that’s when she asked me if he was married. Gary heard her and laughed. He looked over his shoulder, told her he was taken, and that he already had full grown daughters of his own. My monster was genuinely disappointed but it didn’t last; Gary gave her another piece of bacon and distraction took over. His service was quick and the rest of our food came within a few minutes.
We gorged, paid, and left as Gary and his staff sang out a chorus of farewells. We ambled along the streets of Durango slowly as a carbohydrate high dulled our senses. We were stuffed and sweating. That Saturday morning was perfect. The Durango Diner is the type of place that pops the bubble of personal space to which you cling anywhere else. You sit at the counter and laugh with strangers you’d avoid on the sidewalk. Waitresses brush up against you with an “excuse me hun” but you don’t mind because this is where you want to be; comfortable with the rest of your species breaking your fast as the weekend winds down outside. I remember smiling as these thoughts came and went. We got into my truck and headed home.
Durango is an odd little island of culinary awesomeness nestled in the mountains. If you wanted, you could walk across the street from The Durango Diner and pay fifty bucks for oak roasted lamb with a white truffle sauce. There are plenty of restaurants on main that’d hold their own anywhere in New York and they’ve got all the reviews to prove it. And to be honest, when I took the Durango Diner at face value with its simple fare and limited space, I wasn’t quite sure how the place was able to stay afloat given the neighbors’ reputations. But after eating there, after truly experiencing the place and meeting Gary, I know for a fact that it’ll be there forever (or at least I hope it will because I’m not looking forward to the withdrawal symptoms that’re sure to pop up if I’m ever denied their green chili sauce).
The wife and I have vowed to become regulars at The Durango Diner and I can’t strongly enough recommend that you make the trip down to 957 Main Avenue in Durango Colorado to experience the place for yourself. I’m sure my new son-in-law would appreciate the support.
I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI