Archive for April 2013

New Copies of Stories Now Available

I wanted to let everyone know that I’m in the process of putting up scanned copies of some of my stories. So far, I’ve uploaded “Holy Roller High,” “The Big Send-Off,” and “Sins of the Father.”

“Sins of the Father,” in addition to being published in the Oracle Fine Arts Review, placed in the Top 100 (out of 18,000 entries) in the 2005 74th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. No one was more surprised than me. That’s not false modesty–I’d actually forgotten I submitted it to the contest.

To view the stories, go to the “Publications” page of the site and click on the links under the publication cover images.

Explaining the Unexplainable: Blame It All On Aliens

Last night, as I was flipping channels, I came across a show called Ancient Aliens on the History Channel (which is actually pronounced, by the way, as the “Quote-History-Unquote-Channel”). I know what you’re thinking, too, and yes, I was flipping channels. People do that all the time, so stop looking at me that way.

But as I watched the show–I dropped the remote, okay?–I started to realize what a rich vein of entertainment these folks are mining, how perfect a formula they’ve stumbled upon.

The show’s premise, which is remarkably sophisticated, is this:

a) There are many unexplained things in this world, and

b) aliens are responsible for them.

Utter genius.

Never mind the fact that if these monuments, obelisks, and patterns were meant to serve as guides for alien craft, either our ancestors were incredibly bad at following directions or those were the crappiest aliens who ever broke the speed of light. We’ll forget all that for the moment. In fact, we’ll forget it forever. Let’s not speak of it again.

“Can I say that ancient aliens built the pyramids?” one wide-eyed truth-seeker asks.

“No,” he answers.

“Can I say they didn’t build the pyramids?” he asks right away, before someone can inquire why he just answered his own question.

“No,” he replies again, revealing how nifty it can be to both ask and answer your own questions. (Hint: In this scenario, there are no wrong answers.)

This unassailable line of reasoning led me to what I do best: asking “what if” questions. Going down that road, what other inexplicable things might those overachieving ETs be responsible for?

For instance, can I say that ancient aliens are responsible for Daylight Savings Time? No. Can I say they aren’t responsible for Daylight Savings Time? No. And even if the U.S. government is directly responsible for DST, I know from another Quote-History-Unquote Channel show that aliens are behind our government and have been for years.

Hey, that actually is fun.

(Legal Mumbo-Jumbo: Ancient aliens cannot be responsible for Bigfoot, chiefly because he has his own show on Quote-Animal-Unquote-Planet.)

 

Favorite Passages: Stephen King’s 11/22/63

395px-11-22-63A few nights ago, I finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63 at around 2:00 a.m. So, yeah, technically it was a few mornings ago. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall ever having finished a King book at a decent hour. Good for you, Mr. King. (Here’s a short blurb on the book that I put up at Goodreads.)

Anyway, one of the things I’m trying to do more of these days is to take notes on excerpts from books that impress me or move me in some way, so I figured starting with this one, I’d share them. For years, I’ve pored over passages, oohing and aahing over the prose but moving on, only to come back later and try to find them again, with disappointing results. Now, though, after I finish books, I actually go back and transcribe the words so I can refer to them any time I want. I ended up noting quite a few sections in 11/22/63, so many that it’ll be a few days before I return it to the library. It’s okay. I still have about a week left.

A bit about the book, though. As he often does, King has gone the requisite nine yards, plus a mile or so for good measure. I don’t normally do plot summaries in reviews, but since everyone pretty much knows the conceit of this one, I’ll go ahead and admit this: Going in, I was unsure of how SK was going to fill eight-hundred and some odd pages with the story of a time traveler (however adventurous, ambitious, and good at multitasking he may be) going back to try and save JFK from assassination.

Not to worry. There’s plenty happening throughout in 11/22/63, enough so that I found myself wondering, about fifty pages away from the end, how he was going to wrap it up in such limited space. He does bring it to a close, though, and in my humble opinion, this is a particularly good one. Don’t get me wrong. He had me worried there for a little bit, but then that’s what Stephen King does.

Speaking of what he does, as I say in my Goodreads blurb, when Stephen King creates a world, he owns it, and if you happen to agree to visit, it becomes a place you don’t want to leave. Whether the situation revolves around a town full of vampires, a young man with a haunted car, a gunslinger hunting a dark tower, or a humanity all but destroyed by a particularly robust form of the flu, once you’re there with him, you’re hooked. The downside of this, by the way, is that it tends to ruin you on other writers.

But how about the time travel aspect of the story? It’s not a new thing for King, but so few things are. And as with so many other successful genre writers, once he persuades you to accept that conceit–the fact, in this case, that a man can travel back to the past and attempt to change events–he allows it to serve as precisely what it is: a device. The real story is in the characters.

Here’s my favorite passage from 11/22/63, then. Dancing features prominently in this story (no, not like in West Side Story), and it’s not revealing too much to say that it provides a connection between our hero, Jake Epping, and someone he dearly loves. Some of this passage is story-specific–the men with hammers, knives, and guns and the women twisting and belittling things–but I still believe it stands on its own.

For a moment, everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamlock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.

So there.

On the Value of Reading Books, Avoiding the Weather, and Playing Guitar Indoors

This morning, I realized that, in just over two-and-a-half years, I’ll be fifty years old. That thought caused me to stop and ponder. And as many things do these days, it also inspired me to want to take a nap.

Here’s a bit of me-related trivia: Once I reached a certain point in life, I never considered age to be terribly important. I spent my twentieth birthday in the navy, my thirtieth went by without a sound, and forty arrived, left, and barely said a word. But now fifty looms, and suddenly it gives me pause?

This is what really makes me think: Along with being hit by the reality of the passage of time, I also realized I’m long overdue for a mid-life crisis. Not to be an alarmist, but it occurs to me that this could be serious.

Don’t get me wrong. I participated in some dangerous stuff when I was younger. Despite growing up in Alabama, where the only person more reviled than the heretic is the agnostic, I refused to pledge allegiance to either of the state’s deities, Alabama or Auburn. Up until the age of about twenty-five, I rode a motorcycle, even did so in California for a while, demonstrating my manliness by refusing to wear a helmet. I lived in one of the toughest areas in San Diego, though in fairness, being generally averse to weather in all its forms, I spent most of my free time indoors. Also, the band I was in played numerous gigs with Hell’s Angels in attendance–so, you know, I and every other musician on the California coast shared that distinction with Mick Jagger and the Stones–and I even bungee-jumped on my thirtieth birthday.

But all these adventures took place, as careful readers will realize with the aid of a bit of subtraction, A Long Time Ago.

These days, my life is pretty mellow. I still avoid weather when I can manage it, I haven’t flown an airplane in about fifteen years, I quit smoking at about that same time, and although my book collection could probably crush me to death if I somehow ended up pinned beneath it, I don’t think reading qualifies as a dangerous activity. Same thing goes for playing guitar, at least the way I do it now: in the privacy of my own home with no actual bikers present.

As I see it, there are four possibilities as to why I haven’t gone mid-life bonkers, dashing out to shave my head, get a tattoo, start wearing a bandana, or purchase a convertible. One is that I’m actually going to live to be over ninety-four years old and therefore haven’t yet reached my half-life. While that could happen, it’s doubtful. Another option is that, since I don’t have children, I’m bereft of those hyperactive, mucus-producing little treasures who serve as constant reminders of their parents’ progression through the halls of time. Or it could be because I never actually grew up, which, now that I think about it, seems likely. Lastly, the reason I might not have embarked on that last gasping grasp at elusive youth might just be because I’m happy with the life I have now.

I’m going to go with a combination of three and four.

New Copy for Visitation: A Novel of Death and Inconvenience

Visitation: A Novel of Death and Inconvenience

Pete Ferguson has been having a bad year. His wife left him a few months ago for a carpeting contractor, and he’s spending increasing amounts of time taking care of a deadbeat brother with a penchant for drunken nudity, all of this while co-managing an air charter service with his father. And his dad just dropped dead of a heart attack in the cockpit of one of their airplanes.

Cue a swarm of interlopers, the most intrusive being his father’s sister Aunt Bernadette, who has some specific ideas of how the funeral should unfold, and a hipster preacher from New Zealand named Budgie Dickerson. And there’s more. Pete’s sister Rachel struggles with how to deliver a momentous bit of news to her family, his cousin Tom attempts to deal with the possibility that his wife is being unfaithful, and his brother Stevie embarks on a quixotic mission to accomplish no less than the redemption of his father’s good name.

But Pete just wants to have a nice quiet funeral for his father, spend a bit of time with his sister Rachel who’s flying in from California, and contemplate what to do with his life. If he can mange to make it through the rest of the week.

SyFy Madness

Nearly Every SyFy Original Movie: Disgraced scientist fights The Man, meets the child he never knew, and makes up with an ex-spouse.

The New Site is Up and Running. More or Less…

Good day to everyone! Well, as you can see, the new site is up and running. I’m loading in all the old links and assorted gadgets from the old site, and things will be posting here before too much longer.