(insert pithy rejoinder here)

Reapers With Issues

The Soundtrack to Characterization

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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.


BLOGSHORTS: The Dog Days of Summer

Shih-Tzu

Shih-TzuThe 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)

Lassie

Fluffy (Harry Potter)

Eddie Crane (Fraser)

Snoopy

Frank (MIB)

Blacktoe (Will Riker’s dog)

Odie (Garfield)

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:

1pointperspective

SteveBetz 

Joe’s Musings

Jtailele’s Blog

MC’s Whispers

Shouts from the Abyss

Lenore Diane

Fix it or Deal


Death Comes to New England

Newbury Comics

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

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ConnectiCon!

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connecticonNot only was the day I met Neil Gaiman one of the best days of my life, but it was the first half of what may have been the best weekend ever. That is because I spent the very next day rubbing elbows with some of the most die-hard fans ever to converge in one place- a massive, multi-genre gathering better known as…ConnectiCon.

That weekend, from now on known as the Pilgrimage of Awesome, began in New Hampshire where I journeyed east to Harvard Square, Boston- the place where I would meet and become best buds with Neil Gaiman. From there I traveled southwest to Hartford, Connecticut, the place of my birth and home of the comic extravaganza, ConnectiCon.

941424_469207396495513_935284982_nIt was there, amidst the historic and stately buildings of the insurance capital of the world, I found myself in a convention center surrounded by a throng all dressed as their favorite cartoon/comic/video game characters. Never in my life have I felt so out of place for not wearing fangs or serpent contact lenses (you all have no idea how angry I was to have forgotten my Jayne Cobb hat).

I’ll be honest with you and say that if a person wore anything other than a BrownCoat, I probably didn’t know who they were supposed to be. That’s how new I was to this sort of gathering. I was such a newbie, in fact, that I was chastised by HR Nightmare for not taking pictures of me meeting Marina Sirtis, and then later by our daughter for not getting the autograph of some dude called, “Fargo.” Both of these actors were pleasant and approachable despite the hoard of hangers-on converging into their booths, but I didn’t want to be a bother and ask for attention. From what I’ve learned, being a “bother” is what it’s all about.

176956_411314275603922_1134951588_oI would have to say that the highlight of my walking tour of weird was to a booth manned by a company specializing in Steampunk/Vampire wares known as Great American Gothic.

Not only was I impressed with the quality of their work, but their showmanship during the event was very entertaining as well.

Yeah, I’ll admit they suckered me in for a Chimera’s Blood flask which I then gave to Prince Charming, an avid flask collector himself. A little networking may have landed me a sweet deal for a line of custom flasks, all designed around the REAPERS WITH ISSUES novella series. I’d love to see each Horsemen get his own flask. How’s that for clever marketing?

ConnectiCon is by no means as big a deal as Comic-Con, the uber convention held yearly in San Diego, but I imagine it is still as fun and entertaining as anything the west coast has to offer (minus the crowds and price gauging), and I for one am very glad to have attended.

Now, if I could just convince Nathan Fillion to attend next year…


Jazz, Jesus and the 1 Star Review

jazz

jazzEvery 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.


F*ck Me – It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again

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I know I’m four days behind in this post, but better late than never as someone much more clever than I once said.

For those of you who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH which basically describes an online community of writers gathered together to practice their craft. You can create a page similar in style to Facebook where you connect with others and draw support from the world of writers.

Anyway, it’s NaNoWriMo time again, and I of course have signed up to fail. The good news here is that I have my second novella, REAPERS WITH FANGS to finish, so I am determined to be successful this year. Who wants to be my buddy and crash and burn succeed with me? I promise it will be a glorious disaster success!

H.E. ELLIS @ NaNoWriMo

If you’ve already joined up, leave a link to your NaNoWriMo page in the comments. For blog posts penned by folks far more dedicated to their craft than I, please visit:

TOM ELIAS

JOE HINOSA

VERY NORMAL

JENNIFER VAUGHN

SIPS OF JEN AND TONIC

OUT WHERE THE BUSES DON’T RUN


Reapers With Fangs

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Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the day is nearly here when we will unveil Book Two of the four book compilation series called REAPERS WITH FANGS. The sequel to Reapers With Issues follows the Grim Reaper on his journey through middle management Hell.

For those of you who have not read Book One of the series entitled, REAPERS WITH ISSUES but would like to purchase a copy visit www.wristsaroundtheworld.com where every purchase donates 100% of the profit to a great cause that you too can be a part of. Don’t forget to visit the REAPERS WITH ISSUES website and sign Grim’s DEATH BOOK. Now onto a preview of:

 

REAPERS WITH FANGS

 

Death’s bag landed with a thud, dumping its coconut scented contents and nearly a pound of beach sand onto the cold, office floor. “When was someone going to tell me about this?” Grim asked the three Horsemen scrambling to form a line in front of him.

“What ‘this’ are you referring to?” Famine asked, backing away slowly.

Grim stepped forward and shoved a pink, bubble gum scented memo into Famine’s bony hand. “THIS is what I’m referring to. This memo that’s nearly two weeks old. I count on you three to cue me into this kind of thing when I’m gone. I shouldn’t have had to hear this from Lucifer.”

Pestilence flinched at the word “Lucifer,” but said nothing. War looked to Famine who, after returning a stony glare, reluctantly answered. “No one wanted to bother you. We all agreed you needed the break.”

“So you thought waiting until I got back from vacation to walk into this mess was the better idea?” Grim asked as he snatched the memo from Famine’s hand and tossed it atop a monstrous stack of waiting paperwork.

“No, that’s not what we thought at all,” Famine explained. “We agreed we’d do some recon first and get a handle on who this Ashli person was before we decided whether or not you should worry.”

Grim startled. “Worry? Why? Who is she?”

Without saying a word Pestilence slowly lifted Grim’s mug off his desk and then went for coffee just as Famine produced a silver flask from deep inside his cloak.

“That good, huh?” Grim asked, not convinced he wanted to know.

“I’m not sure “good” is the word you want here,” Famine said as he poured a stream of red, viscous liquid into the steaming cup of coffee. Pestilence blew the billowing smoke away before handing the mug to Grim who promptly set it on the desk behind him.

“I’m not a Cherub, Fam. You don’t have to pussy foot around me. Just tell me straight out who this Ashli person is.”

Famine took a quick sip from the flask, steeling his courage before he spoke. “From what we’ve been able to gather Ashli is…well, let’s just say word around the Cloud is that the boss has got himself a new girlfriend.”

Grim stood frozen for a moment before he snatched the flask from Famine’s hand, tipped it back and sucked it dry.

“We’re still not sure what this is, so I see no reason to assume the worst,” Pestilence said in an attempt to put Grim at ease.

“Bunch of bullshit is what it is,” War blasted. “Give me five– no, four thousand real Reapers and we’ll take care of business no problem I guaran-fucking-tee it. We don’t need no Bible bitch tellin’ us how to do our jobs. We–”

Famine backhanded War into silence just as Grim dropped the flask to the floor. “Wait–what’s he talking about?” Grim asked, wide eyed. “What did he mean by, ‘telling us how to do our jobs?’”

Famine hung his head and sighed. “Yeah…I hadn’t gotten to that part yet.”

“So what are you saying?” Grim asked. “That I finally got Skippy and his shih-tzu out of my department and now….now I’ve got the girlfriend setting up shop here? Are you telling me she is actually in command of the OHD??” Grim’s shocked reaction forced his eyeballs to pop out of his skull and roll along the floor.

Famine picked the eyes and his flask up and set them all on the desk. “I’m afraid that’s the way it looks,” he reluctantly replied.

“Well that’s just fucking great,” Grim said as he ripped off his best tanned meat suit, stopping short of revealing a heart-shaped tattoo with the words Fran Forever emblazoned across the bicep. A tattoo that for the life of him Grim could not recall getting. “I need to sort this shit out so give me a few minutes alone, please. Pronto.”

Famine nodded and then led the Horsemen out of the office. As soon as he was alone Grim headed straight to the closet to change into his regular uniform. His official cloak, Grim decided, would put him in the right frame of mind to deal with the fact that once again, God pulled the rug out from under him.

As Grim slid on the heavy, black robe he set to putting this new dilemma into perspective. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, he thought. Anything had to be better than Jesus and his Reaper disaster. After all, the Big Guy never kept a woman for long, and he was sure it would only be a matter of time before this new one grew tired of his continued absence. Running the Universe for an eternity isn’t the nine to five job most women think it is.

Still, there was reason for concern. Even though this wasn’t the first time God took a mate, it was the first time in at least two thousand years he’d been this public about it. As Grim could recall, Lucifer was the reason behind God’s last romantic debacle. Grim wondered just how deep into Ashli’s pie his demon colleague’s fingers were, and just how bad the blowback to the OHD might be if God found out.

His mind racing with new concerns, Grim threw open the office doors and called for his Horsemen. “Have any of you spoken to Lucifer yet?” Grim asked once they arrived. “He’s the one who forwarded the memo. He’s got to know how this happened.”

“We…didn’t think it was such a good idea,” Famine tentatively began. “We didn’t know how much of this action originated from the Southern offices, you know, considering how Jesus’ Reaper solution went down.”

Grim ran a bony hand back and forth along his spinal column. “I do know what you mean, but it seems like a lot of risk, even for Lucifer. This isn’t Jesus and his shih-tzu we’re talking about, this is the Big Man and his woman. Anyone remember Lilith?”

“Come on, Boss,” War interjected around a wad of chew. “You know you can’t trust ol’ whistle britches, especially when there’s a female involved. Don’t matter who she is. He nails ‘em faster than Jesus to a cross.”

Hearing his Horseman echo his thoughts reinforced Grim’s suspicion of Lucifer’s role in Ashli’s sudden appearance at the OHD. Determined to get answers, Grim reached for a phone that rang as he grabbed it. “Hello?”

“Why Grim! You’re back!” Lucifer announced with mock cheerfulness. “What’s the good news?”

“You tell me. I’ve been skull deep in sand for the past two weeks.”

“Hmm…how very odd. I’d have thought your ponies would have alerted you to the magnitude of the situation by now.”

Grim shot his Horsemen a look of death as he spoke. “Never mind all that and just answer a question for me. Did you have something to do with this Ashli bullshit or not?”

“Hold your Horses,” Lucifer snickered. “The answer’s no, I had nothing to do with this. Although I wish I had, because this is more glorious than any plan I could have concocted.”

“Plan? What fucking plan are you talking about?”

A sudden, thunderous crash resonated throughout the office followed by a sulfurous puff of smoke. Lucifer appeared at Grim’s side. “Sorry about the theatrics Grimmie old boy, but I just had to be here when you got the news.”

Grim rubbed his skinless temples in exasperation. “Fuck the news and just get to the plan.”

An expression that was both gleeful and menacing at once took hold of Lucifer’s face as he stared into Grim’s and said, “I can sum up the plan in one word-

Vampires…

FOR MORE REAPERS VISIT:

http://www.reaperswithissues.com

TO BE PART OF A GLOBAL PROJECT AND GOOD CAUSE VISIT:

http://www.wristsaroundtheworld.com


CALLING ALL WRITERS/AUTHORS/BLOGGERS!!!

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Now that I’ve got your attention I’d like to make you aware of an ongoing project I’ve been spearheading that I am hoping you’ll want to be a part of. It’s a project to benefit a cause that’s close to my heart called LIBSTRONG, a community of friends who have gathered together in support of Libby, a dear young friend who is battling cancer.

We’ve put together a surprise project called WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD not only to raise money but to raise her spirits as she battles her illness. Keep reading to find out what it’s all about and to learn how you too can be involved:

From the WATW site:

Our latest endeavor is called WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD- a fun global project designed for people everywhere to show their support for Libby and her battle against cancer. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike are invited to purchase her LIBSTRONG wristbands and then snap pictures of their wrists against an iconic landmark of their city, state or hometown. Once the photo is taken it is emailed to us and then posted to our GALLERY.

The message behind our project is to show the world how Libby’s strength and determination touch more than just those around her. Her positivity reaches around the world!

When sending a picture please include information noting where the picture was taken. We would be happy to post your name or a link to your blog, although that is not necessary and we will respect all wishes for anonymity. We are requesting snapshots be of wrists wearing wristbands only, so even the most camera shy supporter feels comfortable enough to be involved.

LIBSTRONG wristbands are available for sale individually or in package deals combined with items donated from various blog supporters. Visit our MAKE A DIFFERENCE page for information on how to purchase the package that’s right for you!

To be a part of WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD send your snapshot to:

wristsaroundtheworld@gmail.com

I am asking my fellow bloggers everywhere to purchase at least one wristband not only to raise some much needed money for Libby’s cause, but to show her your support from your very own hometown. Package prices include shipping within the United States only. Since I would like the wristbands to actually go around the world, I would be willing to donate both of my ebooks for free to anyone outside of the United States who purchases even just one LIBSTRONG wristband to offset the cost of shipping which would be the responsibility of the purchaser.

As of the writing of this post, Libby doesn’t know about this project. We’d like to get as many pics around the world as possible and then reveal her site as a gift.

As for my part in the WRISTS AROUND THE WORLD project I’ve decided to donate both my REAPERS WITH ISSUES and THE GODS OF ASPHALT ebooks and paperbacks to be included in wristband package deals. I am also including the blog compilation project F*CKED UP FAIRY TALES for donation once it is completed. Each contributing author’s name of that work will receive an honorary mention on the FRIENDS OF LIBSTRONG page with links to their blogs.

Additionally, if you are an author you can contribute by donating your own books for package deals to be included on their site. For ebooks simply donate a free coupon for your book that others may purchase to raise money for our cause. For information on paperback donations, please contact wristsaroundtheworld@gmail.com for more details.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to stop by Wrists Around The World!

www.wristsaroundtheworld.com


Holy Jayne It’s Firefly!

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Attention all you shiny folks from the ‘Verse! Today is the tenth anniversary of the first episode of the uber series that hardly was, FIREFLY. You don’t have to be a Joss Whedon fan to appreciate his dystopian western turned cult-classic.

For anyone who’s read my novella REAPERS WITH ISSUES and enjoyed the antics of a horseman named War, you may want to pay close attention to a character named Jayne Cobb.

Here’s a big thank you to a young uber fan-friend of mine for her awesome video below.


Holy Gay Soap Box

I had planned to run a silly interview in support of my book REAPERS WITH ISSUES today that featured God and Jesus, but have since changed my mind. Because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a way to write the interview that didn’t come off as offensive. This bothered me more than I had expected it to. For what it’s worth, here’s why.

I was raised in a strict Roman Catholic household that adhered to every dogmatic practice you’ve likely heard of. Naturally that formed some of the rebellious attitude I have adopted in my adult life. Despite all that oppression I did take away some of the good, namely the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Now, before you get all concerned that I am going to show up on your doorstep in a toga, let me explain. Throughout my childhood I was taught that Jesus was delivered to Earth by God because he felt mankind was drifting both morally and spiritually. I was taught that Jesus wanted everyone to love each other, to help each other and to practice tolerance. As I became an adult, I discovered that the name of God, and specifically Jesus, was used as a weapon of moral judgment by some against others. To me, this flies in the face of everything I was taught that Jesus stood for.

When I decided to write REAPERS I knew that I would have to face the obstacle of characterizing Jesus. I did some research and a lot of reading and came to the conclusion through what I’d found that Jesus was either portrayed as completely sinless or terribly flawed. Neither one of those polarized examples fit my image of Christ, so instead I went with “grown home-schooler.” I chose this defining character trait for Jesus because he sees only the good in others, and believes all humans are as capable of love and forgiveness as he is. He soon discovers in my book that he is very, very wrong.

The reason I’ve elected to revamp this post is because my dear friend and blogger (who shall remain anonymous until he gives me permission to update this post with his name) passed along some eloquent words on the topic of Gay Military marriage that I felt compelled to share. I believe his thoughts sum up why I was reluctant to post my tongue-in-cheek interview with the son of God. I am confident, however, that readers will be as moved by his words as I was.

 *****

“I’ve found that rational, sound thinking individuals aren’t threatened by gay marriage or gays in the military. It is people raised on fear and hatred and ashamed of themselves that have the most problem with any other person’s pride, confidence or overt contentment. I wonder how many people realize that the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War was a gay man.

Being gay and being a good soldier, citizen, or person aren’t mutually exclusive, though the hate mongers make a point of grouping all gays in the same ranks as criminals, pedophiles, and the lower immoral elements of our society. That old saying that “no man is free until all men are free” isn’t just about slavery. The USA consistently touts its greatness and how we who live here are free. This society is no more free and egalitarian then those who actively subjugate their people and it is just as likely to force individuals to perform in ways that are detrimental to themselves as well as their fellow countrymen and women. If the Christian God is so busy protecting the people of America over any others on this planet, why is it our current situation as a country is so fucked up? Allowing same sex couples to have happiness is such a trivial issue it boggles the minds of sane people at how the issue has captured the minds and sick thinking of so many simpletons.

Just as Nazis found scapegoats among Jews, gypsies, intellectuals, and gays our country is now plagued with right wing extremists who strive to thrive by applying ugly pressures to those who are willing to question their radically bigoted agenda. An insidious virus has brainwashed a sizable amount of the American population to accept violence and bigotry as normal and believe that love is to be denied to any but the supposedly chosen.”


Interview With…Lucifer

In my world, Lucifer looks a lot like Colin Farrell.

In my world, Lucifer looks a lot like Colin Farrell.

Today’s REAPER WITH ISSUES interview comes to you live from scenic downtown Hell, because today we sit down with none other than the Devil himself, Lucifer.

HE: Good morning, Lucifer. You look nice today.

LUCIFER: *runs hands over Italian silk suit* Yes, yes I do. And might I say that you look lovely as well. I cannot remember the last time I saw polyester blend worn so tastefully.

***

HE: *sighs* How was your trip to Earth? I noticed you didn’t travel by bus the way the Horsemen did.

LUCIFER: I will admit there are certain perks to being an Archangel. The ability to apparate is one of them.

***

HE: That’s right…I almost forgot. You are an Angel. So does that mean you are lacking in the… “meat department” or is that just a rumor?

LUCIFER: Let me be clear- I am an Archangel and as a rule we do not have “junk” as it were. Sadly, when my Father reassigned me to Hell he equipped me with said apparatus as a punishment. His plan worked beautifully, as this particular appendage is more work than it’s worth.

***

HE: You’ve stated that you were “reassigned” to Hell by your Father. Is there any truth to the rumor that this demotion came from a falling out over a woman?

LUCIFER: Oh how little birds love to chirp.

HE: So, I take it you aren’t going to answer the question?

LUCIFER: My lips are sealed.

***

HE: Alright, moving on. What confounds you most about mortals?

LUCIFER: Your overwhelming desire to know the sexual predilections of others. The mind boggles at the effort put toward investigating the bedroom habits of your would be politicians. These same politicians then refuse to represent the rights of their constituents based on their sexual predilections. How you mortals manage to accomplish anything is beyond my comprehension.

***

HE: On that note, if you were mortal, what job would you want to have?

LUCIFER: Literary Agent.

***

HE: No explanation necessary. Tell me, is it hard working for God?

LUCIFER: Working for my Father? Oh what to say, what to say… I suppose when inspected in the proper light the idea of working for God may seem appealing, but I haven’t found that to be necessarily true.

HE: Really? In what way?

LUCIFER: The man lacks vision, for starters. The first thing I would do if I were to take over Heaven is rewrite the Bible. Too many contradictions. No wonder mortals are confused as to what is expected of them.

***

HE: Rewrite the Bible. Interesting. So now tell me- what do you think of the Horsemen?

LUCIFER: Ugh. You want to talk about the ponies. *sighs* So be it. Where do I begin? Pestilence is an insufferable know it all, Famine is a stickler for standards, War is a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen and Grim, well…Grim has his moments.

***

HE: Your dream date is?

LUCIFER: Bjork. There’s a lot of pent up hostility in that frigid little body. I’d love to melt her-

***

HE: Got it. Pick one- Beatles or Elvis?

LUCIFER: Why the Beatles, of course. The late great Mr. Lennon sent Jesus off the deep end with one simple statement. I’ve always admired him for that.

***

HE: Favorite sports team?

LUCIFER: I am sad to say that I am a former fan of Tampa Bay Rays baseball. They disappointed me a few years ago. I haven’t forgotten.

***

HE: Where do you see yourself in five years?

LUCIFER: North Korea.

***

HE: What would mortals be most surprised to learn about you?

LUCIFER: I refute the claim the a fore mentioned politicians have made that I, indeed, am the entity to blame for their succumbing to their baser instincts. No such whispering into ears was committed by me or any of my demon henchmen. We simply do not have the time.

That concludes our interview with the Lord of the Underworld, Lucifer. Stay tuned tomorrow for back to back interviews with God and his golden boy, Jesus!


Interview With…War

War

HE: Today we sit down with everyone’s favorite Horseman, War. Good morning, War. How was your trip to Earth?

WAR: Freakin’ awesome!  I missed the bus transfer in Purgatory, so I had to walk a some, but then this carful of female rodeo clowns gave me a ride in.  Say…do I have white makeup anywhere fun?

***

HE: *struggling not to look* What confounds you most about mortals?

WAR: Uh…nothin’.  Well, I guess sometimes I wonder why they go and hack and bludgeon the shit outta one another.  Y’all are so fucking good at it, I almost don’t need to try.

***

HE: Where is your favorite place to reap?

WAR: Battlefields, hands-down, and the bloodier the better.  Your inner cities aren’t bad these days either, on a small scale.

***

HE: If you were mortal, what job would you want to have?

WAR: Shoot, do we have time for my list?  Porn star – that’s an obvious one.  I was thinkin’ doctor since I ain’t scared a blood. But the good kinda doctor like one of them Gyno…cogo-ologists, you know, the kind that looks at lady parts. Not one of them human butthole doctors. That shit ain’t right.  I was also thinking a vet might be awesome but only because I think the idea of having your entire arm up an elephant’s ass is fucking hilarious… [actually rolls on floor laughing]

***

HE: Has a mortal ever escaped you?

WAR: Just one. Fucking Lazarus. I’ve had some reclassified out of my reach, like Caesar.  He got too big for his Rubicon-wading britches, so he got moved from my domain over to Grim’s.  Same with Napoleon, that little Frog pantywaist.  You might think Saddam Hussein escaped me by livin’ all up in his own asshole there, but in the end, that was MY noose.

***

HE: What’s the most negative aspect of wearing a meat suit?

WAR: There ain’t no downside, Sugar Britches (winks).  Uh, they’re kind of fragile.  Do you know how fucking painful bending your boner is? [shudders] Maybe the random need to back out a stinker.

***

HE: Is it hard working for God?

WAR: Fuck yes!  Think about it: “Now War, you’re supposed to go and reap souls lost to conflict… but don’t be too messy… and don’t break shit… and don’t be too noisy, I’m resting… and that blood will stain, so don’t get it on you!”  Seriously, I’d rather be married to a Human woman with control issues.

***

HE: Is Lucifer as bad as they say?

WAR: Lucifer is a card-carrying dickwad.  If he weren’t one of them special creations of God, I’dve pummeled the piss out of his silk-suit-wearing panzie ass millennia ago.  What I hate about Lu is that he won’t just come out and fuck with you like a man.  He’s got to be all passive-aggressive and shit, so you’re just cruising along thinking the everything is cool and BAM! You’re asking yourself, “Hey, how’d this dick get all the way up my ass?”

***

HE: What do you have to say about the Mayans?

WAR: Oooooh!  Those are so good with cheese!  Or fried!  I once had them barbecued and then smothered with pilates.  Fuck, I’m hungry.  Is there a taco place close?

***

HE: Your dream date is?

WAR: You.  Those puppies real?

HE: [ahem] Can you just answer the question?

WAR:  Guess I shoulda worn the tattooed rocker meatsuit.  I’ll say my dream date was Catherine the Great.  You think that story about her dying underneath her horse was true?  The only thing close to being horse-like in that rumor was my epic fuckin’ …

***

HE: Alright, alright, moving on. Beatles or Elvis?

WAR: Fuck that hippy shit. I’m straight up old school metal dude, er, dudette. I do my best reapin’ to Disturbed. They ain’t metal but I love that shit.  Makes me want to go hack something with a dull blade. Or bone them in half…

***

HE: Favorite sports team?

WAR: You know the Mongols used to have this brutal sport played on horseback… I don’t know.  I have to admire teams that suck ass but have loyal fans.  The Red Sox come to mind.  I hang out with fans mainly for the fun, and of course cheerleaders.

***

HE: Where do you see yourself in five years?

WAR: Kicking ass and taking names, baby.  Humans are always coming up with new reasons to go schwack each other, and yours truly will be there to enjoy the fuckery.

***

HE: What would mortals be most surprised to learn about you?

WAR: I have a sensitive side… no shit.  One time, I was out reaping and there was this little kid who got shot.  So I was all, like, “Aww, that’s sad,” and then I jerked his little soul out – *ssschwaap* – just like that.  Sensitive an’ shit.

***

This concludes our sit down with War, the last of our interviews with The Four Horsemen. Stay tuned tomorrow for our exclusive on site interview in Hell with the ever stylish, ever evil, Lucifer. Then we’ll round out our weekend with an interview with the Big Man himself, God and his favorite son, Jesus! Stay tuned…


Interview With…Pestilence

HE: Today’s interview has us sitting down with Creeping Death himself, Pestilence. Good morning, Pestilence. How was your trip to Earth?

PEST: Good morning, Miss Ellis. Considering I had to get a bus transfer, it wasn’t bad.  Once you make the transdimensional leap from Purgatory to the mortal realm several times, it’s old-hat.  Little known fact: Purgatory started as a sort of safe zone for travel from Earth to and from either Heaven or Hell.  It’s a sort of pressurization chamber, like divers use.

***

HE: What confounds you most about mortals?

PEST: Body odor [makes face].  I have no idea how God managed to create Humans in his image yet chose to have them excrete smelly substances.  And this is coming from me, the Bacteria and Virus King.  Eew [shudders].

***

HE: Where is your favorite place to reap?

PEST: Tropical climates are by far the best for reaping within my domain.  I mean really, I almost don’t have to do anything except follow the molds and fungi around and pick up after them.

***

HE: If you were mortal, what job would you want to have?

PEST: Oh, I don’t know.  I’m not sure I could be mortal and sit in my own cloud of stench all day.  In fact I need a shower now.  But I’ll be fair and answer your question.  I guess perhaps a lab technician at the CDC.  That or a postal worker.

***

HE: Has a mortal ever escaped you?

PEST: Yes and fiddlesticks!  Those Humans are so goshdarned clever that sometimes I think they’d do a better job than I would at reaping a la Pestilence.  Do you know why viruses mutate?  [waits for answer]

HE: Oh, you’re actually asking me [rolls eyes] – why do viruses mutate?

PEST: They mutate because I’m constantly having to make new strains to keep ahead of your best efforts to counter me.

***

HE: What’s the most negative aspect of wearing a meat suit?

PEST: Body odor.  I’m sorry, am I obsessive here?  A little Freudy-Doidy? Haaa ha  hah ha… ahem.  But seriously, body odor.  I also tend to be very disturbed by no-reason boners.

***

HE: Is it hard working for God?

PEST: I’d like to say yes, and I’d like to say no.  The sad truth is, he tends to come up with awesome creations but then inserts middle managers between him and his creation when he finds it too difficult to manage.  So for in-the-trenches marks of performance, I have to give him an ‘F.’  However, for his strategic vision, nobody beats him.

***

HE: Is Lucifer as bad as they say?

PEST: He’s a doodie head.  He does wear nice clothes though.

***

HE: What do you have to say about the Mayans?

PEST: I’d say they were pretty susceptible to infection just like everyone else.

***

HE: Your dream date is?

PEST: Hmm… so many to choose from.  I think the day the Black Death started in Europe has to be number one, and the Spanish Flu thing there I did wasn’t bad either…

What?  Oh THAT kind of date… uhm, well… I’ve never been on a date [hangs head].
***
HE: Beatles or Elvis?

PEST: Oh, I’m sorry.  Neither?  Okay, truth is I love classical music.  You Humans got that right.  I like most of what your composers created, and I am particularly taken by the Baroque artists.  Rock and roll sounds like… sweaty Humans.

***

HE: Favorite sports team?

PEST: I’m not really into sports so much.  I like watching Kasparov play chess – now that is exciting!

***

HE: Where do you see yourself in five years?

PEST: Reaping, of course, but can I sort of qualify that?  Okay.  I want to be better at what I do in five years, you know.  Like perhaps I’ll make a better form of Ebola.  It just kills me that after all that time and effort, that virus is only about 95% lethal.  I think I can get it up into the high 98% range.  Sometimes I secretly dream of creating some whole new type of pandemic… I mean, there’s bacteria and there are viruses… what if there was a whole new thing out there.  I have dreams too!

***

HE: What would mortals be most surprised to learn about you?

PEST: I like to collect stamps, and macramé.

***

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with the Reaper better known as Pestilence. Tune in tomorrow when we sit down with everyone’s favorite Horseman, War. Stick around this weekend when we’ll be sitting down to chat with some of the upper (and lower) members of the Office of Heavenly Affairs. Until then, stay well and avoid the Reaper!


Interview With…Famine

famine

HE: We continue our interviews with the mysterious Horseman known as Famine. Good morning, Famine. How was your trip to Earth?

FAMINE: You assume I left, ha, that’s… that’s funny.  I haven’t gotten away from Earth in what seems like eons.  Just when I think I might get away, some jack-hole gets me involved in another bunch of crap that I can’t delegate out and I can’t pass on higher up the chain.  Story of my fucking life… uh, death… existence.

***

HE: What confounds you most about mortals?

FAMINE: Toy dogs.  Fucking ‘Toy’ dog breeds.  The women and gay guys carrying these things around are the same ones freaking out and jumping up on chairs when they see rats and mice.  What the hell, man?  And cocaine.  Why the hell would anyone want to do ANYTHING faster and with more sweating?

***

HE: Where is your favorite place to reap?

FAMINE: Depends, easiest or most fun?  Easiest: L.A.  Just ask a broad if she’s expecting or if she just had a baby, *BAM*, job is done for you!  Not only will she stop eating, she’ll puke up Thanksgiving dinner from three years ago!  Most fun?  Suburbs of Atlanta.  Have you ever watched a 350 pound guy looking at a plate of ribs or chicken and waffles and suddenly realize he isn’t hungry?  Funny as shit!  They get mad.  Rumplestiltskin mad.  I could do that all day!

***

HE: If you were mortal, what job would you want to have?

FAMINE: Sales associate at Abercrombie. Every time some skinny bitch walked out of the dressing room I could say, “Uhm, Honey, you want me to get you the next size up?” I think I could be pretty happy with that.

***

 
HE: Has a mortal ever escaped you?

FAMINE: Victoria Beckham.  But the game ain’t over yet.

***

HE: What’s the most negative aspect of wearing a meat suit?

FAMINE: Grooming.  I mean, the showering, the cleaning, the de-stinking.  Really a lot of work.

***

 
HE: Is it hard working for God?

FAMINE: A boss is a boss is a boss, you know?  They give you bottom lines and you’re just supposed to run with them.  My budget barely not-feeds the westernized world!  Don’t get me started on trying to juggle maternity leave rotations for those slutty Succubi!

***

 
HE: Is Lucifer as bad as they say?

FAMINE: No.  We get each other.  He’s got a job to do, he’s got to get it done on time and under budget just like the rest of us.

***

 
HE: What do you have to say about the Mayans?

FAMINE: Fucking nutty.  I mean, I like a good party, but, to quote a well known space cowboy, “Eating people alive? Where’s that get fun?”

***
HE: Your dream date is?

FAMINE: Tina Majorino.  Freaking adorable, I love her.  She’d finally notice me, in the bushes, with the camera and be all like, “Hey! Are you the one sending me those letters? You wanna hit the Olive Garden with me?”.  And I’d be like, “Olive Garden?  Really?”.  And there would be this split second of us looking at each other and we’d both screech out “UNLIMITED BREAD STICKS, SUCKER!”  It would be awesome, you know?  Magic…

***

HE: Beatles or Elvis?

FAMINE: Uhg.  Uhm, Elvis, if I had to choose.  If I got to pick, Cheap Trick.  I’ll take Elvis because Zander kicked ass on Don’t Be Cruel.  Why always Beatles or Elvis? Beatles or Stones?  What about The Clash or Abba?  Iron Maiden or Prince?

***

HE: Favorite sports team?

FAMINE: The Eagles.

***

 
HE: Where do you see yourself in five years?

FAMINE: Probably doing the same fucking job, but with a three and a half percent increase in pay, those cheap mother-fuckers…

***

 
HE: What would mortals be most surprised to learn about you?

FAMINE: Hmm.  Not sure… Oh!  Okay, I got one!  No one ever believes me, but I had nothing to do with Karen Carpenter.  Seriously, that was all just fucked up psyche and shit.  Hell, do you have any idea what I went through over that?  Jesus loved her.  I swear, that’s the reason I haven’t even been considered for a promotion!  Hell! I was sending her fruitcakes and candy grams just to save my own ass!  And I do I ever get the credit for Mama Cass?

***

That concludes our interview with the Horsemen known as Famine. Tune in tomorrow when we sit down with Creeping Death himself, Pestilence, followed by War on Thursday and a special mystery guest on Friday. We round out the weekend with back to back interviews with the Big Man himself, God on Saturday and a one on one exclusive with Jesus on Sunday. Stay tuned!


Interview With…Death

Grim

In an effort to promote my latest work entitled REAPERS WITH ISSUES I’ve decided to devote the next four days to interviewing my favorite middle management employees, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

We’ll begin the first of our interviews with the man beneath the cloak. We’ll discuss what it’s like working for God, his views on intra-office politics and yes, even his love life.

Today I sit down with none other than Death himself, THE GRIM REAPER.

***

HE: Good morning, Grim. How was your trip to Earth?

GRIM: Fine, I suppose, considering I traveled here by bus. Wouldn’t you know I sat next to a guy who had just come from an Oktoberfest somewhere. Nothing like sitting next to a fat man with bratwurst farts.

 

HE: Bus?? But I thought you were one of the Four HORSEmen?

GRIM: You’re right; I am, but since God promoted Gabriel to Head of the Archangel Board our department’s equine budget has been “reallocated” south, if you know what I mean.

 

HE: South? Are you talking about Hell?

GRIM: Look, I don’t want to be the guy who trash talks other department heads, but between you and me let’s just say that Lucifer’s productivity doesn’t jive with the funds flowing his way. It’s good to have a big brother in high places is all I’ve got to say on the matter.

 

HE: Alright, moving on. What confounds you most about mortals?

GRIM: I’d have to say it’s your obsession with your appearance. A mortal’s lifespan is over in a flash, and yet you feel the need to spend your money on useless beauty procedures. If you only knew what you looked like without your skin, you wouldn’t bother. Trust me.

 

HE: Where is your favorite place to reap?

GRIM: Canada. The friendliest mortals come from there. The beer’s not bad either, eh?

 

HE: If you were mortal, what job would you want to have?

GRIM: Gloucesterman, hands down. Nothing sounds better to me than a solitary life of peace and tranquility on the sea. Plus all you can eat lobster. Hmm…pass the buttah.

 

HE: Has a mortal ever escaped you?

GRIM: Never. Although over the years Dick Clark has given me the slip a couple of times.

 

HE: What’s the most negative aspect of wearing a meat suit?

GRIM: Meat suits are extremely high maintenance. I’ve yet to find one that didn’t have something wrong with it. They’re hot, they leak and they fall apart easily. And did I mention the smell?

 

HE: Is it hard working for God?

GRIM: God? Uh…no, not really. I’d say the biggest problem is working for the idiots he puts in charge; namely his sons. They bicker constantly; spend money on themselves, barely show up to work and help themselves to the Heavenly budget just to name a few things. Not to mention that each one thinks he’s the boss when the Big Man’s not around. Typical family business horseshit. Oops! Sorry…horse-puckies.

 

HE: Is Lucifer as bad as they say?

GRIM: Only if you are a mortal. I was reaping amoebas while he was still in his Father’s good graces, so he’s not too intimidating to me. He’s sort of like a splinter, not lethal- but irritating.

 

HE: What do you have to say about the Mayans?

GRIM: One of Lucifer’s practical jokes. Just ignore him or he’ll keep it up.

 

HE: Your dream date is?

GRIM: A certain special lady, a certain Latin meat suit, and a month in the Bahamas. In fact I’m leaving on a trip there as soon as I’m finished with this interview.

 

HE: Beatles or Elvis?

GRIM: Coltrane.

 

HE: Favorite sports team?

GRIM: Anyone but the Raiders. Those a-holes don’t know when to die.

 

HE: Where do you see yourself in five years?

GRIM: If all goes to plan, running my department. I recently managed to cut loose some dead weight so I think things should be running smoothly once I get back from the Bahamas.

 

HE: What would mortals be most surprised to learn about you?

GRIM: That I have feelings just like everyone else. Being Death isn’t easy, you know. Please don’t fear me.

***

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with the Grim Reaper. Tune in Tuesday when we sit down with the Horseman better known as Famine, followed by Pestilence on Wednesday and War on Thursday. Stick around this weekend when we’ll be sitting down to chat with some of the upper (and lower) members of the Office of Heavenly Affairs. Until then, stay well avoid the Reaper!


Interview With…ME?!?

RWI1COVERfront

The enigmatic Tom Elias has insisted on doing an interview with me, of all people, in tandem with the release of our book, REAPERS WITH ISSUES. I’ll warn you, this interview is not one of the usual freaktastic Adventures in Bloggerland that I usually like to take. For once I decided to act like a grown-up and answer his questions like a professional. But never fear, because tomorrow my blog returns to its regularly scheduled blog absurdity with an INTERVIEW WITH THE GRIM REAPER.

1.   Your first book, Gods of Asphalt, was told in a First Person format.  How difficult was it to shift into Third Person to pen Reapers With Issues, and what was your motivation to do this?

Switching gears was extremely difficult, which is the reason why I did it. I attempted to write GODS OF ASPHALT – BOOK TWO in the third person but struggled to make progress since I’d never tackled that POV before. I had also planned on writing REAPERS in the third-person because as much as the story is about the Grim Reaper, I was committed to the idea that it should revolve around the odd cast of characters. I suppose in the end I decided it would be better to write REAPERS first since it is a novella and I could use the practice before tackling the novel that is to be GOA2.

2.  You’re a self-described 40-something mother of three.  What techniques do you use when crafting your writing day to day that keeps you so well focused on the plot and storyline?

I find it difficult to focus on anything in my day to day life whether I write or not, so I whenever I do I put on my headphones and listen to music. It’s why GODS OF ASPHALT has its own soundtrack written into it. I listened to a lot of Wagner, Mussorgsky and Metallica while I wrote REAPERS.
Another thing I like to do is to carry a Sharpie around with me wherever I go. As soon as I am out and about an idea will hit me that I need to jot down quickly, so I write it on my forearm. I will just misplace scrap paper so I don’t bother bringing any. I’ve tried texting myself, but most of the walks I take are deep into the New Hampshire forests, and I rarely get cell reception there. Not to mention that I am a Gen X’er, so the art of texting is lost on me.

3.  Many readers will probably be offended by the Reapers Series.  What is your message behind the irreverence?

I never doubted I would write REAPERS, but I did debate over whether or not I would publish it. I was afraid that if people only read snippets or heard what it was about they might think that I set out to slam Christianity, namely Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. I took great care in portraying Jesus as who he was purported to be- kind, compassionate, and tolerant. It’s the rest of the world who uses his good name to lend credence to their own sinning. REAPERS blasts the Hell out of those people, and I couldn’t care less how they feel about it.

Another misgiving I had was that REAPERS WITH ISSUES is as close to a written manifestation of my sense of humor as you could possibly get. Since I don’t take myself too seriously, I am hoping readers don’t find anything remotely serious about my book or the message behind it.
4.  You favor using dialogue over exposition to advance your stories. What makes this your favored technique and what do you feel you sacrifice?

I am an extrovert, so I find comfort and familiarity in the voices of others. I do live in my head at times, but when I do I am always eager to share what goes on in there with others, whether they want to know about it or not. Case in point, REAPERS WITH ISSUES.

I suppose what suffers most is either action or plot. Maybe both. The largest obstacle I face when I write is ensuring that my books are more than just a bunch of comedy skits strung together.

5.  What is the most challenging aspect of the mechanics of writing for you, and how do you overcome it?

DIALOGUE TAGS!!!! I hate them with every fiber of my being. If I thought for a moment that I could get away with writing a novel that existed as nothing more than an overheard telephone conversation I’d be the happiest little writer in the world.

The other obstacle of mechanics I faced with REAPERS was writing an inverse of what I normally consider my comfort zone. As anyone who has read my blog will tell you; I am a writer who takes something commonplace and mocks it, pointing out the hidden absurd. What I worked to accomplish in REAPERS was to take something fantastic, and transform it into something that resembled the everyday in order to make it absurd. To quote my cohort Tom Elias, “That’s about as natural as a quarterback throwing off his back foot.”

6.  There is art and science involved in writing.  What is your favorite aspect of writing in the context of its art?

As a writer in the twenty-first century, it is impossible to come up with anything new, plot-wise. That leaves us with the challenge of conceiving of something new. All any writer can do is take a spent storyline and put a new spin on it to make it their own. If a writer can bring their own perspective to their writing they will create something no one has ever read before.

7.  Ten years from now, what is H.E. Ellis writing?

Children’s books. I find that the older I get, the more enamored I become with all things innocent. I’m slowly beginning to abandon the angst of teendom while I am fast embracing the playground. Yes, I am a literary Benjamin Button. Although I imagine I will always take time out to write something completely out there like REAPERS WITH ISSUES, because if I have to know about it, then so do all of you.


REAPERS WITH ISSUES

RWI1COVERfront

My Dear Earth Friend,

I know this proposal letter might be a pleasant surprise to you as we don’t know ourselves before. I am from Earth born 25 years ago, now seeking asylum in Purgatory under (OHD). I contacted you as a cause of my serious search for a reliable and trust worthy person that can handle such a confidential transaction of this nature.

My Late father former Defense Minister under the regime Ex president of Hell, but was assassinated by the rebels during the civil war and properties destroyed, but I narrowly escaped with some very important documents entitled REAPERS WITH ISSUES valued at $4.99 of U.S Dollars deposited by my late father in a high financial company here in Purgatory. Other items of a virtual nature are valued at $1.99 U.S Dollars to be hidden inside devices such as Kindles or Nooks.

However, I seek with the problem of securing a trust worthy foreign blog personality like you to help me transfer these documents pending when I will come over to your Earth for us to meet for investment of the money. On commencement of this transaction I want to let you understand that the future of myself and of my fellow document experts H.E. Ellis, S. Quinn Shaw, Tom Elias and Mikhail Vlakfeld and depends solely on this money. So please keep this business to yourself only to avoid raise eye brow of any third party aliens.

I am eagerly expecting your urgent response.

Yours Sincerely,

Abaniye Adophe Mikopka-Reaper


A Message From Death…

Your Name Here

In honor of the release of REAPERS WITH ISSUES the Grim Reaper will generously donate one free customized gravestone (500 x 700 pixels) to anyone who signs his Death Book. Send your request to reaperswithissues@ymail.com making sure to include a return email address.


And The Super Secret Project Is…

Grim Gravatar

The story behind my Super Secret Project begins like any good story begins; with lobster and beer. Or as they say in Portland, Maine where my good friend and partner in crime Tom Elias lives, “Lobstah and a rack a pounders.”

It was during this fateful drunken weekend spent at his beach house with my best friend Quinn and the infamous HR Nightmare that my latest writing project was born. That project, ladies and gentlemen, is a four novella collaborative series entitled:

REAPERS WITH ISSUES

LOCATION: Earth

YEAR: 2012, mainly

POPULATION: 7 billion Human souls and counting…

From Purgatory –

The Grim Reaper and other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse are stretched to their limits reaping souls, and more drop dead every day.  With his department near the breaking point, Grim requests a team of five thousand Lesser Angels to serve as Deputy Reapers.

To Hell –

Lucifer is faced with overcrowded prisons and work camps.  He petitions the Board for permission to break ground on the 667th level of Hell.

To Heaven –

Gabriel, president of the Board of Archangels, denies both requests, citing budget restrictions.  Grim, determined to get what he wants, goes over the Board to the Office of Heavenly Affairs, otherwise known as God.  God denies Grim’s request but assigns a Heavenly Liaison to assist Grim, a liaison with a singular solution to the issues facing both Grim and Lucifer.

And back again -

The liaison’s name: Jesus.

REAPERS WITH ISSUES is the first in a four book novella series that chronicles the Grim Reaper’s struggles in middle-management. Click on Grim at the end of this post to visit our companion blog to learn more about the authors and the sequels to be released over the next few months. Don’t forget to sign Grim’s “Death Book” before leaving.

***DISCLAIMER***

This series is meant to poke good-natured fun at the topics of Chrisitanity, homosexuality, recreational drug abuse and office politics. If you are at all easily offended, we, the authors, will not be offended if you choose not to read our work. Please do not chuck hate bricks through our windows.

Thank you,

Tom Elias, H.E. Ellis, S. Quinn Shaw, Mikhail Vlakfeld

Please to enjoy the following opening of Reapers With Issues:

REAPERS WITH ISSUES

Death killed time rereading God’s memo while he waited for his dealer to show. Semi-baked, he decided, would be the condition necessary to inform his staff that their department would not be receiving the help they so desperately needed and that someone else, an outsider, would be put in place to oversee their operation. As far as Heaven and the Archangels were concerned, the Horsemen were officially on their own.

There had been a time when Death, Grim to those who knew him, could singlehandedly reap his entire department’s quota of souls and still have time left over to indulge in some high quality herbal recreation. The reality of reaping a population closing in on seven billion left Grim no choice but to seek his recreation locally. It didn’t take long for him to discover that local weed, like local Purgatory, was mediocre at best.

Lack of free time and quality pot were merely symptoms of a larger, growing problem. Reaping while short-staffed had robbed his Horsemen of any kind of life outside of the job, and lately Grim had noticed cracks beginning to show.

Pestilence developed a nasty habit of calling in sick with a new exotic illness at least once a week, and an incident over a cage dancer forced War into court-ordered anger management classes. Only Famine had been able to withstand the pressures of the job, although Grim did notice that he’d been shedding copious amounts of hair lately.

It was on behalf of his Horsemen that Grim requisitioned the Archangel Board to reassign five thousand Angels to his department for Reaping duty. A requisition that Gabriel, Head of the Archangel Board, repeatedly denied. Grim’s decision to go over the Board’s head to the office of Heavenly Affairs yielded nothing but a Heavenly Liaison, and God only knew who the Hell that was.

Unable to make sense of God’s decree, Grim stuffed the memo back into his pocket as he scoped out his surroundings which were, at the moment, in the alleyway behind his office building and the home of the Office of Human Death (OHD for short).

Talk about shitting where you eat, Grim thought to himself as he checked for souls milling about. The last thing he needed was for word to get out that the once great Reaper of Death had been reduced to buying sub-par pot behind his office building in the lamest ‘burb of the Universe.

Paranoia getting the better of him, he walked to the end of the alleyway which emptied into Purgatory’s corporate district, a massive office complex comprised of row after row of generic steel buildings, each one an exact replica of the one that came before.

Finding no one, Grim laughed to himself. Total waste of time, he thought. He couldn’t remember the last time anything bad happened in Purgatory. Then again, he couldn’t remember the last time anything good did, either.

Just the same, Grim thought it best to cloak himself in a human disguise, namely the dead body that until an hour ago belonged to the organic hemp farmer that was his latest reaping assignment. “Meat suits,” as the Horsemen liked to call them, were a necessary evil now that the Archangel Board cut the OHD’s travel expense budget, forcing Grim and his staff to reap by bus instead of horse. All it took was one bad road trip on a bus bound for Newark to make him rethink wearing his cloak while on assignment. Mortals, he discovered, were a lot faster and stronger than they looked.

Grim listened as the clock tower in Purgatory Square chimed one o’clock. Pedro, his dealer, was late. Out of both time and patience, Grim walked back to the rear entrance of the OHD just as the door swung open.

“Jesus Christ, Pedro!” Grim shouted. “Scare me to death why don’t you?”

Pedro stepped out into the alleyway, his eyes darting up and down the length of it. “How’d I scare you?” Pedro asked. “You’re the one in the Jesus suit.”

“Jesus? Really?” Grim asked as he smoothed down the late farmer’s long, sandy locks. “I kinda thought he looked like Clapton.”

“Clapton or not that’s some scary shit, man,” Pedro said, looking Grim up and down. “Someone said they saw Jesus walking around here this morning. You know he’d tell my Pops if he caught me dealing again. My old man believes every word that fool says.”

Though he may have been known throughout the Universe as Saint Peter Junior, “Pedro” earned a reputation in underground circles as the prime procurer of black market merchandise. It didn’t hurt that having a Father who manned the Gates of Heaven gave him access to all the best incoming contraband.

“I don’t know what to tell you, kid. Apostles die hard. Now are we going to do this thing or not?” Grim asked, hoping to get back to work before he was missed.

Pedro stepped away from Grim, eying him suspiciously. “First tell me why you’re wearin’ a mortal in Bland Land. You ain’t reaping.”

Grim pointed to his chest and said, “Lungs.”

“Ah…makes sense,” Pedro said, relieved.

Lungs and pockets were two of the three attachments Grim thought made wearing a mortal’s meat suit bearable. The third attachment he hoped to utilize later on that night.

“Are you serious about Jesus being here in Purgatory?” Grim asked, peering over his shoulder. “Because he is the last person I need to deal with right now.”

“Hey man, all I know is what I heard,” Pedro said. “Why? You gonna kick his ass? Let me know now and I’ll give you odds.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve had enough run-ins with Skippy Christ to last an eternity,” Grim said, remembering a certain spring day two-thousand years ago that didn’t end well for either of them.

“Skippy Christ,” Pedro chuckled. “I’ll have to remember that one.” Once he was sure they were alone Pedro opened his robe, pulled out a baggie and handed it to Grim. “This stuff’s fresh from Mexico. Lucky for you my old man doesn’t shake down nuns. Mother Superior came in loaded.”

“I guess this is my lucky day after all,” Grim said as he dug the farmer’s wallet out of his back pocket. “How much for the bag?”

“For you? One-fifty. Cash.”

“One-fifty?” Grim asked as he thumbed through the thin wallet. “What can I get for…sixty-five dollars and a condom?”

“Sixty-five’ll get ya’ an ounce.”

“An ounce? That’s it? You do know I’m Death, right?” Grim punctuated his question by slashing the air with an invisible scythe.

Pedro laughed. “Yeah, you keep swinging,” he said. “Everyone knows you work a pen better than a blade now a days.”

“Is that so?” Grim asked, knowing all too well it was.

“Oh yeah it is,” Pedro snickered. “Hey, I got an idea- how ‘bout you write me up? Oh man, I can see it now, ‘Dear God, Pedro wouldn’t cut me a deal on weed, the stingy pendejo. Kisses, Death.’” Pedro doubled over laughing while Grim stood there and seethed.

“Just give me the ounce and shut your piehole,” Grim said, finally.

Struggling to catch his breath, Pedro handed Grim the entire bag. “Throw in the rubber and the bag’s yours. I’m heading down to Lucifer’s club tonight. I’ll put it to good use.”

Grim’s eyes flew open wide. “Are you shitting me? Lucifer’s got a club now?”

“Hell yeah, he does,” Pedro answered.

“Of course…” Grim said in a sigh.

Ever since God in his infinite wisdom promoted Gabriel to President of the Archangel Board, Grim’s budget had been sent to Hell, literally. While he and his Horsemen had to make due with meat suits and bus passes; Lucifer and his crew of demons enjoyed a new office complex with an onsite gym and spa, and apparently now, a club.

Nepotism ad infinitum.

“Hey man, you should come check it out,” Pedro said as pocketed the condom. “Music sucks but the women are hot. Bring a rubber or your pecker’ll burn like Hell for a week.” Pedro dug deep under his robe and scratched.

Grim opened the bag and inhaled. “Kid, if this shit smokes up as good as it smells I’m not going anywhere.”

“Well let’s find out,” Pedro said as he pulled out a lighter and let Grim sample the merchandise.

Grim took a hit and quickly put his lungs to work. In no time the smoke made its way to his brain, filling cracks that had become chasms created by supervisors with agendas and employees with complaints and a Universe dependent on him to hold shit together. Grim took another hit and released the stress of his middle-management Hell along with the sweet smoke he blew out in a slow, steady stream from his lungs. For one perfect moment, Death was happy.

A snapping sound by his ear pulled him back to reality.

“Hey, wake up. You’re vibrating,” Pedro said, pointing to Grim’s hip.

Grim reached down to his pager and saw that he had a message from his secretary. His absence had been noted. Grim paid Pedro in cash as promised, making a mental note to start reaping in more affluent neighborhoods in the future. “Let me know the next time you get another haul like this one,” Grim said, regaining focus.

“Hey no problem. I’ll even cut you a deal if you hook me up with your secretary. That is one fine lookin’ chica.”

“Fran? Sorry kid, but you’re not her type.”

Pedro rubbed his ample belly and asked, “Oh yeah? What’s her type, then?”

Grim stepped through the door and said, “Bony,” just as it closed behind him.

Another urgent page from Fran rolled in as Grim tore down the vacant hallway that led to his basement office. Stopping at the janitor’s closet, Grim pulled the memo from his pocket and then removed his meat suit, swapping it with the cloak he’d stashed there earlier.

Officially in uniform, Grim took a minute to compose himself before he opened the door to his office. Though he knew for a fact he was in Purgatory, Grim couldn’t shake the feeling that he was about to open the door to Hell.

 


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