Monday, November 29, 2010

View from the Bridge

Photo: Charles Stanford, 2008.

This excerpt says it best:

"For centuries Christians have gotten it backwards; we have presumed that we are to take the gospel to the poor. Instead, I invite you to receive the gospel from the poor. These true stories of the least, the lost, and the forgotten will bring you face to face with the Good News in the midst of poverty and injustice in a way that inspires you to join the fight for justice."

For those who know me, you know I am not an extremely religious person, though if pressed I would agree that there is a higher power, an infinite "being," perhaps even a stronger source that guides and defines our ends, but here is a woman who has a purpose, a goal, a voice, an anger, a directness, and, yes, great writing, that dispels with the BS and gets to the realistic point: Helping the poor of Richmond, Virginia.  I, in true fairness, do not share the totality of her religious belief, but I support her nonetheless.  Her weaponry of choice would not be mine, but I do dare to say that we fight the same evil.  And she has done more than I.

Those of you who know me also know that I am no fan of what is commonly called "organized religion."  Despite my beliefs and wails, I have done little to justify my disbelief with organized religion; I have not put my powers, such as they are, to use, and not just fall back on the once-a-week visits on Sundays.  Ms. McCaig grew disillusioned, but, then, unlike me and others like me, she went out there and did something about it.

This blog is her ongoing description of her fight.  I urge you to, at the very least, look at her blog.  Maybe someone with the same ideals can start such a movement in his/her own neck of the woods.  I would not mind doing so around here.  For some exciting reading with a powerful message, a strong purpose and relevance, and very strong voice and honest emotion, go to this blog:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm in the Mood for Something Random

Random thoughts:

I've put pictures on most of the blog entries on this site.  Go look at 'em.

Most overlooked Christmas movie: Die Hard!  Sure, A Christmas Story is funny, and Charlie Brown cartoons are cuter and more nostalgic, but who can deny that Die Hard kicked Christmas butt in the 80s?  I still quote Alan Rickman saying: "When Alexander saw the breath of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.  Benefits of a classical education."  I remember seeing it in the theater and people laughed A LOT, and we were blown away by the sound.  One of the first to use the new sound technologies.

I'm seriously jonesing Sherlock Holmes.  Don't know why.  Haven't seen the latest Robert Downey movie.  But I did just buy an awesome huge book of the short stories as originally published in The Strand Magazine, with the original drawings by Sidney Paget, and the original type from that era.  Cool, man.  I'm listening to a reading of Sherlock Holmes by the guy who does Shut Up and Think!  Go there and check him out.  He sounds a bit like Rush Limbaugh, but I'm not holding that against him.  He must get a ton of traffic, because two ads precede everything you click on.

Gotta work more on my writing and on my paper.  A bit of anxiety is beginning to creep in about both.  Paper is due December 7th or so.

Losing weight isn't hard.  A few simple rules: Burn off more calories than you consume.  Do more, eat less.

I will never be able to clean out this office.  I fight an avalanche of paper and mountains of books every day.

I'm busy almost every second of the day, but I never seem to get everything done that I want/need to get done.  How can that be?

I have more books to read than all books combined that I have ever read.  Or it just seems that way.

Baseball season couldn't start soon enough.  I'm hoping that it'll be so cold this winter that it won't snow.

I'm feeling so overwhelmed that I Googled daily planner forms and printed them out and am using them.  I can't tell if that's responsible, or pathetic.

I have at least three short stories I haven't sent out yet.  I have three novels I'm trying to write, all at once.

I go back to work tomorrow.  It's been 4 days and I haven't come close to accomplishing everything I wanted.  I realize that I'm coming across as a bit of a nut about this.  I feel like I'm losing time, but for what?

I'm tired of the Blogger stats not working.  What happened?  Blogger says it's working on it.

I got accepted to RIC and URI networking sites on LinkedIn, but when I scrolled through the members, I didn't know any of them.  I'm a member of 20 groups, just on LinkedIn alone, which seems like too many, and not enough, at the same time.  I become exhausted and eye-strained just responding to all those things.

Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto will be one-hit wonders, especially Votto.  His 328 total bases for an MVP has to be amongst the all-time lows.  Hamilton has a few more good years if he keeps his eyes on the prize.

That's enough randomness for now.  There'll be more to come, believe me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gotta Cut Back

I haven't officially recovered from Thanksgiving, but I am already ruing the fact that I can't eat everyday what I ate then.  Baked mac and cheese; bread; five different desserts; lasagna; cornbread; mashed potatoes; a few other things I've already forgotten--all that while visiting with my better half's clan.  Then, at a friend's, one slice of apple pie, one slice of pumpkin cream pie, and one slice of chocolate cream pie.  Surprised I could walk the next day!  Whew!

As I write this blog, and comment on the 20 groups I've joined--and that's just on LinkedIn!--and update my profiles on all those sites, and more, it's occurred to me that I'm doing so much to advertise my writing that it's prevented me from getting any writing done!  How absurd!  So I've decided, starting now, to only spend an hour commenting on these things per day, and unfortunately I'm going to have to completely put aside all of the mss. I said I'd try to review for this blog and/or my site.  (In my defense, I gave all those folks a lot of IFs, but I still feel badly about it.)  I just can't do it all, plus my actual career (which itself would exhaust most normal people), plus take care of the house and have something that at least mimics a life.  And, oh yeah, the reading and writing that must get done.  I mean, I just realized right now that I've left a blanket in the washing machine for a few days, and my hallways look like mineshafts.

Gotta do less to do more.  I need some sort of daily schedule, like Ben Franklin kept.

And a special get well to my better half's mother, who was not feeling well on Thanksgiving and had to stay in.

That just ain't right.  Better than on Christmas, I guess.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Taking the night off to recover from the day's eating.  Hopefully I'll get some reading and writing done, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'm thankful for my better half.  I'm thankful for her tolerance!  I'm thankful that I have so much spare time that I can operate a site and blog.  I'm thankful I have enough spare time to check up on them maybe more often than I should.  I'm thankful for my career at a time when jobs are scarce--and job security perhaps more so.  I'm thankful for my home--and for my ability to afford one--at a time when others are in such forced chaos.  I'm thankful for my ability at my job.  I'm thankful for my imagination; it saves me from the tedium that destroys some lives.  I'm thankful for my writing ability that allows me to express this creativity; others better than me are frustrated by their lack of expression.  I'm thankful for my life thus far; others far greater than me have died younger.  I'm thankful for my future chances; others have prospects much more dim.  I'm thankful for my books; they give me the safety that sometimes my writing does not provide.  I'm thankful for all the (seemingly thousands) of books that I have read, for they have created the mind that I have (such as it is).  I'm thankful for all the books I have that I have not yet read; I look forward to the creativity many of them will inspire.  I'm thankful that I have talents and hobbies outside of my job; they have saved me from the frustration that others in my profession far better than me have been burned out from.  I'm thankful for the ones I have inspired and who have inspired me.  I am thankful for the ones in my life who have tried to derail me, for they have taught me much.  I am thankful for those who have taught me; some of them have given me the impetus to begin and enjoy my current profession.  I am thankful for the bad ones, for they have done the same.  I am thankful for those who have taught me what not to do, whether they tried to or not.  I am thankful for my annoyances, for they have grounded me.  I am thankful for those who have gone through much on my behalf.  I am thankful for those who have raised me; some have no one.  I am thankful that I am now thankful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Apocalypse Fragment

I don't know yet where in the novel this will go.  The setting is at a Kansas City, Missouri community of survivors.  This area is now largely arid, wasted land.  The "I" is the main character, David Bancroft.  Those of you on top of your Old Testament will recognize this as the dinner shared by the elders and...well, you'll see.  The reactions of both are derived from the Old Testamental story.  I remind you that this is a rough draft.

[By the way, for those of you having trouble posting from Word to Blogger, use Notepad as an intermediary.]

An Immense Dread  

I felt an immense dread that transcended simple feeling.  It was a weight that pushed on me; I was scared, full of terrible wonder.  The wind was a hurricane that howled and knocked upon my door like a demon.
    I opened this door and found outside a dust-storm.  The red sand obliterated most of the sun; it flew in a puckered sheet right to left, and what sun shone through was a fixed red eye, a fireball, a barrel, locked and loaded, pointing at me from forever.
    And yet I saw to my right a large table covered by an overflowing white cloth; upon it lay more food than this camp would ever see—and four tall candles of white wax, their flames a solid life unwavering in the breeze.  Sitting in simple wooden thrones were the other seventy-three, each side holding thirty-six, all of them smiling, speechless, every eating movement slow and without noise.  The throne closest to me, with most of its back to me, sat vacant, turned slightly to the left, waiting for me as if it lived and breathed.
    Then the wind stilled and I was filled with terror.  A moan I didn’t recognize escaped from my dry, dust-covered lips; an indescribable dread chilled my heart so that I could not feel it beat.  A mania of awareness surged through me in this terror.  The sun was still a red eye, despite the stillness.  Again it seemed to me a red eye, unblinking, aimed at me directly.  In this dread I looked again at the people, at the table, and finally beyond them.
    And there, at a distance, beneath the frozen grey clouds, from out of the air and dissolving mist, appeared the giant figure that had always been there, now discernable in the stillness.  He crouched like a catcher, the toes barely touching the red dust and earth, the heels and large rounded knees not at all.  A huge muscled hand cupped each knee; the hands were bony, etched, despite their size and muscle.
    The massive face wore the color and lines of the desert on it; the blues of the eyes startling in a bright sea of whiteness.  This figure appeared and disappeared and appeared again in this stance, as if a cartoon character drawn incompletely on flipping pages that did not catch each small movement, causing it to flit in and out of this reality.
    As I walked slowly towards the table, trance-like, full of dread and terror, I saw that everyone else watched this image also.  All were transfixed and open-mouthed, unsmiling as I was, full of awe and terror.  A scream rose in my throat then, for as we watched this fleeting figure, as we gazed upon him, so he too watched us, gazed upon us.
    And his face was as terrified as ours, unsmiling, mouth open; as he moved his face closer, closer, still closer, his brown eyebrows descended into a solid wall that covered the upper-corners of his eyes.  Deep furrows dug into his forehead, and a feeling of death, of something beyond dread and terror, consumed me so that I felt that I would never stop dying, even as I lived.
    His cheeks thinned as he inhaled.  Its vacuum-wind blew out the candles, creating a three-second darkness that died when we were consumed by the red-eye sun that finally blinked and fired.
    And then he breathed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Novel Fragment

I write novels in fragments, sometimes entire chapters, but hardly ever in a linear fashion.  An image, an idea, or whatever occurs to me, and so I write it.  It just happens, and I piece it all together later.  How much later?  When I have to.  I'll know it when it happens.  I don't outline because I just report what happens; in that way I'm more like a reporter than a writer.  I did finally outline towards the end of Cursing the Darkness, and I filled in a few glaring holes that I wouldn't have caught otherwise, but I'm happy overall with my design.  I think all of that might change with this newest novel, Apocalypse.  I see a trilogy forming here, one mostly focusing on flu or plague dominated scenes, and their aftermath, and all of their intricacies, told from 1st person limited POV and 3rd person omniscient POV, as well as journals and diaries, and some of the characters may intermingle with others who are also telling the story, and I'll jump around, too, telling this story from both 1665 and 2022, and maybe points in between.  I've already discussed the Eyam scenario (see posts below), but how about a diary entry written from sub-Saharan Africa, from the epicenter of the AIDS virus, while it was wiping out entire villages in the 60s and 70s and nobody knew what the hell was going on?  For that matter, how about such a scenario now, when everyone does know what the hell is going on but the numbers are the worst ever, and getting worse?  Imagine being someone in sub-Saharan Africa, or Eyam, England, and watching everyone die around you?  I see some social criticism seeping into this novel as well--How couldn't it?

So here's a little fragment I wrote today:

H7N1.  Sounds like a Bingo call, a Battleship turn.  Not a virus strain.  Not like somthing that killed millions.  Like coordinates.  Like a code.  They say it started in chickens, in fowl.  In crows.  On the streets of Singapore.  India.  China.  It's always been around.  But then a slight mutation.  A simple virus, like a cold.

It all started with a sneeze.  A handshake.  An opening of a door.  It ended the War.  It ended the world.

(Me again.)  That's it.  I have tons of other fragments.  Sections.  Chapters.  It's taking shape; I can see it more clearly.  That's how I know it'll take three books to tell it, each veering in a different direction once The End of Days happens.  (See a recent post, below.)  I've got the design of Book 1 figured out, or at least I think it'll be the first of the trilogy.  I won't know until I work more on it.  I won't force it.  If the second or third one comes out first, so be it.  You can't force such things.  "The War," by the way, refers to World War 3, don't you see, and the fact is: You can't fight it if you're too sick.  It can't be fought if there's soon to be a lack of people to fight it.  Three or four things happen at once, a perfect storm of events.  Something else happens that stops it all, too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Older Lady, A Table and Two Chairs

This made me smile.  I'm sitting here in the Borders cafe, reading Daniel Dafoe's Journal of the Plague Years (free, online), when this little old lady wearing a long, thick black coat, with her hair done up and sprayed rather heavily, walked slowly to a nearby table, dragged slowly back to her table the chair that those people had borrowed from her table, set it firmly on the other side of her little table--I'm looking at it now, the two chairs are fitted perfectly across from each other, pushed in, just so--and picked up her napkin, threw it away, and picked up her magazines, put them away, and then looked over her table, realized that it was neat and the way she had found it--if not better--and walked away.  All of that very slowly, very deliberately, and with no other purpose than that's the way it's supposed to be.  That's what you do.  You clean up after yourself, throw your own napkins away, put your own magazines away, and replace anything that had been taken back to where it belongs.  The people who had borrowed the chair from her table hadn't returned it to her table, so she went and brought it back.  Slowly.  This lady must've been 75 if she was a day.  People half her age--hell, a third her age--are not as well-mannered as this.

I'm probably not, either.  Maybe you're not, too.  This is a dying trend: the belief that things should be just so, and that you're responsible for making it that way.  Especially if it had been that way when you got there.  You clean up after yourself in this life.  I'm looking at the table and chairs again: the chairs are perfectly opposite each other and both pushed in as far as they can go, both touching the round base of the center leg of the table.  They are EXACT, facing each other, and this lady was not suffering from any sort of anal retention/obsessive compulsion behavior.  She just put things back the way they were.

This struck me as so unusual and wonderful that I just had to write about it.  I took a picture of it with my cell phone--again ruing the fact that I never take my camera with me when I know that moments like this happen to me all the time--and I hope to put the picture with this entry.  I did it!!!  YAY!!!

And I have to say, for those of us of a certain age, that there are two important things here: that it seems as if fewer people are raised this way (as this lady had been) and that, hey, I took a picture with my cell phone, emailed it from the phone to my email, saved that picture from the email to my Mac, and then uploaded the picture from my Mac to the blog.  This is quite unbelievable to me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Internet Groups

If you have time, join one of these groups.  (I don't have the time, but I joined anyway.  I'll just be a sporadic responder.)  A reader named Jan was good enough to ask where the sites are, and I have to admit that I goofed when I didn't originally mention that these are all Goodreads sites.  So I edited the post to let y'all know.  Thanks, Jan!  (If anyone has a question about anything on my sites, please feel free to email and ask.)

Stephen King Fans
The Next Best Book Club
Book Lovers
The Novel Ideas (request still pending)
Book Haven
The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group

Lots of cool discussions about an unbelievable number of things!

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Epigram for My New Manuscript, Apocalypse

photo credit: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

"Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm using this one as one of the epigrams for one of my novels-in-progress (Aren't they all?), titled Apocalypse.  In this work, which is written as a (literally) new Bible from a survivor of what the writer thinks is The End of Days, each chapter has the same name of the chapters of the actual Bible, Old and New Testament.  The narrator, essentially epistolary, except for when the third-person omniscient narrator tells the story, compares himself to the writers of the Bible, and states that if his time is not the time for a new Bible, it is at least time for one that can maybe go hand-in-hand with the Catholic Bible.  I admit that this is potentially blasphemous, but the ms. is not written in an offensive manner, and no one would think that the narrators are (overly) rebelling against anything.  They're just writing it down.

I'm thinking of putting a chapter or two (or fragments) on my website,  Look for it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm All Business

Completely finished "Pink Lemonade."  It's only 3,200 words, so that bodes well.  I didn't notice--and I don't think anyone from the group observed--that I never once mentioned the first person narrator's name: Foster.  Oops.  Fixed that, and put in a small tidbit about profiling, when the ADA's giving him the case.  A few other odds and ends, and now it's done, ready to go out with "So Many Reasons..."  Things to do, things to do...

Waiting to hear on another one out there, plus a few other things.  I hate waiting for others to send things back to me.  In this business, each one could take months.  I don't get why some pros in this field still don't accept email submissions.  I would assume it would be quicker and more beneficial to both parties.  Someone will have to clear this up for me.

Also finished a couple of things about Cursing the Darkness.  Hopefully there'll be good news of that soon.  Sent out a few emails; put together a couple of packages.  All business tonight.  Little time for actual writing.

Step outside, look up, and see the meteor shower tonight.  There are more things, in heaven and in earth...It's a clear night here, and very breezy.  Perfect for watching.  Hope you catch one.  If you do, make a wish.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Existentialist Epigrams

Photo: Soren Kierkegaard.  Very, very awesome existentialist.  Read his Fear and Trembling and Either/Or.  Very good Wikipedia page about him, too.

A quick shout out to my writers group.  Thanks for the help Tuesday, and thanks for coming here.  You rule!

And now, because I'm in a mood caused by the fall breeze and the falling leaves, two of my favorite epigrams:

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

Andrew Marvel, "To His Coy Mistress"

We live, as we dream--alone.

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

These express one of my favorite (and most empowering, and sometimes depressing) things: existentialism.  These epigrams are not about loneliness, but they are about alone-ness.  If you're in a plane that's going down, you're going to die alone, even if you're surrounded by 200 other people.  If you understand that--if you get that you're always alone, even in a crowded room, then you get all there is to know of existentialism.

Welcome Again, and House

Okay, got a little done.  Not too bad.  Dabbled at a few things; no new breakthroughs.  But that's okay.  The newest short story is ready to go, and so are a few others that you're probably tired of hearing about by now.  Send them out already!  I will.  After the day job tomorrow, after a meeting, I'll come back and get it done.  Very determined.  I could use more sleep tonight.  On fumes at the grad. class, but I got the three long-ish works read that I needed for the class, and I commented in my notebook and during class.  (For the writer and work, so previous blog.)

Welcome to the new visitors, by the way.  Quite a few of you guys (and gals) lately, and I've been remiss not to tip my hat and say hello.  Please feel free to leave your site or blog address in a comment (below) or email to me (see above for address) and I'll definitely see your site and say hello back.  Nice to meetcha!

Time to get REAL serious about another one of the several novels I'm working on as well.  Let's get one of those babies finished.  As a last random note, saw the DVRed episode of House from yesterday; one of the better ones of the season.  Not sure of what to make of the Amber Tamblyn character, but she sure saved his bacon today!  Looks to young to take her seriously as a soon-to-be renowned doctor, but so was 13 and no one complained about her.  For obvious reasons.  House is, by the way, the only (non-sports) television show I watch.  Period.  I watch a couple of others my better half records, but if she didn't DVR them, I wouldn't watch them.  Between the day job (which is also the night job), and the grad class, and the writers group, and the writing, and all the business for the writing, who's got the time?

Off to the writing, before I fully pass out from exhaustion.  Be good.

Unaccustomed Earth

A quick plug for Jhumpa Lahiri and Unaccustomed Earth, as I posted on my page:

As the Pulitzer and many other accolades will tell you, a very talented writer whose work is void of immature characters doing immaturely self-destructive things--a rarity considering most of what I've read for this Masters class.  Eight interconnected stories from differing POVs, none of them with a clunky sentence.  Literature that is easy to read, not highbrow or condescending.  Highly recommended.  30 editions since the 2008 publication date also shows you something.  Very accessible.

I feel like I'll create something tonight, and not just do the business end of sending the stories out, but right now, after running around for the past few weeks, and the past few days, and the last 12 hours, non-stop, I need to re-charge the ol' batteries.  I hope to post later that I got more creating done.  If I don't, I didn't.  That's bad.


The writing group went really well tonight.  Met some new people and met up with friends I haven't seen in months.  We had discussions about profiling (as per the Behavioral Sciences type, like those shown in The Silence of the Lambs) and about my short story, which received mostly positive reviews.  Time to polish up that baby and send it out, ASAP.  That's "Pink Lemonade" that I speak of.  Look for it!  The grad. class happens tomorrow, so I'll have to do the day job and then freshen up on the work due for that.  Maybe I'll have the time (and energy) to send the story out tomorrow.  Here's to hoping.  If not tomorrow, then Wednesday.

So I'll remind myself to remain positive and focused on this site.  Been a little mawdlin' lately.  Can't have that!  I'm way ahead of the creating game, especially compared to those with kids, so what am I even minorly complaining about?  Get it done well and send it out, and stop yer yappin', I say to myself.  So you work a lot?  Who doesn't?  Be thankful for your creative energy and outlet, for your imagination, for your ability, and for your day job that pays the Man when many people don't have even that--and shut up!!!

I have to be thankful, and remember that.  Where's my copy of The Secret?  I'm not too proud...

Monday, November 15, 2010


Did the job today, all day, and household things.  I'm ready for the writers group, will have the critiques ready for 7pm tomorrow, but didn't have time to send anything out or to write anything new.  I have all these ideas (and all the research you've seen recently), but no time left to do any of the writing.  Frustrating!  If good writers need to write every day, which I'm sure they do, I am not keeping up my end.  And I have so much good stuff to do!  And I have my Masters class to prepare for after the meeting tomorrow night...There just isn't enough time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I finished "Pink Lemonade."  Originally I'd written it in third person the day after I'd experienced most of it.  My friend Chris and I had gone to Unos, as usual, before the Red Sox game, and...well, you'd have to read the story.  I didn't like it in the third person, so I spent a few days revamping it into first person, so Foster's voice could be part of the story.  Just sounded too mechanical without him.  I finished 99% of it Thursday, then did the rest today, and then spent a few hours more editing it, tightening it, fixing a few discrepancies.  Then I posted it to my writers group.  Two days before the group meets, awesome group member that I am.  After a few comments there, and maybe some more editing, off it goes to pound the internet pavement.  That one, and two others I still have to send out yet.  The last story I got published, "Hide the Weird," I sent out before my time came around for the group review, so that it was accepted by the magazine, and then the group reviewed it.  That was unusual.  It's too late to try that now, but I do things--even somewhat ridiculous things--when it's been shown to work.  The story wasn't accepted because it was sent out before the meeting, but still...I'll send the next one out before the next meeting...

This is a good problem to have, but it's frustrating to be completing projects and then not sending them out.  The Man gets in the way, doesn't he, when you have to create and do the business end of creating?  Sounds ridiculous, but it's true--there is a business end to creating.  It takes more time, in fact, than the actual creating.

I hope that tomorrow I can finish the job's requirements early, so I can send all that out.  And the actual life stuff, like laundry, dishwasher, picking up the entire house?  That'll all have to wait.  I need an assistant.

I would be very interested to learn how to better organize my time, so that I don't feel as impossibly rushed and frantic as I do--which isn't good for the creating process, nor the business end that goes with it.  How do you write a lot, work a very busy day job that is in itself very draining (though rewarding), and yet still meet life's other requirements?  I wake up much earlier than I used to, seven days a week, and I go to bed as late as I used to, which, being an insomniac, was always late to begin with, anywhere between 1 to 3 in the morning--to wake up and be at work just after 7.  And yet the house, the office, and, well, myself, all need tidying up a bit, all the time, and the work for the day job and for my writing never seems to be completed.

Anyone have any advice about how to better complete things, or to be more balanced with everything?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pink Lemonade

Photo credit: Ruzova Limonada (Pink Lemonade) by Honza Groh from Vlastni Fotografie (Own Works)

Right now I am admiring the technology that allows me to type on a Mac at a Dunkin' Donuts, yet still connect to this blog and share my ideas and writing situation.  Truly--what a world is this, that we can so easily connect to others, and yet still so often don't.  Sometimes I think that the connection we forge with others over the net--most of whom we don't even know--come at the cost of those whom we see every day.  We connect, yet we drift...

Well, anyway, I mostly finished another Foster short story that I can submit to my writing group and then, after changes, send out.  The rough draft was written awhile ago, after a friend and I had returned from a very drizzly night at Fenway.  We'd gone to the Unos that's really there, that's also in the story, and we'd really run into--or, more accurately, profiled--the same two people depicted in the story.  One major difference is that we'd shared our thoughts and suppositions with our waiter, who'd also served them, and we had him in hysterics.  We had ourselves in hysterics, too, I have to admit.  My friend had dared me to share our suspicions with the waiter, and so of course I had, because I have brass buttons, for some reason, on our Unos excursions before hitting Fenway.  Our most famous incident is another story, maybe, for another blog.

Anyway, the food items--the salad, the chicken fingers--are all the same, as are the drinks: Sprite for her; pink lemonade for him.  She really did pay the bill, as in the story, and they really did look exactly as described in the story.  And, ultimately, especially after we noticed the pink lemonade towards the end of the night, just like in the story, we had the waiter in agreement with us.  He thought we were so cool and hilarious that he bought us a round of beer, each.  Very cool guy.

So we drew the same conclusions for the same reason as Foster did, and I admit now, as in the story, that people-watching is unbelievably amusing and interesting, but not altogether fair because of the conclusions you sometimes draw, often in spite of yourself.  As Foster says, profiling is not an exact science.  But you play the odds, and so by definition your suppositions will be right--most of the time.

I hope this story gets accepted and published quickly, so that I can share the link with you, and so you'll know what the heck I've been talking about here.  So I wrote the rough draft literally the next afternoon, in a few hours, but I did it in the third person because Cursing the Darkness, the novel on my website (see above) where Foster is the main character, had been in first person, and I wanted to see if a Foster story could survive well without him telling it.  In other words, is it the story that makes Foster shine, or is it his voice?  I decided that the third person with Foster was too mechanical, that the tone was lifeless, and that I needed him to tell it.  And so today I re-worked the whole thing in the first person, and I was 95% of the way done with it before I lost concentration, couldn't get it back, and so spent the next couple of hours catching up on work for my day job instead.

But not a bad night--finishing an entire short story by drastically changing the POV and voice, making the hard decision to do so (see an entry below; writing decisions are hard), and then catching up on work that really needed to be done for my job.  I could've been derailed by losing that creative focus, but I managed to salvage the night and get a lot done.  I tell you, for writers, that's rare.  Very rare.

So now I feel good.  I got a coffee for tomorrow, and an iced pumpkin latte for my better half, and soon I'll go back and hopefully finish the last 5% of the story.  If not, there's tomorrow.  But definitely tomorrow.  Then I'll have yet another story to send out--adding it to the other two.  This weekend, after I finish the rest of the work for the job, my next priority is to send out those stories.  Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Borders vs. B&N; 1985 and IT

Photos: Sidewalk and lights outside of my local Borders; IT cover, from

Okay, catch up.  You may have noticed that I've been researching a lot lately--over 10 hours over a couple of days at Borders, where I went through 8 books, emailed a ton of notes to myself, and didn't have to buy anything.  (Sorry for the downer info. of HIV/AIDS, Measles, Ebola, and other scary as hell filoviruses out there.)  Researching is better there than at a library because at a bookstore you get all the latest books and information on a subject.  In the library, not so much, at least not around here.  All the while sipping coffee or espresso, seeing friends--and talking out loud to them.  Yes, another reason to prefer Borders over a library.  I also prefer Borders over B&N, too.  B&N has a better selection, especially for artsy books.  But...the atmosphere at Borders is better.  More sitting room in the store and in the cafe.  Bigger tables in the cafe, too, which is important when you're slogging through 8 books and emailing notes to yourself on a laptop.  I never had to place the laptop on my lap, which I hate to do.  I also know a few people who live near the one I frequent; I practically have my own table there like I used to at a local college at Donovan Dining Center.  Seriously.  About 11-12 years ago, students and faculty alike would find me there, upper floor, go up the stairs, first table on the right against the window.

Anyway, I also got Stephen King's new book, and may read it after (or, what the hell, during) the current stressful time--important stuff going on at the job, don'tcha know.  I thought I would pose a question:

Which Stephen King book, or movie, is your favorite, and why?  Readers may answer it either via an email to me--see above--or via a comment--see below.  Just write the title, and I'll post about the one with the most votes in a week.  If the answer is none, say that, too, but, c'mon, how can you not like any film or book of his after all this time and permeation of our culture?

I'll start by saying that my favorite adaptations are Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Misery, The Shining (for technical brilliance and imagery only), and the original Sissy Spacek/John Travolta Carrie, in that order.  My fave books include: IT, Misery, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Stand and The Shining.  If forced to pick one, I'd choose IT, for many reasons, not the least is which because I can clearly remember getting on my Huffy 5-speed bike in 1985 and pedaling to a local Stop & Shop, where I bought the book in hardcover and read the whole thing in fewer than three days, almost around the clock--school, read, sleep (just a couple hours; I've always been an insomniac) and repeat.  With my father shutting my bedroom light off on me all the time.  He'd leave; I'd flick it on, and round and round we'd go.  And it gave me a little mantra in times of crisis; for some silly reason, it's always worked:

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.

And the scenes: the haunted house at Kansas Street; Neiboldt Street; the kid shouting, "That would've been out of ----ing Yankee Stadium!"  Pennywise the Clown, of course.  Beverly Marsh and the old lady who wasn't an old lady.  And, hell, I miss the excitement of riding my bike to buy a book, all that youthful energy, the anticipation...Today I drive to buy books; couldn't imagine riding my bike there.  Back then, it was done without a thought, no problem, see ya in a little bit.  Today the thought of it makes me groan.  I'm gettin' old.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Under-medicated and Overweight America, Take 2

I want to expound upon a point made below, a quick jibe at the pharmaceutical industry, which over-medicates those who can afford it (and often don't need it) and which under-medicates the poor, and/or those without healthcare benefits, by overcharging them.  I realize, again, that I am breaking my own rule about sticking to topics of literature and (my) writing, but this riles me enough so that I may write a novel someday soon that at least glances at this issue.  Plus, this blog is not a democracy.

I didn't mean to suggest in the post that it's the result of a stereotypical lazy-American, or passive-American, syndrome.  You'll find lazy people in any culture, and they don't all get overweight.  I don't have that Roman attitude--remember that Caesar wanted to be surrounded by overweight, bald people who slept well?  Anyway, I digress; I meant to imply that meds cost way too much ($53 for 30 pills?!?  For an acid reducer???  A glorified TUMS???)  And that candy (and alcohol) are too cheap and prevalent.  People can't get well if they can't afford to; people will consume what they can afford.  Keep in mind, too, that fast food places and liquor stores abound in the poorer places, and that the healthier the food, the more expensive it is.  WholeFoods, after all, does not have a dollar menu.

People will eat more the more depressed they are--and if they can't afford the meds they need, they will eat more candy, especially when candy's on sale, two for $1.  Though clearly not a health-food freak, I'm also not exactly slovenly, and when I saw that my 30 pills were $53 (and, I know, that's cheap compared to what many people pay for more important pills), I got gloomy enough to buy the on-sale candy, and race to submit the post.  And, lastly, there was no generic available for my med, which is important for me.  You'll find that the more important, or high-selling, the med, the less a chance you'll find a generic for it.  It took an expiration of the patent before even Claritin finally went in front of the counter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flu Notes for Virus Novel, Still Untitled

Photo #1: Human Host, by Scott Camazine/Alamy, from  Human lungs are the most terrifying tools of the plague. Pneumonic plague, seen affecting both lung fields in this x-ray, is the only form of plague spread from person to person. It is transmitted by coughs and sneezes. The fatality rate of pneumonic plague is a staggering 95 percent. Treatment can be effective during the first 24 hours of infection, but plague is often mistaken as the flu. Victims are lucky to live more than 48 hours.

Photo #2: Plague Warfare, by Jason Lee/Reuters/Corbis, from  This building near Harbin, China, was host to Japanese germ warfare experiments during World War II. The boxes were for breeding rats, the vehicles for fleas infected with plague. Upon release these rat agents carried the Black Death—as well as cholera and anthrax—to infect enemy Chinese. Plague is still studied by governments and terrorist organizations for possible germ warfare applications.

It's worth mentioning that every source I've read says that the world is overdue for a super-virus that would devastate worse than the 1918 flu.  Wish me luck as I work on this novel.  I've already decided that the work would be present-day, but with flashbacks to other epidemics.  You'll see what I mean (I hope).  I already have a lot of images in my head about this; I can't wait to get them down on paper.   

More ominous notes from the book mentioned in yesterday's blog:

1918 flu virus: more than 40 to 50 million people died of flu in 1918-9 in less than one year, over 4 times the war casualties.  Pg. 306.

An estimated one-fifth (20%) of the world’s population was infected, and 2 to 3% of those died.

Major influenzas of 1957 and 1968 were mild, 1 to 1.5 million died worldwide each time.

1918 flu was unique because, for the first time, the very healthy died, not just the infants and elderly. 

Word “flu” first used by W.H. Auden: “Little birds with scarlet legs/Sitting on their speckled eggs/Eye each flu-infected city.”

91st Psalm: “You need not fear the terror by night,/nor the arrow that flies by day,/nor the plague that stalks in the darkness.”

On November 7th,1918, the ship Talune introduced the disease into islands of Upola and Savii.  Within 3 months, over 21% of those populations died, as did similarly those in Fiji and Tahiti.  “It was impossible to bury the dead…Day and night trucks rumbled throughout the streets, filled with bodies for the constantly burning pyres.”  Pg. 308.

See typhoid in Plymouth, PA in 1885; yellow fever in Philadelphia, 1793.

The plague killed 14% of 1665 London in 7 months.---Warren Vaughan, American Journal of Epidemiology, 1921.

See Numbers 11:31-34 for description of bird-caused plague.

Flu travels through the air in droplets launched by coughing or sneezing.  Victim incubates virus between 24 hours and 4-5 days before symptoms are obvious.  First signs are headache, chills, dry cough, fever, weakness, and loss of appetite.  Generalized fatigue and, in some, bronchitis and pneumonia follow.  Total recovery takes several weeks or longer.  Influenza is a distinct entity; it is not “flu.”  It is a virus and can be transmitted between people, dogs, pigs and ferrets, interchangeably.

The influenza viruses that strike humans are divided into types A, B & C.  Influenza A is the historical one, infecting man, pigs, horses, seals and birds.  This virus and its hosts have adapted mutually over many centuries and created a reservoir that ensures perpetuation of the virus.  It likely originated in aquatic birds.  When such viruses or their components mix with human influenza virus, dramatic genetic shifts can follow, creating the potential of a new epidemic for humans.

Tissue taken from a 21 year old private who died of 1918-9 Spanish flu and those of a native Alaskan who died in 1918 and was buried in permafrost were used to resurrect the extinct 1918 influenza virus.

Resurrected 1918 virus is 100 times more lethal than other strains; it produces 39,000 more virus particles than other influenza strains. Pg. 321.

H5N1 bird flu, first isolated in 1997, had by 2008 killed about 60% (236/373; 63%) of those with it, but had not jumped repeatedly or easily between humans.  75 million drug courses available in US today would treat only 25% of the population.  See for info. on US’s plan to control a pandemic.  Also

Outbreak of April 2009, human to human passage, led to WHO phase 5 alert.  Occurred in spring (rare), infects young adults, spreading rapidly.  Type of this H1N1 was similar to that of 1977, so those aged 32 and older should have some protection against this latest outbreak.

Possible future devastating outbreaks of measles, influenza, smallpox, and HIV/AIDS.  In US, 40,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS every year; anti-viral triple-drug therapy has increased life span so much of those infected that they will likely die of something else like heart attack, stroke, etc., but it still remains within them, and if it mutates…

Soviet Biological Weapons Program created new smallpox by inserting genes of Ebola with it.  This disbanded, but where did those scientists go with their stocks of smallpox?


Pg. 243: “…infect ten people with Ebola in downtown Manhattan and you could kill a million, or more.”

“If the two viruses [H5N1 and ordinary flu] did encounter each other inside a human host, a far more ominous strain of H5N1 might emerge.  It could be as infectious as the influenza bug that swept the globe in 1918, but several times more lethal.”  Pg. 246.

There were two waves of 1918 flu.  The first, in the spring, make people ill for just 3 days, then they recovered.  But the second wave, in the fall and winter, the genetic makeup had changed since the first wave, and this second one did all the damage.

20% of infected get mild dose of normal flu and get better.  But the rest get 1 of 2 things: so much fluid in the lungs that they can’t get enough oxygen and they suffocate.  They die in days or hours, delirious with high fever, gasping for breath, fall unconscious and die.  Second possibility started with normal flu symptoms—chills, fever, muscle aches.  But by day 4 or 5, bacteria swarms into their injured lungs and they get pneumonia that usually kills them.  Faces turn blue or black and they cough up blood.  Bodies were stacked at the morgue like cord wood.  Pg. 16. Those with black feet would not live.

There's more scary stuff about West Nile, Mad Cow, Ebola, and others, but you get the idea by now.  Makes me want to wash my hands every 10 minutes.

Why Americans Are Unhealthy and Overweight

Went to the pharmacy today to get my acid-reducing pills.  I had to pay over $53 for 30 pills, but all the candy was 2 for $1.  And that's why vast numbers of Americans are unhealthy and overweight.  Discuss.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

HIV/AIDS, My "Virus Novel" and Oldstone's Virus, Plagues & History

Photo #1: AIDS Research, photo by Karen Kasmanski, from A scientist in Franceville, Gabon, removes hair and blood samples from a cooperative chimpanzee. Researchers believe that an evolving AIDS virus first spread to humans from wild African chimpanzees, which suffer from a similar virus called SIV.

Photo #2: AIDS Patient, photo by Gideon Mendel from A doctor examines an emaciated AIDS patient in Lusikisiki, South Africa. Ninety-four out of every hundred HIV-infected people live in developing nations, where currently available drug therapies are largely unaffordable.

I'm doing research for my "virus novel"--See #1 of "On the Fire" from Nov. 4th--at Borders, because they have more up-to-date books than the library, and I got help from employees who went to the medical section, the history section, etc. while in the library you'd have to wait forever to get one librarian's help.  I took 8 books to the cafe, where after a few hours, a woman sat next to me and began talking out loud to herself and weeping to herself; she got up, walked around in a distracted state, leaving her bag on the chair next to me, and then came back and asked if she could sit with me, apparently forgetting where she'd been.  I DO attract those, I'm like flypaper for them.

In all that time, I only researched one book, Virus, Plagues & History, by Michael B. A. Oldstone.  This book was so (horrifyingly) fascinating and informative that I spent three hours just with that one.  Incredible stuff about Ebola, SARS, West Nile, polio, Yellow Fever and smallpox, but there was some truly eye-popping things about HIV/AIDS.  A few of its sobering facts (as of 2008):

HIV--"A plague as horrifying as any ever known now afflicts us, and the cause is a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  In the twenty-five years (1983-2008) since the initial case report of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), this disease caused by HIV has afflicted over 60 million people, and nearly one half of them have died." pg. 251.

Drug therapy has reduced by 2/3 the death rate in the US compared to the 1990s, but worldwide, for every 4 newly infected people, just 1 receives therapy.

" vaccine is on the horizon for preventing this medical catastrophe." 

UN estimates that 34 million have HIV, but author suspects 39 million.

In Africa, 3% of entire population is afflicted. 

CDC believes 40,000 in the U.S. are newly infected every year and that over 250,000 have it and don't know it. 

CDC recommends all people ages 13 to 64 in the US have tests to detect HIV as part of routine medical care or emergency room visits. 

Author says 25-50% of newly infected people don't know they are. 

By 1995, 14 years after original patient report, CDC and WHO estimated 1 in 70 males in US and 1 in 700 females had it. 

As of Oct. 31, 1995, 501,310 Americans with AIDS reported to CDC; 311,381 (62%) had died. 

From 1993 to present, among men 25-44, AIDS is the leading cause of death; for women, 3rd leading cause.  These numbers are an underestimate in the US. 

In Africa, over 1 in 40 men and women are infected.

People either die from it or become lifetime infected.  

"HIV is poorly transmitted; fewer than 5% of exposed humans are estimated to develop the infection." pg. 269.

(I'm back.)

So: Why do you think HIV/AIDS isn't as much a part of the national discussion as it used to be in the 80s and 90s, especially since more people, in Africa and in the world, are afflicted with it than ever before?  Why do you think it isn't still news?  Because it's not on the American political agenda?

Thank You, T. & F., and Stephen King Epigrams

This will be a writing/literature-related post, but I have to break protocol by thanking T. and F. for their support today.  Bad day--bad week!--and these two friends took me out for dinner and wine, said awesome things, and overall encouraged and held me up.  What great friends!  And one of them emailed later, saying:

sorry to hear that you've had a crazy week...In any case, I know you are bothered by this cluster f*** but it'll pass. You are a talented, organized, dedicated, extremely knowledgeable [guy]. You need to keep that in your head and in your heart.Have a restful and worry-free weekend!

Undoubtedly, this person was kidding about the "organized" part, but still...I got by with a little help from my friends today.  Thanks, guys.  You rule.  **sniffle, sniffle**  GROUP HUG!!!

Okay, so now...How about some of my favorite Stephen King lines?  In recognition of his next book coming out on the 9th--because he SO needs my support!!!--here are some of the Stephen King keepers since 1974:

Friends come in and out of your lives like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that? But when I think of that dream, the corpses under the water pulling implacably at my legs, it seems right that it should be that way. Some people drown, that’s all. It s not fair, but it happens. Some people drown.

---"The Body"/ Different Seasons

Mommy, he said thickly. How did the monster in my closet get out? Is it a dream? Is it my nap?


Well, we all do what we can, and it has to be good enough. And if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.

---The Dead Zone.

So you understand that when we increase the number of variables, the axioms themselves never change.


He never made it out of the cock-a-doodie car!


And my all-time favorite, which Stuttering Bill Denbrough says:

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

On the Fire

Photo credit: Olympus Imaging Corp./ Philippe Giabbanelli/ DoctorPete

A few things on the fire right now:

1.  Can you imagine being the one person immune to a disease wiping out your entire family?  Everyone's dying around you, no known cure, lots of wild theories and rumors, and, after everyone dies off and you survive, you walk out of your home--which had been quarantined--only to find that your whole village had been wiped out.  Sound crazy?  Look at this link, about Eyam, Derbyshire, England, a village that suffered for 14 months with the plague in 1665-6 and deliberately quarantined itself.  About 25% of the village survived; entire families were wiped out.  (Look at the pic of the Rose Cottage, about the Thorpe family.)  Some people in the village, like a woman who buried her whole family, and the town gravedigger, survived, though they came in touch with countless of the infected.  Imagine being that woman, who survived as all of her family died around her?  Or being that gravedigger?  What happened to his family?  How did he feel burying all his friends?  Working on this now; setting either in 1665, or present day, I don't know.  Leaning towards present-day.  Novella or novel.

2.  The other short story I'm excited about because it's my first non-genre piece, called "So Many Reasons to Celebrate the Season."  It's about a writer coming home from a book tour at Christmas Eve, to a wife he knows is cheating on him and wants to divorce him.  His internal struggles on the plane ride home, in the airport with a fan as his wife approaches, and then on the ride home, when his wife tells him that her parents are already there, and that she's leaving him after the holidays for the guy she's been having the affair with.  Both pieces are ready to ship out.

3.  News, soon, about a short story recently accepted.  TBA.

4.  I have to send out two new short stories, one of them a Brad Foster short, called "Pink Lemonade."  There's another short story of Foster out there right now, knocking on doors, looking for a home.  (Foster is the main character and 1st person narrator of Cursing the Darkness, the prologue of which is below, with Chapter One waiting in the wings at my website.)  A poem is out there, too.

5.  Follow-up to Cursing the Darkness.  Leaning towards a prequel.  Writing decisions are hard.

6.  Finishing "Cribbage," a short story about a father and son (wife/mother has recently died) who bond over a game of cribbage; the boy has an adult-consciousness epiphany at the end.

7.  Novels: The Observer and Apocalypse.

8.  Novella that needs and wants to be a novel: The Gravediggers.  An existentialist/horror/vampire tale.  I began it in the mid- to late-90s, before everyone wrote vampire stuff.

9.  My day job.

10.  Spending less time at the computer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Epigrams: Lorrie Moore, Birds of America (Short Story Collection)

My better half tells me this blog should have a consistently different theme every day, like Monday is poetry day; Tuesday, epigram day; and so on.  While I realize this isn't a bad idea, I'm also the kinda guy who wants to do what he wants to do (within appropriate reason, whatever that is), and right now I want to share some awesome epigrams by Lorrie Moore.  I wouldn't be able to do this without vetoing myself, so I'm willing to hear ideas about this.  Who's for saying that I should stick to some sort of system?  Who's for The Whatever?

And a little thing about short story writers: While novelists and screenwriters generally bring in the really huge bucks, the multi-million dollar deals, the quality of short story writers is sadly overlooked.  Bad novelists still rake it in, but short story writers don't have the luxury of being bad; they first have to get their stories published in places like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper's, before they "collect" their stories into a book, and those places simply do not publish bad writing.  And in the short story, every word counts, so wordy writers like Stephen King would have a problem (and let's face it, he hasn't written consistently high-quality short stories in a long time now).  So go check out Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver and other short story collections; you will find some very high quality writing there.

And, by the way, Google Scholar has Lorrie Moore's Birds of America for free.  But, anyway, without further ado, here are a few of its gems:

This lunge at moral fastidiousness was something she'd noticed a lot in the people around here.  They were not good people.  They were not kind.  They played around and lied to their spouses.  But they recycled their newspapers!---"Community Life" p. 73

...She had lost her place, as in a book...One should live closer to where one's parents were buried.--ibid. p. 77.

..."The United States--how can you live in that country?" the man asked.  Agnes had shrugged.  "A lot of my stuff is there," she'd said, and it was then that she first felt all the dark love and shame that came from the pure accident of home, the deep and arbitrary place that happened to be yours.

Thank God, thank God, she was not her mother.

Over the years, she and Joe tried to have a baby, but one night at dinner, looking at each other in a lonely way over the meat loaf, they realized with shock that they probably never would.  Nonetheless, after six years, they still tried, vandalizing what romance was left in their marriage.---"Agnes of Iowa," pgs. 78-95

Holding fast to her little patch of marital ground, she'd watched as his lovers floated through like ballerinas...all of them sudden and fleeting, as if they were calendar girls ripped monthly by the same mysterious calendar-ripping wind that hurried time along in old movies...What did Ruth care now?  Those girls were over and gone.  The key to marriage, she concluded, was just not to take the thing too seriously.

The only way to know absolutely everything in life is via an autopsy.

In this way--a wedding of emotionally handicapped parking spaces...they'd managed to stay married.  He was not such a bad guy!--just a handsome country boy, disbelieving of his own luck, which came to him imperfectly but continually, like crackers from a cookie jar.

He looked crazy and ill--but with just a smidgen of charisma!

Every house is a grave, thought Ruth.

If she had to go on a diet with a fake woman's name on it, she would go on the Betty Crocker diet...

---"Real Estate," pgs. 177-211.

This is but a sample.  Short story writers are the true wordsmiths and artists.  No one gets rich just writing short stories.  Check out Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, too.