A Matter of Perspective

There is a scene towards the end of Children of Endworld in which one of the main characters–I’m not going to tell you which one–stands upon the precipice of a cliff and looks down at the ocean, smashing against the rocks below. He/she/it (yes, I wrote “it.” It’s a book about robots for crying out loud, did ya’ think I wouldn’t create robot characters?) considers “doing it”: He/she/it has been through much. He/she/it is mentally, emotionally and physically scarred. He/she/it wonders if “doing it” is better than the alternative, i.e. living in a world without love, joy or hope. Does he/she/it follow through? I’ll write more about that later.

I’ve been relatively quiet lately and for that, I am sorry. I’ve been preoccupied. Not much with writing though Children is about 75% done this cold and dreary night in early October, 2013. I’ve mentioned… “stuff” in one or two blog entries lately and that “stuff?” It’s still around. It’s even been compounded by other, unrelated “stuff.” Stuff + More stuff = One big Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of sh*t and right now? I’m covered in gooey, sugary deliciousness. But I’m surviving despite it. There are days where I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Ivan Drago and the only thing that’s keeping me “up” is my heart and my resolve. There are days where I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a couple of hell hounds and Gozer the Gozarian. My mentality varies. But the one thing that has remained consistent throughout all the BS is that vision that I detailed in the first paragraph of this blog entry: That of a man/woman/machine standing upon the edge of a cliff, looking out over the angry ocean below and wondering if he/she/it should “do it.” That he/she/it? He/she/it is me, right now. I am standing upon the proverbial precipice of my 38 year life on this side of the wormhole of existence and I am wondering: Do I jump, or do I turn away?

Mind you I wrote “proverbial” for a reason. I’m not contemplating suicide. Nor am I sick and/or dying. The “stuff” in question? It’s not life threatening in the common, everyday sense of the term “life.” And I am sorry, but I’m still not going to go any deeper into detail than that. It remains mine and mine alone to contend with. But the sheer cliff face that I am looking over? I can most certainly write about that. Metaphorically, of course.

I never thought that I’d be 38 years old and married with two kids, two cats, two mortgages and soccer practice every Saturday morning. Let me get that out of the way now. I hoped for it but did I actually believe it? No. I really didn’t. Not until I met Nicole and then? Even then it took me a while to come to grips with that fact that I, too, could be happy. That I, too, could be a father and a homeowner. This was not the life I envisioned for myself some 15, very odd years ago when we all lived in and around “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else. I’ve come a long way from those Halcyon Days of my wayward youth. Yet still, here I am at 38 years young or old depending on your perspective at a crossroads. Arguably the most important one I have ever happened upon on the oft times winding road of my life. And the decisions that I make in the next couple of weeks and months are going to affect me and my loved ones for a very, very long time. Hence the extreme analogy of the cliff: Do I take the plunge or do I turn away?

It seems like an easy question to answer until you’re faced with it. Then it becomes the most difficult thing you’ve ever contemplated. And your choice will have consequences either way. The intoxication of the unknown or the comfort of the known? The world that lies behind you, back away from the precipice or the one that lies in front of you, cloaked in obscurity? One is filled with risk and the other? Not so much. What type of person are you? Are you the kind of person that embraces the questions or the kind of person that avoids them? And is your life as a risk taker or a home body sustainable? Questions, questions and more questions, all without answers save for one: I have no f*cking idea what to do.

Therein lies the rub, guys. I know I am faced with one of William MacNuff’s “watershed moments” and I know I need… I NEED to make a decision one way or the other. Do I leap or do I walk away? Sadly, I cannot decide which way is best. I’ve always been a moderate. Were I the President, I would be the Commander in Chief that straddles the aisle more than any President in history. I’m a hybrid: Both a city slicker and a suburbanite; a student and a teacher. Of course I am. I’m a guy that was raised by a woman albeit an incredibly strong woman (booyakasha, Mom. RESPECT). The only other Y-Chromosome in my house is the one my gender-challenged, almost 11 year old cat ‘Dorna possesses. I exist and have existed for decades as a contradiction: A practical artist; a dreaming realist. An oxymoron? How dare you call me a name you… you… you YOU you. But yes, I am an oxy… moron. And my current indecision? It is a direct result of that.

Each choice has potential positives and negatives. Sadly, very little is apparent on the surface. Most of it is speculation. Let me reiterate that I am not contemplating killing myself nor am I considering catching the red eye to Jamaica and cliff diving (aw HELL no). The cliff? It is a metaphor and metaphorically? I, like my character, stand upon a precipice. I, like my character is wondering “do I” or “don’t I.” I, like my character know that the decisions that I make in the next few weeks and months are going to affect me as much as the physical action of either jumping or turning from the cliff would. I am 38 years old and the remainder of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is hanging in the balance. Do I, or don’t I?

Perhaps the answer is evident in the actions of the character from Children that is standing upon his/her/its own precipice. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, guys: I’ve written the character too that point but I have not yet written what he/she/it does. Why? Because the Endworld books have always been reflective of my own life. An Autobiographical Fiction, if you will and until I make the decision for myself? Until I leap or don’t? I cannot make it for him. Or her. Or it. Damn, dirty metal bastards.

And with that? It’s back to “stuff.” G’night, all. Pleasant dreams. It looks like “Rocky IV” AND “Ghostbusters” are on right now. But I don’t think I am going to watch either. There’s a “The Walking Dead” marathon on AMC. Metaphorical? I leave that for you to decide.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

God, “A God” or the Gods – A Pseudo-Madman’s Take

I had intended on finishing up Part Three of Children of Endworld today but found myself unable to do so. Not for lack of desire: That’s there. But my eyes, and the eyes of many have been glued to developments in the naval yard shooting that happened in DC this AM. If you are unaware of what I am “talking” about please open another window in your web browser and redirect it to either CNN, Fox News or whatever outlet you generally follow. You’ll quickly see what I’m referring to. You can come back to this later. Priorities, priorities.

Are you back? Cool. Welcome.

As is often the case when something like this happens, I keep one eye on the news and one eye on my social media feed since I am always curious to see what other people are thinking about it. In the process of checking the latter I came across a curious Facebook status post in which a friend of mine questioned the existence of God, “a god” or the gods in light of not only this horrific occurrence, but others (i.e. the boardwalk fire in Seaside Heights this past week, the historic flooding transpiring in Colorado. the Aurora movie theater shooting last year and the Sandy Hook tragedy last winter).

I’m not going to quote him/her ’cause… well, I didn’t exactly get their permission and I don’t want to incur their wrath but he/she brings up an interesting point: When a rash of sh*t “goes down” like it has in the recent past here on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, what are you supposed to think? Faith can only get you so far. Most people want to see proof: Proof that there is, in fact, a benevolent force that watches over us and guides us through our daily travails. When “stuff” like what I mentioned in the previous paragraph happens, though? It’s hard. Damn hard. I know: I’ve been there and who knows? I may end up there, again though quite frankly (no pun intended), I don’t quite want to.

The above veiled message brought to you by my subconscious. Frank Marsh’s subconscious, sending cryptic messages to people for over 20 years.

Where’s the proof? Twelve dead, one shooter DOA and one more potentially at large in DC, currently. Dozens of schools around the naval yard on lock down; hundred of thousands of people, both employees and neighbors alike scared sh*tless. Dear God: Where the f*ck are you, right now? Is it true what Al Pacino said in “The Devil’s Advocate”–that you’re an “absentee landlord”–or what Piers Anthony described in his Incarnations of Immortality series–God, nothing more than a bored smiley face looking down from above upon the world and not doing anything while his arch nemesis the Devil wreaks havoc?

I don’t know, guys. I honestly don’t. I have about as much proof of God’s existence as you do. But I was raised to believe in His/Her/It’s existence and I cling to that, even now when my entire subjective universe seems to be “flaming out.” It’s not just DC, Seaside, Colorado (times two) or Sandy Hook. It’s North Korea. It’s Syria. It’s Cold War Deuce between the good old U S of A and Russia. I cannot think of a time in my 38 plus years of existence when the world has been this completely and totally f’d up and admittedly? The claim that “the end times are nigh” is starting to feel slightly more relevant than it did a few days, weeks, months and years ago.

Maybe that’s the case. Maybe the sub-segment of the population I once called “The Bible Thumping Junkies” are right, though I deign to start interpreting the context of the Book of Revelation as proof that we’re all about to get rapture’d something fierce, even in light of my background over-evaluating everything from Will Shakespeare’s sexual preference to the now-defunct TV series “LOST.” Whenever it happens, it happens. If that’s tomorrow then so be it: I intend to be standing at ground zero, just like I always said I would with my minions on one side of me and my wife on the other. ‘Cause really, who wants to live in the post-apocalypse? Not I and, I hope, not my wife and my minions. If I’m going to be forced by God, “a god” or the gods to “shrug off my mortal coil” then gul’darnit, I want to do so with my loved ones beside me. The afterlife just wouldn’t be the same without Cara’s singing and dancing, Natalie’s laughing and Nicole’s… well, that’s between her and me. Sorry to disappoint.

The above veiled message brought to you by my libido. Frank Marsh’s libido, scaring the f*ck out of the women in his life for over 20 years now.

No. I’m not going to hop on the end of the world bandwagon. Nor am I going to act like nothing is wrong. I can understand my friend’s statement that in times such as these, he/she doubts the existence of “something.” Not necessarily God, “a god” or the gods but “something.” I like that word: Something. ‘Cause you can explain virtually everything that happens on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence with science–from evolution to life, to death and the universe–but in my experience? There’s really no way to describe how it all or what I like to call “The All” began. Even if you believe that the universe on this, and every side of every wormhole in existence has always existed in some way, shape or form there has to have been a beginning. Or perhaps that’s me trying to impose order on chaos. But it’s what I believe. And that’s really what this all comes down to, guys: Belief. Whether you agree with me or not is irrelevant. If you choose to debate what I’m saying please do so in the “comments” section and I will do my best to respond.

So what do I believe? Simple: I believe that once upon a time, something existed, and said something was a very young, very curious, very lonely something. He/She/It had a knack for creativity… imagination. One day, He/She/It took two possibilities and synthesized them into what He/She/It hoped would be fact. Whammo: The beginning. But little did He/She/It know that what He/She/It had created was at it’s core uncontrollable. So He/She/It did the best that He/She/It could, kind of like me and you and you (yeah, you; don’t look so surprised) trying to control our oft times uncontrollable lives. It made mistakes along the way like we do… it still makes them to this day like we do; He/She/It can’t get everything right which is how we end up with a shooting in DC, a fire in a shore resort north of AC, a flood and another shooting out west and a shooting up north, not to mention a dictator in the Far East that likes basketball and another one in the Middle East that is sitting on a cache of chemical weapons. Did I mention Cold War Deuce? Brought to you by “Hot Shots Part Deux.” Why? ‘Cause I can. And ’cause Charlie Sheen is always winning.

That something? He/She/It is still learning and likely will continue learning long after me, my minions, my wife, all my loved ones and all of you reading this are long gone. Maybe one day He/She/It’ll “figure it out” and what was once eminently changeable will become consistent. But I see no indication that that day is coming any time soon. And maybe by the time it does those two, initial possibilities that He/She/It synthesized into fact will “fizzle” out like some chemical reactions do and the whole shebang will come crashing down. Then? Well, depending on where something is at that point He/She/It will either chose to start over from scratch, or concede defeat and go back to twiddling His/Her/It’s proverbial thumbs in the vast, silent nothingness. Admittedly? There are days where I wish I could do that. Is it wrong of me to believe that on days like today, when the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence appears ready to explode from one too many “possibilities synthesized into fact,” He/She/It does, as well?

So to my friend who posted what he/she posted on Facebook today I say this: In answer to your question “how do I believe” I don’t know. You just do. Or do not. It’s really up to you. But when you can’t take your eyes off of CNN or Fox News… when the naval yard in DC is on fire and even a historic flood can’t put it out or eradicate the shooter, nay the shooters that terrorized it this AM, a movie theater last summer and an elementary school last winter… when the existence of God, “a god” or the gods seems utterly and completely unfeasible, look into the eyes of your husband/wife like I look in to the eyes of mine; look into the eyes of your own minions… feel the love that you feel for them surging through you and tell me, even as your subjective universe is “flaming out” around you that there isn’t something “out there.” He/She/It exists…

He/She/It’s just still learning.

The above blog post was brought to you by something. Something: Giving Frank Marsh a topic to “talk” about for 38 plus years.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. And say a prayer for the victims of the DC naval yard shooting, guys. If you don’t pray, spare them a thought. Please. Thank you.

My Own, Personal Samwise Gamgee

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“It’s like in the great stories… The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think… I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something…. That there’s some good in this world… and it’s worth fighting for.”

Eminent Sage of Wisdom, Literary Hero and Gardener, Samwise Gamgee (from The Two Towers)

Okay so admittedly? I would have preferred a non-Sean Astin portrait of Samwise “Sam” Gamgee but unfortunately, the only JPEGs of Sam on the internet are either pictures or memes like this one from The Lord of the Rings movies. But this one kinda’ resonates with the theme of this little blog entry.

I’d wager that most everyone has either read the books or seen Peter Jackson’s masterful movie trilogy at some point in the last decade plus. If you haven’t? Seriously, people. PRIORITIES. I’m not saying they’re Star Wars good but next to Star Wars it’s arguably the greatest trilogy in movie history (NOTE: I do not include Indiana Jones because of the travesty that was “Crystal Skulls”–even though it was the fourth movie and is not, technically a part of the “trilogy”–Back to the Future because of “Part Two” and The Godfather because of “Part Three” and Sofia Coppola). Read ’em, or see ’em at some point before you die and parents: Get your children to read them AND The Hobbit before they’re too old to appreciate them. You can avoid The Silmarillion if you’d like. There are days I wish I had.

Everyone has a favorite character or characters in the Lord of the Rings books or movies. My wife, Nicole? She loves Strider/Aragorn (not Viggo Mortensen, mind you, but the character he plays). My friend Caren (booyakasha, Caren: RESPECT)? She loves Gollum. There may even be one or two people out there reading this that like Frodo though I’ve got to tell you, I was never a big Frodo Baggins fan. Sure, he’s the ring bearer for 90% of the books/movies and that has to count for something but really? Save for the whole holding-the-evil-at-bay thing long enough for him to dispose of the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom what does he really do? For sh*t’s sake, he technically doesn’t even keep the evil at bay long enough to dispose of the ring. Were it not for Gollum’s interference, he likely would have stayed invisible, walked past Sam, out of the cave, back down the slopes of Mount Doom, out of Mordor and into a dark hole somewhere to live out his years. Sauron would have won, The Shire would have started looking like a post-Industrial ruin ala Detroit and… well. I’m guessing you get my point.

But Sam, guys? For me, Sam has been and always will be the true hero of The Lord of the Rings, AND my favorite character. Don’t believe me? Re-reference the above meme and tell me I’m wrong. Please. One particular part of it sticks out in my mind, though:

“Even carries him [Frodo] up Mount Doom.”

Why? Because everyone, at some point in their life needs a Samwise Gamgee. When the going gets to be it’s toughest, everyone needs someone that is willing to pick them up in their weakness, throw them over their shoulder and carry them. We can’t do it on our own. No one is THAT strong.

I’ve encountered many people over the course of my almost 38 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence that claim to be that strong but I have never met anyone… EVER… that didn’t need to be carried every so often. Whether carried by someone else or carried by God like in the poem “Footprints” (also a personal “fave,” and I’m not an overly religious person), I consider myself a very strong soul. But there are times in MY life where I’ve needed to rely on my own, personal Samwise Gamgee to cook me a “brace of conies,” or talk me down from doing something stupid like handing the One Ring over to the Nazgul. And oft times I, too, have put a proverbial sword point to that noble person’s neck because I didn’t WANT to keep going. I wanted to give up.

Those people? Top to bottom, from my wife to my mother and my sister to my co-workers to my friends of a couple of months to my friends of a couple of decades… to all of them, I owe an eternal debt of gratitude. As Ed Wilkinson says in ENDWORLD – A Novel, “Wus.” I have no idea what it means. I Googled it and came up with “a derivative of the terms ‘wuss’ and ‘p*ssy'” but my OWN friend, Ed, used to say that too me all the time. I think it’s an Eastern term of endearment. If he’s reading this, maybe he can chime in. And Ed? if you ARE reading this and you really WERE calling me a cross between a wuss and a p*ssy, f-you, buddy. And “wus” right back at you.

But even that is not enough, sometimes. Sometimes, something more is required and that something? My own, personal Samwise Gamgee? That which this blog entry would be dedicated to if it had a dedication page? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

One…

Two…

Three.

Give up? You make me sad. WRITING, ladies and gents. WRITING. When things start to go cuckoo, I always turn to writing. There have been times when I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t: That I’d put it on hold until such time as I… for lack of a better phrase “sort my sh*t out.” But that’s about as realistic as the idea of Gandalf and the Balrog falling through Middle Earth and popping out on the other side to do battle, Gandalf with his sword and staff and the Balrog with his fire… sword, whip, WHATEVER (I’m sure it could morph into a spoon if Bal-lee Baby wanted it to; the perks of being an “ancient evil”).

Last week, I wrote that I was at a crossroads with Children of Endworld. A dark place that I really don’t want to go. But I’ve determined something in the last few days, ladies and gents. I’ve determined that I NEED to keep going for a couple of reasons. First and foremost because people are counting on me to finish it in a reasonable amount of time and not 19 years from now when I’m almost as old as Gandalf (okay, maybe not THAT old; he’s, like, thousands of years old, and I’m a pup by comparison). Those people? The ones that enjoyed ENDWORLD – A Novel and want to read more? Well, I guess I just don’t want to let you down. So either tonight or tomorrow, I’m going to resume what I started and see what happens. Amy Veitz (my editor) be forewarned: Parts One and Two are going to be popping up in your email within a few moments of when I complete this. By virtue of being the person who volunteered to reign in my oft times “tough language” a couple of years ago you get first dibs on William’s continuance. I look forward to hearing back from you. Booyakasha: RESPECT. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

The second reason? Because writing has always been, for me, my most important Samwise Gamgee. That in no way, shape or form discounts any others from my beloved wife, Nicole, to my friend and brother Matt who once upon a time took me out to Denny’s every night to help me put my life into perspective, and lately has been doing the same. Not Denny’s. We’re too old for a Grand Slam breakfast, nowadays (clogged arteries and all that). Booyakasha to YOU sir. Once again: RESPECT.

But writing? Writing has been the lone constant for me for as long as I can remember. It has carried most of my equipment (or, if you’d prefer, “baggage”). It has never defeated a gigantic spider but it HAS helped me get passed my nightmares. It ALWAYS puts up with my whining (and by God, I do a LOT of whining, you just don’t “hear” it on here). It never saved me single-handedly from an Orc tower but it DID rescue me from a lot. From the loss of my adopted father many moons ago to the saga that was me, and the Feminine Bane of My Early Existence back when we all lived in “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else. It has oft times carried me up the slopes of Mount Doom.

Do I give it enough credit? Probably. Does it deserve more? Again, probably. I owe it to my own, personal Samwise Gamgee to… as Sean Astin historically ad-libbed during the shooting of “Return of the King,” “be rid of it once and for all!

“Come on, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”

Admit it, guys: You teared up. I still do, every time I see it.

And I always will.

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 🙂 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 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:

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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 NovelCHILDREN 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.