Howdy there, my imaginary friends!
I've recently completed a new short story. It's called The Periodic Table, and can be found at my short story site (which you can find by clicking the second link at the top right sidebar). Please do check it out, and I hope you enjoy it. Good day.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Now, I know I've let the dust settle and the cobwebs take over around here (and by "here" I mean not only this blog, but my writing in general). Sorry, my imaginary friends, that couldn't be helped. Life necessitated a focus on other matters, for a time, and my writing had to be left by the wayside.
Now, however, things have changed again, and I find myself with some well-earned respite. Time I intend to use to pick up the threads of what had been dropped, three or four years ago, and try to see if I can get the old writing machinery in my head up and started again (not that it was ever any great shakes previously or nothing; damn thing was always preposterously slow, stubborn, and clunky.)
To this end, I created a new blog for the short stories I hope to write (and the very few I've already written). It's the second link from the top right.
I plan to concentrate on short stories, for the time being. I'd like to get a good batch of stories under my belt before attempting anything long again.
And, assuming continuance of the author's life, sanity, and free time; I'd like to keep this blog from falling into decrepitude once more, by posting a little more often then I have been. Or something.
Well, that's enough talking to an empty room. Whack-job out!
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Here is a fantastic tale by my friend, the writer, Russell Huneke, who can be found at his excellent blog Nighthawk Short Fiction. My contribution to the Story Swap can be found there too. But first, sit back, and enjoy...
The Hot Night
I lay here in the heat. It's hot tonight, just like it has been all this summer. The damp, saturating humidity makes it feel like you're walking through a sauna the whole day through! I toss and turn, feeling the sodden sheets stick to my bare, slimy skin. I have no air conditioner and the heat is merciless for a man my age! I'm seventy-nine for crying out loud!
A raspy cough rips from my throat. I'm sick on top of everything else!
I suppose the fan shall have to suffice for now. All it does is blow the swampy air around, but its better than nothing...I suppose.
My eyes shift and roll in the darkness. I close them, trying to will myself to sleep, but the oppressive heat feels heavy in my lungs like inhaling mud. I close my eyes and feel the darkness press in on me as I hear the errant clinking sound of the metal fan at the foot of my bed as it rattles on in a slightly uneven cadence. Then suddenly comes another sound. This one faint and distant, and slightly muffled, but there nonetheless. I recognize it immediately. It's the sound of the hallway elevator coming up. The aching sound of the doors opening is familiar. I look at my analogue clock on my bed stand.
12:30 it reads.
Probably some drunken reveler returning from a night of shameless debauchery. Although I've lived in this complex twenty years, I never keep much track of the comings and goings of faces and people. I'm a bit of a recluse.
I listen for the slam of a door to certify that one inebriated derelict has found his destination, but I hear no slam. What I do hear is knocking. It sounds like the door across the hall, but I can't be sure. Knocking. Steady and trenchant enough to be irritating and...even more so...down right aggravating!
"What kind of crazy sumnabitch comes calling on folks at half past midnight?" I grouse to myself as I peel my crumpled body from the sweaty sheets and shamble on down the hall; a loose, phlegmy cough rattles in my throat as I go. I reach for the light switch and then decide better. I go for the more clandestine approach and peek through my peephole into naked hallway that is only faintly illuminated by the bare, sallow glow of the weak hallway lighting. A man stands in front of the door directly across the hall from me, his broad back faces toward me. He is wearing a long, dark trench coat and continues rapping at the door with a regular rhythm. A trench coat! In this heat? I shake my head as I peer from my peephole and remain as quiet as I can. I want to wrench the door open and lash out sharp brays of protest, but something about his figure is ominous and fear chills my bones with an odd little shiver. I keep watching and after a few minutes, the figure turns and walks toward the elevator, pushes the button and gets in. The door closes so rapidly behind him that I have no chance to see his face in the circular window before the car drops and whisks him away from my view. I peel my gaze away with a shrug. Slowly I shuffle back to my bed and return to my attempt at sleep. The damp bed sheets feel sick against my narrow bones and my shirt is caked to my chest with a tight sheet of pungent perspiration. The fan rattles in the muggy silence and I close my eyes.
I swim up from my brittle slumber. An hour has passed. The faintly numb drowsiness is broken by thumping sounds emitting from the hall outside. I rise again, eyes bleary and mind swimmy and feel my way through the pithy void of night. I peep through my peephole again, looking out on the hallway. The strange, dark figure is back. I didn't hear the moan of the elevator this time, but it is the same man...or at least what appears to be a man. And now my fear and weariness is replaced with a slowly burgeoning rage. I flip on my lights and a thin wedge of light seeps from below my door and splays out sharply into the hall. The figure must have heard the snap of the lights or my movements inside because it turns about rapidly like some kind of jagged shadow shifting over the walls in the sickly yellow hallway light. It looks directly toward my door; directly towards me! It's face is still shrouded in shadows. It's hair is a dingy mop of electric gray mangled on its head, and the face is obscured slightly by its upturned collar. Lame yellow eyes peer out, connecting completely with my line of vision, as if he...or it can see through walls! I blench away from the peephole as fright tightens around my neck. That was a creepy dark gaze if ever I'd seen one! I don't want to confront whoever or whatever lurks under the hoods of those malign yellow eyeballs. I just want to sleep. I just want him to stop that infernal pounding and go back to wherever it was he came from! Far away from here, preferably!
I move to my leather couch. The cushions are cracked with age and the cracks fan out into a spidery web formation. I sit there, unable to bring myself to look through the peephole again. Suppose this time the malevolent face was right up at the peephole, peering at me with its hideous yellow glare? Suppose it was a murderer!
Now I flop back onto the couch in a supine position. I mop my face with my large bulky hand and try to will away the terror I am feeling in my bones. I cough a little more, but try to subdue it as I have no idea if the strange person is still lurking in the hallway or not.
The leather couch feels slightly cool to my clammy skin. The cracks pinch a little but not too bad. My head lolls back on the rounded armrest as my hand remains over my twitching eyes.
"I'm sorry to bother you," comes a voice that stabs the silence and sends a hot sear of panic through my being. It is the man from the hall. He is standing in my doorway, having crept my door open. Had I forgotten to bolt it the last time I was there? Of all the foolishness!
"What d-do you want?" I yelp, trying to sound aggressive, but the words rattle in my throat in a shaky stutter, betraying my nervousness.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you-"
Coughs! They are stronger and broken up with ripping fits of gags.
"What right have you to come barging into a person's private apartment in the dead of night! I have a good mind to-"
"Please forgive me. I meant no harm. It's just that your door was ajar and your light was on. I've been trying to contact the party across the way and..."
"You've been jack hammering that damn door half the night and..." Coughs! "disturbing my rest! Isn't bad enough it's hot as Hades, I need this racket from you! And now breaking and entering to boot!"
My coughing turns violent and I grapple for breath. Suddenly I seem not able to catch my breath! The room is going swimmy as I hack and wheeze and the last thing I see is the dark figure running toward my kitchen and a hissing sound. A sound like rushing water...and then...blackness!
I awaken, my chest feeling tight and my throat feels like it's been burnt up. The man in the dark trench coat is patting my head gingerly with a cool cloth. The cold dampness of the cloth is refreshing to me. He has a pitcher of ice water on the coffee table next to me and has poured out a glass. The cubes glisten in the clear water and are refreshing as well.
"Easy," says the trench coat man. "You passed out! That's quite a bad cough you have there. Sounds almost like pneumonia?"
He hands me the cubed glass of water and I drink.
"Could well be. Could be a lot of things for that matter," I say as I sip briskly at the cold water, it soothes my throat and feels good going down. "I've been sick for a while..."
"Well just rest easy. I didn't mean to get you so upset! Are you feeling better now?"
I nod and say, "Yes, a little bit."
I look toward the door and then back to my secret guest. Suddenly his face doesn't look as malevolent as I had first thought it was. He looks stern, but not really threatening. His eyes are piercing, but subdued. The yellowish look must have been a trick of lighting. He is a slightly scraggly looking fellow, but more innocuous than I had first thought.
"What was all the banging and big deal about getting into that apartment across the way?"
"Oh that," says the dark man, rising to his feet and then taking a seat in my recliner across from the couch. "I had a critical appointment with the party across the way."
I slug down more iced water. The cubes tinkle against the glass like a song.
"What could be so all fired critical that you have to pound away in the middle of the night like this?"
The dark clad man throws his head back, and swipes his hand through his snarled mess of hair and tips his head up again, gazing at me.
"Well, you see his time is up. I have to claim him."
I cock a perturbed eyebrow at Mr. Trench Coat.
"What? Is he a criminal who has broken parole or something?"
"No no. You misunderstand. I have to take him. It's his time to go. That's my job. I'm the Reaper you see."
I chuckle at this nonsense. The chuckle almost trips another fit of coughing, but by dint of my will I suppress it.
This guy's fucking GONE, I think to myself. My first impression was right. He's a loony! I'd best humor him to get him out of here!
"Now wait just a minute. You mean...Reaper...as in the Grim Reaper. Angel of death and all that?"
Mr. Trench Coat smiles placidly and nods slowly. I shift up on my elbow and straighten my back.
"Ok. If you're the Grim Reaper, then why did you save me? I thought bringing death was your stock and trade? Least that's what I always heard."
"It wasn't your time to GO yet," insisted the stern faced man.
"Well, then how 'bout that gent across the hall? Why haven't you just stormed in and taken him?"
"Well I'm not allowed to just storm in. He's a stubborn cuss and refuses to believe it's his time. Usually when people are near the end of their lives, their will caves in and I just go in and claim them. But this here fellow. Well, he's giving me a devil of a time surrendering to what is obviously the inevitable! Refuses to let me in. And we can't take him until we've broken his will to live!"
All I want is to get this guy out of my apartment, I think to myself in thick determination. I have to do something to pacify him and get him moving on out of here or I'll never get any sleep!
"Okay," I say, determination rimmed deeply in my words. "Then how about a..."
"How do you mean?" asks the dark trench coat man, sitting forward.
"Well, take a look at me. I'm damn near eighty...and in failing health. Maybe dying of pneumonia soon anyhow. You said so yourself!"
"Hmmmm. Very interesting. Never been done before, you know. But certainly nothing in the books against it! And one does have to balance things out, and after all a soul is a soul. But you would have to we willing, of course!"
"Oh brother, am I willing," I say, sitting up ramrod strait. "I tell you what if you can take my soul, you're welcome to it. But if by some chance you CAN'T, you vamoose and let me get some sleep, right?"
"It's a deal. But you'll have to shake on it and accept all consequences that would have been applied to the other party. Do you agree to that?"
"I do indeed," I reply and shake his somewhat callused hand.
I also believe you should find yourself a good shrink ASAP, pal!
"One moment then, please," says the dark trench coated man, standing up and then turning around. His hands reach in back of him, but they are not hands any more. His hands have become craggy, alabaster white bones! SKELETON HANDS! The hands reach toward what appears to be a hood and drape a cowl over its head. Then he turns around and his face has transfigured into a skull! The skull has sunken eyes and nose as well as a twitching mandible rocking on its joints as it speaks! It brings forth a hooked scythe in one bony hand!
"Let us be on our way, shall we?"
I look at the being, thinking it some kind of trick of the eyes. But as I look at it harder and harder it becomes more apparent that what seems insanely impossible is real! I am looking at the GRIM REAPER!
I look at my glass of water and see now that all of the ice has melted. It is hotter than usual now and the remainder of water left in the glass is beginning to steam. It can't possibly be THIS HOT!
"Oh, one last thing I forgot to mention," says the skull face figure in insidious delight as it begins to laugh. "The man whose place you are taking? He was a very BAD man. His place is HELL!"
The heat intensifies! The walls begin to melt and I feel myself descending as the fiery vision of the dark skull faced phantom cackles before me; his crazy twitching skull mandible seeming to arc in a grinning rictus! The smell of sulfur and brimstone rise into my nostrils like poking fork tines as I look before me at a bleeding lake of lava and fire.
And then I hear the cries of the damned!
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Sometime around last week, I was apparently confused with someone sane and was asked to write a guest post for khaalidah.com on the serious and writery topic of outlining. Being an utter loon, I produced the following piece of work, which is reproduced here in it's moronic entirety. You can also read it at Khaalidah's website, if they haven't scrubbed it yet.
The Outline Question
When I first started out, long ago, trying to write (and “trying to write” is still a good descriptor of what I do), I did what every good subscriber to Writer’s Digest was told to do: outline, outline, outline. Every piece of work, but especially potential novels we were told, needed to be planned down to every detail. I remember a column suggesting filling out card files with settings, character descriptions, motivations, psychological quirks, etc. Something as complex as a novel wasn’t just going to pop out on its own, it needed to be planned. You wouldn’t go out hiking in the woods without detailed maps, unless you wanted to turn out like the Blair Witch kids.
I did as told and outlined the heck out of everything. Then, when time came to start writing, I found myself flailing (well…I always flail, it’s my process; what I mean is more than usual). I could not set one sentence after another in sequence without furiously scratching everything out and trying anew, to no avail. Whatever idea or characters that had excited me upon conception seemed sapped of all vitality upon the attempt at getting them down in story form. They existed, only in the outline.
That’s when I discovered the others. Those like Stephen King and Peter Straub, who suggested that there was a difference between inventing and discovering. That outlining and planning ahead was the purview of the creative typist; that a WRITER (yes, all capitals!) just wrote, and worked out where his story wanted to go along the way.
In a recent comment to this site (that prompted the invitation to write this already bloated and self-serving guest post), I may have given the impression of being in this camp of anti-outlining writers. That’s not entirely the truth, and I’ll tell you why…
My first attempt at writing in this manner was incredibly freeing. I could produce page after page after page, where before I had stopped and stalled at every sentence. Sure it was utter crap, but it was something I could work with; something I could potentially improve upon. The vitality and excitement of my ideas (charmingly idiotic as they were, and possibly, still are) had been channeled into the work and not the outline. Moreover, the actual process of writing was at long last fun, where before it had been a soul-sucking, love-killing, sentence-stacking chore (so much so that I actually swore it off for many years, having come to the conclusion that I was just not fit to be a writer---a conclusion I’m sure some of you may be agreeing with about now).
Upon re-reading of what I had wrote, however; I discovered something important. Without direction, without a rudder, my writing tended to run in concentric circles. I tried to fool myself with the old “Oh well, I’ll fix it in the rewrite”, but the randomness was too extensive. It could not be repaired…it would need thorough rebuilding; not rewriting, but starting over from the ground up.
I needed some sort of structure; a happy medium, between outlining and free-form writing. Not a road map, but certainly directions; the sort of thing you draw on a napkin to help someone drive somewhere they’re not familiar with; depicting the major landmarks.
The solution I came up with was simple, absurdly simple (and sure as heck not worth all the wordage I’ve made you put up with so far). It is the method I used to help me keep Dark Roads, my webserial and first completed novel, under control as I wrote it.
It is simply this: I construct a Table of Contents for my story before I write it. Instead of an outline, I come up with titles that serve as placeholders for things I know are going to happen, but not yet sure how; and ideas I have not yet thought up. You don’t have to be clever or original with these titles as they are not meant to see the light of day; they are mere tools to help you keep track of where you’re going, like Paul McCartney’s dummy lyrics. When ex-Beatle Paul McCartney hears that music in his head, he immediately writes down dummy lyrics to help him remember the tune. He doesn’t have to expend any thought on these lyrics because they’re just holding the place for the true lyrics to come later, so they can be total gibberish. Thus Scrambled Eggs becomes the classic Yesterday, once he gets down to work on it.
Let’s say you wish to write a vampire novel (just go with me here on this), one of those old-fashioned, non-shimmery, villainous kind. You sort of know what you’re going for, but don’t have all the details. Your Table of Contents might look like this:
1: The Town of Willie’s Bog (description of small town, basic characters)
2: The Darkness Cometh (foreshadowing of bad stuff ahead)
3: Amy and the Professor (teen heroine befriends grouchy teacher)
4: The Arrival of Count Wisenheimer (enter the vampire bad guy)
5: The Disappearance of Molly Peachpepper (things get real, Molly gets munched on)
6: The Miasma of Evil (the bodies start piling up)
7: Revengers Assemble! (the savants start putting two and two together)
And so on.
This is a very basic example, but notice that at no point are any details nailed down, except what little the writer already knows of his idea and its basic structure. The Table can be as loose or detailed as you wish, without the drudgery of outlining and having to think of everything up front. This way you can still discover your story, and it can change as it changes.
In conclusion (the audience weeps with joy), this method has been very helpful to me and if it’s of any help to anyone else caught in the horns of the “to outline or not to outline” dilemma, well that’s something ain’t it?
Monday, July 11, 2011
Other writers have writer blogs. I, on the other hand, can't be bothered. I'm just too damn lazy. I learned my lesson when I tried and failed at various attempts to keep a journal. Everything would start great and with promise, then it would fritter away into nothingness. So this place, an extention of my basic goofyness, will have to do to keep my millions of imaginary fans up to date with whatever crap I'm peddling at the moment.
UPDATE #1: My now finished webserial, Dark Roads, has now been posted on the Pandamian site (broken into three "books" as was always my intention). You can find Book One (the Metromax arc) at darkroads.pandamian.com. Book Two (the Murgent arc) at darkroads2.pandamian.com. And Book Three (the final arc) at darkroads3.pandamian.com.
UPDATE #2: I also have other books on Pandamian. majixi.pandamian.com is a collection of my crappy poetry, and whispere.pandamian.com is (or will be) a place for my short fiction (though, right now, I've got only three stories on there, but I hope to do some more soon).
Thank you for your imaginary time and patience. Wack-job out!
2016 UPDATE TO THE UPDATE
Because of the Pandamian site's current non-existence, the above links are, likewise, no longer of this digital earth. Anyone looking for my webnovel Dark Roads, or possibly interested in my short fiction can click the links at the top right sidebar. Anyone interested in my poetry has my sympathy.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
ALLITERATION A LITTLE WRONG
A body in a barrel,
On a barrio by the bay.
A token from Hoboken,
Who was broken night and day.
A-frighted and a-frazzled,
And a-frayed, flayed, and filleted.
A baby with a bottle,
And a bore in a bidet.
A toady in a tussle,
With a tidy tan toupee.
A tin ear in a tunnel,
Taking time to die today.
A-stupid and a-stunted,
And astounded by the stay.
A tuna tin torpedo,
And a tutor to betray.
A penny in a pocket,
Which a piper plans to pay,
A pauper with a paper,
And a puzzle to parley.
A crazy ass acrostic,
And a crumpled clump of clay.
A pimply paparazzo,
Pops a top and stops to pray.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Once in the Wondertime,
Runs in the snow.
Wants, when I stop, where I laugh,
Will I go?
When will I,
Want was I,
Wish where I will?
Miss what I hit,
Find what I fake,
Fool a fish in a fray.
Fly like a flay through a flue,
In a tray.
Sing, screwy songs, sucking pipes,
Pray for a plan, Peter,
Pan full of pot.
Think thinky thoughts,
Thick 'em through, super swell.
Cry crashy crap,
Laugh it up,
Go to hell.