What lurks in your town?
It’s hard to find a story that is as juicy and enticing as a good ol’ urban legend. You know the kind of story I’m talking about! The one where you heard that your friends’ cousin has a friend that died of food poisoning from the tainted soup that had snake venom in it. You’d think the family would have sued the soup company but you can’t find anything about it on the internet, except that it actually happened in Idaho instead of New Jersey like you first heard. Maybe your friend just had the city wrong?
Urban legends, those stories that are completely unverifiable but you can’t help but to be drawn to them anyway. Hell, they’ve been responsible for probably being the inspiration for most of the horror movies I’ve seen. (A statement that is also unverifiable, but I’ll assume is true.) Remember the movie Urban Legend from the late 90’s? You might remember it. It was stuck in there somewhere between the Scream franchise and I Know What You Did Last Summer, right smack in the middle of the resurgence of horror movies. There’s nothing like a creepy legend that offers up a “moral to the story,” and urban legends don’t disappoint.
What is your favorite urban legend? Let me know. Then tune in to the Gonzo Chronicles podcast and we’ll talk about ‘em. Maybe we’ll make a few legends of our own.
Also on iTunes and Spotify!!
2020, What Happened???
2020! What a year so far! I mean, it started off great but then about early March we all woke up in the Twilight Zone. I know a lot of people have already shared their thoughts and opinions on everything from the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown to the protests/riots/BLM-Antifa stuff going on all over the country. Hell, after 20 minutes on social media even my head starts to spin. Like many of you, my brain and soul is absolutely exhausted and I worry about my country and about people going through similar things all over the world. I do hope and pray that things get better soon.
I can’t be the only one that feels that common sense is the new counter culture. These days I care less and less about anything coming out of Hollywood (movies and opinions) or the sports world. People living in a bubble telling the rest of us how to think and feel is pretty pathetic. People that listen to that noise, well, let’s just say I feel sorry for them. Social media has its purpose, I suppose. I do find more news that is accurate on Twitter coming from other users than I do from any of the mainstream media. You guys know I write some pretty far out stuff, but I don’t think that is a conspiracy theory to believe that we’ve been sold a bill of goods, a false narrative, from politicians, the media, and pop culture for a long time. It’s like people are waking up and finding out they’ve been lied to and whoever the powers that be are have decided to turn up the heat and burn it all down in 2020.
I’m not going to get political and tell you how to think (or try to influence you in any way). I’ve lost friends on social media for no other reason than having a difference of opinion on one issue or another. It’s a toxic environment. We’d all be better off turning off the news and avoiding social media for a while. Maybe read those books we’ve meant to get to for years, or go hang out with a few friends and learn a new hobby together.
Do you ever wonder what the world would look like if we all wised up and became self sufficient and educated ourselves, sought out the truth for ourselves, became our own journalist without an agenda? I wonder that sometimes.
Anyway, I’ll avoid a rant. Let’s all make the world a better place. Do something nice for a stranger tomorrow. Hug someone that needs a hug. Listen to someone that needs a shoulder. We have a chance to live in a much better world, but I guess it starts with each of us. Kind of like that whole Michael Jackson “Man in the Mirror” tune, I suppose.
I’ll shut up and go back to writing books and short stories again. Thanks for lending me your ear…er, your eyes.
Why? That is the most powerful and honest question that anyone can ask about any situation, person, place, or thing. It can apply to nearly anything. It is also a question that can get you into a lot of trouble if you ask it of the wrong person or about a sensitive situation. It’s a question that demands thought and sincere honesty if you are going to answer it. Most importantly, if you ask it of yourself, and don’t try to deceive yourself or convince yourself of a lie, it will force you to some uncomfortable truths in our own lives. It is a powerful question that can make each of us a better person if we let it.
Unhappy in life…why?
Have terrible relationships/marriage…why? Why stay? Why leave?
Why did you choose the career you have?
Why are you studying that field in college?
Why do you want that beach house?
Each of those questions could have very vague and generic answers, but if you think about it long enough, the answers go much deeper. They are personal. They are emotional. Why do you want that house of the beach? To live a life of luxury, of course! To enjoy the sun and fun, and beautiful sunsets! Well, those are pretty good answers. But maybe there is something haunting about the ocean at night, the sound of the waves that are calming. Something about the vast ocean that appeals to you more than the nearby lake, perhaps. Or maybe that lake is perfectly fine but it’s just too close to home…and in your soul you’ve grown tired of where you are and you want to break away, to get away and start over. Maybe that’s what that beach house is about.
About twenty years ago I took up writing as a hobby. Like most folks I decided that before I die I wanted to write a book. It was something that I tossed on the bucket list. But it occurred to me that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. What we don’t do today we may not ever get to tomorrow. Complacency could set in, or we could use a million excuses to avoid writing that book. I understood that and said “screw it!” I decided to write my first book and I soon found the inspiration for the story. I’m not going to bore you with the details of that, but twenty years later, and a whole bunch of books later, I asked myself why.
Why do I continue to write books? Why did I start writing in the first place? It wasn’t something as simple as a fleeting goal to write one “just because.” No, I had a purpose. At first I wanted to be the next Stephen King. All these years later I realize that isn’t going to happen. I may never make much money at all writing books, so writing sure as hell isn’t about the money. It never was. It was a nice thought to think that my stories could have a huge impact on the industry and on Hollywood, but getting rich and seeing my books being played out on the big screen wasn’t the purpose. I knew pretty quickly that I didn’t want to be the next Stephen King or Tom Clancy. I wanted to be the first Cyrus Alderwood. Unique. Quirky. A bit unconventional.
So why do I write? It’s a passion for me. It’s not that I want to write…I have to write. Anyone who is serious about the craft feels that way. And my reasons are simple. You know how you sit around and daydream and somehow in your daydreams and goals you’re always a better person. Better looking, richer, popular, tough…whatever and whoever the other “you” is in your dreams and daydreams. Well, I write about flawed characters. I write about wacky situations. Some are humorous, some are horrorific, some stories are more profound with characters that are emotionally or personally broken in some way. Underneath the comedy, the drama, the suspense are characters that are just like you and I. Flawed, some more than others. Stubborn, selfish goals, angry, bitter, lost and confused, no real direction in life and no understanding about or even giving much thought to the path they are on. Just like most of us. We like to think we’re better than that because deep down we don’t want to ask that question: Why? Why are we who we are? Why are we in this situation? Why don’t I do something about it? Why don’t I see what I truly want and reach for it? A lot of things keep us from asking that question, but a big part of it is being afraid of the answer. Fearing our own truth. And that is the way of life. It’s hard to answer that question.
I write to answer that question regardless of what kind of story I’m writing. I want you, the reader, to understand that it is okay to be flawed. That it is okay to not be perfect. And it is okay to ask yourself that question and face it head on. My characters do this. Pot of Gold is a perfect example. Revelation Calling is another. Somewhere in those pages I lose myself and find myself.
I write because I want you to go on that journey with me. Yes, YOU! I want complete strangers and good friends to take that journey with me. It’s personal. It’s visceral. It’s painfully hilarious at times. It’s heart wrenching and exhilarating. It is a tough thing to open up my soul and hopes and dreams through these characters, to share my imagination and mix in my own personal philosophies about life and love and character and adventure. Every emotion is eventually displayed on those pages. My hopes, my fears, and imagination. I write to take a journey with you and hope that those stories leave a lasting impact on you. I write so that you’ll read a story, be wildly entertained, and learn something about yourself along the way. If it changes the culture, if it makes to a big screen one day, if I make a bunch of money off of it…so be it. I write for the high of it, I write just as much for you, the stranger reading this, as I do for me.
I write because I hope that my work is widely read, that it makes a cultural difference and moves the needle, on a personal level, with people that read my work.
To quote one of my literary heroes, HST: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” We only live once, make the most of it.
Famous Last Words
“I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.” Allegedly the last words of Humphrey Bogart before he died of cancer in 1957.
Welcome to my web page, Cyrus Alderwood, author of novels, novellas and short stories about adventure, life, love, laughter, and other assorted topics of filth and ignorance. Thanks for stopping by to hang out. Grab yourself an adult beverage, put your feet up, and stay a while. Maybe we’ll come up with a wretched scheme to take over the world while we’re here.
I’m Addicted To Strange Podcasts
I’ve turned into a podcast junkie! I had never listened to a podcast before a couple of years ago when I first got a smart phone. I had fought like hell to avoid getting one of those. I have this love/hate thing going on with technology these days. I’ll get into that another time, but it is well worth reading about!
Have I mentioned before that I have tested positive for Nerd? It’s true. So I’ve subscribed to podcasts that talk about history, some that focus on individuals and their role in history (past and present), and a ton of podcasts that focus on the strange, weird, macabre, and out of this world (literally). Basically anything that is strange is probably right up my alley. So, let’s review my favorite “strange stuff” podcasts as of February 2019.
Weird Darkness: This show relies on the listeners and has been a big hit for a long time. If you have a crazy or creepy story all you have to do is call and tell them, or email it to them. Each show features something scary and macabre that comes from people sharing their stories. This show is a staple in my listening entertainment. These come out often so don’t be surprised if you subscribe to this one and you find next week that you’re five or ten episode behind.
Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know: I’ve heard all kinds of incredibly interesting discussions on this show from the background and nefarious way the Federal Reserve came about, the history of the funeral business and whether there is a secret monopoly involved, discussions about Lost Tombs, China landing on the dark side of the moon, the secret installation at Pine Gap in Australia, and lost secrets about the Salem Witch Trials just to name a few. This show is one of the most interesting and entertaining you’ll find.
Aliens and Beyond: You’ll not find this one on iTunes just yet, but if you do a search for it on YouTube you’ll find it easy enough. Hosts Heidi Gadd and Mace Byers (of the band Grey Daze) have put together a fun video experience of their show with some fun background visuals. These two are big time enthusiasts of all things weird and unusual, especially UFO sightings and the existence of alien life throughout the universe. Heidi even has an interesting story of her own UFO sightings. I stumbled on to her when she co-hosted another show. However, due to creative differences she left and started this show/future podcast. Heidi and Mace gel well on the show and their personalities are just as big a part of the show as the interesting content and subjects they tackle. The only problem is that each show leaves you wanting another one faster than they can make one. Definitely check this one out.
Mysterious Radio: K-Town is an amazing host of this podcast that comes from Knoxville. It’s a rarity if her guest isn’t interesting and she really presses on the questions that her listeners want to hear asked. She tackles subjects all things paranormal such as haunting, unexplained mysteries, cryptid sightings, UFO’s and abductions to name only a few. She’s no stranger to having guests on to discuss all kinds of conspiracy theories.
Why The Great Gatsby Is the Greatest of the Classics
Like most of us I was forced into reading some of the best classics when I was in high school. It was during that time that I sort of detested having to read all those crusty outdated books that were hard to understand, much less have to have a meaningless discussion about plot and theme with my fellow teenagers. Most of us were bored to tears having to read Shakespeare and Steinbeck. None of us cared about the Great Depression, we had video games and MTV to talk about. We were too busy plotting our weekend adventures around the school’s football or basketball games. I sincerely regret being that way when I was young.
Nowadays I hold dearly to a very famous quote. “A man who reads lives a thousand lives. A man that doesn’t lives but only one.”
When I was in my late twenties I developed a love for the classics. They took me back in time to another place, experiencing hardships and adventures through characters that lived during times that I only brushed past in my history books. I learned a lot about life by reading some of those books. Three books stick out the most. Cannery Row by Steinbeck, A Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Of all the classics that I’ve read, Fitzgerald is my favorite writer and The Great Gatsby had an impact on my soul.
The strong themes of this book are so powerful that they make this book relevant today, maybe more relevant than most realize. We live in a culture of excess, reverence for those with money, of lust for a better life, a wealthier life. Don’t believe me? Ever noticed how many lottery tickets are sold in this country? How some of our television shows about wealthy people dominate the pop culture, or how our fascination with celebrity is over the top? That didn’t start with the 80’s television show Lifestyle’s of the Rich and Famous. It’s been there for a long time and seems to permeate our culture and grab out attention.
The Great Gatsby takes place in the American era that fascinates me the most…the Roaring 20’s. Fitzgerald called it the Jazz Age. America was booming on all fronts. The stock market was climbing rapidly and creating new wealth (sound familiar?), the culture was changing so rapidly that it was enough to make your head spin. We’d come out of WWI victorious, booze became illegal but the rich had the access, organized crime was reaching legendary proportions, so much so that we still make movies about it today.
If you haven’t read this book I suggest it be the next thing you purchase or check out from your local library. I’ll not give away too many spoilers.
One of the main themes of this book is that if you work hard and work smart, you can overcome anything in America and become successful. You can come from poverty and be filthy rich. You can completely remake yourself no matter your past. It’s the great American dream, after all. This theme hits home for me. I’m going to get personal here. I grew up in a run down trailer park in Central Appalachia. My folks moved my two sisters and I into the trailer park on my third birthday. We lost everything in a flood in 1977. We were dirt poor. Barely enough clothes to get us through a week. There is something romantic about the rags to riches story and I desperately want to see that through in my own life.
I used to work in the investment industry for one of the biggest companies in the business. Like Nick in the Great Gatsby, my last role at that firm was providing investment advice to high net worth people and trading bonds. I talked to people each day that probably spent more money that week than I made in a year. I hope I see some success now that I spend my time writing novels, something that my favorite literary icon, Fitzgerald, did. Only I hope to have amazing book sales that make me financially comfortable while I’m alive. Fitzgerald didn’t have that kind of luck. Maybe I should be more like Jay Gatsby and make money in the liquor business. He came from poverty to make his riches in the bootlegging business and was known for his lavish parties.
Many consider Gatsby a love story. It’s not, at least not to me. It’s a story of fascination and a longing for the past. Gatsby supposedly loves Daisy, but she is married to a rich man and they pretty much live a life doing whatever they want, and getting away with their toxic behaviors. (Read the book!!! Trust me on this one.) Gatsby wants to reunite with Daisy, and lives this infamous life and chased riches mostly just to impress her. She is married and he wants her back. Not for who she is now, but for what they used to be. He didn’t like losing her so he goes to crazy lengths to gain her attention once again.
I can relate to that, too. The longing for something that was good in the past but would be a disaster if rekindled now. I guess we’ve all been there. But Gatsby adores this woman from afar. She is married, so he doesn’t have much of a choice except to reach out through secretive means. But this theme, the longing for someone you can’t have. Knowing that you can’t even push that idea or hope. Maybe I’m not the only one that’s been there, too.
This book was powerful and hits home on many fronts for me. That’s why I put this one at the top of my list and why F. Scott Fitzgerald (his entire body of work, actually) appeal so much to me.
Even the last line of the book is powerful.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
A Beer Snob’s Guide to the Good Stuff!
I never considered myself to be a beer snob. I have an experienced palate when it comes to hops and barley. I’m a man of the froth, I’ve drank many a beer in shady bars all up and down Desolation Row. I’ll take no particular pride or shame in that fact. I’ll just chalk that up to experiences I won’t soon forget. I’ve met many a character in these fine establishments of questionable patronage. I’ve often looked for truth at the bottom of a bottle, but one truth sticks out more than most others in my hazy memory. You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of beer they drink.
If you’re in a bar and the only things on tap are Budweiser and Bud Light, you look that bartender in the eye and you tell him…well, go ahead and order the Budweiser. Light beer is still for candy asses. I got branded a beer snob in one of these fine bars when I dared order something that wasn’t on tap, something that wasn’t one of the typical commercial brands. I was looked upon as a heretic when I first ordered a Leinenkugel Red. Sweet mother of Odin was that damn beer exquisite! I ordered a few more that night. That’s when I decided that I was finished with swill and was going to broaden my beer horizons. I feel bad for those that still drink Miller Lite exclusively. Below are ten beers you need to drink if you fancy yourself a beer drinker.
- Leinenkugel Red
- Molson Canadian
- Bitburger Premium Pilsner
- Fat Tire
- Yuengling Lager
- Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
- Alaskan Amber
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale—nothing has kicked this one from topping the list…yet.
***This should be a countdown from 10 to 1. Not sure why I’m not able to correct this, but you get the point.
Dear John Lennon
Dear John Lennon,
Your music inspired millions, taught us what it is like to imagine. I’ve been imagining a better world since hearing your infamous song. Those inspiring words. The hope for a better tomorrow in your voice. That hope and inspiration fueled a generation and touched the generations after your passing. It is a reminder of the better part of our souls.
What would you think of our culture today? Sure, there are great things happing in our world. The light always outshines the darkness. Good deeds and soft words heal more than hate and rage can pain a nation. Remember when people used to sit down and talk to one another, discuss differences with mutual respect? I’m sure you can. I barely remember those times. Today is much different. There’s too much propaganda and not enough truth. Too many people looking at life through a narrow lens and not enough people living with empathy. Today, everything is political. Everything.
Sports? Can’t watch a game without the expectation of a protest or political commentary. You can’t escape the propaganda. Universities no longer value free expression and thought, they value indoctrination. We’ve come a long way, baby! No matter what news source you go to, you can’t escape some kind of spin. The worst part about it is that it has ripped our nation apart. Politicians and the media love it, too. More money to be made from anger than from hope. Politicians have mastered the art of divide and conquer. Too many people demonize others for holding a different opinion. Watching something as enjoyable as a football game can cause an argument, both sides spewing their preferred version of propaganda with self-righteous fury. Of course, the other side is no longer your friend. They are somehow an ideological enemy. Even something as mundane as where you shop or choose to have a chicken sandwich for lunch is now political. Free speech isn’t valued. Neither is respect. It’s a sad state of affairs today.
Too much hate going around. People seem to wake up in the morning and look for something to be angry or offended about. Too many pointing fingers over social ills, too few trying to provide real solutions. Too many people weighed down by the heavy chains of political affiliation, blind to common sense. Too much hate going around. I remember you once said all we need is love. I imagine a time when people wake up and realize that.
Truth is elusive in the media. Everywhere, really. No one really trusts what they hear or read in the news. I imagine a day when truth is demanded, an honest truth. I imagine a day when people are still valued for a different opinion and point of view, not ridiculed in public for five minutes of fame. I imagine a day when we put more value on building people up instead of tearing them down. I imagine a day of harmony.
Do you still imagine? Are you still a dreamer? Am I?
Kick Ass Book Covers
March 9, 2018
I’ve heard a million times that a book cover can make a book or break a book. Well, there’s some truth to that, but not entirely. I’ll admit that I’m not the greatest Paint Shop Pro user in the world. In fact, I’m piss poor at it. But I do manage to make some decent book covers. However, the best (and by far the coolest) book covers I’ve even had came by the creative handiwork and imagination of the most talented person I know. Cherie (and I’ll not use her last name on here) has worked on book covers for me in the past and given me permission to use those images however I see fit.
I am in the process of editing and rewriting a four part horror series. I self published it years ago, but I pulled them offline to give them a bit of a makeover. Cherie did the original covers. I had to tweak those a bit myself to account for a change in book title. The original title was way too long. The original covers are bad ass. I did the best that I could with these two cover to salvage her work.
If she’s reading this…you’re awesome. Thanks for sharing your talent with me.
These are the book covers for my next two books. Hoping to have these out soon. Shooting for June 2018 or sooner.
Is writting a letter a long lost art?
This afternoon I got back home from running a few errands and settled in at the bar in the kitchen to have a bite of lunch. As usual around that time of day I can hear the mail carrier in his truck as he drives down one street over to deliver mail. And usually about ten minutes later he stops in front of my house and tosses in assorted junk mail or bills. It seems like nothing meaningful ever comes in the mail these days unless you’re waiting on a package, something you’ve ordered online.
Today I bounced down the stairs and opened the mailbox. Another book full of overpriced junk to buy (a holdover from when my dad was still alive). Yep, a bill. Those are always pleasant. (Insert sarcasm here.) Hey, a couple of letters! Real letters!
I couldn’t help but to smile. I got two letters in the mail today from someone that I absolutely adore and think the world of. I eagerly read each one. Twice! It made me think back to when I was a kid and the concept of “pen pals.” I’m not sure how patient people could be in this age of technology to be actual pen pals. I imagine even the best of us would fade out after some time. Afterall, we can always text or email. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram.
But with all of this technology to help keep us closer, all of those “social media” interactions are so impersonal. The longer you use them the more robotic it seems. But a letter…someone has to actually really care about you enough to sit down and take the time to hand write a letter. Sometimes they care enough. Sometimes, you hope, they care a lot.
Am I going to write back? You better believe it!
So here’s an interesting challenge for those of you reading this. Think of someone that you regard highly, someone you miss or long for their company. Maybe someone you owe a “thank you” or an apology to. Write them a letter. Say anything you want to. Be reserved if you feel the need, spill your guts if you think the two of you can take it. Seriously. Write a letter this week and mail it to someone you care about. You’d be surprised how much something so simple, and yet personal, would mean to them.
STEPS IN THE WRITING PROCESS
October 11, 2017
Over the course of the past few years, and more and more over the past few months, I have had many people approach me on social media for guidance when it comes to writing their first book. I used to think giving this kind of advice was easy. I’d just tell them how I got started and how I work on a book and that would be it. End of story. Help delivered, now go write that book! But as the years have passed (I’ve been writing since 1999) and my style has grown, developed and changed, I realize that there is no such thing as simple advice on how to approach and write your first book. There are only loose guidelines and suggestions and each writer has to work with those until they find out what works best for them.
With that being said, I want to make a couple of very clear statements about being a writer. First, DON’T TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE A WRITER IF YOU HAVE WRITTEN A FEW PAGES AND ARE STILL MULLING OVER THE STORY AS YOU GO, ONLY WRITING WHEN THE MOOD HITS YOU. Put another way, a writer sits their ass down in the chair every single day and they write. Period. Anything other than that it is just a hobby at best. Second, if the story you want to write isn’t consuming your imagination then you are not ready to write it. When you are laying in bed at night and can’t sleep because you are thinking about your character, or the scene/movie of your story in your head…you’re there! Get out of bed and jot a few notes down so that you can start right away the moment you wake up the next morning. Hey, brush your teeth first and grab some coffee before you hit the keyboard. Let’s not be irrational here!
Writing is a passion. For me it has never felt like a job. It has never felt like a grind or something I’ve ever dreaded doing. Writing is something that you HAVE TO DO…if you’re a writer. However, make no mistake about it. Despite the passion and knowing that writing is something that engulfs you and all of your creative energy, it IS a lot of work. I used to tell people that if I could write a book, then anyone could. Well, after a few years and reading everything I can get my hands on over time I realize that is not true at all. Everyone may have a good story to tell, but writing a book isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s hard as hell. But don’t let my words discourage you. If you love the story you want to tell then by all means go for it! If it doesn’t work out for you then at least you know. Leave no room for regret because you didn’t try.
As for this blog entry I’ll start from the beginning and then add more to this blog later on. I hope it helps you.
STEP ONE: THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Here’s an oxymoron for you. This is one of the easiest and hardest parts of the entire writing process. The reason is because it relies entirely on your imagination, you’re ability to change and adapt a story you want to tell, and tests your passion for the story and the characters. If you aren’t entirely sold or love with these characters then don’t even consider starting yet.
In my comedy, Pot of Gold, it took some time to fall in love with those characters. At the time I was battling a serious depression for reasons I’ll not get into here, but I was far from my jovial self. I needed this book and these characters to show me how to laugh again. So when I developed the story, a damn good one and seriously worthy of some creative praise, I needed to relate to them. But more importantly I knew that YOU had to relate to them, too. That’s a tough balance to strike. Just because I thought the characters Pete and Sarah played well off of each other first didn’t mean that the reader would. So that’s when I created more a backstory for those two characters to grow into each other, to become comfortable with each other enough so that every smart ass comment or action would come across funny. It’s the same way when you and go out and meet new friends. I made their character traits mesh very well.
In my creative process, I break it down to three simple steps.
- When you know what genre you want to write in, then consume that genre. If you want to write a horror novel, then go out and read what other horror writers and writing about. You may learn something about style and horror specific topics you want to focus on. Consume the genre!
- That Aha! Moment. I had my moment back in 2000 when I knew I wanted to write a horror novel but didn’t have a story in mind. Then a friend of mine gave me a tour of Cincinnati. I had just moved there for a new job and didn’t know my way around very well, except to the baseball park! So she drove me through a cemetery…Spring Grove Cemetery. The beauty and the darkness of such a place combined to inspire me. I had my Aha moment and my first book was born that day. I’m re-releasing that book (which turned out to be a four part series) in 2018. More details about that at a later time.
- Once you have a story idea in mind then ask yourself what kind of character(s) could survive and thrive in that kind of story. Or if you don’t have a story but have a character in mind (this happens to me all the time!!) then ask what kind of story suits the character. How dangerous and suspenseful can this character be? Where is the best location/setting for this kickass character you have in mind? Details. Write them down, even the most silly of details, no matter how ridiculous you think it is. If you only have a scene in mind make sure you write it down. Great books are built from such small beginnings.
***Patience is a virtue, but brainstorming and mulling over your ideas every single day is just as important. Go forth and be creative.
October 15, 2017
Alright! You’re finished with Step 1, THE CREATIVE PROCESS. You have a passion for the story you want to write, you have a strong set of a relatable characters, and you can see this story unfolding in your head. You have a beginning scene in mind and you know how you want this to end. And that is AWESOME! If you find yourself here then you are well ahead of most folks who always wanted to write a book but never will. Congratulations. But, let’s not get all giddy and too excited yet. You have a lot of work ahead of you. The real work begins here.
STEP TWO: TO OUTLINE OR NOT TO OUTLINE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
When I first got started with writing way back in 2000 I had never read any books or articles on the entire “how to” process. My solution…wing it! Well, that didn’t work out so well with my first effort at writing a book. I had a great story in my head but had not fully developed the plot, the characters or the ending. In other words, I screwed up my entire first step. I got as far as four really great chapters. The story died right there. I hit a wall and had no idea how to salvage the story. It’s a shame, too. Even all these years later…it started off as a really original and scary piece of horror that has never seen the light of day.
Now that you’ve finished the creative process, you’ll have to figure out what works best for you as to whether you do a book outline or not. I have heard many writers say that they just sit down and type the story, letting it unfold as they go along. I can do that if I’m writing a short story. That was the typical formula I used in my latest book, Tales From the Sunset Pub. But you have to have a plan before you sit down and start beating on the keyboard.
In step two, you need to focus on two things…and fully develop each one.
- Characters!!! Strong and relatable characters make for a great story just as much as the story and the conflicts they face along the way. Okay, now go grab a notepad and a pen. Seriously. This is where the work begins. Write down the names of each of your main characters. Leave plenty of space between them because you are going to pen out a decent bio on each. Most of this stuff may not even make it into the book, but it makes it into your head and you will rely on this stuff as you develop your story and see to it that your characters go through it seamlessly. Is your lead character a brave person or cowardly. What are their biggest fears (maybe you make overcoming that fear a central part of the story)? Where are they from and how does that make them who they are? Do they have hobbies or are maybe still hung up on a past relationship? Ask a lot of questions about your characters and write down the answers.
See the photo below. Yeah, I did this way back in 2001. This kind of character summary doesn’t cut it. I screwed up again. Since then I’ve went back and worked on this story and am happy to say I salvaged it before I screwed it up too much. I’m about eight chapters into this book. Not sure when, or if, I’ll ever finish it.
2. Staying on track!!! This is hard to do, believe it or not. If you are hiking and don’t have a path to follow, it’s easy to stray off course. The same is true with writing. If I’m writing a full length novel I take the time (before I even sit down at the computer and beat the hell out of the keyboard) to use that same notepad where I summarized my characters and I do a pseudo-outline of my story/book. At the top of the next page I literally write “CHAPTER 1” and write a half page to one page summary of what that chapter is about. That’s all. No more, no less. And I keep doing that until the story is told. I do this all the way to the conclusion. I don’t want to be too detailed in this process because it is important that I leave room for my imagination and the creative process to continue to unfold in this step of the writing process.
I’ve had many writers tell me that this is a vital part of keeping their book on track and actually finishing it. I know that a loose outline (nothing overly detailed) has been helpful to me, especially early on in my writing career. I’ve also heard some writers say that trying to write in this way makes them feel like they are putting their story in a box and not letting it grow. That argument does have some merit. That’s why I go with a loose outline. See the picture below. I wrote this when I did that lousy character bio part. At least this part wasn’t so screwed up. This was way back in 2001. But as you begin this part you may find another method that works for you. If so, go with your gut. Stick to what you are comfortable with. If you feel like sharing your method, look me up on social media.
I’ll be back soon with the next step in the process. Until then, Cheers!
Step Three: Plot vs. Theme
Congratulations! By now you’re probably so excited to start writing chapter one of your novel, you’re likely bursting at the seams to show how cool and badass your characters are. That’s how I felt when I starting writing my very first chapter.
But wait! Hold on for one more day before you start writing. Here’s why, and this is vital. It may be the difference between writing a good story or writing a great one. I know this sounds elementary, but consider your plot and theme for one more day before writing. At least one more day. Take as long as you need. Trust me on this!!!
Here’s the simple difference. Plot IS your storyline. It is how your story unfolds and comes alive on the pages of your book. Events that happen, what your characters are facing and their ensuing adventures…these are all part of your plot. (This is where that loose outline comes in handy for me!!) The theme of your story is the thoughts or emotions that are being dealt with. Common themes are love, revenge, perseverance, war, etc… Theme is the “moral of the story,” it is the underlying message that you are trying to convey to your reader. Themes are important because they solidify your story. They make it more meaningful than just telling a story.
What is the theme of your book? What are you trying to leave in the hearts and minds of your reader when they put your book down?
I pride myself on being well read. One of the most recent literary fascinations of mine has been Jack Kerouac. After reading The Dharma Bums I took some time to reflect on the theme of the book. I’ll not offer any spoilers here, but read that book if you haven’t. So over the past couple of years I’ve been in love with the theme of “the place where you lose yourself and find yourself.” That was where the journey took the characters in Pot of Gold. The theme, if you want to assign it one word, was perseverance. Keep on with the journey and trust that it will lead to good things, even when your frustration level is maxed and you feel like giving up.
I followed a similar pattern in my follow up comedy, A Man Called Doosh. In that book, our hero Eddie Duchesne (pronounced Doo-Shane) is frustrated by the fact that they and his wife can’t get seem to get ahead financially. His wife, Melissa, is pregnant and the Doosh has to take on a second job after their health insurance got cancelled where he works. After all those years of college and trusting that he’d land a great job, the realities of the American economy didn’t match his dreams and hopes.
So, our ol’ pal the Doosh decides that if he is going to work a second job it might as well be something that he’d always daydreamed of as a kid. Yep, Eddie goes and signs up for training in hopes of becoming a star on the local wrestling circuit in Tampa. But what he finds are more obstacles than he can possibly imagine. With perseverance, and a wife that is a lot smarter than him, he labors through in this comedy. The point I’m making to the readers underneath all of the slapstick college humor…don’t give up on your dreams. They are big part of who you are. Don’t give up, ever. It’s impossible to fail if you don’t know how to quit.
So think about what theme is best for your story. Mull it over for a day or two before you start banging on your keyboard. A strong theme can make a good story a great one.
October 29, 2017
STEP FOUR: SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITE!!
Sit down at the keyboard and beat the hell out of it until you have told your story. Seriously, that’s the next step. But let’s make sure that you’re comfortable in this step first. Here’s some handy advice while you’re actually in the writing stage of your first book.
Under no circumstances give any second thought to how many pages or words you need! Just write.
Under no circumstances should you fret or worry about grammar or spelling. You’re going to find countless mistakes at the end of this first draft no matter how diligent you are about it. Mistakes happen. Don’t even worry about them. Keep following your thought pattern as you write. Tell the story first! Then worry about all that other crap.
Find a time and atmosphere that works best for you and develop a daily routine. You must stick as close to your routine as possible. Don’t think too much, or take time off. Do you know what you call a writer who doesn’t write? I’m sure you know.
Writing a novel and writing a book of short stories really is two different animals. When I write a novel I try to make sure that I write at least 3-5 pages a day. At that pace you’ll write an average size novel in three months or so.
This step is the most time consuming and will try your patience and your desire to actually write a book. You can’t stop now, though. You’re a writer at this point. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO. It’s not easy. In fact, this step is damn hard. Work your way through it. You’ll find yourself at times wanting to put the manuscript down for a week or two, or find excuses not to write. “I’m too busy this week!” is never an excuse. Remind yourself of that whenever you want to get lazy.
Now sit your ass down and write. Check back soon for the next entry!
Sometimes a good book…
Last year I took up the Goodreads challenge and read through nearly fifty books. This year I set my sights a bit lower, although I still read everything I get my hands on for the most part. I’ve replaced some of the reading time with actual writing time. I finally had a decent edit job put on A Man Called Doosh and finished the rough draft of Tales From the Sunset Pub (in the editing process now). I hope to get that back soon and finish the edits/re-writes and get that online. I think the stories in the book seemed to take on a life of their own. It’s not easy writing a book with multiple genres, but I did and I sincerely think anyone who picks it up won’t regret it! The stories are of that kind of quality.
It’s that kind of quality that I’m writing about now. I wanted to share some of the books that I’ve finished in the recent past because they are the kind of books that stir your head and your heart for one reason or another. They are the kind of books that after you read them they never seem to leave you.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is one such book. It lingers with you, the story is powerful.
God made the world, but he didnt make it to suit everybody, did he?
Do Cool Shit by Miki Agrawal is another great book that serves as a reminder that time is short, we have only today. Live accordingly and go bold into the future so that you can live each day as it’s the only thing. After all, it’s the most important day of all.
Anyway, go check out those two books. You’ll thank me later. I’ll add more to this list soon. These two stick out the most lately.
January 29, 2017
Hopefully this year we’ll see another great game and some funny commercials during the Super Bowl, one of the biggest television events of the year. However, I’m a bit concerned that the halftime show is going to ruin the game. Not because I don’t like Lady Gaga. She’s incredibly talented and I’ve seen video of some of her live performances. She’s a great performer. What I’m worried about is POLITICS. After such a f’ed up year with politics and everyone ending up hating each other and completely ruining social media, I’m hoping that politics and any form of social agenda isn’t rammed down my throat during the performance.
I absolutely hate having my sports and entertainment mixed with politics. I understand we all have opinions and want to make a difference. That’s great! But infusing it into sports is just a way of pissing off literally half your audience. When people took a knee during the national anthem this year I simply changed the channel. There are a million other things to watch than that. The guy could have gotten his point across without coming across looking like an American hating asshole as he cashes his million dollar checks. That goes for the other athletes that do the same. You might have a great point to make, but please make it another way. Same way for entertainers who collect awards and preach their politics as they stand there in a suit or a dress that costs more than most people make in half a years’ wages. This past year has brought me to the point that I don’t give a shit what an athlete or entertainer thinks or about their politics if they can’t do it in a manner that doesn’t divide people. Too much of that going on in this country from both sides of the political isle. We don’t need entertainers and athletes making it worse.
I hope for a great performance by Lady Gaga. However, if politics is brought into it then I’ll change the channel and just catch the highlights on the local news later on. The NFL has seen its ratings drop significantly this year. We all know why.
July 16—Ghostbusters Remake
A few words about the new Ghostbusters movie. First of all, no spoilers here. Second, ignore all the critics who have trashed this movie. I almost always ignore critics of anything. Something about not liking when people tell me how to think and feel about something I have not yet experienced for myself. I can make up my own mind, thank you. The movie was fun and entertaining, in my opinion. Go see it. Decide for yourself.
Ok, here’s a bit of my opinion/critique (for what it’s worth). The movie was a remake of the original but as with all remakes, the director makes a few changes for creative purposes, so it’s not an “exact” remake. Some of the original cast did cameos in the film, which I thought was pretty neat. If you are avoiding the movie because the new Ghostbusters are all gals, get over yourself. They were funny, and the biggest reason I didn’t get bored with the remake.
The problem I had with this remake had nothing to do with the gals, it probably had more to do with whoever settles on the overall vision of the movie…probably the director. The original film, although considered a comedy, had dark overtones. They actually took the paranormal seriously. Bill Murray and cast worked well with that theme and it was their comedic wit that made that movie a classic. The special effects in this film were too “bright” and just came across a bit cartoonish for a movie that was essentially about the paranormal with some comedy dripped in. It was almost like a parody, but not…if that makes any sense. That had nothing to do with the female lead characters. I felt they made the movie better than it probably was.
But, it was a fun movie. If you are expecting something closer to the original, not happening here. But go see the film, make up your own mind. Thoughts and opinions? Feel free to share.
April 27–It’s only money!
Harriet Tubman for the $20! Why the hell not?
No? Well, hell! I have a solution for this situation. Just hear me out.
There sure are a lot of pissed off folks about the upcoming new $20 bill. So after a week or so of reading people’s various Twitter and Facebook comments on the subject, I guess I’ll toss in my two cents, for whatever that’s worth (literally and figuratively).
Personally, I don’t give a shit who is on the money, but I have a great solution to updating our currency that should make everyone happy. Do you ever wonder why our money only honors politicians…those historical figures that reached a high level of power or influence like the presidency? We get used to seeing them and we are a rigid society that doesn’t tolerate change too quickly or easily. So, when the discussion began about putting a woman on one of the paper bills people were quick to react and either like the idea or hate it. Those that hate the idea said it was another example of political correctness to appease the feminists, or minorities. Those that like it say it’s about time!
Our nation is nearly $20 trillion in debt. So when you look at that $20 bill in your hand does it really matter who the hell is on it? After all, it’s just a piece of paper that has less buying power than it did a year ago, and will be worth even less next year. It’s worth only what it will buy when you go the gas pump, the grocery store, or to buy necessities at Walmart. Put Harriet Tubman on there. Put Snoopy on it for all I care. But most people care, so here’s the solution.
Let’s include Americans who have made their mark on America in a positive way that are culturally significant. At first I wanted to have Willie Nelson on the $5. Hell, his version of Poncho and Lefty was enough to warrant that (in my humble opinion). But he’s still alive, so let’s stick with the dearly departed. How about Johnny Cash or John Wayne for the $5? We could rotate people every five years or so. John Wayne for five years, then maybe we switch to Jackie Robinson.
Think about it. Our money could be used as a venue to show homage to those that helped make our county and the world a better place. Who has put more smiles on faces and brought more laughter and peace to the hearts of people worldwide than freakin’ Mickey Mouse? No one, that’s who! Why not Elvis on the $50? Or Robert Frost or Hemmingway on the $10? How about honoring war hero’s like Patton? It makes perfect sense to me. There is greatness in America that goes far beyond political leaders.
But I would leave the $1 alone. George Washington sort of has to stay put. The Father of our country, leader of the Revolution, first President (not really, there were 8 more before him that we were never taught about in school. Google it.). He’s our nation’s first real bad ass and rock star, so to speak. And a brewer of some fine beer, as history tells us.
So, who would be the top five people you would honor on our money if you could pick?
April 1–Tasting Heaven
I had been craving it for a long time like an insatiable hunger I could not get rid of. Finally, and with much anticipation, she gave it to me. I had been wanting her to let me have it for a long time. I have to admit that I was nervous before I sank my taste buds into it. Was it going to be everything that I hoped it would be? Once I got my lips on it would I want it again? Would I end up wanting it again too much?
I took about ten minutes to prepare before just diving in. I thought it would be best that way instead of being timid and just tasting around the edge. No, I wanted to devour it. Once I saw it I knew I needed to taste it.
With the television still on I sat on the floor on my knees. I did not take my time before getting started. My lips hit the edges and I immediately felt the warm wetness coat my tongue and before I knew it was dripping down my lips and on my chin. I didn’t care. I went right back at it because there was no way I could help myself. It was like dying of thirst only to find the sweetest nectar the gods could make.
I looked up at her and she was smiling with her mouth opened and her eyes were alive and full of eagerness to hear what I had to say about it. She gasped just a little as she leaned back in the chair.
“I am going to get addicted to this,” I managed say for the brief moment I could pull my lips away. I immediately went back to it almost half out of breath.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said as I moaned with pleasure while my mouth was full.
I savored it, taking a half hour to enjoy every taste and sensation. She let out a soft gasp as I finished when she saw the bliss on my face.
“Was it everything you expected?” she asked.
“It was even better than that. I don’t know how to describe it. It tasted like heaven. Can I get this anytime I crave it?”
“I certainly don’t mind. Anytime you want it, hon,” she said as she looked down at me and smiled.
“This is the most amazing hot chocolate I’ve ever had,” I said as I sat my cup down on the table beside her. “Where did you find it?”
“Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf,” she answered.
April 1, 2016–Movie Recommendations
So I’ve watched a few things lately since getting addicted to Netflix. For you Henry Rollins fans out there, be sure to check out He Never Died. It seems that no matter what Rollins does on film, he always has the same intense look on his face like he is studying for an exam AND wants to kick your ass for talking to him. Seriously—go look up some old Black Flag stuff on YouTube or watch some things he’s filmed for the History Channel or some documentaries he did about animals, specifically snakes! That’s not a knock on Rollins, I’m a fan. He Never Died was an interesting movie with a really great plot where Rollins is Cane—you know, the guy that killed his brother Abel in the Bible. I also recently watched The Veil. That has Jessica Alba in it. Yes, she’s still smokin’ hot. It was a good movie.
I never thought this would happen, but I’m completely bored with The Walking Dead. Still looking forward to Fear The Walking Dead coming back on this month. In other news, Seinfeld and Cheers never get old. Something about laughing and having a cold pint goes well together. For some strange reason I’m hoping The Stand and/or Storm of the Century will come on TV sometime soon. I’ve seen both a dozen times, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
You know what does get old…all the damn Fast and Furious movies. How many of those are they going to pump out before they stop?? Anyway, I think I’m done with this rant for today. Long live Longmire! As for me, this is what I’m going to do the rest of the day…
February 20, 2016
So, two things going on this week that I actually give a crap about…well, three. First, I’ve been writing my ass off. If you’re a follower of my work it might be breaking news that I have been collaborating with another writer, Matt Adder, and will be setting up a company in the near future that will focus on some edgy, raw type of material written in movie script, graphic novels, novellas, short stories…whatever the hell is needed. You will soon find us online by searching for Anarchy Creations Ink. Filing for an LLC should happen within the next month.
Second thing…damn I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. The Revenant, The Martian, The Forest (damn good horror film), Bridge of Spies, Trumbo, The Force Awakens (3 times) and just about anything and everything in the horror section on NetFlix. The Veil is very good, if you’re into the creepy stuff. I don’t really have a favorite of the newer films, but of those up for awards I think I’d lean more toward Trumbo. I’m no commie. I like Ike…better dead than red. But that was a damn good movie, damn good acting, and a pretty powerful story of a bygone era in Hollywood and America.
Third thing…like many Americans that enjoy a good competitive event, the political primary season is upon us. I don’t get political on these blogs, or publicly, for that matter. I may occasionally make lite of a politician or issue, but I avoid politics. You know why? My pet peeve is when anyone in the entertainment business (actor, musician, writer, whatever) tells me how I’m supposed to vote or feel about some issue. I don’t mind them being passionate and promoting their causes, mind you. There is a difference. I also hate when assholes mix my sports with politics (see this years’ halftime show). You may have a point, but don’t make it in the middle of my freakin’ football game. Also, I don’t need to hear a commentator’s monologue about a social issue or hot button issue that bleeds into the political realm during halftime of Monday Night Football (Bob Costas). I literally change the channel and find something else to watch when that happens. I can always catch the highlights and spend my time more wisely with a good book or something.
As I look across the field of Democrats and Republicans…all somewhat corrupt, all professional liars…I have to wonder. Is this the best we’ve got? If so then we might be in deep shit here, folks. Just an observation. I hope I’m wrong.
January 21, 2016
50 Books I Think Everyone Should Read
The Power of Now-Eckhart Tolle
The Alchemist-Paulo Coelho
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People-Stephen Covey
The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Call of the Wild-Jack London
Slaughterhouse Five-Kurt Vonnegut
Point Omega-Don DeLillo
JFK’s War With the National Security Establishment-Douglas Horne
The Art of the Deal-Donald Trump
A Philosopher’s Notes-Brian Johnson
As I Lay Dying-William Faulkner
Atlas Shrugged-Ayn Rand
Have a Little Faith-Mitch Albom
The Odessa File-Frederick Forsyth
Black Hawk and the Warrior’s Path-Roger Nichols
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold-John LeCarre
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou
I, Robot-Isaac Asimov
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-Mark Twain
The Love of the Last Tycoon-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Animal Farm-George Orwell
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership-John Maxwell
As A Man Thinketh-James Allen
For Whom The Bell Tolls-Ernest Hemingway
Economic Freedom and Interventionism-Ludwig von Mises
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-John Perkins
Tuesdays With Morrie-Mitch Albom
Cannery Row-John Steinbeck
Life on the Mississippi-Mark Twain
The Catcher in the Rye-J.D. Salinger
The Most Dangerous Game-Richard Connell
Men and Dogs-Katie Crouch
May Day-F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Winner Within-Pat Riley
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations On and Off the Court-Coach John Wooden
Napoleon Hill’s Road to Success-Napoleon Hill
The Time Keeper-Mitch Albom
Eight Million Gods-Wen Spencer
Tales From the Jazz Age-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Non Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future-Rohit Bhargava
Economics In One Lesson-Henry Hazlitt
Lord of the Flies-William Golding
The Picture of Dorian Gray-Oscar Wilde
A Tale of Two Cities-Charles Dickens
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-Ken Kesey
Walden-Henry David Thoreau
The Art of War-Sun Tzu
December 18, 2015
America Loves Giving Someone a Second Chance, So Does Major League Baseball…Unless Your Name Is Pete Rose
Outgoing baseball commissioner Bud Selig seemed to slowly welcome Pete Rose back into the fold, back into the baseball world where he rightly belongs. The fans have been shouting about this for a long time. Rose bet on baseball…the worst sin in the game. But is it really?
Rose has spent years trying to attone for his actions and has pleaded his case to anyone who would listen for a long time. For the All Time Hit Leader, baseball is life. He couldn’t make that point more clearly. And being banned from baseball was crushing. However, to fans around the country the fact that Pete Rose is barred from ever being in the Hall of Fame is an even bigger sin. The All Time Hit Leader…let those words sink in. No one is ever likely to even catch him in this category.
Selig left the door wide open for Rose to be allowed back into baseball and eligible for the Hall of Fame. And rightly so. However, he did not have the courage of his convictions to pull the trigger and make the tough decision. Instead, he passed that along to Commissioner Rob Manfred who took the helm in January of this year. To your average baseball fan (and even to a rabid one like me) it seemed as if Manfred was going to make the right decision for baseball. The right decision for the fans!! It was time to let Pete Rose back into baseball. The Hit King at least deserved that much.
On an uneventful day this month Manfred announced that he was denying Pete Rose his chance at seeing his name in the Hall of Fame during his lifetime. A man who spent his entire life giving to the game and to the fans…gave every bit of effort he could muster. He wasn’t the greatest athlete on the field. Far from it! But he hustled his ass off and everyone appreciated him for it.
In an age where players can get contracts for hundreds of millions despite cheating the game and the fans and the record books by using steriods and other performance enhancing drugs, Pete Rose is denied his place in baseball. Without naming names (we all see these stories on ESPN) there are athletes given second, third and fourth chances to redeem themselves and their reputiations despite constant drug and alcohol abuse, despite beating the shit out of their wives, girlfriends, and children, despite thier blatant disregard for fans or for the game that they love.
I wouldn’t deny any athlete a second chance…or any person, for that matter. America loves a good comeback story. So does sports. So does baseball. Unless your name is Pete Rose. Then the powers that be think you should go to hell.
Pete Rose will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Unfortunately Manfred and MLB has made the cruel choice of making sure that he won’t live to see his hard work and passion for the game reach that last step.
Let him in.
November 28, 2015
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
First of all, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I’m already looking forward to Christmas. The tree is up and I finished all of my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. The presents are wrapped and already under the tree. I got an early start on things this year. I’m not rushing the holiday. I’m savoring it.
So, let’s get on with this “advice” question I randomly selected from 300 Writing Prompts. I have found (as I’m sure you have, too) that in this life there is no shortage of people giving you advice, criticism, second guessing your work or decisions, or basically telling you what they would have done without ever walking an inch in your shoes. I have gotten my fair share of advice from family, friends and strangers. Some good and some bad. However, a great piece of advice sticks out from one of my old high school teachers.
I forget if it was 10th or 11th grade, but I was in Biology class and a friend of mine from down the street where I lived had class with me. I remember that we had these old wooden black top tables that would sit two students each and Jody came in just as the bell sounded. He sat down beside me looking lost. He had this defeated look on his face. We all knew why. It was a small town and most of us kids knew each other from the time we started kindergarten. In this instance, everyone knew that Jody’s girlfriend had broken up with him that morning before he even got to his first class. News traveled fast around the hallowed halls of Richlands High when it came to issues of love and loss.
It didn’t take long for Mr. Able to notice the depressed look on my buddy’s face and ask what was wrong. Jody, without flinching, told the old man that he was dumped by his girlfriend that day and he was still pretty sad about it. That’s when the old man, twice divorced himself, sounded out a statement that we all took as advice going forward. “Class!” he said in a booming voice. “Life is difficult. And relationships are difficult. Don’t ever forget what I’m about to tell you. The person who dictates the relationship is the person who cares the least. I learned that one the hard way.”
It was true in Jody’s situation all those years ago. I haven’t seen the guy since we graduated. I hope he learned from that advice. It’s true, though. No matter what the relationship…love, friendship, work or play. Which one are you in your relationships? We’re all probably a little bit of both. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way a couple of times, myself. Maybe one day it will sink in.
October 17, 2015
The Coolest Gift I’ve Ever Gotten
It has been a long time since my last blog entry. A couple of months have gone by, but it has been the longest and the fastest couple of months of my life. That probably makes no sense to anyone unless you’ve walked in my shoes the past 60 days or so. So, in the spirit of keeping this blog honest I’m going to get a bit personal for all three readers of this blog.
This is a bit of a sad entry for me, but it ends nicely. I promise. My father passed away in the wee hours of September 30th after battling end stage C.O.P.D. and congestive heart failure for a long time. Over the past two months or so of his life he went downhill quickly. Over the past six months he had three heart attacks but his lungs just eventually gave out on him.
If you have been a caregiver for someone terminal then you probably know all about the range of emotions you feel going through it. I’ll spare you from reading about mine, but to say there was anger and a severe depression over the past year would be an understatement. And to add to it, the past year I have been so scatterbrained that I’m surprised at times I functioned normally. Stress will do that to a person, I suppose. More than once I had forgotten important things…to me, to friends, and to family. I probably came across as an uncaring person from time to time. And I never really explained the severity of the depression I was going through to anyone. I gave a couple of close friends a bit of a glimpse, but felt too embarrassed for them to know the full extent. I even lost one of those friends during this emotional process.
So fast forward to today. After weeks of barely sleeping and being on edge, and nearly losing my other parent to a major heart attack and two major heart procedures over the past 60 days, I have finally managed to get some rest and find a bit of peace, even though coming to grips with what we all saw coming has been easier said than done. About three weeks before my father passed away, he spoke with my mother about his upcoming funeral. I found out only a couple days before he was buried that my father wanted me to have the American flag that was draped over his coffin. After the 21 gun salute was held, I was presented with this flag and the 21 shell casings fired in honor of his service with the U.S. Army.
He was very proud of those years that he served. I was surprised that he wanted the flag to go to me. However, I was honored to accept it on his behalf. With the enormous amount of stress that I had been through I know that there are lessons to be learned from going through something like this and I’m glad most people don’t have to carry such a load that I carried for the past year.
Having those old warriors present me with his service flag was something that I’ll never forget. I have it displayed proudly on the mantle over the fireplace. Thanks, dad. This was the coolest gift I’ve ever gotten.
August 11, 2015
What books can be found on your bookshelf right now?
I always wondered if you could tell a lot about a person by what they read. I’ll leave that up to you. When I got a Kindle I donated most of my books to the public library so I’ll have to go by memory. I have a couple hundred books on my Kindle, a bunch on a Sony e-Reader a friend gave me a couple years ago, and a few more books that I didn’t really want to part with. So, instead of my current bookshelf (digital or otherwise) I’ve put together a list of some of my all time favorite books in no particular order. However, this is only a short list. I have too many favorites to count. I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more as soon as I finish this list.
The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cannery Row—John Steinbeck
The Killing Room—John Manning
The Winner Within—Pat Riley
Think and Grow Rich—Napoleon Hill
A Lifetime of Riches—Napoleon Hill
Wooden; A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court—John Wooden
Get In the Game—Cal Ripkin, Jr.
Heart Shaped Box—Joe Hill
JFK’s War With the National Security Establishment—Douglas Horne
Duma Key—Stephen King
Tales of the Jazz Age—F. Scott Fitzgerald
Life on the Mississippi—Mark Twain
Walden—Henry David Thoreau
Fat Vampire Series—Johnny Truant
Doctor Sleep—Stephen King
Have a Little Faith—Mitch Albom
The Odessa File—Frederick Forsyth
Term Limits—Vince Flynn
Confessions of an Economic Hitman—John Perkins
This Side of Paradise—F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye—J.D. Salinger
For One More Day—Mitch Albom
Call of the Wild—Jack London
The Russia House—John LeCarre
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People—Stephen R. Covey
Omega Point—Don DeLillo
What’s on your bookshelf?
August 1, 2015
If you had the extra resources and the extra time to go back to school, what would you like to study?
Whew! I opened to a random page and got this question. Glad it wasn’t something too personal because I promised myself I’d be blunt and honest with this little experiment. Let me preface this dialogue with some general data about my education. I Graduated high school from a small town in Virginia. After that I started off at a community college to sort of see if I had an interest in anything. At the time I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I would rather people actually like me, so I cancelled the lawyer thing much to my mother’s disapproval.
After that, I decided to go to what was then called Clinch Valley College in the small town of Wise, VA. I graduated from there (now called University of Virginia-Wise) with a B.S. in Economics and Political Science. I really enjoyed those two subjects. Economics, as boring as it sounds, really is a complicated way at explaining common sense. To me it is a combination of philosophy, psychology, and history. Money matters often explain the “why” to many historical events. You’ve heard the expression “follow the money.” So I am not entirely unhappy with my choices then.
If I could go back to college now it would be great. I’m at a time of my life when my curiosity for everything is incredibly high and I consider myself a student as I wander through life anyway. I read a ton! I read everything I can get my hands on.
I would love to have the time and resources to really delve into philosophy and psychology. I’d add history to that list, too, but I wouldn’t want to spread myself too thin. I think most of the learning comes from the discussions within these subjects when we discover our own truths for ourselves. That fascinates me.
July 24, 2015
10 Commandments of College Life
This is something I’ve ranted about before since I now am old enough to have a niece going to college. So I thought I’d post this up again here for your reading pleasure. If you are getting ready to go to college you need to have some guidelines and rules to live by. Perhaps these will be a loose set of rules for you. I had a great time at college. I had an even better time at grad school in Radford, VA. Most of the town and campus, at that time, knows that I had a great time!
Here are the rules:
10. I don’t encourage underage drinking. In fact, I suggest you don’t break the law. However, I’m not an idiot. You go away to college and you’re away from home and the parental controls and you’re likely to partake in an adult beverage from time to time. Or for some of you party animals…every damn weekend and Wednesdays. So if you insist on drinking, I suggest you pick out a liquor that you actually like and slowly build up a tolerance. Slowly! I mean that. Don’t go pick up a fifth of your new best friend and drink half the bottle on a Friday night. You know what happens when you do that? You either have the worst hangover of your life that lasts for three days or you freaking die. Seriously. Go slow. That way over your college years when you have a birthday or a party or something, your cohorts will recognize you as the guy that likes Crown or a particular vodka. They’ll give you those as gifts from time to time and if you pace yourself you’ll have a nice stash of whatever you drink that should last you at least two or three years past college. Why pay for it if you can have enough of it bought for you for various reasons.
9. Pick a cool professor that you actually like. Preferably someone who is closer to your age and barely tenured. You never know when you might need a professor to have your back when you do some dumb shit at college.
8. Do not buy beer for minors!! I stress that. It’s bad. However, once again I won’t be foolish. If you insist on buying beer for underage drinkers, recruit two or three friends along with you to be the beer-buyers. It is best that at least a couple of those “of age” friends be pretty girls. Pretty girls get invited to more parties. When everyone is drunk let the hosts know that they are running low on beer. You’d hate for the babes to leave. So you collect $ from these suckers to go out and buy another case for them. Make sure you approach people individually about the beer shortage. Collect ten bucks from four or five people. Come back and drop off the case of beer. Collect $50 for a $20 case of cheap beer. Split the proceeds with your pals. You hit a few parties each weekend and make a couple hundred bucks. Not a bad score and you look like the good guy for doing the deed.
7. Make friends with a couple of upper classmen with a nice apartment. You never know when your roommate is going to be a dick and you need some place to crash.
6. Now that you’re in college and all growed up, it’s time to put away that shit music that got you through high school and expand your musical tastes. Listen to different things. No more Ke$sha, no more shitty rap music where every other word has to be deleted in the videos. Don’t be that person that still listens to Minaj and Miley, or that white kid that still thinks he’s bad ass by swinging that baseball cap around backwards and listening to gangsta rap. Don’t be that douche bag. Go back and explore musical history by checking out some old Muddy Watters, crossing time into the late 60’s, the re-emergence of some edgier music in the 70’s. I do suggest you avoid disco. But make sure you hang out in the era of George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars. You will Funkin’ dig it. Try some newer alternative stuff. Don’t be closed minded. It’s a big damn world out there. Pop culture just slings mind numbing shit for the masses. Be smarter than that.
5. A simple slogan says it all: Better Dead Than Red. I’d wager a guess that at least 95% of the faculty at your university are left wing progressives. Don’t let those commies beat the spirit of socialism into you. Question authority. After all, they hide on campus behind academia and have never had to produce in the real world. Those that can DO. Those that can’t TEACH. Remember that. Communism sucks. Don’t let the commies beat you down. To borrow a word from your pals Public Enemy, “Fight The Power.”
4. Be a prankster. You have four to six years of college, depending on how lazy you are. Have some fun with it. It’s a great time before you go into the real world and actually have to take responsibility for your actions. Find someone else in your dorm that has a good sense of humor and won’t kill you for pushing the envelope against them and start a good natured practical joke war. Be careful that you don’t take it too far. You don’t want to be newsworthy at 6 o’clock or anything. Try something funny like waiting until your target is out of his room. He will likely lock the door if he’s smart. That’s when you take a piss in a pizza pan and put it in the freezer. When it is frozen you take it out and pop the frozen circle of piss out like you would with an ice tray. Then you slide it under the door with enough force that it makes it to the middle of his room. When he gets back he’ll wonder how someone got in and took a piss on his floor. A clever little trick if you can avoid being caught by your R.A.
3. Enjoy life in the Quad. When it is warm girls show up in bikinis to work on their tan. It is especially fun to hang out during co-ed intramurals. I knew a guy who would sneak out at night and drop a deuce in the sand where they play volleyball. That was always a laugh when some guy would tromp through the litter box with no shoes on.
2. Debt sucks. Don’t let the snake oil salesmen pawn a dozen credit cards on you that you can’t even make payments on. And you definitely don’t want to still be paying for a cheese pizza you ate during your junior year three years after you graduate. Don’t run up a lot of credit card debt unless, of course, your parents are footing the bill. Then by all means go buy that new Kindle.
1. Don’t forget to be a dreamer. That nerd at Facebook invented that platform while he was in college. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of college and made their millions because they weren’t afraid to chase dreams. Just because you are in college doesn’t mean that you can’t develop some new concept or find your own niche in this world while you are there. Those who are foolish enough to think they can change the world are the one’s that actually do. Don’t be afraid to overachieve even in the moment. If you have a chance to do something 15 times in three days then go for it! (Whatever the heck that means.)
So here is one more tip for you guys who are planning on going to college this Fall. Get out a notepad and a pen and take some notes. These movies will change your point of view about college life. Make sure you watch these before the next semester. This is important.
American Pie 2
Revenge of the Nerds
Revenge of the Nerds 2
The Graduate (an old movie, but the guy shows you how to extend your lazy streak well past college and how to get lucky at the same time)
Dead Man On Campus
Back To School
Good luck kiddos, and have fun!
July 16, 2015
I have spoken to many writers over the years about their writing habits and traditions. I have a tradition that I have kept since I finished the rough draft of my first book (written under another name) back in 2003. When I finish a rough draft I always take the time to go outside in the sun and smoke a premium cigar, usually a Makers Mark. I assume that’s better than stripping naked and drinking whiskey outside. At least for the neighbors!
I have noticed that most writers need absolute silence when they write. They can’t stand even the slightest of distraction. I guess that’s understandable. I, on the other hand, would go insane without some sort of background noise. I prefer to have music playing when I write, preferably something that sets the tone for what I am writing. If I am writing something that is edgy and a bit out there, like Bedtime Stories For the Terminally Afraid, I will listen to something like The Doors or even go so far as Type O Negative.
For this goofy book, A Man Called Doosh, I had a totally different playlist. If you haven’t read it yet you can pick it up for you Kindle or NOOK for only $2.99. It won’t break your bank account, but if you don’t check it out you just might break my heart. Heh! Oh, and while you’re at it, add The Doosh Playlist to your MP3. It makes your workout at the gym go faster.
Dirty White Boy by Foreigner
Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees
Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO
Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting by Elton John
Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones
I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred
Strut by Sheena Easton
U Got the Look by Prince
Legs by ZZ Top
TNT by AC/DC
Top 10 Dead Comedians
There’s nothing like sitting down on the couch and watching a funny movie or some stand up comedy or improvisation. A classic Saturday Night Live episode or someone tearing up the crowd on a Comedy Central half hour special or Roast. Some of the greatest comedians have graced us with some classic lines, amazing movies, and video footage we’ll never forget and that we will never see the likes of again. Some comedians are just so genius at what they do that they are truly one of a kind and we should feel grateful that we got to witness the best these comics had to give before they passed away.
Although there are a lot of great comedians out there, this top ten list is to pay homage to the greats. There should be many more on this list, but this is just a personal list of my favorite comedians that are no longer with us. So let’s get on with it. Feel free to let me know who your favorite dead comedians are!
Top 10 Dead Comedians:
10.Greg Giraldo–Who the heck is Greg Giraldo?? That’s a good question! And one that many of his fellow Roasters busted his balls about the entire time he was a Roaster for Comedy Central. However, for those that have seen him on the Roasts or doing a stand up special on TV, this guy was pretty unforgettable. He was the very one who asked the same question that every struggling comedian asks, but only he asked it at the Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. “You’re Larry the Cable Guy. How did that bit make you $50 million dollars???”
Giraldo checked out way too young and before most people got a chance to laugh at his act. But I don’t think it was an act with Giraldo. The guy was a natural. He died in 2010 at the age of 44 by an accidental overdose of prescription medication.
9. Richard Jeni–The thing about Richard Jeni is that his stand up comedy specials will never get old. His mannerisms and delivery of a joke or story was such that it drew an audience in. I have watched the same stand up specials at least a dozen times and find myself laughing every time and stealing those jokes to tell to others. Jeni died in 2007 at the age of 49 by a self inflicted gunshot to the head.
8. George Carlin–Carlin delivered his humor with a bit of anger and angst. Although he had a way of being offensive to some, they way he told a joke or made a comment about a controversial subject still kind of had to make you laugh. One of my own personal philosophies I learned from this master of comedy. I remember watching one of his HBO specials and heard him say that he had two major rules in life. He never trusted anything the government said, and he never trusted anything the media said. They were both equally full of shit. Well said, Mr. Carlin. I’m still laughing at your wit and wisdom.
Carlin died in 2008 at the age of 71.
7. John Ritter–Ah, one of my favorites of all time. Ritter was never into stand up comedy, but if you have ever watched his movies or Three’s Company, you’ll get the reason for John Ritter being on this list. His list of comedies include Real Men and Skin Deep.
John Ritter passed away in 2003 at the age of 54.
6. Gilda Radner–Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. She was on the show from 1975 to 1980 and created such classic characters as Roseanne Roseannadanna that would tell gross stories about celebrities on the show’s Weekend Update segment. Another hilarious character was Baba Wawa (a spoof on Barbara Walters). Remember the character Emily Litella, the hearing impaired woman that gave news updates on the news segment! Hilarious…”flea erections in China.”
Who could forget her role in the movie Haunted Honeymoon! Great film. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 42.
5. Johnny Carson–Carson was a master of his craft and entertained America for decades before retiring from The Tonight Show. Since his departure, late night television has never been the same and his two heir apparents to the throne of late night (Leno and Letterman) have failed to live up to the standard that Johnny Carson set.
However, with such a high bar did anyone really expect late night TV to ever be the same after he left? He was a once in a lifetime comedian that wore shoes that will never be filled in the world of comedy. To say that Johnny Carson is a legend would be a gross understatement.
Carson died in 2005 at the age of 79.
4. Richard Pryor–Pryor thrilled audiences on stage as well as in films. But it wasn’t just his “colorful” language that set him apart at the time, it was the way he told a story and the appeal that he had to a wide audience in the 1970’s. I think proper credit has to be given to Pryor because if it wasn’t for him paving the way for a lot of other black comedians we very well might have never seen the rise of stars like Eddie Murphy or even more recently Chris Rock. Pryor could deliver a clean joke just as easily as he would a joke about drug abuse or racial issues. You had to laugh.
Pryor was in some classic movies such as See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Moving, Critical Condition and Harlem Nights. Pryor also wrote for the television shows Sanford and Son and the Flip Wilson Show. Pryor died in 2005 from a heart attack. He was 65 years old.
3. Sam Kinison–Most of America was introduced to this former preacher turned comic when he had a short role in the movie Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield. He played the part of a psychotic history professor that took his job a bit too seriously. However, Kinison quickly rose to the top of the A-list of comics with his loud and abrasive act, and his angry comedic style. It was a role that fit him perfectly. He even went on to have a hit video on MTV with the remake of Wild Thing. The video featured Jessica Hahn dressed scantily and dancing and rolling around the star studded cast of rock stars. Leave it to Kinison to throw fire on a controversy involving the church.
Kinison was killed in 1992 by a 17 year old drunk driver. Kinison was married 5 days before his death. He was 38.
2. John Belushi–Belushi is still considered one of the greatest comedians of all time. To see why all you need to do is watch the Blues Brothers or Animal House. Even though he didn’t have many lines in Animal House, he showed just how important physical comedy is in making a good movie or skit. He is still considered the ICON of the Saturday Night Live alumni and was multi talented in more ways than just his alcohol and drug consumption, which is what many recall when they think of Belushi. I prefer to remember the Samaria Chef, Bluto, and Jake Blues.
Belushi died in 1982 at the age of 33 by a combined injection of cocaine and heroin, also called a speedball.
1. Rodney Dangerfield–I put Dangerfield at the top of this list because the guy deserves nothing but respect. His stand up acts were riotous and his movies (although he considered himself a piss poor actor) were hilarious. Look up some old YouTube clips of Dangerfield and hold on to your hat. Even his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were rip roaring. You could tell that he was a crowd favorite.
However, although he was a master of comedy, I think Dangerfield should be remembered for his efforts at giving other comedians a chance at the stage. He owned a comedy club called Dangerfield’s where he would give chances to little known comedians and help them along with their careers. Maybe you are familiar with a few of the comedians he helped along the way: Jerry Seinfeld, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Leno.
Dangerfield died in 2004 at the age of 82.
Final thought: It sucks that so many great comics are gone. Whew, I’m glad the Dice Man is still around. I’m holding out hope for Ford Fairlane Part II!
My short-term reading list:
I used to be able to juggle a couple of books at a time, figuratively…not literally. Now I find myself reading several at once and bouncing back and forth, sometimes reading at a snail’s pace and other times devouring the pages rapidly for hours. Lately I’ve added some hippie classics to my reading list. I’m in the first one-third of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test about his experiences with the Merry Pranksters during the late 1960’s.
I’m also reading Brave New World by Huxley. I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading this because the expectations and reputation of this book is through the roof. I’ll hold judgement until I’m finished. The Death Instinct by Rubenfeld is very good so far, but for some reason I’m tackling this book with the pace of an earth worm. It’s nothing against Rubenfeld’s writing, this is all on me. I’m far enough in that I would recommend it to others that like books set in the early 20th century. Read the description online and I think you’ll want to read it.
So far 15 Seconds by Andrew Gross is very fast paced. When I finish one or two of these I need to pick up some horror. Been missing that lately.