I Ruined My House

Monday was my day off from my full time job. I am usually pretty productive on my days off, but occasionally I get lazy and nap and/or watch TV. This previous Monday was one of my more ambitious ones, though I think I ruined my house. 

The master bath (The one I use, naturally. Because: MASTER.) has a standing shower and a full-size, separate tub. Both have been dripping for as long as I can remember. I had not considered fixing them for a two reasons. One: it seems like a lot of work. Two: I have next to zero experience in plumbing and didn’t want to screw it up. 

Screwing up the plumbing, in my mind, is usually catastrophic. If the plumbing is muffed, then so is the ability to shower, bathe, do laundry, do dishes, water the lawn, and use the miracle of indoor toilets. (The first and last one, especially.) However, this day I took the plunge. Thinking what most people think before they do something filled with hubris and stupidity: “How hard can it be?”

I decided to tackle the shower first. The dribbles from the shower head had gotten so bad, we had to keep mold and other bacterial grossness at bay with bi-weekly bleachings. It was time to take care of it. I did a search online for videos and other instruction on how to do it because despite me being super great at a lot of things, I’m not completely reckless and know when I need a little help. 

This isn’t a home repair blog, and so I won’t go into fine detail here. But, armed with YouTube, a few tools, and a lot of twisting things, I dismantled the valve, replaced some parts, and witnessed a dry shower for the first time in years. Man, did that feel good. It was like I won the homeowner Olympics. “Ha! Plumbers. LOL!” 

Having slain that dragon, I went and ate lunch then planned my attack on the bathtub. The bathtub had been dripping for longer than the shower, but once you start counting in years rather than weeks or months, it really doesn’t matter. I went back to YouTube, broke apart the handle, and went to the hardware store to get the replacement parts. Boom. Being more than confident with my plumberial skills at this point, I replaced that valve in no time. I screwed it back together and… drip. Drippity, drip, drip-tastic. Ugh.

Unable to accept this, I took the handle apart again and put it back together, and still. Drip… drip… drip. I took my wrench and cranked it down even further. I turned it so tight, the metal on the outer seal started stripping away. But tighter is better, right? Always. I finished my tightening-fest and had my wife go downstairs (I forgot to mention this all took place upstairs in our two-story house.) and outside to turn the water supply back on. 

I heard the water rush back into the pipes with confidence, knowing my cranking was sufficient. The drip remained. 

Inordinately angry at the pipe-deity that was testing my resolve, I grabbed my wrench and pushed the already shredded cover further. (It is important to note at this point that I did not have the water outside shut off while I pushed the threads past their natural limit.) The cover shrieked as it separated from its base and a fountain, nay… geyser of water shot up and out of the handle.

My house has great water pressure, I thought as I failed to stop the H2O shotgun with my hand while simultaneously redirecting it at my chest and face. 

“Turn it off! Turn the valve off!” I shout-gurgled to my wife. 

She did. 

I refused to change clothes. I would not. I was determined to wear that excess moisture in defiance. A metaphorical shaking-my-fist to the pipe deity that I would not be defeated. In my wet anger, I resolved to fix this tub or die trying.

I went to the garage. And from the garage I retrieved a Dremel multi-tool. I attached a saw blade to that tool and took it back to the master bath (Because: MASTER! Dammit…) and at 9:45PM on a Monday cut an 6 inch square HOLE in the side of the fiberglass tub to get at and replace the guts.

The Hole-y Tub of the MASTER

The Hole-y Tub of the MASTER

Only to find out it doesn’t have… replaceable guts. Or, it does have replaceable guts, just not ones I can do. Because I’m not a plumber and have pretty close to zero plumbing skills. (See first few paragraphs.)

So I began to accept my defeat at that point. Reluctantly, I texted a friend who does plumbing for a living. He came over and fixed my tub within 15 minutes (with a small spring and a rubber seal) and commended my tub-hole making despite it being wholly unnecessary to do the repair.

I still have my shower repair to be proud of! Or at least, I thought I did. Tuesday night I got an urgent voicemail and text from my better half showing me this:

For size reference, the largest bubble was roughly 8 inches in diameter.

For size reference, the largest bubble was roughly 8 inches in diameter.

And that picture was taken before the other four bubbles popped up (down?) and they started dripping urine-colored water that stained the ceiling. If you’ve followed this story up until this point, you know precisely where those bubbles came from. Yup. The shower. The crowning glory of my fledgling plumbing repair experience.

By the end of the day, I went from two leaky faucets to: two leaky faucets, (one worse than before) one huge hole in the side of my fiberglass tub, and one pee-stained bubbly ceiling. I win. I win everything.

I already called my friend the plumber. He’s coming over at 3.
 

Editing other people's stuff is easy.

I enjoy editing. It's something that, for whatever reason, I really enjoy doing. I will spend hours every day poring over a manuscript and doing everything in my power to make someone else's work really shine. I'll use all of my abilities and learn as I go in order to do an even more complete job on my next job, and repeat the process again and again. I study manuals of style and search for obscure rules so I can make sure the edits I am doing are correct. It is part of my job, but even still, I do enjoy doing it. I am not right in the head, but since that irregularity benefits others, I figure what's the point in fixing it?

So when I sent my recently completed first draft out to a handful of my colleagues with the instruction to rip it apart, I had a small part of me say:

"Heh. There won't be anything for them to rip apart because THIS IS SO AWESOME IT DOESN'T NEED IMPROVEMENT!" *fist bumps with self*

To say I had deluded myself would be an understatement. No book leaves the author's hands ready for publication. I know this. As a matter of fact, as a professional editor I know this fact first hand from working on other manuscripts. I am not a fan of absolutes because I've found them to be hyperbole most of the time. However, in this specific case I am comfortable saying I have never received nor seen an unedited manuscript that doesn't need some work. The level of work varies, to be sure, but not once have I held a manuscript in my hands and not had work to do on it. 

So why in the blue hell did I think mine would be any different? Logic would dictate that an editor doesn't need another set of eyes on their work because they are their own second set of eyes. This is wrong. I joke with friends about having my Editor Eyes on or off, but it doesn't work with my own stuff.

So when I started receiving honest feedback (and yeesh... much of it was very honest and pulled exactly zero punches) it shook me to my core. It took every fear and back-of-mind thought I had about my first full length novel and magnified it to the nth degree. 

You're a terrible writer. What were you thinking? You spent years cranking this out and it's barely worth the hard disk space. You really should just dump it. There's no fixing it when it's a dumpster fire of donkey crap like this thing is. Your friends read it and then laughed themselves silly. You suck. 

All of those were thoughts I had while sifting through the rubble that is my book. Many of them still run around my mind and moon me while giggling at my folly. I have opened my MS to work on it exactly twice since I received the bulk of the feedback. I need to though.

I'd like to end this on an upbeat note, but it doesn't appear to be leaning that way. In any case, I'll keep my head down and my hands moving across the keyboard until I finish my edits or my hands cramp up. Either way.  

Good Kitty

Jake strolled down the same street he did every night since he scored an internship at Polydor Japan. He spun a pen around between his fingers as his Converse All-Stars shuffled along the damp city streets. He smiled to himself as he ran his hand through his dirty blonde hair, pushing it back behind his ear. He couldn’t remember the last time he cut it.
 
In mid-thought, he spied a cat scrambling up a wooden telephone pole as if it’s life depended on it, but Jake didn’t see anything chasing the feline. Stupid cat. 

Jake was a dog kind of guy through and through. Dogs were loyal. Dogs were trustworthy. Dogs didn’t leave claw marks on your face if you fell asleep or steal your breath like in that cheesy Stephen King movie. What was it? Cat’s Eye? Doesn’t matter. Stupid cats.
 
The cat’s eyes flashed in the moonlight as Jake looked up to the roof, following its path of escape. It hissed at him. He shifted his gaze backward but saw nothing but shadows flirting with the light of a dim street lamp. Stupid cat. Jake chuckled to himself and stomped in the direction of the animal, making a hissing sound of his own.  

The cat stared at him, unfazed, then licked its paw.

Jake yelled at the tiny beast. “What’s the matter cat? You no likey Americans?” he said in what was possibly the worst Asian accent ever spoken. The cat looked up for a moment, then started kneading its paws as its eyes widened further. Jake felt his stomach sink, turning his entire body around toward the darkness this time. Still nothing. Stupid cat.

“You no likey Americans?” a gurgling voice warbled over his shoulder. Jake spun around and found himself face to face with the darkness. It had no face and no features; just a lithe, lanky form that extended its spindly arms toward Jake, and a stench that smelled of rotting meat emanating from where its head should’ve been.

Jake shrieked and fell back on his butt, scrambling away as he tried to escape the thing in the darkness. It caught him by the left heel and yanked, peeling his sneaker away. He tried to kick at it with his other foot, but it grabbed it too and dragged him back, regurgitating the same words over and over, “You no likey? You no likey?”

Jake screamed for help, but the back street was empty; save the shimmering light reflecting in the cat’s eyes. “Please!” Jake begged as the cat’s eyes disappeared. Sharp claws punctured his leg.

A confused shriek tore through the darkness. Hissing and angry growls followed.

The claws retracted and the incessant repetition of his own words by the dark stopped just as suddenly as they began.

The sounds of a scuffle, followed by a whimper and shuffling of feet reached Jake’s ears. He squinted and sat up, feeling blood trickle down his leg, but again, saw nothing. Nothing but a small black cat, mincing its way toward him, purring. The cat sat down and licked its paw.

Jake laughed through his tears.

“Good kitty. Good kitty.”

 

Bad Reception

Dallin Baker’s 1999 Ford Focus sputtered to a stop on a dusty highway. “Dammit,” he said with a huff, pressing the brake and shoving the gearshift into park. Gwen Hammond, his girlfriend, stirred from her reclined position in the passenger seat. She wiped sleep saliva from the corner of her mouth as she looked around the desert landscape.

“What? Where are we?” she asked. “Why are we stopping? Did something happen to the car?”

Dallin grabbed the round plastic handle and lowered the driver’s side window. “I don’t know. I think it’s something with the radiator,” he said, popping open the glove box in front of her knees and rummaging for his Leatherman tool.

“It’s really hot,” Gwen said, her large bug-eye sunglasses covering her eyes.

“I know it’s hot, babe,” Dallin said through a forced smile. “I’m going to try to fix it before we call for help.” 

Gwen rolled down her window, flopped back into her seat in her dress, and kicked her heels up onto the dash. “Hurry and fix it. It’s nasty out here.”

Dallin pulled the lever to pop the hood and opened the door to assess the damage. He rolled up his shirt sleeves and went under the hood. He tugged on various cables and shook rubber plastic tubing, doing his manly best to fix whatever was wrong with the engine.

“I texted Stacy,” Gwen shouted from inside the car. “She’s pretty pissed that we’re gonna be late for her reception.”

“Yeah well it wasn’t the plan to have the car break down in the middle of nowhere,” he replied, still fiddling under the hood. “So. . . sorry!”

She thumbed away on her phone as she replied, “Yeah, well it wasn’t the plan to still have this shitty car either, but here we are.” She wiped sweat from under her eyes and wiped it on the seat with an “Ugh.”

“It’s not a shitty car,” he mumbled from behind the protection of the hood. “Maybe if you helped with the rent and bills, we could afford something better.”

“What was that? Did you say something, Dal?”

He gritted his teeth and tightened his fist around his Leatherman. “No.” He hated that nickname.

“Are you going to be able to fix it?” Gwen asked, still texting with the wedding party. 

Dallin replied, “I don’t know. If I were back at the garage, I could.”

“We’re not at the garage, Dallin.”

“I know that, Gwen,” he said, sniping back. “I was just sayin'.”

“Stacy says she’s sending her little brother to pick us up.”

Dallin sighed, slid his Leatherman into his pocket, and walked back around to Gwen’s side of the car. “What good is her little brother gonna do? Does he have a tow-truck?” 

Gwen turned her head toward Dallin, he could almost see her eyes roll behind her white sunglasses. “No. Stacy’s seventeen-year-old brother doesn’t have a tow truck.”

Dallin knelt down to her level and clamped his hand on the door sill. “I can’t just leave my car here.” He cursed as he yanked his hand back, the metal of the door singeing his palm.

“Like it’s going anywhere. No one is going to steal this piece of shit.”

“It’s not a piece of shit and I’m not leaving my car out in the middle of nowhere, Gwen!”

Gwen’s thumbs flew across the phone screen as she replied, “Well I’m not missing my best friend’s wedding, Dal.” She finished up her message and looked up at him with a terse smile. 

“I’ll call a truck.” 

“I’m not pulling up to the reception in a freakin' tow-truck!” she shrieked. “It’s bad enough I was going to show up in your stupid Focus!

Dallin balled up his fists, pulled his lips taut across his teeth, and stood up. He took the tie from around his neck, walked to the trunk, and popped it. He threw the tie inside and sat in the opening. He pulled out his phone and called for help. “Yeah. Route 163.”

They spent the next half an hour on opposite ends of the car. When Stacy’s brother arrived in a silver BMW, Gwen got out of the car and wobbled around to the trunk where Dallin was still perched. 

“Let’s go. Nick’s here. We can still make it in time. He brought their nice car.”

Dallin sat, his shoulders slumped, and looked up at her. “You go ahead. I’ll wait for the tow truck.”

Gwen glanced over at her silver chariot, then back to him. “Are you sure? I’m sure they’ll be able to tow it without your help.”

“It’s fine, Gwen. I need to give them my insurance and information and everything anyway.”

“But—”

“I promise. I won’t have them drop me off at the reception hall. I’ll have the driver drop me off around the corner or something.”

Gwen nodded and smiled. “You’re such a good boyfriend.”

Dallin shrugged and chuckled.

Gwen’s legs wobbled and buckled like a young foal’s as she navigated the rocky roadside in her heels to Stacy’s father’s car. She climbed into the BMW and Dallin watched as the car disappeared over the horizon. 

Dallin got up out of the trunk and closed it. He went around to the front of the car and lowered the Focus’ hood with thunk and a click. He pulled the keys out of his pocket and slipped into the driver’s seat. He plugged the key into the ignition and turned the key and the four cylinder purred back to life. 

Dallin flipped the turn signal on and pulled a U-turn.

 

The Sunshine Blogger award!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award? The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers and fellow bloggers through their blogspace and/or their social media. 

I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by one of the most fascinating people I know: Holly Evans. Holly is a seasoned writer who knows both the nuts a bolts of writing, but also is a expert at the business side. (I pick her brain. A lot.) She is polishing up a new Urban Fantasy series that is releasing on July 1st which you can pre-order here. Also, follow her on Twitter or on her site here

Now let's get on with it. 

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  • Name drop and link to the blog of the awesome person who nominated you.
  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.

So now I'll attempt to answer her questions and then see if I can't dig up a few of my own to ask and pester people with. 

  1. What would your dream home look like?
    My dream home. It would be large, but not enormous. Enough room to relax, entertain, and do just... so many activities. A huge garage with at least 4 or 5 classic cars and maybe a new one too housed within too. Preferably it'd be within spitting distance of a beautiful beach but be near the niceties of civilization as well... I think I just described Tony Stark's house. Okay yeah, short answer: my dream home would just be Tony Stark's house from the Iron Man flicks. 

2. What does your muse look like?
Like Dave Grohl. Quite skinny and hairy. And shouty.

3. How do you silence your inner critic?
It doesn't rear it's ugly head often, but when he does I tamp him back down into his hole by reading back to myself some of the work I've written. (I'm very convincing.) Failing that, I usually reach out to one of my close writer friends to tell me I am being stupid and that what I am doing is awesome. 

4. If you could escape into any fairytale, which one and why?
Hrm... fairytale. I don't know if it counts, but I'd call Captain America my fairytale. He goes from tiny, scrawny, and sick to big, powerful, and awesome. Thing about him is, he never loses his inner goodness and desire to help others. I think that's huge. I'd love to live in a world where that kind of awesome is possible. 

5. If you could choose one celebrity to play you in a movie of your life, who would you choose?
Hahaha well knowing that Holly wrote this list of questions, this one is a loaded can of psychological worms but why not? I want Jason Statham to play me. There. I said it. I want Handsome Rob, star of three Transporter movies and two Crank movies to play me in a movie. 

6. What’s your biggest flaw & how do you make it a strength?
Biggest flaw. Hmm... I'd say it's my ability to procrastinate a work. I can make any number of excuses as to why I am not working on a specific work at any given time. Solution? Be writing many things concurrently. Not sure why my brain works like this, but if I start petering out on one work, I can kick into a different one and step on the gas.  

7. If there were no limiting factors, where would you live in the world?
I'm pretty sure the question above covered this. Big house. Beach. Lots of cars. Iron Man House. Location-wise I'd likely say someplace beachy like Fiji or San Diego.

8. Which of the 7 deadly sins do you suffer from the most?
Envy. I tend to see others' successes and position in life and ask myself, "Why them and not me? They must have done something underhanded or dishonest to get there." Rather than praise them for the more likely causes: hard work, determination, and a dash of luck.

9. If you could become immortal, how would you spend your time?
Bowling, probably. I'd rather not be immortal. Living forever never appealed to me, though I would like to make it to 80 or so. 

10. Which one book had the biggest impact on you?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I picked it up completely unaware of the content, only that it was written by my favorite author. I have been in love with the book and the character of Roland ever since. He's not an invincible hero, as a matter of fact, he does some very non-heroic things. I won't spoil the series for you, but yeah... he's not always the good guy. 

11. If you were an ice-cream flavour, which one would you be?
Chocolate and peanut butter. I leave the interpretation up to you, my friends. Heh. 
(But probably include something about how it's sweet, with ribbons of salty thoughtfulness throughout. Maybe.)

 

I'll nominate a few people for this, and if they are so inclined they can answer my questions. Let's begin with the questions first (Some of them are recycled, so sue me.) then on to the nominations!

  1. Name the author you look up to the most or would like to emulate as you begin your Authorial Rise to Stardom?
  2. What is your writer's fuel? Besides Coffee/Caffeine. Because let's face it that's like oxygen for a writer. 
  3. What is one writer's rule you know you probably should follow but you love to bend/break?
  4. You have unlimited resources. What do you do with all of your wealth?
  5. Do you have a book or author that is a "guilty pleasure" for you? You know... THAT one. You can tell me. I won't tell a soul. 
  6. Many writers put snippets or pieces of themselves into their work, whether it be experiences, places they've lived, or people they've known. Roughly what percentage of You is in your work? 
  7. What will make you smile, without fail, even on the worst of days? It can be a thing, person, or even a thought. Everything is on the table. Whatever puts a grin on your face.
  8. Cats. Am I right?
  9. How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to take a run at it despite it being a very challenging career choice?
  10. You wrote a best seller. Hollywood wants it and they're willing to pay you over a million for it. But they want the rights to sequels, spin offs, and remakes. How do you respond?
  11. Enough complicated questions. What is your favorite vacation spot?

 

Now on to the bloggers I'd like to nominate for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Follow them, enjoy their posts, you will not regret it! 

  • First off, I'd like to call out to one Amy Marie. (Twitter) She is a brand new writer who I just recently began following and am looking forward to seeing more of her work. She started a blog where I'm assuming the answers to my questions will be posted so keep an eye on that. She also informed me that she's made a total of two posts so far. Happy to give her a reason to up that by 1/3rd and get to know a new author at the same time. 
     
  • Next, I'd like to nominate Josie Jaffrey. (Twitter) A charming author who also happens to be a lawyer for a UK pub as well. Oh yes, and she's got three books plus a short story on Amazon just waiting to become your next favorite stories. Don't let her serious writing resume fool you, she's a pleasure to talk to on Twitter so look her up there, or check out her website and you won't be disappointed. 
     
  • Third up, we have a saucy author who won't tell me what she wrote before she adopted her current moniker, Rachel Lovefist. (Twitter) However, she assures me she is hard at work on a new set of books that she will be putting up for pre-order soon. Until then you can follow her on Twitter or start following her new blog. (Are you sure you won't tell me what you used to write under, Rachel??)
     
  • Fourthly, I submit that Melissa Elledge (Twitter) should be subjected to the intense questions listed here. She's a young college student studying in England's University of Winchester for her MA in Creative and Critical Writing. She is a gamer, writer, and a self-proclaimed geek. She is also a joy to talk to and has a blog that has all sorts of useful content so follow her!
     
  • Last but most assuredly not least, I'd like to nominate Jessica Grace Kelley. (Twitter) She's a writer who just recently won an award for her book, The Seductress. So yeah, you know. No pressure, everyone. She's definitely one to follow either on her blog or on Twitter and watch her rise to fame as it happens!

Have fun!

Friends 'Til the End

And I wonder
When I sing along with you


    “Stop what your doin’, ‘cause I’m about to ruin,” Amanda yelled from the back seat of the Jeep startling her two friends in the front seats, Erin and Holly as one of their old school jams came on the radio.

    Holly grinned, whipped her head around and shot a villain’s squint at Amanda, belting back, “The image and the style dat ya used to. I look funny, but yo I’m makin’ money, see! So, yo world I hope ya ready fo’ me!”

    Erin wasn’t having it.

    “Come on, Erin. Don’t act like you don’t know the words,” Amanda chided, grabbing the back of Erin’s driver’s seat and popping her head around the side.

    Erin smirked but held her ground. “What do you guys want to eat?”

    “Not hungry! Erin! Sing along with us!” Holly replied, cranking the volume of the stock stereo up until the speakers crackled.

    Erin ignored their pleas once again. “Taco Bell? I hear they have this new cheesy meaty thing,” she said, knowing that Amanda hated Taco Bell.

    Amanda doubled down on the music and pushed her face into Erin’s, Erin doing her best to maintain a straight line in the lane. “I drink up all da Hennessy ya got on ya shelf, just lemme introduce myself!”

    Erin couldn’t resist any longer. “My name is HUMPTY! Pronounced with an UMPTY! Yo ladies, oh how I’d like to HUMP thee!”

If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again


    Erin took the jar from the shelf, dumping the spare change from the day’s shift into it. The “Party Fund” jar stopped being a party fund a while ago. By finals, most of the partying had ended.

    “What’s the point of partying anymore?” Erin postulated to Amanda. “We’re adults now. We should act like it.” 

Holly stopped coming around when she landed a job as a photographer in the next town over. Studies and work took over Erin’s life and held her hostage. Amanda seemed to be the only one still living in the past. Trying to hang on to memories like a child clings to a comforting blanket. She failed a few required courses and was there for another semester.

They planned to have one last hurrah before they all left. A nostalgic farewell that never materialized. The best years of your life, they said. Enjoy them while you’re young, they said. Weren’t they still young? If these were the best years . . . 

The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say when


    Erin looked out the small window beside the door and saw her old friend standing there. Her eyes sported dark circles, her hair wrapped up in a greasy bun, sweat pants and a baggy tee shirt replacing her signature bike shorts and tank top combo of prior years. “Amanda,” Erin said as she opened the door. “What are you doing here?”

    “Hey Erin. Come with me,” Amanda said through a glassy-eyed haze, “I’ve got something so amazing to show you.”

    Erin wrapped her plaid shirt tighter around her shoulders, a bruise still visible above her collarbone. “Amanda, what is it? I can’t leave right now. My kids—”

    Amanda laughed and covered her mouth. Tears overflowed her eyes as she did so, which she flipped away into the overgrown bushes when they reached her hand. “It’s okay!” She glanced back at her dilapidated Chevy Cavalier. “It’s fine! I’ve got it in my car! You have to come see. Pleeeease, Erin. Puhleeeeeeese!

    Erin ducked her head back inside. “Kevin, will you go upstairs and watch your sisters for a minute? Momma’s gonna be right back.” Her tone changed when the voice of her oldest boy, only nine, protested. “You get up there and do as I say or I’ll tell your father!”
 
    Erin reappeared in the doorway, pulled the door shut behind her, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She looked at Amanda with a mixture of fear and pity as Amanda bounded down the path toward her car.
 
    Amanda pulled her keys from her sweatpants and danced in front of the trunk while Erin walked across the dead lawn to the street.
 
    “Okay, now close your eyes,” Amanda whispered as she swung her head around the area, scanning.
 
    “Amanda, I don’t have time for this— why— why is there blood on your hands— Amanda? No! Stop!”

Family Dinner

As a ten-year-old, I watched my father and brother have it out for the first time on the family room floor.  At the time I didn’t know it would be the first in a string of many fights between them: some verbal, some physical. 

We had dinner together most nights. Tonight, the main course was meatloaf, made in the only way our family would eat it: without the sauce, onions, or much more than just ground beef. My older sister Leigh sat across the kitchen table from younger brother Stephen. Baby brother Keith played with his mushed carrots and peas a few feet away in his high chair. 

We were just about to say grace when my oldest brother, Chad, came out from his room on the other side of the table. He was an imposing six foot five and pushing two-hundred-eighty pounds. “Who’s been in my room?” he asked through his shaggy hair; his eyes scanning the room. 

Mom put her utensils down and sighed. “I did. I went in there to get your laundry.”

Chad’s hands flew up and grabbed the hair on top of his head; a tense laugh escaped his mouth. “That’s my stuff, Mom! You don’t just go in my room,” he said through clenched teeth.

“You don’t talk to your mother like that, Chad,” Dad said, his brow creased; trading his look of fatigue for the look of barely contained anger.

“This is bullshit! She has no right to go into my room! That’s my stuff—”

Dad’s attempt to contain his anger failed. “You don’t use that kind of language in this house!” He paused and wiped white spittle from the corners of his mouth. “If you bring your damn drugs into this house, she has every right to go in your room. This is our house and she’s your mother!”

“Oh— Screw you, ‘dad!’ She’s not my mother. I’m the adopted kid!”

My siblings and I sat, frozen. The meatloaf sat untouched and growing cold. The carrots and peas laid motionless in little Keith’s high chair tray. Every set of eyes remained focused down at their plates. At least three of us were blinking in an attempt to ward away tears.
 
Dad jumped out of his seat. “You don’t talk like that in this house!”

Chad advanced toward the table and Dad. “I’ll talk however I want! You’re not my real dad!”
 
Mom clamped her hand over her mouth. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she stifled a cry. No one knows who swung first because none of us were looking.

I sat at the chair opposite the struggle and saw the two of them crash into my field of vision as the fighting began. Chad, despite being only fourteen, was larger than most grown men and he knew it. Dad tried to throw his adopted son to the ground, but Chad threw him to the ground instead by advantage of sheer size.
 
Punches flew accompanied by guttural grunts and muffled curse words. Before the scuffle, Chad spoke like a man; squaring off with a man three times his age. Now, the voice of a boy cried from the ground, “What are you doing, Dad? Why are you hitting me?”

“Stop!” Mom pleaded through her sobs. “Please stop.”

The two men glared at each other. Dad’s eyes softened, pulling himself up and offering a hand to his son on the floor. Chad refused to take it and instead, rolled over and got up on his own.

 “I love you both. Please. Let’s sit down and finish dinner,” Mom said, wiping her tears as her forced smile quivered.

“I’m not eating,” Chad said, chest still puffed up and heaving as he stormed out the door.
 
Dad said nothing but took his place back at the table. Dinner was never quite the same from that day on.

We're Really Not Sure Who Dave Is

Hanna’s eyes flitted open, unable to see through the black sackcloth covering her head. A rope, snug around her neck, held the sack firm. She caught a whiff of disinfectant in the air.  Images of a hospital or doctor’s office flashed through her head. Zip-ties threatened to cut through her wrists as she struggled to free herself.

A clang from the other side of the room drew her attention and she whipped her head to the side. “Hello?” she said, her voice hitching. “Who’s there?”

“Uh— Hi?” a male voice returned.

“Who are you? Where am I?” she replied.

“My name is David,” he replied, his voice low and deep. “As for where we are, your guess is as good as mine.” 

“What do you mean?” Hanna said, her voice rising. “You don’t know?”

The clang she heard earlier was repeated in rapid succession and David replied, “I ain’t friggin’ Igor over here ringin’ my bell. I’m trapped here too.” His voice is definitely eastern U.S.; Maine maybe. “I heard them bring you in.”

“They? They who?” Hanna pleaded. 

“They! Them! I don’t know! The goddamn— bad— p— people!” he said, sputtering to get the last words out.

She swung her head around inside the bag, trying to get a piece of it in her mouth, but to no avail, making growling and gnashing sounds as she did so.

“That ain’t gonna help,” David said.

Hanna shouted back, “Well I’m not going to sit here and do nothing!”

“Let me know how yelpin’ like a mutt works out for ya,” he chuckled under his breath. “In the meantime, I think I almost got one of my hands free.”

Hanna’s heart was racing. “Really?” she said, “That’s great!” She paused for a moment. “You— You’ll help me get out too?” Sweat dripped from her sculpted eyebrows and into her eyes; the salt stinging them.
 
“Yes. Hanna.”

She bounced in what little room she had between her bonds and the chair. “Please hurry! I don’t want to know what they’ll do to us when—” 

She stopped her bouncing. “David? Your voice sounds different.” No response but the echo of her own voice. 

“David? Are you there? How— did you know my name?”

Silence.
 
“Where are you?” she said, her voice wavering. The sound of metal clanking to the ground was the reply.
 
“Are— are you free? David?”

An eternity seemed to pass in silence. She heard heavy footsteps come closer, plodding and slow. “You’re scaring me. Please! Say something!” she screamed, her voice shrill. 

“So lovely,” a low voice whispered in her ear.

She shrieked and tried to pull away. She could smell rancid breath through the black sack on her head. She began to sob. “Why are you doing this?”

A laugh followed by a sigh. “Why does everyone ask that? What does it matter? It’s either that, or ‘What are you going to do to me?’ which is just as stupid.”

She sniffled and coughed. “Screw you, asshole.”
 
She felt a hand grab the back of the bag and pull her head backward. Her skin of her neck pulled taut, her chair tipping back. The chair crashed to the floor with Hanna attached. She let out a moan and mumbled.
 
“What was that?” the man asked.

She replied in a whisper.

He stomped to her side, knelt down, and clamped her neck in his hand. “Speak up, Hanna. I’ll write your last words on the two-by-four that marks your grave.”

As he neared, she growled into his ear, “My ties came loose.”

Hanna wrapped one hand around her assailant’s wrist, still cinched around her throat. She felt his grip tighten further and stand up; lifting her up by her neck. Her other hand swung around, slapping him in the side of the head before moving to his wrist as well.

A slow gurgle replaced her words as her vision went black. She fell to the ground. Her legs buckled underneath her, the dead weight of her body snapping her right leg.

As Hanna laid waiting for death, the full weight of the man pressed down on her then rolled off to the side. A hand untied the rope around her neck and pulled the hood off. 

She gulped air as slivers of pain shot through her eyes. Her eyes finally focused.

A man smiled in front of her as a beast of a man laid beside her.

"Dave?" she croaked.

 

Things I’ve learned in writing my novel, Sakura Softworks

I started this journey a few years back, during a difficult time for me. I found a certain degree of solace and gained a new hobby as I wrote a few silly stories for friends, and more or less tinkered with the idea of writing something real. At the time I had no idea it’d bring me to writing a full novel.

This book right here, in case you're new here

This book right here, in case you're new here

As a child, I’d always loved reading. I’d read and read and read and then look for more. Then in college, I fell out of love with reading. It could have had something to do with the amount of required reading for my college classes, though I really don’t know that that was the root cause of my disaffection. No, I think what happened was the literary world was exploding at the time with books that didn’t interest me at all. Harry Potter was the only thing going around that even slightly interested me, but not to the point that I actually wanted to commit to reading the canon of books. I’d watch the movies, but that was about it.

The Twilight series was an ever-growing behemoth then and despite the surge of excitement surrounding those books, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish even book one, much less the subsequent three. The Hunger Games was also being touted as a revolutionary series that was replacing the classics in some schools as required reading; but that didn’t interest me either. The YA boom was in full swing, yet it all seemed so… pretentious. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of pretentiousness. Music, movies, and books that are self-serious and self-important really don’t do it for me.

WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

In essence, the literature of the time just didn’t seem all that accessible to me. I say “to me” because there was no lack of people buying and devouring these books. Books were selling. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there didn’t seem to be anything out there for me or people like me. (That’s likely my problem, but this is my site so I’m going to complain about it as if it’s the world’s problem for not supplying me with literary entertainment sufficient for my needs.)

I wanted something accessible. Something that knew it was entertainment and not abstract mythology. I wanted something that was fun. That last one especially. I may be in the minority here, but I want my entertainment to be enjoyable on a Disneyland-y, roller coaster-y, I-don’t-care-if-it’s-silly-and-stupid type of fun level. I don’t enjoy crying while reading literature. I don’t enjoy reading about horribleness. I will never pick up a book based on the amount of “social importance” it has. Sorry. Nope. I can see the merit in such books, and on a literary level, I can appreciate them. However, they don’t call to me. Nothing I sampled ever piqued my interest nor held it long enough to engage me.

The book that broke that slump for me was by an author that goes by the name of David Wong with his book, John Dies at the End. It was crude, fast paced, kind of scattershot, kind of gross, and an absolute blast. I burned through that book and picked up its sequel as soon as it was published. Both of them reinvigorated my desire to read and made me remember why I loved reading for all those years. It also drove me to think I could also write a book of similar feel and quality. At the time that was not true. I thought it was true. It was not even close.

I didn’t know the huge amount of work and effort it would take to bring the book to life. I thought that it was a quick and easy road to success. It is not. For every Stephanie Meyers that writes a book that takes her on a meteoric rise to fame and fortune there are thousands of authors that have been writing for years just to put food on the table. When we see authors like Andy Weir write their first book, self-publish it, and then see it become one of the top movies of 2015, we want that to be us. We envision that one day we will have the chance to tell our stories to people and that they will love them.

Some tell me, “I just want to get my work out there. I don’t care if it sells.” Bullshit. I understand not caring about the money and just writing for the thrill of the craft. People sell their books for free all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what I call double bullshit on is the idea that people don’t care if their books sell. In my mind, a book that is selling is a book that connects. It’s another person taking a journey in the author’s mind and finding it thrilling, exciting, compelling, romantic, erotic, or life-affirming. 

You mean to tell me that you, as an author, don’t want that? Triple bullshit. When that connection is made and that person feels like their soul has been touched or that someone understands them, isn’t that why we write? So when a young boy reads about a character in a book, a character that is picked on or belittled, and he sees that character overcome and achieve greatness and because of that character he feels he can get up and go to school the next day, that's not important to you?

Of course it is. When someone reads the things you’ve put out on the page and they feel those characters are their friends; when they feel their joys and their struggles as their own, that’s magical. That’s a human connection. That is why we write. To share what we have inside with someone else and hopefully make both parties better for it. That is what keeps me doing this.

Do I want my books to sell? Yes. Yes I do. I want them to sell so well, people get sick of them. If that brings me fame and fortune, then cool. I kinda like those things. (At least, I think I do. I have neither as of this writing.) However, I want them to "sell" because it means that my soul has touched someone else's and helped them a bit when they needed it... and that's worth all the effort. 

 

When you care just enough . . .

The wood veneer on the countertop represented of the business where he had worked for nearly 20 years. Showing a veneer of authenticity while consisting of nothing but falsehoods underneath. More than a few times Andrew wondered how he could stage a freak fire to burn the whole place down. Some people fantasize about traveling to far off places, doing great things, or maybe cheating on a spouse. Not Andrew. Andrew wanted to erase his workplace from existence.

Thanks to nepotism his new boss was also the original owner’s daughter, Harriet. Whenever she spoke, her words were like the sound of a dental drill in his ears. “Why don’t you post some of those new photos on our Instagram and delete the old ones.”

 Andrew replied, “Why would I delete the old ones? It’s Instagram—”

 “Because they’re old and because I told you to,” came the reply.

Andrew had been working there long enough to know how to pick his battles. For a split second he thought about explaining that wasn’t how Instagram worked, but then decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

“Sounds good. I’ll get right on it,” he said, deciding on the path of least resistance.

Andrew was hired to be a retail manager for the company years ago. Over time, the company added responsibilities to his plate without adding dollars to his paycheck. He did them willingly at first, thinking it would result in a promotion. Instead, it just became clear he had been used as “cheap labor.”

But Harriet wasn’t done just yet. “Also, while you’re on there, do something about us getting higher on Google. We aren’t on top, Andrew. We aren’t even on the first page.”

Andrew’s jaw clenched and his temperature climbed as he struggled to keep his composure. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to get our page higher than it is right now. I’ve done everything I know how to do.”

Harriet chuckled and her voice raised a notch. “Well I don’t know how to either, so I need you to look it up and fix it. You’re smart; you can figure it out.”

“No,” Andrew said, not taking the bait.

“No? What do you mean, no?” she said as she raised her hand out over his laptop, palm down. “That’s your job. I say it, you do it.”

Andrew slapped the screen of his laptop down, missing her hand by centimeters. “That isn’t my job!” he said, rising to his feet. “My job isn’t to do what you say, Harriet. My job is to run this store, buy for this store, and sell for this store.”

Harriet blinked a few times, as if to understand Andrew’s sudden outburst, then responded, “You’ll do it if you want to keep your job, Andrew!”

He took a deep breath, his six-foot frame towering over her five-foot nothing figure and in a calm voice replied, “And what if I don’t want to keep this job?”

Harriet’s eyes grew wide and her mouth opened though no words came out.
 
“If you’ll excuse me, I have pictures to delete off your Instagram,” Andrew said as he resumed his seat and opened his laptop.

 

Banana Hammocks and Wedgie Jeans

This coming week I will walk the cavernous halls of the industry trade shows, stopping only for cursory glances at the wares on display. Nothing on display shocks me anymore. Over the years I have seen everything the industry can offer. Low rise, high-waisted, sheer, and denim, the clothing always recycles itself. This season it looks like denim will be a hot ticket item.

Denim. Don't call them jeans. Jeans are old. It's not a jean skirt/jacket/pair of overalls... it's denim.

Isn't denim old as the hills? It's not a new fashion. Well I suppose when you wedge it up in your crack and then cut off the legs you're doing something no one in previous generations thought was a good idea. I am not sure when hacking the length of a jean (sorry denim... pant?) we used to call "Mom Jeans" became a fashion forward idea but hey. More power to you. Good luck sitting down in your denim panties. Sounds very chafe-y. At least Kylie up there keeps them full length. 

I'm not really there to look at the fashion-forward women's items anyway. I spend most of my time rubbing elbows with big wigs in the booths of the fine men's clothing area. An area which has gone from taking up the entire hall to taking up a corner of it.

Men don't want to wear suits anymore. Not nearly as many anyway. They've managed to stem that tide a little bit within the last few years by making men's suits out of colored Saran Wrap and making the pants shorter. But honestly, how many men really want a iridescent blue suit that is so tight they can't move paired with a pant that makes no secret of whether they hang to the left or the right? Is that what you really want, men of fashion? 

So let's get to it. Why am I writing about bulging pants and bun-spreading denim shorts (dorts?) on a blog mostly dedicated to writing?

Well because I write copy for the clothing industry. Not the entire industry, but quite a few clients that are in that business. It's the job I'm using to keep the lights on and the bills paid while I try to figure out how to break into the world of best seller-dom. That may never happen though, so I go to these trade shows twice a year as part of my primary career. When I get back I'll whip up some slick copy for my clients to sell the latest and greatest fashion that was just brought back from the dead and I'll soldier on with my writing on the side as I have done for the past few years. 

That is until someone notices my writing genius and decided it's worth all the money.

Notice my genius, dammit.

(Despite the rather click bait-y title, I really have run across a good number of banana hammock wearing dudes in booths on the trade show floor. I never feel more overdressed than when a dude in a sausage-sling approaches me while I'm dressed in a full suit and tie.)

I found my childhood journal

I made an amazing discovery last night. While going through a bunch of boxes I have in storage, I found a whole bunch of things I had forgotten about, thought I lost, or didn’t even remember I ever had. It was such a great experience. I’m sure these treasures will be the subject of many posts yet to come, but today I’m going to start with the cover and first page.

A journal is something nearly every child and adult tries to keep at some point in their lives. It’s much more common for girls, it seems, than it is for boys, but to my surprise, I actually did keep a journal for a short time as a boy. When I found my old blue journal, I almost didn’t recognize it as mine.

Don't. Not any futher.

Don't. Not any futher.

I started writing in it when I was eight years old. I never make mention of why I started the journal or what the trigger was, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say it was because I was given one as a Christmas or birthday present. Give me a gift, and I will use it. (That hasn’t changed, even today.)

The first entry is from 2/6/1983 and the second, about a week later on 2/13/1983:


The way I talk about my family trip to Disneyland within the same breath as giving the exact date I broke my foot is remarkable. I wouldn’t be shocked if you made the assumption that I broke my foot during my trip to Disneyland, but that would be wrong. Those were two separate happenings in my life and I remember them both very clearly. 

The Disneyland Trip

That trip to Disneyland was when I lost my roller coaster V-card. Up until that point I had never set foot on a roller coaster of any kind. Pirates of the Caribbean was as rip-roarin’ as I got. My older siblings loved the Matterhorn, but not me. I wasn’t going on that rolling carriage of snowy death. Nope. Are you kidding me? They said there was a huge man-eating snowman in there waiting to rip my tow-headed self limb from limb. Screw that. 

Screw. That.

Screw. That.

One thing I remember about the trip was that we met up with some of our cousins there, so it was a whole bunch of kids 8-15 romping around the Magic Kingdom. You could call this next part a matter of peer pressure, but I call it blatant lying on the part of my extended family. When they heard I was inexperienced in the ways of coastering they insisted that I, being a kid fascinated with Space and the Space Shuttle, would love Space Mountain.

There was a Space Mountain? In Disneyland? How could I have overlooked it? I’d been on Mission to Mars, but never this Space Mountain. I was curious but still cautious, so I asked if the ride was scary. “Nope. Not scary at all,” they told me. So after a little more coaxing, I went; anxious to go on one of the big kid rides and up my street cred with my friends back home.

Upon entering the spired building, it was clear this wasn’t a kiddy ride. What had I gotten myself into? Weird music, metallic hallways, and ominous bleeps and bloops greeted me inside. The longer we waited, the more sure I was that I was going to soil myself on the ride. They’d tricked me. They knew I was of a gentle demeanor and wanted to exploit it. Bastards. 
Disneyland, knowing that there would be a few washouts, did have exits at intervals in the line for those who want to chicken out, but I wasn’t giving in.

I climbed into the cart that looked suspiciously like the one I’d seen flying around the corners of the Matterhorn and cursed my relatives under my breath. How dare they? I’d teach them. I’d… I don’t know what I thought I’d do, but they’d regret this day. Somehow. They’d p— oh great monkey mother pus bucket. It was moving. The light tunnel rotated around me, messing with my eyes. Was the cart actually spinning?

The tunnel spat us out into a pitch black room filled with stars and more bleeps and bloops. These distractions only lasted for a moment before I felt the brakes disengage and my stomach jump up into my throat. The ride felt stupid fast to a kid like me, one who thought the 7MPH of the Autopia ride was amazing. It swirled around and around in the dark for about a minute and a half and then slid back into the loading area with a jolt. Lucky for myself and my traveling companions, I remained continent and loved every moment of my first roller coaster ride. I have been a huge fan of them ever since.

The Broken Foot

This school was the same one in which I discovered the limited ability of jeans to absorb a flood of pee and learned that Mrs. Casillas was more than just a teacher. This was approximately two years after that incident, and my first lesson in gravity.

gravity-theory3.jpg

Part of this narrative has grown a bit unclear over time, though most the important parts still remain intact. The basic idea was a game of team tag, I think, though this is the part that gets hazy. I remember running away from a bigger kid on the playground, but I don’t remember whether I was actually scared or if it was part of a game of tag. 

I remember running away from this big kid through the dusty sand of the playground. I was a scrawny kid at the time, but I was quick. Quick enough to evade the brawn bearing down on me, in any case. I could only run for so long though (because scrawny) and it was at my most tired point that I thought climbing a ladder to the top of a slide would be a good idea.

I don’t know why I thought a game of tag would be resolved by climbing a slide, but I did. Maybe I was thinking that the kid chasing me would just follow me up the slide and when he got halfway up the ladder I would slide down, leaving his bigger, slower body in my wake. I really don’t know. No matter the reason I clambered up the ladder. When I reached the top, I grinned as he began to follow me up the ladder. That grin was erased when I saw my opponent’s compatriot blocking the bottom of the slide. if I slid down the slide, his comrade would tag me. If I didn’t take the plunge, he would tag me himself and I’d be “it.” No one wants to be “it.”

But WAIT! There was a third option. 

Time running out and my two exits blocked, I peered over the side of the slide to the sand below. Sand is soft right? When I play in it, it shifts and moves, I said to myself, of course it would cushion my fall if I jumped over the side!

They don't make them like they used to... Probably due to tetanus lawsuits.

They don't make them like they used to... Probably due to tetanus lawsuits.

It wasn’t a huge slide. It was a standard slide you’d find on most playgrounds of the era: steel pipes and sheet metal reaching about eight feet from the tallest point to the ground. By contrast I was all of three foot nothing and all skin, bones, with a blonde mop for a head.
 
With glee that I had found a way to escape, I launched my skeletal frame from the top of the slide, landing in the soft sand. My plan to come away unscathed might have worked, had my knees not buckled under what little weight I had. They did buckle, and my legs collapsed underneath me in what they now call “criss-cross applesauce” but we called a more politically incorrect name. When I landed, one of the main bones in my foot cracked due to the impact and I yelped out in pain. One of the teachers monitoring the playground ran to my aid and hobbled me to the nurse, where my mom would pick me up and take me to the doctor, where an x-ray revealed a hairline fracture.

I was resigned to a pair of crutches and a cast for a few weeks, but the whole thing turned out pretty great. Why? Well, since I wasn’t allowed on the playground due to my injury, the teacher asked for someone to volunteer to stay in the classroom with me. One of the cutest girls in the class volunteered and so begins my ridiculous fascination with the opposite sex. 

Oh, you’re asking why I didn’t address the next entry on the same page? What more can I say? It’s Donkey Kong. All that tells me is that my fascination with the opposite sex and my love for video games started at about the same time. Or at the very least, within a week of each other. 

I Am in a Movie, Starring Me.

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about people. Working in sales and customer service for the bulk of your life is an excellent way to study what makes people tick, what motivates people, and why they are the way they are.

However, as much as I enjoy people-watching and observing, at times I will turn my observational eyes inward and observe myself. In the process of doing so, I have come to the conclusion that I am the star in my own movie.

You don’t need to look any further than to see me when I am in my car and left to my own whims and ideas to find proof of my decidedly self-centered and wholly ridiculous belief. When I am in my car, I am king of my universe. I control the velocity, direction, and interior temperature of my speedy steel land rocket and that is enough for some, but not for me. No. Not for me.

The reason I feel like I am a star in my own movie is because I can also control the sounds that fill the air with the ridiculous thumps of bass or shrieks of guitar and drive accordingly. Because that’s a movie. Soundtracks make or break scenes, take the action to a new level of awesomeness, and make many soil their skivvies when employed well. As it is with driving for me.

I joke with friends and family that my car is more of an investment in my mental health than an investment in transportation, although I am not really joking. I am never more at home than when I am behind the wheel. No matter my mood and no matter the day, I have a playlist and a full tank of gas that speaks to it.

Case in point, this morning I was feeling empowered and walked to my car with an extra degree of swagger, which means something like this will be playing in my Fortress of Automotive Solitude:

Like it or not, it’s got a raw power to it. Sure, it sounds like a choir girl singing vocals over machine gun fire during a seven car pile-up, but that’s kind of my point. It sounds like something you’d expect during a car chase in the most awesome movie ever made. I am in that car chase. I am that driver.

Give this a listen and tell me you can’t see a stubbly-faced Bradley Cooper, driving in the rain, scruffy hair matted to his head, possibly blood oozing from his bloody knuckles as he slow-mo maneuvers through the downpour en route to pummeling his last enemy and then collapse from his injuries. *roll credits as the police and ambulance lights flash over the scene* To answer the question you’re undoubtedly asking in your head right now, yes. I am comparing myself to BraCoops. At least I am when I hear that in the car and I put my aviators on. Boom.

Give either of those songs a whirl when you’re in your car and see if you don’t feel instantly more cinematic. You will. In the meantime, I’m straight-arm steering my way around my suburb listening to this. Because this is my movie. 

The Christmas List

I have an excuse for not posting much within the last few weeks or so (OK, maybe more than a month) and I think it's a good one. 

I've been hard at work on my first collaborative effort with a fellow author and friend, L.B.Scott. We were talking about our writing and discovered that we both enjoy one another's writing and the styles are similar enough that it might be fun to try a collaboration. 

After a throwing a few ideas around and shooting most of them down, we decided on a Christmas story. In talking it turned out that both of is have a deep fondness for the Christmas season and the feelings it brings, so here we are. Presenting our first collaborative effort and launching it out just shy of a week before Christmas. 

It's an original short story that we wanted to write for all ages and one that people would want to share with friends, children and loved ones. We hope we have achieved that to some degree, and we hope you enjoy it as well. 

It will be up on Amazon shortly, so please  check it out and give it a read. From our families to yours, we hope this holiday is filled with happiness and joy. 

Here it is:

Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

And here's the hook:

It's Winter, 1957. The snow is piling up, the days are getting shorter, and children all over the world are eagerly anticipating the night when Santa comes to visit. Except for the children at the Happy Heart Orphanage. No, the children there don't expect visits from the Man in Red. The Matrons who run the orphanage make sure each child there knows that they don't deserve such love from Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.

Santa or no, Johnny is determined to make this year's Christmas something special for the rest of the children. While executing his Christmas plan, he is caught by the Matrons and thrown in the scariest part of the house on Christmas Eve. Will Johnny escape? Will the orphans of the Happy Heart Orphanage ever have a true Christmas?

Find out in this heartwarming story of friendship and the Holiday spirit by L.B. Scott and Douglas B. Wimmer.

Today's Accomplishments

The water rolls slowly toward me, then bounces off my body and the next wave rolls in. The faucet drips every few seconds; a repair I haven’t fixed despite it being leaky for a matter of months. Years even.

The stubble on my face is soothing as I run my fingers across it, although those miniature tree stumps will be gone in a matter of minutes when I drag the razor’s edge over my skin. It’s not that I like shaving, but I don’t like myself with a beard either, so I lather up and let it sit. I have no idea if it really does anything to let my man mane marinate before the shave, but I’ve got a few minutes so why not, right?

There are a few things I could be doing rather than sit in my bathtub, but I’m not worrying about them today. No. Not today.

I have a few books to finish writing, I have a few books to finish reading, and I have a few items that need editing but I will not do any of those. I have a blog to update, a faucet to fix, and as you already know: a beard to shave. That’s six things and I only plan on doing one of them. Lazy? Maybe. So I’ll end up doing two of them, because I could always post this rambling train of thought online for my blog. In fact, I will do that. So count that as two out of six. I accomplished 33% of my goals today. It’s not even daylight and I have yet to put on clothes so I’d say I’m winning at life today.

VICTORIES FROM THE BATHTUB!

A tiny black spot invades my vision. From the relative darkness of my watery wonderland I spy a miniscule harbinger of doom. It could be a trick of the eye. My laptop is bright and the room is dark, so there’s really no reason that it could be anything but- dammit it IS! It’s a tiny little vampire of blood and enjoyment: the mosquito! First ants and now this? Why has God forsaken me and Mother Nature allowed to have her way with my humble abode? I am but a man, soaking in his circa 1994 bathtub, and waxing poetic about how much stuff he’s not going to get done today.

Why now? It’s coming up on the holiday season. How evil are these little gnats of destruction that they don’t respect my sovereignty?!

Oh crap! He’s coming at me! Dive! Dive! Dive! He’s powerless under the water! Maybe it’s a she… it doesn’t matter! I can’t laptop while underwater so if you’ll excuse-

. . .

I’m back up. After staying under the water for as long as my untrained lungs could muster (around 20 seconds) I’m above surface. I wish I had bothered to lather up my hair before dunking myself into the warm watery bastion of safety; that would have been fortuitous. Productive even. No matter now.

It’s on the tiny Wal-Mart table I use at my tubside. Does it think it’s a thing it can bite? You can’t get blood from my $15 table, you stupid bug! Hahaha you think you can get blood from- OH! It’s airborne again! Come at me needle-face! I’ll drown you in my bathtub of emotions! I’m ready…

It lands again on my Wal-Mart table.

The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

I will no longer be a victim. I refuse to let this insect dictate my life. I will not sit back and wait for his or her inevitable attack on my person. I will go on the hunt! The hunter is now the hunted! How does that feel, itty bitty Hans Gruber? I will not tell you where the detonators are. But I will smear your blood… although I suppose it’s not his blood, because when you squish mosquitoes it’s usually someone else’s blood, but anyway. I will smear the blood inside of you and you will no longer disturb my baths!

I catch him as he takes flight, no doubt aware in some animalistic sense that the tables have turned, and I pulverize this tiny flying needle of a bug. Restoring calm to the world once again.

Make that three things I've accomplished this morning.

As writers, why are we so reluctant to seek out and find other good writers?

When I first started on Twitter, it was to find an audience.

I was writing, albeit not volumes, but I was writing and was eager to show at least a few people what I had done in the hopes that they might gain some enjoyment out of it. (If you've read my blog posts going back a year or so you already know the ups and downs and how that went.)

Once I had a handful of followers, (Whom I religiously followed back, because how else does one get followers, right?) I expected to have people finally checking out my work and gaining an actual reader base. To my surprise, that was not the case, at least not to the level I was expecting.

I didn't let it get to me, because I had heard these things would take time to happen. People would find my work, enjoy it and hopefully tell other people about it. In the meantime I was told that it would be best as an aspiring author to build an "author platform" so when my books are finally published I'll have a built in audience. That makes sense and it would help me kill two birds with one stone: build a platform and get more people whom I could entertain with my wordery. Perfect.

As the numbers on Twitter grew, I found a few bright spots. Made a handful of good friends. Even one or two great friends whom I still have even now, so there are definitely some things I can't complain about. What I didn't find was more people checking out my work. Even with the increasing numbers, I found it rare for one of them to have read my work or even be aware that I had a body of work to be read.

Why is that? As writers, we want people to read our work. Even if not for monetary reasons, just to have our unique voice heard. So why are we so unwilling to check out another writer's work? We shout out our blog posts, we participate in hashtag events, we posts links to our books, and we post links to our websites in the hopes that people will just READ what we have to say or buy our $.99 book... but by and large we don't provide that same courtesy for others in our same position.

What good does it do to have 3000 followers when they do nothing but post links... and never follow others' links? What good does it do to pour your blood, sweat, and tears onto the page, edit it, shop it or push the self-publish button... if you, yourself do not do what you hope everyone else will do and JUST F**KING READ? Take a chance on the product of someone else's blood sweat and tears and buy that book, read that blog post, visit that website. Why? Why is that so difficult for so many of us when it's what we really want from everyone else.

As a collective we love to post quotes. We love short snippets of wisdom from those who have been where we are and have felt our struggles. Not a day goes by that I don't see a quote that flies in the face of our reluctance to read others' work:

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
"Good writers read. Great writers read a lot."

There are countless more, but the point is, we, as writers, can change it and we should change it. We should stop acting like writership is a one-way street. You're not Stephen King. He writes a book and once it's published, it just immediately starts crapping money. That's not you. You aren't that famous. Even still, though he could just treat it like a one-way, he doesn't. He is a voracious reader, and advocates that everyone who wants to write needs to read.

So I propose after you read this (Thank you, honestly and sincerely.) that you go out into the world and DO SOMETHING about it. If you want to find that treasured book that no one else knows about; that undiscovered masterpiece that touches your heart, soul, and mind... take a chance! Click on that link and if it interests you... buy that book, read that post, visit that website. If you find someone has created something amazing, then tell them. Then tell someone else. Tell EVERYONE else, because that's what you, as a writer, hope they will do when they find your work.

I Never Wanted to Write a Book.

I am neck deep in writing a trio of novels right now. (No, it’s not a series.)
However, I haven’t always had the desire to write. I don’t know what that says about me in general, but I do take note of so many writers, both young and old who say they caught the writing bug early on in life and haven’t stopped since. I had no desire nor drive to write a novel when I was younger, and why would I? I had bigger dreams, higher aspirations, and I was going to be rich and famous. What would I be rich and famous for? Well that depends on what stage of life we are talking about.

Plan #1 – Become a famous musician


When I was a young boy of eleven years old, the plan was to be a famous singer/songwriter. I even went so far as to record myself singing into my little tape recorder the somber and forlorn lyrics of an prepubescent boy. I do not know where this tape is. However, I do remember a snippet of the lyrics, because genius never forgets genius. This was an actual line from the song that was to make me famous:

Because I’m lost!
Lost in a twisted maze.
Without anyone to hold me.
Or to love meeee!

At this point I think it’s best to play it safe and tell the women in the reading audience to refrain from mailing me their undergarments along with proposals for marriage. This isn’t me anymore. And eleven-year-old boys still think that girls are mysterious cootie factories, so if someone had tried to hold me or love me, I’d have ran as far and as fast as my scrawny boy body could take me. Needless to say, despite my best efforts to write the quintessential love ballad, my musical career never took off. This was due in large part to it never leaving my bedroom. I would revisit this plan again in my late teen years, as I sung lead in a basement band who covered mostly Green Day and The Clash; once again destined to fail as we never left the basement.

 
Plan #2 – Become a famous movie director.


When you think about ultra-famous people who have more money than many small countries, it’s hard to not think about celebrities in general and for me, directors specifically. Some would lump my #1 plan and #2 plans together, but no. Those people are wrong. Becoming a famous director is an entirely different animal. Not only do you get to showcase your vision and tell stories (either your own or those of others) you get to tell those spoiled primadonna actresses and pompous actors what to do every day all day. Heh... and get paid literal truckloads of money to do so. Where’s the downside, right?

With those thoughts of grandeur in mind, I set out to film my first indie film on my parent’s Hi-8 camcorder. Somewhere in a shoebox at my parent’s home exists footage of me recording while driving in my parent’s car, recording nothing more than the streets in my hometown. That’s it. First-person shakycam view of the quiet suburban streets clipping by at 35-45 MPH. I don’t even think there are any people on the streets I filmed, because who walks in the Phoenix area? No one, that’s who. Next, I took to my ancient computer and overlaid ridiculously crude credits over the riveting passing-street scene. Yes, in my teenage mind, my first thought for my epic movie was to do the credit roll. Given, this may have been yet another exercise in vanity, as every single credit had my name by it, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve known me for very long.

Again, this avenue would not yield the fruits I so desperately wanted. 

Plan #3 – Become a doctor

Clearly my attempts at fame were not going so well. It was at this point I decided that becoming a medical doctor was the way to go. If I couldn’t have fortune and fame then I would settle for fortune. It’s no secret that medical doctors in the U.S. are highly paid, particularly if they are in a specialized field. This plan differed from the previous two in that it would rely more on learning and acquiring a certain skill set and applying knowledge to achieve the desired goal. I’m a smart guy, that much I know. So my thought process was that as long as I apply myself, I could make it. There would be no need for luck or waiting for my “big break” because I would create my own opportunity. At the same time I would be enabling myself to help others in the most fundamental of ways: improving their health.

Those who know me for any length of time know that I am always looking to help others. Whether it be by being there for someone emotionally or lending a physical hand, I try to find opportunities to do so. I love helping others in any way I can, so this method of making a name for myself would allow me to become relatively rich (not small-country rich, but not-wanting-for-money rich) while sating my need to help others. As I went through the required coursework to prepare for the MCAT and continue on to medical school, I would find this road to success would not come to fruition either for a number of reasons I won't delve into now.

Plan #4 – Just write

Until I started this blog post today, I didn’t think my past aspirations held any bearing on where I am right now. Right now I want to write. I truly enjoy writing and the sense of accomplishment it provides, and I also enjoy entertaining others even if I am not aware of everyone that sees or will see my work. I love creating characters, places, and stories to transport myself along with the reader to a different time and place. Come to find out those are not too different from the other three goals I had. 

For Plan #1 and Plan #2 one of the goals was of course to have mountains of money; however, the underlying theme was one in which I could entertain and provide something memorable for others. Even though I wouldn’t get to yell at actors and actresses, I found that I could position my story’s characters to do what I want and say what I want them to say. Do they do it all the time? No. There’s definitely some improv going on in my writing, just as there would have been had my Hollywood dreams been realized. Sometimes my stories veer off course, but as the writer, director, set designer, and producer of the whole show, I can correct if needed. It’s not so different it seems. 

For plan #3, the underlying goal of being well-to-do was secondary to helping people once again. Making people happier, helping them to enjoy life more, and being a force for good in their lives is what a good medical professional does. 

In my mind, this is also the same goal I am striving for now (minus the fame and riches) when it comes to writing. I should have caught the idea sooner, because others were more than encouraging when it came to my literary skills, but my fame-seeking self wasn’t having any of it at the time. I’m now older and relatively wiser, and here I am, in the middle of three books and trying to make a name for myself in the world of books. I’m a late-comer, but I’ve never felt like an outcast, and for that I say thank you.

Barry and Godzilla

Barry rubbed his bald head as he looked at the long checklist of items to pick up from the grocery store and then glanced out of the living room window at the glory that was his 1976 Scout II. He usually reserved Godzilla for more exciting adventures than getting foodstuffs from the local Fry’s. However, the weather was a beautiful sixty-seven degrees and as he spent the morning removing the white steel top, he felt it would be a shame not to take the girl out for a spin on a day like today. 

He pulled on his boots and grabbed the keys from the hook near the kitchen whiteboard. The unique tinkling sound of antique keys alerted his wife, Marie, of his intention to fire up the green beast.
 
“Ahem.” She announced her awareness of his escape attempt.

“Hey honey. Heh. I- was just gonna go grab some stuff from the store,” he said with a nervous smirk. 

“Oh. How nice! What kind of stuff?” she said, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Uh, groceries. I thought I would-“

She cut him off before he could finish. “You were going to go grocery shopping for me?”

“Yeah. Of course! Anything that I can do to help ya know.”

“You’re going grocery shopping in Godzilla . . .”

As he scanned her expression for approval, he rolled the keys in his hands, the metal of the keys clicking against the old keychain. “Heh, yep! That’s was what I was thinking.”

“Is it going to make it?” she chuckled. She uncrossed her arms and returned to the stove, where she was cooking up a fresh batch of the children’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. 

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been working on her all morning. Of course she’ll make it,” he assured her as he inched toward the door. 

She smiled and stirred the cheesy meat and pasta. Implicit approval in his book. 

He trotted out the front door and climbed into the rusty piece of America’s automotive glory days. He inserted the worn key into the ignition and turned. The solenoid clicked, the battery gauge twitched, but the starter remained silent. Barry turned it back and then forth again. Again, nothing but lonely clicks came in reply. He tried a third time. The starter replaced the solenoid’s click with the sound of an angry pit-bull springing to life, spitting clouds of carbon monoxide out of its twin tailpipes, and earning a grin from Barry’s chubby cheeks.

Barry donned his aviator sunglasses, shifted the nearly forty-year-old transmission into first gear, and drove the three miles to the neighborhood Fry’s Grocery Store. Within thirty minutes, he emerged from the store and loaded his prized booty into the open back end of Godzilla. He slipped back onto the tattered driver’s seat upholstery, turned the ignition, and the old truck growled to life. 

He shifted the transmission into reverse and toed the gas pedal, but the engine did not respond with more than its regular idle-speed burble. The once cool weather turned warm as the sun beat down on his hairless head. He toed the pedal again, this time noticing the pedal was resting flush with the floor. 

Something was not right. 

He pushed the gearshift into neutral, turned off the engine, opened the driver’s door, and crouched down with his head under the dashboard. The gas pedal moved freely forward and back, exposing a cable that once extended from the carburetor under the hood to the pedal itself. Frayed and black, the cable was now useless as was the gas pedal. 

Thinking himself defeated and his frozen goods becoming less frozen by the minute, he turned the engine off and dialed AAA. While on hold, he rummaged through the glove compartment. His eyes glimmered and he squealed as he withdrew a spool of car stereo wire he threw in the glove box months ago for a future project. 

“This is AAA, are you in a safe-” came the woman on the other end as he clicked the end button.

Barry popped the hood, sprang over the side of the vehicle with his spool of green wire in hand, and located the throttle lever. Threading one end of the wire through the hole in the lever, he ran the remaining wire around the windshield into the driver’s side and fashioned a loop for his hand to grip. 

Saying a silent prayer in his head, he closed the hood; leaving just enough room for the bright green wire to actuate.

He closed his eyes, turned the ignition, and the engine began its familiar low rumble. Wrapping the loop of wire around his left hand, he pulled toward his chest. The engine roared and rumbled in approval of his ingenuity. 

Barry triumphantly drove his makeshift grocery-getter home, resembling an old west stagecoach driver, and holding the reins of his pungent green stallion full of groceries as he went. 

“Everything go okay?” Marie asked as she helped him bring the groceries in from the truck. 

“Of course! I told you she’d make it!” 

 

So about my overwhelming self-confidence...

It's been said that I am kind of a cocky bastard.

I like to think I'm simply confident in my abilities and not ashamed to show it. My friend and fellow writer, Mia, has commented on my unauthor-like self-assured demeanor on more than one occasion. Until recently (read: yesterday) I was under the impression that my healthy ego was a relatively new thing. Something that I developed as I grew and matured as an adult. 

While digging through some old boxes my mother had set aside (that my father was about to toss), I found evidence to the contrary. I present to you the cover of what may very well be my first published work. (Publishing in this instance means simply putting into a book-like form.)

Nope. No confidence here. 

This autobiography was written when I was a proud 8 and a half year old. I'm sure that yesterday was the first time I have seen it since then. Even I am amazed at the ridiculous amount of ego that is displayed on this cover. A cover that I illustrated with remarkable skill for such a young guy, if I do say so myself. 

I mean- wow. 

After the Doug W at the top and the name of the assignment, it's a tour-de-force of boldness. Take note of the way I placed my own (much more appropriate) title in the middle of the page and relegated the instructor-supplied title of All About Me to the upper corner.

I even drew a big gold star on the front to further establish my cover dominance emblazoned with an emphatic "Awesome!" on the side as if that weren't clear enough already. At this point the ego train is well off it's tracks so why not draw a picture of myself with a unequivocal BEST scrawled diagonally on the page, the "t" even touching my cheek as if to point directly to the BEST! In case there was any doubt, I made sure to indicate that the BEST one was "me" with an arrow. 

The rest is just further establishing my awesomeness with a gigantic hand displaying the universal sign for "number one!" in the bottom center, and a numeral 1 (written backward to show the "establishment" that I won't be controlled with their "rules") to drive the point home.

I don't remember being this confident at age 8.5, so I couldn't tell you why I was this way. I am a middle kid, I was always kind of introverted and quiet, and so to see such bravado in my young self is surprising and hilarious. 

I write this and share it with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I had an inordinate amount of confidence then, and I do have confidence in myself and my abilities now. However, I spent my junior high and high school years wallowing in insecurity and self-doubt just like most of us did.

I had a good laugh at my own expense when I found this and I thought you might get a kick out of it as well. If not, then just write me off as a cocky little bastard and I'd be fine with that.