What Thanksgiving Means To Me By Way Of Hashtags, The Bastard Child Of Zumba And Crossfit, A Little ENDWORLD, A Few More Hashtags And A Life Less Extraordinary

Well Good Evening, Morning or Afternoon to you ALL. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, or #HappyThanksgivingEve to those of you that love a good Hashtag. I, myself, really REALLY love a good Hashtag. I use them religiously across all of my Social Media platforms. I don’t know if I really understand the whole Hashtag thing–mine vary from one devoted to my youngest minion–#NatNatBoo–to one devoted to my every-other Saturday morning routine–#Crumba. Yes, #Crumbaisathingnow, or so that @fmarshauthor guy Tweets. For those of you that are wondering what Crumba is, Crumba as the bastard child of Zumba and Crossfit: Two activities that participants are fervent, and in some cases militant about. I hold nothing against the practitioners of both. In truth? I’m a bit envious. My idea of activity right now is yard work, cleaning house, doing laundry, playing with my minions and trying to top 10K steps daily on my Fitbit, something that I’ve only managed to achieve two or three times in the six months since I bought it. So let’s get that out of the way now. Dear Crossfit and Zumba peeps: Keep on keepin’ on. Keep rocking those deadlifts and “ooh ooh’ing” to “Uptown Funk.”

There are a probably a few of you reading this right now that are wondering “hey, where the f*ck has this guy been for the last year?” You’d be right to wonder. My last blog post (incidentally also a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” ponderance) was on 11/26 of 2014. That’s an eternity for a guy that used to pride himself on writing every day. What can I say? The same thing I always say when I disappear off the literary radar for a bit: Life, man. Gul’darned, cotton-picking LIFE. It gets in the way. Between being a good Branch Manager, being a good dad, being a good husband (all things that I’m always trying to improve upon) et al et AL, writing with any sort of consistency has been a tough thing to do. The good news? Over the last two weeks, I HAVE been writing more. CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD mainly, otherwise known as #CHILDRENOFENDWORLD in my own, subjective Twitterverse (#Amwriting #Homestretch, baby). If everything goes the way I hope it to, I should be done the first draft sometime within the next few weeks, so those of you that have been waiting patiently for the continuance of William’s story? Your patience will soon pay off. And if you want to Beta read it, message me here, on Facebook or on Twitter. I’ll be lining up about a dozen once it’s fully edited and ready to go.

Is it any good? That’s a tough question to answer. I’d be lying if I said I personally didn’t like it. I actually like it more than ENDWORLD. A LOT more. I’ll be honest with you: While it continues William’s story, it’s a very different story. Darker. But deeper, too. More spiritual, really. In fact, spirituality is a huge theme in it, one that I expect will carry over into Book Three, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD (#HEAVENANDENDWORLD #Areyougettingtiredofthisyet). Okay. I’ll ease up on the Hastags moving forward. #Acceptmyapologies #STOPF*CKINGHASHTAGGINGEVERYTHING!

Anywhos, I digress. Focus. Focus and we’re back on point. I’m not here tonight to write about my writing. I’m here tonight because I cannot let a year go by without a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” blog post. It’s tradition. And LIFE cannot get in the way of traditions. The thing is? It’s been a rough year, friends. At times REALLY rough. It’s definitely had it’s high points: Disney World with my minions, my wife and my in-laws, a new Mad Max movie (still the best movie of the year, IMO; at least until the new Star Wars movie comes out next month). There’s more but my head hurts a bit too much tonight and I’m sure you don’t want to read 5000 words about every little, piddling good thing that’s happened to me this year. Back in April, I passed a Kidney Stone and it hurt like a MOTHERf*cker. See? That’s a good thing but do you really want to read about it? Survey says: HELL no.

In truth? It’s been for the most part a challenging year. Sick loved ones, saying goodbye to my childhood home (booyakasha, Maple Street and J-Town: RESPECT), turning 40, turning 40 and did I mention turning 40? Yeah. That’s a tough pill to swallow. #Thisis40 and let me tell you the Judd Apatow movie was on. F*cking. POINT. The only thing it was missing was the overabundance of white hair and a sagging stomach. That said, it’s a bit tough to ruminate on the good when so much of what has happened this year has been… well? Not great. But ruminate I will because if I’ve learned one thing over my now 40+ year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence it’s that it could always be worse. And at the least? There’s THAT to be thankful for.

So what does Thanksgiving mean to me… hell, to ANYone in a less-than-spectacular year? Well, it remains a time to give thanks for the basics: Family, friends, good health, a roof over my head and food in my belly, a new Mad Max movie and NOW a new Star Wars movie to look forward to, a six year old minion that enjoys reading and writing as much as I do (and has her mom’s aptitude toward Math and Science, as well; it’s a powerful combination), a three year old minion with a propensity for “twirly skirts,” princess crowns and “squeezy hugs” and a wife who at 35 is just as appealing to me as she was when we started dating 14 years ago this month (11/11/01, a day that had lived and will continue to live in infamy). But it goes deeper than that, perhaps moreso when you’re coming down the #homestretch of 365 daunting days and already looking forward to embracing 2016 with open arms and a plea: Dear God please do NOT be like 2015. Pretty please? Thank you, Baby Jesus. Like CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, there’s something spiritual about it.

I can’t really describe it save for through experience. Feeling. It’s that experience… that feeling of wandering out to the curb on a chilly night after you just got done making Sauteed Apples and Cornbread (or as #NatNatBoo calls it “Corn Cake”) for Thanksgiving Dinner, lighting a cigarette, looking up at the full moon, inhaling deeply and smelling wood burning in a fireplace somewhere near. For no reason whatsoever a little smile graces your face and a little bit of serendipity wells up inside of you despite your pounding head and dire need for a good night’s sleep. As Creed sang back in the days of my wayward youth in a song that STILL has meaning for me today, “There’s a peace inside your soul/Let it be your friend/It will help you carry on/In the end/There’s a peace inside your soul.” That peace? It’s what sustains me through the tough times.

But there’s more. I’ve come to realize something over the course of the last 11, soon to be 12 months. I feel it every time I see my girls after a long day at the office (and man? Some of them have been really, REALLY long; maybe not physically but mentally? Aw hell yes; a few have taken me to the brink of passing out), get a “squeezy hug” from Natalie and I hear about Cara’s mandatory Three Things she must reveal to Nicole and I every night that she did at school that day (which usually revolve around a subject–Math for instance–recess and either Spanish, Music, Art, Library or Computers depending on the day). That feeling? The aforementioned “more?” Simple, friends. Love with a capital “L.” It wells up inside of me to the point where I can barely suppress it and focus on driving, or making dinner, or giving Natalie a bath and spotting Cara while she showers. I look at their Cherubic little faces–still so much like Nicole’s and for that I remain grateful–and listen to them speak, or sing, or even bicker. And I smile. Maybe even shed a little tear (though I’m quick to disguise it from their view; they hate it when I cry). And I think to myself: Thank God for them. For my wife. For my friends who I can still talk to about any and everything from the most mundane–Rousey losing to Holm for instance–to the most complex–discussion of the respective books we’re working on. For my family who I can still call if I need advice.

THAT’S what Thanksgiving means to me at the ripe old age of 40+ guys and gals. It’s a time to give thanks for all of the intangibles that I have. Money? Fame? Success? All are wonderful and I’ll never stop pushing myself to achieve the highest level that I can achieve and obtain of each. But all of those things really are secondary. In a way I’ve come full circle. When I was younger, I didn’t have ANY of those things. I learned to live and learned to love without them. I grew from a boy to a man and suddenly those things were there in spades and they WERE important to me. To a certain extent they remain so though the thing… the THINGS that are the most important to me now are not the amount of money in my wallet or my title; not whether I sold 1000 copies of ENDWORLD or 10. Family. Friends. Those little moments of peace like standing by moonlight on a chilly, Autumn night, the smell of burning wood in my nostrils and the taste of Apple Cider on my lips, waiting for my girls to return from a hayride to the Witch’s House (booyakasha, Linvilla Orchards: RESPECT) while I chat with a close friend. Or lying in bed next to my wife at midnight and laughing ourselves to sleep with anecdotes. Even sitting here tonight, typing these words while listening to the soundtrack to the Rocky movies (it’s called “The Rocky Story” if you want to pick it up or better yet, stream it via Spotify, iTunes et al et AL) and discussing with Nicole between paragraphs how the f*ck we’re going to get out and see “Creed” in the near future when we can’t get a babysitter and all Cara and Natalie want to see is “The Good Dinosaur” and in Cara’s case, “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

Life, friends? It doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time. Sometimes a life less extraordinary is better for the heart, mind and soul. It teaches you humility… teaches you to really, REALLY appreciate the things you have. By the cold light of a full moon on Thanksgiving Eve 2015 while a cigarette hangs from one corner of your mouth, you realize that once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

You thought you’d never have the things you have today. You were miserable. You spent your days and nights pining away for an ideal that really was nothing more than a fictionalized autobiography of your life. What you envisioned, not the really, really REAL world. The really, really REAL world is a what waits for you inside your little, two story Colonial on a sleepy little street in Suburbia, US of A. It may not be the dream you originally dreamed–the sometimes impossible dream–but guess what? It’s the dream that THAT dream became while you weren’t looking. And amazingly enough, you realize as you flick your cigarette out into the street and turn and stroll up your driveway, your shadow cast in front of you in full relief that this? THIS was what you always wanted. A home. A family. Consistency. They’ll always be a little part of you that yearns for a bit more. Use it, friends. Let it drive you. Never give up. Find peace inside your soul… let it be your friend, but never totally stop reaching for the stars. If you grab ‘hold of one, make it your b*tch but never, EVER neglect what you already have. #Noregrets, folks. To quote the great Paul McCartney, “money can’t buy you love.”

And with that? I’m spent. #Itsgettinglate #IvealreadyneglectedNicolefortoolongtonight. But I’m glad I did this. And I’m glad that if you’re reading this right now, you once again came along for the ride. I appreciate you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Your support. Your candid feedback both good AND bad. I oft times end these little ponderances with a long list of arbitrary thank you’s but tonight? I’m not going to do that. #Keepingitreal. I’ll just end it with one. Thank YOU, friends, readers and fellow sh*theads. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

#THEEND.

Another Quick Hit

We’ll, fellow Sh*theads. Guess what? As of this AM, ENDWORLD – A Novel has been submitted for design and formatting. Next step publication.

I’m equal parts elated and terrified about what happens from this moment forth and if this seems like a retread of my earlier Facebook post, it is. BTW, If you don’t follow me on Facebook you can check me out HERE or on my brand spanking new Facebook Author Page HERE. End aside.

I honestly don’t know where I’ll be posting updates on ENDWORLD – A Novel from here on out. My plan is to launch the book simultaneously across my entire electronic footprint. “Random Musings” is a big part of that and for those of you that follow me here? Thank you for your support and continuous reading of my glorified mental flatulence. I promise that I will continue to pollute your minds, even after the book goes “live” and hopefully sells 100,000 copies.

Okay, maybe not that many. In truth? A couple hundred would be enough to justify this almost 20 year process for me and keep me going. CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, the sequel, promises to be even more interesting so I hope that I get to write it. Enh, who am I kidding? I’m going to write it regardless.

Time for me to wax philosophical for a moment: Books write themselves. The writer/author has little or no control over the process. He/she is a vessel through which the story makes itself known. Did I just personify a human driven experience? Yes I did, and I may sound like a kook for doing so. But I’ve always believed that stories… At least the good ones… Exist already. The writer/author’s role is merely to reach into the Ether, grab said story by the nuts and write it down.

I may never sell a single book. But in my mind? I’m fulfilling my role. Storyteller, vessel… Whatever I am. Other than being a good husband and Dad it’s my purpose.

I can hear people saying how much that last statement sounds like something my Biological would say. You know what? It is. He’s as much of a kook as I am. I’ve never denied that there are aspects of him in me. Every day I look in the mirror and see them. But me? I choose to embody the good parts of him and not the bad.

As I sit here typing these words, Natalie has fallen asleep on my lap while drinking a bottle. Sesame Street is still playing in the background. Nicole and Cara are out seeing “Pinkalicious: The Musical.” As Creed sang, “There’s a peace inside [my] soul. Let it be [my] friend.” Whatever the outcome of this next step and the publication of ENDWORLD – A Novel I have achieved my goal. I am satisfied with what I have created. Will others be?

We shall see. Stay tuned, fellow Sh*theads. Updates to follow.

ADDENDUM: I just posted the Prologue of ENDWORLD – A Novel to Createspace, “Alone.” If you’re interested in checking it out, you can download it and view it HERE. You can also post reviews to it’s review page. Which would be most appreciated. I know its only a couple paragraphs but I’d still like to know what people think. Thanks, guys! Have a great day! 

Of March Madness, Nutrisystem, Miley “Twerking” to “The Rains of Castamere” and the Grand, Quiet Time of the Aspiring Writer’s Soul

Otherwise known as “the time after you ship your recently (or not so recently in my case) completed, e-formatted novel off to a handful of Beta readers and your editor but before you decide on a cover, typeset it and upload it to Amazon.com for sale.” Yeah. I figured that “the grand, quiet time of the aspiring writer’s soul” was a bit more eloquent, not to mention a blatantly obvious shout-out to Douglas Adams’ “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.” You may agree. Or not. Either way, its your prerogative, Bobby Brown.

Seriously, though? If it wasn’t for March Madness right now I’d be going completely stir crazy. Few sporting events get me more excited than the prolonged, three week orgy of basketball, brackets, beer and wings that is the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, this year’s “orgy” involves following the action primarily on my phone and my computer, mourning the first day loss of one of my Final Four teams (curse you, Lobos!), drinking glass upon glass of water (already up to five, today) and eating Nutrisystem Mexican-Style Tortilla Soup.

Regarding the latter, a few words to those of you that are considering adopting Nutrisystem as a means of dropping a couple of pounds before an event like, but not limited to a wedding: The food’s not bad. Taste wise its all pretty good. But the portions are tiny as f*ck. They’re made even tinier when you follow the instructions, only to have your already minuscule container of Mexican-Style Tortilla Soup blow it’s load all over your microwave. You are left with a bit less than half of your original meal. Were it not for the multi-grain tortilla and two pieces of cheese I brought as a “Smartcarb” and the apple I brought as a “Powerfuel” I’d be screwed until snack time. Is starvation a part of the Glycemic Index? If so, then this diet is working phenomenally! I’m down six pounds since this past Sunday. But I think my stomach is beginning to eat itself. If I break 10 pounds by this Sunday I’ll already be 75% of the way to my “goal weight.” Know what that means?

You’ve got it, guys! Wings and beer for the Sweet 16!

Basketball and dieting aside, this really is a quiet time in my life. One of the quieter ones that I can remember. I don’t know that much has changed. Responsibility-wise I’m in the same boat that I was in a year, two years, and even three years ago. Sure, I’ve got an extra little one to care for and sure, my three and a half year old is no longer as portable as she once was. But things aren’t that different. It really does come down to the whole writing thing. I’m not actively working on anything right now, be said “anything” Endworld – A Novel, one of its planned sequels or something else. In truth? The only thing that I’m doing right now is updating my blog. While that technically is “something else” its different. Discrepant (one of my favorite words that I never get to use). Discordant? Only if I’m trying to sing a duet with my three year old. I swear that kid already has a better voice than I do.

Hence the fact that I’ve been pumping out two blog entries each week for the last couple, a fact which hopefully isn’t getting too tiresome. What can I say? I need to be writing. Its ingrained in my DNA. My Biological? He was… is a writer, though his style of writing is a  wee bit different than mine. He was always very talented at describing a scene in the least amount of words possible. Me? People have told me that I’m too wordy in my descriptions. Some have told me that my strength is writing believable dialogue, something that my aforementioned Biological was never able to do well. Mind you, I haven’t read anything that the guy has written save for a few letters in the last almost 20 years but based on their content? Yeah. His writing style hasn’t changed much since he crossed the proverbial line from “Father” to “Biological” (he hadn’t been “Dad” in a while). He was always more James Joyce than Stephen King.

Me? I’m a mutt. I’m the bastard offspring of a dozen different writers and their styles. I’m the aspiring author Frank Snow of Broomall, Pennsylvania. If you have no idea what that means I urge you to subscribe to HBO and watch “Game of Thrones.” It’s the best show on television. You have until next Sunday, March 31st to get caught up before Season Three begins. Seasons One and Two are only 10 episodes long each. Plenty of time. You may have to sacrifice a game or two of the Tournament but I promise you that you won’t regret it. It has something for everyone. Even boobs and a**. Why boobs and a**? Trust me: You’ll understand by the end of the first episode.

Furthermore, don’t just watch the television show and accept it as canon. Read the books. There are five of them so far with two more too come, and “A Game of Thrones” is just the title of the first one. The others are “A Clash of Kings,” “A Storm of Swords,” “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” (author: George R R Martin). I know that reading for leisure is, for many younger people as tortuous as watching paint dry and the prospect of reading something longer than 1000 pages is almost, but not as frightening as watching Miley Cyrus “twerk” in a unicorn suit. But try it. You might be surprised. I used to consume 1000 plus page books like “It” for breakfast when I was a young “whipper snapper.” I read the Bible for fun. Books like those? They not only made me want to be a writer, they made me lust to be one. ‘Course, if the prospect of reading something longer than 200 pages doesn’t appeal to you, you likely won’t purchase my novel when it becomes available (423 pages, pre-edit and pre-typeset). And if the process of making money for a living appeals to you? Well, you can still make money as an aspiring author but guess what? You won’t be doing it as a writer. You’ll be doing it as a Retail Manager. Or an Office Manager, and you’ll be writing in what little spare time you have.

I’m not trying to discourage you from following your dreams, guys. I did. I still am. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them. The unabashed truth on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Let me take this opportunity to say thanks for reading “Random Musings,” even though many of you may now be departing for that really spiffy cat blog you saw beneath my URL on Google. For those of you that decide to remain, I promise that I’ll keep updating this site, even after Endworld – A Novel goes “live,” whenever that ends up being. Some days, the long road from conception to publication, self or traditional really does seem endless. People told me that, but I never believed it. Until now, that is.

Ah, the grand, quiet time of the aspiring writer’s soul. I’ve been here before, and I forgot how incredibly dull it is. On a happier note, my March Madness bracket–which took a beating yesterday–is looking better over the first slate of games of today. I figure if I can get out of today with five or six total losses in the first round (I currently have four) and still only one team out of my Sweet Sixteen eliminated (curse you again, New Mexico!), I’ll be able to make up many of the points I squandered yesterday on teams like the aforementioned one and Pitt (the last stand of the Big East? Come on, Pitt! For f*cks sake, it was Wichita State!), even though I’m also -1 in my Elite Eight and -1 in my Final Four. On an even happier note, I just consumed a piece of Nutrisystem chocolate cake and my stomach has, for the moment, stopped eating itself. I am feeling less starved than I was feeling a few hours ago. Might this whole Glycemic Index thing actually be working? Survey says: Probably not. I’m likely just getting used to the emptiness.

No sooner had I written the last paragraph than Ole’ Miss went on a run and is currently leading another of my Sweet 16 teams–Wisconsin–by six with a minute and a half left to play. Make that seven. Well? You can’t win ’em all, I guess. Some days, though? I wish I could travel to the future. In doing so, I would be able to:

1. See who wins this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and adjust my bracket accordingly. Maybe then I’d not risk something as sacred as my Sweet 16, my Elite Eight and my Final Four on a mid-major school like New Mexico or a proverbial disappointment like Wisconsin. It seems that every year, one of the regions of my bracket begins, right around this time on the second day of the Tournament, to look like the scarred surface of a battlefield. This year is no different. The West? Yep. It’s lost. On a happier note, I’m still perfect in the Midwest and the South, and I only have one loss in the East. A man can dream. A man can…

2. See what happens in Season Three of “Game of Thrones.” Okay, I’ll admit that I already know what happens and all I’m going to say to those of you that have A.) Never read the books or B.) Not made it through “A Storm of Swords” yet is this: The Rains of Castamere. That may hold no significance for you now but trust me when I tell you that by the end of this season, it will. As will boobs and a** for all you young “whipper snappers” that watch it and everything else on HBO for… well, boobs and a**. I think I’m more interested in seeing the reactions of the people that have never read the books to what happens than I am in actually seeing it. Their reactions? That would be enough to get me to travel into the future. Yet while I’m there, I think I’ll…

3. Check and see if adopting Nutrisystem was really worth it. How do I look at the wedding? Do I look “tight” or do I still looked like a stuffed sausage wearing pinstripes? If the former, hooray. I now have motivation for sticking it out until the end of the program. If the latter? Well sh*t. I might as well just stop on the way home and pick up a bucket of wings, a jug of blue cheese and a case of Yeungling to watch March Madness on my phone and my computer with. Because really…

4. I could see if it was all worth it. All the writing and revising; all the waiting and wondering about whether or not people will like Endworld – A Novel. Beta readers are great, and if you utilize them right you get a good cross-section of your potential audience (young adult mixed with new adult mixed with middle agers mixed with ole’ timers) to give you feedback before you go “live” with your book. But if I traveled to the future, I’d be able to see the finished product: The cover, the interior et al. I’d be able to read the reviews that people have given it on Amazon.com.

It may seem to many of you reading this blog that I devote a lot of time to talking about my novel, and very little time actually working toward getting it published. Trust me: I’m working my a** off. So much so that when I’m not being an Office Manager or spending time with my family its all that I’m doing. That’s what makes now so strange. I feel like I should be working on it. But there’s not much that I can do at the moment. The book? It’s in good hands. I need to be patient. After all, I have all the time in the world to do this. Why not do it right? I assure you that I will be talking even more about it as the next few days, weeks and months pass. Hell, I’ll likely be marketing it here on “Random Musings” one it goes “live.” I know, that cat blog is looking more and more appealing by the word, isn’t it?

Sadly, I can’t travel into the future. I can’t see the outcome of the Tournament, I can’t see myself in a mirror and I can’t know based on the opinions of a few people if my book is going to succeed or fail. What I can do is cheer for the teams that I picked that are still playing. I can drink my eight plus cups of water a day (up to seven, now), consume my “Smartcarbs” and “Powerfuels” and force whatever I choose as my Nutrisystem Dinner Entree down my gullet. Most importantly, though? I can “just keep writing, just keep writing,” even if two blog entries a week balloons into three. I can’t allow myself to get rusty because once Endworld – A Novel is, blessedly, done and “live,” there’s a second and a third book to write. Maybe more. Who knows?

In closing? Well, I can do this one of two ways. I can post the video of Miley Cyrus “twerking” to Flo Rida’s “WOP” or I can post the lyrics to “The Rains of Castamere.” Both represent an ending: One to a career (sorry, Hannah Montana, but this is the low point of your ever diminishing career) and the other to… well, no spoilers. Obviously I’m more inclined to post the latter, but the masochist within me really wants to post the former. I know! Someone needs to overdub Miley’s “twerking” video with Bronn singing “The Rains of Castamere” pre-the Battle of Blackwater. Then? Well sh*t. If anything can penetrate the grand, quiet time of this aspiring writer’s soul, that’s it.

Get on it, Youtubers. And everyone? Have a great weekend. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

A Sh*thead Writer’s Post-Mortem – Sizing Up The “Finished” Product

Good Morning, fellow Sh*theads! In my subjective universe that qualifies as a greeting, not an insult. If you take offense to it I apologize, but you were forewarned about Sh*theads and my definition thereof previously. For those of you that are new to “Random Musings,” or those of you that are in need of a refresher course on my psuedo-insanity, a Sh*thead is pretty much anyone that leads a relatively normal, nine to five existence, myself included. That’s it. Not exactly earth shattering, huh?

I say “relatively” because there is a gray area. Take me, for example. I have a full time job. I am a homeowner. I have a wife, two human children and two feline ones. I have favorite television shows and movies, favorite books and websites. I kinda’ have a bedtime though lately, that bedtime has fluctuated between roughly 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM. I occasionally drink and catch a smoke. Normal, right?

On the surface? Yes. But beneath the surface, my life is anything but normal. I’m trying to complete and publish a novel. I’m grappling with certain events that are poised to transpire within the next few weeks–events which I will not go into on this blog. There are some things about me that I don’t mind putting out there… out here for the world to see but others? They are for me, and me alone to contend with. That said…

My always perplexed mind has been highly preoccupied these last few weeks. I wouldn’t say “vexed.” I don’t know that I’m vexed by anything but preoccupied? Most definitely. You see, this whole novel writing, rewriting, re-rewriting and re-re-rewriting process has been equal parts invigorating and taxing. Invigorating because I’m doing what I love with a story idea that remains as much a part of my heart, soul and mind as my wife and my children. But taxing because so much has changed since I originally wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel almost two decades ago. Getting back into the mind(s) of the character(s) is, at times, incredibly difficult.

Consider: The novel’s protagonist, William MacNuff is an 18 year old kid on the run from the totalitarian society which holds him, his family, and everyone else under its proverbial boot heel. I’m a 37 year old father staring down 38 with equal parts dread and… well, just dread, living in a democratic society. The fact that the society that William inhabits is a machine run one is not beyond me. The fact that I’ve gone hard-core dystopic and layered in another, more ambitious story on top of (or beneath, depending on your perspective) the original story is not lost on me, either. I know the risk that I am taking, not just with what many would consider outdated subject matter(s) but with scope. Aspiring writers simply don’t write about post-apocalyptic worlds run by robots anymore, and they sure as f*ck don’t write about alternate realities. As for a synthesis of the two? I don’t know that it’s ever been done before. Asimov’s days as a top of the chart author are long past, as is Asimov (RIP), and Multiverse Theory? It is a subject generally left to the Stephen Hawking’s and Michio Kaku’s of the world.

Nowadays? Aspiring authors write about vampires and witches, werewolves and zombies. I hold nothing against them. I would never hold anything against anyone that is trying to perfect and profit from their art. We’re all the same, deep down inside “in places we don’t like to talk about at parties.” (Nicholson? Booyakasha. Respect). You, me, Asimov and Meyer? One. Just because I prefer “Foundation” to the “Twilight” series doesn’t mean that “Twilight” sucks. Look at how much money it’s made. Obviously someone out there likes Edward and Bella’s story. But my tastes remain traditional, reared in the same kind of subject matter that I grew up reading, back when vampires were of the Bram Stoker variety, witches had green skin and black, pointy hats, werewolves were played by Michael Landon (RIP) and “The Walking Dead” wasn’t even a glint in Robert Kirkman’s eye.

Still, there is the problem of a 37 going on 38 year old writing an 18 year old’s story. In the First Person, no less. I thought I’d left things like teen angst and naivete far behind me. But the process of re, re, re… re-imagining ENDWORLD – A Novel has forced me to reexamine it and let me tell you something, guys: Its f*cked up. Really. I’ll admit, I’ve grown quite complacent in my “old” age. It’s been a while since I felt the same kind of emotions that I used to feel back then. That’s not a bad thing, nor is it something that I miss. Far from it: It’s mental evolution, otherwise known as “growing up.” But I can honestly and truthfully say that I believe the book works on many levels as both a testimony to that era of mine and most people’s lives and a testimony to the things and the people that inspire me, presently. Nicole? Cara? Natalie? ‘Dorna and Roxy? Booyakasha. Respect. I love you all.

Others will disagree–it’s inevitable–but I feel confidant that the story that I set out to write originally at 18–back when I and my brethren lived on a two square mile plot of prison ground that we endearingly referred to as “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else–is well-preserved within the framework of the story that I ended up writing at 36 and 37. There’s still an echo of my original motivation… my original concept of an “Autobiographical Fiction” in it, but it’s only an echo. One of Pat McClane’s ethereal “haints.” Like randomly hearing a song that you haven’t heard in a couple of decades and smiling, despite the fact that the person you were… the person who once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…attached so much significance to said song no longer exists as anything other than a memory: A fading, mental picture of a lovelorn, pre-adult who set out to fictionalize in words the life he wanted to live because he was disenchanted with the one that he was living. That ripped and yellowing picture? It was captioned “Endworld.” ENDWORLD – A Novel, though? It’s a JPEG. And while I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old, captioned picture that I keep right here and right here 

[POINTS SIMULTANEOUSLY TO HIS HEART AND HEAD]

…despite its physical, nonexistence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of being, it is no longer relevant. That’s not to say that the JPEG is. I’ll let the people that chose to read ENDWORLD – A Novel decide that. What’s the worst that can happen? I put it out there, people read it and hate it? Not everyone is going to like it. Hell, not all of my Beta readers liked it though in my defense, very few have yet read what I hope will be the final, final draft. Any of you reading this right now that are afraid of what my reaction will be if you read it and tell me that it stinks take heart: You can. Me = Mentally strong like bull. My ego is lead-lined. Or Black Shale lined if you’re an ex-pat member of the People’s Rebellion for Freedom and Equality (PRFE for short). But I digress. I don’t want to give away too much, too soon. That said…

It’s a gray and dreary afternoon here on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The wind is howling, the rain is falling and soon, said rain will begin transitioning to snow. You’ve gotta’ love a good winter storm–this one is called “Saturn.” I hope the snow holds off until after I’ve picked up my girls from school and gotten them home safely. I hope it holds off until my wife gets home securely from work later this evening. I don’t really mind a winter storm so long as I’m home for its duration and not out in the middle of it. It puts me in mind of a scene from the planned sequel to ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. In it, the protagonist, William MacNuff has been reunited with his brethren after… well, just after (no spoilers, especially when only a handful of people have read the first book and no one save for me has read what I hope will be the final, final draft). They sit down around a makeshift table in a makeshift tent in the middle of a raging blizzard to eat a “feast” which, by the minimalist and rationing-influenced standards of the PRFE is little more than the proverbial equivalent of bread and water. But the quantity of food available is not the essence of this scene. As the meal progresses, William is brought up to speed on all that he has missed in the last X-amount of X’s. It is, hand’s down, one of if not the most lighthearted scenes, written or planned in what was once called THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. And it remains my favorite, written or planned.

The kicker? It’s a past meets present kinda’ scene. Archetypes of my past turned elements of William’s sit down with archetypes of mine and William’s shared “present.” And despite an initial aversion to each other eventually? They are talking and laughing like old friends. That scene? I like to think that it is metaphorical of my life at this juncture: A healthy dose of the present, influenced occasionally by the past. Why? Because as the Captain of the USS Enterprise once said…

 

Sometimes, being a Sh*thead writer is not enough. Sometimes, you just gotta’ turn to Jean Luc Picard for the right words. Not to mention Will Riker’s reply:

“Speak for yourself, sir. I intend to live forever.”

A healthy dose of cockiness? Will sh*t, guys. That never hurts, either. Stay safe out there, fellow Sh*theads.

A Quick Hit

Good evening, fellow Sh*theads. Happy Friday night. I told myself that I’d never do this… Told myself that I wouldn’t be “that blogger.” You know, the one who updates you daily on everything from what he’s eating to what he’s watching on television. I told myself when I started this that I wouldn’t turn “Random Musings” into an online journal. But…

Well, guys? Times change, and I figure that I have enough of a “fan base” at this point to justify it. That said, I had pizza for dinner tonight (cheese, only; it’s a Friday in Lent and I’m a fairly good Christian) and I’m currently watching “Sofia the First” with my three year old. A quick parenthetical aside: “Sofia the First” is a new, Disney princess show on Disney Junior about a young commoner, turned royal by marriage (her mother married the king, Roland). It’s terrific, and very age appropriate for a three year old. I highly recommend it. End aside.

Lest those of you that have been reading “Random Musings” worry that I’ve given up blogging, rest assured: I have not. Quite the contrary, actually. I’ve got a handful of new writing ideas involving everything from a “Friends” movie (I call it “Friends: Ten Years Later”) to a new rumination on parenthood, double ear infections, pink eye and Bronchitis. But I’m knee deep in novel revision mode, currently. I’m putting the finishing touches on what I hope will be my final, pre-publication rewrite of ENDWORLD. It and my daily routine are eating up a good portion of my time, currently. As much as I’d love to maintain this site, there are people that have been waiting almost 20 years for me to finally finish this book and I don’t want to let them down. That said…

I know a few of you reading this are dying to see the extent of this novel… This labor of love that I’ve been writing about for… Well, forever. Rest assured: You will. While I’m not confident in putting the whole book out here for anyone to see just yet (a combination of low self-esteem and my fear that someone will steal my idea), I feel reasonably confident about giving you a taste.

So, for those of you that have been faithfully following “Random Musings” since I started it four years ago, I present to you a little treat. The Prologue of my novel. please read, and hopefully enjoy at your leisure. As for me? I’ma get back to the grind. About 100 pages left to go until I’m finished. I’ll catch you on the flip side, friends. Have a great weekend.

ENDWORLD – A Novel

PROLOGUE – Alone (“Fear in a handful of dust”)

It is difficult to remember when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning that your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning that my life had vanished that gray and hazy morning, afternoon or evening on the beach.

I look out the window of the old, abandoned office and adjoining warehouse within which I have resided indefinitely. The nameless town below rolls silently away down a steep hill. Houses and proprietorships, long since abandoned dot the landscape. About a quarter of a kilometer away, the black-asphalt spine of the Highway stretches endlessly in either direction like a huge, dreaming python, and while I cannot see it directly I know that it is there. I can always sense its presence no matter where I am. I’ve got to admit that it is a pretty sight. Perhaps one of the last in this cursed place. Still, a python can be deadly if you provoke it.

How long have I been here? I honestly don’t know. The interior of what has been my surrogate home is unchanged. Old, abandoned desks sit in the four corners of the main room. Atop them, what appear to be old, non-touch screen computer monitors grown dusty and dim with age, abandoned keyboards, speakers, computer mice, the occasional cup of dried-out pens and broken pencils and on one desk, a calendar grown so ancient with age that I can no longer make out the month, days or even the year written upon it.

But such concepts no longer matter in 15:CI.

Three of the four walls surrounding me are covered with accouterments. On one, two framed pictures, one which preaches “Teamwork” and the other, “Excellence.” Another has a yellowing and faded poster of what appears to be a rocket. “Taurus II” it advertises, “Brought to you by Orbital Technologies.” On yet another, a single framed picture that advertises “Leadership.” And on the final wall? A vicious mockery of the world as it once-was: A mural of a forest at dusk, upon it painted trees whose tops extend well beyond the water-stained and cracked drop ceiling over  my head.

I have learned from my experiences, both good and bad, not to rely on time here in Endworld. Every time (no pun intended) that I begin to do so— every time that I try to make sense of such an abstract and outdated concept I realize that the passage of what passes for time here is frighteningly different than one might expect. Everything fades. Everything dies and eventually leaves nothing but the equivalent of a yellowing and faded mural of a forest at dusk if you’re lucky. But in most cases? It leaves nothing but a pile of dust. Here in Endworld? The process once referred to as “time” is elongated. A day lasts ten days. A month lasts 100 months. And a year?

A single year lasts a millennium.

You’re probably wondering who I am. I assure you that that question, and any others that you have will be answered eventually and to the best of my ability. For now, all that I can tell you is that I am alone—the last member of a group of companions who were dedicated to liberating themselves from the totalitarian tyranny of The Administration. I say “the last” not because I am the lone survivor of our group. On the contrary, as far as I know the other surviving members of my group have escaped to a safer place: A place away from the influence of the metal and micro-chip enhanced bastards that sit in judgment over the species that created them and over all of Endworld. No. I say that I am “the last” because I am the one who stayed behind…

However reluctantly.

My gaze drifts back to the lone window, inset within the front door of the place I have come to call my “home.” The sun has almost set and the world is bathed in an eerie, golden-red iridescence. I am reminded of a night seemingly an eternity ago when I embarked on a journey just beyond that same sunset. Then, I was younger physically, figuratively and spiritually. Then, I was unscarred by the sorrow that now hangs like a putrid cloud of hour-old cigarette smoke over my head as I write this. Then, I was as optimistic and naive as any child of 17 whose entire life had been spent within the confines of a small town. Mine was called Jefferson, a tiny borough in the Mid-Western Territory, or MWT for short. Now, though? I sit silently pondering the proverbial road that carried me here, to an old, abandoned office and warehouse in the middle of a crumbling ghost-town sandwiched between a nameless river and the Highway. A place that my companions might have called “The Center of Bumblefuck.”

Darkness is slowly infiltrating the world outside my door and consequently the corners of the office that I nightly bunk down in. I reach into my battered backpack and remove a candle, unfortunately the last of my once-extensive supply. I light it with my trusty Zippo lighter and marvel, as I always do, that after all that has transpired and all that it has endured it continues to light without the benefit of replenishment. My Zippo is as metaphorical of me as the Highway is of Endworld, but more on that later. I place the candle near enough to me so that I can see what I am writing but not near enough to risk the destruction of these last, precious pieces of yellowing paper that I managed to liberate from what must have been the old office supply cabinet in the warehouse.

I glance inside my backpack again and take inventory of my supplies. They are almost depleted. Soon it will be time for me to move on but before I can I must tell you my story, regardless of the likely pain that doing so will cause me. Perhaps when I am gone—and trust me when I tell you that one day soon I will be gone—perhaps when I am gone you can read it, study it… hell, maybe you can even learn something from it. What you do with it is up to you. For the time being, however? I write the following account not to heal the ills of a sick and twisted world: A world of lush forests at dusk grown cold by the emergence of chrome and steel. A world in which a concept like hope is extinct, drowned as all things once youthful and optimistic by the rivers of blood that flow down the distant, eight-lane, asphalt super Highway.

Ever onward, William, a familiar female voice coos in my mind, ever, ever after. I close my eyes against the tightening that embraces my chest and my midsection and I sigh.

No, friends. I write the following account to heal myself.

I won’t begin my tale in the traditional way because as someone wise once told me, the phrase “once upon a time” generally signifies a happy ending. I think that it would be better to begin with…

🙂

A Pseudo-Madman Rings in the New Year

Leave it to your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler to write something about the new year two weeks after it started. For those of you that don’t mind my tardiness, Happy 2013! I will make for you the same wish that I made for the entirety of my Facebookverse and Twitterverse two weeks ago today: May you all have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year filled with new experiences, new opportunities and well, just new stuff. Just think, if you were my Facebook friend or my Twitter buddy you’d have gotten that greeting pre-this moment. Am I saying that you should friend me/follow me? Only if you want to. But I’d be happy to have you as a compadre on either. That said…

Believe it or not, my delay in writing about the new year–something I have proverbially done both publicly and privately for as long as I can remember–is not a result of procrastination. I was just discussing this with a friend/vendor of mine. Generally, I approach each new year as a new opportunity. But this year, I’m looking at things a bit differently, which could account for my “meh-ness” about it, too date. You know: “Meh.” As in I’m really just ‘kinda “meh” about 2013.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my own, personal “new stuff” is really cool. Por ejemplo, I’m beginning the new year for the first time as the father of two daughters and not just one. I’m ringing in the new year as a husband of eight years and am entering the twelfth year of my relationship with my wonderful wife which, once upon a time, would have seemed an outlandish boast for me of all people to make.

2013 also marks my eighth year at my current job. Those of you that have been around for a while may remember that my eighth at my former place of employment, CVStress Pharmacy, was also the year that I was promoted to Store Manager. And while I can honestly say that I don’t see a life-altering promotion in my future at my current job, and I’m still two years away from the hypothetical tenure that, per my football and politics loving boss, marks the proverbial point of employment demarcation beyond which I can never lose my job, not even if I curse him out and call him something unsavory. But considering that none of the handful of people that previously occupied my desk lasted more than a few months and I’ve been here almost eight years, I’m doing pretty well. At least I hope I am.

There are other, less monumental firsts that I could include herein but to do so would be excessive. My point? I remain the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I’ve been for the better part of the last decade plus, and I should be excited about 2013. I should be looking at it as a time of new opportunity and should not be “meh” about it. Why, pray tell, am I so disinterested in the days, weeks and months ahead?

The answer to that is simple, really: If I were told to describe my life in no more than two words and no less than one on this damp and dreary morning in mid-January on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence I would say “status quo.” Yep. Status quo, defined by the Free Online Dictionary as, “The existing condition or state of affairs.” That’s it. I wonder if those of you reading this are as underwhelmed as I am at that definition.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”

Don’t get me wrong: Status quo pays the bills. It keeps us determinedly moving forward with our lives. But does it lead to sublime happiness? To the fulfillment of dreams? Generally, it does not. Generally, it leads to… well, “an existing condition or state of affairs” and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not enough for me. It never has been. If you know me, you know that dreams are a big part of who I have always been. That said…

What to do? It’s not fair to me or the people that I care about… hell, even the people that I don’t care about to toil away as little more than a walking, talking head for the next 350 days… as little more than a curmudgeonly prophet of “meh-ness,” even if I am grinning 90% of the time. That’s not how I roll. So how can I break free of this burgeoning state of mind before it becomes all encompassing?

Brace yourselves, because this is the part of this blog entry where I start writing about what I’ve been doing/why I haven’t written a word since a few days post-Christmas. Yes, I’ve been “meh” but despite that, or maybe because of it I have been thinking. A lot. About life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, my own subjective universe and… all together now… everything. I haven’t just been playing picnic with my daughters, reading “A Memory of Light” (Book Fourteen of The Wheel of Time for those of you keeping score) or playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” on our new iPad though admittedly? I have been doing all three. I started by debating a few, potential ideas. I then cross-referenced them with things that make me feel alive. The following list, for better or for worse, is what I came up with…

DISCLAIMER: These are NOT New Year’s Resolutions though they may sound like them. I do not do New Year’s Resolutions. This list is exclusive to me, and it is a road map, potentially showing me how NOT to be a prophet of “meh-ness” in 2013: 

1. Lose Weight: It’s no secret to anybody that knows me that I’m not exactly svelte. I never have been. I’ve been fighting those dastardly, overweight demons since I was a little kid and I’ve never once managed to drop below an above average weight for my height and my age. Said aspect of me has been a point of ridicule in the distant past but lately, it has just been me, as in “he’s Frank. He just is.” Am I satisfied with that? Not entirely. A few years ago I managed to drop 40 pounds and I’ve got to tell you, it felt great (please don’t take that last statement as my auditioning to be the next pitch man for Weight Watchers or “The Biggest Loser”; it wasn’t intended as such and if you could see me right now, you’d understand why).

But in the intervening time since I’ve put the majority of that weight back on. So I could go on a diet and attempt to drop down to my ideal weight–a goal that I missed by only 10, measly pounds back in 2008. It would make my PCP happy and I might be able to get off the High Blood Sugar medicine that I’ve been taking since September of last year. It would also make me feel more alive; more vital.

Will I? Probably. I generally let my post-holiday gorge (otherwise known as me, building up an extra layer of insulation for the forthcoming winter) continue through the Super Bowl and after that, I go on a crash diet. I don’t publicize it. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve even referenced dieting on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman,” version 1.0 or 2.0. I anticipate the same in 2013 but will I manage to reach the goal I fell short of last time and stay there? Only time will tell, I guess. But I’ll do it, if only to be able to keep up with Cara once Spring and Summer roll around. That said…

2. Be a Better Father: Okay, so this one is debatable. I mean, I think–I don’t know for sure, but I think–that I’m already a pretty good one. I have my moments when I doubt myself. The nights that Cara won’t eat her dinner or go to bed without a struggle? I’ll admit that I get visibly frazzled. The times when Natalie won’t stop crying? Yes, I’ve simply put her down in her bouncer, or on her play mat and walked away. That’s what we’re supposed to do as parents, right? Granted, that eminent sage of parenting wisdom Harvey Karp never said so (sarcasm fully intended) but what’s the alternative? Shaken Baby Syndrome? A child that has a complex about being yelled at by the time she turns one? No thank you. I’ll take walking away and taking a few deep breaths over a kid that despises me before she’s old enough to walk. My kids smile a lot and I like that. Smiling is > Bawling.

But still, there is room for improvement. There always is. And save for the third item that I’ll be rambling about shortly, there is nothing in the world that makes me feel more alive than spending time with my girls. So how can I be a better dad? Admittedly (and some reading this might take exception to this), I have modeled my parenting style not after what I read in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” or what Harvey Karp claims is appropriate but after the combined styles of my mother and… yes… my father, otherwise known by many reading this as “The Biological,” “The Deadbeat” and my own personal favorite, “The Sperm Donor.”

My mother is easy: Hard love and hard work; teaching my daughters about responsibility and accountability, even at an early age. She still sets that example for me and my sister too this day and I already use it to a certain extent with Cara. But my father? “The Man I Once Called Dad” as I wrote in a previous blog entry? (linkable HERE in case you’re interested)

Admittedly, he wasn’t really around long enough to have much of an impact on how I parent. “Around” meant every other other weekend for a time and, after a while, every other month, et cetera and et cetera until he became the equivalent of a non-entity in mine and my sister’s life. In truth? The time that we spent with him in the rundown shacks throughout Northern New Jersey that he called “home” in the late 1980’s the early 1990’s, eating off of hotplates and frequenting lower Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry or the subway were, in my opinion, a textbook example of how not to parent. You would never catch me dead taking either of my kids for a leisurely stroll around East Orange, New Jersey, not even on a Sunday morning. I mean no offense to any East Orange-ites reading this but unless something has drastically changed since the mid-1990s you see the truth in my words.

But despite my sometimes disdain for the man and how he eventually turned his back on his biological children–that’s not a misrepresentation, guys, he did; my sister and I turned our backs on him only after he did us–I did learn a few things about being a father from him that I can not deny. The first? Father first, friend second, but be a friend. Share your interests with your children and encourage them to do the same with you. The second? Impress upon your children the importance of and appreciation of unconventional pursuits like literature, art, et cetera and et cetera. As my now-Father in Law–a man whom I respect above most other men in this world and also, to some extent, model my fathering style after–would say, push them to do something productive with their lives that will make them financially viable and stable, but “make sure they have a hobby,” be that hobby painting, singing, reading or…

3. Write, Write, Write:  Admit it: You saw this one coming. How could you not? It’s the thing I talk about the most in these blog entries and it is, in fact, what I’m doing right now. What, you thought I was composing this via some sort of psychic, alien transmission ala “The Tommyknockers?” (holy sh*t; I think I just won the award for “Most Obscure Literary Reference of 2013”) Last year and the year previous it, I vowed to write a book. Not just any book, but the book. The one that I wrote when I was a teenager and an early adult. I successfully achieved that in both 2011 and 2012 but sadly, I was unable to achieve the addendum to it last year: Finish it and get it published. At this moment, “Endworld – A Novel” still sits completed but unpublished on my computer at home. It awaits a final edit; it awaits feedback from the people that I got copies of it too. All these things? If you’re reading this right now you know them. I’m not going to rehash them because quite frankly (no pun intended)? I’m tired of doing so.

I’ve seriously considered just doing it these last few weeks. The software is installed on my computer at home and it is ready to go. Just a drag and drop and a click on “UPLOAD” and wah-lah! “Endworld – A Novel” is self-published on Amazon.com via the Kindle Readers Lending Library.

So why wait? Why procrastinate? Because I told myself that I would not publish it until I was confident that people would be able to read it and enjoy it. Call me a perfectionist… I’ll admit that I am. But I’m not going to take the easy way out. I will not put Frank Marsh’s version of “50 Shades of Gray” where anyone can read it ’cause at this time? That’s really all that it is: An unrefined story. Input breeds refinement, and without it, my novel is no better than a “novel” written by an 18 year old, lovelorn kid that originally conceived of a formulaic cross between “The Wonder Years” and “The Terminator” starring an alt-version of himself, and the woman he pined after at the time. It doesn’t deserve to be published, yet.

I wrote version 1.0 of “Endworld – A Novel” for me. It was my way of coping with the indelible fact that I could not and never would be with the woman I thought, for a time, I was in love with. News flash, guys: I wasn’t. I was, as a wise man once said, “in love with the idea of being in love.” In hindsight, I see that now but then? I was young and stupid. I’d watched “Say Anything” one too many times. What I feel for my wife and my children, now, is real Love with a capital “L.” it’s spiritual. It goes deeper than anything else I’ve ever experienced… ever. What I felt then? I don’t want to say that it was a crush because despite my posturing to the contrary it was something more than that. But the real deal? Nah. No contest. Still, I fabricated a fictional reality–“Endworld”–in which I–William MacNuff–was with her–Maria Markinson. If you didn’t know that before now? Well, there you go. See? I’ve always been slightly mad, even before this blog.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”  

But version 2.0? I wrote that for a different reason. Despite my motivations for writing version 1.0, I always believed that it had a certain something that would appeal to an audience. Something about humanity’s capacity to love, and how it set them apart from their robotic overlords. But I also saw it, even then, as a starting point for something much, much larger: My own Wheel of Time. I wrote what I wrote in 2011 and 2012 with those concepts… those ideas in mind and all indications so far point to the fact that while I’m closer to my goal than I was, I still haven’t achieved the broad appeal that I’m looking for. The “Wow Factor,” if you will. If I revisit William MacNuff’s world in 2013, I will revisit it with an eye towards that. Sadly, that’s a big “if.”

It’s not that I’ve moved on from “Endworld – A Novel.” I haven’t. It would be irresponsible of me to do so after I put so much time and effort in to it. And I love that world. Despite what some have said about it being too reflective of other fictional realities it has a little something in it that is purely me. And do I believe that I will one day publish it? Yes. I do. But I cannot allow myself to remain tied forever to one idea. I have others, you see. Other worlds that I want… that I need to tell you about. Some closer to home than others, actually.

That beginning? While it’s not the beginning it is beginning (thank you, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson). 2013, guys. The year that your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler finally wrote and completed something that wasn’t tied to William MacNuff’s story. That’s my vow. Mark your calendars ’cause I’ll revisit this resolution in a few months. If I’m no closer to writing something else? Well sh*t. Maybe I’m not as much of a writer and storyteller as I always thought myself. I don’t want to be a… cliche alert… one trick pony.

Maybe my “meh-ness” is a product of my hesitance. My incapacity to let go of one idea and embrace one of the many others that I have. Fact is? I know I need to. I wouldn’t be a very good writer if I didn’t, would I? But “Endworld – A Novel” and its subsequent sequels, formerly entitled “The Endworld Chronicle” have been the center of my creative universe for almost 20 years now. Even when I wasn’t actively working on them I was thinking about them… thinking about how I could improve them… grow them… make them more. The expansive outline that I have for Books Two and Three and potentially beyond is the product of that time. Time spent thinking. Time spent revising and re-revising in my mind. Other than my family, is there anything I have thought about as much? No. Not even close.

But there comes a point in every life where one needs to move on, whether from something simple like an idea or something larger like… well, like one’s biological children (that was not a veiled attempt at a dig but rather, a very obvious one). I’m blessed that for me, it is merely an idea. I’m pretty gul’darned happy with everything else from my job to how “A Memory of Light” ended the epic Wheel of Time to how far I’ve progressed in “Final Fantasy Tactics.” I remain as I was x-amount of paragraphs ago: A living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I’ve been that way for the better part of the last decade plus and that smile? It is widening the more time I spend my my wife… the more time I spend playing picnic with my daughters… the further I progress in to 2013 and beyond.

Being “meh” doesn’t mean being miserable. “Meh-ness” can exist concordantly with happiness, believe it or not. Hell, I wish I’d known that 20 years ago. That said, my place is here. Not there. “Endworld – A Novel” is a product of the there despite how much it has changed. My other ideas? They are a product of the here, and I think that it is one of those ideas that I’m going to roll with in 2013. One of the smaller ones. Not the one I wrote about a few entries ago that is a cross between The Book of Genesis and Asmiov’s Foundation Series. I’ll get to that one, but I think I need to complete something a bit less ambitious, first. Maybe a couple more short stories. The last one I wrote, despite it’s being rejected for publication, gave me a new taste for short form prose that, apparently, I’d sorely missed (considering I have about five short story ideas running through my mind, currently). I don’t know, guys. It’s a bit of a mystery.

So for now, I’m still “meh” as morning segues in to afternoon here in lover-ly Royersford, Pennsylvania. I light mist has begun to fall outside though I can’t see it directly through the feux-mural of a forest that adorns the brick wall to my immediate right. I’m going to get back to the grind that I’ve been slaving away at for the last eight years. Happy New Year, all. Fare thee well until next time and remember: This is not the ending. There are no endings to the Wheel of Time. But yes, it is ending. Or maybe that should say “an…”

🙂

New Beginnings

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” (Leonardo DaVinci, NOTEBOOKS)

It’s funny, really. In life, beginnings have never been an issue for me. Until recently it was endings that I had a problem with on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Things never ended properly, be said things relationships, friendships, stories, et cetera et cetera. The only thing that ever seemed to end well for me was employment and that’s due primarily to my 13 year climb up the CVSStress hierarchy from cashier to Store Manager. In truth? The only reason that ended well was because I ended it before they could. Had I stayed much longer I likely would have been forcibly removed from my position and replaced with someone younger and cheaper. Instead, I got to leave on my own terms and I will never regret that fact. No sir. Never.

Now, seven and a half years removed from that job and seven plus years embedded in another I can honestly say that while I never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, for the moment I feel relatively secure in my current position and do not foresee a poor ending to it. Of course, I am writing the beginning of this blog post (like how I did that?) while at work and my boss has been known to terminate people for reading during their down time. I’m not sure what he’d do if he found out I was typing up something other than a heat exchanger quote. Maybe I shouldn’t take that risk. Then again, my options are rather limited at this juncture, and I’d rather exercise my mind while sitting here in silence than let it atrophy due to inactivity. Yes, I am that caught up and we are that dead right now. I’ll take “the lesser of two weevils,” Captain Aubrey, and stimulate my brain a ‘lil bit.

Back to beginnings. I’ve never had much of a problem beginning anything. Consider “Endworld.” “Endworld,” for those of you new to these ramblings, is a book that I originally wrote when I was 18. I rewrote it in my mid-twenties and then re-rewrote it last year. It is in the capable hands of a collection of beta readers and an editor, now, and for the most part, I am awaiting feedback before I re-re-rewrite it and attempt to publish it (so beta readers–you know who you are–please get on it! I’m counting on your feedback). Only two aspects of it remain virtually unchanged from when I first sat down in front of my old, powder blue, Royal typewriter in the summer of 1993 and typed that “it’s difficult to remember a time when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning my life had vanished that day upon the beach.” The first is the battle scene at the end of it but the other? The words that I just quoted and the rest of the Prologue. Everything else has gone through a dozen or more permutations over the last 19 plus years but the Prologue… the beginning is pretty much the same save for a few grammatical changes, word choices and consistency inclusions.

I have  compromised portions of my original vision of a cross between “The Terminator” and “The Wonder Years” to make “Endworld” less formulaic and more appealing (besides, Fred Savage hasn’t really been relevant since 1993 though congratulations are in order: He and his wife did just have another baby). I’ve also taken formerly benign characters and turned them in to Shakespeare quoting sociopaths, but one thing that I have always vehemently refused to change is the beginning. Call me sentimental, but those words mean a lot to me. They were the first words that I ever wrote in anything other than a term paper or a book report. In essence, they triggered the love affair that I have had with writing since. They were the reason I chose to study English and not Computer Science, or something that guaranteed me a well-paying career post-college. Initially, I had hoped to see them published sometime in my twenties but life got in the way. Now, at 37, I still desire to see those words… that beginning published if for no reason other than that: Sentimentality. There may be other reasons, which is the same way as saying “there are other reasons” but I won’t address them herein. Those belong to me and me alone.

Beginnings. In my writing, I have written many beginnings and very few endings. In truth? The only things that I have ended other than “Endworld” are its two sequels, a handful of poems, an even smaller handful of short stories and many, many blog entries/pieces of Mental Flatulence/Dissertations. While that may seem like a lot to many of the people reading this trust me: When you compare that output to the amount of stuff I have started but never finished the amount of stuff I have started but never finished trumps the amount of stuff I have finished two, and maybe even threefold. FACT: I have no problem conceiving of an idea and beginning it. I can even go 50, and sometimes 60 pages in to it. But seeing that idea through to its ending? Its fruition? That has always been a struggle for me, which puts me in an incredibly unfamiliar position, currently.

You see, for once I have a big idea unrelated to anything that I’ve ever attempted to write before that I can see a framework for and, amazingly enough, an ending to. But the beginning? It is one big, gray cloud of Huh and it is threatening to remain so unless I figure it out stat. For once, beginning is my issue, not ending. In my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence a precedent has been broken. Cue the sarcastic “oohs” and “aahs” from the peanut gallery. I deserve them.

I’ve asked myself on many occasions since I first conceived of this idea why? Said inquiry in to my own, personal psyche has led me spiraling in to a deeper psychoanalysis of my own motivations or lack thereof. Yep, guys. This is going to be one of those blog entries. You know, the ones where I exhaustively talk about myself and likely alienate a good segment of you. Feel free to look away now or re-navigate back to The Curious Case of Our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle for less psychoanalysis and more entertainment. I won’t hold it against you. But if you choose to read on remember what I wrote on my ABOUT ME page: “I write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing it.” Sadly, that sometimes results in something less of an essay and more of a… what? A journal entry? Am I that girl in “The Breakfast Club” that dumps her… I mean his purse out on the couch and forces his problems on the Jock? Maybe I am. Whatever the case, you have been warned.

In continuance, I’ve always assumed that the reason why I can begin an idea but not finish it is because I will never be able to finish anything else until I finish “The Endworld Chronicle” as it was once called (I have no idea what I’m going to call it now). But at this juncture, that answer seems a bit forced. After all, what makes “Endworld” so special that it somehow holds me back from writing anything else? At its core, it’s a pretty simple love story set against the backdrop of a dystopic, future world run by machines. Not exactly ground breaking. What, as Lee Ermey would have said, “is [my] major malfunction!?”

A few weeks ago, I wrote a rare short story which I submitted for publication to a worthy cause. The story is called “The Day of Final Departure” and “Endworld” didn’t hold me back from completing it. Nor has it held me back from writing this blog entry, the one before it or the dozen before it, the Customer Service Manual that my department uses and… well, okay. That’s about it but again: Not a bad sampling.

Quick parenthetical aside: Information on the worthy cause that I submitted “The Day of Final Departure” to can be found HERE. I’ve touted this ever since I decided to do it and I will continue to do so, even though I still do not know whether or not my story will actually make it in to the planned anthology. I advise any writer out there reading this, amateur or otherwise who consider monetary gain secondary to… well, just writing to check it out. If anything, it’s a neat little exercise, the proceeds of which go to a very good cause. Ask yourself: Do I write to be recognized or do I write because I f*cking love writing? I know my answer. What’s yours? End parenthetical aside.

In essence, then, this whole idea of “Endworld” holding me back seems to be something deeply ingrained in my personality that I feign to distract people from the real reason why I begin things but never end them. It’s the same reason I start a game like “Diablo III,” get through the first two difficulty levels and stop playing before I can take on “Nightmare Difficulty.” I get busy at work or with family and friends. Or I get bored. Or I get distracted. Or I get lazy. Or I get in to a television show. Or I et cetera, et cetera. You get the idea. FACT: I find an excuse. If I ever have any intention of being anything more than a Monday through Friday and every fourth Saturday Joe Schmoe that dreams big but doesn’t actively pursue anything that might make him more… make me bigger I need to stop finding excuses and, like Nike, “just do it” regardless of the consequences to my sleep or my television viewing schedule.

Which brings me back to my initial issue. How should I start this new, big idea that I have? And how can I maintain my interest throughout the writing of it? Well, the latter is easy. I just need to train myself to not get distracted and be like Mike (veiled, Nike reference). But as for how to begin it, I think the cue is in “The Day of Final Departure.” Said story is a pretty simple concept and if you want to read a copy of it, drop me a line and let me know. I’m not overly concerned about plagiarism since the story has already been submitted for publication. It’s about a guy named Finn Drummond who awakens one morning in the late autumn of the year 2215. His apartment is empty and he is packed for something but you don’t know what. He continually refers to it as his “day of final departure” but you don’t find out what that is until about three quarters of the way through the story. I don’t want to reveal much more herein for fear of spoiling the surprise if and when it is published but the long and short of it is this: Finn decides for personal reasons not to depart. He embarks upon a personal quest in to his past while at the same time he embraces his future. The story ends at the exact point where I believe the novel or the novelsneed to begin. But how to begin? What words to use?

Beginnings. Words. My favorite author Stephen King wrote a series of novels of his own about one character’s quest for the Dark Tower that sits at the center of not just one proverbial universe on one side of the proverbial wormhole of existence but at the center of all universes. I’ve read everything from “The Lord of the Rings” to “A Song of Fire and Ice” to “The Wheel of Time” to “The Incarnations of Immortality,” and I can honestly say that King’s tale is my favorite of all of them. It all begins with his beginning: A simple sentence that kicks off the first book, “The Gunslinger” and sets up everything that happens over the course of not only that book, but the six… scratch that, the seven (I forgot about “The Wind Through the Keyhole”) that follow it:

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”

From the get go, the reader is introduced to the primary antagonist and the primary protagonist of much of the series. You not only get the characters but you get the setting and you get an incredibly large plot point from word one: The Man in Black is running from the Gunslinger. As for why he is running and why the Gunslinger is chasing him, you find out over the course of not only the first book but the other books, as well. As Stephen King proved, beginnings and how they are worded are crucial, and admittedly? I modeled the beginning of the Prologue to “Endworld” after the beginning of the Dark Tower. “Endworld’s” introduces not only the main character to the reader, but the mentality of the main character–a life without meaning–the fact that he is on the run and lastly, the fact that once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…his life did have meaning. But said meaning “vanished that day upon the beach.”  What happened to him? That information is revealed throughout the course of the novel via flashback before the Epilogue ends in the same place that the Prologue began. I desire to do something similar with the beginning of my new idea. Something simple yet revealing. Something worded like this:

“As the vast emptiness of space closed in around BLANK (I haven’t decided on a character name or gender yet) and the 179 other souls suspended in stasis in the cargo hold of the Magellan, BLANK dreamed of the life he (or she) had left behind him (or her).”

It’s a good beginning. A strong beginning. Cue BLANK’s dream which will give you a broader look at the setting that you merely got a glimpse of in “The Day of Final Departure.” Much of the beginning of this book takes place in a dream state because lets face it, guys (and this is all that I will reveal): If you’re in stasis travelling trillions of miles through space toward a destination a couple dozen light years away there’s really not a lot to do. Don’t get me wrong: There will definitely be amenities for the 180 passengers to take advantage of en route to wherever their destination is once they wake up but the ship within which they are travelling is more ark then Carnival cruise ship. No shuffleboard or deck pool on this baby. Practicality rules the day in 2215.

Some of the more hardcore science-types among you might be reading this and saying, “wait. Hang on a hot minute. Are you postulating that in 200 years, we’ll be able to travel trillions of miles through space?” To those people let me respond with a resounding yes. Yes I am. Whether you believe that humanity will have that technological capability in the early 23rd Century or not is irrelevant. Science Fiction predicts but doesn’t always get it right. For every “Neuromancer” that successfully predicted the World Wide Web a decade before it even existed there’s a “2001: A Space Odyssey” that mistakenly predicted we would have bases on the moon and be flying manned missions to Jupiter in the year… well, 2001. The joy of Sci-Fi is looking at the science that exists currently and extrapolating a future per it. If your prediction is right you’re considered a visionary. And if you’re wrong? You’re still considered one. No one ever critiqued Clarke or Kubrick for being wrong. Rather, most people stated and continue to state that “2001” is the greatest Science Fiction movie ever made despite the fact that it didn’t really get much right. That said…

Beginnings. New ones. There’s nothing like the rush you feel when you start something new. Whether a relationship, a job, a story or something else, beginning is a blast. As I sit here at my desk, staring out the window at the gray and chilly morning beyond it, I look forward to beginning this new idea. I’d do it now but I’ve dawdled long enough and am very, very leery of being discovered doing something other than spec’ing out a directional valve by my boss. In conclusion? I just need to sit down and “do it.” All other concerns will, I hope, fall in to place around it. If you’ve read this far thank you for, once again, joining me on another journey in to the dark and sordid psyche of the Machronicler. Maybe one day this blog entry will be looked back upon as the thing that deepened my steamy, two decade love affair with writing. Or, perhaps it’ll go down as yet another inane, substanceless rambling by a 37 year old Sh*thead. Either way, it always feels good to write something, even if said something could potentially be construed as little more than me, dumping my proverbial man purse out on the couch for all of you to see.

Have a good one, guys.

The End (like how I did that?).