A Question of Inspiration, Written with a Pensive Frown

I’ve been debating where this blog posts belongs: Here on “Random Musings,” or over on the “ENDWORLD” site? It’s really a toss-up. I’m going to go with choice “A,” otherwise known as the site that I’ve neglected for almost a month. A month? Yep. For those of you that have been waiting patiently for me to take a little break from blogging congratulations: You got it. But now? Now, I’m back. Whether my being back is for the betterment of the blogosphere or not I do not know. I leave that for you, my faithful readers to decide. Whether I’ll be maintaining “Random Musings” more consistently moving forward is also a mystery. I’m knee-deep in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, right now. It’s occupying most of my creative mind, presently. At the same time, it is indirectly the reason why I am writing this. Hence my internal strife about where this blog entry belongs. Well sh*t, at least I figured that issue out.

I’d love to say that the going has been smooth, both with CHILDREN and outside of my burgeoning career as an author. But I can’t. The truth is? My life, AKA that thing that I do when I’m not posing as the Madchronicler or an author has been pretty crazy, lately. I’ve been dealing with and I’m still dealing with some serious sh*t. I’m not going to bog this post down with that info, however. Much of it has been resolved and that which hasn’t? Not to disappoint you guys, but it’s a bit too personal, even for “Random Musings.” Never fear, though: I may not be the living and breathing facsimile of a happy face that I normally am at the present time, but I’m not emo, either. I’m somewhere in between. If I were to describe my current state of mind as an emoticon, it would be a colon, followed by a dash, followed by a straight, up/down/north/south line. “Pensive frown” I’ll call it. Is that even a valid emoticon? I have no frackin’ idea. Let’s see.

:-I

Survey says? Well, it didn’t default to an actual emoticon like ūüôā does, but I believe that it properly conveys what I was going for if you look at it sideways. If you look at it upright, it looks like something one of my daughters typed in an attempt to acquire my computer.

Yes, I digress. Apologies. This blog entry isn’t directly about my personal life. It’s about my other life: The life of the writer/author/pseudo-insane, mad chronicler of his own, subjective universe. As a… whatever I just called myself, there are many things that I can overcome. Writer’s block? No problem. I just keep writing until I break through. A proverbial “dead end” in my story? No worries. “Click,” highlight and “Delete.” Start over. Rinse and repeat until it works. A power outage while I’m writing the closing paragraphs of my first novel? First, scream. Then? Scream some more. After a few moments, wait for the power to come back on and rewrite everything that I just lost. But there is one thing that I… one thing that many writers fear (I do not say “all” because I refuse to speak for everyone). That “thing?” A conflict with our muse or muses, i.e. that which inspires us to write.

It is no secret to anyone who has known me that in the past, my muse has been chaos. Bob Dylan once said that “chaos is a friend of mine.” That lyric reflected my life for the longest time. Someone once even called me “The Prophet of Anti-inspiration” (booyakasha, Marine. RESPECT). But over the last decade plus, that characterization has grown less and less significant. One of the reasons why it took me so long to rewrite ENDWORLD – A NOVEL and start rewriting her subsequent sequels is because the originals were birthed in chaos: A stage of my life which I have written about and talked about extensively off the record. For the record? I do not want to go back to that life. EVER. Let me make that abundantly clear. No more needs to be written, or spoken about it.

And I shouldn’t have to. The published version of ENDWORLD and the work in progress versions of CHILDREN and HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD come primarily from a different place. Different muses: Stability, happiness and security. All aspects of my life, now, that did not exist back when we all lived in “Oz” and thereafter, “State Pen” and no one, not even Marine lived anyplace else.

Therein lies the rub. Despite a few bumps in the proverbial road these last few weeks IRL, I’m still relatively happy. Compared to how I was back when chaos was a friend of mine I’m incredibly happy. But the portion of CHILDREN that I just started writing yesterday? It is dark. Very dark. It comes directly from that place that I used to exist in, 24/7, perhaps moreso than anything else I have ever written. And for the benefit of the story and the overarching plot-line, I cannot deviate from it. If anything, I need to go even deeper and darker now since The Endworld Series is a lot deeper and a whole heck of a lot darker than the original trilogy was. That may not be evident from what you read/are reading in Book One but trust me: By the time you get to where I am at, presently, any ideas that you had about “hope” despite William’s posturings to the contrary in ENDWORLD will be dead in the water. ‘Cause right now? 160+ pages into CHILDREN? There is none. There is only resignation to the inevitable. And that, unfortunately, is where I’m going to leave it, for now. “Spoilers,” as they say. Thank you once again, Doctor River Song.

So the question plaguing my always plagued mind, presently, is a simple one: How do I tap back into that mentality? How do I once again hold hands with chaos while maintaining the for-the-most-part happy medium that is my life, my muse and my inspiration, currently? ¬†There’s really not an easy answer to that question. When I write, my mind goes places. It becomes the story and the characters that I am writing. Not to the extent that I lose touch with reality, at least not anymore, but to a certain extent, I live through things with them. Their fates aren’t always predetermined, despite treatments and outlines. Look no further than the character in ENDWORLD–and if you read it/are reading it, you know the one I am talking about–that I had planned a future for. That future? It never happened. He/she suffered a much earlier demise than I had initially planned. What can I say? It wasn’t my fault. I don’t write my stories. They write themselves.

Really. No sh*t intended. How many of you just looked up from your computer, your tablet or your mobile device, rolled your eyes and said “yep. That confirms it. He”–meaning me–“is certifiably insane.”

If you think that I am, so be it. I am not going to tell you what to think of me. I’m a big fan of just being me and letting people decide whether they like me or not. In the interest of “just being me” I’m going to continue. If you’ve had enough? If you think I’m cuckoo? No worries. It’s been fun. You have my best wishes moving forward. Booyakasha. RESPECT.

But if you don’t, here’s s’more food for thought. I’ve always seen myself as a vessel: A conduit through which tales are told. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. IMO (and this is a BIG “in my opinion”), every story that ever existed or will exist actually existed pre-being written, somewhere in the proverbial ether of the imagination. It is the writer/author’s job to reach out to it. The story selects the writer/author, and not the other way around (so much for Free Will, huh?). Thereafter, one of two things happens. Either A.) Said story rejects the writer/author’s advances and waits for someone more attractive to some along (an eventuality that was quite common back in my own, personal dark ages), or B.) Said story accepts the author/writer’s invitation, invites he or she… invites you to sit down, and reveals itself to you. There’s really no language to what it reveals. At it’s core, a story is thought: Thoughts, jumbled and without order. Your job… my job as the lucky sonofab*tch that The Endworld Series picked is to take those ideas and give them order. Form. Henceforth, William MacNuff’s story.

There is a danger in this, though. I swear this is not a digression. This past weekend, I saw “Pacific Rim.” Great movie, BTW. I highly recommend it. One of the main concepts of “Pacific Rim” is the idea of “drifting”: Two minds, synchronized and working concordantly to achieve the same end. In the case of the movie, that end was the effective operation of a big, honkin’ robot called a Jaeger. That idea–drifting–holds true in many cases. Husbands and wives employ a form of drifting to manage their household effectively. Children? They employ a form of drifting to drive their parents and thereafter, their substitute teachers batty. And authors? They drift with their story. They become of one mind with it. And therein lies the danger when you get to the part or parts of the tale like the one that I have gotten to: The dark part or parts. In order to properly explicate the story you have been chosen to convey, you need to allow the darkness in. Even if it is completely contrary to who you are 24/7… even if it scoffs at the ideas of stability, happiness and security… even if chaos is your worst enemy, you NEED TO HOLD HANDS WITH IT FOR HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES TO FINISH. How do I tap back into the mentality of my early adulthood and remain a “pensive frown?”¬†Simple: I let it in.

No lie: It is a scary prospect. It is not one that I relish. But there are scary prospects everywhere I turn these days. Just because this one seems so doesn’t mean that I can’t handle it. I believe that I can. I believe that I can go to that place that I need to go and stay firmly routed in my reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Fifteen years ago? I would never have said that. But now? I am older. Stronger. Wiser. All the sh*t that has gone down IRL over the last few weeks? It’s helping. The chapter that I just wrote yesterday? Well, let’s just say that it pulsates with a range of emotions and leave it at that. Yet it is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is so much more to come and things just spiral deeper, and deeper into sh*t, sh*t and more sh*t. The good news? There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty ciked about writing THAT part. But first, I need to get there. And to get there, I need to invite my old friend chaos over for a spot of whiskey. Maybe a little “Highway 61 Revisited,” too. “Desolation Row” always has been my favorite Bob Dylan song. “They’re selling postcards of the hanging. They’re painting the passports brown. The beauty parlor is filled with sailors. The circus is in town.” But only after the girls have gone to sleep. Because despite my posturings to the contrary, they are not chaos. They are, and always will remain the proverbial light at the end of my life tunnel (as opposed to the above referenced story tunnel). And I love them for that.

Optimally, I’d love to take a couple of days off and just write it until it’s done. But that’s not feasible, despite the fact that my vacation time re-ups next Thursday (yay, August). The idea of just writing is not a feasible one, presently. It hasn’t been for a while. But hey: That’s the life I chose. It’s a challenge. And like every challenge I have ever been faced with, I will rise up and accept it. That’s what Frank Marsh, writer/author/pseudo-insane, mad chronicler of his own subjective reality does. Love me or hate me, hopefully you respect that. Respect me. Booyakasha, my friends.

You guessed it: RESPECT.

:-I

Of Whirlwind Weekends, Everything That Comes With Them, A Biggish Bear, A Smallish Bear, Automatonophobia and the Trouble With Writing Short Stories

To say that this past weekend was a whirlwind one for your old buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh is an understatement. Between Saturday AM and this morning at approximately three or 3:30 when I finally got my youngest minion, AKA Natalie, AKA “Smallish Bear” to sleep I attended a Raspberry Festival, changed a fish tank, did laundry, got a customer in South Carolina out of an after hours jam, took a younger lady out on her first date to see “Monsters University” (that’d be my oldest minion, AKA Cara, AKA “Biggish Bear”), went to Dutch Wonderland, drove home, cleaned up a bucket or two full of puke (Biggish Bear again), did more laundry (puke sheets; BLEAH), watched “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” struggled with Smallish Bear to get her to go to sleep until three or 3:30 this AM, got up on roughly three hours of sleep, slammed a Monster Ultra before driving 45 minutes to work and am now drinking Monster Ultra numero dos while I catch up on work/begin writing this blog entry. Thankfully, Daft Punk just came on the radio. I am now grooving to “Get Lucky (Radio Edit)” at my desk while typing these words. My boss stopped in front of my desk and looked at me like I was doing something wrong. I looked him straight in the eyes, smiled and said:

“Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to Get Lucky (Radio Edit).” Which is actually pretty f*cking accurate save for the “getting lucky” part. That’s probably the one thing that didn’t happen to me this weekend. Or did it? I’ll never tell. If I did, Mama Bear, AKA Nicole, AKA Sweetie would likely kick my a**. “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Yet¬†despite all this,¬†only one thing stands out in my mind. Choice “D”: None of the Above. That choice? The Amish statues at Dutch Wonderland. You know the ones I’m talking about, don’t you? An Amish husband and his Amish wife, sitting in front of their Amish hut within which an Amish maid feeds an Amish boy (who looked frighteningly Aryan) next to a room in which an Amish midwife tends to an Amish baby. AND breathe. I’d post a picture of it here but sadly, I don’t have one and I can’t find one online. Mama Bear took a pic of me copping a feel off the Amish wife but she hasn’t posted it yet (I can be REALLY juvenile sometimes). As soon as she does, though, I promise I will amend this blog entry and post it. Until then, you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that it DOES exist, I DID feel it up and it was one of the single freakiest things I’ve ever seen in my almost 38 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

My fear of inanimate objects like statues has existed for a long time. Long before everyone and their grandmothers/grandfathers saw the Doctor Who episode “Blink” and adopted it. BTW, if you’ve never watched an episode of Doctor Who (something I find sacrilegious) and you’re looking to start, watch “Blink.” No lie: It will freak you the f*ck out. The premise is simple: Statues and gargoyles that are actually an alien species called The Weeping Angels that can only move when you’re not seeing them, i.e. when you’re staring at one of them and you blink and the next thing you know, the f*cking thing is right. Up. In. Your. GRILL, barring it’s stone fangs at you in a silent scream. If they touch you “POW.” See you in the past. They’re sustained through the consumption of life experiences. They touch you, they consume every Raspberry Festival you attended, every fish tank you changed BLAH, BLAH, BLAH every time you sang “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk to your boss while he stood in front of your desk, scowling down at you and banish you to the past where you are forced to live out not your life, but A life. Some succeed. Many just end up growing old and dying alone. ¬† Freaked out yet? Watch the episode. Trust me: You will be. End unannounced parenthetical aside. I now return you to my regular inane ramblings, already in progress.

My fear of inanimate objects like statues and, in my case, MANNEQUINS stems from an episode of the original “The Twilight Zone” that my Biological subjected me to at a very young age. I don’t remember when, but I remember IT perfectly. The episode was called “The After Hours” and in summation? It’s about mannequins coming to life. There’s more to it… A LOT more, and for your viewing pleasure (if you’ve got 20 minutes to kill), here it is. Embedded for your convenience. Both parts, courtesy of my friends at YouTube.

Did you enjoy it? If you watched it, of course. If you didn’t? No worries. I know I’m not the only one in my subjective reality that suffers from an irrational fear of inanimate objects. If you, too, are afflicted by… get ready… Automatonophobia (thank you, Google), there’s no need for you to watch “The After Hours” to understand where I’m coming from. And if you don’t? You’re lucky. The bottom line? I don’t like anything that maintains a lifelike visage while being inanimate. Sh*t, I don’t like anything not human that looks human. And Amish husband and his wife? They fall squarely into this category. So I don’t like them. But sadly? I can’t get them the f*ck out of my head.

As I stood there with my tongue out and my right hand firmly cupped around Amish wife’s firm, fiberglass breast posing for a picture, my mind began racing as it so often does when I am in… well, any situation, really. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The strangest things inspire me. Amish husband and his wife, along with their entire Amish brood were no exception. Someone said “they look like they’re about to come alive” and in my mind? They did. Cue the short story development process, a process that I am incredibly familiar with, but not one that I am very adept at. In short? I’m not very good at writing short stories.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve written plenty. Two dozen or so total, actually. But that’s over the course of what I like to call my “Writing Life” as opposed to my “Non-Writing Life” that pre-dated it, AKA the period of my life in which I dabbled in everything from theater to sports, only to find that I really wasn’t particularly good at anything BUT writing. Okay, so maybe I was pretty good at the whole acting-thing, but sports-wise? My greatest achievement was when I beat Billy Ring (Booyakasha, Billy; RESPECT) in a game of Rough House, AKA basketball without rules, and even that’s debatable: He may have let me win though he always denied it thereafter. Anywhos, two dozen or so short stories over the space of almost two decades does not = An impressive short story output considering how many novels I’ve written, re-written, finished or just started, and how many Dissertations, pieces of Mental Flatulence and blog entries I’ve written.

But I have ideas for them. Often, actually. Like I said before, the strangest things inspire me. Take the Monster Ultra I just cracked. Yes, another one. Numero tres. Three = The maximum allotment of caffeine drinks one is supposed to consume in a 24 hour time period, and I’m drinking my third in 12. I generally only drink a max of two in 24. Survey says? This last one will either get me through the rest of my day or cause me to have a heart attack. I’d prefer the former but in the event of the latter? Well, at least I’ll get to lay down. Every time I drink a Monster Ultra and feel the initial rush of energy that follows, I remember the short story that I wrote back in college when I was popping Vivarin, No-Dose and 357 Magnum like it was going out of style. It was called “Last Will and Testament” and it was about a guy who OD’d on caffeine pills and wrote about it while he was OD’ing. It’s very psychological. It’s not for the faint of heart. And it’s not very good. AT ALL.

You see, my short stories have always been very psychological, i.e. I haven’t written many that were simply stand alone tales. Two stand out in my mind. I recently submitted one–“The Day of Final Departure”–to a short story contest only to have it summarily rejected for being too… for lack of a better phrase, “long winded.” And I’ll admit: It was. But it was meant to act as a prequel to a larger idea which has, summarily, been pushed to the proverbial back burner. Not because of the failure of the story. On the contrary: I actually like it a lot and think it has an emotional core that resonates with the reader (that’d be the exact opposite of what the anthology editor told me, i.e. “it does not have an emotional core and it does not resonate with the reader”). But because CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD¬†has moved to the forefront of my creative universe.¬†The other that stands out in my mind was called “Origin of Couch” and unless you were on the inside of a little email debate between me and my friends entitled “The Couch Chronicles” back in 2006 you’d have no f*cking idea what it’s about so I’m just going to leave it at that. If you want to read the whole chronicle, message me and I’ll forward you a copy. Once I get the two dozen or so people that contributed to it to sign off on it, that is.

Yet the ideas keep coming. Like this most recent one. So why not write it and the handful of other ones that are dancing around in my head right now down? Because… and this is why I think I generally fail at writing short stories, i.e. THE POINT so if you’ve been waiting for it PLEASE pay attention… when I write, I WRITE. I write until my idea is done. Spent. When I’m writing something long like a novel, each chapter is a separate idea: Equal (and sometimes unequal) parts of the greater whole. I can stop and start again because most times? The idea is big enough to contain everything. Blog entries? They’re more like journal writing, i.e. stream of consciousness. I simply write until I get tired, go back, make sure I followed through on my ideas and tidy it up/complete it with a winky emoticon, and a smiley face. It’s how I used to write essays and term papers in school, as well.

But short stories? Short stories are self-contained tales that have a beginning, a middle and an end. They’re written with restraint by people that are able to practice restraint. Those people? I admire the hell out of them because they are able to give you, the reader a literary Amuse Bouche and leave you satisfied. Me? I’m like the guy who only knows how to make chili. I make a killer batch: I’ve perfected my recipe. But it’s all I can do unless I give you chili on a Ritz and try to pass it off as an appetizer. Fact: It’s still f*cking chili, even with a dollop of spray cheese on the top of it. There are many variations to the recipe–spicy, mild, tomato heavy, bean heavy–but it’s still, at it’s emotional core, a flavorful yet saccharine concoction of ¬†about 12 different ingredients and spices. Jesus, talk about wordy. Maybe that editor was right about your old buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh, AKA… Papa Bear? Oh sure. Why the f*ck not?

I guess what it all boils down to is this one, indisputable fact: I’m not the greatest storyteller. I don’t exactly excel at “once upon a times” and “they lived happily ever afters.” I’ve never written a story like “The After Hours” that would appear on a show like “The (original) Twilight Zone.” When it comes to the idea of the formulaic, basic story ark? I don’t do it very well. I don’t rock beginnings, middles and ends the way others do. I’m more of a “story in progress” kind of guy. I like to pick up the action mid-scene: Throw you into the story. For me, exposition can come later. Involvement comes from meeting pre-existing characters with pre-existing back stories and personalities and getting to know them… to love them over time. I’m fascinated with my characters and I like to get in their heads. They’re like real people. Real people? Real people are “stories in progress” when you meet them. Getting to know them and their history is oft times an exhilarating experience. But that’s the disconnect. Me = A pretty good writer (I hope), albeit a bit wordy. Okay, maybe more than a BIT wordy (I’m like Robert Jordan but without a bestseller to my credit). But me = A good storyteller? Um… yeah. Not so much.

You may think differently. Maybe I’m being to hard on myself. Perhaps. But I don’t see it that way. Even if I am being harder on myself than I need to be it’s in my nature to push myself. That said, there are two short stories that are at the forefront of my mind, presently: One new and one old. Both have beginnings, middles and ends, and I vow that over the next few weeks I WILL write them. If for nothing else for the fact that doing so will be a much needed exercise in restraint. I’ve been working on it in¬†CHILDREN, and so far, I’m happy with the results. We shall see if I can parlay that into a standalone, short story or two. In my defense, there is STILL my as-of-yet untitled (because I legally can’t tell you the title without being disqualified) short story that I submitted a few months ago for a fellowship. The results = Pending. I should know a bit more within the next month but until then? The least I can do is try. As that eminent sage of wisdom Yoda once said, “try not. DO. Or do not. There is no try.”

‘Course, being able to devote time to such an exercise while maintaining my pace on¬†CHILDREN (106 pages strong as of last Friday; this weekend kind of threw a monkey wrench into my proverbial “Writing Machine”) is going to be difficult. I’d also rather not sacrifice either this blog, or the ENDWORLD site in the process. It is also contingent on a few of, if not ALL OF the above listed contingencies that occurred over the last three days NOT occurring again. Certain things are, of course, unavoidable. There’s no way to know when Biggish Bear’s going to get dehydrated and get sick despite plying her with an inexhaustible supply of water. She’s just slightly sub-four years old. She dove off our love seat last night, landed on her head and somersaulted over. That’s the bad news (it also might have contributed to her “condition” last evening though she seems fine today). The good? Her form was spectacular. I think there may be a career in it for her. My daughter, the Olympic diver. Just because I sucked at sports doesn’t mean she will, right?

There’s also no way to know when Smallish Bear is going to wake up in the middle of the night and not want to go back to sleep. She is, after all, just barely post-one and given to dramatics, even moreso than I was. On my BEST days as an actOR (emphasis on the “OR”) I couldn’t feign sadness the way she did last night. She parlayed my weeping heart into a three hour long stay of proverbial execution (and by “execution” I mean “bed time”) that ended with her cooing happily to herself in her crib at three or 3:30 this AM and me wondering just how in the hell I was going to function all day on three hours of sleep. Well, I’ve managed. And I’m not dead yet though admittedly, Monster Ultra numero tres is REALLY coursing through my system, presently. It’s like I’m back in college after popping two Vivarin, No-Dose or Magnum 357 again, only I know that the crash tonight is going to be ten times worse. I seriously need to reconsider my caffeine consumption moving forward. 38 does not = 21, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence or ANY.

You control what you can. THAT is the way of things, guys. “The way of the Force.” It’s kinda’ like writing a short story, something that I have never been very good at but something that I am going to focus on moving forward (at least for the immediate future): The writer controls the beginning, the middle and the end. He or she controls how wordy it gets and how much of an emotional core it has. He or she also controls how relevant it is or not (inside jokes between a group of two dozen or so friends do NOT sell). He or she is either born with the restraint required to do it right or needs to learn it. Me? I was born with the capacity to write. It’s in my genes (thanks, Biological). But restraint? The capacity to be a storyteller and not just a writer? That is something I’ve been working on for years. I honestly believe I’m finally getting to the point that I can do it. I wouldn’t have published¬†ENDWORLD¬†if I didn’t. But I’ve still got a ways to go until I’m satisfied with it. I may already be more skilled at it than he was, but it’s in my nature to push myself. Because…

Once upon a time, there lived a guy that called himself the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh, AKA Papa Bear. He saw inspiration in everything from a a Daft Punk song to a Doctor Who episode. One day while “functioning” on a limited amount of sleep and under the influence or more caffeine than he had ingested since college, he decided to write a short story about an Amish husband and his wife, how they became statues sitting on a bench at Dutch Wonderland and how SHE–the wife–ended up with some stranger acting like a juvenile and copping a feel of her fiberglass breast. And as for who or what lives happily ever after?

That, guys, is a “story in progress.” Stay tuned for the answer.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

Of Silly Stories, Facepalms, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Finding Nemo,” the Disney Princesses, Fairy Tales and Swiss Farms Tea Cooler

I should probably be working on¬†CHILDREN, right now. I’ve been on a roll these last few days (82+ pages now). I run the risk of losing momentum if I “break” to write a blog entry. But when something that¬†needs¬†to be written “strikes my fancy,” I’ve learned that it’s best not to ignore it. That is the situation I find myself faced with today. So¬†CHILDREN will have to wait for a little bit while I “do what I’ve got to do.”

Every night that I put my oldest minion, AKA Cara to bed, the routine is the same. We watch the last “Caillou” at 8:47 PM. When it ends 10 minutes later at 8:57 PM we usually go and brush our teeth (if we haven’t already), take our vitamins and thereafter, head upstairs to bed. Nine out of 10 times, her room is already prepped for her arrival: Her fish tank is lit up and her bottle of water is sitting next to the lamp upon her dresser which, for some reason, she has¬†to leave on every night. It’s not fear of the dark. But it comforts her. Hey, if it keeps her from waking me up in the middle of the night no worries. It’s worth a couple of extra bucks on our energy bill, every month.

It’s when¬†she’s watered and under her covers that the majority of my… of¬†our¬†issues begin (I don’t want to exclude Nicole from this; she deals with it as much as I do). Some nights, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Others, she laments that she’s “going to be all alone.” Generally in response to the latter, I tell her that she’s not alone: She’s got her fish, Lucy, her ghost shrimp Tiana and “all her babies” (i.e. her stuffed animals and dolls) to keep her company. Does that work? Occasionally. Most nights she asks either myself or my wife to read her a story and we do. But then…¬†then,¬†after the story is read and she’s been hugged and kissed goodnight (“sweet dreams, Bear; I’ll see you in the morning”), she hits us with it. The¬†kicker:¬†

“Daddy/Mommy, can you tell me a silly story?”

Insert Facepalm HERE. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more visual:

Facepalm_-_-

That’s my reaction every night when those words emanate from Cara’s mouth, a reaction made extra poignant by the fact that my chosen .GIF is one of Jean Luc Picard Facepalming. Nicole handles it swimmingly. She’s always got a silly story at the ready, be it the one about the time that she popped her head into check on Cara after she got home and Cara woke up and thought it was morning or another, similar one. Apparently, Nicole and Cara share many silly stories. But me and Cara? Um…

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If I had a “Number One,” and not just an alternate personality that I call the Madchronicler, he or she’d be Facepalming, as well. Because despite the fact that I’m a writer… despite the fact that I am now a published, albeit self-published author (who’s debut book,¬†ENDWORLD – A Novel¬†is¬†currently available to purchase; links to buy HERE; end shameless self promotion), I don’t know many silly, “G” rated stories. I’ve got a million and one rated “PG” and up, but “G?” Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a precarious situation to find yourself in: A storyteller without a story to tell.

Generally, I find a way to extricate myself, i.e. I find a way to wiggle out like a coward. “Not tonight, Bear. Daddy’s tired,” or “Daddy’s got a lot of work to do,” or “Daddy just wants to get the f*ck out of this room before you break into tears because while I’m good at formulating grown up stories on the fly, I completely¬†reek¬†when it comes to telling kid stories.” Consider that the one kid’s story that I’ve ever written–“Princess Cara and the Yellow Dragon”–was primarily dictated to me¬†by¬†Cara one night when she couldn’t sleep, i.e. she told me what the story was about, and I remembered it/later wrote it down.

But lately, escape hasn’t been so easy. ¬†I’ve had to resort to more drastic tactics, i.e. paraphrasing pre-existing, silly stories to satiate her. My best was “Finding Nemo.” “Once upon a time, there lived a fish named Marlin. He had a son named, Nemo. One day, Nemo got tired of Marlin’s overprotective attitude toward him and he swam out, into open water to touch a ‘butt,’ which was, in all actuality, a¬†boat.¬†Nemo was captured by a diver named P Sherman who took him back to a dentist’s office on Wallaby Lane in Sydney, Australia, where he was to become a birthday present for the dentist’s sadistic niece, Darla (good thing Cara doesn’t know what “sadistic” means, huh?). But Marlin had other plans. He set out on a grand adventure, side-by-side with his short-term memory impaired friend, Dory, to rescue or, ‘find’ Nemo, hence the title, ‘Finding Nemo.’ Along the way, they met a shark named Bruce, a school of Bluefish that sounded¬†distinctly¬†like the piggy bank from ‘Toy Story’ and the Abominable Snowman from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ They tangled with jelly fish and rode the East Australian Current on the back of a 175 year old sea turtle named Crush. After an epic adventure, they felled Darla with the help of a pelican named Nigel, saved or ‘found’ Nemo, and returned home to the coral reef upon which they existed. Thereafter, they lived happily, ever after. The End.”

Not bad, huh? You can probably tell that I’ve seen that movie once or twice (try two dozen times, at least; I’ve about perfected Bruce’s voice). Silly, right? I was quite proud of myself. But Cara’s reaction as I tried to escape quickly brought me crashing back down to earth.

“Thanks, Daddy. I know that story, already. Crush was 150, not 175.”

You can probably guess what happened next:

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You know that when Lieutenant Worf… hell, when any¬†Klingon¬†Facepalms it’s bad.¬†Real¬†bad. I think my face turned as red as Lucy the Fish’s skin (in truth, she’s more of a deep pink but she’s close enough to red for the reference). That night, I exited her room a defeated man. I resolved myself to futility. I sought solace at the bottom of a glass of Swiss Farms Tea Cooler…¬†and I didn’t take a Metformin before I drank it.¬†I know: I’m a f*cking rebel. What can I say? I was out of Scotch. Ah, who am I kidding? I can barely stomach Scotch straight at this juncture. Three sips and my head’s spinning faster than Marlin and Dory did upon being ejected from the EAC.

It was hopeless, I understood.¬†I’ll never be able to tell Cara a silly story,¬†I thought as I savored the damp, tea and lemon flavored goodness that remained in my flavor saver, i.e. my mustache. It was then–as the luscious drops of sugary goodness siphoned down from my upper lip to my tongue and a few landed on my t-shirt–that I decided to act.¬†I will not be defeated,¬†I determined,¬†not by the whims of an almost four year old and CERTAINLY not by something that is supposed to be a strength of mine, i.e. storytelling. I WILL come up with a silly story to tell her. I WILL SUCCEED…!¬†

By my best reckoning, that was about a month ago. In the intervening time since, I’ve written 82+ pages of¬†CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and multiple blog entries both here on “Random Musings” and over on the ENDWORLD site. I’ve read and written two book reviews. I’ve composed a thousand emails to my customers and my vendors about everything from pumps to motors to pump to motor adapters. But to this day? I¬†still¬†have not come up with a silly story to tell Cara pre-bedtime. That ends¬†now.¬†The reason for this blog entry is to hash out a decent, silly story to tell her before she goes to bed, tonight. I don’t have a lot of time, so I don’t expect that it’ll be a very¬†long¬†silly story, but then again, the longer the story the more time I have to spend trying to coax her to sleep and not popping Metformin/drinking Swiss Farms Tea Cooler while I ruminate on just¬†what the hell¬†Free Caymen looks like (Free Caymen = A location referenced in¬†ENDWORLD – A Novel and seen in¬†CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD). I’ll stop there lest I give away something crucial, i.e. “spoilers.”

So here goes. It needs to be about a topic that Cara likes. Right now, Cara¬†loves¬†the Disney Princesses, so I’ll start there:

Once upon a time, there lived, in the kingdom of Enchantia (stolen from “Sofia the First”), every Disney Princess: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Tiana and Merida, not to mention Princess Leia (forthcoming, I hope) and Nita from ‘Brother Bear 2’ (what can I say? Cara loves Nita. Creative license. Please, Disney, don’t sue me). Their lives were wonderful, and the kingdom was big enough for all of them and their husbands (or, in Merida’s case, her bow and arrow).

One day, they were all sitting down over a Cajun feast, prepared for them by Prince Naveen when Merida–always the troublemaker–brought up the idea of doing something¬†different¬†for once. ¬†Initially, the princesses deigned to entertain her idea. Their respective existences were fine. They liked only having to show up for work every time someone at Disney got it in his or her head to either A.) Make a direct to DVD sequel or B.) Have Princess Sofia the First call for help, leading to a guest spot on her television show. And their husbands enjoyed their respective, simple existences after their complicated, pre-Enchantia lives (see: The Beast and Aladdin/Prince Ali).

But Merida was undaunted. “I want to have an¬†adventure!” she exclaimed, and tossed her gumbo across the table. Sadly, it hit smallish bear Koda in the face but the little cub didn’t care: He loved gumbo and lopped it all up.

Despite the fact that the other princesses were happy with their respective, partial retirements in Enchantia, they knew that the only way they’d ever get Merida to calm down and not have her personal witch/wood cutter hex them all and turn them into bears was to appease her. So they agreed to go along with Merida’s request. At least until they were summoned to fulfill one of their two, post-partial retirement duties.

“Hey,” Kenai and Nita said suddenly, “being a bear isn’t¬†that¬†bad.”

The other princesses and princes told biggish bear and his lady-friend to keep their yaps closed. Other than Koda, they were the only bears in Enchantia, and the movie that had brought them together–“Brother Bear 2”–wasn’t even the original one. It was a direct to DVD sequel, albeit a superior sequel to the sub-par, original “Brother Bear.” This caused Kenai and Nita, as well as Koda to quiet down as had been requested of them, for they knew, deep down in their hearts that they were not really¬†a part of the accepted, Disney canon. They silently slinked away from the dinner table and went off on their own. No one knew where or what they were up to. Nor did anyone pay their departure a second thought.

“Okay then, Merida,” Snow White said, “what did you have in mind?”

Pause. Not a bad start, and I hammered it out pretty quickly, which gives me hope that I might actually have this done by nine PM tonight. Now for their adventure. What does Cara like doing? Other than dressing up and playing Disney Princess, she enjoys playing with Natalie, going to the park, ballet, gymnastics, watching/playing “Puss in Boots…”

Bam!¬†“Playing ‘Puss in Boots.'” Puss in Boots is a well known fairy tale. Cara¬†loves¬†fairy tales. Time to continue:

Merida folded her arms across her chest and blew the strand of red, curly hair that had fallen over her forehead out of her face, “I think we should break into teams of two couples each, one old princess and one new one, randomly select a traditional fairy tale and go experience what happens in it,” she said, “we’ll put them all in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and each pick one. Then, we’ll petition the Disney writers to create a scenario for us in it. Then we’ll do it, come back here, and compare notes.”

All the other princesses and princes agreed that it was an equitable, albeit somewhat far-fetched solution.¬†Why not just go on a road trip,¬†they thought,¬†or maybe ask for a spot in the next “Epic Mickey” video game?¬†But no one questioned Merida, for no one wanted to be turned into a bear. They placed a handful of fairy tales in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and one by one, the princesses selected.

Snow White and Prince Charming teamed with Tiana and Naveen and selected “The Three Little Pigs.” Cinderella and her Prince teamed with Rapunzel and Eugene and selected “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Aurora and Phillip teamed with Mulan and Li Shang and selected “Peter and the Wolf.” Ariel and Eric teamed with Pocahontas and John Smith and selected “The Gingerbread Man.” Belle and the Beast teamed with Jasmine and Aladdin/Prince Ali and selected “The Ugly Duckling” and lastly, Merida teamed with Princess Leia and selected “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What about Kenai, Nita and Koda?” Princess Leia asked, “shouldn’t they be included?”

The other princesses shook their heads, “Nita’s not¬†really¬†a Disney Princess. Besides, they’re bears, not people.” Princess Leia thought about crying out that¬†bears are people too¬†which, if you’ve ever seen “Brother Bear” and/or “Brother Bear 2” you know is true. But she didn’t. She kept her yap shut. She was still only a trial princess, after all. And she wanted so badly to be accepted as a part of the Disney canon, especially since her husband, Han Solo, had opted to go and try to break his own, personal record of making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs with his fuzzball of a side kick, Chewbacca and his scoundrel of a friend, Lando, rather than stay with her in Enchantia.¬†I’ll show him,¬†she thought as Lumiere measured her for her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit.¬†

One by one, the teams went and solicited the Disney writers for their approval. Sadly, they were not given it because A.) Dreamworks held the copyrights for all the fairy tales that didn’t involve them and B.) They had all been written into the upcoming “Sofia the First,” feature length movie. Dejected, they all returned to the table around which they had been sitting, plopped down into their chairs in front of their now-cold bowls of gumbo, and lamented their loss. Actually, only Merida lamented the loss. Leia lamented the loss of her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, but the other princesses were actually quite happy that Merida’s latest, crazy idea had fizzled out. They began to eat the last of their gumbo when…

The door to the dining hall swung open. The princesses and princes all turned and saw Kenai, Nita and Koda come purposefully marching into the room. They were all about to say something when Merida’s personal witch/wood cutter stepped out from behind them, and started laughing. Apparently, while they had been away petitioning the Disney writers to participate in Merida’s latest, hair-brained scheme, she had, at the urging of the bears, snuck in and spiked their remaining gumbo with the same magic she had once used on Merida’s mother. Within seconds, each of the princesses and their princely counterparts morphed into bears. All but Merida, who had thrown her gumbo at Koda earlier. Merida watched as her counterparts surrounded her. Afraid, she fled from the dining hall with her bow and arrow and was never seen in Enchantia again which, under normal circumstances, would have been quite a crippling loss to the Disney canon. But it wasn’t. For her selfless support of the biggish bear, his smallish brother and Nita, Princess Leia was promoted from trial princess to full-fledged, Disney Princess, and was given the color white to wear as her signature color.

In time, the bears all transformed back into princesses and princes, but they had all learned a valuable lesson. From that moment forth, they each accepted Kenai, Nita and Koda into their ranks as equals. All starred in the “Sofia the First” feature length movie, which became the highest grossing film of all time, and won not only the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but the Best Picture Oscar, as well. Eventually, Han, Chewie and Lando returned after making the Kessel Run in under 10 parsecs. They are all still living together in Enchantia to this day, happily ever after. The End.

Or is it? I’m not really sure. Something tells me that Merida’s part in the story isn’t quite finished yet. To be shunned like that by your fellow princesses? I can only imagine the pain that she’s had to endure since it happened. In my mind’s eye, I see her once again living in the Highlands of Scotland in the ruined castle of her father, her mother and her three baby brothers (who had long since relocated to eastern Australia, and were living out their lives, happily guiding “walkabouts” through the Outback). I see her sitting alone in an abandoned dining hall when suddenly, her once-personal witch/wood cutter shows up and offers her a way to repay her once-sisters and their spouses. “By doing what?” Merida asks, and the witch/wood cutter’s response? “By becoming Mordoon,” she says as she removes a familiar looking cake from behind her back and hands it to Merida. What happens next?

Well? I guess you’ll just have to get it when it goes direct to DVD.

And there you have it. What do you think? Is it a silly enough story to appease Cara’s pre-sleep desire for comedy? What’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have to end there. Maybe the princesses go back to the Disney writers and petition them again, and this time¬†they get their wish. Part of me would really like to see Princess Leia in that red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, though instead of Merida, her partners would now be her husband, Han, his fuzzball sidekick Chewbacca and his scoundrel friend, Lando. That’s the nice thing about stories, silly or otherwise, adult or kid: They can be whatever we as writers want them to be. Whether they’re called¬†ENDWORLD – A Novel,¬†CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD¬†or¬†whatever-the-hell-I-just-wrote-should-be-called, at their core, they’re all the same. They’re a product of our experiences and our imagination. Whether you’re me, Nicole, Cara or one of the Disney writers. Whether you’re a published, self-published or not-at-all published writer, they’re all the same. Just make sure you tell ’em well. And if you’re paraphrasing a pre-existing one? Make sure you get the details right. As Cara deftly pointed out to me a few weeks ago, there’s a big difference between being 175 and 150 years old.

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Stay thirsty, my friends. Swiss Farms Tea Cooler is two for $4.00 this week only. Get yours today.

A Pseudo-Madman’s Double Life (Guest Starring Clark Kent/Superman, the Fisher Price Little People, Susan Lucci, the Genie from “Aladdin,” Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Professor River Song and Some Guy Named Frank Marsh)

I lead a double life. Kind of like Clark Kent/Superman but without… well, super powers. I’m not faster than a speeding bullet. Nor am I more powerful than a locomotive. I am unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound unless said buildings are my youngest minion’s Fisher Price Little People play sets. If you look up in the sky, you will¬†see birds¬†and¬†planes, but you will never see me. I dwell here upon the humid, oft times soggy surface of Terra Firma on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, somewhere between a little town in eastern Pennsylvania called Broomall and a little town west of Broomall called Royersford, Pennsylvania, with the occasional foray even further west to York, Pennsylvania or south to Baltimore, Maryland.

Despite all this, I do¬†lead a double life. Sadly, mine is not nearly as interesting as the son of Jor El’s so really, why even claim it? Simple: Because it’s true. If you want to know why, I invite you to read on. If not? Thanks for playing. You win nothing!¬†I’m not cruel. I just don’t have anything to give away. But if you’d like a copy of my debut novel,¬†ENDWORLD drop me a line either here, or on any of the myriad other sites that I whore myself out to and I’ll hook you up in exchange for an honest review of my “big, meaty book for summer reading.”

No sexual innuendo intended, guys. I’m a happily married man. That’s what one reviewer called it, though. “Five stars in my log,” she said with an exclamation point. Apparently, a few people agree with her though I wouldn’t know because¬†I’ve only got five total, published reviews between Amazon¬†(four)¬†and Barnes and Noble¬†(one)!¬†Which is an incredibly uncouth way of saying “please read and review my book because unless I get 10 positive reviews on Amazon it will never be featured as anything other than an afterthought on any site and will be doomed to obscurity.” I may be biased… ah, who am I kidding? I am biased. ENDWORLD is better¬†than “doomed to obscurity.” I know it.

Seriously, guys. I know I’m not supposed to self-promote on here if I ever want to get Freshly Pressed but I need you on this one. One free copy of¬†ENDWORLD in exchange for an honest review. That’s all I’m asking for. You choose the e-platform: EPUB or MOBI. I can do PDF, as well. Up to you. Get in contact with me and you’ve got it. I’m at 424K on the Kindle Best Seller list currently, which isn’t bad when you consider Amazon’s got over two million titles on their site, but my ranking has been steadily dropping since the end of May after plateauing at 11K. I’m starting to get depressed. I don’t know if I can go on…¬†

Okay. I admit it: I’m over exaggerating. A lot.¬†It’s all I can do to keep up with my oldest minion who, I have officially concluded, is four going on 14. There are established drama queens less dramatic then her. Don’t get me wrong: I love her and think she’s hysterical, but if nothing else, she’s got quite a career ahead of her on “General Hospital.” Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. And watch out.

But I digress. This blog entry isn’t about¬†ENDWORLD. Well, not directly. And there’s no better means of turning people away from your product than by whining about it. So I’m not going to whine anymore. I’m going to “stick with the plan.” And that is?

I lead a double life. Really, I do.¬†The truth of this fact really hit home for me earlier today. I was “tweaking” the¬†ENDWORLD site with some new info, and I got an email from a prospective vendor asking me for my name and my title. In the past, I’ve simply written “Office Manager/Inside Sales” without a second thought, but as I wrote it today, I realized that I wasn’t being entirely truthful. And I pride myself on bring truthful. I was being pseudo-truthful–that’s what I am from eight in the AM to five or 5:30 in the PM every Monday through Friday, plus every fourth Saturday–but it ended there. Pseudo.¬†The truth?

The truth is that I am¬†an Office Manager/Inside Sales representative during the time frame specified above.¬†¬† But from the moment I leave work to the moment I return? I’m something far different. I’m a father/husband/homeowner/”indie” author/eternal optimist and hopeful dreamer. I’m also an avid sports fan though right now, I’m not exactly enchanted by what’s going on in Philly sports. Seriously, Phillies? You win six games in a row, get over 0.500 for the first time all season, get your fan base fired up and then you¬†lose three games to the frackin’ Brewers?¬†They’re the¬†Brewers¬†for God’s sake! They haven’t been better than “slightly above average” since the mid-1980’s. That’s not a knock on Milwaukee, nor is it one on Wisconsin. I love both. Really, I do. But the Brewers?¬†Really?¬†

Okay. Enough about that. Rooting for the Phillies… h-e-double hockey sticks, rooting for any¬†of the major Philadelphia sports franchises has been a tiring task these last few years. Almost as tiring as self-publication though without the sublime joy of knowing that something you wrote is now available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and multiple other sites (links to buy at www.theendworldseries.com under “Where to Buy ENDWORLD – A Novel“)! Pick up your copy TODAY and PLEASE post a review when you’re finished!¬†End the shameless self-promotional portion of our program. I now return you to your regular blog entry, already in progress.

The specter of 2008 still looms largely in my mind. I remember watching my Phightens hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy and thinking that the drought was over… that we were¬†ensured¬†multiple championships not just in baseball, but in football and hockey, as well (basketball? Not so much). How many have we won since? Survey says?

Zero.¬†New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have all won at least one. Even Boston’s won one. But Philadelphia? Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a crap-tastic time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. The Eagles are rebuilding, the Flyers are chronic underachievers and the Sixers? Yeah. Not so much. Dare I pin my hopes on the Soul, again? They started what I thought was going to be a championship renaissance in my hometown back in 2008 by winning the Arena Bowl. Might they be able to do it again? Maybe, but even they’re pretty bad, right now. Which is really just a drawn out way of welcoming you, my readers back to the drought. See you in another 20 or so years on Broad Street. End parenthetical, sports related aside.

I lead a double life. I’m not Clark Kent/Superman. My secret identity is not a costume that I wear beneath the t-shirt and jeans that I sport to work every day, or the dress shirt and slacks that I wear when I visit my York office or travel to Baltimore. It’s the extra Google Chrome screen that I keep hidden on my second monitor. It’s the Word Document that I oft times edit during “down times” like today. You can never see it: It’s hidden beneath a proverbial bank of windows that contain pertinent information to my daily existence. And I rarely do anything¬†but¬†edit or “tweak” while working because despite what you might be thinking, I actually like my job, alias my mundane, routine existence. I’m proud of all that I’ve learned and how good I’ve gotten at what I do in the last almost eight years and I’d rather not risk losing it. So I refrain.

But admittedly? On occasion, one or more of the developing characters in my head–my own, mental Peanut Gallery–cry out for help or attention, much like my youngest minion is fond of doing when she’s playing with her Fisher Price Little People play sets and I’m rehearsing Shakespeare with my older, diva-licious minion, tears and all. Those times? I minimize everything from Outlook to my company Intranet and I answer the call. I may not be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I may not be a bird or a plane but in the subjective universe that exists inside my oft times ridiculed, “big” head? I’m a god. Not¬†the¬†God. There’s only one of them and you’ll know I’m referring to him or her when I capitalize the “G.” But¬†a¬†god. A lesser deity with¬†immense, cosmic power…¬†

And an¬†itty bitty¬†living space, otherwise known as my cubicle. Thank you, Genie from “Aladdin.” Those times? Not even the son of Jor El can stand toe-to-toe with Frank Marsh, though in the grand and not subjective scheme of things, my “power” is nothing compared to his. Assuming, of course, that Superman is a real man. Which he is. Or isn’t. I’m not really sure, but I like to think that somewhere out in the vast multi-verse that is… well, this¬†he exists. Maybe through one of the many other wormholes that pseudo-madmen like me can cross through. Maybe not me, per say, but another one? Most definitely.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, guys. The wormhole that I’m always referring to? The wormholes? It’s… they’re¬†not real. Not tangible. They’re a metaphor for imagination, something that people like me and the guys who created Clark Kent/Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster know about. This side of my proverbial wormhole of existence = IRL. The other side is where¬†ENDWORLD and all my other ideas come from. If you didn’t know that before now there you go. I’ve just revealed a little known secret about me, myself and I. There are others, but I’ll leave them for another time. I can’t give away everything now. As Professor River Song is so fond of saying, “spoilers.”

When I leave my Monday through Friday, and every fourth Saturday mundane, routine existence, there’s no need to wear my disguise, though. I’m like the son of Jor El returning to his Fortress of Solitude. The place where I can just. Be. Me.¬†Not the guy that’s had to learn how to be an engineer in the last almost eight years, but the guy that existed before that. The husband. The father. The homeowner. The eternal optimist and the hopeful dreamer. And the avid, albeit long suffering Philadelphia sports fan. I like that guy¬†too. He’s the guy that’s writing this blog entry, presently. His words? They’re not appearing on a secret Google Chrome screen on his second monitor. They’re appearing on the 13 inch screen of his Samsung, I5 laptop, the same one that he… that I wrote 75 to 80 percent of¬†ENDWORLD on and the same one that I’m currently writing¬†CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD on. Which, by the way, is 70+ pages “to the good.” Part One =¬†Done.¬†I’m taking a day or two off before I begin Part Two. Unless my mental Peanut Gallery cries out in distress before then. Then, like every other super hero that leads a double life, I’ll be obligated to answer the call.

So long as it doesn’t conflict with my youngest minion’s desire to play with her Fisher Price Little People play sets or my oldest minion’s desire to reenact “MacBeth.”

Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. Watch out. And if you’re reading this? Drop me a line. I’ve got a book I’d love for you to read and review.

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ENDWORLD – A Novel has a Cover!

That’s not a misprint, guys. Nor is the new picture in my header one.¬†ENDWORLD – A Novel now has a cover. I just got permission from my phenomenal designer Damon (whose website you can link HERE) to show it publicly. My header only shows you a portion. The complete cover looks like this:

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How am I feeling? Hmm. Good question. I’d say that I’m super psyched but that’s pretty much a given. I’d say that I’m cautiously optimistic after objectively rereading it but that’s obvious. I’ve been happy with my creation since I first started it so many, many moons before tonight’s. There was never a question of whether or not I’d like it. The only question was whether or not others would, and based on the mainly positive response the Prologue has gotten (linkable HERE, BTW) it appears that a handful of people do. Granted, that’s just the Prologue but still, it’s a promising sign.

I’d say that I’m a bit drained from not just reviewing and “tweaking” the cover and the proof, but from the whole process that I’ve been involved in for an eternity but that, too, is academic at this juncture. I’d say all these things… did, in fact, say¬†all these things but none of them matter now. How am I feeling?¬†In short, guys? Ready. I’m ready to put this beast of a novel out there… out here¬†and see what happens. End rant.

I wrote in my last blog post that there are a hundred and one people to thank: A hundred and one people who in some way, shape or form influenced the creation of ENDWORLD – A Novel. People that were there at the beginning, were there in the middle and are here now. I further said that I’m not including an acknowledgement page in the book because A.) There are just too many people to thank and B.) I don’t want to leave anyone out. However, I feel obligated to express my gratitude to a few individuals. Doing so may seem premature, and doing so here on “Random Musings” may seem odd, but what the f*ck? I need to. So here goes.

I’ve already mentioned Damon and his brother Benjamin, the latter of whom is formatting the book for both e-publication and print publication. They’ve been terrific, and have put up with my anal retentiveness since moment one. They really “got” me and what I wanted to do, which if you know me you know is not the easiest thing in the world to do. The above cover may not appeal to everyone, but here’s a little factoid for you: Before I even signed them on I did a sketch of what I wanted the cover to look like.¬†I never showed them the sketch, I simply gave them a few, minor details about it and asked them to roll with them. They nailed my idea almost perfectly. And the interior? Well, I haven’t seen the finished product yet but if draft one was any indication? It’s going to be sharp. Minimalist, yes, but that’s the way I wanted it. No flourishes or design elements. I’m not writing a Nicholas Sparks book, after all. That’s no knock on Nicholas Sparks (I loved¬†THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE), but it’s not me. It’s not ENDWORLD – A Novel.

Moving on, I cannot thank my editor, Amy, enough for the amount of work she put into cleaning up the book for publication. She did so with little fanfare. She put up with an incessant amount of text messaging and Facebook messaging from me about this, that and the other thing throughout, and offered insight, not just about how the book was written, but about different things that happened in it, i.e. plot points, “flow,” et cetera et cetera when she didn’t really have to. She did so while remaining true to my voice and my style of writing throughout and if it takes off? If it, as my wonderful wife said, becomes the next Twilight or Hunger Games? Well, I honestly don’t think it will (that’s a lot of lightning in a bottle to catch, guys) but if it does even modestly well? I will have her to thank. So I’m thanking her now. She has my eternal gratitude.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family and my friends for their support, throughout, as well. My real life brethren? My mom and my sister, Katie? My Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and In-Laws? Some have been needling me for almost 20 years–ever since I first gave many of them an autographed copy of ENDWORLD, version one for Christmas back in the mid-1990’s–to do what I’m doing right now and I guess I finally listened to them. Vato, Jeebus, Hungerford and Carole? Carey, AP, Ed-san, the Mol-ster, Petey-Max, Kimberly and Jackson? Even the ones that I don’t really speak with anymore. You all know who you are. And those of you that don’t? You may once you read the book. My little joke a few weeks ago about “any resemblance to people and places not being intentional?” There’s a reason for that. But I won’t go any deeper into it than that. You’ll find out soon enough. Hopefully by the end of the month if everything goes according to plan.

In particular, though, I need to single out one friend who was an invaluable help to me over the last year, ever since I completed draft one and sent it out to my first dozen Beta readers. That friend read that draft, sat me down over a beer and told me what he thought of the book. And then? After I completed draft two? He did so again. And again. And again. He has been a sounding board throughout the revision process and has told it “like it is” every time. He never once tried to stroke my ego or make me feel like my book was better than it actually was. He never told me it sucked, either, but that’s beside the point. He never told me what to write, but he took my overabundance of ideas and helped me give them structure. Matt? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, soul and mind. I wouldn’t be here right now without your assistance.

I could go on. I feel like I¬†should¬†go on. But its getting late and hey: I just got my latest proof back from Benjamin (guess what I’m doing¬†tomorrow¬†night?). I feel like I’m missing someone. Someone important. Someone who is arguably the¬†most¬†important influence in my life presently, and has been for the last decade plus. Back when I first met the then-Nicole Gentile in 2001,¬†ENDWORLD¬†was a virtual non-entity. It was a book that I’d written back in the early and mid-1990’s that profiled my late teen, and early adult angst. Nicole knew I was a writer when she first met me, despite the fact that I was managing her CVS/Pharmacy. She knew that I’d written a couple of books. She knew how important it was to me to revise them and one day publish them. She encouraged me then and continued to encourage me for years. Once or twice, she even said to me (when I told her of a new idea that I’d come up with), “why don’t you just rewrite the¬†ENDWORLD¬†books. You¬†know¬†it’s what you want to do.”

Admittedly? Nicole never thought my fiction was my best writing. She’s always been and remains partial to stuff like this blog entry and I promise, Nicole: One day I¬†will¬†publish something non-fiction that includes “The Doctor McDreamy Unappreciation Thread.” But despite that, she understood how important those books were to me…¬†are¬†to me. And when I restarted this process back in 2011, I told her one warm, late April night that rewriting¬†ENDWORLD¬†was going to eat up a lot of my time and brain power. I warned her in advance of the nights when she would come home from work and find me sitting on the couch with my laptop open on my lap and the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack playing over its speakers. I told her that I might not even be able to acknowledge her with more than a mumbled “hi” or a grunt. “That’s how I write, sweetie,” I told her.

Her response? “I know. And I understand.” And she did. She never “got in my grill” about it and she never got pissy. She let me go and go and go and now? Look at where I am. That, guys? That’s not just understanding. That’s love. True¬†love. That’s acknowledging the importance of something to your¬†significant¬†other and letting it happen no matter how quiet the living room gets. I know I talk a lot about her and some of you may be sick of it. But understand something: No one has ever “gotten” me the way she does. Regardless of the success or failure of this endeavor, I am the luckiest man in the whole f*cking universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Because of her.¬†Because of what she’s given me. And that, friends?¬†That’s¬†where I’m going to leave this little “quick hit.”¬†

G’Night, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

ADDENDUM: Not only does it have a cover, but this PM, I signed off on the final proof for the print edition of it. I have posted samples to my Facebook Author Page as well as to Twitter¬†if anyone is interested in checking them out. I’m not going to post them here because, for lack of sounding too fabulous, white against a white background doesn’t make a lot of sense. Please, take a look and let me know your thoughts, critiques, compliments et al. Thank you, everyone!¬†