Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Golden Moment

Gentle readers, as a gift from me to all of you, I offer a short holiday story set in the same world as my book, The Marvelous Land of Ap.  I hope everyone has a joyous Christmas and a fabulous New Year.
Warmest regards,
George R. Shirer

A Holiday Tale of the Marvelous Land of Ap
It had been a hard winter in Ap. Thick snow blanketed the land and the River Surprise had frozen, so that a fat man could walk from one bank to the other without fear of falling through the ice. The days were short, the nights were long, and both were frigid. It had been a season of raging blizzards and creeping ice-fogs. No one went outside unless it was necessary. Some people decided to take sleeping potions and snooze their way through the bitter season. Most folks remained awake, to watch the hands of the calender-clocks creep toward Spring. However, before Spring could arrive, Winter had to end, and tonight was the night of Winter’s End.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Marvelous Land of Ap Free Promo!

Hello, gentle readers!

Today and tomorrow, my latest book, The Marvelous Land of Ap, will be available as a free download for Kindle.

* * * * *

Charlie has lived in the Marvelous Land of Ap since he was a teenager. He doesn't miss the world at all.
Ella has just arrived in Ap, and can't wait to go home.
Until that happens, Charlie has agreed to look after Ella.
Unfortunately, this arrangement gets complicated when Charlie's duty takes him, a reluctant Ella, and a young boy named Thimble from the safety of Ap, into the uncertain dangers of the Dustlands.

* * * * *

As you can probably guess, gentle readers, the book is a fantasy and it leans more toward The Wizard of Oz than The Lord of the Rings.  It's available at Amazon, around the world, thru Christmas Eve.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Fiction: On His Feet


It happened at three in the morning, the midnight of the soul. Jack was awake when the sure knowledge that the world was going to end just landed in his brain. He blinked and lay in bed, staring at the bedroom ceiling. Next to him, Pam muttered something in her sleep, then grew quiet.

For a minute, Jack thought about waking his wife. They had been married for fifteen years. Three years too long if Jack was going to be completely honest. Still, shouldn’t they be together at the end?

No, decided Jack. Let her sleep.

Carefully, he climbed out of bed and left the bedroom. He walked to the kitchen and took the chocolate cake out of the refrigerator. Grabbing a fork from the air dryer, Jack walked out onto the porch.

He sat in the rocking chair Pam had bought him as a gag gift for his last birthday. The joke was on her, though, as the chair had become Jack’s favorite. He dug into the cake. It was cold and a little dry, but not bad.

Overhead, the stars were winking out. In the distance, the world seemed to be growing vague and indistinct, quietly drifting away into mist and shadow.

Jack didn’t feel afraid and he wondered about that. The idea of death had always frightened him, mainly because there was no guarantee that there would be anything after it.

Now, though, he knew with bedrock certainty that there was something. That knowledge removed death’s sting.

He ate another forkfull of cake and watched the world come undone. The moon drifted away into white smoke. Down the street, the new condos evaporated.

The end drew near. Jack put aside the cake and stood to meet it.

And, as it swept over him, as Jack faded into mist and shadow, he wondered.

What happens next?

He was looking forward to finding out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Fall Back

Ladies and gentlemen, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been telling fortunes at a couple of parties. It’s fun, easy money and gives me a chance to meet some new people.

This past Friday, I worked a party that I had been laughingly referring to as ‘the cougar party’ all week. The lady who hired me was definitely the cougar type. A real man-eater although I didn’t realize how big a man-eater until later.

I left early to make sure I could find the address. I’m glad I did as the house did not meet my expectations; it exceeded them. It was a rambling, two-story brick set in a very chichi neighborhood. A country club, thoroughbred-horse-raising sort of neighborhood.

I wasn’t certain I had the right address until I rang the front door and there was my employer, La Cougar. You would probably recognize the type if you saw her. Older, tan, moisturized, oozing confidence and surrounded by a cloud of expensive, floral perfume. Every strand of her platinum hair was in place and she wore a strand of pearls around her neck that she would toy with all evening.

She led me into the living room, an open space with pale walls and pastel-colored, soft furniture. La Cougar’s guests were obviously cut from the same cloth as herself. They sat around the glass coffee table, sipping cocktails and quietly congratulating the guest-of-honor on her recent divorce.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was working a ‘divorce party.’

The fortune telling went over well. The ladies were relaxed and amused. They wanted to know about their love lives, their sex lives.  Would they get married again? Would the trip to Spain work out?

As the night passed, the wine flowed and the ladies became more relaxed. More salacious. The conversation drifted to talk of husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends and even the occasional liaison. It was informative, if not always flattering.

After I had finished the last reading, La Cougar took me by the arm and led me into the dining room to pay me. She was very relaxed at this point, leaning into me. Her words were a little slurred, her fingers toying with her pearls. She sent her housekeeper to fetch her checkbook and patted my arm, told me how pleased she was with my performance and that she would recommend me to all of her friends. Even if she was genteelly tipsy, I think she was sincere.

The doorbell rang just as the housekeeper returned, but one of the guests announced she would get the door. La Cougar started to write me a check when her guest returned, followed by a young man wearing a Domino’s delivery jacket.

The young man, said the guest, was lost.

"I have a special delivery with extra sausage," explained the delivery boy. "But I don’t know where it goes."

He walked up to the guest of honor, a plump, pink older lady.

"Could you tell me where it goes?" He asked her.

At which point somebody turned on the stereo and the guy began to strip.

La Cougar had been writing my check, but the minute the stripper began to dance, she lost all interest in paying me. She was too busy staring at this young, lanky, blonde boy peeling his clothes off.

The housekeeper shook her head and led me into the kitchen. We sat at the kitchen table, where she proceeded to have a glass of wine, while looking through the shutters at the action in the living room.

"Scandalous," she said, shaking her head. But she had a little smile on her face when she said it.

From the noise in the living room, it looked like it’d be a while before La Cougar returned, so I asked the housekeeper if she wanted her cards read for free. She declined, saying she didn’t hold with fortune telling. However, I couldn’t help but notice she had no problem ogling the stripper. Or opening another bottle of wine.

The wine loosened her up some and she told me about La Cougar. How she had been married and widowed three times, each of her husbands richer and older than the last. No wonder she could afford such a nice house.

After a while, the music and noise from the living room ended. La Cougar returned, face flushed, eyes bright, patting her hair into place. She apologized for keeping me waiting, but she hadn’t known her friend had hired the stripper. Then wrote me a check and showed me to the front door where the stripper reappeared, mostly dressed, clenching a handful of cash. We walked out the front door together.

"Do you work for that lady?" the stripper asked me, looking at me, trying to figure out what someone like me could possibly be doing for La Cougar.

"She hired me to work the party," I explained.

He gave me a funny look. "What do you do?"

"I tell fortunes."

"Oh. I thought you were another stripper."

I just looked at him. "You’re kidding. Right? Is there a demand for fat, white strippers?"

He thought about it for a minute then said, "Probably."

So, gentle readers, if the writing thing doesn’t work out, I may have something to fall back on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fighting the Darkness

Over on Facebook a friend of mine reacted to news of the Connecticut elementary school shootings by voicing the opinion that we live in a sick and broken world.

In the face of such horror, as happened in Connecticut, it’s difficult to argue with that opinion. It doesn’t help that the media bombards us with awful stories on a daily basis.

However, I think it’s important to point out that, especially at this time of year, the world is not an awful place. I genuinely think that people are a little kinder around Christmas, that they become more self-reflective. We all try to be better people at this time of year.

I think that, in light of today’s events, perhaps especially because of today’s events, that we need to be mindful of the goodness in the world and in ourselves. We need to foster it and make it grow, we need to spread it to the people around us.

I don’t think you have to do anything big to do it either. Hug your kids. Tell your wife that you love her. Sit down and talk to that coworker who looks ground down.

Do something good.

Be kind.

Fight the darkness.

If we don’t, who will?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Let's Get Physical

Hello, gentle readers. How is everyone doing today?

I’m doing fine, thank you for wondering.

This weekend was fairly productive for yours truly. I got the critique/proofread of my upcoming book, The Marvelous Land of Ap, from my new Editrix this past Friday. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My Editrix caught a couple of things I’d missed, made some suggestions and, generally speaking, did not have to use the whip.


Saturday, I worked on the book a little, but most of the day was devoted to pleasure and indolence. Basically, I spent the day lying around, eating potato chips and browsing Amazon.

Yesterday, however, was very busy. I decided to test the waters with CreateSpace for The Marvelous Land of Ap. And I can say, with some authority, that using CreateSpace was no more stressful than preparing e-books for Kindle.

Amusingly, after correcting my page size and uploading my files, I realized I needed to add page numbers to the book. I’ve gotten so used to reading on Kindle and having it auto-save my place, that the practical purpose of page numbers completely slipped my mind.

As I type this, the author’s proof of my book is being printed. I should have it in my eager little hands in a few days and, if it passes muster, I’ll have a print-on-demand book ready for the masses.


Sunday, December 2, 2012


This blog entry is dedicated with sincere affection to Anna, Dot, Molly and Laverne. The B-listers. Long may they rock!
This weekend I drove up to the mountains to spend some time with an old friend, Anna. She’s in a band and they’re heading west, stopping off at cities along I-40 as they trek toward Los Angeles.

It was nice to see Anna again. The last time I saw her, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see her again. I had resigned myself to that, so when I got her e-mail telling me that the band would be in Cherokee for the weekend and would I like to come up? I was caught off guard.

Still, I figured what the heck? Hopped in the car Saturday and drove to the mountains.

I thought the band was playing a gig in Cherokee, but it turned out they were just enjoying a final, lazy weekend before they start heading across the country. We got to hang out, go to dinner, lose some money in the casino.

At one point, there may or may not have been a game of strip poker. I will never say for certain.

I was invited to stay the night, but decided against it.

When I left Cherokee that evening, there was a haunted moon in the sky and an invitation buzzing in my ear.

A year ago I’d been driving across the country along I-40. Earlier that evening I’d told the ladies some of my experiences.

They asked if I’d be interested in heading cross-country with them. Basically, I’d be a roadie, helping set up at gigs and taking a turn driving the van.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t tempted.

As I drove home that evening, my feet itched. I’ve got a mild case of the wanderlust and the thought of traveling cross-country again is appealing. Lately, I’ve been thinking how much I’d like to return to San Simeon, revisit Solvang and the Painted Desert.

There were sights I missed the first time round that I could catch this time. The Winchester House. The London Bridge in Lake Havisu City. Las Vegas.

However, I knew as soon as I got behind the wheel of my car and drove out of Cherokee, that I wouldn’t be taking the offer. It would have been a lot of fun traveling along I-40 with the band. We got on like a house on fire.

But I want to do what I want to do and, this month, that means returning to work on Dawnwind: Resurrection. That story has been lying, patient and still, in the back of my mind a long time and now it’s starting to get restless. It wants attention and I want to give it to it.

So, I declined the offer to live a rock-n-roll lifestyle, to travel cross-country in a van with four very talented and very sexy ladies, setting up amps and living off truck stop food. Instead, I’m going to focus on finishing Resurrection and getting The Marvelous Land of Ap out there for the public.

We all have to make choices.

This is mine.

I don’t regret it.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Supporting Wikipedia

Gentle readers, I'm not an easy touch when it comes to charities.  Too often donations wind up paying for administrative costs and not going to the people who need it.  Nevertheless, as someone who routinely uses Wikipedia as a jumping off point for research, I felt inclined to make a donation to them.

They sent me a very nice automated response which I am sharing below with all of you.

Dear George,

Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!

It's easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I'm really glad you didn't. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills --- people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it's not perfect, they know it's written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody's PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that's not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be.

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.

On behalf of those people, and the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Most people don't know Wikipedia's run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you're interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources here that can help you get started. Don't worry about making a mistake: that's normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

I appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you we'll use your money well.

Sue Gardner,
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Demonstration of Writing By the Seat of One's Pants

Hello, gentle readers!

I just sat at my computer and realized, "Oh hell! I have to do a blog entry!"

And, so, here we are.

I have nothing prepared.




My brain is as empty as a politician’s promise.

But still, here I am, pounding away on the keyboard producing something.

That’s the secret, you know, to being a writer.

Just write.

You don’t have to have anything planned out, you can just sit down and start to write and see what happens. It’s a bit like procreation, I suppose. Or parenting. You just sort of do it and wait to see the results.

If you’re lucky, you produce a healthy baby who will grow into a productive member of society. On the other hand, sometimes you create monstrous freaks who would make Freddy Kruger wet his pants.

It’s sort of a crap shoot.

You’ll have a lot of writers who say you should plan everything out. I don’t agree with that. Personally, I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. I’ve tried to do the layout thing and it was hell. Pure hell. I felt like I was doing homework. Math homework. Which was no fun at all!

Math sucks.

I’m not just saying that because I was bad at it.

Unless your job calls for it, it’s unlikely you have ever had to use geometry or calculus. Right? Right.

I always liked English even if I didn’t particularly care for most of my English teachers. They were sort of crabby, the lot of them. However, if I were locked in a building with a bunch of moody teenagers all day long, I’d probably be crabby too.

Or an alcoholic.

An alcoholic teacher who would eventually wind up in prison or something.


I think I just gave myself an idea for a story.

See what happens? See how this works?

Just write.

You never know where it’ll take you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Good day, gentle readers.
Today, my novel, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing, is available for free via Amazon.
If you have a Kindle or the Kindle ap, you can download the book for free until around midnight.
Why should you bother getting it?
Well, let's take a look at the reviews. Shall we?

"An excellent read that reminds me at once of stories told by A.E. van Vogt and Robert A. Heinlein - it is that good." - T.S. Sofia

"Dawnwind: Last Man Standing is the best science-fiction novel I have read in years!" - E. Meyer

"Good plot, great characters and fantastic story!" - Jim Powers

You can find more reviews on the book's Amazon page, if you'd care to peruse them.

Thank you for your patronage.

Dawnwind: Last Man Standing - Amazon US -  http://www.amazon.com/Dawnwind-Last-Man-Standing-ebook/dp/B00887FGQK/ref=la_B005EZ4W9Q_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1353003969&sr=1-3

Dawnwind: Last Man Standing - Amazon UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dawnwind-Last-Man-Standing-ebook/dp/B00887FGQK

Monday, November 12, 2012

Comfort from the Unexpected

The other day I dropped off a copy of my most recent book with my Aunt J. Aunt J is my mom’s older sister. She lives in the countryside, in a large house, and sells flowers.

Although a great reader (she can finish a 400-page book in a couple of hours), Aunt J has never really read stuff in the genres that I write in: fantasy, science fiction, horror. Nevertheless, she has always expressed a great deal of interest in my writing. A while back I left my Kindle with her for a week so that she could read my first book, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing.

I was genuinely curious to see what she would make of it. To my surprise, she liked it.

When I finished my current book, I decided to print out a copy and leave it with her to read at her leisure. This book was quite different from my other, as it was a fantasy inspired by Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and similar stories.

This afternoon, I stopped by Aunt J’s for a visit. She told me she had sat and read the story all in one setting, that she had really enjoyed it.

Then my aunt said something that caught my completely off guard. She told me that she thought her father, my maternal grandfather, would have really liked the story.

"He would have read it," said Aunt J, "and I know we would have sat at the kitchen table and talked it to pieces."

Of all the feedback I could have gotten from my aunt, of all the possible things she could have told me, this just caught me completely by surprise. It was a fly ball coming out of the sun and wacking me right in the head. That single sentence just left me seeing stars.

Not a lot surprises me. To be honest, a lot of the time I think I’m less jaded and more callous toward what the world gives us. Fifteen years of having insane people swearing at you and threatening you can sort of calcify your soul. The news doesn’t help, as it’s always bad news except around Christmas, when the newscasters blow the cobwebs from their cold hearts and do fuzzy, saccharine-sweet human interest stories.

I’m inured to death and destruction. A hurricane slams into New Jersey and New York? Eh. It’s bad, I guess, but I don’t know anyone affected. Where’s the remote? What else is on?

A military convoy is ambushed in Afghanistan? Soldiers have died? Haven’t they been dying since we went there? The damned politicians aught to get us out of there. What’s the point? Hey, look! Lindsey Lohan got arrested! Again!

Buildings collapse on innocents. Wars flare in distant parts of the world. Disasters strike close to home and far away.


It’s all business as usual. I remain untouched.

But the simple comment that my Aunt J thinks my grandfather would have liked my story hits me like a bullet. Even now, hours later, thinking about that fills my stomach with warm, fluttering butterflies.

That hard shell that’s formed over the years has had a hole blown right through it. I am left exposed and wondering.

The world still has the capacity to shock, to strike us to our core with the unexpected. This is a good thing.

Perhaps I am not as callous or jaded as I have thought.

The thought is oddly comforting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Review of The Man With the Iron Fists

On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.

That’s the description for The Man With the Iron Fists, possibly one of the most dreadful movies that I have seen in recent memory.

The characters are boring, the story drags, the performances are simply atrocious and even the fight scenes are awful. Not even the presence of Lucy Liu and Russel Crowe can redeem this piece of crap.

The Man with the Iron Fists gets zero out of ten. This movie is simply so God awful that no one else should have to sit through it. Don’t go catch a matinee, don’t rent it, if you see it advertised on cable or network television avoid it. Avoid it like the plague!

November in Black


October and December are festive months, but November is not.

November is all business and her business is dark.

Picture a tall, lean woman with skin like white snow and a severe black haircut. A Patrick Nagel illustration, all whites and blacks, come to dreadful life.

On the seasonal clock, November is equivalent to three in the morning. She is the midnight of the soul, that dreadful hour when people rise from nightmares only to discover loved ones have died.

November sits in a dark office, occupied by sleek furniture made of glass and steel. A gas fireplace burns blue at her back, not so much casting light as spawning shadows. The room is cold and full of sharp echoes.

There is a painting hanging above the fireplace, a famous Russian triptych depicting a sleigh racing through a dark night pursued by slavering wolves. A woman tosses an infant from the sleigh, to the wolves, in a futile hope that the babe will be enough to distract the predators and let the sleigh escape.

November is very fond of that painting.

It makes her smile because she knows the ploy will not work. The wolves will catch up to the sleigh and consume the travelers. Then, the wolves will turn on each other and all that will be left is the cold darkness.

Yes, November is very fond of that painting.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to another fine Monday. I hope you had a good weekend, because I certainly did.

I got my first check from Amazon.

It was not a huge check.

I cannot suddenly retire to an Italian villa overlooking the Mediterranean, or anything, but it has provided me with an eerie sense of validation.

When I opened the envelope, I had this Sally Fields-like moment: "They like me! They really, really like me!"

Of course, being the soul of dignity, I did not tear up or anything like that.

And I know that I should not need the sales of my stories to validate myself as a person or a writer, but as I’m being very honest here, I have to admit that it helps. I’ve never been particularly insecure about my writing, not until my most recent project, but it’s gratifying that complete strangers find my work interesting enough to purchase. It gives one a nice little ego boost.

So I want to take this opportunity to say "Thank you!" to everyone who has downloaded my stories. You’ve pretty much made me feel like a real writer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye. . . .

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Review of Wreck-It Ralph

Once again, gentle readers, I think I am going to be out-of-step with the mainstream.

This weekend I went and saw Wreck-It Ralph, and left the movie feeling perturbed.

The basic premise of the movie is that a video game villain, the eponymous Wreck-It Ralph, wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream. However, his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

Personally, I thought the movie sent mixed messages. On the one hand, it encourages people to accept who they are. However, on the other hand, it repeatedly tells people not to buck the system, not to try and change themselves because it’s impossible.

This last is a crap message, especially to give to impressionable little kids.

What? You’re in awful circumstances, so you shouldn’t do anything about it? Your parents are beating you, your teacher is touching you, but don’t make a fuss. Don’t rock the boat. Just endure because that’s what people are supposed to do.

This is a bullshit message to give to little kids, but it’s pretty much the idea that I got from this movie.

Was the movie entertaining? Eh. It was okay. Nothing to really write home about. The animation was standard, the voice cast was okay. The story felt predictable, and, at times, I thought it dragged.

On my Media Scale of Movie Love, I’d have to give Wreck-It Ralph 3 out of 10. Between the message and the content, I don’t really feel like the movie is theater-worthy. Wait for this to come out as a rental.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Good morning, gentle readers. Welcome to another Monday, here on the blog.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but October has been an unpleasant month for me. I’ve been ill. First with a very bad cold that continues to linger and then, on top of that, I somehow managed to pull something in my back leaving me with twinges and muscle aches. At the moment, as I sit here typing this, I am smeared with Ben-Gay, sucking on a cough drop, and have a Heat-Wrap secured around my left arm.

Somehow, in the space of twenty-nine days, ladies and gentlemen, I have degenerated into an old man.

I feel a bit like October has betrayed me this year. Usually, I’m in fine fettle, but this month? Aches and pains, unexpected financial expenditures, a run of unpleasant if not exactly bad luck. I am half-tempted to go out and get a rabbit’s foot.

I feel a bit traitorous admitting this, but I think I shall be glad when October is gone this year. This year, she’s been a bit of a bad house guest.

Still, as her time draws to a close, she seems to be gentling a bit. Just a bit. Enough to remind me why, muscle aches and coughs aside, I do love this time of year.

And, I’m not sure, but as grim November approaches, it feels like the scales are trying to balance. It feels like things are returning to some semblance of normal. Knock wood.

We can only hope.

A Rant About Looper

I was going to post a movie review of the film, Looper, here, but forget that.
Looper is the reason that I usually avoid movies involving time-travel like a plague.
The premise of the movie is that in the year 2074, if the mob wants someone killed, they send them back into the past where assassins called 'loopers' carry out the executions and the disposal of the bodies.  Eventually, every 'looper' is retired by being sent back into the past and killed by his younger self.
And I'm fine with this concept until the producers start doing things that screw with cause and effect. For instance, a young looper hesitates to kill his future self, leading to that future self's escape. So, what does the mob do? They take the young version and start systematically mutilating him.  They cut off his fingers, his nose, his tongue, his legs.  As they perform these mutilations, the older version transforms into a noseless, fingerless, tongueless, legless thing before getting blow away.
Only, if the guy was mutilated in his past (the present) how could he arrive from the future hale and hearty one minute and seriously mutilated the next?  It is a paradox.
Paradox, ladies and gentlemen, is the cardinal sin of time-travel.
Looper is guilty of this sin in spades, and that utterly ruined this movie for me.
I would rather sit through one of those awful time-travel episodes from Star Trek: Voyager than sit through this movie again, let alone recommend it to anyone.
The whole paradox thing just pisses me off that much.
Which is why this is not a review, but a rant.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Review of The Cloud Atlas

I’ll admit it. I went into The Cloud Atlas with the preconceived notion that it was going to be a hot mess. In all honesty, the previews I had seen reminded me too much of The Fountainhead, one of the most godawful movies I had seen in years.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself quite enjoying this film.

True, it is not a perfect film. It does require attention and a degree of patience. The narrative felt a bit jerky at times and, if the expense had not been prohibitive, I think it might have worked better from a dramatic standpoint if the cast had been larger.

The cast here is very good, but, to be brutally honest, there portrayals of different people through time read largely the same. Outside of clothing and time-period, I didn’t see much evolution or difference between the characters of Luisa Rey and Meronym. Perhaps the best character differentiation is done by veteran actor, Jim Broadbent, and I feel that I must single out Hugo Weaving for doing an excellent job as the baddie. Especially for his portrayal of Nurse Noakes. That performance alone is pretty much worth the price of admission.

As for the effectiveness of the movie’s theme: that everything is connected, that our actions have reverbations felt through time? I’m not sure it accomplishes it.

Going back and reading this review, it occurs to me that it sounds very negative. I point out the weaknesses and the flaws that I perceive, but this movie has its strengths as well. Some of the characters are brought to wonderful life by their performers. Ben Whishaw’s Robert Frobisher. Jim Broadbent’s Timothy Cavendish. Doona Bae’s Sonmi-451. Although it is almost three hours long, the time seemed to fly past.

Overall, I enjoyed The Cloud Atlas, but I don’t know if I would want to see it again. So, I’m going to give it 4 out of 10. I think it might be a bit dense for a date night movie, although I think it would give people a lot to talk about, but I’d definitely say catch a matinee. It is not a perfect movie, but its flaws don’t seriously detract from it, and if you go in with an open mind, you might be genuinely surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Monday, October 22, 2012



I drove 200 miles to see you
Drawn by nostalgia and sense memories:
Nails raking my back;
Apple shampoo smell in your hair;
Laughter, high and sharp as breaking glass.
We have history together,
You and I.
We were like France and Germany
During World War Two.
Only I forget who was who.
Who invaded?
Who resisted?
What was our Normandy?
Were our friends Allies or Axis?
I don’t remember.
Chalk it up to shell shock,
The passage of years,
Early onset dementia,
Or too much whiskey.
It doesn’t matter.
We’re not those people anymore.
We’re older and grayer.
Hopefully wiser.
But there were hints of the woman you were
In the toss of your hair,
The rough calluses on your fingers,
Your jacket patched with duct tape at the elbows.
After you played your set,
We talked and smoked and drank
Until I knew it was time to go.
You asked me to stay,
But I remembered our history,
And didn’t want to repeat it.
When we said goodbye,
When we hugged,
You felt slight in my arms.
And I had this sense,
That I would never see you again.
That this was it,
The end of our history.
So I wrote this down,
In the early morning hours.
Because history should not be repeated,
But neither should it should be forgotten
And I want to remember.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fiction: A Murder Story


Redmart was a Wal-Mart wannabe, a chain of stores in the southeastern USA. At the time, they were best known for their generic products and selling a tainted dog food that left dozens of pet owners bereaved and angry. Joey Schoemacher never dreamed of working at Redmart. He certainly never thought he would die there.

Still, there he was, flat on his back in Electronics, his life pouring out of him from the gash in his throat. Lying on his back, the last thing Joey saw was his killer standing over him, head tilted to one side, as if perplexed by the results of his own actions. He still clenched the knife in his right hand.

Then the lights went out and seventeen-year-old Joey Schoemacher was dead. It was after midnight and the store was quiet. Joey’s corpse wouldn’t be discovered for another hour. By the time it was, the Redmart Killer would have claimed three other lives.

* * * * *

"Jesus fuck," muttered Sanduski. He cupped a hand around his lighter, to shield the flame. "Why the fuck do you have to haul that story out every goddamn year?"

Frick grinned. He had a smile like a broken brown fence. "‘Cause they never caught the son of a bitch, did they? People who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save it for the fortune cookies."

Sanduski finally got his lighter to spark. He shoved his cigarette into the flame and gleefully sucked in a lungful of sweet, sweet nicotine.

"Just sayin’," said Frick.

"Well don’t say anything else. It’s bad enough we’re in this fucking tomb tonight. I don’t need you telling ghost stories."

"It ain’t a ghost story, it’s a murder story," said Frick.

"Whatever. Just shut up and turn on the radio."

Shrugging, Frick turned on the radio. Hip-hop poured out of the speakers. Scowling, Sanduski twiddled the dial, until he found a talk radio station. Some wannabe Art Bell was on the phone with a geezer who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in a pancake or something. Frick rolled his eyes.

"I’m goin’ for a walk."

Sanduski grunted. "Don’t let the bogey man get you."

With a snort, Frick flipped Sanduski the bird and headed out on his round.

It’s been eight years since the Redmart Murderer killed four people in the wee hours of the morning and got away clean. The store never recovered. People didn’t want to shop in a place where a bunch of folks got murdered, not even in the bright light of day. It was like the air was tainted. After a while, Redmart shut down the store and tried to sell it. However, nobody was buying. The place’s reputation was made. The old Redmart store at Aurora Park was bad juju. Stay away.

Stuck with the store, Redmart repurposed it. They turned it into an overflow warehouse, stuffing it with off-brand merchandise not even their most loyal cheapskates would buy. It accumulated there, in the dusty dark until someone at corporate remembered it existed and sent a truck to haul some of the crap away.

Frick didn’t work for Redmart, but a local security firm they contracted to guard the place. Vandals had broken into the old store a while back and there seemed to be a constant stream of dumbass kids who tried to get into the place on a dare.

Still, as gigs went, Frick kind of liked working at Redmart. The history of the place didn’t really bother him, not like it did Sanduski. Sanduski never said it, but Frick knew that this assignment gave him the heebie-jeebies. The fat old man wasn’t the only rent-a-guard who felt that way either. It was always a pain in the ass for the company to find people to work the place, especially during the anniversary of the murders.

Frick wandered away from the security office. Once upon a time it had been the cashier manager’s office, but since then it had been converted for the security guards. It had a bank of CCTV monitors that showed grainy black-and-white images of the store exterior. That was about as high tech as security got around here, and there always had to be one man watching the monitors while the other was making the rounds.

Frick made his way past the empty checkout aisles, long silent, their conveyor belts covered with dust. The checkouts were supposed to be removed ages ago but that had never happened. The shelves and fixtures had been yanked out, leaving the interior of the store a gutted shell that was jam packed with pallets of Chinese-made dog food and knock-off floor cleaners. Pallets formed a maze, dusty and dark, with unexpected turns and twists that changed every time the trucks arrived to drop off and take shit away.

Frick didn’t like going into that maze. He wasn’t the most imaginative person in the world but he could easily see one of the poorly stacked pallets sliding, see himself crushed beneath a shitload of laundry detergent.

Fuck that.

He and Sanduski just walked around the maze, ignoring the interior. For all Frick knew there could have been a tribe of hobos living in the heart of the maze. As long as they didn’t make trouble, he wouldn’t have cared.

The fork lift drivers left a wide lane open around the edge of the store. This was the route that the guards used, walking from the old checkout lanes past what had been the grocery aisles, the media department, the auto department, the electronics department.

Frick paused.


The overhead lights didn’t work any longer. When they burned out, Redmart didn’t see any point in replacing them. Frick waved his flashlight around, the bright beam cutting through the shadows, illuminating stacks of cheap-ass tires and boxes of crappy coffee makers.

Joey Schoemacher had been killed here. He’d bled out his life on these grimy garnet tiles, his killer standing over him, watching him die. The cops knew that because they found the same bloody footprints at all four murder scenes. Almost gleefully, the media reported that the Redmart Killer had traipsed through his victims’ blood without any apparent qualms.

Frick walked on, completing the circle, checking the doors. It was raining outside, the dregs of Hurricane Oro sweeping up from Florida.

"Not a fit night out for man nor beast," said Frick, peering out the loading bay door.

He stood there for a while, breathing in the wet night, then shut the door and went on his way.

It was funny the things that stuck with ya, thought Frick.

Everybody remembered Joey Schoemacher’s name, because he was the first murder victim, but nobody remembered the others.

Their names came back to Frick as he wandered through the dark.

Neal Stevens. A skinny old black dude. Killed in Gardening with a pair of hedge clippers.

Margaretta Wood. Queen-sized mother of two. Found in Ladies Apparel, strangled with a pair of XXX-large panties.

Charles "Charlie" Dint. Retiree. Devoted husband, dad and grandpa. He had an icepick shoved through his heart in Kitchenware.

Frick shook his head, feeling an unexpected pang for the four people. Ahead, the security office was a friendly little pool of light. Suddenly, Frick didn’t want to be out here in the dark, thinking of dead people. He wanted to be around the living. He quickened his pace, hurrying toward the office and Sanduski.

The fat man looked up from a newspaper. "You took your time."

Frick shrugged.

"You remember to lock the loading bay door?"


"Good." Sanduski grinned. "Wouldn’t want some psycho fuck breaking into the place, would we?"

"No," said Frick. "We wouldn’t want any more."

He thought of Schoemacher again, remembering the stunned look on the kid’s face as the knife cut through flesh. The spray of blood as the artery was clipped.

They’d all had similar looks on their faces, as they died. No anger or fear, just surprise. None of them had expected it.

Frick looked at Sanduski. The fat man had gone back to reading his paper, his back to Frick.

Would he get the same surprised look on his face? Frick wondered.

There was a pair of scissors in the desk drawer. Sometimes, Frick used them to clip coupons from the paper. He opened the drawer and pulled them out now, admired the way the light from the CCTV monitors made them flash.

It had been eight years. That was a long time between deaths for someone like Frick. He tightened his grip on the scissors, walked toward Sanduski.

"What time is it?" asked Frick.

Sanduski looked at the digital clock below the CCTV bank. "Almost midnight. Why? You got a hot date or something?"

"Just an anniversary," whispered the Redmart Killer.

When he struck, Sanduski looked just as surprised as all the others.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Riding Shotgun

Nine P.M. on a Thursday night and I’m driving down a black highway, Mozart on the car radio, October’s fingers caressing my cheek. The season has crept inside the car and sits next to me, riding shotgun.

October’s hair is a riot of oranges and reds, her eyes are leafy brown flecked with tawny gold, her gown a diaphanous black shroud that shows off her legs. October has great legs.

She smiles and leans close, whispers in my inner ear, incomprehensible secrets of the fading light, the growing dark, the mysteries written across the sky in the smoke from a thousand chimneys. October smells like candy corn and apples left on the tree just a little too long, sweetness going to rot. Her breath is cider, strong and sweet. She tastes like Halloween and her skin is chilly.

We drive through the night, toward the bonfire glow of city lights. October laughs and stretches her arms over her head. She gathers the last dregs of summer in her black-nailed hands and crams the light and warmth into her mouth, devouring it. In our wake the shadows thicken and things take shape, we are the head of a phantom parade, birthed of the dark and the dying light.

October drapes an arm across my shoulders and smiles at me. Her black gown shifts, sliding down, exposing her pale throat, the gentle swell of breasts. She blows me a kiss, full of dreadful promises and sweet memories, and is gone as quickly as she came.

Nine P.M. on a Thursday night and I’m driving down a black highway, the radio switched off, wishing October could remain a little longer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Nothing, Something

Good morning, gentle readers.

Welcome to another fabulous Monday on the blog.

I’d like to say that I’ve got something profound to write about today, but the fact of the matter is that I’m drawing a complete blank. I even got so desperate for a topic that I went to one of those random blog topic generators you can find online and tried to use it for inspiration.

Unfortunately, the topic it kept suggesting was ‘Tom Cruise’s marriage.’

Yes, like I’m going to write about that train wreck.

So, here I sit, writing about not being able to write about anything. Which, as topics go, feels very Zen.

I was into Zen for a little while. Its ambivalence appealed to me.

My favorite Zen story is the one about a young man who wants to study with a Zen Master. He arranges an interview and the two meet over tea. While the Master serves the tea, the young man goes on and on about why he wants to study Zen. The Master listens politely, pouring tea into the young man’s cup. He fills the cup to the brim and continues to pour until the tea is overflowing the cup. The young man cries out for the Master to stop filling the cup. The Master complies, then says, "Your mind is like the tea cup. Already so full of ideas and opinions that there is no room for anything else. Come back when your cup is empty."

I think that’s a great story.

It makes me envision everyone walking around, balancing cups full of hot tea atop their heads.

I think, writers and non-writers alike, tend to walk around with tea cups full to the brim. We are full of our own knowledge, ambition, experience, self-importance. Essentially, we are full of ourselves.

Sometimes, it’s good to empty that metaphysical tea cup. To open ourselves to new experiences, to new sensations. This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Take a trip to a museum you’ve never been to before, listen to music you wouldn’t ordinarily listen to, read a book by a new author.

Get outside your comfort zone.

Spill some tea.

See what happens next.

You might be surprised.

Like I’m surprised that a blog about nothing at all turned into a blog about Zen and expanding one’s experience.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In Sickness and In Health

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Please forgive the lateness of this week’s posting, but I’m afraid that I have been ill. Nothing serious, just a very bad cold. So, for the last few days I have been languishing in bed, beneath a mountain of quilts, under the influence of various and sundry medications.

I’m still not back 100 percent, but feel much better than I did.

And, sick as I was, it didn’t stop me from promoting my latest short story this past weekend on Amazon. In the end I was very pleased with the results. My short story, The Passing of the World, climbed to #16 on the Top 100 Free Short Story List and #89 on the Top 100 Free Fantasy List.

Not a bad accomplishment for someone who was stuck in bed.

But then, I do most of my best work in bed.


In any event, I’m still a bit sick. I have a cough that does not want to go away. It haunts my throat. The state of my nose is beyond polite description.

Still, I endure.

As to whether or not I will be able to write today? Who knows? I shall try but I’m not holding out much hope. All I really want to do is crawl back into bed and watch bad daytime television.

Right now, though, I’m off to take a long, hot shower.

Enjoy your day, gentle readers, and be grateful for your health.

You never miss it until it’s gone.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Good morning, gentle readers, and welcome to October. Today, I would like to share the following electronic missive I received a few days ago.


Dear Mr. Shirer,

Thanks so much for submitting to FictionalOnlineMagazine.com, and for your extreme patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that "The Passing of the World" isn't quite right for us. I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Please send us more of your stories in the future. We've recently restructured, and if all goes as planned, we will soon have much better response times!


FictionalOnlineMagazine.com Submissions Staff


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is a rejection letter. I present it here, unchanged except for the name of the website, for your perusal.

As rejection letters go, this one is actually quite nice. I suspect, although I cannot prove it, that it was written by an actual person and not spat out by a computer. In the end though, it doesn’t really matter who or what wrote it.

I have been rejected.


Gentle readers, if you wish to pursue a career as a writer, you should get used to rejection. It happens quite a lot. You may enter the profession with skin as soft as a darling newborn baby’s, but after a while, your hide will be as tough as an elephant’s.

Still, rejection hurts at first. Whether its from that really cute girl you screwed up the courage to actually ask out only to be laughed at, or from the super-cool job that you applied for and that you just new you were put on this Earth to do.

Getting used to rejection is a bit like getting whipped for the first time. The anticipation of the first blow is usually worse than the blow itself. Then they start to fall at a regular pace upon your back and there isn’t any pain, just sensation. Eventually, you may even start to look forward to the next blow.

However, I am not here today to encourage you to accept rejection or even recreational flagellation. No, ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you what not to do when you get those rejection letters.

Do not throw yourself out the window in a fit of despair, crying, "My art! My art!" No one likes a drama queen. Also, it would be extremely inconsiderate to leave your mess for someone else to clean up. Replacing windows is expensive. Glass isn’t cheap, y’know.

If you feel you must do this, just to get it out of your system, be sensible. Choose a first floor window. Arrange some pillows or a mattress outside your chosen window to land upon. Also, and this is very important, open the window and remove any obstructions before hurling yourself through it. Afterwards, when you’ve dusted yourself off and recovered your senses, don’t forget to clean the pillows and replace the screens.

Do not turn to drink. If you are not already an alcoholic, drinking after literary rejection will turn you into one. Do your liver a favor and avoid the booze.

Do not turn to illicit drugs. Drug use is a slippery slope. Sure, there’s a long tradition of writers using drugs - Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs are the first to leap to mind - but you are not them. Most likely, you will not be lauded for your ability to string two sentences together while tripping out on LSD and/or peyote. Most likely you will become a junkie and eventually wind up muling cocaine in your butt to pay off a massive drug debt, coming to an ignoble end while crossing the border. Just say "No!"

Don’t try to forget your woes with sex. If you aren’t in a committed relationship, you’ll run the risk of catching a venereal disease. The only people who find weepy authors sexy are not people you want to go home with.

If you are in a committed relationship, your partner will recognize the look in your eye and run like hell in the other direction. In a relationship, there is only so much pity-sex someone can provide before that well of sympathy runs dry.

Don’t masturbate either. You’ll just make yourself sore.

Do not eat to fill the gaping hole left by the rejection. It won’t do any good and you’ll wind up gaining, like, a thousand pounds and eventually wind up being airlifted out of your house by a helicopter. You may even be subjected to visits from people like (shudder) Richard Simmons and Oprah Winfrey. Even if you’re writing something on weight-loss and this is part of your byzantine marketing strategy, it isn’t worth it!

Do not wallow in despair. Really! Pull up your socks and just get on with life. So someone didn’t like your submission. Big fat deal. Send it to someone else.

It’s like oysters. I absolutely loathe oysters. To me, oysters look like something that fell out of an ox’s nose. Lots of other people, though, love oysters. It’s just a matter of taste.

Do not give up. Someone rejected your story? Big deal. Screw ‘em. Take that rejection letter and stick it on the dart board. Pick up dog poo with it. Or, better yet, use it as inspiration for an amusing blog post that has really gone on for far too long.

In short, just shrug off the rejections and get back to writing and admiring your elephant-like hide.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

National Sibling Day

Today is National Sibling Day.

I have a sibling. An older sister.

We don’t really talk.

In all honesty, the most recent interaction we’ve had has been on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been sending her extra lives in Sugar Rush.

We don’t phone or e-mail or exchange texts.

However, we are not estranged or anything like that. Our lives have just taken very different paths.

My sister is a wife and mother with a successful career involving math.

I am single, child-free and am trying to make a go of it as a writer.

She’s more of an extrovert.

I’ve always been more of an introvert.

She’s country-rock.

I’m more indie-pop.

Finding things that we have in common is sort of a challenge.

In a way, we’re sort of like The Odd Couple. I’ll leave it to the people who know us both to decide which is Felix Unger and which is Oscar Madison.

Our relationship, I think, works for us. It’s comfortable and worn in, like a pair of favorite tennis shoes.

Today is National Sibling Day.

I have a sister and, even though we don’t talk that often, I love her.

Even if she is a math weirdo. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green was released to theaters a few weeks ago, but I’m just getting around to seeing it today. I have to admit that before seeing this film, I had read other reviews of it. The majority of the professional reviews were negative and the amateur reviews were mostly lukewarm, so going into this film without any preconceived expectations was difficult. I’m not sure that I succeeded.

The plot is pretty straightforward. An infertile couple, as part of their process of moving on with their lives, spends a night writing down all the qualities they would have wanted in their child. They put these slips of paper in a wooden box and then bury the box in their rear garden. A magical thunderstorm appears, drenching the earth in magic rain and, presto! There’s Timothy, an affable young boy with leaves growing out of his ankles.

The most popular complaint regarding this movie is that it is saccharine and thinly scripted. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a Disney movie aimed at a family audience. What on Earth were you expecting? Shakespeare? Quintin Tarantino? Stanley-freaking-Kubrick?

This Odd Life of Timothy Green is the cinematic equivalent of macaroni-and-cheese. It’s like comfort food. It’s the sort of movie someone’s grandparent would take them to see as a nice outing when its raining outside.

Is the plot predictable? Oh yes. Definitely. Every adult in the audience and older kids will know what’s going to happen. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Is the movie saccharine? Yes. Again, it’s a Disney movie! What? You were expecting Reservoir Dogs?

Would I recommend this movie to people? It depends.

If you have older elementary school kids and you’re looking for a movie to take them to see, then I’d give The Odd Life of Timothy Green a 4 out of 10 on my Media Scale of Movie Love. Catch the matinee, but don’t pay full price.

Otherwise, I’d give it a 2 out of 10 on my Media Scale of Movie Love. Wait for it to come out on cable, if you want to see it at all.  Even then, you'll probably wind up channel surfing in the first fifteen minutes.

A Review of Dredd

I’ll admit, I went into Dredd curious to see what Hollywood would do with this remake. Would they move closer to the source material than the 1995 version starring Sylvester Stallone, or would they go in an entirely different direction? In all honesty, I think that the people behind this movie had a better sense of the world Judge Dredd inhabits than their predecessors.

The casting in the movie is surprisingly good. Karl Urban does a fine job as Joe Dredd. Lena Headey gives a fairly straightforward performance as gang leader, Ma-Ma. Olivia Thirlby, however, steals the show with her performance as Anderson.

However, despite the performances and the good intentions, Dredd feels flat to me. I think part of the disconnect is the fact that the world it’s set in is too contemporary. The costuming and sets don’t make me think this is set in the future, after a nuclear war. They look more like a really bad section of Los Angeles on a smoggy day. Honestly, the set production and costuming of this movie just feel lazy.

The plot is fairly straightforward. There are no real surprises. You pretty much know who’s going to live and who’s going to die fifteen minutes into the movie.

All in all, I’d have to give Dredd 3 out of 10 on the Media Scale of Movie Love. I would not go see this film in the theaters, but I would rent it on Pay-Per-View or from Redbox.


Welcome to Autumn!

Shirley, a very dear friend, often remarked that autumn was her favorite time of the year. It was perfect for bike rides, a seasonal speedbump between hot Summer and bitter Winter.

I’m rather fond of Autumn myself. When I think of Autumn, I think of crisp mornings, trees ablaze with fire-colored leaves, the scent of woodsmoke on the air. I also happily associate the season with children trudging back to school, quiet Friday afternoon matinees at the films, and the slow buildup of holiday stress in other people.

Of course, there is Halloween. However, I never think of Halloween as a ‘stressful’ holiday. It’s always been fun to me. Every year I look forward to Halloween, even if I don’t do anything for it other than hand out candy.

Yes, Autumn is here and we’re past the equinox so we’re losing light. The days grow shorter, the nights grow longer and the impulse to write darker stories grows stronger.

I’m not a huge horror fan, but at this time of year, I find myself thinking of murder and mayhem. This time of the year, it seems natural to think about serial killers and ghosts.

Sadly, I am utter rubbish at writing horror stories. Thankfully, I am very much aware of this fault and so do not indulge the impulse very often.

The closest I’ve come lately has been the short story posted here, Anathemass. However, the impulse remains, even if I don’t give in to it. Standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart the other night, I looked at the folks around me and thought, What if one of these people was a serial killer? (Granted, these were Wal-Mart shoppers, so it was easy to picture one of them going berserk.) That was all it took, that single thought, and my brain was off and racing.

I don’t know if I’ll write the story that thought inspired. Honestly, I don’t think I could do it justice. However, it’s there, tucked away in the pink folds of my brain. Lurking. Waiting.

Autumn. A season of lengthening shadows and dying lights, when the monsters inside ourselves start to rouse and rise.

Maybe, just maybe, you should give in to those dark impulses. Perhaps, when your monsters and maniacs hammer at the door, you should invite them in for a cup of mulled apple cider. Sit with them. Listen to what they have to say.

Just make sure, ladies and gentlemen, that afterwards, you can send them home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Ballad of the Mary McNair


‘Twas a fine clear day
On I-26!
I was heading eastbound,
When I got in this fix.

Because looming behind me,
From out of nowhere,
Hove the great pirate auto,
the Mary McNair!

She raced down the road
On a dozen black wheels!
A gigantic, fantastic
dread automobile!

Loaded with pirates
And armed to the teeth!
She rolled over cars,
Crushing them underneath!

I saw her approaching,
And uttered a prayer,
That I wouldn’t be killed,
By the Mary McNair!

I took the next exit,
Intending to flee,
But the Mary McNair
turned off after me!

Terror did seize me,
Right then and right there!
That was the moment,
snow-white turned my hair!

Flooring the gas,
I turned left and turned right!
But that dread pirate vehicle
Stayed in my sights!

I began to lose hope,
I began to despair,
Knowing I could not shake
the Mary McNair!

In a moment of gloom,
resigned to my fate,
I drove off the road,
put my foot on the brake.

I sat in my car,
Convinced I was done.
Wondering where are the cops
When you really need one?

The Mary McNair,
She screeched to a stop,
And her hatches popped open,
from bottom to top.

When the pirates emerged,
I could do nothing but stare,
Every one was a woman
All pretty and fair!

Brandishing cutlasses,
pistols and pins,
They forced me to their vessel,
And pushed me within.

Stripped to my socks,
I was tied to a bed
Where I started to think,
I might not end up dead.

"We’ll use you, then loose you,"
the pirate-ladies did say.
"But if you can please us,
we might let you stay!"

I can honestly tell
It was my pleasure and joy
To serve all those ladies
As their cabin boy toy.

True to their word,
They loosed me the next day,
In spite of my pleading
to please let me stay!

So gather round laddies,
Pay heed to my tale,
If you see that black auto
Be hardy and hale!

And if they pursue you,
No need to beware,
You won’t regret being boarded
by the Mary McNair!

It’s a fine clear day
on I-26...

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Review of Resident Evil: Retribution

How bad a movie is Resident Evil: Retribution?
So bad that, when I left the theater, my right eye was bleeding.
All right, maybe the bloody red eye didn’t have anything to do with the movie, but that doesn’t mean that Resident Evil: Retribution isn’t so bad it couldn’t cause someone to hemorrhage.
Of course, I knew this movie wasn’t going to be Shakespear when I bought my ticket. The RE franchise has pretty much become brain candy. They’re an excuse to sit in a dark theater, eating popcorn and watching Milla Jovovich perform slow-motion, wire-enhanced martial arts maneuvers.
At this point, about the only saving grace that the Resident Evil movie franchise has, is that Uwe Boll hasn’t been slated to direct any of the films. And after this movie, I’m not sure Boll’s involvement in the franchise would be a positive or a negative.
I’m not going to worry too much about giving spoilers for this movie. If you’ve seen any of the previous RE movies, you know what to expect. Alice wakes up and has to fight her way through undead monsters. The ending is a setup for the next movie in the franchise.
So what makes this movie so bad?
It’s not the acting or the special effects. Those are pretty par for the course.
Partly, it’s the logical inconsistencies within the movie itself.
Why the hell is Ada Wong, played by Bingbing Li, walking around in a cocktail dress slit up to the thigh? For that matter, why is she wearing those impractical shoes? In a post-apocalyptic world, you’d expect her to be dressed more practically.
Then there’s the scene where one of the zombie soldiers is killed by the rescue team. One guy grabs it from behind in a headlock while another unloads a full clip from his gun into dead guy’s chest. While the other guy is still holding it. The guy behind the zombie should have been perforated.
Mostly, though, it’s the fact that Resident Evil: Retribution is a very dull film. There is absolutely no sense of drama or tension within the story. Alice survives. Secondary characters die, but we don’t care about them. We’re never given the chance because they’re never developed. This movie is all about explosions, fights and car chases.
That’s it.
It is utterly and completely forgettable. That is why, on my movie love scale, I give Resident Evil: Retribution zero out of 10. This movie is so lame, I couldn’t even justify watching it on network television at three in the morning. Avoid it, people. Avoid it like a zombie plague carrier. You’ll be glad you did.

Here's Blood in Your Eye!

Hello, gentle readers. How is everyone doing today? Feeling hail and hardy? Ready to leap out of bed and beat the day into submission? Hurrah for you.
I, alas, am a little under the weather.
My old football injury is acting up.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a football injury.
In my eye.
Some of you are, no doubt, saying, "How on Earth did that happen?"
I’m sure a fair number of you are also wondering, "What on Earth were you doing playing football?"
Well, it happened when I got hit in the face with a football and I had to play because it was during Physical Education in the grim days of middle school.
Physical Education, in my personal opinion, is one of the stupidest damn classes they make people take in school. In theory, it is supposed to promote healthy exercise, but the only people who ever seem to enjoy it are those persons already possessed of a natural athleticism. Even the people teaching the coarse don’t seem to enjoy it.
However, getting back to my eye.
The injury was not severe. I had to have a cream rubbed into my eye and wear an eye-patch for a few days, but that was it. My vision was unaffected. After a few days, I was pretty much back to normal, although I was a bit reluctant to have anything thrown at me.
Every few years, though, the old injury acts up. The white of my right eye turns an unwholesome shade of red. An optometrist I consulted years ago, when I first went red-eye, couldn’t find any sign of permanent vision damage and suggested that the redness was caused by eyestrain. He prescribed resting the eye, gave me an eyepatch, and told me to wear it for a while.
I did and, within a day or two, the eye was back to normal.
Over the years, I’ve had other bouts of red-eye. During these flare-ups, I get to walk around for a few days wearing an eye-patch. People express their shock when they see the patch and want to know what happened. I trot out the football story, but that seems to leave most of them disappointed.
I can’t say that I blame them. It’s a bloody dull story and anything that makes a fellow walk around wearing an eye-patch shouldn’t be dull.
So, I get creative.
In other words, I tell those solicitous individuals an entertaining and highly improbably story that they may choose to believe or disbelieve, as they prefer.
One time, I told a fellow I was wearing the patch as part of my initiation into the Pirates, which was like the Freemasons only more secret and with much more gruesome initiation rituals.
"Really?" said the fellow.
"Oh yes," I said, solemnly. "I had to give up an eye, a hand or a leg to join and I chose my eye."
For a second, I think he actually believed me.
This year, I have given it some thought and have a fabulous story to tell. Utterly improbably, but highly entertaining.
I’m not going to give it away here, because that would be like spoiling Christmas. However, if you run into me on the street in the next day or so, and I’m wearing the patch, go ahead and ask. You won’t regret it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Poem: The Warning of the Pine


Down by the river,
the river so deep,
I saw a fair maiden,
soundly asleep.

She was lovely, this lady,
in a red velvet gown,
and around her fair face,
ebon locks did fall down.

Her lips, they were red,
red as a rose.
Her face it was lovely,
in her soft repose.

For a time I just stood
admiring this view,
I had nowhere to go,
nothing better to do.

Then, with a sigh,
and a soft, plaintive moan,
the lovely lady awoke,
saw me and groaned:

"Impetuous youth!
You dare look on me?
For such effrontery,
Spend your days as a tree!"

With a crackle of brimstone,
a flicker of flame,
my body reshaped,
and was never the same.

The beauteous witch-woman,
lovely and fair,
threw back her head,
tossing her hair.

Her beauty it faded.
Her firm flesh, it sagged.
Revealing her truth,
a wicked old hag!

She turned on her heel,
spinning around,
and vanished, like that,
down into the ground.

Ever since then,
by this river I’ve stood,
a lonesome old pine,
all needles and wood.

I work on this verse,
I sing to the wind,
praying no other youth,
meets a similar end.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I go nuts!

Hello, gentle readers!
I hope everyone is having a great Monday. Here in the U.S. it’s a holiday so a lot of people have the day off.
I have decided to join them.
Today I am not going to write for ‘work’ but for my own pleasure. I think this is an important thing for writers to do.
Even though I love writing, I must admit that some days it can be a slog. This may come as a surprise to some, who think that writing is an easy vocation.
It isn’t.
Lord knows it isn’t.
It’s my job.
Granted, it’s the best job that I have ever had, but it’s still a job. Every day I have to work on the story. At the moment, I’ve got two in progress. The sequel to Dawnwind: Last Man Standing and The Other Story.
I’m still looking for a name for The Other Story. I thought I had one, but it turns out it’s already been used by the excellent Susan Cooper. So, until one presents itself, it is simply The Other Story. Much the way I refer to the follow-up to Dawnwind as The Sequel.
But the point is, I work on those stories every day. I have an eight-hour work day just like the lady at the bank and the guy at the insurance company. Just like most of you, gentle readers.
No matter how much you may love what you do, it’s sometimes good to get away from it. To take a kind of psychic vacation and just go nuts.
That’s what I’m going to do today.
I am going to have fun.
I’m going to put my fingers on the keyboard and just go nuts.
So, until next time, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have a wonderful day.

p.s. I’ve noticed that I’m getting a fair amount of site traffic from Russia. So just let me take a moment to say, "Hello, lovely Russian people! Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting!"

Monday, August 27, 2012


Hello, gentle readers. Once again, I seem to be running on empty, in regards to creative juices. I can always tell when my reserves are low. There are warning signs.
When I wander through bookstores, I inevitably find myself at the writing reference section perusing titles like How to Write a Best-Sell in 24 Hours! Or 1000 Plot Twists Guaranteed to Shock!
I start to actively avoid working on anything. When I sit at the computer, I’ll find myself reading webcomics or entering random search terms in Google to see what pops up in the Image filter.
The biggest, most inescapable sign of all, though, that I’m running on fumes is that everything I try to write will turn into porn. Formerly respectable characters shed their clothes at the first opportunity. I use words like ‘tumescent’ and ‘throbbing.’ Suddenly, there are ‘slick orifices’ and ‘nimble tongues’ everywhere.
Sometimes, I’m tempted to just give in and write the porn all the way out to its inevitable conclusion. Usually, though, I lose interest. Florence King said it best, I think: "There’s only so many ways you can describe peeling a boiled egg."
Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if any other authors had this same reaction. I find it terribly amusing to picture Jane Austen bent over a writing desk, scribbling away by lamplight, writing smut involving Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Just thinking about it now makes me chuckle.
So it’s a bit ironic that I read an article recently about a growing trend among small publishers to eroticize public domain classics. Yes, gentle readers, sometime soon, as you’re wandering through your local bookstore, or browsing online, you may come across ‘erotic’ versions of the classics. No doubt they will have such inventive names as Sin & Sensibility and Mansfield’s Part. Perhaps some burgeoning creative soul will produce The Confessions of Heathcliff.
Whoever does tackle these subjects, they’re welcome to them. Personally, I don’t think there’s much of a market for that type of thing. The publishers behind this, I suspect, are hoping to mirror the success of the Classics With Monster trend that seems to have petered out lately.
As for me? I shall have my characters keep their clothes very firmly on.
At least, I’ll try.
Unless naked frolicking is essential to the story.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Review of ParaNorman

I'll admit, I've been looking forward to ParaNorman ever since I saw its first trailer. I'm a sucker for these types of movies, where the 'outsider' has to save the day.
In this movie's case, the outsider is a boy named Norman Babcock. Norman lives in the town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts with his mom, his dad, his older sister and the ghost of his dead grandmother.  Norman, you see, can perceive and communicate with the dead.
He doesn't bother to hide this particular talent or lie about it.  In fact, his life would probably be a lot easier if he did.
But he doesn't.  The kid perseveres, putting up with the slings and arrows from the community at large (which thinks he's a weird kid) and the scathing opinion of his dad and older sister.  They don't believe he can see the dead either.
So, Norman already has a lot on his plate when the movie kicks into high gear.  I'm not going to give any spoilers about the plot in this review, but I will say that it moves along at a brisk pace.  Pretty soon Norman is catapulted into a situation where he has to deal with zombies, the townsfolk and the ghost of a very angry witch.
Overall, I really liked this movie.  If I have a critique, it's that the plot moves along, perhaps, a little too quickly.  Still, I think this was a well-done film, an interesting story with a surprisingly dark core. On my movie love scale, I give ParaNorman a solid 6 out of 10.  It's definitely well worth full price and I think it's good enough to see again.
However, that said, I don't think this is the type of movie that parents should take young children to see.  I'd say if you're kids are late elementary school or older, fine, no problem.  Anything younger than that? Hold off on showing them this movie, because it does get a little intense.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Review of Hit & Run

Hit & Run is one of those odd movies that can't seem to decide on its genre.  Is it a romance? A comedy? A chase movie?  It certainly has elements of all three genres, but those elements fail to combine into anything coherent or appealing.
The basic premise of Hit & Run is that former getaway driver Charlie Bronson jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie's former gang chase them on the road.
That summary is, honestly, more entertaining than the movie.  The plot is contrived and the characters are unbelievable, under-developed and/or unlikable.
Most of the performers in this movie are B-list actors, at best: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum.
Kristin Chenoweth and Beau Bridges have small roles in this movie. Chenoweth plays a pill-popping college administrator and Beau Bridges plays the estranged father of Dax Shepard's character.  Their brief appearances are the only real highlights in the film.
Overall, Hit & Run is an awful movie.  On my scale of movie love, I give it 1 out of 10.  Don't pay to see this wreck in the theater and don't rent it either. I would avoid it on cable, if at all possible, and just wait for it to come out on ordinary network television.  Even then, the only reason I'd watch this piece of crap is if something even worse was on, like, say, Stupid Knocked-Up Teen Moms: The Musical.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two cannibals are having lunch...

Hello, gentle readers.
Sometimes people ask me why I don’t try writing comedy. They tell me that I’m a funny guy. I smile and thank them for the compliment, but demure from pursuing a career as a comedy writer.
Because I’m no good at it.
Although I think I have a certain comedic charm in person, it doesn’t really translate to the page. I can tell a funny story, face to face, but it doesn’t translate well to the written word.
I think it’s because, in person, I’m a funny looking guy.
Now, before everyone leaps to my defense with cries of, "Oh no! You’re not funny looking at all! You’re quite handsome!" Just let me say that I am very much aware of how I look and I’m quite happy with the way I look.
Gentle readers, for those of you who are ignorant of my appearance, you should know that I’m a bad case of jaundice away from looking like Homer Simpson. I’m one of those big, bald guys you see walking around the supermarket in khaki shorts, an oversized T-shirt and sandals.
Some of you may have been picturing me as a slender, perhaps slightly effete, gentleman of words, wearing a velvet smoking jacket and possibly a cravat. My apologies for shattering that image, but if it helps, you may picture me in an ice-cream white suit, holding a large snifter of brandy and dictating these blog entries to a devoted personal secretary named Fitz.
In person, I can be very entertaining. My face is animated and, when I speak, I used my hands to illustrate my points. No, I do not do "jazz hands" a la Jack McFarland. Rather, I gesticulate when I talk. It is unconscious, like the way I’ll make faces or mimic someone’s accent.
In person, ladies and gentlemen, I put on a show.
Alas, on the page, my comedic styling false flat.
Take for instance, the following joke:

Two cannibals are having lunch in the jungle. One cannibal looks at the other and asks, "Does this clown taste funny to you?"

Short, simple and to the point. Also, I think, pretty funny.
Of course, if I were to write a story around that joke, it would be neither short, simple nor to the point. Like the virginal schoolgirl going to her senior prom, she doesn’t intend for anything untoward to happen, but at sunrise the next day she’s facing her parents at the local police station trying to explain exactly how that donkey got into the Mini-Mart and why her boyfriend was naked when the police arrived.
Like that young lady, I start out with the best of intentions, but things tend to go astray. A story that should have taken two or three pages, is suddenly an 800-page comedic epic with running gun battles, bad puns and an ending that remains just out of reach.
It would be the sort of story, ladies and gentlemen, that would have the reader throwing themselves out the window by the third chapter just to get away from it.
So, no, I do not write comedy. I do not write it because I am aware of just how bad at it I am and, also, to spare the lives of my readers.
Lord knows I don’t have enough of you to waste.

Monday, August 20, 2012

La Bella Luna

Hello, gentle readers! I’m getting a super late start on the blog post today because I was up late last night and, this morning, I had an interview at a local bookstore.
From the above, you can probably guess that I’m a night person. I’m not sure how this came about as I think everybody else in my family is a morning person. My mother, an incurable gardener, is up before the sun some days. I, on the other hand, consider it an early start if I’m up before noon.
In my last career, I worked nights for fifteen years. My shift started at three in the afternoon and didn’t end until eleven that night. I’d get off work, stop by the all-night supermarket to grab supper, then go home. I’d pop my supper in the microwave, watch a little late night television, check e-mail, then write or read until I went to bed.
One of the few things I didn’t care for, when I was living in Alaska, was the absence of proper night in the summer. I missed summer nights, being able to stand on a fresh-cut lawn, head tilted back to admire the moon and stars.
Oh sure, there was plenty of night in the winter, but it’s hard to admire the moon and stars in minus zero conditions. Every indrawn breath freezes the interiors of your nostrils. Your feet invariably get cold, no matter how many socks you’re wearing or how waterproof your boots. It’s one of those unwritten rules, like a subway train arriving just as you’ve settled down to read the paper or the telephone ringing while you’re in the shower.
The other night I came home. It was nine-o-clock. The weather was warm and dry. Standing by my car, in the quite darkness of the cul-de-sac, I lifted my head to admire the sky. It was clear, the stars resembling grains of salt on a black field. The moon was sailing overhead, bright and beautiful. La bella luna.
You can keep the sun, garish and gold, setting off crowing cocks. You can have the morning, waking to buzzing alarms and the smell of burnt coffee. You’re welcome to the day, with all its hubbub and noise, traffic jams and dentist appointments.
I’ll take the night and the moon and be content.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An update from the road...

Happy Monday, gentle readers.
Today, I have taken the blog on the road. I’m writing this from a hotel room overlooking a field of black asphalt. Just beyond the asphalt lies a primeval forest, trees corralling the small hotel where I’m staying. Beyond the pines, civilization lurks, out of sight and out of mind.
Personally, I find travel to be conducive to writing. You get to experience new things, see old friends, meet new ones and get away from your boring life.
When I lived in Alaska, I hardly traveled anywhere. Maybe once a year I would fly down to Las Vegas, to try my luck at the casinos. Or, in the summer, I might take a day trip to the little town of Seward braving rock slides, drunken Alaskans and stupid tourists. Once, on a road trip to Seward, I nearly ran over a mountain goat.
Since returning to the Lower 48, I’ve gotten in a fair bit of traveling. Not only did I drive from Alaska to South Carolina, but on my last birthday I took a four-week road trip from South Carolina to California and back. Not that long ago I took a much shorter road trip, driving down to Florida to get together with my dear friend, Jeanie.
I’ve enjoyed my road trips. In fact, sometimes I think I’d like to drive for a living. Not as a trucker. The thought of being behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, I wouldn’t mind doing interstate courier work.
I suppose it’s the romance of the road that appeals to me. The open highway, blue skies yawning in front of you, funky little diners and hotels dotting the Interstate like post-modern villages.
And, of course, there are the people.
In the last twenty-four hours I’ve met a septuagenarian trucker, a woman who immigrated to the U.S. from the U.K. and a trio of children who should be doused in holy water to send them back to whatever hell spawned them. Then there’s the friend I met down here, a 6'8" tall cryptozoologist investigating reports of thunderbirds.
Any one of these encounters would provide material for a story. Perhaps that trucker is much older than he appears? Maybe that pleasant British woman is running from someone or something, and has found a hiding spot in the deep South? Maybe those hellish children really are imps, let out of the Inferno on a day pass for being suitably bad? I wouldn’t have to embellish much with my friend, Tuberski. He’s already larger than life!
Like I said, travel is conducive to writing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Review of Total Recall

It's hard to go into the remake of a movie without expectations or comparisons to the previous version.  Thankfully, gentle readers, the producers of Total Recall have avoided this conflict, because the story is almost exactly the same as in the first movie.
I know! I can hear the gasps of shock from all of you right now!
The biggest differences in Total Recall 2.0 are the setting (it takes place on a future Earth devastated by chemical warfare) and the inclusion of some Big Sci-Fi Concepts.  For example, a building-sized super-elevator that travels from Europe to Australia through the Earth's core, robot soldiers, memory implants and flying cars.  These are all things intended to appeal to our inner adolescent.
Unfortunately, aside from set dressing and some minor changes to the plot, there's nothing fresh or new about this version of Total Recall.
Also, if I may get picky for a moment, this movie is the perfect example of a Hollywood future where everyone is terribly good-looking, but dumber than a box of rocks.
Overpopulation is a problem in this future Earth, but we don't once see any evidence of compulsory birth control.  No public health notices or public service announcements. Nothing at all.
And, even if such things were anathema to the population, why aren't these people expanding their living space by going underground? Or colonizing the moon or Mars? Why aren't they sending legions of synthetic workers to mine the asteroids for resources? Why aren't they trying to reclaim the toxic wasteland?
Now that I think about it, Total Recall 2.0 is a bit like the awful Superman remake foisted on the public a few years ago.  The one with Kevin Spacey playing Lex Luthor and Brandon Routh lumbering through the Superman role.  Total Recall 2.0 is all about real estate!
Oh. Wait. That makes about as much sense in this movie as it did in Superman.
Now, as for the performances, they are serviceable albeit dull.  There's nothing spectacular about any of them, you get no sense that anyone is really stretching themselves and it's fairly obvious that Bill Nighy is only there for a paycheck. 
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give Total Recall a solid three.  Don't waist your money seeing this movie in the theater, just wait for it to come out on video or Pay-Per-View.  Better yet, go rent the original version or read the Phillip K. Dick short story the films were based on, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Glimpse of Things To Come

Hello, gentle readers.  Happy Monday!  Today, I'm going to share with you a brief excerpt from a story I'm writing.
I'm not the type of writer who can stick with just one story. That's probably why I don't produce stories as quickly as some other authors.  Instead, I usually have multiple stories going.
My writing impulse returned last week and, quite by accident, I started writing something different and new. I just picked up the pen and, boom! Suddenly, I had eight pages of story.
Anyway, here's a glimpse at what I've been working on.  Comments and impressions are more than welcome.
* * * * *

The girl, Scarlet, didn't wake up until that afternoon. Charlie checked on her once or twice then left her alone.
He was sitting on his plush couch, reading a dog-eared copy of Aesop's Tales, when the girl woke. First, Charlie heard the bed creek as its occupant shifted position. A moment later, he heard the soft sound of stockinged feet slapping the floor. Then, as he watched, the girl pushed through the beaded curtain separating the bedroom from the common room. She carried her shoes in one hand. Charlie thought she looked ghastly.
Laying down his book, Charlie said, "Hello."
The girl turned to stare at him. She had dark green eyes. They narrowed in suspicion.
"Who are you?"
"Charlie. How do you feel?"
"Awful," said the girl. She leaned against the wall and looked around the room. "Where am I?"
"That's going to take some explaining," said Charlie. "Would you like some tea?"
"No. I'd like to know where the fuckaaagghh!"
Charlie watched, impassively, as a large gray worm crawled out of the girl's mouth. Retching, she batted the thing away, an expression of deep disgust on her face.
Charlie stood, walked over to where the worm had fallen and scooped it up. He crossed to the small tin stove, opened it and tossed the slimy thing into the fire.
"The first rule you need to learn," said Charlie, turning back to the girl, "is no swearing."
"What was that?" demanded the girl. She was still wiping her mouth. "How'd it get in my fuckackackack!"
She bent over, eyes almost crossing, as another worm emerged from between her lips. With a sigh, Charlie walked over and plucked it off the shuddering girl's face. He held it up before her green eyes.
"What did I just say? Don't swear unless you like coughing up swear worms."

* * * * *

I still haven't decided on a name for this story yet, which is a bit odd for me, but I have a couple of likely prospects.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Something to look forward to.

Gentle readers, today I began the long climb back toward the sun. If you follow my Twitter (@grshirer), you’ll know that I’ve been moaning all week about an inability to write. I hit the nadir in my creative cycle and spent the last few days sort of wallowing. 
During this time, I did write but it was a laborious process. I wasn’t enjoying myself and I certainly didn’t enjoy anything that I had written. For a little while, I switched gears, pulling out old stories that I’d set aside. I had hoped that a fresh direction would trip the cycle, push me past the black wallows and energize me again. That didn’t happen.
Nothing was working.
So, I put the writing aside and did some other things. I went to the South Carolina State Museum and saw the Titanic Artefacts Exhibition. While I was there, I toured the connected art gallery, where they were showing a collection of abstract art by local artists. I cleaned out the room, taking a bagful of books to a used bookstore for credit. Ironically, as soon as I’d done that I went back to the bookstore to prowl the aisles, looking for something to read.
I’ve been reading a mystery, Death by Darjeeling, by Laura Childs. I’m reading it in slow bites, as the prose is lush and deliciously descriptive.
This past weekend I took a road trip, driving to the Harrah’s casino in Cherokee, NC. There, I lost entirely too much money, considered staying overnight, then nixed that idea and returned home.
As I was heading home, southbound on Interstate 26, in the middle of the night, I could see a storm trying to pull itself together ahead of me. Clouds flared pink and amber as lightening leapt inside them. The storm kept pace with me as I drove home, and if it never happened, watching the lightening illuminate the clouds was entertaining.
I felt like that storm. Fragmented, unable to get its act together, but still full of energy. My skull was buzzing. Thoughts were starting to spark.
The writers block that had plagued me began to erode.
Today, I sat and reread the last page or so of my sequel to Dawnwind: Last Man Standing. Something about it had been bothering me, something I couldn’t really identify. This morning, the cause of my irritation suddenly leapt out at me.
I made a change and it was suddenly there. Not just the impulse to write but the desire. My fingers twitched and I suddenly knew which way the story was going to move.
So, making a mental note regarding that direction, I closed that file and opened this one. Why aren’t I working on the sequel? Haven’t I pissed and moaned about it enough this week? I should be bent over the keyboard, pounding away at it like a madman. Shouldn’t I?
Not yet.
The impulse is there. I’ve started the climb up the mountain. But, right now, my resources feel a bit thin.
No, now I’ll force myself to be still. To wait. To let that tension grow until it is unbearable. Then, and only then, will I release it.
When I do release it, the sensation will be better than eating chocolate or having sex. It will be more satisfying than racing down a deserted highway in the Southwest at a hundred miles an hour or telling someone you despise that you wouldn’t piss down their throat if their heart was on fire.
It is something to look forward to.