Monday, September 29, 2008


Back from Context, but can't say it's in one piece.

I think Kealan Patrick Burke picked my liver up from the sidewalk and is using it as a paper weight on his desk.

Full report coming later today...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bilbo Baggins and Cuervo

Right now I'm beating the last several projects from clients... and considering beating the clients themselves.

I have NOTHING packed for Context and have to meet Brian Keene and JF Gonzalez at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

I DO have a bottle of Cuervo Black that Kelli Dunlap MIGHT get to share if she behaves herself and doesn't use my head as a trampoline to wake me up as she did at Necon.

The only things I have ready at 11:30 as I write this are business cards and chapbooks, so I may be wandering around Context in a pair of Spiderman Pajamas and a gray wife-beater tank at this point.

Behave... I'll be twittering while I'm away and promise a report when I get back...

Although Gonzalez has warned me that I may run away in hysterics at the Sci Fi fans filksing - playing acoustic tunes about Bilbo Baggins.

This can only end badly.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Next month, I'll be doing a live reading, signing, and discussion on horror at the Adams County/Arendtsville Library.

I'll be there 7:00, October 30th. If you can make it, I'd love to have you.

Directions and information can be found by clicking here.and here.

More details as the date gets closer.

Busting ass with work and headed to Context in a couple of days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homework Assignment

My daughter is in third grade and my wife and I went to an Open House at school on Tuesday. I walked out with a homework assignment: write an essay - a million words or less - on "My Scholar".

Here's the results:

I make my living in advertising. I spend my days designing layouts and writing ad copy. Each project has it’s space constraints and most often, I’m limited in the amount of words I can use and forced into brevity of message.

So when I read my assignment to describe my scholar Chloe - limited to a million words - it offered a freedom that I’m not normally accustomed to.

But it also offered quite a challenge.

A million words to describe my scholar? I’m not sure it’s enough.

When Chloe was born, she was our first child. She came into the world through a long, arduous labor that my wife endured. Being our first child, my wife and I were understandably excited about her birth, and though no angels blowing horns or cupids strumming harps were in the delivery room, when Chloe was born, she seemed so alert and bright and shining, that it almost seemed as if she glowed.

When I looked at her for the first time, she was quiet and without fuss, and seeing her gaze upon the world for the first time was truly one of the most dazzling moments of my life.

As a baby, Chloe was a joy. She passed through infancy and into being a toddler as softly as a warm, spring breeze. I lost count of both the quiet moments of shared solitude, and the occasions of out-loud, crying laughter that our family had.

Oh, she had her tantrums to be certain. But somehow they were almost always tempered with humor until the storm passed, and it was sunny skies on her face once again.

Early on, Chloe developed a quirky sense of humor, hamming it up and stepping it a notch higher whenever a camera was present. Her twisted sense of humor has never left her, and for that I am grateful.

My closet comedian came out in full force. There was nothing exempt from my actions to receive a giggle as my payment, a belly laugh as my standing ovation.

Time passed and I continued to revel in Chloe’s wonder of the world, trying to see it fresh and new through her eyes. Aged dandelions became a well of wishes to blow in the wind. Cardboard boxes morphed into space ships and the woods turned into Sherwood Forest, full of adventure and mystery.

I’ve heard Chloe referred to as an “old soul” more times than I can remember, and anyone who spends some time with her will understand that’s true. Her eyes sparkle with good-natured mischief, always looking for a good joke, a magic trick, or a good bout of tickle-wrestling. But there’s understanding in those eyes... knowledge and comprehension beyond her years, and she never ceases to surprise me with some of the choices she makes.

She never ceases to make me proud.

Chloe received the best of both my wife and I. She has a trusting, open heart that’s loving and caring for almost every living thing; noted exception being creatures with more than four legs that stings, bites, or has the ability to crawl walls.

She wears her heart on her sleeve and gets her feelings hurt easily, though I think it’s because she still views the world through a filter of kindness she thinks everyone should look through. She’s sympathetic. She’s empathetic. She has her moral compass set in just the right direction.

Some of Chloe’s favorite movies are King Kong (we were both teary eyed at the ending, even though I knew long before what was coming), and Chloe understood it was a love story. She loves Garfield and Shrek and anything pink and frilly (though she still loves playing on her grandparent’s farm with the horses).

She has a brain for nostalgic memories, though she forgives grudges easily. She makes friends easily - much more so than I did at her age - and I think it’s because of the warmth that radiates from within her. People are drawn to her light and constant smile so that they too can be lifted up by her side.

Chloe loses herself in books and has an imagination for writing that even I as her father, am sometimes envious of. Many are the days I’ve seen her curled into a corner, jotting notes and writing in blank journals. Tales of princesses and unicorns and bear cubs fighting the draw of sleep so they can see Santa Claus when he arrives.

She loves American Girl dolls and weird toys. She wants to learn to play chess with me and could spend days in the pool like a water rat.

It’s sometimes been said that before we’re born, we choose our parents. I’m unsure as to what I could’ve possibly done in the past to deserve her gift of choice, only overjoyed and accepting at its result.

As a father, it’s somewhat heartbreaking to know that someday Chloe will inevitably go through the pain and experience that life offers. She’ll go through betrayal and heartbreak. She’ll learn about injustice and that life is far from being fair. She’ll learn that luck and timing sometimes trump hard work, but that it doesn’t mean you should stop having faith in either.

I know someday Chloe will fall in love with someone she’s meant to be with. She’ll willingly hand over her heart strings to someone that I can only hope does the same with her; put the care of their heart willingly and honestly into her hands, and trust in her with everything they have.

My only hope is that when Chloe does find someone, that they look upon her with the same eyes I do. That they bear witness to the funny, intelligent, beautiful girl that she is. That they notice all the little things she does, all the things that individually may not mean much, but gathered together make her as amazing a person as she is.

I could keep writing... but there’s nothing I could possibly write that would explain what I already know and what you already realize.

To look into the eyes of my daughter, to share her laugh, to feel the warmth of her spirit, you’ll find yourself with only one conclusion to consider - to know my daughter... you have to know her.

And to know Chloe, is truly, to love her.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blind Truckers and Virtual Shots...

Annnnnd the follow up to Death being at our side...

I'm headed to the office this morning, slightly groggy even though I've already ingested enough caffeine to give a rhino a heart attack. AC/DC is jamming that they're Back in Black. My mind is churning over a million things... the economy, creating a new branding campaign for a client, an essay I have to write for my daughter's teacher, upcoming Context and the effects tequila has on Kelli Dunlap.

I'm getting close to the exit where I need to turn when this rig just starts coming on over like Freddy-be-frigged RIGHT INTO MY LANE. No signal... no "Move, you fucker" hand waving... just heading right on over. He came so close I thought he was going to shave off my bumper... close enough that I not only could see the row of bird shit on his bumper, but can tell you that the birds ate someone's poppy-seed bagel earlier in the day.

I wasn't in his blind spot... I was right at the ass-end of his rig. I had to slam on my brakes and pull over onto the side of the highway or else accept the fate of getting the front of my truck slammed into. Behind me, several cars swerved and braked, one of which passed by, looked at me, pointed at the trucker and mouthed a series of obscenities that i couldn't hear, but I'm sure would've been entertaining had I heard them. I saw him ask if I was all right, then keep on going.

I then proceeded to gun my truck and catch up to this half-blind, inbred, ignorant asshole of a truck driver.

For my convenience, there was a handy 800 number on the back for calling in to let the headquarters know how their drivers were doing.

I phoned in and got an answer by someone sounding like a cross between Fran Drescher and Roseanne.

"I'd like to report a driver on the highway who's driving like an idiot."

"All right. Do you have their log number on the back of the truck?"

"I do. I'm right behind them."

At this point, I hear a shuffling of papers on the phone and Christopher Cross singing "Sailing" in the background.

"All right, go ahead."

I read off the call letters from the back of the rig.

"Was that a G?"

"No. B."


"B. B. B. B as in Bastard almost ran me off the road."

"All right."

Another shuffling of papers. I now want to hear Christopher Cross gargling with bleach.


"Is that all sir?"

"Well, what happens now? Do you file a report or something? You need my name or anything?"

"No, I don't need your name. We'll have dispatch talk to the driver."

"And... what? They'll tell him he's driving like an asshole? I think he knows that already."

She sighs. I have a mental image of her chewing gum and painting her nails neon orange.

"Sir, I understand you're upset, but there's no reason to be rude. Sometimes accidents happen on the highway."

"I now loathe you and your company more than the driver."

And she hung up on me.

**Special thanks to Ron Dickie for his virtual comfort this morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So... you wanna hear a horror story?

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
-- Everybody's Free (to Wear Suncreen)

Let's talk for a moment about real horror.

Many great friends of mine write tales about monsters. The shadows in the corner. Shambling, rambling zombies that get their motive from elder gods. Immortal creatures that view the beast of time like grains of sand on a beach. Nameless faceless creatures that haunt our dreams. This group includes myself, but that's not the kind of horror I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the out-of-the-blue things that happen on any other day. An everyday event that you can't possibly be prepared for, only look on as a series of occurrences allows it to unfold before you, and you're just along for the ride, destination be damned.

One of my best friends called me yesterday afternoon. I know he's been busy and traveling a lot lately because I haven't heard from him. When I saw his name on my cell, I figured it was a call to catch up, give me hell for his constant pummeling of me in chess, and just a general bullshit session.

I couldn't have been farther from the truth.

I'm taking certain liberties in retelling this, but stay with me... the core is here and you'll understand.

"So, you wanna hear a horror story?"

That was how the conversation started. His next words assured me however, that it had a happy ending.

My friends live in Tampa in a great neighborhood. He does very well and his wife is of elegant style and refined tastes. They're a phenomenally great couple, both intelligent and cultured and have fought their way from their humble upbringings.

They have two daughters, one around eight and the other at fifteen-months old.

It was a typical Friday evening. He was traveling out of town, heading back on a return flight. Their older daughter had some friends over playing in the back yard and pool.

A slightly cracked sliding door... an unlatched gate... the slightest moment of distraction... and gravity took hold.

One of the older friends came walking back by the pool and thought "Why would there be a baby doll with socks on in the pool?"

And when realization hit, she started screaming.

Their other daughter of fifteen-months had made her way outside.

My best friend's wife ran outside to the screaming and felt something I can't begin to imagine - something I never want to imagine - grabbed her limp dishrag of a daughter and ran screaming to the neighbors, holding - in my friend's words - essentially, a dead baby.

Fortunately, their neighbor was home and immediately started CPR, and brought her back, sputtering and coughing up water.

By then, their older daughter had called 911 and the ambulance was on the way.

As my friend's plane touched down and he could turn his cell phone on, he got a text "Call me - emergency."

Amidst the ambulance ride, and the shrieking sirens, his wife explained everything as they were headed to the ER.

After many tests and I'm sure, a surreal, out-of-body night, they assured them that their daughter was okay after the trauma. CAT scans and others revealed that she was all right. The staff seemed incredulous after seeing many other drownings, that this happened, and by the time my friend called me, everyone had just gotten home.

THIS, my friends, is horror, not the creepy crawlies that we can imagine in our nightmares. The things we least expect... the things we can never expect or be prepared for.

Carlos Castaneda's philosophy is that death is always at our side. A sobering thought, but also a respectable one.

Life is short indeed. We can go to church several times a week or ignore religion entirely. We can go to the gym and have a healthy diet or drink ourselves to oblivion and live off fast food. We can take precaution to the extreme or live life on the razor's edge of danger.

But none of it matters. When the cold winds of fate blow against our back, it's our time and there's no way to prepare for it.

Except... there is.

Fingerpaint on the walls? Crayon drawings on the coffee table?

It's just material things...

Bickering over trivial things?

It's not worth it in the overall scheme of things.

Going through troubled times?

Don't forget your friends... each day... each moment may be your last. Show people you care about them. They're there for a reason, but it's a two-way street. And it only takes the tiniest things...

I am thankful today.

I am thankful for my best friends and loved ones. I'm thankful that a tragedy was missed by a fraction. I am thankful that the cloak of death has not descended when it easily could have. I'm thankful that a little girl's breaths today may taste sweeter than they did before - though she may not understand why.

I'm thankful that though I recognize my gift of imagination... of creating worlds, that I have yet to experience real horror.

And though I know at some point, it's inevitable for us all, I hope those of you that read this, have a long, long time, before you experience it too.

Current Reads:
Finished Lee Thomas' Dust of Wonderland... great read and I'm lining up something else by him already.

The Dark Tower - The Gunslinger Born. I bought the collected hardback comic and both the writing and artwork kick ass.

I skipped over Cormac's No Country for Old Men for the time being and dove into Mary Sangiovanni's The Hollower. Digging it... very creepy and nice atmosphere.

Recent Movies:
Martian Child. John Cusak is great in this.. different role for him, but great story line.

Live Free and Die Hard. I'm a sucker for these movies... and though as an action movie with some serious full automatic weapons, there are, of course, some serious moments that I had to put my brain on the shelf, the story's based around a cool, very timely concept of a technological "firesale" and is a frightening social prospect in itself.

Current Music:
Nothing new... any recommendations?

Current Infatuation:

be good,

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I re-read these lyrics that I posted a link to recently... and the song's so damn good even after all this time, that it's been running through my mind ever since. The memory of it takes me back to buying the cd soundtrack of Singles and a summer where I didn't have a care in the world. I was working at a shitty job that I busted my ass at, but didn't have much stress. I was early into my relationship with my soon-to-be wife. It wasn't too long before that I'd finished the final draft of a never-to-be-released novel with a co-writer who vanished off the face of the Earth. But that didn't matter because I was optimistic and hopeful for the future. It was the summer of me sitting on a mountain top around a fire, at a lonely little cabin among a gathering of friends, drunk off my ass and closing my eyes as I nodded my head to Mother Love Bone's Chloe Dancer as it echoed off the oaks and pines.

Music takes me away. Doesn't it you?

Drown - Smashing Pumpkins
No matter where you are
I can still hear you when you drown
You've traveled very far
Just to see you I'll come around
When I'm down
All of those yesterdays
Coming around

No matter where you are
I can still hear you when you dream
You traveled very far
You traveled far, like a star
And you are
All of those yesterdays
Coming around

Is it something someone said?
Was it something someone said?

Yesterday the sky was you
And I still feel the same
Nothing left for me to do
And I still feel the same

I wish, I wish I could fly
I wish, I wish I could lie
I will, I will try
I will, I will

I'm tattered and bruised from the last couple of weeks in more ways than a few.
A friend of mine told me I looked pretty stressed yesterday. Hmmm. The weight of years my friend... the weight of years.

Very much looking forward to Context in a few weeks. Heading up there with JF Gonzalez and I'm sure it'll be a blasty-blast. Plus, I get to see my slave-driver and partner in crime, Kelli Dunlap. Keene will be there too. Ohio is doomed. Hide the sheep and lock up the cigar bars, we're on our way.

Current Reads:
About fifty pages away from finishing Lee Thomas' The Dust of Wonderland. Have been so busy I've had to schedule bodily functions, let alone read much. And a great little expanded tale from Kelli Dunlap. (yes... you'll have notes!!)

Recent Movies:
hmm... yeah. Uhm... I watched Enter the Ninja last wednesday, laughed at how ridiculous Sho Kosugi was in it, and how cool I thought that was in my early teens. Other than that.. nothing.

Recent Infatuations:
Coffee and.. coffee. No use posting anything else.

Recent Music:
Went old school and have been listening to old Public Enemy and D.O.C. Oh, and a kickass release that my friend Tim turned me onto - One day as a Lion from the Rage Against the Machine crew. Short and sweet as a bar fight.

A meatier post is on the way. I need to recharge my batteries.
be good,