Post-apoc-a-lip-service

I didn’t want to (and still don’t want to) write a “post-apocalypse” blog because that whole Mayan thing is simply one more example of the vast majority reading only the headline and not the full explanations, or they were too damn lazy to find out the real story.

In my lifetime, I’ve survived at least two raptures, the Mayan apocalypse, Y2K, and both Saved By The Bell and Glee. I’m a survivor.

glee-logo

Anyway, something did capture my attention this morning, the always-interesting blog of Jason Darrick. He wrote a blog based on some tweets done with the hashtag #ApocalypseConfessions. I’ll let Jason explain it, because he does it better than I ever could.

A funny thing happened on Twitter yesterday, at least, it was meant to be funny. The hashtag “ApocalypseConfessions” made the rounds, with most people throwing a joke at the wall and hoping for a retweet or two. The thing about me is that I don’t open up very well, so I took the opportunity to speak some truths about myself, not so much in the event that we all die, rather because there’s demons in my head that alcohol just won’t kill. So below are my confessions along with two retweets that apply to me.

Jason

He then went on to list fifteen tweets that applied to him. He didn’t add any explanation, which I found equally interesting, letting those little 140-character blasts stand or fall on their own.

I’d like to add some commentary on some of them, simply based on my own experiences. I checked with Jason first. He said he doesn’t mind.

#ApocalypseConfessions I really hate the personal situation that I’m in. I’d rather be with someone(s) than alone.

Ah, this is a great place to start. I’ve seen this a lot, especially with my own family. I come from a family of people that really can’t be alone. Unfortunately, what that means is, they’ve made some truly horrible choices in partners, simply because they settled. Yes, it’s shitty to be alone, however, I also believe you have to be comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with someone else. Never settle. Someone out there is waiting for you. Don’t let them slide by because you grabbed the first one that showed any interest. As the song says, shop around.

#ApocalypseConfessions I often feel that the image I project isn’t anywhere close to who I want to be. Rather, it’s who everyone wants.

#ApocalypseConfessions Why yes, I AM afraid to be myself. That’s why I have a blog under an assumed name.

These two seem to go together well. This was also the topic of a brief conversation I just had with the Girl yesterday. I’m always reminded of the Billy Joel song when this topic comes up.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk, and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

We all have many images or faces we project. There’s the professional, assured one we wear at work. There’s the sometimes vulnerable, sometimes confident, loving one we wear to our partner. There’s the gently authoritative one we wear for our children. But sometimes we just need to let them drop and be who we are. Because, in the end, if others can’t like us for who we are, if we have to play someone different to get that job, to get that partner…then really, are they worth being around? Be honest to others, but more importantly, be honest to yourself. Don’t wear the face of a stranger.

#ApocalypseConfessions I motherfucking hate Xmas. I put a brave face on for my daughter.

I’ve covered this one at length here. Long story short, this is one where you simply have to put your head down and barrel through it. The good thing is, it ends. The bad thing is, it keeps coming back. Later on, this is another face of the stranger you can drop with your child, when they’re old enough to understand. But they’ll likely appreciate what you did for them. Being a good parent means thinking of your kids before you think of yourself. You’re doing that.

“@stateofego: I’m deathly afraid of failure. This fear often holds me back.  #ApocalypseConfessions” DITTO.

My favourite quote of all time is, “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” by Robert Schuller.

It seems to also fit nicely with a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Fear Litany Worm

Fear is crippling. If you fear that you can’t put on your shoes, you won’t put on your shoes. If you fear anything, then try it.

This may be the main reason I’m so loyal to the company I work for: About a decade ago, they sent me on a course that was designed only to allow me to coach agents much better. Which it did, however it gave me a life lesson I never forgot. They, over the course of two days, taught me that if I’m comfortable, I’m not learning. They forced us into uncomfortable situations, then allowed us to learn from them and succeed. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten and I’ll be eternally grateful for them teaching me.

I’ve accomplished so much by allowing myself to be okay with being uncomfortable. Has it always worked out? Hell no. But it has worked out much more than it hasn’t. And once you get a couple of those victories under your belt, it gets easier. Give yourself permission to fail, then go and do something that scares the shit out of you.

“@StaceyONeale: I have over 100 unread books in my house and my kindle. 80% of them I got for free. #ApocalypseConfessions” Over 200 for me.

This is something I’m going to total up too, but I think I’ve got you both beat, between traditional books, ebooks, and audio books. A culling is in order. But it’s also wonderful to always have something to look forward to, isn’t it?

#ApocalypseConfessions I never wanted to be a reviewer. I was told authors just do it. Had C. not invited me, I wouldn’t be at DT.

#ApocalypseConfessions I wanna write about pro wrestling and work for Cracked. That way I’d have all the base forms of entertainment covered

For these two, I’ll always say to write what pleases you first. It’s great that C. invited you, because it took you out of your comfort zone. On the other hand, if it’s no longer helping you (and I’m talking in general terms to any writer here), then move on. Too many writers don’t challenge themselves enough (and I’m likely talking to myself here too…so I hope I’m listening). About a year ago, Ed Kurtz approached me to write about a PI that investigates a case that turns supernatural…his excellent Sam Truman series. Now, I was born in 1962, so what do I know about being an adult in 1960? And I’d never written a PI story before, so what do I know about being a PI? Of course I said yes to his offer. Still not sure the experiment was a full success, but I enjoyed the experience, let me tell you. If you want to write something, don’t keep wishing…write it. It may be shit, it may be gold, but it will always be a learning experience.

#ApocalypseConfessions Joking aside, that last tweet was true.

So write about pro wrestling and create a Cracked.com article. Do it.

#ApocalypseConfessions Goodreads says I’ve read 18.5 books this year. That’s more than theyears 1995-2008 combined. Yes, I regret that.

According to my website, I’ve read 95 books this year and I’m still pissed that I’m not closer to 156. I really wanted to average three a week. Though, to be honest, I could go through double that and likely still not be happy. I’ve even tried to do the speed-reading thing, but it doesn’t work for me. Anyone got some tips for reading faster? I’ll take them.

#ApocalypseConfessions About 8 years ago, I planned on moving East to work in porn. If I was in shape, I’d still do it.

Okay, I originally wrote, “This one’s so far outside my experience range, I can’t comment on it.”  Then I thought about that…and of course I have stuff to say about it.

ninja porn

I’m not a big porn guy. Hell, I’m not even a little porn guy. Porn doesn’t work for me, though I must say, I find it fascinating how something that, even only three or four decades ago was still very much an underground, never-discussed thing, is now so mainstream. But that’s the internet for ya.

But that’s not what I wanted to say. The point here is, I find it absolutely fascinating that the person who wrote most of these tweets obviously doubts their abilities in many ways, yet they are confident to actually come out and state they wouldn’t mind working in porn. I’m known for saying a hell of a lot of off-colour things, but I don’t think I could ever work up the courage to even state in a public forum that I’d like to work in porn. And I know I couldn’t actually do it. Instead of being known as H.R. Puff ‘n’ Stuff

hr-pufnstuf

(I always thought that was the perfect pornstar name), I’d likely be known simply as SD&RB, which was an acronym my college roommate used to use. It means “shrink dink and raisin bag.” Yup, that’d be me on a porn set.

So, bravo Jason. Good for you stating that one. That takes balls. (see what I did there?)

#ApocalypseConfessions I write short stories because I can’t be bothered with long rewrites. Working to fix that.

This comes back to the “write what you want to write” suggestion. For me, initially, I couldn’t even envision myself writing anything longer than about fifteen to twenty pages. Why? Because I had never done it before. Then I started on this neat little story about a demon in a high school. This little short story, after all was said and done, turned out to be something like 400 manuscript pages. 100K words.

Write the story that’s inside you, not what you can be bothered with.

#ApocalypseConfessions If you’re hitting on me, you need to make that abundantly clear. I’m terrible at reading women.

Good lord, this sums up my love life from the age of 12 to meeting my wife. Women essentially had to throw themselves at me for me to take the hint. And yet, for all of that, my wife still insists that I chased her. Wrong.

#ApocalypseConfessions I keep hair on my head because folks don’t like me being bald. I hate my hair.

Then go bald. It’s your head. What if someone said they didn’t like your nose? Would  you change it? Not only should you be the person you want to be but, within reason, look like the person you want to be as well. I only state “within reason” as, if you work in a professional, suit and tie environment, then you either have to conform or be so damn good at what you do that they tolerate your personal appearance.

But as much as possible, go by this quote from an unmarked grave in Kansas: “Be what you is, ‘cos if you be what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.”

“@babymoondrop: I buy books, but I never read them #ApocalypseConfessions” A million times THIS.

I’ve bought books that I was sure I was going to read, only to get a few pages in and hate them, so I never finished them. Some book by Charles Stross. Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. That one damn near killed me. I can only handle so much New Agey shit before I start getting the heaves. Then there were some I shouldn’t have finished. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. But I don’t think I’ve ever let a book languish just for the sake of not having read it. I always get around to it. May take some time, but I’ll always get around to it.

APsycho

Anyway, that’s Jason’s list and some of my added life lessons and crap commentary. Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong on any of this.

Advertisements

Soft Kiss, Hard Death, full squirm

I made an American squirm

And it felt so right…

Nick Lowe, American Squirm

This is going to be a fun one.  Way back in very early January, I got a late Christmas present.  Ed Kurtz, author of the fine and crazy gory Bleed, (which I reviewed here), shot me an email.

He’d created this character, Sam Truman, a PI in an unnamed city closely modelled on New York (though it can also look like LA at times) around 1960 or so.  He’s disgraced after shooting a man who he thought was waving a weapon at him. Turns out it was a dildo, leading to the loss of his PI license and constant abuse by the cops of the city.

Or to put it more succinctly, from the SamTruman.com site:

Sam Truman is a disgraced and unlicensed former private investigator without a proverbial pot to piss in.

So now he takes fringe cases.  The ones no decent PI would take.  Or the cases that his clients don’t have the money to pay a real PI for.  Either way, they always take a weird turn.

So, the esteemed Mr. Kurtz, having read and apparently enjoyed Vanishing Hope asks me if I’d be interested in writing one of the Sam Truman mysteries.

Well, let’s see.

  • I tried writing one mystery about a year before and it was a dismal failure.
  • I know nothing about PIs beyond what I’ve seen on television.
  • I was born in 1962, so my memories of 1960 are non-existent.
  • It takes place in New York.  I’m a Canadian boy.

So, of course I said yes.  I didn’t even have a damn story idea.

Yes I was living in a wonderful world

Everything was fine

Nick Lowe, American Squirm

The good thing was, just a week before, during the Christmas holidays, I’d compiled all my story ideas as I was going to write 500 words a day in 2012, come hell or high water.  So I went over all the ideas with an eye toward what could be thrown back to 1960.  And then I found one.  A story I’d started but never completed called Out.

It’s a nasty story, let me tell you.  The original concerned an on-the-road sales guy who picks up a strangely alluring hitchhiker with some…disastrous results.  I did a little literary magic and presto change-o, it became a Sam Truman Mystery.

I started writing the story Jan 21, attempting to double my 500 word/day output to 1000 and 21 days later, on Feb 10, I finished the first draft.  And I will admit right now that there was a couple of awkward moments.

Tried to mate in a horrible state

Deep, deep into the night

Nick Lowe, American Squirm

The first was when I tried to Google a fact in the story.  I’ll just indicate that it involved certain…elastic properties of a specific area of the human body.  My son came down as a page loaded and immediately expressed concerns over my choice of websites.  Okay, he referred to me as “a sick freak.”

The second squirm-worthy episode came when I came to actually write the scene that involved the research I’d been doing above.  I don’t know about you, but squirming in a chair while trying to compose a tense scene is…not easy.

Anyway, I finished off the story, then sat on it for a much shorter period of time than I normally prefer.  I usually like to let it sit for a solid couple of months.  This time, I gave it ten days, then three days of edits and sent it off to Ed for approval.  Shaking in my freaking boots all the while.

Ed came back singing my praises.  There was a little more editing to be done, but about 80% of the novella’s first draft, which I’m quite proud of.

The first Sam Truman Mystery, Catch My Killer, written by Ed Kurtz, involves Sam getting involved with a corpse reanimated by a dead woman, more walking dead, and, ultimately, an army from Hell.

The second, The Last Invasion, finds Sam searching for a lost girl and instead running into the beginnings of an alien invasion.

Then comes mine, Soft Kiss, Hard Death.  And, while admitting to perhaps a slight bias, I think the cover artist, Joshua Hansen outdid himself.  Seriously.

The plan is for Abattoir to release a new novella every six weeks, so after mine, the next one should drop somewhere around August 15.  As well, for those who like to hold the actual paper copy in their hands, an omnibus edition will be coming around the end of the year, likely collecting the first three or four mysteries.

This is my second novella to be published (the first being Vanishing Hope through Burning Effigy <plug plug>) my second publication this year, after my short story Stealing Corey appeared in the Whispered Words anthology (through Piquant Press) in late May.  I’m crazy excited as this is a whole different direction for me.

I hope you like it.

As always, if you do like it, I’d love to hear from you.  If you don’t like it, I’d love to hear from you even more.  I’m always interested in what my readers think, good or bad, so don’t hold back.  Let me know.

**UPDATE: It’s out now and you can buy it here.

I’m one year old

Hard to believe, but it was a year ago today I started this little blog.  Who knew I had a year’s worth of stuff to say?

This isn’t going to be a long one, but I have a few people to thank for this blog still being here a year later.

First, Monica Kuebler.  She published Vanishing Hope and she was the first one to urge me to develop some sort of web presence.  She also told me not to worry about posting about “writing stuff” all the time.  So if you want to blame someone for the shit stories and the vasectomy stories, etc…blame Monica.  She started it.

Next, a collective thank you to Ann Douglas, Mary McIntyre and Allyson Latta.  During last year’s Ontario Writers’ Conference, Ann gave a talk on Shameless Self-Promotion and it made me realize I could likely consider this blogging thing.  She also pushed me to Twitter and Facebook.  Mary then, on the same day, introduced me to WordPress and correctly read my wild-eyed look of fear and calmed me down and explained in simple language that even moron like me could learn it.  She used much nicer language than that.  Finally Allyson, in meeting me for the first time, was an enthusiastic supporter and nodded her head in all the right places.  They all encouraged me to write that first blog a year ago.

Next, I want to thank everyone that stopped by to read my musings over the past year.  If someone had told me a year ago that I’d have had almost 38K hits to this blog, I would have laughed.  I likely would have been delighted if, a year later, I had a couple thousand hits.

I’d also like to thank all those that have supported me in my “writerly” ambitions over the last year, including Gavy Swan, Dan Mansfield, Elizabeth Young, Deepam Wadds and Noelle Bickle from the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County, all the folks from the WCDR, including James Dewar, Sue Reynolds, M-E Girard, Dale Long, and a list of others too long to name, as well as Colum McKnight and Jason Darrick from Dreadful Tales, two of my first fans and good friends, and Ian Rogers, my fellow BE peer, as well as Ed Kurtz of Redrum and Abattoir fame who was crazy enough to give me a writing gig.

To Cara Michaels, who came up with a crazy idea to write 500 words a day and it’s taken over my mornings, as well as a page on this blog.

To all the students in my Creative Writing classes, many of which I consider friends now. Especially Pat Flewwelling, my constant supporter.

Finally, I want to thank my long suffering family, the Boy, the Girl and the Wife so frequently mentioned and lampooned on this site.  Hunter, Madison and Karen, thank you for your patience, your encouragement and for not killing me for some of the stuff I’ve written.

And an extra-special thank you to Karen.  I always know when she’s reading one of my so-called “funny” blogs because I’ll hear an occasional whoop of laughter and a whack as she pounds the desk.  Kind of makes it all worth it.

I know I’ve forgotten a lot of people along the way, and forgive me and remind me if I’ve missed you. No slight intended.

 

Suddenly, a flood

For the longest time, things on the writing front seems to go quiet for me.

Oh sure, I still attended writing-related meetings with the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) and Simcoe County (WCSC), but even the WCDR meetings fell off in the last couple of months, as I just couldn’t get to them, and I’ve missed a ton of meetings at the York Region (WCYR) chapter as well.

And I still get requests and calls for Vanishing Hope, the little book that could.  It’s sold so much better than I ever thought it would.  And it also gave me a lot more confidence, but more on that as we go along.

I even got interviewed by Pat over at Nine Day Wonder that you can read here if you so desire.

I’m also registered for the Ontario Writers’ Conference May 5.

And of course, I’m still pounding away at my 500 words a day.

So what have I been up to and what does this have to do with the flood mentioned in the title?

First, we go back to October.  The aforementioned WCDR ran a short story contest called Whispered Words.  I’m not much of a contest guy, but I thought, what the heck?  Let’s give it a shot.  I had two ideas floating around that would both work within the confines of the contest rules (1 – no more than 1000 words; 2 – someone has to whisper).  I wrote both stories, one called Scooter’s Last Run and the other, Stealing Corey.

While I had high hopes for both of them, I found the 1000-word limit awfully restricting forScooter.

At the end of Jan this year, I found out Stealing Corey had made it to the semi-finals.  In the words of Yoda, excited I was.

But then I didn’t make it past there, still top 20-ish of more than 220 entries?  I’ll take that.  Didn’t hurt that the person that took the grand prize is my fellow board member in the WCSC, Deepam Wadds.  And good for her, it’s well-deserved.

Then, earlier this week, I found out Stealing Corey was selected to appear in the Whispered Words anthology to be released sometime in late May or early June.

So that’s Good News Number One.

Now let’s go back to January.  Just a little into 2012, I got an email out of the blue from the crazy, yet somehow lovable Ed Kurtz.  He was starting a new series of novellas featuring a character of his own making, Sam Truman, a PI working on the fringes of legality and reality in a New York-like setting circa 1960.  But Sam doesn’t get the normal cases.  A simple robbery puts him in the middle of reanimated corpses.  A missing persons case somehow involves aliens.

Anyway, Ed asked me if I’d like to create a Sam Truman Mystery for Abattoir Press.  Well duh.  That was a no-brainer.  Not telling Ed that I’d tried to write a mystery before and completely crashed and burned, not hinting that the thought of attacking another one terrified me, completely bamboozling him into thinking I was a competent writer (something made a lot more easy when he lives in Texas and I’m hiding in Ontario), I jumped in and came up with my own twisted spin on Sam.  And, incidentally, Ed’s also been the only one that asked me to tone it down a bit.  If you read his novel Bleed then imagine the guy telling me to tone it down, that’s saying something.

Okay, full disclosure, the tone down was due to the 1960s timeframe, not because I managed to gross him out.  I question whether that’s even possible with Ed.

So, what’s all this leading up to?  Well, the first novella in the series, Catch My Killer! written by Ed Kurtz himself, is available in ebook right friggin’ now!  Go here, order a copy and devour it in all it’s pulpy goodness.  Come on, can you really go wrong for a buck ninety-nine?

The second entry into the series, Brandon Zuern‘s The Last Invasion drops May 15 and it’s as goofy, pulpy and fun as Ed’s.

Then, aptly enough, on Canada Day (that’s July 1 for the rest of the world) my little entry is birthed into the world.  Called Soft Kiss, Hard Death, I’m not going to give much away about it except to say that my son, the oft-mention Boy of this blog, happened upon me as I was Google searching a particular plot point.  He looked at me, scrunched up his face, and said, “Dad, you’re friggin’ sick!”  Now, it think that was from the images he saw, but when I tried to dig myself out by explaining what I was writing and why I needed this info, his face moved from scrunch to outright horror.

It’s should also be stated that, in writing a particular scene in the story, I squirmed through the entire session.

Mission accomplished.  I think you’ll like it. Or you may never talk to me again.  One of the two.

Other entries into the Sam Truman series will proceed along every six weeks and, sometime in early 2013, I understand Ed will compile a few of the stories into hard copy books.  So, you know, I can have all that sickness sitting right on my bookshelf for all to see.

By the way, you can read a great interview with Ed Kurtz on all things Sam Truman, Abattoir and his other cool books and ventures here.

So that’s Good News Number Two.

And yes, I’m well aware of what “number two” can also be taken to mean.

Also in July–and to be honest, I’m still a little freaked out about this–I’ll be, for the first time, participating in the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

Now this sucker’s interesting.  Basically, 32 writers get tossed into a room to write.

Constantly.

For 72 solid hours.

It runs from 8pm Friday, July 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) to 8pm Monday, July 16.  The challenge is to produce a novel, novella, whatever, in that time.

If I’m lucky I may get a blog post out of it.

The bigger thing however, and the one I don’t want to make light of, is that this is a fundraising event to support adult literacy and employment programs at YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, a worthy cause.

Now, take just a second, right now, and consider…what would your life be like if you could not read?  If you faced something like this blog post and couldn’t make sense of it?  Just think on that for a second.

The YMCA is looking to raise $10000 and trust me, it goes to a phenomenally good cause.  Now, no one despises the act of asking for donations more than me.  I hate it.  Every time someone puts a hand out in my direction, my first reaction is, I have my causes, I have my charities that I support.  Please don’t ask me to give any more.

I get that.  And that’s why I’ll say, if this doesn’t work for you, fine.  But if there’s any way you can spare some money, anything, even the cost of a coffee, would you consider throwing it in the pot to sponsor me?

If you want to, they’ve made it easy by creating an online donation site that you can reach here.  If you’re not comfortable with that, contact me through the comments below or at lefttowrite (at) sympatico (dot) com and we’ll work something out.

So yeah, mid-July?  Fingers worn down to nubs.

So that’s Good News Number Three…I think.

The next item occurred due to an innocuous little statement by Lydia Peever on Facebook.  She mentioned something about looking for an editor.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time reading the right post and I mentioned that I was looking for someone to edit.

One thing led to another and now I not only have the pleasure of editing Lydia’s works, I also get to read them.  Believe me, she kicks ass and deserves to see a lot of success from her writing.

And she even wrote a blog about me editing her.  You can read it here.

Good News Number Four!

Then I got more good news from WCDR.  They’ve approved one of my workshops, so in September, I’ll be talking about how to work emotion in your writing, whether it’s in dialogue, narrative, description…it’s gonna be a blast.

Of course, the WCDR have never really seen me in action…don’t be afraid, be very afraid.

So that’s Good News Number Five.

And then, of course, early in 2013, No Hope, the follow up to Vanishing Hope, and this time a full novel-length work, will be released through Burning Effigy Press.  I’m editing the heck out of it right now to make sure it stands up to, and preferably exceed, the standard set in that first story.

I’m excited as hell for this one, and also a little scared.

While you’re waiting, hit up the website and order up some of BE’s other works.  They’re all amazing.

Still, even though it’s the oldest item on this list, No Hope is still Good News Number Six.

It’s gonna be a crazy year, people.