“Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison.”
This is the opening to Chuck Palahniuk’s novel DAMNED, a story about an angsty teen dead girl and her journey through Hell. Or more accurately, the story I’d have written if I’d been, you know, a better writer.
My new years resolution to make my writing a priority ended the moment I finished the book DAMNED, and was forced to face the reality that my writing sucks balls compared to Chuck Palahniuk’s.
I’d like to tell you this revelation prompted me to get busy on a book of my own, working with all the drive and ambition of a writer inspired by Palahniuk’s genius to, as Neil Gaiman put it, “Make good art.” But it didn’t. Instead I curled up in a ball and cried like the giant hack baby that I am. I also haven’t written a word since.
That’s because I have my own personal cock-blocker, and his name is Chuck Palahniuk.
So why all the literary flacidity, you ask? Well I’ll tell you why.
[I'm going to give you my answer at the end of this next passage because it builds suspense. It's a technique good writers use, or so I've heard]
The book world is filled with writers whose work makes me feel like I’ve been junk-punched in the literary genitals. One of them is James Ellroy. Take for example the opening of his pulp-fiction inspired novel, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL:
“An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo foothills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high-grade heroin, a 10-gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic and a switchblade he’d bought off a pachuco at the border—right before he spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bootjack a piece of his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River.”
Only Ellroy can write a 78-word sentence about grizzly murder and police brutality and craft it to read as high poetry. In lesser hands this opening would have been a disaster. I am sure if I were tasked with the challenge of writing this novel I’d have Bucknered all over it (for all you non-New Englanders out there scratching your collective heads at the word BUCKNER, click HERE and feel my pain).
Another dream-crusher is Chuck Bukowski. Take for example his poem SOME PEOPLE:
some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I’ll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they’ll find me there.
it’s Cherub, they’ll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
then, I’ll rise with a roar,
rant, rage -
curse them and the universe
as I send them scattering over the
I’ll feel much better,
sit down to toast and eggs,
hum a little tune,
suddenly become as lovable as a
some people never go crazy.
what truly horrible lives
they must lead.
I doubt Nicholas Sparks ever wrote a poem like that, the epic tool. Now I’ll admit that Bukowski is not for everyone, but personally, I cannot get enough of him. Seriously people, I hear Roberta Flack’s voice inside my head whenever I read his work. Whenever I read my stuff all I hear is Bobcat Goldthwait.
I admire Stephen King for his mastery of characterization and worship Neil Gaiman for, well, everything, but Chuck Palahniuk is the only writer who ever made me WANT to write. His literary voice and story lines are so eerily similar to mine that I have to wonder if we are related somehow. For me, reading one of his novels is like reliving painful childhood memories spent with a better-looking, ultra-talented sibling, feeling the push-pull of striving to be like him only to hate him when I fail in comparison. Now I truly know how it feels to be an Oakland Raiders fan.
So at the end of the day what does all this self-contemplation/flagellation mean? Why it means I am an insipid douche-bag writer, that’s what it means. It means that instead of wasting my time lamenting why I will never be as successful as my heroes, I need to get busy, you know, writing. It means it’s time to get my head out of my ass and get my ass to my desk.
Yeah. Easier said than done.
The author of this particular piece is tomorrow’s featured Twisted Fictioneer. Can you guess who it is?
Good morning! I have landed an exclusive with a personality not often featured in the stories concerning Santa Claus and the ongoing drama surrounding him. Today, I am interviewing Lashonda Jefferson, otherwise known as Brown Shugga. Good morning La… uhm, Ms. Shugga.
B.S.: You can call me, Shugga honey. Everybody does.
H.E.: I have to ask up front, what got you into this life, and why did you pick a corner in the North Pole?
B.S.: Baby, that’s one hell of a long story involving wayward elves and their love of…well, let’s just say they like them some brown shugga, you know what I’m sayin’ honey? Anyways, it’s damn cold on up in here if you don’t have nothin’ to keep you warm at night, and that Mrs. Claus, well she’s just plain crazy, you feel me? One of them elves just decided that Santa needed some good ol’ fashioned TLC if you get my drift, and he dragged my ass up and I’ve been here ever since. Can’t seem to get nobody to take me back and I can’t say I evah want to leave.
H.E.: Can you relate to the audience how the night of Mr. Claus’ arrest went down?
B.S.: I know that Kris is pissed at Brown Shugga, but I never set nobody up to take no fall! He was out, ya know lookin’ to score some Shugga *wink* and some coke. Of course, Shugga always takes care of her clients…especially them ‘high profile’ ones…Some bitch who was lookin’ to take over ma territory and ma man come outta nowhere and offered Kris her stuff!! Can you imagine?!! Well, I ain’t dealin’ with that bitch and I beat her ass. She tryin’ to hustle poor Kris into thinkin’ that she…that…that….HO! Fuckin’ whitey she was…she was a plant, a fuckin’ cop, I know it! I can smell a pig…anyways, next thing ya know me and Santa Baby in cuffs and bein’ dragged down to the station like common criminals! He was downright mean and nasty after that! Whew, baby you ain’t seen nobody with a temper like that fucker…
H.E.: I see. And you were then released with charges dropped in exchange for your information, true?
B.S.: Baby, Brown Shugga ain’t been charged with nothin’ and ain’t gonna be charged with nothin’. I was simply providin’ a service. Good ol’ fashioned satisfyin’ the demands of the area, if ya get ma drift. As for white bitch, she got what was comin’ to her…I got yo information right here, baby! (clutches her crotch) Hehehe..no, really. I gots lots of information and it’s all written down in ma – well, let’s just say Shugga is well protected.
H.E.: I have sources that also maintain that you and a certain D.A. have an ongoing ‘special relationship.’ Can you comment on that?
B.S.: Oh, ya mean…well, we been friends for years. He and I have an understandin’….he lets me live ma life and I give him some well-deserved R&R if you feel me…he certainly does…hehehe…hey. You hungry? You little on the thin side…want some of my tuna salad? I made it this mornin’ while I was takin’ a break…
H.E.: Oh… no. I just do not like tuna, thanks. Moving on, what is the nature of your relationship to LeMonjello Otis?
B.S.: Oh, dear LeMon he been tailin’ ma ass for years. He can’t hurt nobody, fucked up little fool. He talks big and all, but he’s really small in the, ya know, dick department. Shugga knows how to make him feel more like a man, but fuck, he’s really sm-
H.E.: Are the rumors of you launching a daytime talk show on the Oprah Network true?
B.S.: Oprah?! Baby, me and Oprah are like THAT (crosses fingers) Sista knows how to talk and Shugga is more than willin’ to let her all the way to Shugga’s bank account….anywho, it’s just talk right now. We’ll see how things go, ya know with Kris and his problems an’ all…crazy bitch wife ain’t makin’ easy on ‘im though…fucker needs some good lawyerin’ up…
H.E.: One last question – just how big is Santa’s – er, sleigh?
B.S.: Honey, Shugga don’t kiss an’ tell…but I can say he ain’t no magical elf for nothin’…hehehe…
STAY TUNED FOR OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SANTA SHAME SPIRAL WHERE WE SIT DOWN WITH NONE OTHER THAN RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER!
One of the oddest things about my blog is that I rarely utilize it for what it was originally intended- namely, sharing my writing. Since I’m nearly finished with REAPERS TWO, I decided I would share some of the writing techniques I used in the conception of that novella, and hopefully get new ideas from other writers about their character-building habits and techniques.
Today I thought I’d share a specific technique I use for conceiving characters: I assign them a song.
On the surface this may seem counter-intuitive since music is capable of conveying emotion without words, but I find that the perfect song will reveal emotions or behaviors in the characters I create long before I construct a single sentence. The right song can encapsulate a single moment or an entire lifetime of a person’s emotional experience (recent birthday boy ElGuapo knows what I’m talking about). With that in mind, I’ll describe two different ways I use music to build characters.
The first way I do this is to create a generic version of a character in my head, and then find a song that suits him/her after the rough draft is written. I find this works best for when I really want to “flesh out” a character by layering dimension over the bare bones of the initial conception. One of the characters that benefited most from this technique was the character of Raphael in THE GODS OF ASPHALT. Because his character was the most like me, I found that he was the hardest to flesh out. You’d think he’d be the easiest since I ought to know him so well, right? He wasn’t. I suppose that is because it is always easiest to hide our truest selves from ourselves. Well that, and the fact that I had never planned for him to resemble me in the first place. By the time I did my first run-though edit it was painfully obvious that I had captured myself in print.
I struggled for what seemed like forever to find something, anything, about myself in Raphael that I could use to turn him from an angry, closed-off parent into a character with true dimension. Finally I discovered that what made his character and myself alike was our inner struggle with our ethnicity. Being raised as an American in a household filled with Old-World ideals made it hard for me to know who I really was and where my loyalties lay. I was constantly conflicted and to this day struggle for a sense of equilibrium. Without realizing it I had passed that same internal struggle onto Raphael.
Once his (our) internal conflict had been revealed, I searched for music that would tell the story of a compelling character- one who grew from a disgruntled Midwestern teen into a man struggling to find peace as a proud Spanish father. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s cover of the Metallica classic ORION instantly became that song for me.
From that moment on, every time I wrote Raphael I would listen to that song. The music brought him to life for me; from the timbre of his voice to picturing the way he walked. ORION became the soundtrack to every scene Raphael was in and helped me navigate his character through the story.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – ORION
This next example illustrates the same technique, although switched-up a bit. That example is the character of Lucifer in THE REAPERS WITH ISSUES Series.
Unlike the example above where I conceived of a character before assigning him/her a song, with REAPERS I was faced with the challenge of re-characterizing established characters. The one that gave me the most trouble was Lucifer. The difficulty lie in the fact that Lucifer is more than established; he is downright iconic. There isn’t a culture on the planet that doesn’t have a vision of evil-incarnate, so how was I to reinvent him?
I knew that within the context of the story I would have to humanize him to some degree, so I decided to portray my version of Lucifer not as purely evil, but simply as…a dick. I also knew that to “flesh” him out would not be to layer dimension onto him, but to reveal him; to strip away his skin and discover what makes him tick.
I failed epically.
Every version of Lucifer that sprung to mind was a stereotypical construct from the deepest, most generic part of my brain. I had nearly lost all hope when I came up with a solution: I’d do it all backwards and let Lucifer pick his own music. Sounds crazy, right? Well it worked. I turned on my music, closed my eyes and listened to every song I could think of that wasn’t evil, dark or brooding until Lucifer revealed his song. That song, believe it or not, was CLINT EASTWOOD by the Gorillaz.
Why that song? I have no idea (I let Lucifer pick, remember?). But I will tell you that things became instantly clearer for me whenever I listened to it. I easily pictured the way he walked [slightly slouching] to the way he spoke [slightly spoiled] and imagined a dozen tiny little habits [folding origami] the instant that song became a part of his character. But as great as that song was, it wasn’t exactly right. I needed a version of that near-perfect song to do more than just bring Lucifer to life. I needed Lucifer to be reborn.
Words + Music = Art
I enlisted the help of a musician to remix CLINT EASTWOOD into something that sounded slightly more sinister, slightly more spoiled, and slightly more modern. Below is that song: Lucifer’s Remix conceived of by production musician extraordinaire, DJ Casper. Believe me when I tell you that to my mind, this song IS Lucifer.
DJ Casper – LUCIFER’S REMIX
I imagine the idea of using music to inspire or create words on a page may seem unconventional or downright bizarre, but to me it is the most natural thing in the world. I chalk it up to spending too much time on the road as a kid with nothing by my father’s music and my imagination to keep me company. I firmly blame my inability to finish GOA2 on the fact that I can’t figure out what kind of music River listens to. Like Lucifer, I’ve decided to let River choose. I am praying he’s not into Rap.
- Has the stress of facing the holiday season alone got you down?
- Are you dreading another Thanksgiving Day dinner defending your recreational life choices to your staunch Republican (insert Military Branch Rank of your choice here) Father?
- Tired of being seated between your fighter pilot/Sunday school teacher/Abercombie & Finch model big brother and your half-dead Grandmother who smells like cheese?
WELL HAVE I GOT A SOLUTION FOR YOU!
From the warped and creative minds of the Blogosphere’s most talented writers comes a retelling of classic fables and fairy tales, each one more twisted than the last. F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES is the first of a two eBook novella series created by THE BLOGGER COLLECTIVE, a talented group of participating authors from around the Blogosphere. It’s childhood as you never remembered it.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!
F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES is guaranteed to make your brother come out of the closet while simultaneously giving Granny Limburger a moist-y.
F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES has been proven to increase penis size, get your car better gas mileage and give your ex-girlfriend a scorching case of rotten-crotch.
JOIN THE FUN! PICK UP YOUR VERY OWN eBook COPY OF F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES TODAY!
Tell the postman to keep his brown paper wrapping because this is not your father’s
porn reading material. That’s right- Volume One of the two eBook novella series F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES will be available for download by Thanksgiving morning, just in time for your holiday festivities!
For more Collective fun check out ICONIC INTERVIEWS: The world’s most beloved holiday icons presented in a collection of irreverent interviews that take on the backstory of their imagined existences.
Let the countdown begin…
I am not dead. I have not choked to death on a ham sandwich or run off to join the circus (although I am feeling a bit like the Fat Lady, lately). Sadly, my life has been consumed by a certain four letter word and that word is:
Yeah, I know what word you were thinking about. Sinners.
Anyway, I have read all the F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES everyone has sent in and they are AMAZING. I am hoping to get the ball rolling on book production this weekend, right between cleaning the house and supervising my daughter’s thirteenth birthday party- a party which will have boys in attendance. Let’s add talking HR Nightmare off the ledge to that list.
In summation, I haven’t forgotten you all, I’ve been loving your stories, and cannot wait until I get the chance to put them all together. Thank you all so much.
So it’s coming close to closing time on the project known as F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES. For those of you who may not know, F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES is a retelling of classic fable and fairy tales, all viewed from the
warped creative minds of bloggers from around the ‘sphere.
Want to join but don’t have time for a story? How about a limerick, lullaby or haiku? They can be as long or short as you like. Each story is a maximum of 5000 words (there is no minimum) and can be dark and twisted or entirely vanilla.
Every author who participates gets a spot on the BLOGGER COLLECTIVE page (presently under construction) with links back to his/her blog of choice. There are also weekly interviews planned if you choose to participate. But best of all, 100% of the profits from F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES are donated to charity (more info to come).
Sound interesting? Check out our list of contributors and join the fun! Each offering highlighted in GREEN has a page devoted to the author’s tale, BLUE is a tale yet to come, and YELLOW is what is available. Want to read what we’ve got so far? Visit F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES and scroll down the list for a good read!
- Aladdin – Emerald Dragun Studios
- Ant and the Grasshopper – g00dg33kranting
- Cinderella – Trailer Trash Deluxe
- Elves and the Shoemaker – Edward Hotspur
- Emperor’s New Clothes – Sparklebumps
- Gingerbread Man – HR Nightmare
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears – The Elite of Just Alright
- Hansel and Gretel – Madame Weebles
- Jack and the Bean Stalk – YOUR NAME HERE
- Legend of Santa Claus – ReadTomLucas
- Little Mermaid – Sparklebumps
- Little Red Riding Hood – Rantonit
- Peter Pan – The Fog of Ward
- Pinocchio – MC’s Whispers
- Princess and the Pea – Polysyllabicprofundities
- Puss in Boots – El Guapo
- Rapunzel – H.E. Ellis
- Red Shoes – Sparklebumps
- Rumpelstiltskin – Sightsnbytes
- Sleeping Beauty – Kayjai
- Snow Queen – Jennifer Vaughn
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Very Normal
- Three Billy Goat’s Gruff – VanillaMom
- Three Little Pigs – Pouringmyartout
- Thumbelina – Sandylikeabeach
- Tooth Fairy – Kosative D
- Tortoise and the Hare – Archon’s Den
- Ugly Duckling – Grafiklit
The planets must have finally aligned, because our favorite resident blogger/Photoshop terrorist/space cadet has written a book. Not just any book- but a SciFi book with a blast of fantasy and a galaxy of humor.
I had the privilege of reading SALOON AT THE EDGE OF EVERYWHERE and am happy to say it was everything I thought it would be- a funny and sweet read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, just like the author himself.
A.H. Browne’s story was so irreverent that I just had to know more about the brain behind the book. Well thank our lucky stars, because today I get to bring you none other than Pouring My Art Out himself, A.H. Browne.
Why PMAO? I am assuming you are asking why I chose this as the name of my blog. I did a post in the first days of my blog explaining how I am all art-side-of-the-brain. I took a test, conceived by psychology students at a major university. I got freakishly high scores on the art side. My brain just doesn’t work like a normal person’s brain. I spend my life trying to figure out artistic solutions to logic problems. I don’t even drive like a regular human being. I don’t have my multiplication tables memorized.
So I do a lot of kinds of art. I write, draw, paint, carve tikis, write songs and play the guitar, and on and on. I have most of my art hanging in the garage. And I have drawers full of poems and stories and novels, not to mention the ones I started and never finished. The blog was originally started for two main reasons. To share all my old stuff was the obvious one, and to give me a place to vent all the crazy ideas that run though my brain, which works a little like a small cage full of squirrels… on crack. And to tell the stories that have occurred during my rather adventurous life.
But the other reason I started the blog is because someday my kids might have kids, and those kids might grow up to have kids. And sooner or later one of them is going to ask his parents why he is such a freak. And instead of explaining to them how they are just like me, they can just point them to the blog.
What is your writing process like?
My writing process in general tends to vary with what I am writing. For a song, I start with a good hook line, which might be the title, and work from there. For a poem, I just pick a topic and start rhyming from the beginning line. I can write a story based on a plot that I have already finished in my head. But for the novels, I tried something specific, both as an experiment and a challenge. I wouldn’t let myself figure out what was going to happen past the next sentence. I would invent a new character whenever the action slowed down for more than two words. Or just throw some crazy new idea into the mix.
The weirdest thing about this is that I created characters that I had no idea how important they would be in the story later. And that is what life is like. You meet someone and have no idea that they might end up being your best friend. It sort of reads like real life, but I made sure to pace it like a movie with no slow parts. So it is like my life in that way.
But I often got my hero into situations that I couldn’t figure out how to get him out of. I would get stuck for a day or a week, and then all of a sudden the answer would pop into my head. I love that moment.
What do you love most about writing? Least?
I write everything by hand in a notebook and then type it up at the end of a chapter. I love it when the ideas are flowing so fast that I can’t keep up. What I hate is when I can’t read my own writing when I try to type it.
What motivated you to write SALOON AT THE EDGE OF EVERYWHERE?
The novels came about because I have all these ideas in my head that want to get out. And I wanted to finish a novel and actually publish it. But most of all I wanted to make fun of everything that people take too seriously. And aliens give you a good way to do that. Because they don’t put things into the same context as we do. We think things make sense just because we are used to them being that way. Aliens have to try to make sense of it from their own perspective. I can take politics and religion and nudity and morality and art and racism and war and everything that happens on this planet and look at it from new angles. It was so much fun.
Explain THE OTHERWHERE CHRONICLES.
Okay, this is tricky. My daughter, Jessica, who helped me get the first of the series published, says I need a one minute ‘elevator’ pitch. Because explaining these would take as long as it would take you to just read them. The main character is human, over 50, lazy, sarcastic, irreverent, and… oh, who am I fooling? The main character is me. But not the me in this dimension. He lives in a reality much like ours, except that Earth has been discovered by the advanced alien races.
Our hero works as a custodian at a Texas bar on an alien space station. He plays poker with a group of human and alien friends, and during one game, alien pirates arrive on a hijacked Disney cruise liner. Arthur and his friends mount a daring rescue mission, and hilarity ensues. And the entire universe is watching as the whole thing unfolds because it is being broadcast live by aliens known as the Reporters. But it is important to remember that this is just book one, and I have three more finished, and more to follow after that… because San Francisco almost gets blown up, and then there is this human/alien intergalactic corporation that might just be a front for an invasion from another dimension, and assassins, and then Arthur ends up leading a ragtag fleet of ships against… oh forget it. It would be easier to read it yourself. There is action and adventure, and humor and… stuff…
Followers of your blog know you are of lover of music. How much does music play a role in your writing?
This is sort of a funny question, because most of the time I would have said that music doesn’t play much of a role in my writing. It is more like writing plays a big role in my music. But it just so happens that music does pop up in the novels. Arthur imparts his love of classic 1970’s hard rock to some of his alien friends, and takes them shopping in Berkeley when he goes back to Earth to visit his mother, right after he saves San Francisco from being destroyed. And I actually quote the words from a song I wrote way back in the day at the very end of book four when he goes back to the Saloon to say goodbye to his old boss. Because that song is about leaving Earth on a spaceship.
How did you celebrate the completion of your book?
I did a little dance when I saw the first paperback copy in my hand. But this is very much an ongoing concern. I leave the end of the fourth book with our hero having a way to visit any dimension, any reality, that he wants to. So anything I can think of, I can have him do. I may never finish writing these. I will have to get back to you.
Who was your biggest supporter during the writing of SATEOE?
Well, Jessica helped me get it published, but she still hasn’t read it. My wife doesn’t ‘do’ science fiction. I had a friend, Dave, and a cousin, Kelsey, who I emailed chapters to as I wrote it, and they helped a lot.
Who was your biggest supporter growing up?
My parents were very much the ‘you can be whatever you want to be’ parents. But we all realized early on that the way my brain works, I can create art but I can’t market it. I really need a manager. But yeah, my parents.
Teenage A.H. Browne wanted to be…
You don’t want to know. I was a rebel. I spent my time beating my head against the walls of authority. I had no goals or plans. I still don’t really have those. My brain doesn’t work that way.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
I have had more jobs than anybody I have ever met. You name it, I have done it. And it isn’t like I have made any real money out of this yet. I am sort of stalling getting another crappy job, so let’s just pretend we didn’t hear that question.
If you could have one drink with one author- living or dead, who would it be, and what would you drink?
I would love to sit down with Winston Churchill and have a pint of Boddington’s at a pub while discussing his series of books he wrote about World War 2. And his History of the English Speaking Peoples. Man, that guy knew the English language. And he lived history.
Tell us one thing no one would ever guess about you.
You would never guess that I am shy. Once I know you, I wont shut up. But I can’t just walk up to people and schmooze. I can’t even ask the waitress for a refill of my iced tea. It sucks.
A.H. BROWNE IS IN VERY GOOD COMPANY
A.H. Browne’s story begins just as all good stories do, with a reluctant hero. Our hero is Arthur Blacke, a loveable loser whose life orbits around playing poker and maintaining the status quo. That is until a hijacked cruise ship full of intergalactic pirates interrupts his weekly poker game.
Once hostages are taken, Arthur and his friends are threatened with more than just harshing their calm. Does this affable custodian have what it takes to become the Space Cowboy the Universe needs to save it?
You’ll just have to buy the book to find out.
Book one of The Otherwhere Chronicles, A.H. Browne’s SALOON AT THE EDGE OF EVERYWHERE is a breath of freshly oxygenated air that I highly recommend.
Welcome to day four of BLOGSHORTS: a ten day, ten story, 110 word writing extravaganza.
Each participating blogger chooses a pooch a day from a list of dogs, thunk-up by our fearless leader BLOGDRAMEDY, and then writes a short story featuring their dog of choice.
Each story is 110 words in length and can feature as much or as little of our canine friend as we like.
Today we travel beyond the land of Muggles to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to meet with our favorite three-headed dog, FLUFFY!
FLUFFY’S FATEFUL FAUX PAS
Fluffy tucked El Guapo’s speakers into his ears and for one blessed moment let the smooth, mellow sounds of Coltrane drown out the incessant bickering between his two ex-wives.
Fluffy often used his stolen quiet time to reflect on the course his life had taken. He dissected every decision and evaluated every consequence. He ran scenarios over and over again in his mind, asking himself what he might have done differently to have avoided the fate that had so tragically befallen him.
But no matter how many times he replayed that fateful day, Fluffy always came to the one sad, inevitable conclusion:
He should have never called He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, “Lord Moldywart.”
Revisit these soon to be canine classics:
BLOGSHORTS DAY ONE: Tea Cup Cujo
BLOGSHORTS DAY TWO: Toto’s Ruby Red Booty
BLOGSHORTS DAY THREE: Lassie Learns the Truth
TAKE YOUR BLOG FOR A WALK AND THROW THESE GUYS A BONE:
RETURN TOMORROW FOR A VISIT FROM EVERYONE’S FAVORITE PROPER POOCH, EDDIE!
The legendary BLOGDRAMEDY has come up with the perfect mental diversion she’s calling BLOGSHORTS: a ten day, ten story, 110 word canine-centric writing extravaganza.
How does that work, you wonder? Let’s ask Blogdramedy:
I’ve select nine dogs (a mixed breed of real and imaginary barkers) and you write a story of 110 words around each character. They can be the main participant or just bark in the background. That’s up to you.
I’m not going to write your stories for you no matter how much Gravy Train you put in my bowl.
The final story will feature a dog of your very own. It can be one you live with now, in the past, one you hope to own some day…or your imaginary puppy from when you were wee. The ten dogs are:
Cujo (Stephen King)
Toto (Wizard of oz)
Fluffy (Harry Potter)
Eddie Crane (Fraser)
Blacktoe (Will Riker’s dog)
The dog of your choice
Some of you may know that I am not particularly fond of dogs (if you’ve read REAPERS WITH ISSUES you know exactly how much), so being challenged to write about dogs is the perfect solution for my epic case of brain mud. In fact, I’ve already gotten started on an idea that I think about…TEN bloggers may get a kick out of. Sound like we’re barking up your tree? Sign up here and join these pups in this year’s BlogShorts.
RETURN TOMORROW FOR MY FIRST INSTALLMENT!
Throw these bloggers a bone by dropping by for a tour of their yards:
For those of you who just can’t get enough of the holiday spirit, consider purchasing the Bloggers’ Compilation Project offering: ICONIC INTERVIEWS.
The world’s most beloved holiday icons presented in a collection of irreverent interviews that take on the backstory of their imagined existences.
Some of the best bloggers from around the ‘Sphere are interviewed as iconic holiday characters, each one zanier than the next. Click on the bloggers below for more good stuff!
Iconic Interviews can be purchased here:
AVAILABLE IN EBOOK FORMAT THROUGH SMASHWORDS
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I’D LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING BLOGGERS FOR THEIR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTION:
BrainRants as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Lipschitz the Elf
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Check out F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES and leave your choice in the comments. All profits from the sale of Iconic Interviews and FUFT are donated to charity.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Grim has arrived. The graphic novel empire known as Newbury Comics has graciously agreed to take a chance on everyone’s favorite Reaper by offering a spot for his book on its illustrious shelves.
For those of you who may not know, Newbury Comics is New England’s premiere comic/graphic novel/punk/new wave/indie music vendor. Considered Mecca to the pop-culture obsessed, I couldn’t imagine a better fit for a novella series as potentially off-putting as REAPERS WITH ISSUES.
Now, if I could just finish Book Two…
CLICK THE PIC FOR STORE LOCATIONS
I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I’ve visited blogworld, but this time I have a good reason:
I met Neil Gaiman.
That’s right; I met honest to goodness Neil Gaiman at a book signing for his latest creation:
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
I, along with about 100 other lucky individuals, sat enraptured for two hours listening to him speak about his new book and his old books and what it means to be a writer. I gladly waited another three hours in line just to have him sign my copy of American Gods- three hours I spent rehearsing what it was I would say to him when I finally, after twenty years of fandom so intense it is almost embarrassing, had the chance. Here’s how it went:
NEIL: [reading the post-it with my name on it stuck to my book] “So you are H.E. Ellis, then?”
[Neil begins to sign book. Silence ensues]
NEIL: “It is wonderful to see people using initials again.”
[Neil hands me my book]
NEIL: “There you are.”
ME: “Thank you.”
[I turn and walk away]
I am sure there was drool involved, not to mention I’d been sweating inside a church for five hours and probably smelled like Texas roadkill.
Even if he were offended, I am sure he would never say. Neil Gaiman is without a doubt the most soft-spoken and humble celebrity I have ever encountered. This man makes himself available to those who come out to see him (those who don’t become catatonic at the sight of him anyway) and never behaves like the diva he has earned the right to be. I harbor no delusions that my writing will ever receive the acclaim his has, but I will tell you with certainty that I will do my best to, “Make good art,” simply because I was blessed with the opportunity to receive his advice.
Return tomorrow for a blog post about what I did the NEXT day. Until then, MAKE GOOD ART.
Just when I thought I’d said it all, El Guapo says it better. I give you my screenplay as seen through a very handsome lens:
THE ADVENTURES OF HELLIS IN BLOGGERLAND
Judging from the actors, your movie is a rom-com-buddy cop movie, with Edward Hotspur as the alien no one understands. Hilarity ensues as Edward, separated from the mother ship, is lost and adrift in dark foreboding Canadia. Kayjai, president of Canadia, takes pity on him and drives him (in a fast car, and apparently very few clothes) southeast to the wilds of New England, where for some reason, his gadgets are telling him to go.
Trask Avenue, a member of Canadia’s equivalent of the CIA (the dreaded MSF – Moose Syrup Fanatics), follows in hot pursuit. At the border, bored Border Guard, El Guapo, decides to leave his job and accompany the two star-crossed travellers on their journey. At one point, he distracts Trask from his pursuit while Kayjai and Hotspur escape. He is last seen (until the finale) telling a confused Trask (who has just arrested him) “Hey, if you can’t beat em, confuse em!”
Our story continues through the wilds of Nebraska and Ohio. They stop off at an empty diner, run by BestBathroomBooks for some food. He dispenses wit and wisdom along with hot coffee and huevos rancheros. They continue on their drive, stopping at an Ohio crossing to let the freight train pass. A badass in a mustang pulls up, none other than GingerSnaap. Hotspur reminds her of the frog who done her wrong (no, really, an actual frog) all those years ago, and there is a spectacular heart stopping chase through the cornfields (are there cornfields in Ohio?) of Ohio.
Kayjai and Hotspur manage to escape, heading east toward the dawning of a new day. They are exhausted and pull over to rest. While sleeping, Kayjai is visited by Sandylikeabeach, who sums up what has already happened, and hints about what may happen next – but she does it all in one long sentence that even includes her trademarked asides. And it’s all in Charo’s voice!!! (Seriously, this is my favorite scene of the movie!)
As they come out of the wilds and into the bigger cities, Trask Avenue is closing in. But Hotspur uses his magic to convince unbelievably sexy companions Sparklebumps and Megan that he is the good guy. They use their not inconsiderable wiles to slow down Trask while Kayjai and Hotspur escape.
Finally, closing in on the snow filled bus lots of New England, the two stop at the tire yard, and ask a shirtless, sweaty HR Nightmare (wearing a green shoulder mounted bikini thong)(because that’s how he rolls) where they can find the magic moose of Massachusetts – which is the only thing that can save Hotspur now.
(Sorry – earths environment is slowly killing Hotspur. What? I’m sitting at my desk writing this thing, cut me some slack. We good? Ok, moving on.)
HR points down a snow filled trail. Kayjai slowly eases the car down the path. We see Trask (in his gov’t issue Crown Victoria) speeding toward them. In the back seat, El Guapo rises, swinging a ski pole at the back of Trasks head. Trask yanks the wheel and Guapo flies out of the car, landing on a plank and, with a “WOOHOO” snowboards into the distance.
But while Trask was distracted, a blue Charger comes rocketing along the road. “SHINY!!!” bellows GingerSnaap, as she races along, bumping mercilessly into Trask in an attempt to drive him off the road. BestBathroomBooks, in the car with her, calmly calls out reasons to Trask why he should surrender. Trask grits his teeth and continues pounding down the road.
Into a clearing.
Where Sparklebumps, Sandylikeabeach and Megan all dance gracefully on an empty patch of land.
A bright light suddenly engulfs the beautiful ladies as Kayjai and Hotspur glide to a halt, Trask pulling up behind them. Arms spread, Hotspur steps into the circle of light, as Trask raises his gun. Sparklebumps flashes him to distract him, but surprisingly, that only works for a moment. Hotspur turns, and in the language of his people, yells “Unicorn! Palindrome lyric poem! Innuendo!”
Trasks weapon flies from his hand, and bewildered, he, with everyone else, watch the circle of bright light condense into a pinpoint beam of rainbow as Hotspur floats gently up to the mothership.
Kayjai strolls over to Trask. “For fucks sake.” she says.
Trask raises an eyebrow.
Apologies to everyone slandered in this, and if you’ve made it this far, next round is on me. Really, you earned it.
HAREM MASTER by R.B. Hatch
When I first chose to review HAREM MASTER I was concerned I’d find nothing more than a glorified Penthouse Forum article. Yes, it does involve a middle-aged man who is “entertained” by a self-appointed harem of females ranging from employees to contemporaries to nymphets. And yes, it is at times raunchy and raw and sexually charged. But R.B. Hatch’s development of the narrator, a man simply known as “John,” is well written and highly entertaining.
As a reader I found myself simultaneously repulsed by and sympathetic toward John’s actions that form the relationship between him and his “harem.” In “John” Hatch has created an “everyman” whose wit, intelligence and sense of mystery utterly charm the women around him into willingly becoming his objects of desire. It’s Hatch’s ability to endear John to the reader that helps to create a world that is not only plausible, but downright believable.
More than just erotica, HAREM MASTER is a plot-driven novel that delves into the mind and motives of its protagonist and speaks with a voice that will please its readers.
For a larger image – click at your own risk
Hellis here, taking a quick break from the grind to remind you it’s almost time for the release of the Blogger Compilation Project, F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES! If you’ve signed on to contribute please submit your story as soon as possible. The moment I have all contributions in I’ll release your book! All contributions should be sent to heellisgoa (at) gmail (dot) com
Our two newest contributions are offered by the sweet but sassy Sandylikeabeach as well as the never bland VanillaMom. Check these two ladies out for some inspiration for your own Fairy Tale!
For more of the Blogger Compilation Project read the novella,
- The world’s most beloved holiday icons presented in a collection of irreverent interviews that take on the backstory of their imagined existences.
Pinch me because I must be dreaming. Today we have another amazing addition to the Blogger Compilation Project better known as F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES (I know, I know, the asterisk fools no one, but I’m trying to class my blog up, okay?)
Anyway, this little bit o’ tome comes from none other than our very own Beach Bunny Sandy Floyd, better known to Blogworld as Sandylikeabeach. Her take on the classic Thumbelina is as witty, clever and brilliant as this tiny writing powerhouse is herself. Please to enjoy, A TINY THUMBELINA TALE.
by Sandy Floyd
It was a dark and stormy night. Not really, but I always wanted to start the story of my life with that line. I have no idea if it was a dark and stormy night on the night of my birth or if I was even born at night. I was just a baby so I have no clear memories of the event. I’m not even sure I should start at the beginning. So let’s begin again.
I’m special. Well, as special as a person can be in a world populated by people, each one thinking he or she is special. Of course, if we’re all special, then special isn’t really special. It’s ordinary. It is the normal order of things. But I’m the Abby Normal of ordinary though my name isn’t Abby.
I wish it was Abby. Christ! I got stuck with an awful name. I swear to God, if there is one, that if I ever have children I will not stick them with some cutesy or super esoteric or just plain fucking weird name. And the lovely name that was bestowed on me? Thumbelina. What the fuck? Who names a kid Thumbelina? What the hell is a Thumbelina? I loathed my name. I shortened it to Tina. However, there was always that one teacher who insisted on calling every child by his or her proper name, no nicknames allowed. And of course, the first day of school each year my embarrassing name would be called out and I would have to acknowledge it and then say, “But I just go by Tina.” Then the more compassionate teachers would make a note on their rosters but the damage was done. The more obnoxious poets among my class liked to chant “Tiny Tina, Thumbelina” whenever I happened by.
Of course, even without the embarrassing weird name, I still would have been teased because of the tiny thing. Just as it’s not easy being green, it’s not easy being tiny and tiny is what I am though I’m not green and tiny, just tiny. Though now that I think about it, if green is the color of your species, then how hard can it be to be green? And if tiny is the size of your species, then being tiny wouldn’t be hard either, but tiny is not the size of my species so being tiny is not easy except that it is easy to be overlooked and easy to be treated like a child and easy to be thought of as younger than you really are which will be nice when I get older.
I am a very small person though not dwarf small, and unlike most dwarfs, I am exquisitely proportioned. But if other people didn’t feel compelled to state the obvious by telling me how small I am, I would rarely think about my lack of height unless I needed to get something off the top shelf at the grocery store. Of course, I’m sure one of the functions of the lowest shelf is to serve as a step for those of us who are vertically challenged to reach the stuff we need that is always on the top shelf. And I will admit to always being surprised when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or some sort of reflective surface standing next to a normal sized person. Honest to God, again, if there is one, I look like a miniature person.
So despite all my name loathing during my formative years living on a farm with my foster mother after being abandoned as an infant with a note pleading for someone to take care of “our little Thumbelina” thus dooming me to a lifetime of name loathing and forever linking me to a shadowy group of people with weird names, my feelings about my name took a somewhat nuanced turn. Translation: I figured out how to cash in.
Upon my successful completion of high school, I knew college was a financial impossibility. I also knew that I did not want to spend the best years of my life waiting on people be it as a waitress or a retail worker. Cubicle life sounded no better. So having no moral compass, or any compass at all, I decided to put my decidedly good looks, flexibility and passion for my passion to good use. I became a tiny stripper and Thumbelina was my tiny stripper name even though that name is not tiny and doesn’t often, or possibly ever, come up in that internet what is your stripper name thing. But I was dancing and dancing made me happy. It also made me money.
Now some people might think stripping is demeaning and they have valid arguments and indeed, I would agree it is demeaning if the stripping is involuntary. However, if stripping is a personal choice, there is power in that choice. And pardon the obvious use of the word, but stripped of its moral questions, at its heart, it is art expressed in a very specific form of dance. The best strippers embrace this. I know I did, and I was one of the best. I even won the International Pole Dance Championship a couple of years ago. Though to be fair, Miss Australia probably would have won if she hadn’t had that embarrassingly awkward slide down the pole. A little lube goes a long way.
You might not think that a strip club would be the best place to meet the love of your life and before it happened to me, I would have agreed with you, but then it happened to me though the actual meeting thing took place in a coffee shop across the street from the club, but that first sighting was in the club. He was part of a bachelor party though not the part that was The Bachelor. He was just one of The Bachelor’s buddies helping The Bachelor celebrate one of his last nights of bachelorhood.
He didn’t look like the usual regulars, but boy, did he look good. He had this tall, dark and handsome bad boy with the scruffy beard thing going on even though he wasn’t particularly tall or dark, but he was definitely handsome. And he had that scruffy beard thing which looks great on a male model, though male might be redundant because no one ever thinks a scruffy beard would look good on a female model, but I’m not typically a fan of the scruffy facial hair decision. It’s not even a decision. It’s a mark of indecision. Make a choice, already. Grow a beard or shave, but damn, it looked good on him.
I could have looked at him all night. I didn’t, because I also wanted my usual haul of tips and it’s not just the dancing that does the trick, you have to make eye contact and smile at everyone to make the most tips. But I did glance his way every now and then, and each time, he was looking at me, but not in the way the usual strip club attendee does. When our eyes would meet, he smiled ever so slightly. It was warm and sweet and it felt like we were the only two people in the room.
After my shift that night, a couple of the other dancers and I headed to the coffee shop for our usual after work confab. We settled in a booth and that’s when I noticed him. He was at the counter and he was alone. I’ve never been a big fan of fate, but fate might be a fan of me, because as fate would have it, Amber’s phone rang.
“Ugh, that was the sitter,” she said as she returned her phone to her handbag. “I’ve got to get home.”
“Nothing serious, I hope.”
“No. Jason has a touch of a fever so I need to get home. See you later, TIna.”
“You going, too?” I asked Nina.
“Yeah, she’s my ride tonight. Good night, TIna.”
“Bye NIna, bye Amber. Hope Jason’s feeling better soon.”
The girls had no sooner walked out the door when the scruffy beard guy appeared at my table.
“Mind if I join you? I’ve never been a fan of eating alone.” His voice was like velvet – soft and smooth. A voice that could be on the radio, maybe a classic rock station or maybe even smooth jazz although much of what smooth jazz stations play isn’t even jazz, it’s more yesterday’s pop and soft rock.
“Um,” I hesitated because it’s usually not a good idea to get involved with customers, but he was good looking and he smelled good, or maybe that was the bacon cooking in the kitchen, but he looked and seemed to smell good enough to eat and I was hungry.
“It’s just a little food and conversation,” he said. And then he smiled.
“Yeah, company would be great.” I smiled back.
He slid into the booth across from me and smiled that smile. “I’m Cooper.”
I wasn’t sure if Cooper was his first name or last name, so I asked. My foster mom always told me I shouldn’t ask too many personal questions too soon, but how else do you find out stuff that you’d be wondering about and all that wondering would keep you from being able to concentrate on the conversation. And I was going to need all the help with concentration because I wasn’t really thinking about having a conversation with him, if you catch my drift.
“It’s my first name. It’s a little unusual but I like it.”
“It’s a great name. I’m..”
“Thumbelina. The tiny dancer.”
“I go by TIna.”
“How’d you come up with Thumbelina for a stage name?”
“It’s my real name. And you thought Cooper was unusual.”
He laughed and his laugh was even better than his smile. “Well, I think Thumbelina is a beautiful name. It rhymes with ballerina and you are an exquisitely beautiful dancer.”
He had me at ‘exquisitely,’ or maybe he had me at ‘mind if I join you.’ It doesn’t really matter when he had me, much like it doesn’t matter when the heart finds love, only that it does and mine did that night. We talked for hours or it seemed that way. At last, we noticed the night was easing into dawn and we made our way to the parking lot. He asked me where I was parked and I pointed to my car.
“I’m right next to you,” he said.
“That’s your bike? It’s gorgeous.” Though I didn’t add ‘just like you,’ but I was thinking it.
“Yeah, you like bikes?”
“I’ve never been on one but it looks like fun.”
“It’s just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
“I always thought that about dancing, but of course, I don’t always keep my clothes on for that.”
He laughed. “Here’s my number. Call me and we’ll go for a ride. And you can keep your clothes on the whole time.”
I smiled at him and climbed in my car. “It was nice meeting you, Cooper.”
“See you soon, tiny dancer.”
A few days later I had my first bike ride. I climbed on the bike behind him and as I wrapped my arms around his waist I said, “I think this is going to be the best part of the ride.”
He laughed. “Not by a long shot. Hang on.”
And off we went. He was partially right. Holding on to him wasn’t the best part, but it wasn’t the best part by a long shot. It was a very close second. The ride was exhilarating. Sitting behind him, looking over his shoulder, the wind in my face was a great feeling. We spent the afternoon on country roads, stopping here and there to admire the scenery or grab a bite to eat.
It was just like one of those Hollywood movie montages the writers employ because they suck at writing dialogue. And it did feel like one of those too good to be true but wouldn’t it be lovely if it could happen to me Hollywood scenarios right up until it turned into a killer zombie movie but without the killer zombies, but Killer Bees instead. But not African killer bees, but the biker gang. I know it sounds like a silly name, but the backs of their jackets have this evil looking killer bee and they used a sinister typeface for the name, so it doesn’t just sound silly, it looks silly, too. But I kept my silly thoughts to myself.
We ran into the Killer Bees at Roady Toadies, a little dive bar on the outskirts of town. Of course, we didn’t know the bikes we saw outside meant there were Killer Bees inside. In fact, Cooper said he recognized one of the bikes as belonging to a friend of his. We walked inside and let our eyes adjust to the light after being in the bright sun. Cooper spotted his friend and we headed over to where he was sitting.
“Jack, this is Thumbelina. Thumbelina, this is my good friend, Jack Sparrow.”
“Like the Johnny Depp character?”
“No,” Jack said. “I had the name first but I like to think he got his character’s inspiration from me.”
Cooper laughed and said, “I think he got the inspiration from Keith Richards.”
I smiled at Jack. “Nice to meet you, Jack.”
“Likewise. Thumbelina, huh? That’s not a name you hear everyday.”
“No, it’s not,” I replied, except that I was hearing it more today then I usually do and right about then, a loud voice behind me bellowed my name again.
“Thumbelina! I’d recognize that ass anywhere even covered in jeans.”
I turned around and there was the biggest Killer Bee I had ever seen. Of course, it was the first Killer Bee I had ever seen so thinking it was the biggest one ever was a big mistake. Behind the loudmouth Killer Bee, were more Killer Bees and they were even bigger than Mr. Bigmouth which was how I was coming to think of him. Mr. Bigmouth didn’t look familiar and I had never seen men attired in Killer Bee attire in the Pussycats club. But he was looking at me, the way hungry men look at a grilled steak.
And before I could reply, Mr. Bigmouth looked around at his buddies and said, “Boys, this is your lucky day. We have a celebrity in our midst. This here itty bitty thing is Thumbelina, stripper extraordinaire!” Then he looked at me and said, “I watch your World Pole Dance routine on YouTube all the time.” He glanced at Cooper and added, “She won the championship a couple of years ago. You know that?”
“No, I didn’t, but I can’t say I’m surprised. She is quite extraordinary.”
If I hadn’t already fallen in love with Cooper, I would have right then especially since he didn’t know about how Miss Australia should have won except for that embarrassing slip or in her case, slide down the pole.
But Mr. Bigmouth wasn’t done. “Why don’t you dance for us Thumbelina? Just climb right up on the bar and show us what you got.”
“You can see me dance at Pussycats,” I replied in an even tone.
“I want to see you dance right now!”
Cooper stepped between us, “Leave the lady alone.”
“She ain’t no lady.”
And then Cooper slugged Mr. Bigmouth.
“I’m not a fan of double negatives either, but I usually refrain from hitting the illiterate,” I said to him.
“I would have slugged him even if he was grammatically correct. No one gets away with saying you’re not a lady.”
But before we could congratulate ourselves on just how clever our repartee was becoming, all hell broke loose. It was the three of us, okay two of us because I’m not much good in a fight and I’m really tiny, against all those Killer Bees. Fists were flying, glass was breaking and I was ducking. I could feel strong arms around me pulling me backwards and then everything went dark.
I wasn’t unconscious, just locked in a closet. I banged on the door, but I guess Cooper couldn’t hear me over all the noise of the fight and last I saw, he and Jack seemed to be on the losing end. After what seemed like an hour but was probably much shorter because everything seems to take longer when you’re locked inside a closet, I heard what sounded like a gunshot. My heart stopped, but not because I got shot but because I was afraid of who might have. I could hear voices but I couldn’t make out what was being said or who was talking. Then it got quiet again, so I started banging on the door and screaming to be let out.
The door opened and a rather mousey looking woman was standing there.
“It’s all right, dear. Toadie put you in there. He thought you’d be safer in there.” She smiled at me and there was kindness in her eyes.
“Toadie is a real person?” I couldn’t believe how many people had parents that made such bad choices when naming their kids.
The mousey woman laughed. “Oh, he’s real all right, but Toadie is a nick name he picked up when he was a roadie for Z Z Top back in the day. I’m Mrs. Fields, Toadie’s mother. I help out in the kitchen.”
I refrained from asking her for a chocolate chip cookie and instead asked about my friends.
“Well, they’re a little banged up, but no permanent damage. Come and see for yourself.”
She led me through the kitchen and into the bar. I spotted Toadie right away because he looked like a toad, kind of like how that senator looks like a turtle. Toadie was holding a shotgun but when he saw me, he smiled and said, “Sorry to stick you in the closet like that, but a bar fight is no place for such a pretty little lady.”
“No worries, Toadie. Thanks for looking out for me.” I was looking around for Cooper and Jack. “Where are my friends?”
“They’re in the john cleaning themselves up. Those Killer Bees did a number on them, but as badass as they think they are when you point a shotgun in their general direction and let it discharge, they run away like little girls.”
I laughed. Then I heard a noise behind me.
“She does have an incredible ass, Coop.”
I turned around and flew into Cooper’s arms. “Everything about her is incredible,” Cooper replied.
“I think I’m in love,” I sighed.
He smiled at me, “I know I am.”
Jack said his goodbyes and left the bar. Cooper looked at me, “Ready to ride off into the sunset to that happily ever after place?”
“I’ve always wanted to do that. Especially if that place has a bed big enough for two.”
He held my hand as we walked out of the bar. We climbed on his bike and he looked back at me.
“Too bad it’s midnight,” he said.
“Midnight will do.”
A Conversation with my mother the day I told her I finished my novel.
ME: “Well Mom, it’s done. I finally finished it.”
MOM: “Finished what?”
ME: “Uh…my novel. The one I’ve been working on for the past year. Yeah, it’s done.”
MOM: “I had no idea you were writing a book! What is it about?”
ME: (sighs) “It’s a young adult novel about a teenager named Sawyer Hayden who–“
MOM: “Sawyer? Oh I don’t like that name.”
ME: ”Well it’s too late to change it now. ANYWAY…he wants a basketball scholarship so he–“
MOM: “Basketball? But you don’t play basketball! And why are you writing about boys anyway? You’re a woman who lives in New Hampshire! I know what you should do. Join a writing group and try to make friends with that woman writer there…
ME: Please don’t say Jodi Picoult.
MOM: …the one who writes all those nice cancer books. You know who I mean.”
ME: (sigh 2x) “Her name’s Jodi Picoult, mom.”
MOM: “No, that’s not it. Well, whoever she is I hear her books are very popular.”
ME: “FINE! WHATEVER! JUST LISTEN!” (deep breath) “In my book Sawyer asks his brother River to help–“
MOM: “RIVER? Oh I don’t like that name either. Why did you pick such ugly American names? With so many nice names in our family to choose from you–“
ME: “HOW ABOUT RAPHAEL? THAT’S WHAT I NAMED THE DAD SO HOW ABOUT THAT?”
MOM: “Finally a name I like! It’s about time you remembered you’re Italian.”
ME: “Ok…but just so you know, I made the dad Spanish.”
MOM: (appalled) “NOW WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST MAKE HIM ITALIAN? HOW AM I GOING TO TELL THE FAMILY IN ITALY THAT MY DAUGHTER WROTE A BOOK ABOUT SPANIARDS AND NOT ITALIANS?!”
ME: “I’M IRISH TOO, MOM! WHY DON’T I JUST MAKE HIM IRISH LIKE MY DAD, HUH? HOW’S THAT SOUND?”
MOM: “Spanish is fine.”
ME: “CAN WE FOCUS NOW? PLEASE?!”
MOM: “Yes, yes. Continue.”
ME: (sighs, molto frustrato) “So SAWYER leaves his father and moves to Nebraska–“
MOM: Bites lip.
ME: “NOW what’s wrong?”
MOM: “Well…why does he have to live in Nebraska? It’s a land locked state.”
ME: (rubbing temples) “What does Nebraska being a land locked state have to do with anything?”
MOM: “I don’t trust the seafood in land locked states. It’s too expensive. What you’re really paying for is the truck to have it delivered. They don’t fool me.”
ME: “Fine. You know what? I’ll change it to a coastal state–“
MOM: “OOH! You should make it Hawaii! I’ve always wanted to go there. You know they filmed that show LOST in Hawaii. But then you couldn’t use the name Sawyer. Hey! Now you can change that too! I always liked that doctor Jack–“
ME: “MOM! It can’t be Hawaii because Raphael is a long haul truck driver and that’s how Sawyer gets to Nebraska to live with his grandfather so he can get a basketball scholarship.”
MOM: “Well why does he even need a scholarship? With the price of seafood nowadays the father should have no problem paying for–“
ME: “You know what? Forget it. I didn’t write a book. I made a quilt.”
MOM: “Oh don’t be so sensitive. Tell me what the grandfather’s name is. Something good I hope.”
MOM: (flinches, thinks and then says) “So SAYWER leaves a man named RAPHAEL to live with a man named GUS?”
ME: “Yes but mom, Gus is awesome. He’s a biker and a southern rock roadie with…bad…ass…tattoos…”
MOM: (near tears) “What happened to my dainty daughter who used to love to read books and write stories and listen to music?!”
ME: “She changed her name to Sawyer.”
FOR MORE MIND-NUMBING MATERNAL MASOCHISM VISIT:
CONVERSATIONS WITH MY MOTHER
Every so often there comes a moment when we see ourselves through another person’s eyes. Determining whether that’s good or bad depends entirely on what we see. Most of my epiphanies are delivered in the form of my sister telling me my ass looks fat in my jeans, whether I ask for her opinion or not.
Commentary on my fat ass or bad breath I can handle, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the reality of personal feedback in the form of reviews for my novella, Reapers With Issues.
Before I begin I’d like to state that every reader who reviewed my work negatively did not condemn me personally for what I’d written, despite not particularly enjoying the book. I’ve read reviews of other books where the reviewer took the author to task, and I am happy to say I’ve been blessed with a classy group of readers who didn’t feel the need to blast me.
I guess what confounds me most is that I expected there to be more blow back for subject matter. Portraying Jesus as a closet homosexual and writing a scene where Genghis Khan violates a shi-tzu wasn’t going to win me an audience with the Pope, and I knew that going in. I also prepared myself for a critique of the quality of the writing itself, which as it turns out I didn’t receive much of. What I did get was essentially the same question, asked in so many words, of what kind of person could conceive of the Reapers idea at all. Again, good or bad depends entirely on what we see.
[enter the dreaded introspection process]
The first thing I did was try to answer the question of what kind of person I am. Despite an obscene amount of navel-gazing I am no closer to that answer now than I was when I began. My motivation to write Reapers With Issues was just as strong and the subject matter just as easy to conceptualize as Gods of Asphalt’s was, so identifying a specific default in thinking didn’t pan out. The truth is that I’ve got a hundred different stories buzzing around in my head; everything from harmless children’s stories to British comedies to even more Reapers sequels (oddly there’s nothing milling around in there that remotely smacks of Erotica, but that’s a post for another day after an hour on a couch).
So after an even more shameless bought of self-contemplation I began to ask myself a different question, “Why do any of us write what we write?”
Do we choose our genre or subject matter because of who we are, or because of what we make of the world around us? I imagine it’s no coincidence that Reapers With Issues was written during the darkest hours of a friend’s battle with cancer, or that Gods of Asphalt was written while stuck in bed, listening to my two teenaged sons bicker amongst themselves and argue with their father.
It is also not lost on me that I wrote Reapers With Issues from a third-person point-of-view, allowing me to observe at a distance the story of a Reaper whose best efforts to gather souls are thwarted by a Savior, or that the overall theme of Gods of Asphalt is how brothers cope when their mother isn’t around.
I suppose in the end what we choose to write comes from the harmony of both who we are and what we see. I’ve learned that whether my writing is received as harmony or dischord depends entirely on who’s doing the reading, and no amount of alteration of my “music” will accommodate everyone.
For the record, I’m fine with that. I am a Jazz fan, after all.
Yes, you are correct, it is my birthday. I know this to be true because I follow Edward Hotspur’s blog and El Guapo’s blog and Ginger’s blog and Sandy’s blog (as well as kind email wishes from Trask Avenue, LeClown, and many a sweet comment from my good friends John E. and PMAO). All better blogs than mine, because quite honestly I completely forgot it was my birthday until I read them. Wait…more to the truth I forgot again that it was my birthday since my kick-arse British friend Megan wished me a Happy Birthday the night before (suck it, HR and Elias. She beat you to it).
It’s been through these good people that I’ve made even more friends today, and perhaps have even sold a book or two. That being said, I am not sure mere words can describe what all your birthday wishes mean to me. Without knowing me personally, you may not understand what a Dickensian upbringing I had, and how kind words and well wishes I never received as a child mean the world to me now. You have all become my family, and I am grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for sharing my day.
For those of you who just can’t get enough of the holiday spirit, consider purchasing the collaborative blogger eBook:
ICONIC INTERVIEWS - The world’s most beloved holiday icons presented in a collection of irreverent interviews that take on the backstory of their imagined existences.
Your favorite bloggers are interviewed as iconic holiday characters, each one zanier than the next. All proceeds from the purchase of this book are donated to the bloggers collective project known as Wrists Around The World. For a free copy of this eBook as well as additional works from H.E. Ellis visit: www.wristsaroundtheworld.com
AVAILABLE IN EBOOK FORMAT THROUGH SMASHWORDS
AVAILABLE IN EBOOK FORMAT THROUGH AMAZON
AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK THROUGH AMAZON
I’D LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING BLOGGERS FOR THEIR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTION:
BrainRants as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Lipschitz the Elf
THANK YOU ALL AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!