Thursday, December 12, 2013


First off, thanks to those of you who commented either here or on my Facebook page regarding the opening scene I posted. Most of you thought it was good so I'm keeping it (with a few more tweaks because writers never stop tweaking). The encouraging thing about that little exercise is that some of you actually wanted to know what happens next.

The answer to that is "A lot." While I haven't checked the page count lately, I can tell you this is the longest first draft I've ever written. Per my usual writing style the second draft came down quite a bit. I tend to write long. But I'm sure it's still longer than my other two completed books. So yeah, it's a wild ride and I'm excited about sharing it with my readers. Given that, what happens next is a loaded question, but bare with me and I'll post the next scene.

First let me tell you what I've learned working on this project. That's the important thing, because when it comes to developing a skill, you should always be learning something new. This project has shown me that not only are openings just as important as the swampy middle or the grand climax, they are hell to write. So much to accomplish in so few words. A writer has a tiny window in which to grab a reader's interest and if you don't take advantage of it then it doesn't matter how good the rest of the book is, no one will ever get that far.

This hasn't always been the case in literature. Books used to have endless prologues, introductions, and long opening scenes describing things like the color of autumn leaves or a gentle summer breeze. But these days, with fast food, high-speed internet, and On Demand TV, our attention spans are not much better than a tree squirrel's. And while I lament this age of constant stimulation, my firm belief in the natural progression of things and faith that all things are always as they are supposed to be, wins out over my urge to get on a soapbox and scream at people about their brains turning to oatmeal. This is the world we live in. I choose not to fight it, but to embrace it.

Now I realize some, if not all of you have probably skipped over the previous paragraphs in order to get to the following excerpt. That's okay. I don't blame you. I bore myself sometimes.

Here's scene two (If you haven't read scene one yet, please do so now):

A small window offered a rare glimpse of the world outside. Pierce stole glances through it while the monitors in the chapel displayed drones lowering his brother’s body into a cement box. Outside it didn’t matter where you looked, nothing had changed—white on white, like stink on shit, if both stink and shit were white. And while Pierce didn’t want to be here burying his brother, there was nowhere else he’d rather be.

“The mahogany casket’s a nice touch,” Remmy commented. “And that granite monument…top notch.”

“Yeah,” Pierce replied. “Just like everything else Bright Light makes; beautiful on the outside.”

As Paul’s interment progressed, he turned his attention back to the ceremony. Everyone seemed to be waiting for someone else to get up and say something. Pierce contemplated the relationship he and Paul had and thought of his mother’s voice issuing instructions before they went out to play. "Take care of your little brother, Paul. Make sure Pierce doesn’t wander off, Paul." Now, for the first time in his life, he was the one that needed to step up and ensure his older brother was being taken care of.

As the drones completed their task, Pierce broke the silence and said his final goodbye. “So long brother, maybe now you won’t be so cold.”

He looked around the room at the eleven others in attendance comprised entirely of Section D’s pit crew. Paul’s crew, all sitting with heads bowed showing respect to their fallen leader. Again he got caught up staring out the window, this time wondering what Paul would have said about the view. Just two days ago they’d talked about the weather and together they checked the forecast out of morbid curiosity. That seemed like an eternity ago; before Paul’s death changed everything. Yet outside the window nothing had changed. It all looked just like it had the last time he’d seen the surface; a frozen wasteland that could slice you up and rip your guts out quicker than any wild animal; that is if any wild animals had survived.

Now it didn’t seem to matter if he ever left the Pit. The plans he and Paul had made to provide wilderness tours to those who’d survived the damn ice age would never see the light of day. They’d even talked about the t-shirts they would sell to their customers. T-shirts that read, “I Survived the Damn Ice Age.” They’d had a lot of fun thinking about all the people clamoring to be outside after living in a pod for so many years. It had been a great way to pass the time. Now time could go take a hike.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Does This Interest You?

If you're reading this it's because you have been kind enough to take an interest in something I love. That is I love to write and as a writer I mostly work in a vacuum. Occasionally I need to empty the bag and let others see what I've been doing. This, of course, opens me up to severe criticism, which in my heart I know is necessary, but it also blows up my fantasy that everything I write comes out like golden turds and readers will marvel over its beauty. Of course that's not the case. Not with me. Not with any writer. It's a long and difficult process to get just the right words down in exactly the right order. And in order to do this I need objective opinions from people who aren't in my head.

The following is the opening scene of my latest sci-fi novel. It's just under 800 words so it shouldn't take long to read. I'll say no more about it. It would be really neat if you all could comment on whether or not you're pulled in enough by this opening to want to read on. For me, the opening is the hardest part of writing a novel. I'll admit, I've struggled with this opening scene quite a bit and have rewritten it several times. Let me know what you think, and don't be afraid to be critical. Please note, nothing here (other than the first three lines because I'm convinced they're perfect) are set in stone.

Chapter 1

He took the red pill first. Sure, any fool could follow the company’s prescribed pill-taking sequence—green, blue, yellow, and then red. He may have been a fool, but he wasn’t their fool. Used correctly the pills were designed to keep him alive. Abused correctly they could drive one insane, which would be one way to get out of the monotonous twelve-hour shifts he endured day after endless day monitoring meters and gauges that never changed; meters and gauges millions of desperate people bet their lives on.

His brother’s voice came over the comm. “Pierce, it’s been a long night. Can you be here on time for a change?”

"Sure thing," he replied, wondering why the hell he hadn't turned his comm off the night before. As his superior in the Pits, Pierce hated the idea of disappointing his big brother, Paul. So for now Pierce would take the company’s pills in moderation, albeit not in the right order, and show up for his shifts like a good little soldier, which meant he needed to get his ass in gear and get ready for work.

He stripped down and walked through the quick-cleanse, effectively killing off whatever underground bacteria might be nesting on his body. When he got out, he settled in front of the mirror. The face that looked back gave him pause. Something about this morning was all wrong. He grabbed the lower half of his beard and gave it a tug, then grabbed a pair of scissors and began cutting. Then he went at it with a razor until there was nothing left but a short stubble. Still not satisfied he began shaving geometric patterns into the remains of the beard before moving on to the close cropped hair on his head.

His friend Remmy’s voice came over the comm just as he was putting the final touches on a swirly design above his left ear. “Hey Pierce, I got something big cooked up for this afternoon. Stop by my control room when you get a chance.”

“Shit. What time is it?” He looked at the clock on his comm device. Twenty minutes late and his face and scalp were a bloody mess. After a quick wipe with a wet towel he slapped tiny pieces of tissue over the bleeding nicks and pulled on his coveralls. Then he popped another red pill in his mouth, and ran out the door. Already his morning had gone to shit and the day had barely started. Dashing down the hall he jumped into the elevator and pushed the middle of three buttons several times before the door closed.

A sexy female voice came from speakers in the ceiling. Welcome crewman Pierce to the Big Sleep; the most extensive social networking event ever. You are now twenty six minutes and eighteen seconds late.

He mouthed along with the greeting stopping just short of the reminder of his tardiness. Pacing as the car made its ascent to the next level he almost wished it would keep going until it reached the planet’s surface; crazy thoughts that vanished as soon as the doors opened.

Thank you for your service crewman Pierce. Have a nice day.

He rolled his eyes and tried to act casual as he hurried out of the car. But as the doors closed behind him he heard something unexpected from the voice in the elevator.

No need to hurry. He’s already dead.

Shaking his head he raced down the hall to the security door of his control room where lifted his hand to the palm reader for access. He was shaking. Something was definitely off this morning. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken the red pill first because his thoughts kept getting crazier. If he didn’t get in the control room soon, Paul would ream his ass faster than he could flick a bugger. But first he had to fight through this sudden panic attack. From down the hall he heard the elevator’s voice again.

He’s dead. Don’t go in there.

He covered his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. Sure he’d been late before, but he’d really been meaning to turn things around. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he forced his hand onto the reader and opened the door.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hey Brother, can you spare 41 cents?

If you guessed this post is going to be about change, then I suppose you can give yourself credit for being a quick thinker - or at least as obscure a thinker as I am. So there are a few reasons I'm writing about change today. The most immediate is that when I woke up this morning, got my coffee, and settled into my morning, I opened up Facebook and saw that the layout of my page had changed. Okay, no big deal. I've dealt with far worse to start my day.

But it got me thinking. In fact, lately my days have pretty even keel. I so much as told this to an acquaintance of mine (okay, a close acquaintance) who seems to be struggling right now with things. Yesterday we were having a conversation (mostly a monologue on her part I admit I didn't have the energy to listen to) and in reply to her remark that she needs to talk herself down and not do anything rash I mentioned how lately I've had no desire to stir things up in my life. I'm okay with where I'm at and I've no reason to make any changes.

 She replied by saying change is inevitable.

 Of course it is I replied. Change happens whether you like it or not. And there certainly are times when it's appropriate to force a change in your life. If you're in an abusive relationship, or your habitual behavior is causing you to suffer you should definitely look into doing something about it. But in your quest for enlightenment don't you think that if you reach a plateau you should jump on the opportunity to take a breather? Should I feel guilty that I'm not trying to force myself to grow as a person right now? I'm just not interested. I mean don't I do that naturally anyway?

 One never knows when life has been setting you up with fastballs and is about to send a split-fingered slider your way. You're not looking for it, nor should you. It's too exhausting. But it doesn't hurt to keep the possibility in the back of your mind either. Then when it happens you'll at least have a shot at laying some wood into it. (Okay, I'm done with the baseball analogies. If I've lost you please understand it's summer and baseball is a symbol of the season. You have to at least appreciate that. Now keep reading and let's be adult about this.)

 Change hits you when you least expect it. Thirteen years ago I knew change was coming. I had a son on the way. I would soon have two children. Our family dynamic would never be the same. So I prepared myself for it. Did all the things expectant parents do, some of which I didn't do the first time around. One week after my son was born we found ourselves in Boston Children's hospital listening to doctors explain over and over what was wrong with our son's heart with me half-listening and understanding even less. It still tears at me to think of it. All I knew was that they were going to cut my infant son's chest open like a melon and rubber band something together. This would fix things for a while but as he grew they made it perfectly clear that we'd be back for more. This is the kind of change you can never prepare yourself for. Like the day I came home from work to learn my dad had massive heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. Nope. Didn't see that one coming either. You will never, never, never be able to avoid change, nor will you be able to anticipate it. OF COURSE I KNOW THAT.

So here's what I've learned in my 57 years of life. If it ain't broken...yeah, you know the rest and that sounds pretty trite. But it's true.

So about the title of today's post. The other day I was walking down the street and one of the growing number of homeless people stopped me and asked for exactly 41 cents.

I gave him fifty.
Hee Haw

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Seedy Underbelly

I have seen it. The seedy underbelly of rural America. And you know what? It's not as frightening as I thought. The thing of it is, I've come to realize that keeping an open mind about people, places, and things that normally would be outside your comfort zone is actually beneficial to your personal growth. In case you were wondering, I am unabashedly non-conformist. My hair is a bit on the long side. I don't wear suits. I'm most comfortable wearing thrift shop clothing. And I don't eat fast food. And while I don't talk politics or try to argue my views, I suspect I would baffle a lot of people when it comes to how my convictions are formed. Same thing with religion. My views come from within, are not altogether on one side or the other, and are not swayed by the opinions of those around me. Now about the company I keep, here's where my spiritual beliefs come into play. My associations astound me. Through no design of my own, I find myself collaborating on a close and personal basis with people I typically wouldn't give two shakes about. I chalk this up to finally allowing myself to be open to anything and everything in the vast world that surrounds me. I am not a redneck. I am not a religious fanatic. Hell, I'm not even a Hoosier. Yet here I am playing in a redneck band at night, and a praise band on Sunday mornings. All in the great state of Indiana. No way I could ever force these collaborations. Therefore I must chalk it up to intelligent design. What I do serves a purpose, even though I might not understand all of what that purpose entails or even how that purpose affects the grand scheme of things. We are by nature visual people. When most people think about God, they try to form some sort of picture in their head of what this God might look like. Over the course of history there must be thousands upon thousands of paintings, drawings, and sculptures of what man (or woman) believes to be a depiction of the almighty deity. Where does this vision come from? Well, in my belief system, all creativity comes from a higher power. Given that, maybe these depictions are accurate. Yet they are all so different. So in my view, the Almighty, creator of the universe, can take any form depending on the needs of the recipient. If you're comfortable envisioning God as an old man in a robe with white flowing hair and a long beard sitting on a cloud, then that's what he is. If you're vision is that of a young woman colorfully dressed with eight arms then...well, you get the picture. So back to my original point. I've spent much of my life being closed minded. Too much. Looking down your nose at people, places, and things has cut down on the number of experiences I might have had even though I determined early on in life that experience is really the pinnacle of our purpose. It's why I write. To take my experiences, regurgitate them into something entertaining, and send the results out into the cosmos. So in order to do that to the best of my ability, I need to be open and positive about allowing myself to fall into situations I previously might have backed out of. And lastly, although I'm no longer a youngster, I need to be mindful that I still have much to learn. And for that concept, I'm thankful I figured it out. Now if I could only figure out how to make the perfect mac n cheese. Hee Haw